The Guardian • Issue #1957

Workers forced to pay for crisis

Australian government income support for the COVID19 crisis, JobKeeper and JobSeeker, has ceased and been revised from April despite ongoing hardships for workers in Australia relating to the pandemic. Vaccination targets have fallen significantly short, while many workers across the country remain unemployed or in volatile employment. The fact that the current government remains adamant that JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments should stop or decrease, regardless of recent outbreaks and lockdowns, demonstrates its clear lack of compassion or responsibility it maintains over working-class Australians.

The Australian government has fallen a shocking eighty per cent short of the March vaccination target. Four million Australians were promised to receive vaccinations by the end of March, but at this stage, only a little over 670,000 have. Even as recently as the 29th of March to the 1st of April, Brisbane entered a three-day lockdown after an outbreak of COVID-19 started amongst healthcare workers who were eligible for vaccines. While there is much discussion in the mainstream media about the efficacy of different vaccines, there are many other reasons for the massive failure in the rollout.

First of all, in what should most certainly be deemed an issue of public safety and concern, the government has made the outrageous decision to privatise the vaccination process. As in other industries, this often carries with it massive safety concerns due to ulterior profit motives of the private companies involved. For example, the contractor Healthcare Australia, has already been given a show-cause notice after elderly aged care residents were given incorrect high doses. Public hospitals with experienced healthcare workers and existing infrastructure to facilitate such a large scale roll-out would more adequately ensure it was administered with more care.

And even though public health workers may offer more confidence in administering the vaccine, public facilities in Australia are still significantly understaffed, or without adequate skills, or experience. The reason for this? The push towards private health care insurance providers, while decreasing funding for public hospitals under a neo-liberal government. The current lack of resources for providing an adequate rollout is the result of these cutbacks. On top of this, highly skilled nurses are unable to administer the vaccine without supervision from a general practitioner, despite being highly experienced at the task. This is rather ridiculous with regard to the lack of highly trained staff available.

Meanwhile, workers in Australia are forced to participate in society as normal with no government safeguards, regardless of the constant looming threat of another outbreak or lockdown. And these workers count themselves lucky to not join the army of unemployed after JobKeeper payments were stopped. On top of that, with JobSeeker payments being revised, many people who were previously in employment face serious concerns such as not being able to pay for rent and food, and as such, face the possibility of homelessness.

Those who believe the cutbacks on JobKeeper and JobSeeker are more important for the Australian economy than homelessness clearly are not in these situations. Additionally, the pandemic has created severely growing mental health issues which also strongly impact the ability to gain employment. Regardless, liberal leaders like Treasurer Josh Frydenberg blamed the JobKeeper termination on state and territory leaders closing their borders during outbreaks. Although taking these precautions is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID19, Frydenberg warned that the federal government would no longer “pick up the tab” for economic ruin caused by the closures. Instead, it seems the Treasurer would prefer Australian workers to pay for the crisis.

It is clear that JobKeeper and JobSeeker were never initiated to care for the Australian public, but rather to keep the economy afloat during the worst of the crisis. The inability for workers to organise has also given the ruling class the opportunity to further attack them through the introduction of the Omnibus bill. This bill takes away more rights from casual workers, and will lead to more casualisation, meaning less job protections and work hours.

The fact remains that while Australia remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie, the majority of Australians will continue to have their rights taken from them. Only by fighting for socialism can the Australian public truly see their conditions lifted long-term, and give them the dignity and appreciation they deserve.

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