Friday, November 22, 2013

If you want to get beyond the tedious partisan bullshit that passes for mature economic debate in this country then you could do a lot worse than read this important new book by highly regarded Australian economist Ross Garnaut.

It is an exceptionally good piece of work. Garnaut surveys and critiques our economic fortunes over the last 40 or so years, but concentrates mainly on the two key periods of the Hawke/Keating 'Reform Era' in the 80's, and the China boom years since 2000 which are now decidedly coming to a swift end. 

He labels this post 2000 period of rising national wealth and personal incomes 'The Great Australian Complacency'. His point is we've seriously dropped the ball on economic reform while we gloated about our good fortune, and as a result are very vulnerable to a great economic deterioration in the near future.

The best parts of Garnaut's thesis are the chapters outlining his ideas for reform: Federal/State relations (yes, that old chestnut, but Garnaut's suggestions are radical and refreshing); the public sector, particularly health and education; utilities; transport; infrastructure; financial services; corporate welfare (he wants it seriously wound back - yay!); the tax system, and lots more. 

He concludes with an excellent and quite damning critique of our efforts on the climate change front (particularly Abbot's proposed abolition of the ETS and his Direct Action proposal), the increasingly strident and perverse lobbying efforts by industry sectors opposed to essential economic reforms (like the appalling campaign against the mining tax by the mining industry), and the Murdoch media's uncritical sucking up to the flimsiest of conservative agendas. 

His message is crystal clear: unless we take up the challenge of seriously increasing our productivity and competitiveness Australia's economic future looks grim indeed.

Our politicians need to read this remarkably good little book, and so do you.

(And by the way Black Inc Books, why no bloody index, you cheap sods?)

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