If You Still Want to Come to Australia

Over dinner, my guest related a story about one of her friend quit her accounting job in Perth recently because conditions had became unbearable in the company. Her company quickly responded by hiring her replacement in Malaysia, paying him RM$8,000 to balance the book in bolehland. On current exchange, that worked out to be AUD$ 2,775 a month. Since the accountant used to command about $6,666 a month, that move brought down their hiring cost for the role by more than 50%. The company must have knew that it was almost impossible to hire someone in Australia to perform the role for $2,775 a month. The company could attribute that as an outsourcing cost rather than employment. In that way, there was no need to worry about employment benefits or labour laws. The management probably thought that was a stroke of genius.

I spent my early working years solving IT problems for the jokers in LTA. The amount of people who called up for their forgotten passwords or to be reminded to restart their PC was so high that one couldn't help wonder if LTA made it a point to hire as many retards as they could among their ranks. Judging from how the 3000 strong LTA team turned the board into one of the most lucrative revenue raisers of the country, I couldn't be more wrong and was reminded many geniuses can be seemingly retarded if you don't look close enough. That wasn't the most important realization of my stint there. I felt like a puppet at the mercy of the puppet master. The concern wasn't the manner the master manipulated our strings really. Instead, you wonder when you would be replaced by a darker puppet would dance to the tune at a faraway land for 3 packets of nasi lemak a week.  I left not just the job but the industry. Most of my team are still in the IT industry today. So I might have been wrong but I had no regrets. I rather be wrong than work with a feeling of a gun pointed to my head everyday.

Someone once asked me what is a good job to take on in Perth. "Bricklaying," I replied hastily. "What?!" came the expected reaction. Why did I expect that? Well, limpei studied so hard and became an accountant/IT engineer/whatever and you ask me to lay bricks? I could read their minds. After all I am a Singaporean. Just lately, upon realising I am a "degree holder", the Singaporean guy Wee Tuck asked me what the -f- was I not finding a job in management ... or whatever I should be doing. I wondered for a while if he would believe I worked as a trade assistant in the steel factory before, cutting steel and grinding extremely thick welds with just a hand grinder and barely had the energy to drive home each night if I told him. If I hadn't found that job, I might be laying bricks today. Or picking locks. Or catching lobsters. Whatever. It's just a freaking job. What wasting of degree, what poor planning or career bullshit. For those who plan their careers oh so well, are they really better off than me now? Hell no. Because the moment I lose my job, I'll pick up the next one that "nobody wants to do". Do I fret of unemployment? Never. Not when I am willing to go down snarling at the dogs for bones. The distinguished Singaporean career man though, will pick his jobs like choosing a wife. Good on ya if you play the cards right. If not, it's good game and time to select your favourite colour taxi to drive. Only then we'll all realise that the career bullshit is just a game. Unless you are a self employer, a business or land owner where you have the chance to call a shot or two, the rest of us are just limp puppets on the strings.

Don't get me wrong. I am not implying a well placed career isn't a good idea. You can, for instance, be one of the geniuses in LTA for 20 over years, save up a good beef and go out in a glorious pop. Or if you are good enough to be headhunted everywhere you go, good for you. Still, we'll just end up stirring that cup of teh-o for hours in the kopitiam when the sun sets. No one really cares for your impressive records by then, only who still have some hair on the head and who is already in ash form sitting at a "premier property" with a great overlooking view at Bishan.

Coming back to the bricklaying comment, the guy probably thought I was trying to be sarcastic or deliberately unhelpful. Why is it so hard to understand? At least you cannot get a Malaysian based in Malaysia to lay your bricks for RM$8,000. Whether they like your face or not, you'll get hired as long as you can lay. Everywhere I wandered to lately, I saw pin ups hiring brickies. From $25/hr when I first came, to $35/hr and now $50/hr. What does this tell you? Shortage. It is no secret there is a big shortage of bricklayers now. Just do a simple search on the internet and you'll know. One can simply walk in, get qualified as a bricklayer through a good bricklaying school and walk into a job. With a working visa, it'll lead one to a permanent one if you are not sick of Australia by then. By then, the shortage might be reversed. By then you may lose your job. Do you really care? There are 101 things to do here. If you are willing to use your hands, they will be used and paid.

There is a reason why being a nurse is a much smarter career choice than an accountant or even a lawyer. The nurse travels anywhere he or she wants to because no one can hire a nurse in India to put the needle into you by remote control or through the phone - yet. Never be foolish enough to appraise jobs based on the narrow views in Singapore. (nurses are maids in a white uniform) If any of you are still thinking of coming to Australia but plans had came to a stop after you slammed your face at a brickwall, try picking up a brick and carry on laying that wall. You might just spot that door previously out of your sight which you can actually walk through.


  1. Great piece! That couldn't have been better phrased by the most cynical person on earth. :d

  2. > There are 101 things to do here. If you are willing to use your hands, they will be used and paid.

    Well said! But then, we can afford to say that because the countries we migrated to has barriers-to-entry for blue-collar work (e.g. bricklayers, truck drivers, etc), minimum wages and strict workplace safety enforcement. Not the same for bricklayers, etc, in a little red dot.

    > There is a reason why being a nurse is a much smarter career... The nurse travels anywhere he or she wants to because no one can hire a nurse in India to put the needle into you by remote control or through the phone - yet.

    Heehee, bingo! :d

  3. The guest's story sounds strange to me. Almost every company i've talked to has refused to accept my application (they won't even look at it) beause they need to pay a huge fee and justify their choice of hiring someone with a non-PR. Yet that company's decision was to jump through all the hoops and hire someone from overseas? Does that wage even meet min wage laws here in Australia?

    1. Hi Question,

      > paying him RM$8,000 to balance the book IN BOLEHLAND. [capitalization mine]

      I think the answer is in the capitalized words above. The company accounts it as an "Expense" item to an overseas entity (e.g. a Malaysian business), not an Aussie-based employee. No rules broken here.

    2. It also depends on who the company have to report mostly to for taxation purposes. I can guarantee that Australian tax laws is definitely one of the most complex on in OECD worse than UK or us and ever changing since even within one term of the same govt the tax rules can change twice in 3-4 years.

      If this company is reporting to ATO and unless the accountant in MY is very up to date with Aussie Company laws, you can almost be certain they will be running into trouble soon. Good luck to them

  4. Perhaps you were not wrong about LTA after all.
    Perhaps to raise top lucrative revenue, all that is needed is an all-controlling puppet master pulling the strings of willingly fearful and compliant career lifers.

    From what you noticed, a bricklayer gets better hourly rates over there than the lowest-ranked public teacher here.
    So much for the mythic and long-stale prestige of white collar work.
    Alas, I am laden with the curse of an unfit body which has never responded to miracle drugs, and so are of far poorer tradesman calibre, and not by choice.

    And so these years have become the time to be contented with one's lot in life, because it's the best way to open that door in the brick wall.

    1. You don't have to be ultra fit to be a bricklayer. In Australia they can be so expensive that they don't waste bricklayers on work involving carrying bricks or cement, these can't be done be regular labourers.

      Bricklayers just simply concentrate on laying bricks (but they have to work under any weather conditions and have to be meticulous)

    2. Btw nix, that picture of bricklayer is shit work, too much cement even if the bricks may be secondhand

    3. Based on what you say then, it's like Minecraft — in the real world.

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