If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’ll be well familiar with my attitude towards this bloody Boom and the ways it has changed Perth.
While the mainstream media was blasting headlines at us week in, week out, about the explosion in real estate prices and hyping up Perth as the new glamour capital of Australia, some of us were recoiling in despair.
One of my primary motivations for beginning The Boomtown Rap was to vent at the changes and distortions I perceived the Boom was wreaking in my home city: infrastructure groaning under the strain of a sudden, massive influx of national and international migrants seeking a piece of the Boom action, rocketing house prices pushing the dream of home ownership out of reach of average income earners, then rents following suit as demand outstripped supply.
Then there’s the mass yuppification that’s filleted the already shrivelled soul out of the place (and worse, turned previously affordable holiday retreats down south into the exclusive provinces of the well-heeled). A plethora of cashed-up wankers in shiny new 4WDs. Full car parks at the best metro beaches from 9.30 on ripe summer mornings. Buses at peak hours leaving commuters stranded as they whoosh pass full to capacity. A vacuum of unskilled and semi-skilled labour as the young – understandably – flood north, spurning the traditional tertiary education route through to qualifications that were once a ticket to employment security and good income.
And why wouldn’t they, when the mining companies stoking China’s rabid iron ore smelters are handing out big bucks to virtually anyone in the right age bracket willing to fly in/fly out and skill ’emselves up in company-paid courses of mere weeks in duration?
My sense has long been that the Boom was bestowing rewards on its beneficiaries far out of proportion to their worth, while the rest of us, whose incomes remained unchanged while living costs soared, went backwards. Result? A growing underclass that makes a mockery of our cherished myths of egalitarianism and a fair go. Not to mention the disintegration of the Australian Dream of home ownership for far too many of us. The chasm between haves and have-nots has widened too far to bridge. The Boom has handed us a city divided as never before, with future implications that are national and potentially dire.
I note that the mainstream media is finally starting to acknowledge the dangers and negative fallout from the Boom that the few party-poopers like me have been harping on about for many months. What can ya say but DUH!
But there’s no place for arrogance here. I’d rather be proven wrong in my predictions of a bad moon rising over Boomtown’s tomorrow.
Actually, I’ve been criticised for my unrelenting bleakness. A couple of particularly stupid and hateful types have labelled me stupid and hateful, and indeed, I may call half-empty where sunnier souls cry half-full…so let me make amends this instant.
In the interests of balance, I present for you a positive perspective on the Boom. No, not mine (gimme a break!). I refer to the podcast below, which features my recent interview of an employee of one of the mining companies, to whom I shall refer by his Christian name, Hilton.
Hilton is one of those boomers (boom boomer, not baby boomer) who is doing very nicely. In his thirties, he is drawing a triple figure income as a senior employee with one of the big mining companies – and without sweating a drop in the dusty open cut treasure troves of the big bad north. Hilton works in the air-conditioned comfort of an office block in St George’s Terrace.
A seafront abode in the northern corridor, lawyer wife and two “lovely kids”, investment properties and a sizeable share portfolio, a holiday home in Yallingup, a wine collection in a temperature-regulated cellar – this bloke’s struck gold without so much as picking up a shovel. Yet, as you’ll hear, he claims his lux life is not without its trials.
I must acknowledge Hilton’s generosity in agreeing to this interview. Highly valued as his time is, after initially attempting to negotiate a fee, he agreed to give this insight into his boomer world gratis once he accepted my tragically authentic assurance that I was a busted arse battler and not being paid for my blogging.
Further, when the interview was cut short due to an urgent work call to duty, Hilton granted me additional time later in the week to complete the interview, providing I paid for coffees.
The content of the interviews will appear as a series of podcasts, each focusing on different aspects of life at the top of the financial tree (well, not the top…but Hilton is a damned sight further into the sky than those like me staring up that alien trunk in bemusement, rooted in terra firma – and I mean rooted).
