by Ian Dunlop, first published at Pearls and Irritations
The first part of Coal Curse is a masterly dissection of Australian economic history since WW2.
It brings into sharp focus the divide between the protectionist – primary producer and manufacturing – forces of the immediate post-war period and the gradual shift to a neoliberal globalist model which favoured the mining sector. The transition was marked by the Hawke/Keating 1983 decision to float the dollar, and Paul Keating’s “Banana Republic” outburst three years later as commodity prices and the exchange rate fell, illustrating the dangers of an overly rigid economic system being left too late to reinvent itself in a rapidly globalising world.
Luckily, economic expansion in Asia in the 1970s, 80s and 90s provided relief as demand for primary products soared – agriculture as before, but increasingly minerals and fossil fuels, notably coal and most recently gas.