Under a tree - thoughts about Perth
I am sitting in Kings Park writing this, under a tree, looking at a cloudless blue sky, with panoramic views if the city below me.
Yesterday, we met up with a couple of Anna's old muckers, Alina and Lucinda who were "check out chicks" with her in Tesco, over a hundred years ago. We met them at the Little Creatures micro brewery in Fremantle. Quite a few of these over here - they are miniature breweries open to the public where you can drink the ale fresh, get some food and sit out by the sea. New Brighton take note. The Aussies do have a chilled, carefree way of life. Relax, have a few drinks, go to the beach, get some food, have a few more drinks etc
Had a couple of nice beers whilst Anna reminisced about the "old days" when she had to take a horse and cart to get to work. Very enjoyable. Alina somewhat haughtily talked about her life over here. Didn't ask about us too much, but it gave us another insight into the way of life here and a few tips. Lucinda was very nice. They both seem to have a great lifestyle over here. It seemed to be a bit of a "no brainer" for them to come here really, with most of their close family already out here. For some people I guess it is. For other people, it is not so straightforward. Following this, we had a nice Mexican meal and got the train back, in a nice semi-drunken stupor (at least I did). Our room at the newly refurbished Sheraton is ace - you can still smell the new carpet and it was a snip at Perth's prices. I will change the name of the blog to Andrew and Anna's luxury pacific tour of the developed nations when I get around to it.
This morning we had another look around the city centre, decided against taking a boat to Rottnest Island and instead had a chilled afternoon pint in the Lucky Shag bar on the river front (though I was not so lucky). We then made our way to the park where I am sitting.
I think we been here long enough to get a feel for the place, so here are some thoughts .... Most of you will probably not want to read on as its my audition piece for the Daily Mail to replace Peter Hitchens. For those that do, in the words of George Galloway, I salute your indefatigability .......
Perth is like an anglicised version of Florida. It really does not take much adopting to get used to it here - so many English and Irish voices. It is like a home from home. It was nice to get back to a developed country from Bali and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay. A BJ rating of 4 overall methinks.
The weather is fantastic but you have to be careful about the sun - the locals certainly are, always seeking shade and wearing hats - my kind of people. There is a natural cool breeze which makes it very bearable.
The state of Western Australia has its own identity - much less developed then the East Coast. The main employers are the two big mining companies - BHP Biliton and Rio Tinto. There aren't many other high calibre jobs but pay is generally very good. The city and surrounding area is still ripe for development and they have the money, but not yet the dynamism or willingness to do it. To illustrate, Australia as a whole has a debt to GDP ratio of c20%. In the UK, it is c80%. For the layman, we are in the s*** and a country which has been in slow decline since the end of WW2. They are on a long road up. Unencumbered by a nanny state and excessive regulation and with more of a focus on personal responsibilities than rights, if things don't change, Australia will s*** all over the UK in the coming decades. That is, unless the UK leverages off of its shale gas reserves in a big way, generally deregulates, lowers taxes on the middle classes, curbs welfare dependancy and repels the EU bill of human rights with a British bill of rights focussed on allocating rights alongside responsibilities. Simple really. It just takes some "balls" which only Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Webb seem to have.
A couple of examples. They have a bit of a problem with sharks here - they are coming too close to the shore and occasionally attacking people. In the UK that would probably entail shutting all of the beaches down. Here, they issue clear warnings and then leave it to you. Their message being, we told you - by all means carry on but be careful, don't go too far out and don't blame us if you swim too far and get your arm bitten off. No compensation culture here matey. The Aussies wouldn't be arsed by some snow either and there certainly wouldn't be any of the hyperbole that surrounds the snow in the UK. Just get on with it, is the mantra.
So, whilst some British are suing the council because they tripped over a crack in the pavement, while some prisoners are taking the government to court over the right to go on day release to see their children, or when parents blame schools because their kids failed their A Levels, the Aussies do get on with it. Their responses would be in order: watch where you are going you idiot, piss off you are getting an extra year inside for asking something so nuts and finally, you must be thick, lazy or maybe its just not your bag mate. Personally, I find this attitude refreshing. Give people the freedom to take chances and make mistakes as long as they understand they will reap the reward or cost of their efforts.
Australia could be a top five economy in absolute GDP terms in 15-20 years if they encouraged an immigration explosion to populate other areas of the country and built a new "city of the future" on the Northern Western coast, similar to a Dubai. At the moment, they have no intention of doing that. Why? Because they like it how it is and I don't blame them. No overcrowding and big wide open spaces. You can drive out of the city and not see another car for hours here. Who wouldn't want to keep that for themselves?
Australia also has some of the oldest land on earth. Bad for growing crops but rich in natural resources (iron ore and gold) which has given their economy a solid base to develop. Demand from the emerging countries is insatiable and even though commodity prices will no doubt come down over time, Australia is perfectly placed to ride this wave over the next fifty years. There are, however, classic signs of a housing bubble and the AUS dollar is ridiculously overvalued (underpinned by commodity prices) and no doubt there will be a very bumps along the way ... but over the long term this is one of the places to be.
As I've touched on, Perth is not without its faults. There is not a lot of culture around and little man made history. It is and it feels somewhat isolated, which is good and bad. The skyline does not have the Dubai "wow factor" and is not as impressive as Liverpool's skyline. They seem proud of their "bell tower" which looks pretty s*** to be honest - not exactly the Burj Khalif. There is some aboriginal culture but that remains a bit disjointed from the rest of the Aussie population. Integration is far from smooth. Moreover, the shopping is pretty dismal (and pricey) and the people exist in their own bubble, lagging the more cosmopolitan East coast by ten years, which does have some advantages. There is not a massive amount to do if you don't like outdoor activities. If you get into the spirit of things though and had a go at surfing, kite surfing, or swimming and fishing then you would be in heaven. If we were here long term, this is what I would do (albeit with a specially made wax suit covering me
from head to toe) and I think we would really enjoy it.
Anyway, I'm going back to chilling in the heat, you're going back to chilling in the snow. As we leave Perth tomorrow, I will update from Melbourne later on this week. So long ... oh and we're not missing anyone apart from Sam!
This article was written by Andrew T Foster - prospective Conservative candidate for Wirral East and author of "Putting the Great back into Britain - Building an Empire of the Mind", available now from Amazon for £0.00.