Why the Workers Party?

Cassette cover text: Why this tape?
1. Because it presents an alternative to various failed Socialist programs so far in Australia.
2. Because I am concerned enough to do something about it.
3. Because I am programmed for survival.
Ron Manners 1975

Audio:

Transcript:
Why start a new political party at all? Why choose a name like Workers Party? What are the basic beliefs of the Workers Party and how are they connected with the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand?

Many people and groups have consistently advocated laissez-faire capitalism, or free enterprise, as the matchless productive system which has so far differentiated us from the totalitarian socialist countries and their drabness.

But it’s only now, after our initial exposure to socialism, that we can recognise that the real potential of Australia can only be achieved by free enterprise and individual initiative.

Perhaps the words laissez-faire capitalism and free enterprise have been misused, and are confused by many with the old feudal system and child labour in the factories. Well, if that’s the case, how about using a phrase that implies the same virtues as laissez-faire, such as, a fair field and no favour? Advocates of socialism present the alternative, which is: an unfair field and special favours to some at the expense of others.

The fair field and no favours of a free market economy presents an ever more valid alternative to the increasing government coercion and intervention described as: the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people.

Does socialism breed parasites? And do parasites require a healthy host or victim? Have our heavy-handed politicians and bureaucrats come close to killing-off their host? What is this common philosophy of individualism, as opposed to collectivism, that is shared by the Workers Party and other expanding Parties in other countries?

How is this Objectivist philosophy, with its basis of rationality and individualism, causing more and more people to question the morality of socialism and altruism? Does socialism mean, in fact, that everything is free? Or is it, as clearly stated by the socialists themselves, as meaning: government ownership and government control of the means of production.

As you are the means of production, doesn’t this mean government ownership and government control of you?

Following the inaugural function of the Workers Party at the Sydney Opera House on January 25th, 1975, the ABC featured Workers Party chairman John Singleton and party director Bob Howard on a Monday Conference program, which was complete with hostile audience. And here are a few excerpts, which outline some of the party’s attitudes:

Robert Moore, host of Monday Conference: When we get to the fundamental principle, which is mentioned or is written at the bottom of every page of your platform, page after page, which obviously you take very seriously. Can I just quote it to you? It says:

No man or group of men has the right to initiate the use of force, fraud, or coercion against another man or group of men.

I must say, I’m not quite clear what that means. In a sense, to me, it’s simply a truism. It’s like …

John Singleton: It’s true. It’s pointless having a truism that doesn’t exist.

Robert Moore: No, well, but to me, it’s like saying: no person has the right to kill anyone else, except we do make exceptions, in wartime and so on. Now, does this fundamental principle have any, any higher status than that? …

John Singleton: It certainly does. What we’re trying to say is that to have a policy, to have a platform, you have to have one major stated objective, one major philosophy. And that philosophy, which none of us can disagree with, and I’ve not been able to get anyone to fundamentally disagree with it, is exactly as stated: that no man or group of men has the right to initiate, force, fraud, or coercion against you or me or any of us.

And it’s happening today, the major force of coercion against each and every one of us, is government; and the people who are supposed to define rights and protect our rights, are instead those that do most to subjugate those rights.

So I think the important question with the philosophy is not its practicality but its morality. I don’t think anyone who’s here today could argue with the morality of the statement.

Robert Moore: Could I ask you this? Just because, if the answer is yes, it might make for a quicker understanding of the philosophy behind the party. Have you been influenced much or at all by Ayn Rand’s writing?

John Singleton: Very much. I think anyone in the free market, any free market economist or anyone who supports the free market economy, must have made some study or Ayn Rand or should have done so. Should have also studied the other free market economists.

I should point out to the audience that what we’re suggesting isn’t all that Year 2000, because President Ford’s chief economic adviser Alan Greenspan follows the free market economy, he’s a free market economist. The Nobel Prize winner in economics last year was another free market economist. That was Hayek. So I think that these people and Ayn Rand have obviously had a major part to play in stimulating our thought.

Robert Moore: Didn’t the welfare state, if you like, and government activity, come about, not because of a plot, but because people recognise the injustices of child labour, say, schooling being unavailable to most people in the community, and seems to me that you all are wanting to go back to that, to ignore the lessons of the last 200 years.

