I shall deal with various sections of the workforce in what I consider the order of priority.
Training and Trades:
Training for the workforce is essential in our modern society. Primary and secondary education are the foundations of that training. Then we have technical colleges and apprenticeships. There is room for improvement in how technical colleges are funded, and in the way they are run. Federal government funding and accreditation can circumscribe how they are run. They should not be primarily profit-making enterprises, churning out quantity but not quality.
Tradesmen should have major input into how apprentices are trained. While undergoing practical training apprentices should receive just remuneration, but many businesses cannot afford to pay an adequate wage to apprentices. Government should subsidise such businesses. If apprentices are trained only by large companies which can afford a liveable wage there will be far too few apprentices and then far too few skilled tradesmen down the track. It is happening now.
Federal government should accredit training. It should also estimate how many tradesmen will be needed in a given trade and fund businesses accordingly.
The training for medicos, nurses and assistants in nursing, nursing aides, wardsmen, dentists, veterinarians, radiologists, physiotherapists and the like, is presently dictated by health professionals, whose knowledge and skills are based in science and practical experience. I would have no-one tamper with this arrangement, but I would ensure that New Australians who have been sponsored to come here in those capacities receive sufficient training in English as it is spoken as well as in Australian standards of medicine. Too many of them now find they are ill-equipped for work in Australian hospitals and become taxi-cab drivers or pushers of mops and brooms for long periods while they “catch up”, or else give up on the career for which they were sponsored. Government needs to step in and help with necessary training, as it also should for on-going training for medicos already in the field.
The salaries of health professionals should reflect their importance to the community. We have far too few nurses, and we have junior medicos working up to twenty hour shifts because we do not have enough medical personnel. Higher pay may encourage more individuals to take up medicine a s a career over such things as finance, the arts, retail and hospitality.
I am out of my depth here. Having reached my dotage before the technological age, I am not conversant with cyber things. I know only that they are of ever-increasing importance, and that if we lost them we would be up the creek without a paddle.
We do not have half enough experts in cyber technology. That is why cyber-technicians versed in preventing cyber attacks and espionage are vital and no expense should be spared in training them.
The possibilities of the digital age are almost miraculous, from manufacture to artificial intelligence, to ventures in space. Our best and brightest students should be encouraged in these fields.
Under this umbrella I would place government welfare workers, social workers, counselors, psychologists, non-government charities and church organizations supporting the disadvantaged in society, cleaners, garbage collectors, sanitation personnel, many types of domestic, and the countless volunteers who work in the community in service to others.
We have not nearly enough of these priceless people. Too many people-oriented individuals are employed as bartenders, hairdressers, waiters, tourist operators, or retailers and in other such jobs. Now, during Covid 19, while they are waiting and hoping for these jobs to re-emerge, is the time for these gifted folk to retrain as paid carers in society. Currency will still circulate, and society will benefit more than it would from having Mrs. Forsythe-Smith have her nails professionally manicured every week instead of having a visiting nurse cut her nails while checking up on her other needs, or from the gang converging on a coffee shop every morning instead of visiting each others’ homes in turn for morning coffee.
Government could and should encourage transitioning to service careers with financial incentives.
This is a large sector of the Australian workforce which is struggling. It is my opinion that it will continue to struggle if we continue to hope for overseas tourists. It would be better for the planet’s environment if a substantial number of cruise ships and international aircraft ceased operating. It would also be safer, healthwise, and imbue a greater sense of security, now that the threat of pandemic has been awakened.
Pay television and streaming of travel films and documentaries could take the place of overseas travel. The snob value of travel would disappear, but so also would risk, the discomfort of travel and jet-lag, and the expense. Aspiring travelers could also experience up close and personal encounters via film-makers, with scenery, situations and people in other countries, experiences they might otherwise miss. There is a good market here for Australian film-makers and tourist operators. There is so much of Australia to be explored that is off the beaten track and that overseas folk would not realize or have time to see if they were actually here.
We must not overlook the local market, which is still very viable, and very under-used. If the nation were divided into regions rather than states, it would help tourism to stabilize, as well as other business. If we could eventually introduce fast trains on a uniform gauge throughout the nation it would be a boon for tourism as well as commerce, and if international tourism did revive it could go ahead full steam.
The use of retail to circulate currency in Australian society is highly over-rated. Along with Finance, retail is responsible for the totally unnecessary existence of inflation. The value of goods and services does not change. Only the price changes. The price should change only with the fluctuations of supply and demand. It is greed – speculation and over-pricing – which leads to inflation.
