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All I want for Christmas…

L. Janusz Hooker says its time for Australians to stop being pessimistic and realise how lucky they are.

There is something I want for Christmas. It’s a gift that all Australians have within them, but to which we lately have lost our connection. What I want for Christmas is for Australians to get their mojo back.

We are in a rut, with researchers calling us long-term ‘cautiously pessimistic.’ Consumer confidence is down, having one of its longest runs of low, sub-100 points in the last 20 years. It all comes down to attitude, and if we fixed it we would start enjoying the good things we have.

So what exactly is holding us back?

The news media is one thing. They are negative and sensationalist whenever they have the chance. Sometimes it seems the only positive stories are in the advertisements.

If you put down the newspaper, turn off the TV, log offline and look around, you will see that we are the ‘lucky country,’ after all. As a nation of only 22 million people, we punch well above our weight with the world’s 13th largest economy. More people in Australia are rich – what demographers call ‘high net worth’ – than in all but eight other countries.

Our economy isn’t just uncommonly large, it’s also humming. Austrade pointed out earlier this year that our economic fundamentals are “among the strongest in the world,” and the International Monetary Fund sees us outperforming every other major advanced economy through 2013 at least.

Over the next five years, we’re going to grow our economy at a faster rate than the USA, Canada and the UK. We are going to grow at double the rate of Japan, France, Germany and Italy — among others.

To the average Canadian, Briton or American, our five per cent unemployment rate makes Australia look like the Land of Oz, where the streets are paved with yellow bricks of gold. In the US, the famed ‘land of opportunity,’ 12 million people are jobless. Around a quarter of Spaniards are out of work.

Despite the bad odour in Canberra, our leaders have done their part. They kept the national credit cards firmly in their wallets. Our government’s net debt of about eight per cent of GDP in 2012 is small compared with other countries – especially Japan, which has a net debt of 135 per cent.

It’s no wonder that investors all over the world are bidding up our dollars. Foreign Direct Investment is 60 per cent higher in Australia than in the average of developed countries, and last year for the first time we won the AAA credit rating from all three global ratings agencies. Meanwhile, the world’s only superpower lost its AAA rating.

We have a good life here, with the best lifestyle you can find anywhere. The Economist ranked five of our cities among the world’s top 20 most livable.

Speaking of places to live brings us to the housing market. This should be another source of optimism, but has not been so lately.

In other countries, people widely lost their homes in the GFC. Here, meanwhile, despite a couple of brief dips since the economic downturn, housing has seen attractive capital gains in the long run. Capital city values have increased, says RP Data, at an average annual rate of 5.5 per cent over the past 10 years. More recently, capital city prices increased three per cent since July this year, and 1.4 per cent in September alone.

Mortgage arrears are very low by world standards, at one-eighth the US rate. Prepayments are far more common than late payments, with 45 per cent of Australian borrowers at least six months ahead in paying back their mortgage.

There are many other reasons for us to be confident. We have large reserves of natural resources. We are located near booming Asia, which by 2050 should account for half the global economy. We are saving at historically high rates and have a strong banking system. Our Reserve Bank still has plenty of room to stimulate the economy by lowering rates, if that becomes necessary.

We Australians have every reason to be excited about the future. And a positive attitude will help us continue to fare better than the rest of the world, regardless what happens overseas.

So, for Christmas, I want Australians to get their mojo back and realise how good things are in this country.

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L Janusz Hooker

L. Janusz Hooker is the Deputy Chairman of LJ Hooker Limited.