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'Neighbours' Writer Says Australians Have Lost The Knack Of Being Good Neighbours

For a quarter of a century, Wayne Doyle was a writer for 'Neighbours', the quintessential window into middle Australia.

He did well out of it.

It bought him a piece of paradise far removed from Melbourne's Ramsay Street in the spectacular beauty of Palm Beach on Sydney’s northern fringe.

The Palm Beach postcode -- NSW -- 2108 – is the richest in the country. At the last election, voters here went 73.9 percent to the Liberal party.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Australia's Richest And Poorest Suburbs

But Wayne Doyle thinks we are losing something.

“The gap between the average person and the rich is growing,” he told me , as the surf rolled up on the sand.

“I see evidence of that every day.”

His solution seems out of sync with the setting. But he thinks about it a lot.

Palm Beach. Image: Getty.

“For the social good of Australia, I think it’s time the playing field be leveled substantially more.”

Above the beach rise the mansions of the super-rich. Many appear empty. There is almost no traffic.

The days have shortened into autumn, there is crispness to the morning air and, mid-week, there is no sign of the heaving, fashionable crowds of summer where Nicole Kidman or Mick Jagger might be glimpsed holding court.

Australian Tax Office figures show the average declared income of Palm Beach residents is around a quarter of a million dollars.

But many of the crowding mansions are mere weekenders for people who live on Sydney Harbour or in a foreign capital.

Doyle is not impressed by his neighbours’ priorities.

“There are a lot of wealthy people here and I think they vote with their own hip pockets first and foremost.”

His own politics have shifted from his early Liberal roots.

“I agree with something Bob Hawke said: Bill Shorten will never set the world on fire but he kept the team together and he’ll do a good job. I think he will.”

READ MORE: Shorten Says Aussies Have 'Tuned Out' Of The Election, Blames Negative Politics

At a nearby café is a man who made his fortune in the car trade. He is in his seventies and rich enough to dress like a tradie. He dismisses Doyle’s concerns with a sweep of a sun-tanned arm.

His concern is Labor taxes.

“They have no idea with money,” he said -- asking me not to use his name.

He said the day after the election, he is going on a long-trip through favourite parts of Europe, starting in Monte Carlo and the south of France.

Less than 100 kilometres from these conversations is Australia’s poorest postcode.

Australia's richest and poorest suburbs are 165km apart. IMAGE: supplied

Callaghan chiefly contains student housing for Newcastle University. The average annual income is just over $20,000 according Tax Office figures published in March.

Many of the people in this postcode will vote for the first time in this election. Some students seem oblivious to the vote.

“I haven’t thought about it at all,” pharmacy student Natasha Robinson said.

Second year engineering student Campbell James admits he can’t name the Prime Minister.

But others are waiting for their chance.

READ MORE: Top Earners Get As Much In Two Weeks As Poorest Do In A Year

“Top of my list is climate change – that’s all,” Kearnie Kelly, the Student Association president said (who was busy turning sausages for a free student barbecue.)

The Greens will get her vote. Rosie Yap said her grandparents are urging her to vote Liberal but she’s leaning elsewhere.

“I like green energy and money for hospitals and schools.”

“I’d just like someone who cares about the environment,” offers Lilly Singh, another first-time voter.

Pharmacy student Dana Budden said education, health and climate change matter to her and she “definitely” worries about whether she’ll ever have money for a house. But the choice, she said, is uninspiring.

“No-one has really stood out in the Parliament so it’s hard to really think who I am going to vote for.”

The glory of democracy is this: in the richest postcode or the poorest, for those queuing for a free sausage to those jetting off to Monte Carlo, all votes are equal.

Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol. 

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Contact the author hriminton@networkten.com.au