Sunday, October 29, 2017

How Australia escaped the global financial crises of the last 25 years

A lot is not mentioned below. No. 1 is that Australia is particularly conservative by First World standards. When even Holy Ireland has homosexual marriage, we do not. Though that seems about to change. And Reagan/Thatcher type policies came to Australia via Bob Hawke, a Leftist Prime Minister. And Australia is the only Western country to have stopped illegal immigration. And conservatism is a regular precursor of prosperity.

THERE’S more to Australia than good weather and a famous laid-back lifestyle — we’ve now powered through 25 years without tasting economic recession.

The quarter of a century milestone means Australia now has the longest period of recession-free growth of any developed country ever.

Famously dubbed “The Lucky Country” — economists believe our true blue good fortune has played a part in this stunning achievement, but there’s more to it than that.

“Luck has certainly played a role,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at financial services company AMP.

“We are blessed with a lot of things that other countries don’t have like ample resources, space and relatively sensible politics in the grand scheme of things.

“But, really, we’ve been riding on the major economic reforms of the past and that makes us look like The Lucky Country.”


So what kept the Aussie economy insulated while the rest of world was reeling from global economic gloom?

“The moves to make the economy more efficient and deregulated through the ’80s and the ’90s resulted in a more flexible economy — in particular the impact of the floating of the Australian dollar,” Mr Oliver said.

“This means that whenever there’s been a downturn globally, the Australian dollar tends to go down which has shielded Australia somewhat.

“The Aussie dollar has fallen through the global recessions, which made our exports more competitive. But, more generally, the Australian economy is more flexible than it used to be.”

When the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in 2008, this good financial management came in handy as the Labor government boosted public spending by a whopping 13 per cent in an attempt to stimulate growth.

China also held up pretty well through the GFC, according to Mr Oliver which some economists say shielded us and our exports during the darkest days of the latest major global downturn.


“Another element is the cycles across our economy have become disconnected,” Mr Oliver said. “For years we had a mining boom which boosted Western Australia and other parts of Australia which were exposed to the mining sector — but at the time, the rest of the economy was relatively subdued.

“And (at) times during the last decade, you could argue that NSW has been in recession but it’s all been smoothed out nationwide because of the mining boom.

“More recently, the mining boom has fallen into a hole which has enabled the pressure to come off NSW and Victoria because interest rates have come down, the Australian dollar has come down — that’s enabled the south eastern states to rebound.”

However, economist Jason Murphy said it hadn’t all been “tea, scones and sunny afternoons for 25 years.”

The national picture was good but misleading, he said, with several states falling into serious trouble over the last couple of decades.

“WA is the most recent example, with an economic bloodbath following the end of the mining boom,” Mr Murphy said. “It was hard yakka for people trying to provide for their families, as unemployment shot up and businesses went broke.

“But that human misery doesn’t show up in the national economic statistics because the statistics average out over all the other states.”


Tim Harcourt, an economics fellow at the University of New South Wales said Australia had made its own luck through good economic policies, the currency float, tariff changes and the embrace of Asia.

Apart from natural resources and Australia’s close ties with booming Asian economies, Mr Oliver also said we’ve even been lucky with our the way our national statistics fall.

“We’ve a bit more weakness around the time of the GFC and we could have ended up with two quarters of negative growth and it would have looked like a recession — but fortunately that didn’t happen,” he said. “We only had one quarter of decline in GDP.”


Before we give ourselves a collective pat on the back, Mr Oliver reminds us that it’s not all rosy in terms of our actual living standards.

“The last few years have been a bit so-so,” he said. “We’ve had very high levels of underemployment, wages growth has stagnated and houses are completely unaffordable — so you don’t need a recession to have big issues.”

Mr Murphy said underemployment had shot up as unemployment had shrunk — which was a big part of why wages growth had been so weak in Australia recently.

“Underemployed represent a big source of untapped potential and the economy will need to add a lot of full-time jobs before it has soaked up all the people willing to work in them,” he said.

