My purpose and my duty is to put before you and through you to the people of this country the broad views of the Liberal Party of Australia upon some of the more important questions now arising
...There is a good deal of confusion, some of it deliberately created, about the Liberal approach to "private enterprise". The expression is unfortunate since to some minds it appears to suggest that private interests are being preferred to public benefit. If the expression connotes "each for himself and the devil take the hindmost", with no provision against depressions, with big monopolies running free and injuring the consumer, with an absence of proper Government controls and Government liabilities, then it is something which Liberalism cannot support.
But when we Liberals speak of "private enterprise" or "free enterprise" or the like we are laying emphasis upon the element of initiative for reward which we believe to be the great dynamic of material human progress. We believe in security, but we believe also in progress because upon progress and advancement of material standards in this country all security depends; in raising living standards we are not disposed to fight a rearguard action against social disaster. We believe in fuller and better lives for every citizen; in better houses and schools and furniture and food and clothing, because it is in these things and not in mere terms of money that the real standard of living is to be found.
None of these things can be attained unless we have increased, cheaper, and more effective production. And this in turn depends, we believe, upon the encouragement, recognition and reward of extra skill and extra effort, whether they be those of employer or employee.
We do not stand for some mutual hostility between the Government and the private citizen in business. We believe in the cooperation of Government and citizen, the Government formulating and enforcing social and industrial obligations, preserving true and fair competition by a strict control of all monopolistic tendency; cooperating with business in long range planning, while business itself supplies the drive and ambition and progress without which security will become a mere sham and living standards will fall, not rise.
In a few words, Liberalism proposes to march down the middle of the road. Its watchwords will be:
To us, Australia is not seven million people to be thought about and ordered about and legislated about as a mere mass. To us, Australia is seven million individuals, the progress of each of whom is a priceless asset to Australia, and the honest contribution of each of whom is the essential foundation of all good community life. It is therefore to the preserving of the freedom of the citizen, his mind, his body, his spirit, that Liberalism dedicates itself. Only from genuinely free, progressive, diligent and encouraged individuals can a really powerful nation be built.
I now turn to a necessarily brief statement of how the Liberal Party applies these broad principles to some of the concrete questions of the moment: Employment: This is the greatest of our domestic problems. For every individual who thinks and talks about this problem the depression has left an ineradicable mark upon the mind and conscience of this generation.
The depression was more than an economic incident. It has made a profound impression on the national conscience.
Our first resolve must be and is that never, while we have a brain to plan with or two hands to fight or work with, must such a depression occur again.
How then are we to secure that ample measure of employment at high remuneration and good conditions which represent the antithesis of depression and are the one effective guarantee against its onset?
We stand for:
We emphasise this. A slowing down of production will damage the wage-earner immeasurably. Increasing production demands increasing markets. Increasing markets cannot be won easily unless we produce commodities that are both good and cheap. Cheap production depends upon effort and efficiency of man and machine, and in no sense upon wage slashing We believe that high wages and high production are natural and inevitable allies. The power resources of Australia must be developed - exploited to the full - because in every country production is more and more seen to be closely related to available horse power. Working conditions must be constantly improved. Wages must rise. Modern factories have shown that proper working conditions mean not only a more human treatment of employees, but also better work. In a decent community, as Australia is, decent conditions improve the quality of the work being done....
The public works policy must be courageously applied, sometimes as a developer, sometimes as a stimulant, sometimes as a restorative, always - except in the case of works which bear directly upon national production - with one eye on the general employment level.
It has been the willingness to take risks with capital that has played a magnificent part in the development of Australia and of North America. All the wisest plans in the world will not stabilise employment if the tax policy is all the time tending to bear it down.
The purpose of all measures of social security is not only to provide citizens with some reasonable protection against misfortune but also to reconcile that provision with their proud independence and dignity as democratic citizens. The time has gone when social justice should even appear to take the form of social charity.
We believe that there must be no such thing as privilege in education. It is vital to the community that the qualities and abilities of each individual child should be fully developed.
We are not advocating a dull uniformity of educational method from one end of Australia to the other. There will and should continue to be great variations. In the same way we are not advocating the same type of education for all children, since the ultimate purpose of education differs in so many cases. But we believe that our educational system will fail unless it produces not only a measure of literacy and some minimum of skill, but a desire to learn, a real community sense and spirit, and proper standards of values.
Address at the Inauguration of the Liberal Party of Australia - Sydney, 31 August 1945 (A Liberal Party publication)
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