Now let’s talk about work for the dole, about some of its moral and legal aspects and its overall spectacular failure!
Imagine for a moment you are at an employment agency, where the employment consultant who hasn’t bothered to introduce themselves or even address you by your first name, shoves a Job Plan agreement in front of you which includes a work for the dole clause with the word compulsory next to it. It also says in the job plan if you don’t agree to the work for the dole then your benefits will stop, and you will have to return any back pay as well.
So, you consider signing or not signing. If you don’t sign it, you can’t pay the rent, and you will be thrown out on to the street. You don’t really have the freedom to choose a viable alternative, so you have to sign.
“Okay, Employment Consultant I’ll sign,” I said. “After all, what choice do I have?”
“If you want to survive, none,” the employment consultant replied.
So, what’s happened here? Did the job seeker really have the freedom of choice to sign or not to sign?
You say yes?
I say no because the state violated the individual’s right to social security.
You say the individual doesn’t have a right to social security?
I say the individual does, and so does the United Nations. Part of belonging to society means looking after those people who when they are unemployed don’t have the means to create jobs to support themselves or their families. Further, social security is derived from a country’s common wealth whether it’s generated in the ground or by society and belongs to the people, and not to the politicians; who by the way have allowed leasing and selling of some of Australia’s resources to foreign powers. But I digress, so let’s return to the job seeker.
By way of the Job Plan document and the Work for the Dole program, the job seeker is coerced into agreeing to work for the dole out of fear for their wellbeing,
Now, what is coercion? According to dictionary.com The meaning of the word “coerce” is:
“To compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition.”
So, coercion is a form of force. And Work for the dole is a form of forced or compulsory labor because the individual has been coerced into participating. Whether you want to sign or not, the government uses the strong-arm tactic of either you sign or you starve, to compel a person against their free will into compliance. Now let’s see what the united nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 says about the use of forced or compulsory labor, and then we will look at the morality of coercing people into working for the dole.
From the Australian Human Rights Commission Web page:
Australia has ratified and implemented into domestic law the (ICCPR) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which deals with “forced or compulsory labor.”
Please note, “Australia does not generally agree to be bound by a human rights treaty unless it is satisfied that its domestic laws comply with the terms of the treaty.” However, “Australia has agreed to be bound by the ICCPR and the ICESCR as well as other major human rights instruments.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 19 December 1966, ratified by Australia and incorporated under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 prohibits forced labor.
• No one shall be held in slavery, and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.
• No one shall be held in servitude
“No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.”
Summary of the following exceptions contained in paragraph 3 a).
1. b) paragraph 3a does not preclude imprisonment and hard labor as part of a sentence.
2. c) “forced or compulsory labor” shall not include:
3. i) A person who is performing duties under detention in consequence of a lawful order of the court, or a person who has been released to perform community services.
4. ii) Any service of a military character where conscientious objection is recognized
iii) Any service exacted in case of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community.
1. iv) Any work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations. *
*Paragraph iv) Refers to any work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations given and enforced through a civil suit or action in a court. e.g., Jury duty.
The ICCPR is included in the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986
Schedule 2 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Article 8 item
2 No one shall be held in servitude
3 subsection a) “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.”
It is evident then from this paragraph and other referrals to the ICCPR within the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 that Australia has ratified the ICCPR and incorporated it into the Australian Human Rights Act 1986.
Therefore, the Australian Human Rights Commission has a legal and moral duty to investigate abuses of human rights where individuals have been forced or coerced into compulsory labor.
It must be noted that under Part II, Division 3, section 20 of the Australian Human rights Act that the Commission may not seek to enquire into a matter if it can be dealt with by another public authority or it has been dealt with by another authority. However, under the Australian Human rights Commission there exists the avenue of legal action. I refer to the Australian Human Rights Act Part III Schedule 2, Article 2, Items 3 a) b) c)
Further, under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also ratified by Australia under Part III, Article 9:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.” Under this law, taking away someone’s right to social security benefit is illegal. But Australia has not passed this law into Australian domestic law.
In Victoria and the A.C.T, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights can be used by an individual to invoke the jurisdiction’s human rights charters. However, for now, the convention cannot be used to overturn an ACT law or a Victorian law, but a court can issue a ‘declaration of incompatibility’ necessitating a response by the applicable Attorney General. For more information, on this possible scenario go to Wikipedia, scroll to the section “National implementation and effects” then see the reference to Australia.
