Showing posts with label Australian politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian politics. Show all posts

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Abbott tells Europeans how to run the world

The Sydney Morning Herald tells us that former PM Tony Abbott addressed an Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists in Prague on Saturday night. If you want to see everything he said, don’t hesitate to click here. Otherwise, I can give you the gist of his words, which didn’t impress me greatly… to say the least. He expressed his opinions concerning Europe's treatment of unwanted immigration… as if all European nations were looking upon this phenomenon in the same way. He said that it looked like “a peaceful invasion”. I wonder what Abbott really suggests by his juxtaposition of those two unrelated terms. It's murky Down Under English, along the lines of his rough-and-ready "Look, I'm going to shirtfront Mr Putin ... you bet I am."

France is happy to have earned a lot of cash by selling submarines to Australia. We’re grateful for that business, of course. And we don’t expect Australia to be more generous towards France by telling us (or any other European nation) how to handle the delicate and difficult problem of out-of-hand immigration. If France wanted to put a brutal end to such immigrants, Tony Abbott surely knows that the French navy could use one of our submarines. So, why doesn't he simply shut up?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Australia's bad treatment of refugees at Nauru

A French-language article in today’s Le Monde reveals that the Amnesty organization labels the attitudes of the Australian government towards refugees as “cruelle à l’extrême” (cruel to an extreme extent). Click here to access the original English-language article published by Amnesty International.

Around 1,200 men, women, and children who sought refuge in Australia and were forcibly transferred to the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru suffer severe abuse, inhumane treatment, and neglect, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.

A Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International said: “Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom.

A Senior Counsel on Children’s Rights at Human Rights Watch said: “Driving adult and even child refugees to the breaking point with sustained abuse appears to be one of Australia’s aims on Nauru.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

This fellow's name is Malcolm Turnbull

He happens to be the prime minister of a rather dull country, Australia (where I was born in 1940), on the other side of the planet. Turnbull obtained that job last year, not because Australian citizens had elected him as their chief, but simply because he decided unilaterally to replace the existing party leader, Tony Abbott. Well, for reasons I fail to understand, this quite ordinary Australian fellow believes that, in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium, he has political lessons to give to the Old World. I obtained that information this evening, through a joke item on a French TV channel. I would be less embarrassed if Turnbull were to simply shut his dumb mouth.

POST SCRIPTUM Click here for a real challenge that Turnbull must face.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pathetic end of a pioneering era

I don’t know whether many of my compatriots have ever heard of a NSW rural township named Breeza. Here’s a wonderful photo of the Breeza landscape from Ian Stehbens:

Breeza is surely one of the loveliest names you could possibly imagine for a hot flat place out on the Liverpool Plains. One imagines sea breezes floating in magically from the distant Pacific! I heard this name constantly during my childhood, because my grandmother Kathleen Pickering [1889-1964] was born in nearby Quirindi and brought up in Breeza, on a sheep station named Currabubula. What fabulous place names! If you’ve got a map—or, better still, Google—you’ll find that the municipalities named Breeza and Currabubula lie in the middle of a triangle whose corners are Gunnedah, Tamworth and Quirindi.

I’ve just published (through Gamone Press) a family-history book, They Sought the Last of Lands, presenting pioneering stories of my Australian ancestors.

If you’re interested, I invite you to click here to download the chapter in which I speak of my grandmother from Breeza.

Now, some of the few remaining flimsy threads that tie me to my native land are about to be destroyed forever. A Chinese company named Shenhua has apparently received approval from the NSW state government to build a gigantic coal mine on the agricultural lands of the Liverpool Plains near my ancestral township of Breeza. Astounded and shocked by such a scenario, I hardly know what to say.
Australia is selling off to China
 the lands and spirits of her pioneers.
The souls of my ancestors.
Click here and here for press stuff on this unfolding tragedy.

Meanwhile, as usual Down Under, where life is casual, nobody seems to give a coal-mine fuck. Is our Australian people really as apathetic and indeed pathetic as that? Yes, no doubt. I would love to be contradicted...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Is ancient France disappearing?

