How to Make Trouble… // The Dole Army

Sarah is 29 and homeless. She lives on welfare. When she is not on the streets she is in rooming houses. At the moment she pays $160 a week for a single room in a house in the suburbs of one of the world’s most liveable cities. There is no bedding provided. Her room is so small there is not enough space for her belongings. The door to her room was kicked in three times in a recent week. But at least her door has a lock on it. The front door of the house has no lock. Sarah shares a bathroom with 10 other residents, sometimes more. She says it is covered in blood most days. During winter the heating in the house was switched on for two hours a day, one in the morning and one at night. There are no lights in the corridors.

In other news, How to Make Trouble… was thrown upon the floor of Victorian Trades Hall last night, and a bloody battle among the 57 varieties of Red ensued over the grisly remains of the many years of trouble-making condensed on to its pages.

I’ve not read any reviews of the book as yet, but the following review by Jim Perren of the ‘Australia First Party’ provides a chillingly accurate account of the historic role of Jews in causing decent, law-abiding, White folks like you — but not me, apparently — so much trouble.

@ndy the ‘trouble maker’
Whitelaw Towers
October 15, 2009

Well, that title just about covers it. It neatly encapsulates FDB’s modus operandi.

Yeah, we suppose, when you’re a bored, whiny little prat who was unpopular at school and ‘awkward’ with girls like @ndy this kind of thing must seem really ‘radical’ and ‘cool’. You know the stuff. Sorta like what ‘The Chaser’ crew and other private school, university wasters get up to. It’s all just put down to youthful high spirits and ‘creative’ or ‘progressive’ minds ‘pushing the envelope’ and stuff IF you happen to be from a wealthy or influential family or, like Darp and @ndy, just well connected Middle Class brats.

Of course real Working Class Men just have to… well… WORK ‘n’ stuff (that’s getting dirty and grimy and tired) and get on with the daily grind of paying bills and taxes and raising a family etc. Yeah, that’s right @ndy. That’s how your handlers in the system prevent real revolution and overthrow from ever happening. Most people, especially the Proles you seem to idealise in ‘Neo-Soviet’ fantasies, haven’t got the energy to spare for dissent and resistance. They are simply too busy, tired, stressed, to read ‘challenging’ literature, study politics and involve themselves in activism.

That’s left, largely, to lazy pricks like you and the FDB crew who are still thinking and acting like ‘youth’ at thirty something while living at home with mummy. The only reason blokes like us at Whitelaw Towers are even involved is because you and your very, very stupid mates attacked us with an over the top ferocity well out of proportion to our original interest and involvement in politics. You, or more accurately Darp and Weezil, basically did what nobody else seemed able to do for decades in Australia. They united many disparate elements of White Nationalism in a common cause and enlightened many to the sheer scale and depth of the conspiracy against White people.

The FACTS are that FDB have created more ‘born again’ White Men and strengthened the resolve of many more who were already dedicated to the cause than any amount of recruitment drives from various Nationalist groups could ever have achieved. Thanks for that. You IDIOTS! Just remember that next time you’re all sitting around and smugly claiming the great ‘success’ of the Fight Dem Back project.

Just as Darp has a homoerotic fetish for gigantic pacific islander thugs dressed in lumber jackets and playing at builder’s labourers so too is @ndy so fascinated with work he could watch it all day. @ndy, you and your ‘Anarchists’ are like kids playing dress up games. If anyone does have a right to glamorise the Working Class imagery it is the Working Class themselves. I am sure most real blue collar blokes would find it puzzling, suss perhaps, or even outright insulting to find that the iconography of their way of life has been appropriated by pasty, chicken necked, spotty little middle class twats.

Particularly when it swiftly becomes apparent that it is little more than a big laugh for most of these indulgent bourgeois hobbyists and political dilettantes. We won’t even [mention] how pissed off many would be if they found out about YOUR reasons for involvement. Lucky for you, we suppose, that most wouldn’t even be able to spell Sayanim, let alone have a clue what it really means.

[Sayanim (Hebrew: helpers, assistants) is a term that former Mossad katsa and author Victor Ostrovsky and author Thomas Gordon use to describe a network of Jews living outside Israel who volunteer to provide assistance to (the Israeli intelligence agency) Mossad. Sayanim are not directly involved in intelligence operations, and are only paid for their expenses.]

