Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Alan Black

Second Advisor

Dr John Duff


This thesis is about current Centrelink breach and appeal figures. It is also about the current conservative neo-liberalising climate of Australian social policy reforms, with which they are inextricably connected. It shows that while Centrelink breach numbers have increased more than three fold since 1996, formal appeals against Centrelink decisions have not increased similarly. This thesis asks: what might this mean? It answers this question through a single case study of a Centrelink office. Data was collected using individual focused interviews, documents collected from the site, and direct observation (including a map of the office drawn by the researcher). Various possible interpretations drawn from the social policy literature were evaluated in relation to the case study findings. Interpretations included the neo-liberals, advocates, new-contractualism, the view that surveillance is oppressive and an interpretation that draws from the work of Michel Foucault. The thesis found that Foucault's work on discipline and governmentality - particularly his ideas about surveillance and individualisation-was the most relevant interpretation of Centrelink breaching and appeals to the case study data. Much evidence was found for these governing techniques, and their imperfection. The thesis concludes that the current conservative neo-liberal based reforms, including the new breach regime, show undue confidence about their ability to govern individual Centrelink clients.