Back to the drawing board

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Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Treasury, in this morning’s Fairfax article “You’ve never had it so good”:

I am not attempting to downplay the fact that parts of business face very big challenges … but the whole mindset is a bit overdone, it’s almost as if most Australians think we live in Greece … I think it is somewhat surprising that there isn’t more focus at a national level on the opportunities that are available to us, there is an overwhelming negative sense about some of the national discussion and debate … Australians have a lot to be optimistic about.

From Treasury’s internal strategic review of its operations released late last year:

A strong theme that emerged from consultations was that Treasury needs to have a greater understanding of stakeholders outside government, in particular how business operates and makes decisions … Another strong message from consultations was that at times a perception of arrogance in our behaviours can limit our external effectiveness.

Still got some work to do. (By the way, check out the organisations Treasury consulted in Appendix C of their review. Not one small business organisation!)


  1. Have to agree with Mr Parkinson. Yeah there are some sectors that are struggling, as there always is. But on the whole things are pretty good. All the evidence backs this view up. Where is the evidence to the contrary, subjective opinions don’t count.

    1. Last year was the 5th worst jobs growth on record. The only years that were worse were the recessions of the early 80s and early 90s.

      Maybe that will pick up this year, but in terms of how conditions actually are, rather than what they might be, it hasn’t been a very strong economic year. At the start of last year most were talking of rate rises. By the end, rate cuts were in vogue.

      In any case, my point is not whether he is right or wrong, it is the arrogance with which he says it.

      1. Fifth worst worst year of employment growth (not jobs), yeah sure it didn’t grow but look at the level of employment, 3rd highest e to p ratio since the begining of the survey. Meaning a larger share of the population are employed than the 80’s or 90’s or early 00’s.
        Second, putting the natural disasters at the begining of the year to one side it was a pretty good year all in all.

        His arrogance is your own perception / opinion. Personally I think he has a point, I hate how ppl whinge in this country, we have it easy. But thats just my perception / opinion. Thing is, the data says what it says and we are sitting pretty.

  2. Australians do not live on Mars, you know…. it’s normal for Australians to relate to what is happening in the rest of the world. Otherwise, it would be like saying that the Swiss should have been happy during the world war because they were not taking part in it.
    The world economy has been “unstable”, to say the least, since 2008, in most advanced economies. Even if in Australia we are doing better for now, we are shown daily how things can change quickly and get a turn for the worse in a flash, if we do not prepare for hard times in good times, and that consumerism is not the way forward. It’s actually very simple, basic psychology really. I would be surprised otherwise.

    1. I agree, but I just think the doom and gloom is being a bit over done. Plus most of the comparisons to the other parts of the world are phoney and don’t account for Australias unique position. We have on the most part had responsible governments (both elected and those in the public service) for the better part of 30 years…something europe and the US has not had…not to mention the copious amounts of minerals we have in the ground and our ability to extract them reasonable efficiently.

      1. OK, but before 2008 nobody could have foreseen the GFC…. unemployment in the US was what? about 5%, house prices going up, they were doing quite well really…. and then, all of the sudden, the GFC, that a few people had predicted.
        We should not underestimate what the GFC has represented and still represents, even in countries that were not much impacted by it, like Australia. I think it has really shaken some of the foundations of society and it will take time to get over it. People feel less secure economically.

        Things have changed in Australia too. Think about current credit growth. It limits what were the easy profit growth of many companies and small business. Think house prices. Didn’t we just had the biggest yearly fall ever? Think the high AUD: it’s an epochal change impacting many people and businesses.

        Saying “but the whole mindset is a bit overdone, it’s almost as if most Australians think we live in Greece” is basically an insult! He has absolutely NO IDEA what it is like being in Greece right now. He really does not. Salaries cut by 20%. Bank runs. Riots. Pensions cuts, unemployemnt at 20%, etc.

      2. One other think I forget to add :) that surely impacts confidence in Australia…

        the Australian share market!

        It has lost 20% recently… it hasn’t recovered yet… it is still very very far from pre-GFC peak, unlike the US market for example… it is one of the worse performing markets in the world, especially in the last 6 months.

        And the main reason of this is again the high AUD, now at record also vs EURO, not only USD.

    2. All your points about the GFC are valid except everyone should have seen it coming. I think the point he is trying to make though is that we are in no way like Greece, Spain or any other European country nor have we ever been (which is why we haven’t turned into a basket case) and we should be confident about our outlook and not so pessimistic.
      Europe in general and the US had dud governments and deficient financial regulatory / reporting systems leading up to the GFC and the current ‘crisis’. Australia on the other hand did not have any of these problems.

      Yeah there may be certain sectors hurting, but at the risk of sounding harsh, there always is. Generally, though things in australia are really good. Talking ourselves into a poor situation by being overly pessimistic is a real risk. As for him not knowing what its like in Greece, well no one does and I think thats his point, compared with Greece we have nothing to whinge about. Except all we seem focussed on is endless negativity and the next bit of bad news. We all need some perspective.

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