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A penny for your thoughts
With deeper gloom descending on the economy overseas and its escalating trickle-down effect on Australia, it’s time to re-assess our situation here Down Under and tweak our plans for the future.
Since the GFC forced on the world by an unproductive and over-committed America and the economic mess that was and remains Europe, we Aussies and the rest of greater Asia have been doing pretty well, thanks to the economic powerhouse in our neck of the woods, China.
As fiscal storm clouds increasingly gathered over the Northern Hemisphere, we in Australia stayed in relative economic sunshine largely due to our isolation and the ‘quarry’ which Australia has become. Adequate economic stewardship by recent Federal administrations also placed us in a better position to buffer the storms, helped by a banking system which did not get sucked into the bad loans vortex which affected other countries.
But the signal to the growing economic slowdown here became glaringly apparent when BHP Billiton announced that it was putting its daring project to expand the Olympic Dam project on hold - a move which triggered other miners to re-assess their plans too. As a result, the end of the mining boom - if there ever was one (with the exception of that in Western Australia) - has washed over other industries as well.
That, coupled with the parlous state of the retail industry and the lack of activity principally in the manufacturing sector, is bringing Australia’s economy close to standstill.
Clearly, government policy at both Federal and State level is not helping. The Gillard Government’s Mining Resources Rent Tax and the Carbon Tax have had an undeniable impact on the resources and other sectors, evidenced by the fact that employment officially has retracted each month for the past six months as businesses worry how these taxes will impact on their bottom line. Additionally, the Gunns Timber closure has affected Tasmania badly, and South Australia - without the economic boom that the Olympic Dam expansion promised, compounded by its hideously expensive Royal Adelaide Hospital and Adelaide Oval re-builds and its subsequent credit rating downgrade - is in serious financial strife, evidenced as it is by the SA Government turning its police force into tax collectors while fishing around desperately to amalgamate and retract critical human services and slashing funding to any organisation not regarded as ‘mission critical’. All this is not helped by the tone of political debate which is now at its absolute lowest, reduced as it is to rabid ‘name calling’, sexual impropriety and gender bashing. Overseas, the political debate in the United States has been reduced to the longevity of Big Bird while the USA’s debt is in the trillions, and in Europe, violence against much needed ‘austerity’ there has paralysed desperately needed economic reform.
Driven by of all this, society is becoming dysfunctional. Increasing numbers of our kids, without the likelihood of meaningful, permanent employment, find solace in booze and an increasing array of drugs, fuelling anti-social behaviour and physical violence. Enough said of that.
Traditionally, a ‘circuit breaker’ to this malaise is a change of government - but the turfing out of the Gillard Government is not likely until the end of 2013 at worst - and similar timeframes afflict the change of poorly performing State regimes.
Even then, incoming administrations will take further years to undo the damage done by stupid decisions already made. And it is likely that incoming ‘right-of-centre’ governments will need to swing a very sharp axe, the economic ‘cure’ potentially as bad and as bloody to the national pysche as the current economic ‘disease’. That Campbell Newman in Queensland was emboldened by his election to scythe swathes of public service jobs does not mean immediate recovery or a meteoric rise in economic confidence.
So how do we as individuals and as businesses respond to this dire situation? Particularly, how do we cheddas respond?
Clearly we need to do something; relying on our so-called ‘leaders’ to drag us out of this mess is not an option in the short term. While we may itch to exercise our democratic right to rid ourselves of the bumbling fools currently controlling the economic tillers, we must take independent action in the meantime.
We need to draw a line in the economic sand. The best thing we can do is to accept where we are, and look positively to the future. Looking back is not an option.
When we Aussies have our backs to the wall, we perform our best. We must shake off personal economic malaise, stand up, and realise that until we do, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
We’ve got to help our mates. We got to do something to help the guy around the corner who runs the local shop, the local hairdresser, the local pub or restaurant, the tradespeople, the local butcher, the baker, the candle-stick maker. It also means shopping in the bigger department stores to help keep local kids in jobs. It means ‘buying local’, not rewarding the slave-masters whose products sell on-line from a sweat-shop overseas.
It means local businesses spending money with other local businesses, not holding back ‘till things get better’. It means getting out and telling people what you do and what you can offer. It means looking at new ways to get your message across. It means being positive. It means taking a risk.
While this may smack of the bleeding obvious, we’ve got to do it.
So here’s the deal, cheddas! For the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, let’s resolve to take a few hundred dollars extra out of our savings, and buy something extra, beyond our immediate needs, from local businesses. It might be something for ourselves, it might be something for our families, it might be that surprise local holiday break, it might be something to improve or promote our businesses -- but whatever it is, let’s resolve to spend extra dollars with our mates. Look for bargains certainly, but buy locally, and spend ‘extra’ as much as we can.
If we do, we’ll give valuable lubrication to local economies. We’ll be helping our mates hold on, until times get better.
The alternative does not bear thinking about.
A penny for your thoughts.
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