Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Welfare Reform in Australia: Labor's view

By Chris Evans - posted Friday, 15 December 2000

Labor's vision for welfare reform is all about opening up opportunities and allowing everyone to have a stake in the wealth and prosperity of our nation. At the core of the challenge we face is the unification of economic and social policy.

It took the devastation of the Second World War to force Australian policy makers to elevate social policy to the same level as economic policy, or more correctly, bend our economic policy goals to the achievement of socially just ends.

The question facing us some 50 years later is when, not if, the devastation of the spread of growing child poverty and an increasing divide between rich and poor becomes so acute that we again put the common wealth ahead of the wealth of the market. We need in particular to see social policy as an issue of hard-headed economics as well as an issue of social justice and equality.


Today, there is one Australian of retirement age for about every five Australians of working age. Assuming current levels of net migration continue in the future, in the year 2021, there will be one for about every 3.5. And by 2051, the ratio will be one for every 2.5.

The demographers rightly tell us not to be too alarmist about this: higher labour productivity makes it easier to support an aging population; and Australia's aging profile is not as extreme as many other countries'. But this does underscore two things: first, we cannot afford to have large sections of the working-age population trapped outside the workforce by a failing welfare system; and second, we need to boost Australia's birth rate to take pressure off dependency ratios in the future.

The two guiding principles linking the social and economic debates must therefore be welfare to work, and work and family. Welfare to work, because it boosts the current working population; and work and family because international evidence shows it is perhaps the most important issue in halting the falling birth rate.

Welfare reform: the McClure report

The Government now has in its hands a directional statement for the reform of Australia's welfare system - the McClure Report. It is a statement Labor has largely endorsed because it points in the direction we believe welfare reform must always point: helping people move from welfare into work.

There are some positive signs in the document produced by the Welfare Reform Committee - its recognition of tax credits, work bonuses, participation supplements, and better case management are all ideas that can make a difference. Properly implemented, this statement will also achieve the other key goal of welfare reform: maintaining a strong safety net for those in need.


If there is a weakness in the Report it is that its loose use of 'mutual obligation' has left the door open for the Government to target some of our community's most vulnerable.

In the eyes of most Australians, this government has gone too far in applying punishments to people on welfare. We don't need to extend such a punitive regime to more groups because one-sided mutual obligation backed by extreme punishments does not help people get work.

We need to re-appraise the level of investment that we make in people. Unfortunately, over the past four years this investment has declined significantly with some $5 billion in cuts to key welfare to work incentives, childcare, and education and training.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Senator Chris Evans is a Senator for Western Australia.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Chris Evans
Related Links
Australian Labor Party
Chris Evans' home page
Photo of Chris Evans
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy