THE COURSE OF REFORM IN THE 1980s
JOHN CURTIN MEMORIAL LECTURE - 1980
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More than 35 years have elapsed since John Curtin died
with victory not yet won, but the safety of Australia, for which he had
given his life, assured.
Yet there is no Australian Prime Minister whose life and
character have greater relevance to the challenges which the people of Australia
face today and to the choice they will have to make about the future of
our country next Saturday.
Much has been said in recent times about the question of
leadership. In the greatest crisis in our nation's history John Curtin brought
to the leadership of this nation the supreme qualities of a genuine Australian
There was about Curtin none of this studied image of simulated
toughness, so-called. His real strength came from his deep inner resources
of compassion, integrity and self-understanding.
He knew the real meaning of patriotism and love of country;
and Curtin, the architect of the American alliance, never thought that loyalty
to Australia first required loyalty to the government of another nation.
Above all, John Curtin had the supreme quality of a national leader--the
ability to unite.
In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Curtin was called
to the leadership of this nation after a period of profound social, economic
and political division. He never sought power by feeding division. He united
his party; he united his cabinet; he united his nation.
In the 1980s, as much as the 1940s, Australia needs leadership,
at all levels, which can unify rather than divide. In 1941, R G Menzies
himself had been forced out by his own party because he had become a force
for division at a time when the Australian people desperately wanted a sense
of national unity and a sense of national purpose. And that is what John
Curtin gave them.
I will not push the historical analogy further, but I do
suggest that it is the qualities of a Curtin--the real strength, the real
courage, the real integrity and compassion, which the people of Australia
need in their leaders today.
In the context of this lecture, with its theme of The
course of reform in the 1980s, there is another reason why the example
and record of John Curtin are so relevant to the challenges Australia faces
NEED FOR REFORM
John Curtin led Australia at a time of unparalleled difficulty;
yet he never lost sight of the need for reform; and his Government undertook
major social and economic reforms hand-in-hand with the successful conduct
of the war effort.
Curtin would never have wished for himself the title of
Australia's greatest war-time leader. That he had to assume that mantle
is part of the tragic grandeur of his career. Yet he never lost sight of
his great vision for Australia under Labor. And, despite the war, the Curtin
Government was able to implement a tremendous number of far-reaching reforms.
Curtin showed that a Prime Minister and a Government which
is committed to reform and committed to the welfare of all Australians can
achieve reform, notwithstanding the magnitude of the challenges confronting
the nation. The appropriateness of joining the name of Curtin with the theme
of reform at the current time is obvious. As a nation, we currently face
considerable challenge. Some of the difficulties are international in origin,
some home-grown. Yet the need for reform is urgent and reform must occur,
in some cases despite and, in other cases, precisely in order to meet the
challenges now facing us.
There is nothing so defeatist--and self-defeating--as the
conservative dogma that there can be no reform until every other problem
has been solved. It is that sort of attitude in regard to the fight against
inflation that threatens to doom half a generation of young Australians
to the unemployment scrap heap.
Reform is essentially aimed at finding a better way of
doing things and creating a better life for all Australians. The current
Government's approach is based on the premise that all is well, that there
is no need for a better way, that there is no need for a better life for
all Australians and that there is no need for reform. The Fraser Government
denies the need for reform and rejects change because those to whom it is
responsible, a small number of privileged Australians, are content with
their position of privilege and threatened by change.
It is, of course, an utterly selfish and self-serving dogma.
The dogma which uses the Western recession and inflation as an excuse, an
alibi against reform is the creed of those who fear that reform may reduce
their privileges--not in any absolute way, but relatively as against the
less privileged in the community. The dogma has its extreme expression in
Friedmanism, Thatcherism and Fraserism; and the results are there for all
to see in the hardship and human waste and growing inequalities in the United
States, Britain and Australia.
The attitude of the Fraser Government ignores the real
problems facing all Australians, problems requiring urgent reform. The Fraser
approach ignores the fact that around three-quarters of a million Australians
who want jobs are currently denied the right to work.
It ignores the persistence of widespread poverty in Australia.
It ignores the sorry fact that, in the words of the Brotherhood of St Laurence,
"for all our illusions of general affluence and equality, about two
and a half million Australians live in poverty or on the brink of it."
The Fraser approach ignores the fact that taxation has
become optional for a large number of wealthy Australians, to the great
cost of those in need.
