Coalition Slams Social Inclusion Portfolio
5 January 2012 at 11:41 am
The Gillard Government’s Social Inclusion portfolio has come under fire from the Coalition, with Senator Mitch Fifield saying the Government should abolish the Social Inclusion unit and direct the funds towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
In an article published today in The Australian, the Coalition spokesman on disabilities, carers and the voluntary sector, Senator Fifield said “the government is spending money on social inclusion, and they don’t even know what it is.”
Fifield said the Government should “abolish the Social Inclusion Board and the whole social inclusion portfolio”, and direct the funds towards the $6 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme. The nine-member social inclusion board was set up in 2008 to provide advice to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Gillard’s cabinet reshuffle late last year saw Minister Mark Butler given the ‘Social Inclusion’ Portfolio and moved into cabinet – a post previously held by Tanya Plibersek and Julia Gillard. According to an article in The Australian on December 21, Butler struggled to explain what the Social Inclusion portfolio was on his first day in the job, saying “it means different things to different people”.
Butler said he would take time to get briefing on the portfolio, but to him social inclusion is about government delivering services and support in a different way.
“Too many times, people who are experiencing social disadvantage find different portfolios and different agencies deliver their services very much in a siloed way.” Butler said.
Fifield said “the term social inclusion remains little more than bureaucratic newspeak — a mere platitude devoid of substance.”
“It's all about the importance of seeming to do something,” said Fifield, citing the Gillard Government’s National Volunteers Strategy, the National Carer Strategy, the National Disability Strategy and the government's compact with the Not for Profit sector, as other worthy documents gathering dust.
Fifield said the Coalition does not have a social inclusion portfolio, “If social inclusion means supporting the marginalised and helping those who face particular challenges, often for reasons beyond their control, then surely that is part of the core business of most ministerial portfolios.”
A spokesman for acting Social Inclusion Minister Nicola Roxon told The Australian, "It's no surprise that the Liberal Party is opposed to social inclusion. They represent the big end of town and have little interest in helping these groups out of the cycle of poverty and disadvantage."
The Social Inclusion Board has been criticised in The Australian recently for spending almost $60,000 on airfares last financial year and more than $13,000 on accommodation, meals and catering.
Let us know you opinion of the Government’s Social Inclusion portfolio. Is it an important part of ensuring a fairer Australia, or a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere?