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The case for economic optimism in Australia

economic, optimism, Moir event

 “What needs to change in order for us to remain the same?”

Are we optimistic or pessimistic about the economy and why? What’s driving this viewpoint and how do we take steps to address it? What are we forming these assumptions on?

Rebecca Huntley, a prominent social researcher, author, public speaker and Principal at Vox Populi Research, shared her insights on these topics at our recent event.

So, why are we pessimistic?

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, there seems to exist this general air of pessimism amongst Australians about the future, along with a general distrust in government to be able to stimulate positive economic growth. But, why? What’s driving this viewpoint?  Especially when, on the whole, we have a stable economy, government system and strong foundations from which to build on.

According to Rebecca (from the research she has done on this topic and the many people in the community she has spoken to) there are few factors driving this:

  • The media can play a big role in shaping how we view the economy, society in general and our government. Often, people can only form a viewpoint on the information that’s been provided to them.
  • As Australians, we tend to be quite vocal in openly criticising our leaders, our government and their abilities. This can have a flow-on effect to the younger generation and create an environment where it discourages people from stepping up and wanting to go into senior leadership roles, especially in government.
  • We are a highly regulated society and quite risk adverse. According to Rebecca, as Australians, we consider ourselves to be the lucky country and sudden change can create anxiety about the future as there is fear that our luck will one day run out.
  • We still hold strong the great Australian dream of owning our own home and for that home to be crucial for our superannuation/retirement. When anything happens in the economy and the property market to threaten that, it can cause a general fear about what’s to come.
  • Continual tax cuts don’t do much to stem that pessimistic view, even though they are intended to do the opposite.
  • The rising cost of living and retail recession (slowing down in spending).

What is the key to building optimism into the Australia psyche?

So, with all that being said, what are we optimistic about and is that where our focus should be?

  • Our natural environment and sustainability.
  • The transformative power of technology and the opportunities it can create.
  • The power of education.
  • Local communities, business and government working together to solve problems.

How do we harness that and focus on the good to combat our cynicism? 

Rebecca believes it comes down to things:

  • Great leadership
  • A collaborative effort from the community to drive change.

This is most evident when it comes to the debate about climate change. Whether you’re for it, apathetic or against it, we are all united in the view that we can’t just sit around and do nothing.

According to Rebecca, initiatives that start at the grassroots level (rather than a top-down approach by the government creating and implementing policies designed to address a specific problem or need) are the ones that can often be the most powerful and have the most potential to bring about change. When community, business and government at the local level are all working together to bring about change for the better.

Rebecca summarised it best with a quote by Howard Zinn:

“What we choose to emphasise in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” ― Howard Zinn

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