Australia Between 1929 and 1939

Australia Between 1929 and 1939

At the heart of Australian life over the past decade is the world crisis which has brought with it a vast upheaval in the political and economic life of the Commonwealth. The crisis was first of all fatal to Labor which, having won the majority in the House in the elections of 1929, had replaced Scullin in the government of the nationalist Bruce. Under the grip of economic difficulties, Labor was severely tested in its party structure and in 1931 it split into two groups, losing even some of its best men and paving the way for a coalition of right-wing parties that took the name of United Australia Party. This new formation in the federal elections in December of that year obtained the preponderance and constituted under the Lyons, formerly Labor and a collaborator of Scullin, a government which, allied with the Country Party in 1934, his confidence was reconfirmed by the voters also in the next two legislatures. Labor gradually regained its influence, but in the elections of October 1937, despite having obtained a number of votes not very far from that of the ministerial parties, it slightly improved its position in the lower house.

Having thus obtained a stable government, the Federation, despite the various political events of the States and threatened in 1933 by an attempt to detach from Western Australia, in which there was a current in favor of the establishment of an autonomous Dominion, was able to effectively combat the economic depression. and soon rise again to a very high level of prosperity.

Australian finances came under severe pressure during the period of the crisis. But the federal government has managed to bring the budget to the surplus in recent years.

The economic recovery proceeded hand in hand with financial rehabilitation. The livestock and wool industry, Australia’s main commodity, was one of the first to recover from the Depression. Wool producers and traders, remaining faithful during the years of the crisis to their policy of selling entirely the product of each season, avoided artificially supporting prices by limiting sales and consequently creating large stocks, which would then have caused, as happened elsewhere for other products, the contraction of production. They agreed to sell below cost, but when demand began to revive, Australian producers found themselves in a position to immediately benefit from the rise in prices. without being forced to depress them by offering the unsold quantities in previous years to the market. If in 1931-32 wool exports amounted to 28,983,787 pounds, in 1933-34 for a smaller quantity by weight the value rose to 49,948,847 pounds. In the 1936-37 season the total production was worth 60 million Australian pounds and that of 1937-38 is calculated, at reduced prices, not less than 50 million Australian pounds.

The cereal industry was also severely tested, and more permanently. The decrease in the price of wheat especially affected the farmers of marginal lands who had to abandon them to pastoralism. Thus the sown area, which had been 18,164,920 acres in 1930-31, fell to 11,923,623 in 1934 to then rise to 13,508,000 acres. In 1931 the government had to intervene to help farmers with production premiums, financed by a special tax on flour. It is expected that, except in the case of a decrease in production in other parts of the world, the current level of prices and production costs will not allow the grain industry to expand beyond its current limit. Gold mining, on the other hand, had a new impetus from the crisis. The devaluation of the Australian pound in 1930 increased the value of gold more than double and, accompanied by a decrease in costs for technical improvements in the extraction systems, allowed the exploitation of poor and abandoned mines. The number of people employed in this industry, which was 6,000 in 1929, rose to 40,000 in 1937; production, from 427,000 ounces in 1929 to over 1 million in 1937 for a value of over 10 million Australian pounds.

No less remarkable in recent years has been the development of secondary industries (especially metallurgical and mechanical, textile, paper and chemical) which are on the way to making Australia a highly industrial country. It is significant, in this regard, that out of 3,300,000 workers, about 520,000 are directly employed in industry compared to half a million dedicated to agriculture. In 1935-36 against 20,000,000 pounds of agricultural products, there were about 160,000,000 of industrial products.