John Singleton: I think we can learn a lot more, if we just worry about the lessons of the last 10 years.

What we’re not … one of the things that must be made clear is that we’re not suggesting a return to child labour. We’re not suggesting a lack of education. What we are suggesting is greater education, more intelligent education, more applicable education.

What we’re suggesting, instead of a welfare state, is a state where people have incentive to look after themselves. Today, there is every incentive for you not to look after yourself. There’s every incentive not to work. There’s every incentive not to try. There’s every incentive not to get educated, because you know someone else is going go to that trouble and the magic government will rip the money off them and give it to you anyway. So that the incentive in society today is not to try, not to work, and not to get educated. And we’re suggesting that’s because everything’s compulsory, it’s forced upon you, and I don’t see that government has that right.

I’ve failed … I don’t know any parents who care less about their children than Cairns, Connor, Crean, etc. I think that the child is the parental responsibility, not the government responsibility.

Robert Moore: But supposing parents don’t care about their children, doesn’t society have some obligation to those children? To insist that they go to school, because otherwise they will suffer because of the inadequacies, or lack of concern, of their parents?

John Singleton: You’re talking a hypothetical question. For a start, children do have their own, children do have their own rights. I think the more important question is: if there’s someone down the road, whose parents aren’t looking out for them, aren’t caring about them, if you care about them, you do something about it. I care about it, I’ll do something about it; but I don’t want someone to tell me I have to do something about it. I don’t believe now that people voluntarily are helping the child down the road whose parent won’t educate him, because they know that they will do it.

What I suggest is that we’ve got to get away from they and get back to us. We should accept some responsibilities ourselves, and we can’t do that today, when everything’s being done for us.

Senator Peter Baume: I’m a Liberal Senator from New South Wales. Look, we’re here because we care to see people get opportunity and we care about what happens to them. And we’re appalled by your platform, if I can just quote a bit of it, that you advocate the eventual termination of all government welfare programs. You don’t say it once. You say it twice.

Now, don’t you recognise the existence in society of innocent victims, of orphans, of a number of people for whom there is no provision? And don’t you recognise the duty of society to take a role? Because we do in the Liberal Party, and we’re not going to move a whit away from our position on welfare and pensions. We reckon we’ve got enough trouble in Australia from Whitlam and Cairns, and we reckon that there’s no time now to start fragmenting the anti-socialist forces.

John Singleton: Well, Peter, I don’t think it’s a matter of fragmenting the anti-socialist forces; I think it’s creating an anti-socialist force that is more the problem. I think that when you’re talking about the welfare state, we mentioned twice, that the welfare state should eventually be removed, you glossed over that word “gradually” and “eventually”.

I think one of the things I must share with is that one of our greatest concern … if I knew tomorrow that the anti-socialist forces could be removed indefinitely or forever, then we would have done our job. What I suggest to you, though, is that the forces wouldn’t be removed tomorrow by return to Liberal government. It would be preferable [over Labor], but it wouldn’t be the ideal.

What we’re suggesting is a gradual removal of the welfare state, gradual. Not tomorrow, not next year, because if you take pensioners, we’ve get a million in Australia. There’s two things that’s wrong with that, if we want government tomorrow, that we would remove those pensions, people who have been robbed all their lives, they’re only getting a small fragment of their money back, and we suggest that those pensions in the indefinite future would remain. But certainly the unemployment relief would not remain.

Senator Baume: You’ve avoided the innocent victims who still remain, the small group.

John Singleton: No, I didn’t mean to Peter, the question there is a very, the question, and I should have answered that. I think the reason they are the innocent victim, I’m deeply concerned with you. But what I’d suggest to you is that, in this audience, we could do far more for an innocent victim voluntarily, voluntarily, if we weren’t being ripped off at the rate of $2 in every 3 by government, being Labor or Liberal. And I don’t believe voluntary charity wouldn’t be greater than government charity, and I don’t believe that you care more than I do.

Questioner: … the people what they want, and they express what they want by their votes.

John Singleton: Well I think, the critical thing, the reason for the formation of this party, I should stress, is that we’re not suggesting that the Liberal and Labor Party are known to people for what they are. We don’t believe that people have what they want or can vote for what they want, because we don’t believe they have a significant choice. What we think, at the very worst, we can educate people to think about politics, to think about the role the government plays, to realise that this country could be the richest country in the world in 12 months without government controls. We would have full employment, no inflation, it’s all government caused. These are questions you should be asking instead of the vote catchers. Then we wouldn’t have, then those questions you ask would be absolutely irrelevant or unnecessary.

