In 2013, the Climate Change Performance Index rated Australia at 40 out of 61 countries and improving. By the time we went to Paris late last year, we ranked third last among major emitters ahead of only oil-rich Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.
“Experts criticise that Australia’s attitude appeared to be to try to avoid making any substantive commitments, and to do the absolute minimum that it has to. There appeared to be no recognition of Australia’s national interest in minimising climate change; rather, the focus seems to be on protecting domestic energy and resource exporters (coal and gas industry),” the report says.
The 2016 Environmental Performance Index, released every two years by Yale University in the US, has dropped Australia’s ranking by 10 places to 13th out of 180 nations in its latest update.
Australia was ranked top for water and sanitation, and for exposure to environmental risks. It achieved only mid-rankings for biodiversity, agriculture, and forestry.
The country’s worst performance, though, came in the climate and energy category, where Australia was ranked 150th for its trend in carbon emissions for electricity generation.
Australia’s greenhouse gases from its power sector jumped by 3.8 million tonnes in 2015 alone, and were 5.1 per cent higher than in June 2014 before the Abbott government scrapped the carbon tax, energy consultants Pitt & Sherry said.
The survey, which benchmarks nations according to their economic peers, follows a recent report showing investor confidence in Australia’s large-scale renewable energy industry had evaporated because of uncertainty in the sector.
Australia may no longer keep its place in the top ten for installed solar capacity. India will almost certainly move up the table in 2016, leaving Australia at the bottom of the leader table. Korea and France are installing at a rate that could see Australia lose its long-held position in the top-ten countries for installed solar.
But this is far from the only area where our ranking is sliding.
Less than three years ago when Malcolm Turnbull changed course on the National Broadband Network Australia was ranked 30th in the world for average peak connection speed. Today we are ranked 60th. We are behind most of Asia and most of Europe, the US and Canada. We are even behind Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Poland.
The latest bi-annual Global Infrastructure Investment Index released by design and consulting firm Arcadis indicates that Australia has fallen two places to 11th position when it comes to the attractiveness to international investors of infrastructure undertakings.
According to Gareth Robbins, Arcadis’ Director of Built Asset Consultancy – Australia Pacific, uncertainty surrounding the commitment of local government to infrastructure projects is the chief reason for Australia’s fall in the rankings.
“In many states we are seeing infrastructure projects treated as political handballs and often not completed, which is reducing investor confidence in a government’s ability to see a project through and deliver a ‘bankable’ investment,” said Robbins.
Australia’s global competitiveness has slumped to the worst ranking in at least 18 years, slipping behind New Zealand, as business criticised the Abbott government’s failure to kick-start a fresh wave of infrastructure spending.
In a damning report done for the Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, the nation’s ranking slipped to 18 from 17 a year ago. The deterioration continues a six-year slide that started in 2009, when Australia was ranked five.
Among the biggest concerns raised by Australian businesses surveyed for the IMD rankings by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia are the fresh declines in investment in skills and leading-edge technology, and a lack of new spending on transport and other infrastructure.
Australia has stalled in innovation, being overtaken by the likes of New Zealand in the eighth Global Innovation Index. Australia is ranked 17th for the second year in a row, after slowly moving up the rankings in previous years. Australia’s relative GII weaknesses from innovation input mostly lie in human capital and research and business sophistication.
The most notable decline was Foreign Direct Investment where Australia fell from 49th all the way to 114th place. And while Australia scores well in some educational rankings, the amount spent on both education and research declined.
OECD education rankings show Australia is slipping. In the latest OECD league table, Australia is ranked 14th behind Poland (11th), Vietnam (12th) and Germany (13th).
Australia’s performance in the PISA tests, held every three years, has shown a steady decline. In 2000, when the first tests were held, Australia ranked 6th for maths, 8th for science and 4th for reading (out of 41 countries), dropping to 19th for maths, 16th for science and 13th for reading in 2012 (out of 65 countries).
By way of contrast, the report notes that South Korea’s performance — considered “on a par” with Australia in 2000 — has shown consistent improvement, deepening the gap between the two nations ever since. The OECD report predicts, however, that if Australia was to improve its performance on the PISA tests by 25 points, GDP would expand by 7.2 per cent; equivalent to $4.8 trillion by 2095.
The Global AgeWatch Index ranks 96 countries across the world according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. Last year, Australia ranked 13th among the 96 nations but this year our score has dropped to 17th.
According to this year’s report, the poverty rate among people aged 60 and over in Australia is a high 33 per cent – we ranked 94th, ahead of only South Korea and Venezuela, for the worst rate of old-age poverty and 94th again for relative welfare.
The fact that many older Australians are stuck for years on the ‘paltry Newstart allowance’ before they are eligible for the age pension is a significant contributor to poverty among older people. Low levels of superannuation among older women in Australia – in part due to broken career paths to take on caring roles – has seen older women becoming homeless in increasing numbers.
For the first time, Australia has been named on the Human Rights Watch list in both 2014 and 2015 for our treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, Indigenous rights, disability rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, freedom of media/expression, and our reluctance to publicly raise human rights abuses in countries with which we have strong trade or security ties.
Australia has also been singled out for its deteriorating position as it continues a four-year slide down the International Corruption Index. We ranked 13th in the latest report, dropping six positions since 2012. Foreign bribery is rife and largely goes unchecked while whistleblower protections remain inadequate.
These are just a few of the many areas where our country’s relative standing is deteriorating. If our sporting teams were showing a similar decline in rankings you could guarantee more money would be invested to halt the slide.
Instead of addressing any of these problems, the government has decided to reduce social spending, cut revenue from company taxes, and waste $400 billion on buying war toys, when every indicator says they should be investing in education, research, infrastructure and lifting people out of poverty.
Where would we end up after another three years of a government who cares more about its donors than its citizens?