Hard News by Russell Brown


When Fairfax acquired INL's New Zealand print assets last year, a key promise was that the local papers would have easier access to work from Fairfax's Australian publications. Presumably they do. So why don't they make better use of it?

A story in this morning's Dom Post nails the government for failing to research Australia's "successful Work for the Dole Scheme". Cue predictable nagging from Katherine Rich and Muriel Newman. Well, no, the New Zealand government hasn't studied the Australian scheme. But the Australian government has, and the results have been a bit embarrassing, as stories last month in Fairfax papers said.

This from the Australian Financial Review, December 1, 2003:

The recent kerfuffle over research findings that suggest the Howard government's work-for-the-dole scheme is hindering rather than helping the jobless get off the dole is a reminder that such schemes are often an admission of failure. Jeff Borland and Yi-Peng Tseng of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that work-for-the-dole participants are less likely than unemployed non-participants to get jobs. The possible reasons include that they have less time to look for jobs if [they are obliged to work in the scheme].

And this from the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of weeks before:

Long-term unemployed people should be given six months' subsidised experience and training in a job in the not-for-profit or public sectors, rather than made to work for the dole, the nation's peak welfare body said yesterday. The Australian Council of Social Service called for the Federal Government's work for the dole program to be scrapped after the release of research showing participants are 12 per cent less likely to find a job than unemployed people not involved in the scheme.

The unhappy conclusions of the Melbourne research have prompted the Howard government to swiftly shift the goalposts, claim that the aim wasn't to get people into jobs, but to create a sense of "mutual obligation", and to talk down its own figures in favour of an independent study that reached slightly more favourable conclusions.

Now, there is a weakness to the Melbourne study, which is that its data are relatively old. But it echoes one by the Australian Council of Social Services, which found that the old scheme that the Howard government scrapped was twice as successful at putting people into work as the new one, at about the same cost of operation.

The Melbourne study was actually withheld by the Howard government last year, and had to be obtained under freedom of information laws by The Australian newspaper. The ABC carried some of the debate - in which the Melbourne Institute's Jeff Borland criticised the methodology of the independent study being touted by the government. There's another ABC interview here.

There have been other problems with the indigenous component of the scheme, where whistleblowers are claiming to have flagged financial mismanagement and possible fraud - and been ignored by officials.

Essentially, work-for-the-dole schemes are never really undertaken in search of practical results, but rather as a matter of what you might call faith-based policy. They cost a lot to run, they distort the labour market and they don't create real jobs. The last National government scheme here was opposed by Treasury in the first place and was unlamented when it was phased out.

Anyway, Shona reviewed the Big Day Out too, and unabashedly loved Muse: "So there." Good on her. And Hansel from Interpret This got along to Peaches' warm-up show at the King's Arms last Thursday.

Sam Finnemore emailed with a few more warm fuzzies for the event:

It sounds like you had an absolute riot, as I did. I saw fewer acts than last year, but nearly everything deserved an extended stay: from Shapeshifter and Concord Dawn (whose set was definitely punishing, but worth the stay towards the end) through to the Strokes and Basement Jaxx.

I agree totally about the hip-hop stage; poor sound and placement meant it got drowned in noise and punters leaving the Boiler Room. I remember last year the headline rapper Kurupt got shifted to the main stage due to a huge crowd - they need to do people like Scribe justice and set aside one of the main stages for hip-hop next time.

Metallica was an interesting experience. I've never been a huge fan, but enthusiasm is infectious after all: they worked hard, kept my attention for 120 minutes and looked like they were having the time of their lives.

I was also surrounded by people who hung on every riff, from Californian teen punks to 40-year old punters from West Auckland; all of whom were bloody good to each other. I've never, ever, been asked at the Big Day Out if I could see the band properly, and had people shift to get me a better view. A friend of mine did get stuck in the boiling mosh up front, and was nearly trampled before one alert guy raised the alarm and hauled her up; she crowdsurfed right to the front and dropped down into the front row by the barrier. Nice.

Long live the mellower Big Day Out. I don't think anything's lost when people aren't off their heads on Export Gold. I think the wider age spread made it a milder experience too; but if you wanted to get punished there was plenty of opportunities in the Boiler Room. :) The Jaxx and Concord Dawn stumped every other act for sheer fun this year, Metallica included.

Shayne P. Carter also had a good time:

That was a cracker BDO, considering I'd sworn off them a few years back, the teeming masses being too much for me and me old man constitution. but I'm glad I took advantage of that free ticket and went at the last minute. That Flaming Lips gig was the sweetest and, yep, I was waving my arms in the air 'long with everyone else. Wayne Coyne seems a genuinely cool man.

I'll tell you who else was good - the Mars Volta, that's who. I mean I'm a huge Aphex fan, but I only lasted a couple of minutes in the Boiler Room - two dudes hunched over laptops was no match for the ass kickin' i was getting off the Green Stage, so I rushed back for more of that . Bloody good. The Strokes straight after seemed kinda tame in comparison. The Peaches show was a nice surprise too. I mean I've never really been interested, but that was an excellent set.

So yes. It's nice to be surprised and/or delighted, when so often you end up disappointed. Like you say - an excellent vibe as well - patient people and considerate too . Choice .

Sorry you missed it now? No worries. There's a killer lineup at the 95bFM Summer Series on Sunday. Here's to not growing up …