Oh, and @ndy, we’re all looking forward to Darp’s book coming out. Send him our best. We’re hoping it will include the hotel vandalism and kiddie bashing stuff. It’s all vital ‘trouble making’ and ‘influential’ stuff. But gee, I bet he’s a tad peeved that this McIntyre dude kinda beat him to it and all. Oh well, at least he’s got his Law career to look forward to. Oops! We almost forgot. He won’t even have that now, will he?

UN-lucky!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Ahem.

Anyway, one ingredient missing from the recipe book is an account of ‘The Dole Army’, a (spectacularly) successful media hoax directed at tabloid ‘current affairs’ TV shows A Current Affair and Today Tonight. The hoax took place in February 2002. Since that time, whiles its C.O.s have retired to well-fortified bunkers located somewhere in the Dandenongs, rank-and-file members of the Dole Army are believed to have gone rogue, and continue to operate as a guerilla force under the command of 40 Kiwi anarchists.

one

Group owns up to media hoax
Lateline [ABC]
February 5, 2002

Now to a story that reads like a script from the satirical Frontline program. They dwell in the storm-water drains under Melbourne, a group of masked anarchists called “The Dole Army”, urging fellow Australians to defraud the Government of welfare benefits. It sounds too far fetched to be true but that didn’t stop channels Nine and Seven from falling for the story hook, line and stinker. Today the group of pranksters in Melbourne owned up to the hoax, screened last night on the Nine network’s A Current Affair and Seven’s Today Tonight. The group says the stunt is revenge for the news media’s portrayal of the jobless and other disadvantaged groups in society.

———
Compere: Tony Jones
Reporter: Mark Tamhane

A CURRENT AFFAIR JOURNALIST: This is life in the so-called dole army. If it wasn’t real, it would almost be comical.

MARK TAMHANE: The only problem is, it isn’t real and, yes, it is comical. A group of Melbourne anarchists hoodwigged two of the nation’s tabloid programs, with a fantastic story about a gang who live underneath our major cities, scavenging food and plotting to rort unemployment benefits, recruiting new members to the cause via a subversive website.

WOMBAT, THE DOLE ARMY: John Howard wouldn’t know a battler if he reversed over one in his limousine.

‘A CURRENT AFFAIR’ JOURNALIST: At meetings like this, they talked tactics, recruitment, how to extract more money from taxpayers and survival, talk about work, and the dole army claiming a membership of 70 gets defensive.

WOMBAT: It’s not like we’ve been leeching off the welfare system for years or anything. I choose not to work now.

MARK TAMHANE: Today, the anonymous pranksters behind the Dole Army came clean, admitting they’d pulled off an elaborate hoax, even getting one of the stations to pay them for their bogus story.

WOMBAT: In the end, it was basically to put the tabloid journalists down, which is in the gutter.

A CURRENT AFFAIR: I work really hard, I pay – half of my salary goes in taxes every week, I promise you that, I work really hard, sometimes too hard.

ACTIVIST: Do you call this working hard?

A CURRENT AFFAIR: Yes, it is hard work sometimes, not all the time. But why should I support you?

MARK TAMHANE: As well as the fun of fooling the two TV programs, the groups say there was a serious point behind their media prank.

WOMBAT: Those tabloid news programs basically will show anything that fits their point of view and we fitted their point of view because we were for them a bunch of dole bludgers living down a drain and that’s their interpretation of [where] unemployed people are.

MARK TAMHANE: A Current Affair and Today Tonight can’t say there weren’t clues that the dole army wasn’t quite all it seemed. Right at the top of the front page of their website, a small picture of Bill Gates with a custard pie on his face. In fact, the legend of the Dole Army owes much to a new form of protest sweeping the world called culture jamming. It’s linked to the anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist protests we’ve seen in cities around the world in recent years.

IAN WALKER, DIRECTOR, THE HACKTIVISTS: Especially younger activists feel quite powerless within the mainstream media. They see this as a way of getting their message out quite cheaply, creatively and by using the media against itself, [it] creates quite a powerful message.

MARK TAMHANE: Ironically, the only person who seemed to have an inkling that the dole army wasn’t exactly what it seemed, was the group’s supposed sworn enemy, the Federal Minister for Employment Relations, Tony Abbot.

