I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

My Bike and Me and the Australian Economy

This is me and my new bike - a gift to myself that I bought with part of our new government's extra payment to pensioners, scheduled to arrive in our bank accounts this week, in time for Christmas. I couldn't wait!

New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the payment several weeks ago, just after the world's economy hit the fan. He acted early on several fronts in an effort to cushion Australia against expected global shocks.

The government's idea is to stimulate the economy as well as do something to help the less well off who had missed out badly during the years of the old government.

Aged pensioners, carers, seniors, veterans, and people with a disability are among those to receive the one off payment. People on their own will receive $1,400 and couples $2,100 between them. You can imagine that there is much excitement.

Mr Rudd said that these amounts were a down payment on additional regular amounts to be announced in June next year, in the 2009 budget. At the moment those on a full pension live on $A276 per week - or about $US178, 122.4 British pounds or $CAN227 - not much to maintain a house and feed and clothe yourself, especially if you live alone!

Mind you we are lucky to have a largely free health system, even though that too was watered down in recent years.

The government is doing research before establishing future payments and probably announcing a whole new ball game for pension entitlements. Ministers are very straightforward in their declarations of support for the strugglers, and these acts back their words in a very practical way.

Rudd and Co want us to spend the one off money as quickly as we can to help stave off any threat of recession. I bought my bike as a way of keeping fit and healthy and will pay off bills with the rest - in effect pumping my little lot straight into the economy.

It does look as though Australia is being gradually drawn into the whirlpool of international economic crisis, with China's demands for our minerals slowing somewhat.

The Australian Reserve Bank has announced several huge interest rate cuts and the government very large programmes of spending on national infrastructure, plus other various measures all designed to keep the economy moving.

Our economy slumped to record a growth rate of only one per cent in the past quarter - good by international standards the Treasurer rushed to declare, but pretty scarey in reality.

Banks still aren't lending much money and retail sales have dropped drastically.

Mortgage payers have breathed a sigh of relief with the interest rate drops as most home loans are based on variable rates, not fixed as in so many other countries. Also there are not so many sub-prime loans around, unlike overseas. That means the burden of home buyers is softened here.

News of future job losses is gaining pace however, and companies and businesses are beginning to collapse.

This global situation sure demonstrates how important it is to watch those in power in the global economic system doesn't it? We must regulate them, whether they like it or not.

How are you all going in your little neck of the woods? Tell me in a comment ...

By the way, things are getting very exciting over at Journeys in Creative Writing where I'm serialising my novel 'Paternity'. There are eight episodes there now and you can start at the beginning by following a link. Join the hundreds of others who seem to be enjoying it.


  1. To begin with, you look marvelous and I love your new bike! And cheers for the positive things your government is doing for all of you! That is so encouraging to hear, hope we follow suit here with Obama! Great post as always and I again, I love the picture! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Sylvia. I hope the government keeps up the good work.
    Last week Mr Rudd polled 68 per cent approval as Prime Minister - more than when he was newly elected and, I think, a record. He's just celebrated his first year.
    Here's hoping for us all.

  3. Great photo June you look fabulous and bikes are a grat way of keeping healthy. I support Kevin and Julia I have to say and lets hope that a lot of people have a better Christmas and it helps the economy and keeps us from slipping into that recession.

  4. Thanks for the comment Lilly.
    Just don't look too closely at my arthritic hands! So many years typing on those rotten old thumpers we used to use.
    I'm pretty good though. I hate to tell you couch potato you that sport and exercise early in life is a part of health in old age. Sorry.

  5. Hello June! You look really cool with your new bike. It is great to see that Australia is finally going in the right direction. So many positive actions have already been taken (Apology to the Stolen Generation, Kyoto Protocol, etc.). I look forward to my next holiday to Australia to hear what people are saying. And now that Obama has been elected, I might even consider visiting the US for the first time!

  6. All I can say is BLOODY GOOD ONYA KEV!!

  7. You look very smart on your bike, June. It's very cold here right now, with lots of freezing prairie wind, so I will put off biking until spring. However, Bucksnort and I go swimming at an indoor pool most days. But, brrr, it's chilly when we scamper out to the car with wet hair afterwards...

    We just got a 5.8% raise in our Social Security (retirement) payments here in the U.S. I was pleased to see that the raise netted me over $60 per month--not a lot, but every bit helps. My state teacher's pension also went up a bit. However, without my husband's income (he still works) I would be finding it very hard to survive.

