WA Attorney General speaks on Social Justice in Market Liberalism

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 13-8-2009

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



The distribution of wealth and resources, fairness in the process of distribution and outcomes related to the measure of societal happiness, fairness and equity - some of the issues raised by the Hon Christian Porter, Attorney General and Minister for Corrective Services at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Conversations on Tap series.

Held regularly throughout the academic year, Conversations on Tap is an evening of conversation initiated by experts in their fields encouraging members of the community to engage with them.

The theme: “Can we find Social Justice in Market Liberalism?” provided a challenging topic for discussion. In addition to the Attorney General, Notre Dame Academic and philosopher, Dr Richard Hamilton also provided a sceptical take on whether social justice featured in ‘Market Liberalism’.

In his opening address, Mr Porter said that society is constantly faced with the challenge of endeavouring to deal with the gap between the very poor and the very wealthy, and suggested that any argument focussed on achieving equitable outcomes is misleading and that the preferred approach is to work for fair and equitable societal processes.

Mr Porter argued that human nature is such that what constitutes a fair and equitable outcome in any given situation is open to subjective opinion.

In his introduction, Dr Hamilton quoted figures from UNESCO which indicate that half the world’s population live on less than $2 per day; nearly a billion people could not read or sign their name at the start of the twenty-first century and that 1.8 million children die each year from diarrhoea largely because they do not have access to decent water and sanitation.

He disagreed with Mr Porter’s view of human nature, stating that by nature, human beings are ‘problem solving animals’.

“For that reason there would never be 'an end of history' or a perfect world but that we can do much better than we are currently doing to address inequality and injustice.

“As a teacher, I know that you get from people what you expect,” he said. “Human beings are capable of both terrible and wonderful things.”

There was lively discussion between students, visitors and academics to end the successful evening.

For more information on the series, please contact the Fremantle Campus Student Life Office on 08 9433 0580.

Media contact:

Michelle Ebbs 08 9433 0610, 0408 959 138