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Toying with a sex shop career? Sorry, this option has been black-listed

12 December 2015 174 views No Comment

Malcolm Turnbull’s efforts to innovate our way into more employment and prosperity are to be applauded. So here’s a really innovative idea to help create more jobs. How about we let completely legal businesses that pay all their company taxes and GST share in government job creation schemes?

This week it came to my attention that the federal government bans certain legal industries from accessing job creation and wage subsidy schemes. They’re doing this simply because the moral values of the industry don’t happen to align with the moral values of some cabinet members. For example, if you own a legal adult shop in Australia, you cannot register with the Department of Employment for any assistance of any kind in trying to hire a new staff member. If you are unemployed and you would like to work in an adult shop, no employment service provider will take you on because the government won’t pay for that type of job placement.

If we look at this particular black-listed industry we find that the adult retail sector employs about 20,000 people in this country. They even have some listed companies among their ranks. One of their products, the common vibrator, sells one million every year. According to a recent poll, two out of three women have or have had a vibrator. In fact, more women than men shop in the modern adult retail outlet, as they do in a range of other retail industries. These days an up-market adult shop looks like a department store and sells a range of products including condoms, lube, vibrators, fantasy fashion lines, shoes, adult magazines and DVDs.

All of these items can be purchased from chemists, specialist shoe shops and clothing stores, newsagents and DVD outlets. But, unlike adult shops, none of these enterprises is barred from accessing government job creation schemes. Yet when all those legal and taxable products are sold in one shop, they suddenly become so immoral, so detrimental to our culture and economy, that government feels it has to cut them off from the subsidised labour market.

A recent Freedom of Information request to the Department of Employment, attempting to find out how many businesses were refused access to job creation schemes, was met with a swift refusal. So was a further inquiry into the circumstances surrounding these morality checks. So which minister in which government initiated this morality audit? What evidence was used to shut out a whole industry that employs 20,000 people who pay their taxes and all work in legal businesses?

Because the government won’t explain its reasoning, let’s look at why it would do this.

The authorities could have research to show that working in the adult retail industry was harmful to people’s health. But it seems clear that there is no empirical evidence for the government’s “moral decision.

Could it be that Jobactive service providers, including the churches, have lobbied government and the ministry to say that this industry is harmful to their health?

The more interesting issue for the business community is how the government assesses alcohol, tobacco, mining, gambling and other politically incorrect companies for access to job creation and wage subsidy schemes. What about religious organisations — especially those with long lists of pedophile priests in their ranks?

They certainly seemed to do OK when John Howard was handing out licences for Jobactive providers. And what about the producers of battery hen eggs or puppy farms? What about the makers of military products and gun manufacturers? What about political lobbying firms?

It’s a fascinating enterprise finding out which corporate entity’s moral compass aligns with the government of the day and which doesn’t. But whatever way you look at it, it’s distinctly Orwellian.

Shaping labour markets to meet a particular moral agenda is not something of which Australia should be proud. It’s very close to saying we won’t give access to industries that employ particular ethnic groups or sell particular ethnic products. Indeed, I’m surprised that some rabid politicians and other non-parliamentary advocates have not tried to have businesses that sell halal-certified products disqualified from subsidised labour market products.

All of this raises the question of which industry will be next to fall off the government’s goody-two-shoes list? After all, it is taxpayer money that Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is spending here. And taxpayers in legal businesses surely should be able to access the programs their contributions are helping to sponsor.

In case Cash missed it, her Restart program to get older Australians back into the workforce has been a dismal failure. She managed to get only about 5 per cent of her target numbers to join up to the scheme. Older people are complaining left, right and centre about being discriminated against in the workplace and in some instances being treated like lepers by younger employers.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendon O’Connor has said he thinks the reason Restart is not working is that the jobs are just not there for older people.

He’s wrong on several fronts and one of them is that he’s not taking into consideration the fact there could be whole industries that are being locked out of these schemes because they don’t fit the moral agenda of government. Not that Labor has been any less enthusiastic in casting its moral net over certain industries in the past. They had their chance to make access to subsidised ­labour equal and non-discriminatory and they squibbed it as well.

There are plenty of older Australians, especially older women, working in adult shops and enjoying adult retailing much more than working in a department store or waitressing in a pizza shop. It’s not as though people are being forced to work in an adult retail shop any more than they would be forced to work in an abattoir if they were a vegan.

Unemployed people should have access to as many options for employment as the government can provide. If Turnbull is going to incentivise and innovate Australia to economic success he needs to get rid of this petty moralising and finger wagging around labour markets.

Grundyism and the nanny-state mentality don’t well become a truly Liberal government. Either way, it makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s statement on ABC’s 7.30 that “We’ve got to be prepared to do things differently today than we did yesterday.

Ross Fitzgerald is the author of 38 books, including the political/sexual satire ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’, co-written with Ian McFadyen.

The Weekend Australian, December 12-13, 2015, Inquirer p.24

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