As premier of New South Wales at the beginning of the Great Depression, John Thomas Lang oversaw the largest government-driven economy in Australia. With support from other premiers, he sought to overcome the disadvantages to the states of federation, but the collapsing world economy, heavy war-debt, banking crises and political discord rendered State–Commonwealth negotiations difficult and state financial autonomy impossible. The Australian Labor Party split into warring camps and lost a federal election. Lang contested Commonwealth policies and actions. The Commonwealth seized New South Wales’s revenues. Lang instructed state public servants not to pay debts due to the Commonwealth, and the state governor, Sir Philip Game, dismissed him and his government on unconstituted grounds. Jack Lang was never again premier, but his place in Australian political history was assured.
Based on documents in government and bank archives in Sydney, Canberra and London, this book gives a fresh interpretation of the Great Depression and its causes.
The author Dr Frank Cain teaches 20th Century Australian history at the University of New South Wales at ADFA in Canberra.