She’ll be right mate! (we hope)

March 20, 2009 at 2:00 am 5 comments

The global financial hissy fit is hitting Australia. We are not immune, despite this country having rich, natural resources. You need a country or two to buy these natural resources and if those countries (like China) are feeling pain, well, you ‘aint going to sell as much as you think. What happens is that these countries come after your natural resources, hoping to get them at bargain basement prices – so, for example, Chinalco has an AU$30 billion bid for 18% of Rio Tinto (although I suspect the Foreign Investment Review Board will block this).

Our national unemployment rate has risen from 4.8% to 5.2% on the heels of 590,000 people being tossed out of a job. Australian banks are ditching their employees overboard and moving jobs to India. Pacific Brands (the company behind labels like Bonds, Holeproof, Berlei and Hard Yakka) has closed seven of its Australian factories and axed 1850 jobs (which will be sent offshore as part of its restructuring plan). In a day of horror, 3565 jobs were lost when BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, David Jones and CSR took the razor to their workforces.

Our PM is saying: “Things will get worse before they get better ….The magnitude of the global financial crisis almost beggars belief.”

But I was having lunch with a chap the other day and this person said: “Global recession? What recession? People are still lunching and buying things. She’ll be right mate!” Ah, yes the good old Aussie national response to anything that looks as though it might disrupt our obsession with footy, meat pies, Holden cars or retail therapy. This response has always struck me as about as dumb as sticking your head in the sand. Alternatively, we could say it’s the Aussie fighting spirit – that we’re a nation of tough as boots people who endure harsh weather, droughts, floods, bushfires, you name it. So a global financial hissy fit isn’t going to scare us one bit. Bring it on!

But pause for thought: I had to travel to Melbourne earlier this week to facilitate a meeting and in the hotel room was a copy of The Week (Australian edition, March 13 2009). I’d been reading Harry S Dent’s book, The Great Depression Ahead, and was too forlorn to continue onto Chapter 7 that evening. So I picked up the mag and it opened magically to page 3, where my eye immediately caught sight of this quote (by David Salter):

“What worries me is that when the bad times arrive, which they surely must, we might not turn out to be quite as resilient as we thought. Australians today aren’t the same stoic bunch as those who faced the Great Depression. For them, Gallipoli and the horrors of the Western Front were just 15 years earlier. Many of the tough men and women who’d survived the terrible drought and financial hardships of the 1890s still sat at the head of family tables. We’re much softer now – coddled by welfare entitlements and high standards of living based on personal debt. Will we still have the reserves of tenacity, endurance and self-sacrifice to match our grandparents?”.

And THIS I think is the profound question that will face Australians in 2009 and 2010. As a nation, do we still have the right stuff to weather the vicious storm ahead?


Entry filed under: Australia, Economics, Reflections. Tags: , , .

Something more sane this way comes Camp USA

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liz  |  March 22, 2009 at 8:43 am

    An insightful post as usual.

    I don’t have answers to the big global stuff.

    I tend to work with what’s in my particular sphere of influence.

    I’m working on keeping a positive and practical attitude … and … putting in place practical actions.

    In my small local community here in Ireland I’ve been bartering my skills and time … for things I need.

    I’ve started my own organic garden and tend to enjoy fairly simple and social things that don’t cost money.

    There’s also a great opportunity to just be thankful for my health, family and friends … and the gorgeous landscape around here.

    I have more time to be part of my community and develop some new online ventures.

    Ultimately I’ll be choosing to be resilient … and living the values that make me happy to be alive.

    I refuse to be any part of a self fulfilling prophecy about depression … be it global or personal.

    I have less money than ever … and … I’ve renegotiated my debt load … and pay my phone and electricity in small pieces.

    I’m very wealthy in other ways.

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  March 22, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Hi there Liz!
    I hope my readers see your comment and think to themselves – you know, I don’t need “stuff”. I had a garage sale this weekend – getting rid of years’ worth of stuff. I made some money but….better I felt actually quite relieved to be rid of things. I was amazed.

