The new divides, a century later: 100 years after Alfred Deakin’s death, an assessment of the modern day demarcation lines as they apply across contemporary politics and global trade.


24 September 2019


Niina Marni. Hello and welcome in the language of the Kaurna people from my home in the Adelaide Plains, and can I thank David for that welcome to country and acknowledge all of Australia’s Indigenous leaders and traditional owners. To Iain and Fethi – thank you very much for your words and thanks to Deakin University and the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation for your hosting of this important event. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

The 2019 Alfred Deakin Institute Oration is a special one as it marks 100 years since Deakin’s death. If we wish to understand ourselves, to understand what it is to be Australian in 2019, we can’t do that without understanding our past, the men and women — like Alfred Deakin — who brought us here. Deakin’s achievements in the creation of our nation and as Prime Minister were fundamental to shaping Australia.

In building support for the Australian Federation and what was to become the Australian Constitution, Deakin was ever mindful of the inter-generational responsibilities that lay upon his nation-building shoulders. At the 1897 Federation Convention in Adelaide he spoke in awe “of the constituency which is not visible, but which awaits the results of our labours.” In doing so he acknowledged that “we are the trustees for posterity for the unborn millions, unknown and unnumbered, whose aspirations we may help them to fulfil and whose destinies we may assist to determine.”

It is hard to conceive what those of the 1890’s would make of modern life but surely they would feel a sense of pride in modern Australia, a nation whose prosperity far outweighs its population and whose progress remains the envy of many.

After Federation in 1901, Deakin played a central role in the first decade of our national life, serving as Prime Minister on three occasions, working with a range of different players in that tumult of early politics to build the legislative and constitutional framework that would guide and define this nation for more than three generations.

A central figure in the creation of our High Court, among his achievements were establishing the Bureau of Census and Statistics, creating a uniform national quarantine system, and passing legislation to give pension rights to people over the age of 65. His Government in 1908 chose Canberra as the site of the nation’s capital and in 1910 launched Australia’s first navy ships.1

Deakin also founded the first Commonwealth Liberal Party. An imperialist, but also an Australian nationalist, he was a barrister, a journalist and a gifted orator. Those skills saw him write pieces anonymously on Australian politics for circulation in London, but modestly, he was sometimes critical of his own performance in those pieces. This sort of self-reflection could perhaps go a long way in today’s political arena.

What I found striking in looking at Deakin’s career and contribution is something that perhaps sits in stark contrast to how we conduct some of our debates in contemporary politics — his ability to engage with, and persuade, others. His ability to cross demarcation lines and to bring people with him on causes he thought important.

This is clearest in the Federation campaign where he was able to convince both official convention delegates and the wider Victorian public of the benefits of coming together as a nation rather than remaining as separate colonies.

His governments were themselves, by necessity, creatures of consensus. Initially Deakin’s Protectionists governed with the support of Labor. Ultimately he reached a point of accommodation with his staunch Free-Trade opponents to campaign and govern together as members of the one Commonwealth Liberal Party.

His example of listening and engaging across government, academia and civil society is something from which we can all learn.

Perhaps the recent Australian election shows just how important this skill of listening and persuading is. It has been acknowledged in the media that one of Prime Minister Morrison’s strengths is his ability to relate to everyday Australians. ABC journalist Jane Norman writing about the Prime Minister recently noted:

The point is, he’s targeting voters on their patch and following their conversational lead…”2

Caroline Overington at the Australian echoes this sentiment writing that the Prime Minister did not presume to tell people how to think and what to do but spoke to them, not over them.3

In speaking to you this evening I want to look at some of the demarcation lines in politics and global trade which shows that Deakin’s approach, his persuasive skills, is as relevant today as it was a century ago.

Protectionism and free trade

Deakin was, as those of you who have studied his life know, a protectionist.

Protectionism and free trade was — then as now — one of the great fault lines in national and international affairs.

