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This book brings together scholars from the fields of politics, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and economics, to explore pathways towards implementing a Basic Income in Australia. It is the first book of its kind to outline avenues for implementation of a basic income specifically for Australia and responds to a gap in the existing basic income literature and published titles to provide a distinct standpoint in the exploration of basic income within the Australian contemporary policy landscape. The first section of the book outlines some of the continuing substantive and philosophical issues regarding BI implementation. In the second section of the book, authors offer practical strategies and models for progressing BI in Australia.



1. Introduction: Implementing a Basic Income in Australia

A Basic Income (BI) is a simple idea: a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement (BIEN, What is a basic income? Basic Income Earth Network. https://​basicincome.​org/​basic-income/​/​, 2018). Scholars, activists and politicians are increasingly becoming aware of the radical potential a BI could have to societies around the world: from economic security, fairer wealth distribution, justice and poverty eradication through to degrowth and gender equality (Weeks, The problem with work: Feminism, marxism, antiwork politics, and postwork imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011; Ackerman, Alstott, & Van Parijs, 2006; Standing, A precariat charter: From denizens to citizens. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014; Altman, The Howard government’s Northern Territory intervention: Are neo-paternalism and indigenous development compatible? Topical Issue 16/2007, Center for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, the Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 2016; Atkinson, The British Journal of Sociology, 65(4): 619–638, 2014; Davala et al., Basic income: A transformative policy for India. London/New York: Bloomsbury, 2015). The idea of a BI is also gaining attention in Australia, and while there has been speculation as to how it could work in Australia, a thorough analysis of pathways forward is missing. Within the pages of this book, we present the works of intellectuals considering issues of BI implementation in Australia.
Elise Klein, Jennifer Mays, Tim Dunlop

Key Issues for Implementation


2. Basic Income in Australia: Implementation Challenges

This chapter explores some of the barriers to a basic income (BI) gaining greater policy traction, some of which relates to the highly targeted nature of the social security system in Australia. BI is often represented by critics as an expensive and unnecessary transfer payment that goes to ‘people that don’t need welfare’, which makes it difficult to break from the cultural hegemony of the paid work ethic as the foundation of social citizenship in Australia. The case for change must be built on ideas that seek to transform the present, supported by a broad-based social movement.
Greg Marston

3. Basic Income in the Current Climate: If Australia Can Implement Other Universal Provisions, Then Why Not a Basic Income?

Global and national debates and activism have called for a renewed vision in progressing the transition to basic income in Australia. Much of the reenvisioning of basic income is driven by the impact of austerity and neoliberal policies together with major structural adjustments where growing income and wealth inequalities is leading to exacerbated poverty (White, The everyday life of the State: A state-in-society approach (pp. 3–12). Seattle, WA: University of Washington, 2013). This chapter explores the basic income as one way forward to redress extreme poverty and inequality. The chapter uses the case of the Blind Pension payment as an example of one universal, unconditional provision akin to basic income that could be extended to all people. What follows is a call for a renewed vision and architecture in the structural adjustment process encompassing egalitarianism underpinning distribution schemes.
Jennifer Mays

4. Feminist Perspectives on Basic Income

Feminist claims for equality have, for too long, been defined by dominant male criteria and values, which fail to recognise the high level of unpaid contributions made by women. Current debate on the provision of an ‘unearned’ Basic Income (BI) offers a rare opportunity to address intransigent gender pay and status gaps. Western societies’ long industrial history of paid work served to increase the established gender divide by only valuing people by their earned/owned income. There are increasingly relevant arguments for a BI as demand for paid workers diminishes. If universal, this type of payment should acknowledge the value of unpaid work time contributions, now provided mainly by women but, hopefully in the future, by more men. It would address the income inequities created by unpaid women being the main providers of services, as well as being underpaid for commercialised similar roles.
Therefore, feminist lenses are required to devise more appropriate versions of the future, which are not limited by masculinised viewpoints. These alternate viewpoints return value to current unpaid social roles and contributions to citizenship that are not dependent on paid roles and can devise payments to match.
Eva Cox

5. Basic Income and Cultural Participation for Remote-Living Indigenous Australians

In much of remote Australia where a sizable minority of Indigenous people live, labour markets are able to employ only a small fraction of the working-age Indigenous population, a legacy of Australia’s settler-colonial past and present. In this chapter, we do two things. First, we describe the former Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme as a basic-income-like programme. Using survey data from 2002–2003 to 2014–2015, we examine the impact of the abolition of the CDEP as a proxy for a future basic income scheme on cultural participation. We find that the existence of CDEP was associated with a modest increase in cultural participation, especially in attendance of sporting carnivals. Second, we argue for the implementation of a true basic income scheme in remote Australia as a first priority for a staged programme nationally.
Jon Altman, Francis Markham

6. Diversion Ahead? Change Is Needed but That Doesn’t Mean That Basic Income Is the Answer

Using an expanded version of De Wispelaere and Stirton’s 2004 framework for assessing basic income policies, we examine selected past and recent trials. The trials have all produced inconclusive results, in part because of the political contexts in which they have been implemented. As a result, they do little to progress policy reforms to address the challenges of economic insecurities and inequalities. Basic income proposals can act as beacons for change, but because they often lack detail, they risk distracting attention from the challenges and opportunities for social security reform. Our expanded framework enables detailed assessment of the dimensions of proposals for change. It also enables the identification of the elements of basic income proposals that can be incorporated into progressive efforts to reclaim social security.
Dina Bowman, Shelley Mallett, Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue

