Diversify in order to prosper.

Diversify in order to prosper. Photo: richardhughes@fairfaxmedia.com.a

If Sydney had not the benefit of trillions of dollars of investment over a couple of hundred years in a small geographic area it would be a rather unremarkable piece of landscape with a remarkable harbour.

It was not iron ore underneath or wheat crops in its fields or massive industrial suburbs producing motor vehicles for the world that underpinned its economy, but a hinterland that stretches from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and Sydney's capacity to be the site of a service centre for that hinterland.

But what if, in the new world of electronic economics, a cheaper loan can come from Singapore where my accountant and solicitor have the vast majority of their work done? If the cost of funds is substantially cheaper from a new Asian bank why shouldn't domestic home-owners get access to those funds?

What is our service centre going to do when the services we offer are in many areas uncompetitive?

The metropolis of Sydney evolved and grew as a regional trading hub, but anyone who thinks it can continue to thrive in isolation of the regions that support that trade and with nothing tangible to trade, are deluding themselves.

Over the past decade or so an unspoken conviction has grown that Sydney can let go of the traditional trade generators that have underpinned its prosperity to date, simply by embracing the so-called ''smart economy''.

The offshore shift that was first embraced by big business and is now trickling down to smaller enterprises, may not be entirely destructive provided the cities continue to realise the importance of the nexus of the wealth generated by the regions.

And if other countries trade with us they will also need to deal with our institutions, our banks, accounting firms, and the rest of our service industries.

However, I believe this issue will creep up on us in a similar way as to when (and this does imply a form of schadenfreude) I stated in 2009 that our debt was heading in the wrong direction and at a rate of knots.

The big worry though is that debt is potentially an easier problem with which to deal. The first bid to move the Australian Stock Exchange to Singapore has already been attempted and knocked back, and the desire by China to open a bank in Australia is in the news.

The question is this: in a global economy what do we really need to do here that can only be done here?

Australia is like the student leaving high school who was polite to the other schools but held the conceited belief that they lacked somewhat because they had not had their secondary experience.

With the results in on Australia's performance against other near neighbours in secondary education we better start understanding that with less money per student their student is better educated and on a cheaper wage to boot.

Fifty years since Donald Horne thumped his way through the clatter with the paradox of the ''lucky country'', has Australia gone beyond waiting for the fairy godmother to whack it on the arse one more time with a spare rainbow?

Unfortunately, now the rainbow is on the credit card and the illuminati cure for the dilemma of the Lucky Country is simply to sell the country and pray for luck.

The push back against the sale of GrainCorp was rather ironic considering the deafening silence when the ASX bid was blocked and that is because the immediate and proper interest of protecting the commerce of Sydney was more sympathetically espoused by the media mastheads than the loss of commission by reason of the blockage of the sale of regional Australia's grain ASX.

History shows countries ebb and flow and Greece and Egypt today are not a good investment. But because it was, does not mean it will be. So the New Year comes to herald the retrospective examination and the prognostication for what lies ahead.

While you drive along the road it is bitumen and speed limits with little thought for the longer drive, but unfortunately that is one grace that luck no longer lends an avenue to. It now really is a different world to the second half of last century and why wouldn't it be? Since when did time and the challenges it brings stop for one or announce favouritism for another?

Mao Zedong said that power grows from the barrel of a gun and Horne said that our greatest fault lies not in our luck but our capacity to not properly exploit it. Both state the same - that fortune will be a seldom friend of the complacent.

If we for our purpose make a special grace of commission over invasion, if we expect to sell and yet walk into the room as the owner, then we will have as our dearest friend naivety.

So as I drive back into St George to pick up my daughters after grape picking to take them to their new home, the cotton fields thriving in the 40-degree heat, will their Australia be the same one given to me?

It is up to us who have been elected to govern the country to think deeply about these long-term issues that are facing the nation during a period of history where rapid technological change is challenging the prosperity we too often take for granted.

Barnaby Joyce is the Minister for Agriculture and the deputy leader of the National Party.