Ex-Singaporean: I have never regretted migrating to Australia
Posted by temasektimes on September 3, 2012
The author ( if he is really a legitimate contributor, and not a ‘plant’ for a vested interest ) has lived in Australia for 14 years so should have a good ‘feel’ for our way of life. I have lived here for longer and I would like to correct some points in his post that I think are not entirely correct.
The article points mainly to faults which are a result of administrative or bureaucratic incompetence. That successive Australian governments are not entirely competent, is beyond doubt. That any local government here, is more ruthlessly efficient than that of Singapore’s, is highly improbable. Yes, we do build estates first then think about the roads. It’s not perfect. If that sort of thing bothers you, don’t come here.
The issues of migration policy and social welfare are very controversial here, and many people here favour a socialist or religion based attitude toward government welfare. We can afford to, as a society. We have not really felt the impact of the GFC. Singapore perhaps can not. So I don’t think it is fair to make the comparison. Australia should be compared with Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand. BTW last year if my source is correct, we had the biggest refugee (not all comers) immigration intake in the world in terms of per capita numbers.
I have been visiting Singapore frequently in the 20 years since I emigrated here. I don’t perceive that housing is cheap. It’s cheaper here in fact, even in the inner cities. Food in Singapore is not that cheap anymore (and a lot of it is a pale shadow of the ‘good old days’ or worse, an unpalatable Zhonghua interpretation). Pretty much all SIngapore’s foodstuff is imported, much of it from Australia I gather. On the contrary the quality and diversity of the food scenes in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have been skyrocketing in the last ten years (although still not cheap ….. ).
Singapore’s school system is unrelenting and competitive and that means that it selects those who are intrinsically brighter and more hardworking; but my children are now in school here, and my cousins’ in Singapore, and I don’t necessarily think that it produces better human beings, or more well rounded or creative people than a school of comparable resource here. It is a school system designed to service the public sector that administers the country, and the corporate management sector that drives the economy. That’s why your government can plan new towns better. However, the kids at the bottom of your pile don’t do any better than the kids at the bottom of our pile. That may be a fairer comparison as a bright determined ambitious child will usually do well anywhere as long as no one holds him or her back.
However I went to a school where you were raised to be a well rounded person regardless of your background, cleverness, future potential in society, or religion. My school’s value system was, and I believe still is, unusual in Singapore. Here it is a universal value amongst teachers. I know what I would prefer for my children.
It is my pleasure to disagree with the author’s assertion that people here do not respect the law. Quite the opposite in my view. Most of Australia is not like King’s Cross (which BTW is very safe to visit in daylight) Richmond or Northbridge. Or for that matter Redferne, Fitzroy, Hay Street, Glenelg, St Kilda East. I’ve visited them all and lived in two of them. Crime is not high outside of a few hotspots in the big city. I would caution readers who have not visited Australia, not to feel that lawlessness is the standard. There are many places in Australia that I have visited or lived in where it is no less safe for a girl to walk the street alone at night than it would be in Geylang or the back lanes off Orchard Road. The reason is that most people here are raised to behave themselves properly and what you see in the inner city often represents the worst of what any first world society would have to offer. I agree there are few or no places in the world with a better minimum safety standard than Singapore but I think the way the statement is made is somewhat misleading.
Australian work place laws are intentional and not a deficiency on the part of our legal system. They are different from yours, because historically, working class and poorer Australians have been victims of systematic neglect and their rights abused by those who control industry and government, as well as by the crown itself. You must remember that this country is largely composed of descendants of uneducated or poorly educated working immigrants from the UK and Ireland, then southern Europe, then various waves from Asia and now the middle east. Our laws are they way they are because justice is felt to be everyone’s right regardless of clout, and that you being boss doesn’t mean you are king and master. You can always not hire the worker or not renew their contract, and as a boss your own lack of character judgement should be your own fault. There are downsides to this system but it reflects a different attitude toward having a job and toward legal justice. We have a mature and stable economy and are not dependent for our survival upon quaternary financial and service sectors, foreign financing, or even entrepot trade in its various forms. You can despise it if you are an employer; but if you have ever been unfairly sacked in Singapore because someone ‘doesn’t like your face’ then you will know what I mean.
Can I also say on that point – if you’re not Chinese, Singapore used to be quite a racist place and Australia is a lot more tolerant now than it was twenty years ago. And from what I’ve seen there’s a lot of discrimination now in Singapore toward those new immigrants described sarcastically as ‘foreign talents’. As the author points out – they are no different to anyone else trying to do better in life for themselves and their families. That is not a crime.
NS – I did my time, mostly the hard way, combat vocation in a frontline combat unit. I won’t say any more.
Everyone doubtless has a right to choose what is ‘best’ for them. As an ex Singaporean Australian citizen, and never having regretted my decision to leave, I’m happy. People like me have been called ‘loser’ and ‘quitter’ and I hear it every time I go back to visit my relatives, friends, school, Orchard Road etc. It is their right to hurl abuse in a public forum I guess.
But I think there’s a lot more to these issues than the author has given fair view and this article paints Australia in a dubious light. If you’re considering migrating, you first should come here and have a look around, live here for a while, if you can, as a local, and not a tourist or visitor, talk to people from all races and walks of life and travel the country before you make your own mind up. Don’t be discouraged from coming and seeing for yourself though.
Finally – Australia may have its faults, but tell me which country doesn’t. For me I can say the grass is much much greener here. Like the author I have accepted its faults and failings but I also rejoice every day in its benefits and its attractions (which could cover another blog thread easily) and what it has given me. There are two sides to every coin. Think carefully and be grateful for what you have.
*The above was first posted as a comment on The Temasek Times.