Readers who know French will have understood that my title is an awkward attempt to translate our fear that « la France d’autrefois fout le camp ». The concept of a legendary France has always been fuzzy but nevertheless perfectly real... at least in my mind. And the rhetorical question behind the present blog post might be rephrased as follows: Are there alarming signs, at the present moment, suggesting that the France of our dreams might be receding inexorably into the world of dreams?

Let’s leave aside Vercingétorix… who didn’t necessarily correspond to my idea of a typical Frenchman.

And Joan of Arc, too… who wasn’t exactly a typical Gallic female. (Many modern French women often find that English gentlemen can be charming.)

My legendary France might be thought of as starting with Denis Diderot [1713-1784], the brilliant instigator (with d'Alembert) of the Encyclopédie, which was intended to encompass all human knowledge of “sciences, arts and crafts”. To my modest mind, Diderot was one of the greatest intellects that the planet Earth has ever known.

His fabulous novel Jacques le Fataliste remains an astounding literary creation. Recommended to me enthusiastically long ago—for reasons that I was incapable of understanding at that time—by a lovely young student at the Sorbonne, Christine, who would become the mother of our children, this primordial work of Diderot happens to be my current bedside book.

Jumping shamelessly over countless scientists, philosophers and artists, I would next name Louis Pasteur [1822-1895] as a symbol of my legendary France.

He would be followed, soon after, by a woman who (like many famous French people) wasn’t even born in France: Marie Curie [1867-1934].

In the contemporary era, it’s not surprising that I’ve always been captivated by the spiritual presence of Charles de Gaulle [1890-1970]. Besides, his widespread arms inspired the gadget that enabled me to uncork countless bottles of wine throughout my early years in Paris.

Today, a trivial news item makes me think that all that gigantic intellectual heritage of France might be disappearing down the kitchen sink like dishwater. Let me explain.

Many of my Australian readers are familiar with the embarrassingly-stupid story of the railroad from Sydney to Melbourne, culminating in a notorious break-of-gauge singularity at Albury, on the frontier between the rival states of New South Wales and Victoria.

Insofar as the adjacent states failed to agree on a a standard common gauge, passengers have to descend from one train and get up into another. This innocent-looking country platform is in fact a monument to human stupidity, to the apparent impossibility of ever seeking agreement on simple issues.

For ages, I was convinced that nonsense of that deplorable kind could never occur in my hallowed France, where everything was conducted under the metrical auspices of René Descartes [1596-1650] for the mathematics and Napoléon Bonaparte [1769-1821] for the creation and enforcement of laws.

Well, my dear old France has just become involved in an astronomical fuckup. The dumb bastards in charge of French railways have recently ordered 50 million euros of rolling stock that’s slightly too wide for some 1300 stations! They simply forgot to take out a tape and get down on their hands and knees to measure the existing reality. So, more millions will have to be spent in shaving off the excess width of countless existing train platforms.

Once upon a time, this kind of error would have been unthinkable in France. Something has obviously changed... for the worse. Between now and the delivery of this rolling stock, certain human heads will surely roll. But this will not erase the nasty conclusion that my beloved ancient version of an eternal France—superbly philosophical and mathematical—would appear to be simply fucking off before our sad eyes.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Australia, your chicken is ready!

Over the last 24 hours, French media have been having a field day writing what little they know about the mysterious "mad monk" who has just become Australia's new leader. French journalists all appear to be inspired by the same source material: a rather blunt French-language blog post written by a certain Charlotte Chabas and published by Le Monde [display].

A week ago, French TV viewers were shocked by an evening show revealing the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. After all the hype generated by Tourism Australia's "best jobs in the world" stunts, the marketing seams are starting to show, and people in France are surely becoming aware that the legendary dream world that is supposed to exist Down Under could well be somewhat mythical.

