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Eureka Street Online
January-February 2001
January-February 2001
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Also this month:

In his own write: Alex McDermott looks at recent Ned Kelly literature, including Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang.

Naming rites: Brian McCoy on language matters.

A farewell to the Australian welfare state: McClure is newer, but not better, argues Francis G. Castles.

Flash in the Pan: reviews of the films Sunshine and Charlie’s Angels.

Back to the front page

A farewell to the Australian welfare state

The McClure Report completes the process of dismantlement. Now we are in for ‘a system of mean, discretionary and moralistically charged benefits’, argues Francis G. Castles.

WelfareFrom the time of the Hawke Labor government onwards, the situation of welfare beneficiaries has been changing and changing for the worse. There has been increasingly more policing of benefit eligibility, with the strongest element of forced compliance an unemployment work test which has become increasingly onerous to fulfil. Under the Howard government, the conditions of this test have become extremely strict, with an increasingly explicit moral justification that recipients must return something to society in return for their benefit. This idea is now dignified as a philosophy of ‘mutual obligation’. It is not a new philosophy, but an old one. To receive benefit, individuals must be able to prove that they are ‘deserving’ of society’s help. With each new requirement for interview and for demonstrated job applications, the potential for discretion by the officers of the newly privatised Howard employment services increases. Huge numbers of claimants are now fined for infringements of the rules and the efficiency of these services is partly judged by its success in withholding benefits on these grounds. It is highly appropriate that the Howard government has tendered these services out to religious charities, since the government is well on the way to restoring the conditionality of payment which makes welfare a charity rather than a right.’

—For Francis G. Castles’ full article, see Eureka Street, January-February 2001, available by subscription and from good bookstores and newsagents.

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Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved. Eureka Street is published by Jesuit Publications
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