I’m calling you out, Australia!

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Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


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?

38 thoughts on “I’m calling you out, Australia!”

    • Scooped again by Glenn Stevens! Dammit!
      You’re right about the pollies and the media, though. Maybe one day people will have a look at the facts and make up their own mind.

  1. I don’t know the situation in Australia, but in Europe is pretty miserable. Although I know of many well educated people who left Europe to look for a job in Australia and ended up working as waiters because nothing else was available…

    • It’s true that Australia didn’t escape the global financial crisis completely – but it’s done a lot better than most of the world. I imagine it’s particularly hard for people who come to Australia from Europe without the work experience in the country. But I think most local people would agree that unemployment is not as big as an issue as it could have been.

  2. I think Australia should really dig deeper. The parasites who are DEBT on the crisis in the EU and US have a nasty way of showing up when living the dream (or better: when dreaming).

    A famous parasite? Goldman Sachs, a place to be employed for more then just health care. How about a seven figure salary and bonus?
    They are creepy crawlers that turned our water into their wine. And then got drunk on it.



    In the Netherlands we are still kind of lucky, at least myself, but I am happy with a five figure income, my health and the insurance that goes with it.
    Always be prepared for the worst. Yes you too, Australia.

    Am I angry yet? Yes with the parasites… 😉

    • From what I’ve read, it seems the Netherlands has been quite lucky compared with much of Europe. But I get your point that all these things have a flow-on effect. And, more importantly, there are always going to be people who take advantage of these situations (or cause these situations in the first place for their own advantage). Unfortunately that is the nature of business… the best we can do is call them out for it.

      • I agree there is always going to be people taking advantage of others, and unfortunately make it a business.
        Even though the Netherlands is doing all right for the moment, the taxes we pay, go to the big bail outs.
        And I do agree we should call them out for it, not only that, notice what is going on before more damage is done.
        Ten years ago, nobody would have even questioned them. Because the damage has become so extensive, they are now in the picture and not looking pretty.

        The nature of business should be a long lasting relationship that is of benefit to all parties. When morals are gone in business, we can only start watching our backs and the movements of others.

        Being human does not mean the same thing in the dictionary of these companies.

        Australians should be counting blessings and put all energy in keeping it a great country.
        Great article, makes one think (even more;-)

  3. Hey Michael, nice article. One point I would like to pick up is the UK one and bankers. Bankers in the UK still earn shitloads, their mere five figures is very much at the high end of the scale. A better example would be the council workers (binmen, street cleaners, park workers) who have been made redundant due to cuts in government budgets. You never see a poor banker,

    I agree with your overall point about middle class people moaning about paying a little extra while still lavishing chasing a consumerist life.

    I’m actually planning on moving to Oz next year for a year. If I can earn anything near $70,000 I’ll be laughing. That average wage is insane.

    • Well, firstly, good luck with the move to Australia. I’ll arrange to have someone meet you at the airport with a limousine and a job offer with an excellent income and health benefits (oh, hang on, you don’t need that last bit in Australia).
      Anyway, your point about the bankers in the UK is taken. Obviously they’re not doing it nearly as touch as some of the other occupations you mentioned who don’t have a job at all. But the point still remains that people in many developed countries that were hit by the GFC can’t reach their potential in their careers… while in Australia there just don’t seem to be the same levels of concern.

  4. Indeed, parasites all. Our vanishing global middle class – unfortunately – needs to manup (if you will) and realize survival of the fittest is not a futuristic hollywood movie, it’s here. Civil war has gripped the planet. Here in the U.S. it’s the Democrats vs the Republicans, and it is an all out war. Not so sure about the vote anymore. Money buys that.

    • It seems from an outsider’s perspective that there’s definitely too much money involved with elections in the US. It’s hard to know whether the public are ever going to be effectively represented when it’s just about who has the most cash (and who they get that cash from!)

  5. Last night, I watched an episode about the financial meltdown on Wall Street, the sale of derivatives, the shady dealings by businesses and countries to get low interest loans through these money swaps, and how no one really understand how the financial sector really worked (despite all of this). It’s a mess.

    Australia does seem like they are better off than most countries. I didn’t realize all the details until you shared them. Here in the US, things are better than most countries but aren’t great. We have a fundamental problem of living in debt. This applies to our government as well as individuals. Our system and the way we live is broken. Maybe that is the biggest frustration – the fundamental way we operate.

    So even if Australia has it good, maybe it’s an overall frustration with the system rather than the circumstances. Granted, it’s much better to be in Australia than most other countries right now.

