Search This Blog

Friday, May 12, 2017

Drugs, welfare and ideology - a policy doomed to fail

Drugs, welfare and ideology - a policy doomed to fail

Budget 2017 was released with much fanfare and back-slapping by the Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who described it as a fair budget. Certainly, compared to the budgets that were released under the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott and his feckless Treasurer Joe Hockey, this one was pretty tame. Some described it as a Labor-light budget because of its high taxing elements on the banks and the increase in the Medicare levy.

However, it still had the hallmarks of a Coalition budget with its attacks on students and the unemployed while providing businesses with a $65 billion tax cut(1). How much of this saving will be converted into jobs is debatable, considering the massive profits some companies are already making, but who aren't creating jobs anyway. University fees will rise by 7.5% and the repayment threshold for HECS will drop by around $11,000 to $42,000.

In relation to the unemployed, Morrison decided the big issue was drug use. The 2017 budget will introduce a two-year trial of random drug testing of 5000 recipients of Youth Allowance and Newstart. If someone fails the drug test, they will no longer receive cash payments, but instead be given the paternalistic cashless debit card. This card can only be used for certain purchases, like food.

Alex Wodak of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation stated that the unintended consequence of this, would be that users will move to other often more dangerous drugs that can't be detected through these tests. For instance, the tests will not detect cocaine and heroin, but will detect cannabis and speed. Wodak pointed out that the drug with the biggest social impact, alcohol, will not be tested. For those who fail the tests multiple times, they may be referred to treatment programs, however, existing programs are greatly underfunded(2). So the drug tests themselves will fail to fully address drug and alcohol issues, while potentially causing even more problems.

The United States already has drug testing of welfare recipients in some of its states. The results are startlingly dismal. A Think Progress survey of seven states spending more than one million on drug testing programs, found that welfare recipients were testing positive at a much lower rate than the general population. The results ranged from 0.002% to 8.3%, however, the national drug use rate is 9.3%. Of these states, all but one, had results less than 1%. (3)

Arizona's results were even more disturbing. Out of 87,000 welfare recipients tested, only ONE returned a positive result. With that person removed from welfare, the state of Arizona saved $560 out of its $200 million welfare program. (4) What an amazing return on investment.

Perhaps the reason for the lower rate of drug use in the unemployed, is because of the cost of drugs in the first place. If you want to stop drugs, create more unemployment and poverty. (That's a joke, Coalition ... not a challenge!).

So why would Morrison think Australia's results will have be any different to those in the US? What is he hoping to achieve? The tests might reveal evidence of drug use, but not the extent of it. The tests won't detect whether someone is a recreational user or an addict.

And so what if someone on welfare uses drugs? If they are an addict, yes, this should be treated (not punished), but taking their cash away isn't going to fix this. If anything they will turn to crime to get drugs. For those who are using recreationally, the chances are that this isn't impeding their ability to work. There are plenty of recreational users who still function well in their jobs, not turning up to work wasted. If the drug use isn't impeding their ability to work, then why test it? Morrison will argue that it is tax payers money so welfare recipients shouldn't be using drugs. Many would agree. But so what if they can budget enough to buy a small amount of herb, or if their mates give it to them. Is Morrison saying those on welfare can't have fun? Perhaps check people's welfare status before they waste tax-payers money at a theme park or the movies. Hell, they shouldn't even be eating McDonald's. Welfare recipients should be a dour lot, eating nothing but bread and broth. Is this what Morrison envisions of welfare?

Welfare is a safety net, which has a massive return on investment. It is one of the main factors that reduces crime. If people have no money, they will resort to crime in order to live. Welfare prevents this. One only has to see the levels of crime in America where they have far less effective welfare programs.

Interestingly, a number of federal politicians, including Labor's Sam Dastyari, Green's Sarah Hanson-Young and Independent Jackie Lambie, have argued that if welfare recipients are to be tested, then politicians should be too(5). After all, it's not like pollies haven't been caught using drugs.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of this policy is the testing of sewage to identify suburbs with high drug use(6). It doesn't take much to recognise the flaws in this. Poo doesn't come with a welfare card, so testing sewage will not indicate whether the owner of the poo had a job or not, nor will it help much that the poo is mixed in with other people's poo. Dare I say it? This is a shit policy.

