Transforming a Nation's Social Contract: Politics, Globalisation and Labour Law Reform in Australia's New Economy 1983-1996

Paul Joseph Hugh McDermott

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The twentieth century saw the creation and growth of national institutions in Australia. This thesis plots the Federal jurisdiction's increasing domination, especially in the area of industrial relations, and the challenge of globalisation that transformed Australia's national institutions. The Federal compromise that brought the colonies together as one nation was a model of 'social contract' never before attempted by an emerging nation state. At the centre of the state was a national government, regulated trade unions and employers, and an independent judiciary acting as the major players and active signatories to the contract. There was the emergence of a national economy, national institutions, and a dominant legal system. The Federal system transformed into a prevailing and powerful influence over the Australian population and State jurisdictions.The Federal Government needed to protect and grow domestic industry while limiting social upheaval. The dilemma was how to unite an otherwise disparate population to achieve these goals. A "social contract"', infused with the Australian workforce's character, perceptions, beliefs and ideals was needed, but only achievable, by the consent of all parties within Australian society. State governments, the judiciary, commerce and the labour movement had to be convinced to consent to the elements of a uniquely "Australian social contract"'. Only an innovative labour law framework could realistically deliver a modern social contract. Labour law and her advocates would be the real instruments to achieve the social contract as this was the only area of law that influenced, affected and controlled every Australian regardless of status. The courts or tribunals of industrial conciliation and arbitration would be used as the principal policymakers and guides in this endeavour. The rule of law would provide the means of putting the social contract into reality and a progressive and interventionist judiciary would provide umpires to keep society on the right path as a nation. The social contract would be encapsulated by the use of legislation. Judicial precedent would guide and support this approach. The legislation brought new dominating institutions into the economic, intellectual, commercial, and cultural arena. These institutions built and defined the emerging sovereign state and erected Australia's national identity.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Kings College, London
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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