Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Thoughts on my Australian Trip.

No photo description available.

I just wanted to round up my trip to Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

First of all, no one can speak with much authority having gone on a 7 day holiday in a foreign land. It is amazing that my first visit to Australia would be at the ripe old age of 44.

I also have plenty of friends who can correct me if my opinion is wrong about Australia. I do have the benefit of mugging a few books while on the flight home, at least one on real estate, one self-help book, and one on humour to get more context on the country.

Here are my thoughts :

a) Australia is a more equal society than Singapore

My tour guide kept saying that unlike Singapore, Australia is much more balanced country. While I largely agree with her, I was still disappointed that a country that has not seen a recession in over 20-something years and with a fairly decent welfare scheme would have more homeless folks on the streets than we do. Nevertheless, the streets are safe, and the homeless kept largely to themselves.

A better conclusion would be that Singapore is highly unbalanced country.

It is only after 7 days in Australia when I realised how much we are exploiting our own hawkers. Australia does not have a hawker culture so we have no choice but to eat at restaurants. I paid $4 AUD for a donut and a ham sandwich can cost about $7 AUD. There is also no Toast-box so every Long Black will set me back a whopping $4. ( It's winter so I have to get at least three cups a day )

Equal societies that respect blue collar labour will have a cost structure much like Australia and less like Singapore.

b) Healthcare seems very affordable in Australia

I did something really stupid during my trip.

I forgot to bring my diabetic drug Janumet with my to Australia but have a Singapore doctor's prescription with me, so I went to the pharmacy to buy some drugs since I will be eating lots of Tim Tams while I am here. A bottle of Janumet cost about $50 AUD. Too bad I can only get 3 days of medication without a doctor's prescription. Otherwise, even with doctor's advice, the drugs would be worth getting.

c) Australians seems to struggle with retirement as well.

I better don't pretend to be an expert but Singaporeans thinking of emigrating into Australia should read up on Superannuation and Self Managed Super Funds o SMSF ( which is roughly equivalent of our CPF system) and figure out how to play this system well.

Even reading a book off-the-shelf will reveal some weaknesses in their system. Which brings us to my next point...

d) Beware of real estate schemes involving Australian Property

I picked up this book called Property Investing Made Simple by Andrew Crossley and it seemed like a realistic writeup on real estate investing in Australia. It seems that Australia has its fair share of real-estate seminars as well and folks who peddle real estate aggressively are pejoratively called spruikers.

This impacts Singaporeans because ASICS ( Australia's MAS ) does not recognise property as an investment security which allows this industry of dubious real estate trainers to flourish. Australian developers are aware that Asians like to buy up property so they sell these units very aggressively to Singaporeans. The backend commissions paid by developers to these commissioned salespeople can be as high as 6%. The stuff Australians would not touch themselves include : vacant land, resorts, timeshare, fractional ownership. 

You can fit what you read about in this book into what is sold on the ground in Singapore.

e) The welfare state is shrinking in Australia

I have a personal theory about why it will be harder to get on the dole moving forward in Australia. It's not politically correct so I will not say it on this blog. You can, of course, get me stone drunk if you want me to spill the beans.

General feelings after coming back...

I am grateful that a more egalitarian society exists within 7 hours flight from here. Australia is the kind of place where plumbers and electricians are treated with the same degree of respect as doctors and lawyers.

While, as a rent-seeking capitalist,  I function better in a society where there is less equality like Singapore, I have no illusions that my children may not make it academically here. If my kids fails to get into a JC, I will start studying the Australian points system to see whether they can start studying for a trade or nursing certificate in our local polytechnic and move to Australia while they are younger and more willing to work hard.

The best time to plan an escape would be when someone is around 18-21 years old after doing NS.

This window is getting smaller as the years go by because Australia would only welcome folks who can contribute to their economy into their country. Judging by the work ethic and pace of work i witnessed there, I think young English-speaking Singaporeans would be welcome there.


  1. Very few western countries now still have default generous pension schemes. Most are now tied to lifetime contributions i.e. the more you contribute during your working years, the higher your old age state pension. Of course they have a minimum state pension that even lifetime bums & beggars will get, but its barely subsistence level (not enough to rent a reasonable apartment if you don't have your own shelter). US & Oz has been like that for well over a decade now, and becoming more like S'pore's CPF. The only thing still surviving is the "free" or heavily subsidised medical for old age --- which surely will also become more like S'pore's as the boomer generation swells their ranks of old unemployed sick.

    Oz faced (and still facing) big problems with previous easy immigration & easy dole especially with Lebanese and other middle easterners. Since GFC they have tightened immigration considerably, but are stuck with those who are already there. It will just take a local recession & bad jobs market for them to become even more right-leaning and clamp down on welfare & residential privileges to "foreigners".

    In a more egalitarian society like Oz, the one thing that will disappear here in HDB estates (and even most condos) will be maids or FDWs. Only places like D9-11 will still have a bit of live-in maids. Maids may become viable jobs for S'poreans with starting pay at $2.5K or more. The only question is who will hire?? LOL! Supply & demand will balance things out.

  2. Maybe my kids can become butlers and maid for Aussie billionaires if they can't make it academically here in Singapore.