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‘Crunch time’: Renewed calls for greater national leadership to ensure ‘aspiration, growth and security’

“Aspiration, growth, and security” need to be the core priorities of Australia’s political and business leaders, lest the nation fails to properly reform and respond in this era of geopolitical multipolarity.

“Aspiration, growth, and security” need to be the core priorities of Australia’s political and business leaders, lest the nation fails to properly reform and respond in this era of geopolitical multipolarity.

I know, I know, I am beginning to sound like a broken record, for that, I am sorry.

But there is a growing conversation beginning to take place in the physical pages and digital webpages of Australia’s major media mastheads: Australia, as a nation, is now in the beginning stages of “crunch time” where if we fail to address the challenges we face, our individual and collective aspiration, growth, and security are at risk.

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This is a welcome development, particularly in light of the continued deterioration of the global post-Second World War and post-Cold War economic, political, and strategic balance of power, stability, and order.

In particular, there is now at least a tentative acceptance that the consolidation of the US-led liberal, democratic, and capitalist world order that emerged in the dying days of the Second World War is a historic abnormality, rather than the norm.

Pax Americana’s promise of expanding and protecting American values like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to the whole world, all backed by economic opportunity, strategic stability, and a golden age of peace and prosperity is now crumbling before our eyes.

Spearheading this charge was the People’s Republic of China, a newly independent India, Vietnam, and a host of other nations across the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East, South America, and parts of Africa eager to reap the benefits of the capitalist world.

Meanwhile, the once great Russia limped along for a period during the Yeltsin years, only to welcome a new tsar under Vladimir Putin who kicked off the new millennium with an ambition to rebuild, reinvigorate, and consolidate Russia, bringing the nation into a new golden age.

All seemed to be travelling pretty well for this new global order, for the most part.

Peace and prosperity flourished despite periodic crises across Africa and southern Europe requiring an intervention, luring many leaders, academics, and those across the broader policy-making community into the “End of History” theory and the promise of a “peace dividend”.

Today, the scales appear to be falling from Australia’s eyes, albeit slowly, but every little bit helps.

Highlighting this, The Australian Financial Review editorial team has penned a piece, titled, Politics, business must focus on aspiration, growth and security, which lays down the gauntlet for Australia’s political and business communities, saying, “as inflation returns toward target, political and business leadership needs to focus on Australia’s post-pandemic era”.

Shifting the ‘polarised’ national debate

Many will recall my piece from November 2023, focused on declining patriotism and its impact on our civilisational confidence, where I quote infamous television mobster Tony Soprano who opened the historic series with a rather poignant quote: “It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. And I came too late for that, I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.”

As I have previously stated ad nauseam, all generations of Australian society are increasingly divided and polarised by the contemporary political debate, the economic, political, and societal direction of the nation.

And while we aren’t alone facing these domestic sociopolitical and economic challenges, we are uniquely positioned to improvise, adapt, and overcome to the benefit of all Australians.

This is the core of the Financial Review’s piece, with the editorial team stressing the need to overcome the polarised national debate, stating, “The polarised national debate is struggling to deliver the policy agenda needed to avoid the low-growth future forecast by the federal Treasury’s Intergenerational Report. This warns that Australia’s 3.1 per cent annual average economic growth of the past four decades will slump to just 2.2 per cent across the next four decades.”

Going further, the Financial Review team added, “The constituency for aspirational policies that sharpen incentives for effort, enterprise and learning needs to be rebuilt. That would help achieve the well-paying jobs, affordable housing, good schools and safe neighbourhoods in which to bring up their families. This is what the great centre of Australian politics wants.”

Seems simple enough, right? Yet why are we struggling to have the most basic principles of good electoral politics and needs of the nation met?

Many will cite challenges at home and abroad, whether it is Australia’s stagnating economic performance both currently and as is projected in the government’s Intergenerational Report or the impact of global events like the ongoing war in eastern Europe or the Middle East’s latest spiral into barbarism.

The Financial Review detailed this, stating, “A soft landing that avoids a fair dinkum recession remains a good chance. However, Australia’s economy is now slowing sharply as shown by last Wednesday’s 1.5 per cent annual GDP rate. The jobless rate is edging back up above 4 per cent. Australia’s resource-based ‘green superpower’ hopes have been set back by the global nickel bust and bear lithium market. Our biggest export market, China, is struggling to reboot its post-COVID economy.

“While war continues to rage in Ukraine, the gruesome conflict in the Middle East has now spread to the Red Sea,” the Financial Review’s editorial team further detailed.

