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Year in review

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Radio stations are playing Christmas carols, supermarkets are stocked with plum puddings and suburban homes are festooned with blinking lights. The holiday season is almost here and we each have our own way of celebrating. One of my corporate Christmas traditions is to publish a parody of Clement Moore’s classic poem, The Night Before Christmas.

My 11th annual Christmas parody will be published next week. As always, it will be set to the rhythm and rhyme of the world’s most famous Christmas poem. Like the versions from previous years, it will imitate the style and form of Moore’s original lyric while addressing a different subject matter – Australia and the world’s performance over the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, for this post - my penultimate missive for 2018 - I would like to reflect on the year that was. Despite the dire warnings of the headline grabbing doom-and-gloom merchants, we are still here. Robots did not take over the planet, America did not start a global nuclear war and Australia did not experience a catastrophic housing market meltdown.

But 2018 was characterised by looming threats and some hard truths. The political turmoil and uncertainty caused by Donald Trump is undeniable. His incendiary views have undermined the rules-based international order, created a transatlantic rift between the US and Europe and escalated economic tensions with China over trade.

The president’s reputation for blunt remarks has seen him lash out at key allies. Trump berated NATO leaders for (allegedly) under-spending on defence, slammed Theresa May in a London tabloid interview and blasted Justin Trudeau as “meek and mild”. For allies accustomed to a United States which provides stable leadership, the Trump White House is alarming.

The enigmatic Trump has steadfastly refused to adopt conventional approaches and has shaken up the world stage. His bellicose rhetoric on North Korea saw him trade taunts with Kim Jong-un whom he dubbed “little rocket man”. Many were concerned that Trump’s war of words would escalate to outright war - from lobbing insults to lobbing bombs.

Of course, 2018 was not just about Trump and the negative news that he generated. Uplifting things did occur and arguably the most inspiring was the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a cave in Thailand. A team of Australians was involved in the harrowing and difficult rescue mission, including Adelaide anaesthetist, Dr Richard Harris, who played a pivotal role in saving the boys.

Sport featured prominently in 2018 with three huge events: the Winter Olympics in February, the Commonwealth Games in April and the FIFA World Cup in June-July. Love was also in the air with Prince Harry marrying Meghan, Princess Eugenie saying “I do” to Jack and Prince William and Kate welcoming their third child.

A blight on our corporate landscape during the year was the revelations arising from the Royal Commission into Australia’s banking system. The litany of dodgy practices is shameful and made the Royal Commission one of the biggest headline generators in 2018.

About the only sector to be unscathed by the Commission’s rap sheet of misconduct was the mutual banking sector. Credit unions and customer-owned banks (like Gateway) have always acted in the best interests of customers. Our reputation for putting people before profits remains intact.

Despite Australia’s economic challenges, we have much to celebrate. We remain the lucky country and continue to punch above our weight. Research shows that we are healthier, wealthier and happier than a decade ago. Plus, we enjoy fringe benefits like stunning beaches, temperate climate and breath-taking scenery.

As we approach the season of goodwill to all, my Christmas wish is that we reflect as a nation on all that is good about Australia. In truth, we have little to complain about. There may be a place where the grass is greener, but in all my travels I am yet to find it.

On a personal note, thank you to my loyal readers for your on-going support. I appreciate you clicking on each week. I trust that you have enjoyed the breadth of topics covered in Doubting Thomas during 2018. May peace and happiness be yours during this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Paul J. Thomas, CEO


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CEO Paul Thomas