Voters typically rank economic issues among their top concerns. And campaigning politicians regularly make bold (but vague) pronouncements regarding their competence and credibility as “economic managers.” In popular discourse, economic “competence” is commonly equated with being “business-friendly.”
However, the economy consists of more than just private businesses – and certainly more than the large businesses which attract the main attention from politicians and reporters. Other stakeholders are at least as crucial for powering real economic progress: including workers, households, governments at all levels, small businesses, public and non-profit institutions, NGOs and the voluntary sector, and more. So being “business-friendly” is no guarantee that the real economy (measured by employment, output, and incomes) will automatically improve. Having a more complete understanding of all of the different ingredients required for economic progress is necessary, in order to properly analyze the likely impact of specific measures.
To demonstrate the lack of correlation between a government’s stated economic orientation, and the actual performance of the real economy, this briefing paper compiles historical data on twelve standard indicators of economic performance: including employment, unemployment, real output, investment (of various forms), foreign trade, incomes, and debt burdens. Consistent annual data is gathered going back to the 1950s, allowing for a statistical comparison of Australia’s economic record under the various post-war Prime Ministers. We compare Australia’s economic performance under each Prime Minister, on the basis of these twelve selected indicators.
There is no obvious correlation between these respective swings in Australia’s economic history, and the policy orientation of the government that oversaw them. And the statistical review indicates that the present government, regardless of its business-friendly credentials, has in fact presided over one of the weakest economic periods in Australia’s entire postwar history.