Document Type

Book Chapter


In a newspaper interview published in 2001 in the Australian Financial Review, the former Prime Minister Paul Keating spoke of his concern that a future Labor government might want to return to a view of government as a 'magic pudding'. It can be argued that in many ways Norman Lindsay had it right: Australia is the land of the magic pudding and Australians have often looked on the state as a magic pudding. The more that you take from it the more it would be able to give. Keating, however, warned that there could be no going back to this magical view of the state. The key to prosperity in Australia lay in the capacity of the country to remain economically competitive; only then would there be enough pudding to go round. But there are many people who want to go back, and they are not only supporters of Pauline Hanson and Graeme Campbell. They want to go back to what they perceive to be a golden past when the state guaranteed fairness. They believe that fairness and a high standard of living are both possible through active state intervention. In many ways Keating is doing little more than repeating the old criticisms of Edward Shann and WK Hancock that the pursuit of 'justice' in a particular way, the 'magic pudding' way, may destroy the capacity of the country to provide the wealth that makes a just society possible.