In the '70s and '80s, the University of Sydney was split in a fierce battle over attempts to teach students a new kind of neo-classical economic theory. At the heart of the battle were Tony Abbott, Anthony Albanese and Malcolm Turnbull—and their actions explain much about our current politics.
Economist Saul Eslake recently warned that a Coalition government could be hamstrung by ideological differences not unlike those separating the economic ‘wets’ from the ‘dries’ in the Fraser government.
Amongst the current crop of wets, he lists Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce. They are ‘more sceptical of markets, and more inclined to favour universal welfare entitlements’, whereas Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb, Malcolm Turnbull and Arthur Sinodinos are ‘genuine economic liberals’. Eslake said that similar divisions resulted in a ‘singular lack of economic policy achievements’ for the Fraser government.
Winding back the clock to when Tony Abbott cut his teeth as a conservative in student politics at Sydney University, it’s hard to find evidence of his credentials as a market-sceptic, especially when looking at his opposition to a pluralist economics curriculum then being hotly contested on campus.
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