The change in the exchange

DURING the disastrous Ashes tour of 2006/7, visiting Barmy Army English fans could at least drown their sorrows cheaply.

Taking a sound thrashing on the pitch, the supporters comforted themselves by singing that they were getting $3 to every pound.

And when I came to live in Australia later in 2007, the English cash I brought with me still went a long way. The exchange rate on the day I entered Australia was $2.40 to the pound.

The downside was that, when I took this job, it was for a salary roughly equivalent to what a 17-year-old trainee admin clerk would have earnt in England. But so what? I came for the experience, not to get rich.

The upside was when I bought my first new car in Rockhampton I could hardly believe how cheap it was. The mistake I made was in converting the Australian price into pounds to compare it with what the same car cost in the UK.

I would never have believed that, less than five years later, my meagre newspaper earnings would put me in the supertax bracket back in Blighty.

Today a good old British quid is worth just $1.47 - less than half its value when Freddie Flintoff was captain.

Every day the value of my UK assets deteriorates. At least now I can convert my Australian assets into sterling to compensate.

People tell me the high value of the Aussie dollar will not last and the pound has to rally some time. Meanwhile, swathes of European workers head for these shores to fill their boots with Aussie cash.

I hear a group of Irish pipe workers make regular trips halfway around the world to Gladstone's LNG plants. Their pay packets will be high enough by Australian standards, but when they convert their wages into Euros they will feel like millionaires.

How much of their abundant salaries will be spent here in Central Queensland I wonder? Knowing the Irish as I do, I'm sure there are a few pub owners who will enjoy a slice of the action. But I'm equally sure that most of their hard-earned money will end up back in the Emerald Isle.

I'm no economist but it seems to be that most of us are merely pawns in a high-stakes game of chess played by men sitting on huge piles of gold in the Cayman Islands and on super yachts cruising between tax havens. And I don't know how we can do anything about it.

An Englishman Abroad with Adrian Taylor



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