So, here we go with Podcast 1, in which Hilton discusses his job and the level of commitment that his triple-figure income demands – as you will discover, he is not nicknamed ‘The Whirrer’ for nothing. The last stage of the podcast is noteworthy for his surprising comments on new suburban architecture and its fit with Perth’s harsh summer environment. Prepare to have your expectations confounded.
- Hilton Interview Part 1: Job and Home (duration 10 minutes)
(Intro music from song When Surfin’ Was #1 © Ross Buncle 1993;
All rights reserved)
6 thoughts on “Podcast From The Womb of the Boom – A Perth Boomer Tells His Story (Part 1: Job and Home)”
Could,nt agree more about the growing problems in Perth caused by the wealth gap. As a parent I,m seriously considering whether or not Perth is going to be a decent place for the “tin lids” to grow up in. Crime and drugs are already rife- I shudder to think what this place could be like in 10 years time. I have lived in Sydney and Manchester- 2 cities that have their notorious areas. Yet these areas became that way over several generations- Perth is changing in a blink of an eye in comparison.
All the ingredients are here- rapid population growth, restricted infrastructure, and most vitally, unlike Perth of even 10 years ago, it is almost impossible for a person from poorer background to bridge the poverty gap.
What staggers me the most is the total lack of reaction to the changes from seemingly any middleclass person over 40- Government included. They obviously dont care less- they all have nice small manageable mortgages I guess. Yet the Perth they apparently love so passionately is disappearing before their eyes- never to return- and they appear to not give a damn
Instead they console themselves with talk of the good old days- too bad if you are not comfortable, or younger than them.
The ratrace is well and truly here- I laugh when I see people on blogs discussing if Perth is Dull-stating their wish to keep the “laid back” lifestyle here. Unless you already own your home, or nearly do, there is no longer a ‘laidback’ lifestyle here!
Yes, Mark, I agree that the rate of change is one of the biggest problems (including the crime and associated issues you identify). And the worst of the worst among all the issues – and the one that will spawn multiple other problems – is this unprecedented chasm between haves and have-nots…or more specifically, have-house(s) and have-not.
I can’t see how those who do not currently have real estate can ever get a start now, unless they come into money through an inheritance or parental help, or spectacular career success – or win Lotto. That leaves a hell of a lot of people who are permanently hostage to the rental market and the greed of these arseholes who own multiple investment properties. I’m not against building wealth and real estate portfolios. There’s nothing wrong with investing in 1 or 2 properties if you have the bucks, but these greedy bastards who have 10, 15, 20 and keeping adding more I hold in utter contempt. ‘Enough’ is not in their vocabulary.
Agree entirely with your comments about this supposed “laid-back” Perth lifestyle. What’s laid-back about working your arse off day and night just to pay for shelter and basic living costs? Fucking sucks.
Not sure I share your views on over 40s. I can well understand why younger people regard the baby boomers with contempt. I do also, and I’m one of them. In fact, I disown my generation as a mob of sell-out, materialistic, selfish wankers.
But the majority of the over 40s I know are as disturbed – or almost – as I am about the changes in Perth over the last 5 years. In fact, the talk I hear is of looking around for somewhere else to live. I certainly am. So please don’t tar us all with the same brush. I feel very sorry for younger people who do not have major financial support from parents or a big-paying job or thriving business. For previous generations, it was a choice to be taken for granted that at some stage, if you worked regularly at any level of income, you would be able to get into your own half-decent home. Today’s young do not have that option and that is appalling in a supposedly affluent country like ours. The inequalities that are now entrenched in our society would once have been unthinkable.
And I have to say, the most vulgar exhibitions of new wealth that I see are in the under-40s age group. This is the sector that has struck the mining boom jackpot. Half their luck – their sudden riches are not my gripe. But the bucks that they spend hand over fist and the leverage they have such easy access to have driven up real estate and living costs such that the rest of us are suffering while they bathe in ostentatious luxury. As with you and your over-40s remark, of course, I am generalising here.
