By Sean Malloy
CANBERRA — The July 22 youth jobs summit took a step forward the Keating government's plans to hide youth unemployment under compulsory "training" and starvation level wages.
The gathering formalised proposals outlined in the Carmichael report: the elimination of full-time (paid) jobs for young people aged 15-19; the restructuring of TAFE to better meet the demands of business; and training wages well below the poverty line.
Keating boasted that the Carmichael Report was "unanimously endorsed" by the summit. "There wasn't one demur", he said.
This was hardly surprising, since the overwhelming majority of delegates had direct or indirect input to the Carmichael Report. Its proposals particularly reflect the wishes of the Business Council of Australia and the Confederation of Australian Industry.
Dominated by business and bureaucrats, with only token representation of unemployed young people, the summit naturally achieved a "spirit of cooperation" and "good will", as the media tirelessly repeated. It did not create any real jobs, but it was never intended to. The point of the operation was to create the illusion that the "community" had been "consulted" and had even originated some of the policies the government intended to carry out.
The standardisation and restructuring of TAFE courses under federal control is to create an "Australian vocational certificate" system. While not all the details have been spelled out, this is likely to mean the downgrading or total elimination of any courses not directly related to some demand from business.
The government also plans to begin pilot training schemes of the sort envisaged in the Carmichael Report. These are likely to involve subsidies for business, while the young people involved will be paid well under the level of the poverty line, currently calculated as $194.08 per week for a single person by the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
As the system is introduced, young people will be forced to participate in it by the elimination of full-time jobs for those aged 15-19.
As for creating jobs, the ACTU has proposed that 30,000 people between the ages of 17 and 23 be employed in teams to work on land care, coastal reclamation and public housing. The proposal echoes employment projects of the 1930s depression. Teams engaged in outdoor work would be transported by army vehicles, lump sums would be paid to team members at the end of particular projects, and schemes would last a maximum of 18 months. The same proposal also included a category for older long-term unemployed, who would be engaged in road works and "civic amenities".
Long-term job creation was not discussed at the summit.