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Australian Exceptionalism

Australian Exceptionalism”…. let that phrase roll off your tongue.

Now stop laughing for a moment if you can!

There’s something about that phrase that just doesn’t sit right with us. We’re not only unaccustomed to thinking about ourselves that way, but for many it’s a concept that is one part distasteful to three parts utterly ridiculous – try mentioning it in polite company sometime. Bring a helmet.

We’ll often laugh at the cognitive dissonance displayed by our American cousins when they start banging on about American Exceptionalism – waxing lyrical about  the assumed ascendancy of their national exploits while they’re forced to take out a second mortgage to pay for a run of the mill medical procedure. That talk of exceptionalism has become little more than an exceptional disregard for the truth of their own comparative circumstances.

But in truth, we both share that common ignorance  – we share a common state of denial about the hard realities of our own accomplishments compared to those of the rest of the world. While the Americans so often manifest it as a belief that they and they alone are the global benchmark for all human achievement,  we simply refuse to acknowledge our own affluence and privilege – denialists of own hard won triumphs, often hysterically so.

Never before has there been a nation so completely oblivious to not just their own successes, but the sheer enormity of them, than Australia today.

In some respects, we have a long standing cultural disposition towards playing down any national accomplishment not achieved on a sporting field – one of the more bizarre national psychopathologies in the global pantheon of odd cultural behaviours – but to such an extreme have we taken this, we are no longer capable of seeing an honest reflection of ourselves in the mirror.

We see instead a distorted, self absorbed cliché of ourselves bordering on parody – struggling victims of tough social and economic circumstances that are not just entirely fictional, but comically separated from the reality of the world around us.

So preoccupied have we become with our own imagined hardships, so oblivious are we to the reality of our privileged circumstances, that when households earning  over $150,000 a year complain about having government welfare payments scaled back, many of us treat it as a legitimate grievance.

Somewhere along the highway to prosperity – and an eight lane highway it has been – far too many of us somehow managed to confuse Cost Of Lifestyle with Cost Of Living. We managed to confuse government assistance as a means to enable the less well off to achieve a better standard of living and greater opportunity, with government assistance being a god given right to fund the self indulgences of an aspirational lifestyle choice beyond our income means. Too many of us have demanded our dreams be handed to us on a plate, and if our income couldn’t provide for them, we demanded that government should give us handouts to make up the difference.

So let us take a hard look at our economic reality.

Over the medium term, our broader economic performance has been nothing short of astonishing. Before the resources boom was even a twinkle in the eye of Chinese poverty alleviation, our performance was world beating – that is worth keeping in your thought orbit. Big Dirt has a bad habit of propagandising about their own contributions and the Australian public has a bad habit of believing them when it comes to our own national development of late.

Imagine if, in 1985, all OECD economies had exactly 100 units of GDP each. If we then tracked the growth of that GDP (using OECD data) over time with the actual growth rates achieved during that period (creating a basic index) – this is how economies changed (click to expand the charts)

Only Turkey, Israel, Ireland and Korea have experienced more growth – with Turkey and Korea pursuing the change from developing to developed status, Israel partially so as well and Ireland recovering from the economic lethargy of civil war, we are the highest growing country that can be remotely called a developed country with no unusual circumstances. Putting this into context, let’s trace that growth over the last 25 odd years with some of the countries we are often compared to.

It’s kind of mind blowing – we grew faster, significantly faster, than all of the countries we are usually compared to, including over the period before the resources boom. But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

What about the distribution of that growth”, I hear you ask. “The poor missed out” you might also be tempted to add.

Using data from the freshly minted OECD report on international comparisons of income distribution and inequality, where the average income growth per year was measured among countries between the mid 1980’s and the late 2000’s, what we find is that Australia left just about everyone else for dead. Not just at the average, or total household income level, but also with the size of the income growth among the poorest  10% of our households *and* the richest 10% of our households.

First up, total population income growth in blue, bottom decile income growth (the poorest 10% of households) in red and the top decile income growth (the wealthiest 10%) in green for all OECD countries.

       

 It’s interesting to note that the only countries where the poorest  10% of households experienced faster income growth than Australia was 4 of the five PIIGS countries – the current basket cases of Europe. Something might be said there about false growth and swings and roundabouts.

