Home > Oz Politics > Could Jenny Macklin live on the dole?

Could Jenny Macklin live on the dole?

January 1st, 2013

She says “I could”, but you watch the video, Jenny Macklin’s answer here is very odd. She ducks the question once, has it put again, and is asked “Could you live on the dole”. She says “I could”, without any elaboration then goes straight back to spin. Her office then tries to delete it from the transcript.

It’s such a spectacular screwup, I think she must have imagined she was saying something different. But, whether or not that’s right, she, and the government, deserve all the pain they get for this piece of nastiness.

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  1. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 1st, 2013 at 17:31 | #1

    In this year’s Federal election there will be an intensive campaign by the ALP to unseat the Greens’ Adam Bandt in favour of Labor’s Cath Bowtell in the seat of Melbourne. I wonder whether one of Labor’s campaign talking points will be that Labor people are clearly smarter than Greens because Jenny Macklin is clever enough to be able to live on the dole whereas Greens Senator Rachel Siewert isn’t.

    Seriously, though, what do decent Labor people like Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese, Claire Moore, Doug Cameron, Andrew Leigh and Stephen Jones, and old stalwarts for true Labor values like Tom Uren, think about shit like this?

  2. Fran Barlow
    January 1st, 2013 at 17:45 | #2

    This is simply scandalous. To effectively delete a question and an answer from the transcript under the cover of ‘inaudible’ because they had the potential to embarrass the minister is breathtakingly offensive.

    If Macklin was confused about the question, she should have sought clarification at the time, or if she misheard and answered in error, the transcript should have remained as it stood with an explanatory footnote setting out the misunderstanding and answering the question asked.

    This is what happens when you pander to rightwing populism. You end up becoming an ugly thing. Here, the Minister cannot even say openly that it doesn’t matter if she couldn’t live on NewStart (gosh what an Orwellian name!) because she wasn’t unemployed.

  3. TerjeP
    January 1st, 2013 at 18:27 | #3

    You’re not supposed to live on the dole. You’re supposed to get a job. It is supposed to be merely a transitional arrangement to tide people over whilst they are between jobs. Although it doesn’t help that public policy has institutionalised unemployment.

  4. Salient Green
    January 1st, 2013 at 18:55 | #4

    TerjeP, I’m surprised at you. What jobs? Some of the outlying suburbs of Sydney have 35% unemployment. What do you think the Youth unemployment rate in those suburbs is?
    That 35% unemployment rate pales into insignifigance when compared to unemployment rates in most indigenous communities.
    There are at least six persons chasing every job available in Australia. The commitment of both major parties to market fundamentalism has seen massive job losses overseas.
    The government owes the unemployed and under-employed a decent standard of living as it deliberately keeps a large pool of these people to keep labour costs down.
    The government could fix the unemployment and under-employment problem very easily if it wanted to but bigoted opinions of dole bludgers fall right into their hands.
    http://newmatilda.com/2011/04/15/stop-bullying-jobseekers

  5. Donald Oats
    January 1st, 2013 at 19:03 | #5

    It is reasonable to interpret “live on the dole” as meaning able to meet all necessary expenses, like rent and utilities, for the forseeable future if only receiving income from the dole. Obviously, each person in this situation, of being on the dole for a substantial length of time, will have different individual circumstances which will affect their capacity to “live on the dole.” I don’t really think that most people, if given the choice, would choose to “live on the dole” rather than work.

    Clearly, it is a delicate balance between providing sufficient funds to tide someone over a rough patch—of unemployment—and providing so much as to encourage indolence as a lifestyle. I do not think that $35 bucks a day is an incentive for the latter: far from it.

    If someone becomes unemployed and has some cash savings, they are expected to spend down their savings before they qualify for dole payments. That is another fairly potent encouragement to get back to employment as soon as possible.

    Finally, I rather doubt Jenny Macklin could “live on the dole,” if that means doing so after exhausting all other means of meeting regular expenses, etc. If she continues making throwaway remarks like this, she could well find herself in that very situation :-)

  6. Fran Barlow
    January 1st, 2013 at 19:05 | #6

    @TerjeP

    You’re not supposed to live on the dole.

    From your lips to God … ;-)

    Nice … I don’t supppose you’re supposed to live while job seeking? Look like someone who isn’t unemployed and desperate? Nah … that would be silly.

    Actually, it is possible to “live” on $35 per day, provided of course that you live on the generosity of others who have jobs, or can live the life of an indigent and don’t waste too much money looking for jobs. I’ve seen people make themselves perfectly comfortable sleeping outside the cinemas in Geoerge Street with little bowls for to collect money.

    That $35 per day is a looxury. Back in my day … ;-)

  7. Hal9000
    January 1st, 2013 at 19:52 | #7

    @TerjeP
    Although it doesn’t help that public policy has institutionalised unemployment.

    Yes, I suppose that employment at the rate that would only just prevent starvation would be preferable. Not.

  8. Fran Barlow
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:02 | #8

    @Hal9000

    Terje said:

    Although it doesn’t help that public policy has institutionalised unemployment.

    I’m not sure what Terje even means by this remark. Is he saying that unemployment is a deliberate public policy? That the state is in some way less witting way fostering a culture of unemployment?

    It sounds like a vacuous throwaway line and Terje has advanced nothing to even specify the claim, let alone support it.

  9. Fran Barlow
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:03 | #9

    Oops … That the state is in some way less witting way fostering a culture of unemployment?

  10. January 1st, 2013 at 20:22 | #10

    Obviously many people live on the dole, and if Macklin had to live on it, she would too — so the answer is obviously yes. What did the person asking the question really want to know? Is there a more socially acceptable answer, including some hand wringing, that Macklin was supposed to trot out to prove she is the right sort of person?

  11. Maza
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:38 | #11

    Both she and the government will get their pain. Nothing could be more certain.

  12. Fran Barlow
    January 1st, 2013 at 20:44 | #12

    @Tom Davies

    What did the person asking the question really want to know?

    I’m guessing the questioner wanted Macklin to declare that a person could live at a standard that would not embarrass civilised people on that allowance and meet the work test. The answer to that question is obviously not. Unless the person is living at home with the parents or being supported in some other way, it is not going to cover the necessaries.

    Yes, you could sleep rough and survive on it if you were in reasonable health and had some street smarts but you wouldn’t be work ready or contactable by Centrelink.

    Is there a more socially acceptable answer, including some hand wringing, that Macklin was supposed to trot out to prove she is the right sort of person?

    I suspect she proved she was the right sort of person to be in charge of brutalising the disadvantaged, so in a sense she has done the right thing by herself.

  13. January 1st, 2013 at 20:57 | #13

    A desire for fairness is a key value in human, and some other primate societies. One of the forms of this desire is hostility to those who take more than their fare share or avoid making a fair contribution to society.
    One of the disturbing thing about our society is the way some conservatives have managed to convince us that it is OK for some to get far far more than their fair share while it is OK to castigate those at the bottom of the pile who can’t get a job.
    I used to think that Jenny Macklin was a more decent person than this.

  14. Mel
    January 1st, 2013 at 22:33 | #14

    @Fran Barlow “I’m not sure what Terje even means by this remark. Is he saying that unemployment is a deliberate public policy?”

