Why Australia is indeed "The Lucky Country": Terry Ryder

Terry RyderDecember 8, 2020

Several breaths of fresh positive air have pushed through the general media negativity in the past week.

A senior US business executive told Australia to wake up and cheer up. An Australian executive urged business leaders to stop all the pessimistic chatter. Another declared the resources sector will fuel economic growth for many more years and chided headline-seekers who say the party is over. And the Reserve Bank Governor sought to remind us that we are indeed “The Lucky Country”.

I’m hoping these are the beginnings of a movement. God knows we need it. It’s long past time for Australians to notice that the glass they think is half empty is actually three-quarters full.

I’ve just returned from a visit to China where I saw evidence of the development boom that is partly the source of Australia’s thriving resources sector. I also saw a lot of extreme poverty, the kind we don’t often see in Australia.

And this is why China is the standout economy worldwide: the nation is seeking to lift living standards to our levels, a process that will continue for decades into the future.

In simple terms, the Chinese want what we have. The irony is that we don’t realise what we have and how good we have it.

This is the mindset that has to change if Australians are to grasp that opportunities that currently beckon.

It’s a bit like the banks ads that are running ad nauseum amid the Olympics coverage: the letters CAN are talking positive until joined by T who tries to turn things negative. At the moment, the Ts are winning in Australia.

Don Thompson, the new chief executive of McDonald’s, said recently in a briefing to US investors that Australia was suffering from “fragile consumer confidence”. He suggested we need to have a happy meal.

RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has always struck me as the ultimate realist. He’s not given to outbursts of optimism. But he titled a recent speech “The Lucky Country”, in which he argued the Australian economy is in good shape. And, of course, he’s right: we all just need to realise it and stop reading bloody newspapers.

National Australia Bank chief executive Cameron Clyne appealed to our business leaders to end the stream of negative comments about our economy and government. He says it’s damaging consumer confidence.

Clyne is right, too. Australia needs strong, positive leadership – not the limp-wristed whimpering and media sniping we get from business people, such as the perpetual whingers in the building industry who negotiate with government via press releases.

Clyne told a business lunch: “One of the problems that actually damages confidence in the economy is everybody providing a running commentary on the government… I think it’s far more productive for us to engage privately.”

He also said – and I was so relieved to hear someone credible say this – that talk of “a two-speed economy” is simplistic, incorrect and damaging to confidence.

“It is not a two-speed economy,” he said. “It has never been a two-speed economy. It is a 10-speed economy. It always has been a 10-speed economy and always will be a 10-speed economy. There are a number of industries which are having very buoyant times – just as there are a number of industries that are struggling.”

Anyone who subscribes to the cheap media sound byte about a two-speed economy should note that the two biggest sectors in Australia for jobs creation in the past year have been “professional and scientific services” and “healthcare”, with mining coming in third.

Meanwhile, HSBC Bank chief economist Paul Bloxham has dismissed notions that the so-called resources boom has peaked. He says our economy will be fuelled by ongoing investment in mining and rising exports of raw materials for many more years.

Bloxham is right when he says there are significant investments in the pipeline, plus the prospect of strong growth in export volumes. He says this has “a long way to run” and will continue to support Australian growth until 2020 at least.

It’s been so refreshing to see these people step up and speak out against the pervading pessimism. We are indeed The Lucky Country. It’s just that most Australians don’t deserve to live in it.

Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au and can be followed on Twitter.

Terry Ryder

Terry Ryder is the founder of hotspotting.com.au.

Editor's Picks