It ignores the consequences of technological change and
Labor's responsibility to ensure that both the costs and benefits of change
are shared equally. In summary, the Fraser Government ignores the obvious
need for reform and thus tries to establish a false but comfortable premise
on which it can reject reform.
The Australian Labor Party recognises the problems and
recognises the need for reform. We are a reformist party and as such we
are committed to identifying the problems facing Australia, identifying
the need for change and bringing about appropriate solutions, appropriate
reforms, in the interests of the Australian community as a whole.
The problems facing Australia and the clear need for reformist
policies is evident from an examination of all aspects of Australian life.
I propose to now examine four such aspects in order to demonstrate the need
for reform. These areas are, in turn:
2. Energy problems
3. Industrial Relations
4. Technological change
Australia's current economic performance quite dramatically
demonstrates the need for change and the need for new policy approaches.
Unemployment is at its highest postwar level, economic growth in the last
five years has been at a postwar low, pressures are mounting as a result
of structural and technological change, the rate of inflation is accelerating
under the impetus of Fraser's economic policies, and control of economic
resources is being increasingly concentrated in foreign hands.
Quite obviously there exists a need for new approaches
and new policies. Policies which promote growth, policies which recreate
the right to work, policies to cope with change, policies which have genuine
price stability and policies which reclaim the power to determine our own
economic destiny. It is these policies to which a reformist Labor Government
is committed and which the conservative forces reject.
The rejection of appropriate responses by the Fraser Government,
and its natural constituency, very much demonstrates that its policies are
premised on the false basis that the problems I have outlined do not exist
and do not, therefore, require reform. This approach is quite damnably illustrated
by the Fraser Government's approach to unemployment. It has ignored the
problem and thereby ignored the need to effectively respond to the problem.
If you ignore the fact that around 400,000 Australians
are officially recorded as unemployed, on average for a period exceeding
half a year, and if you ignore the fact that the real level of unemployment
is twice that level, it is possible, as Malcolm Fraser did in his policy
speech, to avoid any policy aimed at solving the problems. Fraser's claim
that "Australia is the best place in the world to bring up a family"
could only be uttered by callously ignoring the fact that one in five Australians
between the ages of 15 and 19 is unable to find a job, and that in many
cases their unemployment leads to family breakdown, crime, drug usage and
The fact that an Australian Prime Minister could make an
election speech without once mentioning unemployment, thus ignoring the
most pressing social and economic problem facing Australia at the current
time, illustrates perfectly the fact that non-reformist government operates
on the self-satisfied, but blatantly false, premise that there exists no
problems requiring reform.
To meet the problems which do exist, it is necessary
to recognise their existence and to devise appropriate policies. It is necessary
to seek new solutions and new policies and to reject the outdated, inappropriate
and clearly failed policies of the conservative elements in our society.
The Labor Party does offer a new approach to economic management,
an approach tailored to meeting the challenges confronting all Australians.
We do not say that economic management will be easy-to
do so would be to ignore the real problems. We do say that we are aware
of the problems and we are aware of the significance of sound economic performance
to the well-being of Australians. From the base of recognising and understanding
the economic problems we have devised a range of appropriate economic policies.
Those policies have three aims. First, to increase Australia's total wealth;
second, to distribute our wealth more equitably to all Australians; and
third, to increase our capacity to make a more substantial contribution
to the welfare of people in countries less privileged than ours.
In the area of employment we are committed to restoring
the right to work and our policies are directed to that end. Our policies
to restore full employment are on two levels: immediate measures and ultimately
planning to avoid the incredible waste of human resources we currently suffer.
The immediate measures are aimed at moving toward reducing
the unemployment which has resulted from ad hoc and inappropriate Government
measures in the past. In pursuing the inalienable principle of the Labor
Party that every Australian must have the right to a job, we recognise that
the restoration of full employment won't be easy and it won't be quick.
However, we are motivated by the certain knowledge that, in the interests
of all Australians, that task must be attempted.
As a first step, we announced in March we would create
100,000 new jobs in our first full year of office, substituting real jobs
for welfare payments.
Labor's job creation scheme will therefore achieve much
more than providing the opportunity to work. It will also increase Australia's
total wealth and allow us to bring about reforms aimed at assisting those
I cannot emphasize too much that this is not just a question
of the cost of creating jobs; a much more serious question is the cost of
not creating them. Nor is it only a matter of the economic cost of
unemployment. The most serious question is the human cost, and the cost
to society, the wasted, broken, alienated human lives.
