First, Do No Harm

First, do no harm should be a guiding value everyone, Government, Institutions, NGO’s, For Purpose, Companies and individuals.

This week the Morrison government increased the unemployment benefit by $50 a fortnight. It is the first significant increase of the unemployment benefit in almost 40 years – yet Australia continues to offer one of the lowest benefits in the world.

What was as significant was the Governments accompanying rhetoric. It fell back on good ol fashioned, 1980’s-style dole bashing. Seriously Mr Prime Minister, it is 2021! Though judging by your admission that you needed your wife to remind you of how to be a man in response to an alleged rape in Parliament, I am wondering if you actually do understand that the world has moved on.

With this benefit increase the Prime Minister has acted as indian giver, a truly colonial behaviour, where he gave a little bit of extra money while demanding job seekers apply for 20 jobs a month – while we are still recovering from a pandemic – and there are 100 or more people applying for every advertised role. The Prime Minister didn’t stop there. Showing a taste for autocratic power, he established up a hotline, while encouraging employers to dob in those on the unemployment benefit that refused to accept a job when offered.

Where on the Do No Harm scale does this type of behaviour sit?

I understand that not everyone wants to see people paid for being unemployed. The reality is that being on a benefit doesn’t have the stigma it used to have. Why is this? Because over the past decade or so, our language has changed. The level of dole bashing had decreased. We like to believe we have become more tolerant and inclusive. Until now. The leader of our country has sent out a strong message. IT IS OKAY TO BASH THOSE THAT ARE DOWN! While conveniently neglecting to acknowledge that at least one million people remain unemployed or underemployed as a result of this Governments decisions over the past twelve months.

The Commonwealth spent more than $100M on pandemic measures in the past year. Not because they wanted to, because they had no choice. The alternative would have cost a lot more. More to the point, as the economy recovers over the next 12 months it can expect the number of people unemployed to halve. The money is clearly available to have increased Job Seeker more than the miserly $3.50 a week that was granted.

While any benefit increase is better than nothing, no amount of money will compensate for the humiliation and harm created through the Prime Ministers choice of words. To those on Job Seeker those words will have cut to the wick.

In the final five minutes before he falls asleep at night, Mr Morrison might take time to reflect upon the meaning of firstly, do no harm. While also reflecting on another lesson of leadership – others will do as you do. Is that the sort of country the Prime Minister wants Australia to be – one where we bash those that are less fortunate? I hope not. It would be very un-Australian.

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