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Proof of Concept Phase – Interview Q

Categories: Interviews, Proof of Concept Interviews, Support Material
Date: 6 May 2005
Contributors:

Interviewee: Yeah of course.

Lloyd James: So that really is the question. What sort of a society in which we’re living?

Well, the first and most dramatic thing that is going to be different is the age distribution. I think when we’re looking ahead roughly 15 to 20 years, is that [xxxxx]….

Yeah [xxxxx] 2015.

2015 that’s right. So 10 years from now, we will have the smallest generation, relative to total population, we’ll have the smallest generation of children Australia has ever seen. So that’s the huge ramification for the kind of society we’ll be. The fact that the birth rate has been falling over the last 10 years, and especially over the last 5 to the point where now it’s the lowest it’s ever been. Well in the at 6 months it’s picked up but I’m sure that’s a temporary [xxxxx].

This is the 1.7 [xxxxx] in that [xxxxx]…

Yeah 1.7, well it’s below the replacement rate now so. So that seems to me to be a central fact and then you have to see what that means. Ten years from now these kids are going to be… well we’ve been producing this generation for several years, so they’re going to be the teenagers at that time and the babies and the infants as well, because I think the birth rate is definitely going to go even lower.

Really?

I’ll be amazed if… I mean Britain is down to 1.5 so definitely something similar, I mean there are a lot of countries that are lower than us, but I think we’ll go down further but anyway that’s speculative, but even if we don’t, this is going to be a generation of young Australians who will be in the opposite position to the baby boomers.

Yes.

The baby boomers were so numerous, fortunately the biggest generation ever of kids, but they… whatever they wanted, they got, and they were so… they transformed the education system and then as they moved into adolescence they created the teenage market and you know, everything changed.

Teenage market [xxxxx].

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

I mean late 40s, mid to late 40s.

Yeah. That’s right, so this is the opposite. This is a generation who won’t have a loud voice. Now the implications of that I think are two fold, one is their parents will have been overzealous encouraging them, so I think we’re going to have… it’s a bit like… it’s a bit like the Chinese little emperor syndrome and it’s the thing where they talk about where the Chinese had the limit on one child per couple, so there’s all these spoilt brats you know, an entire generation of only children who have been the focus of terrible over-attention from their parents, I think we’re going to have a lot of that but the people who have kids are going to be devoted even more, I mean we’re seeing it now… too zealous about what’s happening to them at school and…

Oh really?

Too indulgent, too protective, obsessed about their security and all that stuff, so I think by the time they reach – 10 years from now – by the time they reach…. Of course, some of this generation are already approaching puberty, but by the time they reach their teen years and early adulthood, I think they’re going to be incredibly rebellious because they have been over protected and they…

Distracted!

Yes, so they’re going to want to break out you know, get their parents off their back and they’ll probably be quite a reckless generation. Now that’s half their story, the other half of their story is that with a growing number of couples electing to have no children, which is the other factor that contributes to the falling birth rate, there’s going to be a growing move in society among non parents of not wanting to know about these kids, you know some people who have said, we’re not going to have kids, are not going to be interested in other people’s kids. So they’ve got this curious, I mean the Boomers had a curious set of contradictory influences, you know the rosy material… materially prosperous future, or the bomb goes off and we have no future. These kids are going to have to reconcile the message they’re getting from their parents which is ‘You are really special’, which the message they’re getting from the growing number of non-parents in the community, which is ‘We don’t want to know you’, you know, we deliver child free restaurants, childfree housing estates, you know, get these kids out of sight.

Is that happening already?

The childfree restaurant is established. The childfree estate, there was an application for a childfree housing estate in southeast Queensland, but was rejected, but I’m sure it will happen. It will probably happen in Queensland first.

Has it happened elsewhere?

