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25 years of economic growth is not everything

Media Release
Peter Whish-Wilson 7 Sep 2016

Greens spokesperson for Treasury, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, provides the following comments on the release of ABS data showing that Australia has clocked up twenty-five years of GDP growth.

Senator Whish-Wilson said, “Simply looking at GDP doesn’t give you the whole picture. While it looks like Australia has had a charmed run, the economic growth has come off the back off damage to the environment and through the robbing of future generations.

“Over the last twenty-five years Australia has released 13.5 million kilotons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere through land clearing, and the burning of coal and petrol. If we were to take the social cost of carbon as estimated by the Obama administration these emissions came with a negative impact of half a trillion dollars.  This doesn’t even include the impact of the damage of the coal we export.

“Over this twenty-five year period the number of animal species that are considered endangered has grown fifty percent from 323 to 495 as millions of hectares of bushland have been cleared.

“Australia’s economy used to ride on the sheep’s back, but now it is clear we are taking from nature and from our future to feel prosperous today.

“When Australia started its supposed charmed run of economic growth the average house price was just three times the average income and now it has blown out to more than five times, while the household debt to income ratio has gone from 50% to 160%.

“Australia’s economic growth has been at least partly based on an unsustainable and non-productive housing boom that has hurt our younger generations. For example, while 65-75 year olds are over $200,000 better off than a decade ago, 25-34 year olds are actually worse off than the same age group was ten years ago. This is despite the fact that this younger age class is more educated and saves more than previously. 

“And over the last twenty-five years at a local, state and federal level we have consistently underinvested in public infrastructure leaving our cities congested and polluted. We are now trying to play catch up to fix the backlog.

“If we took a holistic look at Australia’s economic performance over the last twenty-five years it is not as rosy as it appears. And going into rough-headwinds without any changes to the sustainability of our economy, it’s going to take serious leadership to make it any better,” he concluded.

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