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13 June 2014


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I believe the price of petrol in the UK is around 130p per litre. This is $2.34 AUD or K5.99.

So best to ride a bike if travelling in the UK.

While many immigrants are finding employment in the UK they are also finding the cost of living is incredibly high. To an Australian, anything that includes a service element (i.e. someone working to provide it) is around double the cost of the same item in Australia. Virtually a pound (that is currently equal to roughly 2 Oz dollars in exchange rate) buys the same as an A$1 in Australia.

That's of course not including tips in the UK (10 -15%) that seem to be following the US custom where wages are low because the workers depend on tips to survive.

Lesson: Don't ravel to the UK and expect to survive on an Aussie budget. Double it and then some.

In a sense, Europe and the UK are only just beginning to confront the grim reality of their reproductive dynamics, where the native born citizens are replicating themselves at below the minimum rate required to sustain let alone grow the population.

This inevitably leads to labour shortages, both in the very highly trained professions like medicine and in the less desirable forms of work like cleaning, hospitality, factories, etc. The result is that immigrants, typically from much poorer countries, leap at the chance to create a new life in a new country.

Australia has for many decades been dependent upon a steady influx of migrants to cover deficiencies in its labour market. The rate of immigration is now either at or very close to historic high levels.

Where once most immigrants came from the UK and Southern Europe, now there also are large numbers coming from China, the Indian sub-continent, South East Asia, South Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Australia is well advanced on the same journey as the other significant "immigrant" countries like the USA, Canada and parts of South America, where they all are becoming progressively less anglo-celtic and much more multi-cultural.

For all its faults, Australia has proved surprisingly adept at absorbing people from all over the world with minimal social upheaval. There are now well over 200 nationalities living, mostly happily, in our wide, sun burned land.

The situation is similar in the US and Canada, although the former is now struggling with the fact that it depends upon around 11 million "illegals" to run a big chunk if its economy.

Many European countries and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the UK, which have historically defined themselves by reference to ethnicity, are really struggling with the implications of their declining birth rates and ageing populations.

Clear evidence of this is the success in the recent European Union Parliamentary elections of UKIP, the Front Nationale in France and similar parties in other European countries.

The complex ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural and geographic divisions that have so often shaped human history are beginning to dissolve quite rapidly now, producing what for many people is a bewildering and frightening array of changes.

Much of the change is very good indeed, but some of it is very bad. For example, countries that have long since largely sorted out the problems associated with religious intolerance and extremism, now find they are hosting religious fanatics within their midst who think systematic murder is a perfectly legitimate way to conduct a religious debate.

There clearly is a tremendous challenge before us all to manage this process of ethnic blending in such a way as to avoid outbursts of ethnic cleansing, the latter having been the preferred strategy over the millennia.

In a sense, on a relative micro scale, this is what PNG has to do with its 800 plus language groups and innumerable different sets of cultural expectations and rules.

So, in a sense, we are all on the same journey, into a world where ethnic, linguistic and cultural differences gradually become much more subtle and muted than is now the case.

It may be a rough ride to get there, but it seems a worthwhile endeavour to me.

I am currently in Antwerp, Belgium, and am struck by what I usually see in a developed nation (or not see) which is the lopsided number of adults compared to children.

In PNG one doesn’t really notice but in background there is always sound of children playing and wherever people are there is always a preponderance of children.

It was the first thing that struck me when I went to Australia for the first time in 1980.

The second feature I notice is the number of people of African, Turkish and East European origin. I have read about the phenomenon but to see it is another thing.

There are signs of native populations (in these case Belgians) falling below replacement levels.

I wonder if at some stage the European fraction of the population may be decreasing at the expense of other races and whether that this may pose problems for race relations.

Countries such as Japan and Singapore have become paranoid about the inverted population pyramids which pose the risk of the dependent (old age folks) increasing and the productive working fraction of the population decreasing.

Will the Northern Ireland violence return if the Catholic minority threatens to supersede the Protestant majority and the latter feel threatened once more by the possibility of a united Ireland.

Surely these developments must in the future pose questions for race relations in Australia and New Zealand and though these may be unwelcome thoughts they must be faced sooner or later.

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