Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A note to regular readers - irregular posting, things of interest

Posting is going to be irregular over the next few weeks. I have entered an intense work period on a project that I have been working on, really limiting my time. That's a pity. There is so much of interest at present that I could spend my entire day writing. Mind you, that might not be such a good thing in terms of maintenance of some form of life/work balance.

On this topic, now that the question of Mr Rudd's approach to work has become such a major issue, I can let my own small campaign on the matter rest for the moment. I see from William Bowie that the latest polls are showing the first tiny cracks in the Government's popularity. Talking around, the challenge for the Government lies in the number of people who still support the Government but who, for the first time, have reservations.

I see no point in continually inspecting the entrails on this matter. What will be, will be. Time to put aside and revisit later. Part of Mr Rudd's problem is that having stoked up the Canberra pressure cooker, and Canberra always is a pressure cooker, it becomes very hard to stand back and regain perspective.

The various posts I have written on the Opes Prime matter (summary here) were part of an interesting discussion on the issue. See especially the comments here. Checking around, I also found it interesting that there was so little discussion in the blogosphere on this case. Again, I think that it is time to let the detail of the case rest. However, I do intend to come back to some of the broader issues raised by the discussion since they do link to some of my key personal and professional interests.

Australia's changing demography is another issue that I want to come back too. During the week Bob Birrell was reported as saying that the Commonwealth Government's higher immigration targets would add another million people to Sydney's population.

I have previously argued, I do not have time to check the link, that Sydney was unlikely to reach the Sydney Government's population targets because they conflicted with existing demographic trends. I need to revisit this.

More broadly, there is still very remarkably little public discussion, at least little that I have seen, about the changing structure of Australia's population and especially aging. This is really starting to bite now, affecting economic activity and public policy.

I also want to revisit the concept of the national "economy". This was one of the 2020 summit issues.

Over fifteen years ago now, I argued in a series of client reports and special presentations that, with the ending of the tariff wall, the Australian economy was fragmenting into a series of regional economies, each with its different drivers. The process has taken a little longer than I expected, but is clearly with us now.

The thing that intrigues me is just what this really means. Our policies and planning are based on the implicit assumption that there is such a thing as an Australian "economy". Yes, we recognise variation, but this is variation from the assumed national whole. What happens when the variation itself becomes the central feature?

We can see this already at state level in the growing economic fragmentation of NSW. We talk about two Sydney's, but it is much more than this. As a simple case, the growth of Canberra has affected a large slab of south-eastern NSW.

Plenty to think about. Well, time to stop and go to work.

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