Turnbull Must Change Direction, Not Just Tone
17 September 2015 at 12:37 pm
Malcolm Turnbull must provide a new direction, not just a new message, to address Australia’s economic, social and environmental challenges, the peak community welfare body has said.
Australian Council of Social Service, Dr Cassandra Goldie, told Pro Bono Australia News that the new Prime Minister could not afford to “demonise” the poorest members of the Australian community, including those on welfare.
“The previous Prime Minister wasn’t alone in terms of commentary to the public about demonising of people on welfare, the language of ‘lifters and leaners’, the device of pitching one group in society against the other, the idea that it’s a war between taxpayers and people sitting on the couch enjoying an easy life on welfare,” Goldie said.
“The reality is our social security system is a really important bit of social infrastructure for everybody. We should be proud of having a social security system in place so if you do lose your job, if somebody in your family becomes sick and you need to become a carer for them, if you do have a disability then we have an adequate safety net there to make sure every person in Australia can live with dignity.
“We want to see an end to victim blaming and the targeting of people struggling on social security at a time of rising unemployment and a slowing economy.”
“I don’t think it does anybody any good to demonise, to create this perception that if you’re on the disability support pension you’re a bludger, if you’re a young person who can’t get a job you’re off surfing and sitting on the couch with your X-Box – it is not the reality.”
Goldie said she was encouraged by Turnbull early commitments to working in a more collaborative way.
But she said simply changing the way the Government communicated would not do enough to improve Australia.
“I certainly hope the new Prime Minister recognises that the problems the previous Prime Minister experienced, particularly with his first budget in 2014 was not only because of style or tone in terms of communication, but the problems of the budget design itself,” she said.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk about effective government is about ‘selling the message’, what we’re saying is, ‘no, it’s about reinvigorating participatory democracy’.
“There are, right across the community, deep skills, significant expertise, direct understanding of what needs to be done, for example to improve the employment opportunities for young people, for how to deliver vital community services in local communities in collaborative and effective ways, and those organisations need to be directly involved in the design.
“I certainly hope the Prime Minister is very aware that it’s not only about the tone and the style, but about how Government goes about the business of designing policy so that we are coming up with changes that will definitely deliver on results.”
Goldie said the Government should move away from harmful legislation, such as the four-week wait for welfare that was reintroduced by Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, yesterday.
“I think it’s very important that the new Prime Minister sends an early message across the community that this is a Government this is not interested in shutting down voices from the community who may disagree, who may have a different view, who have diverse voices in debates,” she said.
“Under the previous Prime Minister we saw consistent defunding of peak bodies, bodies representing young people, people with disability, those working in the alcohol and drug area. We saw various efforts to shut down the voice of civil society – that needs to stop.
“I certainly hope the new Prime Minister places a high value on participatory democracy. What that requires is strong and effective civil society voices to be out there and working with the government on providing analysis, in speaking up to make sure we are not missing out on the concerns and the ideas that do exist right across a very vibrant civil society in Australia.”