Articles – The Centre for Independent Studies

It’s time to Fightback! again

Mark McFarlane

16 March 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the 1993 federal election, which was fought primarily over Liberal Opposition leader John Hewson’s economic reform agenda called Fightback! This is what Fightback! meant to a 22-year-old growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

In 1991, on my way to job interviews in the city of Melbourne, I walked past buildings with advertising signs that read “40,000 square feet to rent.” The job market looked bleak.

The recession we had to have put my father out of work in the manufacturing industry. Victoria was once again a rust belt. Fightback! arrived in my life like a bolt of lightning to give me hope.

Hope of freedom from the collectivism beloved of the unions. Hope and inspiration for the individual. It was all in the title. Fightback! The antidote to a narrow and unsustainable tax base. An inflexible market for employment. A health system without market signals that will consume the entirety of a narrowing tax base with an ageing population. An inflexible workplace with union control of freedom of employment and involvement at the centre of government.

Those 650 pages might have been the epitaph of the longest suicide note in the history of Australian politics. And yet, far from death in 1993, Fightback! set the policy agenda and battleground for next 15 years of Australian politics.

Important elements of Fightback! have been implemented. We have a GST (though not as broad as it should be). Union influence in the economy has been wound back (however, the unions are on the march again). For a small period income tax retreated (but is once again a disincentive). Smaller government and market signals in health remain battlegrounds.

One of the authors might have retreated and said Fightback! was dead and buried. It lives! And those political convictions live on for those to whom Fightback gave hope. In 2018, after 10 years of federal nihilism Fightback! has the capacity to inspire another generation.

Once again it is time to Fightback!

Mark McFarlane is a member of the Centre for Independent Studies.

To watch our event on the 1993 election, click HERE.

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