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The Dismal Science
The Australian Institute of Company Directors
Releasing weekly episodes during the coronavirus crisis to bring you the latest on the economic impact of the pandemic.
4 days ago
83 - Deconstruction
The shut down of the construction industry is another hammer blow to the NSW economy. Are policymakers doing enough to soften the impact? Plus, vaccine hesitancy and we ask if hosting the Olympics is worth it.
Jul 16, 2021
82 - Home and away
Starting local then going global, we talk about the economic cost of the latest lockdowns before doing some virtual economic tourism taking in the G20 finance conference in Venice, climate change, the latest on global inflation and the value of mRNA vaccines.
Jul 9, 2021
81 - Phaseology
The government announces its four phase plan to return to a kind of normal. Will it work? Plus, lockdowns depress confidence and jobs, more on the global minimum company tax and the RBA begins to taper stimulus.
Jul 1, 2021
80 - Delta blues
With almost half of Australia's population plunged back into lockdown as the Delta variant spreads, do we need to revise the rosy forecasts from earlier in the year for pandemic recovery? Plus, a job vacancy boom, house prices keep going and European tourism.
Jun 18, 2021
79 - Ready for the four
Australia's unemployment rate has fallen to 5.1%, below the pre-pandemic level, and approaching a 'four in front of it', the target level for the government. So what's next for policy and will wage growth follow? Plus, inflation comes roaring back in the US and an Australia-UK free trade deal.
Jun 11, 2021
78 - Cheeky Beveridge
Job vacancies are at an all-time high, yet there is still slack in the labour market. Is the economy getting worse at matching workers to jobs? Plus, confidence slips back, the G7 agrees to a global minimum tax and is Biden's infrastructure package a stimulus bridge too far.
Jun 4, 2021
77 - Jabs and growth
Australia's economy is now larger than it was pre-pandemic but the slow rollout of the vaccine continues to threaten the recovery. We dig into the latest GDP numbers and ask if we need more incentives for people to get jabbed. Plus, house prices, the Victorian lockdown and the RBA says watch this space.
May 28, 2021
76 - Short supply
Global supply chains are breaking down with not enough capacity to meet demand for everything from semiconductors to furniture. What is going on and will it lead to an outbreak in inflation? Plus, the IMF's plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
May 21, 2021
75 - Phillips curveball
Unemployment keeps ticking down but wages still aren't moving. So is the relationship between unemployment and inflation broken? Plus, the latest confidence numbers, productivity in the care economy and BitCoin's wild ride.
May 14, 2021
74 - Vive la révolution
This year's budget embeds the fiscal revolution that began last year. We look at what's in this big spending budget and whether the debt is sustainable. Plus, the RBA's latest forecasts and US jobs disappoint. Apologies for Ivan's awful audio this week - we had some technical difficulties recording remotely.
May 7, 2021
73 - Syntax and sin taxes
We parse the latest statements of the RBA and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for hidden meaning on the recovery of the economy. Plus, house prices, a budget preview and sin taxes.
Apr 30, 2021
72 - Road to debtmascus
Mark says Treasurer Frydenberg has found the new fiscal religion on debt and deficits, plus weak inflation, jobs come off as JobKeeper ends and the latest from our own Director Sentiment Index.
Apr 23, 2021
71 - Money computer go brrr
Digital money is hot and central bankers want in. What is a central bank digital currency, how would it work and how would it be different from cryptocurrencies? Plus, more good news on the jobs front and what the European Super League proposal says about the global economy.
1 hr 2 min
Apr 15, 2021
70 - Vax on? Vax off
The vaccine rollout troubles continue as the government abandons its target. Is it time to downgrade forecasts? Will Australia be cut off from the world? And are we getting our risk calculus wrong? Plus, the latest confidence and jobs numbers.
Apr 13, 2021
69 - The house always wins
The Australian property market is once again off to the races. What's driving it? What, if anything, should policymakers do about it? And will Ivan ever be able to afford a nice home? Plus, more trouble for the vaccine rollout, new IMF forecasts for global recovery and Biden's plan to have multinationals pay more tax. (We are a little late getting this one out, we recorded prior to the new advice on the Astra Zeneca vaccine for under 50s.)
