Human Rights and Public Life

Human Rights and Public Life Excerpt from the Australian Labor Party Policy Speech 1972 delivered by Gough Whitlam at Blacktown Civic Centre on 13 November 1972

In Gough Whitlam's words this program is designed to apply the intellect to human affairs- to ensure that ideas and public discourse develop the capacity of Australia as a nation to creatively and democratically respond to the challenges it faces.

It is oriented by the core values that guided Whitlam's political vision and practice - liberty, equality, fraternity (or community) - and by the conviction that these are political values that can become real only in a political community or nation state that has sovereignty over its affairs.

The program is oriented to intellectual enquiry of a kind that can stimulate public conversation about the urgent political questions of our time and contribute to the development of a strategic framework for political action.

The questions that guide this program are:

- What is the idea of citizenship that best responds to the challenge of our times, and how is it to work with the idea of human rights?
- How to renew the idea of the state as the sovereign and public authority?
- What is the basis of public authority, and in what ways should private agents be held accountable to it?
- How can government work with civil society in ways that are mutually respectful and enabling?
- How should national political communities (states) work with global governance institutions in ways that enhance the effective public capacity of both?
- How is it that neoliberal 'market thinking' has assumed such influence in contemporary political life, and how can it be made democratically accountable?
- What is the democratic alternative to neoliberal institutional design?

This program is anchored in the practical politics of contemporary Australia as this relates to international institutions and global movements.  It is committed to bringing political thought into connection with the challenges of a practical politics. It assumes that new problems may need new solutions but also that Australia has a vital tradition of democratic constitutionalism and creative public policy from which we can learn.


- Research workshops
- Public Conversations
- Master Classes and short courses
- Visiting academics and practitioners
- Research publications — both Whitlam Institute  and professional academic publications


Working Papers in the Human Rights and Public Life Program series:


Economic Rationalism in Canberra 20 Years On

Neoliberal GovernmentNeoliberalism and the Crisis of Public Institutions

Feminism, Social Liberlarism and Social Democracy in the Neo-Liberal Era

Looking for our Whitlam Legacy Series Publication by Professor Anna Yeatman? View it here: 

Res Publica 

Professor Anna Yeatman's publications —see her curriculum vitae

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