A year of the unexpected

Thursday, 01 December 2016

John Brogden AM FAICD photo
John Brogden AM FAICD
Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Company Directors

    John Brogden reflects on the unpredictable events that have shaped 2016 and calls for the promotion of our open, free economy in the year ahead.

    2016 will be one of those years we talk about for generations. Just like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communist east in 1989, and the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11 in 2001, this year will certainly live on beyond 31 December.

    This year has been the year of the unpredicted. Brexit in June, Donald Trump in November – the people have spoken, albeit only just, for significant change to the political and economic orthodoxy of the last 35 years. Both were votes against rather than votes for. Regardless, the negative sentiment cannot be ignored.

    What is interesting is that circumstances after these two events have been hit by the full force of reality. In the UK, the pound in freefall, the massive cost to taxpayers of exiting the EU and the reality that nothing will change in legislative terms for years.

    In the US, post-election reality has seen Donald Trump start by adopting the mantra of the conservative firebrand Richard Nixon – campaign from the right but govern from the centre. His rhetoric has by and large lifted and his proposed cabinet appointments have shown unexpected guile and compromise.

    But this remains the year of the unpredicted and uncertainty.

    In Australia, we came close to the first one-term government in over 80 years with an election in July that bought us very near to the second hung parliament in six years. And it delivered a senate, the complexity of which no one could have predicted, that will make governing extremely difficult for the next two parliaments.

    As I write this, there is just over a month to go before we reach the end of 2016. If this year has shown us anything it’s that a lot can happen in that period of time, and only someone very brave would dare to predict what that may be.

    So in a year marked by the negative, there are things worth fighting for in 2017 and beyond.

    Australia must continue to be a bastion for free trade. As a large nation with a small population in the corner of the world, our survival rests on our ability to sell our services and goods around the globe. This will always mean that our economy changes to meet the needs of export markets. It means jobs will come and jobs will go. It means industries too will come and go.

    But this message of a changing economy has been happening since the industrial revolution and has accelerated in the last ten years in a manner few could have predicted. Jobs and whole industries have disappeared – but new jobs and new businesses have been created. Its hasn’t been a seamless process, but disruption never has been or will be. Yet we embrace the benefits of new technology while blaming trade for the casualties in our economy.

    As AICD members tell me time and time again in our surveys, they are desperate for long-term policy.

    Let 2017 be the year we defend and promote the benefits of our open, free economy against the headwinds of populism, short-termism and protectionism.

    A message from the Managing Director and CEO

    Thank you for your support over the past year. Our success is only possible because of you.

    On behalf of our chairman Elizabeth Proust AO FAICD, our board and staff, I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.

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