William and Janet Beveridge, On and Off the Platform Under the Southern Cross (Wellington: Hicks, Smith & Wright, 1949), cover.
William Beveridge accepted an invitation to deliver the inaugural De Carle Lectures at the University of Otago in 1948. In November 1942 the report on Social Insurance and Allied Services, the “Beveridge Report”, had been published and it had influenced the founding of the British welfare state through a series of acts of parliament (namely the National Insurance Act in 1946, the National Health Service Act in 1946 and the National Assistance Act in 1948). Beveridge travelled to Dunedin with his wife Janet and they went onto Australia too. Together they published an account of their sojourn, On and Off the Platform Under the Southern Cross (1949). This volume included one of Beveridge’s four lectures, rewritten for the collection, which was described as the “first authoritative comparison of the Social Security systems of New Zealand and Britain”, but which was, more accurately, a comparison of the British, New Zealand and Australian welfare states.
In this paper I follow Beveridge’s footsteps to Australasia. It is part of a larger project about the race for entitlement in the Anglo-Antipodean world from 1880 to 1950. What common knowledge, debates, discourses and correspondence were there between the Australasian and British schemes and their architects? What was the extent of policy transfer? What factors promoted and impeded the spread and adoption of social welfare policies?
Melanie Nolan is Professor of History in the School of History, Director of the National Centre of Biography and the General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.