58% Of Australians Support Universal Basic Income!

By Tim Hollo December 11, 2020

Imagine if, instead of extending the awful, controlling, racist Cashless Welfare Card, as they did this week, our government was discussing how to cultivate trust, how a good society helps every one of its members get by.

Imagine if, alongside a commitment to universal health care and education, we put universal access to the funds we need to survive.

It shouldn’t be surprising that that’s a popular idea. But it kind of is.

There’s long been an assumption that nasty, punitive welfare policies are popular. As part of the long tradition of “punching down”, tabloid papers, talkback radio, and morning TV like to attack “dole bludgers” and “welfare cheats” as an easy target. And governments make life on income support as unpleasant as possible, with humiliating drug testing, paternalistic programs like Parents Next, and the devastating attack of robodebt. It’s all about keeping the workforce compliant, willing to be treated terribly in order to earn a living because the alternative is worse. And, in a classic divide and conquer approach, those with paid labour are encouraged to despise those without.

Thanks to this mythology, it’s generally been accepted that most people probably wouldn’t approve of the idea of Universal Basic Income. The idea of unconditionally giving everyone the basics that they need to survive surely wouldn’t get very far in this context. Without a long and carefully planned campaign, people would obviously reject the idea. Wouldn’t they?

I’ve often wondered about that. Because, despite the fact that most people in the “political classes” (including the labour movement and social services groups, as well as politicians and journalists and business people) generally rubbish UBI, whenever it comes up in conversation at barbecues, or in doorknocking, or at public meetings, I find a lot of curiosity and support.

So, we decided to find out.

With the contribution of a few generous donors, we put it to people in a YouGov omnibus poll:

Unconditional income support is sometimes called a Guaranteed Living Wage or a Universal Basic Income. This means that just as we can rely on basic health care and education, everyone in a society has a guaranteed minimum amount of money that they can rely on. Would you support or oppose a guaranteed living wage being introduced in Australia?

The response that came back was a real surprise. 29% strongly support, a further 29% somewhat support, and only 18% oppose.

The ABC have run an excellent piece on the poll today, which you can see here. It would be great if you’d help spread the word by sharing it widely.

I hope that, like me, you find this an uplifting note with which to draw this very trying year to a close. It feels to me like, although we are still struggling with deep systemic challenges standing in our way as we try to turn around the climate crisis and spiralling economic inequality and the theft of democratic rights, more and more people are recognising both what’s happening and what needs to be done. And this year has opened a lot of eyes.

The tipping point, when it comes, will come fast.

I look forward to your support as the Green Institute gives it another shove in 2021.


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