The progress of ‘Man Bilong Buk’
An adventurous and rich life – John Philip Fowke

Take heed, they’ll exploit you if they can


ADELAIDE - The situation with respect to Australia’s seasonal workers, deplorable as it is, simply reflects the truth about the so-called ‘gig economy’ that has now been created here and elsewhere in the world.

It is a form of economy that would be immediately recognisable to, say, Charles Dickens or Karl Marx, because its essential characteristics are not dissimilar to those of many workers in the mid-19th century.

This is no accident but the result of a series of policy decisions taken by successive Australian governments to preference insecure, episodic and generally low paid jobs to what had been a pattern of long term, relatively secure employment with one employer.

In the name of ‘flexibility’ we have created an employment system that results in chronic  and persistent uncertainty for employees, with little likelihood of career advancement.

Of course, not everyone is caught up in this system.

It is very prevalent in the service sectors of the economy like tourism, hospitality, transport, agriculture, aged care, disability and even health.

It is less prevalent in areas like finance, information technology and the various public service entities.

The neo-liberal philosophy is based upon a whole set of assumptions, foremost of which is the Chicago school of economics ideas popularised by Milton Friedman that boil down to unfettered capitalism being allowed to do pretty much what it wants being an inherently good idea.

Government’s role is to either actively create the conditions needed for business to thrive or otherwise get out of the road. This is what the notion of deregulation, or cutting red tape, really means.

The current Australian government is a propagator of this ideology, quite explicitly taking measures intended to allow business to do what it wants even in the face of evidence that can and does lead to perverse outcomes.

Thus it can decide that it will be a good thing to relieve the banks of any obligation to inquire into a prospective borrower’s ability to repay a loan even though the recent Banking Royal Commission has forcefully pointed out the very adverse consequences this leads to for many people.

Consequences not in people’s best interests.

Many Australians seem unable or unwilling to understand just how pernicious and destructive the neo-liberal philosophy is to their best interests.

Very belatedly, more than a few people have woken up to the problems attached to this particular model of capitalism but the political and business power elites remain firmly within its grip.

The almost revolutionary fervour now evident in the USA amongst the losers in this system is evidence that change is inevitable. The only question is when and how.

History shows that the grip of the elites can be loosened in one of only two ways: either they realise the need for changing towards a fairer and more equitable system or, alternatively, they have to be forced to change.

It is not socialism let alone communism that is needed, simply reform of the obviously unfair and inequitable ‘rules of the game’ within the current capitalist model.

Unless and until this is done, then the problems identified by Bernard Corden ('Australia is exploiting its seasonal workers') will remain and will, very probably, get worse.

Sadly, I see no indication that, on the conservative side of politics at least, there is any recognition of the need for change.

Indeed, the neoliberal perpetrators appear to be doubling down on their quest to preference the rich and powerful against the vast majority of the people.

So, if history is any guide, we will continue our march towards what promises to be a politically disruptive and even violent future when the majority, tired of being exploited, decide to take things into their own hands.


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Lindsay F Bond

How serious? Perhaps Chris understates "uncertainty for employees". Perhaps it should read "even death itself".

A report comes of a 27-year-old Belgian backpacker, Olivier Max Caramin, who died on 1 November 2017.

Put simply, there had been no planning "to determine whether picking could occur outside of the hottest part of the day".

Industry response? "Peak body acknowledges image problem."

Corney Korokan Alone

Thank you Chris Overland.

Your opinion deserves to reach every echelon of the policy researchers' corners in the G7 world, decision makers everywhere and their legal draftsmen/draftswomen in our common little green planet.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the unconscionable and the greedy capitalists (and their fully paid and sponsored politicians).

The capitalists' disciples who embody the "get rich quickly at any expense mindset" - even to the point of desecrating the basic tenets of humanity's common sense and values must heed the warning signs.

Not so long ago some greedy and entitled Kings and Queens who became corrupted not through their ingenuity and innovation but through hereditary gene pool classification and barbarism were toppled.

Relics and the shameless stench of that era continues to show up at various resource developments, contract signings and trade negotiations. They might have escaped unscathed from the masses because information was guarded with iron fists and confined to exclusive clubs.

That deemed exclusive world however, has changed for ever, never to be repaired again.

Thanks to the internet. The democratization of information, notwithstanding the attempts cooked up to confuse, deflect, spew false parallels, muddy the waters and distract the masses is real.

People are able to compare notes and cross-reference a lot better and easily now than ever before, where global citizens with conscience and decency will never be cowered into complicity and intimation by today's entitled capitalists.

That brick walls that they think have built whilst secretly robbing and hoarding their safe heavens will crumble. The cracks are only getting bigger now. The tremors are being felt.

It's happening in this decade. The walls will collapse, for a fairer and a just world.

Bernard Corden

It must be reinforced that Milton Friedman was a statistician and when you turn people into numbers you can manipulate them in whichever way you want.

Reflecting on my study of economics 50 years ago, a feature of Friedman's thinking that struck me as especially bizarre was his notion that companies providing philanthropic donations were acting unethically. Why? Because, Friedman said, they were misappropriating money that should have gone to shareholders - KJ

Bernard Corden

"A reasonable estimate of economic organization must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralyzed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria, which are not purely economic" - R H Tawney

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