The last time I was out in Australia (already seven years ago), I looked around for serious books concerning the state of the nation, and prospects for the future. Disappointed at finding nothing of interest in this domain, I was reminded of the words of my friend Geoff Brindley: "There is no writing culture in Australia." In bookshops, the shelves marked Australia or Australiana are packed with photographic albums of indigenous fauna and flora, tourist guides and cooking books. Even today, when I ask Amazon to display their books on Australia, there is simply no category of books dealing with contemporary Australian society, politics, economics, future challenges, etc.

In fact, the case of Australia has been handled expertly and thoroughly by the US scholar Jared Diamond. In his celebrated Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997), he spoke at length about the alleged "backwardness" of Australia's Aborigines, with the intention of proving that we would be mistaken to imagine the existence of any "supposed deficiencies of the Aborigines themselves".

Today, I find that this 15-year-old book (which earned its author a Pulitzer Prize) has an annoying old-fashioned tone, as if the author didn't take time, before starting to write his book, to catch up on recent findings concerning the genetics of human populations. Sure, his end-of-book notes on further reading mention the great Italian pioneer Luca Cavalli-Sforza, but nowhere in Diamond's chapter on the Aborigines is there any mention of genetics and DNA studies. Worse, when evoking divergences between Aboriginal Australians and New Guineans, Diamond refers to blood groups and the appearance of their hair, with never the slightest allusion to their respective genetic data.

Tasmanian Aborigines provide us with an extreme case of geographical isolation. When Bass Strait was flooded, some 10,000 years ago, Tasmania was probably populated by no more than a few thousand Aboriginal hunter-gatherers. By the time their descendants were discovered by 17th-century European navigators, Tasmanians had become the most technologically primitive people ever encountered on the planet Earth. Now, it's fair enough to blame the terrible solitude of Tasmanians for the absence of the elementary culture of making fire, boomerangs, stone axes with wooden handles, etc. But the author might have drawn attention to another obvious aspect of Tasmania's isolation and small population. After centuries of consanguinity, their gene pool was surely reduced to a minimalist state leaving few cerebral resources for creativity. While avoiding all references to genes, and bending over backwards to avoid being accused of racism, Jared Diamond nevertheless falls into the trap of comparing the respective "smartness" of Aborigines with a notorious pair of ill-fated explorers. "Robert Burke and William Wills were smart enough to write, but not smart enough to survive in Australian desert regions where Aborigines were living."

A more recent and (to my mind) more convincing book by Diamond, Collapse (2005), tackles the fascinating question of why certain human societies suddenly disappear.

The author's presentations of the historical tragedies of the Pitcairn Islands and Easter Island are particularly brilliant. But I was impressed aboved all by his chapter 13, whose title incorporates a disturbing pair of inverted commas: "Mining" Australia. In fact, the explanations in this chapter lead us back inevitably and directly to the starting point of the present blog post: yesterday's coming to power of the "mad monk" (who once said that the notion of climate change brought about through human activities is "absolute crap"), and an environmental disaster such as the degradation of the Great Barrier Reef. Let me quote Diamond's opening paragraph, which examines Australia's likely destiny:
Mining in the literal sense—that is, the mining of coal, iron, and so on—is a key to Australia's economy today, providing the largest share of its export earnings. In a metaphorical sense, however, mining is also a key to Australia's environmental history and to its current predicament. That's because the essence of mining is to exploit resources that do not renew themselves with time, and hence to deplete those resources. Since gold in the ground doesn't breed more gold [...], miners extract gold from a gold lode as rapidly as is economically feasible, until the lode is exhausted. Mining minerals may thus be contrasted with exploiting renewable resources—such as forests, fish, and topsoil—that do regenerate themselves by biological reproduction or by soil formation. Renewable resources can be exploited indefinitely, provided that one removes them at a rate less than the rate at which they regenerate. If however one exploits forests, fish, or topsoil at rates exceeding their renewal rates, they too will eventually be depleted to extinction, like the gold in a gold mine.
Then the author sketches the theme of his chapter on Australia in a single chilling sentence, where the inverted commas around "mining" indicate that he's using this term in its metaphorical sense:
Australia has been and still is "mining" its renewable resources as if they were mined minerals.
Diamond pulls no punches in describing the exceptionally fragile nature of the harsh "sunburnt country" that many of us came to love.

