Picture perfect: Roland’s father's village, Magliano, in the Alpi Apuane, Tuscany, Italy. Photo: SUPPLIED

From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 8 December

December 8, 2019 BY

The latest employment figures are cause for apprehension. They reveal, 726,100 Australians are unemployed. Many are unskilled and may never find a job; relegated to the scrapheap of long-term unemployment.

YOUR work is the rent you pay for the space you occupy on earth. For the majority, the prospect of facing another day of idleness, or chasing to find non-existent work, is incomprehensible. While politicians talk of seasonally adjusted figures, and myriad duplicitous excuses, all of which are gobbledegook to camouflage the truth, the reality is, we have a serious problem; and it is shows every visible sign of worsening.

My mother, Beria, and my father, Ginger, had strong work ethics. Many-a-time, my sister, Nita, was told to re-polish the Jarrah bedroom floors and the passageway because the job was not done to Beria’s exacting standards, the consequence of a childhood spent in the Salvation Army Girls’ Home in Cottesloe, Western Australia. The only skills the girls were taught were washing, sewing, and housework. She did all of them, brilliantly.

Ginger came from a long line of pastori (shepherds).  For several hundred years, at the end of autumn, and before the winter freeze arrived, the young men of his family drove the milking sheep down mountain to the la Maremma grazing land at the foothills of the Alpi Apuane, Tuscany. Together with other shepherds, he spent the winter living in a hut guarding the sheep until spring melted the winter snow, allowing them to walk the sheep back to his mountain village, Magliano. Apart from a brief period during the Second World War when my father was locked-up on Rottnest Island as a POW because he was not a naturalised Australian, he was never out of work. Times have changed.

Technology, for all its brilliance and wonderment, has cut a swathe through the workforce. Where it will end, no-one can tell. Whole areas of employment have disappeared, completely. There was a time when the Postmaster General’s Department (PMG, now Telstra), employed thousands of men and women as switchboard operators. Overnight, with the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling (STD), 50,000 employees lost their jobs; before the invention of the wretched “push button 1, and push button 2”, every company employed at least one PBX switchboard operator. These days it is difficult to speak anyone answering in Australia. We had conductors on buses and trams – now we have Myki and no-one pays. Banks employed hundreds of women as comptometrists operating trading bank posting machine; banks were staffed by living, breathing people – now it’s all machines, and when the Commonwealth Bank computer says “no”, you go without! Newspapers and publishing houses employed hundreds of compositors – whose job it was to set the text of a publication before printing.

Fascinatingly, the brilliant new BBC series, Years and Years, starring Emma Thompson and screening on SBS, and which is set 20-years hence in dystopian England, makes particular reference to the proliferation of self-checkout machines in supermarkets; and which I, for one, refuse to use. They are, inexorably, and despite management assurances to the contrary, harbingers for the sacking of hundreds of semi-skilled employees, many of whom will struggle to find other employment.

You must forgive my cynicism, but have you noticed how the aggregate in payment discrepancies (scoffers might call it theft) is consistently in favour of the employer, and never the employee? It is hard imagine a circumstance where a $300-million excess would go unnoticed. Naturally, it was all just a terrible mistake, and everyone is so terribly sorry; however, one wonders: sorry they did it, or sorry at being caught-out?

The Prime Minister, the exponent of the puerile slogan expert, says “If you want a go, you have to have a go!” Of course! That should solve the problem. Once everyone understands the concept the problem will be solved, and, overnight, we’ll all be living in Camelot!

Roland can be heard every Monday morning – 10.30 – on radio 3BA and contacted on [email protected].com.