RobertCunningham - Ethically Speaking

Corporations are dole-bludgers

One stereotypical and over-played image of the dole-bludger is that of a lazy person who stumbles out of bed late in the morn everyday only to recline on the lounge while drinking beer and watching television, without even sparing a fleeting thought about engaging in gainful employment.

Recent studies into the concept of welfare in Australia, however, paint a very different picture of the traditional Aussie dole bludger.

As it turns out the biggest dole bludgers of all are the finely dressed, hard-working executives of corporate Australia.

While the figures vary from study to study, at last count corporate Australia was receiving approximately $14 billion per annum by way of subsidies, tax breaks and government hand-outs.

While corporate welfare is often cloaked in language such as industry assistance or strategic investment co-ordination, if we are to call a spade a spade corporate Australia receives welfare and lots of it.

To place the $14 billion per annum of corporate welfare into perspective, individual welfare recipients receive roughly $7 billion per annum. Corporate welfare therefore represents twice the amount of social welfare.

While corporate welfare comes in many shapes and sizes, much of it supports industries which are inherently environmentally destructive.

To take a simplistic but realistic example, most state governments in Australia have established and continue to maintain a network of logging roads which private corporations use to log state-owned forests. In this way, taxpayers subsidise the necessary infrastructure used by corporations to extract profits from what is an inherently unsustainable industry.

To be fair, corporations do create jobs and they also pay taxes. But the jobs that they create are often not sustainable, and the corporate welfare that they receive is not subject to the same stringent accountability mechanisms that are applied to recipients of social welfare.

Indeed, at a time when mutual obligation is foisted with vigour upon social welfare recipients, it seems peculiar to say the least that corporate welfare is not subject to the same probity and public accountability requirements.

It seems that while the poor receive aid coupled with discipline, the rich receive incentives coupled with encouragement.

Although the unemployment rate in Australia is at its lowest in 30 years, the stereotypical myth of the traditional Aussie dole bludger undoubtedly lives on within the Australian social psyche. Perhaps over time however, Australians will learn to reconstruct the traditional image of the dole-bludger so as to encompass the white-collared corporate executive.

As the great Australian feminist Dorothy Hewett once said in a poem where the subject obtained a white-collar job: The working class can kiss me arse, Ive found a bludgers job at last.

Come on corporate Australia, get off the bloody dole!

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