Self-respecting lives

While Labor likes to imagine itself as the party of compassion, it has been left to the centre-Right to build a fairer and more efficient welfare system, I write in The Australian today.

Yet it is centre-Right governments in New Zealand and Britain that are making the most progress in welfare reform. They have done so by toning down the rhetoric about balancing books and rediscovering core liberal-conservative principles of choice and opportunity. For Robert Menzies the goal of a Liberal government was to preside over a country that was both prosperous and just. “To every good citizen the state owes not only a chance in life but a self-respecting life,” he said in 1943…

Underpinning the new approach to welfare in Britain is the conviction that welfare is almost always a subprime solution. It is far better that people be in charge of their destiny, with the dignity that comes from work.

There is nothing overtly political about a policy designed to reduce moral hazard and make work pay. Innovative programs designed to reduce family dysfunction and reduce the number of children living in workless households deserve support from both sides. Yet in Australia, as in other developed economies, it is the centre-Right that is doing the hard yards, while the Left all but ignores the fundamental flaws in our welfare system.

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