Bleats

How Long Does It Take You To Get To Work? It Might Be Quicker To Jump Interstate

Which of our cities are getting least fun for the work-travelling classes?

The average Australian commute grew from 3.7 hours wasted to 4.5 dead, dead hours to every week, which is a long time to get to work unless you’re immortal.

And all those smug people who live in the smaller cities and got to boast about how quick their commute was – Canberra and Adelaide, basically – had that condescending smile wiped off their dumb faces with the news that they were still spending nearly an hour getting to work.

“Sydney had the longest average daily commutes (71 minutes). In 2017, it was followed by Brisbane (67 minutes), Melbourne (65 minutes), Perth (59 minutes) and Adelaide (56 minutes),” the Conversation has reported.

“Reasons for the increasing commute time vary among different cities but may include increased road congestion, urban expansion and poor public transport services.”

Also, the proportion of people travelling two or more hours to work is now almost one in five. So… yeah.

So what are the answers to this slow growth of daily time burned off in traffic that you don’t ever get back?

One way would be for companies to move to where people are living, but that’s generally a big ask; the other costs of running a business are generally lower in places where stuff is easy to get. Also, businesses tend to clump together, which is why you get central business districts.

Some employers allow their staff to claim their commute time as work provided that they’re on their computers and phones during the journey. That could work OK for writers and helpdesk staff, but probably less useful if your job is selling hot chickens.

That also assumes that people are on trains and buses rather than in cars, which becomes less and less likely the further from the CBD one gets; especially in states where the approach to public transport is more death-by-a-thousand-cuts than about serving the commuting classes.

Another is to do a better job of high-density living than we’ve managed so far. After all, there are many, many, many cities which rather nail the lots of people in limited space thing. However… well, Sydney’s recent history of building robust apartment blocks has been somewhat chequered.

Or we could just go “seeing as though a huge slab of our jobs are about to be taken by AI anyway, maybe it’s time to abandon this whole notion of ‘working all the time and then eventually dying’ idea and evolve to a better way of living.”

So yeah. Maybe download a lot of podcasts; on the current evidence you’re going to have an increasing amount of time to kill.

There Is A Very Itchy Reason That Harry Potter Had To Abruptly Stop Filming

"So if you’d like to gather closer, take a few wood lice and a bowtruckle …"

Get a bunch of kids in a confined space and you can pretty much guarantee that an infestation of lice will follow. It happens in daycares, it happens in schools, it happens in sports teams, and it turns out that it also happened in Harry Potter.

Well, no wonder if they were all sharing the same hat.

In what is one of the least glamorous stories of modern filmmaking, it transpires that filming on movie number two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was actually stopped for “a few days” in order to deal with a lice outbreak among the young cast members.

And we don’t know who brought their filthy parasites onto the set, but let’s be honest: it was probably Neville.

And we don’t want to know how much scratching was going on to force the shutting down of a multi-million dollar movie production, but we assume it’s a lot.

Fun bonus fact: if you’re reading this and unconsciously scratching your head then don’t fear. It’s a perfectly normal human reaction and it even has a hilarious name: formication, meaning the feeling of having insects crawling on (or under) your skin. It’s from the the same root as formicidae, which is the insect family that contains ants, and thus much less rude and more anty than you’d assume.

Reenactment.

And while lice is pretty ewww-inducing (although it doesn’t really have any health effects beyond being itchy), it’s also a reminder that these were really just a bunch of kids.

Speaking of which, and in slightly less parasite-related C of S trivia, apparently both Daniel Radcliffe’s and Rupert Grint’s voices broke during the filming. Awww!

If We're Not Increasing Access To Help, We're Not Serious About Mental Health

If you're ignoring the obvious solution, maybe you're not interested in a solution at all.

NOTE: This article contains discussion of mental health issues.

It’s a good thing that people are getting serious about mental health. Or at least, talking about getting serious about mental health seriously.

But until we actually see some improvements to Medicare’s coverage for people seeking help then we should assume that talking about it is all that’s going to happen.

Think of it this way: say a large population of Australians are trapped in a room full of snakes and the federal government of the day announces that they’re serious about reducing the unacceptable and tragic incidence of snakebite.

Fair question.

And then that all of the solutions they suggest are about incentivising not being bitten by snakes, or starting a conversation about why snakebites are bad, or at best providing funding for an online snakebite crisis line for people who need to talk about the venom that’s travelling through their bloodstream.

And then when finally someone asks “hey, how about we get the people out, or at least remove the more aggressive snakes from the room?” they’re accused of politicising the issue, or pointing out that this would blow out the budget for the Department of Snakes And Other Bitey Reptiles, and that we need to snake within our means.

That’s kind of where we are with mental health. Everyone agrees that suicide is a huge problem, especially among young men, and that people are struggling to access limited help under the current system.

And yet, the government is not saying – for example – “Medicare will now cover unlimited access to mental health services, and there will be an active attempt to bring more services and health care professionals available to those that need them” – a move which would immediately and directly help people and go some way to addressing our national mental health crisis.

At the moment if you need mental health services Medicare will provide subdidies for six sessions with a psychologist in a single calendar year.

If you need more – which for people in crisis is a given – it’s possible to get another four if your GP OKs it. After that, it’s up to you.

This doesn’t cover the full cost of sessions – sessions typically cost between about $200 and $600 and Medicare typically covers about 60 per cent of that depending on the length and nature of the consultation – and there’s definitely a wait ahead once you’ve found a doc that can see you. Psychiatrists don’t have a limit, but they’re more expensive.

In a big city that might be as little as four weeks. In a smaller ones, three to six months. In rural or remote areas, it’s telehealth or nothing.

And it should be pointed out that the government is spending record amounts on Medicare and mental health. Of course, since the population is constantly increasing and health is getting more pricey, that’s a great way of making it sound like progress regardless of whether actual service provision is getting better.

And there’s no way of discussing mental health without acknowledging that government decisions strongly impact people’s ability to cope.

We know that poverty and mental health are connected. We know that LGBTIQ+ youth are bullied and commit self-harm at a higher rate. We know that people subjected to domestic violence suffer higher rates of traumatic mental abuse.

So if a government is cutting services to women’s shelters, programmes like Safe Schools and engaging in a “robodebt” system where Centrelink recipients are forced to prove they don’t owe the government money, it’s as though the government are actively releasing more snakes into the room.

There are enough snakes. It’s time to desnake the place – and there’s an obvious first step staring us in the face.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call Lifeline on 131114.

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