Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A sense of déjà vu about Australian industry policy

The problems faced by Blue Scope Steel has re-opened the question of industry policy. You would think that I would be sympathetic to some of the arguments involved, and indeed I am to some. But my overwhelming feeling was a sense of déjà vu.

I decided that I should write a short post linking to some of my past writing and work. Then as I started to list this, I realised that the posts were a bit too fragmentary, especially for people outside Australia who lacked context.

But for the moment, have a look at Confessions of a Policy Adviser -1- Setting the Scene. Sound familiar? This was 1980. You can see the chaos associated with the need to provide a sudden response. I concluded the post this way:

Quite frankly, this was one of the least satisfying experiences of my professional life. A week end to try to provide sensible advice on this issue was bad enough. But we also lacked the policy framework and supporting analytical tools required to say anything new and useful. So in the end we provided statistics with some fairly superficial supporting analysis. I swore that I would never put myself in this position again.

Against this background, I thought that it might be interesting to explore the way in which policy is developed and implemented, in so doing looking at some of policy debates with a special focus on industry.

Following this post I did write a number of related posts. As I said, upon review they proved to be a bit too fragmentary. Still, upon reflection, I think that it's probably worth re-publishing them in a series with commentary to fill gaps.

I remain very proud of the work that the Belshaviks (to use Bob Quiggin's phrase) did. Part of our success lay in the way we worked from a different perspective. Our failure, and it was a big one, lay in my inability to make changes stick.

While I intend to finish my Greek series, I also feel the need to try to paint a story that will take the question of Australian industrial development (and survival) outside the current political, outside the short term, and put it into a clear historical and policy context.

I really think that we need to do this.   


Evan said...

I think we really need to do this too. Looking forward to the series.

Evan said...


Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you Evan. Starting soon!