The Aussie economy was just “muddling along” according to Mr Oliver as housing slows and consumer spending remained weak.

And there was always the risk, after more than 25 years of growth, Australia could become complacent.

“We are probably going to go for at least another few years before we have that recession some people say is inevitable,” said Mr Oliver.


Barnaby to do a Trump

Barnaby Joyce has a big job he wants to get on with. He's writing a book to set out his agenda: "A lot of it will be politically incorrect - I want to shock, I want to startle people into action," he tells me. To do what, exactly? "To give greater economic and personal advancement to the people in the weatherboard and iron in the regional towns."

It's about their economic wellbeing and their social standing. "I'm writing a comparative analysis" that looks at "the social opprobrium attached to poor white people in Australia's towns and regions." Joyce doesn't use the word, but it's about recovering respect. Respect for the people who live outside the big cities and feel overlooked.

It's the same constituency that put Donald Trump in the White House, took Britain out of the European Union and put the Alternative for Germany Party in the Bundestag. He wants to know why it's considered socially acceptable to dismiss them, to be rude about them: "People feel they can denigrate them with impunity. You can't denigrate Asian Australians or Muslim Australians or gay or lesbian or transgender Australians but if they come from a country town you can call them a hayseed or a redneck and it's OK."

"It's a form of antagonism, being on the outer and they resolve that in familiar ways including voting for One Nation. How do we have a cogent way of dealing with this - you can't just close your eyes and hope they go away."

Is he proposing to take this constituency away from One Nation and bring them back into the mainstream? "Yes," replies the leader of the National Party."I will draw on my own experience growing up. People don't understand what it's like for kids to go to school where some of the kids are too young to be there - three or four years old. They shouldn't have kids in the classroom who are still defecating in their pants."

Why are they there? Because there's no parents at home - if they don't work, they're poor, and there aren't the child care places to look after them."

There is a long-standing question about the Nationals. How effective are they? How can they win support for their priorities when they clash with those of their dominant Coalition member? Can Joyce give an example where the Nationals have prevailed over the Liberals on a major policy? "We never supported a clean energy target," he says. "We were certainly instrumental in moving the agenda to keep coal-fired power."

The Turnbull government's decision to dismiss the recommendation of Chief Scientist Alan Finkel to set up a clean energy target was widely regarded as a surrender to the angry agitation by Tony Abbott and a small number of other Liberal conservatives such as Craig Kelly.But Joyce is proudly taking credit - or perhaps responsibility - for the Nationals.

It wasn't a love of coal, however: "I didn't give a toss for where power comes from, but one of the greatest afflictions for people in the weatherboard and iron is they can't afford power, and they suffer the social humiliation of being poor."

According to the Coalition's internal polling, Joyce has a primary vote of 57 per cent, an enormous advantage, against 16 per cent for Windsor. Polling conducted last month for a less sympathetic organisation, the centre-left Australia Institute, isn't quite so emphatic but still gives Joyce a commanding lead - a primary vote of 45 per cent against 27 per cent for Windsor. Labor registered a mere 8 per cent.

Joyce's priorities are very different to Windsor's, even beyond power and climate change. Infrastructure, such as building the inland rail freight line from Melbourne to Brisbane, is at the top of the former deputy prime minister's list. The government is allocating $840 million to begin the project. "If you get the rail corridor right between the major cities, you get growth in the smaller cities in between," he says.

Decentralisation is another priority. Labor describes Joyce's decision to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinarian Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale in his electorate as a disaster - wasting tens of millions of dollars, losing the expertise of staff who are leaving rather than relocating with only 11 out of 216 showing interest, endangering human and animal health. Joyce says it's a great success: "They're starting to improve the time taken to consider pending applications and 450 people have applied for jobs in Armidale. The cost of the relocation is the same as building a new fence around Parliament House. We're spending money in Canberra but we're investing in the regions too."

And he says that he is keen to keep driving overseas new trade deals "on things like nectarines that people thought didn't matter, but when the deputy prime minister of Australia asks, 'Can you help us out with this?', then it does matter."

