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Post COVID-19 predictions. A brave new world?

By John Kananghinis

Channelling Nostradamus – without the quatrains – we take a, not entirely serious, look into the near future.

Likely to be as accurate as the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan’s predictions that there would be 60,000 to 80,000 cases in Australia by mid-April (actually around 6,600 with over 4,000 recovered and less than 75 deaths).

Based on, probably, the same amount of in-depth analysis.

Domestic economy

  • Lots of empty CBD office space as companies realise they can have a significant proportion of their employees work from home.
  • High demand for home office equipment as the same companies gear-up staff for remote working.
  • Timid consumers when it comes to discretionary items.
  • Interest rates stay low for a decade.
  • House prices bounce back, except for apartments.
  • Unemployment rate at around 7%. Youth unemployment double that.
  • Shopping centres with many, ‘exciting new shopping experience coming soon’ hoardings on empty spaces.
  • No one mention the phrase ‘budget surplus’.
  • Not as many foreign students in the Melbourne CBD.
  • Universities crying poor and having to find ways to educate Australian kids.
  • Tourism, hospitality and entertainment jobs thin on the ground. Plus far fewer backpackers serving you at your fav trendy spots.
  • A bunch of hotels shutting up shop and being converted to apartments.
  • ASX popping up and down like a hip-hop dancer but gradually climbing back.

Australian politics

  • A great deal of difficulty for the Federal Government in retreating from the higher level of New Start (now rebranded Jobseeker) allowance. Same with the free childcare.
  • Saint ScoMo going to an election in 2021, before all the stimuli and incentives have been fully removed, and winning a thumping majority.
  • Politicians of all colours rediscovering a passion for Australian manufacturing – read lots of investment incentives.
  • Labor party has nowhere to go, seeing as Coalition has gone further left than they ever dared to dream.
  • Australia to never pay off government debt, becomes the perpetual political football for the next century.

Global politics

  • Finally, no one believes anything the Chinese Communist Party says.
  • Climate change what now? Gretta who?
  • India/China conflict becomes real possibility if India’s death toll from the virus becomes too great.
  • Trump loses to Biden and VP Kamala Harris or VP Michelle Obama. (Yup, that’s probably the biggest call of all).
  • Boris Johnson has his statue added to the panoply of heroes, colonists and rogues in Whitehall.
  • Italy changes government, at least twice, by the end of 2021.
  • Germans finally give up on ever seeing one euro cent of their money back from the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain).
  • National borders actually mean something again. Who knew Aus would be proved right on that one?
  • Instability in global markets and high unemployment open the door for right and left extremist parties to increase popularity. Both sides only needing a charismatic leader to push their agenda.
  • UN and various bodies like WHO face reform pressure but opt for resistance that sees their funding slashed.
  • US China trade war on again as Trump makes last desperate effort to look tough and CCP just waits him out.
  • Middle East – same.
  • Russia never discloses coronavirus death toll. Kremlin doesn’t care. Vladimir Putin still Tsar.

General

  • Much grumpiness about our third world standard NBN speeds. Thanks Rudd and Turnbull.
  • Turnbull memoir ‘A bigger picture’ (no, seriously, he wanted a bigger picture) the bargain bin winter read (or draft-stopper) of the year.
  • Not to be outdone. Rudd releases third tome entitled  ‘How I would have crushed coronavirus, if only that two faced f’n @#%* had backed me for UN Secretary General’.
  • No more Bali trips, so more tattooed and toothless on the Gold Coast. One wouldn’t think it possible, but it is.
  • Great OS travel deals, assuming you’re allowed into destinations and you don’t face an involuntary 14-day extension to your time away from home on return to Aus.
  • The ABC’s credibility plumbing new lows, given that they predicted we would all be dead by now, because we didn’t lock ourselves away for six months. While they continued to ‘work’ – and get paid.
  • Coronavirus beard growing becomes new status symbol. (Labelled misogyny by feminists)
  • New office game of spot the colleague’s naked partner walk across the background of screen in teleconference meetings.
  • Louis Vuitton release a range of tracksuit pant business wear. No, wait, they already do. No joke, LV monogramed Track Pant for the low, low price of $1,760.

