SWN003 Political Economy and Policy Making

Unit synopsis

This unit recognizes the importance of political and economic factors for professional practitioners in the human service and social welfare sector. It describes and analyses the fundamentals of the Australian political system including the Parliamentary structures and law making processes at different levels of government. It explores the 'real politik' of political parties and vested interest groups in the political process giving particular attention to the development of policy. It provides an overview of public sector policy making process including the budgetary procedure. The unit encourages students to be active actors in relevant political/economic processes.

Faculty of Health
Public Health & Social Work
Study area
Health and community
Credit points

Dates and locations

Teaching period Locations
Semester 2, 2018 (Block)
23 July 2018 - 16 November 2018
  • Kelvin Grove


Commonwealth supported place (CSP) student contribution amount
2018: $805
Domestic fee-paying student fee
2018: $2,388
International student fee
2018: $3,576

Guide to fees

Commonwealth supported place (CSP) student contribution amount
For Australian citizens, permanent visa holders and permanent humanitarian visa holders, and New Zealand citizens who study this unit:
  • as part of a QUT course and are eligible for a Commonwealth supported place (CSP)
  • as a cross-institutional student who has a Commonwealth supported place at their home university.
Domestic fee-paying student fee
For Australian citizens, permanent visa holders and permanent humanitarian visa holders, and New Zealand citizens, who study this unit:
  • as part of a QUT course and are not eligible for a Commonwealth supported place (CSP)
  • as part of a QUT course during Summer Semester
  • as a cross-institutional student who does not have a Commonwealth supported place at their home university
  • as a single-unit study student.
International student fee
For international students who study this unit:
  • as part of a QUT course
  • as part of our study abroad or exchange programs
  • as a cross-institutional student.

Unit outlines


As a social worker it is critical to have a thorough appreciation of the forces which influence and change society and therein shape professional practice and the policy environment. Understanding the modern context of political economy and policy requires exploration into philosophical and ethical justifications; the current most pressing social, economic and political challenges (uneven distribution, global inequality, precarity, climate change); and trade-offs between free markets and universal schemes. This unit collects and analyses data on contemporary Australian political and economic systems, and international comparative exemplars. It links political and economic forces to challenges in social work policy related to disadvantage, injustice and inequity, marginalization, exclusion and discrimination and core practice values including respect for human rights, human dignity and social justice. The unit considers the potential for alternative visions of society and policy in the form of basic income, strengthening public services, environmental sustainability and global egalitarianism. It positions the student of social work as a committed scholar who draws on an evidence base to inform practice and their active engagement in broad political, economic and policy debates, which impact on the wellbeing of individuals, families, groups and communities.


This unit requires evaluation of existing literature to immerse students in a sociological, philosophical and narrative analysis at the macro level of Australian political, economic and policy systems, the structure and processes of government, the nature of the political policy process, as evidence in advocacy for transformative social change.

Learning outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Completion of this unit requires you to provide evidence of having achieved the following learning outcomes:

1. Critically analyse the foundation, principles and processes of the Australian political welfare and governmental systems in a global context;
2. Scrutinize the relevance of Federal and State government philosophical, political and budgetary processes for social work practice;
3. Interrogate the relationship between significant vested interest groups and government decision making;
4. Apply high level research, analytical and collaborative skills to a contemporary policy issue;
5. Apply policy writing skills in preparing a written submission.

AASW Education and Accreditation Standards: 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.4; 3.3.5; 3.3.7; 3.3.8
AASW Practice Standards for Social Workers: 1.2; 2.1; 4.1; 4.2; 4.3; 4.4; 5.1; 5.3; 5.4; 6.4;

The unit facilitates knowledge of the Code of Ethics into Social Work practice.


