Back to the future?

Is the McClure report Mark II just another attempt to solve an ideological problem that has never existed? In this post, Professor David Haywood,  Dean of the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT discusses the misnomer of welfare dependency and the tendency of history to repeat itself. 

Fourteen years ago, Patrick McLure was invited by the then Liberal Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman (Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s mum no less) to head up a reference group into welfare reform. His job was to report against a
set of questions posed by a provocative Discussion Paper titled, The Challenge of Welfare Dependency in the 21st Century.

McLure delivered his report on time. But it was fatally flawed from the beginning because it was unable to unearth any convincing evidence that welfare dependency was in fact a problem that needed to be

Its detailed data contained in a technical appendix showed that our welfare payments were too low to discourage people from working. They also showed that, not surprisingly, all but 4% of the unemployed had  moved off benefits within 5 years, as had all but a quarter of single parents, whose children refused to age any more quickly than those in traditional families. Most interspersed their time on benefits with a
short period in employment, apparently only to return to income support when their casual jobs inevitably expired.

Long-term beneficiaries, not surprisingly, were concentrated amongst the elderly, the disabled and those looking after the chronically ill.

There were no job snobs to be found here, but lots of people trying to do their best in a world of rapidly changing fortunes and unfairly distributed opportunities.

Nor were there any loafers, at least not on a scale to justify all those public monies being expended on the production of the Report. Social security recipients were shown to be as busy as most of the rest of us, or as the Report itself put it, "contrary to some popular images, most social security recipients are not economically and socially inactive". The small proportion of recipients who did fit this category were typically over 50 and their plight was involuntary, being the product of "illness or disability", not choice and a comfortable bed.

The McLure Report Mark I was a setup job designed to solve an ideological problem that never existed. Is the McLure Report Mark II shaping up to be any better?

I’ll pick that up in a future blog.

Posted by Tanya Corrie