Missing Link Friday – The War on Whinging

With low unemployment, low inflation and 20 straight years of economic growth, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Jessica Irvine is astounded at how so many Australians are carrying on as if they live in a debt-wracked European basket case. Younger Australians have never seen a recession, she says, and many older people seem to have forgotten what one looks like.

So why do people carry on like this? "There can be only one answer", says Irvine, "we are, as a nation, chucking a full-on, all-screaming, all-door-slamming teenage temper tantrum." Voters and business are like petulant teenagers and the government is like a weak-willed parent desperate for affection.

Irvine’s column was the talk of Twitter this morning. "Fantastic piece on what a pack of whingers Australians are", tweeted Bernard Keane while Aleta describes Irvine as "a breath of sensible in a world of stupid". Trent Driver writes: "Best piece I have read in a long time. Wish you could hear the debate by the teenage girls in my ecos classes. :)"

Others were less convinced. "I don’t understand why people like that Jess Irvine thing" said Jason Wilson. "More pundits telling the people they’re spoilt children."

Liam Hogan commented "three things missing from that piece: price of housing, major city rental vacancy rate, homelessness index." Sarah Toohey from Australians for Affordable Housing agreed, "Nice points Liam. Overall econ good, lots quite comfortable, but some have really difficult lives b/c of hsg."

Arriving just after the ACTU conference, Irvine’s column runs into their campaign on insecure work. Jason Wilson asked: "Haven’t we just heard at the ACTU congress that ppl feel chronically insecure?"

According to the ACTU’s Ged Kearney, millions of Australians are in casual jobs, contract jobs and labour hire work. "On top of low wages, and a lack of conditions like sick leave and holiday pay, there is a huge amount of uncertainty about when and how much people will work."

Matt Cowgill and Keiran McCarron took issue with Irvine’s claim that Australia’s welfare state is bloated. Cowgill wrote: "I disagree that our welfare system is ‘bloated’ (unless you include tax expenditures in your definition)" while McCarron tweeted: "I didn’t read your article. But if you’re calling a welfare system smaller than the US’s "bloated" you’re just politicking."

Irvine isn’t the only one arguing that Australians are complaining too much. The Australian newspaper’s George Megalogenis has pledged a "war on whinging". And that’s just where twitter user truckie is filing the piece, under #waronwhinging. Megalogenis says he might pitch a ‘war on whinging’ show to the ABC. Fake Paul Keating tweets: "if you get a show, @Jess_Irvine is in the stop whinging camp, and lot more photogenic than you".

This entry was posted in Missing Link. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Missing Link Friday – The War on Whinging

  1. Catching up says:

    It is if we have all allowed ourselves to be drugged.

    I do hope we wake up before it is too late,

  2. Patrick says:

    She’d presumably rather we all accept that it’s been a good run and roll our way over to the knackers.

  3. barista says:

    “There can be only one answer: we are, as a nation, chucking a full-on, all-screaming, all-door-slamming teenage temper tantrum.”

    As rhetorical exaggeration, or as metaphor, or as literal argument, this line is just no, no, no. I am bewildered by the silliness of the thing.

  4. Tel says:

    People used to have a very relaxed attitude to debt-funded prosperity. Now they have seen the endgame and it’s hard to unsee something, especially something bad.

    Then there’s the additional $50 billion in government debt that gets piled on each year (more of the same in the recent budget). Not enough to leave us staggering around like Greece (yet) but I’m enthused about the idea of learning from someone else’s mistakes. You know what happens when good men say nothing.

  5. Yobbo says:

    I’m sure things are pretty good right now for people who get paid a lot of money to parrot left-wing talking points. For the rest of Australia, if you aren’t involved in the resources industry it’s pretty tough to get by because of the astronomical cost of living.

  6. Peter Patton says:

    Oh for god’s sake. She’s just another Fairfax leftist airhead plagiarising from American culture war blogs. And very, very artlessly! Of course Australia’s luvvies will lap it up. Original and critical thinking is a sin among the Australian luvvies. Everything must come from the US; even stuff from Paris!

