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Another three years of Slow Decline

The CSIRO has released a study titled Australian National Outlook, comparing two versions of the nation in 2060.

It signals Australia faces a Slow Decline if it takes no action on the most significant economic, social and environmental challenges. But, if these challenges are tackled head on, Australia can look forward to a positive Outlook Vision. This could mean higher GDP per capita, ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, strong economic growth and energy affordability, and more liveable major cities.

In Slow Decline, Australia drifts into the future. Economic growth, investment and education outcomes are all relatively weak. Australia’s economy is increasingly vulnerable to external shocks. Total Factor Productivity (TFP) growth remains well below the global frontier and wage growth is relatively low.

Australia’s cities sprawl outwards, making it more difficult for people in the outer suburbs to access jobs, education and services. Housing affordability remains a major concern. This deepens social divisions and polarisation. Trust in institutions remains low.

Although energy policy issues are resolved domestically, the low-emissions energy transition is stymied by a lack of global cooperation on climate change. Both energy and agricultural productivity remain relatively low

In the Outlook Vision, Australia reaches its full potential. Economic growth remains strong and inclusive as Australian companies use technology to move productivity towards the global frontier and create new globally competitive, export-facing industries. Improved educational outcomes give Australians the skills they need to compete in this technology-enabled workforce.

Australia’s cities are dynamic and diverse global centres with higher-density populations, a diverse range of affordable housing options and equal access to high-quality jobs, recreation, education and other services.

Australia successfully transitions its energy system, with high reliability and affordability and lower emissions.

If the world cooperates to limit climate change to 2°C, Australia can go even further and reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, driven by significant shifts in land use to carbon plantings.

The report cautions that the world is changing rapidly and Australia will need to adapt to keep up. In particular, there are six main challenges National Outlook participants identified:

RISE OF ASIA is shifting the geopolitical and economic landscape. By 2030, the Asia–Pacific region will be home to 65% of the world’s middle class. However, unless Australia can boost its competitiveness and diversify its export mix to meet changing demands, it risks missing out on this opportunity and remaining vulnerable to external shocks.

We can’t rely on coal forever.  Do we put all our efforts into supporting the US to remain Top Dog or do we try to help shape the world that will exist when they are no longer the dominant force?

TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE, such as artificial intelligence, automation and advances in biotechnology are transforming existing industries and changing the skills required for high-quality jobs. Unless Australia can reverse its recent declines in educational performance, its future workforce could be poorly prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Education is an investment and should be equally available to all with support provided based on need.  Skills shortages should be anticipated and training/retraining incentivised.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENT poses a significant economic, environmental and social threat globally and for Australia. The world has already experienced warming of approximately 1°C from pre-Industrial levels and could be on a path to 4°C global warming (or worse) by 2100 unless significant action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, our emissions continue to rise and we approve more coal mining and pay for feasibility studies into new coal-fired power stations.

DEMOGRAPHICS is growing and ageing, putting pressure on cities, infrastructure and public services. At current rates, Sydney and Melbourne will each house 8–9 million people by 2060, and workforce participation rates will drop from 66% to 60%. Investment in infrastructure and services will need to keep up as Australia’s population as a whole approaches 41 million.

More roads in not a solution for the future.  As cities expand, we need jobs and services in the suburbs just as much as we do in regional centres.  Cutting taxes means less money to build infrastructure and to care for the aged.

TRUST in governments, businesses, non-governmental organisations and the media has declined. Unless trust can be restored, Australia will find it difficult to build consensus on the long-term solutions required to address the other challenges.

Our winner-take-all system of government has led to a “whatever it takes” attitude.  When we become a republic, we have the opportunity to change that with a multi-party executive that reflects the votes cast by the electorate.  Regulations for businesses and NGOs should reflect the need for scrutiny and oversight rather than being dismissed as an unacceptable impost.  And the media should focus on important issues rather than scandal and provide truthful analysis rather than partisan propaganda.

SOCIAL COHESION measures have declined over the past decade, with many Australians feeling left behind. Although the drivers of social cohesion are complex, issues related to trust, as well as factors such as financial stress, slow wage growth and poor housing affordability, may all play a role.