TONY ABBOTT, FEDERAL MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS: They think they’re being smart. I think they’re being smart alec.

MARK TAMHANE: Tonight, in scenes reminiscent of the ABC comedy Frontline, the networks were mad as hell but defended last night’s stories.

A CURRENT AFFAIR: Like jobs in the dole army, morals seem to be in short supply. First they demanded we buy them a generator, we refused, then as we continued to film them, they continued to demand some form of payment.

MARK TAMHANE: Some of the hoaxers say they have paid jobs, others don’t, but they say they undertake community work with unemployed people. And they warn they may strike again. Mark Tamhane, Lateline.

two

‘The Dole Wars’
Anthony Yeates
Journal of Australian Studies
No. 78, 2003

On a spring day in 1979, an unemployed clown named Footrot was awarded the title ‘Dole Bludger of the Year’. Dressed in a bowler hat, striped shorts, and a trench coat–a long ponytail draped across one shoulder–his prize consisted of a six-pack of beer, a small beer cooler, a hot dog (with sauce), a straw sombrero, and some suntan lotion. The ‘Dole Bludger of the Year Quest’ had been organised by the Unemployed People’s Union to celebrate the Eight Hour Day holiday. More than 250 people gathered in Sydney’s Belmore Park, renamed Belmore Beach for the day, for the ‘Dole Bludger’s Picnic’. In what Donald Home described as a ‘theatricalised protest against authority’, the self-styled bludgers appropriated a negative term and reinvented it as an ironic badge of honour. In a year when over half a million people were unemployed, the Picnic was a light-hearted protest with profound cultural significance.

While the seeds of suspicion were well-established by 1975, the dole bludger metaphor captured the public imagination during the Fraser years, from late 1975 to early 1983. As the number of people out of work increased from 100,000 in 1972 to over 500,000 in 1979, the negative stereotyping of unemployed people intensified. Unemployed people were accused of being overly selective and socially irresponsible. Accepted wisdom–accepted because it was disseminated and supported by political authority–was not that unemployed people couldn’t find work, but that they wouldn’t work. The dole bludger was thus created as a metaphor for deviancy…

three

‘Tabloid TV meets the ghost of Ern Malley: Struggle Street & the Dole Army’
Christopher Sheil
Evatt Foundation
November 15, 2005

If it wasn’t true …

It was a great victory for struggle street. The Nine Network’s A Current Affair and the Seven Network’s Today Tonight programs recently featured competing stories exposing a group of dole bludgers who lived in Melbourne’s drains, surfacing in balaclavas to scavenge food and use a website to cheat unemployment benefits.

“And now to a group that don’t work”, announced the lead-in to the story on Nine’s A Current Affair : “they don’t believe in working or paying taxes; instead, they rort the system, so they can live off the taxes everybody else pays.” “They call themselves the Dole Army”, boomed the program’s anchor over the sound of drumbeats, “and they say they are on the march”. Meanwhile, two channels down, the Seven Network’s Today Tonight announced “one of the country’s best kept secrets: a rebel army working deep beneath the city”. “They live in drainage tunnels under Melbourne”, Seven’s reporter, Norm Beaman, told his viewers, “and their goal is to teach people how to rip-off the welfare system”. “If it wasn’t true”, boomed Beaman, “it would be almost comical.”

As widely noted the next morning, Beaman was half-right. The story wasn’t true, but it was funny. In a hoax reminiscent of the famous wartime Ern Malley stunt, a group of activists doing voluntary work on behalf of Australia’s unemployed had fooled the two giant networks. The so-called ‘Dole Army’ had emailed A Current Affair with a two-line story, parodying the program’s own stereotyped attitude toward the unemployed, and the producers had swallowed the bait. No sooner had Channel Nine’s promos gone to air than the Army also ensnared Today Tonight, which paid $1000 for the same story. Going to air almost simultaneously in prime time on Monday 4 February, according to a review article in the Sydney Morning Herald, both programs did their work “in a manner befitting their trademark outrage”.

The Dole Army exposed the hoax the next day. “Last night the big guns of Tabloid TV fell victim to their own sleazy set-up tactics”, announced the Dole Army’s press release. “We presented them with exactly the kind of story they love and they lapped it up like dogs. They enjoy nothing more than victimising the poor and unemployed”.

