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Friday, November 04, 2005

Please note: This post is best read with Joni Mitchell's song "You don't know what you've got til it's gone" playing in the background.

Suzanne Dooley has given a good description of unemployment and its consequences. Hers is no academic or romantic description. It is real life happening to good people. The Howard Government, academics, and idealogues will tell you that if wages are lower it will solve the unemployment problem and get unemployed people into jobs. Horsefeathers! It is expected that over time minimum wages which will be set by the new Fair Pay Commission - along with the wages of all Australians with the exception of CEOs - with the introduction of Howard's new industrial relations legislation. I can recall when the Hawke/Keating Government's emphasis on training and wage subsidies meant that employers could put on trainees for well under $3 per hour. Meanwhile, time and again I would hear employers in the media berating that youth wages were too high and how they could not afford to employ young people to get high youth unemployment rates down. Poppycock!

What is happening here is a collision of conservative/business bloody mindedness, international trade, and the threat of the growing economic power of China. Combined with political opportunism based on a newly won Senate majority, there is a coalescence to get a long-hoped for agenda on the go. Turning Australian into serfs and slaves is not going to safeguard the Australian economy against a future global dominance and hegemony by China. The government would be better occupied by encouraging democracy in China and the provision of basic human and economic rights to its people.

There used to be a way of giving employers a level playing field with wages in Australia. It was through the award system. It is a pity we in Australia had such closed and racist minds dominated by a White Australia Policy. If we had not been racist; if we had truly valued what we had we might have tried to export to Asia a system of industrial relations which for generations undergirded a high standard of living in Australia (in the white picket fence Australia Howard likes to remember).