Well, you get variations of it. I mean in the States, some of the gated communities are childfree communities, and I think that will happen here, there will be some gated communities where children will be admitted only as visitors. But there’ll be no children as residents. It’s a very different culture and I think that’s going to be a big, a big change. So that’s one central… oh, by the way, these kids in 10 years time, the oldest of them will be starting to look at probably tertiary education and the oldest probably starting to look at the labour market, there will be no unemployment. And then because the population is… the shift is so dramatic, there’ll be an undersupply of labour. You know, we are now talking about the skills shortage and beefing up immigration levels and so on, well that’s the early sign of a big social movement, where people are going to be desperate to find someone to do the work. It will be a bit like the 50s you know, post World War II, and I guess there will be…. but that’s another…. that’s the second theme I wanted to talk about, I think there will be a significant lift in immigration during the next 10 years. And so the cultural effect of that is going to depend very much on where these immigrants come from. But we might, by then, be either by choice or without having the choice, we might be a society far more generous towards refugees, than we are now. And a lot of our immigrants will be refugees. So…

Their [xxxxx] an economic…?

Well we’ll be trying to control that but I think the refugee thing will get out of control. I mean there are… it’s mainly going to affect Europe but it will affect us as well, and I’m not talking about illegal immigrants, I’m just talking about people, you know the world is going to have to solve the problem of the current estimate of 25 million refugees, I mean 25 million people in the world who tonight have nowhere to call home.

Yes.

Yes, so they are going to have to find a home and I think generally speaking the developed countries are going to have to get together and talk about what proportion they’re going to take.

Yes.

So we’ll be in that.

That means then, to go back one step only, but to take us back to one second before we got to the immigrations thing, that means that you have a generation of kids growing up who are quite rebellious, where we have a split between whether people really want to know about them or don’t.

Yes.

Have enormous economic power.

Oh yes. Yes, that’s true.

What’s does that combination mean? Does that… What happens when you put that combination together?

Well I mean… it’s hard to find the right word. I think they are going to be obnoxious.

Yeah. But yeah, and refusing to do a whole range of work and…

Yeah, oh yeah, that’s the other thing. Yes, they will have… because of the sort of somewhat cosseted upbringing they will have had, they will be far more assertive about what they’re prepared to do.

Yes.

And, you know, already it’s starting to happen, young people moving into the workforce, instead of being grateful for the offer of a job, they’re saying, well what does this corporation stand for, would I be prepared to work for a place like this, you know, are their values like my values? Can I fit this job into my lifestyle? All that stuff and I think that in 10 years time that trend will be…

Yeah.

… will have accelerated and…

Very much catering for themselves…

Mm, hmm. Oh yeah, they will have been raised to be a highly self-protective, self-centred generation. Now the counterpoint to that, which we’re also seeing at the moment and I’m unsure about where this will go, but the counterpoint is that they will have strong connections with each other, I think they will be highly tribalised, and that will be part of their strategy for getting their parents off their back, you know there will be the gangs, the herds, the tribes, the groups, will be I think even stronger than they are now. They create their own, because their parents will be no doubt divorced and at the same or higher levels as at present.

Yep.

I mean probably in 10 years we could say it’s another feature of our society in 10 years. We could say in 10 years it will probably be the case that about 50% of marriages will be failing. It’s already 45.

Yes.

So…

I don’t know why I’ve made a sort of [xxxxx] something that that figure will be likely to be likely to drop, I mean that was an assumption made without actually thinking what everyone else was [xxxxx].

Yeah, and I don’t think it will. I mean I think this is an unstoppable trend because the institution has been transformed over the last 20 years, the institute of marriage has been transformed over the last 25 years. I think in 10 years we’ll probably be able to say, about a third of Australians are coming to marriage of [xxxxx], there’s troughs in our [xxxxx] in 10 years time, but it’s not just these kids but the older ones who are now perhaps approaching their 30s and will be well and truly into their middle years in 10 years, about a third of them will never marry, I mean legally marry. They might be cohabit of course, but a third will never marry, about a third will marry once.

Yep.

And about a third will marry 2 or more times.

God, so that really…

So it’s a different world! Yeah. Yeah. Now one of the effects of that and I’m jumping all over the place, one of the effects of that is I think in 10 years time, the marriage game, the marriage business will be even bigger business than it is now, because when marriage becomes less common place, and where people, even people who are cohabiting feel as though it’s just a bit of an open question as to whether they’ll marry or not. When they do marry, they want to make a big fuss.

Real effect!