It’s not hard to imagine why when you look at Australia’s situation back in Deakin’s day.

Six colonies, at the far end of the world, far from Britain, far from the key markets for our goods, being forged together into one nation — a defensive, protective approach to things was an understandable response.

That defensive instinct lay behind the White Australia Policy as well, and it would be more than 70 years before the political establishment across all sides of politics would finally let go of that flawed logic.

Edmund Barton’s first government, in which Deakin initially served as Attorney-General, was formed out of the win of the Protectionists over the Free Traders.

Deakin was heavily involved in drafting his party’s platform for that first election, the so-called “Protectionist Policy speech” delivered by Barton at Maitland on January 17.4

In that speech, Barton defended the imposition of a Commonwealth tariff on the basis that protection was a natural thing occurring in different ways in all sorts of economies and societies, and essential for our then state of development.

As Deakin and Barton saw things, the act of Federation — bringing together all of the different colonies, with different tariff rates, different industries and a different range of working conditions into sudden unanimity — would be challenging enough, without worrying about opening up free trade internationally as well.

One could argue this policy of advancing trade harmonisation among the colonies was a form of incremental trade liberalisation that didn’t move too quickly ahead of Australians at the time.  

“So the policy of the Ministry in this regard is revenue without destruction,” said Barton, possibly using words drafted by Deakin. “A tariff maintaining employment and not ruining it.”

By this Constitution, complete inter-colonial freedom of trade begins with the Commonwealth tariff. These industries will thus be suddenly exposed to unrestricted competition all over Australia…

Are we to add to this the shock of unrestricted competition, for the first time, with the world at the same instant?

Judith Brett, in her 2017 biography of Deakin5, cited contemporary historian Henry Gyles Turner’s description of Deakin “as the great apostle of Protectionism”.6

But he didn’t start out that way7, and who knows, perhaps Deakin, like so many modern liberals, if he were alive today, would come across this great fault line in supporting an open Australian economy and free trade. Like many Liberal leaders since, Deakin though made the pragmatic decision to respond to the needs of the country at the time.

For me, Deakin’s most important characteristic was not his attachment to one particular policy, but his patient, effective centrism, or perhaps, his open mind.8

Deakin was a protectionist in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century because he understood you have to bring people with you. As a fledgling, even developing nation, that was where the centre of Australian politics was back then.

A century on, the central ground itself has shifted.

Australian economic history since Federation tells us why.

For three generations after the legislative and constitutional project which we now call the Australian Settlement — this country held on to protectionist walls, to high tariff barriers and countless other protections for industry.

Maybe we needed them, like Deakin and Barton thought back in 1901, but those protections long outlived their usefulness.

We understand today just how much Australia was being held back by its protection through the first three quarters of the 20th Century, and we know just how prosperous we’ve since become as we embraced global competitiveness and open markets.

One could argue that the reason for demarcation lines between free trade and protectionism was the exigencies of a nascent Australian Federation. Bert Kelly, who decades later would lead arguments to dissuade Australia of continued protectionism, acknowledged that “the tariff wall was originally erected to encourage the establishment of secondary industries in Australia.”

Australia held on to protectionism well past the need to accommodate our early growth and, as Bert Kelly put it in 1978, up to a point “that limits the expansion of our economy by encouraging us to establish, or continue, industries for which we have no natural advantages, so that we use our limited resources in unwise ways.” Finally, in the 1980s the Australian Parliament, with the support of the then Opposition and under the Hawke Labor Government, set about resolving this demarcation line and opening the Australian economy to the world.

The proof of our own journey of ‘reform and opening’, to borrow the words of Deng Xiaoping, lies clearly in the results.

We have recently recorded the trifecta for the first time in a very long time of a balanced budget, current account surplus and record trade surpluses, fuelling record levels of employment. But, as our Prime Minister likes to frequently remind us, positive economic indicators are only as good as how we translate them into policies that serve the Australian people.

