Education the key to reducing incarceration

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion writes: Re. “Justice and closing the gap: the prison target Aboriginal Australia needs” (yesterday). Reducing indigenous jail rates is a priority. High incarceration rates are a complex issue. Many indigenous offenders are incarcerated for violence towards indigenous people fuelled by drugs or alcohol. We need to look at reducing the rate of offending, which leads to high incarceration rates.

The best thing we can do to reduce incarceration rates is to ensure young people have an education and are on a pathway to employment. There is no doubt that if you are not receiving an education you have a very high likelihood of moving towards the justice system. We also need to better engage better with those in custody to ensure better outcomes in employment after release. Reducing the incidence of recidivism is critical. The government is considering its position on the introduction of a target for incarceration rates.

We need to ensure that we do not diminish the importance of current targets by any additions. The existing six targets were agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments in 2008, and any changes in targets are a matter for agreement through COAG. Setting target is one thing, achieving result is another. The government would need to be satisfied that a new target is the appropriate mechanism  to improve real outcomes.

Jeff Ash writes: Another hand-wringing article about the problem. Another bleat without a hint of a solution — “the need for action is critical”. How about an article that details what can actually be offered as a step in the right direction?

How productivity factors into wage growth

David Hand writes: Re. “Wages non-growth and austerity potential traps for the economy” (yesterday). Bernard Keane and Glenn Dyer miss the point by editorialising that “the Right” want to drive down real wages. A reduction in real wages is an absurd notion that would be bad for the economy through the reduction in the spending power of consumers.  Though there are clear cases of overly generous worker conditions in some EBAs, the real problem is that the EBA is negotiated on assumptions of production and revenue.  But if the production isn’t achieved, it is the business that bears the cost of it.  Car manufacturing workers may well enjoy the great pay and conditions their union negotiated if enough cars came off the assembly line to pay for it.  It is the absence of this productivity that makes high wages unviable.

The tendency of people to scream “WorkChoices!” any time a business seeks to change its direction in response to changing conditions, as Bill Shorten does continuously and Keane and Dyer have done here, is a factor causing these large businesses to give up on Australian industry and go somewhere friendlier. They downplay it for PR purposes.

An improvement to productivity enables a business to give its customers a price reduction and its workforce a pay rise at the same time. The Productivity Commission’s Intergenerational Report in 2010 spelled this out. But productivity improvements need to be worked out in a climate of co-operation and partnership, not this class warfare we’ve had to endure for so long.

Paul Howes is on to something.