Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

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Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by weemadando » 2013-02-26 02:46am

Interesting BBC report on the cost of living and lifestyle in Australia.
BBC wrote:Australia has managed to come out of the global financial crisis without a recession. But as a result of its booming economy, the cost of living is extremely high.

It was the limes that finally tipped me over the edge.

In the sleepy Australian seaside village where my parents live, not that far away from several citrus orchards, I was in a supermarket staring at a sign:

Limes: $2.25.

Two Australian dollars, twenty-five cents.

That's £1.50 (US$2.30). Not for a bag. Not for a pair. Each. One lime cost £1.50. Infuriated, I stormed out of the shop, limeless.

"The country has lost it," I fumed to my mum and dad over dinner that night. "How can anyone afford to eat in this country?"

"Darling," my father replied. "Look around. People here are rolling in money. We live in an unbelievably wealthy nation."

And he is right. In the 12 years since I last called Australia home, it has changed. It was always the lucky country, blessed with fertile land, abundant sunshine and plentiful natural resources.

Now, we are more than lucky. We are rich. Bloody rich. So rich that no-one blinks an eye at paying as much for a lime as some of our neighbours in Asia earn in a day.

Ten years ago, not one single Australian city was in the top 50 most expensive cities in the world to live in, now three are in the top 15

And you can feel it, just by looking at the small stuff.

For example, there is no litter on the streets. Nowhere. And I am yet to see a central reservation where the grass is not well-tended and the attractive shrubs not perfectly pruned.

It is the cars. I swear there is none on the road that is older than eight years. They are clean and dent-free and meet strict safety standards.

It is the obsession with gourmet food shows, the shiny European appliances in the shiny designer kitchens that seem to be a feature in even the most average family home.

It is the seriousness about single-origin coffee made by baristas who get paid £17 an hour before tips to bestow their caffeine-laced munificence on their devoted followers.

I do not mean to sound flippant. Of course, there is poverty too, and the gap between rich and poor is growing.

But the overall feeling I get is that this is a country that can afford to be worried about the small stuff, because the bigger things - food, shelter, water, employment are pretty much taken care of.

Australia was one of the few developed nations that came out of the global financial crisis without a recession.

It was down to the prudent economic management of the government at the time, but it was also largely because of the huge mining boom this country has been riding for nearly a decade.

The world, especially China, wants what Australia has in the ground. And it has been willing to pay for it.

And it feels to me, a long-lost daughter, that the country has been irrevocably changed as a result.

My parents' sleepy seaside village used to be inhabited by retirees and fishing families. Now we share the one pub with hundreds of mine workers, who come for their days off to burn money on bottles of spirits and the newly installed slot machines.

Their driveways are stacked with fishing boats, jet-skis and monster trucks - all the boys' toys.

We call them "cashed-up bogans", which roughly translates as "urban rednecks". Plenty of money, not much sense.

It is a term my middle-class tribe uses disparagingly to make us feel better about being educated, but comparatively poor.

I am not the first privately educated, university graduate who wishes she had done a truck-driving course instead.

Sure, I might be bored, but at least I could afford to buy a house.

I asked my taxi-driver the other day if he thinks Australians are rich. He was originally from Turkey.

He looked at me as though I was stupid. "We are living in the lap of luxury here," he said, gesturing to the blue sky and the magnificent city skyline.

So I asked him if he thinks Australians are happy. This time, he sighed.

"When I was at school my teacher asked us who had to work harder, the poor Africans, or the rich Americans," he began.

"A lot of us said the Africans, but my teacher told me no, it was the Americans. They were always working to find ways to pay for their lovely life. Australians are the Americans now."

It made a lot of sense. As a country, we are richer that we could have ever imagined 20, even 10 years ago.

But we are more anxious, too, worried about our non-existent public debt, worried about what we will do when the mining boom is over, which it will be soon.

Worried about how we're going to pay for our next overseas holiday, because that's what we've all come to expect as normal.

And me, I am especially worried about how to make sure the limes on my newly planted lime-tree grow, because I sure won't be buying them in a supermarket any time soon.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by madd0ct0r » 2013-02-26 04:02am

my heart bleeds for them.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by madd0ct0r » 2013-02-26 04:38am

those poor rich austrailians having to work so hard to afford expensive limes.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Stark » 2013-02-26 04:47am

You mean the people in the country where the cost of living is rising and the cleavage between rich and poor is getting larger? I thought you liked to think you were smart or well informed on these issues?