1 hr 11 min
Apr 1, 2021
68 - Reimagining Capitalism with HBS' Rebecca Henderson
We take a break from regular programming this week to bring you a conversation from the Australian Governance Summit between Mark and Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson on her book Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire.
Mar 26, 2021
67 - The Inflationary Universe
With fears it may once again be on the rise, we talk all things inflation. What causes it? Why is it bad? And is it coming back? Plus, how much slack is left in the labour market and has the fun stopped for GameStop?
1 hr 12 min
Mar 19, 2021
66 - Vaccine is gonna save the day
Australia is a global laggard on the vaccine rollout and is well off the pace to meet its targets. So what is the rest of the world getting right, what are we getting wrong and should we be concerned? Plus, employment gets back to pre-pandemic levels and what is a non-fungible token?
Mar 12, 2021
65 - Running hot
The US is about to embark on a grand fiscal experiment to run the economy hot, while in Australia Governor Philip Lowe is promising the same on the monetary side until 2024. We look at the new radical orthodoxy. Plus, the latest GDP numbers, the government attempts to save the tourism industry and the city or the bush.
Mar 4, 2021
64 - Lessons learned (Live at the AGS)
Crises change economic thinking. Live from the Australian Governance Summit, we look at what economists have learned from the pandemic, plus the latest jobs numbers and is inflation coming back? We recorded this episode on 1 March.
Feb 11, 2021
63 - Heal the world economy
We look at the IMF's forecasts for global growth in 2021 and its policy recommendations for recovery. Plus, confidence in Australia is up again and Bitcoin mining's effect on the planet. On a short break now till the first week of March.
Feb 4, 2021
62 - GameStop theory 💎🙌
We unpick the GameStop phenomenon to see what it all means. Is this the end of short-selling, the efficient markets hypothesis and shareholder capitalism as we know it? Are memes the new analysis? Or is it a lot of fun signifying nothing? Plus, the RBA's outlook for the year, the Biden stimulus and new thinking on the minimum wage.
1 hr 3 min
Dec 22, 2020
61 - Merry Quizmas
We mark the end of the longest of years with the longest of episodes. Ivan quizzes Mark on what's in store for 2021, plus the final (excellent) jobs numbers for the year, the government releases its update on the improving economic outlook, the latest on Brexit and Mark's summer reading list. We'll be back with more episodes in late January.
1 hr 27 min
Dec 10, 2020
60 - Feeling good
Confidence numbers are up and people are feeling optimistic as we approach the end of the roughest of years. Plus, tourism post-COVID and is Facebook a monopoly?
Dec 3, 2020
59 - More if necessary
Australia is officially out of recession but GDP is still well down year-on-year. The RBA says it's 'ready to do more if necessary'. Plus, more good news on the vaccine and what's going on with Australian coal exports to China.
Nov 27, 2020
58 - Yellenism
Biden names former Fed Governor Janet Yellen as his nominee for Treasury Secretary. What does her appointment mean for US economic policy? Plus did JobKeeper work, super debates and Bitcoin is back.
1 hr 3 min
Nov 19, 2020
57 - Boy, Georgism
We look at the NSW government's plans to get people 'out and about' and to abolish stamp duty. Plus, a paradoxically good jobs report and some rare good news on trade.
Nov 12, 2020
56 - Good news week
After a rough year, finally a week of good news: a vaccine might be around the corner and confidence is up. Plus we wrap the US election and look at the latest threats from China on trade.
Nov 6, 2020
55 - Quant uncertainty
Biden looks home but it's close. Did the polls get this one right or wrong? How have markets reacted? And what are the prospects now for a much needed stimulus package? Plus, the RBA wakes from its 'monetary slumber' and announces its first foray into quantitative easing. Is it now out of ammo?
1 hr 1 min
Oct 30, 2020
54 - One day in November
We look ahead to next week's US presidential election. Is it the most significant since the depression as some commentators claim? What does it mean for the world and will Trump or Biden win? Plus, a look at the Q3 inflation data and next week's Cup day RBA meeting.
Oct 22, 2020
53 - Playing catch-up
The COVID recession will leave Australia permanently poorer and its population smaller than it otherwise would have been. But are there choices we can make that will help us catch up? Plus a catch-up on the recent economic numbers after our break and the AICD's latest Director Sentiment Index.