    • I’m glad you touched on the ‘debt’ issue because that is fundamental to a lot of these problems. I don’t have the stats to prove this, but I think one of the reason personal finances are better in Australia than many other countries is because debt is not forced on us from a young age. We don’t have to take out loans to go to college, we don’t need to pay for health insurance somehow, and with the enormously high price of property, we can’t afford to get a mortgage!! (ps, only two of those three things are good…) 🙂

      • In Holland a lot people can’t sell the home they thought would be more and more worth (seven or eight years ago). Instead the price dropped. In some cases it can take up to years to find a buyer.
        Today we even have televisions shows that help the heart breaking cases. I heard of a couple that split, and had to stay together in the Amsterdam canal house they bought together for half a million euro’s. For three years they had to stay in the same house. He had to hear and see the man that she left him for day in and out!

  6. The situation in Australia seems to be good after reading this article. People are usually vary of things because everything is measured on the scale of relativity. When you see more worst situations then you come to know that you are better off.
    Likewise Singapore is also a growing and stable economy which offers good job opportunities and a Singapore Employment Pass can land you there.

  7. I’ve had friends over in Australia doing the whole work and travel thing, and they were making an absolute fortune just doing temp work for a mining company. Certainly lots of money in the ground over in Oz!

  8. Really interesting post. I wasn’t exactly sure how Australia was doing in the economy, but I figured they had to be doing pretty well. I think even in Canada we have it pretty lucky. The employment rate in my province (Alberta) is the lowest in the country, around 3% I believe. So far I think I’ve been pretty lucky, and I really don’t have much to complain about.

    • Wow, 3% is an amazing figure! There are definitely parts of the world which haven’t been affected too badly by the financial crisis. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s good governance. Either way, it’s nice to hear it’s not all doom and gloom.

  9. Great post – really informative and offers an important perspective! The more you travel and see how the rest of the world lives, it’s easier to have your eyes open to complaints like you cite here…$70,000 avg income? Not much to complain about at all, it seems!

    • I’m not saying that Aussies have some kind of wonderful utopian golden lives… but you’re right, once you see the rest of the world it puts everything into perspective. There aren’t many reasons to complain about living in Australia.

  10. I complain about the cost of living in Australia probably too much. But I do absolutely agree with how lucky we are in this country and how much better off we are faring than other countries.

    Just this past year I have given birth and had four surgeries and it has cost me barely anything. For that I am incredibly grateful because after living in the US, even with the $500 I was spending a month on health insurance, it would have cost me a fortune.

    I also know that if it were not for living in Australia right now we would never have had the success and opportunities we have had with our blogs. There is so so much opportunity here and it comes to those who don’t bitch and complain but who appreciate it.

    Great post Michael!

    • Thanks, Caz. I’m glad you weighed in with an Aussie perspective!

      Cost of living is certainly an issue and it can’t be discounted (pun intended). But if that’s the worst thing to worry about then we’ve got it pretty good. I know it can be expensive to eat out and drink out, for example, but we’re lucky we can even do that kind of thing!

  11. I think there are people who bitch and moan everywhere, no matter how good they have it. The wealthy in the U.S. complain constantly about having to financially take care of the poor (even though the middle class takes up considerably more of that burden, while our average wages continue to drop), then they turn around and use supposedly Christian beliefs to fight homosexual and women’s rights. What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t vote Republican in the U.S., I’m pretty damn sure of that!

  12. Its why all my mates have moved to Aussie from NZ because they know they can be paid a LOT better than if they stayed in NZ doing the exact same job.

    Pity there are Aussies living there though 🙂

  13. Great post T^3. Can I call you T cubed? I remember talking to a Australian CouchSurfer somewhere in the States. Can’t remember where. There have been so many. She was surprised by the number of homeless in the land of the free.
    What I remember that stuck out about the conversation is that a retail job there min. wage was like 16 Aussie units of currency per hour. I feel the rate of exchange was about 1.3 at the time. 5 Weeks paid leave and they let her take off several weeks a year besides that (unpaid) to travel, with a secure job to come back too. Amazing.
    Here in the states we have focused on personal freedoms for the past 50 plus years, forsaking our social rights and communities. As such we are very much free. America is do or die.
    But I feel it’s ok, because the dying are doing now and changing the States.

    • Ha ha – I love the nickname… might even start using it myself 🙂
      And you’re right about the US, from what I’ve seen. People there are starting to realise that the ‘freedoms’ aren’t necessarily making their lives any better and are starting to rail against that idea. But it’ll take a long time to change, I suspect. Then you’ll have to deal with the problem we’ve got in Australia where everybody expects something for nothing.

  14. Seeing what you’ve got in front of you and appreciating it is really a lifestyle choice I think. Most people default to whinging. Your point that the Aussies are complaining at the moment amuses me as it rather turns the common allegation of ‘whinging poms’ on its head, doesn’t it? I’m a (non whinging) pom living in WA…

    • Ha ha, yes. In fact, you don’t hear the Aussies accuse the poms of being whingers quite so much these days. Maybe we, deep down at least, realise that it’s a bit hypocritical!! 🙂


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