In 1978 Australia became the first rich country in the world to abolish death duties. In liberal circles their abolition was commonly understood as an anomaly which would soon be overtaken by history. As more countries follow Australia‟s example, the question arises whether it is more a harbinger than an anomaly. Jens Beckert‟s analysis of inheritance law in the US, Germany and France provides a framework to understand the Australian experience from an international perspective. This paper follows Beckert in tracking legislation, coding parliamentary debates, and examining public debate in Australia to identify discursive fields and their enduring influence. It argues that Australia was unusual – although not an anomaly – insofar as its distinctive discursive field made the abolition of death duties relatively uncontroversial. It was a harbinger insofar as the abolition of death duties signalled their material failure to achieve liberal objectives.