And something else that really pisses me off – many of these Boomers (boom boomers, not babyboomers) are blow-ins who have come here specifically to join the gold rush. Again, nothing wrong with that in itself, except that it’s galling for people who have lived here all their lives to wake up one morning and be faced with the serious prospect of being priced out of their own city. Or just leaving because they hate what the place has become in 5 grotesque years.
I would like you to hear my story with regards to getting into your own property. At 25 (1998) I bought my first villa in Scarborough for $101,000 a 2 bed older style smallish ex rental. I was working in an average paying job, and needed to supplement my income by taking on a lodger (some funny stories mostly pains in the ass.) I never received first home buyers grant (came in the following year) or any money from my parents. I never bought expensive clothes or went on holidays or had new cars. I never got a credit card and ate 2 minute noodles too many times to mention. My point is I had friends who I tried to convince to buy in the late nineties and early noughties with one friend in particular. My friend had worked at her much higher paid job for years, and came to live with me briefly after a failed romanace. I got a broker to speak to her on the phone, I showed her properties in the paper to buy but her reasons for not buying were at the time. “I dont like units I prefer something bigger etc” this was after I called a local rep to see if he had any more cheapies for her to buy in Scarborough around the $200 mark in early 2002. I tried to convince her it doesnt matter about her first property just get into the market like I had. My friend stayed for a couple of months rent free, and I couldnt help but notice all of the shopping bags full of nice new clothes and shoes that she bought during that time. I had told her to stay rent free hoping she would save some money for a deposit but some people just are not interested. I lived in that property, and used it as a base whilst I used equity to buy my self new funiture, and finally go on holidays over seas. I still have this much loved villa and have enjoyed great relations with both the two tenants who have resided since I moved in with my partner in 2005. I do feel sorry for my own children, but I must admit I do feel that many other people around my age bracket, have had opportunities to buy when they were younger, and chose to go on European holidays and trips to Bali. A lot of the so called nasty investors like myself and my partner who until recently had 5 properties all together, sacrificed a lot when others used their full pays for fun and adventure. Both my partner and myself are very fair owners with one property rented to the same tenant for 8 years for $200.00 less a week then the new owner gets now the property has been sold. My friend who I couldnt convince to buy that villa (she still laughs about that advice and time) has rented one of our properties for over a year and paid $250 a week and now pays $300 which is still $100 less then the going rate so we are not all bastards!
I think a great discussion that no one in the media has mentioned is the fact that new immigrants who have not paid tax in our country for years are entitled to the first home owners grant. Given the fact that 99% of them already had owned countries in the UK, ST Africa etc they should not receive it. Even the new immigrants think its a bit of a laugh but why would they complain when they are getting handed so much money on a plate. I would prefer that until they have been in our country 5 years paying taxes I dont think they should get it at all. I would prefer that single parents are given the opportunity again to buy a roof over their childrens heads after a marriage break down.
Thanks for you comment, Victoria. A very familar story – and good on you. I have nothing against people who own property, or investment properties (one or two…those who own 10, 20 or more display a greed I find contemptible).
Have to say, I identify with young people who prioritise making the most of their youth and seeing some of the world, although the payback is that they make a later start saving for their own home while people like you benefit from early saving and scrimping. Fair enough. Each to their own.
What pisses me off, though, is that the ridiculous prices of real estate now cut out the people who preferred to travel, or pursue non-material goals in their youth, from ever getting into the market. That’s not fair.
In the past, it was a rite of passage for adventurous young people to buy a one-way ticket to Asia or Europe and stay away for a couple of years or more – and there is no better education (to be honest, I suspect you don’t understand the extent of the sacrifice you have made in missing out on the unique and very precious experiences that come with travelling in your youth). Until around 5 years ago, those who chose to take this path did not sacrifice the opportunity to get into their own home when they returned. Anyone of virtually any age who was prepared to knuckle down and get regular employment (and I’m not referring to professionals or people in high income positions) could reasonably expect to buy their own home down the track a bit. NOT NOW!