Up until reading Diamond's detailed descriptions of the low nutrient levels of Australian soils, I had always imagined naively that our agriculture was surely no less "lucky" than the many other aspects of Down Under in which Australians take pride. But this is not at all the case. We now know that the infertility and salinity of soils in Australia make them unsuitable for nearly all forms of agriculture and grazing. Then there's the terrible question of unpredictable rainfall due to the notorious ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation). I believe that every concerned Australian should make a point of studying Diamond's spine-chilling chapter 13 of Collapse.

Meanwhile, I was thrilled to see a victory photo of Mr Rabbit and his lovely women.

Verily I say unto you that they're as beautiful as a page from a fairy tale.

PS I should explain to readers who've never been to Australia that the title of this blog post is an advertising slogan that was used by the Red Rooster fast-food people.

I'm trying to figure out why that photo of Tony Abbott on the beach reminded me immediately of a red cock, about to crow...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dumber and dumber

In certain fields (and not only in sport), outstanding individuals from my native land can do just as well as celebrated Americans, if not better. Our latest specimen in the dumbness domain, Queensland political candidate Stephanie Banister, has just stepped into the limelight of international celebrity, where she's competing remarkably well against a famous US champion of stupidity, Sarah Palin.

Here are extracts from a TV video in which Stephanie evoked a nation named Islam:

Personally, I reckon that Banister makes Palin look like a boring intellectual. But my father was born in Queensland, so maybe I'm chauvinistic. Click here for an Aussie article on our champion.

PS Recently, when Kevin Rudd succeeded in kicking out Julia Gillard, the affair was hardly mentioned in French media. Today, on the contrary, the story of Stephanie Banister is repeated on every French media website. I would advise her to abandon politics and set up some kind of an international business—maybe in communications or tourism—enabling her to cash in on her sudden notoriety. For example, she could organize holiday trips for tourists who would like to visit various interesting places in Islam, and dine on delicious haram food.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Political space capsule

I'm utterly shocked by the apparent absence of Australian diplomatic intervention in the case of Julian Assange, condemned to survive for the moment in a "space capsule": the London embassy of Ecuador.

Many years ago, when I had already lived in Paris for a long time (I arrived there in 1962), I used to say jokingly to Aussie friends and relatives (modernized summary):
If ever we Australian expatriates were to find ourselves in a nasty situation, I don't have the impression that our motherland would ever dream about sending in helicopters to exfiltrate us.
At the time (I'm talking about the 1960s), there was a rumor about the fact that our embassies and consulates were fed up with the task of repatriating mindless Aussie tourists who had run run out of money or run into problems of one kind or another. At that same time, I happened to be greatly impressed by the fact that French nationality seemed to be a precious acquisition, which guaranteed the holder against all kinds of unexpected happenings. The French seemed to think that a citizen remained essentially French no matter where he happened to be located on the surface of the planet. Australian authorities, meanwhile, seemed to act as if a passport-holder became "less Australian" as soon as he left the country.

Today, I'm convinced that Australia doesn't care an iota about citizens residing in Europe. For example, the Paris embassy probably has no official idea of my existence or whereabouts, and is probably unconcerned by this ignorance.

It's a hopeless situation. As I often say, Australia needs a revolution. Meanwhile, citizens will carry on looking moronically at media stuff about Gina Rinehart, the top-ten most expensive residences in East Sydney, the local football, the case of Julia Gillard and her father, etc... A perfect formula for eternal political stupidity.

BREAKING NEWS: The story of Pippi Bean (nothing to do with Julian Assange) provides another revealing illustration of the ineffective behavior of Australian consular services when faced with the case of an Australian citizen in distress in a hostile land. Click here to access an article on this affair.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cory who?

The situation is unfair. Why is it that such-and-such a totally-unknown moronic compatriot from Down Under makes world headlines every so often? Meanwhile, we others have to work hard and constantly to air our narrow set of weird beliefs, our absurdities and our ignorance.