For further reference on how the convention works in Victoria http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/cohrara2006433/
On a cautionary note, when it comes to human rights, the government does as it sees fit. On several occasions in the past, the Australian Human Rights Commission has advocated compensation for individuals whose rights have been breached by the Australian Government with mixed results. One may get the impression that the Australian Government does not have an obligation to respond to the AHRC’s findings. If that is the case, then there is another alternative to pursuing justice.
Remedies outside of Australian law.
First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Optional Protocol establishes an individual complaints mechanism for the ICCPR.
“The First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an international treaty establishing an individual complaint mechanism for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and entered into force on 23 March 1976. As of September 2013, it had 35 signatories and 115 states parties.” Source Wikipedia
Now let’s look at Work for the Dole from a moral viewpoint.
Closer to the Truth ~ Coercing people to work against their free will when they have done nothing wrong is a serious violation of human rights and therefore morally repugnant, especially so when successive governments have failed to implement satisfactory employment policies to create plentiful jobs. These same governments while denying any culpability, appear intent on shifting all the responsibility of unemployment on to the shoulders of the unemployed when the jobseeker has no control over the economy. Now let’s see what else the jobseeker doesn’t have control over and a couple of other matters:
• There are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one, and Job seekers don’t own the means of production to create jobs out of thin air. There are approximately 14 job seekers for every job that is currently available. (187,200 Job vacancies Mar 2018 Department of Jobs and Small Business) and 2,754,400 people wanting work. See three paragraphs below to see how this figure was arrived at.)
• On average there are 70 applications for advertised vacancies for single positions according to the results of the survey presented in this blog.
• Work for the Dole has overwhelming failed to help job seekers to find permanent work. An independent survey commissioned by the Dept of Employment in 2015 reinforces this fact, as do surveys performed by academics from Melbourne University and James Heckman a professor of economics and a Nobel prize recipient. In short, work for the dole programs generally do not work.
• The unemployment rate is a lot higher than what the government is saying. In February the govt said the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent. But using the ABS statistics on unemployment we find, “985,100 Australians “wanted to work but were not actively looking for work and were available to start work last week or within four weeks.” source ABS http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6226.0 add to the 730,200-unemployed, source http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/F85715A234DAAD86CA258234000C173C? you have 1,715,300 unemployed people. If you take 1,715,300 and add this figure to the people who are currently in employment 12,484,100 people, then the total amount of people who are working and want to work adds up to 14,199,400. Now take the 1,715,300 unemployed persons as a percentage of the total 14,199,400, and you have an unemployment rate of 12.08 percent of the workforce pool. Or, if you want to look at real unemployment and underemployment in the job market that is closer to the heart of the matter, then consider the following:
There are about 1,039,100 workers who are working part-time wanting more work, ABS http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6226.0 985,100 who wanted to work but not actively looking for work but were available for work within 4 weeks and 730,200 unemployed people. (Total 2,754, 400 and express this figure as a percentage of 14,199,400) gives you 19.39 percent of the Australian workforce that consists of unemployed people out of work and part time workers looking for more work hours.
• Employment consultants and employers when vetting resumes place a disproportionate amount of emphasis on industry experience, relegating workers without work experience to the bottom of the resume pile if not discarding their applications for that position altogether.
Employment consultants and employers also discriminate against most older workers. These same people also tend to discount job seekers who do not have recent job referrals as well as job seekers who have been out of work for more than three months judging them as not good enough for the position.
Work for the dole does not address fundamental barriers to work, such as lack of qualifications, lack of industry experience, lack of more than one recent referral, gaps in a person’s employment history which for most unemployed people is typically a year or more. These are fundamental barriers to employment which the work for the dole program does not address. So, why are these politicians in Canberra who act like kings and queens still wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on such a flawed program when 73 percent of participants fail to find steady work three months after finishing? The politicians who created work for the dole program and the others who continue to espouse it have failed to properly take into consideration the facts, issues, and needs of job seekers in the job market.
(73 percent of participants fail to find steady work Source the Guardian) https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/mar/04/labor-signals-plan-to-dump-punitive-work-for-the-dole-program
• Work for the dole does not create jobs and takes the person away from looking for jobs while they are working for the dole. In this way, it is self-defeating.
