I noted Claire Perry’s MP positive comments regarding Australia following her recent trip there. I think she must have been to a different country to the one I lived in for the last thirteen years. I have just moved away from Australia as I have had enough of it.
I have no doubt that Ms Perry, as an ex-banker, liked the Australian banking system given that it is the most profitable in the world. It is profitable as it is protected by the Government and charges high fees and high interest rates, gouging its customers who have no alternative. Whilst it is true the Australian banks did not get sucked into the financial crisis, that was only because they were slow to react to the ‘opportunities’ of securitised mortgage lending.
The banks were just starting to get involved in mortgage securitisation (I was advising clients on the tax implications) when the bubble burst. If Australian banks had acted a bit more quickly they would have been in the same mess as everybody else.
Whilst Ms Perry admired the pension and welfare reforms of Australia this is because the Government has turned its back on provision. Pensions are provided as a safety net only; most workers will get no State pension provision and are forced into paying fees to superannuation funds and are left at the mercy of the stock markets. Whilst health insurance is not compulsory, to get decent health care you have to join a private medical fund and if you earn more than £50,000 you are taxed a further 1% if you do not take out private medical cover.
The Australian economy is also not as healthy as it would first appear. The country is basically a quarry with a beach. GDP is supported by the mining boom, but whilst minerals and energy exports accounted for 72% of Australia’s exports it represents 2% of employment. A few, very few, people are getting very rich and apparently the rest of the population can go to hell.
The mining boom is creating a two speed economy, booming in Western Australia and declining elsewhere. Even the State government in Queensland (one of the other mineral boom States) is laying off thousands of staff due to the decline in the non-mining economy. In addition, the mining boom is destroying the environment. Eventually, Australia will be a spoil tip surrounded by a polluted beach.
Australia must also be the most bureaucratic country in the world. In my last job I had to deal with thirteen different taxation authorities and had to submit over 850 tax returns per annum due to the tangle of Federal, State and other authorities. There are rules and regulations for everything; and of course these differ from State to State and also from one local authority to another (and there are thousands of local authorities as they cover very small areas.)
You cannot wash your car on your own drive, you have to go to college and get a certificate to renovate your own house (even though you still have to use tradesmen), you cannot take your dog anywhere – no beach in Sydney permits dogs at any time of the year, even in June and July when the beaches are deserted – and you give up any idea of home DIY.
Anything more than changing a light bulb or attaching a hose to a tap has to be done by a licensed tradesman (which is no guarantee of competence as I learnt to my cost). Even changing a plug on an appliance has to be undertaken by a tradesman in some States! Failure to do so means you are liable to fines and your house and content insurance is invalidated.
Add to this the corruption and incompetence of the police, the high levels of violent crime (drive by shootings are the latest sport in Western Sydney), high death rate on the road and very aggressive driving (especially in Sydney), and it can be seen that Australia is not some nirvana.
There is obviously the compensation of the weather: 100% humidity in the summer, torrential rain in the winter, and it’s so dry some summers that you run the real risk of bush fires (even in the city). And they are not any good at sport despite their claims – no trophies in their cabinet!