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Australia not as deserving of presents as it was at past Christmases

By Richard Allsop - posted Friday, 16 December 2011

One of the intrinsic parts of Christmas in Australia is cricket. From backyard games on the day itself, to the Boxing Day Test, it is hard to imagine this time of year without it.

For almost two decades it was easy to be complacent that all was well with the game in this country. Coincidentally, for most of the same period it was easy to imagine that the Australian economy was in safe hands.

Before last Monday, Australia's most recent loss in a cricket Test at home to New Zealand, was 26 years ago. Not that it was in any way related to cricket, but a few months after Australia lost that 1985 game, Paul Keating declared that Australia was running a risk of becoming a banana republic.


Fortunately, just as the then Australian cricket captain, Allan Border and coach Bob Simpson rejuvenated Australian cricket, so Treasurer Keating and a few other key politicians of his generation, on both sides of the political divide, not only recognised that Australia had an economic problem, but also knew that it had to be addressed.

So for a quarter century Australia was just about the most deserving recipients of Santa's largesse. All Australians could sit around each Christmas knowing that not only would the cricket team most likely show its superiority come Boxing Day, but their nation's economy had been reasonably well-managed over the previous twelve months.

The cricket team might not have won every Test, and they might have irritated plenty of people with their boorish behaviour, but you felt that overall the game was doing well. Likewise, Hawke, Keating, Howard and Costello may have made mistakes, but it is hard to argue that their collective efforts meant that Australia was in significantly better shape in 2007 than it had been in 1982.

As On Line Opinion is suggesting, "traditionally Santa rewards good kids, and ignores the bad" - then, if judged by either its cricket team or its Federal Government, in 2011 it seems Australia will be struggling to secure many presents.

Now this might seem a bit unfair to the ordinary citizens, but in democracies Santa favours those who mange to elect governments, which shows some degree of political courage in pursuit of a positive end.

Twenty years ago this summer, the Australian cricket selectors stuck with a young leg-spinner who took 1/150 in his first Test against India in Sydney. At the same time, in the early 1990s recession, Keating stuck to his guns and kept his tariff cuts in place despite a chorus of opposition from interest groups.


The big reforms of the twenty-five years to 2007 were all designed to make the Australian economy more competitive. In that period, we symbolically went from being a nation of striking metal workers to a nation of self-employed tradies.

These reforms also meant that when the Asian meltdown occurred and the bubble burst, Australia hardly suffered. Something similar could have happened with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, but instead Kevin Rudd grossly overreacted.

If you go and blow the family budget on pink bats and unnecessary school halls, you can hardly expect to be able to afford too many big presents under the national Christmas tree.

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About the Author

Richard Allsop is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. He was Chief of Staff to the two Transport Ministers in the Kennett Government and has had a range of other roles in federal and state politics, as well as private sector experience. He has a Masters in History from Monash University and is currently undertaking his PhD. Richard has written on Australian political history for various publications and has also worked on the Nine Network's election night coverage of federal and state elections since 1993.

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