Australia's Welfare Wars: The Players, the Politics and the Ideologies

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Little has been written about the impact of ideologies and interest groups on the contemporary debate surrounding the Australian welfare state. Many local texts emphasise major historical developments and key policy initiatives rather than the political debates, ideologies, and interest groups which influenced these outcomes.

In contrast, this text concentrates on the role played by ideology and advocacy groups in determining welfare outcomes, with specific reference to up-to-date theories about globalisation. Students are provided with relevant case-study and source material which is used to analyse and explain contemporary policies and outcomes in the Australian welfare state, and to assist readers to predict future policy directions.

Some of the core questions examined include:

- Why do government policies increasingly focus on the alleged individual character deficits or so-called ‘welfare dependency’ of the poor and disadvantaged, rather than addressing the structural causes of poverty and unemployment?

- Why have most Western countries experienced a sharp increase in poverty and inequality, and why do so few politicians even from historically left of centre parties seem to care?

- Does economic globalisation and its associated shift of power from governments to global corporate entities automatically preclude the continuation of generous national welfare states?

- Why have Australian Labor and Coalition social policies increasingly converged? And why is it only the Greens who appear to express dissenting views?

- Which interest groups - both inside and outside the social welfare sector - are most influential when it comes to social policy?

- Why do governments still mostly fail to consult welfare consumers or local communities about the planning, design and implementation of welfare services and policies?

Many of the ideas in this text are drawn from my experiences as a social work and social policy practitioner and educator over the last 30 years. During this period, I have noted with grave concern the increasing harshness of government and community attitudes towards the poor and disadvantaged, and the corresponding growth in social and economic deprivation and inequity. Most policy makers today don’t even pretend to view the welfare state as an instrument to promote greater equity and social cohesion.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney NSW
PublisherUNSW Press
Number of pages397
ISBN (Print)9781742234786
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2017


  • welfare state
  • social policy
  • political ideologies

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