Full text: Borrowing and business in Australia

rate asked for long-term loans had declined to an abnormally low 
level. A further fact of importance is that the increase in the 
amount of the debt was more than counterbalanced by the 
growth of population, and by the rise in prices. Comparing 
the public debt at the 1901 price level, the burden per head 
fell from £53-27 to £50-01 per head by 1913. 
Looking back over this period with particular attention to 
the annual overseas debt for interest, the most striking feature 
is the almost uniform amount of this item. This must be 
considered in relation to the whole record of business which, 
despite the three difficult episodes of 1903, 1907-8, and 1912-13, 
exhibits stability and soundly based prosperity to a greater 
degree than any other period of our history. Steady industrial 
expansion, rising productivity, easy banking, and a relatively 
heavy volume of immigration all bear witness to the progress 
of the time; but, it is also noted, there is no lack of evidence 
of that tendency to accumulate liabilities beyond the limit which 
could be justified by the normal production of the country. The 
prosperity and easy money of the golden years after 1906 revived 
the temptation to promote over-expansive schemes in public 
and private business. Optimism once more overshot the bounds 
of prudence; and the concluding portion of this chapter will 
demonstrate how heavily the indebtedness so lightly undertaken 
in the middle years began to weigh at the end. 
Australian financial history after 1900 is marked by another 
feature of major importance, and that is the tendency to 
approach the London market for ‘business’ loans of one sort and 
another. But, while the evidence of heavy private investment 
at this period is undoubted, the estimation of its volume is a 
matter of the greatest difficulty. Private investments, as Viner 
rightly remarks, ‘take a great number of forms; in most cases 
theyreceive little publicity, and no comprehensive and systematic 
attempts have ever been made to compile annual totals for such 
investments from actual information’! The to and fro move- 
ments of securities are so difficult to detect, the volume of trans- 
fers so entirely impossible to estimate, and the methods of 
transfer from one country to another so varied and devious, 
that one can be sure of one thing only—the under-statement of 
the total liability under this head. The incentive to evasion of 
1 Viner, op. cit., p. 120.

Note to user

Dear user,

In response to current developments in the web technology used by the Goobi viewer, the software no longer supports your browser.

Please use one of the following browsers to display this page correctly.

Thank you.