Who knew paying people $98,000 to clean toilets would inflate cost of living? Who knew a housing bubble that never burst would mean most people could never afford a home? Who knew an ever-growing middle class created social problems?

Never fear, Maddoctor the cretin is here to demonstrate he can't read. :V

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by madd0ct0r » 2013-02-26 04:53am

nope, but I'm british. we've been through all of the above. (it did crash.)
like I said, my heart bleeds.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by weemadando » 2013-02-26 04:56am

Stark wrote:Who knew paying people $98,000 to clean toilets would inflate cost of living? Who knew a housing bubble that never burst would mean most people could never afford a home? Who knew an ever-growing middle class created social problems?
God. If I hear one more fucking arsehole tell me I'm better off renting...

Sure, maybe for now, but the advantage of a mortgage over renting long term is EVENTUALLY YOU STOP PAYING A FUCKING MORTGAGE and are left with just the "upkeep" costs of your property. Not paying 1/3-1/2 your income on rent until the day you fucking die.

Not to mention that renters in Australia are still treated like shit. Hope you like living in a shithole of a property where nothing gets repaired and if you kick up a stink about it you'll never get another official rental again and be forced to go into the private rental market. YAAAAY.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Stark » 2013-02-26 05:08am

madd0ct0r wrote:nope, but I'm british. we've been through all of the above. (it did crash.)
like I said, my heart bleeds.
So you've been through all the above by being in a different situation? I'm glad you contributed!

Ando its pretty funny that because of the nonsense involved in renting its actually easier to borrow $800,000. :V The crybaby English aside, its just sad that these (really predictable) results shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, least of all the Howard Patrol. But they're on the good end of the scale, having millions of dollars literally appear from nowhere in their bank accounts, so they don't really give a fuck about the social pressures this situation creates and those that do are too poorly educated to understand why it happened anyway.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by madd0ct0r » 2013-02-26 05:43am

Stark you said:
Stark wrote: Who knew paying people $98,000 to clean toilets would inflate cost of living? Who knew a housing bubble that never burst would mean most people could never afford a home? Who knew an ever-growing middle class created social problems?
I was about to argue that high minimum wages, housing bubbles, ever growing middle class were hardly fucking unique to Australia* - but then I did the maths.
At 52 weeks, 40 hours a week, $98,000 is $47/hr. That's 32 quid an hour. Are you fucking kidding me?


*You have mines, we have london.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by hongi » 2013-02-26 06:40am

Not to mention that renters in Australia are still treated like shit. Hope you like living in a shithole of a property where nothing gets repaired and if you kick up a stink about it you'll never get another official rental again and be forced to go into the private rental market. YAAAAY.
ohhhh man. should i tell you about how our flat floods periodically whenever someone upstairs turns on the aircon because some fucktard built the place wrong and to fix it they'll probably have to rip up the walls and these tightarses wouldn't piss on me to save me from a fire, they laugh when i ask for compensation. on top of that, this place costs $560 p/week.

no, no i shouldn't tell you. i'll just fume.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by madd0ct0r » 2013-02-26 07:14am

Can you not complain to the relevant authorities?

UK if the flat dosen't meet building regs the landlord MUST make good or they loose their right to let.
Sure you might have to have a pissy fight to get some arseholes to do anything, and if you don't know the building standards it's a lot harder but it can be done.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by weemadando » 2013-02-26 07:44am

Yeah, you can definitely go through the tenants unions and tribunals etc, but the landlord can still kick you out after all that, even if you did get money back from them. And then, good luck getting another rental on short notice without a reference from your previous estate agent/landlord.

So you shut the fuck up and ask nicely for urgent work to be done, pretty please. There's a lot I'd love to have done where I currently live, but we don't push it because we pay a pretty damn reasonable rent for a nice enough place in a great location and don't want to piss off the powers that be.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by weemadando » 2013-02-26 07:46am

Also, the UK and Europe in general has a stronger culture of renting it seems.

