14 December 2019
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Please take the road less travelled and lead us

Watching Brexit play out like a basketball game, where the likely outcome oscillates between one team, the Brexiteers and the other, the Remainders, makes you realise how disappointing our political leaders are. Recently I vented my annoyance at the mob in the House of Commons in my Switzer Report, as I looked at the things I didn’t like for the week, this way:

“The Brexit balls up! Who is really surprised that UK politicians, who do the best impression of a group of snotty, dull-witted toffs and who speak like they are well educated, but on their collective actions show they are dopes when it comes to leading a country, an economy and a business sector!”

Yeah, I know it was a tough assessment but these clowns are dilly dallying when the UK economy, like the global economy along with ours, are poised to either dodge or cop a recession bullet.

I reckon the economics team advising Donald Trump is telling him that his trade war is getting dangerous. It’s why the President’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has been giving the media titbits about the chances of a trade deal happening because he knows confidence needs to be helped and managed or else recession winds could start developing into an unstoppable hurricane.

The Institute for Supply Management said earlier this month that manufacturing activity in the US fell to its lowest level in a decade. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Kudlow told us that tariffs on China scheduled for December could be withdrawn, if trade talks continue to go well.

I remain in the “we will dodge the bullet” camp but we need a trade deal and a sensible end to this Brexit debacle. And this isn’t because I’m sick of the political pygmies who seem to have found their way into the parliaments and houses of politics in so many countries. It’s because these second-raters are increasing the chances of a recession worldwide, when it doesn’t have to happen.

Ironically, Donald Trump isn’t a political pygmy but he needed to know that there were others worldwide who might have helped to moderate his actions on trade. That said, China needed to be brought to book, as its leadership has done a great impression of an Asian version of the mafia, with so many businesses arm-twisted into unfair agreements to simply do business in China.

Doing business often meant companies surrendering their intellectual property and technological advantages to be given a fair shot at selling to the Chinese. Meanwhile, the West pretty well accepted most Chinese products so long as it wasn’t apparent that the product or service didn’t have embedded spies or spying!

That clown in North Korea needed to see that the US leadership was happy to call his bluff and while it’s questionable how much Rocket Boy has reformed his ways, at least we’re not seeing missiles over Japan nowadays.

Right now, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are being urged to think about fiscal stimulation via bringing forward tax cuts promised for the future, so the Reserve Bank won’t have to keep cutting interest rates. The Treasurer and his boss are hanging tough wanting to protect their Budget, which was set to hit surplus soon. The irony is that this desire to hang on to a potential surplus could be KO’d by a slowing economy, which isn’t reacting strongly to interest rate cuts.

You see, if an economy slows, tax collections fall and automatic spending increases, when people lose their jobs and go on the dole. That’s why giving tax cuts would increase the budget’s deficit in the short term but, by creating growth, would deliver a surplus in a year or two, which would arrive before the next election.

If Donald screws up the trade war and the Poms keep stretching out the Brexit stupidity, then business confidence won’t rebound, investment won’t increase and economic growth will fall here and worldwide, pushing up unemployment and ensuring a recession results.

I reckon Josh and Scott are gambling that a trade deal will happen, the stock market will kick up, confidence will surge along with business investment, and growth as well as jobs will show up. It should be the playbook that Donald Trump is working on for the 2020 election campaign but who knows what Donald will do?

All this apparent second-rateness makes me ponder why all of us accept that we are underperforming in so many ways. Most of us aren’t as fit as we should be and are carrying more weight than we should. Meanwhile, our business success, our wealth-building and our social achievements are often underwhelming and personally disappointing.

I’m writing this piece on a plane and the young guy beside me is reading the AFR’s Young Rich List and seems engrossed in what’s he discovering. He actually disturbed me to say that “it was incredibly interesting stuff!”

However, looking around the plane, most people are watching movies, TV dramas and I guess comedies. Now I know I’ve done the same as them in the past and undoubtedly when I next fly to Europe I will do the same again but I wonder if they had coaches in their lives — business, money or life coaches — would they be more selective about what they put inside their heads when time is so limited and so precious?

The best advice we can share with our kids, the people we might lead in our businesses and ourselves is have a plan for self-improvement. Write it down and strive to find the best influences possible that will help grow our brains and our guts to make the changes that can bring success and happiness.

Change is so hard because it means you have to choose the difficult over the easy but, as leaders, we need to tell the people we care about just how important it is to make the effort to strive for positive changes.

As the poet Robert Frost told us:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I hope Scott, Josh and all the critically important politicians in Australia and worldwide start taking the road less travelled before it’s too late!

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