A 'white elephant' is a magnificent, high-status possession that is not particularly productive, costs a lot to maintain, and which you cannot get rid of. Since colonial times, Australians have had a weakness for white elephants. Traditionally, these were massive, debt-funded public works schemes that were economically, environmentally or socially dubious. In recent years, our white elephants have taken on different guises, but the ruinous expense and misdirected effort remain the same. This paper explores some of the reasons for our society's historic enthusiasm for white elephants, and suggests some remedies.
Australia under construction: nation-building past, present and future / John Butcher (ed.),