Weekend Oz, May 9-10, p.15:
The central role of fairness in Australian politics is hardly new. It could, on the contrary, be viewed as an enduring feature of this country’s political system. After all, WK Hancock’s Australia, which famously summarised the essence of Australian democracy as being “the sentiment of justice, the claim of right, the conception of equality, and the appeal to government as the instrument of self-realisation”, was published in 1930.
But while Hancock saw many virtues in the “fair go”, he was clear-eyed about the dangers its pre-eminence in the pantheon of Australian political values created. Not only was it inherently vulnerable to “selfish interests snatching for advantages in the name of justice”, but the incessant pressure on governments to ensure outcomes that were “fair and reasonable” demanded more from governments that than they could ever hope to achieve.
Having therefore promised to deliver unaffordable claims that had been elevated into “rights”, governments that had “willed an end” invariably had to “shuffle out of willing the means”. Yet “having taken orders from their constituents”, the politicians were “afraid to tell the country what it has cost”, leaving voters “perpetually exasperated because they perpetually pursue a quarry which they can never run to earth”. The result, Hancock concluded, was a country in which “government, being constantly overstrained, is constantly discredited”.
The rest of Henry’s article is also excellent.