Wedge politics and welfare reform in Australia

Shaun Wilson, Nick Turnbull

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


The election of the Howard Government has marked a paradigm shift in welfare policy with the implementation of far reaching reforms around the concept of mutual obligation. At the same time, there has been media speculation about the Government's use of 'wedge politics' to sustain its political agenda with respect to welfare and other policies. Wedge politics, however, is yet to receive detailed analysis in Australian political science. We define wedge politics to be a calculated political tactic aimed at using divisive social issues to gain political support, weaken opponents and strengthen control over the political agenda. The purpose of this paper is thus twofold: to develop a definition of wedge politics and to investigate how the Howard Government's welfare reform agenda might be understood as an example of such politics, drawing out its longer-term implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-402
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2001


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