Friday, June 28, 2024

How and why the tide of globalisation has turned

Politicians banging on about “security” should always be suspected of having ulterior motives, but when you to see the secretary to the Treasury giving a speech on security, that’s when you know the world has changed radically.

That’s what Treasury secretary Dr Steven Kennedy did last week. It was a sign of how much the distinction between economic issues and defence and foreign affairs has blurred as rivalry between the United States and China has grown.

We used to think of “Australia in the Asian century” as one big opportunity for us to make a buck but, Kennedy says, “we are facing a more contested, more fragmented and more challenging global environment, where trade is increasingly seen as a vulnerability as much as an opportunity”.

“In light of these challenges, it is incumbent on Australian policymakers to work together to develop sound policy frameworks and institutional arrangements that match the times. That take the long view and protect both economic and strategic interests,” he says.

We must strike a fine balance, he says. “If we fail to adequately adapt and respond to the new reality we face, we risk exposing our economy and our country to excessive risk...”

But “if we over-correct and adopt a zero-risk approach, shutting ourselves out of global markets and seeking to be overly self-sufficient, we will quickly undermine the productivity, competitiveness and dynamism of our economy,” he says.

Our economy benefited from decades of rising prosperity as international economic integration – globalisation – flourished under a stable, rules-based international order.

At the same time, economic reforms opened our economy to global competition by cutting tariffs (import duties), floating the exchange rate and deregulating the financial system.

But now, “tectonic shifts in the global economic order are underway” as the engines of global growth have shifted from west to east. China has gone from accounting for about 6 per cent of growth in the global economy in 1981, to more than 25 per cent today.

The United States’ share of growth has fallen from 26 per cent to 13 per cent.

However, this move to a more multipolar global order has brought with it “a sharpening of geostrategic [country versus country] competition and a far more contested set of global rules, norms and institutions,” Kennedy says.

As Treasurer Jim Chalmers has said, we are facing “the most challenging strategic environment since World War II” after a difficult decade and a half punctuated by the unmistakable signs of climate change, a pandemic and a European war, which exposed fragilities in our supply chains.

In this changing world, economic resilience – the capacity to withstand and recover quickly from shocks to the economy – is an essential component of assuring our national security.

The trade wars between the US and China during the Trump years have sharpened into an overt strategic rivalry and a contest for global influence.

The US has said it is not seeking to decouple from China – due to the significant negative global repercussions of a full separation – but is “de-risking and diversifying” by investing at home and strengthening linkages with allies and partners around the world.

In this new paradigm, Kennedy says, economic and financial tools are being deployed much more aggressively to promote and defend national interests.

According to the International Monetary Fund, more than 2500 new policies were introduced last year in response to concerns about supply chains, the climate and security. Since 2018, measures restricting trade flows have outnumbered measures that liberalise trade by about three to one.

Our primary economic and strategic (defence) partners are no longer the same. China now accounts for 30 per cent of our two-way (exports plus imports) trade, whereas the G7 countries combined account for just 26 per cent. China is now a larger trading partner than the US for more than 140 countries.

In the new world of greater rivalry, there is a small set of our systems, goods and technologies that are critical to the smooth operation of our economy and to the security of our country. Systems that are vulnerable to interventions and where a disruption could impact lives and threaten our national interest in a time of conflict.

In these parts of the economy there’s a clear role for government in regulating their operation and their ownership. This approach is called the “small yard, high fence” strategy, where a strong set of protections are put around a few critical economic activities.

But the key challenge in these types of reforms is to prevent overreach. The risk of foreign disruption has to be balanced in such a way that economic activity is not unnecessarily curtailed.

And there’s also a different kind of risk: that these types of regulatory regimes could be used as a form of industry protection, or to respond to community pressure, rather than to address genuine security risks.

Whereas our security and intelligence agencies are best placed to understand the vulnerabilities in our systems and the methods most likely to be used to exploit those vulnerabilities – including as part of the foreign investment screening process – they need to be in partnership with economic experts, such as Treasury.

We can’t afford to take the attitude that there should be zero risk of problems, nor dismiss the long-term economic costs of these restrictions.

There should be a high bar for what government puts inside the protected yard and each decision should be carefully weighed, we’re told, with both benefits and costs considered.

