Economy's on the up, magpies are swooping, but US just won't budge

Spring has flowered around the country and in Canberra's native bush setting we find the magpie swooping season is well under way.

Spring has flowered around the country and in Canberra's native bush setting we find the magpie swooping season is well under way.

The magpies, like others in Canberra, believe they are allowed to swoop as they have entitlements too.

Our pollies and bureaucrats would do well to learn from the great US president Teddy Roosevelt who said the nation's security and prosperity depended on "walking softly but carrying a big stick", which is also how to keep the magpies away.

Perhaps they know that already! Of course, in the case of the US, Teddy's club was the seventh fleet, as part of a military establishment, which included 50 per cent of the world's aircraft carriers in service and had 40 per cent of the world's total military capacity.

However, down under in the bushlands of our nation's capital, some soft, if not ginger, steps of the new government have been accompanied by tough talking about a few issues that have been worrying business.

Its plans to take a stick to some tax swoops, and a few other matters, seem to have got business back out on the park again.

Charlie says business confidence soared last month just as he tried to hire his usual jet-ranger helicopter to travel to his mountain hideaway. He couldn't get one because bookings increased 30 per cent the day after the election.

Bad luck for Charlie but good news for the rest of us. Business confidence is now at its highest in three years. It has risen from minus 5 in July to plus 4 in August as the nation's business people largely saw a Coalition victory on its way. And then it quadrupled to 12 last month. To put these figures in perspective, the long-term average is plus 5.

In simple terms, the economy is about to take off. Confidence can take its time to work its way through the full market but in our advertising world, we know it's a very good sign for ad spending in the first half of next year. We have had three flat years, with business reporters telling us we moved into "negative territory" in the first half of this year.

Louise scoffs at the language. "What on earth does negative 'territory' mean?"

"Means we were in the drink ... and out of our depth," Charlie says.

However, some believe these good signs could be derailed by a US debt default, but I don't think so. For Americans, their Thanksgiving Day, which falls next month, is more than just a feed of turkey and pumpkin pie. It's also about what they call "boosterism" - improving the perception of your community.

I don't think in the end they will allow their Thanksgiving to be cynically debased by opportunistic division. If you can rely on one thing about Americans, it's their pride in the nation.

Frankly, I still can't understand how we let ourselves slip into such a demise with low levels of confidence in ourselves over recent years. We have always been so proud and confident but suddenly we lost it.

But it seems we are on the way back. Cities will be busy again; the retailing season can expect to do well. Car sales are already on the rise and I am told that in inner city areas there is huge demand for cars with sun-roofs. "Why is that?" Louise asks.

"Because it's the only way to get out of your car if you want to avoid being swooped by MAMILs," Charlie says.

"Que?"

"Middle-Aged Men In Lycra ... on bikes."

Well, I have had my moments recently with MAMILs, the homo sapien equivalent of the magpie who come out of nowhere and manage to holster their water bottle and graze the side mirror while banging on the roof yelling "don't open that door".

But I do admire their innovative methods of magpie protection - a cluster of cable ties pointing skywards through their helmets.

So as I join the retail rush that is going to carry us into Christmas, I'm going to get into the queue for a new car, but this time I want one with airbags on the outside.

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