On ABC news a few minutes ago they were saying that the Vote Compass they've introduced (a survey in which 250,000 people have answered questions) shows that the economy is the thing most people are concerned about for the election.
That seems obvious to many of us given the state of things at the moment, but it got me thinking about how casually the economy is reported and discussed over here.
From a position of big surpluses up to 2008, to a guarantee in the 2010 budget that the economy would be in deficit for only one more year (a claim repeated more than 100 times by ministers over the last three years) to the present acknowledgement that the deficit is getting bigger and will last for at least eight years (and this stated by people trying to sound optimistic given there's an election in a month's time and they're desperate to keep their jobs), it's seems incredible to me that it's not pretty much the only thing that would be on the news.
In this year's budget in May, Swan announced a revenue shortfall of $60b. Last week, Bowen gave figures that showed the deficit had grown since then by $1b each week. That's despite the $43b Swan cut from spending (which Bowen has now increased by a further $17.4 billion).
Seasoned economists variously described last week's economic statement as 'staggering', 'breathtaking' and 'alarming' (not words usually associated with the conservative language of that industry). The dollar has depreciated by 15% in the last four months (good news for some, certainly, but a telling indicator of what's happening) and interest rates are lower than their 'emergency' level at the height of the GFC.
Today, the WA government has announced that debt levels in that state are forecast to rise to $28.4b in the next four years - and that's the state with an economy the others look at with envy! Collectively, the states and local governments have more committed debt than the federal government ($239b at the end of last month). 'Government' debt of one kind or another now equates to every person in Australia owing $174,000. This is loose change compared to the $3.5 trillion Australia has in private debt, but it's the rate at which it's accumulating that's startling.
I was listening to PM on way home from work yesterday (for those who don't know, PM's the closest thing to Radio 4 news over here, meaning it goes into a bit more depth than just headlines). At the start of the prog Mark Colvin mentioned the latest unemployment figures and said they look stable until you take into account how many people have simply stopped looking for work and therefore are no longer counted.
Nationally, in the first half of this year (according to Business Today's analysis of the latest ABS figures), the number of Australians aged 15 and over who are unemployed grew by 42,000, and the number who are not working (for whatever reason) and are not looking for a job grew by 76,000.
In the last month the situation seems to have deteriorated further – at least, here in SA. The unemployment figure here has risen by 1% in a month to 7.1% and according to ABS figures some 12,300 people in SA lost employment in July. It's the eighth straight month that unemployment here has risen above the national average.
Charities are all reporting big spikes in requests for support, and mortgage defaults which were already worryingly high have risen further over the last six months.
Perhaps I'm just one of life's worriers, but it seems to me that now wouldn't be a good time for someone to fall out with the boss at work!