Submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Competition Reform in Human Services

In April 2016, the Commonwealth Government announced that the Productivity Commission would be conducting a public inquiry into the increased application of competition, contestability and informed user choice to human services. As part of this inquiry, the Productivity Commission developed an issues paper, Human Services: Identifying Sectors for Reform. The issues paper was released in June and invites feedback on which sectors are best suited to further competition reforms.

The St Vincent de Paul Society’s response to the issues paper details our concerns about the effects of competition reform on people experiencing poverty and disadvantage, as well as the community organisations that support them. The scope of the inquiry reflects a narrow understanding of human services, their broader social purpose, their contribution to civil society and the collective values that they embody and create. We believe that elevating market competition and consumer choice as the central operating principles of service delivery may compromise core principles in human services, such as universality and social justice.

This submission outlines our concerns, considers the adverse effects of previous rounds of competition reform in human services, and urges the Productivity Commission to consider other options for reforming and improving human service delivery in Australia.