• Work for the dole forces some workers to work without OHS protections, sick leave entitlements, superannuation or workers compensation in case of injury at work, which other workers in the workforce are entitled to receive.
• Work for the dole does not alleviate the problem of unemployment, because of the fundamental problem that there are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one. To continue to force people to participate in work for the dole programs is morally wrong and unjust! If the government wants people to participate in the dole, then they should ask for volunteers. Further, if the government wants the unemployed to contribute to the community, they would do better to scrap the work for the dole program and use that money to employ some unemployed people, who can then pay taxes and contribute to the community in other ways.
• Many people who have worked for the dole have complained that they did not learn anything new. Others have said that the training and experience they received was inadequate in helping them secure employment. Others said that they were exploited and intimidated.
• Some social welfare organizations such as St Vincent De Paul consider the Work for the Dole program to be a punitive scheme. Even the OECD sees it as a seriously flawed program. https://www.vinnies.org.au/page/News/National/National_News_Items_2017/Our_view_on_Work_for_the_dole_scheme_in_Fairfax_Media/
• The worst case of moral and physical abuse of unwaged workers is the work for the dole program known as the Community Development Program forced on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in remote indigenous communities against their will. They are compelled to work for the dole 25 hours a week, 52 weeks a year in workplaces with unsafe conditions. They are not covered by OHS, don’t have annual leave, sick leave or carer’s leave. It’s disgusting and shameful that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are compelled to work for the dole 25 hours a week, 52 weeks in a year, yet white Australians only work six months of a year at usually 15-25 hours a week. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have been reduced to second-rate citizens in their own land. It is unfair, unjust and racially discriminatory. If you want to know more about the shocking treatment they have been subjected to please read the ACTU report entitled Inquiry into the Appropriateness and Effectiveness of the Community Development Program (CDP) ACTU Submission to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Accordingly, the self-loving politicians who devised the work for the dole scheme are short-sighted hypocrites. They have failed to apply one of the golden rules on which society is based on, to the work for dole program, that is to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect that they the politicians wish to be treated with. Australian politicians who do not treat the unemployed as equal citizens do not act honorably or fairly in their dealings with them, as evidenced by violating the free will of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have no control of the job market and who have done nothing wrong. Australian federal politicians have also condemned millions of Australians to live in poverty, while they enjoy salaries and exorbitant pensions, like the ex-treasurer Joe Hockey for example who simultaneously took a 90,000-part pension and a 360,000 salary as an ambassador to America at the same time. Or if you want to look at it in another light, a federal politician can have a generous meal allowance of $86 a day, while an unemployed person living in his or her own home gets just $39 for a whole day. In fact, entitled federal politicians get more in travel allowances per day than many unemployed people get in a week!!! Are federal politicians better than other Australians in applying one set of standards for sustenance and well being to themselves, while applying another set of standards for sustenance and well being to pensioners and the unemployed? What hypocrisy!
Meal and travel allowances sources:
In conclusion, forcing people who have done nothing wrong into work of any kind is illegal under international law and under the Australian Human Rights Act 1986. The work for the dole program has failed spectacularly and wasted hundreds of millions of dollars to no good end. Given that Work for the dole program has failed, why then is the government still promoting it? Who benefits from all that money going around? Surely, not the job seeker! There is one view that Work for the Dole is part of the narrative punishing the unemployed who are used as scapegoats for the government to present to the public to detract from the government’s failure to fix the job crisis. In any case, wake up Australia, vote for honest politicians who are willing to accept responsibility, that have the willingness (80 percent attitude, 20 percent knowledge) to find a solution to the job crisis, that consider the greater good, and who lead not by rhetoric but by example.
For details about registering a complaint about coerced or compulsory labor go to the Australian Human Rights Commission website:
In solidarity, with the rest of the nobodies who still believe in a democracy for the people and by the people, that is based on human dignity and social justice where the rights of the individual are respected.
The information contained on this website is not intended to be construed as legal advice, and the author will not accept responsibility for the actions of any individual who acts on the information in it. It is only my interpretation of the various laws and is provided for information purposes only. People need to consider their circumstances carefully in conjunction with the sources of information presented to draw their conclusions.