In 2011, the Gillard government announced a policy of ‘Earn or Learn’.

The initiative was designed to ensure that high school students completed Year 12, either through an academic stream or an optional vocational stream.

In effect, this meant that students who wished to leave school before Year 12 had to have an ensured occupation through apprenticeship or traineeship.

The Abbott government has retained the slogan but its intent is far different.

Under the proposed changes to Newstart, those 30 years or under will have to either work for the dole or partake in a ‘learning/training’ course.

This gives rise to a couple of scenario’s.

Let’s examine the first;

You’ve left school at Year 12 but don’t want to go to university.

You want to be a tradesman but thanks to the ever shrinking number of apprenticeships and the continued closure of TAFE’s, this doesn’t seem to be possible.

After applying for unemployment benefits and fulfilling your ‘mutual obligation’ to fruitlessly apply for 40 jobs a month over the past six months, you’re now faced with the choice of either joining the Green Army to pick up up garbage and pull weeds, or enroll in a government approved training course.

When you left school, it was summer. It is now winter, and you don’t want to spend 20 hours a week in the pouring rain and freezing cold, so you opt for the training course.

The range of courses on offer is fairly narrow and none of them will be helpful in aiding you to realize your ambition of becoming a qualified tradesperson.

The chances are you will be offered the choice of the following; Hospitality (waiter, waitress, kitchen hand), Transport and Logistics (truck driver, fork lift operator, storeman), Cleaning (self explanatory), Aged Care (ditto) or Security (watchman, guard, crowd control).

If you’re in a hurry, there are also short courses that cover Red and White Card in construction or ‘traffic management’ (Stop/Go sign holder), food handler, Barista, Barman etc…

Whatever course you choose, it will be delivered through a Registered Training Organization (RTO). These are organizations which are usually an arm of the Jobs Australia Network.

Many of them are shelf companies which means that your Job Network Provider can bid on further contracts from the government without having to go through the proscribed waiting period required under business legislation.

This means that not only can your Job Network Provider make a claim from the government for having you on their books but also picks up extra dollars for the referral to the RTO (themselves) which in turn collects the fee for your course from the government, and also enables it to minimize its tax payments.

In addition, most of the current Job Network Providers and RTO’s are owned by overseas corporations such as the UK owned A4e or the US owned Maxx Employment.

These corporations rake in in literally billions of dollars per year. Under the previous Labor government the Job Network system alone received 1.5 billion dollars as part of the ALP’s 4.5 billion dollar ‘Welfare to Work’ scheme.

Under the proposed changes to Newstart eligibility, this can be expected to triple, making being a contracted Job Network Provider with an RTO arm a lucrative business indeed.

Needless to say with billions in subsidies floating around, corruption of the Job Network System has flourished, and readers should refer to the March edition of The Post for more on this.




Now that you’ve completed your course and clutching your newly minted Certificate II or III in a limited field of semi-skilled labour, you can go an join the end of the dole queue and wait another six months before claiming benefits and joining the Green Army.

As far as the government’s concerned, you’ve already ‘learned’ and therefore you are no longer eligible for subsidized training courses.

You may of course undertake other courses in Certificate II or III occupations  – but at your own expense.

As far as your potential employer is concerned, while you have the ‘qualifications’ for the job, you don’t have any experience and besides, there are already at least another 40 applicants for the same position.

The second scenario is even nastier.

You’ve put in three or four years tertiary study. You’re now a qualified Engineer (Electronic, Mechanical or IT), Nurse, Dentist, Environmental Scientist, Teacher, or Lawyer.

You’ve got a HECS debt that an Olympic pole-vaulter couldn’t jump over.

As you’ve quickly discovered during your freshman or sophomore year, a tertiary degree is no guarantee of a job.

You plowed on however, and endured the social and financial deprivation because you loved study and believed in the value of education not only as a tool to dispel ignorance, but as a means of making the world a better place.

Alas, for you as a graduate, there is no ‘earn or learn’. You’ve already used up your government subsidized allowance with your HECS debt.

Any additional ‘learning’ through the Job Network System is at your own expense.

