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Published 09 January 2013 08:49, Updated 30 January 2013 21:57
My final professional act of 2012 was appearing on a panel show with a researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies. At the conclusion of our chat about gun control and the surplus, we were asked to name our wish for the New Year. We both hoped for a more positive tone and greater optimism in public discussion in 2013.
We clearly weren’t alone in this respect. Treasurer Wayne Swan ended the year telling the world that Australians were an intrinsically optimistic people and that he hoped in 2013 that the relentless negativity that has characterised much of political “debate” last year would recede in favour of more positive contributions (not that he conceded the Labor government was the chief cause of the bad vibe).
On my first day back at work for a new year, with a clean desk and an almost empty email inbox, I have been thinking about how we can bring some much needed optimism back.
After the last two years Australians are ready for a new story, a break from the pity party we’ve been having for some time now. An October Ipsos poll for Reuters shows the conditions are ripe for a shift. Some 81 per cent of those surveyed agreed that 2013 will be a better year than 2012 and 53 per cent agreed that the global economy will improve in 2013.
Consumers themselves recognise this. Said one older man in our Mind & Mood research last year: “I am quite optimistic about the economy at the moment. If America and Europe pick up, we will be OK. In the last 20 years we haven’t had great manufacturing or exports. And we have survived. Maybe I am optimistic because you have to be optimistic.” Other participants echoed the sentiment. Underneath all the complaining about governments and taxes and cost of living is the understanding we are better off than most.
Even if people are ready for a new, more positive national conversation, how do we bring back the optimism? Focus on what we have now – our standard of living, our national endowments, the strength of the people here and those coming here and our fortuitous location in a growing region. And focus on our ability to change with changing times by seeking out new opportunities beyond the resources sector. The future challenges and threats are there but as people’s worst fears haven’t be realised, it’s a chance for a pep talk that consumers are more receptive to than they have been for some time.