Monday, February 18, 2013

Expensive Australia

 I feel a little uncomfortable about this post as it sounds like I am going against what Diane said. I expect tourists from overseas may well find Australia expensive and Diane's point stands. If you are staying a Melbourne city hotel and pop off to the local convenience store to stock up on goodies, you will be paying less than what you would be if you were buying from your hotel, but a lot more than local people would normally pay. The post is somewhat unfinished, but I am over it.

http://www.theage.com.au/national/melbourne-life/where-liveability-doesnt-come-cheap-20120830-2537h.html

I don't consider Melbourne to be an expensive place to live. I know housing is expensive, to buy or rent, but day to day living is quite ok. You can live expensively but with a little effort, you don't have to pay high prices for food staples and there are just so many places to eat where you will get tasty, cheap and wholesome food.

Partly because of the high value of our dollar, electronics and clothing are unbelievable cheap; clothes are criminally cheap. Of course they are made in foreign sweatshops where people are paid a pittance, but it does seem to be the way of the world. Mind you, in America things are even cheaper again, but then do people generally have the income to buy them? Britain has never been known as a cheap place, but I think at the moment, it is considered cheap. It is five years since we have been there, but I found similarly priced cheap clothing there of better quality than what it sold here.

Not withstanding the above, we down under hate the way we pay up to double for imported books, cds, dvds and electronics than what they can be bought for overseas. We also hate the way we are geo-blocked from buying them direct and having them shipped here, hence third party shipping agents are doing rather well.

http://diane-adventurebeforedementia.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/a-tourist-turn-off.html

Lets have a look at Diane's post from last August. There are so many variables in supermarket prices, but this is just how I call it.

Tip Top 9 grain bread for $4.60. Helgas grain bread is now $4.70 I think, but of the two big supermarkets, it is  usually on sale at 2 for $6 or $7. If it is an unlucky week, Abotts Bakery bread will have a similar deal on similar bread. At an Asian run bakery, you can probably get a plain white loaf for $2.

Three litres of quality fresh milk for $5.19. Too cheap. The farmers barely make a profit at this price. Think of how much water goes into producing a litre of milk compared to a litre of bottled water that might sell for a similar price. See what you pay for a litre of fresh milk in Asian countries.

Grapes, imported from America, poor quality and selling for an outrageous price of $13. Our friend from Japan bought some beautiful Australian grapes yesterday for $2 a kilo at the supermarket. Buying fruit and vegetables when they are in season means you get good quality at a cheap price.

Tomatoes. Diane saw some at $10 a kilo. Up north, I would have thought tomatoes would be cheaper, even in winter. So many things affect the price of tomatoes, with the biggest being our weather. The recent floods in Queensland must be responsible for high prices at the moment, when the prices should be at their cheapest. Oddly, South Australian tomatoes are expensive at the moment. This morning we found some edible, but not first class tomatoes for $3 a kilo. We only bought a couple and lashed out on some Australian vine ripened cherry tomatoes, 250 gram for $2.80.

Diane did not mention oranges. In winter navel oranges are imported from California. They are beautiful looking fruit, but their taste often pretty ordinary compared to our wonderful locally grown Valencia oranges. Our Valencias don't have the stunning looks of a Navel, often with some of the peel being green, but they are deliciously sweet and keep for a very long time. Why we need to import oranges to sell fresh and for orange juice when farmers are letting theirs rot on the ground because it costs more to harvest them than what would be their financial return, is just so wrong. You can buy a five kilo bag of delicious Valencias in season for a few dollars.

It is clear to me that Australia is not able to compete with third world clothing manufactures, which is why so little clothing is made here. It was a battle fought and lost some time ago, with any remaining Australian manufactures sticking mainly to the high end.

Our car manufactures, which do produce good cars and export them, only remain viable because our governments prop them up.

Very little in the way of electronics are made here, but where something like the manufacture of electronics can be highly automated, I think quite a lot could be made here.

But primary production, growing things and producing animal products can be done exceptionally well here, and at relatively good prices. I really don't see why we need to import vast quantities of food.

22 comments:

  1. Younger people in Sydney seeking to establish their independence face crippling housing, transport, electricity and water charges. No wonder more are living with parents to an older age.

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    1. Similar here Victor but perhaps not quite so bad. I am not suggesting all, but many want a palace as their first home, with a new car in the driveway and every electronic device imaginable, and then kids.

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  2. When travelling in Far North Queensland (over many years) we've been appalled at the lack of availability of local produce. If you want local tropical fruits and veggies, generally the only place to get them are roadside stalls. In our experience, the BIG supermarkets stock the usual suspects with no attempt to go local, or match local prices. And why go to the supermarket for bread when there are FAR better options at the local bakery???? Where you can also reward yourself with a sweet treat ...

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    1. Red, I wonder how much autonomy a manager of a chain supermarket has so far as buying fresh goods?

      Before a developed a wheat allergy, we always bought bread from a bakery. It is a bit harder where we live now.