Jobs?  According to Christopher Pyne, you have a 75% better chance of earning capacity than your non-tertiary qualified bretheren; in fact Chris says that your degree will enable you to earn over a million dollars in your lifetime.

As for a job in your chosen field of study – well, that’s a little more difficult. If you’re a nurse, you’ll find that most vacancies are already filled by 457 visa holders.

Teacher? As a probationary teacher you’ll struggle to find enough Casual Relief Teaching available to fulfill the requirement to become a fully fledged teacher and will most likely ‘be on call’ for the next few years along with several thousand other teachers that the University’s graduate every year.

No, my tertiary qualified friend, for you as they used to say in the former Soviet Union; ‘Is really tough-ski shit-ski!’

For you, its a six month wait to be followed by the joys of joining the Green Army where your degree will do you as much good as a five cent coin in a pokies venue.

Oh, and the twenty hours a week that you work in order to receive your benefits will seriously erode your chances of applying for jobs that you are qualified for. In addition, it’s a general rule of thumb that if you don’t find work in your chosen field in the first three months of graduation, then the chances are that you never will.

To say these proposed changes to unemployment benefits borders on criminal negligence is like saying that the surface of the Sun is hot – a gross understatement.

On the primary level, the Job Network Provider system is and always has been a sham.

The sole purpose of these organizations is to make a profit out of the unemployed by either forcing them into low paid casual/part time work or to breach them for failure to comply with their ‘mutual obligation’ contracts and therefore suspend or terminate their benefits – they get paid to do either or both.

The so called ‘learning’ qualifications and ‘training sessions’ are also a sham and carry little or no weight in the workplace save to ensure the employer that you can actually read, write and wont question either wages or conditions – especially those related to occupational health and safety.

As The Post conjectured last week, the secondary purpose of these proposed changes carries a far more sinister purpose – that of conscription by stealth.


In summary, if you’re a school leaver or unemployed and between the ages of 18 and 30, then you’re considered fodder for the Job Network System as a unit of profit for their organization and as you’ll rapidly discover, your ‘learning’ qualifications, be they tertiary or vocational – mean absolutely nothing.











  1. This is the apotheosis of the monster that was spawned in the ashes of the Commonwealth Employment Service, the ironically named “Job Services Network”.

    Luckily (???) it is so over the top, cruel, and unfair, that I don’t even fair-minded conservatives will cop it. Tories love their children too.

    In a job market, to use a thoroughly offensive term, where there are something like 7 unemployed for every vacancy, and a similar number of under-employed breathing down their necks, this is madness.

    Churchill once said “the worse things get, the better”, a curious paradox, but one which is comforting if it means we’ll soon be shot of these bastards.


    1. Thanks for the comment John. Yes, it is madness but lunacy seems to be the hallmark of this government.
      Both the ALP and the Greens better mean what they say about blocking this and the other whack-o bills in the Senate because if they fold and allow any of this to pass, their credibility will be even less than the LNP’s and that’s down about six metres lower that a snakes…ahhh…belly.


    1. Thanks Mick. Great ‘toon as usual and one that bites (also as usual).

      The Dept. of Mean and Soulless. With your permission I may borrow the term in the near future.

      In the meantime, keep ’em coming Mick! 🙂 🙂 🙂


      1. Thanks for that Mick. I notice that it looks like being a fairly hefty tome. Working on one myself with the working title of ‘These Bastards Must Go’ followed by ‘Son of These Bastards Must Go!’ and the final volume; ‘Revenge of Son of These Bastards Must Go.’

        🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Nice one Edward!

    Seems the NO Coaliar’s and their associated Neutered Poodles Party strategy is to reduce everyone to unskilled worker category and then pay them a pittance.

    A strange philosophy if you consider that if you are only earning a pittance then you don’t pump much into the economy, and that means that those businesses selling things that rely on people pumping the economy don’t make profits, which means that they go out of business and join the unemployed queue, which means they then become unskilled and have to join those competing for the disappearing jobs and being paid a pittance, which means that . . . . . . . . . !!

    Pretty good economic strategy that, eh?