The silent majority speaking up/demarcation lines in politics

There has been much public discussion over recent years about the dividing or demarcation lines opening up in contemporary politics, and this is far from being confined to Australia.

The last few years have seen some up-ending of established political paradigms. It’s not necessarily new, but with instant, modern global communications, we are all that much more aware of it and it has driven much of this disruption; much of it influenced by perceptions of trade or openness.

What recent events across Western democracies have shown is that groups of people who feel their voices are not being heard are making their views known in ways that are creating fissures that can no longer be ignored.

As Stan Grant noted:

Throughout the world, long-silent voices are making themselves heard and it is shaking up politics as usual…”9

The phenomenon of the gilets jaunes in France effectively illustrates this. The yellow vest movement has been demonstrating in France for nearly a year. Its team uniform, readily donned – given it’s already a part of the mandatory safety kit in every French car — it quickly spread though as a populist movement to other, less mainstream, causes and groups who have attached themselves. The yellow vest movement started as an online petition for largely regional and suburban French middle and working class people protesting fuel hikes and cost of living pressures.

There are now spin offs of the yellow vests in various countries around the world. In France, one of the overarching grievances was the feeling that their views and needs were overlooked by politicians and other decision-makers for the sake of ideology.

Responding to the unrest, President Macron – himself the product of political upheaval – held town hall meetings and an online forum, after which he held a press conference in June this year, conceding:

We sometimes came up with good answers, but too far from our citizens. That was a fundamental error.10

The Brexit result was another that surprised the political establishment, despite both major political party leaders officially supporting the Remain campaign. Three million previously disengaged voters who hadn’t voted at all in recent UK elections came out in force. The majority voted to Leave. Arguably their central concerns mirrored those which subsequently arose among the yellow vests — a sense of economic disempowerment, frustration with political and other elites who they felt patronised and overlooked them and a sense that the establishment simply wasn’t working for them.

Sean Lang writing in the Conversation following the vote said:

Disraeli spoke of England as “two nations” — the rich and the poor. Modern England is just as divided but along a different faultline. This referendum was a revolt of the provinces against the domination of the capital. Not since London rallied to the side of parliament and drove out Charles I have capital and country been so much at odds.11

There was a split between social conservatives and social liberals and along education and age lines.12

Rather than recognising the message of those feeling disenfranchised some – too many – responded with blame or accusations of ignorance. Andrew Percy – a Conservative MP for Leave – perhaps best gives voice to those who spoke up at the referendum:

The sniffy and patronising way in which liberal middle class elite in London has just looked at the votes of people in my patch and said, you know, these people are either too stupid, too northern, too working class, too poor, too old, and they didn’t really know what they were voting for. I just think it’s deeply offensive.13

Prime Minister Theresa May, in her first speech as Prime Minister, attempted to reach out to this group coining the phrase, the JAMs (or Just About Managings). She said:

If you’re from an ordinary working class family life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. I know you’re working around the clock. I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.14

The EU referendum campaign exposed previously subterranean demarcation lines in politics. These broke down traditional party affiliations, creating new differentiators around where you live, age and economic or educational opportunity.

Like the Howard Battlers, Menzies’ Forgotten People or Morrison’s Quiet Australians, again we saw with those in the United States — who felt left behind — a reaction against the elements of the political elite in Washington at the last U.S. Presidential election.

Identity politics has become polarising and has perhaps opened up new demarcation lines in the contemporary context. Social media has certainly deepened ideological echo chambers and the new divisions between different groups in society. The Pew Research Center found a few years ago that in the US:

’Ideological silos’ are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions — especially conservatives — are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families.”15

In contemporary politics we should see the ability to understand others’ points of view more as a strength and not marginalise or shut down people whose views we sometimes find uncomfortable or unimportant. There are things we should call out, sure. But we need to engage with people, hear their point of view and try and have a respectful and civil, and convincing, exchange. I think Deakin would agree with this proposition.

