The major parties and ‘corrosive’ welfare

Parliament house flag post

The major parties and ‘corrosive’ welfare

Posted 20/08/2010 by Luke Buckmaster

Centrelink building front
Where do the major parties stand on welfare policy? In what direction can we expect welfare policy to be taken throughout the course of the next parliament? One thing clear from the election policy announcements of the major parties is that there is likely to be a further strong emphasis on addressing what each describes as the ‘corrosive’ effects of welfare.

This would continue the recent focus of both Labor and the Coalition on the idea that while welfare is necessary for the alleviation of disadvantage, it also has a role in maintaining or even causing disadvantage.

Labor’s main welfare policy document commits a re-elected Gillard Government to modernising Australia’s welfare system through ‘creating opportunity and requiring responsibility’. The document refers to the need ‘to spread the dignity and purpose of work, end the corrosive aimlessness of welfare and bring more Australians into mainstream economic and social life’.

Similarly, the Coalition’s policy document on employment participation commits to providing incentives to move people from unemployment to the workforce. It argues that:

Unemployment can have a corrosive impact on individuals, families and society at large. In addition to the economic costs, long term unemployment can be particularly debilitating. Allowing people who could readily work to stay out of the workforce is cruelty not compassion.
Labor’s approach is reflected in a range of policy commitments aimed at providing incentives for participation in the workforce or education. These include:

  • payments of up to $6,000 for unemployed people who relocate to take up a job, and $2,500 for the employer who hires them—this would be trialled with up to 2,000 eligible job seekers from 1 January 2011
  • new penalties for non-attendance at employment services appointments—job seekers will be made aware that failure to attend appointments or other required activities may result in an immediate withholding of income support
  • new arrangements for payment of the FTB-A end of year supplement for families on an income support payment, under which recipients with a four year old, will be conditional on the completion of a health assessment, such as the Healthy Kids Check
  • increasing the maximum payment rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A (FTB-A) by more than $150 per fortnight for teenagers aged 16 to 18 years who are in school or an equivalent vocational qualification and
  • allowing age pensioners to earn up to $6500 a year extra without it affecting their pension.
The theme of requiring greater responsibility from welfare recipients is also reflected in the Rudd-Gillard Government’s major welfare reform, the new national income management scheme (initially introduced throughout the Northern Territory from 1 July 2010). Under this scheme, welfare recipients deemed to be ‘at risk’ have half of their payments set aside for what the Government terms ‘priority needs’ such as food, rent and utilities. The income management reforms apply to people in the following categories:

  • people aged 15 to 24 who have been in receipt of Youth Allowance (other), Newstart Allowance, Special Benefit or Parenting Payment for more than three of the previous six months
  • people aged 25 and above who have been in receipt of specified payments, including Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payment for more than one year in the previous two years
  • people referred for income management by child protection authorities and
  • people assessed by Centrelink social workers as requiring income management due to vulnerability to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse.
The Coalition has also committed to a range of policies aimed at increasing workforce participation, including:
  • payments of up to $6,000 for unemployed people who relocate to a regional area to take up a job offer, and up to $3,000 for those who move to a metropolitan area—as with the similar Labor scheme, $2,500 will be paid to the employer who hires them
  • payments of up to $4,000 for long-term unemployed young people who find a job and keep it for up to two years
  • payments of $3,250 for employers that hire workers aged 50 or older and
  • an expanded paid parental leave scheme under which mothers would be paid for 26 weeks at full income replacement (capped at $150,000) (the more modest Labor Government scheme allowed for 18 weeks at the minimum wage).
In relation to income management, the Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has indicated that a Coalition Government would ‘carefully review the operation of this wider form of quarantining after July next year, when it has been in operation for 12 months, with a view to extending it more widely across Australia’.

While policies aimed at increasing workforce participation described above reflect a long term trend in Australia and other OECD countries towards active labour market programs, the emerging policy consensus around the need for governments to actively intervene in the lives of welfare recipients in order to ameliorate the negative consequences of welfare is, arguably, a more recent phenomenon.

This move towards a more interventionist (or paternalist) approach to welfare policy raises a range of questions that the next parliament may find itself having to address. These include:

  • what evidence will be required to evaluate whether the new approach to welfare has been a success?
  • what (if any) limits ought there be on the nature and extent of interventions in the lives of welfare recipients?
  • to what extent can welfare reforms cause individuals to change their behaviours in a meaningful and enduring way (is there a paradox in using paternalistic means to assist people to become less passive and more personally responsible?)?
The general direction of welfare policy appears to have been settled (at least in the short term) around the issue of assisting (and, if regarded as necessary, coercing) individuals to avoid the pitfalls of welfare. However, answers to questions such as the above will most likely help determine the specific texture of welfare policy over the course of the next parliament and influence its direction over the longer term.