Oct 8, 2020
52 - Welcome to the new age
The budget heralds a new fiscal era, according to Mark. We look at the record debt and deficit numbers, the 'heroic' forecasts and the policies the government is betting on to restore growth.
1 hr 2 min
Oct 1, 2020
51 - K
What is a K-shaped recovery and are we in one? Plus we preview the budget that Prime Minister Morrison is calling the most important since World War II.
Sep 28, 2020
50 - Grindin'
On our 50th episode, we ask whether October's budget or even lower interest rates can supercharge the recovery, which the RBA is describing as a 'slow grind'. Plus disappointing payroll jobs numbers, falling retail sales and Paul Keating gives the RBA a spray.
Sep 18, 2020
49 - Jobs surprise
Surprise good news on the jobs front with unemployment falling below 7 per cent for the first time since the pandemic started. So where are the jobs coming from? Plus house prices, the US fed commits to not lifting interest rates for the long haul, New Zealand goes into recession and the effect unemployment on sleep.
Sep 11, 2020
48 - Life at the outpost
With new data out on the Australian corporate footprint overseas, we ask what's the future of the foreign outpost in a post-pandemic world. Plus a speed round on this week's economic data.
Sep 4, 2020
47 - Abnormal people
The US Federal Reserve has changed the way it makes monetary policy decisions for the world's largest economy. Its former chair Janet Yellen said that the changes would appear subtle to most "normal human beings". So why is it such a big deal for economists? Plus the latest quarterly GDP numbers put Australia officially in its first recession in three decades. This episode was recorded on 3 September.
Aug 27, 2020
46 - On the belt and road
The Federal government looks to curb China's influence in the states, plus the Victorian situation continues to take its toll on jobs and investment.
Aug 20, 2020
45 - Nordic noir
We look at the latest GDP data from Scandinavia and ask whether Sweden has gotten the benefit of a more lenient approach to lockdowns. Plus RBA Governor Philip Lowe responds to his critics.
Aug 14, 2020
44 - Wages freeze
The Victorian second wave seems to have passed its peak but the lockdown continues to weigh down confidence, the RBA's new set of downbeat forecasts and wages growth slows to record lows. Apologies for the *dismal* audio quality on this one. We had some home technical problems in the home studios this week.
Aug 6, 2020
43 - Second quarter blues
The US and Europe experienced ugly contractions in the second quarter, though China seems to be out the other side. Plus what the Victorian restrictions mean for the rest of the economy, the resilience of Australian exports and Zoom fatigue.
Jul 31, 2020
42 - Down, down, prices are down
Australia has just experienced its worst deflation in 70 years. Should we be worried? Plus falling confidence, a rising dollar, more job losses, paid pandemic leave and the Robinhood effect.
Jul 28, 2020
41 - Mini budget, maxi debt
The 'eye-watering' debt and deficit numbers released in the mini budget, the government extends JobKeeper, the RBA governor takes aim at Modern Monetary Theory, and the coronavirus spike in Victoria and NSW continues to weigh on confidence.
Jul 15, 2020
40 - Forward guidance recommended
Should governments be more transparent in their thinking about the economy at a time of uncertainty? Plus the Victorian spike undermines confidence in the recovery and the problems with how global public health is funded.
Jul 2, 2020
39 - Could you leave me with a scar?
Could this recession leave permanent scars on the economy? Plus the Victorian COVID spike dents confidence, the turn in the job market, the Fed buys Apple bonds and twenty years of the GST.
Jun 29, 2020
38 - Prattle, jobs and the IMF
The grim IMF forecasts, record low job vacancies, what the Victorian spike means for the national economy and a very wonky discussion on the future of monetary policy.
Jun 24, 2020
37 - Jobs go low, shares go high
More heartbreaking jobs numbers, the mystery of why sharemarkets are so high when the world is so low and directors call on the government to get radical. It's another long one this week. We've divided the topics up into chapters again. If you skip forward, we won't hold it against you.
