Thursday, June 30, 2022

Census 2021: Boom time for middle Australia

The past five years have been revealed as a period of booming prosperity for middle Australia, with census data revealing the average Australian’s income increasing by 20 per cent between 2016 and 2021, or at twice the pace of living costs.

The median weekly income lifted from $662 in 2016 to $805, or equivalent to $41,900 a year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Canberrans enjoy the highest average annual gross personal incomes in the country at $62,600 – 50 per cent above the national figure – according to the census, while Tasmanians earned the least, at $36,500.

After the ACT, the next highest earning jurisdictions were the resource-rich but sparsely populated Northern Territory – at $48,700 on average in 2021 – followed by similarly blessed Western Australia, where the median personal income was $44,100.

Among the big east-coast states, the averages were $42,300 in NSW, $41,800 in Victoria, and $40,900 in Queensland. South Australians on average earned $38,200 a year.

Victorians reported the fastest-paced growth in median incomes for individuals, up 25 per cent over the five years, and the NT the slowest, at 7 per cent.

Alongside booming housing and superannuation wealth, the ABS data painted a picture of five years of climbing national prosperity and rising real incomes.

Housing stress fell despite the strong upward trajectory for property prices, as rents failed to keep up with income growth, and home loan rates trended lower despite a climbing indebtedness.

Economists said this year’s surge in inflation to multi-decade highs, alongside what is anticipated will be a string of Reserve Bank rate hikes, presented a more challenging outlook over the coming 12-18 months.

The figures include the adult population from 15 years to above 85 years, including those who were unemployed or retired.

The data revealed about 40 per cent of Australian households reported annual personal income of more than $100,000, and a similar proportion said they earned under $78,000.

By household, the ACT recorded the highest median total personal income, at $123,400, and Tasmania the lowest, at $70,600.

Associate professor Ben Phillips at the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods said the census showed, at least on the surface, that “it’s been a very good five years in terms of household living standards for a typical Australian family”.

He said there was little in the initial census data to show the trends around inequality, although the ABS’s use of the median figure meant the outcome had not been distorted by large moves at the top end of the income scale. “At least middle Australia is doing reasonably well – we don’t know about lower income groups, or in the regions,” he said.

“Overall, it’s a pretty rosy picture, although obviously with some potential storm clouds with rates and the general cost of living increases. There are more concerns about where we’re heading, rather than where we’ve been.”

The ABS figures revealed a lower proportion of Australians in housing stress.

The lift in median personal income since 2016 was twice the growth in average household rents, and three times that of mortgage costs.

Households spending more than 30 per cent of their income on mortgage payments – a common threshold for stress – fell from 19.3 per cent in 2016 to 14.5 per cent in 2021. The equivalent share or renting households under stress fell from 36 per cent to 32.2 per cent, the census showed.

Mr Phillips said “we’ve heard a lot about mortgage stress. For some people, this is true, like first-home buyers getting into the market. For the average punter on an existing rental arrangement or who got their housing loan five, 10, 15 years ago, they have done OK”.


Decline of Christianity is a loss for everyone

Amid all the social trends that this week’s census data reveals, none is more significant than the truly seismic collapse in religious belief, especially in Christian faith.

Doubtless, many will welcome this. Indeed, why should any of us have the “assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen”, given – as we now know from a myriad of official ­reports – that the successors of St Peter have been guilty of the most appalling human betrayals. Even if there was once a Nazarene who said to his friend “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, surely it was an impossible hope to think that any human institution could last millennia, especially when it has so often fallen so far short of its ideals. But lest we merely note this as just another one of the many interesting contemporary social trends, let’s consider the centrality of Christian inspiration to Western civilisation; and ponder the impact on the institutions and the attitudes we value, if the underlying religious convictions that created them are rapidly fading away.

Fifty years back, in 1971, 87 per cent of Australians identified as religious, and overwhelmingly as Christian. Now it’s just 54 per cent. And here’s the really striking feature: only five years ago, 52 per cent of us identified as Christian. Now it’s just 44 per cent. That’s an almost 20 per cent decline in Christian belief in just five years. Some of that will be people who don’t worship regularly anymore and feel fraudulent in ticking the religion box even though their faith is still with them. For others it represents a clear rejection of organised religion. Five years back, only 30 per cent of us identified as having no religion. Now it’s 39 per cent. That’s a 30 per cent leap in just five years, making no religion the fastest-growing “creed” in the country.