    Obviously Terje is making the point that unemployment only exists (a) because the state places fetters on employees and employers making employment contracts and (b) because the state interferes in the market in ways that kills jobs. This is simplistic nonsense of course but most libertarians apparently believe it.

    The unemployment benefit should be significantly higher but steps must also be taken to ensure passive welfarism doesn’t become entrenched and transmitted from generation to generation.

    I pray to Buddha that all libertarians are re-incarnated as unattractive black females born into violent and dysfunctional families, an IQ of 90 and a range of severe disabilities. I wonder how many would turn into libertarians with the limited life chances such particulars would provide?

  15. Socrates
    January 1st, 2013 at 22:39 | #15

    Jenny Macklin may be telling the truth. If you have spent several years on a ministers salary several times the average wage, have probably paid off your mortgage, and have a government provided car, phone and many other expenses covered, then it may be true.

    Of course, for anyone else… You can’t live on the dole without additional assistance from others or running down your savings.

    Given the video of this statement, and the many anti-government figures in the media, it was extraordinary that Macklin thout she would get away with doctoring the transcript. It makes me wonder what other records she might have editted as a minister?

  16. Happy Heyoka
    January 2nd, 2013 at 00:37 | #16

    I’ve been composing an angry letter to her since I read about it – something along the lines of “ok, so show us how it’s done”…
    – First, pick a charity to benefit from the experiment.
    – Next, donate all but a couple of grand from her savings.
    – Then for the first eight or twelve weeks she needs to donate 100% of her income; there should be some ritual humiliation applied liberally during this period.
    – For the next year or two she needs to donate, what, about 96% of her income to that charity to get her back to $35 a day.
    – Oh, and for the sake of completeness, she is required to clothe, feed and school a dependant during this period while making rent and utility payments.

    @TerjeP : I was brought up with a pretty strong work ethic, I’m a fairly bright chap and have owned companies, worked overseas and done plenty of hundred+ hour working weeks in my life. Heaven forbid you experience a personal reversal of fortune that prevents you from applying for a position where you can exercise your obviously prodigious talent for the big bucks. I never thought it would happen to me.

    If we want to reduce the burden of the “safety net” then, IMHO, cutting it out from under people is not the correct economic lever to pull.

    Policies to create more industry, policies to improve our trade position, cheaper access to training for skilled jobs, better access to childcare and after school programs… there’s a hundred other ways to fix it.

  17. BilB
    January 2nd, 2013 at 04:51 | #17

    This issue raises the subject of affordable accommodation.

    I would have read Macklin’s comment to mean that “in the circumstances of an unemployed person I (she) would find a way to survive on the new start allowance”. From here current position she would probably be ineligible so the argument regarding herself living on the new start is moot.

    However for young people at the level of $330 (if that is what it is)

    http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/MSB/Copy_of_17

    is quite liveable where a person is in share accommodation which will range from $120 per week to $220.

    The real issue here is to do with accommodation affordability, and that can vary widely region to region. So while you are ripping in to the minister think about how you would frame a universal income support device that has to work nationally.

    If you cannot conceive an income support mechanism that everyone, including Terje, would support then you are being hypocritical in criticising Macklin for her attempt to answer the very subjective question.

    The attempt to rewrite the interview is a separate issue.

  18. Ikonoclast
    January 2nd, 2013 at 06:12 | #18

    Langmore and Quiggin wrote a book and published it in the 1990s; “Work For All: Full Employment in the Nineties.”

    If the public and politicians had listened back then we would not be in the mess we are in now. Their book had many of the substantially correct answers.

    It is clear that economic policies operative since circa 1972 have failed. That’s 40 years of failure. How long does a failed experiment (neoclassical monetarism) have to continue?

    I’m astonished we are still stuck doing the wrong things after the 2008 GFC. Western society is dysfunctional and trapped in a failed ideology.

  19. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 2nd, 2013 at 06:52 | #19

    This episode adds a further surreal dimension to the tale of Macklin’s preselection for Jagajaga in the mid-1990s.

    The main contenders for preselection at the time were Macklin from the Left and Philip Bain from the Labor Unity (Right) faction. The decisive bloc of votes in the preselection was controlled by John Maynes, leader of the Shop Assistants Union and a longstanding National Civic Council-aligned union official.

    In this scenario one would normally have expected Bain to have been preselected. However, it had been drawn to Maynes’ notice that Bain had, as a young man in the 1970s, been a member of the Communist Party of Australia. For Maynes, this meant that Bain’s then-current views and factional affiliations were set at naught because of his original sin of communism, and the Shoppies’ votes were thus delivered to Macklin.

    As it happens I knew Philip Bain in 1979 when he was the co-editor of Rabelais at La Trobe University, and can attest that he was generally regarded as a very decent, humane and compassionate individual, whatever his party or faction affiliations. I wonder if John Maynes still has enough Rerum Novarum juice left in him to reflect that Philip Bain, whatever his past sins, would have brought more Christian social commitment to politics and policy than Macklin has been able to.

  20. TerjeP
    January 2nd, 2013 at 06:55 | #20

    I can see here from comments that I am alone in believing that full employment is an achievable public policy outcome. Everybody else seems to regard unemployment as a natural occurrence that must be “managed” rather than an unnatural situation that should be cured. I suppose if you start with different assumptions then you will invariably draw different conclusions.

  21. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:18 | #21

    @TerjeP

    I can see here from comments that I am alone in believing that full employment is an achievable public policy outcome.

    Who says red herrings are a rare animal?

    If people are unemployed or without means, the community must find a way of ensuring these folk have means to support themselves in ways that don’t predispose them to harm themselves or others. Generally, these means must be structured to permit them to live in dignity while being at a standard that is economically sustainable and available to all who require it. The willingness of a community to undertake and maintain such arrangements is one of the tests of its integrity. Seeing our fellow community members living in undignified circumstances shames us all.

    Arguments about whether “full employment” is possible (and what that would mean in practice) are entirely beside the point. I will note in passing that the idea that “unemployment as a natural occurrence that must be “managed” is bog standard mainstream commentary (it’s reckoned that 5% is “natural” and perhaps even desirable from a capitalist point of view) rather than something those on the left are keen on.

  22. Chris Warren
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:28 | #22

    @BilB

    Crazy.

    Youth allowance is around $200 per week. How can you pay for gas/electricity with the remainder if you also have to feed yourself?

    How do you buy cooking equipment, or decent clothing, or access phones to apply for jobs?

    How do you buy toiletries? bedding? transport? medicines?

    What is the psychological impact? when the middle class has so much wealth, ignorance and arrogance?

    Does social justice mean anything to you?

  23. moz does nothing
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:32 | #23

    TerjeP, excluding structural unemployment (people changing jobs, broadly) “full employment” has only been achieved through major state investment in job-producing entities. The “good old days” were full of people employed by the railways, the post office and so on, to do very little. That’s what many of them were capable of. Today, we prefer to employ some of those people to make the lives of the rest miserable by imposing work tests, benefit suspensions and massive public stigma on beneficiaries. I don’t think that makes anyone happy except a few rich people who greatly benefit from the reduced taxes.

