Welcome to The Bert Kelly Research Centre

Bert Kelly arrived in Federal Parliament as the Member for Wakefield in 1958. From then until he left the Parliament in 1977 Bert led a long and often bitter campaign against protectionism, first against a very powerful Deputy Prime Minister and Country Party Leader in John ‘Black Jack’ McEwen and also against the deeply held and strongly defended populism of the day. Bert was opposed to protectionism because it was ‘economically foolish and morally wrong’. It was foolish he said, because it forced consumers to pay more for goods than they otherwise would thereby reducing consumers’ buying opportunities for other goods. It protected declining industries and obstructed emerging ones. It was morally wrong because it created situations in which governments granted favours to some, who were greatly enriched, at the expense of others who were impoverished – including third world countries desperate to sell their goods into Australia and lift their people out of poverty.

Latest News

Free trade essential to global standards of living

Simon Birmingham and Elizabeth Truss and Chan Chun Sing and David Parker
May 2020

Advances in health, technology and knowledge have added 25 years to global life expectancies since 1950. More than one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in 20 years. People around the world have been leading longer and better lives. We know, too, that trade drives productivity and innovation — it also lifts employment, incomes and contributes to social cohesion. Full article here.

US Protectionism A Costly Failure

Stephen Kirchner
December 2019

American and Chinese negotiators have reached an in-principle “phase one” trade deal that will be signed in early January. The deal offers some relief from US tariffs in exchange for increased Chinese purchases of US agricultural products, but achieves few of the objectives the US set itself when it embarked on its costly trade war last year. [Full article]

Free trade gives wealth for toil

Dave Sharma
October 2019

In these times of growing global economic uncertainty and mounting trade tensions, countries such as Australia need to stand up for the principle of free trade and shore up the foundations of the global trading system.

Trade and economic growth go hand-in-hand. Since the end of World War II, it has been the growth in global trade that has driven increased living standards around the world.

In 1945, exports accounted for about 5 per cent of global gross domestic product. Today that figure is 25 per cent.

Similarly, those countries that have embraced the opportunities of global trade and opened their economies have seen the most dramatic improvement in their fortunes.

It was China’s embrace of economic opening and trade from the late 1970s onwards that propelled its development and lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty.

But the proposition linking growing trade with rising prosperity is under threat — from protectionist sentiments, increasing trade tensions and deadlock within the multilateral trading system of the World Trade Organisation… [Full Article]

Vale Hal Colebatch

7.10.1945 – 10.9.2019

A sad day for the Centre with the news that the author of The Modest Member: The Life & Times of Bert Kelly, Dr Hal Colebatch, has died. He was 73.

Thanks to the generous assistance of Harold Clough and others, Hal was commissioned by the Centre to write the first manuscript of the book. The project took more than a year.

Hal was a gifted writer and academic and was highly regarded internationally.

We honour him and say Vale Hal.

Free traders at home and abroad

Dean Smith
September 2019

It is 150 years ago since Leo Tolstoy’s literary masterpiece War and Peace was published in 1869.

This classic details the French invasion of Russia and describes the impact of the Napoleonic period on Tsarist society through the stories of a number of Russian aristocratic families.

Tolstoy’s masterpiece takes place in an era of economic nationalism as Napoleon tried to block European trade with Britain. Supplied.

The novel shows us how Europe was torn apart during this period, devastated by a war that continued for many years.

History shows that the conflict also had economic underpinnings – namely Napoleon’s desire to block trade between Britain and continental Europe.

Had political leaders of that time adhered to the principles detailed in another masterpiece written a generation earlier, perhaps conflict may have been avoided… Full article.

‘Closing Pandora’s Box: The Growing Abuse of the National Security Rationale for Restricting Trade’ by Simon Lester and Huan Zhu
(Cato Institute, June 2019, reproduced with permission)

Over its first two years, the Trump administration has aggressively reshaped U.S. trade policy. One of its most controversial initiatives is the expansive use of national security to justify imposing tariffs and quotas. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president authority to restrict imports on this basis after an investigation by the Department of Commerce. The administration has already done so for steel and aluminum and is now threatening similar actions on automobiles. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has a special exception for such measures, so there is at least an argument that they are permitted under international law. Full PDF here.

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