Canberra concerns

As the nation’s media is more concerned with the sartorial splendour of Speaker Slipper than the state of the nation, maybe it’s a good thing that Parliament will take a break before delivering a budget.


The Parliament is more concerned about point scoring on what happened months or years ago than on creating conditions for smart companies to take up new workers as consumer confidence returns.

As Guy Roberts, Chief Executive of Penrice Soda says, “There are days when you really wonder whether the Government gets it. You see governments being preoccupied with being re-elected rather than focusing on what is good for the economy.”

It is estimated there are about half a million people who had between one and 15 hours work over the last month and there are more than 800,000 in part-time work. One in four of those working part-time informed Morgan Research that they would like to work full-time or more hours.

Michele Levine of Roy Morgan Research Report 10 on The State of the Nation shows that despite Australia’s relatively positive position in the post-GFC world, “there still exists a hidden group of ‘under employed’, the part-timers and those looking for additional hours or for full-time work. Remember that the bureaucrats regard you as having a job if you get an hour of paid work in the last week.”

The faceless bureaucrats with secure jobs and friends in Canberra appear to be the ones that do not get the increasing collapse in confidence of average households facing lay-offs, mortgage and business interest rate rises and demands for “stay-here” money from international business.

By following the limited business confidence surveys of the big banks, rather than the regional realities of small and medium enterprises in the regional communities, there is more interest in steady interest rates than concern with the gap in confidence between the big end and the real ends of town.

Any comparison of the residents of the ACT demonstrates that it neither represents the characteristics of the nation as a whole nor appreciates the realities facing small business, rural and regional Australia and half the working population that fears prospects of unemployment. Discussions on job creation and removal of barriers to microenterprise job creation are fobbed off with suggestions that we have to accept a high dollar, mining boom and capital inflow will balance out short-term labour market adjustment.

There is some evidence that the PM does get it, but like other parts of her office, cannot get staffers to do something to rebuild confidence outside the affluent elites and big business board rooms.

Julia Gillard said at the start of this month, “Friends, we look with particular care and concern on the large number of working-age Australians, possibly as many as two million who stand outside the full-time labour force, above and beyond those registered as unemployed… And there are many thousands of individuals on the Disability Support Pension who may have some capacity to work.”

Focus Groups and survey research conducted outside of the areas likely to be impacted by a rise in their health insurance costs and who believe that the carbon tax is a Bob Brown conspiracy, show a steady decline in both consumer and business confidence. What was seen as a two-speed economy, according to Michele Levine, has become a multi-speed economy, with a steady decline as the Ks click up from the Civic Circle. They say that they feel marginalised and excluded from the processes of government by the failures of all parties to get the economy going and restore a sense of security to their homes.

Heather Ridout may prove to be the nation’s last chance of redress of this myopia as she takes a message to the central bank board. She says, “Business is fed up with the state of politics in Canberra… like the rest of the Australian people. There are so many important issues going on out there and I think the nature of the political discourse doesn’t give you an awful lot of hope.”

Dr Colin Benjamin is an entrepreneurship and strategic thinking consultant at Marshall Place Associates, which offers a range of strategic thinking tools that open up a universe of new possibilities for individuals and organisations committed to applying the processes of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Colin is also a member of the global Association of Professional Futurists.


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