But sadly

  • Africa and India suffer massive death toll from coronavirus. Near Asia not far behind.
  • We collectively learn little from this fiasco and the next one is worse, or worse still, deliberate.

Tony Abbott: Architect of his own Demise

It is impossible not to feel for Tony Abbott after the events of Monday this week. There is no doubt that he is a well-intentioned man with, what he considered to be, the nation’s best interests at heart.

It must be acknowledged how devastatingly effective he was as an Opposition Leader; albeit using his core strengths (dogged determination, a boxing blue, and, yes, three word slogans) to lower the tone of Parliament, and the approach to national politics in general. In this endeavour he had many willing co-conspirators from both sides of the Chamber and beyond.

During that period one could argue that he effectively took down three Prime Ministers (Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd – twice), no easy task. What no one recognised during what appeared to be his ‘Howitzer’ phase was that he was also drawing up the plans for his own downfall.

He wasn’t a mere draftsman; he was an architect.

He demonstrated how to exploit a broken promise with a zeal unlikely seen anywhere outside a relationship on the rocks. It would be almost impossible to calculate the number of times a high-vis Abbott reminded us about the carbon tax that should never have been.

He was a pathfinder, illuminating the way for future Oppositions.

That’s what makes the Budget of 2014 so mystifying.

A litany of broken promises that drained the pool of credibility, which had been partially filled during the long years he had led the Opposition (granted, it was not terribly deep).

Compounded by the perception that it was highly inequitable, that Budget triggered a response from our collective reptilian brain that fairness was still an Australian trait. Assault fairness – insult the nation.

The sales job was carried out via the echo chamber. Yell an idea in; hear a slogan echoed back. It worked, but only on those doing the yelling. No one had considered informing the electorate of the need for action, let alone contemplating taking it along for the ride.

The appalling politics and communication of Budget 2014 made our former PM (and his fledgling government) an easy target; transforming him from a man of whom the nation was wary but willing to give a go; to another promise-breaking, untrustworthy, administratively inept leader.

Tony Abbott had morphed into what he had previously destroyed.

It is this aspect that generates an increased level of empathy in me for how Mr Abbott must be feeling today. The galling knowledge that in attempting to emulate one of his political heroes, that he had executed his plan so poorly he found himself at the trailhead of destruction. Ironically, he was the cartographer responsible for the map that identified his position so precisely.

It is impossible to gloss over the fact that every time he managed to give his hunters the slip, he, or one of his coterie would send up a flare alerting them to his whereabouts. From Sir Philip, to Bronwyn, to Peter Dutton’s trés hilarious joke – he was Canberra’s Tantalus, almost reaching his goal but not quite being able to reach it.

I hope that history remembers former Prime Minister Abbott with more than just a PutYourOnionsOut hash tag. He deserves better than that.

I also hope that the team of Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop go forward to deliver on their commitment of communicating with the nation, as opposed to treating us as mere tax-paying minions. After all, their decisions will likely have fairly substantial impacts on the lives of us tax-paying minions.

Finally, there’s a chance that the tenor of our national debate will improve and that we will witness some non-poll/focus group driven leadership and policy development.

Who knows, good government might have even started yesterday.

Is Australian manufacturing dead?

Australian manufacturing: good news needs to be told and sold

British made motors take over Pall Mall - Top Gear

British made motors take over The Mall – Top Gear

By John Kananghinis

With the demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry there has been hysteria at the prospect that all Australian manufacturing is doomed.

This is clearly not true. What is true is that our high input and labour costs, combined with our relatively small and yet crowded market do not allow us to compete in the manufacture of large volume , highly competitive, relatively low margin consumer products, such as the average car or white goods.

However what we can do is design and manufacture high value vehicle components, niche vehicle modifications, and complete special purpose vehicles.

A little while ago Top Gear took on the myth that the British car industry is dead – this footage clearly shows that they debunked that idea.

Admittedly the Brits do have a slightly larger market and geographic proximity to many more consumers, not to mention Japanese, German and Indian money behind many of their mass or luxury market cars, but the point to be made is much the same.