As for supply chain problems, it’s often argued that countries should build sovereign capability in areas of risk. This is often argued with little consideration of other ways of solving the problem, or of the cost of doing so.

But as Treasurer Chalmers has made clear, a Future Made in Australia cannot mean pursuing self-reliance in all things. That would undermine our key economic strengths and leave us less able to exercise strategic weight, not more.

Security, it turns out, is too important to be left to diplomats and generals.


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

It's time to dig deep - but not deeper than the taxman expects

I have a request to make of all Australian taxpayers: please give more to charity because you’re making me look bad. Like a cheat, in fact. I’ll explain shortly, but first, a self-interested public service announcement. Hurry, hurry, hurry. You have only the rest of this week to make a tax-deductible donation if you want to get some of it back in your next tax refund.

June 30, the biggest day of the year for the nation’s accountants, is fast approaching. It’s also the most important time of year for the nation’s charities. If you’ve ever made a donation to any of them, I bet they sent you a letter in the last few weeks reminding you how good it would be if you did so again ASAP.

But, as we were reminded by a strategically placed story last week, this is likely to be a bad year for charities. Why? Because in a cost-of-living crisis many of us decide that charity begins at home.

According to polling by academics at the University of Queensland, 78 per cent of people have reduced their donations because of the crisis facing their own budgets.

This is particularly bad timing for those charities that help people having trouble affording food and other necessities, such as the Salvos. The demand for their services has jumped for the same reason people are finding it harder to give. (Yes, the Salvos have “reached out” to me lately. And as I did myself in my uniformed youth, they waved a collection box under my nose.)

Perhaps it’s the accountant in me that makes me particularly attracted to donations that are tax-deductible. As everyone soon learns, you can’t make a profit out of tax deductibility. You can only reduce a cost.

But I like it because it lets me send a bit of taxpayers’ money in a direction chosen by me, not the politicians. The pollies mightn’t give a stuff about the wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers, but I do. And to some small extent, I can make them kick the tin.

Also last week, purely by chance, I’m sure, we were reminded that, though Australians like to think of themselves as generous, we’re actually tighter than people in other English-speaking countries. Even the Kiwis are more giving than we are.

Which brings me to my beef about donations. Now, I’ve long been a defender of the Tax Office. It does an important job in making sure we pay as much tax as we should. One reason I got out of accounting was because I decided the only interesting part of it was giving tax advice, but I didn’t want to spend my life helping the well-off avoid doing their duty to the community.

But a few weeks ago, I got a letter from the Tax Office, via the myGov website, naturally, that was the strangest I’ve ever had from them. And it really pee’d me off.

The standard form letter said they’d happened to notice that my claim for donations was a lot higher than other people’s, and they were just wondering whether I might possibly have made some mistake.

They hoped I knew you could only claim for donations to outfits that had been awarded tax deductibility. And they hoped I knew I shouldn’t be claiming for any donation for which I couldn’t produce a receipt.

If, on reflection, I realised I had made some terrible “mistake”, I was free to amend my return and thereby, they hinted without saying, avoid possible further investigation and penalty.

But, failing that, there was no suggestion I do anything about their veiled accusation, except, presumably, sit there shivering, waiting for the taxman’s knock on the door.

It may be true, as coppers always say, that if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear, but that doesn’t stop you resenting an unwarranted insinuation that you’re dishonest.

What gets me is that, knowing my claim was large, I would have happily included a detailed list with my return, but the taxman made no provision for me to do so. Nor, when he sent his accusatory letter, did he invite me to explain or substantiate my claim.

And I get the feeling that the taxman’s algorithm just found an outsized number and dispatched a letter without further consideration. Did he know that I always make a big claim? Did he allow for the likelihood that people on high incomes can afford to be more generous? Did he note that I’d been a tax agent for many years and so didn’t need reminding of the rules?

Well, I know the taxman doesn’t want to be burdened by any extra information from me, but I’ll give him a heads-up anyway. My claim for this financial year won’t be as big as last year’s, but the one for next year will be a whopper. I’m thinking of setting up a charity of my own. All above board, naturally.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Yikes! Our tiny manufacturing sector makes us rich but ugly

At last, the source of our economic problems has been revealed. Our economy is badly misshapen, making it unlike all the other rich economies. Did you realise that our manufacturing sector is the smallest among all the rich countries?

