Monday, January 12, 2004

Throw away your crutches, says bureaucrat

Again in the “If you can’t push it through Parliament, do it by administrative fiat” department is this plan to “encourage” those on disability support pensions to sign up to the Job Network.

The cynicism of the exercise makes the baby-dangling antics of Steve Irwin look restrained by comparison. Where to begin? The fact that the idea apparently emanates from the deepest bowels of the bureaucracy, in the person of DEWR deputy secretary Bob Correll (thus giving Howard’s inner circle the perfect alibi if the plan goes pear-shaped, as it most-assuredly will)?

Or is it the handing-over of taxpayer money by the fistful to the Job Bludgers (sorry, Network) which is really the scheme’s coup de grace – with a/the specialised disabled-worker placement agency having recently gone belly-up (surprise, surprise, such workers are hard to place), the generalist agencies that are now going to be queuing to do the same job, only on a much wider scale, are obviously not going to have too many performance hurdles written into their contracts? (Perish the thought – no payment without placing real disabled people into real jobs would smack of mutual obligation!)

My personal favourite aspect for how much the scheme sucks, however, is its voluntariness. With Steve Irwin quite possibly no longer available to do a $200k, one-day’s filming television ad for the selling of the plan to the at-home masses, Australia is facing an acute shortage of dumb-as-dogshit celebrities who have the pulling power to do a virtual Lazarus on the hundreds of thousands of NESB 50-somethings with bad backs, Anglo 40-something malingerers with substance abuse problems, and Anglo 30-something hard cases who, asked to fill in one Centrelink form too many, took the rubber room line of least resistance instead.

Oh, and the jobs that the motley lot of sad sacks are expected to be placed into? Retail and hospitality, or course. Apropos of placing the skill-challenged into these low-waged, but physically-demanding sectors, the fitting last words belong to Bob Correll:

Employers would face skill shortages if they did not look to disabled people as potential workers.

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