As you might have read in On vacation in Australia, I can recommend Sydney for a vacation, if you are the vacation type. I myself am no. I came over to work a bit in the Australian office and check out whether living here for the winter part of the German year is viable, simply trying to avoid winter depression.
It’s a very different perspective if you think about living in a country instead of vacationing. Suddenly issues become relevant that you can ignore as a visitor.
Side note: Why do people like visiting the US? The good things about the US are only available to their citizens, not to their visitors. Anyway, back to Australia:
Trusting your subjects?
Of course my litmus test for any country is gun rights: It is a great measurement of how much a government trusts its citizens. We should all know by now that legally owned guns don’t create many problems, but occasionally solve them. So any restriction on them speaks more about the government’s fear of its citizens than a sane policy. So what about Australia’s citizens?
Well, for Australia, and New South Wales in particular, replace the word citizens with subjects. No guns to speak of, not much of a surprise. A few rather boring exceptions for hunting and sporting stuff, but this is a country currently busy prohibiting a lever-action shotgun because it shoots sooo many bullets soooo fast! I would have wanted to buy an Adler A110 as a novelty to bring home, but no chance at all.
No carrying of knives is more of a surprise. Because that puts you on the stupidity level of Britain [footnote]also known as the only country where a friend of mine was ever robbed at knife-point[/footnote] and that means monstrously stupid. I’ll point out that there is a huge cardboard box in the office (we had to get a big screen for video conferencing) waiting to be cut up. But no one has a knife on them.
And, as usual, reality is quite busy underlining my disdain: I arrived when gang wars in western Sydney are flaring up. Proper gang wars with people shooting each other up and all. Obviously those uneducated people have not heard that owning guns is prohibited here! Next thing we know, they might even be carrying knives even though they were repeatedly told they ought not to!
Next thing is freedom of speech. Please keep in mind that I am from Germany. We have very strong restrictions regarding freedom of speech, especially in one area: Holocaust denial is a crime, and there are a lot of chilling effects stemming from that. But I do like to think we Germans are kinda excused, you know, with actually killing those Jews in the Holocaust an’ all and basically having all that proof of it happening around. Not saying that censorship is a good thing, and we should definitely work to be more freedom-loving there, but I think we get a bit of lenience to work on other, more important issues first.
Australia on the other hand is generally rated about half as good as Germany by Reporters Without Borders, and they do not even have a proper holocaust of their own! Of course their censorship masquerades as protection from “hate speech”, as in every progressive country. That means as long as you do not offend the right people, you are good to go.
Interestingly, just the day before yesterday I ran into a televised debate where a member of parliament pointed out that political correctness had gone too far. Hehe, you think?!
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
Third one is security theater. It’s bit of a nasty habit first world countries tend to fall into [footnote]and it would be a terrible tool of control, if it weren’t for the general incompetence of governments to implement it[/footnote].
CCTV does not stop crimes, because it is a camera, not a cop and those that rely on crime to earn their living tend to figure that out quickly. But boy, recording them gives you nice videos of crimes to scare people in voting for stronger measures! And maybe you’ll manage to get an honest subject to change their behavior – it is good for making people who care about others to fall in line at least.
Now normal people are at least ashamed of allowing CCTV in their cities. They won’t do anything about it, but at least they tend to be ashamed. In Sydney on the other hand, you get public service announcements telling people not to drink and drive – not as appeal on common sense and decency, but because they are watching you. Awesome.
Same with the entertaining announcements in the Sydney subway stations: There are allegedly cops patrolling the stations and the trains, I am informed every five minutes. So I better behave. Except I do not see any. Here’s the thing from an expert’s position (well, I only got two meager and minor certifications for physical security, which seems to put me two ahead of the people working for the city of Sydney) : You do not advertise patrols. You do them. That catches criminals. Not the other way around. That just offends the law-abiding.
That’s the three main reasons against Sydney for me.
Shelter and food…
A minor point is cost of housing: My original plan was to go from December to February, and check potential housing options beforehand. But F. got a cheap flight, so I ended up going at a point where we did not even know where the new office was going to be. A bit of winging it is a part of F’s management style, but imagine how surprised we were when the average daily cost on AirBnb was around AUD 200!
The alternative for long term accommodation is called flatmates.com.au. After paying a AUD 25 member fee, I managed to find a cheap shared apartment with my own room and bath for 300 AUD per week. It’s a bit off the well-beaten (and -settled) path [footnote]the neighbours sometimes shouted at each other in some Asian language instead of English, which is sad because if I have to buy into the social drama, I want to understand it at least[/footnote], and maybe not as new as I would like, but surely acceptable – if everything else was right.
Food is similarly expensive. I am not talking about 12 bottles of cheap beer for AUD 30 [footnote]that may scare Germans used to 20 bottles of Öttinger for EUR 5.99, but not many other cultures[/footnote], but the fact that average food seems to be twice as costly as Germany. Except for steaks, for some reason, which are similarly priced to German ones, but of higher quality. Don’t ask why, but somehow I’ve become an even bigger fan of barbecues.
Of course this might also be a bit of a political issue after all: The Australians awarded themselves a minimum rate of AUD 17.55 per hour! Of course, minimum wage is not as bad a thing as conservatives make it out to be: It keeps pesky foreigners at bay, all those ugly people whose work is worth less than the minimum wage move out of the pretty cities and as a political party, you can buy their votes cheaply with promises of social welfare since they will not find work.
If that sounds familiar to you, you’re right: This is basically Britain with nicer weather. And you all remember I did not move to Britain either for exactly those reasons, even though that had one enormously better argument (to whom I was married) going for it. Verdict: Not staying.
Interesting though: I would have staid if it was worse. Or different. Because different is educational. Japan was nice and different. And educational. Belarus was horrible and different. And educational. Australia is just more of the same. A progressive’s paradise.