WE CAN’T GET CAUGHT BY THE GREECE TRAP
Greeks aren’t bludgers. That’s not what’s driven their economy over the same ageing cliff we’re heading for. Forget that idea, because it blinds us to the urgent lesson from Greece defaulting on its massive debts.
Forget this sneering about lazy Greeks doing the Mediterranean mana on money borrowed from hard- working Germans, because OECD figures tell a different story.
In fact, Greek workers put in 42 hours in the average week, while Germans knock off after about 35.
True, those hours are often spent sitting in a shop till midnight, or in a government office counting paperclips or on a farm chasing goats while Germans are building Mercedes. We’re not talking productive here.
Then there’s that other whinge about Greek workers downing tools too young.
Some truth in that, sure, given Greek men on average retire at 63, but that’s just one year earlier than Germans — hardly a telling difference.
They also retire on less money by our standards — about $ 300 a week — albeit only after Greece was forced by European lenders to slash pensions by a third.
No, the Greeks aren’t lazy. Just greedy — and in that envious way so typical of countries run too long by the Left.
Greece, still boasting that it’s the cradle of democracy, fancies it’s European and can pay people European- style welfare, particularly Euro- pean- style pensions.
But Greece is no Germany. It’s a poor country with rich tastes, and far too many tax dodgers and public servants to pay for them.
What’s now helped to turn this socialist folly into a full- scale disaster is that it’s been hit by the same truck that’s coming our way.
Greece is now a country of old people — the most elderly in Europe after Germany and Italy, and the sixth oldest in the world — with more pensioners each year to feed.
It now has a fertility rate of just 1.34 children for each woman, way below the replacement level of 2.1. Its population last year fell.
What’s more, the old now live longer. Result: in the past 45 years the proportion of Greeks aged over 65 years has doubled to 20 per cent.
That means twice as many workers are needed to pay for each pensioner, and that job has got much harder because one in four workers are unem- ployed and needing welfare themselves. The consequences of this ageing, plus a struggling economy, have been disastrous.
Greece’s pensions bill jumped from 11.7 per cent of GDP before the 2007 financial crisis to 16.2 per cent. The European Union average is 12 per cent.
So how has Greece paid for all these pensions, plus the rest of its bloated public sector?
Simple. It borrowed big from Europe, in the same mad way that caused it to default five times before in two centuries.
The national debt now works out to $ 30,000 for each Greek man, woman and child, with no hope of repayment.
Kicking Greeks for being wastrels is now the rage, made easier by the fact its government contains a clown show of socialists, ex- communists and loud- mouth populists.
But Greece could be our future, too, if we don’t smarten up. True, we’re richer than Greece and planning better. We’re a little more fertile and ageing slower. But all signs point to the same destination.
Our fertility rate is 1.88 babies per woman and we’re living much longer, so by 2050 each Australian worker will have to support twice as many people over 65.
Without reforms, our pensions bill will go through the roof, just as has Greece’s.
In fact, Australia’s social services spending is already so high the government must borrow nearly $ 100 million a day.
Again, let’s not exaggerate. We are at nowhere near Greek levels of debt and not likely to be, unless we dodge reform and China really tanks.
But the pressure is on to adjust, and too many politicians and commentators seem as reluctant as the Greeks to do it.
It took huge pressure from its European creditors to make Greece cut pensions and jack up the retirement age from a ludicrous 57 to today’s 67.
But nothing will force Australia to take its medicine other than our own sweet reason, which is in short supply.
True, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Social Services Minister Scott Morrison did last month finally persuade the Greens to help pass modest cuts to the assets test for pensioners, against Labor’s mindless opposition.
But Hockey was smashed when he tried to raise the pension age from 67 to 70, and other cuts to social security hand- outs have been blocked.
Those battles remain and must be won. If you doubt it, check out Greece.
Jonathan Green, Emma Alberici, Fran Kelly, Rafael Epstein and Annabel Crabb, joined Scott in defending Q& A, with Media Watch host Paul Barry abusing the ABC’s critics as “the usual suspects”, “shockjocks” and “a lynch mob ... baying for blood”.
Q& A host Tony Jones himself showed little remorse on Monday’s show, suggesting Mallah had put questions we should discuss and insisting the ABC had to present “a diversity of perspectives”. A diversity, hey? Then why couldn’t the ABC, our biggest media organisation, find a single ABC presenter to attack Q& A?
Isn’t the ABC required by the ABC Act to be balanced?
Under pressure, the ABC board yesterday commissioned an inquiry into Q& A and its bias, but has ensured it is in sympathetic ideological hands, appointing journalist Ray Martin and former SBS boss Shaun Brown. No, the ABC is sorry for nothing. It shows no intention of reforming the inherent bias that produced this groupthink and Mallah’s invitation.
This is the Left insisting on total control of a broadcaster too big for a healthy democracy, with four TV stations, five radio stations, an online newspaper, a publishing house and shops.
So if the ABC cannot be reformed? What then? The axe, surely.
ARTWORK BY TERRY PONTIKOS