Why does that matter? It may not be fashionable to say so, but the way we live is unimaginable without a Christian cultural foundation. Our democracy, for instance, rests on the notion that everyone is equal in rights and dignity, something that’s come down to us through the Christian gospels. It’s on this very principle, as an example, that I reject the idea of a race-based body in our Constitution in the form of the Indigenous voice to the parliament and it’s disappointing to see some religious leaders support it because it’s an anathema to the fundamentals of Christian faith.

Elsewhere in our culture, our justice system rests on the notion that we should treat others as we’d be treated ourselves; again, something that’s come down to us through Christian teaching. Our sense of community too rests on the notion that we should “love our neighbours as we love ourselves”. It’s a commandment that lies at the heart of our volunteerism and philanthropy.

Then there’s the not insignificant matter of what religious organisations contribute in terms of social uplift. Beyond a values-based education, they run an abundance of health and community services. To reference the largest Christian denomination, the Catholic Church, as an example, there are 80 Catholic hospitals across the country and 25,000-plus aged-care beds in Catholic nursing homes, as well as social welfare bodies and charities with a broader Christian inspiration – from the Salvation Army, to the St Vincent de Paul Society, to Anglicare, to Lifeline, and Alcoholics Anonymous – all organisations that are generally thought to be serving Australians well, however discredited the zeitgeist might find the faith which inspires their good works.

For several decades, Christianity has been giving way to other religious and cultural traditions. The federal parliament might still start with the Lord’s Prayer but only after an acknowledgment of country. Christian beliefs and Christian representatives are routinely mocked and ridiculed in the public square (the witch hunt against Cardinal George Pell is only the most extreme instance) in a way that other faiths (Judaism perhaps excepted) never would be. And this can be expected to intensify, given that most schools are now not only indifferent but often hostile to Christian faith, and often ignorant too, to Christian knowledge.

Rightly, young Australians are taught to respect the Dreaming stories and Indigenous spirituality. But how many would be readily familiar with any of the Bible stories other than the Christmas one, despite their centrality in our culture? How many would understand the significance of Easter, except as a holiday with too much chocolate? Of course, faith is a matter of spiritual conversion that can’t be learnt like a lesson, but any Australian who’s not at least familiar with the gospels is culturally impoverished, even if not always spiritually worse off.

Tellingly, the census data this week revealed that mental illness is now our most prevalent chronic health condition (ahead of arthritis and asthma) and doubtless this owes much to the decline of the beliefs that gave the lives of our forebears spiritual comfort and purpose. As an imperfect Christian myself, who doesn’t always agree with the teachings of my faith, I don’t claim to know how an increasingly god-less ­society might be re-evangelised; just that there’s so much that we’ll miss when it’s gone, as individuals and as a society.

It’s worth noting another key feature of the census, the fact that a larger proportion of our population is born overseas than in any other developed country. More than 50 per cent of us are now foreign-born or have at least one ­foreign-born parent – and that’s much less, these days, in the UK or New Zealand, and increasingly in India and China.

Again, on the issue of the voice, creating two classes of ­Australian by virtue of their race risks unsettling the great multicultural nation we have become with the implicit message that only those with a demonstrated Aboriginal genealogy are legitimate; that the rest of us are somehow less worthy.

It goes without saying that professing religion doesn’t make anyone a better person. Still, in their own ways, every faith calls us to be better. Religious or not, Australia remains a wonderful country and the best place in the world to live. But there’s plenty to work on if we are to stay that way, and much we should protect.


A huge Marxist influence pervades education today

The NSW Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes gave a speech to the Sydney Institute identifying why the Scott Morrison government was defeated in the recent election. In doing so, she suggested that many young voters have been influenced by ‘an education system basically run by Marxists’.

There’s no doubt the popularity of the Greens Party and the so-called Teal independents was especially strong among voters under the age of 24 and with higher levels of education. There’s also no doubt since the late 60s and early 70s Australia’s education system has been infiltrated and dominated by the neo-Marxist inspired cultural-Left.

Despite the ALP’s education minister Jason Clare describing Senator Hughes’ comment as ‘just crazy’, the reality is those in control of Australia’s schools and universities have given up any pretence of being impartial, balanced, and objective.