    At the same time, my sister (who lives alone) finds that she will be paying another couple of hundred dollars a month for medical expenses starting in January, in addition to the 1/3 to 1/2 of her income that is already going to medical coverage, prescriptions, and co-pays. She is getting to the point where she literally can't make it on her federal disability check. If she should try to get a part-time job to help with the expenses, she would lose the disability money. We are all struggling to find some kind of sensible solution, but she is feeling desperate.

  8. Hey June, I got tagged for a "6 random facts about you" and you're next. You can check it out on my blog in about an hour and a half. No obligation, you can always pass and wait for the next one!

  9. It is so nice to see you enjoying your gift to yourself. I hope you have many wonderful days riding and taking photos to share with us.

  10. Vivo -
    you seem to be very knowledgeable about Australia. Yes, it's been an extremely exciting year for us here since the government was elected last November.The Apology to the Aboriginal people was beyond exciting. I would say most Australians (black and white) have been aching for that to happen for so so long.
    Kyoto was another wonderful step - but we're awaiting the next one towards climate change measures. Our Environment Minister Penny Wong is about to release a report on that in the next day or so. Let's cross our fingers.
    When we have had one type government for eleven years, seeing our nation changed hugely, it's hard to believe you can trust again ... So far I think we can.
    Please come again Vivo - in the flesh of course, and maybe with a comment.
    Even if I had the money I'd wait a little before visiting the USA to see what happens with Obama. I think he can. I hope he can. Let's see IF he can.
    June in Oz

  11. Braja
    Yeah - good onya Kev. And Julia! It is so exciting here at the moment - even with the gloom of the economic situation. You get the impression that the people in power actually WANT positive things to happen.
    And that's half the battle.

  12. Clair
    Good on you and Bucksnort for braving the elements for some swimming exercise - even if some of it's in a heated pool!
    I visited Jean's site the other day wondering how she was - she's been very quiet. And no wonder!
    Hers IS a desperate situation, especially when you know if you put yourself under strain to meet financial obligations you may be doing a damage to your health.
    I am truly with you and Jean on this one Clair. And you are a wonderful sister.
    Hugs to you both.
    And here's hoping Obama can save the day by placing his priorities in the right places.

  13. Hi Sylvia
    I'm not usually into tags and things as you probably know. I'll come and look though - seeing as you are a special friend. (That sounds awful - I don't mean it to be.)

  14. Tropigal
    I have already enjoyed some bike rides and I'd fogotten how wonderful they can be. Bit scarey to begin again but so far no spills! I have taken some pix ...

  15. Hi June,

    I too love the new bike and I am envious of you riding this time of year. It is very cold here in Wisconsin and I have begun wearing my old wool poncho to ward off the chill. You are right, the older I get the more committed I must be to exercising. However, in this weather I go to a gym four days a week.

    I agree with “Clairz” on the US situation and even though there is promised a 5.8% increase in SS payments the increase will be not be seen by most due to the increase in health premiums.

    Our government gave out a stimulus payment this year, when months past and I did not receive one I checked with the online government site, filled out the form and was instantly given a notice that I did not qualify. When I stopped laughing, as I refer to my retirement funds as “starving artist wages”, I called the SS office. I was informed that I did not make enough money to qualify! Again, the laughing continued when I called a local agency they said that many people fell through the “cracks” and our income tax forms would have a place to reapply in 2009.

    I will live yet I worry about the older generation that I see in the market places looking at food items then replacing it on the shelves as I overhear them discussing how they cannot afford to buy healthy food.

    Thanks for giving us a forum to discuss our thoughts, and again “great bike”.

  16. June,

    I am just constantly amazed at how much space there is where you are, to ride bikes. Of course , it being Australia, space shouldnt be a worry..... But bicycles are almost extinct in Mumbai. I cycled to college every single day in my youth, and the current crop certainly doesnt know what it is missing, with its obsession about the 4 wheel monsters...

    Happy biking to you..

  17. A.J. - you'd be fit going to the gym four times a week! Well done.
    I hope I'm not being offensive, but social services seem topsy turvy in the States. We do have safety nets and most people can get through, but I really don't know how you all survive without health services freely available for those in serious need.
    Here people with a physical disability or a mental illness do not normally have to pay for treatment. It may not be sufficient treatment, but it's reasonable. There are many who slip through the cracks because of circumstance, and homelessness is a becoming a severe problem. But if we feel ill we can go to a general practitioner for a very small payment, or for free. That's not a bad start.
    There is a serious shortage of hospital beds (which are free if you can get them) but that's another story.