A couple of years ago, the Internet world discovered an amazing Aussie senator, Steve Fielding, who greatly impressed a visiting biologist, Richard Dawkins. Enjoy this video masterpiece:

After Steve Fielding and Cory Bernardi (who has novel ideas on the likely sexual tastes of gays and other mammals), I wonder who's the next idiot to acquire front-page notoriety. Personally, I would be more than happy to get interviewed by Australian TV on the interesting question of the sex life of Jesus and his wife. I have no facts whatsoever on this subject, of course, but I have a lot of fabulous and entertaining ideas, which I would love to share with the world at large. And I would make a point of getting drunk before the TV people arrived here to interview me and my dog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Aussie politician sighted in Paris

I've always been intrigued by the enigmatic sad smile of the Aussie polly Craig Thomson. As Craig looks back nostalgically upon his past life, this cynical smile surely hides more than it reveals.

With such an unforgettable regard, it's hard to travel incognito... even when using a valid credit card in a whorehouse.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great new couple on Aussie TV

The Aussie entertainment scene will be soaring to new heights with an exciting concept of prime-time TV: the Bob & Kris Show.

Viewers of all ages are promised a mixture of family fun, nostalgia and in-depth comments concerning the political scene — past, present and future. Above all, past.

FAKERY: I hardly need to explain that the above image results from a crude Photoshop substitution of two famous hair styles. The original (excellent) photo comes from The Daily Telegraph, and I found my copy here. Having been a Bob Hawke admirer for years and a Kristina Keneally detester for an all-too-short term, I must admit that, funnily enough, I prefer my fakery to the genuine photo. Young-minded Bob looks dashing with that short sweeping cut, while Kristina's homely white-haired appearance reflects the obsolescence of her fuzzy political know-how. And in my image, Kristina doesn't stand above Bob.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Treasonous weasel

The leaked US diplomatic cables reveal that an Aussie senator named Mark Arbib has been supplying a foreign power (the USA) with local intelligence for a long time.

Over the years, in various nations, individuals have been jailed, if not executed, for acts of that kind.

A US citizen named Jonathan Jay Pollard who was caught supplying intelligence to a friendly foreign power, Israel, has been rotting in prison since 1987. I wrote about his case in my article of 30 June 2009 entitled Forgotten US prisoner [display]. Concerning the ridiculously excessive punishment meted out to Pollard, no doubt to "send a message" to all prospective spies, I hope that Barack Obama will soon intervene to free this man… who is now an Israeli citizen. Meanwhile, I trust that the USA would be prepared to give honorary citizenship to their Aussie friend Arbib. Admittedly, Pollard had been passing on vital military information, whereas Arbib's stuff was no doubt more like insipid Facebook chatter, telling the Americans which Aussie pollies were about to screw one of their mates. But treason is treason, no matter what the precise subject matter. And a weasel's a weasel.

Incidentally, there's a language thing that has always intrigued me whenever Arbib's name comes up. He's often described as a "powerbroker", as if this were a recognized and almost honorable profession in my native land, like a police informer, or a pimp. I haven't bothered to look into the question of the training and diplomas that have enabled this smart fellow to accede to such a job. Are the skills of powerbroking taught in universities Down Under? How do candidates apply for this kind of employment? In fact, who exactly (apart from foreign embassies) are the potential employers? And what's the money like?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dilapidated Aussie infrastructure

With the election over, and an era of political instability lying ahead, let me get back to my regular observations about the rickety infrastructure of a nation with enough mineral wealth in its subsoil to be able to pay cash for the entire French Riviera (if ever it were for sale).

In an electoral cartoon by Bill Leak in The Australian, an amusing background detail caught my attention.