Ern returns

Like the Ern Malley hoax of 1944, the stunt was an inspired, irreverent, reverse heckle, and a striking form of social criticism. Just as the perpetrators of the legendary literary hoax had served up fake poems, by an imaginary author they named ‘Ern Malley’, to show how their targeted publishers had become “insensible of absurdity and incapable of ordinary discrimination”; so the Dole Army fictionalised their drain-dwelling dole bludger story to highlight the shamelessly superficial way in which tabloid TV operates, particularly in relation to the unemployed. “We’ve proved that there are a lot of people that get paid a lot of money to make really bad media with very little integrity”, explained the Dole Army’s “Agent Koala” in The Australian.

As with Ern Malley, the perpetrators of the drain-dwelling hoax had imbibed the anarchist spirit. As with Ern, they also set out to have a good deal of fun: “Taking the Mickey” read the caption beneath The Australian‘s photograph of the Army, the members of which were shown wearing Micky Mouse masks. And just as over 50 years ago Ern’s publishers had continued to insist that their poems were valid long after they had been exposed as a deliberate joke, so the television spokesmen also continued to insist that their stories were valid. The incredulousness that had been so scarce in the making of the television programs was suddenly at a heavy discount in their aftermath. “I don’t understand how we were conned,” Channel Nine’s Martin King insisted on ABC-Radio. “I’m still at pains to see what the actual hoax is,” Seven’s Allan Craig bluffed in the Age.

Beyond this, the differences between the two hoaxes are more significant than the similarities. Unlike the earlier literary hoax, in which everyone could (and still can) join the joke by reading the phoney poems, those of us who missed the television programs can only experience the Dole Army’s lark second-hand. Unlike the Ern Malley affair, where the publishers of the fake poems surrendered to their humiliation with a degree of defensive grace, the television producers mixed their stiff upper lips with a hostility that left no doubt about how much fun the big fish were having on the end of the Dole Army’s hook. “Lazy, good-for-nothing, disaffected anarchists, who haven’t got enough to do”, hissed A Current Affair‘s Martin King on ABC-Radio; “faceless liars” spat Today Tonight‘s Craig Emerson in the Age. Whereas the Ern Malley poems had sparked a battle royal between the supporters and critics of the avant-garde periodical that published them, Angry Penguins, the executive producers of the two duped television programs declined to be interviewed on the substantive issues raised by the Dole Army’s hoax.

The vanishing act that the senior executives within the networks promptly performed was, perhaps, predictable: starving them of public ‘oxygen’ has become the preferred corporate way of dealing with damaging stories. But the networks’ refusal was also regrettable because, unlike the Ern Malley affair, the Dole Army’s stunt had serious and valuable social purposes. The Ern Malley hoax was basically a contest between two of Australia’s modernist literary factions. Two young and, at that stage of their careers, largely unrecognised Sydney poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, confected Ern’s life and works to demonstrate their supremacy over the editors of the Melbourne-based Angry Penguins, which was centred around the Adelaide poet, Max Harris (other prominent penguins included John Reed, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and John Dutton). Out to “get Maxie”, McAuley and Stewart fabricated Ern Malley and his sixteen bogus posthumous poems one Saturday afternoon, when they were idle soldiers rostered on duty together in Melbourne’s Victoria Barracks. No sooner had the cleverly disguised counterfeit been delivered, than Harris and his colleagues became convinced that they had discovered an untutored genius, and they devoted most of their June 1944 issue of the Angry Penguins to Ern’s complete works. In announcing the discovery of one of Australia’s “most outstanding poets”, they set themselves up to become an international laughing stock.

The crucial distinction between the two hoaxes is that, whereas the Dole Army sought to challenge popular prejudices, McAuley and Stewart had directly appealed to them. In stark contrast to the Dole Army’s hoax, which was exposed through Australia’s broadsheets and the national public broadcaster, the Ern Malley affair was exposed through the Sydney tabloid newspaper, the Sunday Sun. As the influential philosopher, John Anderson, observed at the time, although McAuley and Stewart professed to be upholding moral standards, they actually succeeded in lowering aesthetic standards by exploiting the popular prejudices of the press. They pandered to and reinforced Australian anti-intellectualism by exciting laughter at the pretensions of high art. In short, the Ern Malley affair was a brilliant, audacious but reactionary stunt that would fit snugly with today’s attacks on ‘the elites’; a political stance that in retrospect appears to have anticipated how McAuley would soon shed his anarchist inclinations and become the founding editor of Quadrant.

