Selected for The Best Australian Political Writing 2008
WHEN THE HISTORICAL datelines are being drawn up, the year 2005 may be marked down as the Indian summer of Australia’s decade-long economic boom. Truly it seemed as if the sun might never set. Household disposable incomes, measured in dollars, were half as high again as they had been a decade earlier – a deluge of personal wealth we’d not seen since the halcyon postwar years. The dollar values of Australians’ homes had more than doubled, while the interest rates they were paying on their mortgages were almost a third lower. Unemployment had fallen from almost 9 per cent in 1995 to little more than 5 per cent in 2005, and the average duration of that enforced leisure had roughly halved (from about six months to three). Housing extensions and renovations were making millionaires of builders across the major cities, while big-screen televisions and “home cinema” equipment were walking off the display floors faster than they could be ordered. “The economy” – that menacing couplet which had quickened the heartbeat of thousands of newspaper readers for decades – seemed to have become what the Romans would have called a cornucopia: a horn of plenty.
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