Escaping the Empire: How Australia learned to thrive in a volatile world economy


From: Tuesday October 3, 2023, 5:30 pm

To: Tuesday October 3, 2023, 7:00 pm

It is widely agreed that the Hawke-Keating reforms were vitally important for Australia. In this lecture Professor David Vines will show how those reforms were underpinned by economists’ ideas which stretch right back to the 1920s, when Australia was still not much more than a colonial outpost. He will describe how these beginnings led to an original and radical set of ideas, both during the Great Depression and in subsequent years. This thinking provided a framework for many innovative public policy measures: policies adopted in the 1950s to achieve full employment without balance of payments problems; policies that laid the basis for strong economic growth in the 1960s; and policies for removing protectionism, which began in the 1970s and culminated in the Hawke-Keating reforms.

The crucial players who developed this Australian approach to macroeconomic policymaking were James Brigden, Sir Roland Wilson, Lyndhurst Giblin, Douglas Copland, Leslie Melville, Brian Reddaway, Nugget Coombs, Sir John Crawford, Trevor Swan, Max Corden, Alf Rattigan, and Peter Dixon. These people, and their way of thinking, together form an important part of Australia’s cultural heritage, in a way which has not yet been fully recognised. They have significance not only for our historical understanding of what happened in the past, but also for our current approach to macroeconomic policymaking. They are of direct relevance for how Australia responds to the Review of the RBA which was published in April of this year and they relate closely to the current discussions about how to revitalise the Productivity Commission.

About the Speaker

David Vines is an Emeritus Professor of Economics, and an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, at Oxford University. He is also the Director of the Ethics and Economics Programme at the Institute for New Economic Thinking in the Oxford Martin School and a Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London. David’s research is on macroeconomics, finance, and global economic governance. His earliest work was with the Nobel-Prize-winner James Meade in Cambridge; together they published some of the initial analysis of inflation-targeting regimes.

He is currently writing about international economic cooperation, the reconstruction of macroeconomic theory in the light of the COVID pandemic, and the history of macroeconomic policymaking in Australia. David’s publications in the last decade include The Leaderless Economy (Princeton University Press, 2013) and Keynes: Useful Economics for the World Economy (MIT Press, 2014), both written jointly with Peter Temin of MIT, and Capital Failure: Restoring Trust in Financial Services (Oxford University Press, 2014), which he edited with Nicholas Morris. Most recently he was joint editor of an issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy, published in April of this year, which analysed a series of reforms to the international monetary system.


Date: Tuesday 3 October 2023
Time: Attendees are welcome to arrive from 5:30pm to enjoy drinks downstairs (at own cost) for a 6.00pm start
Cost: Free of charge

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The Kelvin Club

14-30 Melbourne Place, Melbourne VIC 3000

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