Published by the Australian Fabian Society,
Copyright Bob Hawke & the Australian Fabian Society 1984
Abstract: (Bob Hawke)
In my Fabian centenary address, I developed the point that the famous Fabian dictum of “the inevitability of gradualness” is not an excuse for opportunism but a principle of a necessity.
It is not possible to make a serious assessment of the work of the Labor Government since March 1983 without bearing this distinction in mind — the distinction between mere political expediency and the steady application of principles to achieve stated objectives in a way relevant to political and economic reality. I have never seen any reason to reject the word “pragmatic” as a description of my Government’s approach. But to the extent that it is used accurately (and few words in the English language are more frequently misused) it is only one definition of the many-sided approach involved in the work of a Labor Government in the 1980s. But I do reject out of hand any attempt to confuse the genuinely pragmatic element with mere expediency. The answer to any such charge must be found in the record; and consistency is the test in this matter.
The record shows, I believe, a deep and remarkable consistency between the policies and proposals developed in Opposition and their practical implementation, under the pressures and necessities of the realities of government.
Consistency may not be absolutely the highest virtue in politics, although I would not dismiss it, with Carlyle, as “the hobgoblin of little minds.” However that may be, the underlying consistency and coherence of approach we have demonstrated throughout 1983 and 1984 is surely the complete answer to superficial criticisms that this has been a government of expediency and opportunism.
The consolidation of these addresses in a single Fabian pamphlet — perhaps surprisingly, my first under the Society’s auspices — provides part of the record which confirms that consistency of approach. It is, I believe, of special significance that the first of the two Australian Institute of Political Science addresses published here was delivered almost on the eve of the remarkable events which were about to unfold, and certainly before those events could be foreseen. It could not be said that the fall of the Fraser Government was an example of the inevitability of gradualness. It was more an example of the suddenness of inevitability.