Saturday, 20 February 2016

The Australian moment – How we were made for these times
By George Megalogenis

One suspects this book was conceived and written in the aftermath of the GFC in 2009/10 when Australia really did look to have dodged a bullet and before the slow down of 2011 which, at least in the South East of the country, felt as bad as anything since the early 90s (if not the mid 70s).

The book’s central thesis however remains valid, even if subjectively it is hard to relate to. Megalogenis argues persuasively that Australia, of all the developed economies in the world, is best placed to weather the current difficult economic times. To make his point he gives a lucid account of Australian economic and political history since the mid sixties. For readers of a certain age and disposition this is a very engaging march down memory lane to a time when politicians had not had media training and when the issues of the day were the kind and extent of economic and social reform. The personal peccadilloes of our elected representatives, while noted in passing, were scarcely the point.

Megalogenis’s argument is essentially that each of our governments since the early 70s can take some credit for producing the uniquely robust set of policies which puts us in the solid position we now, apparently, enjoy. Whitlam lowered tariffs. Fraser decisively changed the immigration mix. Hawke and Keating floated the dollar, deregulated the banking system, managed the trade unions and produced fiscal surpluses when it was appropriate. Howard gave us the GST and didn’t stuff up what Hawke and Keating had achieved. Rudd handled the GFC according to the textbook before imploding. And now, even if there is a double dip recession, Australia is well placed to deal with it. Not that you would know that watching the news (and George has something to say about what is wrong about the intersection between our media and politics, not all that different to what Lindsay Tanner said in Sideshow).

Megalogenis is one of the more interesting journalists writing about Australian economics and politics today. He has some interesting gripes (down on baby boomers for example) but while clearly dry economically does not follow the News Limited script. Highly recommended.

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