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Keywords:

  • economic growth;
  • foreign ownership;
  • real GDP;
  • resource booms;
  • terms of trade

Australia is experiencing its largest mining boom for more than a century and a half. This paper explores, from a national perspective, important economic differences that arise when a mining boom, such as the current one, is generated by sustained export price increases (trading gains) rather than export volume increases. Since 2003, the terms of trade changes – through their direct trading gain effect and indirect real GDP effects – have increased Australian living standards. The increase, measured from official data and relative to the United States, is about 25 per cent; an increase that probably places Australian living standards well above those of the United States. But official data inadequately adjusts for foreign ownership of mining resources suggesting that this estimate is probably a little too high.