That structure is not much better than my donkey's dilapidated shelter, shown in my previous post. On the left of the fragment, there's a sign marked Polling Booths. A big panel on the right bears the government's arms. The small text is blurry, but clear enough to be read:

A Nation-Building Project
Economic Stimulus Plan

So, the ramshackle shed is in fact an official government building. The cartoonist seems to taking a stab at the way in which Australia's "nation-building" funding has often produced pitiful results. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Australia would be wiser to look into the idea of buying pieces of the French Riviera. Normally, well-built polling booths would be an excellent idea. And, if indeed such solid booths existed, it would be even better still if citizens were able to use them to vote for potential statesmen and stateswomen, rather than for political lightweights such as Abbott and Gillard.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The answer is a lemon

My ex-wife Christine, who reads Antipodes regularly, seems to imagine that I've built up some kind of diabolical hate-system against my native land, Australia, as if obscure psychological urges were forcing me to rage at my motherland in the style of a psychotic offspring intent upon eliminating his/her genitors. This cursory analysis of my relationship with Australia is ridiculous, and Christine should know better than to talk that way. After all, she has had a ringside seat in all my dealings with Australia, she has known for ages that Australia is a shallow nation, and she should also know a little about the nature of my profound Francophile motivations. Now, having said this, I hasten to add that Christine's criticisms will continue to merit my attention, but they won't stop me from saying anything and everything that I wish to say about my land of birth. What have I to gain from being falsely and insipidly polite?

At present, there have been major political upheavals in Australia (about which Christine, like most French people, knows almost nothing). I have the impression that many Australians have the impression that the entire world has the impression that, somehow or other, a handful of mediocre individuals—named Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Keneally, etc—would appear to be exerting a meaningful influence upon the destiny of mankind. I am not of that opinion. To my mind, individuals of the caliber of those I've just mentioned are trivial pawns whose only aptitude consists of trying systematically (as they say in French) to fart higher than their arsehole. They are not statesmen, stateswomen, merely egoistic puppets, with limited power to impress us. Lemons? Why not?

The thing about my native land that irks me most (and Christine is totally incapable of detecting this facet of my concern) is that I'm convinced that little is likely to evolve there. The rich will grow richer, and the poor, poorer. And the apathetic hordes in the middle will remain firmly in place. Politicians will remain just as superficial and ineffectual as they've always been. The infrastructure (roads, railways, defense) will remain just as lousy as it has always been. The Australian environment will continue to degrade disastrously. Culture will remain eternally just as narcissist (admiration of one's belly button) as it has always been.

I would jubilate instantly if ever I saw reasons to believe in a bright future for my motherland. Honestly (forgive me, Christine, and others), I don't. I find it less and less possible to take Australia seriously as a role model for the 21st century.

I should add that many of the negative "waves" behind the present article were propagated by a trivial article in the French press, this evening, about planned investments for a future French airport on the Atlantic coast, near Nantes. The airport won't become a reality before 2017, but all the investment discussions are being conducted seriously, of course, at present. I ask myself rhetorically: What infrastructure investments for the horizon 2017 are being discussed today in my native land?

BREAKING NEWS: A startling article in The Sydney Morning Herald entitled Parties bet they will lose [display] reveals that Australian punters (including some senior party members) are starting to gamble massively on the outcome of the forthcoming election, even if this means betting on the defeat of their own party. They're encouraged by the dominant role of voter-intention polls in the Australian political domain. To my mind, non-stop polling and gambling create a really weird and unhealthy (indeed insane) slant on democracy… but I've become an old-fashioned French citizen.

Fast food fibs

There are so many things to worry about in the modern world that I don't know whether there are folk who still wonder why the burgers in ads look so much better than those you actually buy and eat. In any case, the present post is dedicated to such seekers after MacTruth.

In certain exceptional circumstances, I've been coaxed into feeding myself momentarily in fast-food outlets. See, for example, my article of August 2009 entitled Good timing for bad communications [display]. So, I've had rare opportunities of discovering that the relationship between hamburger images in ads and the real stuff is akin, say, to the differences between Julia Gillard on the cover of Australia's time-honored Women's Weekly and less extraordinary photos of the Aussie leader.

