The self-satisfied country
You will have to forgive me for coming up with yet another headline on The Lucky Country theme, which, confessedly, is something of an occupational hazard in these parts.
Most Australian journalists and headline writers, I sometimes suspect, have a function key on their computers which spews out "The ...... Country". Then they simply fill in the blanks: "Smart." "Clever." "Paranoid." "Strange.""Polarised." Or "Unlucky," if they are feeling particularly unimaginative.
In Washington, reporters have two function keys that work in much the same way. One throws up the suffix "-gate", to be attached to any scandal, large or small. The other is for variations on the theme of "commander-in-chief." At times of national tragedy, it is "emoter-in-chief" or, perhaps, "grief-counsellor-in-chief." At this time a year, when the president is expected to perform a self-deprecating stand-up routine at various black-tie correspondent dinners, the words "joker" or "prankster" apply. But I digress.
For what I really want to talk about is a new report from the OECD - don't click away quite yet - which fuels the boast that Australia is one of the great lifestyle superpowers of the world.
To start with, Aussies live longer than most other people in advanced economies - to a ripe old average age of 81.5 - which puts the country third in the world behind Japan and Switzerland. In the longevity stakes, that's 2 years longer the OECD average. Median disposable income is also the fifth highest in the world, with only Luxembourg, America, Norway and Iceland doing better.
When it comes to their natural environment, Australians are particularly content - some would say downright smug. The report suggests more than 93% are content with air and water quality. There's also a high degree of confidence in the military, in government and the incorruptibility of public officials.
Australia is apparently the third kindest in the country in the world, judged by voluntary work and charitable giving (American and Ireland come first and second, with Britain fifth).
What is also particularly interesting in the context of the ongoing debate about immigration and asylum seekers, where Australia's nobler instincts often vie with prejudice and outright racism, is the OECD findings on racial tolerance. The report suggests that only Canada shows more tolerance towards minority groups, which bolsters Australia's claim to being successfully multi-ethnic.
There are blog posts in the pipeline on Australia's current affordability problem, which appears to be making it a less attractive option for Brits in particular and putting pressure on the living standards of Aussies, as well. Over the next week or so, I also want to ask whether Australia has caught the 'Dutch disease,' which is to say: has it become overly reliant on its resources sector?
All overlapping subjects, for sure. But does the OECD report ring true? When it comes to all-round liveability, how safe is Australia's position at the top of the global rankings?