News Limited’s Geelong Advertiser launched a personal attack on its front page on March 27 against local Geelong Greens secretary and activist Matt Hrkac. The front page read: “Greens red faced. Obscene rant: Party’s Geelong ‘branch secretary’ in shocking foul-mouth tirade after missing out on job”.
The paper then went on to print nearly a full-page article attacking Hrkac, and by association the Greens, over a frustrated email that Hrkac had sent to a prospective employer after being informed he was unsuccessful for a job application. As if that were not enough, the attack continued in the paper’s editorial column. In each case, the publication failed to address the serious and growing issue of youth unemployment and underemployment.
This attack could not have come at a better time from the perspective of the right-wing media, as on the same day the Brotherhood of St Laurence announced research indicating youth underemployment is at a 40-year high. As of February, more than 650,000 young people were unemployed or underemployed.
The research indicated that growing youth underemployment is not due to young workers also being enrolled in study as well. The data shows that the increase in young workers in casual and part-time employment has mostly been among those who are not students.
In August Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that while unemployment rates had declined, underemployment continued to rise.
It is becoming increasingly common for young people to work for free in placements attached to TAFE and university courses or as part of unpaid internships. The Daily Telegraph published an article on March 28 about a 22-year-old psychology student who is engaged in four unpaid internships in the hope of one day securing a job.
While young workers continue to struggle in a casualised workforce the federal government applauds and encourages the cuts to penalty rates passed by the so-called Fair Work Commission earlier this year. It also proposes cuts to Centrelink payments, including family tax benefits, schoolkids bonus, parental leave pay and childcare assistance, which will have significant impacts on the next generation.
The government is setting up the next generation of workers to fail while the right-wing press victimises young job seekers when they do fail, or for getting frustrated at a system that is clearly broken. Young people deserve better and do not warrant criticism for expecting the same things our parents had: stable employment, the ability to buy a house and a welfare net when we need it.
A basic standard of living is rapidly being stripped away from the next generation, it’s time to fight back to reclaim it.