Masking Australia for the BBC nearly 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 approach to life superpower of the world, a standing that’s now additionally beneath risk.
Not like 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 world monetary disaster, an financial meltdown that the remainder of the world described, extra gravely, because the Nice Recession. I realised, in fact, that hundreds of thousands of Australians by no means acquired to profit from the “surprise from Down Underneath” financial system, not least many First Nations individuals. Nonetheless, at a time of world turmoil, the mixture of solar, sea and hovering property costs appeared like a world-beating trifecta.
These world rankings – which I by no means totally belief – proceed to treat Australia as a life-style powerhouse. Fourth is the place it at present ranks, behind Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands, in response to Numbeo, an index that takes into account healthcare quality, housing, transportation and crime rates. Australian cities additionally do effectively within the liveability leagues, though just lately 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 normal 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 recognized 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 wrestle to tread water, nonetheless much less get forward. As Ross Gittins famous final week, the typical 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 Conflict 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. Nonetheless, lots 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 in the beginning of 2020, as an example, it was not within the Chinese language province of Wuhan however fairly 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 risk 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 surroundings can be unsettling. Maybe probably the most noticeable change from 10 years in the past is the shift in angle in direction of Beijing. Again then, China was the goose that laid 24-carat eggs. Now, beneath Xi Jinping, it has shape-shifted right into a menacing dragon. The good Australian straddle between Washington and Beijing, which all the time required a substantial diploma of double-jointedness, has develop into nearly ergonomically inconceivable.