Female questioner: I’m a public servant and you call yourself the Workers Party. What do you have to offer the worker?

John Singleton: Well, I think most public servants are non-workers. The reason we chose the name Workers Party was to hammer home to people the fact that the Labor Party exists not for the worker but for the non-worker, the person who want to live on hand-outs and kick-me-downs.

One in four of the workforce is a public servant. We work two days in three for the government. I don’t think we get two days in three back. Therefore I think the public service … I think you must understand … if you answered me honestly, how many people do you work with every day in the public service, how many people who really earn their money? …

John Singleton: I think if we’re going to discuss philosophy of economics, I’ll ask Bob Howard to do it. I think that one thing I would point out to you, is obviously university of full-time student and I’m just a simple business man, the end result of economics, the only point I would make to you, is all the economists are so smart, if all their homework’s been done so well, we live in a country where we have 300,000 unemployed admitted to, where we have an inflation rate between 20 and 30%, then I suggest that maybe, maybe, maybe there is an alternative. Now, Bob, would you like to run through some of the economics and philosophy.

Bob Howard: I’m always amazed when people judge the laissez-faire economics or free market economics by Adam Smith. To me that’s somewhat similar to judging physics by Galileo. You know, if you want to have a look at the full free market economic theory, then I suggest you look instead to people like Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard who are contemporary economists rather than people who made a first start many years ago.

Now, our basic defence of free market economics is not primarily on the grounds of practicality; it is primarily on the grounds of morality.

And we also make the philosophical point that if something is right, if it’s moral and correct, it will therefore work. If it doesn’t work, it’s because it’s wrong.

Indian questioner: I can’t find any morality in your economic argument. What’s the point? …

John Singleton: Can’t we give you a practical example, instead of these theoretical Disneyland examples.

In Western Australia, seeing as a mining friend’s name has been brought up twice already already, let me give you a practical example of what the free market could do. In 1960, the government, doesn’t matter what government, state, federal, Liberal or Labor, government had an export embargo on iron ore in this country. Why? Because in their judgement, in their wisdom, they knew we had enough iron ore to last us only for our internal use until 1965. In 1960 the export embargo was lifted, and Lang Hancock was then able to announce discoveries of iron ore, not just enough to last us til 1965, but 127 million million if you want facts, tonnes; that’s enough to last mankind in every country in the world for as long as it’s taken man to come out of the trees and be here tonight.

Why hasn’t it been done? Why haven’t the mines been allowed to develop? Why don’t we have a separate steel mill competing with BHP in the Pilbara? Why? All because of government intervention.

Questioner: … people who have illness through the years and unemployment, as we suffered in the 30s, and every ten years under this system under which we live, we run into a boom or a bust. What happens to these people who are out of work and they can’t pay their insurance premiums or they can’t pay their superannuation? They then become bludgers and live on their children.

Bob Howard: Most of the problems that you were mentioning there were caused, in our analysis at least, we’re caused by government intervention. The overall problem with pensions, we’re not saying that we don’t have any feelings or sympathy for anybody who’s living on government welfare at the moment. But what we are saying, and I think this is very important, is that it is a situation which has an in-built growth factor.

Now, no matter how much you might be concerned about these people, no matter how much you might want to help these people, in the long run, you’re not helping them by turning the whole country into a group of dependent people. What we want to do, over a period of time, is to make as many people as possible independent.

Now the only way you are going to do that is by making the incentives within the system such that they are directed towards producing independent people. Today, all the incentives within the system are directed towards producing dependent people, and as a necessary consequence, the more people that become dependent, the greater the tax burden on all of us. You have to pay for it somewhere, and its got a growth rate that’s just going the wrong way and the end result of it must be totalitarianism as far as I can see.

Questioner: The development of government intervention has been to curb the worst abuses of laissez faire. Laissez faire, free enterprise led to the development of monopoly. And monopoly has in fact reduced the freedom of the community.

