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Attack the real bludgers, Gillard

By John Passant - posted Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Julia Gillard's attack on welfare could have come out of the mouth of Tony Abbott so disgusting was it.

Evidently there has been this recent outbreak of mass laziness and Labor 'won't pay for someone who can support themselves.'

Let's leave aside the fact that that is precisely what our tax system does for business and the super rich, channelling tens and tens of billions to them.


We need to put this Gillard attack on the unemployed and disabled into some sort of context.

During the Global Financial Crisis unemployment skyrocketed across the developed world. In many countries it reached double figures.

Australia's unemployment rate went from 4.1 percent in August 2008 to 5.9 percent in May and June 2009. It stayed around there for a few months and then began to fall so that today unemployment is 4.9 percent.

These figures don't tell the whole story. Australia has one of the highest underemployment rates in the OECD. This is the number of people who want to work longer hours but can't.

During the GFC there was a large increase in the number of people working, or forced to work, less hours. According to the ABS in 'May 2010, there were 837,000 underemployed workers and 610,000 unemployed people. The underemployment rate was 7.2% compared with the [then] unemployment rate of 5.2%.' For the September quarter 2010 there were 733,000 workers underemployed.

In other words the system cannot provide enough jobs or hours for all those who want to work. So what does Gillard do? She attacks those whose work desires capital cannot meet and denigrates them.


There is a worker and skills shortage in some industries. Forcing people into the workforce – including people on disability pensions – frees up some workers to move to those (often remote mining) jobs, or so the Gillard theory seems to go. The aim is also to reduce pressure on wages. More workers looking for work drives down the competition for workers.

Unemployment and underemployment are not caused by individuals. The profit system produces them. It cannot provide adequate jobs for all at a living wage.

Gillard obviously thinks 'dole bludgers' – yes that phrase has come back thanks to Gillard's dog bark against welfare – are an easy political target. all she is doing however is making the rhetoric of the Opposition acceptable on this and a range of other issues.

We live in an unjust society. This is a society where bosses take as their own the profits we create. Labour creates value, not capital.

The owners of capital are the real bludgers. But Gillard won't attack them. She is, like the rest of the ALP, their servant.

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This article first appeared in En Passant with John Passant

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About the Author

John Passant is a Canberra writer ( and member of Socialist Alternative.

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