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Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

McClure Review aims to justify attacks on welfare

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The McClure Review has released its final report into the welfare system. The government commissioned the review to create justifications for the further dismantling of welfare, with their latest push seeking to take payments from those with disabilities and to force extra obligations on job-seekers earning the dole.

By David Elliott, Socialist Party

Both the Liberals and Labor have worked to cut welfare payments. Only two years ago the Gillard government forced many single parents onto the lower-paid Newstart Allowance, which requires recipients to apply for full-time work.

The McClure Review is headed by the former CEO of Mission Australia, Patrick McClure. Mission Australia is one of a number of NGOs that receive millions of dollars in funding to provide Job Network services. There is an entire private industry set up to make money from programs intended for job-seekers.

This is not the first time McClure has been asked by a Coalition government to chair a review into welfare payments; during the Howard era a similar review was used to justify the ‘Work for the Dole’ scheme. The original McClure review put forth the idea of ‘mutual obligation’ – forcing jobseekers to accept jobs no matter what their conditions. While the final report of the review itself is written in vague neoliberal slogans, its essential purpose is to justify a reduction in welfare spending ahead of the next federal budget.

A central idea in the current review is the restructuring of disability payments to tier those with disabilities based on how many hours of work they are said to be capable of. This approach is geared towards being convenient for bosses, ignoring the reality of the barriers put up against those with disabilities.

The report also raises the prospect of forcing some jobseekers into “non-work activities” – unpaid work – where employment is not possible. The current Newstart allowance is already designed to force job-seekers to take jobs regardless of whether they provide decent conditions or pay fair wages.

This undermines all workers, as employers can use this situation to push down working conditions for other employees. Many of the conditions won through past struggle have already been eroded in recent years. Almost 40% of the workforce is either casual or self-employed.

There were 795,000 people unemployed in January and only 142,000 job vacancies. Capitalism is a system that cannot guarantee jobs for all. We need to fight for the right to a living wage for those thrown out of work and for genuine support for those with disabilities as well as for single parents.

The current government is weak, and has failed to push through a number of core policy measures, despite the fact that the basic logic of their attacks is supported by both major parties. A national campaign against cuts to welfare, and in favour of extending it, could challenge the ability of the Liberal Party to govern. But such a movement would need to go further, as the ALP also supports the erosion of the welfare system, as they have shown every time they come to power.

A protest movement against the budget could make links with other anti-government movement like those for aboriginal self-determination, for the rights of refugees and for action on climate change. This could point the way toward the establishment of a new party to provide a voice for working people.

This party would be an essential tool for working people in the fight for a fairer socialist society. The only way to work towards full employment and a welfare system that isn’t under constant attack is to replace capitalism with a democratically planned socialist economy.