February 27, 2014

Today Federal Labor is announcing the start of a major social policy reform process.

Federal Labor plans to start rethinking the way governments support Australians as our economy, our workplaces and our families change.

Federal Labor will bring together some of Australia’s leading social policy experts, economists, academics, business and union leaders to consider how we can reform our social support system, to ensure we can meet the needs of modern Australia.

Over the coming months, I will lead a series of roundtable discussions and policy workshops with distinguished Australians, to start developing the policy solutions that are needed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

This will form a critical part of Labor’s broader policy reform work in opposition, and will help shape the policies of the next Labor Government.

This is a process that only Labor can drive, because only Labor understands the importance of smart, long-term social policy reform. Only Labor understands that as our society and economy changes, we need to change the way we invest in our people.

Australia’s rapidly changing economy provides opportunities as well as challenges. New skills and new ideas will drive the jobs and growth of the future, and Labor wants all Australians to benefit. This is what inclusive growth is all about – supporting people throughout their lives to take advantage of the changes in our new economy.

For a large number of Australians, secure employment, stable family relationships and home ownership are increasingly difficult to obtain. There are now large numbers of Australians who move in and out of the workforce, or who combine work, education and caring responsibilities through different times in their lives.

Our current social support system will not adequately address these issues in the future. We need to rethink how we support people into work, including people who continue to face barriers to participating in the workforce: women with children, people with disability, Indigenous Australians, young people and older Australians. 

We need to rethink how our social supports system provides for people when they fall on hard times because of sickness or disability or the loss of a job, or are experiencing significant transition in their lives.

And we need new thinking on tackling poverty, because we should never accept the pockets of extreme hardship that still exist in our country.  

For more than a century, Labor has led the way in delivering the social investments that make our country fairer, smarter and stronger.

We are proud of the good work we did in government – making sure more people were in good jobs with fair conditions; introducing the first national paid parental leave scheme; investing more in early childhood education and care; reforming the pension system; investing to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage, and introducing the National Disability  Insurance Scheme.

But social policy reform doesn’t have a finish line. There are many policy challenges that lie ahead – and Labor will continue to lead the way.

28 FEBRUARY 2014

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