Robyn and John Marlow own two properties in Australia — one in Sydney’s affluent northern beaches, which earns them a steady rental income, and a multi-million dollar, three-bedroom house where they live about 200 km south.
The retired couple, whose rustic home borders a national park and is only steps away from Hyams Beach — reputedly the whitest sand beach on earth — are worried by calls from the opposition Labor Party to remove tax perks for wealthy retirees. Just 30 km inland from the Marlows, 22-year-old Luke Sultana works as a part-time receptionist in the regional service town of Nowra.
Three pawn shops along the town’s main parade offer a glimpse of the economic hardship it is facing.
Sultana says he has hardly any savings and job opportunities in the town are scant, leaving little prospect of getting on the property ladder that has been the source of much of the wealth for many Australian baby boomers.
“The local shopping centre is probably the best chance of a job in Nowra. It is either that or you have to leave,” said Sultana, adding he will vote for Labor at next election because of their support for young and low-income workers.
Australia has enjoyed an extraordinary 26 years of growth without a recession but is now facing a populist wave that has hit the United States and Britain as income and wealth inequality widen. The growing divide between wealthy baby boomers and struggling younger voters poses a big problem for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who must win marginal seats like Gilmore — which includes Hyams Beach and Nowra — at the 2019 election if he is to retain control in Canberra.
Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition government, which has been trailing in polls for more than two years, is targeting this week’s federal budget to seize back the policy initiative. In recent days, it has committed to expensive education and health programmes, usually a domain of state governments and Labor. Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the government’s populist approach, saying a commitment to return to a budget surplus by 2020 is intact. — Reuters
Swati Pandey AND Colin Packham