Tidbits From Down Under
There is so much to see, hear, experience — and write — in and about Australia and its wonderful people that there is hardly time and space to write about it in “real time.” Until there is, a few “tidbits” for anyone interested will have to do.
First, as we sat this morning enjoying a “long black” cup of delicious coffee and a semi-English breakfast at a delightful sidewalk café in Sydney’s vibrant central business district or CBD (downtown), we could fully appreciate the wonderful diversity and multiculturalism that Sydney is so renowned for and for which it has been called a “city where almost 40% of the people living there were born outside of Australia.” A city where, according to World Population Review, 36% of its inhabitants claim ancestry that is either English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish, a legacy of Australia’s colonial past, 7.9% of people have Chinese ancestry, 4.3% Italian ancestry, 3.4% Lebanese ancestry, and 2.9% Greek ancestry.
No wonder Sydney, with residents from more than 200 different nationalities is often called “a city of villages.”
A quick read of Australia’s national newspaper,The Australian, revealed another interesting tidbit about the “Aussies.”
They happen to be the world’s wealthiest people — per capita that is.
According to The Australian, “Australians are per capita the wealthiest people in the world on one of the key measurements, according to a report yesterday by Zurich-based bank Credit Suisse.”
According to the report, the median wealth for every Australian is $US219,505 and Australia’s mean wealth per adult, or average, is just over $US400,000, beaten only by Switzerland…” reflecting the fact that Australian wealth is shared more widely than in some rich countries, according to David McDonald, chief investment strategist in Australia for Credit Suisse Private Banking. McDonald adds, “The top 10 per cent of Australians own 50 per cent of the wealth, which compares with the top 10 per cent around the world owning an average of 86 per cent and the top 10 per cent in the US owning 74 per cent.”
Perhaps influencing such statistics could be the fact that currently in Australia the full-time, national minimum wage is $Aus16.37 per hour or $Aus622.20 per week. (The official exchange rate at the moment — excluding exchange fees, commissions, etc. — is $US1 = $Aus 1.06)
It may also help explain the relatively high cost of living, at least in Sydney, where a cup of that delicious long black coffee can run up to $4 and where one can easily spend upwards of $30 for a modest lunch at a modest restaurant.
On a more regional basis, the same report also predicts that the Asia-Pacific region has the best growth potential in the world and is expected to grow 8.4 per cent in total wealth value per year to $US110 trillion by the year 2018, overtaking the U.S. 2018 total personal wealthy by $10 trillion.
After breakfast it was off to our first sightseeing tour under the guidance of good friend and Australia historian par excellence, Tony Blair, aka Charles Anthony Blair.
Of course, the first, must-do thing for any visitor is a boat tour of the magnificent Sydney Harbor with breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbor Bridge (Tony’s father was one of the engineers for the Bridge), Opera House, history-filled harbor islands — such as Fort Denison — all kinds of boats and ships of all shapes and sizes and equally breathtaking views of iconic beaches, small harbors, forts, parks and the magnificent Sydney skyline.
On the way to our destination, Manly Beach — “Seven miles from Sydney and 1,000 miles from care” — Tony described each and every one of those sights in amazing historical detail, invariably and intricately connected to Australia’s intriguing past as a British penal colony and home to aboriginal people — enough information and tidbits to fill many pages.
After lunch at Manly Beach — fish and chips, what else — the return to Sydney’s famous Circular Quay proved to be an encore of fabulous sights, including the unexpected sight of those magnificent Tall Ships sailing out to sea after participating in the International Fleet Review.
No respectable travelogue would be worth its salt without a tidbit about the weather. Well, it is supposed to be spring in the southern hemisphere, but the headlines — and the temperatures — tell a different story: “Sydney faces what could be its hottest October day on record, with temperature forecast to rise to 39C,” that is 102F — and I am sure they did. The unseasonal heat was expected to create “extreme fire danger” in large parts of New South Wales, including Sydney and the Blue Mountains — where we are headed tomorrow…
Finally, for our “scientific readers,” I performed the famous water-rotating-down-the-drain experiment an exhaustive number of times (two) and was able to personally and visually (photographic evidence to be provided) confirm that water does flow down the sink drain — and “other drains” — in the “opposite direction” down under. It could be because they do things the opposite way here. For example, they drive on the “opposite side” of the road and, allegedly, hurricanes — they call them cyclones — have the same disturbing habit. Something about the Coriolis effect, Buys-Ballot’s law, etc.
But Wikipedia renders the following verdict on the water rotation issue: “Water rotation in home bathrooms under normal circumstances is not related to the Coriolis effect or to the rotation of the earth, and no consistent difference in rotation direction between toilets in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres can be observed.” Oh well, back to the drainage boards.
Lead Image: Aboriginal Australian depicted in porcelain painting by Jon Nash at Sydney’s Porcelain Artwork Convention attended by author’s wife
Edited to denote that The Australian is a national newspaper