Deakin showed our job in government is to listen to, and persuade, all parts of society; those who agree with us and those who don’t. Government is about making the best decisions in the interests of all Australians, not just the few who share our own outlook. We need to recognise and engage with those who feel themselves outside of the political elites. Our current Prime Minister showed this when he spoke of the Quiet Australians:

They don’t make a lot of noise online or call into radio stations, they don’t campaign in the streets or protest outside parliament.”16

Perhaps one of the most fundamental lessons to be learned from the Brexit referendum or the yellow vests phenomenon is what one might term ‘the establishment’ needs to recognise and appreciate the aspirations and opportunities of all groups of people, especially those who feel ignored, to understand what they want in their lives. We also need to ensure we have policies that deliver on those aspirations – basic aspirations but important. Like home ownership (a common thread through liberal ideals and values over the decades); like having a job and rewarding effort; and appealing to the values of freedom, fairness and enterprise.

Now by contrast to some of the other political outcomes in recent times, this year’s Australian election did see a return to the status quo. The Quiet Australians sought the security and stability of lower taxes, efforts to address cost of living pressures, job security and a repudiation of class warfare.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

The 2019 election can’t be labelled Australia’s Trump or Brexit moment. But there were some parallels, especially to the Brexit vote in the UK, where metropolitan London voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union while in most English regions a majority voted to leave.

“…many regional voters are hostile towards political concerns expressed by those in the ‘globally connected knowledge economies’ of the big cities.

That is the story of the US presidential election and it’s the story of Brexit…This is cutting across the traditional cleavages of class-based party voting.17

Showing how relevant it is to relate to people now as it was a century ago, James Walter at Monash University wrote:

Writing more than a century ago, sociologist Robert K. Merton described how party leadership can become divorced from public opinion: and their own supporters to some extent. It’s because political leaders become preoccupied by their status and position within their party, and also become convinced that they know best.18

Walter gives the pertinent example of the Greens’ and activitists’ caravan that travelled to Queensland to protest the Adani mine. Quite rightly James Walter said “they were not attuned to the people they were trying to talk to”.

Whatever your views on the objects, the Greens’ caravan crusade should well have taken a leaf from Deakin’s book and focussed on persuasion rather than lecturing. To affect change on matters like climate policy we all need to thoughtfully personalise the issues so that they matter to the lives of individuals and their families, rather than behaving in ways that imply some lives, communities or jobs don’t matter.

We Australians don’t tend to go for change for change sake. The record on Australian referenda aptly and amply demonstrates that. Unlike France, the UK or America where people surprised the pundits by breaking from the status quo, where the silent majority felt they had been left behind, the result in Australia — which surprised many — was the status quo.

But we should be mindful that the tensions and fractures evident elsewhere also exist in Australia, including within our own, seemingly robust, two party system.

Our supporters, our liberal supporters, at this year’s election constituted a diverse constituency. For example, many who voted Liberal or National in 2019 would have voted yes at the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite, but many would equally have voted no. Many support action on climate change to reduce Australia’s emissions, but many are equally sceptical of such action.

It would be a mistake for anyone to try to claim an ideological mandate from this year’s federal election beyond the majority-building commitments our parties made in areas of economic and national security. Elsewhere, in areas like protection from religious discrimination or much needed commitments to emissions reduction, we must govern from the sensible centre, taking actions that are responsible and meaningful but in ways that are respectful to the diverse constituencies we represent.

This year’s election showed how important it is that the silent majority — the Quiet Australians who often don’t speak out or protest — is heard. Only through persuasion reminiscent of Deakin and the placing of practical policies ahead of ideological dogma do we ensure that politics, our people and our overall society remain calmly in the sensible centre.

The great divide: economic nationalism and globalisation

One of the great divides or fault lines globally remains the defining domestic issue of those early years of Federation: whether it’s better to be opening up your economy, or narrowly defending interests within it.

Australia, in 2019, is the poster child for openness — we have embraced it, and it has been good for us as a country since we decisively turned that corner away from protectionism in the 1980s and 1990s.

