I have now been in Australia a year, it’s time for the breakdown: at what does Australia beat the US, at what does it need improvement. Topics listed alphabetially
- Banking – AUS … There are fewer banks in Australia, but they work better in a number of ways. Electronic payments are standard and quick. Debit cards are far more standard than credit cards … and there is less credit card % rebate gaming here. What’s a cheque? There is still enough upset here about bank behaviour that a Royal Commission will investigate. Superannuation (the fancy name for retirement plans) have issues, but I don’t think it’s worse than US pension funding problems.
- Broadband – USA … in Minneapolis, eventually we had 2 competing Broadband providers providing 40MBPS for $40/month, in AUS at home, I might as well be on a dialup 300 Baud modem. Netflix can’t even stream consistently at 5:00 am.
- Bureaucracy (Tax) – AUS … Filing taxes is much easier in Australia. In fact, you don’t have to, since they already took your money, you only file if you want some of it back.
- Bureaucracy (Motor Vehicles) – AUS … The time to get a driver’s license in Australia was minimal and the experience was excellent. The staff had uniforms, just like airlines.
- Citizenship – USA … I was born there, I am a citizen dammit, it is my birthright, who the hell cares about where your grandparents were born. Who can possibly actually know, as opposed to repeat stories we were told. Yet Australia is in knots over it’s ridiculous Parliamentary citizenship crisis, perhaps the world’s stupidest scandal. Given how the court has ruled, North Korea could disband Australia’s Parliament simply by giving citizenship to all current members.
- Democracy – AUS … despite the Citizenship crisis, democracy functions better in AUS. Parliament works, no government shutdowns (lack of supply), voting is mandatory, convenient in general (Saturday), and no efforts are made to suppress voting.
- Food (Groceries) – AUS … There are some things you can’t get in AUS (essentially bagels), and the sushi is highly geared toward salmon, but the quality of the Turkish bread and the baguettes make up for it. The food system is less industrialized than the US, so the quality tends to be a bit higher, but certainly not universally.
- Food (Restaurants) – USA … The food is price competitive with the US (especially considering no tipping in restaurants and the sales tax is embedded in the price). However the good middle tier (America’s sit-down chain restaurants) seems to be missing. Food delivery is much more common here, though our experience with it is mixed at best: it’s delivered, but is it still food by that point?
- Government Transparency – USA … The agencies in Australia are trying to be Open and Transparent, but paranoia is a big destroya. In NSW they are afraid (or prohibited) from releasing even basic information like traffic counts on monopoly toll roads, and the “Business Case” is confidential in cabinet. This should all be public.
- Health Insurance – AUS … Though I pay for private here, since I don’t qualify for Medicare (the national health insurance scheme), it is tax deducted, not outrageously priced, and trivial to get reimbursed for expenses through an app. The Doctors are less well trained on average, until recently many only had Bachelor Degrees.
- Housing – USA … House prices are absurd in Australia, even accounting for the superior weather and higher demand. Houses here don’t have insulation, have poor AC, and leaky windows (and roofs). They are building lots of housing in Sydney, so the trend may abate some.
- Measurement – AUS … The metric system remains superior to the imperial system of measures for everything, except arguably temperature.
- Newspapers – USA … These are dying here in Australia as well as in the US, though cities here still have two competing newspapers, in addition to the national papers. The depth of reporting has been generally gutted even more in AUS than the United States.
- Post Office and Last Mile Delivery – USA … While we get stuff from AusPost, it’s just not as good as the USPS/UPS/FedEx combo in the US, and they make us go to the post office to collect things that could have easily been delivered.
- Radio – USA … NPR’s Morning Edition beats the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast. Still, it is charming that they have national traffic reports so I can find out about traffic smashes in Adelaide back in Sydney.
- Retail and Shopping – USA … Amazon is just not a real thing here. The shopping centres are nicer in some ways, with better food choices, but the retail selection is a bit smaller. The supermarkets are smaller as well. However the grocery delivery options seem greater.
- Spectator Sports – USA … Australia has more sports leagues per capita than anywhere in the world, but how many different football codes are we supposed to care about. NFL (American Football) while unnecessarily violent and slow, is still more interesting to watch due to the forward pass than AFL or Rugby League or Rugby Union. Baseball still beats the unfathomable cricket.
- Television News – AUS … The Australian morning breakfast shows on commercial TV are even more of a giant commercial than the US shows. However the ABC is better than the US networks, including PBS, for news.
- Transport (Highways – Intercity) – USA … Australia doesn’t have a complete intercity freeway system, it’s still working on it, the US finished the Interstate System essentially in 1982.
- Transport (Public Transit) – AUS … The buses and trains work much better in Sydney than most all US cities, despite the complaining and despite the many, many imperfections. There is also a better regional train service here than most of the US. Not that it’s good by European standards or anything, but it runs.
- Transport (Walking) – AUS … It’s not great here, but it is more walkable. The noise level of Sydney is surprisingly high, I think due to the effectively unregulated motorcycles.
- Weather – AUS … Almost every day of the year, on a day-to-day comparison with Minnesota, I would prefer to be in Australia.
So by my count: AUS 11, USA 11. This is an incomplete list and imperfect weighting, so subject to change.
There are some things I won’t comment about publicly at this time due to conflict of interest, like public schools, universities, and the visa system.