The Great Mistakes of Australian History
UNSW Press, $34.95 pb, 247 pp
The trouble about identifying great mistakes in Australian history is that most of them seemed like good ideas at the time. When, for instance, a recent IPA Review identified as one of Australia’s major errors the rejection in 1905 of George Reid’s free-trade federal government in favour of Alfred Deakin’s tariff protectionists, it indulged in anachronistic hindsight. However suited globalisation may be to the geopolitics and technology of the present day, things were different a hundred years ago. Every nation except Great Britain and Turkey used the tariff to protect local capitalists and employees. A whole anthology of ‘great mistakes’ risks deteriorating into a facile exercise in ancestor-bashing.