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Who We Are
Though we call ourselves a think tank, the Australian Fabians are more than this. For more than half a century, we have been at the forefront of research and debate into progressive political ideas and public policy reform.Australian political life is entering a new era. There is a renewed hunger for public policy options that reflect progressive values and principles. There is no doubt that people are once again ready to face up to the challenges of policy development in a changing society and that there is an urgent demand, as seldom before in our history, for progressive thought and searching debate.
Our Statement of Purpose
Australian Fabians promote the common good and foster the advance of social
If you want to help make the new thinking happen there is a place for you in the Australian Fabians. The Australian Fabians - established in 1947 and active ever since - is Australia's oldest political think tank.
Fabian publications, including our long-running pamphlet series, have played an important part in determining both state and national political agendas.
What makes the Australian Fabians distinctive?
Though we call ourselves a think tank, the Australian Fabians are more than this. We are based on a social and intellectual movement: the UK Fabian Society has been a central part of democratic socialist, social-democratic and Labor tradition thoughout the 20th century in Britain, and the Australian Fabians in Australia since 1947. Our output is thoroughly contemporary and relevant: by dint simply of who we are, it is organically connected to the history of the left.
Our goal is not merely (as by and large it is for other think tanks) to produce interesting ideas for the elite policy community. It is the promotion of socialist and progressive thought throughout society. We aim to change the intellectual climate of the Australia (and indeed of the wider world). We want to make broadly left of centre ways of thinking commonplace.
A crucial element of this, obviously, is to help such thought be translated into practice, particularly by government. Producing workable policies which manifest left of centre principles, and encouraging their consideration by the Australian Labor Party and by Labor governments, is therefore a crucial part of what we do. But it remains our aim to get left of centre ideas into the wider public domain. Our function in providing arenas for ordinary people to engage in intelligent discussion - in local societies and in conferences, schools and other meetings - is absolutely central to our purpose.
The Fabians are also distinct in being a democratically constituted membership organisation. We provide members not simply with direct access to our publications and events, but to a say in the running of the organisation. Mindful though we have to be of the opinions of the elite political community, our membership reminds us constantly that we exist also to serve a wider constituency.
Because political ideas matter
Historically the Fabians have always been a source of ideological and philosophical argument, not just practical policy. This emphasis on ideas is particularly important now. For example, we live at a time when it is far from clear what socialism is. The term itself has largely gone out of use in polite society. The world which shaped the classic positions of the left in the 20th century has changed, and continues to do so. This is as a result both of the triumph of global capitalism, and the long hegemony of the neo-liberal governments which served its purposes, and of deeper social, technological and cultural forces. Confronting these changes, and faced with the apparent discrediting of many of its own former beliefs, the left throughout the world is searching for new definitions.
The task before the Fabians today is therefore not simply to produce new policies or ideas which reflect broadly understood left of centre principles. It is to help define exactly what it means to be on the left in the first place. In this process ideas, conceptual frameworks, philosophical positions and ideological statements play a central role. Of course they must issue in practical policies capable of being introduced in the real world. But there is something prior, and it's in articulating and debating left of centre ideas that the Fabians play a distinctive and critical role.
Radical thought, searching debate
The Australian Fabians Inc is an independent organisation which looks in particular to the Labor Party for giving effect to social democratic principles and values. Our relationship with Labor governments is that of a 'critical friend'. We are neither 'on-' nor 'off-message'. Some of what we do may be congruent with government thinking; some not. Good government needs new ideas and public debate. It is our positive responsibility to ask difficult questions - and if necessary to propose difficult answers - where we feel this is important. There is little use in a think tank which does not do this, and our constitution and history demand it of us. Our independence of mind is fiercely guarded.
Moreover, our constituency extends well beyond the Labor Party. We are a forum and a resource for people throughout the progressive wing of politics. One of our roles is to act as a bridge between those inside the party and on the conventional left of centre and those sharing similar aims and values whose identities and forms of political organisation lie elsewhere.
© Australian Fabians Inc. 2014