  7. emess says:

    I dunno yobbo. I live and work in one of the areas that is in the fast lane of the two speed economy. I haven’t noticed costs going up at all for most things, and in the fast lane prices should be rocketing – but they aint. The standout exceptions are power and water, but most of that is going into pipes, wires and dam expansion – so I am getting more reliability for my buck. I only use cash to buy my day to day stuff, and my regular weekIy withdrawal has not gone up for the past four years. I am genuinely puzzled at comments about increased cost, and ‘doing it tough’.

    Sure there are businesses going to the wall, and people being made redundant. However, that is an essential feature of a market economy surely – and as long at there are a similar number of businesses starting up and employing people, is that not the market behaving as it should?

    I cannot even explain it by the fact that I have no debt whatsoever, because interest rates coming down does not help me. Those with mortgages should be seeing their repayments go down. So where is all the doom and gloom coming from in Australia compared to Europe or the USA for example?

    Seems to me that Irvine’s piece is fair comment.

  8. Russell says:

    Although an assiduous reader of the social pages of the Western Suburbs Weekly, the rest of their ‘news’ I can do without. However the whole front page of the latest issue is an analysis of the budget by 3 local business persons.

    For example, one boutique owner “said the $1640 she was set to get from the Schoolkids Bonus was not enough …. my eldest kid is in private school and his last lot of uniforms cost me well over $1000, so the bonus won’t do anything”

    Given how many people now send their kids to private schools it’s no wonder that their cost-of-living has gone up. But for people on ordinary incomes the real problem is the cost of housing – buying or renting. It just has to keep coming down or we’re stuffed.

    • jane says:

      The Sydney boutique owner should look on the bright side. The $1640 should cover her eldest’s uniforms, or she should think herself lucky to get any money at all and stfu!!!!

      Yep, a nation of whingers with a gigantic sense of entitlement. Get over yourselves. Start doing some charity work with the REAL poor and dispossessed, or better still swap places with them. then you’ll REALLY have something to whine about!

      • Russell says:

        Jane – when I said “Western Suburbs Weekly” I was certainly not indicating the western suburbs of Sydney! This little gem is circulated around the exclusive western suburbs of Perth – a very different world.

  9. Dennis Argall says:

    On the night of the Abbott budget reply, my local member, Joanna Gash, Liberal member for Gilmore, sent around an email entitled “Restoring Hope, Reward and Opportunity. I replied:

    Dear Jo

    We seem to lose sight of, a huge number of people lose sight of, how well we do compared with the world. My hope is that Australians are given encouragement to stop fearing this and that and the other thing or person, to realise that we are in a very safe and comfortable and beautiful place.

    We rank second in the world on the UN Development Programs Human Development Index, after Norway.

    We rank low in the OECD on social expenditure
    though the Herald Sun whined yesterday that average weekly earners contribute $100 a week to the social welfare budget. (Which means that the other 66% of their taxes goes to their ‘selfish’ needs.)

    Norway among other developed countries has a ‘big’ government of a kind Mr Hockey wants to lead us away from. A friend of mine in Wollongong has just returned to Liberia after over a decade as a refugee, to do conciliation work, to help with social enterprises and see children from whom he is long separated. So he goes from a country number 2 on the development index, to Liberia, 182 of 187, from a country with a big government to a country with a small government. When will we get it? Why are we to be offered hope… of what??? Surely a decent and statesmanlike approach to government would go beyond encouraging foreign language study to encouraging some end to the growing chauvinist arrogance and fear mongering which poisons us and shapes us, as a doctor put it neatly to me the other day, for our role as the ‘white trash of Asia’.

    So please, a heads-up. We live in a rewarded land of opportunity, and my hope is that we get out of the whining soon. Your leader is so well placed given the performance of the government that it is appalling that he sticks at being a mealy mouthed attack-dog with piecemeal and small policy imaginings rather than positive vision.

    With regrets


  10. Senexx says:

    And my response to all that is tell that to the unemployed.
    Tell that to those suffering mortgage stress.
    Especially if rate cuts are not helping if they’ve been demoted to part-time, casualisation or unemployed & as pointed out by some significant price rises in non-tradeable services (erroneously in my view called inflation)

    Look at the credit markets and all the middle class wealth rentier statistics falling or flatlining.

