Shaping 2015: Social services need more than short-term fixes
Peter Whiteford, The Conversation
Scott Morrison’s appointment as minister for social services in late December 2014 has been seen as an important step for the Abbott government as it moves towards its second budget. The tasks he faces have been variously characterised in the media as “stopping the welfare” and “stopping the bludgers”.
[However] just as Australia does not have an immediate budget crisis, it also does not have a welfare crisis. The proportion of GDP spent on social security cash payments peaked at around 9% of GDP in 1996. It also attained this level in 2000 when compensation for the GST was provided. According to the most recent OECD figures, it was around 8.7% of GDP in 2013.
A sustainable welfare system requires more than just constraining costs to meet short-term budgetary policy. A sustainable system also requires that recipients and current taxpayers view the system as fair and that payments are adequate to meet social objectives, particularly those relating to adequacy of payments.
Getting the right balance between the short term and the medium term may well be the most significant challenge facing Morrison in the Social Services portfolio.