Australian Economy

The “miracle” Australian economy (with its famous run of 24 years without a recession) is an amalgam of pre-modern and post-modern industries with very little in between.

Most economies run at least partially upon the productivity gains produced out of manufacturing and ‘making things’ but in Australia productive investment is supplanted with commodity exports (which make up half of exports) and the recycling of the resultant income is deployed as cash flow for borrowings offshore to pump house prices.

The former step is basically the selling of dirt, a pre-modern activity. The second step is managed via the sophisticated use of derivative markets and is essentially a post-modern activity.

Not that GDP cares given it is only the mindless measure of whirring widgets.

However, both of these activities systematically reduce economic competitiveness by inflating both input costs and the currency. “Dutch disease” by another name. This continuous “hollowing out” of productive activity means the broader economy relies heavily upon the non-stop import of capital, either in the form of debt or in the form of assets sold to foreigners, to generate ongoing income growth.

So long as the underlying income from dirt keeps flowing then the leveraging into house prices that supports consumption can continue, supported by both tax distortions and government spending.

If, however, the dirt income flow halts the hollowing out of modern industry will leave the Australian economy very exposed to a current account adjustment. We saw this in the global financial crisis but the flow of dirt income was restored sufficiently quickly to prevent any deep adjustment.

A second risk is that the debt accumulation simply becomes overly onerous for the underlying economy to service, also resulting in a current account adjustment. Well north of $1trillion of the debt is owned externally and household debt is a world-beating 186% of GDP so this is a real risk.

It is offset by a relatively clean public balance sheet that deploys fiscal stimulus in times of economic stress. However, in recent years, as both of the two above risks have increased, the public balance sheet has deteriorated as well, setting Australia up for a famous adjustment to end its famous bull run.

MacroBusiness covers all apposite data and wider analysis of these issues daily.


How to protect yourself from the great Australian crash

By now if you’re reading you ought to understand that the Australian economy operates on symbiotic halves. Our miners sell dirt to foreigners and our banks leverage that income in global markets to lend into huge domestic mortgages. When trouble strikes, the Federal Budget sits between them, taking in the commodity tax revenues, and guaranteeing


Privatising the profits and socialising the costs of mass immigration

By Leith van Onselen While residents of Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from crush-loaded roads, trains, schools, hospitals, and prisons, as well as hideously expensive housing, toll road company Transurban is the front-runner to buy Sydney’s WestConnex toll road, which means it will own the bulk of Sydney’s toll roads. From The SMH: …one of


ACTU: TPP could cost thousands of jobs

By Leith van Onselen The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has warned that the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement will have “negligible” benefits for Australia, while it could result in significant job losses. ACTU secretary Sally McManus also says the trade deal will result in downward pressure on Australian wages and increase inequality.


Australian PPI contained

Via the ABS: FINAL DEMAND (EXCL. EXPORTS) rose 0.5% in the March quarter 2018. mainly due to rises in the prices received for Electricity, gas and water supply (+3.4%), Heavy and civil engineering construction (+0.6%) and Petroleum refining and petroleum fuel manufacturing (+3.8%). partly offset by falls in the prices received for Pharmaceutical and medicinal


ACCC slams airport fee gouge

By Leith van Onselen Over the past few years, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) head, Rod Sims, has issued a spate of warnings about, and voiced opposition to asset privatisations. One of Sims’ key concerns is that consumers are being gouged as the new monopoly or oligopoly owners raise prices and extract rents from


Melbourne hurtles into Keynesian dystopia

It’s almost amusing watching a desperate Victorian Government with siding polls attempt to address the crush-loading of Melbourne. Last week we saw $10bn hosed into a new airport rail link of highly questionable benefit. Today we get trains, trains, trains: The final unfinished section of the “skyrail” through Melbourne’s south-east is due to open on


The states are facilitating property money laundering

By Leith van Onselen MB has lobbied long and hard for the federal government to begin policing money laundering through property – something it promised to do more than a decade ago. Yesterday, The Australian reported that state governments may be facilitating money laundering by “chasing” proceeds of Chinese organised crime: John Langdale, associate professor at


More immigration ‘bait-and-switch’ from Creepy Pete

By Leith van Onselen Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has launched another distraction from Australia’s unpopular mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy, calling for the immigration debate to be centred on “who we’re bringing in” and whether they are integrating, rather than on numbers. From The Australian: Mr Dutton said the numbers had decreased since Labor was in


Australia’s land bubble has choked the real economy

By Leith van Onselen Dr Gavin Putland has published a research report for Prosper Australia, entitled Trickle-Up Economics Assessing the impact of privatized land rent on economic growth, which shows that since the Second World War, there has been a negative correlation between Australia’s total land price and the rate of economic growth, with rapid


