Economy, Politics

Peter Strong: Is Australia in ruins? And are all Australian businesses horrible?

Peter Strong /

Is it really so bad in Australia? Do we have an ‘us and them’ culture? Do we have too many rich people and not enough poor people?

There has been a lot of commentary lately about how the system is broken; how rich people get too much and poor people need to get more; how employers are bad and employees are victims. Is it true?

Most rich people are like most poor people, they are generally okay people. Some of the rich and some of the poor aren’t nice people, but we shouldn’t judge everyone by the minority. The extreme left and right are the problem.

The extremes of the left will have us believe that rich people are bastards who exploit their positions of power, which are created with their ill-gained wealth made on the sweat of hard working, abused and underpaid employees. It seems that the worst thing that could happen to a person in Australia is they could get a job.

The far right will have us believe that poor people deserve all they get; that the poor ride unfairly on the back of hard working business people. That they are a pack of ‘dole bludgers’ and should ‘just go and get a job’. That they should also be happy getting $5 an hour.

Both extremes are of course examples of shallow, self-opinionated ideologies who are wrong.

In actual fact, Australia is lucky to have a great collection of employers, employees and regulators. No group is perfect, but by heck, we’re nearly all pretty bloody good!

Disappointingly there are employers who don’t pay the right wage and who abuse their power; and we have employees who steal from the workplace and abuse their fellow workers. We also have some who abuse the welfare system. In response to that, we have government regulators to hunt and punish the few who don’t do the right thing.

Beyond that, we have a great society. We are primarily caring, hard-working and happy. We also want to provide support for those in need.

But to make matters worse, it seems that to be in opposition at the federal level of politics is to moan and groan about our forsaken land. When in opposition, the Coalition gave the impression we’d all be ruined, the economy was a grade 10 muddle, all welfare recipients were bludging communists, and our whole nation was a horrible mess. Currently Labor paints a picture of millions of wealthy fat cats sucking the life blood out of the working class and manipulating the tax system to avoid contributing tax, all while they laugh into their glasses of fine wine and whiskey.

It is sad that the way to get elected to government in this modern time is through bombast and fear-mongering.

What is under threat from these extreme wings is: our good economy, our high standard of living, and our happiness. We certainly need to continue to change for the better, to manage crises that occur, to ensure we get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and to create a better future. We in the small business community would also like to see some change, but it’s not drastic life-altering change.

So what is there to lose?

What’s good or okay in Australia? 

Australians:

1. Have one of the highest minimum wages in the world, according to the OECD;

2. Are eighth in the world with our average wage, according to the OECD;

3. Have a world-class welfare system, that is close to the OECD average in terms of welfare expenditure per capita; 

4. Live in one of only two countries with long service leave; 

5. Are entitled to four weeks annual leave; 10 days personal leave; and paid parental leave;

6. Enjoy the second best health system in the world, according to the New York-based Commonwealth Fund;

7. Are ranked fourth in the world for life expectancy, according to a study by The Lancet;

8. Live in the 13th least corrupt country, according to Transparency International;

9. Live in the sixth healthiest, happiest and most advanced country, according to research from The Legatum Institute;

10. Have access to a quality public service and world-class regulators — considered the third best in the world, according to The International Civil Service Effectiveness (InCiSE) Index;

11. Have experienced the longest period of economic growth in the developed world;

12. Work in an economy where 10% of incomes pay for 50% of the nation’s personal income tax;

13. Have high-quality industry associations (according to me); and

14. Have access to unions, some of which are okay. 

Of course there are areas we can improve, and there always will be. But the overall story is that we are a good country, in a good place and we need to keep moving forward. This is something we will be discussing at the COSBOA Vodafone National Small Business Summit in Melbourne next week. 

If we are to improve the lot for our neediest then we need to make sure as a nation we don’t go backwards. There are always threats that can push us backwards, so we must work together to continue forward, and not be constantly at odds with each other due to ideology and politics.

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Peter Strong

Peter Strong is chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia.

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  • wormseye

    To put things in perspective, you might have mentioned that whining is an inherent journalistic trait !

  • Rohan Baker

    “12. Work in an economy where 10% of incomes pay for 50% of the nation’s personal income tax”

    But yet, the left still want more. Taxation is theft and the left see this as incentive to bolster their power. Wait until the top bracket hits 70% like it did in France. The mass exodus of will be breathtaking.

  • Peter

    Well done Peter Strong, you’re essentially correct. However, our near-hung Parliament and rising power of small, independent parties dilutes the effectiveness of Canberra to govern. It’s like we the masses are the proverbial frog being slowly boiled until Constitutional changes allow us to address the high priority challenges that are upon us. Peter Strong, let’s see how things look in ten years time, say in 2027.