Audio version with SPECIAL EDITION THEME MUSIC. Hi-fi version on Spotify.
Tool Up Australia
I have fucking had it with governments’ fawning worship of tradies.
Watch their announcements and you would believe there is literally no other industry in Australia. So tradies are showered in subsidies despite being … just let me check … ONE OF THE LEAST COVID-AFFECTED SECTORS IN THE COUNTRY.
This from the South Australian premier last week:
What the hell Village People dress-up recovery policy is this?
Tradie friends say they’ve never been so busy, even earlier in the year before any subsidies. So yeah, while other industries face extinction, let’s shovel some more money at them.
To subsidise work they’re too busy to get to at the moment.
Governments have made the hi-vis vest a visual shorthand for ‘real’ work. There’s a strong message that jobs that involve thinking, teaching, caring, helping or creating aren’t real work. That’s lady work. In 2020, Australian governments’ idea of proper jobs remains this:
(I watched a stack of period VB ads and counted the women and non-white guys doing a hard day’s work. That number was zero.)
You know it when the first job mentioned in the arts rescue package announcement is ‘sparkies’. When the top criterion for picking stimulus projects is being ‘shovel-ready’.
Tradie worship pervades everything. I watched a TV news announcement about jobs, and what’s the screen graphic? A toolbox full of spanners and hammers. There’s your future, kids.
Right at a time when COVID economics are hitting women far harder than men. The ABS just revealed female university enrolments dropped by 86,000 in 2020. The male decrease was 21,200.
Tech-Heads Need Not Apply
In Blokesworld Australia, if you don’t drive a jacked-up twin cab ute, you have no value. This from a recent Prime Ministerial speech about digital policy:
“We’ve just got to be the best at adopting. Taking it on board. Making it work for us. And we’re really good at that. You don’t have to be a tech-head. You don’t have to be someone who was totally absorbed in the technology of this to understand its implications. It’s a massive priority for my government.”
You don’t have to be a tech-head. Man up, code tradies, let’s renovate some innovations from overseas!
Sure, tech has created the greatest wealth explosion the world has ever seen. But no need for those nerd skills if you’re happy for Australia to remain a dumb-ass quarry and Project Home World forever. It’s all good mate!
Why would you acknowledge our tech global achievers like Atlassian when all those guys do is use that money to stir up opposition to dinkum Aussie coal?
Australian innovation policy is a white paper adaption of an 80s jocks versus nerds movie.
What Do We Get For Our Money?
This is not a personal vendetta against tradies themselves. They work hard. So do the rest of us.
If we’re lucky enough to have work at this point.
It’s not tradies’ fault they’ve become our national emblem.
But let’s consider what we get for our tax dollar investment. Where does breakthrough innovation come from? The kind that boosts productivity and puts us ahead as a nation.
It comes from driven people on a mission. Who are determined to find better ways to do things. Who have big ideas they’re desperate to take to the world.
Those people are working around the clock.
Tradies knock off on time every day of their lives. They’re in no way pushing back the boundaries of what’s possible. Why should they bother? They’re never short of work.
Thanks to decades of tax policy from both sides of politics that subsidises housing, until our two biggest cities are in the Top 5 most expensive housing cities in the world.
Tradies are a modest 9% of our workforce, number 4 on that list.
Why do they deserve government cash more than the the 91%? Particularly when tradies are running at full capacity anyway.
Is it because governments just like man smell? There’s now Tradie shower gel in both Lager and Pilsner scent, packaged in a takeaway twin pack of fake beer bottles.
If someone isn’t already writing a thesis about Australia’s endless fetishization of the tradie in the Morrison era, then they should be: pic.twitter.com/1QHs58ZmC1
— Michelle Arrow (@MichelleArrow1) October 30, 2020
Enough of soft-hands government types trying to get some reflected macho man glory from putting on the hard hat and ‘rolling our sleeves up’.
We see your Cosplay agenda for what it is. Time to pay some attention to industries that really are doing it tough, and to support industries that make us a smarter country.
Update: I wrote this on Sunday. I spent Monday getting a stream of updates from our Adelaide business on the South Australian ‘rona outbreak. Just as we were starting to creep back toward recovery, we’re now pretty certain all our revenue for the rest of the year is gone, over $100K evaporating in a day.
This year can just eat a large bowl of unpleasant things.
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Great piece Ian. I’d say its a big holdover from prisoner-island and deification of working-class white people days. It’s probably also the way to win elections, as those who work in tech are not the majority in seats to win government.
It’s also the “if I see someone sweating and working hard, then they are”. The seemingly complete absorption of sports in people’s lives beyond the inner cities rounds off the tradie love. And, as far as I can tell, toxic masculinity (and it’s silent approval by females) is still pretty strong.
Australia has come up with some fantastic innovations, but I don’t think many of them have come from suburban tradies (glad to be proven wrong on that one).
I guess our version of a male dominance in tradies is slightly different to other countries, but they likely have their own version.
I’d say climate change will force us to think differently, but that will likely not affect our devotion to the cult-like status of tradies.
Thanks for this, you may be able to connect the dots to the Liberals lack of women. And what is it with hivis undies? It makes no sense.
1000% behind you Ian. Family in the construction business, although they don’t want to be named, have never been busier and can’t understand it either. They are ‘fully booked’ until early 2022, with people still desperate for quotes. Our events business may never be ‘fully booked’ again. Incredible short-sightedness from our politicians. Great read 🙂
Thanks Nikki, so many stories like this and it makes no sense on any level
That is a very clear set of dots
Thanks Eric I’d agree with most of that, we need to do better
Hi Ian, poignant and topical subject matter for sure! I have been watching the tradie love all around me and not until I actually read your piece did it crystalise for me. And now it’s clear, I can say I feel more annoyed about it!
I have tradies in my family and they’re busy and I’m thankful for that, for them… Meanwhile in the tech arts sector, we’re supposed to be lucky to be just getting by – and if you are just ‘getting by’ in our industry, you really are one of the lucky ones!
I hope ScoMo is one of your subscribers and gets to read your messages.
You say it well!
I agree with you Ian. Maybe the new crop of kids coming through are not as insecure as their parents to need to see the world through the narrow ‘bbq/sports/real job’ bandwidth, but I doubt that very much. My kid just never had an interest in team sports, just ‘meh’ about it all (although he has shown mild interest in basketball and baseball). But that can change. But he is an amazing drawer (since 3). So instead, we teach him how to hold his own when challenged and to laugh it off. Because his self-awareness is pretty good, and if someone calls him a name (which rarely happens, but could happen bigtime in HS next year), he won’t be taking it on.
So, until that dominant culture shifts, then those of us who have artistic kids just help them step up their confidence and self-protection. If you can’t change the arrows being flung, you change how you don’t catch them.
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