The policy of free trade, or laissez-faire, argues against the protection of local industries via tariff barriers, seeing tariffs as inefficient.
In nineteenth century Australia, New South Wales adopted free trade policies, as opposed to the protectionist stance taken in Victoria. Across the Australian colonies political debate was characterised by the division between free traders and protectionists.
Protection, not free trade, was the dominant policy of the Commonwealth from its formation until the 1980s, when free trade policy was pushed as part of the new neo-liberalism.
Free trade has traditionally been rejected by Australian trade unions.
Created: 9 November 2004, Last modified: 27 June 2005