You’ve got some nerve!
Australia, it’s time to call you out. Someone has to do it and, I’m sorry, I’ve had enough so I’m going to do it.
‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’, they used to say. In Australia that seems to have been interpreted as ‘when the going gets slightly more uncomfortable than we’d like, we’ll complain endlessly about it’. Well, I’ve got news for you. I’ve seen how the rest of the world is living and there is nothing to complain about. Nothing at all. The sky is not falling in – it’s continuing to shine down the warm sunny rays on a country blessed with good fortune that we’d all better embrace before the world turns against us.
Turn on the computer, open a news website, and be bombarded with stories about how the middle class is suffering because their power bills are going up a couple of dollars a week.
Watch the television, hear citizens put questions to the Prime Minister, and watch them complain to her straight-faced that a couple on $150,000 a year isn’t getting enough government handouts.
Tell new friends overseas these stories, try to make it sound defensible, then give up and bemoan the attitudes of the lucky country.
The situation overseas
You only have to visit the UK to hear the tales of people leaving their jobs, or hanging on to the underpaid ones they’ve got for fear of not finding another. Financial workers who would be earning an easy six figures in Sydney work all day in London for a five figure salary because that’s all there is. It’s that or join the unemployment brigade at the pub in the afternoons.
Go to the United States, the home of opportunity, and speak to the young people trapped by debt and individual ‘freedoms’. They’re qualified professionals with sought-after jobs but are anchored to whatever they can get, paying off college loans and staying with employers who offer health insurance.
Australians, meanwhile, pay back their modest university fees without noticing, think not even once – let alone twice – about their free medical care, and buy their property while interest rates scrape off the five per cent ceiling and fall even lower.
These are two of the world’s largest economies I’m comparing us to and their citizens don’t feel free. Not free to take a risk, to start a family without sacrificing, to travel the world.
Let’s not even get started on the world’s sixth largest economy: Brazil. A country where the streets of the biggest cities have so much violent crime that residents are scared to walk the streets at night. The concern is not whether they can afford a new television but whether someone will burst into their house and steal the one they’ve got. The money is flowing through Brazil, a country that like Australia has been blessed with natural resources, yet the people live in fear, poverty, or behind security bars.
Just look at the numbers!
You don’t need to visit these countries and hear the anecdotes, though. The numbers speak for themselves. Look at unemployment, where Australia has a rate of just 4.9 per cent. Compare that to the western world’s other top economies: The United States (8.2 per cent), the UK (8.1 per cent), Germany (5.4 per cent), France (10.2 per cent), Canada (7.2 per cent).
When it comes to taxation, Australia has nothing to whinge about either. For a single person with no children, the average tax rate according to the OECD is 21.6 per cent. That’s less than the UK (25.5 per cent) and the US (22.9 per cent) as well as the more expensive countries of Western Europe like Sweden (24.7 per cent), Norway (28.7 per cent), Netherlands (31.9 per cent), Denmark (38.6 per cent) and Belgium (42.1 per cent).
The cost of living in Australia is certainly a cause for concern with Sydney ranked the 11th most expensive city in the world and Melbourne the 15th. But they are still outranked by places like Tokyo, Moscow, Geneva, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
And we can’t forget that Australian wages are much higher than most of the world’s. The average wage for a full-time worker is about $70,000 a year (Aussie dollars… which are on parity with US dollars at the moment). When international comparisons and taxes are taken into account, the OECD estimates that Australia has the fifth highest level of disposable income in the world. The four other countries which come above it are (in order) the Unites States, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland.
As I said, the statistics speak for themselves.
So what are Aussie arguing about?
Half of Western Europe needs economic bailouts and the other half is having to pay them. Uncertainty of the future is crippling some of these nations. Meanwhile back home people are concerned that maybe the hundreds of dollars of annual tax cuts they’ve just got from the government won’t be enough.
The two main political arguments in Australia at the moment sit uneasily with me. On one hand you have people concerned about a new carbon tax that is going to mean a very small increase on goods, with claims it will destroy our economy, our international competitiveness and the sturdiness of household budgets.
On the other hand you have asylum seekers trying to arrive by boat, literally putting their lives at risk to come to our country because they see it as such a wonderful place. There is a reason they don’t stop and try to claim asylum in all the other countries they’ve passed through as they flee the ravages and horrors of their war-torn homelands. It’s because they know Australia is one of the greatest places in the world to live in at the moment.
Australia, I’m calling you out. Either accept that we have it so good – for whatever reason – and enjoy the bounties we’ve been gifted. Or put your (large amounts of) money where your mouth is, go find somewhere better to live, and make way for those who would put their own safety in jeopardy to be a part of what we have.
What do you think? If you’re Australian, do you feel like you’re doing it tough? If you’re from another country, do you think Australians are complaining without reason?