As detailed in the chapters on school and tertiary education published in Cancel Culture and the Left’s Long March, Australia’s education system has long been captured by neo-Marxist inspired Critical Theory and cultural-Left ideology dedicated to overthrowing the status quo.

A commitment to a liberal education dealing with what TS Eliot describes as ‘the preservation of learning, for the pursuit of Truth, and in so far as men are capable of it, the attainment of wisdom’ has long been jettisoned in favour of using education to overthrow capitalism and undermine Western societies denounced as Eurocentric, racist, and misogynistic.

The school curriculum, in areas like Climate Change, gender and sexuality, multiculturalism, and Indigenous studies, is dominated by the cultural-Left. Generations of students have left school convinced about the impending apocalypse caused by man-made global warming, that gender and sexuality are social constructs and Western Civilisation is riven with structural sexism, racism, and xenophobia.

In her 1983 speech to the Fabian Society Joan Kirner, one-time Education Minister and Premier of Victoria, argues education has must be reshaped as ‘part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system’.

University faculties preach a rainbow alliance of liberating ideologies ranging from deconstructionism and postmodernism to radical gender, feminist, queer, and post-colonial theories. Trigger warnings, safe spaces, and diversity guidelines based on identity politics and victimhood abound.

Such is the destructive impact of cultural-Left ideology on universities, the ANU’s Pierre Ryckmans in his 1996 Boyer Lectures argues universities have long since been deprived of their ‘spiritual means of operation’. Ryckmans concludes the ‘main problem is not so much that the University as Western civilisation knew it, is now virtually dead, but that its death has hardly registered’.

For those who have read the Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, it should not surprise the cultural-Left has long since targeted education as a key institution in its long march to overthrow capitalism.

Central to the Manifesto is the conviction, ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.’ Capitalist society subjugates and exploits workers and the aim of the communist party is to overthrow capitalism and achieve a socialist utopia where conflict disappears and all are free.

Marxists argue that instead of education and culture being inherently beneficial or worthwhile, capitalist society and the bourgeoisie use both as instruments to enforce their domination and control. Given its impact on workers, culture is condemned as ‘a mere training to act as a machine’.

Marx and Engels argue concepts like culture, freedom and the law are ‘but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and your bourgeois property’ and communism’s goal is ‘to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class’.

While published in 1848, the Manifesto continues to have a profound impact on schools and universities in Western societies like Australia. Drawing on Louis Althusser’s concept of the ideological state apparatus, where education is employed to impose capitalist hegemony, the argument is curriculum must be radically reshaped.

Instead of being objective and impartial and dealing with wisdom and truth, knowledge is seen as a social construct employed by the elites to indoctrinate students and future citizens to accept as normal what is inherently unjust and inequitable.

Since the late 70s, the Australian Education Union has argued students must be taught Australian society is characterised by inequality and injustice and teachers must decide whose side they are on in the battle against oppression.

The Australian Association for the Teaching of English, instead of formal grammar and syntax and enduring literary works, champions critical literacy based on the works of the Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire. An approach where literary works are deconstructed and critiqued in terms of power relationships and students are conditioned to be new-age, cultural warriors.


The Teals as populists

Commentators on the hard-left love to throw around the word ‘populism’ as a sneer word to attack conservative movements or politicians. If you don’t like Donald Trump, you can dismiss him with a wave of the hand as a populist.

But are the Teal independents the real populists? In his book The Global Rise of Populism, Benjamin Moffitt argues that there are certain traits associated with typical populists. One is claiming that we are in a state of crisis, facing a life-threatening emergency. Does that sound like the Teal climate alarmists?

Another is persuading people that they (the populists) are not part of the establishment – and here we have the Teals making a song and dance about being political virgins unstained by the inadequate climate targets adopted by the major parties.

Populists are also likely to be drawn towards authoritarianism – such as forcing us all out of our (evil) petrol cars.

And populists tend to promote very few policies. Not for them the messy business of foreign affairs, national security and economic management. And that’s the Teals, isn’t it? Give them drastic climate action and a federal ICAC and their political philosophy is complete.

Narrow interests and an emotional appeal – does that sound like manipulative ‘populism’? It certainly sounds like the Teals




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