What’s happening with the McClure welfare review?

Parliament house flag post
Australian cash and coins

What’s happening with the McClure welfare review?

Posted 19/03/2014 by Luke Buckmaster

The Government is conducting a review into welfare payments, headed by former Mission Australia CEO, Patrick McClure. This post briefly outlines what is currently known about the McClure review, including its objectives, processes and possible outcomes.

Late in 2013, it was reported that McClure had been asked to provide recommendations on streamlining and improving Australia’s system of welfare payments. While initially it was thought that the review would examine the entire system, the Government clarified that it would only be looking into working age payments such as Newstart Allowance (NSA) and the Disability Support Pension (DSP). Payments such as Age Pension and the various forms of family assistance will not be examined.

Previous McClure review

In 1999, McClure was asked to chair a welfare review for the Howard Government, resulting in the Green Paper, Participation support for a more equitable society. This proposed the transformation of the welfare system into a ‘participation support system’ based around themes such as mutual obligation, simplification and partnerships between government, business and recipients. The purpose would be to better match income support goals (social protection, equity) with social and economic participation goals. A key proposal was for working age payments to be rolled into a single payment, with the possibility of add-ons to assist those with particular needs. Ultimately, the Howard Government did not adopt this recommendation, instead focusing on promoting mutual obligations within the existing payment framework (for example, the 2005 Welfare to Work package).

The process for the earlier McClure review was substantially more open than the current one, which the Government has described as ‘predominately an internal review’. The earlier McClure review had a dedicated ‘Welfare Reform’ website that contained a Government Discussion paper, public submissions, media releases, Terms of Reference, the membership of the Welfare Reform Reference Group and related background papers. The Government advertised for public submissions and received 366 from a variety of sources including individuals, community groups, peak bodies and government agencies. An interim report was made available for public comment in early 2000, followed by the final Green Paper in August 2000.

Current McClure review

In contrast, the current review has no website, no formal terms of reference and no process for receiving public submissions. The Government has not given an indication of whether and in what form the findings of the review will be released to the public.

Most of what is known about the current McClure review is on the basis of responses to questions at the recent Additional Budget Estimates hearings. According to information tabled by the Department of Social Services (DSS), the ‘overarching theme for theme of the Review … is maximising participation for wellbeing and better life outcomes, with the ultimate goal of the welfare system being to support people to participate to the extent they are capable’.

The focus on participation is similar to the previous review. Similarly, the ‘Guiding principles’ and ‘Pillars of reform’ appear to have much in common with the themes of the earlier McClure review.

Guiding principles of the welfare system

Pillars of reform

Provides incentives to work for those who are able to work

Building individual and family capacity

Adequately supports those who are genuinely not able to work

Engaging with business

Supports social and economic participation through measures that build individual and family capacity


Building community capacity

Is affordable and sustainable both now and in the future across economic cycles


A simpler and sustainable income support system

Is easy to access and understand, and able to be delivered efficiently and effectively



No call for broader community input has been made. By 27 February 2014, there had been 30 consultations with various stakeholders. Participation has largely been on the basis of invitation, although according to DSS Secretary, Finn Pratt, ‘people have expressed interest in being consulted and have got into the process that way’.

According to Mr Pratt, while there is no formal reporting date, there is likely to be an interim report in the first half of the year and a final report ‘midyear or a bit after midyear’. DSS has budgeted $1.7 million for the review. In addition to McClure, the review team comprises Wesley Aird, Sally Sinclair and a team of 14 departmental officers.

The Minister, Kevin Andrews, has provided some hints in media reports as to what may be proposed by the review. For example, he has asked McClure to examine options for ‘diverting’ people with mental health conditions from receiving DSP into some more temporary income support arrangement. He has made a similar suggestion in relation to young people deemed to have a partial capacity to work.

The Minister has also said that in the longer term, the Government would look to reform the gap between the rate of payment for NSA and DSP, including considering McClure’s earlier proposal for a single working age payment.



  • 25/02/2015 8:12 AM
    Amanda said:

    By all means, review the welfare system......but give us jobs to go to! I have been desperately trying to find a job, with some degree of longevity, and have been temping, and on welfare payments during that time. It is EXTREMELY hard to jump from job to job, and to be applying and applying for work. This hasn't just been a short term scenario. I basically haven't had permanent employment for over 18 months. (I was made redundant at my previous work, due to their last in, first out policy). I am over 50 and this is a stressful situation. It needs to be understood that with temping, there is an expectation to learn a job in a very short period of time, and that that job may only mean employment for a day/week/month etc. I would love some support from the Govt during this process ie job creation

  • 9/07/2014 3:54 PM
    Beth said:

    It would be great to start the review with the "community" pillar. Disadvantage and marginalisation impact on everyone - not just individuals accessing welfare benefits. An emphasis on building the capacity of community leaders to support participation and engagement of all members is highly necessary in a revised welfare system. Creating opportunities for those most disadvantaged to have a voice, and be a part of their own solutions is extremely important for reviewing, designing and planning a new way forward. For example, greater consultation beyond a website feedback mechanism is necessary to engage people who are homeless, people experiencing drug and alcohol problems, people who speak languages other than English etc. Placing the emphasis on the community ensures responsibility is distributed more evenly across the community. For example, it is no longer the person with a disability taking from a welfare system, but a community coming together to identify attitudes, physical access barriers, rehabilitation/assistive devices that are needed to ensure everyone is included and supported to be fully participating members of their community. Focusing on the individual as the centre of change will ensure the welfare system continues in much the same way it has always done. We need to recognise that the majority of people receiving welfare support do not want it to be that way, and with greater understanding and responsibility placed on communities to change (as opposed to the individual that needs to change) will enable long-term sustainable and resilient communities.

  • 29/06/2014 4:31 PM
    Patricia Simmons said:

    As a Social Worker, who works each day with welfare recipients, the majority of whom are suffering drug and alcohol addiction (and associated mental health disorders / behaviors), I believe that there needs to be incentive for them to get off drugs, stop drinking alcohol given they are unable to control their use and start to live a meaningful life contributing to the society they live in. DSP payments for this group should be provided short term, whilst the recipient is in a live in drug and alcohol program that last 6 weeks, and then the payment should revert to Newstart. There should be some expectation that the recipient does what is necessary to recover from their addiction given they have recognized it sufficiently to obtain DSP. Often this group is labeled by the Professionals as 'suffering a mental health disorder' which in fact their behaviors are all related to their drug and alcohol misuse and these behaviors would evaporate if they resolved their drug and alcohol misuse. 'Harm Minimization' as a policy needs to be overhauled as someone addicted to alcohol, cannot reduce their use, the nature of addiction is that the user has lost control.

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


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

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




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

Show all
Show less
Back to top