- The Guardian
- Issue #1993
Earlier this month, it appeared as though Australia had returned to the 19th Century when it became known that prime minister Scott Morrison had floated around the idea to reduce the age limit on forklift drivers.
Why did Morrison want to reduce the age limit on forklift licenses? Because of the staffing crisis facing the logistics sector that has crippled supply chains resulting in supermarket shelves without basic staples such as chicken and vegetables.
The public response to Morrison’s idea was swift, and the ensuing outraged was justified.
On Twitter, former assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Tim Lyons wrote:
“I worked in warehouses at Uni. Had a forklift licence. I organized [sic] in warehouses for more than a decade. Letting kids whizz around on forklifts is insane. They are not dodgem cars. The kids are very likely to kill or injure themselves or someone else.”
Outside of the public pressure, Morrison had legal difficulties in getting such a plan off the ground as it required state laws to be changed, an obstacle Morrison noted. As a result, Morrison has dropped bringing the idea any further, stating:
“At national cabinet today [20/01/2022], we agreed to proceed no further with the issue of 16-year-old forklift drivers.”
While this ludicrous idea has been dropped, it is a grave reminder of how deteriorated our capitalist system has become. While many will point to the pandemic as the source of our current dilemma – as opposed to capitalism – this is not the case. The pandemic has only accelerated capitalism’s decline. The staffing crisis experienced in Australia, which led to Morrison’s mind-blogging suggestion, is an example of how the pandemic has heightened the degradation of capitalism.
This is not the first time Australia’s ruling class has attempted to stimulate its economy and workforce without consideration for workplace health and safety. The Rudd government, in response to the financial crisis 2007-2008, attempted to create jobs and stimulate economic growth with the Home Insulation Program. The problem with the program was it failed to properly regulate the sector resulting in the death of four workers. As Lyons mentioned above, forklifts are dangerous tools. They are operated in closed spaces, often carrying heavy loads. One only has to turn to the news to see how often forklift accidents happen to realise that allowing minors to drive these vehicles is not a good idea.
We must ensure that we keep the pressure on this government to not make workplaces any more unsafe than they are currently. With a federal election around the corner, we must remember these attacks on the safety of workers and the complete disregard the ruling class has for workers across Australia.