This paper explores the social welfare policies and ideology of the Federal ALP from 1983 to 1999. Traditionally, the Labor Party has been committed to government intervention in the free market to promote a fairer distribution of income, and social protection for the poor/disadvantaged. However, the HawkelKeating years arguably saw an abandonment of the Laborist plan for a fairer and more egalitarian society in favour of economic rationalist/free market agendas. Social welfare policies were relegated to the mere alleviation of poverty, rather than being concerned with attacking structural inequities. Since the election defeat of 1996, the ALP has displayed some signs of returning to traditional egalitarian concerns. Social workers for reasons of both ideology and self-interest should support such trends.