25 June, 2011

Is the sky really falling, Henny Penny?

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday 24, 2011

I well remember reading to my little ones the tale of Henny Penny. Poor nervous chook, she feels an acorn drop on her head and starts running around crying out that "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

These days this is known as political rhetoric, and commonly found up on the hill in Canberra. Right now we seem to have a whole farmyard of neurotic hens.

When Four Corners revealed sickening mistreatment of Australian cattle, that raised an uproar (though mind you, a vegetarian might point out that the cattle are destined to be killed and eaten, whatever the method). Live shipments were banned.

In return, there are now dire predictions that Australia's cattle trade and its farmers are also about to die. However the research company IBISWorld quietly points out that live exports only made up six per cent of the industry revenue, and were contracting.

The real damage was done by drought and the strong dollar, and even so the industry is surging ahead with a growth forecast of 1.8 per cent per annum over the next five years. No falling skies here.

The carbon debate, of course, rouses the chorus of cockerels from dawn each day of the week. The Australian Coal Association warned that the carbon tax will cost some 4,000 mining jobs in three years. Mind you, at the same time, the Bureau of Statistics reported 8,000 job vacancies in the industry just in one month this year.

And let’s not forget that our currently-debated scheme was pitched based on suggestions made by BHP’s Marius Kloppers. After a half-year profit of $10 billion, he knows that the sky is well and truly in place, and is more interested in the long-term future of the industry – and our planet.

If you read the latest OECD report you’ll see that we came out of the economic storms with barely a ruffle. Unemployment is below five per cent, even as the mining and construction industries scream for more labour and implore the government to increase its migration quotas.

Inflation is below three percent, interest rates are stable (remember the days of double-digit mortgages?)

I can testify that our health system is one of the best in the world after a month of back problems. Weekly doctors, physios, scans and bags of medications later, if I added it all up it might have cost little more than $1000 personally. Compare that to the nose bleed I had in New York 14 years ago, that cost over $1000 for one outpatient visit.

Two months ago I wrote that never in history have we been richer, safer or more secure than this nation is today.

Now I know that I stand the likelihood of being branded a Polyanna. But let me tell you, while all the feathers and claws fly in the front sections of the newspapers, here at the back our topic is business.

We are businessmen and women talking with each other and we need to be rational, see clearly, not get panicked and flustered by all the flag-waving.

Our businesses have long lives ahead, a lot of people depend on us, we can’t afford to make daily changes of course in response to the latest squawk.

So after you have absorbed the day’s news, sit back, sip a tea, and take a clear thought about what the reality is so far, and what is likely in the future.

Make this the basis of your decisions. Don’t listen to Henny Penny, be a bit more Foxy Woxy in your perceptions.



Anonymous said...


kind regards,
Hans van Schoonhoven
House of Orange Pty Ltd

Anonymous said...

Nice one Ray. Sorry to hear about the crook back.
Have a f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c day… Winno
Winston Marsh

Anonymous said...

Hi Ray, Finally caught up with this piece of yours. An important point, and very nicely made. Thank you!
I only wonder whether we will ever see - and hear - a similarly clear-minded, unflappable politician in a position of significant power in Oz? One can only hope it's not beyond the realms of the possible. Which after all, is supposed to be the art that politicians practise.
Regards, Yahya.
Yahya Abdal-Aziz,
Wheelers Hill, Victoria

Anonymous said...

Dear Ray,
Meant to say - fab column last week - the Chicken Little (or Chicken Licken) piece. The Beatty sensibility is an oasis of reason in a desert of maudlin despair.
All the best, old pal, Robert Hillman

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ray,
erudite and insightful as usual.
I like the analogy about the "farmyard of neurotic hens" .
I have never seen any neurotic hens write good policy , nor get remotely close to a good implementation.
The biggest problem for industry with statements from the farmyard, is both the lack of consultation on outcomes, and the increasing likelihood that the outcomes will be very different from what the hens have suggested.
Consequently :
No trust in government and no confidence in their processes.
Just look at today's press coverage of the potential impact of the Government abandoning the "green car" project.
Cheers, David Curtis