Jun 14, 2020
36 - Testing times
Australia's GDP contracted in the first quarter and Australia is now in its first recession in nearly thirty years. Are there any positives we can take from the latest GDP data? Plus New Zealand eliminates coronavirus and Ivan gets a test. We're late getting this one out but we will be back to our regular schedule with another episode this week.
May 29, 2020
35 - What's $60 billion between friends?
Treasury made a $60 billion blunder on JobKeeper. Now what should we do with the spare money? Plus negative interest rates, the death of Oliver Williamson, global trade and superspreading. This is a big episode (every minute represents approx. $1bn of the JobKeeper shortfall). We've divided up the topics into chapters. If you skip forward, we won't hold it against you.
May 25, 2020
34 - Jobs catastrophe
A record number of Australians lost their jobs in April and now one in five workers is either unemployed or underemployed. Plus the RBA's thinking on the property market, will working from home change the CBD and a rare cameo from our former Chief Economist, Stephen Walters.
May 19, 2020
33 - So what, so what, so what's the scenario?
The Reserve Bank has set out three scenarios for the Australian economy depending on how we go over the next six months in curbing the coronavirus. Plus the horror US jobs report, retaliatory China tariffs and confidence in Australia picks up. We're a little late getting this one out. Apologies to our loyal listeners. We recorded this last week before the Australian jobs numbers were released. We'll have another episode out later this week covering those.
May 10, 2020
32 - Can we live without China?
Rising tensions over the Australian government's calls for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus have raised old questions about our dependence on China. Plus more bad jobs news and the economics of vaccine development.
May 3, 2020
31 - Inflation to right of us, deflation to left of us
The coronavirus crisis has seen steep spikes in the prices of some goods and dramatic falls in others. Which should worry us more? Plus GDP growth in the US is turning out even worse than expected and we look at research into the media's influence on coronavirus cases.
Apr 25, 2020
30 - Is the cure worse than the disease?
There is some speculation that the lives lost due to the recession could outnumber those from the coronavirus itself. But the evidence from past downturns might surprise you. Plus the latest from China, what's going on with oil prices and the ugly jobs numbers start rolling in for Australia.
Apr 19, 2020
29 - Till debt do us part
After two decades obsessing over budget surpluses, Australia is entering a new normal with a massive run-up in government debt to stop the economy from flatlining during the coronavirus crisis. Should we be worried and how will we ever pay it back?
Apr 11, 2020
28 - How long will this be going on?
With a coronavirus vaccine expected to take 12 to 18 months, smart people are starting to think about what steps we can take till then to quash the virus while getting back some semblance of normality.
Apr 4, 2020
27 - The mitigator's dilemma
As the global economy goes into freefall, policymakers are faced with a dilemma: how do they slow activity enough to halt the spread of coronavirus, while at the same time providing enough stimulus to keep the economy going.
Mar 26, 2020
26 - Corona crisis
Mark and Ivan discuss how bad the coronavirus crisis could get, what the impact might be on GDP and whether there is hope for flattening the curve.
Dec 15, 2019
25 - Unconventional wisdom
Are there any positives to take from the latest GDP numbers? Is the RBA about to embark on QE? And is the property market back?
Oct 27, 2019
24 - Less than one
With Mark back from holidays, we catch up on the RBA's historic rate cut early this month and do a Nobel edition of the number of the week.
Sep 8, 2019
23 - Culture eats strategy for Brexit
Special guest Jamie Smyth of the Financial Times helps Mark and Ivan make sense of the Brexit omnishambles. This episode was recorded on 4 September, the day after Boris Johnson's government lost its majority in the House of Commons and the morning of the start of the fourth Ashes test.
Aug 28, 2019
22 - Oh, inverted world
What the hell is an inverted yield curve and should we be worried? This episode was recorded on 22 August.
Aug 15, 2019
21 - The art of trade war
Finally, we are back! New AICD chief economist Mark Thirlwell joins Ivan to talk about why Mark fell in love with economics, the US-China trade war, whether the RBA has failed and the AICD's number of the week. This comeback episode was recorded on 8 August.
Jun 7, 2018
20 - Scepticism with Chinese characteristics
Stephen and Ivan catch up on the budget and discuss the fragile Chinese economy.