Oh yeah, that’s right, so they have video cameras and the white dress, you know, the thousands and thousands of dollars, it’s already happening and I think that’s… because I spoke to a young woman last week who is in her mid 30s and who is getting married. And a lot of her friends are saying why [xxxxx]. So now, it’s a huge event, but she is being bombarded with all the literature about weddings from the various commercial promoters of these things, including a checklist. A 24 month checklist for the 2 years leading up to your wedding, here are the things you have to… And the first item on the list was: do you need cosmetic surgery for the big day? And that’s [xxxxx]. I couldn’t believe it. She said it’s absolutely true. You know, if you want to have a nose job, or a boob job or a… you know, something, now is the time so it will all be healed and you’ll all be set for the big day. Can you believe it?

I wouldn’t know where to start.

No. That’s right!

Reincarnation! What does it mean? What does it mean to their parents? What world are they going to be living in?

Yeah, well I mean they’re going to be living in a world of increasing anxiety about old age.

Yes.

The sense that the pension, the safety net, Medicare, all those things will be harder to access because of the population shift, I mean at the moment 13% of the population are over 65.

Right.

Now, in about… I think the projection is that in 25 years, so in other words by about 2030, 25% of the population will be over 65. Now that’s because we’re living longer and the birth rate keeps falling.

Yeah.

Now in 10 years we won’t be there, but we’ll be well on the… the graph is climbing steeply, so in 10 years from now, we’ll be approaching 20% of the population will be over 65. So… but that has… and of course this is the boomers moving into retirement as well. The oldest boomers this year are turning 59, so in 10 years the oldest boomers will be turning 69, and the boomers being the boomers I mean that’s another culture shift, they are now already redefining what old age and retirement is going to be about and even my research now and it’s quite amusing here in baby bombers in their 50s bracing themselves for their 60s, and saying 60 is the new 50. And that’s their, you know that’s their mindset.

Yep!

Don’t think of 60 the way you used to think of 60, 60 is the new gateway. When we reach 60, it will be more like when our parents reached 50. Now there is a lot of truth in that of course because they’re healthier, fitter, they’re eating better, they’re dressing more usefully and stylishly and they’re thinking 10 years from now when the bulk of the boomers are into their 60s, they’re going to be celebrating the fact that in your 60s, it’s like a new lease of life, you know may be you don’t have to work so hard, now finally the boomers’ dreams of liberation and hedonism and all that sort of stuff will be coming true for them, if they can afford it.

Yes.

Now they are at the moment massively in debt. So it’s going to be an interesting question as to what they do with their debts in 10 years.

And presumably with the generation of our own children who if they are as you say, one way or another obnoxious, not necessarily over anxious about looking after them.

No. No, no, I mean there’s more…

Reaching for a more selfish [xxxxx].

Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. They are talking about the new beginning. They’re not talking about retirement or winding down. In fact, I think the… they’re much more likely to be talking about liberation, from their [xxxxx] and by that, they mean you don’t have to work, they might choose to work, but we won’t have to work. The kids will be off our hands and we’ll be able to lead a more flexible life, choose when to do what we want to do. So the idea that they’ll be retreating to pipe and slippers and this sort of waiting for the end, I mean not at all.

And of course…

It’s increasing life expectancy. They’re right, they move into their 60s, their parents, especially their fathers, then would have thought well the game is up. But there’s the boomers are not looking at another 10, 15, 20 years of reasonably healthy life, especially the women. So that all… so that’s another. Now there’s another change in 10 years… again it’s an extension of what’s already happening and that is the shrinking household, I think in 10 years time we are going to be a society in which many more people will be living alone or in two person households. At the moment, it is slightly more… slightly more than 50% of households are one or two person households, and the fastest growing household type is the single person household. Now with divorce continuing to be quite high among older people, and longevity increasing, at that end of the age [xxxxx], there has got to be increase in the number of people living alone.

Yes.

But also at the younger end, a lot of these younger people, it’s already happened, especially among women. But a lot of younger people will want to have a period of living alone. So I think the single person household will be a highly established sort of mainstream phenomenon, it won’t seem odd when people live alone. Nor will it seem odd if couples decide not to have children, in fact 10 years from now it will probably be close to 50 / 50 those who choose to have children and those who don’t.

So does that… you’d expect to see then that birth rate keep dropping?

Yes. Yes.

Yes.

