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AbstractThe 4 Rs conference at the University of Technology Sydney in October 2008 took place less than a year after the election of the Rudd Labor government. The moment is important to capture – the government had been swept into office on a wave of hostility to the Howard conservatives, but it did not have a mandate for radical reform. Its promises had carefully targeted key constituencies – skilled workers, small business, the urban “chattering” classes, people in education, in health and in the arts (to a small extent). The government was committed to fiscal discipline with a more humane face, its great vision summarised under the rubric of “social inclusion”.