Why Abbott bashes the unemployed

Issue 

Why Abbott bashes the unemployed

It would be too easy to dismiss the "job snob" remarks of employment services minister Tony Abbott as merely expressing the in-bred contempt for working people of the silver spoon brigade, blessed with more money than brains and more brains than humanity. Abbott has now repeated his comment publicly at least three times, clearly seeking to create controversy. Since he is too servile to make such a move without instructions from higher-ups, the conclusion is inescapable that the Howard government is directly behind Abbott's slandering of the unemployed.

Bashing the unemployed of course serves a purpose. It heralds further attacks on the rights of the jobless, to deprive more of them of the dole and to force more into the semi-slavery of work for the dole, which helps the government in its attempt to force down the standard of wages for all workers.

Abusive terms such as "job snob" attempt to stigmatise the unemployed, so that we stop thinking about the real problem of unemployment and the measures that might be necessary to overcome it. For many years, governments used "dole bludger" for this purpose, conveying the idea that the unemployed were deliberately leading lives of contented idleness at the expense of the rest of us. But after all the cuts to the dole and attacks on recipients, that lie is now too obvious. Abbott, it seems, has therefore been assigned to popularise a new version of it.

"I think that too many Australians have been too fussy for too long about the sorts of jobs they'll do", Abbott declared to a conference in Sydney, apparently convinced that his audience was as sheltered from reality as are government ministers. Perhaps, through the tinted glass of his government limousine, he can't see the desperate young people trying to make a few dollars by washing windscreens at busy intersections.

According to newspaper reports, Abbott tied his "job snob" line to the fact that the number of skilled vacancies is now at the highest level in two and a half years. But nobody, aside from Liberal lawyers and their ilk, regards skilled work as beneath them. If there's a shortage of skilled labour, it's because of employer cutbacks on apprenticeships and the government's user-pays privatisation of education and training.

In regard to the high level of rural and regional unemployment, Abbott told the Sydney conference, and has since repeated, that the unemployed should move to larger cities. It's true that the chances of getting a job are better in the big cities, but there aren't any cities where there's a job for everyone who wants one.

Sydney has an unemployment rate well below the national average, but it still has people begging in the streets, many of whom came, as Abbott advises, from regional areas in the hope of finding work. (Under the rules introduced by this government, any such unsuccessful job seekers who return to their previous homes are cut off the dole for the crime of moving to an area with a higher unemployment rate.)

And is the government about to introduce subsidies to cover moving expenses and transportation for people who leave rural areas to seek work in the cities? Don't kid yourself: the only people favoured in this way are the select handful who travel to Canberra to take up positions as MPs. (And then there's John Howard, ensconced at public expense in Kirribilli House in Sydney because he can't be bothered to move to Canberra as part of his job.)

The plain fact is that, throughout Australia, there are fewer jobs available, at any wage, than there are people who want work. Abbott and the government's "job snob" stupidities are not intended to reduce the real number of unemployed, which could be done only by creating more jobs. They are designed to bludgeon the unemployed into competing for jobs by agreeing to substandard wages and conditions.

The best answer to the government's scheme is therefore for the entire union movement to come to the defence of the unemployed, demanding a decent standard of living for all and an immediate end to forced labour schemes.