    These days actually staying on the dole for any length of time is a job that taxes people with considerable social capital. The “dole bludgers” I know just accept that they will lose the benefit from time to time, at unpredictable intervals and for reasons that can’t be explained. It seems designed to induce great amounts of stress (which in turn makes people less able to look after themselves, let alone look for work).

  24. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:34 | #24

    But TerjeP, do you think that full employment will be achieved by starving dole recipients?

  25. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:43 | #25

    @Katz

    But TerjeP, do you think that full employment will be achieved by starving dole recipients?

    Well he did say that you weren’t supposed to live on the dole.

    Terje merely makes the well attested right wing point that “incentive” means different things for the privileged and the poor. The privileged need gold and the poor need the lash. This is the system that invests the concept of “choice” with appropriate ideological content.

  26. Ben
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:44 | #26

    @Salient Green
    Speaking of Indigenous Australia, I had generally believed Jenny Macklin about the Intervention but this Big Brother act of “History has always said this. You heard it wrong” makes me doubt her.

  27. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:55 | #27

    I was wondering whether TerjeP is courageous enough to support adaptation of Swift’s solution by having the unemployed eat each other.

  28. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 2nd, 2013 at 07:57 | #28

    To give some specific perspective, I have calculated that if I were forced onto Newstart and associate rent assistance, after paying $450 per fortnight rent for my 1-bedroom flat I would be left with about $150 a fortnight to cover all my other expenses. But it gets worse than this.

    Because I’ve been at the same location since May 2001, the periodic rent increases for the flat haven’t kept pace with market rent increases. One of the other flats in the block is now vacant and is being advertised for rent at $520 per fortnight, which would leave a Newstart recipient who moved into the flat with about $80 per fortnight for all other expenses. Bear in mind, too, that the flat is being advertised at well below the typical rent for 1-bedroom flats in this suburb, which is equal to or above the entire Newstart Allowance plus rent assistance.

    I think it’s time to immediately start finding out whether Jenny Macklin can live on her Parliamentary pension.

  29. Tim Keegan
    January 2nd, 2013 at 08:01 | #29

    I predict that this policy will have a detrimental effect on the day to day lives of children and their life chances. Where’s the light on the hill?

  30. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 08:28 | #30

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy

    One might add as well that cheap rent often tends to be for short term leases — 3 months, or 6 months at most. If you have to move every 6 months you can add about $1000 minimum for those expenses alone. Then there is the little matter of bond and rent up front.

    If I had to move, I daresay I’d have to budget about $3000 for it (assuming somewhere in Sydney or the near region). Luckily, I’ve managed to stay in the one rented house for 21 years.

  31. moz does nothing
    January 2nd, 2013 at 09:21 | #31

    Fran, “cheap rent” in practice seems to mean moving out from the CBD, If you keep pace with the expansion of public transport it’s possible to keep rent down to the point where rent assistance barely kicks in. That means, though, making sure it’s always at least half an hour bus trip to the nearest train station. You also need either so little stuff that you can move it with a shopping trolley, or a friend with a car.

    Which of itself is enough you make you permanently unemployable in these days of “on call” casual staff. Being an hour or more away from work when they offer you a shift pushes you way down the priority list at that casual, flexible, minimum-wage job.

    Watching the next generation leave school and look for part time work (because full time is out of the question) is pretty awful. It doesn’t matter what the legal protections are when the dole is so hard to get. People are really facing “would you like some money for this job, or nothing from the dole” as their options. And Centrelink is only very slowly starting to acknowledge what the modern casual work means for dole recipients. Almost as a matter of course, if you pick up a couple of days work you will be deemed to have committed benefit fraud (ie, not told Centrelink six weeks in advance that you will have income this week). So that pair of 5 hour shifts that actually took 16 hours of your time comes with a hidden bonus of an extra 4-10 hours chasing Centrelink to sort out your benefit and try to avoid being suspended for unreported income. It makes cash work very attractive, not least because with cash the advertised rate is the actual rate. Getting $15/hour on the books actually means $15 x 4 hours paid less the benefit abatement rate of 50%, plus a bonus two appointments at Centrelink and one at your job search provider explaining that a: you got paid work; b: this is how much you got paid; c: that is why you didn’t “actively search for paid work” that day (most people just do the search anyway, it’s easier and faster, but that relies on having the time to do so); and d: here is written proof from the employer that the work was for a short time, at short notice, and cannot be relied on in the future; so e: please don’t cut off my benefit or cut it by the amount I earned that once, every week from now on. In summary, four hours paid work ends up taking 20 or more hours of the “dole bludgers” time with a strong probability of savage financial retribution. Sorry, “accidental underpayment”. Ahem.

    Also, if every time Centrelink underpaid someone that counted as fraud committed against the recipient the fraud statistics would look very different. Especially if there was an audit and enforcement team dedicated to finding and prosecuting people who did that repeatedly and deliberately.

  32. hc
    January 2nd, 2013 at 09:52 | #32

    How else could she have answered? “No, I couldn’t I would perish.” That would be false.

    This line of attack on her is “gotcha” sentimentalism and sensationalism. In short, she said “X” isn’t she immoral and wicked and aren’t we moral and good for pointing out her wickedness? Her attempt to deny the answer reflected her understanding that the honest answer would inevitably invite just such a “gotcha” attack.

    Macklin like most Labor politicians (and most politicians) would like to increase such payments but they are aware of taxpayer hypocrisy. Pay them more but, for God’s sake, don’t increase taxes.

  33. January 2nd, 2013 at 09:54 | #33

    I am in agreement with Terje except his bizarre notion that public policy is not attaining full employment.

  34. Geoff Andrews
    January 2nd, 2013 at 09:56 | #34

    Maybe it was a question that should have been anticipated by Macklin’s PR department.
    If so, what should their advice have been, given that it is in the same league as “Have you stopped beating your wife?” or the old cadet reporter favourite “How did you feel when you saw your child being taken by the shark?”.

    How about:

    (a) “That’s a hypothetical question; I can’t/won’t attempt to answer”
    or
    (b) “I am advised that it is possible to live on $235 a week”
    or
    (c) “If I had to, I could”
    or
    (d) Just give her the famous Tony Abbott silent angry glare or the Julie Bishop ceramic shattering stare until she says “Thank you for your time, Minister”

    … and with that own goal, the Quasi-liberal team trails the quasi-Liberal team by 3 goals.

  35. alex dante
    January 2nd, 2013 at 09:57 | #35

    BilB :
    The real issue here is to do with accommodation affordability, and that can vary widely region to region. So while you are ripping in to the minister think about how you would frame a universal income support device that has to work nationally.

    If the onus is on us to come up with a solution, what are we paying Macklin to do? Because “provide stupid soundbites” isn’t really worth the salary she’s drawing.

    Yes, god forfend those of us who aren’t working on this issue full-time as our primary means of employment (with advisors and staff to assist) don’t have the answer while expecting better ones from those who do…

  36. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 10:08 | #36

    @hc

    How else could she have answered?

