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‘Where the primary interest of corporate entities in marketisation is in gaining access to lucrative government contracts or subsidies and maximising shareholder return, privately provided services can lose the features expected of public services: equal treatment, uncompromised commitment to needs, and stable provision over time.’ – Meagher and Wilson

How can we tell if government decisions to sell public assets or change the way social services are delivered will benefit the public?

In recent decades, public assets have been sold and public services contracted out to the private sector. Portrayed by policymakers as replacing the inefficiencies and rigidities of bureaucracy with the vigorous discipline of market competition and the choices of empowered consumers, marketisation has become the dominant model of social provision.

But what problems do private sector organisations solve? Do they create new ones? Private organisations are expected to cost less, give consumers more ‘choice’ and provide higher quality services. Yet private organisations are not immune from waste, corruption and inflexibility. The shift from public to private raises many questions about democratic accountability, equitable distribution of social goods, and access to and exercise of power.

Markets, Rights and Power in Australian Social Policy
Edited by Gabrielle Meagher and Susan Goodwin
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781920899950

Book information sheet

This book is the first in our new Public and Social Policy series. The Public and Social Policy series publishes original, peer-reviewed research in the fields of policy design, implementation and evaluation – books that ask interesting and challenging questions about public and social policy. Analyses, international and comparative perspectives are strongly encouraged.

About the editors:
Gabrielle Meagher is professor of social policy in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.
Susan Goodwin is associate professor in policy studies in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.

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