Worse, our mining sector’s almost five times as big as the average for all the advanced economies and our agriculture sector’s twice the normal size.

Do you realise what an ugly freak this must make us look to all the other rich people in the world? We’re like the millionaire who made his pile as a rag and bone man with a horse and cart. Yuck.

It’s something about which we should be deeply ashamed and very worried, apparently.

How do I know this? It’s all explained in an open letter signed by about 70 academics who, because they’re banging on about economic matters, have been taken to be economists. But they don’t sound like any economist I know.

Indeed, they devote most of their letter to explaining why some of the most fundamental principles of economics are not only wrong, wrong, wrong, but sooo yesterday.

They condemn “outdated ‘comparative advantage’ theories of trade and development – according to which, countries should automatically specialise in products predetermined by natural resource endowments” which theories, they assure us, “have been abandoned” by other rich countries.

Rather, “there is new recognition that competitiveness is deliberately created and shaped, through proactive policy interventions that push both private and public actors to do more than market forces alone could attain”.

Get it? When you’re trying to make a living in a market economy, it’s a mistake to worry about what you’re good at, or to think you’ll sell something you’ve got that they don’t. No, with the right policies, governments can make you “competitive” without any of that.

You may think we’ve done pretty well among the other rich countries but, in truth, we’ve been getting it all wrong. When those Europeans were sailing round the South Pacific looking for an island they could take from its local inhabitants, their big mistake was to pick Australia.

They thought our island would have a lot of good farmland. And surely somewhere in all that space there must be some gold or other valuable minerals. But this turned us into hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Worse, some of us became the lowest of the low, digging stuff out of the ground and shipping it off somewhere. We turned our country into a quarry. And there’s only one thing lower than running a quarry: providing “services” to other people. You know, being a cleaner or chambermaid or waiter.

All of which tempted us away from the one honest, noble way to earn a living: making things. And if only our island hadn’t been good for farming and mining, making things would have been the only way left to make a living.

Really? As the independent economist Saul Eslake has said, this isn’t economics, it’s the fetishising of manufacturing. It’s the one worthy occupation. All the rest are rubbish.

Now, I’m sure the open letter-signers would protest that they’re only arguing for a big manufacturing sector, they’re not saying we shouldn’t have farmers, miners or servants.

Trouble is, as Eslake points out, all the parts of an economy can’t add to more than 100 per cent of gross domestic product or total employment. If some parts’ shares are bigger than others, the other bits’ shares must be smaller.

When you think about it, this is just an application of the economists’ most fundamental principle: opportunity cost. You can’t have everything you want, so make sure what you pick is what you most want.

To anyone who’s been around a while, it’s clear the letter-signers are on the left. Nothing wrong with that. At its best, the left cares about a good deal for the bottom, not just the top. But for some strange reason, a lot of those on the left see themselves as linked to manufacturing by an umbilical cord.

The joke is, few if any of the letter-signers would ever have worked in manufacturing – or ever want to. (My own career in BHP’s Newcastle coke ovens lasted two days before I scuttled back to the comfort of a chartered accountants’ office.)

Academics, more than anyone, should understand that the future lies in services, not manufacturing. The good jobs come from what you know, not what you can make.


Friday, June 7, 2024

The RBA has squeezed us like a lemon, but it's still not happy

Let me be the last to tell you the economy has almost ground to a halt and is teetering on the edge of recession. This has happened by design, not accident. But it doesn’t seem to be working properly. So, what happens now? Until we think of something better, more of the same.

Since May 2022, the Reserve Bank has been hard at work “squeezing inflation out of the system”. By increasing the official interest rate 4.25 percentage points in just 18 months, it has produced the sharpest tightening of the interest-rate screws on households with mortgages in at least 30 years.

To be fair, the Reserve’s had a lot of help with the squeezing. The nation’s landlords have used the shortage of rental accommodation to whack up rents.

And the federal government’s played its part. An unannounced decision by the Morrison government not to continue the low- and middle-income tax offset had the effect of increasing many people’s income tax by up to $1500 a year in about July last year. Bracket creep, as well, has been taking a bigger bite out of people’s pay rises.

With this week’s release of the latest “national accounts”, we learnt just how effective the squeeze on households’ budgets has been. The growth in the economy – real gross domestic product – slowed to a microscopic 0.1 per cent in the three months to the end of March, and just 1.1 per cent over the year to March. That compares with growth in a normal year of 2.4 per cent.

