Josh Frydenberg’s maiden parliamentary speech continued the tradition of Sir Robert Menzies himself in fooling listeners with words like “tax reduction” and “free-markets”, both of which Menzies did the opposite of, which is far from what Frydenberg implies. Here are two passages from Maxwell Newton in 1966 on the unprincipled Sir Robert Menzies:

The opening of Maxwell Newton’s “Life without father,” Nation, January 22, 1966, pp. 7-9.

When Sir Robert Menzies first came to power in 1949, the Liberals were going to change the world. They were going to stop the spread of socialism, they were going to arrest the accretion of power to the Canberra Government, put value back into the pound, put an end to the menace of communism. Sir Robert Menzies himself was the leading exponent of the British Connection and could be counted on, it was thought, to revive the failing British influence on Australian life and planning, to replace the Labor Government’s growing attachment for the United States. There was a grand reforming zeal about the Liberals in 1949 with their talk about “free enterprise” and the need to revive the market economy, after years of “socialist controls”.

Things have worked out differently. Sir Robert Menzies has presided over a Government which in most important fields went in the opposite direction from that indicated by the brave words of 1949. The ratio of government spending to gross national product has risen half as fast again as it did during the wartime and post-war Labor administrations. (Between 1938-39 and 1948-49 the proportion of government spending to gross national product rose from 13 per cent. to 14 per cent., an increase of less than 2 per cent. over the ten years; under the Menzies administration, this ratio advanced to 19 per cent. in 1964-65,  a rise of 4.5 per cent. in fifteen years.) So all the false promises about reducing taxation had to be thrown out the window.

Under Sir Robert, there has been an accretion of power to the Federal Government to an extent unknown during the peacetime days of Labor. Under him there was an unprecedented inflation, until the force of circumstances and logic impelled him to throw his political doctrines out and import some modern economic planning and control techniques. Under Sir Robert there was the abortive attempt to outlaw communism which was stopped by the heroic and historic campaign waged by Dr Evatt. After that, Sir Robert forgot about the menace of communism — until the Petrov incident gave him the opportunity of dragging out of the issue one last political dividend, although a demeaning one.

Under Sir Robert the British Connection has withered. In defence Britain has necessarily been replaced by America as our great ally and source of strength.

In the field of trade and economic affairs, the British tie is fast fading away. Sir Robert himself took a hand in the break with Britain when he dropped Mr Macmillan during the 1962 Commonwealth Conference on the Common Market.

Ultimately, it is clear that for Sir Robert Menzies the great thing about holding supreme political power was to hold it. Questions of principle or political doctrine mattered only secondly, if there was a choice to be made between survival and principles. This is why Sir Robert’s campaign speeches during elections, his promises and grand visions have given such a series of field days to his opponents. In the process of holding supreme power, Sir Robert had to throw out virtually every major tenet of the “spirit of 1949”. For him it is clear the price was worth paying. He survived as Prime Minister for 16 years, didn’t he?

How different are the conditions under which Mr Holt comes to power. Now there is no reforming zeal, no great spirit for change. There are no political principles of an identifiable type. There is a number of Ministers with a practical job to do — running the modern Australia reasonably efficiently.

One of Mr Holt’s biggest problems may be to persuade the Liberal backbench that this is really all there is to governing Australia today. He may find that an uncomfortably large number of the backbenchers still believe in the eyewash about “free enterprise”, “no controls”, “the fight against the menace of communism”, and all the other phoney slogans of 1949. Any attempt to breathe life back into these slogans will mean death for the Liberal Party, and Mr Holt must know this. Mr McEwen certainly will fight to the last against any talk about bringing back the “free market economy”.

19th Century Drag
Perhaps it is unfair to Sir Robert Menzies to accuse him of hypocrisy in abandoning his alleged political doctrines. Perhaps the truth is that his greatest achievement has been to drag the forces in the community which have supported the Liberal-Nationalist-U.A.P. Party way of thought kicking and screaming into the twentieth century. But Mr Holt may have to face a counter-revolution by unregenerate nineteenth century forces in the Liberal Party. These forces have tended in some cases to form alliances of convenience with some quasi-fascist elements in the community. If Mr Holt fails to contain and curb the inclinations of some of the Liberals who voted against the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill on the one hand and those who voted against the Rhodesia sanctions on the other, he is liable to bury the Liberal Party. This could be Mr Holt’s particular nightmare for some time to come. But the practical day to day stuff of his work and planning will have to do with the shifting movements of ad hoc administration and the balance of power between Ministers and Departments. So much of the real essence of modern Government is in these changing patterns of power.
__________

The opening of Maxwell Newton’s “The Upstairs Lodgers,” Nation, January 8, 1966, pp. 6-8.