Jan 24, 2018
19 - iPhone X factor
In the first episode of the year, Stephen and Ivan catch up on the 'boomy' November retail sales and the surprising midyear budget review.
Dec 30, 2017
(20)18 - HNY
In this episode, recorded in early December, Stephen and Ivan look ahead to 2018. Will the Reserve Bank continue to stay its hand? Will wages growth finally pick up? And what's the outlook for the Australian and global economies?
Oct 16, 2017
17 - Retail of woe
Stephen and Ivan talk about the 'terrible' August retail sales and the better than expected FY17 budget position.
Oct 16, 2017
16 - Change in the change
In this catch-up episode recorded in September, Stephen and Ivan talk about June quarter GDP and the August jobs report. Then AICD policy adviser Matt McGirr comes in to explain the newly passed safe harbour reforms.
Sep 8, 2017
15 - I dream of Gini
Stephen and Ivan talk inequality.
Aug 12, 2017
14 - Dollar dazzler
Stephen and Ivan discuss the recent spike in the Australian dollar, what it means for the RBA's growth forecasts and whether you should be buying foreign currency for that overseas holiday now.
Jul 27, 2017
13 - Labour market Lowedown
Stephen and Ivan do a close reading of RBA governor Philip Lowe's latest speech on the labour market.
Jul 26, 2017
12 - Take a minute
Stephen and Ivan take look at why the minutes from the RBA board's July meeting moved markets, as well as the June jobs numbers.
Jul 4, 2017
11 - In the realm of the census
For this comeback episode, we catch up on the latest economic data, Ivan asks for a pay rise and we dive into the census.
Jul 3, 2017
10 - BONUS EPISODE: Jeff Gramm talks shareholder activism
In this bonus episode of The Dismal Science, Ivan interviews Jeff Gramm, hedge fund manager and author of Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism. The book, which was on the AICD's summer reading list, traces the history of shareholder activism through eight famous shareholder letters and touches on many themes relevant to directors, including the relationship between board and management, director independence, the role of proxy advisers and the perils of groupthink.
May 14, 2017
9 - Taxes, not axes
It's our bumper Budget episode: axes are out, taxes are in. RIP 2014.
May 5, 2017
8 - Of budgets and birthdays
It’s Stephen’s birthday and it’s the budget! What a time to be the AICD Chief Economist. Discussed in this episode: [1:01] May RBA decision [1:14] Copy-and-paste March decision [1:40] April RBA decision [1:45] April RBA minutes [2:53] AICD Director Sentiment Index [3:35] 2H16 Director Sentiment Index [5:31] NAB March Business Survey [6:03] Consumer confidence still subdued [6:32] Treasurer’s good/bad debt speech [6:37] Badgerys Creek airport [6:41] Inland rail [6:52] Company tax cut [6:59] Stephen on tax reform [7:52] South Australia renewables debate [8:35] Budget countdown [8:58] Treasurer’s flags housing package [9:29] Negative gearing changes ruled out [9:52] Retiree incentives to downsize [10:06] Salary sacrificing a deposit [10:21] Barbecue stoppers [10:53] AICD’s negative gearing position [11:43] Health and education good debt? [12:17] $50bn infra package [12:20] 2014 $50bn promise [12:48] Stephen on infrastructure debt [13:18] Snowy hydro…
Apr 30, 2017
7 - On target
This week Stephen and Ivan take credit for the Treasurer getting religion on debt and discuss inflation coming back within the Reserve Bank’s target range. Discussed in this episode: [0:42] Treasurer’s good/bad debt speech [1:00] Stephen on infrastructure debt [2:16] Morrison’s 2016 position [3:43] Net operating vs net cash balance [3:55] Jim Chalmers' Better Budgeting [5:23] Operational vs capital budgets [6:13] Stephen on 1Q17 CPI data [6:24] RBA’s inflation target [9:12] RBA early adopter of inflation targeting [9:20] NZ pioneers inflation targeting [9:37] Gold standard [9:39] Monetary policy regimes [9:44] Milton Friedman’s k-percent rule [10:58] Nod to the monetarists [15:40] Expansions don’t die of old age [15:55] Wage-price spiral [16:20] Japanese deflation [16:47] Deflation and the Depression [17:13] Disinflation [17:34] Quantitative easing [17:55] Calculating CPI [18:42] Include housing in CPI? [21:29] Unexpected brief 2016 deflation [21:…
