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The Case for Protectionism and the Subsequent Revolution

Welcome to the third and final installment of my series on the history of protectionist policies in Australia! My first article sketched out the political economy theories that can be used to analyse the rationales of protectionist policies, whilst the second outlined the key events in trade protection over the 20th century. This article takes us back to the first principles of economics as we explore the economic arguments for protectionism that were presented during that era. We also consider the primary causes of tariff reform in the 1980s and the potential reasons for their lasting impact.

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The Key Events in Trade Protection

In the first edition of this series, I examined the political economy theories that can be applied to analyse the rationales for protectionist policies. I also provided a brief overview of the evolution of import protection in Australia throughout the 20th century.

This article highlights the key milestones in policy development during that time. My aim is not to regurgitate these events on a decade-by-decade basis, as such recounts can be easily found in any history book (although as a recent economic history convert, I highly recommend you seek said books!).

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The evolution of import protection in Australia

In my next series of articles, I’ll be examining the evolution of protectionist policies in Australia throughout the 20th century. This first article presents a snapshot of the key features of import protection during that period, and explores some political economy theories that we can use to analyse the reasoning behind such policies.

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Economics in a Public Policy Environment: An intern’s Perspective

As there are several internship applications currently open (see our opportunities page for more information), I’m deviating from my usual macroeconomic analyses to provide some practical insights into what being an “economic intern” entails. More specifically, this article focuses on how economics can be applied in a public policy environment. Should you expect to spend gruelling hours deducing the saving rate that maximises consumption per worker in steady state? Read on to find out!

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Structural Changes in the Australian Economy: Part 2 – The Two Speed Economy (Q&A special)

Many of you would be aware that ESSA is hosting a Q&A event on the evening of Thursday August 16th, where our brilliant panel will be answering questions on immigration and the two-speed economy. In honour of Q&A, I have decided to continue my series on structural changes (read the first installment here) with an analysis of the two-speed economy. This article attempts to provide a snapshot of the key issues surrounding our two-speed economy and the main policy implications. I also consider some of the potential questions that our panel may be forced to contend with on the night!

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2012-13 Federal Budget – Beyond Robin Hood and Carbon Tax Bribes

It’s Budget time! On Tuesday May 8th, Treasurer Wayne Swan handed down his fifth budget to an eager and expectant crowd of media commentators following a significant lead-up of leaks and speculation. This crowd has since devoured the budget’s contents and embarked upon a reporting frenzy that has been nothing short of what’s expected. There has been tremendous coverage on the politics of this Budget, with the Government accused of playing the class warfare card to appeal to traditional Labor supporters.

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Victorian Budget 2012-13: “Living within our means,” but at whose expense?

“Living within our means” has become Treasurer Kim Wells’ key selling point for the Victorian State Budget, which is the first to encompass the findings of the Independent Review of State Finances (IRSF). Commissioned by the Victorian Government in January 2011, the interim report concluded that Victoria’s financial position would become unsustainable into the medium term without a change in strategy.

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Structural Changes in the Australian Economy: Part 1

Part 1 – The Modernisation of China, Our Commodities Boom, and Structural Adjustment. 


This article is the first of a series of macroeconomic analyses which I’ll be conducting on the changing structure of the Australian economy. In recent years, economic commentators and policymakers alike have been uttering the words “structural change” faster and more often than the RBA can say: “At its meeting today, the Board decided to…” As this term is likely to remain on everyone’s lips in the foreseeable future, it’s high time to make sense of it. We’ve all heard statements being thrown around like “once-in-a century terms of trade”, “two-speed economy”, and even “Dutch Disease”.

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Australia’s Household Saving Ratio – Is the cautious consumer still at large?

In recent years, Australian households have been saving a significantly larger proportion of their disposable income than in the previous two decades. Although the December quarter’s National Accounts data revealed a slight easing in the household saving ratio, the overall picture remains the same. Following a significant spike in December 2008, Australia’s household saving ratio has remained elevated at levels not seen in over two decades. Is this the corollary of the ‘cautious consumer’? Or does it merely reflect a return to more normal patterns of behaviour?

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