Yes, I do. Now the implication of the shrinking household is much more this kind of thing, much more eating out, much more communal activity, I think 10 years from now there will be many more vibrant community centres. I don’t mean the hall called the community centre, but I mean this sort of the café strip and book clubs and bushwalking clubs and choirs, and adult education process, that’s how it…

Inaudible.

That’s right. The domestic herd has shrunk below herd size, so we start looking elsewhere for herds, and I think that’s going to be very… I think 10 years from now the constant cry that you hear today which is the neighbourhood doesn’t really function.

Yes.

I don’t think we’ll hear that so much, I think the neighbourhood will be making these connections.

That’s interesting, so there’s actually a sense of public [xxxxx] to come back again.

Yes. I think that’s…

[xxxxx] assisted but I feel certainly, I fail to see how…

No. it did. Yes. Oh it did. The sense that you know you were part of a community in your street, or your block or your suburb and that created obligations to look out for other people, I think that pendulum is swinging back. You know and…

Inaudible.

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think 10 years from now, 15 years from now suburban Australia is going to be a much more pleasant place to live than it is now, because we’ll rediscover the need to…

Connect.

Connect and accept some responsibility for each other’s wellbeing. You know at the moment, Sydney and Melbourne, the cry is we don’t know our neighbours.

Yes.

So I think that’s going to change. Because if you live alone or if you’re just a couple, the social need is there. The herding and…

Absolutely.

The instinct is still very strong. You’ve got to satisfy it somehow.

When you… I’d love to come back to immigration and segment it.

Yes.

When you… by those things that you’ve talked about, and it may be an impossible question to answer, in terms of “Home Entertainment”.

Oh, yes.

Television, all the mobile bits and pieces you have around the place and all that, well let’s not called it ‘home entertainment’, let’s call it ‘audiovisual entertainment’.

Yes.

To me, what you’re describing sounds like a society where that would actually become more and more valued.

Yes.

I mean sorry… more and more wanted, to be more to the point.

Yes.

Is that right?

Oh yeah, I think so. I think… I mean while there is going to more emphasis on getting connected and eating out and knowing your neighbours and doing things together, and the desire to go our for entertainment and so on. But you know, you can’t do that all the time and I think then the home as a stimulating place, compensating for the lack of stimulation of other people…

Yep.

…is going to become correspondingly more important. Already, we did a study about 2 years ago called ‘What we do with Television’ and already it’s obvious that when people live alone or even in a 2 person household, television while of course it’s often not watched, it’s not only the watching, I mean people say you know, we compare, we come home, turn on the light, turn on the television, that’s part of the ambient sound, you know the house feels odd if the television set is off. You don’t get that… you don’t get that because that’s…

I understand, because obviously I’m a fan for more use of television but there is no silence as silence, as a house which has only got you in it.

Yes, yes that’s right, that right, oh yes, and…

Where you’re the [xxxxx] in the morning and…

And people say, you know, coming home to an empty house, even people who want to live alone, they often describe that moment of coming home to the empty house as difficult for them.

Yes.

And television, it used to be radio, but then television is now as much background as radio is. So they turn on the television and they‘re not alone. You know, there’s something happening. And there are people, colour and movement. So I think that will increase and of course not just television… but the merging of, you know, the phone and all the things that make them feel as though the place is pulsing with life.

Yeah, and that they’re connected.

They’re connected. Yeah.

Yeah, that’s interesting so that sense of connectiveness is going to be very important.

Now closely related to that, to do with in-home entertainment and just sort of home equipment, those audiovisual and other things like swimming pools and billiard tables and so on, in 10 years I think we can safely assume that parents will be as I was describing, about as anxious as they are now or even more anxious because they have fewer kids and they’ll see the kids a being subject to more danger, more hazard in the world at large. More crime they will think, more drugs, more violence.

Yeah.

None of this may be true, but the perceptions are very strong. So they are really anxious to load the house with things that will keep the kids at home. So you know, if you if [xxxxx] from assuming to be the focal point, so the kids will come home and bring their friends home rather than go out, you don’t know where, then you do that. I think this idea of home as ‘kid magnet’ is becoming very important.

That’s as I say there are two big, [xxxxx] that’s one and the other one is the stimulation place for the one [xxxxx].

