chapter  9
13 Pages

The lived experience of Australian government Mutual Obligations policies: creating shadow and preferred policy subjects

Australian Mutual Obligations policies, as described in the document Participation Support for a More Equitable Australia1 (McClure 2000a), represent a significant departure from previous welfare policies. These new types of policy have emerged from and are consistent with other policy developments, such as the New Deal in the UK (Department of Social Security 1998) and the Personal Responsibility Act in the US (US Congress 1996). Through a process of 'policy transfer' (Banks et al. 2004) other OECD countries, such as New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, Finland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Denmark (Banks et al. 2004),2 have also adopted similar kinds of reforms. Globalization, and the transfer of knowledge across international boundaries, supported by technological developments have accelerated the pace at which policy transfer occurs (Stone cited in Banks et al. 2004). These various new welfare policies and programmes are 'conditional' (Stanley et al. 2004), sharing a focus on rewarding participation in work through tax credits, family benefits and income supplements. They have in common a reframing of welfare, one that positions the needy as reliant on others for their welfare incomes. In Australia, this has meant a redefinition of welfare and a shift away from a wage earners' welfare state (Castles 1994). These changes have been implemented in Australia incrementally, beginning with the Youth Allowance in 1998 (Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA) 1996), later Work for the Dole, and other programmes such as Green Corps. At present, people with disabilities and single parents are targeted as other groups to be managed through these new policy forms.3