Masking Australia for the BBC virtually a decade in the past, I made two makes an attempt at arising with country-defining coinage. The primary was to explain Canberra because the coup capital of the democratic world, a title now clearly claimed by Westminster. The second was to argue that Australia was the life-style superpower of the world, a standing that’s now additionally underneath menace.
In contrast to Donald Horne’s never-to-be-beaten The Fortunate Nation, I meant this tagline to be taken at face worth. It appeared particularly apropos throughout the international monetary disaster, an financial meltdown that the remainder of the world described, extra gravely, because the Nice Recession. I realised, in fact, that tens of millions of Australians by no means received to learn from the “surprise from Down Below” financial system, not least many First Nations folks. Nevertheless, at a time of world turmoil, the mix of solar, sea and hovering property costs appeared like a world-beating trifecta.
These international rankings – which I by no means absolutely belief – proceed to treat Australia as a life-style powerhouse. Fourth is the place it at the moment ranks, behind Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands, in line with Numbeo, an index that takes into account healthcare quality, housing, transportation and crime rates. Australian cities additionally do effectively within the liveability leagues, though not too long ago locked-down Melbourne was the one one to make The Economist’s 2022 prime 10 (providing proof of its unreliability). Australians, when requested to rank their common satisfaction with life, give it on average a 7.1 grade, which is higher than the OECD average of 6.7.
But, I wonder if these indices paint too rosy an image. For in on a regular basis that I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve by no means identified it to be so anxious in regards to the current or so fretful in regards to the future. In a rustic the place property values are a barometer of the nationwide vibe, few issues clearly have fairly the identical buzz-kill impact as rates of interest hitting a 10-year excessive and home costs falling.
When mortgage stress combines with cost-of-living stress, and when pay will increase fail to maintain tempo with inflation, households battle to tread water, nonetheless much less get forward. As Ross Gittins famous final week, the common way of life in Australia isn’t any higher than it was 10 years in the past, a life-style stagflation unprecedented because the finish of World Struggle II.
Two years of COVID-19, which has left us feeling burnt out and mentally fragile, has heightened the sense of hysteria and uncertainty. The monsoon impact of La Nina has not helped both. Nevertheless, most of the components contributing to the current downbeat temper predate the pandemic, the cost-of-living disaster and the rain. After we first noticed mask-wearing initially of 2020, for example, it was not within the Chinese language province of Wuhan however slightly the CBD of Sydney, which was shrouded in smog from the bushfires. The destabilisation of the Australian local weather has had a destabilising impact on Australian self-confidence. Beachfront properties, as soon as probably the most prized actual property within the land, now look precarious.
Nation dwelling comes with a heightened menace of fireplace. Flood-hit Lismore gives a glimpse of the longer term for different weak communities. Small surprise that new polling from The Australia Institute found that a record number of Australians are “very concerned” about climate change.
The strategic atmosphere can also be unsettling. Maybe probably the most noticeable change from 10 years in the past is the shift in perspective in the direction of Beijing. Again then, China was the goose that laid 24-carat eggs. Now, underneath Xi Jinping, it has shape-shifted right into a menacing dragon. The nice Australian straddle between Washington and Beijing, which all the time required a substantial diploma of double-jointedness, has grow to be virtually ergonomically unimaginable.