Did Hawke-Keating government (1983-1996) represent a fundamental break with Labour Tradition?

Essay by byointellectUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2003

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The Hawke-Keating government of 1983-1996 did, to some extent, represent a fundamental break with Labour tradition. The 1980s and 1990s saw the triumph of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as a governing party and its victory in four successive elections. It has been suggested that this was a "regenerated" Labor Party, which aspired to reform and reshape the traditional basis of Australian politics. Furthermore, the ALP government of this period has been highly criticised for its addressing of some issues, such as privatisation, deregulation of labour and financial sectors, tariff reduction, welfare reform and its international policies . These can be seen as examples of the way the ALP broke away from fundamental Labour traditions and ideologies. It can be argued that this break from tradition, to some extent, was due to the changing political environment, changing electoral consistency and the ALP's according adjustment and increasing middle class influence.

The Australian Labor Party is "one of the oldest social democratic parties in the world" and can lay claim to a century of political activity and to having its "roots in a trade union movement that has almost 150 years of continuous existence."

It can be suggested that this long history of Labor can explain the variety of ideological influences and the lack of a clear definition of Labour tradition itself. Generally however, it can be argued that these traditions are those which developed through the formation of the party and later, those pursued by the Curtin and Chifley governments. Four major themes, namely socialism, liberalism, Laborism and pragmatism can be discerned as Labour traditions evident in the party and through its policies until the time of Hawke and Keating in the 1980s. It is these Labour values displayed during these times that the Hawke-Keating governments, to some extent, broke away...