I have no information concerning the technical tricks that enabled photographer Grant Matthews to create the above pinup (I'm talking of the portrait on the left), but here's a video showing how they operate with hamburgers:

Don't get me wrong. I'm not likening Julia Gillard to fast food. Besides, you only have to listen to her drawn-out Aussie drawl to realize that she's too slow for that…

Friday, June 25, 2010

Brutal political tactics

This morning, while browsing through an Australian media website, I encountered these two ads, side by side:

I'm shocked by the Australian process that enables faceless so-called "powerbrokers" (what an appalling archaic term!) to kill the chief. It's all very selfishly careerist, far removed from preoccupations concerning the good of the people. If that's supposed to be a demonstration of democracy, then I feel like borrowing the language of a professional soccer-player and concluding: "You can do what you like with your shitty system."

Within the Canberra workplace, it's hard to identify the real bullies. Was it the arrogant former prime minister, or rather the female Cassius who finally succeeded (with a little help from her henchmen) in stabbing him in the back? Meanwhile, some good might come out of this affair. I'm referring to the possible sacking of Stephen Conroy...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We're alright, Jack!

Once upon a time, up until quite recently, there was a semblance of mutual concern, at a political level, between elected Australians and their counterparts in our dear "mother country". Over the weekend, the Aussie media has been enthusing about the budget joy of Laborites down under:

And they've been saying sweet fuck all (well, what might they say?) about the woes of their theoretical brethren in Britain:

This, to my mind, is as it should be. So, I won't cry crocodile tears and complain. Let me just shed a tiny nostalgic tear about the foregone era when we Leftists "of British blood" (please note the presence of my inverted commas) both mattered, together.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lenten abstinence Down Under

I would have found it more appropriate if the Australian PM had given up his Mad Minister for Lent... but he at least decided to give up Garrett's botched roof-insulation project.

As for the Mad Monk, he has told us publicly that he's giving up screwing the missus for Lent.

The senate has given up its dignity by allowing Scientologists to record their whingeing officially in Hansard.

Meanwhile, Australia has its first saint. Even if there's no more than a faint chance that Mary MacKillop might be able to bring about miracles, I hope she won't give up trying, because I often feel that Australia needs her divine assistance.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Australian climate muddle

The word "muddle" seems right to me. It evokes mud. Dry mud.

On the eve of the Copenhagen summit, the behavior of Australia's federal opposition has been alarming, to an extent that nobody could have imagined. Australia's Liberal Party was having trouble deciding how to play its federal opposition role on the all-important subject of climate change. In a huge ego confrontation, the leader Malcolm Turnbull let himself get replaced by Tony Abbott.

At a grave moment, when a bipartisan approach to planetary problems would be expected, it's a pity that this game of musical chairs should still be going on in the party of former prime minister John Howard.

Here in France, the fact that the climate-change project of Kevin Rudd has been rejected, and the idea that Australia will be turning up at Copenhagen with empty hands, have given rise to interesting comments in the national press.

A prestigious French think tank named IRIS [Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques] studies questions of a strategic and international nature. [Click on the banner to access their website.] Their governing board includes individuals such as Pascal Lamy (director-general of the World Trade Organization), Hubert Védrine (former minister of Foreign Affairs under Mitterrand), Michel Barnier (Europe's recently-appointed internal markets commissioner) and Philippe Séguin (president of the Cour des comptes). There are younger board members such as the leftist politician Manuel Valls and even the professional soccer-player Lilian Thuram.

IRIS has reacted immediately to political events in Australia through an interview of Sylvie Matelly, a research director at the institute, published in the great daily Le Monde. I find this short interview excellent, since it summarizes well-informed French reactions to Australia's role on the international stage.

Funnily enough, this French analysis of the situation in Australia is less alarmist than the opening lines of the present blog article!

Click the banner to access the French-language article. The journalist who conducted the interview was Audrey Garric. Here is my translation of the entire interview:

LE MONDE: How do you explain the rejection of the government's climate project by the Australian senate?

