Contributed from New South Wales
The Human Services Minister, Christian Porter has announced that single parents, young carers and students are being targeted.
Speaking at an address to the National Press Club last month, he said that the government is moving to break “welfare dependency.”
The address revealed another thing or two. For instance, there is an ideological strengthening of an “investment approach” to welfare. This means that rather than handing out benefits, the emphasis will be on providing assistance to business. Specifically, this is a bout a longer term approach that pinpoints future expenses and using this money in what the government as means to force people to look for work. The central idea is to minimize the welfare bill.
This fails to take account that there are not enough jobs going for everyone to find work. Some will fail. Presumably, these people are to be regarded as collateral damage.
Christian Porter is a good representative of a class that has never had to contend with hardship and therefore has very little understanding of those who do not have the means for the life he is accustomed to. His father, Charles “Chilla” Porter, was a director of the West Australian Liberal Party and his grandfather, Sir Charles Porter, served in the ministry of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
The approach tells you nothing about what sorts of programs will be effective in achieving cost savings. But the data collected in the process allows you to track success over time.
The Coalition government paid $33 million to PriceWaterhouseCoopers to come up with the plan. Out of this came the claim of the $4.8 trillion future welfare bill. Never mind that it is full of unsubstantiated assumptions. Never mind that even in its terms it talks about raw and isolated costs and neglects any gains that might come. The assertion is enough to justify anything.
There is no mention that half the quoted figure is about money spent on people who are not at this time on any form of welfare. So why make those who are to bear the burden? The single biggest cost will be om paying for the age pension. What has this got to do with the present day targets?
In fact, PriceWaterhouseCoopers did not recommend targeting these groups.
A fund of $96 million has been set aside to for state governments, academics and not for profit organisations to put forward projects to, under a broad definition of the term, help.
The ideological position of the government is to move all that is possible towards market operation, including the provision of generous funds. It fits that this should be the real view for the future of welfare in Australia – turning the system into a lucrative business opportunity for some. In order to do this, it is necessary to remove from present day recipients, the minimal level of security they do have. Then they can be made into a more usable resource.
But it would not pay the politicians to put in quite this way.