Crikey,

Come on, get rid of the cultural cringe! The rest of us got rid of it in the 1980s. There’s lots to knock about Australian companies, the government, the press and so on, but if you exaggerate the story then you lose credibility. Take the following quote from Sunday…

“Australia will never be able to create companies like Google, Sony, Nokia, Hilton, Unilever, Toyota, Shell or P&O as long as the economy is dominated by gouging cartels supported by a high-taxing limp-wristed government.”

According to the Fortune International 500 http://www.forbes.com/2003/07/07/internationaland.html we’ve got more international companies than you’d expect. Given that the Australian stockmarket is about 2% of the world stockmarket then you’d expect about 10 of our companies to be in the Top 500 – we’ve got 13. News CorpBHP BillitonColes MyerWoolworthsNatl Australia BankTelstraRio TintoCommonwealth Bank GroupWestpac Banking GroupLend LeaseANZ BankingQantas AirwaysAMP.

For this purpose, as it’s an international list, it doesn’t matter where the company gets its money from, so News Corp is still an Aussie.

CRIKEY: This list tells you everything that is wrong with Australian business. What national value do those four big banks add when most of their wealth comes from gouging Australia citizens and businesses? Of course the national airline and telco should be on such a list but their value and size partly comes from the anti-competitive industry structures and the poor deals that hapless consumers get.

The same applies to retailers like Coles Myer. Every economy must have retailers but why should they be allowed to operate in our powerful duopoly that sucks value away from their more productive and important suppliers. AMP is hardly a great success story having blown up about $8 billion in the UK and Lend Lease is also billions under water from their frolics offshore.

Rio Tinto is run out of London but of course Australia should have globally recognised resources giant given our huge. However, the sad fact remains that US, British and Japanese-based companies arguably own more of the equity in our resource assets than Australian companies do.

That list is also way out of date as it omits Woodside and Westfield which are bigger than Qantas and Lend Lease. Westfield, along with Macquarie Bank, Billabong and News Corp, is one of the few genuine international corporate success stories coming out of Australia.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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