By Denis Hay
In the mid-20th century, Australia was a society where full-time, secure employment was the norm, and the government supplied excellent training in trades and other professions for school leavers. However, over the past four decades, neoliberal ideology has transformed Australian society, leading to high unemployment, insecure jobs, homelessness, poverty, and elevated levels of inequality.
The Rise of Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism, a political and economic philosophy that combines governments and markets, entered the Australian political mainstream in the 1980s. It advocates for the creation and maintenance of functioning markets by an interventionist state. The Hawke-Keating government implemented key reforms using neoliberal logic, such as replacing the universal pension with a market-oriented system of private savings. This trend intensified under the Coalition government of John Howard, a member of the Mont Pelerin Society, which is considered the origin of neoliberalism.
The Impact of Neoliberalism
Neoliberal policies have led to a shift in the Australian welfare state policy agenda favouring the free market, small government, and reduced social expenditure. These policies have resulted in the retrenchment of the welfare state, with the introduction of forms of conditional welfare that require participants to conform to behavioural or attitudinal tests to keep eligibility for certain payments. Consequently, even individuals with a university degree now struggle to secure full-time employment.
The Current State of Society
Today, many young Australians face the prospect of part-time, casual work with no conditions and no security. The youth of today have been left with an expensive, broken system that is based on greed and jobs for corporations that support neoliberal politicians.
Strategies for a Fair Society
To put Australia on the path to a fair society for all citizens, several strategies can be implemented:
- Promote Full-Time Employment: Governments should actively pursue policies that promote full-time employment for anyone who wants it.
- Legislate Minimum Wages and Conditions: A set of minimum wages and conditions should be legislated to sustain a decent standard of living in line with rising prosperity.
- Balance of Bargaining Power in the Workplace: Policies should be implemented to ensure a balance of bargaining power in the workplace.
- Establish a Dignified Social Transfer Safety Net: A means-tested, community-based, and dignified social transfer safety net should be set up to cover short-term contingencies.
- Address Discrimination: Acknowledge the gravity of the problem of discrimination and implement strategies to build a more inclusive country with tolerance and respect for all Australians.
By implementing these strategies, Australia can move towards a fairer society where every citizen can thrive.
How neoliberalism became an insult in Australian politics, The University of Sydney.
Equality of Opportunity in Australia Myth and Reality, The Australia Institute.
Strategies to address discrimination to build a more inclusive country, Australian Human Rights Commission.
Neoliberalism and Changing Regional Policy in Australia, Dr Matthew Tonts and Dr Fiona Haslam-McKenzie.
Social Cohesion Insights 06: Inequality and the ‘Fair Go’ in Australia, Scanlon Foundation Research Institute.
Inequality and the ‘fair go’ in Australia, Scanlon Institute.
Denis Hay: At 82 years young, I stand as a testament to the enduring power of dedication and belief in social justice. My journey has been shaped by a deep conviction that every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that equal opportunities for thriving should be a universal right.
My beliefs are not just ideals; they are the driving force behind my active engagement in advocating for change. I am deeply concerned about the pressing issue of climate change, recognizing its urgency and the need for immediate, collective action. This is not just a matter of policy for me, but a moral imperative to safeguard our planet for the generations to come.
As an administrator of several Facebook pages, I use my platform to challenge the prevailing neoliberal ideology, which I see as a destructive force against our society and environment. My goal is to foster a political system that truly serves the people, ensuring access to essential needs like decent housing, secure and well-paid jobs, education, and healthcare for all.
In this chapter of my life, my mission is clear: to leave behind a world that is better and more just for my grandchildren and future generations. It is a commitment that guides my every action, a legacy of compassion and advocacy that I hope will inspire others to join the cause.
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