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Governing passions I

Kendall, G. and Wickham, G. (1991) Governing passions I. Australian Left Review (129). pp. 15-19.

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The controversy surrounding the Royal Commission into 'WA Inc' raises many questions about processes of government, including questions about corruption. The Commission, or at least the way it is being reported, is generating a strong impression that the Burke WA government was devoid of principles, regardless of whether any charges of corruption actually emerge.

Unfortunately, the Commission and the media coverage are avoiding direct discussion of the role of principles for government. The sorry tale of ‘WA Inc', as we've heard it so far, highlights the ease with which principles for government can be ignored.

Government can go on with or without principles, so there is no need for us to panic. However, it is much more difficult for government to be consistently "good" government (by whatever criteria for judging good) without clear, consistent principles to guide it, so there is some cause for us to despair: Australia definitely lacks clear consistent principles for government at the moment.

In this article I want to reject a variety of oft-touted candidates for the title "clear, consistent principle for government in Australia"--socialism, social democracy, liberalism, the free market principle, agrarian socialism, and environmentalism. I propose instead four principles which have in fact been around for quite a while but never as "clear, consistent principles for government": government itself, civilisation, moderation and toleration.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Red Pen Publications
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