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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The enduring economic legacy of Gough Whitlam

There were many times that Gough Whitlam made the claim of being the most successful treasurer in Australia. Shortly after the election in December 1972, Whitlam formed a two-man government with Lance Barnard, the ALP leader. They divided all the portfolios of the cabinet between the two them and boasted that they did not take all the salaries they may have been technically entitled to.

Many cite that 1972 was the last year the Australian economy had stability and was shortly followed by the UK’s move from Commonwealth centred trade to European Union focused trade. This was a very big disaster for the business of farm exports in Australia, with heavy subsidies distorting the balance of trade and making them not as competitive.

It was said that in 1973 the generous boom created by a post-WW2 state of affairs was officially coming to an end. There was also an end of cheap energy at the time.

The government under Whitlam decided to take on profound reform in a process that many argue laid the foundation for the Keating-Hawke floating of the Australian dollar. There were many stark differences between these two governments, but they were united in taking a nationalist approach to Australian resources and the industries that utilised them.

Instead of fighting against multinational business interests, the following Hawke and Keating government decided to use the power of foreign investment and expose businesses sin Australia to the rigours of global competition.

As you can see, there is a lot to be said when it comes to the decisions made during this transformative time in Australian economic policy. Gough Whitlam was one of the key players during this time and set the foundation for many more reforms that occurred in the decades since his election.

Abbey Buckley
Abbey Buckley
Abbey Buckley joined the Bulletin Bite economy team from the Australian Associated Press where she covered a broad range of desks including state business in South Australia and the stock market from Sydney. Before that, she was a news reporter at a local newspaper.

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