The unit uses prescribed methodologies to analyse information on the following areas:

· the political, economic and social history of the Australian and European and other welfare states;
· foundation, structure, processes, and principles of government;
policy windows and trade-offs;
rethinking uneven distribution, global inequality, precarity and climate change;
· social workers in social policy and as activists;
philosophy and principles of policy and political economy (social justice);
· economics and budgets;
· challenging key economic paradigms;
· public sector economics, government and markets;
alternative futures: basic income, strengthening public services, environmental sustainability and global egalitarianism;
· applying practice- based research to political, economic and social policy formation and the underpinning evidence base; and
· communication of findings.

Approaches to teaching and learning

Your knowledge and skills of political economy, critical policy analysis and research methodology will support your professional writing skills, in accordance with accepted standards of scholarship, style and presentation as you investigate your defined area of research. You will construct emergent knowledge and ask rigorous, researchable questions from critical structural and narrative analysis, discussions with your peers and lecturer in dynamic workshops and lectures, and relating current trends and issues and practices as seen in placement and present in global issues in media.

The unit integrates on-line, Blackboard resources and on campus workshops to support the communicating and interrogation of emerging new knowledge and identified gaps in current knowledge.

Assessment items

Name #1: Policy Analysis Essay
DescriptionDescription: This assessment takes a most pressing issue and trend identified from a field of social policy in Australia or internationally (e.g. health, education, Indigenous policies, child protection, immigration, income support) in your analytical report in SWN002 and examines the central core political economy and policy issues from the historical and contemporary ways that government and political agencies have managed them. The essay should respond to current issues of inequality, trade-offs between the free-market and universal schemes and greater precarity to present an alternative vision of the future. Further guidelines on preparing the Policy Analysis Essay will be posted on Blackboard.

Length: 2 000 - 2 500 words for essay
Due dateEarly - mid semester
Internal or externalInternal
Group or individualIndividual
Relates to learning outcomes1, 2, 3 and 4.
Name #2: Policy Ministerial Submission
DescriptionDescription: This submission, supported by appropriate evidence and research argues for a new initiative or a policy change to address an identified social problem, inequity or issue in a format suitable for submission to a government ministerial office or senate hearing, at either state or a federal level. The submission work will include research, critical analysis, collaboration and a progress presentation to peers. Further guidelines on preparing the submission will be posted on Blackboard.

Length: 2,500-3,000 words.

Due date: Final weeks of semester (progress presentation). End semester (policy submission)., in final workshop.
Due dateSee description
Internal or externalInternal
Group or individualIndividual
Relates to learning outcomes1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Academic integrity

QUT is committed to maintaining high academic standards to protect the value of its qualifications. To assist you in assuring the academic integrity of your assessment you are encouraged to make use of the support materials and services available to help you consider and check your assessment items. Important information about the university's approach to academic integrity of assessment is on your unit Blackboard site.

A breach of academic integrity is regarded as Student Misconduct and can lead to the imposition of penalties.

Resource materials

Unit Text

McClelland, A. and Smyth, P. (2014) Social Policy in Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Resource Materials

Bauman, Z., & Lyon, D. (2013). Liquid surveillance. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Brodkin, J. & Marston, G. (2013). Work and the welfare state. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Cox, E. (2011). Evidence-free policy making? The case of income management. Journal of Indigenous Policy. Issue 12, pp. 1-15.

Guest, R. (2013). Borderless economics Chinese sea turtles, Indian fridges and the new fruits of global capitalism. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hay, C. & Wincott, D. (2012). The political economy of European welfare capitalism. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.

Maddison, S. & Denniss, R. (2013). An introduction to Australian public policy. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Mays, J., Marston, G., & Tomlinson, J. (Eds.). (2016). Basic income in Australia and New Zealand: Perspectives from the neoliberal frontier. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

O'Brien, R. & Williams, M. (2013). Global political economy. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.

Standing, G. (2011). The precariat: The new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury.

Tomlinson, J. (2013). How did the attempt to abolish poverty become a war against the poor? Retrieve from www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=15104 .

Wrennal, L. (2010). Surveillance and child protection: De-mystifying the Trojan Horse, Surveillance and society, 7(3/4): 304-324.

Risk assessment statement

There are no particular risks associated with this unit.