For every Australian tired of bad news – disasters, political disputes and public people behaving badly – here is some good news. While nobody was noticing, late last year Australia pipped Norway to achieve the highest standard of living in the world.
Would I be able to stand in the middle?
It was around midnight on 18 February 2010. I was squeezed into a CityRail train from Homebush heading for Sydney Central Station. Luckily, I secured a seat. Then, I heard a voice saying “were you at the concert?” It was from a guy who got a seat next to me. “Where could I be in the middle of the night at the Sydney Olympic Park and not being at THE concert?” was my first thought, but I replied politely, “yes, sure”. Then the answer was followed by a couple of more questions; “did you enjoy?” and “when did you get to know the band?” When did I get to know them? What a question! “I know them almost from the very beginning.”
There is increasing discussion and hand-wringing about the pros and cons of direct intervention in the carnage that is now Libya. What seems certain is that without a circuit- breaker, forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi will continue to wreak havoc on the Libyan people.
What is at stake here is the much debated ‘Responsibility To Protect’ (R2P), in which the international community agreed in 2005 that it needs to act to stop such bloodbaths before, rather than respond after, they happen.
However, as many analysts correctly point out that, a military intervention in Libya could well cohere the Libyan people not against Gaddafi but against the external forces. The invasion of Iraq was not based on the R2P principle, but it did show the folly of foreign occupation of a country that the people did not want occupied. Afghanistan is doing likewise.
Whaling has been a touchy issue between Australians and Japanese for a while. Since being appointed to my current position as an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow in May 2010, I have been asked a number of times by my Australian colleagues and friends “what’s your research topic?” And every time, I seem to need to pause and grin a bit and say “whaling”. My Aussie friends will normally then hold their breath for a second, slightly stare at me and say “agh … that’s interesting.” What is this nervousness that exists when referring to whaling in this country?
The tumultuous changes affecting the Middle-East have been widely described as representing ‘people power’ and claimed by many Western political leaders, including Australia’s, as representing aspirations for democracy. The uprisings from Morocco across to the Arabian Peninsula are, to be sure, a reflection of a popular desire for political change, but their chances of democratic outcomes is much less certain.
Does anyone have a sense of déjà vu?
From mid 2007 to early 2009, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received an increase in complaints from consumers of more than 40 per cent. More than a third of the complaints to the TIO were related to poor customer service or complaint handling experiences. As a result of this increase in dissatisfaction with service delivery, the then Ombudsman, Deirdre O’Donnell, implemented the “connect.resolve” campaign to encourage the telecommunications industry to “re-focus on customers and their experiences.” At the start of the campaign in 2009 the Ombudsman was receiving 20,000 cases at all levels each month. By early 2010, this number was still high, but had dropped to 16,500 per month.
Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures. Proposing to cut $400 million from Australia's aid budget to Indonesia’s schools program looks pretty desperate. So one can only assume that having alienated damp Queensland voters and not just a few Victorians, Tony Abbott is trying to find a way out of opposing the one-off tax hole he has dug himself into.
Someone should tell him that the first rule of holes is, when you are in one, stop digging.
Abbott’s chopping of the Indonesian education program would be an abysmal policy decision, but for one saving grace: being in opposition means it won’t be enacted.
On New Years day, as the Victorian and Northern Territory governments followed NSW, WA and the ACT by implementing laws preventing cigarettes from being put on display to the public, the Australian Medical Association called for a $25 million TV and newspaper advertising campaign showing “damaged vital organs or people drinking liquefied body fat” to shock Australians into giving up junk food and sugary soft drinks. The good doctors based their call upon a belief that the fear-based advertising campaigns used by the TAC (in Victoria) and Quit have been effective in changing behaviour around driving and smoking.