Saturday, February 18, 2006

Young, crazy, out of control

There are a lot of young Australian expats - about 10% of Australians aged 18 to 35 live overseas. Why? The reasons are looked at in a new book by 25-year-old Ryan Heath, an extract of which was printed in The Age this morning.

Some of the expats he interviews come across as profoundly narcissistic. For instance, Holly Lyons, now living in London complains that,

In Australia the television industry is ageist. As a 22-year-old woman, it was impossible to get work heading a script department.

Yes, Holly, it's tough not being able to start out at the top.

A lot of the expats, though, complain about a lack of job opportunities in Australia. This is interesting, as our Government justifies its immigration programme on the basis that Australia has too few skilled workers; the expats are providing evidence that the opposite is true and that there is an oversupply.

How do you fix this situation? Ryan Heath's solution is not to give preference to Australian youngsters seeking professional work, ahead of overseas applicants. Instead, it's actually to increase overseas migration and to create vacancies by kicking the older generation of Australians out of work (The charming title of his book, addressed to baby boomers, is Please Just F*** Off, It's Our Turn Now).

Heath is serious when he calls for more immigration. He wants Australia to be more globalised in its demographics and writes,

The truth is that Australia doesn't really have a world city - and it's too deluded to realise what it needs to do to create one.

Reading the morning papers in the aftermath of th 2005 London bombings, I was struck by the faces of London. Thirty-two of the 39 photos of victims that stared at us that next morning were under 35 and looked like the United Nations.

That's when I realised what a real "world city" is. It's not easy; it's not white; it's not old. It's crazy and colourful and out of control in a way I don't recognise in Australia.

This is not the most obvious conclusion to draw from the London bombings. But equally odd is Heath's next argument. He claims that Sydney is only a middle-ranking city and that,

it takes no great leap of the imagination to put Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro or Johannesburg on the same footing as Sydney. But it's a real challenge for white chauvinists to think that a Portuguese-speaking city might be more interesting.

The funny thing about this quote is that I have often wondered whether liberals really want Australia to end up like Brazil. And it seems that for Ryan Heath the answer is actually yes. He thinks it could only be chauvinism which might make an Australian prefer Sydney to Rio.

Ryan Heath, as you may have guessed, is not a politically neutral commentator. His leftist credentials include being a National Union of Students representative, and working as an Australian Labor Party adviser and refugee advocate.

He is not, though, considered to be radically leftist; some have actually critised his book for selling out the cause, and Heath himself wrote in reply to one correspondent that,

I am more glad that you still called me 'left'. I think quite a few people worry I have abandoned that perspective.

So he is not even on the far left. The gap between liberals, even of the mainstream variety, and the rest of us seems to be growing ever larger.


  1. I lived in NYC for 15 years before coming back home. The idea that we need to have a 'global city' is nonsense. These places are simply more crowded where even getting into a plane from JFK and taking off can take up 3 hours. Driving in such a big city is an experience in itself.

    The author seems to have a typical crings mentality. We need a big city to show how important we are in the world, which is bullshit.

    I went to NYC to follow the money. I left NYC when I had enough of the place as it is a huge rat race. I think Oz is the best place in the world to live and don't give a rat's if we are in the big league.

    Immigration is the only way we can hit the big leagues. However that would mean that large numbers of people coming here that may not fit in the culture. This is a problem we need to avoid.

    Better still if we want a larger population there are always Europeans who are similar to us wanting to leave their counttries as they become more Islamicized. That's not a bad way of doing things. However leftists would see that as a racist policy and so we are back to square one.

  2. First a correction:

    The '22 year old' was not 22, she was about 30, writing about her experiences as a 22 year old. And her name was Holly Lyons, not Jo Fox.

    Some other thoughts:
    - yes we have a skills shortage for many complex reasons - (read the good senate reports on the matter from 2003, if interested) two of them are young people leaving and the incorrect allocation of skills by our problematic higher education system.

    FACT: I do not want to kick old people out of work - the book expressly says that. SO please buy it before leaping to conclusions.

    FACT: I didn't say AUstralia needed a world city. I just said it didn't have one and it needs to do a lot more if it wants one. My main point was to correct the misbelief that Sydney and Melbourne are true world cities.

    In response to anonymous:
    I think exactly the opposite of what you assume - which makes me wonder how off beam your other positings are.

  3. Ryan, yes it was a Holly rather than a Jo who made the statement.

    Her statement, though, seems to express exactly what I said it did, that she thought it ageist that she could not get work as a 22-year-old heading a script department.

    Perhaps she meant that she could not have gotten it by the age of 30 if she had stayed, but even that is a highly self-regarding complaint.

    Believe me, it was once understood that you had to wait until your mid-30s at least before you could really take over the reins at work (mid-40s was more likely).

    Second, if we really do have a skills shortage, then why do some of your respondents complain about a lack of job opportunities in Australia, and even about a perception of being over-qualified?

    Third, it's true that I haven't read your book, only extracts and reviews. But it's not hard to tell why someone might have the perception that you want to create opportunities for young Australians by giving the older generation a shove.

    First there is the title of your book: "Please Just F*** Off, It's Our Turn Now."

    Then there is the evidence of reviewers, such as the Sydney Morning Herald writer who states,

    "Put briefly, Heath's thesis is that his generation ... can't get a break because its baby boomer parents won't get out of the way."

  4. Ryan Heath

    Well I think you're off beam and I think your book, judging from reviews about what it says, is pretty worthless.

    Like you are wondering about my other posts, I am also wondering who could stomach reading your worthless book.