Chin Up, Swanny. It's Not All Bad!


1. Only seven of the 34 OECD countries (wealthy, developed democracies) have triple A credit rating and positive outlooks with all three major credit rating agencies.

They are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Only one has the distinction of interest rates in the optimum range between 1.6 per cent and 5 per cent. Only one has government borrowings as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) below 28 per cent. Only one has taxation as a percentage of GDP below 28 per cent. And only one has an economy growing more than 3 per cent per year. The same one.

Which nation?

(a) Canada. Powering ahead.
(b) Switzerland. Alps, clocks and impeccable financial credentials.
(c) Australia. World’s best treasurer?
(d) Norway. Flying under the radar?
(e) None of the above. Impossible during the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

2. Australia’s unemployment level is one of the lowest in the developed world, at less than half the rate in the Euro Area.

It is also one of the most stable – despite global upheavals.

Australia’s jobless rate has fluctuated within the narrow band 4.9 per cent to 5.8 per cent for the last:

(a) 4 months
(b) 14 months
(c) 24 months
(d) 40 months

3. There have been two periods of disastrous "fiscal profligacy" in Australia’s history. That’s according to an International Monetary Fund study by Harvard economist Paolo Mauro and others, published in January.

Those two periods were:

(a) during the Hughes government and the McMahon government
(b) during the Chifley government and the Whitlam government
(c) both during John Howard’s government
(d) during the Whitlam government and the Rudd government

4. According to Barry Jones, Canada fared second best in the world through the global financial crisis. Australia fared best.

On how many of these 20 indicators are Canadians now better placed than Australians?

1. economic growth
2. gross national income per person
3. unemployment
4. debt as a percentage of GDP
5. balance of trade now
6. balance of trade recent history
7. international credit rating
8. income tax rates
9. indirect tax rates
10. interest rates
11. productivity
12. household savings
13. retail sales growth rate
14. superannuation
15. economic freedom
16. government 10 year bond rate
17. value of the local currency relative to other currencies
18. industrial production growth
19. home ownership
20. overall quality of life

(a) only half — 10 of the 20
(b) five
(c) one
(d) none

5. Former treasurer Peter Costello expressed anxiety in April about “a lot of uncertainty at the moment about foreign investment rules and that is creating a lot of worries in the minds of potential investors”.

He said the mining tax and “tinkering with superannuation” were the main cause of that uncertainty.

Since Costello left the job in 2007, has net international investment in Australia:

(a) stayed at the same level at about $615.5 billion
(b) dropped 4.13 per cent to $590 billion
(c) increased 4.13 per cent to $641 billion
(d) increased 41.3 per cent to $870 billion

Bonus point: Just in the last quarter – now the mining tax is in place – was there a $6.2 billion increase or decrease in foreign investment?

6. The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has just released figures on taxation around the world.

Which of the following is true for Australia:

(a) total taxes on wages in Australia are among the lowest in the developed world, with only five small countries taking less
(b) almost all households are paying less in tax now than they were during the Howard government years
(c) the tax cuts introduced by the Rudd Government between 2008 and 2010, along with the Gillard Government’s carbon tax reforms, have lowered average tax rates by 3.6 per cent
(d) the biggest tax breaks have gone to the lowest paid
(e) all of the above

7. The Liberal Party website condemns the Gillard government because Australians are now sourcing products more cheaply overseas, thanks to the high Aussie dollar.

A media release headed "Labor hypocrisy on local content as jobs sent overseas" notes that manufacturing jobs have declined since 2007.

In how many of these 13 sectors – which the release ignores – have job numbers risen since 2007:

1. mining
2. electricity, gas, water and waste services
3. construction
4. wholesale trade
5. accommodation and food services
6. transport, postal and warehousing
7. financial and insurance services
8. professional, scientific and technical services
9. administrative and support services
10. public administration and safety
11. education and training
12. health care and social assistance
13. arts and recreation services

(a) six
(b) eight
(c) 10
(d) all 13

Bonus question (on hypocrisy): Over the 11 years of the Howard government (before the GFC), was there an increase or a decrease in manufacturing jobs?

8. In one devastating assault on the universities in post-war history, an Australian treasurer announced:

1. cuts of 5 per cent of all funding previously budgeted
2. introduction of full fee-paying places for undergraduates
3. compulsory staff redundancies
4. dramatic increases in HECS payments, and
5. reducing the starting salary for repayments to $21,000 a year.

The magnitude of the cuts has not been matched before or since.

The treasurer was:

(a) John Howard
(b) Paul Keating
(c) Peter Costello
(d) Wayne Swan

9. Unemployment in Australia rose during March 2013, but not evenly across the nation.

The increase was significantly greater in two states or territories. Which ones?

(a) Queensland and Victoria
(b) The Northern Territory and the ACT
(c) New South Wales and Queensland
(d) Tasmania and South Australia

10. The Australian newspaper attacked the Gillard Government in April with another scare campaign on government borrowings.

“Australian governments are facing a budget black hole so large that politically painful cuts to growth in public health and education spending are all but unavoidable …”

Australia’s borrowings today, as a percentage of GDP, are:

(a) three times as high as in the Great Depression
(b) twice as high
(c) the same
(d) half the size
(e) only one third the size

11. Government debt figures for 2012 for most of the world are now available.

How many of these 12 robust, developed economies achieved lower debt (as a percentage of GDP) in 2012 compared with 2011:

Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the USA:

(a) all 12
(b) six
(c) two
(d) one

12. Since the Labor Government has managed Australia’s economy, taxes on personal income have dropped to the third lowest among wealthy developed countries.

In other words, of the 34 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development only two nations have lower rates of income tax than Australia has now. This includes personal income tax, social security taxes and payroll tax as a per cent of GDP.

Which are the other two countries?

(a) Singapore and Switzerland
(b) Norway and Canada
(c) South Korea and Turkey
(d) The USA and Mexico


1. (c) Australia.
2. (d) 40 months
3. (c) both during John Howard’s Government.
4. (d) None. Canada is equal with Australia on credit ratings and currency, but not ahead on any.
5. (d) increased 41.3% to $870 billion. A $6.2 billion increase in the last quarter.
6. (e) all of the above
7. (d) all thirteen. During the Howard years manufacturing jobs decreased.
8. (c) Peter Costello
9. (a) Queensland and Victoria
10. (e) one third the size
11. (d) one. Only Australia. Other countries to do so, not on that list, are Canada, Mexico, the USA, New Zealand and Norway.
12. (c) South Korea and Turkey. See Chart 6 here.

Disputes are welcome and correspondence will be entered into.

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