Serving the social good

In contrast, the Dole Army aimed to positively serve the social good in two ways. Most obviously, the Army made a substantial contribution to the necessarily ongoing assault upon the accountability of Australia’s tabloid journalism. Featuring celebrity presenters with one-sided polemics based around stock formulae — which are, invariably, defended as neutral, unbiased, impartial and balanced reporting — the tabloid press, radio and television have assumed an exaggerated political significance in Australia in recent years. With large audiences (up to two million in the case of A Current Affair), they mix their staples — celebrity, crime, adventure, gadgets, anxiety, scandal, miracles and spectacle — with campaigning political journalism. The tabloids presume, and thereby help to form, an effective conservative consensus around particular issues, such as the unemployed, which few of Australia’s politicians are now prepared to challenge.

Yet, as the power of the tabloids has enlarged, so too has their disgrace. In recent times we have learned that their editorials can be sold to the highest bidder, as the 2000 Australian Broadcasting Authority’s Commercial Radio (‘Cash for Comment’) Inquiry established. Similarly, we have learned that the performances by the actual people who are featured on the programs can be purchased, as confirmed by the reported $0.5 million the Nine Network paid out in February to a 60 Minutes journalist, who said he had been sacked because he objected to chequebook journalism. And we have learned that the producers themselves can fabricate their programs. The apparent proliferation of trickery was recently confirmed by sensational testimony in the ACT Supreme Court, where 60 Minutes reporter, Richard Carlton, was seeking to sue ABC-TV for suggesting he might have plagiarised a story on a massacre in Bosnia. Under cross-examination, Carlton conceded that he didn’t know where much of his program’s material came from, that he couldn’t remember who edited his program, that his program’s subtitles were misleading, that he used a Czech-born Nine staffer to masquerade as a Serbo-Croatian voice, and that he faked a grave-site (a fabrication that even he conceded amounted to a “lie”). Finally, thanks to ABC-TV’s award winning Frontline series, we also know that everyone in the industry also knows about the shonky professionalism and dubious ethics of commercial current affairs. In sum, we could be forgiven if we were to believe that the nation’s commercial current affairs programs are nothing more than a multi-million dollar corporate exercise in perpetrating an unending stream of Ern Malley-like hoaxes on the Australian public.

Since the nation’s politicians remain thoroughly intimidated by all this nonsense, clearly, any citizens who are prepared to interrogate, confront and expose the dodgy methods and unwarranted authority of these forms of popular opinionation, in the way that the Dole Army has done, are performing a very valuable public service on behalf of Australia’s democracy. As well as the demonstration effect of the hoax itself, the Army has revealed that, in addition to the $1000 paid by the Seven Network, the activists received $360 in digital videotapes from Nine, which also offered them $2000 (refused) not to co-operate with Seven. The Army also further documented the extent to which the networks themselves are prepared to confect their stories, reporting that its members had placed their bedding in a drain at the urging of the Nine Network, and that the Seven Network’s crew “happily colluded in setting up a fake drain dwelling in an above-ground brick factory”. On top of this litany of journalistic crimes and misdemeanours, the Army was keen to claim their hoax as a form of public revenge for previous hatchet jobs on vulnerable people (including revenge on behalf of the Paxtons, a famous ratings coup for A Current Affair, which involved the vilification of three young people, who refused to accept jobs at a Queensland tourist resort in a set-up situation organised by the Network. The resort owner later conceded that he had offered the Paxtons jobs to get publicity, and had gone into receivership six days earlier).

Secondly, the Dole Army’s tactics joined a long history of outrageous activism on behalf of unemployed Australians. As hazardous as it is to interpret comments reported to have been made in stories invented as parodies of programs that are already virtual self-parodies, when the Dole Army insisted on air that they were not anarchists and rebels but “true blue Aussies” who were all “about Aussie mateship” and being “resourceful”, they were aligning themselves with a longstanding native tradition.

