Aussies may be bastards, but they believe in themselves.

Written By: - Date published: 1:41 pm, March 26th, 2016 - 31 comments
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Here in Ballarat, Victoria we are having a mini-boom in manufacturing. Yes you read that right. We’re having trouble retaining good people because of the demand. Yes you read that right.

This is because Ballarat has actively invested in providing core capacities like:

We were lucky to get an early NBN rollout in FTTP. Some local pollie likely did the lobbying and work to get us up the front of the queue.

We have a strong education sector, good public and private schools, and two universities.

From the early gold mining days Ballarat had a strong heritage of heavy metal engineering, that while its taken hits in recent times, never completely died either. Now we have at least a dozen companies building high-tech agricultural machinery, mining industry plant, brickmaking machines, railway engineering, fabrication, and the like. A month ago I poked my head in what I thought was a disused old building, and it’s full to bursting with activity.

We protected our cultural and historic street front heritage. Places like Sovereign Hill and Eureka Stockade keep a steady flow of visitors and employment in town

Attractive new sub-divisions with really nice new homes at around $1000/m2, half the price of New Zealand, are constantly being added every year. So attractive I want to buy one, even if it makes no sense for me to do so.

New land and business zones opened up by the Council, and policy to keep big employers like Heinz, Mars and IBM here in town at scale.

Constant public investment keeping the town safe and attractive. While Australia does have awful crimes, on a day to day basis we feel much safer here than in New Zealand.

The State government has a strong Regional policy to ensure core functions are not just concentrated in Melbourne. Large and important state dept’s are actively located in places like Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat.

An immigration policy that deliberately advantages people working for regional employers

Federal govt policy that has identified the industry I’m working for to have strong potential. CSIRO agreements with industry partners that work, real funds for real innovation. Ministers that actually turn up, pay attention to what we are doing and then go away and get things done.

We can cycle most places we want, the roads are wide and safe. I ride 15 min to work along a route around a lakefront, through a wild-life reserve and lagoons and then down some lightly trafficked service lanes that make perfect cycle paths.

People work shorter hours and earn more money. Ordinary people have time to go running, sports like rowing and cycling that are big, mature and attract events nationally and globally. Cafes and bars have live music, or something fun going on. The Council has just thrown a series of four free Friday evening concerts in a historic square, there’s food, really good muso’s dancing and people enjoying themselves without aggro. It’s easy to make friends.

And while the Aussies love to moan about it, the 200km/hr V-Line into Melbourne is bloody magic if you absolutely need a fix of the big smoke. Oh and the trains are designed and built here in Victoria. One of my colleagues right now was part of the design team. That’s how industry clusters work, because they attract and maintain a pool of people who have the skills, energy and experience to get things done.

If I’d stayed at home I would have been happily employed, but the projects I’m working on here are on a global scale, innovative, audacious and challenging. Here I am at the last years of my career and instead of winding down, I’m winding up. I never expected this coming to what I originally imagined might be a quiet little place of 110,000 people a bit in the boondocks. This is the sort of town that should be dying, instead its bloody thriving.

Now of course you don’t have to dig too deep to find some downsides. They exist. But also they get a LOT more attention and social support. Climate change is a thing here. We’ve had to confront an awful legacy of sex abuse crime by the Catholic Church. The specs I’m wearing are not a wholly deep shade of rosiness.

I still love my home. I miss the kiwi mountains and rivers terribly, and my remaining family especially. Eventually we will come home, I’m just too loyal not to. But the longer we stay here, the more I realise how New Zealand is being robbed of so much by a lazy political elite with no vision and less competence. And even when they do encounter a good idea, as Labour is right now with the UBI, we can’t bring ourselves to take a firm grip on it. This is one thing Helen Clark did understand, but was never able to follow through on, that cultural, social and national identity … a pride in ourselves if you like … was the essential pre-cursor to positive change.

It’s why Key’s flag change failed. It had no story, no purpose we could identify with. Ultimately it was a limp tea-towel which meant nothing to us.

New Zealand could do so much more. There is nothing stopping us implementing Labour’s Ten Big Ideas, nothing stopping a UBI, but somewhere along the lines we just stopped believing in our better selves. We settled instead for selfies with Jokey at the shopping mall.

31 comments on “Aussies may be bastards, but they believe in themselves.”

  1. Incognito 1

    Typo in the title.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      Ta. It’s funny how what’s going on in your head and what’s on the screen can be two different things 🙂

      • Incognito 1.1.1

        Thomas A. Anderson would agree with you 😉

      • Observer (Tokoroa) 1.1.2

        . Great writing RedLogix

        Congratulations. !

