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Inside the Welfare Lobby

A History of the Australian Council of Social Service
The Role of Interest Groups in Australian Social Policy

Author text to follow

The Australian welfare lobby group – the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) – has played a central role in the welfare politics debate as the foremost defender of the Australian welfare state. ACOSS is widely recognized as one of the most important lobby groups in Australia, and enjoys regular access to the media and key policy makers in government and the bureaucracy. Relevant case studies and source material are used to draw attention to:

The role that interest groups play in the formation of government policy agendas.

The lobbying strategies used by welfare advocacy groups to influence welfare state outcomes.

The relationship between the welfare sector and other key lobby groups and political parties.

The impact of key contemporary influences such as neo-liberalism and economic globalization which have arguably transformed the political context within which welfare advocacy groups operate.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-119-1
Paperback Price: £15.95 / $29.50
Release Date: November 2006
Page Extent / Format: 144 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




1 From Voluntary Welfare Coordination to Social Action: The early
years of the Australian Council of Social Service, 1955–1970
2 Towards Social Policy Advocacy, 1970–1975
3 Watchdog for the Poor, 1976–1985
4 A Political Insider, 1985–1996
5 Protecting the Welfare Safety Net, 1996–2006
6 Labourists and Welfarists: The Relationship between the Federal Labor Party and the Australian Council of Social Service
7 Neo-Liberalism versus Social Justice: The Relationship between the Federal Liberal Party and the Australian Council of Social Service
8 A Natural Alliance? The Relationship between the Australian Trade Union movement and the Australian Council of Social Service


Appendix I: ACOSS leaders
Appendix II: ACOSS Publications
Appendix III: Author interviews and correspondence

Philip Mendes has written an important book about an important organisation. The debate about fairness in Australia has been hijacked by the Coalition and their army of supporters in the right-wing think tanks and sections of the media. ACOSS helps to reframe that debate. In our common quest to make Australia a fairer and more prosperous country, Mendes's book reminds us of the importance of a strong voice for the most vulnerable.
Wayne Swan, Australian Labor Party member for Lilley, and ALP Shadow Treasurer

This book helps to fill an acute shortage in academic writing about the major interest groups that play such a large role in Australian policy-making and politics. ACOSS stands alongside the BCA, the ACTU, the NFF and other large peak organisations; without an understanding of ACOSS our knowledge of contemporary politics is incomplete. In particular, ACOSS’ role in welfare politics is central. Mendes has the best credentials of anyone I know to write such a book. His knowledge of ACOSS is up to date and detailed. This book will be a major resource for all university courses in contemporary Australian politics and a necessary guide for all informed political commentators.
John Warhurst, Professor of Politics, School of Social Sciences, Australian National University

Philip Mendes offers us a study of how ACOSS has built and developed its messages along with its tactics in seeking to influence policy to tackle poverty. Politicians, organisations, and researchers will all find something of interest in this examination of the case of the ACOSS and its relation to the policy making process. By studying the organisation, tensions in its role and its ability to adapt to its circumstances, alongside evaluating its successes, both around agenda setting and specific policy change to improve the position of those most disadvantaged in society, Mendes gives us not only a view into the ‘black box’ of policy change but an example of the strengths and weaknesses of campaigning organisations and of how their success can be judged.
Dr. Paul Dornan, Child Poverty Action Group

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