Spill averted, but for how long?

Tony Abbott is holding on, but only by his powerful fingers. 61-39 is hardly a hearty affirmation of a prime minister’s leadership less than halfway through his first term. As an endorsement, it’s about as enthusiastic as Kevin Rudd looked in that notorious 2010 photo shoot with Julia Gillard.

It’s important to note that this morning’s vote should be adjusted for cabinet solidarity – even Malcolm Turnbull promised that he would vote to oppose the spill. Consequently, the real margin of dissent is likely closer. The PM still has a sword in close proximity to his neck, and it’s not about to tap each shoulder and award him a knighthood. Continue Reading →

How I failed to celebrate my 38th birthday

smashedcakeThis year, on Australia Day, I celebrated my 38th birthday. Well, I say “celebrated”, but it was a miserable effort. I emailed a few friends two days before to see if they wanted to do anything, only to discover that 90% of them were out of town, either because of the long weekend, or because they wanted to get out of hanging out with me.

In the end, I went to the beach with a few friends, most of whom were planning to be there anyway, and some other friends dropped by my place because they were in the area. I went out to dinner with my family, too, because they’re easier to pin down.

It was a perfectly lovely series of occasions, and if I hadn’t set my expectations absurdly high because it happened to be the day upon which I entered the world back in 1977, I would have viewed the entire proceedings as entirely satisfactory. Continue Reading →

A good knight?

Yesterday, our Prime Minister pondered the relative merits of 22 million Australians, and decided that two men were worthy of our nation’s top honour – a widely respected military leader, and that Greek-Danish fellow who is married to the Queen.

In so doing, Tony Abbott ensured that the nation spent this year’s Australia Day discussing the merits of a nonagenarian who lives on the other side of the planet, instead of the person we would all have been discussing otherwise, Taylor Swift. Still, at least Rosie Batty got one evening atop our news headlines.

The decision has been met with a little criticism from the graffitists on social media, but in some respects, Prince Philip is a perfect choice. All of the other recipients since knighthoods and damehoods were reinstated have been vice-regal and/or members of the military. Philip is not only ex-military, but he’s so downright regal that he lives in Buckingham Palace. Continue Reading →

Some great news about dealing with hair loss

Good news, fellas! (And also for the ladies that love us, amirite?!) Those unsightly chrome domes are a thing of the past! And it’s not just a sportsman paid by a laser-peddling company that’s saying so, but a dermatology professor at a proper hospital.

An even more credible source than Warnie has emerged to help blokes who notice that their hair is receding. Or that their bare scalp is expanding, if they want to be glass-half-full about it.

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Are we all Charlie, really?

The team that produced Charlie Hebdo were exceptionally irreverent, frequently hilarious, and relentless in their attacks on France’s most powerful institutions. But most of all, they were brave.

When Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad which were met with a wave of violence, Charlie not only republished them, but added its own. And when their Paris office was firebombed in 2011, presumably in response to their special “Charia Hebdo” edition, their response was to depict a Muslim man kissing a male cartoonist with the caption “Love is stronger than hate”. They employed bodyguards, but their humour remained as unguarded as ever. Continue Reading →

2014: The Christmas Cracker jokes

crackerEvery year, I sit down to Christmas lunch in the hope that along with the turkey and pudding, I’m about to enjoy a delicious comedy feast when my family pulls apart this year’s crackers and reads out the jokes contained therein.

Every year, sadly, they’re the same old jokes. And I do mean literally the same old jokes. I swear that every Christmas since I was a kid, we’ve had the following, usually multiple times around the table:

What did one wall say to the other wall?
I’ll meet you at the corner!

(I’m going to include exclamation marks after each joke as a form of ‘boom-tish’.) Continue Reading →

A bromance is born: When Tony met Stephen

This week, the Sydney Morning Herald claimed that Tony Abbott is conducting a ‘bromance’ with his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper. It’s not the first time the Herald has used that term to describe their relationship, such is the depth of brotherly bonhomie between Australia’s PM and the leader from the land of the maple leaf. Evidently our PM has a depth of affection for his colleagues that he only usually reserves for his wife, his daughters, and dawn triathlons.

The unusual camaraderie between the two leaders extended to hangsies when Harper was here for the G20, and Abbott has gone so far as to praise Harper as “an exemplar of centre-right leadership”. Given the polls, and the recent phenomenon of even Andrew Bolt and Karl Stefanovic taking a swing at him, Tony Abbott must be relieved that somebody in public life besides Peta Credlin really seems to like him.

Bloomberg went even further in its depiction of the Abbott-Harper bond, depicting the two leaders inside a pink love-heart. This probably wouldn’t have thrilled our PM, who has previously admitted to feeling “threatened” by homosexuality. But it’s rather sweet to think of the two of them putting aside the customary formality of international diplomacy and developing a genuine friendship. Continue Reading →

20 things I learned from the G20

g20leaders1) It’s short. Like, Tom-Cruise-without-platforms short. For quite a few leaders, their flying time would have exceeded their time in Australia, even including the time spent sleeping. I wasn’t expecting it this huge meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders to last about as long as a Lord of the Rings director’s cut marathon.

2) It takes place right after APEC. What this means is not only that the multiple leaders who are part of both groupings can travel in a sweet VIP jet convoy, but it means that what happens at the first can totally overshadow the second. Like, oh, I dunno, if the US and China announced a completely unexpected carbon reduction deal that got the world talking about climate change ahead of a meeting whose host wasn’t exactly keen to have the topic on his agenda.
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How to dodge your way through uni without actually cheating

IMG_7898.JPGI was shocked by the report on Wednesday that there’s a thriving business selling university essays. There have always been rumours about this kind of thing happening, so I guess I’d always assumed that some students outsourced help. But the semi-industrial scale of the operation was surprising, to say the least. MyMaster apparently raked in $160,000 last year, which is more than many university teachers make.

Was I the only person who thought the prices seemed competitive, too? After all, a 3000-word bachelor-level essay is only $585. The way university fees are going, it would cost you less to pay someone else to do the degree for you than it would to enrol in the first place.

The other thing about MyMaster that I find truly extraordinary is that they charged different amounts for different grades. We all know that essay marking is somewhat arbitrary – how on earth can they guarantee, say, a credit? I certainly didn’t know how to do that back in my undergraduate days.

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Perfectly innocent reasons why four Russian warships are heading to Australia

So, four Russian warships are heading in our direction, and pronto.  At first that may seem bad news of the “potential invasion by former superpower that’s held onto most of its weapons” variety.

But relax! There are plenty of potential reasons why the Russian Navy vessels might wants to head to Australia for a bit. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons below. Maybe several, who knows?

They did a muffin run. Russia has a bit of a PR problem at the moment, and nothing says “sorry, we goofed” like a basket of delicious muffins. They could deliver them to the G20 leaders, saying – “hey international community, we’re sorry about all the shenanigans in Ukraine – here, have a freshly-baked blueberry muffin!”

Continue Reading →