Why we’re a global won­der

High praise for the Aus­tralian econ­omy shows neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment un­jus­ti­fied

The Western Star - - MONEY SAVER HQ -

THIS is the most hated pe­riod of eco­nomic pros­per­ity in Aus­tralian his­tory. It has be­come un-Aus­tralian to ac­knowl­edge any­thing we do well … and it in­fu­ri­ates us.

We have pre­vi­ously writ­ten about our per­sonal Cam­paign For Op­ti­mism to try and break this de­struc­tive neg­a­tiv­ity. It’s not good for the econ­omy, for busi­ness or for the av­er­age Aus­tralian when the re­al­ity is quite pos­i­tive.

So we wel­come to our cam­paign the world’s most pres­ti­gious eco­nom­ics and fi­nance magazine, The

Econ­o­mist. Based in Lon­don, this is the magazine read by the world’s most pow­er­ful politi­cians, bankers and busi­ness chiefs.

Last week’s cover story of

The Econ­o­mist was “Aussie Rules … what Aus­tralia can teach the world”.

In­side the magazine is a 12page re­port on Aus­tralia, which it dubs “the won­der down un­der”. It’s a clin­i­cal, ob­jec­tive out­sider’s ex­pert as­sess­ment of how we are go­ing as a na­tion – the con­clu­sion is we’re go­ing pretty bloody well. The only peo­ple who don’t re­alise it is us.

“Its econ­omy is ar­guably the most suc­cess­ful in the rich world,” states the magazine’s ed­i­to­rial.

“It has been grow­ing for 27 years with­out a re­ces­sion – a record for a de­vel­oped coun­try. Its cu­mu­la­tive growth over that pe­riod is al­most three times what Ger­many has man­aged. The me­dian in­come has risen four times faster than in Amer­ica. Pub­lic debt, at 41 per cent of GDP, is less that half Britain’s.”

Its as­sess­ment is vastly dif­fer­ent to the com­mon scare­mon­ger­ing from con­ser­va­tive politi­cians and me­dia. Our Govern­ment debt is way be­low even Ger­many (64 per cent of its GDP), Canada (90 per cent – and it’s a sim­i­lar­sized econ­omy as ours) or Ja­pan (an in­cred­i­ble 238 per cent).

VI­SION­ARY CALLS

So, how did we get to this en­vi­able po­si­tion?

The Econ­o­mist puts it down to a cou­ple of land­mark de­ci­sions, some of which were made 30 years ago, in­clud­ing:

Paul Keat­ing and Bob Hawke float­ing the Aus­tralian dol­lar, abol­ish­ing im­port quo­tas, slash­ing tar­iffs, over­haul­ing the tax code and shift­ing a cen­tralised wage ac­cord to en­ter­prise bar­gain­ing.

Keat­ing in­tro­duc­ing com­pul­sory su­per. Medi­care.

John Howard’s macro-eco­nomic man­age­ment to de­liver bud­get sur­pluses in eight out of 11 years.

Kevin Rudd’s fis­cal stim­u­lus to fight the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis, in­clud­ing his $900 hand­outs.

All of th­ese changes re­ceived a huge amount of crit­i­cism, but th­ese po­lit­i­cal

ar­chi­tects – who cover both sides of pol­i­tics – had the vi­sion to do what was right for the coun­try rather than their own pop­u­lar­ity.

The Econ­o­mist claims th­ese de­ci­sions have been what has made this coun­try great and re­sulted in the cur­rent pe­riod of pros­per­ity.

They are also in awe of our im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, and our ac­cep­tance of it, which al­lows three times as many new­com­ers, rel­a­tive to pop­u­la­tion, as Amer­ica. Over 28 per cent of our pop­u­la­tion was born over­seas and half were ei­ther born abroad or are the child of some­one who was.

“The im­mi­grants are also young, which gives Aus­tralia a me­dian age well be­low that of most Euro­pean coun­tries. ”

IN A GREAT SPOT

Our geo­graphic lo­ca­tion has also been work­ing in our favour. Be­ing on the edge of the re­gion which is fast be­com­ing the new eco­nomic en­gine of the globe has been an enor­mous boost for our trade. It’s not just the tra­di­tional min­ing and agri­cul­ture sec­tors which have ben­e­fited from trade with Asia. It has also al­lowed us to di­ver­sify our econ­omy to a point where tourism is our third biggest ex­port, while ed­u­ca­tion is in the top five.

Plus our ser­vices sec­tor is rid­ing the bur­geon­ing de­vel­op­ment of a mid­dle class across Asia which not only wants lux­ury brand ma­te­rial goods, but also ac­cess to first world med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tion and aged care.

Go­ing for­ward, our cru­cial ties to Asia will pro­vide a tricky po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment as we try and stay friends with both our biggest trad­ing part­ner as well as our old­est ally while they’re feuding with each other.

WE CAN IM­PROVE

We all know that while we live in a re­mark­able coun­try, we can do bet­ter in a whole lot of ar­eas.

The Econ­o­mist high­lights our fail­ure to solve the enor­mous dis­ad­van­tages suf­fered by Abo­rig­ines; how we suf­fer on­go­ing droughts but do so lit­tle to fight cli­mate change; ques­tions why we al­lowed su­per­an­nu­a­tion fee rip-offs for so long; and can’t un­der­stand our treat­ment of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. The magazine calls for to­day’s politi­cians to come up with so­lu­tions to th­ese prob­lems us­ing the same de­ci­sive think­ing that our lead­ers used in the past.

But they warn Aus­tralian vot­ers are be­com­ing dis­en­chanted with the ef­fec­tive­ness of Govern­ment. This is forc­ing politi­cians to be­come in­creas­ingly “febrile” in or­der to gain pop­u­lar­ity, rather than do what’s right for the coun­try. In other words, we’re killing the golden goose be­cause we’re los­ing the sense of what makes us great: vi­sion and de­ci­sive­ness.

We love the con­clu­sion, and the im­plied chal­lenge, from

The Econ­o­mist: “Am­bi­tious re­forms have be­come rare. The rest of the world could learn a lot from Aus­tralia … and Aus­tralians could do with a refresher course.”

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