The Active Service Brigade that was formed in Sydney in the Depression of the 1890s similarly bypassed the then time-honoured petitions and deputations on behalf of the unemployed in favour of more sensational action. After one incident in November 1893, the press dubbed the organisation the “blasphemous unemployed”. The Brigade had organised an “emblematic tableau representing Christianity up to date”, involving a few hundred unemployed whom it assembled near Hyde Park. The leaders “produced a large wooden cross, nailed to which was the effigy of a workman clad in ragged clothes and labelled ‘Murdered by the Rich’ and ‘Humanity crucified'”. The men then marched through the city to the Wesleyan mission, where they denounced the ministers as hypocrites and offered up a prayer for the Almighty to help the unemployed. Similarly, in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Unemployed Workers Movement was the most successful of several radical organisations that led hunger marches, protests, occupations and rallies, distinguishing itself most notably by organising neighbourhood barricades against the eviction of the unemployed: amendments to tenancy legislation soon flowed, as did new provisions for rent assistance. With a membership that peaked at some 30,000, the Movement maintained a multitude of activities — including stunts such as ordering expensive meals in restaurants, which they then sought to charge up to the premier — that gave hope and strength to the unemployed.

Echoing the activists of earlier eras, the Dole Army’s stated purpose is to operate as “an independent collective existing solely to give unemployed and other Australian welfare recipients a voice”. “It’s time to end our isolation,” announces the slogan on the group’s website, “it’s time to arm the unemployed”. Refusing condescension, the well organised website provides useful, temperate, street-wise, irreverent and well referenced resources for the unemployed, students and other souls receiving social security benefits. The site’s serious papers address questions about whether Australia’s social welfare system encourages ‘dependency’, whether ‘mutual obligation’ is fair, whether social inequality is related to class, and they contain advice on how to deal with government authorities and get the best deal under the regime of ‘mutual obligation’. The site also provides message services, avenues to raise issues, and useful and amusing links.

According to media reports, the Dole Army’s Ned Kellys amount to between 11 and 70, some of whom are in paid employment, others of whom work as freelance artists or musicians, and most of whom are really unemployed. With the apparent exception of Agent Koala, the Army’s members are all generals, with amusing cognomens (General Kool Keith, General Kangaroo, General Vegemite, General Possum, and so on). Reputedly media junkies, adept at technology, and associated with the globalisation protestors and the culture jamming movement, there is — according to an analysis by a market research company in the Sydney Morning Herald — “no reason to expect that these efforts will stop and no reason they will not flourish”.

A frightful spasm

So, all credit and more strength to the Dole Army. Far from the Army qualifying for public outrage, the more complex and pressing story today is why voluntary groups of citizens that are prepared to disturb the surface on behalf of the unemployed have not re-appeared much earlier in Australia, given recent conditions. Today, as the Sydney Morning Herald‘s economics editor, Ross Gittens, has observed: “unemployment is off the radar”. Drowned by the Ern Malley-like stunt perpetrated by the government over asylum seekers, as Gittens has noticed, the campaigns that led up to last November’s federal election were the first since 1974 during which “we didn’t at least pay lip service to our concern about the high rate of joblessness”.

The more you look at it, the more you wonder why we don’t have dozens of Dole Armies. Australia’s official unemployment rate of 7 per cent remains well short of the 5.7 per cent Labor achieved before the 1990-91 recession, in spite of the country having since experienced the longest period of economic growth since the longest period of economic growth in history (which was the postwar period, ending in the mid-1970s). In large parts of Australia, economists have found unemployment rates of up to 14 per cent. Even the Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated that the number of people who want more work but cannot find it is about double the ranks of the officially unemployed. In new measures, the ABS recently calculated that, on top of the 596,000 people who were officially unemployed in 2000, there were another 584,000 people who were “under-utilised” in the labour market. Amazingly, well over one million are unemployed or under-employed in a country that only has a little over six million full-time employees. Think about it. So many wasted resources. So many wasting lives. It’s a dreadful state of affairs.

The low level of Dole Army-like defiance is still more surprising in light of the particularly poor performance of the Howard government in this fundamental policy area. Upon being first elected in 1996, the Coalition quickly dropped the Keating Labor government’s aim of reducing unemployment to 5 per cent by 2000. The government also abolished the Commonwealth Employment Service, introducing the Job Network in its stead: a competitive system of job placement by private corporate and community agencies. Meanwhile, with the enthusiastic support of the tabloid media, the Coalition orchestrated an Orwellian-style public propaganda campaign around the idea of ‘mutual obligation’, which was designed to achieve the neo-liberal objective of shifting the government’s responsibility for providing employment opportunities onto individual job seekers. To even the most world-weary observer, a profoundly shocking fact about the Howard government is that it has slashed public expenditure on employment assistance from the meagre 0.65 per cent of GDP that was allocated in 1995-96 to an incredibly mere 0.3 per cent in 1999-2000.