Bob Howard: Whether you like it or not, one of the facts about human nature is that people won’t work without incentives. And if you set up a system in which you are virtually punished for succeeding and rewarded for failing, now it’s not strictly in those terms, but that tendency, then I can’t see in the long-run how you’re going to end up as anything but a total failure.

Most monopolies we’ve got today are not free market monopolies, they are coercive monopolies. And this is a very important point that has to be made, that when we stand for free enterprise, we do not stand for corporate capitalism. That is the type of thing that’s existing to an extent here in Australia today, but predominantly in America, and that is a situation in which all the big corporations use the government as a tool to get privileges and monopolies. The government, they’ve put the pressure on the government historically, and you look at a lot of the left’s writing, Gabriel Kolko, Arthur Ekirch, and have a look at their analysis of the historical process, and you will find that these big corporations in the States particularly, because that’s where they’re writing, have used their position, their influence, and their power to use government to get what they want.

Now that’s the type of thing we want to get right away from. If you can get a monopoly on a free market, you can only get it by providing a good service at a low price.

Questioner: Until you get the monopoly.

Bob Howard: No, but once you get a monopoly, if you start to abuse your position by charging higher prices, you make the industry a very lucrative one and you attract a whole lot of investment and before you can turn around you’ve got half a million competitors. … The market will curb it.

Robert Moore: Can I ask for a contribution on industrial policy?

Wally Peck: Wally Peck, trade union secretary. Mr Singleton, would your Party deny the rights of the workers to freely combine to sell their only product, their brain and their brawn, their muscle?

John Singleton: Not at all.

Wally Peck: You wouldn’t deny them their right to combine?

John Singleton: Not at all.

Wally Peck: Not even if they injected into the terms of the contract that they would require the same sort of things, the social contract, social services, etc?

John Singleton: If they did that, they’d be happy to do that. But if I was the employer I’d say, well, that’s very nice of you, but we’ll hire someone else.

Wally Peck: But they’d be combined, you wouldn’t be able to get anybody else.

John Singleton: Well, see, you’re back to propagating mob rule. This country today is living in the midst of mob rule, where 65 power workers can hold this country up for ransom, and we’re not in a position to do anything about it. If most people don’t like their conditions and don’t like their job, why don’t they go and get another job?

If they have accepted that job, if they’ve accepted it, under a voluntary contract, and they break the terms of that contract, they still have the right to strike but they don’t have the right to that job being there, it wouldn’t be their job any longer.

Questioner: If you are a party with a program, and this is your program, I will suggest that you make GPs which are in great number on your government body to refer themselves, and the orders of this rank, to the nearest psychiatric centre.

John Singleton: It’s a hard question to answer.

Questioner: I would like an answer!!!

John Singleton: The point is I think it’s very easy to make a frivolous statement, it’s very easy to stand up and say something as frivolous as that, because it’s very easy to misunderstand the fact that this country is in an economic crisis point.

When we said it a year ago, people laughed. People will laugh now. But in a year’s time when unemployment is near a half a million, or 300,000, when unemployment hits 30%, when you sit there and say that, you don’t realise that this government, in a budget set down seven months ago, they’ve given the worker on average an extra $27 a week and they’ve increased his tax 70% just his income tax, and you don’t think it’s important that we start to think?

If you don’t care that the government, the people who run our country, tabled a budget in all honesty, supposedly, to us, with a $23 million surplus, which has turned around already into a $2 billion deficit in seven months. If you don’t think it’s important enough to at least think about the alternatives we’ve opened to us, then I apologise for having failed to communicate to you what we stand for.

What we stand for is getting people to think. We don’t care whether you agree or disagree with us. We do care if you think, and I’m saddened by the fact that you obviously haven’t.

Ron Manners: It could be safe to say that the more people think, the more discontent they grow with government today.

This stems in part from the economic lie of deficit financing with printing press money destroying everyone’s savings through inflation. Governments borrow because they are living beyond their incomes. They borrow again or print money to repay the original borrowings, and so it goes on. Individuals who do this usually finish up in jail.

Governments do it all the time because they want to stay in office, and to do so they need to bribe voters with handouts of one kind or another, so that people eventually come to accept the handouts as their right.

People then are needed to oversee this handout program, so the huge and ever-growing bureaucracy feeds on the system. This in turn leads ultimately to the crisis facing Australia today.

Can democratic government continue when production falters? When savings and investment capital have been redistributed?