I pay tribute to the Hawke and Keating economic reforms that, with support from the Liberal Opposition of the day, helped to transform the Australian economy and open us up to the world rather than close us off from it.

But in an ever increasingly uncertain world many of the structures that have served us well need to adapt to meet the changing times and circumstances.

Some say the multilateral trading system is in crisis. It is certainly straining under the weight of multiple pressures:

  • Like all multilateral institutions it is remote and appears to lack relevance to many of those feeling most disaffected across different countries;
  • The failure of the WTO to successfully conclude major rounds of multilateral negotiations in recent years has created an impression that it is ineffective;
  • The economic progress of some economies who are seen to operate in market-distorting ways or take undue advantage of rules intended for less developed counterparts has raised questions of fairness; and
  • The world’s largest economy breaking away from negotiating norms, increasingly applying unilateral tariff measures and threatening to destroy dispute resolution mechanisms makes the WTO seem powerless.

There is no question that the current trade war between the world’s two major economies is creating uncertainty and volatility. The continuation of the US – China trade war is in nobody’s interests, while its successful settlement is in everybody’s. Australia cannot resolve this dispute for these two major economies but we can be clear in our position that with great power comes the responsibility on both the US and China to act appropriately.

Any settlement should address the issues of substance, such as the protection of intellectual property and transparency of subsidies. It may lower trade barriers between these two economies opening up trade further, possibly in areas that are consistent with our own China Australia Free Trade Agreement. However, any settlement of this trade dispute should not result in a trade-distorting outcome that manages trade via purchase agreements between the two economies to the detriment of fair and open competition from other suppliers like Australia.

It is also in all of our interests to see the dispute resolution mechanisms of the WTO fixed rather than pushed into an indefinite state of inoperability. While a ‘might is right’ approach may work for some in the short-term, it isn’t conducive to long term solutions and is certainly detrimental to mid-sized, trade-exposed economies like our own, let alone even our smaller counterparts.

History shows the global economy runs best when there is certainty and predictability and when we are all bound by the same rules. An absence of such rules may, arguably, benefit both the US and China given their economic might, but this is all the more reason for Australia to stand with other likeminded nations in defence of rules-based trade.

In addressing these difficulties we need to remember that when Australia, as a founding member, joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the GATT) in the late 1940s, there was only a small number of members. What started as a small group of like-minded countries grew as others saw the benefits of opening trade, eventually becoming the multilateral consensus-building World Trade Organization.

Despite current pressures it is crucial for countries to work together across perceived international trade fault lines to address constructively legitimate concerns, to ensure that the rules-based system can evolve and reform in ways that enable it to continue to function effectively, in the interests of all its members. 

Australia has played a key role – in listening and persuading – in the development of rules, including as a driving force in establishing the Cairns Group to eliminate agricultural export subsidies as well as working to conclude the negotiation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. There have long been different approaches on issues like agricultural subsidies — but we have shown that it has been possible to make progress in seemingly intractable areas in the past. Persuasion, yet again.

Demarcations between developed and developing countries around what is known in trade circles as Special and Differential Treatment may appear intractable to some, or binary to others. Clearly as countries do develop these rules should not simply lie in a set and forget kind of way. The system should accommodate different levels of development but it is important that any special treatment should acknowledge the full spectrum of development and keep pace with the progress of different countries.

Australia is at the forefront of reform efforts to update the WTO rulebook. With our ASEAN and New Zealand partners in Bangkok earlier this month, I co-chaired a meeting on how our part of the world can contribute a strong voice to the direction of WTO reform.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. What strikes me is that the ten countries of ASEAN – at such disparate levels of development and with different interests – can work together so effectively as a group, and it’s now part of one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

Australia is also leading efforts to develop new rules on e-commerce, on cutting red tape in services and pushing for an outcome on fisheries subsidies negotiations. It will be important that we do make progress, not just for the multilateral system itself but for the trade-based economies that depend upon it; and in areas such as e-commerce for the opportunity to address issues such as the digital divide, to reach the opportunities of trade into new economies or in areas such as fisheries subsidies, to address not just the economic imperatives but to demonstrate sustainable environmental outcomes as well.