Unlike the current Government, the Labor Party recognises
the value of socially responsible economic growth and our policies are aimed
at increased growth. The contractionary policies of the Fraser Government
have restricted growth to the lowest postwar level on record. Under the
previous Labor administration, Australia's growth was 60 per cent above
that recorded in the OECD average. Growth in the Fraser years was 23 per
cent below that recorded under the last Labor administration and 70 per
cent below the level of growth Fraser indicated as "quite feasible"
in his 1975 election speech.
The Labor Party rejects the anti-growth emphasis of the
Fraser Government, and for good reasons:
1. Higher growth means more employment;
2. Higher growth means higher national income, higher per capita income and higher living standards for all;
3. Higher growth, by increasing total national income, allows reformist policies to assist those in need in our community.
The cost--$180 million--in our first year is not only necessary
but it represents a net benefit to all Australians. With average output
per employed person around $18,000 per annum, the expenditure of $180 million
will increase the net wealth of Australia by around $1800 million, and reduce
the social costs which accompany unemployment to the obvious benefit of
all Australians. The $180 million expenditure should be seen as an investment
from which all Australians will reap significant returns.
I commend to your attention the Penguin book just published
by Dr Peter Sheehan of the Melbourne Institute. It is called Crisis in
Abundance, an apt description of the Australian economy today.
Dr Peter Sheehan estimated that the total cost of unemployment
to the Australian community in terms of lost production of goods and services
is around $16,000 million. The restoration of full employment and the creation
of the consequent additional goods and services is of obvious benefit to
the whole community. These additional goods and services could be used to
better meet the needs of the two million Australians currently in poverty
and provide additional necessary goods and services to Australians in areas
of need such as housing and public transport. As noted by Sheehan:
The opportunity to improve the quality of life in many areas of Australian society has been lost as a direct result of the current unemployment.
4. Higher growth reduces the pressure for an increased share of national income, which has possible inflationary implications, because a higher aggregate wealth allows higher living standards for all.
One significant reason for the growing attack on the size
of Government's welfare commitment is that lower economic growth has reduced
the capacity for increased assistance to the needy. When ordinary Australians
are suffering losses in their living standards as a result of Fraserism
they are less willing to assist the needy. Our commitment to reform and
our commitment to those in need underlines our commitment to growth.
Labour Market Mangement
Whilst the Labor Party does commit itself to tackling the
problem of unemployment through immediate measures, our ultimate objective
must be to reform the whole management of the labour market. The inadequacy
of current methods is evident by the shortage of a certain type of worker
in the midst of record unemployment levels. There exists a clear need to
reject current ad hoc methods of labour market management and to move towards
the planning of labour market developments.
That need goes beyond the labour market. The Labor Party
is committed to a total reorientation of economic management to better cope
with the current economic realities. To this end Labor will develop the
concept of economic planning on a coordinated, cooperative and participatory
basis, utilizing an Advisory Council comprising representatives of all sectors
of the community. We consider that the magnitude of the economic challenges
before us and their impact on all sectors of the community necessitates
an end to current unilateral and ad hoc decision-making.
Our objective to encourage constructive consultation between
Government, employers and the trade union movement within the framework
of the ultimate responsibility of Government for the economic management
will be consultative rather than confrontationist. To achieve this we will,
prior to constructing formal planning mechanisms, hold a national conference
involving representatives of unions, Government and employers to discuss
in an open and honest way the economic and social problems of our society
in the early stages of an ALP Government. Such a conference will signal
the beginnings of a new consultative approach to economic management.
There are, of course, many other economic problems currently
facing us. In all areas we will adopt new, appropriate strategies and reject
the tired, failed policies currently being pursued. Such an approach is
essential because the problems demand new answers.
For example, in the field of tax avoidance, the present
Government has refused to tackle the problem, going to the extraordinary
lengths of actually allowing, in its recent Budget, for tax avoidance to
the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The ALP is committed to end tax avoidance because:
- 1. It is, in itself, unacceptable that the wealthy in our community avoid their share of the tax burden and the provision of public goods and services, and
- 2. The cost to the community in excess of one billion dollars, reduces the capacity of Government to provide goods and services to the Australian community and to better provide for the needy.
Putting an end to the repugnant practice of tax avoidance
will allow a Labor Government better to implement reform, thus benefitting
the two million Australians currently living in poverty, without increasing
the level of taxation of those other Australians who currently meet their
share of taxation. Given this, the elimination of tax avoidance is a critical
policy for a Government seeking to undertake reform.
