Albanese hunts for consensus in a fractured economy

by Bernard Keane
The PM's jobs and skills summit will be compared with Bob Hawke's 1983 economic summit. But things have changed radically in those 40 years.

The PM’s jobs and skills summit will be compared with Bob Hawke’s 1983 economic summit. But things have changed radically in those 40 years.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

While the comparisons with Bob Hawke and the economic and tax summits of the 1980s are doubtless welcome to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the jobs and skills summit set for six weeks from now will be very different from that of 1983, when Hawke sought to give substance to his commitment to consensus politics.

That summit was at a time of genuine crisis. The economy was only just emerging from a savage recession under Malcolm Fraser and John Howard, brought on by the second oil shock in a decade. Unemployment had hit 10%. If you think inflation’s bad now, it was 10% too.

The economy was shuttered, our manufacturing sector protected by tariffs that forced consumers to pay extraordinary amounts for basic goods like clothing. Female participation was just 44%. Industrial disputes were 20 and 30 times higher than now. Australia had a persistent current account deficit and was a massive importer of capital.

Read more about Albanese’s jobs and skills summit.

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