Increased production and national income, increased prices and wages and social security expenses, increased savings and contained the price of money, decreased unemployment by 2/3, reduced taxes, Australia, from the maximum depression of 1931-32, it rose in 1937 to the highest point of prosperity in its history. But two problems weigh heavily on its further development: that of population and that of exports. For Australia 2019, please check

Australia’s demographic prospects are not very bright. Since 1911 the birth rate has dropped from 27.2 to 17.5 per thousand. If the birth rate falls further and is not offset by immigration, the Australian population will begin to decline in 20 years or less. The progressive aging of the population also threatens the modest current increase. Under these impressive demographic conditions, Australia could find compensation in immigration. On the contrary, during and after the economic depression the emigration of individuals of British origin exceeded the immigration of about 30,000 people. Australian nationalistic selfishness has also shown no change in their aversion to opening the country’s doors to other non-British migratory flows. Labor, concerned with retaining the Australian worker the exceptionally high standard of living he possesses, are opposed to any immigration to Australia which could lead to formidable competition on the labor market. But apart from these difficulties, others exist which hinder the increase of the Australian population. Much of the Australian continent is not susceptible to colonization, and the exploitation of certain areas is not possible in the current situation of the Australian economy. The very fragmentation of the large properties on which pastoralism is exercised, and their transition to intensive agriculture has not proved to be a favorable expedient to the increase of the population because the costs of the transformation (road construction and houses, water systems, machinery), excessively affect the yield of those lands. However, the federal government is keenly concerned with the population problem and, within the limits recommended by political opportunities, has a specific program that it will implement in the following years despite the opposition of the Labor Party. In the demographic field, the Lyons government foresees an increase in birth rates and new measures aimed at improving maternity care and reducing infant mortality. In the field of immigration policy, the federal government, having failed to collaborate with the states, intends to directly take on the question of subsidized immigration and to agree directly with Great Britain to encourage the influx of British people back into Australia.

The problem of population is then directly linked to the other of exports. The increasing difficulties that Australia encounters in the placement abroad of its primary products, the competition of surrogates which are extending into certain economic systems, threaten the prosperity, and in any case the development, of the country’s fundamental productive activities. A remedy for this state of affairs would exist in the development of the internal market which would have a favorable impact on secondary industries, suitably protected by customs tariffs. But for the development of the internal market an increase of the population is necessary: ​​here the two problems, demographic and economic, are welded together. The former, however, remains the essential factor, also for defense reasons, of Australian life. The foreign and imperial policy of the Commonwealth is then connected to the problem of population. Australia remains, in the Pacific area, the possible object of greed by the yellow populations, inexorably excluded from the territories of the Federation and its possessions. As for Great Britain, the relations in 1931 were constitutionally established by the statute of Westminster, which is still awaiting its ratification by the federal parliament, and the economic ties in the Ottawa agreements of 1932 were strengthened, the need for protection is today the strongest link. which unites Australia to the motherland and attenuates certain tendencies to continental isolationism, especially felt in Labor. The contrast between the trend of imperial loyalty and cooperation, supported by the federal government, and that of opposition isolationism clearly appears in defense policy. Australia has also recently taken steps to reinforce its armed forces; the 1937-38 budget shows in the defense chapter an increase in expenditure of 3,464,000 pounds compared to the previous one. But while the government calls for an increase in the navy to cooperate with the British one, the Labor opposition is leaning towards the development of aviation, almost fearing that the greater autonomy from land of ships, compared to planes, could drag Australians in distant and less directly interesting warring ventures, Australia. Australian Labor held a similar attitude in the face of the danger of international complications during the Ethiopian crisis.

The government subscribed with moderation to the anti-Italian policy supported in Geneva by Great Britain and then, in the case of the Sino-Japanese conflict which began in 1937, it refrained from assuming an attitude of intense hostility to Japan and from pushing the British government to new coercive experiments. on the contrary, resisting the movement of the Trades Union inside, calling for the anti-Japanese boycott. Relations with Japan, which in 1936 had been soured by a tariff struggle initiated by Australia, were improved at the end of the same year by an agreement that re-established more normal trading conditions in cotton and Japanese rayon and wool. Australian.

At the imperial conference in London in May 1937, Mr. Lyons, concerned with improving the general political situation in the Pacific and not losing sight of the potential threat of Japanese expansionism, launched the proposal for a general non-aggression pact among the Pacific countries., a proposal that was not officially collected in Japan, nor elsewhere, and was later wrecked in the tragedy of the war in China.

Australia Between 1929 and 1939