    Honestly. Assuming I had to pass the work test and had no other store of resources to draw upon nor anyone willing to supply me with cheap board I would have to take steps that would make it much less likely that I would find longterm work. It’s quite likely I’d fall into poor health, and sleeping rough at my age would make that especially likely. For young people of course, whose effective unemplyment rate is much closer to 20% in many areas and especially those who tend to be most at risk of underemployment or unemployment, these risks are especially grave. It’s terrible of course but if we are to honour fiscal conservatism and to present ourselves as rightwingers then there’s really no good alternative but to make the poor suffer.

    Sadly, there are always winner and losers in public policy and the lives of poor people are just not as worthy as the lives of privileged people. In a market-based system, privileged people are the more valuable asset, and since the total program cost of looking after these folk is less and they tend to be more politically engaged, it’s simple good sense to pander to them.

    Does that sound greedy? Uncaring? At odds with notions of equality to which I would once have paid lipservice? Sure. But I’m a $6000 per week government minister not someone wanting to relive their glory days as a “red fem” so the poor can kiss my {oops … forgot this was a mixed audience, but you get the drift.}

    Had she said that, I’d have given her points for candour. I like candour.

  37. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 10:12 | #37

    @hc

    I agree.

    Nevertheless, we tax payers fund battalions of ministerial minders and spinmeisters whose sole function is to construct credible lies to be consumed by the folks who paid for them.

    It would appear that Macklin’s professional liars let her down badly. This is clearly a collapse of governance.

    There should be a Royal Commission.

  38. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 2nd, 2013 at 10:20 | #38

    If George Orwell were around, he would perhaps (following on from the argument in “Politics and the English Language” point out that the government policy in question is one that can only be defended by arguments that are too brutal to be stated openly, and has been adopted for reasons that are too absurd and contemptible to be stated openly, leaving the government with no other recourse than to arguments that are even more absurd when stated openly.

  39. Ikonoclast
    January 2nd, 2013 at 10:30 | #39

    @TerjeP

    “I can see here from comments that I am alone in believing that full employment is an achievable public policy outcome.” – TerjeP.

    Just two posts up from your comment I mentioned the Langmore / Quiggin book. This book viewed full employment as achieveable – excepting 3% (sic*) frictional unemployment – and proposed the public policies to get there. The policies would work if ever implemented. I mentioned the book above. That makes at least 2 here, J. Quiggin and myself, who believe full employment is an achievable public policy outcome.

    * Note: I would nominate about 2% as frictional unemployment. Just a personal call based on politics and perceptions. 3% is too close to 4% which in turn is too close to 5%. It’s bad to set targets which allow weasel politicians to fudge it further. Next thing they would be calling 5% unemployment frictional.

  40. Ikonoclast
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 | #40

    Moz does Nothing said; “Centrelink is only very slowly starting to acknowledge…”

    This was probably just an imprecise statement. The type we all make when blogging quickly.

    Being pedantic, I will say this. Centrelink (management and staff) do not legislate, make laws or set welfare policy. The Government of the day does those things. Welfare policy is the responsibility of the government and (by extension) the entire electorate. Centrelink and DSS before it (like DIMA too) have been forced to implement and administer idiotic and inhuman policies for at least two decades. A small percentage of their staff appear to enjoy being tin gods, narks and scrooges with public money but the vast majority don’t like being put in such an invidious position (by the neocon politicians of the Liberals and Labor) and do their work as fairly as they can.

    Many of the good and experienced over 50 staff can longer stand the lunacy (generic managerialism, endless restructures, absurd policy, gimcrack fast tracked systems and procedures) and are leaving in droves. Their young staff are smart, dedicated, stressed, over-worked, under-appreciated and under-paid. I suspect many will burn out well before 50.

    The federal government now treats its frontline staff like s**t. I strongly advise people I meet (when and if the topic comes up) to never accept base grade employment with the Federal Govt unless they are totally desperate and their only alternative is casual work in a fast food joint. If they still intend to work for the feds I say keep looking for a better job and get out as soon as you can.

  41. J-D
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:03 | #41

    @Fran Barlow
    It’s all very well saying you’d give ‘points’ to politicians who talked like that, but what good are your points to them? Would you give them your vote?

  42. January 2nd, 2013 at 11:06 | #42

    An old book but a beauty is Unemployment by Layard , Nickell and Jackman.

    There is a good review of it by Olvier Blanchard as well somewhere out there if people are interested in this topic

  43. Sam
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:16 | #43

    I lived on youth allowance as an undergraduate student for many years; this is less than the dole. I found it tough, but easily survivable. Rents have gone up a bit since then though, so if I were to do it now I would have to live a bit further out from the city. This would mean riding my bike further everyday, but that wouldn’t kill me.

    Like TerjeP, I am much more concerned with lowering the structural unemployment rate than making unemployment more enjoyable, however it’s my belief that the net effect of TerjeP’s suggested policies would be to increase this rate, not reduce it.

    I’d like to see the federal government acting as employer as last resort. The work could be reasonably hard, and perhaps paying just slightly less than current minimum wage. There’s lot’s of work to be done around the country, and only a dysfunctional economic system preventing people doing it.

  44. Chris Warren
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:48 | #44

    Another parliamentary bimbo tried the same provocation in 1984 – Stephen Lusher.

    See: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1300&dat=19840409&id=2FFVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wpUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1562,3950820

    The outcry was thunderous at the time.

  45. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 2nd, 2013 at 11:58 | #45

    Lusher’s stunt was performed for, and covered by, 60 Minutes. It elicited a brilliant Tandberg cartoon showing two people looking at a news billboard that read “Lusher survives on dole for 60 minutes.”

  46. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 12:36 | #46

    @J-D

    It’s all very well saying you’d give ‘points’ to politicians who talked like that, but what good are your points to them? Would you give them your vote?

    Well no, of course not. Voting is an expressive or symbolic act and self-evidently, I don’t share the values espoused in the remarks so I wouldn’t be supporting them. That said, I would feel a lower level of disgust for them than at those who thought exactly the same thing but tried to locate its provenance in “being cruel to be kind” or “to ensure fairness amongst benefit classes” (yes Macklin said that about the supporting parents’ benefit changes) or “to avoid institutionalising welfarism/creating a cycle of dependence” or some other meme du jour.

    Nothing I do is meant to be of use to them. I am no kind of servant of theirs. The social interests of boss class politicians will never be my concern. At most, I might have an indirect interest in the momentary triumph of one over the other where that triumph might in some way relieve some of the misery their system inevitably imposes on working people or the marginalised more generally. A politician who spoke with such candour would simplify the business of encouraging the working people to step forward and press their claims for justice and serve to demystify politics. I can like that without wanting success for the utterer of such remarks.

  47. Donald Oats
    January 2nd, 2013 at 12:43 | #47

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    Thanks for the evocation of that Tandberg cartoon caption—it has made my day!

    On the topic of what Jenny Maclin said…I just saw the video again, and Macklin’s reply is a picture of clarity: no easy way to defend calling it “inaudible” in the transcript.

    As for Macklin being able to “live on the dole,” it is worth considering her current salary of over $6K per week, and wondering if she truly appreciates the scale of the change to $35 bucks a day? I suspect she doesn’t have the slightest clue, and upon reflection she regretted her curt and ridiculous answer. Whether a staffer redacted the reply from the transcript, or she did, the net effect is the same. It makes them look devious.

