JIM COOMBS. Post-virus reconstruction – ‘snap back or snap out of it?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a government that housed the homeless, fed the poor and had a high employment demand driven, suitably regulated, economy. I can dream.

By chance I came by a book Post War Reconstruction with chapters by R G Menzies, H.C. Coombs (yep, my Dad), D.B. Copland, Lloyd Ross, H.V. Evatt and Sir John Morris, dating probably from 1944–45. I read Nugget’s 30 odd pages and wondered at the immense power he, and the government he served, wielded, during the war and immediately after, and the vision he had of the future to be wrought out of the post war environment.

His vision was one of a full employment, high demand, economy, with enough regulation to prevent inflation, and the use of taxation as a economic management tool. It was to secure the economic well being of all, and particularly those at the bottom. State investment in adequate housing, and generous social security, should attract the support of the people to national development projects like the Snowy scheme, but government should lead the way.

None of ScoMo’s ‘Let Business get on with it’. But an economy where the workforce is fully employed on good pay, is bound to secure high demand and the growth that engenders, and if the ‘private sector’ isn’t up to it, then government enterprise on national infrastructure projects should fill the gap with a vision of the future. So government regulates to avoid inflation, and high wage driven demand does the rest. Fairer and demand driven growth oriented ! Looks better than our ‘drive down wages to save business’ mentality.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a government that housed the homeless, fed the poor and had a high employment demand driven, suitably regulated, economy. I can dream.

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Jim Coombs is a nearly retired magistrate and economist

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4 Responses to JIM COOMBS. Post-virus reconstruction – ‘snap back or snap out of it?

  1. Avatar Jocelyn Pixley says:

    Nugget Coombs was brilliant, his speeches amusing even when chatting about money. He criticised Hayek’s 19th century model of ‘spontaneous’ competition when oligarchy was well-established; I don’t think Hayek supervised his LSE PhD but Laski. As central bank governor Coombs also strenuously fought bank-money inflations; Menzies later ignored this and nearly lost the 1960 election in consequence. But he finally separated the CBA from the RBA, which Menzies later told to ‘be kind to banks’. Coombs was most disappointed with the separation (as in Schedvin/Butlin). It’s great to see his son telling us more. Thanks Jim.

  2. Avatar Ted Egan says:

    Dear Nugget. I was lucky enough to drive him around the bush in the late 60s when he headed the Council for Aboriginal Affairs. We always shared a good bottle of red and some Mozart around the campfire each night and I marvelled at his wisdom. One night I asked for “the good advice”. His reply: (1) Keep it on one page (2) Never resign (3) If you get thrown out via the front door, climb in through the side window; and (4) I don’t give a bugger who attends the meeting, as long as I write the minutes.

    Vale! What a man!

    • Avatar Max Bourke AM says:

      Spot on a great boss at the Royal Commission on the Public Service and the little bugger used to thrash me at squash even though 30+ years older!

  3. Avatar Lorraine Osborn says:

    We can dream. Wouldn’t it be nice to have people like Nugget, Curtin, Doc Evatt and other giants in parliament and the public service today.

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