Michael in a Muddle: Michael Pusey’s Bungled Attack on Economic Reform

In his new book, The Experience of Middle Australia: The Dark Side of Economic Reform, Michael Pusey argues that the economic reforms carried out since the early 1980s have had significant detrimental effects on Australian society. Major newspapers have reported his argument, but there has been little discussion of numerous serious errors of fact and logic.

  • Many of Pusey’s economic claims are incorrect—unemployment has not increased, job turnover is not higher, job security is not lower, small business is not in decline, and real wages have not been held down.
  • Even when Pusey gets his facts right, he wrongly assumes that economic reform caused certain outcomes, and does not consider alternative explanations such as technological advances, social change affecting work participation, varying international trading conditions and increasing levels of education.
  • Pusey misinterprets his own survey data to suit the argument he wants to make. The polling results are often inconsistent with Pusey’s hostility to economic reform.
  • Pusey quotes or cites very few economic reformers, and shows little sign of understanding why economic reform took place.

Instead of real explanations, Pusey offers conspiracy theories about ideology and corporate interests. More likely reasons, such as the mostly Labor reforming governments trying to increase employment and maintain social services despite resistance to higher tax, are not considered.

Andrew Norton is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.