Unemployment drives militarism

It makes complete sense that the AMWU is not just welcoming but has been agitating for submarine contracts, for military spending, for Australian Defence Force power – when workers are desperate for jobs, and feel powerless.

The $50 billion contract (before cost blowouts) French company DCNS will, the PM says create 2,800 jobs – “Australian built, Australian jobs, Australian steel, here right where we stand.”

South Australia, where the bulk of the jobs will be located, has the highest unemployment in Australia – 16 job seekers per vacancy. The Adelaide Advertiser predicts a jobless rate of 14%  without the submarine contracts. Around 24,000 jobs in South Australian will have been lost with the end of vehicle manufacturing.

These submarine building jobs are far fewer than could be created by spending the money in other areas. I’m not a budget expert, but look at some comparison figures for ideas of what could be done with this money to provide far more obvious benefits to most people, rather than building up Australia’s war machine.

Remember Kevin Rudd’s promise to end homelessness – costed at $6.1 billion in 2007. Full Gonski funding for public schools over 10 years would need an extra $30 billion. The Victorian government in 2015 announced $22 billion spending on infrastructure over four years that would create 100,000 new jobs. The CSIRO is losing 400 jobs for a cut of $110 million. I don’t have any figures to hand on what funding could do in areas such as renewable energy, public transport infrastructure and vehicles, health, culture and recreation.

Each person in need of a job to earn a wage, to pay the bills, can only hope for employers and governments to invest, to take and keep them on the pay roll. The employers’ reasons for taking on a workforce are not our reasons as workers, citizens and consumers, for judging what work needs to be done, what goods, services and projects will be best for us all.

As long as unions and citizens consent to corporations (and the governments that support them) making these important decisions, then we’ll scramble for the crumbs of the crummy jobs they offer us, even when we know the results of the work we must do are not in our interests.

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