Apr 22, 2017
6 - Talk infra to me
This week Stephen and Ivan talk about making infrastructure sexy again, as well as the latest labour market data and the ongoing jobs/housing dilemma of the RBA. Discussed in this episode: [0:59] February jobs disaster [1:11] Stephen on the March jobs numbers [1:48] Jobs report sceptics [2:35] 2014 ABS error [3:42] April RBA minutes [5:42] ANZ's job ads data [5:54] NAB business survey [7:03] Polling is getting harder [9:08] Blueprint for Growth [11:30] Snowy Mountains Scheme [12:14] PM’s Snowy reboot [13:12] Keynesian stimulus [13:17] Governor Lowe on infrastructure [14:34] Grattan Institute on infrastructure [14:59] Cost-benefit analysis [15:02] NBN’s lack of cost-benefit analysis [15:13] NBN cost estimates [15:33] Infrastructure Australia [15:38] Infrastructure Australia priority list [16:22] AICD’s Director Sentiment Index [18:02] South Australian energy crisis [18:20] Elon Musk to the rescue [20:12] Stephen on infrastructure borrowing…
Apr 8, 2017
5 - The Blueprint
This week Stephen and Ivan talk about the regulator crackdown on interest-only loans and the AICD's Blueprint for Growth, which outlines our national reform agenda. Discussed in this episode: [0:46] APRA interest-only loan crackdown [0:57] RBA Governor's property warning [1:14] Bank executive comments [1:33] APRA’s original 2014 restrictions [3:44] RBA’s April interest rate decision [4:05] Council of Financial Regulators [4:41] Glenn Stevens on ‘crazy’ house prices [5:17] RBA turns downbeat [5:27] Surprise jobless rate increase [6:07] AICD’s Blueprint for Growth [7:06] AICD education programs [7:37] Stephen on infrastructure [7:50] Negative gearing escalation [8:14] Morrison: “We have a spending problem.” [8:49] Morrison: “We have an earnings problem.” [9:14] 2016 budget spending GDP share [14:07] Superannuation tax concessions cut [14:12] SME company tax cuts [14:22] Tax efficiency [15:15] Regressive tax [15:35] Land tax [16:17] Mil…
Mar 31, 2017
4 - Safe harbour
On this episode of The Dismal Science, Stephen and Ivan talk Brexit and welcome their first guest, AICD Senior Policy Adviser Lysarne Pelling, who came in to discuss proposed safe harbour laws that could save companies from painful insolvencies. Discussed in this episode: [0:59] UK triggers article 50 [1:15] Stephen's reaction the day of the Brexit vote [1:35] Maastricht Treaty [2:09] >50% of UK trade is with the EU [2:24] Gloomy forecasts for UK economy [3:58] Requirement EU 27 unanimity [4:11] Nationalist parties on the rise in Europe [4:58] Impact on UK financial services [9:55] Draft insolvency law reforms [10:41] When does safe harbour apply? [10:52] Severe penalties for insolvent trading [12:27] Insolvency law in UK and Singapore [13:24] Arrium administration's effect on Whyalla [15:43] Distressed debt funds [15:55] US Chapter 11 provision [16:51] Productivity Commission on an Australian Chapter 11 [19:20] Email Lysarne your thoughts [20:00] RBA cas…
Mar 23, 2017
3 - Is it a bubble?
In this special episode of The Dismal Science, Stephen and Ivan discuss the housing market. Is it a bubble? Should regulators be concerned? And what can we do to make housing more affordable? Discussed in this episode: [0:48] Avocado toast [0:57] Housing affordability in the budget [4:49] Australian household debt [6:29] APRA concerns (paragraph 5) [6:55] RBA's subtle shift on housing [9:28] NINJA loans [11:20] "Get a good job that pays good money." [15:19] Superannuation housing plan under consideration? [19:21] Sydney annual house appreciation [19:59] Sydney's average house-to-income ratio (second only to Hong Kong) Tweet at us @aicdirectors or message us on Facebook with feedback on the show or suggestions for upcoming topics.