        The thing that bothers me as a New Zealander, is the smugness that reeks through the citizens.

        They even think if a kiwi scores a try – that they are the greatest in the world in EVERYTHING. Crikey, The best at this; and the best at that; and the best …and the best…and the best. It’s sick to the stomach.

        Sport has very little to do with a successful nation. It’s just a game for teenagers. But we in New Zealand play sport while all the fundamentals of a population get pushed to the back.

        Ballarat, smallish population, knows about Education; Manufacturing; Housing and things that matter.

        Excuse me. I must go and score another try. I will do it for my country. Bugger the housing; bugger the crime; bugger the jobless; bugger the lot I’m a Kiwi. Bugger the schools without qualified Teachers.

  2. BM 2

    Australian government debt is A$405.988 billion.

    Hard to fathom especially when you take into account all the tax made from mining.

    The lucky countries bubble could burst.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Given NZ’s govt debt is around $90b, with a population that’s about six times bigger you have to think the Australian debt is not so bad on a per capita basis.

      And yes the loss of income from mining has hurt, the WA govt especially. But then again it was the Liberals who chose policy that helped the miners minimise their tax.

      Yet the difference is this. While Turnbull enjoyed a remarkable honeymoon, mainly because he wasn’t Abbott, it’s gone off the boil with extraordinary speed. And issues like aggressive tax minimisation on the part of big global corporates is getting centre-stage attention in the political debate here. Aussies really don’t like being played for mugs.

      And that’s what my post is about.

    • Observer (Tokoroa) 2.2

      Hi BM

      Why don’t you get New Zealand fixed? You cynical, smug, self over-rated, useless Kiwi.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    What you’ve described there is exactly what Mariana Mazzucato describes in The Entrepreneurial State. That book is a must read.

    The government getting stuck in and making things happen through supporting businesses, funding R&D and building the infrastructure. Hell, Silicon Valley didn’t really exist until the US Federal government built a microchip fabrication plant there. That combined with good government support for the tech industry and it’s what we see today – a highly successful place of tech innovation (It’s just a pity that all those firms are now dodging taxes that made their success possible).

    The lesson that we should learn from this is that it’s not government becoming small and getting out of the way that gets innovation and entrepreneurship blooming as the RWNJs would have us believe. It’s the exact opposite.

    What the RWNJs ideology brings about is lack of innovation, lack of entrepreneurship and ever increasing poverty while a few people get very, very rich for being really big bludgers.

    • Ad 3.1

      I’m going to find and read that book.

    • AmaKiwi 3.2

      Productive versus non-productive investment is critical.

      $1 million spent on manufacturing is productive and good for people.

      $1 million spent on buying existing houses or farms is NON-productive. It just makes us tenants.

      The Left should slam the current government because we have sold the country and gotten nothing productive in return. A lot of what this government might claim is productive investment has been a huge waste: high speed broadband, roads instead of rail, environment destroying water schemes, charter schools.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1

        That’s just it. The private sector promised us that if we just left them to it they’d get all productive and make us all rich. This failed to happen because the private sector very rarely takes risks or does anything particularly productive. They’re much more into a short term sure thing. So we see over ‘investment’ into existing housing, playing the share-market and speculation on exchange rates.

        High speed broadband is, IMO, major game changer. People get to work from home (reducing the demand for roads) with anybody in the world. The product is weightless and so exports/imports and marketing are easy and cheap maximising returns.

        Then there’s the shift from going to the shops to going online to to all you shopping and getting it delivered.

        Pretty much agree with everything else you listed because everything else fits into the short term sure thing profiteering that the private sector and National do so well. Essentially, it’s all government guaranteed free-money for National’s cronies.

    • RedLogix 3.3

      @DtB

      Thanks for the book link. Absolutely I need a read of it.

      And it lines up with the mixed model economy idea I’ve been completely consistent about all the time I’ve commented here.

      Public sector = high risk, wide scale and long term

      Private sector = low risk, narrow scale and short term

      They both compliment each other, it is necessary they both function in good health for a society to thrive.

      And I’ve said it before, one really quick way of determining if something should be a private or public sector activity is to ask yourself one question, “If this enterprise failed would we as a society have to bail it out?”

  4. Incognito 4

    Good post; you almost had me sold on Ballarat and I mean that in all sincerity (and as a compliment).

    I agree that there seems to a self-defeatish streak running through NZ. Rather than selling ourselves with pride, and we should be our own biggest ‘customers’, we selling ourselves out or short, almost every time.

  5. Mark Stevens 5

    Because voting in Australia is compulsory, I would say that Australians in general are more politically aware than Kiwis or Americans. They can’t just shrug and say, “Nah, couldn’t be bothered.” They may vote informal but they have to turn up.

