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What does "its" refer to in "...Australia led the way in its development and application of a principled law of restitution..."? Here's the context:

We were enthralled by the decisions and reasoning in cases such as: Pavey & Matthews Pty Ltd v Paul, rejecting the implied contract theory and awarding a quantum meruit for work done under an unenforceable contract; David Securities Property Ltd v Commonwealth Bank of Australia allowing restitution for mistake of law and recognizing the change of position defence; and Commissioner of State Revenue (Vic) v Royal Insurance Australia Ltd rejecting a passing on defence to a claim for restitution of mistakenly overpaid stamp duty. At that time Australia led the way in its development and application of a principled law of restitution and England lagged woefully behind.

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    its refers to Australia, and the sense of the sentence is very similar to the sense of At that time Australia led the way when it developed and applied a principled law of restitution and England lagged woefully behind.
    – High Performance Mark
    Commented Feb 18, 2020 at 10:16
  • Further, "its" is possessive. "It" refers to Australia, while "its" refers to the "possessions" of Australia, though, in this example, the "possession" is "development and application of a principled law of restitution".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 1:30

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As Hot Licks and High Performance Mark said in their comments. Its is a possessive reference back to the subject of the sentence.

Here are some other examples, Netflix set the standard for streaming services with its world famous streaming service.

Japan began to boom after reversing its isolationist policies.

The Smith family grew richer after their successful investments.

IBM lost market share after their mistake with handling Microsoft.

Mark was much taller after his growth spurt.

For countries we usually use its, for companies we can use it or their, for groups of people we use their and for individuals we use personal possessive pronouns, his, her, their, etc..

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  • You misused it's. Please check your grammar. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 15:49

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