A Bit on the Side: price fixing, rationing, profiteering and black markets in Australia and Britain, 1939-1945 by Michael Tyquin – Book Review

Concerns over black marketing and rationing played a central part in the everyday life of Australian consumers and – not least – the Commonwealth government’s war effort. Michael Tyquin’s extensively researched book is the first comprehensive study of these issues. He concentrates on the Australian experience, using the ‘mother country’ as a comparison benchmark. He also convincingly points out that there are serious gaps in the treatment of this and similar issues in the wartime Australian economy.

Swansea, Victoria: Michael Tyquin 2017 Paperback 338pp RRP: $35.55
Swansea, Victoria: Michael Tyquin 2017
Paperback 338pp RRP: $35.55

In successive chapters Tyquin outlines the issues prior to the war and then considers what changes occurred year by year. He examines the competing bureaucracies at federal and state levels, the complex legislative framework and the less-than-successful interaction between civil and military authorities. Tyquin looks at the difficulty of prosecuting offenders when legislation had been hastily assembled and poorly coordinated. He considers the judiciary, comprehensively showing that penalties imposed for infringements bordered on the nugatory.

There is a useful discussion on the looting that took place after the bombing of Darwin and its lesser-known counterpart in Port Moresby.

There are some unusual typographical errors in the book – Pearl Harbor becomes Pe901 Harbor on page 81! The typesetting in the appendix that deals with how the Australian government fixed prices makes the outcomes difficult to understand.

This book is an important contribution to the understanding of the effect of the Second World War on the Australian community. It is well-argued, strongly based on primary sources, interesting and informative.

Reviewed for RUSIV by Michael O’Brien, June 2018

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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