Having lived through the Hawke PM era myself (1983-1991), and quite liking him and his govt, I can still never understand the way press gallery journalists write adoringly about the Hawke years and how much he ‘reformed’ things etc.
He really didn’t do that much.
He didn’t really change wealth distribution, tax the rich more (with one important exception below); or alter any great power balance in society.
(I can hear people objecting already to this, so lets work through some of the main arguments that Hawke changed a lot of things):
Not really the big shift people thought it was. At the end of the day, its government saying if you keep your savings and then live off them (with an allowed stream in retirement) we’ll tax you less. Its really still wage earners money, but being locked away from them.
its also turned into (not really Hawke’s fault) a huge gravy train for the rich, and for rich advisers feeding off the money.
I used to think there was some great policy purpose to it, but really the only good it does is stop people blowing their money as they retire, then going on the pension (or at least thinking about doing this).
It also creates a huge amount of administrative bloat and waste, notably for people who get a one off job etc.
This is probably the single biggest ‘Hawke changed things’ point. Yes it was important, but likely coming anyway, as it has done to virtually every wealthy country except the USA.
There was a state system of hospitals etc in Australia, but it still had many gaps.
But again, it was coming anyway, and wasn’t really introduced over the protests of any great pressure group (though the doctors union whinged a bit).
And it should have covered dental, but didn’t.
The Accord etc
I never got this:
- We’ll ask for lower wage rises
- Business will make more money
- ?? living standards will rise
I suppose there was a benefit here in less chaos from strikes, inflation etc, but it was way overblown.
Capital Gains Tax
This was the big one. Introducing a tax on capital gains on assets bought after 1985. Stupidly, this tax was halved by John Howard in 1999. This was the one thing I think Hawke really changed. They had a go at reforming negative gearing (1985) but caved to a property industry whinge campaign in 1987.
So there we have it. A cautious government, a cut in wages. A temporary cut in unemployment, but it all came roaring back in the early 90s recession anyway, (and went far higher and stayed there).
Not a lot of taking on vested interests and forcing change.
So why do all these press gallery journalists (Troy Bramston, Paul Kelly etc etc) love to witter on about the Hawke government and how good it was, ‘reform’ etc etc ?:
Because it didn’t change much, and it certainly didn’t affect their proprietors interest (in fact their proprietor was grossly appeased with specific laws passed at his command in 1986).
By writing about Hawke etc they can pretend to themselves that they’re all ‘progressive’. Just like the way they champion unlimited immigration, and kid themselves they’re being all ‘liberal’ when in fact they are cheering on wage cuts and a massive transfer of wealth upwards.
Of course, if anyone really tries to reform things (like getting the miners to actually pay tax on what they dig up), then the press gallery immediately close ranks and start giving unlimited publicity to industry scare campaigns.
But happy to have my mind changed in the comments! (if there are any of course).