There I was sitting in front of ‘Lateline” and Secretary of the Treasury, Ken Henry – who looks alarmingly like Malcolm Turnbull in a certain light – pops up on the screen. I’d clearly nodded off and had entered the realm of telepathic communication, because his message was obviously an individually directed one:
“The short to medium-term challenges then, are in these areas: the drought, the housing bubble – I use that term advisedly, not for quotation outside of this room — consumer debt, international outlook, the exchange rate and, of course, national security,” Dr Henry said. “There’s no doubt that we have been surprised by the continuing strength of dwelling investment in particular. We have been a little surprised, too, I have to say, by the continuing growth in real house prices.”
Bubble?! As in South Seas? Boom and bust? People rushing the banks? Doleful queues of laid-off treasury officials queuing for the sort of soup that owes nothing to Good Food Award-winning Pacific Fusion influences? well…quelle horreur as they say in Darlinghurst.
I appreciated the import of Ken’s warning only too well and resolved to maintain the confidence he’d entrusted me with. I also reflected on the fact that a rush on the banks would be problematic in today’s banking environment. With a ratio of 2.5 customer service facilitators – or tellers – to every 200 customers, (one of whom will inevitably be engaged on mysterious duties unrelated to serving people) it would take 3 weeks waiting in line, minimum, before you even got to the point when you’d be next after the woman with three years takings to count and bank. Try working that scenario into a movietone newsreel with suitably dramatic soundtrack.
I needn’t have bothered staying zip. I awoke this morning to find that Henry had shared the selfsame confidence with Lateline’s entire audience – and some unreliable bastard had blabbed. It was all over the papers and Crean and Latham were popping up like Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men with alternating messages – “unsustainable, ” “the end is nigh’ “government incompetence” “don’t you see, we’re on the eve of destruction.” The Treasurer turns out to be in Israel which is perhaps less than fortuitous in the circumstances. Now is not the time for him to be away advocating his high-on -social-capital volunteerism strategy as a replacement for the Middle East Road Map.
In the meantime I’m making a mental note of ATM placement within a 2 kilometre “rush” radius of my home……I suggest you do the same.