Quite obviously, it is not possible to canvass the whole
of the economy in this lecture. It is possible to conclude, however, that
new approaches are required and reforms in economic management and economic
objectives must be pursued.
The second area of reform with which I wish to deal is
that of energy. The total question of energy is extremely important at the
current time and pressures on energy users are growing. As a nation we need
to reassess our attitude to, and management of, energy and to develop a
total coherent energy policy.
The current Government simply does not have a total energy
policy. The Government has an oil pricing policy but it is plainly inadequate
to have an energy policy only focussed on one area.
What Australia really needs is a total energy policy. The
energy market is a complex interrelated market and it is simply not possible
to isolate one aspect--oil. As noted by the Chairman of the SECV, Mr J C
Trethowan in his address to the Australian Institute of Energy:
The world is not facing an 'energy crisis', at least it is not facing a 'crisis' in terms of running out of energy. Known available world energy resources are greater today than at any time in history. The challenge, though, lies in getting time to switch some energy demand to alternative energy resources.
Further, Australia is extremely well placed in terms of
energy. The Prime Minister confirmed this in March of this year by saying:
What we are facing is not a catastrophe but opportunity. And it is an opportunity which Australia is uniquely placed to meet. Already we are one of the few net energy exporters amongst the OECD countries. We possess substantial reserves of uranium and black and brown coal. We have significant reserves of liquid petroleum gas and natural gas. And the possibilities for alternative sources of oil from shale and coal liquefaction demonstrate that, in the world increasingly short of energy supplies, Australia occupies a privileged position.
Yet the Government tells us we must all suffer because
of shortages of oil and that we must all suffer reduced living standards.
We are suffering reduced living standards only because of the partial and
shortsighted energy policies of the Fraser Government. Their only response
to the challenge of the changing energy scenario is to extort $3,200 million
from the Australian motorist each year; pushing up inflation and reducing
the motorists' living standards.
What is really needed is a total, coherent energy policy
rationalising demand and supply of all energy resources to the benefit of
Australia as a whole. What we face under Fraser is a massive petrol tax
rip-off, the expenditure of less than 1 per cent of those revenues into
research on alternative energy a confusion of pricing structures for alternative
energy including the selling off of Australian energy resources at cut rates
to foreign customers and the selling of energy to business enterprises at
below cost by some State Governments.
The current energy position is one of absolute confusion.
Currently energy policy is the preserve of five different departments and
total energy management is impossible. Australia needs a coherent energy
policy for the 1980s. To this end a Labor Government will undertake urgent
reform and rationalisation of energy management.
A Labor administration will implement a rational and sensible
energy conservation program. It is necessary to reject the Fraser approach--which
amounts to nothing more than a massive rip-off of the motorist--and concentrate
upon measures aimed directly at decreasing energy wastage and providing
alternatives such as public transport.
The major initiatives will include:
I turn now to the area of industrial relations, a further
area in need of significant reform.
There are many of us in the Labor Party who do have experience
in the industrial relations field and who understand the realities of industrial
relations. With this knowledge we recognise the need to change the Government's
role from one of confrontation, as currently practised, to one of encouraging
consultation and conciliation amongst all parties concerned.
Industrial relations concerns the relationship between
employers and workers and the resolution of the differences occurring between
them. It is inevitable there will be conflict between employers and workers
arising out of their competing demands on limited economic resources. And
at times that conflict will manifest itself in the form of industrial action-strikes,
When conflict arises, it is in the interests of all concerned--employers,
workers and the community--that it be resolved with a minimum of
disruption. And by 'resolved', I mean that a genuine settlement of the particular
dispute be found. Further, I might add, the only guarantee that the settlement
of a dispute will be of any value lies in the process of settlement. The
key factors in the process leading to workable and acceptable solutions
to industrial problems are discussion and negotiation.
The Labor Party recognises the necessity to genuinely resolve
industrial conflict and the consequent need for real negotiation. Accordingly,
we will place emphasis on the conciliation role of the Conciliation and
Arbitration Commission and in Government we will concentrate on consultation
with both unions and employers.
