Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Let’s Broaden The Welfare Debate – Not Dumb It Down

I am very pleased today to launch the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare’s fifth biennial report, Australia’s Welfare 2001.

The Report is a comprehensive examination of Australia’s welfare services.

Importantly, the Report does not try to over simplify the welfare story.

Too often the welfare debate in Australia is ‘dumbed down’ by both politicians and media commentators who simply want to get their ten second grab up on the news.

It’s not much of a challenge to find a bad news story amongst the lives of 5.5 million welfare clients.

It’s much more of a challenge to frame a sensible debate that might actually culminate in solutions to make the lives of 5.5 million welfare clients better.

Today’s Report is useful because it presents a comprehensive set of facts and does not pretend that the solutions and the problems are easy or uncomplicated.

The Report also debunks a lot of myths that are commonly presented to the public as facts.

For instance, it shows that welfare is not just about handouts. In fact, unpaid carers make a massive contribution to our welfare system. The value of unpaid services provided by carers and helpers in households was $27.2 billion in 1999-00.

The Report also shows that the Federal and State governments are not cutting back on welfare. In real terms Commonwealth and State expenditure on welfare services has increased by about 7% a year since the early 1990s.

I welcome the release of the Report today and hope that it encourages people interested in the welfare debate to take the time to understand the complexities of the story in this area.