Neither the current Liberal-National coalition nor the Australian Labor Party have shown any inclination to level with the Australian people about the economic predicament we find ourselves in – massive private debt, an economy which has been stripped back by government policy (both sides of politics) to doing nothing more than exporting dirt, or growing things on top of it, to earn national income.
That earning capacity is largely in the hands of international capital (of the kind marketing through Singapore or Panama to minimise taxes and maximise returns for shareholders somewhere other than Australia) when it is involved in digging things out of the ground. When it comes to growing things on the ground much of the growing is still done by local but the choke points through which it is exported or processed are largely controlled by foreign interests.
We have dealt ourselves out of the game of generating income through applying our brains – of being a price maker in any field whatsoever. We offer only overpriced services of interest only to those in Australia or those who want to be in Australia (for whatever reason) – and the world’s most expensive real estate, serviced by the world’s most indebted population, employed in the world’s most uncompetitive economy. It’s almost comic.
This is an economic circumstance which has been engineered by federal government policy over the course of a generation. The LNP wanted to root out employment in fixed capital investment in order to send an ideological message to unions – bye bye manufacturing. The ALP wanted to sign us up to as much global engagement as they could bring in to fill in the employment gap – come on down residency exports masquerading as education services (cashing in on the respect Australian education once had). Both parties have found the mantra of rising real estate prices the raison d’etre. Both parties wanted to link us into the globalised world so they were happy to euthanize whatever sectors couldn’t compete and sign up Australians as consuming supplicants with appetites given substance by access to debt. The debt, as any MB reader knows, comes from offshore, in such a way as to further erode the competitive position of any business reliant on Australian costs by nailing the currency to the roof.
Immigrants are not the problem. Immigrants without an economic gameplan is the problem. Why would we be bringing in skilled migrants when the only jobs being created are low skill, low paying, part time jobs, and industries which would use skilled migrants in an economically viable export competing role are shuttering because of a high AUD and complete absence of narrative about where the Australian economy is going (apart from higher real estate prices).
Both parties have seen it fit to run immigration not as a supplement to a plausible economic policy which makes Australia’s economic bequest to its future better – but as an economic palliative to juice demand stats. Both parties have played immigration as something to be avoided in an electoral discussion context, the same as they have both avoided addressing the future economy, and future employment. Both parties have looked the other way when it came to identifying and addressing corruption proceeds from offshore coming here.
All of the above is by domestic Australian decisionmaking design. By the Liberal National coalition and the Australian Labor Party. With the complicity (if not active encouragement) of Australian regulatory bodies, Australian academics, and the Australian media, generally encouraged by whatever local interest group was getting a payoff – accountants, lawyers, investment bankers, real estate agents and on and on to those Australians benefiting from the impact – in the short term sense. All telling those Australians not thinking they were getting a square deal out of the policymaking, or that there were future implications of the policy which weren’t all that great, that they’d better hurry up and get on the bandwagon or they’d miss out, or that those asking difficult questions were yesterday’s people, living in yesterday’s world.
The high point of that was the peak of the mining investment boom – when, having sacrificed anything productive other than mining which might plausibly be done here in an export competing sense, we as a society were exhorted to believe that it would go on forever. Since then we have had governments tell us to spend up (through lower interest rates) at a private level, as real incomes and full time hours worked slide beneath the waves of economic reality. That of course has manifested itself in increasing political disenchantment (most notably the ‘cynical abuse of trust’ coming home to roost last election) with significant numbers of Australians not believing the narrative they were being sold by their national political leaders, and voting for whatever nutters they could find as a result. Our politicians are throw away items for the local electorate – very very cheap. They are cheap in their expectations of public respect which makes them ideally self-interested management agents for anyone looking to corrupt decisionmaking (see Dastayari, Robb or Sinodinos, but numerous others).
But the mainstream is still exhorting us to add to private debt, to sell off national economic assets, and to overinvest in overpriced real estate – the media would still rather not discuss the real estate insanity, or the increased immigration, or the massive private indebtedness or the rottenness of our banks, our education system, or ‘look the other way’ approach of our policymakers when it comes to laundering foreign corruption in Australia. The media would much rather serve us reality TV, or sport, or housing porn, or cooking porn, or just plain everyday porn. That is cheaper (for the world’s only national loss leader media sector, an important issue). And that cheapness defines us as a nation. We don’t think well, we put in the short steps when it comes to hard moral or ethical issues, we’ll follow whoever puts their hand up to say they will lead, and we like wanking – in countless ritualised forms.
The definitive Australian?
Australia is a nation which has rotted from within, which has no real economic asset apart from mining commodities and land for agriculture. We are running an ad hoc national economic policy focused on ensuring we maintain the world’s most expensive real estate (and providing a payoff for those who have taken on the debt to hold it in fief).
That of course is before we even think about what Australia may mean to someone else. This issue is about Australia and Australians, and only marginally about any other nation. We should take a look at who we are being cheap for – though that will involve thinking, a preparedness to be forthright with ourselves and those with whom we interact.
Currently we have blind obeisance to an economic model which impoverishes our future to pay for a well feathered recent past – step on up debt and entitled vested interests. That obeisance takes the form of chaining any attempt at significant economic reform to providing a payoff to speculation first (where the speculators essentially own the politicians who have fucked things so royally). Australia needs to demonstrate that we value ourselves, and will invest in ourselves, and particularly in our economic future. If we identify what is in our economic and social interest and begin to map out how to get there, and act accordingly, we would carry far more weight with the rest of the world.
But before all of that we simply want intelligent leaders who can level with us and get us thinking about the next steps – seeing as we have coughed up the fruits of those who did it a generation ago. And right at the core of what they will need to level with us about, and get us talking about is the national economic narrative and the role of immigration within that narrative. Glib specious psychopaths won’t help us get there. Bigoted morons won’t either. Political organisations which can only serve up either of these aren’t the answer. Immigration is part of the issue, but by far the bigger part is us.
It’s something far beyond Tony, or Malcolm, or even Bill. It’s about us. We are the weak link in addressing our fortune. We are the weak link in providing for our economic future, and we are the weak link in the economic bequest we hand over to the next generation.
I’m not holding my breath…………..
If we are going to use immigration as a support for the economy, lets use it to generate a prosperous future for tomorrows Australia rather than using it to cover the incompetence of todays economic decisionmakers while we all look for low paying service jobs to boost the GDP and employment stats.