...what we must look for, and it is a matter of desperate importance to our country, is a true revival of liberal thought which will work for social justice and security, for national power and national progress, and for the full development of the individual citizen, though not through the dull and deadening process of Socialism.
...We have partly by our own fault and partly by some extremely clever propaganda by the Labor Party, been put into the position of appearing to resist political and economic progress. In other words, on far too many questions we have found our role to be simply that of the man who says "No."
Once this atmosphere is created it is quite simple for us to be branded as reactionaries, and indeed if we are not careful the very unsoundness of so many of Labor's political proposals may accustom us to much to the role of critic that we become unduly satisfied with the existing state of affairs.
There is no room in Australia for a party of reaction. There is no useful place for a policy of negation.
...Let me set out our ultimate objectives as I see them.
What state of affairs would we like to have existing in a remodelled Australia after this war?
We would like to have a country safe from external aggression and living in the closest communion with its sister nations of the British Empire, playing its part in a world security order which maintains the necessary force to defend the peace, a country:
That brings me to the last question: How do we propose to get these things?
By looking primarily to the authoritative action of Government or by looking primarily to the encouragement of individual skill ~^ 1 initiative?
As to this, I believe that we have no hesitation.
Without attempting to discuss detail, and confining ourselves to broad principles, we can see that the realisation of the objectives referred to above will depend upon certain matters.
We must aim at the fullest development of individual capacity.
The principle of such reward, sometimes sneered at as exhibiting the profit motive, is the dynamic force of social progress and is of the essence of what we call private or individual enterprise.
Again, we must aim at the growing exploitation of our natural resources. Governments do not provide enterprise; they provide control.
No sensible person can doubt that the revival of private enterprise is essential to post-war recovery and progress. Yet our opponents constantly criticise and handicap what even they must admit is the major instrument available to our hands.
There cannot be rising living standards if all we propose to do is to redistribute what we now have. We must produce more and produce it more cheaply if we are to survive and grow.
...Thrift and independence must therefore be positively encouraged by our political policies. This involves a complete overhaul of our taxation system in order to help people with family responsibilities.
It involves the conversion and extension of our social services on a contributory insurance basis and it involves the use of the Central Bank and of Government economic policies not to create short-term political advantages but to produce stability not only of employment but of currencies.
We sometimes forget that nothing so destroys thrift and cripples independence as fluctuating monetary values, affecting as they do insurances, pensions, superannuations, and all future provisions.
Again, our monetary and other economic policies must be devised to encourage investment, for upon the active investment of private funds the achievement of our social objectives will largely depend.
Public works may, and should, be used either to provide the foundation for investment and development or to supplement private activities at times when there has been some recession in business activity.
But I hope that we shall not be so misguided as to treat large public works' policies as good things just because in the short run they appear to create a large number of short-term jobs and put a good deal of money into circulation.
We recognise that in the post-war economy there will be room for much more thought and planning than ever before. But if a planned economy means a perpetuation of Government controls then it will unquestionably lead to a totalitarian system.
As we know, authority tends to feed upon itself.
Certain temporary Government controls no doubt will be needed, but in the long run the function of Government should be to guide and encourage industry to do its own planning in the light of its own expert knowledge and experience.
In a vision of the future, therefore, I see the individual and his encouragement and recognition as the prime motive force for the building of a better world. It thus appears that private enterprise and the State are both engaged in a task in which the people will prosper best if the individual and the State each perform his or its proper function.
As I see them, the true economic functions of the State are as indicated in a recent publication of the Institute of Public Affairs of Victoria called "Looking Forward". I quote from p.29 of the booklet:
"In general terms the economic responsibilities of the State should be regarded as fourfold:
First, to assist in preventing the periodic recurrence of large-scale unemployment;
Second, to secure to all responsible citizens (through social legislation) at least a decent and reasonable minimum of economic security and material well-being
Third, to impose a framework of law which will give the utmost encouragement to the enterprise, resourcefulness and efficiency of individuals and groups, and which will lead to the greatest possible output of the goods and services which the community needs;
Fourth, to conserve, in the long-range interests of the community, those natural resources fundamental to the life and future prosperity of the nation.
In this conception of the future activities of the State, the State and private enterprise are regarded as partners in the common purpose of improving the material conditions of the community. The tendency, prevalent in discussions of post-war economic policy, to emphasise or imply a fundamental divergence of interest between the State and industry is wholly disastrous and misleading From plans of State action designed to secure full employment and social security, private enterprise stands vastly to gain. Conversely, in its objective of providing better living standards and security for all the State will be greatly aided by a vigorous, healthy and enlightened private enterprise."
Speech 13 October 1944 - Record of Conference of Representatives of Non-Labour Organisations held in Canberra on 13, 14 and 16 October 1944.
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