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By Stephen Bell

The Reserve financial institution of Australia (RBA) led a pretty conservative lifestyles until eventually the early Eighties whilst the economic system skilled waves of economic industry deregulation and normal fiscal liberalization. This booklet tells the tale of financial coverage and the political function of the Reserve financial institution during the last 20 years. It finds how the financial institution has been used as a "political football", describes conflicts with the govt and the dep. of Treasury, and the way the financial institution ultimately adjusted to political turmoil and controlled to claim a degree of independence within the Nineteen Nineties.

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A disinflationary policy essentially chloroforms the economy through tight fiscal or monetary policy or some combination of the two, although increasingly monetary policy has been the favoured weapon. 11 A central aim was to limit wage-push inflationary pressures by driving up unemployment, thus ‘disciplining’ labour. ‘Fight inflation first’ was part of a wider neo-liberal policy mobilisation. 12 The collapse of Bretton Woods and the shift to ‘fighting inflation first’ called for a new monetary policy regime.

In contrast, 34 AUSTRALIA’S MONEY MANDARINS fiscal policy was expansionary, to promote Whitlam’s social agenda and defeat rising unemployment. The combination was contradictory and did not work. In desperation, the Hayden Budget of late 1975 finally tightened both monetary and fiscal policy. This marked a shift in orthodoxy towards a disinflationary policy – ‘fight inflation first’ – that continued (although often timidly) under the Fraser government until the early 1980s. A disinflationary policy essentially chloroforms the economy through tight fiscal or monetary policy or some combination of the two, although increasingly monetary policy has been the favoured weapon.

Coombs was also confronted for much of the time by a domineering Treasury Secretary, Sir Roland Wilson. ’63 In such a context, Coombs, by temperament, was inclined to avoid conflict, and he made sure the Bank kept a low profile in policy debates. 64 In 1967, the Sydney Morning Herald complained that: ‘Dr. Coombs’s reluctance to say plainly what he had to say about policy has sometimes driven observers to distraction. ’66 20 AUSTRALIA’S MONEY MANDARINS Compared to images of independent central banks overseas, such as the German Bundesbank or the US Federal Reserve, central bank independence in post-war Australia amounted to a kind of statutory fiction.

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