    I was only going to do one sale, now it will be three – and I am “downsizing” to the bare essentials.

    I will be calling on your mentoring assistance when I finally make the move onto the land. I would very much like to learn about bartering skills as you have done.

  • 3. Liz  |  March 22, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Hi Kim
    The other process that has been developed in Oz and other countries is LETS schemes.

    They were started in another recession where people had time but not a lot of money. I know they have been going in W.A for over 20 years and are a fantastic way of creating positive exchange in communities.

    Some towns have LETS in main businesses … you go to have your hair done and it costs a few local LETS currency and a bit of money … pop into the butcher … same thing. They then have access to the LETS system and if they need a massage or a shelf built or kids looked after … just check the LETS skill pool.

    I’m starting a diary of the organic food growing course that I’m a participant on for the next 8 months … I’m a newbie to growing food and want to share what I learn online at my blog. I’ll also be doing a few hours a week free at the local garden centre to keep learning … and they’ll give me a few seeds and plants for the Sunny Funny Garden.

    I’m also finding that if you just let people know that you are interested in giving them time and skills … they will be interested in discussing some kind of exchange.

    Over Xmas I had very little money and decided to just get out and be useful to my friends and neighbours. I gave free time to the shop next door … wrote about local businesses on my blog … designed a few websites for the neighbours businesses.

    I had a great time and without asking … people just dropped in bags of coal … bought me some walking boots … gave me a voucher for a massage.

    Someone said that money is just another form of energy exchange … maybe we can use the fab brains we have to explore all the other forms of energy exchange that exist … things that our parents and grandparents did … and transform them to create new definitions of value and new forms of profit.

    Imagine if we had cultural … social … creative … community … definitions of profit … if the bottom line was more about how we engaged with each other t0 create personal and community value.

    It’s being done by people everywhere … it just got a bit lost in all the noise of the Economic Boom.

    Apologies for colonising your post with a nearly post of my own Kim.

    It’s just that I believe so passionately about our own power and capacity to make a real difference … with persistence … with skill … and with support from others.



  • 4. thinkingshift  |  March 23, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Hi Liz

    Don’t apologise for “colonising” – it’s great stuff. When will you be starting the “how to grow food” section of your blog? please let me know as I’d like to do a post on this and alert my readers who are interested in sustainability (and I want to learn too!!).

    I am sensing that the economic crisis will lead us back (I hope) to gentler, more communal aspirations. People will think about not owning so much stuff or being in debt up to their eyeballs. People will return to crafts, growing their own food and as you say, exchanging skills.

    I will looks up LETS schemes, didn’t know about this so many thx Liz!!

  • 5. Liz  |  March 23, 2009 at 7:17 am

    HI Kim
    I started the Organic Food Growing diary last night and posted about the first 2 weeks of the course.

    The course is 2 hours a week for 8 months and I’m already hooked on gardening. There are 10 of us and we will all get to share in the harvest.

    I never thought I’d cooo at baby plants … life is full of great surprises.

    The diary is a page at the top of my blog.

    I’ll update it with words and photos each week.

    People can leave questions and comments and I’ll take them to our brilliant teacher Ingrid.

    LETS schemes have been going in Oz for over 2 decades and in WA there used to be a person in a government department who gave advice. There are schemes in cities and country areas and they have developed core info on codes of good practice. I’d say that a few of them probably have sites and written infor packs that you could look at.

    One thing they did for newbie LETS schemes (and this was about 17 years ago when I lived in WA before moving to Ireland) was link them to a nearby established LETS scheme. That way you had access to a big skill base and could grow your own … when you got to a certain size you went off on your own.

    I’m planting seeds in my seed trays this week. I also realised that all you Oz people are in different seasons – we’re in Spring and you’re in Autumn. What I know (and it’s not a great deal) is that Autumn is a time for late harvesting; preparing and covering the ground for the winter – and maybe sowing things for the winter.

    Have a wonderful week Kim. We had 5 days sunshine and Ireland won some rugby game last week … so there are a lot of smiles here. Luckily it’s started to rain again so we don’t lose the run of ourselves.



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