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Breaking the Sheep's Back - Charles Massy

Paperback Published: 1st August 2011
ISBN: 9780702238857
Number Of Pages: 436

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From the author of the influential The Australian Merino comes the shocking true story of the decline and fall of the Australian wool empire – a tale that features a brace of Australian characters, political skulduggery and betrayal on a massive scale.

Breaking the Sheep's Back is the untold story of Australia's biggest business disaster. It involves government complicity, and it is a political scandal that reaches into the offices of Cabinet ministers and prime ministers across six federal governments.

In only twenty years, from 1989 to the present, the Australian wool industry – once the nation-building iconic representation of the country – has been cut to only a third of its size, due in large part to this disaster. When the Australian Wool Corporation's Reserve Price Scheme collapsed in January 1991, there was a 4.8-million-bale stockpile of unwanted wool, and its bankers were left owing $3 billion in government-guaranteed debt. During the years leading up to the crash, the Wool Corporation and its affiliates recklessly spent a further $5 billion of woolgrower and government funds. With the crash, the international wool trade lost billions of dollars – all due to Australian government-sanctioned statutory intervention. The combined losses of at least $10 billion constitute Australia's largest business disaster by far, and the social costs are ongoing.

By comparison, the AWB scandal involved funds one-thirty-thousandth the size. Yet, despite this politically sanctioned wool disaster, including the close involvement of successive federal governments and its agencies throughout, there has never been a royal commission.

Breaking the Sheep's Back is a private royal commission – over eight years in the writing, and involving a colourful and intriguing cast of characters. It is written by someone who was intimately involved in the industry at many levels; who was appointed by a federal minister to statutory boards after the disaster; who has spoken to most of the key players involved, and to those who were inside the Cabinet offices and Corporation and other board rooms; and who has had access to the key documents (such as board papers, government papers, private correspondence). It is a must-read account of Australia's worst business disaster.

About The Author

Charles Massy is the author of the influential The Australian Merino.

Forewordp. vii
Acronyms and Glossaryp. xi
Introductionp. xxi
The Rise of Statutory Intervention-1840 to 1987p. 1
'An inexorable current': The political antecedents of disaster-1840 to 1951p. 3
Of patriots, government princes and wool emperorsp. 10
The binary choice-1950s to 1958p. 17
'If the play gets rough, I can mix it': Bill Gunn, wool warrior-1958 to 1965p. 27
'Marketing mesmerism'-1966 to 1969p. 40
'All your danger is in discord!'-McEwenism to late 1960sp. 51
'The spontaneous uprising of the unwashed peasantry'-the great wool coup of 1970p. 58
'Without ever admitting to having done so': The Wool Commission-up to December 1972p. 73
'Requiring the wisdom of Solomon': The Wool Corporation-1973 to 1975p. 84
'No retreat' in a fool's paradise-1976 to 1981p. 95
With the cylinders all loaded-1982 to 1987p. 102
Setting the Floor-1986 to June 1988p. 117
'A contagion': The wool boom-up to 1988p. 119
The start of the great bull run-late 1987 to January 1988p. 128
Hubris-early 1988p. 135
'On a collision course with the AWC board'-February to May 1988p. 144
The folie de grandeur: The Wool Corporation board-1988p. 155
'The price that could floor the wool industry'-May to 24 June 1988p. 162
Into the Rapids-July 1988 to April 1990p. 177
'In so deep it must keep going'-July 1988 to December 1989p. 179
'A nightmare in the making'-late 1989 to February 1990p. 195
'No time for hard hats'-February to April 1990p. 209
'Flying blind without radar': IWS shenanigans-from late 1989p. 223
Into the Bunkerp. 233
'Encouraged into bad cul-de-sacs'-Autumn 1990p. 235
'Let them eat mobile phones'-April to May 1990p. 244
'More to do with egos than economics'-17 to 21 May 1990p. 260
Last stand at Roma-21 to 27 May 1990p. 267
The fatal cut-28 May to 6 June 1990p. 282
Denouementp. 291
'No better than incompetent gamblers'-June to September 1990p. 293
'Nothing short of insanity'-September to November 1990p. 305
The insurgency-October 1990 to January 1991p. 318
The crash-mid January to 11 February 1991p. 330
The Aftermathp. 351
'Death by ten thousand cuts'-February 1991 to todayp. 353
Counting the costsp. 367
Afterwordp. 395
Acknowledgementsp. 403
Notesp. 407
Select Bibliographyp. 417
Indexp. 423
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780702238857
ISBN-10: 0702238856
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 436
Published: 1st August 2011
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 22.8 x 15.7  x 3.5
Weight (kg): 0.59
Edition Number: 1

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