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Discussion paper

We’ve got your back: building a framework that protects us from precarity

A discussion paper on reconfiguring our social security system
Neo-liberalism Welfare recipients Welfare reform Social security Social inequality Australia

This paper has been developed on the basis of a noticeable fracturing of the public trust and political consensus around the capacity of markets to provide the security and stability that people are increasingly denied, but continue to long for. This fracturing has been accelerated by COVID-19, along with the devastating bushfires of the summer of 2019/2020 with their clear links to the climate emergency.

Along with this decline in public trust and political consensus around the capacity of the market to arrest the translation of economic crises into personal crises, has come a strengthening of public trust in public institutions and a heightened expectation of the key role of government in addressing the causes and the symptoms of precarity and inequality. This has not equated with anything even close to a wholesale rejection of market mechanisms or capitalism per se. These crises, however, along with a growing sense of public outrage over the aged care crisis, characterised by the failure of a market-based model with its obscene prioritisation of profit over care, have called into question the primacy of the market as the chief solution for unemployment, precarity, and inequality.

What this paper proposes is a complete reconfiguration of our social security system; a reconfiguration that brings together in an integrated policy framework the elements that would constitute a social guarantee in the face of the threats to social and economic security that have come to characterise the neoliberal era. The social guarantee should not, however, be seen merely as a means of ameliorating the dehumanising effects of precarity and inequality, but as a key part of the project of displacing the neoliberal logic, gradually removing, rather than just dealing with, its consequences, and developing an alternative architecture for a more egalitarian society.


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