The idea to drug test welfare recipients is nothing more than the Coalition's war on welfare, war on the poor. It panders to the right-wing who see welfare as a dirty word ... until they are without jobs ... while worshipping big business and the wealthy. It is an effort to placate the right-wing while the Coalition raises taxes that will have their greatest affect on the poor, such as the increase to the Medicare levy. While it is good for the Coalition to fully fund the NDIS (which Labor had already provided for in their budgets), they are expecting low paid workers to take on the burden. In the meantime, they will give tax cuts of $65 billion to big business and remove the deficit levy from high income earners, effectively providing a $16,000 a year tax cut to people earning more than a million dollars(7).

A few years ago, then Treasurer Joe Hockey declared that Australia was a nation of 'lifters and leaners'(8), effectively stating that those on welfare were leaners, while the uber-rich are lifters, even though they screw the poor to the wall through casualisation, not paying penalty rates and down-sizing. Hockey attempted to force people under 30 to wait six months before getting welfare payments. Not surprisingly, that was struck down by the Senate, however, the Coalition continues to punish welfare recipients rather than address the drivers of welfare, namely a casualised workforce, underemployment and unemployment.

Given the evidence demonstrating that welfare drug testing programs do not work, it is unlikely that the trial will proceed and if it does, it is even less likely, that it will continue beyond the trial phase.

The drug testing trial is another waste of tax-payers money by the Coalition to further their ideological demonisation of the poor.


1. ABC News, Henry Belot, Federal budget 2017: Company tax cut to cost extra $15b per year, Scott Morrison reveals, 11 May 2017,$15b-per-year-morrison-reveals/8518642. Accessed 12 May 2017.

2. Huffpost Australia, Josh Butler, Here's How the Welfare Drug Tests Will Work, 10 May 2017, Accessed 12 May 2017.

3. Think Progress, Bryce Covert, What 7 states discovered after spending more than $1 million drug testing welfare recipients, 26 February 2017, Accessed 12 May 2017.

4., Gregory Krieg, Arizona Drug Tested Welfare Recipients - Here Are the Shocking Results, 22 July 2015, Accessed 12 May 2017.

5. Huffpost Australia, Josh Butler, People Say Politicians Should Be Drug Tested Too, 10 May 2017, Accessed 12 May 2017.

6. The Guardian, Paul Karp, Scott Morrison says sewage will be tested to find areas of high drug use for welfare trial, 11 May 2017, Accessed 12 May 2017.

7. Australian Financial Review, Joanna Mather, Keep deficit levy for 'millionaires': Labor, 26 March 2017, Accessed 12 May 2017.

8. Sydney Morning Herald, Federal budget 2014 - full speech, 13 May 2014, Accessed 12 May 2017.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

We stuffed up the world with Capitalism ... so hair of the dog and let's fix it with Capitalism! Oh, and blame Millennials for it all!

We f*cked the world with Capitalism ... so hair of the dog and let's fix it with Capitalism.

Oh, and it's all the fault of the Millennials (those formerly known as Gen Y), because if those selfish buggers didn't keep demanding mocha soy latte coffees the world would be a better place. If they didn't keep demanding that we reduce our carbon emissions, the world would be a better place. If they didn't keep demanding that we underemploy them, the world would be a better place. If they didn't demand university educations worth tens of thousands of dollars, the world would be a better place.

If they weren't so damn demanding!

After all, the Millennials are responsible for:

* casualisation of the workforce
* expensive university degrees
* 'academic inflation' which drives the demand for higher and higher educational requirements in jobs
* escalating house prices
* plateauing pay rates
* lack of respect for others
* war
* greed
* capitalism

Oops. That last dot point is an error ... isn't it? I mean, capitalism is good? Capitalism is the panacea of all the world's issues. So what if greed is the driving force of capitalism. Greed is good.

Actually ... it sure isn't the fault of the millennials that they entered a world that had been exploited and raped (economically and environmentally) by previous generations' pre-occupation with greed and wealth accumulation.

For years, human resource gurus have been saying that Gen Y is a mobile generation, that they only want temporary jobs so they can hop from one place to the next. Garbage. The reason Gen Y was chopping and changing between jobs was because of the greed of companies who decided it was cheaper and easier to put people on as temps or casuals. This meant that they could also be released without businesses having to be concerned with pesky industrial relations obligations, such as giving a minimum period of notice, paying out leave and so on. Gen Y did not cause that. They are the victims of that. Additionally, it isn't just this generation who move around for work. Remember, throughout the 20th century, people travelling the country for seasonal jobs, such as fruit picking, or moving to the 'big smoke' in search of work. People travelling from one job to the next is nothing new.

Millennials are not the lazy bums that older generations portray them as. If those older generations stopped pursuing the almighty dollar for their own benefit, if they stopped reducing or casualising their workforces, then the jobs would be there. But you can't reduce jobs and then blame young people for not being able to find these non-existent jobs.

