Outlooks for the New Year

Last year was a mixed bag of fortunes. We spent most of it drought, had a change of prime ministers, saw the Commonwealth Games in Australia for the fifth time and the Australian cricket team disgraced after the so-called ball tampering incident.

With the dawning of the new year, however, we turn to some of the predictions for the next twelve months.

Weather

The Bureau of Meterology forecast for the next three months in the Southern Tablelands region is for average seasonal rainfall but increased average temperatures.

There is no indication of an El Niño pattern setting in at this point.

Politics

We are facing two elections in the first half of 2019: the NSW state election will be held on 23 March, and the federal election is due by May, with no date set as yet.

Insofar as polls are an indicator this far out from an election, the likely outcome is for a change of government at federal level while the NSW election remains too close to call. Certainly, governments and oppositions alike follow these polls closely but it is pertinent to remember that they are only an indicator of the current mood of the electorate – not the future mood.

At state level, the electorate of Monaro is held by the Nationals’ John Barilaro. Mr Barilaro is facing competition from Labor’s Bryce Wilson, with Peter Marshall standing for the Greens. Monaro remains a marginal electorate and both the government and opposition are aware of the importance of winning this seat if they are to retain or win government.

The federal electorate of Eden-Monaro is held by Labor’s Mike Kelly, the first opposition member to win the seat (in 2016) since the 1969 election. Dr Kelly is up against the Liberals’ Fiona Kotvojs, while the Nationals’ Sophie Wade and the Greens’ Pat McGinlay could play a crucial part in the outcome with preference distribution.

In recent days there has been talk of Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, mounting a leadership challenge against Prime Minister Morrison. Beyond backbench panic, however, there doesn’t appear to be any gain for the government in making such a move and the talk could well be simply mischief-making or Canberra scuttlebutt.

Economy

Despite the federal leadership changes in recent years, the Australian economy remains healthy and, according to Deloitte Economics, “the current combination of a supportive global environment and growing domestic demand” should see the domestic economy remaining stable into 2019.

On the downside, Deloitte also warns that “record-low wage growth has meant that growth has been based on a large run-up in household debt, rather than income growth. Interest rates on that debt (by far the largest share of which is devoted to housing) have already started to increase, even without the central bank moving its benchmark interest rate. That combination of rising borrowing costs and anaemic wage growth could crunch the capacity of households to further lift their rate of spending, acting as a drag on 60 percent of Australia’s economy.”

With two elections looming, however, we can expect some big government spending on public infrastructure and promises (by both parties) of tax cuts.

Consumer trends

Brand activism, that is, brands taking positive stands on social, environmental or ethical issues (for example, cosmetic brands that oppose testing on animals or clothing brands that pay their workers a decent wage) has been on the rise over the past few years and is set to continue. However, according to the website trendwatching.com, this is now set to go one step further to brands that not only promote ethical issues, but which seek to change the laws surrounding those issues. So your cosmetic brand may not just oppose testing on animals, but may be actively engaged in making such practices illegal.

Open source solutions are another step from brand activism where companies and brands not only adopt more ethical practices, but share their research into solutions to problems to enable other companies to also adopt better practices. This is already happening with Next Generation Plastic creating eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic and sharing their findings and information with companies (among them, IKEA) keen to reduce plastic use.

Tech-based wellness solutions are not exactly new – we’ve had Fitbits and fitness apps for several years now, but this trend is set to move into another gear with such innovations as cost-effective DNA testing to ascertain any genetic health disorders. According to trendwatching.com, “awareness of – and demand for – convenient and affordable hyper-personalized wellness is growing, fast”.

Veganism, which for years has been regarded as a fringe movement is set to move towards mainstream, according to international news outlet, The Economist. It reports that, “giant food firms are clambering on to the (vegan) bandwagon, creating vegan lines of their own, buying startups, or both… Charity Veganuary - which supports people as they try a vegan diet throughout January - has said 2019 will be its biggest year yet, with an estimated 300,000 people set to take part”.

Mushrooms. Yup, funghi – both the psychedelic and regular varieties, are set to be big in 2019, according to Beth McGroarty, Global Wellness Institute researcher. She says, “Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind has altered attitudes towards LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic shrooms, and University College London has explored the latter’s ability to treat depression. If that sounds too trippy, muggle fungi will crop up in powders, broths and teas to relieve stress and inflammation”.

This story 2019: what’s in store first appeared on Braidwood Times.