This extract is part of Australian Liberalism: The Continuing Vision
It was once the claim of our opponents that we were reactionary, ie. that we wanted to turn the clock back to restore laissez-faire to say "each for himself and the Devil take the hindmost, as the elephant said as he danced among the chickens"
We have, over many years demonstrated the falsity of this charge. We have greatly aided social justice. We have not just kept the ring and allowed victory to go to the strong. We have encouraged free enterprise, have recognised the making of a people as one of the dynamic inducements to the taking of capital risks in the development of the nation. But we have insisted upon the performance of social and industrial obligations; we have shown that industrial progress is not to be based upon the poverty or despair of those who cannot compete.
After over fourteen consecutive years of political office at the centre of the nation, we can point to a range of achievements in industrial justice and peace, in social services, in a growingly successful attack upon poverty, in widely distributed rising standards of housing and of living generally, which can be matched by very few countries in the world.
How has this been brought about? The answer is, to my mind, clear enough.
We have been human, with a sense of human destiny and human responsibility. As the etymology of our name "Liberal" indicates, we have stood for freedom. We have realised that men and women are not just ciphers in a calculation, but are individual human beings whose individual welfare and development must be the main concern of government.
We have no doctrinaire political philosophy. Where government action or control has seemed to us to be the best answer to a practical problem, we have adopted that answer at the risk of being called Socialists. But our first impulse is always to seek the private enterprise answer, to help the individual to help himself to create a climate, economic social industrials favourable to his activity and growth.
Our first question is not whether the Government could do this thing, but whether private citizens could. If the answer is that they could, our answer is that they should. We deal with each case on its merits, without dogma or prejudice.
Sometimes the middle course must be followed. The first is, broadcasting and television. Labor, the Socialist party, wanted and wants government stations only. We have stood for a dual system, with commercial stations competing. We have much reason to be thankful that such a system exists.
The second is civil aviation. Our internal flying services were pioneered by private enterprise. A Labor Government established TAA - the Australian Airlines Commission - and tried to give it a monopoly. The Act was successfully challenged on constitutional grounds, and private enterprise continued. When we came back into office, we did not seek to destroy the government airline which was well managed and efficient. But we wanted competition. We thus evolved our "two major airlines" policy - one government, one private. In the result, the public interest has been magnificently served. Here we have the contrast between doctrinaire socialism and the practical approach of a Liberal and enterprise-encouraging administration.
As I have many times said, Socialism is both reactionary and out-dated. I can understand how it attracted the support of radical thinkers after the industrial revolution in Great Britain and later at the turn of the century, when industrial power was in a limited number of hands, when the rights of employed people were imperfectly recognised, when trades unions were too commonly regarded as subversive bodies, when the economic doctrines of laissez-faire held sway, when social services were almost non- existent, there grew up in many minds a belief - an egalitarian belief - in the virtues of uniformity.
There was, and is, no uniformity among personalities, or talents, or energy. We have learned that the right answer is to set the individual free, to aim at equality of opportunity, to protect the individual against oppression, to create a society in which rights and duties are recognised and made effective. In this free society, the tyrannical notion of an all-powerful State is rejected, and dogmatic Socialism with it. In its place, we have put opportunity without any class privilege, social and economic justice, and the civilised democratic conception that governments are not the masters of the people, but their servants. I have stated, I venture to believe, our Liberal creed We must believe in it, preach it and practise it, for its success and survival are essential to the future of our nation.
Speech to Liberal Federal Council, Canberra, 6April 1964 (A Liberal Party publication)
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