How good is Morrison’s Australia? Going backwards and being left behind

Feb 10, 2021

After seven years of a Coalition government, household debt is the second highest of 43 countries; we ranked third last out of 35 OECD countries for wage growth and we have the third most unaffordable housing market in the OECD. But the good news is that the combined worth of Australian billionaires is 52.4% higher in December 2020 than it was a year earlier

Among the myths that seemingly never die is the belief – parroted by a supine media – that Liberal Governments are competent economic managers. This is despite overwhelming evidence that Australia’s performance across a range of areas is declining compared with other comparable countries.

Now Labor MHR for Bruce, Julian Hill, has belled the cat with a comprehensive report, “Australia’s Global Performance: Falling behind”, which demonstrates that “Australia is going backwards under the Liberals, and falling behind much of the rest of the world”.

The report is damning for the Government. Hill notes that when Morrison won the 2019 election his speech rhetorically asked:

“How good is Australia!?

The Prime Minister has developed a truly inane habit of asking that same question over and over again. Expecting that no one will ever bother to answer.”

It is a question Hill says can easily be answered – “not so good any more – going backwards and being left behind”. The answers he provides are drawn from OECD and other official figures, including detailed research by the Parliamentary Library which compares Australia’s performance with other countries since the Liberals came to power in 2013.

They show:

Real wages in Australia were 0.7% lower in 2019 compared to 2013, and Australia sat in third last place out of 35 OECD countries for wage growth. Now the Government is pursuing policies that will further depress wages and increase insecure work while inequality is getting worse. Australia has become the 11th most unequal nation in the OECD and ranks behind most of Western and Northern Europe, as well as Canada in its rate of inequality.

Hill cites Bloomberg research which show that Covid has been great for Australian billionaires, whose combined worth is 52.4% higher in December 2020 than at the same time in 2019. Needless to say, Morrison tax policies give leave passes to companies that use tax havens and major tax avoidance strategies while delivering tax cuts that favour the wealthy.

  • Just 20% of people in Australia hold 64% of the nation’s wealth while the younger and poorer 60% have just 16% of the wealth.
  • Australia has the third most unaffordable housing market and is the 11th most unequal OECD country.
  • Australia ranked fifth last in the OECD in terms of its productivity rates. In fact, Australian productivity was negative at -0.3%.
  • Household debt as a share of GDP is 119.4% — now the second highest rate among 43 countries.
  • Australia ranks behind Uganda at 87th out of 133 countries globally for “economic complexity”. Economic complexity measures the ability of countries to make and export a wide variety of goods, especially complex, high-value products that few other countries can make.

We dig things up, harvest things and cut things down and under Morrison’s Government the economic trend is towards the products of the past and not the future.

In doing so we are putting too many of our eggs in the one basket as the IMF Export Diversification Index (a long-term study of export diversification and quality) showed with us ranked 84th globally in 2014. Back then trade with China was about 26% of total exports but in 2019-2020 it had reached 35%. To make matters worse, swashbuckling foreign policy is putting much of that at risk.

Australia ranks 54th out of 64 countries in the 2021 Global Climate Performance Index. Our rate of greenhouse gas emissions per capita has been the highest in the world. It’s official government policy to invest in dying industries while claiming it can’t encourage electric vehicles because that would involve subsidies – typical Morrison hypocrisy given the subsidies rorts it throws around.

We also have the second highest level of biodiversity deterioration in the world and Australia’s wild koala population is now at real risk of extinction.

For a government allegedly pro-business the World Bank has news – since 2010 Australia has slipped from 12th to 14th place globally in ease of doing business and fourth to seventh place overall for ease of starting a business.

Australian children’s educational outcomes have slipped in both national and international terms. Remote education during lockdown and distance has been handicapped by the fact that broadband speeds are now so slow that Australia ranks 61st in the world. Only our new French submarines will offer less value for money than the National Broadband Network.

The outlook for young Australians as measured by the NEET (Not in education, employment or training) rate is not that flash, as Morrison would say if he were interested in the subject. The rate for 20-24 year olds was 11.9% – the eighth lowest out of 27 countries compared with fourth lowest in 2010.

Private health insurance costs 36% more than it did and the coverage rate is at its lowest since 2005. Meanwhile, out-of-pocket costs for seeing a GP have increased by a third under the Morrison government and Australia now ranks eighth out of 11 high-income countries for healthcare affordability.

The Coalition has punished its enemies relentlessly. Cumulative funding cuts for the ABC total $783 million between 2013 and 2020. As a percentage of GDP arts funding is 0.72% – well below the OECD average of 1.09%.

International corruption rankings are not needed to tell Australians that Australia is becoming more and more corrupt, and Australians are increasingly distrustful of government.

Our greatest source of international shame is our treatment of Indigenous Australians. First Nations Australians have the lowest life expectancy among First Nations people in the world. Indigenous incarceration rates are 27% of the prison population despite Indigenous Australians being only 2% of the population. We also imprison young Indigenous (and non-Indigenous Australians) from the age of 10, an age not comparable with other developed nations.

We might well all ask: how the bloody hell did Morrison get us here?

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