Looking at how our growth here compared to the usual suspects:

And for direct comparison:

It is true that the income of the wealthiest 10% of households in Australia grew faster than the income of the poorest 10% of households – the income of Australia’s wealthiest 10% of households grew faster than any other cohort in the OECD. But it’s also true that our poorest 10% of households experienced faster income growth than any country other than Spain and Ireland (who are now quickly reversing that growth with their economic woes) , and faster income growth than the top 10% of wealthiest households in *every other country*.

The income of our poor grew faster than the income of everyone else’s rich. Just chew on that reality for a bit. Let it roll around in your head.

While you’re chewing on that, let’s take a quick squiz at minimum wages. Again, using OECD data, if we turn hourly minimum wages into US dollar equivalents using purchasing power parity adjustments (so we can compare like with like), we can see how the real hourly minimum wage has operated in Australia compared to the nations we’re usually put in the same bucket with.

We have the highest minimum wages in the OECD.  Worth noting too that despite the incessant whinging from the usual business lobbies in Australia, it hasn’t done our economic activity any harm. Now if we compare the ratio of these minimum wages to the average wage for each country, giving us a simple glance at the distribution of wages for each country (which the OECD also fortuitously provides, saving us time), what we find is that Australia, again, sits on top.

Our minimum wage is a lot closer to our average wage than comparable nations.

So our economy has grown faster than nearly all others, our household income has grown faster than nearly all others (including our poor having income growth higher than everyone else’s rich) and we have the highest minimum wages in the world. But wait, there’s more!

It’s unsustainable” I hear the skeptics say – “it’s fuelled by debt!

Well, let’s have a quick look at government debt as a percentage of GDP. Here’s all OECD countries – I’ve thoughtfully pointed out Australia in the chart because it’s easy to miss:

And again, let’s look at the comparison with the usual suspects over time:

OK – So our economy has grown faster than nearly all others (certainly faster than all developed countries), our household income has grown faster than nearly all others (including our poor having income growth higher than everyone else’s rich), we have the highest minimum wages in the world and the third lowest debt in the OECD.

But “what about the taxes” I hear the skeptics say. “We have great big new taxes on everything!

Well let’s have a look at tax as a percentage of GDP for OECD nations: And again, let’s look at the comparison with the usual suspects over time:

We are pretty much the definition of a low tax country.

So our economy has grown faster than nearly all others (certainly faster than all developed countries), our household income has grown faster than nearly all others (including our poor having income growth higher than everyone else’s rich), we have the highest minimum wages in the world, the third lowest debt and the 6th lowest taxes in the OECD.

Now let’s talk about wealth – not income, which we’ve mostly looked at so far, but wealth – the value of our accumulated assets – housing, super, savings etc etc. Here, we’re going to use the The Credit Suisse 2011 Global Wealth Report.

Not only did this find that Australia has the second highest average wealth in the world at $397,000 US dollars per adult (with Switzerland ranked first), but we have the highest median wealth in the world – the wealth of the middleth adult in Australia – coming in at $222,000 US dollars.

The report also gives a number of stats among selected countries which is worth taking a good, long look at.

First up, mean and median wealth per adult:

 

Next up, GDP per adult in US dollars:

Getting the picture?

Now let’s look at the proportion of the adult population worth over $100,000 US dollars:

Finally from Credit Suisse, for some real global context, let’s look at the proportion of the adult population that is in the top 10% of *ALL* global wealth holders.

A full 75.5% of all Australian adults are in the world’s wealthiest 10% of total population.

And to throw a cherry on top in terms of just how our enormous economic growth, income growth and wealth accumulation has flowed through to our human development in a low taxing, low debt country – here’s the latest United Nations Human Development Index for the usual suspects:

We’re second, behind Norway, who knocked us off from our number 1 spot at the beginning of the 21st Century.

So this is our economic reality – we are the wealthiest nation in the world with 75.5% of our adult population making it into the global top 10%, our economy has grown faster than nearly all others (certainly faster than all other developed countries), our household income growth has been one of the fastest in the world (including our poor having income growth larger than everyone else’s rich!), we have the highest minimum wages in the world, the third lowest debt and the 6th lowest taxes in the OECD and are ranked 2nd on the United Nations Human Development Index.

