May 18th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy policies freeze out the poor

EDITORIAL Religious freedom will be suffocated if ALP elected

FEDERAL ELECTION Majors fling barrels of pork in the way of disillusioned voters

CANBERRA OBSERVED If independents rule in House, stability is a goner

SOCIETY 'Ladies Wanted' flyers lure women into porn

CULTURE AND SOCIETY The last of his tribe

ECONOMICS Trading in the toxic legacy of neoliberalism

TECHNOLOGY The wheels come off Tesla's electric dream

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki Part 1

STATE POLITICS Notes from the hustings

A TRIBUTE TO LES MURRAY A man of the Word: the poet and the Logos

MUSIC Workhorse themes: Sonic sub-rhythms

CINEMA Avengers: Endgame: Marvellous final chapter

BOOK REVIEW The left has our schools in bondage

BOOK REVIEW Philosopher hits all the right notes

OBITUARY Bob Hawke: astute politician; flawed policies


EDITORIAL How Scott Morrison routed Labor, the Greens, GetUp and the left media

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Bob Hawke: astute politician; flawed policies

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, May 18, 2019

The extraordinary tributes paid to Bob Hawke, the longest-serving Labor Prime Minister of Australia, who died on May 16, reflect the fact that Bob Hawke was a man with the common touch, who won four elections until being deposed in a coup by his successor as Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

Bob Hawke, at the time
he was Prime Minister.

His popularity arose in part from his working-class background. His uncle served as a West Australian Labor Premier in the 1950s, he joined the Labor Party at the age of 18, he spoke in a distinctly working-class style, and was renowned as a heavy beer-drinker, at least before he became a member of parliament.

He was an emotional man, quite happy to have his emotions of elation or sadness, including teary eyes, on public display. The public loved it. He was one of them.

A man of driving ambition, he won the presidency of the Australian Council of Trade Unions with the support of the Communist Party in 1969, and gained further prominence in backing Gough Whitlam, who became Labor Prime Minister in 1972.

The Whitlam era of chaotic policymaking, radical left posturing in international forums, financial mismanagement and scandals saw the Labor government thrown out of office in an election forced by Governor-General John Kerr in 1975. Whitlam was defeated again in 1977, and retired from politics.

Bob Hawke entered Federal Parliament in 1980 as member for the safe Labor seat of Wills in suburban Melbourne, and openly touted his ambition to lead the Labor Party.

Shortly before the 1983 election, Hawke replaced then Labor leader Bill Hayden, and won the federal election held a month later in a landslide.

He won subsequent elections in 1984, 1987 and 1990, before being defeated in a party coup by his deputy, Paul Keating, in 1991.

Positive contribution

Hawke’s greatest positive contribution to the Labor Party was to redefine Labor’s 30 years of international neutralism –
effectively, alignment with the Soviet Union – a position that had been adopted
after the Labor Split in the 1950s.

Hawke was personally pro-American and pro-Israel, and, with the support of other leaders of the Labor Party at the time, including Bill Hayden and Paul Keating, reversed the anti-American policies that the ALP had adopted over previous decades.

He understood that Australians were overwhelmingly in favour of the American Alliance, and persuaded the Labor Party to take a direction that it has broadly followed to the present time.

His domestic policies were far more problematic.

One of his first actions was to convene a national consultation of business, union and community leaders, out of which emerged what he called “the Accord”.

Under the Accord, captains of industry and union leaders were co-opted to support the government’s agenda, in exchange for which they were given immediate access to the Prime Minister and his senior ministers.

The plan worked, with Australia being administered as a kind of corporate state, but it left Parliament with a significantly diminished role. Since the Opposition of the time was weak and divided, most people thought it didn’t matter.

His economic program, promoted by his Treasurer, Paul Keating, was to implement the agenda put forward in the Campbell Report, originally commissioned by the Fraser Liberal government, to deregulate the Australian economy and float the Australian dollar.

This was the first wave of implementation of “free-market” economic theory that had been developed by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, and implemented by President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Britain.

Under Hawke, the effect of floating the currency was to cause a substantial devaluation, which caused significant inflation within Australia but assisted Australian export industries, particularly agriculture and mining, which flourished.

The Hawke-Keating agenda included policies to privatise state-sector indus­tries, end subsidies of loss-making industries such as the auto industry, and sell off the government-owned Commonwealth Bank, Aussat, Qantas and CSL Limited.

Despite claims that the Hawke government had sound economic credentials, one effect of its program was the 1990–91 recession, the worst in Australia since the Great Depression in the 1930s. “The recession we had to have”, in Keating’s infamous words, caused tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses to go bankrupt as a result of the credit squeeze that forced interest rates up to about 18 per cent.

The second wave of free market economics took place after the election of Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, in 1996.

Although it took 20 years to eventuate, the consequence of radical free-market economic policy was the loss of domestic manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia, the collapse of heavy industry, dangerous dependence on imports of manufactured goods, and reliance on oil, gas and mineral exports to pay for them.

Another effect has been the slow-moving train wreck in Australian agriculture. Most family farms are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, trying desperately to cope as prices of meat, fruit and vegetables are set by the supermarket duopoly, the cost of water and power soar, and commodity prices fluctuate wildly. All this is on top of the vagaries of weather, including drought and floods.

Most farmers earn little or no net income, an appalling situation that would not be tolerated for a moment by members of any trade union or their officials.

On social policy, the Hawke government broadly continued the policies of the Whitlam government, increasing the power of the Office of Women’s Affairs, which pushed the feminist agenda through the public sector.

His efforts to make Australia a republic only got to the stage of changing the National Anthem. Hawke knew that to push for a republic would arouse massive opposition; which became apparent when the matter was put to a referendum in the late 1990s.

The Hawke government’s actions on the environment were highly destructive. By halting the construction of the Franklin Dam in 1983 in support of radical greenies, it effectively ended the construction of hydroelectric plants across Australia.

Other policies virtually ended the construction of new water storages and forced the closure of large sections of the timber industry in an effort to secure environmentalist support.

So, it is certainly true to say that the legacy of Bob Hawke’s policies is with us today.

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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