Targets and taxes: Explaining the welfare orientations of the Australian public

Shaun Wilson*, Ben Spies-Butcher, Adam Stebbing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Australia's welfare model - targeted payments alongside low but progressive taxation - exemplifies the targeted approach, prioritizing the needs of poorer citizens within the constraints of low taxation. But does this approach match the welfare orientations of Australia's voters? Does the public hold other views about welfare, emerging out of competing interests in welfare debates? We consider results of two questions included in the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2005. The first question asks respondents about four welfare goals that outline competing welfare orientations: targeting poverty, expanding health and education, enforcing the welfare rules and reducing welfare. The second question asks about four taxation goals drawing on similar orientations as established for welfare: targeting tax cuts, taxing for welfare, enforcing tax rules and reducing overall tax. Asking about both enables us to tell whether voters approach tax and welfare 'consistently' and to see whether, in Australia's case, there is a preference for Australia's targeting model. We reach three conclusions: (1) voters hold diverse preferences about welfare and taxes, but the targeted model has a relatively strong voter base; (2) voters hold 'pro-welfare' orientations, choosing poverty reduction and expanding public services over both paternalism and cutting welfare, and (3) multivariate analysis indicates a level of consistency in welfare and tax orientations among voters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-525
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Targets and taxes: Explaining the welfare orientations of the Australian public'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this