It is unfortunate that the word ‘welfare’, which used to mean well-being, now implies that recipients are unfortunate people who need to be propped up by the rest of society, much to the anger of an increasing majority who resent the sense of entitlement that many welfare beneficiaries seem to have adopted.
It’s time to remove it from our vocabulary and from our economic and social system, replacing it with a NATIONAL DIVIDEND that is paid to every Australian citizen every year.
This is not just another political idea, it is an unavoidable change that will be forced upon us when robots and their artificial intelligence take over the productivity of the nation leaving millions of us without employment while the Federal Treasury absorbs the revenue of a technology driven Australia.
So, it will be smart if we plan for it now instead of having it forced upon us in panic mode.
Around a decade from now, robots will be our prime source of productivity and we will lose control of them as robots will produce more robots without human input, while more and more of us become unemployed, surplus to national need.
Already, robots are performing surgery in our hospitals and are replacing the entire cleaning profession. In time, they will replace all Taxi and Uber drivers plus everyone working on any assembly line for any manufactured goods. They will certainly replace all farm workers and fishermen.
This means that millions of Australians will be unemployed and unemployable, but will need money to live as well as interests to occupy their minds, fill their time and give them a reason for being.
This will call for the provision of highly innovative and mind absorbing recreation programs as well as educational and cultural opportunities and health initiatives, most of which will be run by robots.
So, as an absolute basic, our Treasury will have no option but to pay every Australian citizen an annual national dividend to cover the basic needs of living. It will not be taxable and people will get it without having to apply for it as it will be an automatic right. It will be at least the size that the age pension is now and will grow in value as robots make the world more prosperous. Interestingly, the simplicity of its advent will cause about 20000 public servants to find new occupation as they will not be needed in their current jobs.
Those voters who do have a job or own a business and who do not want the National Dividend will be able to elect for it to be paid to a National Foundation which will finance improvements to the quality of life nationally. (Indeed, it could be that many of us will get to own a few highly productive robots).
The overall social benefit of this will be that no one in Australia will be on welfare, absolutely no one.
Stigma will disappear. Few will ask whether or not you have a job. If we are wise, we will do our utmost to get a job or at least become an investor. Either way, you will then pay taxes along with the robots and/or their owners. Indeed, our biggest personal challenge will be to get involved in recreation and education and culture as an absolute basic.
Our most significant problem is that Australia has an awful track record of planning for the future.
The most appalling example of this has been our failure to plan for the rapid ageing of the population and its huge impact on society in every way.
Additionally, we have been irresponsibly negligent about climate change and we have disgracefully failed to drought proof the driest continent on the planet.
Above all, the idea of paying a National Dividend to every Australian will scare the hell out of our political establishment. They simply won’t be able to cope with it as nothing in their silly little right and left wing ideological dogmas provides for anything like it.
This means that we have to do something about who is running this country.
The LNP, ALP, Greens, Hanson, etc are useless in their current irresponsible form. We need a horde of intelligent independents in our Parliament and we must totally change our highly political and very unprofessional public service that grinds Australia to a halt.
Actually, all of this presents us with a highly exciting future. Our world will totally change, our minds have the capacity to expand with it and the scope of human achievement can reach beyond our current imagination.
The key issue is that no matter what is the otherwise infinite capacity of robots, they will never ever be able to have or exercise a conscience. This remains our greatest asset in the quest for relevance in the years ahead.
Yours at large
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The second is a book called Goondeen in which I join with Henry Palaszczuk and Albert Holt in reviewing the history of Australia in our lifetime.
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