Not surprisingly, the Coalition’s policies have failed dismally, and, if you happen to be in the wrong place in the pecking order, catastrophically. In spite of having the concurrent, if largely accidental, benefit of Australia’s ‘Miracle Economy’, today there are 385,000 Australians who have officially been on the dole for more than a year. This is the same official number of long-term unemployed as before the Coalition was elected.

When we think of the bold Dole Army, then, we may cheer these black swans of trespass, and pray that they do continue to swim on alien waters. And should they again encounter the tabloid media, let’s hope that, again, as Max Harris once believed that Ern Malley had written:

The hand that would clutch
Our substance finds that his rude touch
Runs through him a frightful spasm
And hurls him back against the opposite wall
.

Christopher Sheil is a Visiting Fellow in the School of History at the University of NSW and the editor of the Evatt Foundation’s new book, Globalisation: Australian Impacts (UNSW Press, 2001). The Dole Army’s website can be found at: http://beam.to/dolearmy.

References

Ern Malley’s story has been told in countless places, and can be found in most general history books on Australia. This account draws in particular on Michael Ackland, Damaged Men, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2001, and the ABC-Radio feature narrated by John Thompson and published as an Appendix to Clement Semmler, For the Uncanny Man: Essays, Mainly Literary, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1963. Online sources, including links to Ern’s complete works, can be found in Jacket 17, a free Internet review of new writing edited and published by John Tranter. For a wonderful recent essay on the development of Australian poetry containing, inter alia, a colourful account of James McAuley, see Clive James, “The Great Generation of Australian Poetry”, in Peter Craven (ed), The Best Australian Essays: 2001, Black Inc, Melbourne, 2001.

In addition to its own website, sources for the Dole Army’s encounter with tabloid TV include: Neer Korn, “Shooting the messenger – and loving every minute of it”, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 2002; Nick O’Malley (ed), “Great Story, this, if you don’t dig too deeply”, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 2002; Carol Nader, “Tabloid TV routed by ‘Dole Army'”, Age, 5 February 2002; Andrew Dodd, “Dole Army claims victory”, The Australian, 6 February 2002. Audios of stories on the issue carried on 5 February 2001 by the World Today and FM radio programs can be found in the archives section of the ABC-Radio’s current affairs website. An abbreviated transcript of the Today Tonight program can be found at the program’s website, and IndyMedia carries a review of A Current Affair‘s treatment by Steven Stevenson.

For the Active Service Brigade, see Verity Burgmann, ‘In our time’: Socialism and the rise of Labor, 1885-1905, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1985 (the cited story is from page 80). For the Unemployed Workers Movement and other organisations in the Great Depression, see Stuart Macintyre, The Reds, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1998 (esp. pp. 190-8). Other sources include: Stuart Macintyre, Winners & losers: The pursuit of social justice in Australian history, Allen & Unwin, Sydney (esp. chs 4 & 5); Mark Davis, Gangland: Cultural elites and the new generationalism, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1997 (esp. ch. 1, for an account of the Paxtons affair); Ross Gittins, “A helping hand for those we left behind”, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 February 2002; Australian Financial Review, 28 February 2002 (for the new ABS under-employment series); Mike Seccombe, “Carlton’s 15 minutes a very sloppy sausage”, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2002; Amanda Meade, “Sacked TV star wins big payout”, Weekend Australian, 23 February 2002.

four

A CURRENT AFFAIR REACTS

Teaser:
Tonight the latest on the Dole Army and the controversy on our report that exposed them.

—————

Host:
And now to the repercussions on our story last night on the self proclaimed Dole Army. That charming and courageous group, using the internet to show people how to rout the system. There have been suggestion[s] in a couple of media outlets today that A Current Affair was taken in by a hoax. Well, Martin King has this follow up.

Voice-over:
It began with an email.

