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AUSTRALIA: Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen (Labor Party) Urges Party NOT to Support Universal Basic Income

Chris Bowen. Credit to Britta Campion


Shadow Treasurer of the Australian Labor Party, Chris Bowen who is the Opposition Minister for Government expenditure and revenue raising, delivered a speech to the progressive think tank PerCapita in Sydney on June 9th, expressing his resistance to the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), despite the support within the Labor Party for such a policy. Bowen describes the UBI as a “terrible idea” and claims that the model would undermine the Labor Party principle of ensuring dignity through work in Australia. Bowen then makes another common argument against a UBI, that it delivers unnecessary payments to the wealthy. Following this line of thought, Bowen expresses support for means tested benefits where citizens can access welfare on a conditional basis, claiming that this would be a more cost-effective measure for alleviating poverty. This claim, however, is made without establishing his grounds for comparison.

Bowen has also said that UBI could lead to a “savage cut” in people’s current benefits, namely pensions or disability allowances, and also that unsustainable tax rises would be necessary. These are reminders of two other common arguments against basic income: that UBI will demolish social security and that it cannot be financed (due to an unsustainable tax system).

Meanwhile, the Australian Green Party support the consideration of a UBI in conjunction with a four-day work week. This proposal is consistent with the idea that a UBI is best implemented as part of a broader policy package that aims to address concerns such as inequality and the impact of technological change on working conditions.

More information at:

Katharine Murphy, “Chris Bowen attacks universal basic income as ‘payments to millionaires’”, The Guardian, 8th June 2017

Roberta Stewart

About Roberta Stewart

Roberta Stewart has written 5 articles.

Roberta Stewart is a Trade Unionist who works at the National Tertiary Education Union in Sydney Australia and is studying Government and International Relations at The University of Sydney

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