News World Why Australia still trumps the United Kingdom
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Why Australia still trumps the United Kingdom

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As Australians wake up on Friday morning, the last Brits will be dropping their ballots into the ballot box and the count will begin.

The contest for ‘Number 10’ (the UK’s Lodge) is being fought between plummy Tory incumbent David Cameron and goofy Labor contender Ed Miliband.

AAP
One of these two men will be Prime Minister. Ed Miliband (left) and David Cameron. Photo: AAP

But other party leaders are also very much in the running: the Liberal Democrat’s maestro of the middle ground Nick Clegg, UKIP’s grinning xeno-sceptic Nigel Farage, and the Scottish Nationalist Party’s no-bullsh*t Scottish separatist Nicola Sturgeon.

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Most polls predict a hung parliament, meaning whichever party ends up leading the country, it will either be as a minority government or as part of a coalition. Sound familiar?

According to a recent Ipsos Mori poll, the top four issues for UK voters are also familiar to Australians: healthcare, the economy, education and immigration.

We had a look at those four areas to see what is at stake for the Brits, and how their situation compares to ours.

The conclusion was clear: Australia still looks like a pretty damn good place to live next to old Blighty.

Economic situation

Economically, Australia and the UK have been at different ends of the spectrum over the past seven years. Australia soared through the devastation of the global financial crisis on the tails of a booming China.

BRITAIN-VOTE-OPEN
Could UKIP’s whacky Eurosceptic Nigel Farage claw some power for himself? Photo: AAP

The UK, on the other hand, with its heavily financialised economy and interconnectness with Europe, suffered a deep recession, with soaring unemployment (8.4 per cent at its peak), painful cuts to government spending, and a string of gaping budget deficits.

But the fortunes of both countries are now on the turn: Australia is heading down, the UK is heading up. If trends continue, the two countries will soon meet on the stairs.

But as the figures below show, when it comes to some of the key economic indicators, Australia still easily trumps the UK.

Most striking is the UK’s comparatively huge levels of government debt – almost 90 per cent of GDP to Australia’s 29 per cent. It makes Tony Abbott’s complaints about debt look pretty ridiculous.

Minimum wage
UK: £6.20
Australia: $16.87 (WINNER)

Average full-time earnings
UK: £30,056
Australia: $76,768 (WINNER)

Annual earnings increase
UK: 1.7 per cent
Australia2.5 per cent (WINNER)

Average personal savings (as percentage of disposable income)
UK: 5.9 per cent
Australia: 9 per cent (WINNER)

Unemployment rate
UK: 5.6 per cent (WINNER)
Australia: 6.1 per cent

Gross Domestic Product
UK: 2.4 per cent
Australia: 2.5 per cent (WINNER)

Current account deficit
UK: 5.5 per cent
Australia: 2.9 per cent (WINNER)

Government debt to GDP
UK: 89.4 per cent
Australia: 28.6 per cent (WINNER)

Budget deficit
UK: 5.9 per cent
Australia: 2.9 per cent (WINNER)

Total pool of retirement savings (as percentage of GDP)
UK: 116.2 per cent (WINNER)
Australia: 113 per cent.

AUSTRALIA WINS 8-2

Healthcare

The UK National Health Service has been the top issue leading into the election according to an Ipsos Mori poll where 48 per cent of respondents said health was “very important” to them.

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Deputy PM and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg lost some credibility by forging a Coalition with the Tories. Will he do it again? Photo: AAP

Unlike Australia, which subsidises private healthcare providers, the National Health Service is a 100 per cent government-owned and run agency.

There are concerns that the UK is facing a £30 billion shortfall in health due to the ageing population. The major parties have conflicting ways to deal with the coming pressures, which have caused some uncertainty.

The Conservatives say they will add £8 billion over five years to the budget and enact a plan to disperse funding of the NHS to local councils, starting in the Manchester area.

But in the same breath the Conservatives point to “efficiency and reform” to cover a £22 billion funds gap, which has sparked many to wonder where the cuts will be made.

Putting that into perspective, the efficiencies worth AU$42 billion would be more than the entire Australian budget deficit of $40.4 billion, predicted in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Labour’s solution is to increase spending on the NHS by £2.5 billion a year starting in the year after the election, the Guardian reported. A tax on properties worth more than £2 million, a levy on tobacco firms and a crackdown on tax avoidance – all of which would need to be legislated before any money can be added to the NHS.

Australia has nibbled at the looming health funding crisis by suggesting a failed $7 payment to visit a GP, but has since embarked on an overhaul of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, including a justification of 5500 procedures covered. It has also paused for three years the annual rise in Medicare rebates.

University fees

After yearly tuition fees went up from £3000 to £9000 under the current UK government, there have been fears that they will shoot up further to £11,500. Labour has stoked those fears and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did not deny the charge when asked on a broadcast interview.

Ipsos Mori’s poll shows education was very important to 27 per cent of people as they chose how they would vote.

One of Labour’s headline commitments is to lower university tuition fees to £6000 a year from September 2016, funded by changes to pensioners’ tax relief.

In last year’s budget, Joe Hockey proposed to go the opposite direction from Ed Miliband, and allow universities to charge what they want. However the government has had its efforts blocked in the Senate.

Asylum seekers

One of the bubbling issues that plays well to the three front-running parties – including the UK Independence Party (12 per cent predicted vote) – is immigration. Ipsos Mori says it is very important to 25 per cent of voters.

UK Government statistics show that asylum seeker intake rose six per cent to nearly 25,000 people in 2014, though that is under the 2004 peak of more than 84,000.

But another aspect to migration is the issue of nationals from EU member countries like Poland, Hungary and Romania who are given working rights in the UK.

In 2013-14 the number of people living in Australia from overseas, predominantly nationals of China and the UK on temporary visas and New Zealanders, was about 212,700 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show. That number included about 6000 people on humanitarian visas.

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