I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains and all that. And I’m often heard banging on about how much I miss the Aussie bush when I’m trying to impress foreign women in an overseas bar. But the truth is that like most of the readers of this newspaper, I’d wager, it’s not often I’m willing to leave the comforts of inner-city Sydney. Continue Reading →
My column for The Glebe (a local newspaper in Sydney), 2005 to 2008
Drugs and elite sporting heroes, it seems, go together like nitro and glycerine. First there was the revelation that the great Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns, dubbed by many the greatest rugby league player of all time, had regularly taken drugs throughout his career. It was astonishing to read that he had so successfully juggled recreational drug abuse with performing at the top level. How good would he have been, one wonders, if he’d lived an abstemptious life like Guy Sebastian’s? Continue Reading →
I am not one to look a gift public holiday in the mouth, especially one where you get two bonus days off. But Easter has always had several black marks against it in my book. Perhaps the biggest of these is that it is the time when one of the greatest scams ever perpetrated against families takes place – the Easter Show. It may once have been a charming slice of country life in the city, but now it’s an overpriced bulk marketing exercise located atop a former toxic waste dump in Homebush. The whole event is entirely light on actual fun, but without a doubt the worst aspect is showbags. How ASIC’s fraud division even cleared their sale is beyond me. Continue Reading →
It’s expensive to be a music fan these days. I’ve splurged on a whole bunch of concert tickets this summer, and was lucky enough to see Björk at the Opera House and The Police at Sydney’s favorite toxic waste dump-turned-event space out at Homebush the following night. And I write this not to boast – okay, not exclusively to boast, but because I am becoming increasingly disheartened by the expense. It seems that this summer, we’ve had more music options than ever before, but they all seem to want to charge us more than ever before. Continue Reading →
Pinch yourselves, folks, because it’s finally going to happen. A mere eleven years after the Bringing Them Home report chronicled the devastation wreaked by the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families, the Commonwealth Government is going to apologise. Yes, really. On Wednesday, Kevin Rudd will move a motion of apology that will spark off a day of celebrations, with a free concert featuring indigenous artists that promises to be the biggest party in Canberra since Andrew Bartlett’s post-election wake. Continue Reading →
I’m delighted to see that Kevin Rudd is clamping down on alcohol abuse. The demon drink has always played an uncomfortably large role in Australian social life, and its abuse should be actively discouraged, because the effects are unquestionably appalling. Binge drinking by youths is heavily linked to violence. And it’s also heavily linked to annoying teenagers in yellow plastic sunglasses becoming international celebrities. Continue Reading →
As we’ve seen from the unprecedented media interest in the piddly first few Presidential primaries, the significance of anything that happens in January is always amplified massively for one simple reason – there just isn’t anything else in the news. And so it is that we’ve all spent an entire week closely following the story of one intemperate cricketer who allegedly said that another intemperate cricketer was a big monkey. Continue Reading →
Well, it’s that time of year where we put our feet up and look back at the year that was. We don’t get a lot of time for quiet contemplation during the Australian summer, since there are barbeques to fire up and beers to be drunk. And besides, there’s only a brief window available before we all head to the beach and we become incapable of any meaningful reflection because the cricket’s on.
Only a few days into January of this year, though, cricket set the tone for what has turned out to be a year of transition. Many old campaigners have shuffled off the stage this year, and the simultaneous retirement of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer was just the first in a series of grand departures – although we can be relieved that Warne has not yet retired from his primary career as a sex scandal participant. John Laws has packed away the golden microphone, Channel Nine is no longer Still The One, and even more remarkably, is no longer owned by the Packers. And I can scarcely believe that Gretel Killeen isn’t hosting Idol, nor that it hasn’t yet been axed. These are strange times indeed.
The biggest change, of course, we made a few weeks ago when we put an end to the Howard Government. I’ve written a lot about Kevin Rudd in these pages recently, and don’t wish to sound like a broken record. Or like Prime Minister Kevin himself, who views the ability to repeat exactly the same phrase over and over again as the most worthy of political virtues. But even though it’s still only days old, the new government is hitting the ‘undo’ button with gusto. We’re no longer global warming pariahs, and before too long we won’t have AWAs, full-fee paying students, nearly as many troops in Iraq or even – in the unlikely event you believe the Rudd hype – surgery queues.
And history was made only the other day, when we had a female Acting Prime Minister briefly, and the sky didn’t fall in. Then again, in recent years that role has regularly been filled by Nationals leaders, so it’s clear that not much can go wrong on a Deputy PM’s watch. We’ll have to wait a while yet before we can genuinely pat ourselves on the back for our progressiveness in having a woman in charge.
But change is in the air, and since the new PM no longer needs to avoid frightening the horses by minimising his differences to John Howard, we might see even genuine reform. Our Federal arrangements leave a lot to be desired, and with Labor in control everywhere, this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to do away with the ridiculousness of seven different health and education departments for a population of twenty-one million. There is a rare chance to remake the foundations of this country, and make it better.
And yet many commentators have suddenly started predicting gloomy days ahead for our economy. Before the election, it seemed we were in fabulous shape, with John Howard campaigning on his supposedly brilliant economic legacy. But suddenly, the doomsayers are warning that necessary tough decisions were ducked by the Howard-Costello dream team, so now inflation has to be urgently curbed, interest rates will continue to rise sharply, and we could be heading for another recession. Some have even suggested that this “was not a good election to win” for Labor. How strange to think that we may one day fondly look back on the Howard era as “the good old days”.
Our former Prime Minister was last seen on the golf course, which I’m sure is very nice for him. But I hope he spares the occasional thought for his “fellow Australians” who don’t have the luxury of a massive Government pension and an unlimited supply of golfing-buddy toadies to tell us what wonderful leaders we were. The rest of us had better strap ourselves in. Because even if the economy doesn’t completely go down the toilet, there is turbulence ahead. The new Government has much to do, and just as importantly, much to undo. It will be fascinating to watch whether Kevin Rudd is up to the job in 2008. But for the time being, let’s do what John Howard would do, and watch the cricket.
The jury is very much out on whether Kevin Rudd has the wherewithal to deliver his so-called education revolution, but what we witnessed in Australia on November 24 can deservedly be described as a political one. As revolutions go, it was a particularly bloodless coup, of course, as any coup involving someone as lilywhite as Rudd must surely be. Continue Reading →
Fresh ideas. New Leadership. Working families. Economic conservative. Education revolution. When it comes to this election, to use Kevin Rudd’s favourite start to any sentence, these are the buzzwords that will finally get boost Labor back into office after eleven years in the wilderness. Rudd knows that his pitch is electoral dynamite, and that’s why he mentions his buzzwords constantly, and that’s why he’s going to become Prime Minister on Saturday. Continue Reading →