Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007
South Carolina can learn about life from Australians
MARYBOROUGH, Queensland, Aug. 10, 2007 - - After traveling
around Australia for almost three weeks, one thing is clear:
Australians generally have a better quality of life than South
And for a resident of the country considered the greatest
in the free world, that's pretty eye-opening.
Americans have a lot of advantages over people in other countries:
the world's richest market, best university system, best technology
infrastructure and best health care services. But in America,
we've also got 47 million people who don't have health insurance
and 37 million people who live in poverty. We've got huge
drug problems, with crime and violence tagging along..
not to say Australia doesn't have drugs, violence or other
problems. One Queensland constable said the state, which has
the population of South Carolina, had fewer than 100 murders
last year, compared to about 300 in the Palmetto State. But
here, it's hard to find urban blight, blocks of people who
live in poverty and ramshackle houses in the country.
All in all, Americans would be surprised how good the quality
of life is here. Can you imagine an employment system that
allows you to take "long service leave" - - extra
vacation when you've been working at a job for a certain length
of time? A police detective with more than 20 years on the
job will take off four months in a row. Another officer with
similar experience has so much vacation built up that he could
take off a full year without returning to work.
Consider other parts of Australia's work system:
- Vacation. While some Americans struggle to get
even two weeks of vacation, just about everyone in Australia
gets a minimum of four weeks of vacation. More interesting:
they actually get paid more on vacation (about 8 percent
more) because folks know vacationers spend when they're
- Minimum wage. As American politicians crow about
a recent increase in the minimum wage to $5.85 per hour,
Australians are appalled at our low wage. Their minimum
wage is around $14 per hour, no matter what job - - and
they fight for annual increases to reflect economic realities.
- Health care. Australia has universal health care.
Everyone has a Medicare card and can go to the doctor of
their choice. There is, however, an alternate private health
system that people with more money go to if they want better
care. It, as you would expect, costs more. But the basic
system provides enormous coverage for people throughout
the country and is seen as a sacrosanct benefit that politicians
can't really toy with.
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Overall, Australia seems to have a more egalitarian society
than the United States. There is a very broad middle class.
If there's deep poverty, it's hard to find. And while there
certainly are some rich folks, it's uncommon to see a BMW
or Mercedes on the highway. It is much more common to see
Fords, Holdens (their version of Chevrolets), Toyotas and
There's a sense among everyday Australians and those in government
that it is important to do things for the "common good"
of all. This value and others, such as people should be paid
a living, fair wage for a fair day's work, permeate the culture
beyond partisan lines.
As the United States was growing into a superpower, her people
had this sense of building for the common good. But as many
Americans have grown apathetic and even lazy about what we
have, the system has changed into more of an "everybody
out for themselves" society. Perhaps it's politics. Perhaps
it's arrogance. Perhaps it is societal evolution.
America is a land of abundance. But one thing is for sure:
we can learn a lot about living from people in other countries
like Australia which might, many would argue, have a better
overall quality of life.
Bottom line: I'm very happy to be coming home. But
there are serious things our politicians and people can learn
from people and politicians in our sister state, Queensland,
and other parts of the world.
You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of
SC Statehouse Report, at email@example.com.
Club started in Landrum in 1934
Beta Club was founded Jan. 8, 1934, at Landrum High School
by Dr. John West Harris, faculty member at Wofford College.
Reared on a farm and aware of the privations of his day, Harris
worked to develop youth for effective leadership and achievement.
His high standards and goals were fashioned after Phi Beta
Kappa and the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. He knew achievers
made A and B grades, and subsequently chose Beta (or B) for
the organization's name. He asked principals and superintendents
for permission to present his plan to local literary societies
Statehouse Report has partnered with USC
Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly
historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which
is used with permission and not for republication, is
taken from The
South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book
published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors
and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope
you enjoy this new feature.
The Landrum High School Literary Society (15 members) and
sponsor Helen Prince were the first to apply for membership.
Before the school year ended, eight other literary societies
had become Beta Clubs. By the end of the following year, there
were 75 chapters in four states.
As of 2005, the National Beta Club, headquartered in Spartanburg,
had more than 417,000 members in the United States, the BAhamas,
germany, Guam, Puerto Rico, Russia and the Virgin Islands.
-- Entry by James Walton Lawrence Sr.,
South Carolina Encyclopedia
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
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