Australia is a blank canvas

For a growing portion of Australian society, our nation is a blank canvas, as the post-Cold War wave of globalisation saw the nation wave goodbye to most of its economic complexity and diversity in favour of a resource and export-dominated market, while residential real estate speculation provided middle Australia with both a golden ladder and a golden noose.

The Financial Review team does, at least in small part, highlight the nation’s status as a blank canvas, saying, “Amid this backdrop, the Financial Review maintains that it is unacceptable for a frontier, resource-rich and immigrant-receiving economy at the foot of Asia to accept an unambitious low-growth future.”

Many Australians would agree with this, particularly as many struggle to make ends meet, face increasing waiting times for services, declining opportunities for themselves and their children, infrastructure that can’t keep pace with population growth. Simply put, many are homesick for a place that no longer exists.

The Financial Review editorial team stated, “Coming out of the pandemic, labour productivity has basically stalled since 2016. Neither side of politics has embraced the clear policy frameworks and principles and genuine tax, workplace and regulatory reform required to encourage risk-taking investment, including for the challenging low-carbon transition.”

This is again reinforced by the Financial Review, in a piece titled, Australia can aspire to much greater things, where they build on these sentiments stating, “Australia should be a much bigger nation – in population, wealth, and influence. Yet it has not had a political narrative from either party for decades that harnesses aspiration, the drive to get ahead, that the great majority of Australians want.”

This feeds directly into the need for both Australia’s political and business leaders and the Australian people to embrace an attitude of “aspiration, growth, and security” and accordingly build policy, regulatory frameworks, and the sort of communities that can nurture this opportunity.

Adding further colour to this picture, the Financial Review stated, “The vacuum has been filled by short-term fixes, like the panicky handouts to households expected to be announced this week by a Labor government desperate to be seen doing something – anything – about the cost-of-living crisis consuming its re-election chances.

“Aspirational incentives-based politics has been replaced by stale culture wars and a political narrative that insists that governments are there to hand out money they have confiscated from others or borrowed from the future. Amid polarised tribal politics, the centre ground has weakened, undermining the political system’s capacity to represent the will of the majority,” the Financial Review further explained.

This has resulted in some ways in an Australian public and economy that have become conditioned to short term, “sugar hit” policy decisions, yet like a diabetic, the longer this has gone on, the more resistant the Australian economy and people have become, once again resulting in this political malaise, disconnection, and rising division.

Final thoughts

Despite the rhetoric and lofty ambition highlighted by both sides of the political debate, this all paints a fairly gloomy picture for the average Australian, no matter the demographic group in which they fall, but especially the younger generations.

Declining economic opportunity, coupled with the rapidly deteriorating global and regional balance of power and the increased politicisation of every aspect of contemporary life, only serves to exacerbate the very reality of disconnection, apathy, and helplessness felt by many Australians.

This attitude is only serving to be compounded and creates a growing sentiment that we are speeding towards a predestined outcome, thus disempowering the Australian people and, to a lesser extent, policymakers as we futilely confront seemingly insurmountable challenges with little to no benefit and at a high-risk/reward calculation.

Taking into account the costs and implications, it is therefore easy to understand why so many Australians, both in the general public and within our decision-making circles, seem to have checked out and are quite happy to allow the nation to continue to limp along in mediocrity because, well, it is easier than having lofty ambitions.

If both Australian policymakers and the Australian public don’t snap out of the comforting security blanket that is the belief in the End of History”, the nation will continue to rapidly face an uncomfortable and increasingly dangerous new reality, where we truly are no longer the masters of our own destiny.

All of this combines to form a rather confronting and disconcerting outcome for our long-term national security and one that requires remedying immediately if Australia is to be positioned to capitalise on the truly epoch-defining industrial, economic, political, and strategic shifts currently underway across the globe.

After all, how can we ask and reasonably expect Australians, particularly young Australians, to put the national interest ahead of their own when the nation doesn’t seem to account for their own interests, particularly when taken to the end of its logical extension, the national interest is at its core, the individual’s interest?

Ultimately, Australia and Australians face these two concurrent yet interconnected challenges, which stand as the greatest challenges of our age, so which way, Australia?

Do we want to be competitive, consequential and thriving, or do we want to be “steady and sturdy” in our managed decline?

Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific region and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of partisan and bipartisan agenda setting in the comments section below, or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Stephen Kuper

Stephen Kuper

Steve has an extensive career across government, defence industry and advocacy, having previously worked for cabinet ministers at both Federal and State levels.

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