Among the many sea changes which will follow the departure of Sir Robert Menzies from the political life of the country, one is the possible change in the role and influence of Parliament. Sir Robert has often described himself as “a Parliament man,” yet under him Parliament has declined to a level of prestige and influence probably lower than we have ever seen since Federation. To a degree, this has been a product of Sir Robert’s success. He has been able to subdue individual initiative among members of Parliament on the Government side to an extraordinary extent. Another source of weakness for Parliament has been the growing complexity of Government and the ever wider ramifications of its influence in the economic life of the nation. Most ordinary members of Parliament have found themselves bemused by this great increase in the complexity of Government. In the event, there has developed a form of oligarchical Government which bears only a superficial resemblance to the notion of democratic rule which we have been taught to accept. Indeed, the position of a strong Prime Minister in Australia today is more analogous to that of a King. He is able to achieve complete control over the Government parties by his superior knowledge of what is taking place and of what is likely to occur. He has enormous powers of patronage over the members of the Government parties. Under a Liberal-Country Party coalition, he suffers little direct control from the Party caucus. Equipped as he is with advice from Civil Service of an increasingly expert nature, he is able to achieve an appearance of omniscience.

From time to time, the King has to present himself to the People for their judgement on his administration. But election campaigns have also changed in content and style. Nowadays, they are increasingly in the form of plebiscites in which the people decide between two Leaders. The Labor Party has felt this problem with growing intensity. The cult of personality in elections and indeed in political life as a whole has replaced a judgement on matters of doctrine and principle. In today’s Welfare State and Managed Economy, issues of doctrine or of principle have come to matter much less than the broad sweep of personality and the battle of tactics. Elections have come to bear a closer approximation to Presidential campaigns in the United States.

It is now an old story that in the context of this new style of political life new pressures have come to replace the old pressures on a Prime Minister as earlier exercised through Parliament and then through the Party Caucus. These new pressures are, firstly, the development of pressure groups which act directly on the Civil Service and on the Prime Minister in order to present the views and complaints of those they represent in the Managed Economy. Secondly, there is the development of the management of public opinion, though increasingly informed and skilled use of public relations of all kinds, operating through the Press and other media. In Australia, this process has been facilitated by a decline in the standards of skill and knowledge among the members of the Press and by actions of the Press managers which have had the effect of reducing public confidence in newspapers as protectors of ordinary people against the power of Government. The capriciousness and ignorance of Press managers have contributed massively to this decline in the influence of the independent voice of the Press, and this has facilitated the manipulation of public opinion by the Government. Certainly, the Press has been an irritant to the Government, but the Government has usually been able to rely on the people at large accepting its own authority.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Advance Australia fascist: The forces that make Australia a fascist country
  2. The Economic Guerrillas: A lecture in honour of Maxwell Newton
  3. Maxwell Newton Audio at Mises.org
  4. Max Newton on Video at first Mises Institute Conference (1983)
  5. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  6. Max Newton stars in Ron Paul video
  7. Bunny of the Welfare State
  8. The Crumbling Oligarchies
  9. Is Australia So Bad That It Can't Get Worse?
  10. Max Newton: Cauldron-Journalist
  11. Max Newton: a muckraker makes good
  12. An open letter to Bob Hawke, B. Litt., Oxon; from Maxwell Newton, B. A., Cantab.: In black and white
  13. Welfare Creates Poverty
  14. Welfare State a National Disgrace
  15. A "spy" replies
  16. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  17. Josh Frydenberg vs Maxwell Newton on Sir Robert Menzies
  18. The traumatic birth of a daily
  19. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  20. Menzies: A Legacy of Lies and Legislation Limiting Liberalism
  21. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  22. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  23. Crying in the wilderness
  24. State aid and the privileged
  25. Maxwell Newton on Reg Ansett
  26. How to stop Labor running wild
  27. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  28. The Working Journalist in Public Administration
  29. Max Newton: controversy is an asset
  30. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  31. The "irresponsible" way is the only way
  32. Maxwell Newton on Moral Hazard
  33. Maxwell Newton on Handout America and unbridled Welfare Mania in 1980 New York Post
  34. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  35. Max Newton on the gold standard
  36. Maxwell Newton on ideas for cutting government waste
  37. Maxwell Newton on Bureaucracy
  38. Maxwell Newton measures bullshit tertiary schooling
  39. Australia's biggest newspaper insider on manipulating the media
  40. Never put your faith in politicians
  41. Profiting from propaganda
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