Labour History

Labor Neoliberals or Pragmatic Neo-Laborists? The Hawke and Keating Labor Governments in Office, 1983––96

Labour History (2010), 98, (1), 25–37.


The economic “reforms” associated with the broader neoliberal agenda first found expression in Australia through the policies of the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments. This article examines the politics of this period using Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. It argues that the Hawke and Keating administrations were a “conjunctural episode” in an “organic movement” to re-establish “ruling class hegemony” after the breakdown of the post-war capitalist order. The period of continuous Labor rule from 1983 to 1996 represented the birth of “Neo-Laborism”, a pragmatic policy approach which sought to reconcile the problems of electoralism and “Laborism” that had plagued former Labor governments. Their “Neo-Laborist” agenda was underwritten by economic changes aimed at ensuring sustained growth coupled with corporatist agreements to appease organised labour. This article distinguishes the pragmatic policies of the ALP from the calculated tactics of an emerging neoliberalism.

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Author details

Collins, Joe

Cottle, Drew