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Request for help, part 2

August 11th, 2003

I got some useful suggestions from readers for additional reading for my chapter on the economic policies of the Howard government. But most of the readings I have so far (with the exception of some Reserve Bank conference volumes) are critical of the government from a leftish perspective. Can anyone suggest an accessible source for
(i) an overview of economic performance under the present government (I was hoping to refer to the INDECS State of Play books, but they seem to have ceased in 1995
(ii) a defence of the government’s economic performance in general, or on specific issues
(iii) a critique from a free-market or other right-wing perspective (please, no debate on whether free-market = rightwing, I’m just trying to use commonly understood definitions).

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  1. August 11th, 2003 at 16:34 | #1

    A defence of the government’s performance in general from a centrist perspective:
    Economic Survey of Australia, 2003
    Policy Brief

    The OECD tend to praise all governments, as they dont want visiting rights withdrawn.

    A brace of free-market, or other right-wing perspective, critiques:
    THE TAX-AND-SPEND LIBERALS
    Howard’s $16bn spree equals his 1996 cuts

    Right wingers are loathe to criticise Howard on economics as they adore his cultural policies so much, but you might try the CIS or the IPA.

    A sort of general overview thingy:
    An Introduction to the Australian Economy

    David Clarke’s Student Economic briefs provided a pretty good annual primer, but they seem to have been discontinued after 1998.
    I think he still writes for BRW.
    Peter Hartcher’s columns in the AFR are also worth a look, when he condescends to examining Australia’s lowly patch of turf.

    Why not try Acess Econmics, or HSBC they have good annual reports on Australian economic policy.
    Their Archive of periodic reports is kept
    here
    This is an interesting period piece:
    The New Australian Economy

    Gittins is really the best and fairest economic commentator, and he has focused on Howards effects on the national balance sheet of assets and liabilities, as has Colebatch.

    If you want my opinion, 75% of the things that the Howard government have done have been to maintain, exploit or further the Keating reforms.

    They have then used what ever gains from those reforms to channel funds to their mates in the Bush or at the Big End of Town.

  2. August 11th, 2003 at 17:32 | #2

    Now you’ve got me stumped. The recent CEDA volume contains some defenses of privatisation, but they are very weak and mainly relate to the very general or state level. Between official policy documents and the partisan extremities of the Exasperating Calculators variety, there is obviously a distinct absence of mainstream academic defences. Perhaps Paul Kelly’s Future Tense might go somewhere toward fitting the bill … but even it is pretty savage in many chapters.

  3. James Farrell
    August 12th, 2003 at 11:58 | #3

    John,

    You made exactly the same request a few months ago. I said then (in my first ever appearance on Channel Q) almost exactly what Chris has written above. There is nothing that matches your description. As Jack said, David Clarke is probably the closest but he is not up to date and didn’t produce a systematic treatise. Jack was also right to mention the OECD reports, but your target reader will surely want something more polemical.

    You will have to write it yourself under pseudonym: I suggest Professor Yowie.

  4. Greg
    August 13th, 2003 at 14:03 | #4

    Not exactly right-wing, but perhaps readable…

    I don’t know whether Paul Barry’s “Rich Kids” might contain any useful references to policy? Perhaps the government’s apparent aversion to regulating the big end of town may have “filtered down” to affect the operations of regulators such as ASIC and APRA, and that at least some of the flavour of this might have come through in the book.

    How about Productivity Commission reports? I think there has been some policy recalcitrance by the government in relation to some of their sound, or at least quite neutral recommendations, so readers might find just reading some of the reports informative.

    Ditto ABARE frequently recommending exactly as required, even when the evidence indicates otherwise.

  5. August 13th, 2003 at 15:52 | #5

    Try Wolfgang Kasper’s Economic Freedom Index reports (at CIS webpage) which is generally critical of the lack of free-market reform. The IPA will have information on the growth in regulation under the Howard government. There will be plenty of op-ed pieces etc around… but you probably want something more concrete.

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