(Image sourced from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrelink)


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

refugees asylum immigration Parliament climate change elections social security health financing Australian Defence Force women taxation welfare policy Australian foreign policy welfare reform sport Medicare employment illicit drugs gambling higher education disability Middle East Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency Australian Bureau of Statistics health reform emissions trading industrial relations united states statistics private health insurance Carbon Pricing Mechanism United Nations school education indigenous Australians aid steroids WADA federal budget politics labour force Australian Federal Police transport detention criminal law ASADA Afghanistan governance poker machines income management people trafficking Fair Work Act 43rd Parliament Australian Public Service International Women's Day Australian Crime Commission Papua New Guinea parliamentary procedure National Disability Insurance Scheme children's health food OECD debt defence capability federal election 2013 Australian Electoral Commission aged care environment election results Senate pensions law enforcement UK Parliament pharmaceutical benefits scheme planning skilled migration multiculturalism people smuggling doping child protection HECS Higher Education Loan Program paid parental leave High Court international relations corruption federal state relations Asia Australia in the Asian Century dental health New Zealand ALP political parties constitution public service reform forced labour aviation coal seam gas crime customs social media ADRV Census Newstart Parenting Payment health employee employer Federal Court foreign debt gross debt net debt European Union domestic violence Constitutional reform food labelling carbon tax banking terrorist groups United Kingdom leadership public policy terrorism welfare Australian Security Intelligence Organisation intelligence community Drugs research and development voting mental health health system human rights Northern Territory Emergency Response science Electoral reform regional unemployment productivity accountability military history Indigenous Indonesia Pacific Islands speaker superannuation middle class welfare welfare systems question time animal health Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry trade unions integrity same sex relationships foreign bribery Australian Secret Intelligence Service firearms export liquefied natural gas local government referendum children Australian economy mining forestry Tasmania financial sector Canada United Nations Security Council climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expertise Senators and Members family assistance by-election US economy housing affordability ASIO new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC reserved seats regulation Parliamentary remuneration Population Hung Parliament federal budget 2011-12 paternalism public health slavery Trafficking in Persons Report homelessness school chaplains ministries water federal election 2010 Medicare Locals primary care regional students Youth Allowance entitlements salary sea farers violence against women Special Rapporteur transparency money laundering early childhood education asylum seekers national security bulk billing China disability employment World Trade Organization Australia renewable energy language education Italy roads international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies standard of proof arts health risks World Health Organisation disciplinary tribunals railways infant mortality honorary citizen suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports contracts workplace policies peace keeping disorderly conduct same-sex marriage Parliament House retirement Rent Assistance constitutional recognition of local government anti-dumping national heritage NHMRC nutrition GDP world heritage submarines Somalia defence budget First speech election timetable sitting days prime ministers standing orders public housing cancer gene patents genetic testing carbon markets universities Ireland public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission vocational education and training limitation period Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping leave loading political engagement Korean peninsula counselling pests suicide social policy alcohol computer games plebiscites therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration federalism federation preselection Iran sanctions baby bonus early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin citizen engagement policymaking biosecurity hendra environmental law COAG Ministerial Councils nuclear Work Choices republic hospitals qantas ANZUS Norway President Barack Obama Presidential visits advertising electricity energy maritime floods ADHD stimulant medication 44th Parliament 2015 e-voting internet voting nsw state elections Indigenous health procurement citizenship Defence ACT Norfolk Island External Territories High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title Indigenous education ABS Trade Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum ACT Assembly Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 sexual abuse online grooming sexual assault of minors social services EU fishing asylum refugees immigration political finance donations Antarctica Diplomacy Disability Support Pension by-elections state and territories China soft power education Fiji India fuel Scottish referendum Members of Parliament Middle East; national security; terrorism Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy innovation Bills NATO workers anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform standards copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry Governor-General Animal law; food health policy employment law bullying Economics efficiency foreign aid human rights; Racial Discrimination Act smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Work Health and Safety Asia; Japan; international relations youth Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine political financing US politics Australia Greens Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce terrorist financing Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Stronger futures rural and regional political parties preselection presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act Australian Greens

Show all
Show less
Back to top