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Sweet spot – Australia's unsung success

By Graham Young - posted Friday, 27 January 2012

There are only two major problems with Peter Hartcher's latest book Sweet Spot – there are no graphs or tables, and no footnotes.

Apart from that it is a slashing read that lays out just how well Australia is performing economically and in terms of social justice. But without easy access to the proof, while it is a good read, it is not as useful as it should be.

And it deserves to be well read and well-used as it proves the success of the political and economic programs of the 24 years from 1983 to 2007, programs that many on the left deride as "neo-liberal".


It would come as a surprise to most Australians to know that overseas we are regarded as a "miracle" economy.

When I was growing-up in the 60s it was the sort of term that was applied to the US; and then in the 70s to the Japanese; and then in the 80s and the 90s to the Asian Tigers or perhaps to Ireland or even Scandinavia.

It takes a hard slap on the side of the head to realise that the term now is rightly applied to Australia, and at a time in global economic affairs when being a "miracle" economy is harder to do than ever before.

This is a particularly significant book because Hartcher is the political editor for the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Fairfax press is the favourite read of those whose refrain is that "we are all rooned".

What's more, the Herald has bought in to the perception of Australia as a mean and barren society more than most organs, and you can see this in the writings of their regular columnist Hugh Mackay.

Hugh conducts focus group research and his refrain over the Howard years was that Australians were becoming meaner and narrower.


Here's what Hartcher has to say about that perception:

The wider picture is that Australia is one of the world's fairest countries, one of the most tolerant, and one of the safest.

This will jar with the image that many Australians have of their country. We have been told again and again that inequality has grown worse, that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, that racial and religious intolerance has sharpened, and that the crime rate is on the rise.

In fact he identifies the period when Howard was in power as the period when living standards for poorer Australian improved the most.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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