Australia's Welfare Wars: The Players, the Politics and the by Philip Mendes

By Philip Mendes

Considers the jobs performed via the major political events, foyer teams and ideologies in opting for Australia’s present welfare-related results.

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Murray claims that the solution to the problem is to scrap the entire US federal welfare and income-support structure for working-aged persons and LEADING THE B ACKLASH • 43 force individuals to rely on their own resources and those of family and friends (Murray, 1984). In Australia, various neoliberal authors have argued separately that many teenage girls have children in order to qualify for the sole-parent pension, which pays more than the single rate of unemployment benefit; that the availability of unemployment benefits increases the duration of unemployment by providing an incentive to spend longer looking for the ‘right’ job; and that the availability of the young homeless allowance may fuel a growth in the number of young homeless people (Mendes, 1996: 490).

1 But if the motto is to be that each citizen is entitled, whatever his own effort or deserts, to a maintenance which will suffice without labour; in other words, that utter security in the economic sense is our divinely allotted portion; all incentive to effort will vanish and we shall become a race ready for the destroyer … We are threatened by the dry-rot of social and political doctrines which encourage the citizen to lean on the State, which discourage thrift, which despise as reactionary those qualities of self-reliance which pioneered Australia.

Consumer choices are to be judged by market research surveys and opinion polls, rather than by representative collective structures or consultations which may pose an 40 • AUSTRALIA’S WELFARE WARS unacceptable challenge to government policy agendas (Ernst and Webber, 1996: 132). Public choice theory also reflects the neoliberal obsession with what its adherents call the ‘new class’. The term refers to the alleged takeover of the welfare state and the public sector by middle-class professionals, environmentalists, feminists and New Left Marxists who claim they are acting in the interests of the poor and under-privileged, but are (according to the neoliberals) actually pursuing a hidden and highly political agenda aimed at radical social change (Browning, 1990: 3–4, 15–16).

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