  6. Tautuhi 6

    In NZ we are so weak gutted we sit back and suck it up, we believe what the Roger Douglas’s and John Keys tell us and we believe what the media tells us.

  7. Ad 7

    Really encouraging post thankyou.

    Also makes me question my early retirement plan.

  8. david 8

    I live in Ballarat. There is inaccuracies in the above article.

    1. National Broadband network rollout is a JOKE. New areas and some old housing area have NBN but many areas don’t and nothing on the horizon. My suburb is 10-15 years old and I don’t have it. The cost of NBN by the Australian government is outrageous compared to New Zealand. Issues with competence.

    2. Public schools are not good. I am a believer in public schools through my experiences in NZ. The standards in public schools in Ballarat are awful, my teacher wife complains daily. I have sent my kid, mid-term , to the private school which is one of the best in Australia. The attitude of the teachers are not good, quality poor and lack professionalism. Start and finish on the bell, like the students. NZ has much better quality of teachers.

    3. Manufacturing jobs? McCain are reducing, Rivers’ distribution centre closed. Rates per house is higher than Auckland. Rates of $2400 per year on $500000 home.

    4. Public health system in NZ is better value for money.

    Saying that the quality and price of housing in Ballarat is good. Alot of commuters to Melbourne.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      The cost of NBN by the Australian government is outrageous compared to New Zealand.

      How are you carrying out the comparison?

      Start and finish on the bell, like the students.

      Exactly as it should be. When you pay someone for a forty hour week you shouldn’t then expect them to do 60.

      Rates per house is higher than Auckland. Rates of $2400 per year on $500000 home.

      My nephew has a ~$500k home and pays around $4000 rates.

      Alot of commuters to Melbourne.

      I assume that would be what the high speed rail is for.

      • david 8.1.1

        Oh I forgot.

        The V-line is limited now, it is not really high speed rail, 110 km takes 1 hour 10 minutes at the fastest or 1 hour 30 min. Technical and safety issues, messed up wheels and rail-crossing. My mate takes the bus to Melbourne, which takes longer but is free to make up for the stuff up.
        Not sure how long it is out for, out for months so far.

        I would prefer the teacher, to do the work and finish at 4 or 430 like NZ and not 845am- 330 pm and do jack all. If they work 40 hours per week, that would be great but they don’t. They work hard at the private school, we actually get some feedback on our kids. It was supposed to be one the better public schools here, ironically. Shame, I am in big believer in everybody getting an equal opportunity for advancement.
        Public service should be that, service. It should be a calling, not a make work scheme. Kids are the future.

        For the council, I would like an inorganic rubbish collection too for my considerable rates.

        Saying that, my salary is good but with the budget overspend over the years, it getting stretched in the public service over the next few years. My wife’s friends, locals, can’t get jobs after having kids, looking for years now. Training scheme after training scheme.

        Taxes are higher than NZ now. An Australian friend of mine, successful game developer, was considering moving to Wellington, NZ. For tax and progressive political reasons. Grass is greener, ironic.

        • RedLogix 8.1.1.1

          The V-line is limited now, it is not really high speed rail, 110 km takes 1 hour 10 minutes at the fastest or 1 hour 30 min. Technical and safety issues, messed up wheels and rail-crossing.

          As I said, Aussies love to moan about it. But on a clear run it is capable of doing 205km/hr which while it isn’t in the same league as the high speed European or Asian systems … is still way faster than anything NZ has.

          Compare this with the Wairarapa service I used for many years. Same distance and well over 2hrs most days. We used to call it the Hogswart Express … magic if it DID arrive on time.

        • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.2

          The V-line is limited now, it is not really high speed rail, 110 km takes 1 hour 10 minutes at the fastest or 1 hour 30 min. Technical and safety issues, messed up wheels and rail-crossing.

          That sounds like the illness that seems to be endemic to capitalism – cost cutting. They cut costs to boost profits and then it costs more to fix up but the fixing also comes with profits.

          For the council, I would like an inorganic rubbish collection too for my considerable rates.

          Have you checked out the actual spending that the local council has and determined if you’re actually paying enough rates?
          I ask because cities have this tendency to keep rates down so as to stop complaints about high rates while the interest bearing debt that they owe goes up. When such is happening then the cities ratepayers aren’t actually paying enough rates. Try running a business where the customers only pay part of the cost of the products/services provided. And, no, I don’t usually compare business with government as the two are significantly different but when it comes to covering costs they’re pretty much the same. They cover the costs in their charges for the services or they go under.

          My wife’s friends, locals, can’t get jobs after having kids, looking for years now. Training scheme after training scheme.