Over the last three years, the Labor Party has practised
this philosophy in Opposition, through the regular meetings of ALAC comprising
the Parliamentary Party and the Peak Councils. As a result of this consultation
we have now reached an understanding between the Labor Party and the union
movement which marks a significant step forward in the relationship between
a future Labor Government and the trade union movement. The development
of effective consultation, the recognition of areas of common concern, including
the need to lower unemployment and inflation simultaneously, and the reaching
of a real understanding between the trade union movement and a future Labor
Government, is in stark contrast to the industrially disruptive confrontationist
approach of the Fraser Government.
The history of the Fraser Government is a history of confrontation
in industrial relations. The most significant features of its policies have
1. The concentration on the provision of sanctions for use against the activities of unions, and
2. The assertion that the Government has a greater role to play in industrial relations-always of a negative type.
In relation to sanctions, it should be noted that the effect
of the new sanctions has not been to destroy the union movement, and further,
the effect of the new array of sanctions has not been to change the
balance of power in industrial relations or to emasculate the trade union
movement or to prevent unions from rigorously pursuing claims on behalf
of their members. If this was the purpose for the introduction of the sanctions,
then the sanctions have been a dismal failure. Further, the effect of the
introduction of the new sanctions has not been to encourage their
widespread use by employers. Most employers recognise the harmful industrial
relations consequences of attempting to use such sanctions and have refrained
from using them.
The effect of the new sanctions has been two-fold. First,
the introduction of new sanctions has given the appearance of the
Government doing something to deal with the industrial problems it has done
so much to create. In reality, of course, the Government makes no positive
contribution to good industrial relations by introducing tough new sanctions.
The second effect of the new sanctions is perhaps more
serious than the Government's attempts at gaining political mileage through
their introduction. The availability of the sanctions provides scope for
'maverick' employers to cause massive industrial disruption by attempting
to use the sanctions.
This is clearly illustrated in cases brought against unions
under S.45D of the Trade Practices Act, and I would refer you in particular
to the dispute in New South Wales involving Leon Laidely Pty Ltd and the
use of S.45D by that company, which resulted in petrol shortages in several
States. I should add that in no way could it be said that S.45D assisted
in the settlement of the Laidely dispute or even strengthened Laidely's
position in the dispute. Indeed, the presence of S.45D in the Act misled
Laidely into thinking that he had a potent weapon to be used in the dispute.
The lesson for employers from the Laidely dispute should be clear-those
employers who place their trust in the new sanctions will find that the
sanctions are like the general performance of the Fraser Government-long
on promises but short on achievements.
The implications of the new sanctions, in summary
form, are these:
Legislation having these implications can hardly be said
to be the product of a responsible Government concerned with the promotion
of good industrial relations.
The effect of Federal Government interference in industrial
disputes, by launching or threatening to launch, prosecution against unions,
has not been to assist in the settlement of those disputes.
The effect of Government involvement has rather been, in
some cases, by virtue of injecting a political element into a dispute, to
exacerbate and prolong the dispute. In other cases it has been to re-open
disputes which the parties had already resolved to their satisfaction.
The implication of the new role for the Federal
Government with respect to invoking sanctions against unions is to open
the door for much greater political interference in industrial relations.
This means that the Government and its agencies will be able to activate
sanctions against unions for political purposes and without regard to the
industrial relations consequences.
The disastrous industrial relations performance of the
Fraser Government reflects its total lack of understanding of industrial
relations realities and its consequent inability to distinguish what does
and what does not improve industrial relations.
The absolute inappropriateness of the Government's industrial
relations policy-its reliance on confrontation rather than consultation-is
not hard to comprehend when one considers the primary role played by Malcolm
Fraser in the development of those policies.
A measure of Fraser's total lack of understanding of industrial
relations is found in his personal creation--the Industrial Relations Bureau--which
has been roundly condemned by employers and unions alike as having no positive
effect whatever on industrial relations. Yet the Industrial Relations Bureau
(IRB) is the showpiece of the Government's industrial relations policy.
The Government has attempted to denigrate the understanding
reached between the ALP and the trade union movement. However, in my experience
I know that industrial disputes are avoided or ended only through consultation
and negotiation. Understanding, not threats, ensure good industrial relations
and I can assure the Australian public that our understanding with the trade
union movement and our understanding of industrial relations will guarantee
better industrial relations and less disruption for the general public than
will Malcolm Fraser's white elephant--the IRB.
Our approach to industrial relations, one of understanding
and one of discussing problems to achieve genuine resolution will prove
to be one of the most beneficial reforms of the Hayden Labor administration.
Our reforms in this area will replace white elephants with reality.