Yes, yes, that’s right. In both cases, the home becomes a big business.

What happens when that’s then overlaid with immigration, it’s a pity we got [xxxxx] with immigration. Is that… is it possible to generalise on that? Or would you actually go into specifics, it depends on who, what, where?

Yeas, I mean we can assume… almost regardless of where the next wave of immigrants is coming from, we can assume that they will attract hostility, because the latest wave always does, you know, the Greeks, the Italians, the Turks, the Vietnamese, the Indians, you know they’ve all copped it when they’ve come, and they’d often copped it most intensely from the previous wave, you know the Vietnamese were very strongly resented, but most probably resented by southern Europeans.

That’s a fascinating line.

Yeah.

That kind of… I suppose we still feel sensitive in protecting your own self.

Yes, yes, that’s right. That’s right and also you came to a place and you’re trying to adjust, the idea that there are even more recent arrivals who might be attracting more attention…

Yeah.

…is not… I remember it’s 3 or 4 years ago now, doing some research in Cabramatta which most Sydney people would now think of as a Vietnamese suburb, and there was a group of some women of various nationalities. One Italian, and she was saying how awful it was that the Vietnamese had moved into Cabramatta, because Cabramatta used to be such a wonderful Italian suburb. An Italian suburb!

That’s great.

So it will depend where the… to some extent it will depend on where they come from, but wherever they come from there will be… there will be the… especially if there is a big boost in numbers.

But will the principal of it be welcomed, or will there be those people who are born and brought up here, being… well, you know, it’s basically a very silly question but what I was about to ask you was whether they would be as suspicious as they are now, but it seems to me that really lies [xxxxx] they’re being led into that suspicion.

Yes, yes I agree. But I’d…

Because they’re being made out to be the villain.

Yeah, oh leadership will be crucial on all of this. I mean… whatever his other failings as a prime minister, Bob Hawke I think gave very… and Keating gave very strong leadership on the Vietnamese boat people and the initial resistance just sort of crumpled. We decided that we owed it to these people whereas, well we’ve seen what’s happened more recently with the Howard government’s leadership on these sorts of issues, but nevertheless there will be if there is a big boost in immigration, there will be all the standard objections and I noticed even in letters to the editor already older people who have been retrenched, starting to complain about… about you know being without…

A Job?

Yes that’s right. Why do we bring these people in? Why can’t I be retrained? You know, I’ve been put on the scrap heap and now you’re saying there is a skill shortage and you want to bring in. Well, you know I would be happy to be part of this, so there’ll be more of that, and with the aging population there will be more people who employers will probably have judged to be past us.

Yes.

And they’ll be, perhaps being replaced by immigrants brought in to do the work. So there will be tension about that, no doubt.

[xxxxx] thought you were describing essentially a more… [xxxxx] old 1970s [xxxxx] per second, does that suggest a more conservative world from the [xxxxx]?

Yes.

And less liberally oriented?

Yes, it’s… that’s depressing, but I mean it does, it does suggest that. It’s very hard to see how these pendulums swing, but… yeah I mean there has got to be a point where the tide on all this will turn, and I don’t know what will make the tide turn, so 10 years isn’t all that far away.

No.

I think it is likely that we will still be in a very conservative and perhaps a more conservative political climate.

Presumably when society, I mean what… [xxxxx] is a society looking inwards.

Yes, yes. Oh yes.

Particularly so in terms of its structure because when society knew that they become more…

Yes. Oh yes.

So they may become more conservative but they are unlikely to… [xxxxx] social scenes or…

Oh yeah, yes that’s right. they have become… I mean it’s dream time for incumbent governments, particularly conservative governments, because people do get socially and politically disengaged, preoccupied with the kids, the backyard, the renovations, you know their own… you know, what they’re going to do on the weekend and all that sort of stuff, that’s already true and I think probably the trend will increase. You know if we were talking 20 or 25 years out, I assume it will be different, that something will have happened to radicalise us again.

What [xxxxx], does that mean, I mean does something like a major financial ban to have that in [xxxxx]?

It could… Could be a really… a real economic shakeout or an epidemic…

But it requires… it requires let’s say a very large-scale event [xxxxx] and not necessarily needs to [xxxxx] but a very large-scale happening.

