Will this election create a fairer more egalitarian society? Not so far, according to an assessment of the social policy options being touted by the major parties.

In fact, on current indications a Coalition victory may make it worse and the ALP just maintain the status quo. After a careful assessment of what was on offer, and scoring the various policies, the results are quite scary. Of the 90-odd social policy areas of need identified, at least 50 are yet to rate any mentions, 15 are negative divisive proposals and only about 30 of the actual policies on offer are possible contributors to social well being.

The list below has been scored in a summary fashion to offer an overview of the net gains and losses of social, rather than individual wellbeing. The low levels of items to be included in major party scores are a general indictment of the lack of social policy relevance in current election agendas. The sum of positive and negative scores indicates the problem: the ALP scored +4.5 in total out of a possible +80 plus; the Coalition didn’t even make it into positive figures with a total score of -10.5.

The selected items do not include those areas that are strictly economic — they are many and much is said on them elsewhere. They covers those initiatives that can undermine or feed into social wellbeing, resilience and social cohesion. In these areas, little is happening and the long list of omissions below is not comprehensive.

The basic scoring criterion was fairness in the standard Australian sense of a fair go for all, which means looking after those who do not share in the good fortune of most others. We looked closely at gender, and indigenous needs, but recognise many missing items from other areas and groups who also miss out on their fair share of public resources: like the creative arts, cultural diversity and other social needs.

There will be many arguments about defining fairness but most would agree that overly large unfair gaps between haves and have nots need good social policy remedies. Research shows unfair inequalities can be toxic to the wellbeing of all and damage social cohesion.

The score has three categories of promises/policies on the fairness of their social impact:

  1. Divisive scare tactics; populist, scapegoating policy announcements or statements
  2. The missing possible social measures that would make Australia fairer to all that are not mentioned by the major parties
  3. The current policy promises that could be seen to have some social fairness impact.
Party identificationALPCoal
Total unfair items-6.5-13
Missing till late July-1.5-1
Proposed policy scores+123.5
Total fairness score+4-10.5

I have omitted to score the Greens — while they’ll certainly have influence, the comparisons would not have worked. The Greens have fairness/equity built into every policy; no scapegoats except maybe the odd polluters. Their influence will also be limited to those areas where the major parties disagree and the policies below suggest this is not going to occur often.

The first group includes 15 dog whistle scare items — ‘yes’ scored as -1; a split yes/no was scored at 0.5 if there were mitigating factors. The second covers 10 social policy categories: for example, indigenous issues have had no mentions, with multiple sub items in each which obviously showed no scores as yet. There are 40 or so items, but hopefully more may yet emerge to give the lists more balance.

Group 3 includes the actual policy announcements in areas deemed to be potentially socially positive. These were scored as follows:

  • Undermines equity/fairness = -1
  • Maintain current inequities (no difference) = 0
  • Some positive indication = 0.5
  • Makes it fairer/redistributes = +1
  • Too hard to assess = ?

1. ISSUES OF PUBLIC CONCERNALPCoalition
Too much debtyes
Law-and-order gangsyes
Knives and weaponsyesyes
Securityyes
Border protectionyes
Boat people/people smugglers/Nauruyesyes
Big taxesyesyes
Decrease populationyes
“Sustainable” populationmaybe
Tighten doleyes
Greater pressure to take jobsyesyes
Income management 2011yes
Income management 2012 pilot NTyes
Boat people queue jumpersyesyes
Total6.513
2. MISSING IN ACTIONALPCoalition
Return sole parents to PPS
Raise Newstart to adequacy
Revoke welfare to work sanctions
Stop tighter disability eligibility
Participation support for disabled
Address poor indigenous education
Indigenous knowledge not taught
Gender VET in school choices
TAFE and VET equity
Return equity to core aims
Stop major competitive tendering
Extra funding for indigenous programs
Re-introduce equity programs
Reduce controls over skills determination
Tertiary funding
Recognise social value of courses
Encourage post grad for excluded
Fund representative groups
Fund academic research, not just IP based
Equal pay
Support ASU case FW tribunal
Services to cover rises in community services
Ensures states offer extra funding to services
Extra flexibility others carers
Retirement income adequacy
Supplement no super pensioners
Remove rich super tax bias
Women’s health services
Accept program and funding
Midwifery choosing homebirths
Appoint women to new structures
Indigenous respect and rights
Bottom up engagement
Local control over housing
Increased targeted VET places
More funding for indigenous training
Accredited training on cultures
Local employment funding
More funding Indigenous services
Increase PS employment
More input to national curriculum
Cultural training all service areas
3. POSSIBLE FAIRNESS POLICIESALPCoalition
Education
Education cost refundmaybeminus
Disability school feesplus
Early disability interventionplus
50,000 extra trade trainingplus
Indigenous retention low/no sportminus
Fix extra pay rich schoolsminusminus
Family friendly
PPL 6 mth 2012plus
PPL 18 wks 2011plus
EOWA – support/fund changesplus
Indigenous constitutional referendumplusplus
Child Care
Extra $6 CCTR
Money for occasional careplus
Retirement income
Super to 12%
Reduce super tax on low incomeplus
Subsidiser older benficiaries’ work.5
Earn more/keep more.5
Health
Midwives/home birthsmaybe
Defence services health
Aged services home based??
Aged residential servicesplus
Disability support servicesplus
Dr nurse emergency trainingplus
Super clinicsplusminus
Mental health suicideplus
Mental health big spendplus
Reorganise admin
Extra beds instead of servicesmaybe
Family payments
FTBA till 18maybe
Bring forward FTAneutralneutral
Lump BBonusplus
Equal pay supportplusminus
40% women on government boardsplus
40% women on ASX boardsmaybe
Use regulation to fix entitlementsminus