This article sets out the principles of Catholic social doctrine as they pertain to the rights of employees, the duties of the employers and the obligations of the state. It relates these to the historical development of industrial work and employment in Australia, noting the close proximity of the principles to the social and political arrangements that emerged over the period of the Australian Settlement. It goes on to identify the more recent demise of Catholic activism, which, in combination with the pursuit of neo-liberal policy solutions and market reforms, has purged previous arrangements of their former notions of `fairness' and equity. It concludes that those opposing such solutions and reforms should think beyond simply framing arguments in terms of the economic or the instrumental, and might usefully draw on the labouring ideals set out in Catholic social doctrine to develop a more thorough set of moral and ethical principles to support their cause.
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