Neoliberal Welfare Reform and 'Rights' Compliance Under Australian Social Security Law

36 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2006

See all articles by Terry Carney AO

Terry Carney AO

The University of Sydney Law School


Recent neoliberal reforms to Australian social security and labour law privilege individual industrial bargaining and adopt a 'job-first' policy for welfare recipients, which exposes them to greater market pressures. This builds on earlier Howard conservative government reforms such as the privatisation of job matching services, insistence on mutual obligation and workfare expectations of the social security clients, and intensification of loss of payment penalties for compliance breaches. This article examines the extent to which social security decisionmaking in Australia is favourably influenced by international treaties which include social security among the social and economic rights sought to be protected. It is argued that rights to social security are of their nature weak and sometimes internally conflicted, but this is compounded by their more limited purchase in Australian law. Consequently international law has been of less assistance in protecting social security rights within Australia than is the case internationally.

Keywords: social security, human rights, welfare-to-work, reform

JEL Classification: I38, K10, A13, D63, H55

Suggested Citation

Carney AO, Terry, Neoliberal Welfare Reform and 'Rights' Compliance Under Australian Social Security Law. Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 06/61, Available at SSRN:

Terry Carney AO (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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