Tuesday, 21st January 2014


The government's announcement that it will be reviewing all welfare spending must be an early contender for least surprising political news of 2014.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has hit the airwaves armed with a battery of statistics about the number of Australians receiving an income support payment (5 million) and the increase in recipients of the Disability Support Pension (from 658,000 to 827,000 in the decade to 2012) and unemployment benefits (up to 550,000).

Of course 'review' in this case means reduce, and the main areas of interest to the government are reportedly disability support and unemployment benefits. One example cited is the possibility of eliminating the ability of those on welfare to refuse a job if it is more than 90 minutes from their home. Parenting payment changes have also been flagged (though not, presumably, to the proposed paid parental leave scheme).

The ALP has launched a scare campaign warning the age pension could be on the hit list too, but this seems less likely.

Net welfare to the aged increased rapidly under both Howard and Rudd/Gillard governments as a result of an ageing population – via the pension, ballooning aged health costs and superannuation tax concessions (for high income earners in particular). In fact it is this sector that is primarily responsible for social spending increases.

At this stage, though, the Coalition has shown it is averse to tackling aged entitlements, having ruled out raising the retirement age, reducing super tax breaks for high income earners or cutting health spending.

Good policy would dictate that a review includes aged and middle-class social spending as well as that on traditional Coalition targets, the less well-off.

Nick Feik
Politicoz Editor

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