There are a number of other political histories which intersect the long Labor decade. George Megalogenis, journalist for News Ltd.’s national broadsheet The Australian, in his The Longest Decade (2006) argues that the economic boom that began in 1991 and continued into 2006 is a useful periodisation on which to fashion a political-cultural history. For Megalogenis Paul Keating and John Howard’s rule should be considered as a continuous enactment of the project of economic reform. Of course Megalogenis is writing before the institution of Workchoices: a set of regulations that placed the individual contract at the heart of employment relations and also ultimately aimed to de-unionise Australian workplaces. As Megalogenis observes in his revised version: "Howard had the deregulation equation the wrong way around. He was preaching reform in the personal economy to make employees more productive. But when pressed on global warming, he reverted to a protectionist formula. He said he would not be exporting Australian jobs to Asia"(2008).
As a distinct period in the historiography of Australian political culture ‘the longest decade’ (1991-2006) is given coherence by the continuous economic growth that proceeded the recession of 1990-1991 and by Megalogenis’ claim that this ‘boom’ is the legacy of Keating and Howard’s shared project of reforming, meaning neoliberalising, the Australian economy. But Megalogenis’s periodisation is focused on the aftermath of the embedding of neoliberalism in Australian political culture rather than excavating the techniques by which it became embedded and contested. Megalogenis writes,
The boom of the past 15 years has not secured social cohesion. Instead, it has encouraged a mass outbreak of social climbing. Deregulation has taught Australians to see their self-worth through bricks-and-mortar and the size of the bribe they can extract from government. Avarice is the new black, and the political system has sanctified it with the term ‘aspirational voting’. [ . . . ] The open economy has flipped the clichés of the Australian character. Egalitarianism is now the motto of the haves; capital gains, the mantra of the punters. (2006: 299)
It envisages a change from political to economic time where change that cannot be measured, the eventfulness of fortune, gives way to uncertainty that can be quantified, the calculus of risk. This pure quantifiable time never arrives [and displaces and defers in through the techniques used to move toward it], but it acts as a permanent alternative dreamtime, the purity of which stands as a measure of the impurity of the sordid political time of the present. (Wark, 1999: 201-02)
The changes Labor itself unleashed when in office created an economy, a polity and a culture that were considerably more dynamic than the quiet backwater in which people my age, who I’ll call Generation Gough, were probably the last to experience. The sense that there may be profound qualitative changes afoot in the 90s contributed to the resistant mood of the information proletariat and the reactionary instincts of Hansonite populism. (Wark, 1999: 260).