By Michael Giles

THERE are 780,000 people Australia wide listed as unemployed in the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures.
Nationally, we are told, that equates to an unemployed rate of 6.2 per cent, however while Melbourne has unemployment levels of 5.7 per cent, the situation in Gippsland-Latrobe is twice as bad, at 11.8 per cent unemployed.
The area also has a much poorer participation rate than the national average, meaning that a significant number of people have given up looking for a job.
So, it’s interesting to see that the new Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, is claiming success with a range of financial incentives offered by the government under its Jobactive program.
According to the Minister’s media release last Monday, November 2, “we are nudging the 3000th Long Term Unemployed and Indigenous wage subsidy agreement, which tells me these subsidies are working in giving employers the encouragement they need to hire more staff.”
Certainly it’s good news that some employers have taken advantage of the incentives and that 3000 more people have a job, allegedly as a result, but to claim the incentives are having an impact, after making a 0.38 per cent dint in the jobless number, is absolutely fanciful, verging on the obscene.
When you get the figure up to 78,000, or 10 per cent of the jobless number, taking advantage of the program, maybe then you can claim success.
The problem is, no one knows about the incentives.
Hands up if you knew:
• Business operators can get up to $10,000 to “restart” mature age job seekers over 50 who have received income support payments for six months or more
• Up to $6500 for young job seekers under 30 who have completed six months in employment services
• Up to $6500 for long-term unemployed job seekers who have completed 12 months in employment services
• Up to $6500 for parents who have completed six months in employment services and are classified as a Principal Carer Parent.
There’s simply no information about or promotion of these arrangements, bearing in mind the Federal Government’s Jobactive program is valued at a whopping $6.8 billion.
A new report by the St Vincent de Paul Society underscores that the community has no idea what the Federal Government is doing about the number of people unemployed.
Their report, released by the organisation’s CEO John Falzon makes 14 recommendations for urgent action, including calling for a national jobs plan and an immediate increase in the Newstart allowance.
The government has a “national jobs plan” already but they simply haven’t told anyone about it, not in this part of Gippsland anyway.
Falzon says Australians living below the poverty line have been made to feel hopeless, lazy and stupid and need more help to live a life without poverty. He estimates that as many as 2.5 million Australians are living in poverty.
In response to language coming out of the government that unemployed people simply aren’t trying hard enough to get a job, he has called for a change of attitude.
“We have seen the steady demonisation and stigmatisation of people who are forced to bear the brunt of poverty and inequality in Australia. People are being consistently blamed for being forced to the margins of the labour market,” he said.
“We are seeing a complete lack of ability to provide jobs for the people that are currently left out and pushed out.
“So we need to see government sitting down with business, with the union movement, with the community sector, with the local community and with the people who are affected, most importantly of all.”
What he is talking about is trying to bring about a cultural change where getting a job is more about aspiration, training, education and a better life than the dole, blame, statistics and despair.
And he is talking about a partnership between the government, the community, training and education providers, the employers and those looking for a job to bring it about.
That’s the goal, Minister, and it requires a properly funded communication and engagement plan to bring it about.
Even the Victorian State Government is doing a better job of communicating the opportunities available via its ‘Back to Work’ boost, see their website at www.backtowork.vic.gov.au