Front bar economics: boom towns, tax reform and living in Perth.

Dark clouds gathering over Perth
Storm clouds gather over Perth

By Grant Hall.  Founder of League Cultural Diplomacy

I lived in Perth, Western Australia from 2011 until June 2014, starting in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet before finishing up in the Attorney General’s Department.  Great city, beautiful place.  I loved it.  Most Australians who haven’t visited Perth in the last few years are clueless about what sort of city Perth has become, modern, clean and engaged with the world outside its borders.  Closer to Asia than parts of Australia, Perth based companies had found a ready market for the state’s abundance of minerals.  Money seemed to be everywhere.

It wasn’t my first time in a boom town.  Perth of the early 2010’s reminded me of Dublin a decade earlier. I once heard those days described by a Dubliner as the time of ‘boys throwing money in the air’.

Having seen Dublin go from boom to bust, I felt it likely Perth would follow suit, such were the similarities in the moods of the governments and the people in both cities at the time – why save for tomorrow when you can spend happy today?

You could tell Perth was rich by the new building and infrastructure projects springing up everywhere, but as anyone could see from the staggering amount of homeless people, the money flowing into town wasn’t benefitting everyone.

For those who were benefiting, the average pint of beer at a pub up the road from me in Inglewood could cost between $12 and $14.  Lucky for me I lived closer to the Scotto. The popular, very funny and very true YouTube video Shit Perth People Say jokes about how Perth people accept paying $40 for a pub steak.

It was only nine months ago I left Perth.  Since my time there commodity prices have dropped and mining companies have laid-off staff.  The party’s over in Perth.

This week I read an article about the Government planning to shut down remote Indigenous communities and another about closing regional libraries because the Government doesn’t have enough money to keep them open.

In a state where people buy rounds of $14 pints it’s completely messed up that so many people are homeless and that Indigenous communities and libraries are facing closure.

As Australia wakes up with an empty pocket, the dawning realisation that it squandered a once-in-a-generation mining boom and the fallacy of trickle-down economics, it becomes increasingly obvious that the time for tax reform is now.

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