This weak growth has occurred at a time when the population has been growing strongly, by 0.5 per cent during the quarter and 2.5 per cent over the year. So, real GDP per person actually fell by 0.4 per cent during the quarter and by 1.3 per cent during the year.

As the Commonwealth Bank’s Gareth Aird puts it, the nation’s economic pie is still expanding modestly, but the average size of the slice of pie that each Australian has received over the past five quarters has progressively shrunk.

But if we return to looking at the whole pie – real GDP – the quarterly changes over the past five quarters show a clear picture of an economy slowing almost to a stop: 0.6 per cent, 0.4 per cent, 0.2 per cent, 0.3 per cent and now 0.1 per cent.

It’s not hard to determine what part of GDP has done the most to cause that slowdown. One component accounts for more than half of total GDP – household consumption spending. Here’s how it’s grown over the past six quarters: 0.8 per cent, 0.2 per cent, 0.5 per cent, 0.0 per cent, 0.3 per cent and 0.4 per cent.

A further sign of how tough households are doing: the part of their disposable income they’ve been able to save each quarter has fallen from 10.8 per cent to 0.9 per cent over the past two years.

So, if the object of the squeeze has been to leave households with a lot less disposable income to spend on other things, it’s been a great success.

The point is, when our demand for goods and services grows faster than the economy’s ability to supply them, businesses take the opportunity to increase their prices – something we hate.

But if we want the authorities to stop prices rising so quickly, they have only one crude way to do so: by raising mortgage interest rates and income tax to limit our ability to keep spending so strongly.

When the demand for their products is much weaker, businesses won’t be game to raise their prices much.

So, is it working? Yes, it is. Over the year to December 2022, consumer prices rose by 7.8 per cent. Since then, however, the rate of inflation has fallen to 3.6 per cent over the year to March.

Now, you may think that 3.6 per cent isn’t all that far above the Reserve’s inflation target of 2 per cent to 3 per cent, so we surely must be close to the point where, with households flat on the floor with their arms twisted up their back, the Reserve is preparing to ease the pain.

But apparently not. It seems to be worried inflation’s got stuck at 3.6 per cent and may not fall much further. In her appearance before a Senate committee this week, Reserve governor Michele Bullock said nothing to encourage the idea that a cut in interest rates was imminent. She even said she’d be willing to raise rates if needed to keep inflation slowing.

It’s suggested the Reserve is worried that we have what economists call a “positive output gap”. That is, the economy’s still supplying more goods and services than it’s capable of continuing to supply, creating a risk that inflation will stay above the target range or even start going back up.

With demand so weak, and so many people writhing in pain, I find this hard to believe. I think it’s just a fancy way of saying the Reserve is worried that employment is still growing and unemployment has risen only a little. Maybe it needs to see more blood on the street before it will believe we’re getting inflation back under control.

If so, we’re running a bigger risk of recession than the Reserve cares to admit. And if interest rates stay high for much longer, I doubt next month’s tax cuts will be sufficient to save us.

Another possibility is that what’s stopping inflation’s return to the target is not continuing strong demand, but problems on the supply side of the economy – problems we’ve neglected to identify, and problems that high interest rates can do nothing to correct.

Problems such as higher world petrol prices and higher insurance premiums caused by increased extreme weather events.

I’d like to see Bullock put up a big sign in the Reserve’s office: “If it’s not coming from demand, interest rates won’t fix it.”


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

It's slowing the spin doctors' spin that keeps me busy

Do you remember former prime minister John Howard’s ringing declaration that “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”? It played a big part in helping him win the 2001 federal election. But it’s only true in part.

The job of economic commentators like me is supposed to be telling people about what’s happening in the economy and adding to readers’ understanding of how the economy works.

But the more our politicians rely on spin doctors to manipulate the media and give voters a version of the truth designed always to portray the boss in the most favourable light, the more time I have to spend making sure our readers aren’t being misled by some pollie’s silken words.

These days, I even have to make sure our readers aren’t being led astray by the economics profession. For the first time in many years, I’ve found myself explaining to critical academic economists that I’m a member of the journos’ union, not the economists’ union.

