The first three volumes of David Kemp’s Australian political history told the story of Australian liberalism’s rise and fall between 1788 and 1925. In a global comparative sense Australia remained a liberal democracy in 1925, but ‘policy change by erosion’ (to use a Kemp phrase from another context) was undermining its liberal characteristics.
From a contemporary liberal perspective, Kemp’s third volume showed that key policy erosions such as the White Australia policy, protectionism and industrial arbitration came from governments that were broadly on the liberal side of the then dominant ideological conflicts. The increasing influence of socialist ideas, the growth of trade unions, and Labor Party electoral successes all threatened a more radical abandonment of liberal ideas and institutions.
This fourth volume in Kemp’s series, covering the decades from 1926 to 1966, is sub-titled ‘How Australians chose liberalism over socialism’. By 1966 the socialist threat to Australian liberalism, which began in the late 19th century and peaked in the 1930s and 1940s, had been defeated. But this was not a foregone conclusion. A Liberal State tells the story of how the semi-liberal order of 1925 survived the challenges it faced over the next 40 years.Continue reading “Socialism defeated but liberalism not triumphant (on David Kemp’s A Liberal State: How Australians Chose Liberalism over Socialism 1926–1966)”