Between 1943 and 1946 the Rural Reconstruction Commission conducted the most ambitious public inquiry thus far held in Australia into agricultural production and resource management, agricultural commodity marketing and rural lifestyles. The historians who have studied the Commission have focussed on its ten published reports, ticking off the small number of recommendations adopted by Commonwealth and state governments. The Commission's voluminous transcripts of evidence have attracted no scrutiny, and the inquiry process itself has been neglected. This thesis analyses that process, examining the circumstances in which the Commission was established, as well as the competing and mutating agendas of ministers, bureaucrats and commissioners. It suggests that commissioners conducted an investigatory inquiry, its informal procedure allowing them greater freedom than an inquiry in the style of a Royal Commission to interact with witnesses, to cajole or persuade them to accept particular ideas, and to advance individual and shared agendas. While commissioners were agreed in proposing institutional arrangements for achieving a national agricultural policy, they differed not only over the most suitable mechanisms but over the capacity of farmers to make meaningful contributions to rural policy-making and administration. Commissioners' recommendations for securing a national approach to War Service Land Settlement gained substantial backing from the Commonwealth Australian Labor Party (ALP) government and from the states. But their plans for the provision of rural credit services and the reconstruction of farms challenged ALP banking policy. Their (heavily qualified) recommendations on the stabilisation of prices of agricultural commodities and rural marketing meanwhile cut across the Commonwealth government's determination to regulate prices in the interests of advancing its broader social policy objective of full employment. Contrary to historians who havdepicted commissioners as prisoners of the idealistic, Keynesian mindset associated with the Department of Post-War Reconstruction, this thesis contends that the Commission's two dominant members'neither of whom was a professional economist'were driven by an individualism, loosely derived from classical economic theory, which stopped short of laissez faire.
|Place of Publication||Germany|
|Publisher||Lambert Academic Publishing|
|Number of pages||184|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|