Yes, not some external force that [xxxxx] and I think so…

It’s not a change that comes from within a society.

I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s… I don’t think it does, the only… I mean…

Maybe the death of Rupert Murdoch?

(Laughter) Yes, I mean if… when I allow myself idealistic moments of reflection, I wonder whether… without an external cataclysmic event, we would gradually, because of the need to reconnect and for our communities to reform, we would gradually sort of lift our gaze to a slightly more distant horizon and say, well there are social policies, not in our street, but you know there are all these thousand of homeless people in Sydney, what are we going to do about that? Or what are we going to do about the increasing inequitable distribution of wealth? I don’t think it does happen spontaneously, I don’t think we just evolve into that, but I think it needs – either a sort of catastrophic event that we’re talking about or a really charismatic leader to arrive on the scene with a strong sense of social justice and you know, not just a religious figure or an economic figure, but someone who starts talking to… you know, dreaming dreams for us about what we might become. Because one of the things… another thing… looking 10 years out, another thing that we can safely say about Australia is – the gap between wealthy and poor households will have increased, we’ll be a more divided, economically divided society than we are now at the moment, more divided than we’ve ever been. There is a lot of talk about households, about income distribution, which I think misses the point because it focuses on personal income, I think the real way to analyse this is household income. And although it’s true that the gap between the top and bottom end personally now is not growing. In household income it is. So in round figures and these are not my figures, they’re published elsewhere, but in round figures the top 20% of households have an average annual household income of about $180,000, but the bottom 20% of the same number of households have an average annual household income of $12,000. and this is just a huge gap, Now you can explain a lot of that, some of those are students and old age pensioners and so on, but even so 20% of households, that’s a very good slab at the bottom. So, I think in 10 years time that will have increased and the… and an ugly thing, in 10 years time I would predict will be – because again I see the early signs – will be some assort of institutionalisation of this, where Australians begin to move away from the egalitarian ideals, and start to think, particularly those in the top third of the economic heap, start to think, well this is you know, this is the way it’s always been, we’re doing all right, we’re entitled to this, we look after our kids and there are always poor people, you know that view which has not been a common view in Australia. I mean Australians have liked to think of themselves as a broadly middle class society, I think one of the grimmest things 10 years from now is that we may have slipped away from that into the feeling that, you know, I’m in the top, you’re in the middle and he’s in the bottom, and that’s just the way it is.

Which pretty well then… pretty well delivers you a permanent under-class?

Yes. Yes, I think we’ll… it’s a word we don’t use in Australia, isn‘t it – under class – but I think we’ll have one, 10 years from now we may not use that term, but the…

Which is very good, presumably in part, it’s a very good way of reading exactly the kind of society that the people are afraid, twitchy and nervous but [xxxxx] states in [xxxxx]…

Yeah, oh yes that’s right, and you know we… In a way that comes true because of course, the people who feel as though – especially if we’re economically buoyant, and that’s something I have no idea where we’ll be in 10 years, an economist will tell you that, but assuming that we are doing well economically, the polarisation has continued, that means there are going to be a lot of very angry people in the bottom half of the economic heap, saying well you know, there’s all this talk about growth rates and you know the robust Australian economy powering ahead and Free Trade Agreement.

Inaudible.

Yeah, that’s right. You know, that’s all very wonderful to be cosying up with China, but I haven’t got a job, so… Do you know Phil Rivin?

By name.

Yes, he would be an excellent person to talk to about all this. It’s argued THVEM. Yeah and he runs a company in Melbourne called IBIS.

Ibis?

Yeah, IBIS, he’s the partner of Deverell Light who lives here in McMahon’s Point but financial journalist, he lives in Melbourne and she lives here, and they spend their weekends together. It’s a very civilised arrangement I gather, so he’s often in Sydney.

Perfect example.

Yeah, yes that’s right, I mean they count as two households, two single person households and yet they regard themselves as partners. So, it would be… because on economic forecasting, he’s very courageous and he’s not one of these balance restraints you can have , no Phil’s in, boots and all. So if you say to Phil tell us about the Australian economy in 10 years and (pause in recording…) I was in an outer Melbourne suburb talking to a University of the Third Age group, now that’s… are you aware of the University of the… ?