Avenues for Implementation


7. Finding a Political Strategy for a Basic Income in Australia

Achieving a Basic Income requires an appreciation of the political context and a political strategy to shift the discourse and build power. This chapter outlines the existing political context in Australia, analysing the positions of the major political parties and civil society organisations, challenging the narratives of stigmatisation of the vulnerable and fetishisation of paid labour and proposing approaches to build support for Basic Income.
Tim Hollo

8. Basic or Universal? Pathways for a Universal Basic Income

A variety of forms of basic income (BI) have been proposed, including universal payments, guaranteed minimum incomes and negative income taxes. The relative merits of these proposals have been the subject of some debate. Much of the confusion surrounding the issue can be resolved by the observation that, in terms of their effect on the final distribution of income, after taxes and transfers, all three are equivalent, in the sense that any distribution arising from a universal payment can be replicated by a guaranteed minimum income or negative income tax. Despite this equivalence, the proposals imply different paths from the current situation to a BI, and therefore different political strategies. In this chapter, it is argued that a ‘basic first’ approach beginning with a guaranteed minimum income is the most likely to yield a feasible path to a BI and to raise crucial political challenges to the existing system.
John Quiggin

9. Stepping Stones to an Australian Basic Income

This chapter explores a “stepping stones” approach to Basic Income in the Australian context. It identifies two policy changes that would mark a partial shift away from Australia’s highly means-tested transfer system towards a more universal model of income support.
Specifically, we propose a combination of unwinding means-testing for the age pension and gradually lowering the eligibility age with a Youth Basic Income paid to those aged 20–24 based on a modified negative income tax model.
We argue together these proposals allow for an alternative to the neoliberal politics of population ageing, addressing emerging intergenerational inequalities in Australia’s current dualised model.
Ben Spies-Butcher, Troy Henderson

10. What About Young People? Why a Basic Income for Young People Matters

A basic income (BI) has been discussed and debated for decades. However, very few of these discussions have considered the specific concerns impacting the implementation of a BI for young people. This chapter suggests that the problematising societal constructions of young people will inhibit considerations of an equitable BI being paid to young people16 years and older. This chapter will analyse the discourses and policies which reflect and enable these constructions of young people. It argues that young people are both responsible citizens and rights holders and that a BI paid at the rate equivalent to adults will better enable young people to enact those responsibilities.
Jenny Kaighin

11. Situating a Basic Income Alongside Paid Work Policies

A Basic Income (BI) seeks to thoroughly de-commodify labour in the long term. Ideas for such a new payment need to be realistically situated alongside policies to enhance opportunities for paid work, particularly for those people who need it most. In the short and medium term, better policies to support job creation, work/life balance, improved quality of working life and skills retraining will be needed alongside any steps towards a BI. The Nordic nations have partly de-commodified people’s labour through policy approaches of this kind. The ways in which those countries have done so are valuable for Australia and other English-speaking countries to consider and learn from.
Andrew Scott

12. Social Work, Human Services and Basic Income

Economic inequality is increasing globally and in Australia. Social work and human services (SWHS) professions will be part of the response to the social consequences of this division. However, SWHS have always been contested professions, split between individualist and structural approaches to combatting the social harms of economic inequality. The recent renewal of “critical social work” raises the prospects for a more structural, reform-oriented response from SWHS practitioners to rising inequality. From a critical SWHS perspective, a basic income (BI) could provide a useful response to structural inequality, provided it is part of a redistributive policy suite and not simply a cost-saving replacement for other welfare measures. We argue, based on past and current examples, that critical SWHS could be supportive allies in campaigning for an equitable and adequate BI. This chapter highlights the potential contribution that critical SWHS workers could make in promoting the BI campaign through practitioner activism, professional advocacy and critical pedagogy.
Phillip Ablett, Christine Morley, Michelle Newcomb

13. Basic Income in Canada: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead

This chapter examines efforts to put a basic income (BI) in place in Canada. We trace the story of efforts to launch some version of BI over many decades in Canada, including shifts in the political discourse on BI among politicians, parties and advocacy groups at both the federal and provincial levels. We also examine practical attempts to test the BI model in Canada, including an experiment that ran in Manitoba in the 1970s, and a pilot project that was launched and then cancelled in Ontario during the period of 2016–2018. Finally, we offer some lessons that could be instructive for Australia and other jurisdictions based on Canadian experiences with advocacy for and experimentation with BI.
James P. Mulvale, Sid Frankel

14. Concluding Remarks and an Invitation

Sometimes it is forgotten how radical universal health care was considered when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam introduced it in 1975. Now taken as a crucial pillar of Australian social security, Medibank, as it was then called, suffered prolonged and passionate opposition (which continues today in some segments of society). In fact, even after it was legislated in parliament, universal health care suffered rollbacks during the Fraser years, only to be reinstated again under Hawke in the 1980s. Most of us now know that our lives have been improved profoundly by having such a universal scheme, to the extent that any perceived efforts to undermine it almost instantly generate a community pushback (as happened during the 2016 federal election and the so-called Mediscare campaign).
Elise Klein, Tim Dunlop, Jennifer Mays


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