The IPA and the Future of the Australian Way of Life

12 August 2021

By: Daniel Wild

I am excited to welcome you to The Australian Way, a new weekly email from the Institute of Public Affairs.

The purpose of The Australian Way is to communicate to you what the IPA is doing to maintain and enhance the Australian way of life.

We believe Australia is a great country with good people who want to work hard, treat each other equally, live freely, raise families, and serve the community. These are the timeless values which define what it means to be an Australian, and that have attracted millions of new arrivals to our shores.

At the 1984 VFL Grand Final, Slim Dusty, introduced as “the man who is Australia”, performed Waltzing Matilda to 100,000 proud Australians who sang every word with passion.

No-one was ashamed to be waving the Australian flag. No-one was looking down at their feet.

How quickly things have changed. Now our major cultural and civic institutions lecture us and tell us that Australia is not a country worth celebrating. And now, almost no school child would know even the famous chorus of the classic poem written by Australia’s greatest poet, Banjo Paterson.

In many ways Bill Leak, a proud and passionate Australian, was this generation’s Banjo Paterson or Slim Dusty. It says so much about this country today that Leak was pursued and hounded by the Australian Human Rights Commission for exercising, what every Australian is entitled to, his right to freedom of speech.

This decline to our way of life was quantified in a landmark research report released by the IPA on Australia Day this year. The report, The Fair Go – Going, Gone: The decline of the Australian way of life, 2000-2020, estimated that the Australian Way of Life Scoreboard – which measures the quality of the Australian way of life – had declined by almost 30 per cent in a generation.

This has happened because, to be honest, we let it happen. The left have taken over the institutions because they have been pushing on an open door. When the terrain is unoccupied it will be taken.

But we must always remember that those who denigrate our way of life are a tiny minority who do not represent the ideals of the mainstream.

The heartland of Australia is not in the corporate boardrooms on Collins Street in Melbourne, the Parliamentary Triangle in Canberra, or in the commercial headquarters of the banks in Martin Place in Sydney. The heartland of Australia is with the mainstream Australians living in the suburbs and regions.

There are many, many more Australians who think as we do. But they have, in many cases, been cowed into silence and convinced that they are the minority when they are, in fact, a large majority.

“Don’t ever think you are alone – our values have stood the test of time and they will endure.”

The Australian Way is the voice of mainstream Australian values. And it is how we rebuild.

We do this with research, analysis, commentary, and arguments which explain what is so unique and special about Australia and why it is the best country in the world – still.

Included in each edition of The Australian Way is the most recent episode of a new podcast series, Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott, which features a discussion between myself and Tony Abbott about the big issues facing our nation’s future.

As a member of the IPA you are the first to receive the first episode. You can listen to the episode here, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Also included in each edition of The Australian Way is The Discussion, which provides a deep analysis of the fundamental forces shaping Australia’s future, and The Must Read, which is the most important essay I have read each week.

The IPA was founded in 1943 as a non-profit research organisation with the objectives: to further the individual, social, political, and economic freedom of the Australian people, and to maintain and enhance the Australian way of life.

Every generation must fight for what it values and loves most. This is our fight.

There are some who say it is too late. But it isn’t too late. It’s never too late. If we don’t try then we will never succeed.

Tell me what Australia means to you and how we can save it by responding to this email and visiting where you can join the discussion.

Thank you for your support of the Australian way of life.

It was such a privilege to join Tony Abbott, Distinguished Fellow at the IPA, for the first episode of Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott. Tony brought his great intellect and insight to a brilliant and enthralling discussion about the big issues facing Australia. Australia is very fortunate to have someone of the calibre of Tony Abbott to contribute to public life and who demonstrates every day his commitment to his country and community.

In the first episode, Tony and I discuss the light at the end of the tunnel of the lockdowns and COVID restrictions; why the rise of experts and unelected bureaucrats is undemocratic; and Tony takes your questions about why so many Australians have appeared comfortable in ceding their freedoms in the name of safety and what Tony’s favourite moments from the Olympics were.

You can leave your questions for Tony through the Australian Heartland hotline at 03 9946 4307. Click here to listen to Australia’s Heartland with Tony Abbott, or search for the podcast on your favourite platform.

Australia was deeply divided at the end of World War Two.

Australians at the time were presented with two competing visions of the future. One was for a form of socialism, as the Labor Party, the public service, and many media outlets and community leaders, advocated for extensive government control over the social and economic life of Australians.

