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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2560

Mr ANDREW(10.55) —Madam Speaker, I rise tonight conscious that recently in the House I have risen in adjournment debates to discuss what may seem to be rather frivolous issues but issues which I know are appreciated from your point of view. Tonight I turn to a rather more philosophic matter. I am prompted to rise because of the comments made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) when he reflected on something of our national history and the pride that Australians should feel in participating in world events. His remarks reminded me that next year Australia will be 200 years old. Too often in this place we have too short a perspective of our national history. Too often we are placed in a position where we feel more apologetic than we should about the various philosophies that we embrace because of the short history and the short perspective that is given to them. Instead a more realistic and long term perspective is appropriate. I make those comments because I have been reading a book by Michael Novak entitled The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism. I will briefly quote a particular part of the book because it is a useful overview of the 200 years that Australia has been in place.

Mr Brumby —In European history.

Mr ANDREW —I accept graciously the interjection from the honourable member and I concede that it is European history. I am grateful for the interjection. Novak writes:

Consider the world at the beginning of the democratic capitalist era. The watershed year-

I think this is significant in view of our own history-

was 1776. Almost simultaneously, Adam Smith published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and the first democratic capitalist republic came into existence in the United States. Until that time, the classical pattern of political economy was mercantilist. Famines ravaged the civilised world on the average once a generation. Plagues seized scores of thousands. In the 1780s, four-fifths of French families devoted 90 per cent of their incomes simply to buying bread-only bread-to stay alive. Life expectancy in 1795 in France was 27.3 years for women and 23.4 for men. In the year 1800, in the whole of Germany fewer than a thousand people had incomes as high as $1,000.

Michael Novak goes on to say:

In most places, elementary hygiene seemed unknown. In Africa, the wheel had never been invented. Medical practice in vast stretches of the world was incantatory. Illiteracy was virtually universal. Most of the planet was unmapped. Hardly any of the world's cities had plumbing systems. Potable water was mostly unavailable. Ignorance was so extreme that most humans did not know that unclean water spreads disease.

In 1800, popular self-government was uncommon. Democracies (notably Great Britain and the United States) were few. Nearly all states were authoritarian. In most regions, economic enterprises stagnated. In 1800, there were more private business corporations in the infant United States (population: four million) than in all of Europe combined.

The invention of the market economy in Great Britain and the United States more profoundly revolutionised the world between 1800 and the present than any other single force. After five millennia of blundering, human beings finally figured out how wealth may be produced in a sustained, systematic way. In Great Britain, real wages doubled between 1800 and 1850, and doubled again between 1850 and 1900. Since the population of Great Britain quadrupled in size, this represented a 1600 per cent increase within one century. The gains in liberty of personal choice-in a more varied diet, new beverages, new skills, new vocations-increased accordingly.

I quote that statement because in the 200-year period that Europeans have occupied this nation there has been a dramatic change in the wealth and opportunities that this globe and its people have been able to embrace. It is that whole process-the concept of the market economy-that this side of the House wholeheartedly embraces and puts as a more than viable alternative to the Australian electorate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.