They come from all walks of life and are found engaged in most occupations. Some are members of unions. By and large they are neither rich nor poor by today's standards. They are culturally and ethnically diverse, and of all ages.
But different though they be they have one common characteristic. They are strongly independent. They believe that life is what you make of it, that you get there by your own efforts and that, in a sense, you have a duty to make the most of what you've got.
To many of them it is a fundamental objective to own your own home, raise a family and ensure that your children, if possible, have a better chance than you had. They are intent on improving their lot and putting aside something for a rainy day.
Although they believe that everybody should have a fair go, they detest rip-off merchants. tax avoiders, bludgers and government extravagance. They no longer trust politicians and have come to the conclusion that if governments interfered less in their lives and let them get on with it the better off they would be. Collectively they pay the bulk of the taxes that keep governments going
In essence they provide the intellectual, spiritual and physical drive of the nation and are potentially as gifted as any other people in the world.
In truth, they are the salt that savours our democracy. They are what many other Australians would aspire to be.
On election day they can destroy governments and unleash other political forces. Nevertheless, though potentially the most powerful and the most dynamic, they are by and large the forgotten people in our society.
Bob Menzies referred to them as such in 1943 in a series of essays which bears that title. He said they were the kind of people he represented - "salary earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on".
He went on to write that the real life of the nation was not to be found in great luxury hotels, fashionable suburbs or the officialdom of organised masses, but in the homes of people who are unorganised and unadvertised, to whom the home was the foundation of society.
He proclaimed that the greatest element in a strong people is a fierce independence of spirit.
Since 1949 these people have formed the natural constituency of the Liberal Party. That is why it has held office for 30 of the past 36 years.
The Liberal Party - federally at least - is not communicating with its natural constituency. It is not in tune with them. It may mean to be, but to many of these people it is talking gobbledegook or trying to sell some form of political cure-all. Words like "privitisation" don't mean very much to them. They might even want to keep Qantas or TAA.
Indeed, they've been around too long to believe that a few policies such as "privitisation" and "deregulation" will provide the answer to all our political and economic ills.
This is a crucial time for the Liberal Party. It is in danger of forgetting the fundamental truth that has been its strength - that policies are made for people not people for policies. The impression its people are getting is that Liberal politicians are prepared to fight for policies more than for the people they represent.
An old Liberal supporter in a Perth suburb won't be greatly impressed by a policy of deregulation if the effect is that it will force up the interest rate on his home mortgage. And, of course, he is not so stupid as to think that you can have a general policy of "deregulation" and only apply it when interest rates are going down.
Forms of deregulation and privitisation may well have a useful place in future policy. But the problem is not overcome by treating it as a mere lack of communication to be cured by experts in public relations. For it is clear that some Liberal politicians believe that these concepts, which are really only policy, should now become party ideology - articles of faith.
Nor is the problem I am addressing answered by saying that the [P]arty has not had time to formulate its policies for the next election.
A myth is being created by some sections of the media that the Hawke Government now represents the aspirations of these people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Its actions this year indicate that it is a government controlled by union bosses and that liberal democratic principles are under threat.
Not only has the tax package been dictated by union demands, but also the creation of union-dominated superannuation in satisfaction of alleged rights to productivity allowances.
Even assuming there has been increased pro- ductility and that the Commonwealth has the consti- tutional power to introduce the superannuation pro- posals, the injustice of the proposals to the rest of the community is obvious.
They can only have a worsening effect on inflation our dollar and our balance of payments at a time when we can least afford it But more than that the superannuation contributions by employers will be tax deductible to them and tax free to unionists.
If the productivity allowance were paid to the employees and they paid their tax on it, the Treasury would receive each year something like $1500 million in extra tax.
The revenue forgone represents a tax avoidance scheme for unionists for which, in a time of huge deficits, the rest of us will have to pay. And who imagines that employers who pay it aren't going to pass it on in the price of the goods and services for which the whole community has to pay?
Even more seriously, the establishment of union- dominated superannuation funds will damage, possibly irreparably, our chances of introducing an affordable broadly based national aged pension or superannuation scheme to which all income earners contribute.
Our chances of reasonably supporting the increasing number of aged in our community, while reducing the burden of taxation, now become more bleak.
All this and other economic and social issues we face represent a big challenge to the Liberal Party.
There is a liberal democratic vision for Australians which contrasts vividly with Labor's corporate state. It regards Australia's greatest resource as the courage, energy and talents of its people.
It believes that individual Australians given freedom of choice and the chance and encouragement to make the most of their capacities, are those best able to advance our cultural, spiritual and material wealth. It places little faith in the capacity of bureaucrats, politicians and large corporations of labour and capital to do it.
It sees government's role as that of facilitator responsible for overall economic management and for adopting policies designed to encourage the use to the full of our human resources, the development of competitive industries, the creation of employment and the minimisation of government involvement in our daily lives.
There is nothing new in this. In fact it is a vision the forgotten people have shared for a long time. Even they, however, thought, at times, that the welfare State might just be capable of doing the job for them.
But now there is an increasing awareness among our people that they must do it themselves. What's more, they are no longer willing to remain forgotten.
The farmers and small business people are making that clear. The forgotten people are becoming militant. They may soon be marching in the streets.
If the Liberal Party does not quickly identify itself with its traditional constituency by talking their language and representing their aspirations in a forthright, practical and comprehensible way, other forces could well take over.
If these were forces of the Right, it could do immense harm to the liberal democratic tradition in Australia and throw the mass of our people into the arms of the Labor Party - a fate they would never really want.
Published in ÓThe AustralianM21-22 December 1985