In bilateral and plurilateral fora Australia has demonstrated our ability to swim against the tide when the going gets tough, as we did with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP-11). When the United States pulled out, some said it was “dead in the water” and that it would never happen without the US. However, with strong leadership from Australia under Prime Minister Turnbull and Japan under Prime Minister Abe we salvaged the TPP, set a positive example for world and secured Australia’s first trade agreement with markets such as Canada and Mexico.

As always, successful reform will require reminders of what has actually been achieved to date and why it matters. Average tariff rates of participant countries at the time of GATT were up at around 22 per cent. After the Uruguay Round at the end of the 1990s they were close to 5 per cent19.

The rules-based order and trade liberalisation in Australia over the last few decades has helped to underpin 28 years of successive, consecutive economic growth. This openness and respect for others’ sovereignty has served us well – just as it has served others well, especially across our region lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Playing by the same rules provides certainty and predictability, which stimulates investment and growth.

Many dismiss Australia’s trade success as a function of the mining and resources industry, but it is much broader than that. Our number of exporting businesses was 53,000 in 2017-18, up 18.5 per cent since 2013-14. Australian businesses that export, on average, hire 23 per cent more staff, pay 11 per cent higher wages and have labour productivity 13 per cent higher than non-exporters. That’s good for workers and good for communities, with many of those businesses in regional parts of our country.

Recognition of these benefits has helped to underpin bipartisan policy on trade for the most part over the last three decades, helping to build strong support among the majority of Australians.

Lowy Institute trade polling data for 2019 shows that Australians who think free trade is good for their own standard of living has risen from 67 per cent in 2017 to 75 per cent in 2019 (noting that those who think it is bad has also gone up, from 16 to 20 per cent). Those who think trade is good for jobs has risen over the last two years from 55 per cent to 61 per cent while those who think it is bad for jobs is unchanged on 35 per cent.

That said those who thought globalisation was mostly good for Australia was down from 78 per cent to 72 per cent and those who thought globalisation was mostly bad was up from 15 per cent to 24 per cent. 20

Overall this is a strong endorsement of our openness and continued pursuit of trade liberalisation. Nonetheless, we need to be ever vigilant to ensure that a new demarcation line doesn’t develop, driven by people who believe that globalisation is not working for them. Issues such as rapid technological change, concern about future automation of jobs, the digital divide and companies moving offshore where labour costs are cheaper are no doubt driving some of this anxiety.

Our job as a government is to ensure that the right employment opportunities are available to those who are able to work, coupled with the necessary skilling, so as to maintain the economic strength that allows us to maintain the services and supports a decent society like ours provides.

Despite some of the fault lines in the modern political sphere, I hope that we can work across the Parliament to ensure that we do continue to have bipartisanship on trade in this country so that we can continue to open new markets and create new opportunities and jobs for our exporters across agriculture, manufacturing, services and investment. So that equally, we can continue to help facilitate the type of growth in living standards and employment opportunities seen in countries across our region as they too have opened up alongside us.

What the Liberal tradition can teach us

It is worth reflecting on what our leaders in the great liberal tradition can show us about bridging demarcation lines and bringing people together through persuasion, which was Deakin’s forte in the Federation debate, or by engaging with people rather than talking down to them.

Menzies, who created the modern Liberal Party during World War II, continued the focus on a centrist majority which he saw as the middle class focused on enterprise, defining them as “the backbone of the nation” — “…salary-earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers… they are for the most part unorganised and unself-conscious…21

Menzies spoke to those Australians and connected with them. These are some of the Quiet Australians that Prime Minister Morrison and his Government have also heard; the Howard “battlers” and aspirational Australians, who have a desire for government to simply focus on the tasks of keeping us safe, managing the finances, creating job opportunities and securing essential services and safety nets.

