Last modified on 11 September 2007, at 01:00

Australian History/1990s

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The Entrepreneurial Eighties

If Australia during the 1990s could be summed up in three terms, those terms would perhaps be "Economic Rationalism", "Reform", and "Backlash". In the wake of the entrepreneurial excesses of the 1980s, the 1990s were a decade which saw economic terms including "globalisation", "outsourcing", "downsizing" and "corporate restructure" enter everyday speech. The move from Keynesian economics to economic rationalism - a form of neoclassical economics which became increasingly popular during the decade - touched on many aspects of Australian social and political life. Many industries traditionally run by the public service - including telecommunications, public transport, electricity, gas, and major infrastructure works - were either privatised, corporatised, outsourced, or moved into private-public partnerships. Attempts were made to amalgamate several smaller Melbourne-based AFL teams, many major Australian corporations underwent restructuring, and Australian banks closed branches and increased fees (in spite of record profits).

But the changes and reforms in Australia during the 1990s were not merely political and economic. Technological changes, and debates about Australias national identity and culture, were also important forces during the decade. Culturally, these debates and reforms covered a broad array of topics, including relations and reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, Australia's foreign relations with its Asian neighbours and America, immigration, and the republic debate. Beyond the cultural debates, Australians were the recipients of a range of new media technologies (including the internet, pay television, and an increasing percentage of Australian households owning computers).

But the story of Australia cannot be understood in terms of economic and social reform alone, for there were countless examples of public backlash to these sometimes controversial reforms. The grass roots campaign against the amalgamation of football teams in Melbourne; election losses for the reformist governments of political figures like Keating, Kennett, and Greiner / Fahey; the rise of Hansonism; the S11-S13 protests in Melbourne; and the growth of home loan originators (in competition to the bank) could all be interpreted (in part) as part of a popular backlash which emerged in response to the decade's reforms.

Australia in the Age of Terror