Five key principles underpin New Liberalism. These five principles are:
Two of these principles are new, or new developments of traditional beliefs: a duty and commitment to care for genuine disadvantaged groups unable to exercise freedom of choice or more than a marginal influence in society or the economy; belief in the pre- eminent need to balance economic growth with environmental protection if modern societies are to develop and survive.
These five key principles, taken together, require a distinctive approach to government. This distinctive approach lies at the heart of New Liberalism: a belief in rational problem-solving
New Liberalism, or indeed traditional liberalism, is not blinded by ideology. Systems of beliefs or ideals must always be kept flexible enough to entertain new ideas and develop new solutions. New Liberals have no preconceived or rigid notion of Ideal Society but, rather a commitment to a gradual social evolution that maintains the greatest possible area of individual choice, personal growth, social mobility and mutual responsibility.
New Liberals share the belief that socialism, or social democracy as Labor Parties now like to style it, is unacceptable to the Australian people. We believe the overwhelming majority of Australians look to their governments to sive real, identifiable, day-to-day problems with the minimum of ideological fuss and the maximum of efficiency and thrift. The Australian people admire efficient managerial technique delivered with some modern flair and style. They remain deeply suspicious of ideologies with blueprints for dramatic social change.
Key Directions for New Liberalism
To illustrate the application of the key principles of New Liberalism it is necessary to consider four vital areas of State government policy: education, health, transport and environmental planning
Taken together these four policy areas absorb more than two-thirds of State government expenditure. They also confront us with some of the most difficult social problems of our time and ones for which New Liberalism must have answers if it is to gain and hold the confidence of the people.
1. Education. The great education issues of our time are the improvement of quality and the enlargement of choice throughout our entire education system, from pre-schools to universities and beyond into the many forms of extended education.
New Liberals are committed to the maintenance of a healthy and vigorous private sector in education, ranging from private pre-schools, through independent and religious primary and secondary schools to the many forms of private tertiary education, both in day and evening classes.
However, choice between private and government education is not enough. More than 75 percent of our children are educated in government schools and most of their parents either cannot afford private schools or have chosen secular rather than religious education for their children. Enlargement of the choice within and between government schools, and within and between tertiary institutions is the next great challenge in education.
New Liberals believe that parents and their children, together, have a right to choose between government schools in reasonable geographical proximity to their homes. We propose to allow and encourage the exercise of this choice within sub-regional groupings of schools. The result will be greater accountability by classroom teachers and administrators; greater competition between schools to offer new subjects and old subjects taught in more modern, relevant ways; incentives to audit unsatisfactory schools and assess unsatisfactory teachers which experience and commonsense tell us exist and which parents and children may choose to leave or avoid.
Many administrative and professional reasons will be found to resist this basic change in our education system. After 100 years of increasing rigidity in State education it is time for individual freedom to reassert itself where the very foundations of social values are laid.
2. Health. New Liberals are committed to free health care for the disadvantaged: for pensioners, the mentally and physically handicapped, Aborigines, lone parents on low incomes and similar groups in special need.
Similarly, New Liberals are committed to the maintenance of individual choice between doctors, between private and public hospitals, between general practitioners and qualified practitioners of alternative medicine.
We also believe there will always remain an important role for religious and voluntary workers both in hospitals, community based health care and the varieties of counselling and aid services in the health and welfare areas.
Clearly, patients have the right to the doctor or surgeon of their choice if they choose private health insurance and pay for private ward accommodation. Clearly, too, doctors and specialists who wish to practise in public hospitals have a duty to contribute to the cost of the expensive services and equipment they use in the gaining of their private income. It is on this basis of mutual choice and mutual responsibility that the various contractual or professional arrangements between patient and doctor and doctor and hospital must be made.
Vital as these basic considerations are of care for the disadvantaged and freedom of choice in health care, State and Federal governments are faced with a further basic problem: the enormous scale of public health expenditure and its rapid escalation.
New Liberals believe that the strengthening of the private health insurance system for those who can afford it is one powerful brake on runaway health costs. Patients must be encouraged to exercise some discretion about the frequency, scope and length of medical treatment they seek.
3. Transport. New Liberals are committed to the introduction of a more flexible, efficient and balanced transport system that serves the needs of people as they choose to express those needs. This means five fundamental improvements in transport must be made.
First, the people's private and public transport choices must be seen as complementary not competitive...Second, the private bus and taxi service and the government bus, rail and ferry services must be harnessed together to provide a more extensive and better co-ordinated total transport system...Third, State government regulation of bus, rail and air systems has to be reduced to enable a better match between people's transport choices and available services...Fourth, wasteful and unproductive work practices must be reduced in the government transport system if it is to compete for future customers both in the new residential areas, the leisure and tourism market and the increasingly sophisticated freight sector...Fifth, many disadvantaged groups are not treated fairly or equally by our total transport system.
4. Environmental Planning. New Liberals believe the principle of environmental protection and the skills of resource and land use planning are complementary. Environmental planning is an essential prerequisite if we are to maintain economic growth while also maintaining a high quality of life for our people.
The extremes of private wealth and public squalor still exist. So, too, do the extremes of economic development and environmental degradation. New Liberalism is committed to the balance of the benefits from both economic growth and environmental protection. The Australian electorate will not tolerate reduced living standards. As our population increases - and it may double by 2050 - so too must our level of industrialisation, consumption and mobility. Our resources will be stretched further and the pressures on our natural environment will intensify.
...New Liberalism would not place such emphasis on improvements to environmental planning if it did not carry benefits to the disadvantaged. It is high time that urban planning brought public housing, in all its new forms, back into the mainstream of Sydney - close to the City; close to stations; close to beaches; close to national parks. Governments should purchase smaller quantities of land and housing for public housing development at better locations; spot purchase private homes for public housing and generally disperse its tenants throughout the community. Better balance, better access, better environmental quality and better chances of social improvement.
Speech: April 1984