Every couple of years a senior politician makes a big speech saying there is too much welfare dependency in Australia. The most famous example was Joe Hockey when he was Shadow Treasurer made his end of the age of entitlement speech which was followed by his first budget in 2014 where he talked about Australians being lifters and no leaners. However despite this talk there ended up being no action to tackle the growing welfare bill which will soon approach $190 billion annually out of the federal budget. Last week the current Social Services Minister Christian Porter outlined which types of people were most at risk of being dependent on welfare for most of their lives. It led to a new conversation about ways to tackle welfare dependency, however that is all that most of these speeches led to. A conversation, never any action.
There is a powerful social services and welfare lobby who cry human cruelty whenever a politician tries to tackle the growing welfare problem. Cassandra Goldie of the Australian Council of Social Services is the first to complain about mean politicians only focused on the bottom line. That the people who are receiving welfare are just poor victims of the ruthless market system who without significant government assistance would starve in the streets. The mainstream media usually eat up lines like us, gone are the days when news organisations would rage against dole bludgers and there was a certain amount taboo about being dependent on government.
The reason why we have such a growing welfare bill because it’s so easily available and despite what is said compliance is easy. The unemployment benefit Newstart requires recipients to a the beginning just submit a job seeker’s diary every fortnight, more stringent job search requirements such as job training and work for the dole are not introduced unless the person is long-term unemployed. If you complain about these requirements being too strict for a person then you obviously believe people shouldn’t work very hard. These requirements would take around 1-2 hours a day when most are employed people are working 8-10 hours per day. If a person is to receive other taxpayer’s money, surely they can commit to some minimal effort.
The Disability Support Pension (DSP) burden on the budget is growing as well as proving to be the biggest welfare rort we have seen. It has been reported that many claimants are going around finding doctors who will give them a referral for receiving a DSP, often reasons for needing one are vague mental health issues which are all based on what the applicant tells a doctor which requires no medical tests. This rorting has been so bad that the amount of people on the DSP is higher at 824,470 people than Newstart which has 727,778. You can see why because the DSP pays more and has no job requirements, it is also worth mentioning that the DSP recipients are not covered in the official unemployment rate.
In Christian Porter’s speech last week he identified three other welfare recipient groups who were in danger of becoming dependant on welfare for their whole lives. These are young carers who look after disabled family members, they are at risk of spending much of their lives receiving this benefit and never entering the workforce. He also mentioned young parents whose instead of starting a career and improving their employability are raising children. Even students are at risk of becoming dependent on welfare as there is trend of students going to university of TAFE to study courses for which there are few jobs.
The solution to this growing welfare addition is simple but relies upon politicians having the courage to stand up to the welfare lobby and the media. It involves having stricter job search requirements and training for all payments to able bodied people and cracking down on the excesses in the DSP, this involves the threat of cutting off welfare to those who do not co-operate with welfare requirements. If the welfare is never cut off, what incentive does a person have to ever improve their situation? It is completely false to say that if welfare is cut off to a person they will simply starve, people are capable of helping themselves when a new challenge arises. If a person is poor at their job, they are sacked. So why shouldn’t it be the same if they do not co-operate with the conditions of receiving welfare? We should not have an obligation to support people no matter how destructive their life becomes.
The reason why we should be concerned about the amount of people on welfare is because they are living on other people’s money. It’s not even other people’s generosity, it is forced taxation of productive members of society to give to those not producing anything. This is grossly unfair so anything we can do to reduce this unjust forced redistribution the better. Also welfare dependency leads to socially destructive behaviour for two reasons, first because there are hardly any consequences for misusing your welfare and second because welfare dependents have nothing to do most of the time this leads to social destructive behaviour. Of course any welfare reform should be complimented by the reduction or abolition of the minimum wage to as well as more flexible workplace regulations so employers have more of an incentive to hire more at-risk people. Of course that would require another courageous government reform which would send the union movement into a rage.
Will Christian Porter’s speech lead to any meaningful reform? I am not very optimistic based on past actions, not to mention the fact that the government does have the numbers in the Senate. What would be good to start occurring is that welfare is not seen as an acceptable way to live. Although it might be need to by some for a short period it should not be seen as an acceptable lifestyle. Maybe if the community mentality changes on welfare governments might have the courage to commit to constructive reform.