Bronwyn Bishop, Adam Goodes, the Ashes, shark attacks and MH370 are dominating the recent news. Mostly for good reason and each is important in its own way as they encompass issues of decency, entertainment and the disconcerting nature of things that happen in Australia and around the world.
What is not in the news is economics and economic policy.
Every economic hard head and policy wonk I have spoken to in recent weeks is despairing at the lack of an economic agenda in Australia right now. No one can articulate an economic policy issue of note ready to implement or ready to take effect that will address the disconcerting run of news confronting the economy.
Those disconcerting issues, in no set order and to some extent, overlapping, are the slide in the terms of trade, the stubbornly high unemployment rate, the stagnation in real wages, the surge in government debt, industrial relations issues, income equality and productivity. Foreign debt is also booming and while the fall in the Australian dollar to fresh six year lows will help economic growth, it is destroying household wealth.
Where is the policy to underpin productivity growth? Where is the analysis of what looks to be a structural lift in the unemployment rate and perhaps, as RBA Governor Stevens said, a lower rate of potential GDP growth. What of fairness? Skills and education? The casualization of the labour force? Australia’s horrid international trade position and the potential of a downgrade for the Australian government from the credit rating agencies and government debt and net foreign debt continue to track new highs?
What about housing affordability? Infrastructure development? A policy on immigration? What of Commonwealth/State regulations? The list is endless.
Let’s hope economics comes to the forefront of news and debate sooner rather than later. If it doesn’t, the economy could wither away.