Academic inflation is also being driven by large organisations who have this idea that the higher educated one is, the better their contribution to the company. So back in the day, when the parents and grand-parents of the Millennials wanted a job, say to work in an office, all they needed was maybe a year 7 education. Then it was a year 10 education. Then year 12. Then some places asked for a Certificate III, IV or a Diploma. And then entry level administrative jobs required Bachelor's degrees. Now, the push is for Honours degrees or even Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diplomas for entry level jobs. For promotion? Masters. All to do jobs that back in the day required nothing more than basic literacy skills.

While a higher education is good, does it make people any more productive than years gone by? Probably not.

People argue that Millennials come out of university expecting to step into managerial jobs. Maybe some do, however, it is clear that for many, a uni education is only qualifying them for an entry level position if they're lucky.

The only ones who benefit from academic inflation are the universities and the businesses that run them. It's basic supply and demand. As the demand grows for higher education, the more upward pressure will be placed on the cost of degrees.

The problem with academic inflation is that people who can't afford the exorbitant costs of university, will struggle to either enter the workforce, or to remain relevant in the workforce. Employment is becoming a privilege for the rich.

Years ago, teachers only needed a diploma. Now the demand is that they must have a Bachelor's degree on entry, and if they are to remain in the education system they must upgrade to Masters ... all so they can teach a high school curriculum.

Some organisations, such as Price Waterhouse Coopers, Ernst and Young, and Penguin Random House have either ditched or relaxed degree requirements to counter this and to assist people in entering the workforce(1).

The biggest threat out of all this is that unemployment will rise for the ranks of those who have a secondary education, but not a tertiary one. An example of this is the Philippines, where even a job in McDonald's requires a bachelor's degree in hospitality or communication, all while there is massive unemployment and poverty among the unskilled. In Australia, the same job is often undertaken by teenagers who've been put through a management traineeship. A barista job in the Philippines requires a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Is this where Australia is headed?(2)

But it's all the fault of the Millennials. So is the fact that they live at home with their parents well into their 20s or even 30s.

Why don't they just go out and buy a house, live on two minute noodles for a couple of years like their parents did and enjoy the thrill of owning their own house. Forget this crap about housing affordability, they are just being too picky ... but wait ...

Short of buying a house in a country town 150km away (where there are no jobs), they are likely to either face an exorbitant price for an existing house, or stare down the barrel of an over-size house in a new estate. The idea that Millennials want the biggest houses ignores the fact that many housing developments have covenants on them that demand large houses. This is not the fault of the Millennials.

Neither is it the fault of Millennials that their parents and grand-parents invested up big in order to make a huge capital return, driving up house prices so that those young 'uns coming through can't possibly earn enough to afford one ... particularly when they have graduated university while carrying a large debt for their education.

So what's the answer? Capitalism? Rampant consumerism? If people spend more money on unnecessary items it will improve the economy and magically, all of society's ills will be gone. Let's forget that it was unfettered capitalism that got us into this mess. Capitalism is often thought of as a system where people are rewarded by keeping the fruits of their labours. But explain that to people who are on minimum wage, working for companies whose excessive profits are earned from those labours but who don't share in those profits other than through their pittance of a wage.

Capitalism is a cleverly deceptive system that transfers wealth from the many to the rich few. This transfer is achieved by paying pitiful wages, not sharing profits, and getting people to part with their hard earned through clever consumer advertising, or through government tax cuts to the wealthy and big business. Capitalists have taken this and run with it, building in obsolescence and perceived obsolescence, so that consumers are either forced to replace items and feel they need to every time a new version comes out(3). (Apple I'm looking squarely at you).

The theory is that if we continue transferring wealth from the general population upwards to the most wealthy, then it will somehow trickle back down and make us all rich. Trickle down economics didn't work for Thatcher, Reagan, or George W. Bush, and it doesn't work in Australia.

Since the election of the Liberal and National Party coalition in Australia, the government has been attacking students and the poor as a means for fiscal repair. Those who earn the big bucks, and the big businesses who have clever tax minimisation strategies, are not contributing their fair share towards the budget bottom line because the government is living in a trickle-down fantasy land.

Here's a thought. What say we took the Robin Hood approach and share the wealth from the rich with the rest of society.

Instead, the government and business distract from their failures by blaming Labor, the Greens, the left-wing, the poor, the needy, students, Muslims, refugees, global terrorism, the CSIRO, scientists, Millennials.