Modern retail is also the instigator of planned obsolescence, which is slowly chewing up our non-renewable resources and trashing the planet. The costs involved in advertising to persuade people to buy things they really have no need of misleads people into debt or stringent circumstances. Goods are over-priced to cover the costs of advertising and experimenting to find the best way to persuade folk to part with their money.
Retail is responsible for unnecessary packaging. I point out one hypocrisy of the conglomerate supermarkets. Originally, the cardboard boxes which were used for packing the goods delivered to the stores were used, once emptied, to pack goods for customers to carry home. Now the cardboard boxes are wastefully dismantled and thrown out. We are supposed to supply our own bags. The supermarkets originally obligingly supplied us with bio-degradable plastic bags free, but they prevailed on the state governments to forbid their supplying free plastic bags, and now supply at cost, non-renewable bags at an exorbitant price, to those who forget to bring their own. Note that the supermarkets lay responsibility for trashing the environment squarely on the customer.
As for pricing, I should not get too far into how they rob farmers to “give the customer a low price”. It is past time that State governments regulated primary produce to give farmers a fair price. Meantime, customers, shop at your local butcher and green-grocer, and try not to depend on the cheapest milk. If farmers go out of business, as many already do, we will all be screwed.
As for other retail, I shall try to refrain from being “preachy” but I believe we clutter our lives with far more items than we need. Recycling is one way to beat planned obsolescence. Opportunity shops are well-named. One can dress oneself, one’s kitchen, dinner table, and home with quite reputable second-hand goods.
I would boycott cheap clothing stores which deal in sweat-shop merchandise. Boycotting them indirectly helps underpaid overseas workers to obtain a fairer wage, as well as helping Australian migrants who unwittingly work here for a pittance. Buy Australian in all items where you can.
Retail workers can transition to other industries which are of more value to society. People persons, as I have already pointed out, are much in demand. The renewable energy sector is one I have not mentioned, and there are The Arts, with which I shall deal next.
The Arts and Sport:
Sport and the Arts have been the crest of the wave on which we have ridden through the lockdowns and isolations of the pandemic. It has been quality sport and quality art, and of necessity largely local. I am loth to wet-blanket aspirations by observing that large-scale international sport may be off the cards for the foreseeable future, though our Pacific neighbours have demonstrated that they are willing and able to put on a great show in Australia, in sport, at least.
We are grateful to our sportsmen and artists for the time and enthusiasm they have invested in their chosen professions, for the pleasure it brings to us as well as to them. I list them in my dissertation, not to contribute my opinions as to how they could improve. I am sure they already do their utmost. I simply mean to express my congratulations and exhort them to carry on. Against all obstacles, folk of your mettle are sure to find a way.
Perhaps I should have listed farming first. Primary produce is our most pressing need. Folk feel it in the hip pocket first when farmers are struggling, and then they feel the shortages.
At present farmers most need water. Federal government needs to take over the distribution of water from the river systems. The way they are irregularly regulated and policed by the various states is inefficient and unjust. We need a uniform plan.
The second need, during the pandemic, is for farm hands and fruit pickers. They are a scarce commodity now that back-packers are verboten. Federal government has finally concocted a scheme to get workers here, but it is, as usual for the Morrison government, very little very late.
The other – perennial – problem I have already mentioned in the Retail section. Farmers need just return for their produce. The sale of dairy produce, eggs, and fruit and vegetables needs to be regulated in all states by a government board. If we ever transpose to regions in place of states it will have to be a federal responsibility. Low-grade produce could possibly be permitted to be sold in convenience stores and fresh produce markets rather than thrown away as waste.
Defence and Police Forces:
Our national security and law and order are primary needs in society, but employment in these fields in crises remains constant or increases. I simply want to say these servants of the people are doing a sterling job during the pandemic. Anyone with a penchant for dedicating their lives to the nation could do no better than to make one of these two careers his/her own.
Government should realize the economical necessity of workers who volunteer their services. They are of more value to society than many of the financial moguls whose largesse combined could probably remunerate such willing workers. Obviously our taxation system and our trust schemes should be revised and some plan to remunerate essential volunteers instituted.
I list this section of the workforce last as an indication of my contempt for the manipulations, double-dealings and collusions which go on in the financial world.
It suits our laissez-faire governments to turn a blind eye to the corruption, or to hold a fairly ineffective Royal Commission once in a while to discover what we all know and temporarily apply the brakes.
The community at large can do little about this corruption except to vote with our feet and try to select ethical organizations to deal with.