Yes, yes, yes.

Because that’s [xxxxx], because we’re getting all these older and older people who want to stay alert and they’re interested and so on and I think that will burn but there they were, in a suburb that didn’t have… it’s not like here, I mean you can understand why McMahon’s Point could become a strong community for the small and it’s a peninsular like Balmain and other places, it just didn’t have any of those features that made you think it’s a natural community, but the sense of a community centre was very strong. It’s Ryde in Sydney for some reason, do you know Ryde?

Yes, Trish my wife and I live at Pennant Hills.

Oh right, well it’s the same that here…

Yeah, well now Ryde is a funny formless kind of place, you go to Ryde and where is it, you know, it’s just sort of a suburban expanse, but every time I do research in Ryde, I’d come away thinking, what is this soup box, you know they’ve got this really strong growing sense of community, the churches are very strong, so there are sort of religious groupings, but the schools are strong as well, they’ve got a really strong sense of a community functioning in quite an old fashioned way, which is the new way.

Fascinating!

Yeah.

Because you talked about religion earlier on as well, but there is so much comment about it.

Yeah.

And about its political limbs, is it really this [xxxxx] coming back into people’s lives so they can [xxxxx]?

No, I mean church attendance, which is not the only measure of this, but it’s an interesting measure – church attendance is now the lowest it’s ever been.

Is that right?

Yeah, 15% of Australians attend church regularly, that’s once a month or more often.

And does that include the sort of blue collar that [xxxxx]?

Yeah, but it’s probably bottomed out largely because… because it’s been falling, it was 30% about 25 years ago, but there’s been a huge decline. But there’s now real growth at that Pentecostalist, Fundamentalist end of the spectrum, and so that’s a sign for us there’s something, I mean I assume that that growth will continue and church attendance, the various sub brands of Pentecostals and Assemblies of God, Hillsong, Christian City Church, all this… all these things, they are now in terms of church attendance, they are the No. 2 denomination after Catholics but ahead of Anglicans. So there are still more Australians who call themselves Anglicans but in terms of actually showing up, they are now No. 3.

And are the Catholics ones falling?

It has been… but again there are some branches of Catholicism that seem to be booming and again it’s the hard line, you know it’s people… it’s people who are feeling…

Really want something to hold onto.

Yeah, that’s right. They’re feeling unsure, the future very unpredictable, life has been less stable for them than they thought it would be. So they look for the security of some black and white… certainly, which will show up as religious fundamentals, but it will also show up in other ways, I mean economic rationalism is another, you know, sort of economic fundamentalism or environmental fundamentalism, you know there’s people saying, give me… give me the certainty of this simple answer, so I know where I stand.

That’s interesting, which to some extent usually in the past has been manifested by sort of by [xxxxx] or that kind of thing?

Yes, but that’s also of causing too much generally, massive decline in union membership.

Yes because, you know, whatever it would be very hard now to assume, however enthusiastic you were about that thing, but it would be very hard to assume that you were necessarily going to get out of it what they were telling you.

Yeah, yeah.

So it seems to me to be that really is [xxxxx]?

Yeah.

Is that right?

Yes.

Or is that [xxxxx]?

No, no, no, that’s true. There is staggeringly little trust left in most of the institutions that we used to trust, even the Church, I mean the… I mean Edith Cowan and Wendell’s I think, did a joint survey… it hasn’t been… well, the paper has been published about who we trust and the confidence in institutions and so on, there was something like 35% of people expressed confidence in the institutional church. So that’s you know in politics, the media about 15%… but trade unions off the scales.

Really strong.

Yeah, yeah, so it’s a real… and see this is another reason why the focus turns in with people because we don‘t trust politics, the church, the judiciary, the employer, the union. Who do we trust? And we’ve just got ourselves.

And that then brings me back to the community…

That’s right. That’s right. Yes.

Which is, I mean in a way encouraging thought.

Yeah, yeah, yeah it is.

I mean it’s not an encouraging thought that people have no confidence in the political [xxxxx] for good reasons or bad, but have little confidence in the industries which it has done so far, but it is encouraging that it might mean that people think a bit more seriously about their own…

Yes.

[xxxxx]. Yes, that’s right.

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