If you aren't a university student/unemployed here and are renting then it's generally assumed that there's something wrong with you. It's only in the past decade with house prices exploding that it started to change as suddenly no one could afford to buy a fucking house anymore.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Alkaloid » 2013-02-26 08:13am

Hey, at least no one has contemplate setting up special economic zones yet so people working in the mining industry don't have to pay taxes!
ohhhh man. should i tell you about how our flat floods periodically whenever someone upstairs turns on the aircon because some fucktard built the place wrong and to fix it they'll probably have to rip up the walls and these tightarses wouldn't piss on me to save me from a fire, they laugh when i ask for compensation. on top of that, this place costs $560 p/week.
Hah. I was dealing with a person at work the other day who has a back to base alarm installed in the place they're renting. Its faulty and is making about 300 phone calls a day. Landlord refused to fix it. Care to calculate what that's costing her a month? What, compensation? just cancel your phone line! That's what the last tenant did!

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Surlethe » 2013-02-26 10:16am

Wow, yeah. Australia would be so much better off with deflation and 8-12% unemployment. #FirstWorldProblems
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Spekio » 2013-02-26 10:24am

Surlethe wrote:...FirstWorldProblems
This sums it up, pretty much.

---------EDIT------------
"A lot of us said the Africans, but my teacher told me no, it was the Americans. They were always working to find ways to pay for their lovely life. Australians are the Americans now."
This is stupid in so many ways, I feel dumber just by having read it.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Stark » 2013-02-26 06:50pm

Surlethe wrote:Wow, yeah. Australia would be so much better off with deflation and 8-12% unemployment. #FirstWorldProblems
This is a really disappointing response from a conservative. Surely these predictable results of things that seemed good at the time deserves something better than a childish false dilemma? Perhaps you're simply incapable of discussing the results of these phenomena.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by thejester » 2013-02-26 08:01pm

It's a hard article to respond seriously to because of how little it is representative of what is actually happening in Australia. Clearly there are structural issues in the economy that are driving high cost of living pressures, and questions need to be asked about the alternatives to the current model of a handful of endlessly sprawling cities. The high cost of limes in some seachange town isn't super relevant to that, though.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Stark » 2013-02-26 08:46pm

Yeah it's editorial craps, but I'd expect better than 'some one else did worse'. The economic changes over the last few decades are very real, and there's broad applicability to the changing expectations of the middle class.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by mr friendly guy » 2013-02-27 04:48am

Few random thoughts.

1. Of course we have a higher cost of living. Just look at how much higher our GDP nominal / capita is compared to GDP PPP/capita.

2. This is not helped by the fact that we get certain goods, usually electronic ones at ridiculous prices compared to overseas. Its cheaper to buy them overseas and have them delivered to your door than buying it from an Australian shop.

3. Cashed up Bogans was sort of a problem, the same as with any cashed up group - increase demand, increase property prices etc. This was good if you were already in the market, but bad if you were a first home buyer. I remember being priced out of the market in 2006/7. If the author was feeling bad that she had an education and these "bogans" (some most probably were) was earning more than her, then she should remember the GFC. At that time we read stories of people earning 150K now having nothing because obviously the forget the Commonwealth bank propaganda of saving money which I am sure every kid in my day had to endure. So sad, but really their own fault. (Lost even more sympathy when you see articles of the CUBs blaming immigrants, rather than, oh I don't know - how about economic mismanagement in the US, which led to economic crisis in most of the developed world, which in turn led to China losing exports and cutting down on buying Australia resources. But that would be too complicated. Lets just blame the foreigner).

Fortunately its not so bad now for me anyway. First mortgage is paid off and I have tenants in my second property.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Spyder » 2013-02-27 05:31am

If I could figure out how to earn an Australian salary while living in NZ I'd be living pretty well.
weemadando wrote:God. If I hear one more fucking arsehole tell me I'm better off renting...
Maybe if you wanted to live with seven other people for the next 20 years so you could save up and buy outright.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Alkaloid » 2013-02-27 05:53am

You're hardly a typical example though Friendly. And frankly it doesn't matter how many houses some people can afford to own when earning the average wage in Melbourne cannot afford to purchase a house in any but a very few suburbs right on the outskirts of Melbourne. That's a ridiculous situation unless we are looking to go back to the good old days when we had a class of land owners and a class of tenants. That's not a potential situation either, that's where we are now.