All industries go through transitions from the original business model to the one that suits the times. If they don’t they simply die. No amount of tax-payer subsidy will change that.

Well, you could try, but eventually you would end up with the Soviet era shoe factory that measured success in production units only and not sales. Consequently they produced millions of perfectly reasonable shoes, only in one style and in one size and only for left feet. Job done!

Even the recent National Commission of Audit further confirmed that trying to pick winners is ultimately not a sustainable economic setting. Industry assistance should be the exception not the rule with a heavy bias to supporting R&D rather than bolstering unsustainable markets.

We do make a lot of technical auto type stuff in this country and very successfully. We just don’t tell anyone about it, or more to the point we spend all of our effort (certainly all of the news media effort) on looking backwards and maximising the doom factor. That makes for much more arresting headlines.

Almost all component manufacturers providing parts to Ford, GMH and Toyota have had a great deal of notice that local vehicle manufacture could well cease. Most will have been working for some time on diversification and often with considerable success. Of course others may have simply made the valid business decision to shut up shop when supply of components for local manufacture are no longer needed.

However let’s name just a very few of the automotive thingies we do make, and will most likely continue making well past the closure of the traditional car manufacturing plants.

Motorhomes: Brands such as Jayco, Trakka, Apollo, Avida, Suncamper, Cruisin’ and more, many exported to New Zealand and other markets.

Military vehicles: The Australian designed and built Bushmaster troop carrier is in operation with the military of the following nations, Australia, Great Britain, The Neatherlands, Japan, Indonesia and Jamaica.

Trucks: Kenworth, Volvo, IVECO and CAT all build a range of heavy trucks in Australia.

Earth moving and agricultural machinery: From diggers to harvesters to specialty machines for uniquely Australian conditions.

Buses: Most buses and tour couches in Australia are still body-built locally on imported chassis.

Emergency Vehicles: From ambulances to fire trucks to off-road rescue vehicles designed and built in Australia on locally produced and imported chassis, the vast majority of our emergency vehicles are largely Australian built.

Components, Design and R&D: Even the retreating mainline vehicle manufacturers have indicated that due to the specialist skills developed they will be keeping large sections of their local R&D and design capabilities. Automotive component makers of all sorts will continue to provide high value parts for many years to come.

Australia also makes trams, train carriages, truck trailers and even a whole lot of aircraft parts for the latest military and commercial planes built both in Europe and the USA.

The lesson is clear.

If you have a good news story to tell there is a willing audience and very often a willing partner in State and Federal Government to help you tell it. However, you need to take the lead in getting the story out there.

The bad news stories sell themselves. Good news needs skilful packaging and presenting. The resulting positive impact on companies and workers, let alone the broader community, is worth making the effort.

As part of a business supporting communication strategy, ICG has helped many companies make the most of their good news.  If you have good news there is no point hiding it, take the opportunity to add to a collective positivity index.

JK

Lobbying

Lobbying – knowing what case to put to whom

Recently RMKA assisted one of our clients in lobbying policy makers to rectify a commercially detrimental departmental ruling that destroyed a business case for niche high-value local manufacture.

The client had taken the appropriate legal measures to challenge a departmental ruling but had been caught in a technical detail dead-end. To the point where even the legal advisors suggested that a revised policy direction should be sought.

RMKA reframed the matter in clear policy terms with all of the positive and negative implications outlined in language that had public and electoral resonance.  We then engaged with politicians who had a natural stake in a successful outcome and gained their support to take the matter to the appropriate Minister for policy direction.

The result was that the relevant government department was given instructions to work with the client to resolve the matter and to get the local manufacturing case back on track.

The point illustrated is that on occasions it may be more advantageous to present a policy argument to those charged with a broader public interest rather than to further pursue a narrow legal argument.  The trick is to know how to put the policy case forward and to whom to put it.

That’s why, be it a legal or policy argument to be made, the appropriate professionals should be engaged.

RMKA has over 30 years of experience in working with government and is listed on the Australian Government Register of Lobbyists and the Victorian Government Professional Lobbyists Register.

JK