Policy proposal for a basic income - a Social Dividend Payment (SDP) - which is paid universally and taxable, but not means tested.
Policy Status: New
Portfolio: Minister for Social Services, The Hon. Paul Fletcher MP
Brief description of the proposed policy
Offering of a basic income, a Social Dividend Payment (SDP), which is paid universally and taxable, but not means tested. The payment is a share of our Commonwealth, paid to all to recognise the value of their citizenship and unpaid contributions of time and effort for common wellbeing.
The payment recognises the unpaid work/time of most women and many men and creates equity of recognitions. It should start at current pension levels and remove welfare stigma, simplify eligibility and encourage extra earnings. It would replace social security income support but not extra allowances, based on additional costs incurred.
It would support those engaged in a wider range of socially useful unpaid roles that limit their access to other income and reduce effective marginal tax rates. In times of possibly reduced demands for labour and the need to reduce environmental damage, it offers options for redistributing work hours.
Reducing stigma and bureaucratic complexity for ex-welfare recipients will increase their sense of agency and encourage wider social and market efforts.
This is the claim for a universal payment which would be most likely to be implemented in a series of tranches, starting with both a trial and including categories of welfare recipients. These are covered in other proposals, with this as an end goal.
Why are these changes needed?
There are two aspects to this payment. The most urgent one is the overall problems with current income support systems. The existing welfare payments system is not effective in either maintaining even very basic living standards or assisting people to move into other sources of income. There has been no action, despite evidence that the current rates and criteria make life unnecessarily difficult for most of those on Centrelink income support.
The second is looking at the inequity problems of income distribution amongst those who are mainly dependent of earned income. The gross differences in earned income so often reflect many social and structural factors in the distribution of paid jobs. Many are caused by a long-term intransigent gender pay gap, as women are both paid less for hours worked and tend to work fewer hours because of unpaid work responsibilities. Others come from too few jobs or experience, where people live, prejudices, disabilities, and reduced demands for labour.
Many of these also contribute unpaid time in many areas including creative ones. An extra secure income would benefit all of these by increasing their sense of wellbeing. Those not needing it or using it to contribute more unpaid time, would lose most in tax.
Given expected major changes in the demands for skills and labour, given both environmental damage and technological replacement of labour, we need a system that recognises both the need for people to be able to move in and out of changing labour markets and that poverty and stigma are not effective stimuli for effective job seeking.
Who benefits/gains from the policy proposal?
The current recipients of social services and their families; low-income communities; welfare agencies; the community at large, as inequality and poverty are reduced; those seeking to join or re-join the labour force, as they will not be damaged by stigmatising, inappropriate procedures and forms of compliance that accompany impossibly inadequate incomes. By offering a non-means tested low income recipients, it recognises mainly women’s care time and the many others who make contributions to social well being unpaid and gives them control over their time choices.
Who may lose from the policy proposal?
Taxpayers will have to fund both higher payments and more recipients, but hopefully these costs will be offset by reduced demand for policing, less crime and lower healthcare costs. In the long term, few would lose as a more humane program would contribute more effective paid and unpaid work and increased contributions to social well being.
Does your policy have either major party’s support?
Not yet. Despite wide international interest, trials and debates, and interest from the public, neither major party is prepared to challenge the unproven merits of a heavily means tested system.
Therefore, we are intending to offer a staged program with some trials. Claims the Australian system is an effective redistributor of income fails to recognise the harm done to recipients. The LNP, by introducing more conditional income management forms of payment in so called “trials”, ignores the lack of evidence of benefits in their evaluations. The ALP acknowledges the inadequacy of current unemployment benefits and welfare issues but has only offered an inquiry, if in office.
Other groups and categories of people supportive of your proposal
ACOSS and other welfare groups are wary of radical proposals, so push various urgently needed versions of reform to welfare payments. Their basic intention is to reduce poverty and simplify the system but have no wider reform options. The Greens are supportive of a UBI. There is increased interest in basic payments by advocates and academics, internationally plus some national pilots in the Netherlands, Switzerland and parts of the UK.
Groups and categories that would oppose it? If so, why?
The conservative members of society who assume that failing to find paid work is a personal choice or lack of effort; the ‘taxpayers’ who object to paying for anyone who is not in paid work and not ‘contributing economically’; some unions which are mistakenly concerned that its interaction with low income pay rates may reduce workers’ status and power.
Will extra costs will be incurred? Yes, but in the long term, there would be considerable social and economic benefits.
Time line for the proposal to be implemented
Depends on whether there will be stages and trials, see policy here.