Unsustainable tax concessions have driven investment away from more productive enterprises in favour of personal wealth accumulation.  This has exacerbated inequality and contributed to housing unaffordability.  Combined with a deliberate fear campaign targeting “others”, the social cohesion we have enjoyed is under pressure.

In short, our future can be one of slow decline if we stick with business as usual or we can get proactive to ensure that we continue to enjoy our quality of life and provide even better opportunities for future generations.

The trouble is the current government has not shown any interest in addressing these issues.  Can we afford another three years sinking slowly into the chaos created by inactivity?

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14 comments

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  1. George Swalwell

    Kaye Lee digs deep into the CSIRO double forecast,
    what could/should happen and what will happen if
    major challenge are not addressed cleverly and with
    determination and foresight.
    The alternative, Coalition type dithering, makes for
    gloomy reading.
    If the sham government addresses even one or two
    of these issues with the necessary vigour and skill
    I will be very surprised.
    Drifting into global irrelevance and local stagnation
    is a frightening but very real possibility.

  2. ajogrady

    ” There are none so blind as those who will not see” and the L/NP and their donors/supporters are the blindest of all.

  3. David Bruce

    Soon we will see the banking system investing in shares as part of their Reserves required to forestall, or survive, downturns.

    With trillions of easy money to invest, share prices are expected to increase and create a new cohort of millionaires and billionaires.

    If the Slow Decline path is followed, how long before Australia joins the Less Developed Countries (LDC) and requires aid programs?

    Finally, it appears the rest of the world is waking up to the benefits of investing in education…

    https://gbc-education.org/events/from-billions-to-trillions-investing-in-the-next-generation/

  4. Aortic

    Parliament, including the Unrepresentative Swill, should be made to sit down and watch the Q&A episode last night. Not only was it a relief to listen to reason and science but we were spared the bellicose opinions, generally the interrupting of other speakers, of talking head politicians who supposedly have all the answers. The wonders of science and the scientists involved as a group was the admission that they do not have all the answers and long held opinions are sometimes overturned as irrefutable facts emerge. How refreshing that attitude compared to the Alan Jones Andrew Bolt Daily Tellmecrap and UnAustralian voices that preach from the same hymnbook and like all, including those with religious leanings, have all the answers and reason and in many cases just plain old common sense are not included in the limited vocabulary.

  5. Terence

    Meanwhile over at Ltd News Crappier Mail – PM takes a “Well deserved break” – Bravo

    No need to trouble the great unwashed with superfluous information of a tanking economy, such facts would be a far heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to bear.

    In such times of uncertainty, I always turn to my idol Sir Humphrey for guidance.

    Bernard: “But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know.”
    Sir Humphrey: “No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt; ignorance has a certain dignity.”

    Never a truer word spoken

  6. Martin Connolly

    There has to be some level of direction over what we do in society and the economy.
    We can’t leave it all to the capitalists, which is what is happening now.
    We need a direction and a sense of cooperation in getting there, rather than the current profit-at-all-costs approach.

    We also need to understand that one of Australia’s great strengths, and one which is ignored by politicians, is that we are a sovereign currency nation.
    We do not have to balance our budgets every year since we are the only place that creates and controls the Aussie dollar.
    Instead of balancing the budget we should be balancing the economy – providing a job for everyone that wants to work, reducing homelessness, properly funding public health and education, providing funding for startups and innovative companies.
    Australia could have had a solar industry but we forced people overseas; could have had a wind turbine industry but the same thing happened; could have, and did have, a car industry, which disappeared for the sake of $1 billion – a fraction of the subsidies that go to fossil fuels.
    This is actually too important to have politicians running it!

  7. New England Cocky

    Only an optimist would consider that the Lazy Nasty People misgovernment is capable of reading the CSIRO Study Australian “National Outlook” that is written in plain English, then reacting to generate the positive outlook consequences that would benefit Australian voters.

    More likely is the “steady as she goes” non-policies of a group of self-serving egomaniacs driven by undergraduate political ideologies and a lack of real world economic realities. See comments by PRC Television about the importance of car manufacturing as the major driver of economic growth, then think about the closure of the Australian automobile assembly industry on a political whim of the RAbbott Turdball Morriscum misgovernment.