Note that all these agenda items are in territory where a member of an incumbent government - especially an incumbent deputy prime minister - has an inherent advantage. It's the government that controls infrastructure spending, decentralisation and trade negotiations. Joyce will campaign on his choice of turf, territory where an insurgent can't compete. An insurgent has to campaign on anger and protest, and that's One Nation's specialisation.

Pauline Hanson's party didn't run a candidate in New England last time and it's not clear whether it will this time.The Australia Institute poll last month found 10 per cent support for a notional One Nation candidate. With Windsor out of contention, however, the field is more open. And anything is possible in politics.

Joyce will not be able relax. It's an unpredictable business and the Murdoch newspapers have carried unsourced rumours of unspecified marital difficulties. "The campaign will be dirty," he predicts, "because it's such a great prize to knock off a deputy prime minister". Especially such a shrewd one.

His approach is bifurcated. He is deputy prime minister and takes advantage of incumbency to promise more government-directed benefits for his electorate - infrastructure, decentralisation of government agencies, trade deals. Yet he also talks like an angry outsider appealing to the alienation of "poor white people". He is the very embodiment of the establishment, promising largesse, yet he musters anti-elite anger as well, appealing to both the satisfied and the seething, the fattened and the forgotten. All at once, all things to all people. This is designed to shut One Nation out. They can seethe but can't satisfy - they are a party of protest.

He won't make a lot of progress on the book for the next five weeks. It's not much use knowing where he stands if he has nowhere to sit. He's concentrating everything he has on winning. "Hell yes, the job's not done."


Concerns as identity politics creep into the classroom

English students face being drilled in the politics of class, race, gender and sexuality, as an influential teacher advocacy group seeks to push social justice issues into the classroom.

The Victorian Association for the Teaching of English, a professional body backed by the state government, will host its annual conference next month, unveiling a program to highlight “the iconoclasts, the dissidents and the marginalised” and celebrate individ­uals “who will not, or cannot, swim in the mainstream”.

Headlining the two-day event will be former Australian Human Rights Commission president ­Gillian Triggs and GetUp! campaigner Shen Narayanasamy, who will deliver keynote speeches. Left-leaning political commentator Van Badham will also appear as a guest speaker.

The focus of the event, which VATE president Emily Frawley confirmed had been designed with social justice in mind, has alarmed some education experts, who have questioned the role of “political activists” at the event and the push to embed divisive “identity politics” into the curriculum.

Sessions include “Stand Up For The Outsiders’’, which will explore teaching strategies for ­“empowering students to speak to issues of class, gender and race”, and ‘‘We Want Gender Equality’’, on “how the plight of woman over time has not changed”. There will also be a discussion of Jeanette Winterson’s 1987 novel The ­Passion, which is billed as “post modernism, queer theory and a romping tale to boot”, while ­‘‘Reflections On Growing Up ­Different In Australia’’ will look at “migration, racism and identity” in various texts.

Another session will advise teachers how to deliver the Victorian government’s Respectful Relationships program — a family violence initiative criticised for pushing gender theory onto children — through English texts in the middle years.

Details of the conference have emerged in the wake of research by the Institute of Public Affairs that pointed to a rise of identity politics in university history courses.

The IPA’s Western civilisation program director Bella d’Abrera questioned what “political activists” were doing at a conference “about English teaching to schoolchildren”.

“This conferences shows that identity politics has not also permeated the teaching of history in Australian universities, but it is also deeply embedded in English teaching in Victorian secondary schools,” Dr d’Abrera said. “There is no place for identity politics in our classrooms.”

Australian Catholic University senior research fellow Kevin ­Donnelly said it was disappointing to see teachers emphasise ideology over good grammar, spelling, punctuation and literary appreciation.

“Instead of English teaching being about giving a balanced view of literature, it’s now more about offering a critique of society, particularly Western society, misogyny, inequality and capitalism,” Dr Donnelly said.

“A lot of kids leave school without a strong foundation of what is good or bad literature.”

