I have always thought that I lived in the ‘lucky country’ they call Australia but I have to admit that in recent months those thoughts have turned a bit sour.
Don’t ask me why because like many of the people I talk and walk with on a daily basis there is a feeling that we are leaving our children and their offspring a total mess – most of it brought on by government. Having said that, voting is compulsory in Australia, so you get the government you vote for so by and large and you have to live with it.
We are in the middle of a vital Federal Prime Ministerial stoush at the moment, one that will determine whether Australia has a sound economy to take it through the next fifty years or so, or one that simply overspends. The Liberal government is notorious for cutting back and slashing funds from what are seen as essential services, medical, higher education etc. Whereas Labor has a habit of spending like there is no tomorrow (which suits the voters at the time) but makes for one heck of a mess when the truth of the budget is revealed.
However, we all know that politicians in Australia are mostly vacuous. They say a great deal, mainly written for them by some overpaid speech writer and that anything they say is either a lie or very close to it. Yes, I know I sound cynical but I have been putting up with Australia politics for nearly 50 years now and have to admit that for two years I wrote the speeches and press statements for a politician. It is not something I am ashamed of more an experience in life.
But back to our nation. 100 years ago Australia came to prosperity through sheep. It is said that the nation lived on the sheep’s back. Many a farmer became very, very rich and so did those associated with the sale and trade of wool and sheep meat. There are some farmers who became so rich they would make an Arab Sheik look askance. Australia sheep, which is very good, took a dip about 20 years ago and despite a few rises the prosperity has gone out of it along with the other earner, wheat. The eastern seaboard of Australia is in severe drought and many a farmer is now either killing stock to save money or trying to sell his property – and we are talking properties that make up hundreds of thousands of acres – to overseas interests such as the Chinese and Singapore.
The other industry that has kept Australia afloat is mining, Basically Iron Ore. Gold has been in there too and I have seen it go from $35 an ounce to over $1000. Oh that I had the money to invest. But back to ore. For the past fifty years ore has sustained the nation. It has given hundreds of thousands of people jobs, spurned thousands of jobs in other sectors such as electricity, housing, food, transport – the list is endless. But to put it to simply – the bottom has fallen out of the price. This has mainly come about through manipulation by the Chinese who now want to but the dying Iron Ore mines and make money out of them but the bottom line is that any money made now goes to Asia and not Australia and so many thousands of men and women and now finding themselves on the scrap heap of unemployment. And let’s face it; there are not too many jobs for an underground ore driller.
So what is the future of the great country we call home?
It is probably our people, the people who populate this country. Our education system ranks reasonably highly by global standards. Australians generally have a ‘can do’ mentality and we have a demonstrated capability to adjust to a changing world. We adopt new technologies relatively quickly and many of us are prepared to take a risk. And we have successfully drawn people from all around the world to our shores, with more than 40 per cent of our population having been born overseas or having at least one parent who was born overseas.
The third is our tremendous base of mineral resources. Despite the doom and gloom I suggested earlier Australia is fortunate to have some of the biggest and best-quality resource deposits on the planet. While the resources industry goes through large cycles, our resources continue to be in strong demand from the rest of the world.
The fourth is our agricultural assets. As average incomes in Asia grow, so too does the demand for protein. Higher incomes also mean that there is a greater preparedness and ability to pay a premium price for high-quality, clean food. That is why so many new companies are in bio-foods. Foods that are produced in a building under highly controlled conditions rather than having to put up with the vagaries of the weather.
And the fifth is our links with Asia and our expertise in delivering high-quality services. Over recent years, the focus has been very much on our relationship with China. This focus is likely to continue. But there are also significant opportunities elsewhere, including in Indonesia and India with their very large populations. Many of these opportunities lie in the services part of the economy, including in tourism, finance, education and professional services. Sure China is a hard business to crack and it is more than likely to become the superpower of the future – but it still needs to feed its masses and the savvy company to recognise this will benefit.
So there you go, despite what us old buggers say in our walks every morning there is hope on the horizon…….well at least I hope there is. Have a wonderful day.