    So Australian voters have three years to contemplate the error of their 2019 voting as this sadly representative misgovernment builds Australia into the worst third world economy in the OECD and steals both the future of our kids and the MDB water for the benefit of a few monied financial supporters of the unelected political hacks who control pre-selection in the major parties.

  8. Terence Mills

    Something strange going on with another interest rate reduction forecast for August and the Reserve Bank looking at Quantitative Easing, the Australian Dollar going through the floor. Yet there are many pensioners receiving letters telling them that their pension has been reduced with immediate effect as the Centrelink income deeming formula indicates that they are a lot better off than they thought they were.

    Interesting that these letters were not going out before the election !!!

  9. OldWomBat

    The sad reality is that those who are pushing the current bastardy that we call a government really don’t give a rats arse about the future of anyone but themselves. They think they will be safe and sound with all their money sitting in their gated communities well away from the great unwashed. History has shown such an approach always fails – the great unwashed become the great unleashed, with all the randomness and barbarity of the horror it entails. This time, however, no one will beat the course of nature

  10. New England Cocky

    @Old Wombat: Perhaps the AIMN readers could peruse European history post the 1917 Russian Revolution and see how the established wealth reacted politically to perceived threats to their material possessions and social position. But then, the Russian Revolutions of that time demonstrate your point exactly.

  11. Harry

    Martin Connelly: yes the focus should be on outcomes that matter most, ie full employment, and a job for all who are capable of work but cannot find it and the others you mention.

    But it is the politicians who must drive inclusive outcomes and implement policies. Of course getting elected is very important and if Labor wants to have a chance at the next election it must stand up for policies and defend them vigorously. Speak plainly to the people!

    On tax cuts, they could say they will ONLY support a substantial increase of the tax free threshold to say $50k PA. This benefits all income earners but gives most to those who who will spend it and stimulate the economy.

    The Coalition will scream about the budget surplus and so Labor will have to explain a budget surplus (taking more out of the economy than is put in) is a surefire way to make economic conditions worse.

    They need to consult and listen to Professor Bill Mitchell, just as Bernie Sanders has consulted with Stephanie Kelton.

  12. Martin Connolly

    To Harry: 100% 🙂

    And this from Wall Street Journal: (about USA but we are the same – replace Federal Reserve by RBA)
    https://www.news.com.au/video/id-5348771529001-6045869136001/what-is-modern-monetary-theory?fbclid=IwAR1ti7EB2x_qodR5FVbI7WMuZviRws_7_VbUTTaFjJNhnTRWr0tq1rCNS-E

    And this from Bloomberg:
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-03-21/modern-monetary-theory-beginner-s-guide?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=keyweesubs&utm_content=business&kwp_0=1201545&fbclid=IwAR1GsQExE0ze8TT7SRbnTU-I9fKOHGOjd-JEyMdi6ukPTjVOXbjMx653miY

  13. totaram

    Harry and Martin Connolly: Keep hoping.

    None of the Labor Party “economists, shadow treasurers ” or even their ardent supporters and “advisers” believe in this “cult of MMT that just claims that you can keep printing money”.

    They don’t even accept the 3 sector financial identity, which has nothing to do with fiat currencies, but should explain the folly of striving for budget surpluses in the wrong circumstances.

  14. Martin Connolly

    To totaram
    Oh I know. I have spoken to a number of Labor MPs and Senators and heard how their economic policy ‘formation’ works, and which economists they listen to. There are a number of people trying to bend those economists and contacting ALP people.
    A long way to go.
    Re commentators – the same thing with a few wins. Won’t name names but there are economic commentators out there who know that MMT represents how things work and should the basis of how the government works.
    Also Getup’s futuretofightfor campaign is based on MMT knowledge.
    The Real Democracy Party bases it’s policies on knowledge of MMT as well.
    All small starts, but you have to start somewhere.

    There are many FB pages and forums for MMT – get along there
    Modern Money (MMT) Australia
    Intro to MMT – Modern Monetary Theory
    are good starting points

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