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Australia’s global performance: falling behind

By Julian Hill - posted Wednesday, 7 July 2021

As the pandemic continues to dominate people's lives and our national conversation, Australians are starting to get angry at Australia's failing response.

Your head really could explode if you thought too much about how Australia has wasted our natural 'island continent' advantages. We had time to prepare and manage COVID. But, for over a year the Federal Government has failed to build adequate quarantine facilities, and Australia is now coming last in the developed world in the vaccination race.

This is a shocking indictment on Scott Morrison and the Federal Government. Right as the rest of the world has begun opening up, millions of Australians have been locked down again. Citizens and the loved ones of Australians are locked out. And 25 million Australians are locked up indefinitely.


But for years the warning signs for these failures have been there. Well before COVID-19, Australia was going backwards, and Australians were being left behind since this government was elected. On numerous critical economic, social and environmental measures, Australia has been falling behind the rest of the world.

The fact is Australia is less productive, more unequal, more corrupt, less happy, more indebted, less affluent, and less trusting of public institutions than when the Liberal National Party government was elected in 2013.

Claiming to 'manage the economy well' is part of the Liberals' brand propaganda. But their actual record is abysmal. Since being elected Australia's key economic indicators – wages, household debt, inequality, housing affordability – all show Australia and Australians going backwards.

Even before COVID, Australia had sunk to third last place out of 35 OECD countries for wage growth. Real wages in Australia were 0.7% lower in 2019 compared to 2013, meaning Australians had less in their pocket on pay day than they did when Labor was last in office. Unbelievably their latest Budget bakes in a further cut to real wages over the next four years despite $100 billion of new spending.

Wage cuts are no accident – as the former Finance Minister Matthias Cormann admitted they are "a deliberate design feature" of Liberal economic management. Cuts to penalty rates, public sector wage freezes, refusal to support minimum wage increases and a badly run migration program.

Productivity – the 'secret sauce' of economic growth – is a fundamental factor in a nation's property and ability to compete internationally. It's a measure of how efficiently a country uses the resources available to it.


OECD data shows that Australia has become less productive and less competitive in a global economic context since the Liberals were elected in 2013.

Shockingly, Australia's productivity has been steadily declining. In 2013, Australian productivity was growing at 1.7% per year - 10th highest among 34 OECD nations. Yet by 2018, Australia's productivity was negative at -0.3% - ranking 5th last in the OECD. Scott Morrison can't hide this failure by blaming COVID. It's their record.

Household debt as a share of GDP has soared to 119.4% - the 2nd highest rate of 43 countries studied by the Bank of International Settlements. Over 1 in 3 Australians (37%) admit to struggling to pay off personal debt.

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. Read the full Falling Behind Report which brings together publicly available, reputable data and its conclusions are damning for the Morrison government.

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About the Author

Julian Hill is the Federal MP for Bruce and served as a senior Victoria public servant before entering Parliament.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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