Like many professions, economists are hugely defensive. And they like to imagine my job is to help defend the profession against its many critics. Sorry, I’m one of the critics.

My job is to advise this masthead’s readers on how much of what economists say they should believe, and how much they should question.

It’s not that economists are deliberately misleading, more that they like to skirt around the parts of their belief system that ordinary people find hard to swallow.

And then there’s the increasing tendency for news outlets to pick sides between the two big parties, and adjust their reporting accordingly. My job is to live up this masthead’s motto: Independent. Always.

So, back to Howard’s heroic pronouncement. It’s certainly true that “we” – the federal government – decide the circumstances in which people may come to Australia. If you turn up without a visa, you’ll be turned away no matter how desperate your circumstances. If you come by boat, your chances of being let in are low.

But if you come by plane, with a visa that says you’ll be studying something at some dodgy private college when, in truth, you’re just after a job in a rich country, in you come. If we’ve known about this dodge, it’s only in the past few weeks that we’ve decided to stop it.

No, the problem is, if you take Howard’s defiant statement to mean that we control how many people come to this country, then that’s not true. We decide the kinds of people we’ll accept, but not how many.

There are no caps because, for many years, both parties have believed in taking as many suitable immigrants as possible. It’s just because the post-COVID surge in immigration – particularly overseas students – has coincided with the coming federal election that the pollies are suddenly talking about limiting student visas.

But remember, the politicians have form. Knowing many voters have reservations about immigration, they talk tough on immigration during election campaigns, but go soft once our attention has moved on, and it’s all got too hard.

It’s a similar thing with Anthony Albanese’s Future Made in Australia plan. Polling shows it’s been hugely popular with voters. But that’s because they’ve been misled by a clever slogan. It was designed to imply a return to the days when we tried to make for ourselves all the manufactured goods we needed.

But, as I’ve written, deep in last month’s budget papers was the news that we’d be doing a bit of that, but not much. It’s just a great slogan.

On another matter, have you noticed Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ dissembling on how he feels our pain from the cost-of-living crisis, which is why he’s trying so hard to get inflation down?

What he doesn’t want us thinking about is that, at this stage, most of the pain people are feeling is coming not from higher prices, but from the Reserve Bank’s 4.25 percentage-point increase in interest rates.

Get it? The pain’s coming from the cure, not the disease. The rise in interest rates has been brought about by the independent central bank, not the elected government, of course. But when Chalmers boasts about achieving two successive years of budget surplus, he’s hoping you won’t realise that those surpluses are adding to the pain households are suffering, particularly from the increase in bracket creep.

And, while I’m at it, many people object to businesses raising their prices simply because they can, not because their costs have increased. This they refer to disapprovingly as “gouging”.

But few economists would use that word. Why not? Because they believe it’s right and proper for businesses to charge as much as they can get away with.

Why? Because they think it’s part of the way that market forces automatically correct a situation where the demand for some item exceeds its supply. In textbooks, it’s called “rationing by price”.

Rather than the seller allowing themselves to run out of an item, they sell what’s left to the highest bidders. What could be better than that?


Monday, June 3, 2024

No one's sure what's happening in the economy

Treasury secretary Dr Steven Kennedy let something slip when he addressed a meeting of business economists last week. He said it was too early to say if the economy was back in a more normal period, “perhaps because no one is quite sure what normal is any more”.

This was especially because “unusual economic outcomes are persisting,” he added.

Actually, anyone in his audience could have said the same thing – but they didn’t, perhaps because they lacked the authority of the “secretary to the Treasury”.

No, standard practice among business economists and others in the money market is to make all predictions with an air of great certainty. Forgive my cynicism, but this may be because their certain opinion changes so often.

Often, it changes because something unexpected has happened in the US economy. Many people working in our money market save themselves research and thinking time by assuming our economy is just a delayed echo of whatever’s happening in America.

If Wall Street has decided that America’s return to a low rate of inflation has been delayed by prices becoming “sticky”, rest assured it won’t be long before our prices are judged to have become sticky as well.

But predicting the next move in either economy has become harder than we’re used to. Kennedy noted in his speech that, in recent years, the global economy, including us, had been buffeted by shared shocks, such as a global pandemic, disruptions to the supply of various goods, and war.

One factor I’d add to that list is the increasing incidence of prices being disrupted by the effects of climate change, particularly extreme weather events, but also our belated realisation that building so many houses on the flood plain of rivers wasn’t such a smart idea.

