What is really happening out there?

Henry has long accepted that, official statistics being what they are, there is no substitute for reports direct from the coalface.

Coal miners and their brethren in the mining industry are pretty busy and investing for a busy future. Government — federal, state, and public corporations — is working flat out.

But the advertising business is grim — and has deteriorated in September. Bad debts are starting to look serious if one is in the mortgage origination business. Retail spending again has slumped. There are signs in shop windows offering discounts of up to 70 %, and did we notice more closing down signs than usual?

Most small businesses are struggling and the tourism industry (that has 50% of Australia’s small businesses) is in bad shape. Roy Morgan Research executive chairman Gary Morgan says “Australia is a ‘two-speed’ economy.  Government — federal, state, local and public corporations with CPI wage rises for all and no thought of productivity gains or less work.

“Then there are those in the large, private small-business sector — struggling with too many working fewer hours than they’d like — well over a million Australians unemployed or underemployed in small businesses — all ignored by all levels of government.”

The summary is that vast slabs of the economy are becalmed.

Does the government understand? Maybe not, and if that remains the case, one imagines the opinion polls will soon begin to shift toward the Opposition, no matter how unlikely that now seems.

Climate change talks in Pittsburgh seem set to go better than expected, despite Australia’s Opposition refusing to play on the government’s terms. (As Henry has suggested, Malcolm Turnbull should have made support or opposition the subject of a conscience vote.)

The better than expected news is China’s apparent willingness to offer something better than best intentions and hints that India may also co-operate. Watch this space.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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