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  3. What an interesting post Andrew. As a very recent tourist to Aus I can only say how shocked I was at how much everything cost. I live in London so assume that wherever I travel in the world I would not be paying higher prices for hotels, eating out, entertainment etc. but you know what the cost of your hotels made me rethink and but for the fact that I had already paid for my airfare I would have gone elsewhere. However I'm glad I didn't as I had a fantastic time!

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    1. Everything Fun60? Accommodation is expensive here, I know that. But it annoys me more where you pay similar prices for much the same in third world countries where labour is so cheap. It rather depends where you ate, but I would have thought dining out here was not as expensive. Ticket prices for shows are absurd here and even we feel ripped off, but again they are ways around it with last minute tickets etc, even to do touristy things too, like seeing the penguins by coach.

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  4. Oh. Now you have set me with a challenge (and a shopping list). Nothing like a quest to tell a good story or a blog. Will hunt down prices in the supermarket and get back on to you on it

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    1. I would be very interested Michael.

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  5. Great post HR, and may I add that if buying bottled fruit juice it pays to read label fine print and reject most of them made from imported reconstituted whatever. Don't be funding the Brazil olympics by buying their orange byproducts.
    and in addition to Victor's comment, establishing a rented home also gives you utilities Connection Fees. Considering that the previous tenant paid a Disconnection Fee, and WE KNOW that it can all be done remotely on computers anyhow (see my comments everywhere on Smart Meters, the real installation reason is that they will be read remotely, and meter readers walking around doing it, are now out of a job.

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    1. Ann, it is really hard to buy Australian orange juice now. I thought of buying a bag and juicing them myself, but at Prahran Market there is a juicing machine and it is cheaper for them to juice oranges for you than it is to do it yourself.

      Re connection fees, they really should be reduced significantly now. It has been many years since Telstra phyically attended for change over of tenants, if they ever did.

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  6. It might have been years since Telstra even physically attended to a phone call.

    Perhaps one trap for tourists is that places like the coles supermarket in spencer street are located on expensive sites, and their prices are way over the top.
    Are prices better at Prahran Market than Vic Market... I assume the latter is a bit of a tourist trap as well.

    I think large chain supermarkets are firmly locked in to what the chain buyers decide to make available.

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    1. Indeed FC. they are not proper supermarkets, ditto the Coles in Elizabeth Street. Prahran Market is expensive for fresh produce. Vic Market is much cheaper and better.

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  7. A city being classed as cheap or expensive is irrelevant. If a person has a high paying job, therefore a high salary, his or her city would seem extremely affordable. Another person struggling on a much lower income or a pension, would see the same city as extremely expensive. Surveys have shown that Adelaide is a relatively cheap place to live, yet we have people unable to afford rents, food, clothing, the charity organisations are crying out for aid as they have so many more families coming to them for help.
    Supermarket prices are set according to demographic surveys. For instance what you can buy for $50 in one location would cost quite a bit more in what is considered a wealthier suburb. Unfair, but true. To save money, you can go to the cheaper location, but consider the costs of time, petrol and parking too. That adds to the cost.
    Managers don't actually have much say in the purchasing of shelf products or fresh produce, even meat. Those things are decided much higher up and we just have to make the best of it.

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    1. Well River, as someone said, the poor will always be among us. I tried to adjust my mindset about incomes as I writing.

      There is also the situation of supermarkets selling second rate produce at high prices in disadvantaged areas.

      Yeah, I guess the supermarkets buying lemons for resale from someone who has a lemon tree does not happen.

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  8. I think River hit it on the head Andrew, cheap or expensive is relative to earnings. You also had an excellent point, especially concerning fruit and veg, only buy in season, there is no way that I would spend 9,10 or 11 dollars on a bunch of grapes, but I will spend 2 or three a bit later when they're plentiful. As always a very interesting and though provoking post Andrew.

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    1. Not sure Grace. The head of London's Tube is taking over as head of Sydney's City Rail, and was already remarking what an expensive city Sydney is.

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  9. The reason Melbourne and Sydney made the world's Most Expensive City list for 2012 was because all measurements were in American dollars. In countries where the local currency is strong and the American dollar is weak, like Australia, cities will appear relatively expensive.

    The World's Most Expensive City list should have been created by comparing income to costs in the local currencies.

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    1. Hels, it goes to prove you can't trust these kind of statistics. I assume the method you describe is how they would have made a comparison. But then aren't most currencies low against ours?

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  10. Of all the big cities in the world, here were the most expensive in 2012 (when measured in American dollars):

    1.Tokyo
    2. Osaka
    3. Sydney
    4. Oslo
    5. Melbourne
    6. Singapore
    7. Zurich
    8. Paris
    9. Caracas
    10. Geneva

    Oh please!


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    1. How did Singapore and Caracas make the list?

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  11. I think Melbourne is expensive full stop. I was shocked when I moved back from London how the prices had increased.

    I just bid farewell to some UK friends and they commented that they thought it was expensive here too, they shopped in the same supermarkets I do.

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    1. Fen, you have greater experience of London than I do, so I bow to your greater knowledge, but you participate in Melbourne life. Is it really that expensive?

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