An ordinary fruit and vegetable store in Melbourne. I forgot about the very short supply lines of Melbourne fruit and veg!
An ordinary fruit and vegetable store in Melbourne. I forgot about the very short supply lines of Melbourne fruit and veg!

Over the Christmas and New Year period, I had the good fortune to visit Melbourne. It was the first time I’ve been able to see my family in person for almost three years, and it was nice to meet my ~1½-year-old nephew for the very first time.

Some thoughts from my visit:

Standing like this on an escalator in London? Heaven forbid!
  1. Melbourne is just incredibly wealthy compared to the UK. Australian homes seem to be much bigger, the cars are nicer, but the thing that struck me most visually was the huge volume of big digital screens in shops. It might have been a little exaggerated at Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, but there are an awful lot of huge digital screens in stores. It reminded me that the average wealth gap (as measured by GDP per capita) between the UK[efn_note]I am very reluctant to use IOM GDP per capita figures, because they’re inflated by the same mechanisms that inflates Ireland: a bunch of financial transactions that don’t really take place locally.[/efn_note] and Spain is about the same as the gap between Australia and the UK.
  2. Another function of the relatively high wealth of Australia compared to these Isles: The roads in Melbourne are very well maintained, the roads are smooth, and the guttering works. Melbourne weather is (often) much stronger than that of the IOM and UK with rain typically falling more heavily over more concentrated times – but it is very weird and unusual for drainage systems to be unable to withstand it. Meanwhile, there have been a couple of incidents in the Isle of Man in recent months where weather warnings are issued due to roads being incapable of carrying the water.
  3. Australians are terrible at standing to the side of escalators. This sort of behaviour would simply not be tolerated in London!
  4. Despite homes being so much bigger (because property sizes are much larger) there is a huge amount of development in Melbourne: Hundreds of thousands of people are migrating to Melbourne every year, and there seems to be an acknowledgement that if you want to have more people, you need to build more homes for humans.
  5. In the Isle of Man, and the United Kingdom, local (existing) residents are treated as almighty Caesars when it comes to objecting to the construction of more housing. Meanwhile, those same humans are treated like impotent new born kittens when it comes to massive inbound migration: we see this obviously in the Isle of Man where no one advocated big migration increases during the election campaign of 2021, but subsequently, the Government has introduced a plan to slam in another ~20% humans into the Isle. But if anyone wants to build homes to meet even the existing demand? How dare they! This mismatch is a very big problem: it’s morally unfair and unreasonable to keep trying to pull in many thousands more people into IOM (and even UK) if there’s insufficient infrastructure for even the existing population.
  6. In the UK and Isle of Man, poor people subsidise the shopping of rich people through regulations which ban merchants for charging different rates for different payment methods. The result is that people with fancy credit card rewards (which charge high fees to merchants) are profiting from people who do not have access to such things. In Australia, retailers are able to charge different fees to different payment methods – which allows competition on such things, instead of helping big banks generate more profits.
  7. The rails of the Melbourne train system have been substantially upgraded since I last rode on those things. The journeys are very smooth, the vehicles accelerate smoothly, and the ride is very pleasant.
  8. Melbourne was looking unusually green due to recent rain. Normally, the grass and plants are looking a little brown by the time of Christmas/New Year – but the huge amount of rain recently has meant that all the grass and other vegetation was looking very lush.

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.