Corporatism in Australia

Corporatism is a political theory that has been embraced at different times through Australia's political history, particularly between 1983 and 1995, during the Labor government of Hawke and Keating. Power is the ability "to control or influence outcomes, actions or events… [and] may be exerted through force, coercion, control of resources, personal relationships or legal authority" (Ryan, Parker and Brown, 2003: 44). Therefore it is important to understand how power is distributed in a country as it is an indicator of the sort of freedoms and opportunities a society can enjoy (ibid). There are three main models of power: elitism, pluralism and corporatism (Heywood, 2002: 77-78). Corporatism in a democratic setting, refers to "decision-making by negotiation between the government arid a few powerful interest groups" (Hague and Harrop, 2001: 159); these groups are known as peak associations and generally control the resources of an economy, e.g. the labour market. Following the Second World War, corporatism was adopted, in a very strict manner, by many European countries (e.g. Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Austria), in an attempt to provide stability (Heywood, 2002: 78). However, while the corporatist ideals were slowly being replaced with pluralism across Europe; in Australia, the relationship between the government, business and society had become more intertwined by adopting distinctive corporatist characteristics.
During the Hawke (and to some extent the Keating) government, the State (or federal government) undertook a different approach to the development of economic policy. Prior to the Hawke government, the role of the State was fairly straight-forward – to make economic or social policy without considering the specific desires of any one group in Australia. The country faced an economic disaster, with coinciding high inflation and recession (Head, 1997: 343): the new Labor government acknowled…

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