The Annual CIS Big Ideas Forum - Welfare Without the State


In a candid conversation, our panel will discuss the vast changes in the past century to the delivery of welfare and the expectations and opinions surrounding it. In many parts of the world, including the ‘lucky country,’ government welfare is now not only an expected entitlement but also an entrenched mindset. Economically, social security payments soak up one-third or more of government spending, and yet the more the government provides, the more it seems to chip away at people’s ability or willingness to provide for themselves. This Big Ideas Forum will address how and why the old belief in dignity through work has been eroded and replaced by an acceptance, expectation and even desire for government handouts without any reciprocal responsibility. Is pride in self-reliance lost for good or can social policy encourage more personal responsibility? Can we tame the welfare juggernaut?

Professor John Hirst is a widely respected historian and social commentator. A former reader in history at La Trobe University, he has written the official history of Australia for new citizens and taken a prominent part in the History Summit convened by then Prime Minister John Howard in 2006. He is a member of the Film Australia Board and the National Museum Council.

John is the author of numerous books, including The Australians: Insiders and Outsiders on the National Character since 1770, Freedom on the Fatal Shore: Australia’s First Colony, Sense & Nonsense in Australian History, The Shortest History of Europe, and Looking for Australia.

The Hon Dr Gary Johns is an Associate Professor of Public Policy, Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic University. Gary served in the House of Representatives from 1987-1996 and was Special Minister of State and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations from 1993-1996. He served as an Associate Commissioner of the Commonwealth Productivity Commission 2002-2004. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Political Science) University of Queensland, Master of Arts (Geography) Monash University, and a Bachelor of Economics Monash University. He is President of The Bennelong Society – a Society devoted to a rational explanation of indigenous policy, in particular those challenges in integrating indigenous people into the mainstream economy.

Chief Commissioner CT ‘Manny’ Jules, from British Columbia, Canada, is a distinguished First Nation leader and innovator who has devoted over 30 years of his life to First Nations entrepreneurship and self-government. In 1974 he was elected councillor of Kamloops Indian Band for the first time, and in 1984 he was elected chief.

In his 16 years as chief, Mr. Jules spearheaded a number of initiatives, and is most well-known for co-founding the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, repatriating through purchase and negotiated settlement 45,000 acres of alienated Kamloops Indian Band reserve lands, and driving the passage in 1988 of Bill C-115, the only First Nation-led amendment to the Indian Act to date, well known as “the Kamloops Amendment.”

In 2000, Jules retired as chief to devote his full attention to leading the drive to establish the First Nations fiscal institutions, and in 2003 became lead spokesperson for the First Nation Fiscal Institutions Initiative and focused on leading Bill C-19, the First Nation Fiscal and Statistical Management Act.

Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow in the Social Foundation Program at CIS. Jeremy has contributed a number of papers to the CIS Papers in Health and Ageing Series including Like the Curate’s Egg: A Market-based Response and Alternative to the Bennett Report, The Coming Crisis of Medicare and The False Promise of GP Super Clinics Parts 1 and 2.

Jeremy’s work on the federal government’s GP Super Clinics policy led the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission to commission a series of discussion papers, which confirmed his findings that Super Clinics are not an answer to the major problems confronting the Australian health system. He has written extensively about the ‘hospital crisis’ and how to fix it.

Jeremy has also written a ground-breaking study of Australia’s child protection system, Fatally Flawed: the Child Protection Crisis in Australia (June 2009), which found that current approaches to assisting dysfunctional welfare-dependent families are putting thousands of vulnerable children at risk of serious harm.

He has a BA (Hons.) from Macquarie University and a PhD from Monash University in Australian political and social history. He has published articles on historical subjects in The Journal of Colonial History, The Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and Quadrant, and has written for all major newspapers on a broad range of health and social policy topics.

Professor Peter Saunders is a Senior Fellow at the CIS with the Social Foundations program. He was the Centre’s Director of Social Policy from 2002 to 2008 and worked mainly on poverty, social inequality, and welfare reform. He is the author of Social Foundations of a Free Society (2001), Poverty in Australia: Beyond the Rhetoric (2002), A Self-Reliant Australia (2003), Australia’s Welfare Habit: And How to Kick It (2004), and The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away (2007). He also edited Taxploitation: The Case for Income Tax Reform (2006) and (with Martin Stewart-Weeks) Supping with the Devil? Government Contracts and the Non-Profit Sector (2009).

Before joining the CIS, Peter was a professor of sociology at the University of Sussex in England and research manager at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (2000–02). He has published major works on meritocracy, contemporary capitalism, privatisation, and homeownership.