And this didn’t happen by accident.

This happened by design.

This happened because of 30 years of hard, tedious, extraordinarily difficult policy work that far, far too many of us now either take completely for granted, or have simply forgotten about.  We have, without  even realising it, created the most successful and unique economic and policy arrangement of the late 20th and early 21st century – the proof is in the pudding. A low tax nation with high quality, public funded institutions. A low debt nation with world leading human development and infrastructure. The wealthiest nation in the world where even though our rich get richer, our poor have income growth so extraordinary that it increases at a faster rate than the rich expect to experience anywhere else in the world but Australia. A nation where we enjoy the highest minimum wages in the world.

But so many of us simply deny it – the conservatives deny it because it’s more convenient to whip up hysteria about their political enemies. Filling the heads of Australians with complete lies for partisan advantage and not giving a pinch of the proverbial about the human damage that would be wrought if they ever succeeded in getting us to talk ourselves into a recession of our own making . That’s not to mention many of their ideologues – denial is an absolute must when any acknowledgement of our actual economic and social reality would be to admit that their extreme policy fetishes are just pissing in the wind.

The broad left in Australia deny it, because to admit our economic and social reality is to admit that we’ve actually solved most of the big problems that other nations are still grappling with, and they had little to do with it. The problems we have left in Australia are difficult and sophisticated, requiring  a level of thoughtful engagement far beyond the scope of occupying Fuck Knows Where in tents. If the US government responded to the Occupy Wall Street movement by implementing a large policy program that Australia already has – Occupy Wall Street would declare victory and go to the pub!

Then we have the ordinary Australian – who appears to be getting more ordinary with every passing day.

It might be time that Australia grew its reality based community – perhaps acknowledging maybe not Australian Exceptionalism, but certainly our exceptional results and what has actually caused them.  Maybe a little pride in our achievements, a recognition of our triumphs, a grasp of where we indeed sit in a global context – if for no other reason than to crystalise out exactly what it is that we need to solve next, free from the noise of the drum bangers and their oxygen thieving ways when it comes to what passes for our national public debate.

Maybe just a little less unhinging.

 

117

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  • 1
    Malcolm Young
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Just beautiful. I have nothing else to say.

  • 2
    Danny Lewis
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Possum: will you marry me?

  • 3
    Monash.Edu
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I hope you realise that ‘debt’ includes more than just government debt, and you ignored private debt held by households and business because it wouldn’t fit well with the argument.

    And house prices which cost of living kinda ignores.

    Agree with the general sentiment though. Mostly.

  • 4
    Gerry Hatrick, OAP
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    *SWOON*

  • 5
    Bushfire Bill
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Sensational post Poss.

    I’ve sent it on to a few whingers of my acquaintance.

  • 6
    paddy
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    A possum *with* hinges. :-)
    An absolute cracker of a post Poss.

  • 7
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    I realise that Mr Monash.

    Private debt is nothing more than private preferences realised through a filter of ability to pay in Australia.

    It’s a policy non-sequitur as long as lending standards remain high. Australian lending standards are among the highest in the world.

    Yes, house prices have grown. Too many people wanting to live in the same limited geography, while simultaneously preferencing low to medium density development over high density will do that – especially off the back of structural changes to the cost of credit and growing dual income households.

    As I mentioned in the post – our remaining problems are relatively small, but enormously complicated.

  • 8
    Laurie Gaffney
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Marvellous. Thanks Poss. PASS IT ON

  • 9
    Steven Warren
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Excellent. :)

  • 10
    SoulmanZ
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    fantastic poss

    what do you think of the fact you alluded to though … that income inequality is backsliding, and actually among the worst in the OECD?

    for example as expressed here – http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html

    not really a small, or complicated, problem? Worse than I would have thought, anyway

  • 11
    zoomster
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Housing affordability is a reflection of lifestyle aspirations (which, of course, is why expecting governments to be able to do anything much about it ignores reality).

