Social Policy and Inequality in Australia and New Zealand: Proceedings of Joint Conference with the New Zealand Planning Council, Wellington, New Zealand 10-11 November 1988

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The economic and social structures of Australia and New Zealand have always shared many common features. Both have been strong trading nations, relying on agriculture and other primary produce, as well as raw materials and minerals as a source of export earnings. Both have retained strong economic and political ties to the United Kingdom. Both have indigenous people struggling to maintain their political and cultural identity in societies where the mainstream has followed trends in Britain and, to a lesser extent, North America. Finally, both have a similar demographic structure, but one that is strikingly different from most European countries, being characterised by a population comprising more younger people and far fewer elderly people than their European counterparts. Events in Australia and New Zealand in the eighties have further strengthened the perception of similarity in the experience of both countries. With Labor Governments elected to office in the first half of the decade, both faced a similar immediate economic problem of how to confront a loss of traditional export markets in an international economy far more open to competitive forces than in earlier decades. Trade protection of the agricultural and other key sectors - the traditional response in both countries - appeared no longer to be a feasible option either economically or politically. In the event, the new governments adopted broadly similar economic strategies characterised by deregulation, fiscal restraint and public sector reform. These policies have not been pursued at no cost to social policy, and in both countries there has been considerable disquiet at the possibility that social justice has been the victim of policies driven by the dictates of economic rationalism. The papers in this Report represent the beginning of an attempt to assess the extent to which this has been the case. A fuller account will need to wait several more years, although it will hopefully be prepared in due course.
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Saunders, Peter
Jamrozik, Adam
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