The largest private operator in the Job Network, the Salvation Army has proven itself no more able to find people jobs than the old system was. With eight job seekers for every job this is hardly surprising. What the Army has excelled at though is the harassment of the unemployed. With an openly discriminatory hiring policy the Army only employs Christians in their Job Network franchises.
The government's investment in conservative charities has paid off in two ways. Not only have they got the charities doing their dirty work, they have also bought their silence. Saint Vincent De Paul, one of the few charities not on the government's Job Network payroll, complained that Centrelink were forcing many people off the dole and onto their emergency services. Not a peep was heard from the Salvation Army.
The Army's refusal to criticise the government probably stems from the fact that they are partly responsible for the situation. Many of the people forced to seek emergency help were doing so because their payments had been breached due to Job Network incompetence. Each year sees tens of thousands of people successfully appeal against these breaches. While someone is making plenty of mistakes, the only people paying for them are the unemployed.
Saint Vincent De Paul also opposed being made a wing of the government's welfare apparatus. This has been happening quietly but steadily due to Centrelink and the Job Network's habit of referring people to charities instead of giving them government assistance. Again it is unsurprising that the Salvation Army didn't join in these criticisms, as their long standing goal is to corner all sections of the welfare market for themselves! For the sake of those unemployed people who aren't non-drinking, gay bashing, right wing Christians we hope that they fail.
More recently the Army has said nothing about the fact that people who go through 'work for the dole' are no more likely to find work than people who don't. Tony Abbott, the Minister for Employment, flatly admitted that the point of the schemes was not to find people work, but to teach them discipline. Discipline for what though? To sit quietly and not complain about the lack of real work available or teach them to cop any old job, no matter how casual or dangerous? Why would the Salvation Army complain about conscripting the unemployed, when they are making a profit out of them?
The government's funding has also seen the Army's backward ideas on religion and morality step further out of the shadows. Whilst in the past the organisation has tended to promote itself mainly as a charity, its status as a religion is coming to the fore. As noted before their new found wealth has seen them blatantly break anti-discrimination laws with a "Christians only" policy in hiring Job Network staff.
They have also become more open in their evangelical activities. Most notably they have invested their Job Network profits in a total makeover of their paper the War Cry. Gone are the stories advocating psychological reprogramming of gays and lesbians and the burning of heavy metal. Gone are the blurry photos of grannies playing tubas. In their place is a glossy full colour magazine with a Christian rock star or actor on every cover. The stories now contain non-controversial topics and are more slickly written. Positive tales of the transforming power of Christ are in, negative attitudes towards other peoples' behaviour are out. Overall they have transformed the War Cry from an internal bulletin to an outward looking recruitment tool. One that can be increasingly pushed on to those they come into contact with through their charity shops and other ventures.
Lastly it is worth nothing that the group's newfound confidence has also allowed them to increase their influence over the population at large. They have stepped up their lobbying efforts in relation to gambling, sexuality and drug use and with social conservatives ruling both the ALP and Coalition they have scored a number of victories in issues like stopping safe injecting rooms. At the same time the politicians have increased the level of censorship and passed a number of laws restricting civil rights. For the Salvation Army all this has been a bonus, for the rest of us a disaster.
So now more than ever remember to take the twelve steps and just say no to the Salvation Army!