  48. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 2nd, 2013 at 12:53 | #48

    At this point I am going to offer a self-criticism which might also be offered by others, notwithstanding the very good points that have been made about the adequacy of Newstart and about employment policy.

    What we have overlooked is that the issue here is not just the (in)adequacy of Newstart, it is that many thousands of single parents are having their, and their families’, living standards massively reduced as a result of being shifted from Parenting Payment to Newstart. Further, in many cases they are having their existing patterns of engagement with education and employment disrupted by being moved onto the coercive and paternalistic Newstart “mutual obligation” and “intensive support” regime.

    Here is a good place to learn more about the issue.
    http://www.ncsmc.org.au/

  49. TerjeP
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:06 | #49

    Katz :
    But TerjeP, do you think that full employment will be achieved by starving dole recipients?

    Of course not. Can you point to any data showing that Australians are starving?

  50. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:10 | #50

    Of Macklin’s spinmeisters, Oscar Wilde might have said, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the unrepeatable”.

  51. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:13 | #51

    Can you point to a time when Australia enjoyed full employment?

    We don’t have starvation for many reasons, one of which is that libertarian nostrums have never become policy.

  52. John Brookes
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:27 | #52

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    Lusher was quite brave to do this. No such mistake would be made by any of todays pollies (other than the Greens). Lusher, if I remember rightly, did learn from the experience.

  53. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:45 | #53

    @John Brookes

    Lusher was quite brave to do this. No such mistake would be made by any of todays pollies (other than the Greens).

    The important difference being that Rachel Siewert was attempting to show that one could not survive with dignity on “the dole” whereas Lusher had been trying to prove that you could — and indeed, that you could live in luxury. Lusher reportedly learned from his mistake whereas Siewert affirmed her view.

  54. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:48 | #54

    Yes, we all learned that Lusher was an ignorant dolt before this stunt.

    After the stunt he was simply a dolt.

  55. Chris Warren
    January 2nd, 2013 at 13:54 | #55

    Of course not. Can you point to any data showing that Australians are starving?

    TerjeP really has no idea. 5% of Australians suffer “food insecurity” – 2011 data.

    http://www.aifs.gov.au/cafca/pubs/sheets/ps/ps9.html

    With all the strikeforce jet fighters and ugly submarines we waste billions on, why should anyone go hungry?

  56. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 14:01 | #56

    @Chris Warren

    With all the {…} ugly submarines we waste billions on, why should anyone go hungry?

    Perhaps if the subs could be painted yellow they could be used as housing. Apparently they rarely go out, and I’ve heard there’s a song about such a policy.

  57. Happy Heyoka
    January 2nd, 2013 at 14:04 | #57

    @Chris Warren
    I guess we can add Adam Bandt to the list of bimbos; if they want to be taken seriously then let them try it for a year.
    (It’s a great link btw; well worth reading the whole page… Fiona Coote, Reagan in China, wow)

  58. Geoff Andrews
    January 2nd, 2013 at 14:34 | #58

    Katz, if you accept Iconoclast’s concept that “full employment” includes a 2% “friction” component, there was a time in the 1950′s, I think, when we had unemployment as low as 2%. I can remember that the informed opinion of the time was that it may be preferable to have a slightly larger figure, presumably to stop the workers getting ideas above their station. Can’t verify this memory with google-facts but then you can’t verify your quite objective assertion that Lusher was a dolt.

  59. TerjeP
    January 2nd, 2013 at 15:19 | #59

    Chris – Surely you are not so stupid as to suggest that 5% of Australians are starving? I hope not. But you want to whack me over the head with some data so you go and choose a different metric. Nice tactic.

    I don’t have the exact figure but there are something like half a million Australians on the dole. Apparently they will all be dead soon according to some of the more silly perspectives being expressed here.

  60. Katz
    January 2nd, 2013 at 16:33 | #60

    Ah yes, the 1950s.

    That was the full flood tide of the Menzian consensus. Menzies accepted the political economy established by Curtin and Chifley and Australian industry cringed behind massive tariff walls.

    Full employment and the antithesis of libertarian political economy. LOL.

  61. alex dante
    January 2nd, 2013 at 16:34 | #61

    TerjeP :
    Chris – Surely you are not so stupid as to suggest that 5% of Australians are starving? I hope not.

    No, stupid would be trying to frame “food insecurity” as “starving”, when the data linked to provided a very clear definition of what is meant by it.

    I don’t have the exact figure

    I’d hope not, you wouldn’t want to “whack” us “over the head with some data”, would you? Not when you can resort to unsubstantiated claims and straw man arguments.

  62. Ikonoclast
    January 2nd, 2013 at 16:37 | #62

    @TerjeP

    I think we can all agree that 500,000 unemployed Australians is a sign of failure somewhere and perhaps everywhere. As was said above by another blogger; “There’s lot’s of work to be done around the country…”.

    Logically, given adequate material resources and a basically peaceful and orderly society, there are only two basic possibilities for the cause(s) and unemployment. It’s perfectly possible for both causes to be true at the same time.

    The possibilities are (1) systemic (political-economic) failure and (2) personal failure. Both are clearly occurring at the same time. Let us ask ourselves these questions. Is our system perfect in every way? No, of course not, therefore there must be some degree of systemic failure. Are all humans motivated and hard working? No, some humans are de-motivated and lazy. Let us not judge the reasons why they are so or assign blame (as endogenous or exogenous causes). Just accept the fact without judgement.

    Given that both systemic and personal failure occur then we must work on both problems. It’s no good being black and white or “either-or” in our thinking. People seem to want to argue it’s exclusively one cause or the other when it’s both.

    To work on both problems takes concerted social and political action. It takes such action (social and political) to implement macroeconomic reforms to address unemployment and it takes such action (social and political) to address and assist individual de-motivation, de-moralisation and laziness.

    At the heart of it is the problem that the rich oligarchs like high-ish unemployment. It simplifies labour and staff management issues for them, acts to depress wages and returns the oligarchs more profits (and power).

    Quite simply, a decision has to be made to implement full employment policies via public employment to utilise all those not employed by private enterprise. Wages and the wage share of the economy need to be lifted and profits need to be dropped. The economy needs to become more equitable. Both demand side and supply side labour policy need to be pursued simultaneously. Create the jobs, train the people to fill them and make people feel wanted and useful. Kindness and well-directed help have always achieved more than oppression, coercion, cruelty, and abandonment.

  63. Sam
    January 2nd, 2013 at 17:33 | #63

    @Ikonoclast
    Should the government be an employer of last resort?

  64. January 2nd, 2013 at 17:41 | #64

    As others have noted, the real problem in living on the dole is rent. I was on unemployment benefits for a period while living at my parents’ place. While I was paying for a lot of things myself, without needing to cover rent the amount was enough to live on – and indeed would have been even if I had not had some part time work through this.

    Having got a job and moved out I went through a subsequent period on benefits and this time it was certainly not possible to live on what I was getting (even though the amount of part time work had increased in the meantime). I was only able to survive by running down my savings from the job I’d had in between.

    Consequently, I have always thought the higher priority was to boost rent assistance, than increase Newstart per se. Besides those living with family there are probably some who find it easy to manage in areas where rent is cheap – extra money should be targeted at those most in need, which usually relates to rent.

