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Malcolm, you have a problem. And it’s not Tony Abbott

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Has anyone noticed that Malcolm Turnbull and his team have a giant marketing problem? And while Bill Shorten might have some policies that quite rightly could be spooking retirees (who partly live off tax rebates from their investments), property investors (who could lose out because of changes to negative gearing) and investors generally (with the capital gains tax discount to be halved), he doesn’t have a marketing problem.

Sure, he says some things that Coalition and well-off Labor voters might be worried about, but generally he gets his message out effectively. On the other hand, Malcolm looks like a country bloke at an Agricultural show who, charged up on grog, thinks it’s a good idea to volunteer to take on a boxer from the Jimmy Sharman tent.

And he’s not landing a glove on his opponent!

These thoughts occurred to me after seeing how the National Energy Guarantee debate has been a shocking problem for the Government. This is largely created by the PM’s right wing enemies in his own party, like Tony Abbott. However, it’s not helped by his own and his supporters’ pretty poor efforts to tell us how damn good they are! That’s the point of marketing, isn’t it?

I find the Government’s marketing efforts hopeless. Personally, I have an invitation to a Minister (who’ll remain nameless because I don’t want to be nasty) to come on my TV show. After three weeks, I’ve had no response! C’mon! (By the way, I’ve got invites out to Chris Bowen as well but he doesn’t seem to want to talk about his worrying policies for the people for whom I write: wealth-builders, business growers and retirees trying to cope running their own finances. The invite still stands Chris.)

I’m someone who thinks the economy under Malcolm has delivered on his promise of a few years back: “jobs and growth”. So why wouldn’t you want to crow about it?

What should they be talking about, rather than NEG all the time?

Try these nuggets:

• Today, CommSec’s senior economist Ryan Felsman shows that the Commonwealth Bank Business Sales Indicator (BSI), a measure of economy-wide spending, rose by 1% in trend terms in July.  And the  annual trend growth in sales rose to a 4-year high of 10.4% in July, up from 9.6% in June. Growth is well above the decade-average pace of 3.4!

• The RBA said only last week that :“According to the most recent data, GDP growth is 3.1%…the Australian economy looks to have grown strongly over the first half of 2018.”

• Unemployment fell to 5.3% in July, down from 5.4% in June. This is the lowest unemployment rate in 5½ years.

• The 12-month moving average of the NAB employment index rose to a record high +9.58 points in July, up from +9.3 points in June. The long-term average is +1.7 points. This reading is the best ever!

• The Westpac/Melbourne Institute survey of consumer sentiment index fell from 106.1 to 103.6 in August but it was from 4½-year highs in July. The index is above its long-term average of 101.4 and any reading above 100 says optimists outnumber pessimists.

• And while still on the more confident consumer, the average credit card balance rose by $21.30 to a 5-year high of $3,272.70 in June. Balances were up by 4.6% over the year – the strongest annual growth rate in almost eight years. In smoothed terms, the average balance was up by 1.3% – the strongest annual growth rate in 6½ years. After the GFC, when confidence was shot, these balances were always falling.

• With all these worries about house prices finally not surging in Sydney and Melbourne, house prices are only falling moderately. And importantly, the proportion of first home buyers in the market hit 6-year highs!

• And on house prices, the CoreLogic Home Value Index of national home price index fell 0.6% in July, to be down 1.6% over the year – the biggest annual fall in six years! But look at the numbers: 0.6% in a month and 1.6% for the year! We have been so used to rises and big rises that these minute falls are the biggest in six years!

In summary, we’re living in a country with record low interest rates, we’re creating jobs like topsy, we’ve see house prices spike to make home owners wealthier, but now the price falls are moderate. And first home buyers are getting a chance to buy and there are signs that wages are starting to grow, albeit slowly.

The political experts say the next election will be fought on immigration and energy. Well, if I was Malcolm, I’d point to the economic scoreboard and remind them what it was like when his rivals ran the economy.

Let’s face it, Malcolm isn’t great with the people of Australia like Bob Hawke and John Howard were. However, to offset his aloofness, he needs to keep pointing out that he’s good at the stuff that creates jobs and lowers budget deficits, which could really help when the next recession eventually comes along.

On Friday, RBA boss, Dr Phil Lowe appeared before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics and said something that the Government’s marketing team should have seized upon: It’s good news that the Budget is on a sustainable track. The first is from an insurance perspective. Australia has gone a long time without having a recession. One day we will have one… When that day comes, it will be useful if the government has the financial capacity to help stimulate the economy. So the job just isn’t left to monetary policy. The government needs to run disciplined budgets in good times. I also worry about intergenerational equity. Whether it is right for our generation to continue financing services and government expenditure using debt which our children will have to pay back.”  

This is a huge pat on the back for the Government and we’ve heard nothing about it. If this good stuff had been said about Bill Shorten’s efforts, Labor would’ve been smart enough to get it out there for everyone to see and hear! But if you recall the efforts of Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd, Labor has always been better at marketing.

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Published: Monday, August 20, 2018


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