Yet, ALL of the issues in society are caused by capitalism. It is capitalist greed that has been responsible for:

* unrestrained pillaging of natural resources in order to access fossil fuels for consumption and power, causing war and climate change
* unnecessary but perpetual and profitable wars and funding of 'insurgents' to fight whoever the 'evil' enemy is at the time, and which has resulted in global terrorism (that's right, Islam is not the cause of terrorism; it was caused by the US funding of the Mujaheddin gave rise to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the 2003 invasion of Iraq gave rise to ISIS, not to mention western nations' exploitation and theft of land and resources in what are now developing countries going back centuries)
* unrestrained accumulation of wealth and assets, driving down housing affordability
* craving for larger and larger profits that has driven workforce reduction and casualisation.

But it's all the fault of Millennials.

Let's forget economics for a moment.

How about respect?

Time to unleash some old chestnuts?

Kids of today have no respect for their elders.

When I was a kid we'd have had our mouths washed out with soap if we spoke like that.

Often heard by people who've forgotten what little shits they were when they were younger.

Firstly, accusing the young of disrespect is nothing new. Two of my favourite quotes from waaayyy back in the day that show this is a generational whinging going back centuries for older people:

'We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents.  They are rude and impatient.  They frequently inhabit taverns and have no self-control' - Inscription on 6,000 year old Egyptian tomb

'Our earth is degenerate in these latter days; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book, and the end of the world is evidently approaching' - Assyrian stone tablet, circa 2000-2800BC

And of course, in this day of instant gratification, it's the fault of Millennials. Not to mention the older generation's constant bemoaning of what the future holds in the hands of Millennials. But wait, waaayyy back in the day, young 'uns were impatient and the oldies feared the future as well:

'I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependant on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words ... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint' - Hesiod, 8th century BC

Maybe what we need is some sympathy for older people, after all, it is in their constitution to blame young people:

 'The denunciation of the young is a necessary part of the hygiene of older people, and greatly assists in the circulation of their blood'. Logan Pearsall Smith 1865-1946

But I digress.

It is a sad reality that older people have taught the younger people how to behave. The older generations demand respect from people who they are constantly abusing and blaming. They speak horribly about migrants, refugees, Muslims, the left-wing, students, the poor. They demonise and disrespect most of society and then expect Millennials to treat them with respect.

When Millennials treat them the way they treat others, they get upset and bust out a, 'in my day ...'.

Come on oldies: pot / kettle.

We can't fix the economy by driving people into more debt, we can't increase employment by making it harder to find work or through job rationalisation, we can't address climate change and pollution by continuing to burn fossil fuels while continuing with massive rates of deforestation and land clearing, we can't address housing affordability by continuing to allow the accumulation of vast property portfolios, we can't stop terrorism while we continue to fund it and wage wars, we can't end hatred and intolerance by continuing to hate and attack others, and we can't blame Millennials for the things that previous generations caused.

People need to remember that they were once young and to remember what things were like for them. Was it easier to find work, buy a house, get an education (was there even a requirement for an education)?

Yes, Millennials do need to think of the future and respect others - as we all do. But to blame Millennials and not take responsibility for our own actions is disingenuous.

"He who would pass his declining years with honor and comfort, should when young, consider that he may one day become old, and when he is old, that he has once been young".  Joseph Addison, 1672-1719.

What the world needs is a sharing economy, not an accumulation economy. Rather than focusing on personal greed and circumstance as has been the wont of Gen X and Baby Boomers, we should be more outward focused and consider the circumstances of others, consider what is good for society as a whole and not just what is good for the individual.

In relation to the environment, land clearing has continued at unprecedented rates as the demand (consumerism) increases for housing estates, farming and wood products, such as paper and furniture. There are alternatives of course, like hemp and bamboo. Hemp is a natural product which does not leach the soil, is fast growing and easily replenished which means that it requires a fraction of the land that traditional farming produce does, such as cotton.

The government has been cutting budgets for education, health and employment. One of the reasons is that they claim that the debt incurred by spending on these essential factors is 'intergenerational theft', because it requires future generations to pay it back. Instead, it is the under-funding of these programs by the government that is going to rob current and future generations of opportunities for employment, training and health.

The real intergenerational theft has been from the greed and rampant consumerism of Gen X and Baby Boomers, the cost of which is now being borne by Millennials.

F*cked the world with capitalism? Hair of the dog is not the answer.


1. The Conversation, Joshua Krook, Degrees of separation: companies shed degree requirements to promote merit over qualifications, 18 April 2017, Accessed 6 May 2017.

2. Refer to the below screen-grabs from the websites listed, taken on 8 May 2017.

3. Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard, Louis Fox, Jonah Sachs, The Story of Stuff, December 2007,