Happy Australia Day!
Now, we’re not blind to the reality that the date of Australia Day is contentious. And hey, one of the great things about living in a democracy is that we can have the debate. But while that debate happens, January 26 is the nominated day, so we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate all that’s great about Australia.
No, not in a jingoistic way, and not arrogantly — you don’t have to believe everything is perfect to believe that Australia is a great place to live, work and, yes, invest.
We have democratic rule of law.
We have a functioning system of redistributive capitalism that rewards effort, but also looks after the vulnerable and the unlucky.
We have a largely stable, functioning political system. Yes, we’ve had more Prime Ministers in recent years than the men’s cricket team has had batsmen, but those changes haven’t required coups or led to violent recrimination.
We have the ability to speak and be heard, largely free of censorship or legal restriction. Here at The Motley Fool, we’ve been critical of both major parties, knowing that, while they might not like it, it’s physically and commercially safe for us to do so.
We have a sometimes harsh, sometimes generous, but always beautiful, landscape and climate. It’s been more of the former, lately, but we’ve also seen some of the best of us — the firies, fundraisers and community spirit.
We have well-functioning institutions. And when those institutions don’t get it completely right, we have the opportunity for Royal Commissions, in public, to fix the problems.
We have a stock market that is largely free of corruption, insider trading and functions well, allowing free access to information and cheap access to trading.
We have a decent level of economic prosperity for most people. Even given the relative inequality between the richest and poorest, most of us have enough, and the proportion of us living in poverty is much lower than at almost any time in our history.
We have one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.
We have the right to vote. To protest. To imagine a better way. To stand for election.
We have a largely stable geology that means we avoid the worst of the tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and hurricanes. And functioning emergency services and recovery infrastructure when the occasional natural disaster hits.
We have, in Aboriginal culture, one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world.
We are generous. Honest. Funny. We’ll call a spade a bloody shovel. And we’ll have a drink with anyone who does the same.
We want the best for our kids. Our friends. Our country. We know that things aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean they’re not great.
Here’s my hope for our country: that we continue to challenge ourselves to be better, but in a spirit of optimism, rather than despair. That we see ourselves as people who are ‘for’ things, not ‘against’ things.
I hope we don’t fall victim to cynicism and negativity. That we see the best and want it to be better.
A pipe dream? I don’t think so. Some of the most successful, and happiest, Australians I know are those people.
After all, how many entrepreneurs would succeed if they were pessimists? How many scientists would bother with research? How many politicians would stand for election?
How many of us would invest, if we didn’t believe the future is bright? It would defy logic to be negative about the future, but then put our nest eggs into investments that — by their very nature — require growth to give us a return?
And at a time when it’s tempting to look mostly or only at international success stories — Amazon (I own shares), Google (ditto), Facebook, Apple and the rest — let’s not forget some wonderful Australian winners.
We have two of the very largest mining companies in the world, in BHP and Rio Tinto. Yes, it helps that we also have some of the largest iron ore deposits, but those companies haven’t rested on their laurels.
Let’s turn to healthcare for a moment, where Australia and Australians have really excelled. Think of the old Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, now better known as the multi billion dollar behemoth, CSL, now selling for over $300 per share. Or the company behind the very first cochlear implant, Cochlear. Globally dominant sleep apnoea device maker, ResMed. Glove and medical protection purveyor, Ansell. And hospital operator, Ramsay Healthcare. Impressive list, no?
Finance? It’s tempting to remember the Australian retail banks that (repeatedly) tried to expand overseas and failed. But what about investment bank Macquarie? And share registrar-cum-administration provider Computershare?
And when you raise a glass later today, it might well be one of the global suite of products that’s part of Treasury Wine Estates’ (I own shares) local and international portfolio. If you pick up a paper, watch a movie or flick on the business news, there’s a decent chance you’re engaging with the News Corp / 21st Century Fox empire, born from a single newspaper in Adelaide.
Lastly, at least for our purposes, are the tech winners. We mightn’t have an Amazon or Google, but we have a globally dominant logistics software provider in WiseTech, a circuit board software winner in Altium, and one of the leaders in human-PC training, Appen. Afterpay is taking the US by storm. Plus, while it may not be listed here, Atlassian still calls Australia home.
Plus, we’ll claim Xero. Sure, the Kiwis reckon it’s theirs, but they also claim pavlova, Phar Lap, Russell Crowe and Crowded House, so they have form…
Looking forward, too, there are some really impressive Australian companies who might make this list in another five years or so.
Take Nanosonics, whose technology is rapidly becoming the global standard of care. Or Pro Medicus, which is powering an important part of medical imaging processes around the world. Medical Developments, the company behind the ‘green whistle’ pain medication device, is another. Australian ingenuity and drive continues.
There are biotech hopefuls, miners, technology companies and the phalanx of exporters taking Australian products to the world: think Blackmores (I own shares), Bellamy’s, Costa and Freedom Foods, just to name a few. They’ll be in the mix, too.
Foolish Australia Day takeaway
We don’t need to get into a debate about whether Australia is the best country in the world. Sure, we’d like to think we might be, but so would plenty of other nations.
Instead, how about we focus on being the best we can be, and remember that, as I’ve said, we don’t have to be ‘the best’ — however that’d be measured — to be great. And let’s celebrate success.
(And if you want us to be better? Take a road trip. Spend a few bucks on the bushfire-ravaged coast of drought-devastated outback. Our family will be doing both, this year.)
From all of us here at The Motley Fool, Happy Australia Day.
Here’s to us — to where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we’re going.