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and the Australian Federation

Edited by J R Nethercote


This book recounts the story of Australia’s nationhood as the story of Australian Liberalism. It is a story of great and continuing debates about how best to meet the material needs of the nation, how to care for those who must look to the community for aid and assistance, and how to establish a role for ourselves in the world in trade as much as in diplomatic terms.

It is also a story of strong and colourful personalities with deep convictions, formidable characters, and large ambitions for themselves as well as their country.


Foreword - The Hon John Howard MP, Prime Minister of Australia
Preface - A A Staley, Immediate Past Federal President, Liberal Party of Australia

Liberalism and the Australian Federation
A A Staley and J R Nethercote  (read this overview online - see Chapter Extracts on this page)


Liberalism: the International Context - Dr Chandran Kukathas

Australian Liberalism - Dr Greg Melleuish

Liberalism: The 19th Century Legacy - Winsome Roberts


A Liberal Federation and a Liberal Constitution - Professor Greg Craven

The Federation Decade - Dr Ian Marsh

Alfred Deakin and the Australian Women's National League - Margaret Fitzherbert

Liberalism, Nationalism and Coalition, 1910-29 - J R Nethercote

The Rise and Fall of United Australia Party - Professor C J Lloyd AO

Menzies: The Wartime Prime Ministership, 1939-41 - Michael Keenan

Menzies and Post-War Prosperity - Dr Graeme Starr

Liberal Governments, 1966-72 - Ian Hancock

The Fraser Years - Charles Richardson

Towards a New Australian Settlement? The Progress of Australian Liberalism - Andrew Norton


Liberalism and Australia's Economic and Industrial Development - Professor Jonathan Pincus

Liberalism and Social Welfare - John Roskam

Federalism and The Liberal Party - Campbell Sharman

In the National Interest: Liberal Foreign Relations from Deakin to Howard - Professor Carl Bridge


Appendix 1: Australian Governments formed by the Liberal Party and its Forerunners
Appendix 2: Leaders of Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party and its Forerunners
Appendix 3: Party Representation in the House of Representatives and Senate, 1901-1998
Appendix 4: Some Key Dates
Appendix 5: Brief Biographical Notes

Endnotes / Index


A fascinating study … The book is not a dull recitation of history and constitutional review. Here the past finds contemporary reference and meticulous reflection on political personalities and their performances. Here is also intellectual stimulation and provocation … This book may be read to advantage by all those who have a passing interest in the development of the Australian nation.

James Killen, Sydney Morning Herald, 2002

Now we have a big, sophisticated history of Australian Liberalism, edited by John Nethercote, and with an impressive list of contributors. The main thing to emerge from this book - possibly not its intended theme -is how rarely Australian liberalism has been particularly liberal.

There is a good case for the claim that the national constitution is a liberal document, because it decentralises power. But apart from that and a handful of incidents such as Robert Menzies' opposition to the nationalisation of banks, the Liberal Party and its predecessors, while advocating the ideal of individual freedom, have supported considerable levels of State intervention into many areas of life.
Often, apart from their opposition to the unions, they have not differed much from the Labor Party in their actions despite their rhetoric of individual freedom. Indeed, many of the major liberal achievements of Australian governments in the economic sphere have been due not to the Liberals but to Labor. …

Michael Duffy, The Courier Mail, 1 September 2001

This well-presented collection of eighteen essays is the outcome of a project by the Liberal party to mark the centenary of federation, an initiative that everyone should applaud, irrespective of political allegiance. Ten of the contributors form a kind of relay-race coverage of the achievements of the Liberal party and its forerunners in shaping the constitution and governing the commonwealth.

Of particular interest is Ian Hancock’s contribution dealing with the post-Menzies governments from 1966 to 1972. He does not dispute that they were ineptly led, but argues a persuasive case that they initiated an important phase of change, credit for which is too often casually allocated to the Whitlam era. It is the sort of short but challenging historical writing that deserves a place on undergraduate reading lists.
Four essays survey the handling by Liberal governments of major issues, including an economical survey of one hundred years of external policy by Carl Bridge. It is the remaining four theoretical discussions that capture the book’s central and intriguing opacity. As Gregory Melleuish points out, there is a scholarly consensus (chiming with Liberal hagiography) which traces the party’s origins back to Alfred Deakin and hence to Victorian protectionism, transmuted during the first decade of the twentieth century into an interventionist commitment to social justice and economic security. As a result, the enthusiasm for free markets shown by recent Liberal leaders John Hewson and John Howard is regarded as a historical aberration, despite its respectable ancestry in the New South Wales free trade tradition.
Some contributors tag such attitudes as ‘conservative’. One, Greg Craven, confesses himself ‘cheerfully unequal’ to defining these two interwoven elements in the Liberal party. He then suggests that the federation settlement represented, simultaneously, a victory for free trade within Australia, which he likens to the modern discourse of recent economic deregulation, confusingly coupled with a dirigiste approach to external protection through a high tariff. Complicating the perennial philosophical cross-over has been the federal alliance with the Country party, whose idea of being liberal was to spend lavish amounts of public money in rural areas. One can only conclude that an element of ideological ambiguity does not seem to have harmed the Liberals at the polls. The book is a fine monument to a worthy project.

Reviews in Australian Stduies No 1, March 2006


Liberalism and the Australian Federation

A A Staley and J R Nethercote 

About the Contributors

Professor Carl Bridge Head of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London, since 1997. He held posts in History at Flinders University and the University of New England. He edited Munich to Vietnam: Australia's Relations with Britain and the United States since the 1930s (1991); Manning Clark: Essays on his Place in History (1994); and co-edited with Bernard Attard, Between Empire and Nation: Australia's External Relations from Federation to the Second World War (2000).

