John Howard’s investor state: neoliberalism and the rise of inequality in Australia

Seminar presented by Dr Guy Redden, Guest Speaker

3:00pm Thursday 31 August 2017

A2 Arts Lecture Theatre, UNE


Recent work has acknowledged the variegated forms neoliberalism takes in different contexts while recognising the elements that connect them. Neoliberalization has proven a flexible, adaptive and renewable pattern of reform. At the same time, there is increasing evidence for Harvey’s (2005) contention that its principal socio-economic outcome is inequality. Accordingly, this article proposes that contextualised understandings of neoliberal formations may shed some light on how inegalitarian upwards redistribution has come to pass. It focuses on the Australian government of John Howard (1996-2007), arguing that its fiscal policies created an ‘investor state’—a uniquely generous and expensive system of tax cuts and state subsidy for investors and consumers of private welfare services. This fulfilled the general neoliberal imperative to boost markets in a locally adapted way that built on the market liberalization of the previous Hawke and Keating governments. Importantly, however, it also altered the generous welfare system they had established, redirecting state support away from those most in need towards those with capital.


Guy Redden is a Senior Lecturer in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. His work revolves around the relationships between culture and economy. He has recently been researching neoliberalism and is writing a book about performance measurement.

Launch seminar recordings