Voice-over:
I’m the leader of a group called the Dole Army. We were established by some unemployed people who live in drain[s] in Melbourne. We have a website w[h]ere we offer info on how to scam the welfare system so people can live the life they want.

[The email is dated Jan 23 2002, 23:57
other text on the screen reads: We travel under the city through the network of drains and
This may sound far fetched and a little crazy, but I’m comple
Here is my website.
www.beam.to/dolearmy]

Voice-over:
We asked the Dole Army to show us where they lived. They refused. Instead they led us here to the bank aside the Yarra and took us inside this drain and told us they held meetings.

Reporter:
You mention on the website — scams. Well, what does that mean?

Dole Army:
Survival.

Dole Army:
Yeah, we think human survival is important and people should survive by whatever means necessary. We don’t put money and morals above survival.

(cuts to reporter in front of green trees)
Reporter:
Like jobs in the Dole Army, morals seem to be in short supply. First, they demanded that we buy them a generator. We refused. Then as we continued to film them, they continued to demand some form of payment.

(cuts to)
Dole Army:
Why don’t you pay us for this interview? You’re getting paid to be here, we’re not. If this is work then we’re working right now so where’s our money?

(back to)
Reporter:
We did not pay the Dole Army one cent. But another media organisation did. They say $1000. Then the Dole Army came back to us and asked us to match it. And again, we refused.

(cuts to Dole Army in dumpster)
Voice-over:
Finally the Dole Army agreed to film themselves. More demand[s] for cash. Instead they were given video tapes for their camera.

Dole Army:
(talking to camera) Well, it’s been a productive day. It’s time to go home.

Voice-over:
Now the Dole Army’s gloating that it pulled off an elaborate hoax. But who is getting conned? These are people who admitted to us they choose not to work. They collected the dole. And actively encourage others to join them. Here’s the website to prove it

(shots of website)

(cuts to)
Reporter:
When was the last time you tried to get a job?

Dole Army:
This is, this interview is getting focused so much on… (reporter tries to interrupt) what we do to look for work and so forth.

(cut)
Voice-over:
Both Centrelink and the Employment Minster Tony Abbot are investigating the Dole Army. And that is no hoax.

Tony Abbot:
Anyone who does mislead Centerlink, anyone who does claim entitlement, claim a benefit to which they’re not entitled is breaking the law.

(back to)
Dole Army:
I choose not to work. I seen, I seen how badly workers get treated and I choose to organise. I choose to fight against that.

(story ends)

HOST:
Yep, I bet. That update from Martin King.

five

Last year’s winners of the [2002 WINK AWARDS‘] Subverting the Dominant Paradigm Award were The Dole Army (www.dolearmy.org) and We Are All Boat People (www.boat-people.org). The naughty kids at The Dole Army exposed tabloid current affairs programmes to be both gullible and biased when they sold them the fictitious story of ‘dole-bludgers’ living in the sewers of Melbourne. We Are Not Boat People famously lit up the Sydney Opera House (and many other sites) with an image of a Tall Ship and the words ‘Boat People’ underneath. ‘Both groups take very different approaches to getting their ideas out there, but both were splendid, brave and effective. These are the people who inspire us!’

See also : Justin Sheridan on Media Watch (September 28, 2009) | Justin Sheridan in Canberra (September 22, 2009) | Justin Sheridan : Australian of the Year (September 15, 2009).

Bonus!

EXCLUSIVE! Dole Army training video!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2019 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Anarchism, History, Media, State / Politics, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to Make Trouble… // The Dole Army

  1. Whitelaw Towers says:

    You think you’re funny? If it hadn’t been for your so-called efforts, Moran, proud white men like ourselves would never have gotten into bed (literally and figuratively) with a Leb rat like Saleam.

    Look at what you have driven us to.

  2. @ndy says:

    People of Lebanese descent have contributed much to this country Mister Towers. Your acceptance of Saleam as the leader of ‘Australia First’ — and prior to this, the acceptance of Jack van Tongeren as leader of the ‘Australian Nationalists Movement’ by its membership — is, I think, evidence of just how successful the assimilation process can be.

  3. Don says:

    The irony of Jim ranting about “real men working” is probably lost on him, alas.

    Humorless crazy = laffo.

  4. @ndy says:

    Yeah. If it was written by Jim. Reads a bit like Peter Campbell too.

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