    I’m sure Poss could run us up a graph on this someday (all that time he has on his hands) but again, our ‘norm’ for housing scarcely matches that of the rest of the developed world.

    Reminds me of a friend of mine, from a very establishment background in England, who came out to Australia twenty years ago in pursuit of his future wife.

    She picked him up at Tullamarine and drove him home to her father’s house in the burbs.

    “I don’t know much about Melbourne,” he said, “but looking at this area – detached houses on large blocks, two cars in every driveway – I can tell this is one of the affluent suburbs.”

    It was Broadmeadows.

    In most major cities of the world, people live at much higher densities. Living in an apartment building is the norm, for everybody.

    It is our choices that make housing unaffordable. If we were content with living in a two bedroom apartment on the forty sixth floor, housing would be affordable – and we’d still be living in housing which was the envy of most of the world.

    Chose to live in a detached house (or even a semi detached one) with a garden, and housing becomes unaffordable.

  • 12
    2353
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Geez Poss – your lack of frequency has increased your quality.

    Pity the chances of someone in the main stream media picking up this theme and running with it are almost zero – for which you can basically blame our bigoted and sour politicians of all varieties “playing for the sheep station (Canberra)” and dragging the media along with them.

    Whatever happened to celebration of success?

  • 13
    Fiz
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. I wish more than you, Ross Gittins and occasionally MegaGeorge actually told Australia the truth about ourselves.

  • 14
    Kristian
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Great post, but why the oddly intense hate of the Occupy people?

  • 15
    coconaut
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Very nicely done.

  • 16
    Mark Newton
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Monash: private debt would come through in the Credit Suisse wealth stats.

    If I have $1m in assets and $1m in debts, I’m not really wealthy.

    – mark

  • 17
    pdtlamb
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Think I’ll forward it to Joe Hockey. Just for fun.

  • 18
    spur212
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Superb Possum! Absolutely superb!

  • 19
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Thing is I live on disability, have no debts and live very well thank you very much.

  • 20
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Very neatly explained Poss. Should we be full of pride at our achievements, or ashamed of our ignorance of them?

    It’s hard to manufacture faux panic if the populace was informed like this, so I guess that means we won’t be seeing any of this stuff on the front pages of Limited News.

  • 21
    Andos
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post, as usual, Scott.

    One thing I would mention in regards to private debt vs public debt is that it’s more than just private preferences.

    As I understand it the sectoral balances of the economy, through accounting identities, say that a public sector surplus (Govt) must equal a private sector deficit (including trade balance). Therefore, the economic growth over the last decade has been funded mostly by private debt corresponding to the surpluses run by the Howard Government.

    Luckily, when the crisis hit we had a Labor Government who were willing to go into deficit in order to fund the savings desires of the private sector and maintain (mostly) employment levels. But the private debt balance hasn’t unwound yet, so we remain vulnerable to an economic downturn.

    If we wish to continue the (almost) fantastical growth that we can see in your beautiful charts, we simply must get over this “surplus good” fallacy (or become a massive net exporter, which I don’t think will happen or is desirable).

  • 22
    michael l
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    A ringing endorsement of the economic and social policies of the NSW Labor Right!

    Heheheh

  • 23
    NickE
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant.

    Honestly, this should be one of those TED talk things. Or something to spread this much more widely.

  • 24
    dk au
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    You’ve forgotten Weber 101, Possum. The problems of capitalism aren’t ‘solved’ by providing more money, more choice and more pleasure. People need to find sources of meaning too, for all the reasons Will Davies goes into in this piece: http://www.newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2916 Besides, it’s silly to attack people’s ‘lifestyle’ by reminding them of their ‘choices’. If I want to own a modest property in Sydney so I can get to work within a reasonable time to put in a solid day, what exactly are you suggesting are my ‘choices’?

    Or to come at it from the right, Andrew Norton has covered this ground a million times.
    http://andrewnorton.info/2009/01/28/gdp-and-well-being/ Rising incomes don’t lead to greater contentment even if falling incomes lead to unhappiness.

    The ranty frustration in this post exemplifies the long observed problem of utilitarianism: that the success of the utilitarian project can only be appreciated within its own terms.

