My World

Why Australia is a 'rip-off' country..

 

On the eve of the Australian Federal Election 2013, it is simply circumstantial that i post this now. I have been thinking about it for a while. For someone who is, according to the ABC's Vote Compass, 'slightly left of centre' on most issues, this would seem weird. This is a statement that has been made to me from several different angles and from people with very different politics.

 

You may think that a pretty strange opening statement coming from a very proud Aussie. It is a wee bit odd to begin with but I assure you that it is true. This thought has been running around in my head for a while but it was when someone else said it to me again recently that i decided to blog about it or put it down on paper first as it were. You see, I am not the only one who says it.. I don't believe i would be the only one in the room on this issue.

 

This all began with an old man in the regional town that we were living in at the time. He was a strong Labor supporter, being an old shearer with all their history of forming the Union movement and the ALP. He made this statement part of his mantra but we ignored it and put it down as the rantings of an old country boy. However, this same statement was made to me by yet another old man who was much more Liberal-National supporter. Upon further reflection later on and with a move back to the big smoke in the search for better opportunities i came to realise there is elements of truth in what these men were saying to me. The truth is, this country, which is seen as a 'lucky country' to most others but it can be actually quite the opposite if you look at it in reality.

 

Striking here is an example of overseas visitors commenting on the high prices of basic goods here. Not long ago this happened to me. We had family come over from the Philippines and when we visited the local grocery store their first reaction was shock over the high prices of fruit and vegetables. We laughed about it at the time but looking back, it was indicative of a bigger problem here in Australia. You see, that local grocery store was in Longreach, a regional Queensland town of 3 to 4 thousand people. Out there, it's more of a case of a lack of competition and those shops feeling they can charge whatever they want. They use transport/logistics as an excuse for high prices and reducing levels of produce.

 

It is true that we are a very big country with a very small population. As i know all too well about the distances involved in travelling this great southern land. However, for the citizens of this 'lucky' country we get hammered now, all the time, by high costs of goods and services. Even the residents of the populated cities in Australia get hammered by the high prices. They say its the 'tyranny of distance' but that's a furphy... Frankly, it's a big fat lie by the multinational corporations and our own weak government. We buy this crap by the bucketload, hook, line and sinker. I will give a few examples of this..

 

How is it that products made in neighbouring countries are more expensive here than half a world away in the United States. I'm talking about furniture items among other things. Not just furniture items but a lot of items sold by multinational companies. Petrol is more expensive here and don't get me started on electricity prices. The Petrol prices constant rise is blamed on some war somewhere or the growth of China. The issue of electricity prices surprises me as we are a big source of natural resources to other countries, one of our biggest customers is China. The electricity prices here are one of the biggest risers. Of course, the big companies also sell us more and more goods that use electricity. Seeing as how we've become some of the biggest consumers of electronic goods. Guess what, made and heavily advertised by the big companies whose manufacturing base is now in countries like China.

 

As individuals we pay GST (Goods and Services Tax) on most items and Income Tax plus a lot more indirect taxes which were not removed when GST was laid upon us. In fact, I heard that we are one of the most taxed countries in the OECD. Now the GST is accepted generally and seen as part of the economy. It is a good money earner for the federal government with the ultimate beneficiaries the various state governments. So, where are our gold-plated services??

 

Everything price-wise is rising fast except for the average wage, unless you're riding the mining boom wave which, right now they're telling us that that's coming to an end. As an example, car registration has risen every year and yet they're building more and more toll roads. So, that's another fee, an evil that up to recently i tried to avoid using. Unfortunately in some places you have no option but to go along a toll road. To me, it is another 'outsourcing' of pretty basic services in this time where cars are seen as a necessity.

 

Housing prices now are a killer, with the average house price being around 300-400k. That's way way WAY more than our parents ever had to pay. A while back i was told that we are now paying more of our wage to simply put a roof over our heads than ever before. How do you suppose young ones will be able to afford that? It's simple, they can't ... they're being priced out of the market in favour of baby-boomer investors who got in many moons ago when housing was much more in line with their wages and are now happily buying up properties that would have been going to first-timers years ago. How is that fair? Of course, this means rent is going ever higher, pricing some out of the market. And they wonder why there's growing homelessness??

 

The government and corporations are like drug dealers, they got most of us hooked with lower prices until they monopolise the market and then Whammo...... Prices soar and everyone becomes so obsessed with making an extra $$ here and there that they're willing to do anything. A prime example is private health insurance. The government wants users to pay for private hospitals because they can't budget for the public sector. Now they've got a large portion of the population paying private health insurance and of course, this means ever-increasing premiums.

 

Our jobs are becoming more uncertain, not only private sector but public service as well. The government publishes official unemployment rates but that's only part of the story. You see, they would consider you to be employed if you are only working a few hours a week. There is a huge amount of underemployment. People are increasingly performing temporary, casual and/or short-term contract work just to keep food on the table and some sort of roof over their heads. So, tell me, how does one get a mortgage with uncertain employment and sky-rocketing house prices?? Then they say you should be moving out of the family home by a certain age... well, it's just not financially viable for some. No wonder people are delaying having children... it's the uncertainty and terrible cost that prohibits it.

 

Although i have fallen for it too, i have a real issue with the term 'life-long learning'. To me now, it is a scam that takes money and does not necessarily deliver the outcomes. I know of many university graduates who are doing more menial jobs totally out of their field of study many years after their degrees are earned. Why? Because there is not the jobs to match the number of graduates. Many of us complain about it when we meet others in the same boat but we feel theres nothing we can do about it. The universities and colleges are simply commercial ventures now who don't care how many people they spit out the other side. The cost of university is rising rapidly and they're turning free education into a bank loan style repayment plan.

 

Politicians talk a lot now about cost of living pressures but they have no real control over the scams that are legal. Just because something is legal doesnt mean its right. To my mind, neither side of Australian politics has any answers to these real issues. The thing we can't do is blame 1 particular piece of the puzzle or other such as the Carbon Tax. The electricity prices were rising rapidly way before the Carbon Tax.

 

I do wish that people wouldn't talk the Aussie dollar down because I want to be able to travel to other places and finally have my currency valued on the same level as the US dollar. It seems that every time i have decided to and been able to travel the dollar has been low against the 'greenback' and it costs me more... Yet another example of the higher costs for Aussies...

 

Talking about travelling, stay tuned for my next blog post which will be all about my travels so far, not just to the Philippines but to other parts of the globe as well as my domestic travels within this wide brown land.

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Guy | Reply 07.09.2013 13.03

Hey Ant the avg wage is high cos the mining boom outliers, wot about other sectors?? Avg house prices still up on overseas..Petrol, Power all way up too!!

Anthony | Reply 07.09.2013 07.58

Avg wge high (*QOTE) Houses low (*08 peek). GST offset by income tax rejig. Why all this? Govt. want to be glbl plyr! UN recog through g'kids inheriting debt.

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