Australia’s changing economy and the Brisbane line

2012 April 16
by Tim Riley

I recently listened to a fascinating discussion about the distribution of wealth in Australia on Radio National’s Saturday Extra called Economic Identity and Class in Australia

What I found particularly interesting was Peter Martin’s reference to something I’d never heard of before… “the Brisbane line”.

If you Wikipedia “the Brisbane line” it explains that it was a controversial defence proposal allegedly formulated during World War II to concede the northern portion of the Australian continent in the event of an invasion by the Japanese.

Martin uses the term a bit differently. He uses the Brisbane line to describe the changing axis of Australian household wealth.

Whereas in the past we associated the most prosperous areas of Australia being south of the line through south east Queensland, NSW and Victoria, we are now starting to see a distinct shift to the areas north and west of the line.

Martin illustrates this point through the latest wages, spending and jobs data. When presented in this way the trend is pretty stark.

Wages in the last year:

  • Northwest – 10.9%
  • WA – 12.8%
  • Rest of the country – 4-5%

Spending:

  • WA and Qld – 11 & 10% respectively
  • NSW and Vic – 2% & 1.6% respectively
  • SA and Tasmania – going backwards

Jobs:

  • Vic – lost 27k
  • WA – gained 22k

So, money and labour are moving and the axis is shifting. Its not new news for sure, but for me this data definitely put some real context behind the lackluster performance of the south eastern property markets over the last year or so.

The good news for us south of the Brisbane line?

Keep your focus on the top line. Over the last year Australia’s overall income was up 3.6% pa… the rest of the rich countries in OECD 1.7%.

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