Productivity Commission: FTAs are “poor public policy”

By Leith van Onselen Productivity Commission (PC) chairman, Peter Harris, has taken a swipe at Australia’s growing list of bilateral ‘free trade agreements’ (FTAs), describing them as “generally pretty poor public policy” in a speech delivered to the European Australian Business Council (EABC): As most of you know well, the Commission strongly prefers that barriers


Immigration drives Sydney and Melbourne population explosion

By Leith van Onselen The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released its Regional Population report for the 2016-17 financial year, which revealed that Melbourne remains the king of the population ponzi, adding an insane 125,424 people to its population in 2016-17, representing growth of 2.7%. Sydney’s population also surged by 101,558 people in 2016-17,


Boral warns

Via BLD: Stock -8%. So, not so much the residential slowdown as one-off issues. At least that’s what they say. But the WA experience is going to spread east over the rest of this year so I wouldn’t be cautious buying the dip on this one:


Is wages growth about to accelerate?

By Leith van Onselen Deloitte Access Economics partner, Chris Richardson, is the latest commentator to forecast rising wages growth and an improving Federal Budget: “Improving global and local economies are raining revenue”… “The globe is doing Australia plenty of favours. The bad news of huge falls in mining-related construction has passed, and the long-awaited pick


ACCC wants “massive” fines for corporate misconduct

By Leith van Onselen Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman, Rod Sims, claims the banking royal commission’s revelations of misconduct in the financial services sector highlights the need for harsher penalties for corporate wrongdoing. Sims argues that such penalties should act as a real deterrent rather than merely being regarded by management and directors


Treasury: Most new jobs have gone to migrants

By Leith van Onselen Economist Tim Colebatch has joined the chorus debunking the Australian Treasury’s propaganda report supporting mass immigration. From Inside Story: Buried in a Treasury report is the data that shows where most of the jobs are going. …the single biggest reason why high jobs growth has not reduced unemployment significantly is that


Australia’s Millennials are being shafted

By Leith van Onselen Professor Peter Whiteford has penned an article in The Conversation questioning the notion that Australia’s Millennial generation are really worse-off than their parents: …millennials might be feeling a little hard done by, but Australians aged from 25 to 34 have actually enjoyed increases in their incomes compared to the population average.


You can’t love mass immigration and hate costly infrastructure

By Leith van Onselen Yesterday, Fairfax published an alarming report warning that Melbournians will have an extra five hours of peak our traffic congestion by 2030 as rapid population growth continues to overrun the city’s infrastructure: Drivers could spend 20 per cent more time sitting in traffic as congestion significantly worsens over the next 12


Youth labour market fades

By Leith van Onselen Yesterday’s ABS labour force release for March revealed a weakening Australian youth labour market – i.e. those aged 15 to 24 years old. The trend headline unemployment rate rose from 12.41% in February to 12.47% in March: Total employment growth for those aged 15-24 years of age has also begun to


Prepare for a rat wheel jobs bonanza

By Leith van Onselen It’s going to rain jobs, according to Fairfax’s Eryk Bagshaw: Future farmers, nurses and teachers are in for a jobs bonanza in the next six years as millions of baby-boomers retire to make way for a new generation of workers in rapidly expanding industries… Free trade agreements, an ageing population and


ABS employment in detail: conditions fading

By Leith van Onselen As summarised earlier, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today released its labour force report for March, which registered a 4,900 increase in total employment and a steady headline unemployment rate (still 5.5%). In trend terms, the unemployment rate rose marginally from 5.54% to 5.56%: Again, total employment rose by a


Bernard Salt: Melbourne’s growing too fast. Cut immigration

By Leith van Onselen You know Australia’s immigration intake is way too high, and that the community mood has turned, when even Bernard Salt – the self proclaimed “unabashed supporter of a bigger Australia” – believes Melbourne is growing too fast and argues that immigration needs to be moderated. From Nine News (here and here): Melbourne’s


Foreign students haven’t caused Australia’s population pressures

By Leith van Onselen Let’s recall Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lies last week about the causes of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s population pressures: Malcolm Turnbull: The thing that is driving the increase in foreigners in Australia – which is included in this term net overseas migration (NOM) – is foreign students, who are not part of


Visitor data shows Chinese boom stalling

By Leith van Onselen The Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday released its overseas short-term arrivals and departures figures for February, which continued to show a trend rise in the number of inbound visitors, with Chinese arrivals continuing to boom. The number of short-term visitor arrivals rose a seasonal 30.2% in February in original terms, whereas