The ferries that ply the river west of Sydney Harbour bear the names of Australia’s world champion sportswomen. They include the Olympic swimming gold-medalists Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould, and runners Betty Cuthbert and Majorie Jackson. As you board, there is a photograph of the athlete in her prime, and a record of her achievements. This is vintage Australia. Often shy and never rich, sporting heroes were nourished by a society that, long before most other countries, won victories for ordinary people: the first 35-hour working week, child benefits, pensions, secret ballots and, with New Zealand, the vote for women. By the 1960s, Australians had the most equitable spread of personal income in the world. In modern-day corporate Australia, this is long forgotten. “We are the chosen ones,” sang a choir promoting the 2000 Sydney Olympics.