  18. Hi Suranga
    There is a move in Australia for local authorities to provide bicycle and walking paths wherever possible - for health and for the environment. In our neck of the woods there is an absolute network of them.
    Of course we don't have the people you have in India ...

    The other side of things in Australia may be that our dry wide open spaces are often that, and not productive.
    The truth is that our land could not support many more people without doing irreparable damage. It is a fragile harsh land away from the coast and people don't always understand that.
    There are good sound arguments for the regulation of migration that are certainly not racist in any way. In the past there were disgraceful racist barriers such as one called the White Australia Policy.
    That is a thing of the past, although the former Howard Government did not do the right thing by asylum seekers, that's for sure.
    In my opinion that was one of the reasons they were defeated last November.
    On the environment, we have very few good rivers in the inland and those we have are suffering severely because of over-irrigation for the production of food. We really do need to care for our land.

  19. Hi June, You look ready for one of those biking marathons on that new bike with your helmet on ready to go! I got a pilates for Christmas last year and it has made a big difference in my arthritis in my back. I think everyone needs to exercise. I used to run 5K races and did my last one in 2004 with my girls. (It nearly killed me).lol.
    I do o.k. with my state retirement and social security but have never lived beyond my means. I think that makes a big difference in a lot of instances.
    Wish you lived closer, we would just bike the days away.

  20. G'day Judy
    Bike helmets are mandatory here - no helmet no bicycle.Is this the case in other countries I wonder?
    Yes, I reckon exercise is the go for all ages. Well done on the 5k!
    I've never lived beyond my means either. I had several situations that combined to leave me on a full pension - unfairly I'd say.
    My first husband was a teacher and we split when there was no precedent on what happened with superannuation in a divorce. We had decided to put all of our money into his super which was a better deal than mine. Result: no super for me. He gave me promises but ...
    Other things compounded this but I won't go into these here.
    Not complaining, just explaining!
    I think people on super and social security would be okay here too.
    I'll meet you near that big tree in the park for a wheelie around the block?

  21. Hey, you look grand on your bike. Roger and I are bike-riders too. We have electric bikes, which I used to ride up to work (it was ALL uphill on the way in the morning). It's so interesting reading what's going on economically in your neck of the woods. We're biding our time trying to figure out when we should buy a house. At the moment we're living in an old seaside family home, waiting for the economy to give us a sign. It's a bit disheartening to not have our own home right now, but after we sold in May up north, we thought we'd head south and wait. We're still waiting. I wish we had universal health care here. There is great hope and promise with Obama, still we wait.

  22. You look great on your bike. I say way to go and stay in shape. I hope I'm as snappy and as undaunted as you when I hit 70.

  23. Thanks Geri. Those mandatory bicycle helmets are so fashionable! I enjoyed your site.

  24. Robin
    I wrote a message to you yesterday and it hasn't appeared! Gremlins.
    My heart is with you in your uncertainty. Difficult times right now eh?
    Bikes are wonderful ...
    Take care

  25. Hi Braja
    I live on a steep hill so thanks to my dear sister I keep the bike in her garage on the flat below.
    She lives in a tangle of bicycle paths that connect up miles of streets and parks. Perfect!
    She has a bike and being look-alikes we get quite a few stares when she comes too.

  26. I love your bike June and you deserve it! Congrats. Our country is having a hell of time. Friends are being laid off left and right. Infact I heard another friend is getting laid off on January 15th. Once they are laid off there are little to no jobs out there. We are hoping for change.... fingers crossed. Maybe I should move to Australia ;)

  27. Hi Laura
    I feel deeply about workers being laid off in this huge financial crisis - it makes me feel like getting after those financial 'gurus' of yours who caused it - with a pick axe!
    We're sure not missing out here in Oz. Jobs are going. But there is hope because the government seems to be doing the right thing with its economic stimuli.
    Unlike some places those getting help include people who are less well off. Thus this week's windfall of at least $A1,000 for elderly pensioners, people with a disability and their carers. They want us to spend it quickly for the good of the economy. Confidence seems to be a little better too.
    We're also in a better position because our banks were better regulated and because mortgages are generally not fixed interest but have rates that fall with the central interest rate - thus a cushion for home owners. There were not a lot of sub prime loans either.
    Come over whenever Laura - but to stay it seems that you'd have to join a long queue! Call me when you arrive :) I want to meet your honey.

