Quarterly Essay 54

On an Unravelling Economy

Andrew Charlton

Release Date:
June 2014
Our Price:

In this timely Quarterly Essay, Andrew Charlton demolishes some myths about Australia’s long boom. Around 2000 Australia’s economy became tied to the supercharged rise of China. We had the good fortune to have exactly the resources it wanted. This was not about inspired leadership, so much as good fortune – we became the richest people in the world almost by accident. No politician can take credit for the boom; no worker can be blamed for its end.

Now the moment of truth has arrived: as the boom fades, can we make our own luck? Charlton notes that unlike many successful countries, Australia has never had much in the way of a national strategy. This allows us to grasp opportunities as they arise, but leaves us leveraged to circumstance. It’s why we can be both a “banana republic” and a “miracle economy” in the space of two decades.

Today we have never been more exposed to the world. But what happens if our China luck runs out? Andrew Charlton outlines a strategy for new circumstances.

Buy the eBook:

Amazon Kindle


This issue also contains correspondence relating to the previous issue QE53 That Sinking Feeling by Paul Toohey. Correspondence relating to QE54 will appear in the next issue.

About the Author

Andrew Charlton is the author of Ozonomics, Fair Trade for All (written with Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz) and Quarterly Essay 44, Man-Made World, which won the 2012 John Button Prize. From 2008 to 2010 he was senior economic adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He previously worked for the London School of Economics and the United Nations and received his doctorate in economics from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.