    On both occasions however, it was a brutally humiliating experience, and frankly I wouldn’t be here to write about it were it not for the lack of a weapon I considered suitable for removing the problem and the realisation of what that would do to my parents if I went through with it. I am not aware of the statistics on suicide rates amongst those on unemployment benefits, but would say that while many people manage to live on the dole, there is a minority who don’t, although that has as much to do with the way the unemployed are treated as the actual level of the payment.

    More detail here for anyone interested http://forensicsfossilsfruitbats.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/my-life-on-newstart-just-a-hint-of-science/

  65. Ikonoclast
    January 2nd, 2013 at 19:14 | #65

    Sam :
    @Ikonoclast
    Should the government be an employer of last resort?

    Yes.

  66. taxpayer
    January 2nd, 2013 at 20:06 | #66

    Why should Australian people get up early of a morning and work hard to pay for bludgers who want to lay about or go to the beach. The dole should be stopped. There is plenty of work for those who want it.

  67. Chris Warren
    January 2nd, 2013 at 20:26 | #67

    The bludgers on the beach are hardworking nurses enjoying their rostered day off, garbage truck employees getting ready for their shift, plus a few middle class toffs, waiting for their next cheque to arrive in their bank account.

    You will find the bludgers in the cocktail bars overlooking the beaches.

  68. Robert (not from UK)
    January 2nd, 2013 at 20:43 | #68

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy

    ” I wonder if John Maynes still has enough Rerum Novarum juice left in him to reflect that Philip Bain, whatever his past sins, would have brought more Christian social commitment to politics and policy than Macklin has been able to.”

    John Maynes is no longer with us, I’m afraid. He died in 2009 (and had, as is fairly well known, broken with the NCC during the early 1980s):

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/grouper-who-defined-an-era-20090821-etvi.html?skin=text-only

  69. Abhoth the Unclean
    January 2nd, 2013 at 21:01 | #69

    The real problem here is that Macklin’s minders recorded the reply as inaudible. this makes me angry! Not only is she stupid enough to engage at this level she thinks we are so stupid as to believe this transcript.

  70. Fran Barlow
    January 2nd, 2013 at 21:02 | #70

    @taxpayer

    You presume facts not in evidence. Also, work is done for recompense not for altruistic reasons, so even allowing for the sake of argument that some welfare recipients are indolent but notionally employable and likely to find work if they were not indolent, the moral plea is bogus.

    They too could choose not to work, and have the life of a welfare recipient. They choose not to. Why is that, do you suppose, “taxpayer”?

  71. TerjeP
    January 2nd, 2013 at 21:36 | #71

    Ikonoclast – I agree with pretty much everything in your latest comment except perhaps the bit about increasing public sector employment as a means to achieving full employment. However other than that I think you framed the problem rather neatly.

  72. Mikey Puttock
    January 3rd, 2013 at 02:26 | #72

    I think that if we have a world first & make our politicians the first to actually be low income earners, then maybe something might just get done to run this country properly. Further more, if our government was to be the first to become recipients of the dole or government handouts, this would put an end to them being able to give themselves stupid pay rises for an unrealistic performance that they put in & their rises would be in line with the CPI.

    I welcome Jenny Macklin’s, suggestion that she could live on a government handout & I suggest that they start this immediately starting with herself & Juliar Gillard with the rest of those Labor idiots to follow suite and offer some of the real low income earners a chance to live like Government officials and get their salaries & perks that the likes of Juliar Gillard & Jenny Macklin are entitled too.

    I know that this WILL NEVER happen, so our politicians need to keep their traps shut cos I for one would like to hold them to everything that they say ON THE PUBLIC RECORD!

  73. Geoff Andrews
    January 3rd, 2013 at 02:31 | #73

    @Katz
    Not sure what your lolling about, Katz.

    If you’re inferring that unemployment was not (say) 2%, I readily concede that my memory of the time could be flawed. Intuitively, one could think otherwise: we had to find employment for soldiers returning from the war and large numbers of migrants (many of whom were enemies less than 10 years before – we were much more generous spirited then).
    Countering this, there was a massive housing shortage requiring labour, the Snowy Scheme was in full swing (nobody seemed concerned that we were burdening the children of the future with debt like we’re doing with the NBN) and married women, particularly those with children, tended not to seek paid employment.

    I know that youth unemployment was unheard of. Even during school holidays there were temporary jobs available for kids lucky enough to go on to high school.

    We owned our own airline, bank, telephone network, postal service and probably the water & electricity supply systems. And we had control of the price of our pound or dollar.

    We apparently had a vibrant manufacturing industry. Only 10 years previously we were making our own aeroplanes and small arms; we not only assembled cars, we built them from the ground up; Brisbane alone had two companies manufacturing bicycles; not only did we grow wool, which we were selling overseas at about $100/kilo in today’s prices (a bit like our modern day mining boom, eh?), we (gasp) manufactured clothes and blankets with it.
    All gone, why? In the name of “international competitiveness” “economic efficiency”?

    Perhaps the reason why manufacturers were “cringing behind massive tariff walls” was the relatively good wages paid to the employed-soon-to-be-unemployed.
    Perhaps you or John could do a quick cost/benefit analysis for an old curmudgeon on the effect of withdrawing or reducing tariffs.

  74. J-D
    January 3rd, 2013 at 05:42 | #74

    @Fran Barlow
    By that logic, Jenny Macklin would get even more points from you if she answered questions by saying something like, ‘I have no good answer because I am nothing but a tool of a system designed to support and protect the interests of the boss class and oppress and immiserate workers and other people marginalised by the system. For too long I have struggled to hide the truth. I confess my sins and repent. I will abandon my place in the system immediately and join Fran Barlow and her comrades in their struggle to encourage the working class to press its claims for justice.’

    Maybe this is just the way my mind works, but it would interest me to know why, f you were going to respond to the question with a fantasy, you stopped short of the sort of fantasy I just outlined.

    Setting aside fantasy, my realistic point was not that you should serve Jenny Macklin’s interests–I don’t expect you to do that–but that it’s realistic to suppose that Jenny Macklin will try to serve her own interests, as she imagines them to be, as everybody does that to some extent. Yet it seems that what she did say is unlikely to serve even her own interests well and–again I suppose this may be just the way my mind works–I can’t help wondering what response on her part would have worked better specifically from her own point of view.

  75. Ikonoclast
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:08 | #75

    @Geoff Andrews

    You list all the things I remember before “economic rationalism” so-called. In the 60s we had;

    1. Keynesian-Coombsian* economics. (*Nugget Coombs)
    2. 2% frictional unemployment
    3. The Commonwealth Bank publicly owned.
    4. QANTAS publicly owned.
    5. TAA publicly owned and ANA privately owned (a regulated domestic airline duopoly in a country small in population and large in size was arguably the most efficient approach.)
    6. PMG (Post Master General) publicly owned.
    7. The Wool Board (A regulated government monopsony which kept wool prices high. Good for Australia but maybe not for the world.)
    8. High Tariffs (enabling high-wage manufacture).
    9. Free Tertiary education.
    10. Excellent public schools.
    11. CSL (Commonwealth Serum Laboratories) was publicly owned.
    12. CSIRO did excellent work and assisted govt. and the private sector.

