Australia: Building a virtuous circle

©Australian Government

The Australian government is seeking to develop a social coalition of families, communities, non-government organisations, business and government to help build and support strong, resilient families. The government’s role is twofold–it pursues policies for a strong economy, and social policies to support individuals, families and communities to fulfil their aspirations and deal with difficulties.

Australia’s recent strong economic performance and budget surpluses mean we have the ability to give back to families a higher social dividend in the form of better funded and better quality healthcare, education and family assistance.

Australia is well placed to meet the challenges of its ageing society. Its retirement income system is built around compulsory savings through employer contributions to superannuation, voluntary superannuation contributions (supported by generous taxation concessions, and by government co-contributions for low earners) and other private savings. This is underpinned by a publicly funded, means-tested Age Pension for those in need.

We are committed to developing policies that help parents balance their work and family responsibilities. We have committed to introducing a Family Impact Statement, whereby ministers take account of the impacts of new proposals on families. We are responding to relationship breakdowns by supporting families with programmes that help couples learn a range of skills to assist them to work through difficult times.

Our National Agenda for Early Childhood provides a framework to improve the integration of support services in areas such as health, early learning and care, and creating child-friendly communities. We offer choice and opportunity to families who face different challenges at different times in their family life-cycle, for example, by providing family payments for both working and home-based parents, high quality and affordable childcare, and support to carers of the elderly and disabled.

We pursue a strong economy because of the benefits that flow to individuals, families, and communities. Appropriate social infrastructure in turn facilitates economic activity and prosperity. A virtuous circle is established.

See also replies by five other OECD ministers: Netherlands' minister for social affairs and employment and chair of the 2005 OECD social affairs meeting, Aart Jan de Geus, Germany’s federal minister for health and social security, Ulla Schmidt, Korea’s Geun Tae Kim, minister for health and welfare and co-chair of the 2005 meeting, Sweden’s minister for social affairs, Berit Andnor, who is also co-chairing, and from the US, Wade F. Horn, who is assistant secretary for children and families at the DHHS.

©OECD Observer No 248, March 2005

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