    1. Damn fine economic strategy D., straight out of the ‘Let’s have a Depression for fun and profit’ chapter of Ludwig von Mises guide to ‘social re-engineering’ (Plutocrat Press Ist ed circa 1931 H.Ford, J. P. Morgan (eds).
      ‘Neutered Poodles Party’ – LMAO. Looking forward to tomorrows G.M. 🙂 🙂 🙂


      1. Perhaps the NO Coaliars are planning to do a “Qantitative Easing” once the Oz economy is a complete basket case and just print lots of money, splash it around, and hope no-one notices!
        Hmmm! Seems somewhat familiar! Now where have I come across that before? 😉

  3. The conscription by stealth theory is really the only thing that makes sense as to why they are doing this. Surely they don’t really think the public are so stupid to roll over on this, or really think we will forget before the next election (sooner rather than later, I hope) I’ve already made the declaration that there is no way in hell that I will vote for anyone, or any party, who fails to put their hand up against these measures.


    1. Glad to hear it Christine. The really frightening thing is that they probably do think that the public attention span is so short that come next election and a handout of a few tax breaks/benefits, everything will be forgiven and forgotten.
      Like yourself, I will never vote for any party or independent who supports these measures or fails to vote against them.
      Perhaps I’m drawing a long bow with the conscription by stealth theory, but at the time of writing this reply and listening to the news coming out of the Middle East and more worryingly the cozying up of Australia with Japan against China, tacitly supported by Washington (after all, Abbott couldn’t find his arse with both hands and a road map as far as foreign policy is concerned – or much else either for that matter) I get the feeling that Washington has smelled gunsmoke on the breeze and as a military industrial complex, they’ve always found it to be fragrant.


  4. Oh, I can so relate to what you have written above Edward! I am a retired (full-time) NSW TAFE teacher and I can confirm that every bit of what you wrote is spot on about vocational training.

    If I may expand on your essay, going “back in time”, the rot actually started under the Keating govt around the early 90’s when Keating threatened the states with a takeover of their TAFE systems and introduced national qualifications under ANTA. The rot has continued ever since by both ALP and LNP federal govts with significant and regular “dumbing down” of courses, titles of qualifications continually renamed so that previously gained qualifications become “out of date”, TAFE funding decreased in real terms year after year, outrageous student fee increases year after year, massive casualisation of the teaching staff and the rise of privately owned RTOs who do rip off the system. Howard’s “Australian Technical Colleges” were also an expensive and unmitgated disaster.

    Then we have the rise of Group Training Companies who register as RTOs and send their apprentices along to TAFE for the formal training. They hire out the same apprentices to labour in other organisations. Once these apprentices gain their qualification, they then find themselves on the unemployment queue and competing against the cheap-labour rates provided by the next batch of apprentices coming through the Group Training Company! If it sounds like a treadmill – it is!

    When I started teaching in TAFE back in the mid 80’s, the content of courses was specified in syllabii. Students, employers and teachers all knew what was specified and had full confidence in the system. Then it deteriorated to much simpler “learning outcomes”, but at least you could get some idea of what was supposed to be achieved. I believe that the next phase is well underway now, with totally vague “units of competency”. I will give a simple example of such vaguery. Let’s say that “The learner must be able to paint a wall.” At a TAFE campus, one would hope that this includes the preparation of the wall (filling holes,cracks etc), undercoating, selection of a brush, roller, mop, covering the floor, safe use of a ladder, cleaning up afterwards – you get the idea? But what’s the bet that at a private RTO, they would just hand a student a brush and a bucket of paint, get them to paint the wall.

    I know of one private RTO that taught students practical skills using cardboard replicas of real gear such as meters and welding machines!

    Indeed Edward – it is a whole sham, open to corruption and very “tough-ski shit-ski” for anyone wanting to gain qualifications and pursue a career of their own choice.


    1. Thanks for the Comment GH. There’s no doubt that this system of RTO’s is purely and simply exploitative both of student and teacher and as you point out, don’t contribute to creating employment but in fact to destroying it.


  5. We are not certain if Labor wont role over on the monster free trade deal being engineered by Robb, that worries me, along with the surrender of surveillance legislation.


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