    I could go on. Life wasn’t perfect though. Sexism was rife. Women were required to resign from teaching in Qld (in the early 1950s) as soon as they married. Women in general were discriminated against everwhere in work life and public life. Indigenous people were treated far worse. I won’t list the abuses here. Most indigenous people effectively had no Federal vote until the referendum in 1967. Many teenagers left school at 15 (and probably at 13 in the 1950s). And those servile Liberals went all the way with LBJ (into the Vietnam war). Whitlam’s election saved me from concscription and possibly ‘Nam. My rather eccentric father, bless him, was ready (preparations made) to hide me in N.Q. if I was called up.

    However, getting back to the point. Public monopolies, regulated duopolies, regional monopolies (Milk Boards, co-operatives etc.), monopsonies, high tariffs and so on worked well for Australia at that phase of its (and the world’s) development.

    I don’t argue that all of those aspects should have been retained. However, some certainly should have been. The following should been kept publicly owned as they are of national strategic value and/or are natural monopolies.

    1. Commonwealth Bank.
    2. QANTAS.
    3. Post and Communications.
    4. Railways.
    5. CSL.

    We had to float the dollar. That was unavoidable and a net benefit. Tariffs should have been looked at in a more discriminating fashion and adjusted on a case by case basis. Certainly today I would argue for a carbon tax domestically and a carbon tariff on all imported goods which pay no carbon tax or an inadequate one in their country of origin.

  76. TerjeP
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:20 | #76

    No, stupid would be trying to frame “food insecurity” as “starving”, when the data linked to provided a very clear definition of what is meant by it.

    Alex – I don’t think you followed the discussion very carefully. However for the record I agree it would be stupid to try and frame “food insecurity” as “starving”. I don’t know why Chris attempted to do so.

  77. Ikonoclast
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:23 | #77

    @J-D

    The point is that Labor’s and Macklin’s (as she is the Minister) policy towards the unemployed is cruel and unconscionable as well as being unwise and counter-productive.

    It now costs in todays dollars about $400,000 to $1 million to bring up and educate a child to age 18 (former number) and to keep them at home (studying etc.) till 24 (latter number).

    On pure economic grounds, consider this. A young adult human (viewed mechanistically) is an expensive piece of complex, self-actuationg machinery constructed (physically, cognitively and socially) with 18 to 24 years of expensive and time consuming inputs not all of which are costed economically. If you had a piece of machinary that valuable and potentially useful would you throw it away on a scrap heap or would you utilise it for a relatively small additional input and get the enormous outputs possible? If you want to look at the country as a business, why would create these expensive, intelligent, adroit and almost infinitely flexibly tasked “machines” and then throw them away? It’s the height of stupidity (and inhumanity) to do so.

  78. J-D
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:24 | #78

    @TerjeP
    A footnote to the study published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies states that information on food security levels in Australia is limited, which would make it difficult to estimate with confidence how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ (whatever metric is used to define ‘starving’). The report is based on available information: that’s better than nothing. It cites sources (calling them ‘conservative estimates’) for a claim that ‘upwards of’ 5% of Australians experience food insecurity, 40% of those (which means ‘upwards of’ 2% of Australians) at a severe level.

    It’s true that doesn’t enable us to say how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ unless we define ‘starving’ to equate with the definition of ‘experiencing food insecurity at a severe level’. But how would you feel (hypothetically, if you like) about 2% of Australians experiencing food insecurity at a severe level even if that’s not the same as starving? It seems like a significant problem to me.

  79. Fran Barlow
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:35 | #79

    @J-D

    I have no good answer because I am nothing but a tool of a system designed to support and protect the interests of the boss class

    Not bad … though perhaps a little functionalist in its description of the provenance of the system. I’m more with Ralph Miliband on the class character of the state.

    For too long I have struggled to hide the truth. I confess my sins and repent. I will abandon my place in the system immediately and join Fran Barlow and her comrades in their struggle to encourage the working class to press its claims for justice.

    Hmmm … sounds a little Catholic now, and I gave up on that sort of thing at about 14. Passing over sin and penitence she’d have to leave the ALP and the ministry — Hartley got punted for a lot less than that, and he wasn’t even an MP. For the record, if she did repudiate the ALP and its paradigm in favour of inclusive governance I would change my mind about her. I regard that as entirely improbable.

    it seems that what she did say is unlikely to serve even her own interests well and–again I suppose this may be just the way my mind works–I can’t help wondering what response on her part would have worked better specifically from her own point of view.

    This is a difficult one, because to answer it in your terms entails some quite arbitrary assumptions about what ‘her own interests’ truly are. I’d say the fundamental interests of all humans are in authentic community with its promise of insight and purpose — and both scarcity and inequity are corrosive of that. By logical inference, all humans who fail to make that struggle a key part of their engagement with politics are subverting their own interests. Of course — that is merely my assertion. It’s an expression of my politics rather than something I can prove. I accept that people decide for themselves what their interests are and how to weigh the banal withe the sublime, the immediate with the relatively temporally remote and so forth. That entails a paradox because if I believe they have misapprehended their interests “pursuing their interests” can mean mutually exclusive things.

    If one construes “her own interests” much more narrowly — what would best serve her desire to preserve and/or augment her existing privileges? — then I’m not sure there is a good answer. She is constrained by the paradigm of rule established by the regime that granted her these privileges. She is obliged to act against welfare recipients, and to defend such policies. Dissembling and outright lying or is indicated on the grounds of relative feasibility. It’s an overhead of “doing business” in the broad sense. She could try saying … “oh gosh, it would be tough living on NewStart but we are doing al we can to make that period as short as possible and thankfully, charities and the community will probably step in to fill the gap and minimise the suffering”. That would still cop blowback, and is dissembling, but it’s the lowest cost strategy, IMO.

  80. J-D
    January 3rd, 2013 at 06:50 | #80

    @Ikonoclast
    You have posted this as if it is in some way a response to what I posted.

    It is not in any way a response to what I posted, and if you think it is then I must have failed to communicate my meaning clearly.

    A question was posed about how Jenny Macklin might have answered the question that was put to her. Fran Barlow suggested something that (she said) Jenny Macklin might have said, and I was discussing Fran Barlow’s comment. The subject of that discussion was, therefore, not what policy Jenny Macklin (or the government, or any government) should implement, but rather what Jenny Macklin (or somebody in her position) should or might say.

    Is the distinction between ‘what could Jenny Macklin say?’ and ‘what could Jenny Macklin do?’ insufficiently clear?

    I understand the significance of your comment as a contribution to the discussion generally, but I don’t understand what made you tag it as a response to my comment.

  81. Katz
    January 3rd, 2013 at 07:02 | #81

    @Katz
    Not sure what your lolling about, Katz.
    If you’re inferring that unemployment was not (say) 2%…

    I wasn’t.