Professor Greg Craven Foundation Dean and Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Australia, since 1997. Formerly Reader, then Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne from 1992 to 1997. He was Crown Counsel, Attorney-General's Department, Victoria, from 1992 to 1995.

Margaret Fitzherbert educated at Monash and Melbourne universities, worked initially as an industrial advocate for public health employers. Currently a communications specialist in the private sector, she was previously an adviser to Dr David Kemp, Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. She was State president of the Victorian Young Liberals, 1993-94.

Ian Hancock Visiting Fellow in the History Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University. Author of National and Permanent? The Federal Organisation of the Liberal Party of Australia, 1944-1965 (2000). He is currently writing a commissioned biography of Sir John Gorton.

Michael Keenannow a policy adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was until recently Assistant Secretary, Liberal Party (Western Australian Division). His essay is based on a thesis completed as part of a Master's degree in International Relations at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Chandran Kukathas , Associate Professor, School of Politics, University College, University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy. His books include Hayek and Modern Liberalism (1989); with Philip Pettit, Rawls (1990); with David Lovell, William Maley and Ian McAllister, The Australian Political System (2nd ed., 1998). Editor of Multicultural Citizens (1993); and, with G. F. Gaus, The Handbook of Political Theory (2002).

Professor C J Lloyd, AO Foundation Professor of Journalism at the University of Wollongong from 1990, has recently been appointed Professor of Journalism (Research) at the University of Canberra. He was previously Senior Research Fellow, Australian National University, 1985-90. He was principal private secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (later Deputy Prime Minister) from 1967 to 1973, and to the Leader of the Opposition from 1978 to 1980. His books include, as joint author, Out of the Wilderness (1974); Parliament and the Press (1988); and The Last Shilling (1993).

Dr Ian Marsh Senior Fellow, Political Science Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, since 2000. His recent books include Beyond the Two Party System (1995); and, with Jean Blondell, Democratisation, Governance and Economic Performance: East and South-East Asia in 1990s (2000).

Dr Greg Melleuish is Associate Professor of History and Politics, The University of Wollongong. His books include Cultural Liberalism in Australia (1995); The Packaging of Australia (1998); and A Short History of Australian Liberalism (2001).

J R Nethercote editor, Australasian Parliamentary Review, is Resident Research Counsellor, The Menzies Research Centre. A Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia, he has held various appointments in the public and parliamentary services including secretary, National Inquiry into Local Government Finance (1984-85); Acting Assistant Commissioner, Research and Information, Public Service Board (1986-87); convenor, Review of Australian Safeguards Office (1988-89); and secretary, Senate Select Committee on Uranium Mining and Milling (1996-97). He has jointly edited many books including Parliament and Bureaucracy (1982); The Menzies Era (1995); and Business-Government Relations in Australia (1997).

Andrew NortonResearch Fellow, The Centre for Independent Studies; he also holds a part-time position at the University of Melbourne. From November 1997 to December 1999, he was Higher Education Adviser to Dr David Kemp, Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Before joining Dr Kemp's staff, he was Editor of Policy, the quarterly journal of The Centre for Independent Studies and a fortnightly columnist for the Brisbane Courier-Mail. He was editor of and contributor to A Defence of Economic Rationalism (1993); Shaping the Social Virtues (1994); and Markets, Morals and Community (1996).

Professor Jonathan Pincus holds the George Gollin Chair in Economics at the University of Adelaide where he is also Convenor of the Academic Board. He is co-editor of Australian Economic Papers. Formerly Professor of Economic History at Flinders University, he is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. During the Whitlam administration, he worked in the Priorities Review Staff and for the Tariff Board. He co-authored Government and Capitalism (1982), and has published mostly in the theory and history of public choice, trade protection and fiscal federalism; and (latterly) on the funding and regulation of higher education.

Charles Richardson has a doctorate in Ethics and Political Philosophy. He is the author of States' Rights and Human Rights (Institute of Public Affairs, 1995), and a former Editorial Manager at the Centre for Independent Studies. He was an active member of the Liberal Party at the time of the Fraser Government, and currently works as a consultant and freelance writer in Melbourne.

Winsome Roberts is a Research Fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of Melbourne. Specialising in politics and civil society in Australia, she is co-author of Australian Citizen and Globalisation: Two Centuries of Experience (2001 - in press).

John Roskam Executive Director, The Menzies Research Centre, Canberra. He was previously Chief of Staff to Dr David Kemp, the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and senior adviser to Don Hayward, Victorian Education Minister in the first Kennett Government. He is completing a doctorate in politics at The University of Melbourne.

Campbell Sharman has been a member of the Political Science Depart-ment at the University of Western Australia since 1977. His major teaching and research interests have been with Australian government and politics in a comparative context. Within this field he has had a special interest in federalism and the effect of constitutional and electoral rules on Australian politics. He is currently working on a study of parties, representation and government in Australia during the past hundred years.

A A StaleyImmediate Past Federal President of the Liberal Party; he was Federal President from 1993 until 1999. A member of the House of Representatives from 1970 until 1980, he was Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Arts, 1976-77 and Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, 1977-80.

Dr Graeme Starr Assistant Dean (International), Central Coast Faculty, University of Newcastle. He has previously been a member of the Department of Political Science, University of New England. Other appointments have included Senior Private Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the National Party, and subsequently State Secretary, New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party. He edited The Liberal Party of Australia - A Documentary History (1980); and jointly edited Policy and Change - the Howard Mandate (1997).


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Published August 2001
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781862874022
Australian RRP $45.00
International Price $40.00
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Australian History / Studies
Government / Political Studies

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