(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

The traditional narrative about the economic reforms of the 1980s goes something like this: Australia had locked itself into an unsustainable, protectionist mindset dedicated to propping up dying industries like manufacturing that imposed high costs on consumers, diverted investment away from more efficient and productive uses, and condemned Australia to growing impoverishment in an increasingly competitive world.

The Hawke-Keating government cut back protectionism, opened the economy up, deregulated key industries like finance, and pursued a free trade agenda that set Australia up for three decades of uninterrupted economic growth -- but at the price of a huge loss of jobs in manufacturing, especially after the early 1990s recession. And it did it by working in cooperation with the union movement.

You'll find little disagreement with that basic description of events, other than around the edges, from anyone who's not on the far left or far right. Even the Coalition backs that narrative -- though it likes to add in the lie that it supported the reforms, when in fact it bitterly opposed many of the key reforms, and to this day is trying to undo them (think superannuation).