Phil Ruthven Columnist

Phil is founder and chairman of IBISWorld, an international corporation providing online business information, forecasting and strategic services. He is considered one of the nation's most respected strategist and futurist on business, social and economic matters.

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Lucky country in whose hands?

Published 29 November 2012 05:14, Updated 30 November 2012 06:16

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics says the assets of Australia were valued at $10.8 trillion, or more than seven times GDP in 2012. In net terms, after deducting foreign debt and equity, the value was $8.7 trillion or just under $1 million per household.

Of course, if ever put on the market – like Louisiana (by France in 1803) and Alaska (by Russia in 1867) – one could only wonder what it would bring. These two purchases by the United States for $US11.3 million ($10.9 million) and $7.2 million respectively were “steals” so to speak. Certainly it would bring more than book value, perhaps double, and would be tempting to some. But this is idle speculation, as the place is not for sale. No way.

So what does the balance sheet look like? Property dominates. Land is the single largest asset at $3.7 trillion (34.1 per cent of the total), closely followed by buildings at just under $3.7 trillion (34 per cent). These make up two-thirds of total assets.

Natural resources, dominated by minerals, valued at $863 billion, account for 8.2 per cent.

Financial assets are significant at 11.4 per cent of the total, dominated by shares (5.4 per cent) and securities (2.6 per cent). Foreign liabilities are a whopping $2.1 trillion, although a more digestible $880 billion on a net foreign liability basis after allowing for overseas financial assets.

So who owns the joint? The graphic reveals all. Of course, the population of 23 million people own most of the country, apart from 8 per cent in foreigners’ hands (on a net basis).

But in terms of direct ownership, households own a lesser share (61 per cent), as some 1.6 million businesses own 17 per cent and government owns some 14 per cent.

This is a well-off nation, rated in the world’s top 10 for standard of living and quality of life. Four capital cities are in the 20 most liveable, with Melbourne named the world’s most liveable in 2012.

This is enviable ranking for a nation that is 51st in population size among the world’s 230 nations and principalities, 17th in GDP (per person basis) size.

Many others want to live, work and raise future generations here. We can’t blame them for such an ambition.

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