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Abbott's Australia: country of lost opportunity

By Dino Cesta - posted Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In a scathing, yet apposite assessment of Australia in the 1960s, researcher, author, and social critic Donald Horne famously penned in his iconic book 'The Lucky Country',"Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck."

In 1964, Horne contended that Australia was entwined to its colonial past, unable to stand and think on its own two feet, and its leaders lacking a distinctive cultural blueprint for a newer, mature, prosperous and more independent Australian society.

Horne's frustration and condemnation was in part based on the premise that Australia predominantly leveraged the economic, social and technological innovations of other nations, however lacked the ingenuity, ambition, venture, and passion to do the same.


Essentially, Australia was fortuitous, or 'lucky', rather than 'clever', in its development as a nation. Particularly under the Menzies Prime Ministership, Australia metaphorically fell asleep, lacking the inspiration and vision to catapult Australia to a more independent and self-reliant nation economically, politically, socially and culturally.

Australia needed to be more 'clever' in its thinking, by investing in its future instead of being complacent and squandering the unfulfilled potential of its people. From an economic perspective, it was then and still is now, not enough to rely solely on Australia's abundance in natural resources, living off the 'sheep's back', or held ransom to the mining 'boom and bust' economic cycles, for its ongoing prosperity.

Fast-forward to 2014, half-a-century on since Horne's insights. There is a sense of a cultural echo of yesteryear under Prime Minister Abbott. Under Abbott, Australia is at risk of becoming the country of lost opportunity economically, socially, and culturally.

Abbott appears more interested in reintroducing knighthoods than re-engineering Australia for the twenty first century to ensure future prosperity for all, as distinct to a select few, Australians.

Austerity policy measures will not grow an economy, only suppress it. This is clearly demonstrated in Europe where its initial obsession with pure austerity courses of actions post Global Financial Crisis further crippled its growth prospects, its economy, and aggravating social cohesion and dislocation.

Short and long-term innovative growth oriented policy measures must be implemented in conjunction with measures, which cut real waste, and inefficiencies across our economy.


Today, Australia's over-reliance as a resource-based economy is for all to see. The Government's current budgetary fiscal position is decimated due to the significant drop in global commodity prices. To prosper, Australia must broaden its revenue capacity applicable to twenty-first century needs, not just twentieth century 'old economy' needs.

Particularly with an ever-creeping ageing population, it is an imperative that Australia become more creative, productive and smarter in not only the manufacturing, resources, energy and agricultural sectors, but also in other sectors, including in health, financial services, education, tourism, services, and importantly the environment. Australia must increasingly diversify what it exports to the world. Fortunately on some of these issues, Australia is slowly heading in the right direction.

Unfortunately, on the issue of climate change, Australia has dropped the ball. It is irrefutable that the planet's climate and weather patterns are changing. Regardless of what is contributing to, and because of this shift, Australia must play a pivotal role and be more dynamic in transforming our and the global economy. Otherwise, we risk becoming a third world economy.

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About the Author

Dino Cesta is a freelance communicator of thoughts, opinions and ideas on politics, economic and social issues and public policy. Cofounder of the non-profit organisation Hand in Hand Arthouse, and the Newcastle Italian Film Festival, Dino graduated with a Bachelor of Economics and Master of Politics and Public Policy. You can follow Dino on View from the Obelisk or Twitter on @dinoc888

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