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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Patterns of dependency : an analysis of Australia’s path to economic development Crowley, Michael Daniel


The central argument of this thesis is that Australia's economic development can be characterized as a changing pattern of dependency, whereby the nature of Australia's development has been largely determined by forces external to Australia. Consequently this thesis argues that the problems resulting from the current restructuring of the Australian economy can be linked to changes in the organization of the international economic system during the post war period. It is further argued that the failure of the government to recognize this pattern has led to Its actions exacerbating the impact of this readjustment. It is therefore posited that if the social dislocation resulting from this restructuring is to be moderated, an understanding of Australia's process of development must be achieved so that appropriate policies can be derived and implemented. Thus the main focus of this study is a historical analysis of the process of Australia's economic development, taking into account the evolution of the international context in which it unfolded. This general analysis is followed by a case study of the Australian coal industry to examine more closely the impact of this pattern of development. The analysis of this thesis was undertaken from a theoretical framework built on Evans' (1979) conception of dependent development. The process of dependent development is described as involving several phases. Beginning with the transition from "classical dependence" to industrialization based on import substitution, this phase is quickly followed by the internationalization of the domestic market as transnational corporations penetrate the growth sectors of the economy. The most recent phase has involved the internationalization of the production process under a new international division of labour. This final phase is also linked to increased disarticulation of the dependent economy leading to the marginalization of an increasingly redundant workforce. The outcome of the analysis was to conclude that the economic development of Australia could be reasonably described as a process of dependent development, whereby the direction and pace of economic development are determined by the interaction between foreign capital, local capital and the local state. However, foreign capital was found to play a dominant role in shaping the direction of economic development. This is seen as a consequence of Australia's historic pattern of development and the policies of the Australian government in the post war period which gave greater priority to strategic concerns than to issues of economic sovereignty. Policy responses to some of the more obvious problems in the minerals and manufacturing sectors were identified. These included the need for greater co-ordination in the minerals sector and the development of an industrial policy for the manufacturing sector. However, it was concluded that the underlying problem confronting the Australian economy was the failure of the federal government to adapt to the changing international context created by the emergence of the modern transnational corporation in the post war period. A brief outline of a national economic planning policy was given and suggested as a potential strategy for dealing with this changing context. This policy involves the co-opting of the corporate plan into the national economic development strategy. While the difficulty of implementing this strategy is acknowledged, it is argued that without some affirmative action there is unlikely to be any long term relief from the current problems confronting the Australian economy.

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