On the PaTH internship program

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “The government’s PaTH helps big business and keeps wages stranded at low levels“(Tuesday)

Bernard Keane is exactly right. Neoliberal governments apparently never learn anything from the consistent, predictable failures of their policies — you might think they want these outcomes . This PaTH idiocy can be traced back at least to the UK government’s Youth Opportunities Program, which started under Labour at the end of the 1970s, mutated under Thatcher’s first government and later became the Youth Training Scheme. It provided some cover for Thatcher abolishing genuine trade apprenticeships. Instead, the government paid employers to take on young unemployed people for several months. The government insisted this was only training and vehemently denied it would replace any proper paid jobs. I saw how it worked in practice. My then girlfriend’s father ran an electrical repair shop. He had employed a middle-aged assistant for years. As soon as he saw what was on offer he sacked the assistant and replaced him with a school leaver he did not pay — he was sorry about his assistant, but he’d be a bloody fool not to take the government’s handout. The job mostly involved fetching and carrying. If one trainee was not up to it, it was easy to get another. By the end his lucky trainee might be reasonably competent at shifting a TV set. Or not. Nobody cared — least of all the government. The real point was that all the trainees dropped off the unemployment statistics, which were dreadful even after all the massaging and fiddling of the data and definitions.

Put together policies like PaTH, changes to welfare, tuition fees and the demise of full time work and you can see the future. Most people emerging from tertiary education with unpayable debts join a vast pool of casual labour available to any employer on demand. Anyone in the pool who refuses any offer of work gets no welfare. Anyone not offered work gets a punitive level of subsistence. An employer who offers work is subsidised by the government, so that the employer need only pay minimal or zero wages. Either the government acts directly as gangmaster supplying labour to anyone or it privatises that role. No employer trying to offer real jobs with wages can compete. The government closely monitors and controls the lives of everyone in this labour pool, under the excuse of ensuring they are permanently ready to work. The government already takes away a lot of independence from these people through imposing an array of otherwise pointless activities and it is using tools such as its cashless debit cards and trials of drug testing. 

On disrupting Australian politics

John Kotsopoulos writes:  Re. “Let’s bring on an actual Liberal crisis (and a Labor one, too)” (Tuesday)

Guy Rundle is all over the shop in his prescription for overhauling the Australian political system. We do need reform but it should be through a restructure of existing major parties. Far from improving things his model would introduce a mind blowing array of single issue rent seekers. The last thing our body politic needs is more splinters in its arse.

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