  82. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    January 3rd, 2013 at 07:32 | #82

    Once again, let’s not forget that the issue here is not just the dole and its inadequacies but the denial of parenting payment and associated benefits to single parents who are being forced onto the dole. As some of Macklin’s pig-ignorant comments have made clear, this policy seems to be based on a hackneyed sexist view of single mothers, what they are doing with their lives and what they should be doing with their lives, and the view that they need paternalistic micromanagement by government even when this is to the detriment of their own existing initiatives to engage with education and employment.

    Here is some more essential reading.

    http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/I-raised-there-men-on-that-scrapped-parenting-payment/

  83. dave
    January 3rd, 2013 at 08:16 | #83

    Actually living on the dole or its equivalent depends on how much you pay for the roof over your head as someone else has stated here. And Australian property prices which largely determine rents are pretty damn high so the property owning class are doing ok, but anyone who isn’t in that game is stuck on the treadmill. But with real estate prices being a substantial component of economic GDP and a basis for local taxes in the form of rates and stamp duty, governments are in bed with the forces that want prices to increase. In fact they are actively supporting the property ownership class with substantial tax breaks as Judith Yates notes for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Is it hardly surprising that the dole also includes a rent assistance component, since government policy seems to favour a redistribution in wealth back to the property owners despite any human hardship. Still life wasn’t meant to be easy.

  84. J-D
    January 3rd, 2013 at 08:58 | #84

    @Fran Barlow
    Good answer.

    But I notice that you say that you regard as entirely improbable the idea of Jenny Macklin repudiating the ALP and its paradigm. I agree. It is entirely improbable.

    However, the idea of Jenny Macklin giving the kind of answer you suggested earlier is also entirely improbable. So when you suggested that kind of answer (in response to the question that was posed about what else she could have said), you were obviously disregarding any constraints of probability. And yet, even while disregarding any constraints of probability, something else was evidently holding you back from offering a maximally idealistic answer. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help wondering what that was.

  85. Fran Barlow
    January 3rd, 2013 at 09:24 | #85

    @J-D

    when you suggested that kind of answer (in response to the question that was posed about what else she could have said), you were obviously disregarding any constraints of probability.

    I probably should have said “could in theory”. My tongue was in my cheek of course.

    something else was evidently holding you back from offering a maximally idealistic answer.

    The desire for brevity, and the wish to avoid getting too “meta” for the question at hand.

  86. Fran Barlow
    January 3rd, 2013 at 09:28 | #86

    @J-D

    I suppose as well that my self-imposed constraint preserves about as much of Macklin-as-she-is as one can without opening a portal to an alternate universe, though to be fair, efven my whimsy does at least suggest a shadowy Narnia-like wardrobe with an indistinct back, perhaps leading to such a place. ;-)

  87. Will
    January 3rd, 2013 at 11:33 | #87

    taxpayer :
    Why should Australian people get up early of a morning and work hard to pay for bludgers who want to lay about or go to the beach. The dole should be stopped. There is plenty of work for those who want it.

    One day in 1915, the portly Prime Minister Billy Hughes was boarding a train when he was heckled by a bystander:

    “So Billy, what’s it going to be? A boy or a girl?”

    Said Billy, without a moment’s hesitation:

    “If it is a boy, I will name him George, after the king. If it is a girl, I will name her Victoria, after the queen. But if it is, as I strongly suspect, nothing but piss and wind, I will name it after you Sir.”

  88. Donald Oats
    January 3rd, 2013 at 11:41 | #88

    No.

    That is my answer to the question posed by Prof. Quiggin in the title of this blog post.

  89. Katz
    January 3rd, 2013 at 12:19 | #89

    @Will

    It was actually George Reid:

    http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reid-sir-george-houstoun-8173

    (Still a funny retort, however.)

  90. Fran Barlow
    January 3rd, 2013 at 12:32 | #90

    @Will

    That remark is usually attributed to NSW Premier and Fourth PM George Reid, because the heckler was seeking to sledge Mr Reid for his ample paunch. Billy Hughes was a fairly thin man so the challenge would have made no sense.

  91. Geoff Andrews
    January 3rd, 2013 at 12:36 | #91

    @Ikonoclast
    Re your comment #22 above;
    I’d forgotten about the unbelievably stupid privatisation of the CSIRO and CSL. There is no vandal like the official vandal.

    Another social phenomenon that has disappeared is the religious divide: Catholics vs the rest. I had strict instructions from my mother not to bring home a Catholic girl

    The dumbing down of our complete education system over the last 25 years or so, from primary through to tertiary, does not bode well for our future.

    The children of the wealthy (or of Catholic parents) were well educated and, until the Commonwealth Scholarship scheme, filled all the University places. In Brisbane in 1950 there were 10 private high schools for boys and 7 private high schools for girls; while the State provided 2 co-educational high schools and one all boys and one all girls.

    Three public examinations at two year intervals ensured a level playing field when assessing each student’s ability. The abolition of these examinations, in my opinion, has had an extremely detrimental effect on education. They should be reintroduced, perhaps on a voluntary basis.

    Now I’m starting to sound like one of the four Yorkshire men.

  92. Ikonoclast
    January 3rd, 2013 at 12:47 | #92

    @J-D
    I was trying to get beyond personality politics and bring matters back to the substantive issue.

  93. TerjeP
    January 3rd, 2013 at 14:14 | #93

    It’s true that doesn’t enable us to say how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ unless we define ‘starving’ to equate with the definition of ‘experiencing food insecurity at a severe level’.

    So you agree it was reasonable for me to call into claim the suggestion that people are starving.

    But how would you feel (hypothetically, if you like) about 2% of Australians experiencing food insecurity at a severe level even if that’s not the same as starving? It seems like a significant problem to me.

    I would feel like it is a terrible situation. How else could anybody feel about it?

  94. TerjeP
    January 3rd, 2013 at 14:15 | #94

    “claim” should be “question”

  95. Peter
    January 6th, 2013 at 11:42 | #95

    Ikonoclast :
    @J-D

    It now costs in todays dollars about $400,000 to $1 million to bring up and educate a child to age 18 (former number) and to keep them at home (studying etc.) till 24 (latter number).

    This is silly. There is no way a child ‘costs’ $20,000 per year to raise. Not even half that.

  96. Ludwig
    January 6th, 2013 at 23:45 | #96

    @Katz
    Whilst I disagreed with many of Lusher’s views I would not describe him as a dolt. It was the group house that my girlfriend lived in that he took residence in to make his case. We (the residents, their friends and Ray Martin) spent quite a lot of time with him while he was there. He was genuinely surprised at the price of food. it turned out that his lifestyle and his family business did not expose him to these costs. He quickly realised that the people who advised him and shaped his opinions had misled him. He did learn from the experience and, aside from trying to change his party’s views, engaged in a number of activities to try to help the unemployed — including restructuring his business activities to provide more jobs. He came across as a reasonably intelligent and caring person who was misguided. Much like the majority of the electorate.

  97. Fran Barlow
    January 7th, 2013 at 07:01 | #97

    @Peter

    That figure includes income foregone as a consequence of parental duty. It is clear for example, that women (and sometimes men) who take leave to raise children rarely recover in income terms the position that those who don’t take such leave.

    I’m always a bit leary of counterfactual analysis, but in this case, there seems to be reasonably strong evidence for the correlation and a plausible case for putting this into the “costs of raising children” box.

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