Australian Governments and Automotive Manufacturing, 1919-1939

By Conlon, R. M.; Perkins, John | The Australian Journal of Politics and History, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Australian Governments and Automotive Manufacturing, 1919-1939


Conlon, R. M., Perkins, John, The Australian Journal of Politics and History


In recent years the progressive lowering of tariff barriers in Australia has produced a predictable backlash from those who are directly affected. The reaction, however, extends to academics and others who have no pecuniary interest in the outcome, and who have argued that the tariff represented a policy consciously designed to promote the economic development and defence capacity of this country. On the basis of experience in the motor vehicle industry, we argue that these factors had very little to do with interwar tariff policy. Rather, it was the outcome of an interplay between the Commonwealth government's need for revenue, the activities of "the lobby" in seeking rents, and the practices of the Customs bureaucracy.

Overview

Since the 25 per cent tariff cut implemented by the Whitlam government in 1973, Australia has moved away from its highly protectionist orientation, towards greater participation in an increasingly integrated global economy. The gradual dismantling of the tariff has produced significant opposition, not only from industries established under the earlier protectionist regime, but from some political and academic critics. Typical of the latter, in a recent contribution to the debate, Anne Capling and Brian Galligan have employed what they view as a "statist" approach, in which government is accorded an independence in decision-making, in this case with the tariff "weapon" having been apparently employed in the past for the purpose of promoting the economic development of an entity called the Australian nation.(1) The same approach is extended by John Laurent, in a recent article on "industry policy" regarding the motor-vehicle industry, where tariff measures to promote local automotive components manufacture after 1918 are viewed as being consciously directed towards enhancing the defence capacity of Australia. Apparently, the outcome of the resulting "blueprint", as Laurent terms it, was "a debt this country owes to its motor industry" following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, and the subsequent threat to Australia posed by their conquest of Southeast Asia.(2) In particular, Laurent claims that Australia's capacity to produce some automotive components by 1941 provided "incalculable benefits ... for the rapid building of a home-grown air defence industry during the emergency of those times".(3)

We argue, however, that these and other "recollections of time passed" and other similar views of Australian tariff history, show a lack of understanding of the process through which a highly protective regime was established by the eve of the Second World War.(4) "The doctrine of development is an old story in Australia", as S.J. Butlin put it.(5) The related notion of defending a "White" or European "Australia" against a presumed "Asian" threat is of similar antiquity and especially related to the tariff issue. They became axioms of Australian politics to which every mainstream party paid obeisance.

The reality, as this analysis of motor-vehicle components of the development of the tariff is intended to demonstrate, was somewhat different. In practice the development of the tariff was in essence the product of an interaction between the government's desire for revenue, the influence that vested interests -- the "lobby" as it came to be known -- could exert, and the aspiration of politicians involved in a relatively recently created central government to demonstrate its relevance to potential constituent interests in Australia. There was no consensus within the cabinets of interwar governments as to the desirable level of protection for manufacturers of various automotive products, but increases in the level of import duties became typical -- and usually enduring -- responses to immediate balance of payment problems.(6) Tariffs were preferable political alternatives to many other forms of taxation or the likely reaction to a currency devaluation by existing and prospective British investors in Australian government bonds. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Australian Governments and Automotive Manufacturing, 1919-1939
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.