2012 H.V. Evatt Memorial Dinner
Carrington Hotel, Katoomba
28 April 2012
On that consensus of trust has been built some of humanity's most courageous efforts to transform the world in which we live.
Australia has had for most of our national existence a broad consensus that government should take responsibility to provide a far greater range of services and regulate a far larger number of practices than in many other countries. But in recent years that consensus has begun to deteriorate: instead of belief in the potential of co-operation and the role of government in creating and guiding that collective effort, there is distrust – distrust fuelled by some members of the political class, for their own short term electoral gains.
But the politics of distrust are easy: why challenge your opponent's ideas when you can instead simply assert your opponent’s illegitimacy?
- Canada from 2004 to 2011,
- New Zealand since 1996,
- the United Kingdom had six minority governments and four coalition governments in the 20th century, and their most recent election of May 2010 resulted in a hung parliament,
- no party has come close to having a majority in the Dutch House of Representatives since the introduction of proportional representation in the Netherlands in 1917, and
- in Sweden and Denmark majority governments are a pipe dream.
I do not think it is a complete coincidence that such questions of legitimacy, such vitriolic attacks on the very right of elected officials to hold their office, are directed against America’s first black President and Australia’s first female Prime Minister.