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Australia, the most over-governed and excessively regulated country on earth may be the most expensive place to live but there are ways to keep your finances in order.
Here politicians from all three levels of government, pride themselves on how much legislation they can introduce in one parliamentary sitting.
Tourists and international business entrepreneurs are starting to steer clear Australia because of the excessive bureaucracy generated by Federal, State and Local Governments.
For example applications to start a mining venture can take more than three years just to get an approval. Try building houses, motels or accommodation units in a city or region and the bureaucracy will add 10 to 20 per cent to the project budget.
Environmental studies and native title take the cake, often adding years and hundreds of expensive, unnecessary and ridiculous conditions to a development application before, or if it is ever granted.
Native title is probably the greatest scam ever perpetuated on planning and land title issue approvals. Miners are not able to start exploration until a misnomer labeled an Indigenous Land Use Agreement is granted by supposed native title holders to the mining company. This can take between three to five years, but in some cases much longer.
Economically depressed and often disadvantaged ‘indigenous’ groups view an ILUA with a mining company as manna from heaven. The negotiations are stretched to the limit. Demands for a large cut of mining revenue or royalties, cultural heritage surveys, employment and housing are but a few of the normal requirements before land access is given.
Noble sentiments one would say, and so a (foreign) mining company should pay but in these days of the commodities depression, an ILUA can often make or break a project.
Employment agreements between indigenous communities and the mining industry usually stipulate that the workforce should comprise a minimum 30 per cent indigenous employees.
But onshore and offshore mining companies have been burnt by employment arrangements many times in the past. Mines always agree to hire a significant proportion of Aborigines, but every day experience shows work contracts, with only a few notable exceptions, fail before they start.
Most Aborigines want a job in a mine and eagerly participate in training programs, but when it comes to work on a daily or weekly roster, experience dictates a significant number of indigenous employees just do not turn up for work.
For those who have mining industry experience they well know when an employee fails to notify management of impending absenteeism, crew capabilities can be adversely affected, resulting in lower production, lower morale and safety issues.
This indigenous cultural malady extends across the nation. For decades indigenous people have received government payments to attend funerals or cultural events in their communities. For most people attending a funeral, one day’s absence is all that is necessary. For some Aborigines it is usually a week, or in some cases they simply don’t return to work at all.
A recent experience with a large road construction project on Cape York Peninsula saw local indigenous employees down tools late one afternoon purportedly to attend a funeral the next day.
Insufficient notice was given to the construction manager to keep other contractors working. Coincidentally the indigenous cultural heritage observers departed on a Thursday afternoon, to give themselves a four day weekend, because the following Monday happened to be a public holiday.
As a consequence the $230 million project stalled because the cultural heritage management agreement forbade any machinery work without a $500 a day indigenous cultural heritage observer being present.
Never mind that in the previous 15 years of roadwork on Cape York Peninsula no cultural heritage observers have ever been required or present.
The lure of the largest road budget in recent history on Cape York, exposed the ‘gimmee gimmee’ cultural cringe of local governing bodies.
Governments of all hues have brought this dilemma upon themselves by pandering to militant indigenous organisations such as land councils and Prescribed Body Corporations.
Sydney and Melbourne rising out of reach
Yes, it’s true and not surprising: according to an annual world consumer price index1 Australia is the most expensive country to live in. These days it’s 12% more expensive than the United States, while India is the cheapest of the 19 countries examined.
A roof over your head is no longer a given in Australia, especially in Sydney, the 5th most expensive city in the world.
House prices at historic highsand almost five times the average household income of residents—are forcing some Sydney families to consider moving elsewhere2.
Melbourne residents live in the 8th most expensive major city with a burgeoning population pushing demand higher. While annually Sydney’s population has been increasing by 80,000 people, 95,000 are settling in Melbourne prompting demographers to predict Melbourne’s population will overtake Sydney’s by 20303.
More than rising property prices
Australians are feeling the pressure from more than just property prices. When it comes to basic goods and services the annual world consumer price index found the cost of living in Australia is more expensive than most other places.
Booking a room
Sydney is the most expensive when it comes to short-term accommodation. A five-star hotel room in Sydney is 232% of the cost of its New York counterpart whereas you’d pay just 72% in Melbourne.
Buying a drink
Two-litres of soft drink in Sydney will cost 51% moreand just 18% more in Melbournethan in the Big Apple. When it comes to beer, Sydney and Melbourne both offer better deals than New York. And as you might expect, Germany—at about half the price—is the place to raise your glass.
Shopping for clothes
You guessed it. Australians pay more than Americans whether it’s buying Adidas runners or a pair of Levi’s jeans. But we pay less than most Europeans for the same items.
Paying your fare
Getting from A to B is no laughing matter in Sydney. Public transport fares are higher than any other city in the world, with taxi fares 15% more expensive than New York’s.
One thing cheaper in Sydney and Melbourne is gym membership. It’s about half the price of New York’s.
While Aussies’ living costs continue to rise it doesn’t mean building wealth is impossible. But it’s vital to get a handle on your finances by planning ahead and taking the pressure off.
Take the pressure off
If it’s all too much and you’re considering moving away from the big smoke, visit the Numbeo website where a cost of living calculator generates comparisons for everything from a café latte to a three-bedroom apartment.
1 Deutsche Bank, Mapping the World’s Prices 2015, http://pull.db-gmresearch.com/cgi-bin/pull/DocPull/17411-76F9/99524599/DB_RandomWalk_2015-04-14_0900b8c0898020b1.pdf
by Robert J Lee
Four wheel drive enthusiasts, pastoralists, transport companies and tourists may soon have to pay a toll to drive on the Peninsula Development Road after the Cape York Land Council this week indicated it would pursue an Indigenous Land Use Agreement over the entire Peninsula Development Road and the Telegraph Track.
Not only has the land council laid down the gauntlet to all Australians, but its move has jeopardised the construction of a $220 million bitumen road upgrade near Weipa.
The Main Roads Department has been struggling for five weeks to deal with an intransigent land council and its representatives, who have demanded extravagant royalties for gravel and prohibited the taking of any water from permanent rivers, dams or springs.
The legality of the road network grab, according to land council sources comes via an ambit land claim (see illustration) placed over the entire Peninsula in December, covering 146,390 square kilometres.
It is the largest single land claim ever lodged in Australian history
When coupled with the 53,990 square kms already determined on the Cape, all land and inland waters of Cape York will be either determined as native title, or under claim.
Cairns News in 2003 was given a copy of a map of the Peninsula that shows a proposed Aboriginal state taking in all land north of the 16th Parallel.
This ambit claim was lodged in December, with nine token claimants, Mike Ross, Silva Blanco, Wayne Butcher (Mayor of Lockhart River), James Creek, Clarry Flinders, Jonathan Korkaktain, Philip Port, Hogan Shortjoe and Reginald Williams.
And when added to the vast areas transferred to Aboriginal ownership under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 (QLD), all significant activity on the Cape will require the consent of the Traditional Owners.
This includes mining and other major projects.
“This means the Traditional Owners of the Cape will be the real masters of development and use of their lands,” said Riche Ah Mat, Chairman of the Cape York Land Council.
Richie Ahmat, Chairman of the Cape York Land Council and unofficial mouthpiece for Noel Pearson
“Traditional Owners can now reconnect with country, and also ensure we can use our lands so our futures are bright with economic opportunity, not blighted by continued welfare dependence.”
Meanwhile northern pastoralists, development associations, tourist bodies and other affected groups are sharpening their swords to engage the CYLC head on.
This story will be regularly updated – editor