The final challenge I wish to deal with is technological
change. There can be no doubt that changes are required in attitude and
policies to cope with the real problems which can accompany the introduction
of new technology. I am not suggesting that all technology or technology
in general is bad, however, there are social costs involved even in those
cases where there are net benefits and an appropriate response to
those problems must be developed.
The current Government, despite the findings of the Myer
Enquiry, has adopted the view that there are no problems whatever, and that
no policies are necessary. It is the typical response of an anti-reform
Government to ignore real problems in order to avoid the need for appropriate
and necessary policy responses.
The advance of technological change does have unfavourable
implications for Australia and for all Australians. In particular, it threatens
jobs in certain areas, thus requiring alternate employment and income security
and it threatens a massive redistribution of income and power, in favour
of the owners of capital and at the expense of the mass of the Australian
population. The Australian people deserve consideration of these problems
by Government; they are betrayed by the 'forget the problems' approach of
the Fraser Government.
In order to cope with the increased introduction of technology
new attitudes and reforms in policy will be necessary. The Labor Party is
willing, indeed committed, to meet the challenge of maximising the net social
benefits of technology. We recognise that new technology results in costs
as well as benefits for the community and has implications for the whole
of Australian society. Our policy therefore, seeks to have new technology
carefully assessed to maximise the welfare of the whole Australian community
and to involved interests other than the relevant enterprise, motivated
solely by narrow financial interest, in decision-making in regard to the
introduction of new technology.
To meet this end, Labor will establish an independent,
widely representative Technology Planning Council to evaluate the socio-economic
effects of new technology and advise Government in the formation of plans
to cope with the inevitable social and economic readjustments. Hence we
recognise that social costs, affecting all sectors of the community will
be involved in technological change. Accordingly we will ensure a role for
all elements of society in shaping the future course of the technological
development which will touch all sectors of the Australian community.
Drawing together the three main threads I want to make
a general observation rising out of the specific areas I have briefly surveyed.
First, reform, new attitudes and new approaches are clearly
necessary in Australian society at the current time.
Second, reform, necessary reform, requires a willingness
to confront the challenges facing us and an ability to devise appropriate
policies, even if those policies depart from the current norm, as they must
in many cases.
Third, and above all, reform requires a commitment to the
well-being of all Australians.
Those features--the recognition of the need for reform,
the knowledge that new approaches are necessary and the commitment to the
welfare of all Australians--are what distinguishes the Australian Labor
Party from the conservative forces.
And those features are what distinguish great Australians--and
John Curtin was one of the greatest--from people like Malcolm Fraser (I
hesitate in joining the two men in one breath but do so in the knowledge
that the contrast is absolute).
John Curtin had the capacity to recognise the need for
reform, and to bring about reform despite the awesome difficulties of his
time. Notwithstanding the difficulties, Curtin was able to implement significant
reforms, the impact of which have been felt since the early 1940s and will
continue to be felt throughout Australia's future.
Curtin was committed to reform and committed to the Australian
people. If he was alive today he would be appalled and sickened by the failure
of this Government to face honestly the challenges confronting us and its
determination to hide or ignore areas in need of reform.
The 1970s have been epitomised, more than any other decade,
by investigation and enquiry into many significant aspects of Australian
life. I myself participated in two of these enquiries. We have before us
a great body of research, most of it pointing to the need for significant
reform of institutions, of attitudes and of policies.
Yet the Fraser Government has ignored the evidence and
sought to deny the need for reform. I have no doubt that John Curtin would
endorse the observations of Dr Peter Sheehan who said of the task for reform
in the 1980s :
In large measures the task of the 1980s will be to harvest the fruits of this research, in terms of innovative but practical policies. This will require both a willingness to see the economic and social issues as a whole and, above all, the political will to carry through radical and sustained initiatives.
John Curtin would agree with those sentiments as we enter
the 1980s. John Curtin met the requirements noted by Sheehan-a capacity
to see the economic and social issues as a whole and the political will
to carry through radical and sustained initiatives.
May I return to my original theme--the need for national unity. Reform is itself a path to national cohesion and unity. Failure to reform could bring the inevitable consequences of growing bitterness and alienation in the community; it must lead ultimately to instability and disruption. It may be that the greatly privileged members of our society are not impressed by appeals to altruism. But in terms of sheer self-interest, the very real interest they have in a stable and unified society, they should see that they share common ground with the reformers. On that level--the high ground of national unity--the cause of reform is the cause of all.