Jointly presented by the Melbourne Law School, Melbourne School of Government and Accountability Round Table LTD on Friday 29 April 2022.
Presented by The Hon Barry Jones AC.
Liberty, Fraternity and - what was the other word? How Equality fell off the political agenda in Australia.
‘Equality’ dropped off Australia’s political agenda in the 21st Century. Both sides of politics recognise that winning elections depends on the votes of ‘aspirationals’. So progressive taxation was dropped, education became more stratified in Australia than the US or UK, and governments moved away from ‘needs based’ policies.
A standard measure of ‘equality’ has been equal treatment under the law. However, past decades have been marked by the protection of special interests that are above the law and by the harsh treatment of those below the law. Casino owners, private schools and big miners have been in the first category; asylum seekers, public schools and Indigenous Australians in the second. Both sides of politics are tainted.
In the age of retail politics, all values have a dollar equivalent, debate is minimal and ‘truth’ purely operational. Courage, imagination, curiosity, compassion have disappeared without trace to the detriment of ‘Equality’. What is to be done?
Barry Jones was born 11 October 1932 in Geelong, Victoria, and was educated at Melbourne High School and the University of Melbourne where he studied arts and law. He is an Australian polymath, writer, commentator, prodigious reader, teacher, lawyer, social activist, quiz champion and former politician. He campaigned against the death penalty throughout the 1960s and the second edition of The Penalty is Death (1968) will be published in August 2022. His book Sleepers, Wake! (1982) was an international best seller, read closely by Deng Xioaping and Bill Gates. He was Australian Minister for Science 1983-90. He represented Australia at UNESCO in Paris 1991-96. His greatest priorities presently include the need for action on climate change, reform of governmental and parliamentary process and debate and political education. He is passionate about, and has an extensive knowledge of, music and all the arts. Barry is a Director of the Accountability Round Table. He is on the National Trust’s list of Australian Living Treasures.