The Federation Press


and the Australian Federation


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.


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

Table of Contents

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

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

Of interest...