A Decent Provision is a narrative history of how and why Australia built a distinctive welfare regime in the period from the 1870s to 1949. At the beginning of this period, the Australian colonies were belligerently insisting they must not have a Poor Law, yet had reproduced many of the systems of charitable provision in Britain. By the start of the twentieth century, a combination of extended suffrage, basic wage regulation and the aged pension had led to a reputation as a 'social laboratory'. And yet half a century later, Australia was a 'welfare laggard' and the Labor Party's welfare state of the mid-1940s was a relatively modest and parsimonious construction. Models of welfare based on social insurance had been vigorously rejected, and the Australian system continued on a path of highly residual, targeted welfare payments. The book explains this curious and halting trajectory, showing how choices made in earlier decades constrained what could be done, and what could be imagined. Based on extensive new research from a variety of primary sources it makes a significant contribution to general historical debates, as well as to the field of comparative social policy.
'What could have been a book solely for a narrow audience of specialist historians and policy wonks, actually makes for engaging reading for anyone with an interest in the development of the Australian nation.' Australian Policy Online ’It is to be hoped that A Decent Provision makes its way speedily into teaching and research, and indeed policy-making.’ EH.NET 'This is an excellent narrative history of the development and implementation of Australian welfare policy from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century… This will be a valuable resource for students and scholars of Australian social policy as well as others interested in transnational developments during the period.' Australian Journal of Politics and History 'This book succeeds admirably as a work of synthesis that also draws importantly on primary documentation to tell a story of Australian experience to a wider world audience.' Australian Historical Studies 'For non-Australian readers, in particular, the second significant benefit of this excellent investigation of Australian welfare policy during the colonial period and the first half-century after Federation is the comparative perspective it affords.' Labour History Review '… Murphy has made a welcome contribution to the literature on the welfare state. He reveals the importance of Australia’s unique experience with social policy and provides a meaningful case-study of more wide-ranging trends within welfare legislation and practices.' English Historical Review 'This is an impressive book. It is both an excellent history of the Australian welfare system and an insightful reflection on the relation between that history and the welfare system today. It is a book that you recognize has been written by an expert in the field - presenting its description of the main contours of history and bringing out its main themes with a clarity that can only come from detailed research and extensive thinking.' Enterprise and Society '… extreme
Contents: Introduction; The pauper in the New World: on not having a Poor Law; The mixed economy of colonial welfare: faith, self-help and charity; The veterans of labour: old age pensions; The Commonwealth laboratory; 'The duty of a nation': a parallel welfare state for veterans; The failures of the 1920s: maternalism and national insurance; The Depression; National insurance, 1938-1939; Unfinished business: Labor's welfare state, 1941-1949; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.