I think a bigger problem than mining is the almost cultish obsession we have at the moment with everything having to be profitable. Giving tax breaks to people owning multiple houses in an attempt to encourage investment in the real estate market is all well and good, but it's not in the best interests of most of the country if it gets to he point where it means most of the country have been priced out of the housing market for good. Now any attempt to roll back those tax breaks is going to lead to people screeching class warfare and the party that attempts it being eviscerated because people are more concerned with how efficient the government is (or how little tax they pay) rather than attempting to provide the country with things people actually need. It's the same thing with the NBN or the Victorian desalination plant. Yes, both were expensive, but both were/are an attempt to provide infrastructure that the country will need, and which will never be provided by anyone but government.
I'd really like someone high profile to stand up and say very slowly and loudly to the people bitching about them that the purpose of a government is not to make money, it's to provide a more or less nice, more or less safe place for it's citizens to live. Hockey or someone, so they can't accuse him of being a communist. Not the the cowardly slug ever would, but a man can dream.

Edit:
If I could figure out how to earn an Australian salary while living in NZ I'd be living pretty well.
Hell, If I could work out how to pay US prices for stuff on an Australian Salary I'd be golden. As it is I can't afford to buy a house here but me and a mate are semi seriously contemplating buying one in the US. Less as an investment and more for the tax deductible holidays to inspect our investment, but still.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by mr friendly guy » 2013-02-27 07:46am

Alkaloid wrote:You're hardly a typical example though Friendly. And frankly it doesn't matter how many houses some people can afford to own when earning the average wage in Melbourne cannot afford to purchase a house in any but a very few suburbs right on the outskirts of Melbourne. That's a ridiculous situation unless we are looking to go back to the good old days when we had a class of land owners and a class of tenants. That's not a potential situation either, that's where we are now.

I think a bigger problem than mining is the almost cultish obsession we have at the moment with everything having to be profitable. Giving tax breaks to people owning multiple houses in an attempt to encourage investment in the real estate market is all well and good, but it's not in the best interests of most of the country if it gets to he point where it means most of the country have been priced out of the housing market for good. Now any attempt to roll back those tax breaks is going to lead to people screeching class warfare and the party that attempts it being eviscerated because people are more concerned with how efficient the government is (or how little tax they pay) rather than attempting to provide the country with things people actually need. It's the same thing with the NBN or the Victorian desalination plant. Yes, both were expensive, but both were/are an attempt to provide infrastructure that the country will need, and which will never be provided by anyone but government.
I'd really like someone high profile to stand up and say very slowly and loudly to the people bitching about them that the purpose of a government is not to make money, it's to provide a more or less nice, more or less safe place for it's citizens to live. Hockey or someone, so they can't accuse him of being a communist. Not the the cowardly slug ever would, but a man can dream.
Yeah you are right. If the government didn't offer such tax breaks, people like me would have to find some other form of investment. However since they are, I have to look at the best options to get bang for my buck, and tax deductions certainly help with making property attractive.
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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Covenant » 2013-02-27 11:56pm

Man, and I'm pissed off that a gallon of milk around here goes upwards of 4 bucks. 2.30 for a lime is enough to make my spleen burst. I don't know, I do feel bad for the Australian guy, that's a system that could easily collapse and leave people with both an insane standard of living and a huge defunded lower class that is struggling to live at all. I'm saving every quarter I can get because it means one more meal, and yeah, even if someone else has it shittier that doesn't mean it doesn't irk me, and it doesn't mean I'm not irked for that guy that sees a system going goofball on the price of food.

I may not be super sad when reality comes to knock, but a lot of people who were just living their lives will hit hard times, and that's something to be sorry for. Major economic systems are too complex for your average joe to be expected to understand, especially when they think their prosperity is their own doing, as so many people are conditioned to believe.

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Re: Australia: Where the good life comes at a price

Post by Mr Bean » 2013-02-28 12:34am

Wait clarify something for me Australians, what's the real cost of your limes minus the fact your live in Australia the ass end of nowhere. Shit goes from the Guam to Germany faster than Guam to Australia. How much of that 2.30$ is pure transport costs from living in the one place on the planet no one bothered creating an empire of any sort in. How much of Aus cost is down to the fact you have issues growing things locally because your nation is filled with deadly predators, and the things that are not deadly are poisonous. And the things that are not deadly or poisonous are invasive species who are murder fucking the hell out of your ecosystem of deadly poisonous wildlife.

Just curious because even if we find two trillion barrels of oil under Perth, its still in Australia. All that wealth does not change the fact that unless your Limes are locally grown they had to be transported from the nearest good lime going region. And if they are grown locally and still cost 2.30$ each I can only assume those are magic limes.

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