The acceleration in real estate prices in all areas has now effectively ended the dream of home ownership for many people who are prepared to do exactly what you did, and who are prepared to make the same sacrifices you did.
Your tone is, I suggest, just a little self-congratulatory and self-righteous, and perhaps judgmental of people of your age who happened not to share your security-conscious mindset.
Stay judgmental about this group if you choose (I think this sort of judgment is a bit sweeping and simplistic…but that’s another conversation). However, perhaps you should spare a thought for the people today who are the age you were when you first decided to start saving to get into your own place. They do not have the options you had. Home affordability is a real crisis, and it’s here and now. Is it right that simply because they were born a few years later than you that they are denied the same opportunity you seized?
I do understand your objection to migrants being eligible for the first home owner’s grant. It is especially inappropriate for wealthy migrants to get this handout. Should be stopped.
As should negative gearing on investment properties. Why the hell should property investors get a tax break like this? That happens nowhere else in the world. It’s bizarre! If there are to be any tax breaks or other government assistance meted out, the focus should be on enabling people to buy their own home, not assisting those who already have one to grab more for investment purposes.
Totally agree with your comments Rolan on this issue. I am the same age as Victoria- also turned 25 in ’98, but look at things in a completely different light. I chose the path she so derides- travelling, adventure, up to age of 26(’99)- (Infact I didnt start a full-time 9-5 existence until that age -shock horror!)and would,nt have had it any other way. The fun, freedom and memories of those times grow in importance each year in many ways
Now just turned 35 with wife, kids and mortgage, and all the pressures that come with that lifestyle, I am glad i can look back to a time that was well and truly “my time”
Like u mentioned- I truly believe to miss out on those chances in your youth is to miss out on a big part of your youth itself. For even at the relatively tender age of 35, I can recognize and appreciate just how short a window of time that period is.
Personally, after being embedded in the 9-5 World for the past 9 years, my reaction is not “Gee I wish I had entered this world at 22 and had 4 more years of money behind me!”- but rather “Thank God some employer did not get to own me in those precious last few years!”(I did work part-time of course!)- because i know I will never have that opportunity again- especially as I will probably have to work to 70 to maintain a household with 30 something kids still living at home!
Which brings me to your most salient point- the self congratulatory attitude displayed by Victoria. I absolutely hate this attitude. My wife and i built our home in ’02. When people comment on our house- I declare every time- “We are lucky- made it by 2 years”. I call it as it is
I have younger brothers and sisters(31, 24 & 22) who never had a chance, so it would be a bit rich for me to think any other way. I get quite passionate talking to younger staff members at work- declaring that it absolutely stinks that they should be subjected to the whole crappy situation.
But bad as it is to disregard younger peoples lack of opportunities, I get even more incensed by the whole “Oh you had heaps of time to buy a house” attitude that Victoria directs towards my (her) age group.
Basically we had until 30- not a huge amount of time. People like Victoria make it sound like a couple of decades longer. Being of my age group she should know- many people are still single at that age. Alot of people would not have bought a property on their own(myself included).
Plus- the job market in 90s in Perth was pretty piss poor compared to now. I know alot of people who graduated uni in mid-late 90s who beavered away for years in junior roles(earning chickenfeed) before stepping up to decent wages in early 00s. This only gave them a couple of years to buy a house. “of couse- Im 28, single, only just started earning decent money after years of toil- the 1st thing I want to do is get amortgage!”
As u stated- Victoria should just be grateful- Sydney house prices rose above the reach of many by early 90s- when Victoria and I were just finishing High School- a fate faced by all youngsters in Perth from now onwards.
Interesting (and gratifying), Mark, to find someone in the same agegroup as Victoria, who owns their home, sharing my attitudes and beliefs on these issues.
God save us from the dreary mindset of those who prioritise security before they’ve even gotten out there and lived a little. And God damn the system that is now forcing this consciousness on virtually everyone.