Selwyn Cornish

Selwyn Cornish graduated in economics with first class honours from the University of Western Australia. He is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Economics and the Head of Toad Hall at ANU. His major research fields embrace the development and application of macroeconomics in the 20th century, and biographical studies of economists. He has written on Keynes and Australia, and wrote the entry on Keynes for the Biographical Dictionary of British Economists (2004). His publications include Full Employment in Australia: the Genesis of a White Paper (1981); Roland Wilson: A Biographical Essay (2002); Giblin’s Platoon: The Trials and Triumph of the Economist in Australian Public Life with William Coleman and Alf Hagger (2006); Ardnt’s Story (2007) and the entry on ‘Australasian Economics’ in the Revised New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2008). He is an Associate Editor of the forthcoming Biographical Dictionary of Australian and New Zealand Economists, and is writing the History of the Reserve Bank of Australia 1975–2000. In 2004 he was appointed a Member of The Order of Australia for services to secondary education in the ACT.

Arndt's Story »

The life of an Australian economist

Authored by: Peter Coleman, Selwyn Cornish, Peter Drake, Bettina Arndt
‘H.W. Arndt has been Australia’s leading scholar of Asian economic development for over thirty years’ - Former World Bank President James D Wolfensohn. The year of Heinz Wolfgang Arndt’s birth, 1915, was not a good time for a German boy to be born. His country was soon to be defeated in a great war, his school years were shadowed by the rise of Hitler. Yet when Heinz’s long-buried Jewish background led his academic father to lose his chair in chemistry and flee to Oxford, Heinz followed. As Heinz put it, the calamity of Hitler’s rise to power led him to ‘the incredible good fortune of an Oxford education and a life spent in England and Australia.’ This was a man of inexhaustible energy and optimism, who returned from months behind barbed wire interned in Canada to write a historical classic—The Economic Lessons of the Nineteen-Thirties. He seized the opportunity of an unexpected job offer to set off with his young family for Sydney where he quickly established himself as a leading authority on the Australian banking system, embarked on his fifty year career as a gifted university teacher and enjoyed the first of many vigorous forays as a public intellectual. But it was at ANU that Heinz took the bold step which led him to become the Grand Old Man of Asian Economics. In 1966, just after the Sukarno coup and the year of living dangerously, he determined the time had come to study the Indonesian economy. It took all his charm, persistence and formidable intellect to persuade the Indonesians to open their doors to him. The result was a world-leading centre of Indonesian economics which greatly contributed to the development of modern Indonesia.

Giblin's Platoon »

The trials and triumph of the economist in Australian public life

Around 1920 there formed a friendship of four men who were to be at the heart of Australian economic thought and policy-making over the next 30 years: L.F. Giblin, J.B. Brigden, D.B. Copland and Roland Wilson. This book tells their story. As economists, they were to become key figures in the debates of the day, staking sometimes controversial positions on protectionism, central banking, industrial relations, and federalism. As public figures they were at the hub of several events punctuating their times: the Premiers’ Plan of 1931, the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, and the inauguration of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945. As leading public intellectuals, they spoke out on censorship, appeasement and defence. As four men who really counted in Australian public life, they were decisive in the establishment of The Australian National University, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and the modern form of the Australian Public Service and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Giblin’s Platoon comprehends the personal and intellectual dimensions of their lives, as well as depicting them in political and cultural contexts. It recounts their chequered relations with Jack Lang, John Curtin, S.M. Bruce, R.G. Menzies, and J.B. Chifley, as well as their encounters with the Bloomsbury group, Joseph Conrad of the Jindyworobaks, and William Dobell.