Real Estate Investment:Today

What’s Australia’s biggest economic threat?

A recession in the US usually brings on a recession in the rest of the world, although not always in Australia.

Australia has escaped such a recession twice in the past 50 years.

We avoided the early-2000s so-called tech-wreck recession, and we avoided the so-called “great recession” during the global financial crisis.

Amid ominous talk about yet another US-led global recession, there’s a chance we could escape for a third time.

But it will require being prepared to change our budget and interest settings in a heartbeat.

That’s something our new treasurer Jim Chalmers – who many don’t realise was an advisor to the treasurer during the global financial crisis – knows a good deal about.

The hunt for savings, now and then

Right now, Chalmers and finance minister Katy Gallagher says they are going line by line through the budget to look for waste and rorts.

They’ll find a lot.

That’s how it was 15 years ago for another new treasurer, Wayne Swan, and his finance minister Lindsay Tanner.

Swept into office with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007, in an election marked by plummeting unemployment, a mid-campaign interest rate hike, and growing inflation, they identified A$3 billion they could cut without blinking.

It was, said Tanner, “just for starters”.

Cuts are easy – at first

Incoming governments can always find savings because their priorities are different and because the outgoing government has grown used to spending big.

Desperate to stay in office, the Howard government shovelled $500 cheques to senior citizens on its way out.

The Morrison government handed them $250 cheques, dressed up as the cost of living payments.

Chalmers and Gallagher say they’ll save $350 million instantly by removing funds from the Coalition’s marginal-seat-focused community development program, and millions more by axing the $500 million regionalisation fund announced in the March budget before it gets started.

But circumstances can change

But even before Swan and Tanner had handed down their first budget in 2008, they were confronted by realities that made them wince.

As Swan tells it, he took a call at 6.30 am, while sheltering in his car from bucketing rain near a beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, from US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

It was January 10 2008, one year into the US subprime mortgage crisis.

Mortgage Prisoner2

Fifty US mortgage companies had declared bankruptcy.

Paulson had asked for the call.

As Swan remembers it, Paulson told him:

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