Spending on social security and welfare accounts for more than a third of the Commonwealth budget.
Because of its size, it has been one of the main targets of proposed cuts in every Coalition government budget since 2014.
Despite this, social security and welfare spending has continued to grow. In fact the best way to describe the approach of the Coalition’s past five budgets is attempted rather than actual austerity, with the Senate rejecting or never considering repeated cuts. More than A$10 billion of these were served up again and again in budgets as so-called “zombie measures”.
Whoever wins government will continue to face pressure to further increase welfare and social security spending as the National Disability Insurance Scheme ramps up and a royal commission and demographic shifts build the case for more spending on aged care.
It is also widely recognised that Newstart, the main payment for unemployed Australians, is increasingly inadequate. It has slipped relative to pensions and wages each year because it is indexed to the slower-growing consumer price index. Payments for single parents are also inadequate, having been cut as a result of specific government decisions.
SOURCE: Peter Whiteford. “Future Budgets are going to have to Spend more on Welfare, which is fine. It’s Spending on Us.” The Conversation, March 7, 2019.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia