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Prosperity appears to have peaked in Australia. Even though the average Australian has a relatively high income compared to other nations, it is being extracted for less and less in value return. Less than a couple of decades ago you could rent a nice unit for about $185 per week. It would not be flash, but it would have at least two toilets and a full bathroom, two bedrooms, a backyard, and you could find a place like this close to some nice shops and other locations. You would likely be living with either young couples just starting out in life, or nice elderly neighbours.

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Now, you can’t get anything even close to as reasonable as that for the same price, and the wealthy are really starting to take advantage,

“Australia’s rental crisis was thought to have reached a new low when a tent pitched in a living room went on the market, but new listings prove it can always go lower.

The tent has started to look cosy after a rundown boat was offered for $200 a week and, keeping the nautical theme, a shipping container has also been listed…The boat, located 18kilometres south-west of Perth CBD, even comes with a small dinghy so the happy couple can get to dry land without swimming ashore…

…Several people have offered to let people pitch a tent in their backyards, but for those who like the idea of a tent but not the outdoorsy vibe, the solution came with one pitched in a family’s apartment.

The downside was that the husband, wife and two children would also still be living in the unit, but the upside was you got your own bathroom…If that sounded up your street, the cost was quite a bit steeper than riverboat living at $350 a week for the tent, which is $18,200 a year.”[1]

To be fair, the situation is not just the rich taking advantage, though that is the driving problem to this housing crisis. But now battler families are trying to cover their growing rent and mortgage payments by renting out spare rooms, living rooms, backyards, and even putting up tents on their property. I personally know people living in a tent, and I have observed that this trend is growing. The kind of money that could once rent you a very nice house, or the kind of payment that could pay off a very nice house, is barely enough to get yourself somewhere to sleep for the week now.  

I once heard a prominent Australian academic note that when Australia was first described as the “lucky country”, the implication was that this luck would one day run out. Australia rose as a nation in one of the most prosperous periods of world history, the era of Colonialism. As a nation our country has never really faced true hardship, resources are plentiful, land is abundant, success was far easier for more people than most other nations in the world. Australia was lucky, because although it had mediocre leadership, it was not hard to take advantage of Australia’s privileged position in the world.

The Coincidence - a novel by Gabriel Moens

But it appears that luck has run out. All the land has been divided, and now the wealthy are gobbling up more and more, and it is becoming harder and harder for ordinary people to find a way to build just the humble kind of life that was once the norm in this country; each family with their own home.

Now, rather than being the lucky people, it is obvious that the wealthy have worked out that Australia’s greatest mining resource is not under the ground, it is the Australian people themselves, with our relatively high incomes and astronomically high land prices. Australians are being extracted for their financial resources, and rather than protect us from that, our governments increasingly allow foreign ownership and push high immigration both of which exacerbate the problem. Aussies are no longer lucky, they are increasingly either indebted, or forced to rent at exorbitant prices, just to live in our own land.

Aussies don’t have the ability to quickly move across a border to another country. We don’t have very many major cities which can compete with each other for lifestyle and employees. But we do have lots of money and the elites have found a way to extract it very successfully. What is the use of earning high incomes, if the cost of living just extracts most of what you earn anyway?  

Three things could end this. The government could:

1)     Cancel debts, allowing people to be free of bondage. This would free up people from paying interest, and enable them to redirect money to better causes. It would need to be accompanied by banning usury and limiting more debt going out, though as well.  

2)     Reduce immigration and send some immigrants (temporary residents) home so that renters and buyers don’t have to compete with foreign people for places to live. This would help with driving house and rental prices down.

3)     Increase taxes on those who own more than one home, so investors are incentivized to sell in large numbers so that house prices tumble, encouraging the wealthy to put their money into other aspects of the economy (like production and industry) and allowing people who do not own a chance to buy at far lower prices.

These policies would be just. Especially for those who have not had a chance to buy yet, who should be a priority for our governments. Especially young families. But all of these policies are nationalist and anti-globalization. So, I wonder which way our government is going to go? The problem is that if they continue to allow more of what they are currently allowing, this is going to crush Australians and drain our resources. How long can this extraction process continue? Time alone will tell.

But we know it won’t end well, because the scriptures warns us,

Woe to those who join house to house,
    who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
    and you are made to dwell alone
    in the midst of the land.
The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
    large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
    and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” (Isaiah 5:8-10).  

Matthew Littlefield writes to think through some of the current issues facing society, the Church and whatever else comes to mind that might be interesting to process. Matt's focus is usually historical or scriptural, though he will address current issues from time to time as well. He is a co-author of The Ezekiel Declaration and the book, Defending Conscience, How Baptists reminded the Church to defy tyranny. He blogs most days at YoungGospelMinister.blogspot.com.

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