If you think I’m biased towards Malcolm Turnbull as PM because I was his patrol captain when we were both 21 years of age, or because I’m a dyed in the wool Liberal supporter, then you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve always loved that one liner — anything worth doing, is worth doing for money — and with Malcolm I calculated that the economy and the stock market would perform better. And that’s really important for my readers here, for those who subscribe to my investment newsletter called the Switzer Report, and those who watch me on TV or follow me on Twitter and Linkedin.
I know I get ripped into whenever I get political in this column but I don’t do it because I have the passion of an Andrew Bolt or Alan Jones groupie. And I gave up believing the Labor Party was for the little guy when I was much younger and saw real profits actually rose faster under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating than did real wages!
But those two guys showed me a Labor Government can be good for the economy, as they won over support for the union movement via the Accord and actually created good growth. Sure, it ended in a stock market crash in 1987 and then a 1990 recession but a lot of their repair/reform work made it easy for John Howard and Peter Costello to keep the positive changes going with the GST, overall tax reform and the conversion of chronic budget deficits into surpluses!
And over that time I learnt (because I did this stuff every day for newspapers, radio stations such as Triple M, then Mix 106.5, the ABC and later 2UE then 2GB) that gutsy governments can create the conditions that partly explain why we have grown since 1991 without a recession!
The payoff was that unemployment went as low as 4% under John Howard as the chart below shows:
Good government can help unemployment fall, and Labor governments of the 1980s achieved that too, but they weren’t in the business of punishing business and investors, as Bill Shorten is currently planning with some of his policies. They might look OK, socially, but they worry me economically-speaking and market-wise.
I’m sorry if you don’t like it but I’m not here to keep you politically happy. I’m here to explain the economic and money consequences of who runs Australia, Donald Trump, the team ruling China and anything else that might hit your hip pocket.
My fear of a PM Peter Dutton, the bad look for the Government, and then the likelihood that Bill becomes PM, was played out yesterday when Wall Street gave us a nice lead in, all Asian stock markets were up on good, potential trade talk news between the USA and China, but our S&P/ASX 200 index was down 60 points (or 0.96%)!
Worse still, my listed Switzer Dividend Growth Fund fell 4 cents to $2.61 and that’s another reason why I prefer Malcolm over Bill and Pete! However, that’s me being self-interested, but as Paul Keating once observed, if you go to the races and “you see a horse called ‘Self Interest’, back it because you know it’s trying!”
But back to the bigger picture, under Malcolm, the NAB business conditions reading went to a record high, which says businesses had never felt so good about their businesses! By the way, that has recently gone off the boil and I suspect a lot of the political paralysis and internal fighting over tax cuts, energy policy and the fact that banks are being forced to play hardball with borrowers (following the Royal Commission and APRA’s heavy-handedness) have made business life not as good as it was in April, when the reading was the best ever.
And while the Royal Commission has been good for bringing bad banking practices to book, this was a Labor-encouraged development, which has been good socially but negative economically-speaking.
I’ve argued before that if past governments had really cared about financial abuse of ordinary Aussies and small business, they would’ve created a financial consumer claims tribunal that would have blasted banks and other financial bodies for behaving badly.
And now we come to Pete Dutton. If Peter is a hand puppet for the hard right-wingers, we could see him try to win an election on lower energy prices and less immigration. This would appeal to a lot of voters, who hate the rise in energy prices and who believe immigration is excessive.
The first would be good for the economy — lower prices to consumers and lower costs for energy would be pluses — but we’d have to see what kind of international reaction follows, if we give the world committed to fighting climate change the big finger.
There could be trade sanctions from some trading partners but the biggest effect would be brand damage, but I guess a lot of us could live with that.
However, cutting back on immigration would have significant economic effects.
Economists say our 27 years of growth without recession was helped by our big immigration programme. So new immigrants create more jobs than they take and it would reduce demand for housing as well, and that has economic implications as well.
Meanwhile, political experts argue the idea of Malcolm being replaced by Pete would probably help Labor win the next election. This is how Paul Dales from Capital Economics would see an Oz economy under Bill: “If Labor does get in, then that would change the economic outlook. The tax system would be less favourable and the housing market would certainly be in the firing line."
Housing and immigration creates economic growth, jobs and income, which in turn helps spending and businesses make better profits, stock prices go higher and our super funds keep doing well like they have since Malcolm’s arrival.
Since September 2015, when Malcolm became PM, the stock market has added around 26% including capital gain and dividends, and have a look at how our best super funds have performed.
All the above are good reasons why I’m not jumping up and down for joy at the prospects of a new Prime Minister. The current one has his shortcomings and is hopeless at marketing his stronger points but the economy and the stock market (my beats) are looking pretty damn good.
And remember, I’m not some academic economist or sociologist. I have about 50 staff, a big energy bill and pay rent in the CBD of Sydney. But according to my calculations, the pros outweigh the cons with Malcolm T.