Creating opportunity for trade and enterprise is central to the Australian Liberal tradition. Judith Brett described Deakin’s approach as to back in “the middle ground for Australia’s mixed economy and arguing for a pragmatic rather than a ‘philosophical’ (or ideological) approach to questions of public policy.”

In his book Afternoon Light, Sir Robert Menzies outlined why enterprise played a key role in his decision to follow Deakin’s choice of party name:

“We took the name ‘Liberal’ because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his rights, and his enterprise and rejecting the socialist panacea.”22

Prime Minister Morrison is continuing in that tradition of bringing Australians together around individual enterprise, as Deakin and Menzies sought to do before him. In his speech to the Menzies Research Centre in March the Prime Minister said:

“Our liberalism is about strengthening the bonds between all of us and in lifting all Australians, no matter their age, their gender, their religion, class or sexuality. Our approach is not to pitch one Australian against another, to punish one in order to reward another. We do not believe one Australian has to fail for another Australian to succeed.”23

Deakin met demarcations by walking across fault lines and meeting his adversaries, sometimes even more than half way. As Australians we like a bit of healthy competition and friendly banter. But like Deakin, we know that when it comes down to it we are better and stronger working together in a changing and challenging world by meeting somewhere in the centre and working through our differences rather than amplifying them.

One hundred years after Deakin left us, the human challenges haven’t changed. But nor have most of our core values as a liberal democratic and progressive society: free enterprise, empowerment of the individual and fairness.

We might sometimes see things differently but Deakin and Liberal leaders who followed him saw the great Australian idea of a ‘fair go’ in giving a fair go to people to have their voices heard. To not do so risks the fault lines widening as they have in other places. That’s not something we can or should allow to take root here. As Australians we can engage and we can disagree but we must ultimately be civil and persuasive.

Trade is not a zero-sum game as politics is not a zero-sum game. Let’s work together to build greater understanding so some of the fault lines we face today recede and others don’t develop.

Thank you so much for the chance to be with you this evening.

1 (Alfred Deakin biography)

2 Jane Norman, ABC online, 24 April 2019

3 Caroline Overington, The Australian: “Quiet Australians Heard Loud and Clear in Australian Election win” (22 May 2019)

4 Speaking notes for the speech at Museum of Australian Democracy:

5 Brett, Judith, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, Text Publishing (2017)

6 Brett, (op.sit.) pp. 254

7 Deakin believed in free trade until 1878, according to Judith Brett, at which point the editor of The Age, David Syme, who took Deakin on as a journalist, converted him to protectionism. Brett writes that Deakin started out as a free trader “on the model of J.S. Mill” in accordance with his father’s views, based on reading the conservative Argus newspaper. See page 57 of Brett’s book.

8 Brett writes, at p 58 of her book: “When he began writing for the Age, Deakin was already a Liberal by temperament and had a youthful eagerness to align himself with the progressive forces of history. He was open-minded and against dogma and superstition…”

9 Stan Grant, Foreign Policy, 21 May 2019 (Scott Morrison Won Australia’s Election Against the Odds)

10, “Has Macron seen off the gilets jaunes?” by Hans van Leeuwen, 30 June 2019 (

13 BBC Two “Brexit: The Battle for Britain” (2016), reporter Laura Kuenssberg; Broadcast on Four Corners Monday 5 September 2016

14 BBC Two (op. sit.)

16 SBS News, 9 May 2019

18 Emeritus Professor James Walter, Political Scientist, Monash University,, 23 May 2019 (Federal election 2019: Why the Coalition won and what Scott Morrison needs to do next)

20 Lowy 2019 trade polling data

22 Afternoon Light, RJ Menzies (1967)

23 The Hon Scott Morrison MP, 2019 Sir Robert Menzies lecture (12 March 2019)