It’s odd, and sad, that Australia has urban housing prices comparable to New York and London. The squeeze is on for inner urban land, partly because Australians no longer found new cities. We are said to be the world’s most urbanised large country; 89 per cent of us, and that percentage is increasing, live in cities.
Throw in rapid population growth, and we are at great risk of increasing the pressure on our already sky-high land prices.
Sydney now ranks second only to Hong Kong as the most unaffordable housing market in the English-speaking world, with Melbourne just three places behind. The high immigration that holds down wages also escalates house prices, creating a mortgage trap. It also makes us a less equal society. *
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Was there ever a generation more filled with self-doubt and self-loathing than the baby-boomers? If you had the misfortune to have been born between 1945 and 1965, you are supposed to feel guilty for trashing the economy, for the demise of the family, for endemic cynicism and selfishness, for an addiction to government handouts and for flared trousers.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a baby-boomer, confessed to a graduating class recently that his had been “the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.”
Look, everybody makes mistakes. A bit of greed here and there shouldn’t obliterate all the good that baby-boomers have done for Gen X, Gen Y and whoever else happens to come along. It’s about time for some Boomer Pride.
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Aged care. It’s not a very sexy topic. In fact many of us are so unwilling to consider elderly life, a successful architect in the sector has received death threats from residents opposed to the building of nursing homes in their neighbourhoods.
Seriously, death threats. Want to build a $12 million super-brothel with 40 rooms? Sure! But no old people thanks.
Maybe it’s because we don’t want to contemplate our own decline, but it’s become increasingly clear our modern tendency to group older people together in neatly delineated residential pockets isn’t working. A study released this week, perhaps unsurprisingly, found lonely people aged 60 and over faced a 22.6 per cent increased risk of death.
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A friend recently told me of his horror when a colleague asked a co-worker why she only had one child.
It was a dangerous question to ask a mere acquaintance in front of the rest of the office. What if the answer had been a heart-breaking miscarriage? Marital disharmony? A crippling amount of debt? Infertility?
No doubt the 21-year-old woman’s thoughtless question left her older workmates clucking their tongues at Gen Y’s arrogance and lack of manners.
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For the last quarter of a century, it’s been something of a national pastime to bag ad man Siimon Reynolds for being a wanker. But if Gen Y – a group who know a little something about being pilloried as superficial, materialistic, self-obsessed fame whores – were old enough to know who he is, they might be tempted to claim the 46-year-old as one of their own and insist he be treated with more respect.
Perhaps it’s time all of us — Yers, Xers and Boomers alike — rethought our attitude towards Reynolds.
For a case can be made that he is not the pretentious tool of the popular imagination, but rather a prescient pioneer who intuited where society was heading and adapted to the economic and social changes being set in motion by Thatcher, Reagan and, in Australia, Hawke and Keating, at the time he was coming of age.
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The sudden resignation of Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair, Mike Taylor, was a reminder that with complex national reforms, there’s many a slip between cup and lip.
Two schools of thought emerged. One cast Mr Taylor’s departure as a setback because a strong advocate of a healthy river system had been muzzled. The other held that an enviro-fundamentalist who saw the good as the enemy of the great, had bowed out clearing the way for a workable deal for the river.
Actually both are true.
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There was a fiery exchange between two readers in the comments section of one of Australia’s news websites this week which provided a handy snapshot of the generational fault line in the debate over interest rates and the cost of living.
It’s a battle which is being fought between older Australians who have paid off or almost paid off their homes and who have a vested interest in the banks jacking up rates, and younger Australians who are mortgaged to the hilt, with both partners working to cover the mortgage, the bills and childcare, for whom every single-point increase in interest rates is a body blow to the family budget.
This divide has been widened by the actions of the Commonwealth Bank and the ANZ in overshooting the Reserve Bank’s official cash rate and stumping for controversial interest rate hikes. It has also been fuelled by the stated intention of the Reserve Bank itself, in trying to encourage more Australians to save, rather than getting themselves saddled with debt. As a result, for every angry 30-something or 40-something mortgagee who is fuming about the bastardry of Ralph Norris and Mike Smith, there’s a guy in his late 60s who’s planning a fortnight away in the caravan with his wife, saying: “Thank you, fellas.”
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In the world of employment, the growing skills shortage is like a low, black cloud building on the horizon.
While the GFC slowed the demand for labour it didn’t change the fact our workforce is ageing. In a few years more people leaving the workforce in Australia than joining it.
As workplace age management expert Alison Monroe quipped recently, “the only thing that changed during the GFC is that boomers got two years closer to retirement.”
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There is nothing new in the mid summer sermons of Prime Minister Rudd as he meanders across the Australian continent.
The fact that health expenses are rising faster than inflation is not a revelation it is simply a well known fact. Neither is it new that the population is ageing. This simply means that people are living longer and healthier lives and is a cause for celebration, not morbid prognostications.
What is new is that Mr Rudd is blaming older Australians for the cost blowout.
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Old people never die – in fact they are feeling good and just want to keep voting conservative way into their second century.
Like the kids from Fame, Coalition voters want to live forever, long after they can remember their own name, laying down a unique challenge to policy makers on the Left.
These are the alarming findings from the Punch’s inaugural Death Survey, where we link attitudes to death with voting behaviour in an effort to drag the national political debate down to a new low.
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Last month, Woodstock Festival – the event that’s come to represent Baby Boomer youth culture in our collective consciousness – turned 40.
Given the Boomers spawned the crazy consumer consumption habits that sent us crashing towards the GFC, it was only fitting for promoters to get the talent off the couch, jab them with Botox and organise the requisite merchandising and exorbitant ticket pricing. Ka-ching!
Meanwhile, the media and marketers have been celebrating ageing while concurrently exploring ways to delay its visible signs in order to appeal to the cash-cow that is the Boomers’ retirement fund (albeit one reduced by the GFC).
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It’s hard for anyone under the age of at least 50 to say they truly understood Ted Kenna, except for his family and perhaps anyone who’s almost died in combat.
And Ted was probably easier to understand than others famed or prominent among his World War II generation, a laconic, uncomplicated country guy who happened to have been given a medal called the Victoria Cross.
For valour. It’s the highest honour you can get.
But judging by the muted reaction to Ted’s death, at 90, a lot of people didn’t really get what he was about.
The story broke in the local Geelong news media on Thursday, which covers where he lived his final few years in a nursing home, in an understated manner befitting Ted, (”Nedda” to his mates).
By 4 pm, ABC radio in Melbourne hadn’t picked it up or, if maybe they did they didn’t think the news worthy to include in their bulletin.
In one way you can’t blame them, for not ‘getting it’ because 20 or 30 years ago many people of my baby boomer generation may not have only been indifferent, but possibly hostile to men of Ted Kenna’s background.
How could you expect much younger people, in their 20s, to rate the significance of a VC holder?
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