In virtually every critical area where progress enhances the lives of citizens, New Zealand has been streeting Australia ever since Alan Jones helped get the Coalition Government elected in 2013, writes Alan Austin.
INFAMOUS AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTER Alan Jones has been widely condemned for insulting New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Jones described her as “a joke, this woman, an absolute and utter lightweight” and urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “shove a sock down her throat”. “Now, I hope Scott Morrison gets tough here with a few backhanders … hasn’t got a clue this woman,” Jones said on air.
The fantasy that Australia’s Prime Minister is in any position to discipline the leader of any other country, let alone New Zealand, is ludicrous. This is clear when the performance of the two leaders – at home and abroad – is actually compared.
On the economy, Ardern’s record is vastly superior to Morrison’s, including on the Coalition’s much-vaunted "jobs and growth".
New Zealand’s annual rate of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) is 2.5%, well above Australia’s puny 1.8%. New Zealand ranks ninth among the 36 developed member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Australia now ranks equal 20th — its lowest ranking on record.
Back in 2012, after the ravages of the global financial crisis (GFC), Australia’s jobless rate was a low 5.2%. New Zealand’s was substantially higher at 6.9%. Australia’s rate then ranked eighth among the 36 developed OECD member countries. New Zealand’s ranked a lowly 14th. This is according to the World Bank’s database.
Australia continued to enjoy one of the lowest jobless rates in the world, well below New Zealand’s, through until 2014. That was the year when, bizarrely, Australia’s incoming Coalition Government reversed virtually all the nation’s winning economic policies, causing its economy immediately to slide down all international rankings. Scott Morrison was a minister in the first Coalition cabinet led by disgraced former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Morrison became Treasurer in 2015 and PM last year.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s government had watched Australia sail through the GFC with outcomes far better than in any other country. From 2012 onwards, it adopted several policies of Australia’s Labor governments — particularly on taxation, wages and infrastructure investment.
On the latest figures, following five years of extraordinary global growth, New Zealand has its jobless rate down to 3.9%, which ranks 12th in the OECD. Australia still has 5.2% jobless, ranking 19th — also the lowest ever.
Wages and cost of living
The trajectory of wage rises through the recovery period following the GFC has been stronger in New Zealand than Australia. Australia’s wage growth averaged 2.1% over the last five financial years. New Zealand’s averaged 2.8%.
In the year to June 2019, New Zealand’s wage growth was an impressive 4.3%. Australia’s was just 2.4%.
Inflation rates are similar at 1.7% in New Zealand and 1.6% in Australia.
National earnings per person
Even more spectacular deterioration in Australia’s fortunes during the current global boom is evidenced by GDP per adult. This measures total income from all sources.
This was US$99,452 (AU$147,249) in 2016, but collapsed to US$71,403 (AU$105,719) in 2017. It recovered to US$77,007 (AU$114,017) per adult in 2018. New Zealand has been much stronger. GDP per adult was US$59,024 (AU$87,391) in 2016, slipped marginally to US$53,911 (AU$79,821) in 2017, but increased to US$58,382 (AU$86,440) per adult in 2018, up by 8.3%.
Deficit and debt
In the Coalition’s claimed priority area of budget management, the Ardern Government has exposed Australia as huge losers. New Zealand’s budget surplus at June 2018 was a healthy NZ$5.53 billion (AU$5.26 billion). That was the fourth consecutive annual surplus — each larger than the one preceding.
Australia, in stark contrast, recorded a $10.1 billion budget deficit — its tenth consecutive negative year. Australia recorded another deficit this year, New Zealand another surplus. We will know the numbers next month.
New Zealand’s gross debt in 2018 was 30.6% of GDP, down from 35.7% in 2013. Australia’s was 28.8% in 2018, up from 16.8% in 2013, having risen every year since.
Economic freedom is measured by the Heritage Foundation and published annually. Recent editions applaud the Ardern Administration. Heritage ranked New Zealand the top economy in the OECD in both 2018 and 2019, and third in the world, behind Singapore and Hong Kong. Its score increased this year from 84.2 to 84.4, the highest ever.
Australia, which was third-ranked from 2009 to 2014, has now slipped to fifth place, with its score at 80.9, the second-lowest ever.
Value of the currency
The Aussie dollar is slightly stronger than the Kiwi but, again, the trend is healthier across the Tasman. Over the last five years, the Aussie has fallen from NZ$1.12 to $1.05.
Income tax rates are lower in New Zealand and compliance is greater. New Zealand taxes companies at 28% and individuals at the top marginal rate of 33%. In Australia, these are 30% and 45% respectively. But, as has been documented comprehensively, tax avoidance and evasion in Australia are now widespread.
And finally ...
Other areas where New Zealand is well ahead of Australia include productivity, job participation, retail sales, the stock market and the corruption index. Areas where the two countries have not much between them, include interest rates, trade, tourism and homeownership.
The few areas where Australia is ahead of New Zealand include youth jobless, income levels, wealth and wealth distribution.
But in virtually every critical area where progress enhances the lives of citizens, New Zealand has been streeting Australia ever since Alan Jones helped get the tawdry Coalition Government elected in 2013.
How’s that for a backhander? And can someone please offer Morrison and Jones a clue?
Since this article was prepared, the latest data on youth unemployment in New Zealand and Australia has become available.
The youth jobless rate in New Zealand fell from 13.1% in the March quarter of 2019 to 10.3% in the June quarter. The rate in Australia in July 2019 was 11.9%, up from 11.7% in March.
Hence, it is no longer the case that Australia is ahead of New Zealand on youth unemployment.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.