If the McClure reforms are adopted, get ready for the return of Daddy Warbucks…

The latest contribution from the Federal Government in what is rapidly becoming a pogrom against those Australians beset by illness or disability is the interim report entitled A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes.

The work of Mr Patrick McClure AO, the report reads in large part like an anodyne recitation of soothing statements in flawless bureaucratese. A fair bit of bait and switch is going on here, because the point of what McClure is proposing (and with a straight face) is buried knee-deep in the turgid prose. I’m going to ignore most of the report’s recommendations and focus on one specific area which I think is simply wishful fantasy that does not deserve to form the basis of serious policy that will affect hundreds of thousands of lives.


Innovative solutions are required to address the multiple issues faced by disadvantaged communities. These solutions need to bring together corporates, philanthropic organisations and individuals, government and the community to address these issues.

Translated into plain English, this is an appeal to wealthy businesses and individuals to run charitable programs instead of making the Government pay for them. In a similar vein is this gem of insight

Employers play a key role in improving outcomes for people on income support by providing jobs. Reforms are needed to ensure that the social support system effectively engages with employers and has an employment focus.

Brilliant. I have to say it never occurred to me until I read this report that employers are the ones who provide jobs. I guess that does give them a ‘key role’. And again with the ‘employment focus’. I wonder if Mr McClure is trying to hint that the social support system might have a ‘party focus’ or a ‘lifestyle focus’.

This ‘employment focus’ seems to exert a hypnotic effect on the authors of the report, who murmur it like a mantra…

How can an employment focus be embedded across all employment and support services?

This sentence is written in English but I still find it hard to understand. In my naive and childish way I thought that ‘employment and support services’ were already pretty focused on employment because, well….that’s what they do isn’t it? Are there employment services which are don’t have this ‘employment focus’?

How can business-led covenants be developed to generate employment for people with disability and mental health conditions?

This is really hilarious. Mr McClure with the greatest respect must not know many people who have struggled against the stigma of finding employment with either low back pain or a mental health issue. I can see those very same employers who look away and mutter “We really need someone who is 100% for this job” just queueing up to be part of this consortium. Those same business leaders who get up at industry summits and preach social responsibility while also self-insuring for their workers’ compensation claims so they can be outside the Victorian WorkSafe system because this makes it much easier to terminate workers who are slow to recover, or refuse to have them back if they don’t recover fully. Business-led covenants? Give me a break.

How can the expertise and resources of corporates and philanthropic investors drive innovative solutions for disadvantaged communities?

In other words, bring back the Victorian era of wealthy amateur philanthropists instead of having professionally run and sustainably planned programs overseen by Government departments. What a great idea to leave the employment prospects of ‘disadvantaged’ Australians to the whim of private donors and their plans for self-aggrandizement. It’s not innovative, it’s been done before and it was a bad idea. It amounts to flogging off the welfare sector to indulge the narcissism of guilty rich people. Not exactly what the Enlightenment thinkers had in mind I’m sure. So much for the Social Contract. The Government is more than happy to take your taxes but lose that job and you’re dead to them.

Next I suppose we will be encouraged to send our cutest orphans out to find their Daddy Warbucks. That was an endearing bit of innovative corporate philanthropic investment.

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