Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Supervisor

Barry Down


Unemployment levels in Australia are a problem that have confronted governments since the mid-1970's. Since the 1983 election, Labor Government policy has sought to combat unemployment by linking training reform within the parameters of economic restructuring. This thesis argues from a critical perspective that Australian Labor Government unemployment and training reform policies aim to develop people's economic potential rather than their personal potential. To this end, six policy documents form the basis of the analysis. There are four Reports (Australia Reconstructed, 'Finn', 'Carmichael' and 'Mayer'), one Policy Statement (One Nation), and one Discussion Paper ('The Employment Green Paper'). The thesis sets out to critically challenge the Government's 'taken-for-granted' strategy of international competitiveness to solve the unemployment problem. Drawing on critical policy analysis, the themes of economic rationalism, unemployment, active citizenship, post-Fordism, globalisation and training reform provide a framework for discussion. Rather than addressing the problem of unemployment, Government policies tend to alienate the growing number of unemployed people, devalue their self-worth, extend Australia's indebtedness, allow greater foreign control of our wealth, and, transform the education and training system into a carefully managed production process focusing on economic ends. In this context, the thesis asks the critical question of 'who benefits?' Structural impediments restrict the overall benefits to unemployed people. Policy delivery stakeholders benefit from increased use of their services. Employers stand to benefit through a supply of subsidised labour. Large corporations stand to benefit because they abdicate their responsibility for employing large numbers of people. Finally, the burden of employment shifts to the small business sector thereby allowing 'defacto' subsidisation of large corporations' profits as they 'downsize' their workforce. As an alternative, the thesis develops the strategy of self-reliance as a way forward. Australia can ac/1ieve self-reliance by shutting out imports that it can produce and by focusing on production suitable to the nation's natural advantages. Reintroduction of labour intensive industries would largely solve the unemployment problem. In addition, a reversal of current training reform towards a 'whole person' approach is necessary. Individuals need to develop their own sense of self-reliance. This includes becoming more informed about their own society and pursuing a lifestyle based on the idea of personal potential. The thesis concludes that Government unemployment and train1ng policies aim to develop people's economic potential rather than their personal potential, because of the Government's commitment to dominant economic interests. A strategy of national and individual self-reliance, can reverse the current trend toward international competitiveness and increase Australia's control over its own destiny.