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Money and markets - 1925 to 1945 

 Detail of old department store photo
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Australia experienced rapid industrial growth in the years following the First World War. It also began to experience some of the problems associated with an urban, industrial society. “Men, money and markets” was the catch-cry of the era. The Depression of the 1930’s struck a devastating blow but by 1939 Australia was producing a range of products which a decade earlier had been imported. 


During this period the motor vehicle, telephone, cinema and radio brought immense changes to Australian society. Advertising was becoming an effective method of selling and Australia was ripe for new American sales techniques. There was little control on the claims manufacturers could make in their ads, many of which were false and misleading.

Advertising encouraged the purchase of consumer goods and increased the popularity of hire purchase (money obtained from credit providers ie banks and finance companies for goods which were not owned until all the money was paid off). The familiar problems associated with hire purchase also grew - harsh contracts, extortion, inequality between the parties, and little or no variation in the contracts.

In an attempt to remedy these defects, the Hire-Purchase Agreements Act was passed in New South Wales in 1941. At the time it was considered to be one of the most comprehensive and effective measures of its sort in the world.

Developments in consumer protection continued despite the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

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Consumer developments during this period 

Some of the major consumer developments in this era included:

  • 1927 Marketing of Primary Products Act - represented producers and consumers of certain products and examined the cost, production, information and supply of markets.
  • 1929 Standards Association formed - set minimum standards of quality and safety for manufacturers of goods.
  • 1931 General Motors Holden's Ltd formed - a milestone for local industry and symbol of Australia’s growing secondary industry.
  • 1941 Auctioneers, Stock and Station and Real Estate Agents Act - controlled, regulated and licensed auctioneers, stock and station and real estate agents.
  • 1943 Lay-By Sales Act - covered the conditions of lay-by sales and outlined the rights and responsibilities of purchasers and traders.

Go to The post-war boom - 1945 to 1960

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