Grow some spine, do some maths

Harry Wallace writes: Re. “The real backbone of the economy (hint: it’s not mining)” (Friday). What joy Ben Oquist must have living in Camelot where earning income is unnecessary. If backbone means support then mining definitely is the major support of our living standards.

Just as for personal finances, the budget and for Australia’s business with the rest of the world, income/earnings is critical. Got more, can spend more! Of course Australia has to date worked in reverse with international finances — spending more, earning less. The ABS Cat 5302.0 (available for free online) shows that in the 2015 calendar year Australia “spent” $75.1 billion more than was “earned”. The early indications for 2016 are depressing – that income will be even less but expenditure will be more.

Of the $251 billion earned last year from goods exports, the largest category was minerals/ores which brought in $72.1 billion — miles ahead of any other category including education. Minerals, coal and fuels and gold all totalled 60% of total goods earnings. Our biggest renewable export category, rural, only brought in $45 billion (18%) which was not even enough to pay for the $52 billion spent on imported cars and fuel. A car imported at $40,000 costs about 720,000 kgs of exported iron ore.

Ben Oquist is right in pointing out that health care employment has grown. It is a “spender” dependent primarily on mining to pay for the medical equipment, drugs, cars, fuel and other essential imported goods and services it needs. In 2015 Australia “spent” $351 billion on such goods & services. The difference between this and the earnings was funded by selling assets such as companies and farms to and by borrowing heavily from foreigners, thus leaving an increased burden for children and grandchildren to service — highly immoral by my standards.

The backbone of my businesses has always been the “earners”, not the “spenders” — but I don’t live in Camelot. Nor do I think Malcolm Turnbull is Moses able to produce innovative manna from Heaven! International business is tough work where the earners are the heroes and we desperately need many more heroes!

So I reverse Ben Oquist’s theory and state reality as “the backbone of Australia is a minority of workers, mainly miners, who generate the international income that Australia needs (well, most of it – the rest is borrowed!) to keep us all with a great standard of living”.

On Mark Scott

Nic Maclellan writes: Re. “Making a Mark: the ABC says goodbye to a transformative leader” (yesterday). Myriam Robin’s comprehensive review of Mark Scott’s tenure at the ABC missed one disaster: the cancellation of the contract for Australia Network TV, and the collateral damage to Radio Australia. The integration of TV, radio and digital services under ABC International led to significant damage to Radio Australia when the Abbott government cancelled the $250 million TV contract at short notice. Dozens of experienced RA staff were lost, gutting services to the Pacific islands that are much more reliant on radio than audiences in urban Asia (many rural villagers in Melanesia don’t have electricity, let alone broadband, to stream ABC content — a reality some digital enthusiasts in the ABC rarely seem to acknowledge!)

 

Peter Fray

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