The 1964 book ‘The Lucky Country’ by Donald Horne is often remembered as a hard-hitting critique of Australia’s leadership. Considered one of the most influential books in the country’s history, Horne’s message was that while Australia had been lucky, he doubted whether it deserved its luck and unless it lifted its game, this would not last. Horne claimed Australia’s climb to power and wealth was based on luck rather than the strength of its political or economic system, which he considered ‘second rate’.
Australia holds the world record for the longest period of economic growth among developed economies, now into its 28th year. However, in 2018 Australia remained number 20 on the Global Innovation Index – a quantitative innovation measurement tool that can assist in tailoring policies to promote long-term output growth, improved productivity, and job growth.
This contrast infers that the key theme of the ‘The Lucky Country’ is still relevant today, and where energy is concerned, this is indisputably the case. Australia has an abundance of every energy resource – from some of the world’s largest coal and natural gas reserves to enviable renewable energy potential. We even have more than 38% of the world’s uranium reserves if nuclear power were to become a reality. Yet through successive governments we have given away our comparative energy advantage.
Australia has gone from having a competitive advantage in energy costs to being one of the most expensive countries in the world. For Queensland farmers, the price of electricity has increased about 10 times the rate of inflation over the last 10 years. Farm businesses are losing their ability to compete globally, and we are seeing significant job losses and loss of income. For irrigated and intensified agriculture, which are the product quality and quantity ‘engine room of production’, the price of electricity is unsustainable.
Where energy is concerned, we appear to have learned little 55 years after Horne’s book. As a member of the Agriculture Industries Energy Taskforce, QFF implores all federal political parties to end the hyper-partisan approach to energy and adopt the taskforce’s solutions: https://www.irrigators.org.au/wpcontent/uploads/2019/04/NIC_federal_election_2019_ENERGY.pdf.