In looking back over the previous ten years, the IPA Review published in March 1960 described the 50s as the decade of growth, industrial peace, and political stability.
But even more importantly, it was “the decade of the gadgets”.
“At the beginning of the decade there were, for every 100 Australians-10 motor cars, under 10 refrigerators, well under 10 washing machines, 14 telephones.
Today there are, per 100 people-18 motor cars, 30 refrigerators, 20 washing machines, 20 telephones.
In 1950 there were no T.V. sets; in 1960, 2 out of 3 homes (in Melbourne and Sydney) had television.”
So important was this rise of gadgets, the IPA said:
“industrial peace and political stability are closely connected with the multiplication of the gadgets and its accompaniment, hire purchase finance. For the mass ownership of the gadgets— from washing machines to “pop-up” toasters—is revolutionising traditional political and industrial attitudes.”
Whilst conceding that this “does not reflect, in itself, any improvement in morals, or character, or understanding, it does reflect a vastly higher standard of living for the wage earners.”
Despite a low unemployment rate of between 2 and 4 per cent during the 1950s, by 1960 only a small percentage of the population owned said gadgets, but they were aspiring to, and the advent of television in 1956 made it so much easier to show how crucial these gadgets were to our lives. Everyone on the tv had a car and a fridge and you didn’t even need the money up-front.
According to the IPA, the continued lack of success throughout the 50s of the Labor Party stemmed primarily from the fact that they had failed to recognise the significance of the “gadgets”.
“The great majority [of wage earners] are becoming “men of property” and men of property are conservative. What they have, they do not want to lose. This is economically, socially and politically one of the most portentous developments of the 1950’s.”
And this, in a nutshell, sums up where we are today. The men of property are fiercely protecting their right to accumulate more and that is why we have someone like Tony Abbott as PM.
“For the continuance of large-scale development in the next 10 years we will need, above all, three things:—First, good average prices for wool; second, good seasons on the land; and third, a continued heavy inflow of overseas capital.”
If you substitute coal for wool we are singing from the same hymn book 55 years later. Tony’s tradies and Billson’s businesses are busily buying gadgets. Barnaby is building dams and giving drought assistance in classic agri-political pork-barrelling, and China is buying up the farms, mines, and prime residential real estate.
‘Morals, character and understanding’ remain irrelevant to ‘men of property’, social evolution is resisted, and social justice is scorned.
Like Tony, I was born in the 50s. Unlike Tony, I don’t want to remain there.