Executive Summary

The St Vincent de Paul Society believes that the most pressing issue Australia faces in relation to welfare reform is that the labour market is not providing jobs for many Australians. Global and macroeconomic forces have changed how jobs are created, and what kind of entry-level jobs are available. Additionally, long-standing, historical structural barriers continue to lock out many people. Re-shaping the way we think about work and employment in Australia to make it more inclusive is the responsibility of all of us, and will not be remedied by punishing people who are excluded. We all, together, have a mutual obligation to ensure that the jobs are there for the people who need them: we need a national conversation about a Jobs Plan for Australia. This must include a regional economic development plan.

Given the clear structural barriers that are locking many people out of the labour market, we believe in a strong welfare system, which provides adequate income for everyone, to enable all people to live with dignity and respect. The aim of this system must be to prevent poverty and ensure that no one is denied the essentials of life, while also recognising the value of unpaid contributions (eg volunteering, caring, and previous work), acknowledging that not everyone is able to contribute in the same way, as well as properly supporting those looking for work. The aim of the system should not be humiliation, nor control: compulsory income management, and other means of punishing people who are unable to find work, are not acceptable. Similarly, the social security system should not be so meagre as to force people to rely on emergency relief, or on charity and the community sector, for their essential needs.