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Vinnies boss says youth should not be blamed

Vinnies boss says youth should not be blamed for unemployment

On June 13, 2014 the Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Dr John Falzon, took part in a radio interview with ABC 702 Sydney on the topic of young unemployment. The audio and transcript of the interview conducted by presenter, Linda Mottram, was first published on this ABC website.

PRESENTER (Linda Mottram): As part of the Federal government’s changes, unemployed young people who are not on Newstart, who will not be on Newstart for sort of six months slabs will have to look 40 jobs at a time. Forty jobs in a month. It’s a lot of work to do. And of course we expect people to be looking properly and sedulously I suppose and thoroughly for jobs if you want to get a job it takes a bit of effort. I wonder if it’s putting too much pressure on.

Dr John Falzon is the CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and joins me this morning. John, thank you for your time today.

DR JOHN FALZON: A pleasure Linda.

PRESENTER:  Do you think this is an unreasonable request?

DR FALZON: Well look. Let me put it to you this way, this game is as old as the hills and sadly has been played by both sides of politics but never this viciously. And the game consists of blaming people who are experiencing unemployment, blaming them when in fact the fault lies with the labour market. So the inference is it’s a matter of changing behaviour, what we need to change is the labour market so that people do has access to jobs. No one disagrees with the objective of increasing the level of employment participation but you know this is a bit like condemning someone for not being able to get up the ladder rather than building a ramp. This government has not only failed to build the ramp but has kicked away the ladder. You don’t help a young person into a job by making them poor and you don’t help them to become employable by driving them to despair. And that’s what these measures will do.

PRESENTER: How many jobs is it reasonable for people to look for in a month do you think?

DR FALZON: That’s the wrong question to start with in my view. The right question to start with is:

A) Are we making sure that this person is staying out of poverty and clearly they won’t be if they expected to live on fresh air and sunshine?

B) Are we doing everything possible to ensure that they have access to appropriate training and education opportunities?

C) Is their housing secure?

D) Is their health being cared for? And then, making sure that they are being placed in appropriate pathways to employment, rather than being setup for failure.

It’s as if this government has decided okay let’s make life as miserable and horrendous as possible for these young people who are unemployed. Let us drive them to despair let us make them feel as if they are to blame for the sins of the labour market. You know there’s nothing smart, even from an economic rationalist perspective. There’s nothing smart about putting the boot into people who are experiencing disadvantage. This welfare bashing might be therapeutic for those who carry it out but it won’t deliver one job for anyone who is currently locked out of the labour market.

PRESENTER: So what do you expect this will mean for organisations like yours? This suite of policies?

DR FALZON: Therein lays the policy contradiction. What this government is effectively doing is saying to young people we want to drive you to either depend on charity, we want to make you feel like you have to go to charity for assistance, or we want to put extra pressure on your family to support you. You know they are certainly not considering, or maybe they are considering, because they seem to be hell bent on increasing the level of inequality. Or worse still and this is a terrible thing to say, but one has to wonder, whether they are intending to reduce the level of youth unemployment by increasing the level of youth incarceration, because that is going to be one of the consequences of driving young people more deeply into poverty and more deeply into despair.

PRESENTER: Okay, John Falzon thank you very much for talking with us today.

DR FALZON: Thank you Linda.

About Vinnies

St Vincent de Paul Society is a lay Catholic organisation working towards a more just and compassionate society.

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