The dream decade that produced modern Australia (Australian Financial Review – October 21, 2021)

The 1960s were a decade of optimism during which Australia swapped the sheep’s back for massive resources industries. Ironically, some of it was financed by an old foe.

“It was obvious long before the end of 1959 that in 1960 Australia should enter its most exciting decade,” The Australian Financial Review quoted economist Douglas Copland as saying a couple of years later.

But the 1960s started with a credit squeeze from Australia’s new stand-alone central bank and a call on International Monetary Fund reserves. The business and political reaction was “hostile and spontaneous”, reported the Financial Review.

After Australia’s first national newspaper went daily in October 1963, the squeeze claimed a string of finance-related companies that had prospered outside the Reserve Bank’s blunt bank lending controls. With Australia’s weak investor protection exposed, the sharemarket went into sharp reverse. Robert Menzies almost lost the 1961 election.

But Copland was proved right. The optimistic 1960s marked the beginnings of modern, prosperous Australia. Amid Britain’s postwar decline, development-led prosperity was built on the biggest resources boom since the 1850s gold rush that realigned Australia towards the Asia-Pacific and exposed its White Australia Policy.

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