All this comes about because government has stepped into and stayed in fields where it should never have been, and has neglected its proper and essential roles which could be defined as:

  1. Firstly, being responsible for the defence of Australia.
  2. Secondly, being responsible for the protection of honest Australians against criminals.
  3. And thirdly, being responsible for the maintenance of the legal system to protect individuals liberty and the property rights of individuals.

Individuals have no rights to own anything at the moment, because everything can be confiscated by the government in the form of income tax, death duties, etc.

This growing discontent with government is manifesting itself in the editorials of the nation’s daily papers. And I quote from The Sydney Morning Herald [“Threat to Parliament,” 28/2/1975, p. 6]:

There is nothing that could be more unhealthy in a democratic society than coming to the point where the electorate no longer believed that the antics of its elected representatives were worth taking seriously and that consequently it was no use getting angry about them.

These politicians, who produce a kind of mixed economy of the spirit by being neither hopelessly dishonest nor fully honest, do not escape the same fate as the totally dishonest and the same penalty. It’s merely a matter of degree.

This discontent with government today has led to the formation of the Workers Party, who can be described as a group of concerned people who are prepared to back their concern with constructive action.

In April 1975 I asked party secretary Dr Duncan Yuille of their future plans now that the party has been launched and asked him for details of the role they would be playing in the future:

Dr Yuille: Well, of course, the party is not designed as a foil to any other political party. It’s a party of its own. It’s got its own identity. It’s vastly different from any other political party on the present Australian scene, in that it is the only party which stands for the rights of individuals and is therefore totally anti-socialist, dedicated to free enterprise, and it’s here to stay.

The other political parties, of course, all veer towards socialism. And I’m sure that most people are aware that the present plight of Australia, at least its economic plight, is due to the many controls and regulations and laws and so forth, imposed by Liberal governments over the years. The great problem is to reverse these trends, and I think major factor next year or two will be to try and influence the other political parties to realise that in fact they’ve gone the wrong way, and they’re doing something which is not in the best interests of Australians.

I think that the recent visit by Professor Friedman and his appearance on Monday Conference was the one other major event of 1975, insofar as Australians are concerned, because our Monday Conference with John Singleton on it obviously started to make people think. And I think that we’ve had an effect already, but of course Milton Freedman has reinforced this.

Ron Manners: Dr Yuille, some of the initial press criticism of your platform seemed to stem from the fact that they assumed you to be advocating too much quick change too soon. I noticed that on the Monday Conference program it was quite definitely stated that the suggested changes should be effected gradually and slowly. Could you comment now on the basic differences between policies and platform, and then perhaps finish off this tape with a few thoughts on political party platforms generally.

Dr Yuille: Yes, I agree. I think the press fail to observe that in the platform we speak about gradually changing things. And certainly it would be quite impossible to carry out everything that’s in the platform overnight.

In fact, it might take hundreds of years to effect the platform and obtain our objectives completely. However, there’s nothing to stop us going towards our ultimate goals and objectives by gradually reducing the power of government, by gradually cutting taxation and so on and so forth.

But, there’s only one political party in Australia which has a platform other than the Workers Party. And that’s the Australian Labor Party. Those who have read its platform should recognise that the Labor Party is a socialist party and it is hell-bent on socialism.

The other political parties, just a wishy-washy middle of the road, make up jobs largely, becoming socialist because of their need, apparently, to get voters attracted to them for reasons best known to themselves. They’ve never had a philosophy. They’ve never had an ideal. They have brought us to the brink of socialism. And over the years, every single one of us has been conned.

We’ve been conned into believing that a handful of politicians and bureaucrats know better how to run our lives than each one of us knows individually.

Conned into believing that politicians and bureaucrats are above reproach, but that everyone else is dishonest.

Conned into believing that everything governments force individuals to do is noble and good, but that everything that individuals do for themselves is selfish and bad.

Conned into believing that government monopolies and government-supported monopolies are good, but that private free enterprise competition is bad.

Conned into believing that theft by taxation is honourable, but that personal savings are selfish.

Conned into believing that big government is good, but that individual self-government is wicked.

Conned into believing that government is not the cause of inflation and almost all our other problems.

Conned into believing that some people can do good by spending other people’s money, especially when that money is obtained by force.

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