Sydney Offending the Australian public is not the easiest of tasks. Thick-skinned, tolerant and easy-going, this is a nation that famously extols the benefits of personal freedom and abhors killjoys, teetotallers, puritans and other 'wowsers'. Hats off, then, to Lara Bingle - the bikini girl who starred in those 'Where the Bloody Hell Are You?' tourism commercials - who has caused uproar by tooling around town in an A$300,000 (HK$1.59 million) Aston Martin. The sports car, an early Christmas present from cricket-playing fiance Michael Clarke, has provoked a tsunami of abuse from Sydney's news media. How could the pair be so vulgar when the Australian economy has been placed on life-support and thousands of ordinary wage-slaves are battling to stay afloat? One news hound calculated that the money spent on the flashy motor could have provided 'a warm bed' for 10,000 homeless people over the Christmas period - or sent 3,750 disadvantaged children off to holiday camp. One columnist labelled the Clarke-Bingle faux pas the 'PR doozy of 2008'. Things went into overdrive when the sometime model and full-time party girl was spotted climbing into her new toy wearing 'steamy stilettos' and skin-tight jeans. 'Lara Bingle's mile-high heels may be the height of fashion, but how on Earth does the glamour girl drive in them?' intoned the gossip columnist from The Daily Telegraph. Bingle had to admit that handling the British sports car beloved of James Bond was challenging her limited skills. 'It is kind of difficult to drive,' she said. Since 'bingle' is Australian slang for a minor traffic accident, the story of the Cronulla-born Bingle's numerous bungles at the wheel of her black Mini Cooper have been fastidiously reported over recent months. On one occasion, she hit her neighbour's car after swerving to avoid a dog. 'I am not the best driver,' she admits. Amusing as it is, the sledging of Bingle seems a little hypocritical. Last week a gaggle of fashionistas, movie stars and 'semi-naked models' attended a gala 40th birthday bash for fashion label Calvin Klein - the party, held on a Sydney Harbour island, cost A$700,000. A few days later, high-flying accountant Anthony Bell unveiled his latest plaything: a A$7million super yacht called Ghost. Australia's political and religious leaders may speak piously about tightening the nation's collective belt this Christmas, but few Sydneysiders seem to have heeded the message. Pre-Christmas crowds at stores and malls were as frenetic as ever. So big was the throng at the Sydney Fish Market that police were called to marshal shoppers weighed down with prawns, oysters and other seasonal delights. Sydney, in short, is not a place that does frugality well. Excessive consumption is still the order of the day - regardless of the storm clouds on the horizon. British psychologist Oliver James, author of Affluenza, found Sydneysiders to be more materialistic and less compassionate than their counterparts in Adelaide or Melbourne, dedicated to the 'relentless pursuit of property, perfect bodies and status'. Clarke and Bingle are the perfect embodiment of this Sydney dream: young, wealthy, good-looking and the owners of that most desirable commodity, a water view. Their crime is not crass materialism but poor timing. Indeed, I suspect most Sydneysiders secretly admire their ambition, optimism, shallowness and dedication to high-end living. They just don't dare say so.