Imperial self-insufficiency rediscovered: Britain and Australia 1945-51

Tim Rooth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper addresses the unresolved debate about the timing of economic disengagement between Australia and Great Britain. During Chifley's administration international economic collaboration between Australia and Britain was close, Australia tending to identify its interests with those of the UK and the sterling area. Yet collaboration never stretched to acceptance by Australia of traditional forms of manufacturer–primary producer complementarity; this played no part in Canberra's postwar planning and priority given to industrialization led to the relative neglect of rural industries, which, together with the rapidly growing demands of its own population, reduced export surpluses and contributed to Australia's poor record as a food supplier. Buoyant export prices, especially for wool, combined with capital inflows from the UK to stimulate import demands. Because of dollar shortages most of these had to be sourced from Britain. From 1948 the UK not only expanded exports dramatically but was a major source of migrants and capital. Yet British industrial capacity in particular proved unequal to the task of meeting Australian needs. Imperial self-insufficiency again stood revealed, encouraging Menzies to look beyond the sterling area to support Australia's rapid development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-51
    Number of pages23
    JournalAustralian Economic History Review
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999


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