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Australian Law and Politics

It is social security, not welfare


In the pre-Centrelink days, the unemployed, disabled, aged, marginalised and students were treated with some respect by the Australian government. Those days are long gone.

Up until 1997, Australia had the Department of Social Security, which administered social security payments. This is how they were referred to by both the government and the department.

Then in 1997, John Howard changed that, creating Centrelink to administer payments, and publicly rebranding most of the payments as welfare.

It was a curious move by Howard, as even today, Centrelink’s charter and legislation officially refers to the payments as social security, yet publicly refers to them as welfare.

The Act that administers these payments is called the Social Security Act, not the Welfare Act.

So what is the distinction, and why does it matter?

Firstly, social security has a more socially acceptable connotation. They are seen by the community as payments to keep society secure.

Welfare, on the other hand, has the connotation of branding recipients as getting handouts, such as when the poor and marginalised are forced to go to welfare agencies such as St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare and Lifeline.

According to legislation, Centrelink has never been a welfare agency, and its employees are not trained or classified as welfare workers.

So why do governments refer to these payments as welfare?

The answer is, they don’t always do this.

During the Rudd-Gillard era, the payments were referred to as social security. It was only when the LNP came back to power in 2013 that the government again started to refer to them as welfare.

There seems to be some sort of concerted effort by LNP governments to create a social division between the mainstream population and social security recipients.

Indeed, one could argue that the LNP maintained power by appealing to the base instincts of their right wing supporters and creating many divisions in society, but that’s an argument for another day.

All people, regardless of what support they get, are equally entitled to social security payments, and should be treated with respect.

Instead, various governments, for political reasons, have sought to portray them as a burden on society. The LNP government of the last nine years actually came out and publicly branded them as such on numerous occasions.

Now we have a Labor government again, and it can only be hoped they can fix the division created by the LNP government, and give the marginalised back the respect they are entitled to.

It will be a hard road ahead for Labor, as the attitudes have been firmly entrenched in society over the past nine years, but one can only be hopeful that with a man like Bill Shorten leading the charge, we can achieve that.

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The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

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About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner. Business and Education Consultant. Former Business/ESL Teacher. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications.

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