All these many “shocks” to the economy have knocked it from pillar to post, and stopped it behaving as predictably as it used to. But, as we’ll see, not all the shocks have been adverse.

Right now, the change everyone’s trying to predict is the Reserve Bank’s next move in its official interest rate, which most people hope will be downward.

Normally, that would happen just as soon as the Reserve became confident the inflation rate was on its way down into the 2 to 3 per cent target range. And normally, we could be confident the first downward move would be followed by many more.

But since, like Kennedy, the Reserve is not quite sure what normal is, and Reserve governor Michele Bullock says she expects the return to target to be “bumpy”, it may delay cutting rates until inflation is actually in the target zone.

If so, and remembering that monetary policy, that is, interest rates, affects the economy with a “long and variable lag”, the Reserve will be running the risk that it ends up hitting the economy too hard, and causing a “hard landing” aka a recession, in which the rate of unemployment jumps by a lot more than 1 percentage point.

Kennedy was at pains to point out that the rise in the official interest rate of 4.25 percentage points over 18 months is the “sharpest tightening” of the interest-rate screws since inflation targeting was introduced in the early 1990s.

He also reminded us how much help the Reserve’s had from the Albanese government’s fiscal policy, which has been “tightened at a record pace”. Measured as a proportion of gross domestic product, the budget balance has improved by about 7 percentage points since the pandemic trough. Add the states’ budgets and that becomes 7.5 percentage points.

That’s a part of the story those in the money market are inclined to underrate, if not forget entirely. Kennedy reminded them that, since 2021, our combined federal and state budget balance has improved by more than 5 percentage points of GDP. This compares with the advanced economies’ improvement of only about 1.5 percentage points.

So, has our double, fiscal as well as monetary, tightening had much effect in slowing the growth of demand for goods and services and so reducing inflationary pressure?

Well, Kennedy noted that, over the year to December, households’ consumption spending was essentially flat. And consumer spending per person actually fell by more than 2 per cent.

When you remember that consumer spending accounts for more than half total economic activity, this tells us we’ve had huge success in killing off inflationary pressure. And this week, when we see the national accounts for the March quarter, they’re likely to confirm another quarter of very weak demand.

So, everything’s going as we need it to? Well, no, not quite.

Last week we learnt that, according to the new monthly measure of consumer prices, the annual inflation rate has risen a fraction from 3.4 to 3.6 per cent over the four months to April.

“Oh no. What did I tell you? The inflation rate’s stopped falling because prices are “sticky”. It’s not working. Maybe we need to raise interest rates further. Certainly, we must keep them high for months and months yet, just to be certain sure inflation pressure’s abating.”

Well, maybe, but I doubt it. My guess is that a big reason money market-types are so twitchy about the likely success of our efforts to get inflation back under control is the lack of blood on the streets that we’re used to seeing at times like this.

Why isn’t employment falling? Why isn’t unemployment shooting up? Why are we only just now starting to see news of workers being laid off at this place and that?

It’s true. The rate of unemployment got down to 3.5 per cent and, so far, has risen only to 4.1 per cent. Where’s all the blood? Surely, it means we haven’t tightened hard enough and must keep the pain on for much longer?

But get this. What I suspect is secretly worrying the money market-types, is something Kennedy is pleased and proud about.

“One of the achievements of recent years has been sustained low rates of unemployment,” he said last week. “The unemployment rate has averaged 3.7 per cent over the past two years, compared with 5.5 per cent over the five years prior to the pandemic.”

Our employment growth has been stronger than any major advanced economy over the past two years, he said. Employment has grown, even after accounting for population growth.

And we’ve seen significant improvements for those who typically find it harder to find a job. Youth unemployment is 2.6 percentage points lower than it was immediately before the pandemic.

So, what I suspect the money market’s tough guys see as a sign that we haven’t yet experienced enough pain, the boss of Treasury sees as a respect in which all the shocks that have buffeted us in recent times have left us with an economy that now works better than it used to.

And Kennedy has a message for the Reserve Bank and all its urgers in the money market.

“It is important to lock in as many of the labour market gains as we can from recent years. This involves macroeconomic policy aiming to keep employment near its maximum sustainable level consistent with low and stable inflation,” he said.