  28. I found you over on Shambles Manor. I love that you are over 70 and blogging! And riding your bike! Glad to see you in a helmut though!

    Can't wait to read more.

  29. Things is tough all over, that's for sure. Still paying my bills, still gainfully employed, but there's certainly less discretionary income. Christmas this year will have significantly fewer presents pass out that in years before, but I am thankful for what I have!

  30. Hi Brenda - enjoyed my visit to Paraguay with you and the potato pancakes.
    Yes I'm 72 in fact. Oldies aren't dead you know!
    Helmets are mandatory for bicycle riders in Australia, so it wasn't just a fashion statement.

  31. Pleased things are going as well as they are for you PEARL. We're still not in recession here (unlike just about everyone else it seems) but here's hoping.

  32. Bloody hell June yer followers and commenters are fairly growing like wilfire... Just had a read-fest ! OK, firstly, love the bike (and the helmet) loved the whisper of sun floating on ya too... Oh God I wish Scotland had that -sun I mean.. You mentioned something about being on a hill .. we have so many ills around here I would need to park my bike (if I had one) flippen miles away... bee hoo ! s'alright I'm just having a moan - as usual! but it is hilly and we don't have the luxury of bicycle paths in this ancient land.

    As for pensions, we won't go into that, though Rob and I are in a better monetary position than most as we are both classed as disabled. We have extra money to fall back on and use - normally on 'extras' - like heating, lighting and food hehehe.. Our great leader in U.K. is a Prat and I think,(along with many others) is
    making a complete a*se of running the country and as usual the 'U.K. will still be lagging behind everybody else at the end of this recession/slump what have ya... ahrgghhh!(unfortunately he is Scottish too, and I have no excuse for him being 'such a Numpty') My prayer most nights is having to be added to by asking 'Him Upstairs' to wallop Brown with something hard and solid so that he will 'waken up and smell the thistles or we'll be rising up and sticking one of them where the great leader does not want it' !!!

    OK missus, I think I've got me blood pressure up and to completely change the subject I will reluctantly (grumble grumble) wish you a "SUNNY and WARM CHRISTMAS" and " May the sun shine down yer lum (if ya have one) and bring ya lots of Health, Happiness and No Money Worries in the coming Festive Season and Beyond "

    Cheers and Hugs Kate xxx.

  33. Aaaaagh Kate (see I've caught a bit of your Scottish accent!)
    I was about to pile into bed when your words of joy and wisdom hit my screen just in time to put a shine on the end of a pretty fraught day. Thanks mate.
    What can you expect of a man called 'Brown'. For a few short years I was a 'Smith' so I know.
    I send you a slice of sun in Santa's dilly bag so that it may warm your toes through the winter long. Thanks for the fun you've been in 2008 and may we have even more delight in 09. Say hi to Rob.

  34. No, lol :) I meant where are you? It's been a week since your last post! You've raced off on that bike, haven't you?!

  35. Dear Braja
    You'll just have to make do with the original mystery novel 'Paternity' on my other blog Journeys in Creative Wrting -
    I've just put another episode in the latest post and you can begin at chapter one by following a link. People seem to be enjoying it ...
    All jokes aside though - another post coming up very soon in 70 Plus as well.
    Sorry mate - life gets in the way!

  36. Hi June, What a wonderful site you have. I have really enjoyed reading your blogs. Truly, I had no idea that Australia was going thru the same rough waters as we in the US. I have faith in Obama and look forward to change. I am 66 and don't know whether I could remember how to ride a bike or not, but am thinking of a Vespa or similar scooter. Looking forward to reading more of your writings.

  37. GINNY - don't be a whimp and stick to pedal power!
    Pleased you like 70 Plus.
    Yes Australia is feeling the economic situation in some ways but you guys have the whammy - after all your smarties in Wall Street started it all.
    Our new government seems to be doing a mighty job in trying to kep us well afloat with stimulus packages everywhere - but aimed at the greater good - not their hangers on.
    We are not in recession and hoping like mad we won't be. Banks ARE just beginning to lend again.


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