Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Lucky Country – 50 Years Later

By Ian Lowe

How much has changed since Donald Horne labelled Australia “the lucky country” as a warning about its “second-rate leaders”?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Last December was the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Lucky Country, Donald Horne’s acerbic look at Australia and what he called its “second-rate leaders”. His book was dismissed by one reviewer who said it would be forgotten by the end of that summer. Instead it became a runaway best-seller and the title entered the lexicon.

But the book’s central message was misunderstood or misrepresented by generations of leaders. Writing a foreword to the fifth edition in 1998, Horne lamented the misuse of his book’s title “as if it were praise for Australia rather than a warning”. He said this had distracted attention from his message, which is still relevant today.

Horne said that it is essential to accept the challenges of where Australia is on the map, to recognise the need for a revolution in economic priorities “especially by investing in education and science”, and to undertake a broad conversation about Australia’s future.

Most of our leaders still make sweeping generalisations about Asia that very few would make about Europe. They have little understanding of Asia’s history or social complexity. Most still see relationships with Asian nations through a narrow economic prism: somewhere to sell our produce.

The need for a “revolution in economic priorities” is even more obvious today. Horne commented that the Australia of the 1960s...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.