          Yep, been there, done that (except having the kids bit – I was in Uni and out of the workforce). It’s a major failing of WINZ in that the training courses don’t actually teach you anything. Nothing but profit spinners for the private sector I suspect.

          Taxes are higher than NZ now.

          They always have been.

        • greywarshark 8.1.1.3

          David
          I think it likely that you jump to conclusions when judging others. Teachers may not be teaching all of their working hours, but there is such a demand for keeping records and constant testing, that there is a lot of paperwork apart from reading through the submitted work from students. It is possible that much is done at home after dinner that you would have not a clue about.

          • greywarshark 8.1.1.3.1

            David
            My edit time has vanished. Yourwife knows about teaching here and in Oz.
            But the conditions here are quite tough. I think that Oz would have been protected by the universal union strength and wider commitment to them over the years, including teachers I should think. The stopping on the bell stuff sounds very much union based.

            But then have they introduced the various programs that require internal assessment and constant reporting? Here it adds shitloads of work for the teacher. And I believe is so demanding on them that it is impossible for student and teacher to work under, there is flexible reporting going on with children’s achievement levels being boosted by a notch or notches.

      • david 8.1.2

        NBN australia, so far 58 billion dollars and counting.

        NZ scheme, correct me if i am wrong, around 1.5 billion dollars. Correcting for population size, still way cheaper.

    • RedLogix 8.2

      Hi .. thanks for rounding out some of my points.

      1. You’re right, in the interests of brevity I took a bit of a short-cut on the NBN thing. The suburb we’re in was lucky enough to get the original FTTP as contracted under Labour. I’d already commented at more length yesterday on this:

      Labour’s Ten Big Ideas

      Nationally Turnbull’s hybrid is exactly as you say, a JOKE.

      2. Because we don’t have children here I’ve no direct experience with the schools.

      3. I don’t much admire their health system either. A ‘hospital’ seems to operate more as a building housing a collection of small businesses and every encounter we’ve had with it ain’t cheap. Waiting times in A&E aren’t pretty either.

      But this is the case most places in Australia where a creeping privatisation has compromised both the education and health sector. Absolutely this is a comparison, along with our ACC system, where NZ should look across the Tasman and firmly conclude we’ve got it right.

      Yet I stand by the underlying story of my OP. Regional cities like Ballarat have taken hit’s economically over the past decades. There are plenty of enterprises shut down or greatly diminished. But equally … and this is the point … where the state has been persuaded to invest in innovation, and infrastructure both physical and social there is a rebound.

      Look at the steady growth of those new subdivisions around Lucas and Alfredton David. This isn’t a town that’s dying.

  9. Joe-90 9

    I’m not contesting anything you say about the state of Ballart, which I have no direct personal knowledge of. What I would observe is that Australia is a larger country, with a larger population, which makes critical mass for many kinds of economic activity viable, and Ballart is very close to one of its major cities, with a population not a whole lot less than all of NZ. In economic geography literature all of these features alone would account for the comparative vibrancy of its economic performance – by rights it should be like a Hamilton or a Tauranga taking an overdose of steroids, versus say a Palmerston North. While there may be commendable political decisions (e.g. the high speed rail link), these build on the overarching comparative advantages rather than forming their basis – if Ballart was 2000km further inland I think you wouldn’t be able to write the same positive things about its performance. For these kinds of reasons, notwithstanding the lack of vision of the Key government, we should still be clear about what kinds of things the next Labour led government can build on, and which will be ineffective, because our regional towns are themselves 2000km further east of Melbourne, and despite the hype, high speed broad band is only a modest part of our future (keep in mind how much economic activity will not be done digitally). I’m just trying to provide some perspective, before we bash ourselves up about things we can’t change, or jump to policy conclusions about allocating finite resources. E.g. it could well be that another billion on WFF improves the general welfare more than the same funds on say, some of Ballart’s policies applied to regional NZ. Not saying that’s the case, just trying to at some objectivity to the discussion which puts Ballart in the best possible light.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      All the points you make are good ones, but remain tangential to what I’m saying.

      In pure economic terms New Zealand is indeed best thought of as another state of Australia at either 2nd or 3rd rank in size. It’s quite reasonable to compare NZ with Victoria in some respects.

      before we bash ourselves up about things we can’t change, or jump to policy conclusions about allocating finite resources.

      But what we CAN change is our belief as a nation, that instead of letting all the important decisions, all the ‘allocation of finite resources’, be made by the so called free market, that government can and should play an active role in making those decisions for the benefit of the whole of society … not just the money end of town.

      And I was using Ballarat as an example of where it’s working. Not perfect, but working.

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