    Look at Global Austerity, if we implement it too, whom is going to pick up the slack.

    On a similar but Tangential topic John Harvey writes in Forbes that it is possible for the rate cuts to work but nor can they be “expected to have any significant impact”.

  11. barista says:

    Left wing talking points? Reads like the opposite to me. The left wing talking point is that income disparity is increasing, and being transferred into disparity of ownership and power, and the rest of us are being screwed.

    We have obvious changes in the housing market, which feel bad to a lot of people. Business is tough in a lot of areas and jobs are insecure. A lot of people are feeling the slow loss of confidence that comes from the attacks on the Union movement, and the rise of casualisation. They wonder about the future of their kids, educated to the gills for job markets that may not be there.

    I could keep pouring out the cliches, but we all know they are true. I also think that maybe we are seeing the collision of two trends. 1. The rise and rise of political doublespeak which makes our pollies look ever crappier and 2. an electorate that is getting pushier about quality of services. In Victoria, for instance, we want public transport to work, we dump one government which couldn’t and are slowly learning that the next one can’t either. Because no-one can.

    To use one final lefty talking point… the oowah journalism practiced by the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax ex-newspapers and the ABC together does not help community confidence in the political process. I am a specialist journalist and I see this crap happening every day. Everything has to be someone’s fault.

  12. conrad says:

    “Tell that to those suffering mortgage stress”

    Do you mean tell that to the average Australian household, a unit which has a networth of $720,000? see: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features10Dec+2011

    Sure there are lots of poor people out there, but there are lots of people whinging for no real reason also. And that includes the average Australian household.

    • Yobbo says:

      You talk about the “Average” household as if it’s a real thing. In reality the average is so high because there are far more people earning $120,000 a year, purely because of the resources boom.

      Every other sector of the economy is declining, and has been for several years. Australia’s non-mining GDP declines every year.

      • Peter WARWICK says:

        Yobbo, were you expecting the resources boom to continue for ever ?
        Watch out for the next collapse, that is, retail petroleum. With electric cars getting better by the year, there will be thousands of fuel servos lying derelict.
        Do hope you do not have a job as a console operator at your local servo.

    • Senexx says:

      Imagine for a moment that you were just made unemployed, then you would be under mortgage stress.
      To use Average Household is to tar everyone with the same brush and that can ultimately end up in what some call a hasty generalisation but I prefer to call a fallacy of composition.

      Anyone that doesn’t have median equivalised disposable income as identified here are those that suffer. And that is almost everyone I know.

  13. conrad says:


    if you look towards the end of that document, you’ll find out that even those in the 20-40th percentile have about 200K in assets, and those in the 40th-60th have about 400K. So the median household is not doing too badly. Sure there are lots of poor people that really are doing badly due to our stingyness (e.g., the unemployed), but most people arn’t.

    Also you are wrong about where growth has been occuring in Aus. See here. According to the ABS, manufacturing(!), construction, finance, and health care contributed more to growth than mining (I suspect however that a lot of the growth in manufacturing is due to mining, but I could be wrong as that’s just a guess).

  14. melaleuca123 says:

    “On the night of the Abbott budget reply, my local member, Joanna Gash …”

    That is a good name for a local member.

  15. murph the surf. says:

    This debate ties in with the previous discussions ( here? on LP?) about what changed in Australia so that success is failure.
    From the self applied description as battlers and the product of waves of hard working but not so educated migrants who was expecting a world beating economy with such a reasonable stab at equitable redistribution?
    Well the confidence wasn’t there when we wanted to see ourselves as struggling but now we can’t overcome the deep psychological feelings that somehow it may all evaporate like an amercan property boom…..
    From this ex-colonised mindset ,burdened with deference to the ruler the rise of economic power of other ex-colonised countries leads us to always see our economy as dependent to a degree which doesn’t reflect the strength of the domestic component nor recognise it’s debt to reform.
    If there is rising disparity of incomes it doesn’t seem as prominent as a general gripe that costs are excalating too quickly against the rate of increase of incomes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.