Dr Donnelly, a former English teacher and one-time member of VATE, said the association ­appeared to have been captured by the left.

Ms Frawley defended the conference, which had always “traversed the educational, cultural, political landscape”. This year’s event would feature “diverse line-up of presenters”, she said.

“The brief of all presenters is to speak to the themes of the conference, drawing on their expertise and considering their audience,” Ms Frawley said. “We want English teachers to be engaged and challenged, to consider how they can best stand up for their students, and what the role of English content and pedagogy is here.”

Ms Frawley confirmed that the organisation received funds from the department for a range of programs, but the conference itself was not government-funded.


High Court ruling sparks changing climate in Queensland's Senate ranks

The Australian Parliament's most high-profile climate change sceptic appears set to be replaced in the Senate by a man who once made his living warning of the dangers of climate change.

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts was one of five MPs declared ineligible to stand for Parliament under section 44 of the constitution in a High Court decision on Friday, as he had never formally renounced his British citizenship.

The court also ruled against fellow former Queensland senator Larissa Waters, who resigned in July upon discovering her Canadian dual citizenship, but ruled in favour of LNP senator Matt Canavan, who sits in the Nationals' party room in Canberra.

Former Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett appears certain to replace Ms Waters in the Senate, while Sunshine Coast man Fraser Anning is set to replace Mr Roberts based on a countback of votes cast in the 2016 federal election.

Mr Anning, who once ran the  Sunshine Coast solar installation business Pacific Solar and Heating, once warned of the dangers of climate change in a Sunshine Coast Seniors newspaper advertorial.

The paid editorial said greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and conserving energy were "all subjects about which we are concerned today” and promoted government rebates for solar hot water systems.

“The rebates are substantial and the community's awareness about the need for cleaner energy options is growing," Mr Anning said in the article.

Mr Roberts has been an outspoken critic of climate science, claiming it was "manipulated" by NASA, the CSIRO and others as part of a global conspiracy.

Fairfax Media attempted to contact Mr Anning, who no longer works for Pacific Solar and Heating, on Friday.

While those attempts were unsuccessful, Mr Anning did issue a media statement and there was little love lost for Mr Roberts in its content. "This (High Court) outcome vindicates Pauline Hanson's decision to refer the issue of Malcolm Roberts' citizenship to the High Court," he said.

"It is, however, infuriating that the Australian taxpayer has had to stump up millions of dollars to pay for a court decision, just because five polticians couldn't get their act together to do what was required by the constitution.

"I can certainly assure all Queenslanders that before I nominated I took all steps to ensure that I was eligible to be a senator and, obviously, as a candidate for an Australian nationalist party, not being a foreigner is a pretty important part of that."

Mr Anning also took aim at One Nation leader Pauline Hanson's recent praise of Mr Roberts.  "I fully understand that in recent weeks Pauline needed to express public support for Roberts as long as he occupied a Senate spot, however that naturally changes with the High Court decision," he said.

"I have given Pauline unqualified loyalty and supported her for more than 20 years, so naturally I expect this to be reciprocated if and when I am declared elected."

Mr Anning's candidate bio on the One Nation website said he had worked in the hotel industry in Gladstone for the past five years and he has reportedly worked in marketing and plane building.

Meanwhile, experienced former senator Mr Bartlett, who was in Parliament from 1997 until 2008, said he expected to be formally serving as a Greens senator within two weeks.

Mr Bartlett, who pledged to be based in north Queensland if he won a second Senate seat for the Queensland Greens, said he would be instead be based in the south-east corner.

“It is not really tenable (to be based in north Queensland) in these circumstances,” Mr Bartlett said.

“That was a pledge if I got elected last time as a second senator for the Greens.

“We would have had one (office) in Brisbane and one up north, but obviously we will now only have one for the time being and there is an office there that I can move into.

“I can move in at very little cost, whereas if I had to set up in Cairns or Townsville with 20 months left to serve in the term, it would cost taxpayers a lot of extra money, frankly.

“It’s nothing against north Queensland, we would love to get up there, but it is not justifiable at this time.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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