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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's Industrial Development Experience factsheet cover

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Australia's Industrial Development Experience

Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources

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The Goal

To achieve strong economic growth, low unemployment and improved living standards whilst implementing the principles of sustainable development.

The Challenge

Trade liberalisation offers benefits to participants in the global economy by encouraging goods and services to be produced in those locations where it is most economically efficient to do so. However, while there are opportunities for countries to grow their overall economies, particularly in those sectors that have a comparative advantage, there are also challenges for those that do not.

Governments have a key role to play in setting the policy conditions to enhance their industries’ ability to compete in the global economy, through assisting industries that have previously been afforded high levels of protection to restructure, innovate and become internationally competitive. Governments also need to ensure that markets operate efficiently so that resources are redeployed to their highest-value uses.

This case study

Australian Government industry policy focuses on macroeconomic stability, microeconomic reform and specific interventions. Key priorities are:

Important elements in accomplishing these goals include appropriate macroeconomic policies, the implementation of National Competition Policy (NCP) and an innovation policy that boosts productivity growth.

How did we make it happen?

Major microeconomic reforms began in the 1970s with large reductions in tariffs. The rate of microeconomic reform increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s as the Australian economy became more open and competitive. These developments were accompanied by significant labour market reforms which established a stronger link between wages and labour market productivity. In addition, NCP was introduced in 1995 to promote an open and integrated domestic market that limits anti-competitive conduct and removes special advantages previously enjoyed by government businesses activities. The changes have also come at a time when pressures on Australia’s natural environment are better understood, and a mix of measures is being used to address the range of issues.

Innovation is a key cause of productivity improvement, and the Australian Government aims to build upon existing strengths in traditional industries to develop new high-profit, high-growth industries. Australia’s innovation policy is articulated in two key action plans, Backing Australia’s Ability I (2001) and II (2004), which provided the strategic framework for innovation and defined the direction of innovation policy. These action plans, coupled with the establishment of Australia’s National Research Priorities, are a move towards a more strategic approach to innovation.

Current Australian industry policy recognises the importance of sustainability and the need for economic growth objectives to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It promotes productivity growth rather than purely additional inputs into production as a means of increasing economic growth, thereby avoiding the overuse of a resource that could lead to irreversible environmental damage.

How far have we come?

Australia’s industry policies have helped make Australia an open and competitive economy. Australian industry has responded to lower levels of protection with higher quality and innovative products. While there have been some adjustment costs, consumers have benefited from lower-priced goods and a wider choice of products and services. Australia’s economic expansion is now in its 15th consecutive year and Australian industry is benefiting from export opportunities.

What have we learnt?

Sound management of the economy, microeconomic reforms and appropriately targeted government intervention can result in sustained economic growth and improved living standards. Effective reforms must be broad-based, and embody agreed principles, while providing for some flexibility in implementation. Where reforms involve the establishment of new regulatory arrangements, it is important that they are well scrutinised in advance and periodically subjected to independent and transparent reviews to ensure the benefits continue to exceed the costs.

For more information on Australia’s industrial development policies visit or