The gymnastics of rectitude

An unrelentingly partisan history of liberalism in Australia
by
April 2021, no. 430
Buy this book

A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966 by David Kemp

Miegunyah Press, $59.99 hb, 616 pp

The gymnastics of rectitude

An unrelentingly partisan history of liberalism in Australia
by
April 2021, no. 430

David Kemp, formerly professor of politics at Monash University and minister in the Howard government, has a fairly simple thesis about Australian politics in the years between the mid-1920s and the mid-1960s. Put crudely, Australians were offered a choice between socialism and liberalism.

The Australian Labor Party offered them socialism. Kemp doesn’t much like it. It is one of the remarkable features of A Liberal State, that in more than five hundred pages of packed type, the author struggles to find a single idea or policy pursued by the Labor Party worthy of praise. The gymnastics involved in this effort are sometimes remarkable. To take just one example, the casual reader might imagine that it was a Liberal government that initiated Australia’s massive postwar immigration program. John Curtin and Ben Chifley, Kemp concedes, weren’t bad blokes, but they were surrounded by deluded ideologues and class warriors who wanted to nationalise everything.

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966' by David Kemp

A Liberal State: How Australians chose liberalism over socialism, 1926–1966

by David Kemp

Miegunyah Press, $59.99 hb, 616 pp

Buy this book

From the New Issue

Comment (1)

  • It's the conundrum at the heart of democracy. For it to work both sides require the humility which allows them to acknowledge that they don't have all the answers. As in most relationships governing works best when it is conducted in a state of acknowledged tension, with guiding ideas constantly in flux and contestation founded on an understood notion of what the given state should look like.
    Posted by Patrick Hockey
    01 April 2021

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