1st Edition

Empowerment and Control in the Australian Welfare State A Critical Analysis of Australian Social Policy Since 1972

By Philip Mendes Copyright 2019
    254 Pages
    by Routledge

    254 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the tensions between the competing social rights and social control functions of the modern Australian welfare state. By critically examining the history and rhetoric of the Australian welfare state from 1972 to the present day, and using the author’s long-standing research on the Australian Council of Social Service and other welfare advocacy groups, it analyses the transformation from rights-based to conditional welfare.

    The Labor Party Government from 1972-75 is identified as the only clear cut example of Australia positively using welfare payments and services as an instrument to promote greater social equity, inclusion and participation. Since the mid-1970s, the Australian welfare state has gradually retreated from the social rights agenda conceived by the Whitlam Government. Australia has followed other Anglo-Saxon countries in adopting increasingly conditional and paternalistic measures that undermine the protection of social citizenship outside the labour market.

    In contrast, this text makes the case for an alternative participatory and decentralized welfare state model that would prioritize social care by empowering and supporting welfare service users at a local community level.

    This book will be of interest to academics, students and policy-makers working within social policy, social work and political sociology.

    Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction; Part 1 The rise of the Australian Welfare State; Chapter 1. The wage earners welfare state and the Rediscovery of Poverty; Chapter 2. The social democratic Whitlam Labor Government 1972-75; Part 2 The anti-welfare backlash locally and internationally; Chapter 3. The decline of Keynesianism, the revival of classical liberalism and the alleged welfare state crisis; Chapter 4. The conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition attempts to roll back the welfare state 1975-1983; Chapter 5. Labor retreats from social democracy and adopts targeted welfare, the Hawke and Keating governments 1983-1996; Chapter 6. The Australian neoliberal campaign to cut welfare: The role of think tanks, the media and corporate lobby groups; Part 3 The new convergence around conditional welfare; Chapter 7. Restoring self-reliance and the work ethic and saving taxpayers funds: The Liberal-National Party Coalition’s approach to social welfare 1983-2018; Chapter 8. Labor accepts welfare conditionality 1996-2018; Part 4 Rejecting the neoliberal consensus: Welfare policy dissent and alternatives; Chapter 9. Case studies of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Australian Greens; Chapter 10 Towards a participatory welfare model; Conclusion; Index


    Philip Mendes is the Acting Head of the Department of Social Work, Monash University, Australia. He has been a social work and social policy practitioner and educator for over 30 years, with particular experience in the fields of income support, young people transitioning from state out of home care, social workers and policy practice, and illicit drugs. He has numerous publications in local and international journals, and is the author or co-author of 11 books.

    "This is an important book as it articulates a detailed story of the impact of neoliberalism on Australia’s welfare system, as well as documenting its developments since 1972. It would be a useful book for all social work students to read but given its highly sophisticated analysis and attention to detail it is more suited as a valuable resource for educators, practitioners, and post-graduate research students."

    Ruth Phillips, University of Sydney