  • 25
    scorpio
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Blimey Possum, I was a bit cranky at you pinching my mangoes but after producing a work of art like this (something the combined economic & political field of journalists couldn’t do in a month of Sundays) I’m quite happy for you to help yourself to as many as you like! ;-)

  • 26
    John64
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    So Possum, one might say that “Working families in Australia have never been better off”?

    ’cause we all know what happened to the last person who said that…

  • 27
    Coaltopia
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Pollute the world. Become exceptional. Got it.

  • 28
    Mysta Squiggle
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    SoulmanZ the point of Wilkinson’s TED talk about the UN statistics is not just that income inequality is bad in Australia but that it is directly corelated to many factors related to well-being. Not only that but that actual income, the subject of Possum’s analysis, bears no relationship to well-being whatsoever in an OECD country (well not in the graphs Wilkinson shows anyhow). Check the graphs here http://bit.ly/yoccupy

  • 29
    Gecko
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Well that lifts the spirits! Makes you proud. Thanks Poss, great post and just what we needed.

  • 30
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Poss, this is the most fantastic post I’ve seen here. Happy with the reduced frequency of postings if this is the quality we get in exchange.

  • 31
    blinvisible
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    The word productivity is conspicuously missing from this piece. GDP per capita per hour worked figures don’t tell such a rosy story for the lucky country. We work harder than the US/Europe and do so less efficiently yet our compensation rate has risen more quickly.

    Are we experiencing deferred wage growth from past productivity? Are we being compensated on an unsustainable trajectory?

  • 32
    sprocket_
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    But things would have been even better under a Coalition government

  • 33
    The Big Ship
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    As sweeping an analysis as could be asked for, and one that should be made compulsory reading for every whinging pinhead in the country.

    I am going to summarise all of your excellent rebuttals to the usual suspects talking down our national achievements, and have it on a card I will carry around with me.

    Keep on sticking it to ‘em, Poss!

  • 34
    calyptorhynchus
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Looking for the word ‘environment’.

  • 35
    Katielou
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Love your work Possum. Duly sending link to everyone I know.

  • 36
    Holden Back
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    @ The Big Ship – could you make T-shirts of that card? Printed font and back?

  • 37
    sustainable future
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Fantastic article – I keep telling my kids that they are “The luckiest of the luckiest of the luckiest people on earth and all of history” (they’re well off, healthy Australians living in a loving home in a fantastic part of the country), but I had no idea just how true this was.

    This should be sent to every Australian, with the heading

    “F***ing stop whingeing about: the largely compensated and avoidable $5-10 per week cost of carbon price; asylum seekers; and, in fact, just stop f***ing whingeing and share a bit”

  • 38
    don
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks Poss. If you didn’t exist they’d have to invent you.

    Great post and analysis, thank you.

    Sending link elsewhere, like others here.

  • 39
    Bob From Melbourne
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Your dreaming. Statistics can prove anything. What about the age pensioners who can’t afford electricity?
    I guess money doesn’t matter unless you dom’t have enough

  • 40
    charlton neil
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    As a Brit living in Perth this may all be true, but beware the cultural void. Nothing can prepare you for the dullness and isolation of living here.

    “Australia is like a library with a dozen or so books I’ve read, and re-read and read again. In London and Europe, it feels like I’m in a library that I’ll never get to the bottom of” Justin Knock

    Yes they’ve got money, but the blandness of life here wears you down.

  • 41
    imacca
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Good overview Poss. It not all beer and skittles here, but the lifestyle has much to be said for it. :) Cant wait for the pollies to pick up on this and start arguing about who’s to get the credit??

    Hopefully its this kind of analysis that will prevent the Teabaggers from gaining too much traction over here.

  • 42
    Holden Back
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Charlton Neil – you need to leave Perth.

