Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Real Welfare Cheats

Unemployment in this country is at a twelve year high.

We keep being told, particularly by News Limited, that unemployed people are dole bludgers.

Many individuals and corporations have made a great deal of money from the privatized job placement industry.

$18 billion of taxpayers’ money has been spent on this scheme since 1998.

Now, Four Corners has revealed fraud and exploitation of job seekers by some of these organisations.

Surely it’s about time the heat was turned on these agencies, and a royal commission established. After all, we’ve had royal commissions into all and sundry since the Coalition came to power.

There is something about conservative governments that creates a default position of exploitation of specific groups. It can be soldiers, indigenous people, or the unemployed.

It is an absolute disgrace.

Many years ago, before the advent of the privatised system, Special Schools in Queensland saw it as part of their role to find post-school opportunities for their students.

At that time, I was principal of Petrie Special School, and we had a programme for the senior students called “Transition”. It was run by an experienced teacher who was off class for a few hours per week, when he would liaise with prospective employers.

In the three years I was there, we were successful in finding work for a large proportion of these students. Remember, these were young people with disabilities significant enough to get them enrolled at a Special School.  

The school did this for free – we saw it as part of our role. Most Special Schools operated in this fashion.

It seems to me passing strange that well-resourced agencies set up specifically for the purpose in the year 2015, have less success in placing the unemployed than we did at a school back in the mid-eighties.

Isn’t privatisation wonderful?

For mine, it’s way past time the real welfare cheats (the companies to whom we outsourced job services) were nationalised and the perpetrators of these frauds were put behind bars.

Nationalise them so that the focus is on finding jobs not making a profit for wealthy shareholders.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Tony Gets Tough

Cartoon courtesy Peter Howard - Newcastle Herald

So our government is “getting tough” on jihadists using the institutional arms of government - our police and security systems.

Excuse me whilst I yawn (or laugh).

This is not an institutional problem, so there is no institutional solution. The War on Terrorism is likely to be about as effective as the War on Drugs.

The problem is cultural (as “culture” means “a medium for growth”), so the solution is most likely to be cultural. It is certainly not going to be fixed by “getting tough”, either metaphorically or practically.

To change it, the source of the problem (the culture in which it grows) will need to be targeted.

In fact, it can be argued with a great deal of validity that “getting tough” will actually make the situation worse. Daesh revels in macho posturing, and would love to get into a verbal stoush with the authorities using this kind of language. The verbal stoush is a great metaphor for physical violence - It’s their bread and butter. They are essentially a reactive phenomenon. That reaction energises them – they feed on it.

The US military went into the war in Vietnam using strategy designed for conventional warfare. We know where that went. If our national security apparatus uses conventional policing strategy against the threat of fundamentalist terrorism, the result will be exactly the same.

As it looks now, and based on Abbott’s national security statement, that seems to be where we’re headed.

It’s time for a completely different approach based on changing the culture which breeds terrorists.

First, the at-risk community needs to be identified. That should not be difficult. Then it needs to be the target of action, some covert and some in the public domain. This action should involve both punitive and supportive activity.

We could, for example, establish anti-jihadist cadres in secondary schools in areas where there is a high proportion of practising Muslims. These cadres should be helped to develop their own coercive strategies. Some would be covert, some not. They would have to be the best and brightest, media savvy, and situationally aware.

Social media should be overwhelmed by these cadres, and the jihadist messages deliberately targeted for ridicule. It would be important to ensure the operatives were of the same age as those they were targeting. Infiltrating these communities should, over time, reveal the hard liners and those likely to be a threat.

To balance that, these schools and communities should also be targeted with social and material support, not through the welfare system, but through existing agencies. Some of these agencies could be mosque based. The most radical mosques would be those identified for activity.

Local businesses affiliated with jihadist groups and individuals should be identified and their money flow dried up. Again, extra covert powers should be used if required. Above all, this action should be low-key.

As soon as it is trumpeted as the authorities “getting tough”, it will fail. All of this activity should be undertaken quietly and behind the scenes.

Above all – it should not be centrally controlled. And, above all, it should not be used to seek political kudos.

Our national security should be above politics.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...