“Conversation Starters” To Help Design A UBI

By Tim Hollo June 25, 2018

UBI Conversation Starters - Green InstituteIn the eighteen months since we kicked off a discussion about Universal Basic Income with our paper, Can Less Work Be More Fair?, the conversation has grown tremendously, with so much interest from around the Greens and beyond. Now it’s time for the next step.

Up to now, we’ve been talking in general terms about the kinds of changes UBI might bring to our society, and the challenges we currently face that make it worth considering. But, as the discussion has broadened, it’s become clear that people are keen to get their teeth into the nitty gritty: what might a UBI look like, and how can we get there? What needs to be kept and what can be replaced if we move to UBI? What kind of supportive and parallel policies will be needed?

This is a conversation that we need to have together. It’s grappling with some really big questions about how our society is structured, what we consider to be important, and what we prioritise. It’s a great place to show how big policy change can be driven by grassroots conversations!

So we’ve put together three “Conversation Starter” papers on UBI, look at the “What and Why“, the “How and How Much“, and the “How To” of Universal Basic Income. With bits of information, and links to explore further, they set out discussion points to guide conversations, such as “What policies, services and payments are most important to work with a UBI?”, “What kind of society would be fostered by a Job Guarantee as opposed to a UBI?”, “Is a trial worth the risks?”, “What co-benefits would a Youth Basic Income bring?”, and “What supportive policies would be required to enable people to manage?”

While these conversation starters are meant to frame questions and guide discussion rather than answer questions, one thing we hope they make absolutely clear is that a Greens vision of UBI is completely opposite to treating it as a silver bullet. Ecological Democracy is all about embracing and understanding complexity and interconnection, so any policy has to be seen in context, and UBI prime amongst them.

It must be seen going hand in hand with substantial increases in the progressive taxation system; it must be placed next to a suite of policies to deal with housing affordability and fairer industrial relations policies; and it must treated as part of a much larger push for universalism, supporting rather than competing with ever better investment in universal public health and education.

There’s a lot for discussion here! We hope you find these papers useful! Please get in touch if there are other questions you feel would benefit from this kind of treatment. And please let us know how your conversations go! Feed any ideas back to us so we can pass them on!



Gösta Lyngå says

Thanks Tim! I think it is a great idea to exchange ideas at this stage.
I have the following comments:
1. The issue of UBI could be linked to the discussion about an alternative to GDP. Both discussions concern the fact that much of the informal labour such as care for children and other family members, should be valued.
2. We should consider that a certain percentage of a UBI should be paid for children under the age of 16 years. That would be payable to parents or some alternative carer.
3. I notice that the Finland project will end at the end of 2018 and I very much look forward to the following evaluation.
Looking forward to other comments,
Gösta Lyngå (gosta@esc.net.au)


Gail says

I have read the three discussion papers. One thing I want to point out is that we the electorate are the government and we elect representatives paid for out of our tax payments.
The more time people have to protect, care, embrace those locally the less carbon footprint they leave.
UBI creates the conditions for worker owned and directed co-operatives where the workers will make sure their surplus is used to benefit each other and those locally without damage to the social environment.


John Davidson says

If we paid everyone between 20 and 65 the Newstart allowance of $273/week it would cost about $185 billion p.a. which is about 70% of the commonwealth tax on income for 16/17 (50% of total commonwealth tax.) Sure there are some savings but we would have to double the commonwealth tax take to pay for a UBI for working age Australians. It sounds all very nice to replace Newstart with a UBI that pays all working age Australians $273 per week but the fight to double the tax rate would be daunting and hardly worth fighting given that most of the UBI recipients don't really need the money. Even worse the UBI tax would make it hard to increase other taxes to pay for health education defence etc, (NOTE: A UBI for over 65's paid for by ending all the suprannuation subsidies and tax breaks for the rich would actually save money.)
We have to think of other alternatives if the aim is to replace Newstart with something that guarantees that the people in need do do get the help they need without having to fight centerlink. We need to start with looking at alternatives that provide help when it is really needed without having to justify the need to something like Centerlink. Something based on a mix of things like negative taxation, the right to take out welfare sized loans etc.


Jill Lyall says

I agree with John that a UBI is not realistic immediately in Australia. There is a danger it could be inflationary, by increasing the spending power of many people for whom it would just be excess spending money, resulting in too high a demand for goods, leading to inflation. I would rather see a more generous and less conditional Social Security system along side a program of education, training and guaranteed jobs via community and public service and public works. This could include funding for cooperatives. The big thing that is missing in our society at the moment (apart from a humane and adequate social security system) is a set of pathways back into participation in the economy and society for those who have fallen out of orbit for whatever reason - it could be illness, disability, domestic violence or homelessness, retrenchment from a long term job, for example. The Job Network Agency is nothing more than a privatised scam and helps very few. The government has a role to play in ensuring people in these situations get adequate support to retain their dignity, their skills, and their participation in society by having easy access to retraining, further education, and re-entry jobs. And of course the retraining and education should be something that is tailored to the individual talents and preferences of the individual as far as possible. This would mean people would not be channelled into factories and aged care jobs when they are not suitable for these jobs. It would mean a person with post graduate qualification would get the job for their level of education. The artist would get the job that fits with their skill set.

The other obvious thing that needs to go along with this is something to address homelessness and housing affordability but that is another whole area for discussion.


Evan Hadkins says

It seems like an adequate UBI means raising taxes. Keen to hear views on the raising of corporate taxes. Also the extent of concessions to corporates and very wealthy citizens.

Raising the dole to the level of the pension (and then indexing it) would be a good start. And abolishing most or all of the compliance burden. I would like to know how much the government outlays for the compliance system.


Diane says

Excellent! I've been having many discussion, and now I'll have more.
Regarding children, it could be added that they might receive a portion of the set amount, as this would go along way to helping pay for childcare or rewarding those people who chose to stay home to raise their own children.
In regard to a jobs guarantee, it is often very expensive to create jobs, and the jobs rarely provide good career options. With a UBI, people will find their own way to make use of their time, whether or not that involves payment for their services.


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