The other vision was based on an extension of the shared values that had defined Australia since federation, and ensured Australians had the resolve to fight and win World War Two: free enterprise underpinned by small business, egalitarianism, freedom of speech, liberal democracy, and the dignity of work.

It was in this context that the Institute of Public Affairs was established in 1943 by a group of business leaders with the ambition to achieve two objectives: to further the individual, social, political, and economic freedom of the Australian people, and to maintain and enhance the Australian way of life.

The IPA was then, as it is now, immersed in all the major debates about our way of life, culture, and values. The first edition of the IPA Review, which is the landmark quarterly publication of the IPA, was published over 70 years ago in 1949. Much of the research and analysis published in the 1940s and 1950s could just as easily have been written yesterday. (The IPA Review is Australia’s longest-standing magazine about culture and politics, and is now edited by IPA Executive General Manager Scott Hargreaves).

An essay titled A National Pride published in the January-February 1952 edition, for example, argued “perhaps many of our troubles would disappear, many of our problems be overcome, if we had a firm unshakable sense of national pride, a faith in Australia’s greatness, a confident belief in her destiny.”

The essay (which is without an author as author’s names were not published at the time) asserted that “ruinous” and “fierce group loyalties” were dividing Australians. Too many were pushing “their own particular barrows at the expense of the real interests of the Australian nation” and were indulging in “activities detrimental to the welfare as a whole.” The future of our way of life depended on an Australia which was united around shared values.

As we know, Australians ultimately decided that Australia’s foundational values offered hope for a better future in a way that competing ideologies did not. Consequently, the period roughly spanning 1948 until the mid-1970s is rightly remembered as a Golden Age. Not because of politics or individual politicians. But because of the widely shared sense within the community of optimism and deep belief that Australia’s best days were ahead of it.

“Ready access to the dignity of work also made Australia more egalitarian. Hundreds of thousands of migrants fled war, racial division, political instability, and poverty to work on the assembly line at a Holden plant, and in the many factories which were emerging across Australia.”

1948 was a landmark year because it was when the first commercially sold Holden was produced at the Fisherman’s Bend manufacturing plant in Port Melbourne. The Holden was “Australia’s own car” and the first “made in Australia, for Australia.”

Yes, the production of the Holden was perhaps predicated on a number of unsustainable policy foundations. But the Holden was more than a car or a matter of economics. It encapsulated the optimism of the Golden Age.

It show-cased Australia’s “go ahead to get ahead” commercial spirit, underpinned by an attitude that Australians could achieve anything. The production of the Holden proved that Australia could be economically innovative and achieve the scale required to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing sector.

The Holden was the centerpiece of a nation which had, for all intents and purposes, achieved full employment. At the time, almost every Australian who wanted a job had one. And almost every one of those jobs was stable, full-time, and available to all Australians, regardless of their cultural background, skill level, or their family’s last name.

Ready access to the dignity of work also made Australia more egalitarian. Hundreds of thousands of migrants fled war, racial division, political instability, and poverty to work on the assembly line at a Holden plant, and in the many factories which were emerging across Australia.

In 1955 close to 50 per cent of the then 5,400 Australians directly employed by Holden were migrants from 38 different nationalities. This compares with the 14 per cent of the overall population who at the time were born overseas.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average salary at the time for a manufacturing worker was 288 shillings and 9 pence, which today is the equivalent to $508 per week, or about $26,000 per year. While this is less than one-third of the current average annual salary, it was enough for one low-skilled worker to support a family of five, purchase a house in a decent suburb, who could send their children to a good local school, and have enough left over for a modest but comfortable annual family holiday.

True, this is not an entirely like-for-like comparison. But is shows the prospect for a better life beckoned for anyone who was willing to work hard and have a go.

What is so remarkable about Australia’s post-World War Two achievements is they were taking place in what was still a very uncertain climate.

1948 was also the year of the Berlin Blockage, whereby the Soviet Union effectively ended all rail, road, and canal access to West Berlin and, in doing so, threatened to escalate the nascent cold war into hot conflict. Later, thousands of Australians bravely fought and died in the proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam. And the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 almost brought the world to full-scale nuclear conflict.

But as Australians we got through these challenges because we were overwhelmingly united around our shared values.

The significant capital that was built up in the immediate post World War Two-era sustained Australia up until the turn of the millennia. The year 2000 is remembered by many Australians as a time of great success. The economy was booming. There was a stable and popular government in Canberra. And Australia’s sporting prowess – which was a reflection of our national self-confidence – was unparalle