Full text: Borrowing and business in Australia

106 THE COMMONWEALTH, 1900-14 
depressed prices. How severe the reaction was in the metal 
markets can best be judged from the figures quoted below.} 
The chequered course of 1901 continued into the following 
year ; but, after a depressing period marked by rising prices for 
domestic commodities, falling prices for exports, distress in 
rural and mining areas, and government deficits in every state, 
the promise of brighter conditions came with the breaking of 
the drought. Business interests were by this time, however, 
beginning to feel the strain imposed by the considerable decline 
in exports ; and it is significant that during 1903 gold shipments 
were on a scale larger than usual. A marked decline in imports 
was only to be expected ; and, as trading interests in the cities 
became involved to a greater and greater extent, the most 
intense depression experienced in the eastern states for a decade 
now developed. 
A secondary but far from unimportant factor originated in the 
aftermath of the South African War; and was sufficiently 
serious in Great Britain to diminish considerably the volume 
of capital available for investment. This shortage of loan funds 
reacted most unfavourably upon Australia, in a way that will 
be traced presently. The position of the Australian money 
market for the greater part of the year was one of comparative 
ease; but the stationary bank figures merely reflected a want 
of enterprise and a dullness of trade characteristic of the 
‘deficiency phase’ of the borrowing cycle. That this state of 
affairs was largely the direct result of the expansive loan 
programmes embarked upon previously by all the States 
cannot reasonably be questioned. As early as 1902, in fact, 
criticism was being directed to the precarious condition of 
Australian government finance by business leaders and econo- 
mists. In less than three years the public debt had increased 
by nearly £20 millions of new loans; and the onset of drought, 
accompanied by the disastrous fall in the value of exports, 
Per ton. 
Copper , 
Tin . . 
Lead . 
£ a d. 
73 0 ¢ 
121 156 ¢ 
16 6 ¢ 
IR 17 
+ sd 
49 0 0 
106 8 0 
10 3 0 
a IE

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