  • 43
    Tom Conley
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I think you’re right about the overall performance. The Rudd and Gillard governments should be commended on their exceptional performance through difficult economic times. Likewise Howard’s social spending shift helped to shore up incomes for the bottom two deciles. The problem is that there are still a huge range of vulnerabilities that face us – two that matter in the immediate sense are our vulnerability to changing demand for resources and our vulnerability to changing financial supply. The private debt issue as pointed out above does matter a lot. Household debt as a percentage of disposable income is about 160%. In the early 1990s it was below 50%. What this means is that a significant growth motor during the late 1990s and early 2000s (i.e. before Boom Mark I) cannot be repeated, unless we go to 270%, which would of course make us incredibly vulnerable. We’ve done very well, but also been incredibly lucky, with the timing of changes. Resources have been a benefit to the Australian economy, because we’ve relatively good at distributing the benefits, but we could do much better in that department. I agree that dealing with the politics of boom is better than dealing with the politics of austerity, but the dangers of being too triumphant is the same as it ever has been. Also while most people have been doing better there are still some that are less able to take advantage of our excellent performance.

  • 44
    podrick
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I am sorry you are bored Charlton Neil, you could always go back to England with its current economic woes and shit weather, but at least you would no longer be a dullard in a cultural void.

    BTW, Great blog Pos, it puts a really different perspective on our national situation and gives some great new talking points for my favourite torys at the pub. I am getting a bit jaded with asking them “Why are you so upset about some jobs possibly going overseas due to the carbon tax, when you cheer on Alan Joyce sending Qantas jobs to Asia?”

  • 45
    Socrates
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Excellent post, Poss. Apart from exposing the absurdity of local politics and cries for “the battlers”, this has implications beyond Australia. I think it is a fantastic refutation of all the right wing “expansionary austerity” and “low wages to be competitive” nonsense in the USA and elsewhere. The comparison of Australia and OECD since 2007 is particularly stark. Although you make a good point that the improvement started well before the respurce boom, back in the mid 1980s. Looks like government health and education with regulated private markets for the rest works. Who’d a thunk it?

    Paul Krugman would like to see this.

  • 46
    Socrates
    Posted December 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    charlton neil

    Here as in Britain, I think that depends on where you live. London is wonderful to visit, but life on a Council estate in Birmingham or Sheffield is much less interesting. Here in Adelaide I feel that I have access to excellent culture and arts, and I would say the same in Sydney, Melbourne and these days Brisbane too. I think Perth has suffered from rapid growth, not much time to develop “cultural capital” and Australia’s most lifeless city centre. If it follows Brisbane’s development path though, that too will change. It took Brisbane ten years, after Joh was booted out.

18 Trackbacks

  1. By The Australian Model by senexx - Pearltrees on December 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    ...] Australian Exceptionalism | Pollytics “ Australian Exceptionalism ”…. let that phrase roll off your tongue. Now stop laughing for a moment if you can! There’s something about that phrase that just doesn’t sit right with us. We’re not only unaccustomed to thinking about ourselves that way, but for many it’s a concept that is one part distasteful to three parts utterly ridiculous – try mentioning it in polite company sometime. Bring a helmet. We’ll often laugh at the cognitive dissonance displayed by our American cousins when they start banging on about American Exceptionalism – waxing lyrical about the assumed ascendency of their national exploits while they’re forced to take out a second mortgage to pay for a run of the mill medical procedure. [...

  2. By Club Troppo » An exceptionally fine blog post … on December 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    ...] best blog post for 2011, I wouldn’t have even a moment’s hesitation.  It would be Australian Exceptionalism by Scott “Possum Comitatus” Steel published this afternoon on Crikey.  It’s [...

  3. By Robert Long (robertlong) | Pearltrees on December 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    ...] We see instead a distorted, self absorbed cliché of ourselves bordering on parody – struggling victims of tough social and economic circumstances that are not just entirely fictional, but comically separated from the reality of the world around us. So preoccupied have we become with our own imagined hardships, so oblivious are we to the reality of our privileged circumstances, that when households earning over $150,000 a year complain about having government welfare payments scaled back, many of us treat it as a legitimate grievance. In some respects, we have a long standing cultural disposition towards playing down any national accomplishment not achieved on a sporting field – one of the more bizarre national psychopathologies in the global pantheon of odd cultural behaviours – but to such an extreme have we taken this, we are no longer capable of seeing an honest reflection of ourselves in the mirror. Australian Exceptionalism | Pollytics [...

  4. ...] Original Possum article: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2011/12/08/australian-exceptionalism/ [...

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