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Interim welfare reform report: government social policy at a dead-end.

Interim Welfare Reform Report:

 

Government Social Policy At A Dead-End

 

Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

 

Media Statement - 28 March 2000

 

"The Interim Report of the Government's Reference Group on Welfare Reform chronicles how the Government has spent 4 years creating a welfare dead-end through high marginal tax rates; education and training cuts; and cuts to child care," the Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services Wayne Swan said today.

 

"The Opposition remains concerned that the vague language of mutual obligation may leave the way open to cost-cutting to rein in the Government's welfare cost blow-out, and that the Report does little to allay fears that Senator Newman's bottom-drawer agenda of cuts to the disability support pension and to single-parent benefits is still alive.

 

"Pleasingly, the Report shows very clearly the Labor way back out of the dead-end.

 

"The Report itself bluntly tells the Government and Senator Newman that they are fundamentally wrong on social policy. It is strongly critical of the Government's failed social outcomes, including 860,000 children being raised in jobless households (p6); and growing numbers of people trapped on welfare (p7).

 

"But the Report goes further, actually criticising the Government's policies themselves:

 

• It attacks the Government's Job Network as "fragmented, disjointed, and focused on uncoordinated program outcomes" (p25);

• It attacks the disincentive to work effects of the Government's Youth Allowance policy as "an extreme case where tight and poorly integrated social security income tests can severely discourage workforce participation" (p39).

 

"More fundamentally, the report issues a blunt rebuke to the blame-the-victim culture of the Howard Government and Senator Newman, Tony Abbott and Peter Reith:

 

• "The Reference Group believes that there is value in recognising more explicitly the social contributions that people on income support already make. This recognition is important to validate social participation and to counter the popular stereotype of people receiving income support as passive non-contributors." (p13)

 

"Senator Newman made the extraordinary claim today that she has long been an advocate of 'participation'. Senate Hansard shows she has only uttered the word 10 times in 4 years as Minister. And in the case of 'exclusion', the word has only passed her lips 3 times in 4 years.

 

"When it comes to directions for reform, the Report notes only in the vaguest terms the Government's signature tunes of mutual obligation and the so-called social coalition. But on the concrete policy proposals, it seizes on Labor's ideas:

 

• "In Work Benefits" (pp44-45) (operating in the US and UK as tax credits) were central to Labor's Welfare Reform Submission and 1998 election policy;

• Proposed "Return to Work Benefits" (p45) were announced by Labor as a "Work Bonus" more than 12 months ago; and

• "Participation Supplements" (p45) were outlined in Labor's Welfare Reform Submission as Opportunity Accounts.

 

The Reference Group has at least now shown the Government the obvious thing to do when you find yourself in a dead-end street - turn around and walk back.

 

"We hope that this Report succeeds in walking the Government some of the way back out of the dead-end. But it's hard to muster much confidence in a Government that couldn't - or wouldn't - work that out on its own, and preferably before it did so much damage.

 

To obtain a copy of the ALP's submission to the Welfare Review see Wayne Swan's home page: http://www.swanmp.org/restruct.htm  

   

 

Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.