SYLVIE MATELLY: To Australian political parties, this plan appeared to be too ambitious. Its goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by the year 2020, by 25% with respect to the year 2000. Well, Australian emissions increased by 30% between 1990 and 2007. And they continue to rise because of the country's strong economic activity. Politicians therefore feared that the nation would not succeed with respect to that goal. Besides, the year 2020 seemed to be too close for a nation that had only ratified the Kyoto protocol in December 2007, with the election of the Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.

LE MONDE: What has brought about that lukewarm attitude of Australian politicians towards environmental issues?

SYLVIE MATELLY: Australians have been divided for a long time by climate-change questions. On the one hand, ecological awareness is quite developed at a public-opinion level. Australians are conscious of the fact that their land is one of the countries most highly affected by global warming. For example, Australians were the first people in the world to banish old-fashioned lightbulbs. The Australian press highlights regularly the consequences of climatic warming upon the desertification of the land, and the tragedy of animals dying of thirst. On the other hand, Australia's economy is highly pollutant. On a per capita basis, it's the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gas. It's a very wealthy nation, with a high standard of living, and its economic growth is dynamic. So, it's a major energy consumer. Above all, its energy is almost totally coal-based. Industrialists and the energy sector have no desire to see their activities curtailed.

LE MONDE: The government intends to resubmit its law project to senators in February. If the text were to be rejected for the second time, what would be the consequences as far as global warming is concerned?

SYLVIE MATELLY: There is little chance that this controversial project, rejected twice by the senate, could be adopted in February, especially if an early federal election is announced, as expected, in the beginning of 2010. In any case, the recent rejection of the present climate-change project cannot possibly influence adversely the Copenhagen summit, since Australia does not have a major role to play in the combat against global warming. Australia may well be the second per-capita producer of CO2, but the nation is down in the 15th position when judged in terms of the gross quantity of emitted gas. The major problems to be handled are more concerned with emissions from the USA, China, the EU and oil-producing nations. So, the rejection of the government's project should not aggravate Australia's problems of desertification and water shortage. In other words, Australians suffer from the consequences of global warming without being in a position to act upon the causes. Nevertheless, the adoption of a climate-change project would have enabled the nation to think about redesigning its economic model and increasing its investments in new forms of energy. Australia might end up lagging in the ecological arena.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Australian infrastructure enigma

As some of my readers know, I've been puzzled for ages by what I call the Australian infrastructure enigma, which can be summarized by the following question: Why does a nation such as Australia, with a high per capita GNI [gross national income], have such a low-quality infrastructure? Admittedly, it's a fuzzy question. The notion of the quality of a nation's infrastructure is difficult to measure, because there are countless components (urban transport, road and rail links, media, communications, education, public health services, defence, etc), and there's no obvious way of obtaining meaningful statistics enabling us to compare one nation's infrastructure with that of another. So, the overall quality of a nation's infrastructure remains vague in much the same way as its standard of living or its so-called quality of life. But, even though we may not be capable of measuring this concept in a rigorous economic style, we have ample opportunities of evaluating it subjectively. And I think that most compatriots (particularly those who've traveled abroad) would agree that Australia's infrastructure is often somewhat backward. As banal evidence, I continue to cite several concrete cases of poor infrastructure that I've encountered personally:

— Australia's Internet infrastructure is substandard.

— Sydney's transport system of trains and buses is obsolete.

— NSW country train services are unsatisfactory.

— Certain major NSW highways can be deadly.

— Certain bridges (at Grafton, for example) are antiquated.

At the other extremity of the infrastructure scale, I've talked here in my blog about vast subjects such as Australia's submarine system:

Australia's submarines [26 December 2007 display]

Australian arithmetic [2 January 2008 display]

And I've also evoked a taboo subject, nuclear energy:

Nuclear energy [27 December 2007 display]

If I were the president of Australia [5 October 2009 display]

Some time ago, in the context of a naive and now-defunct web forum of so-called Aussie bloggers, I made a tentative attempt to place this subject of our nation's poor-quality infrastructure on the forum's agenda... and I got promptly censored, as if it were too touchy a question to handle publicly. Maybe it is.

I often suspect that the underlying problem is of a profound political nature, based upon the fact that our nation caters primarily for foreign capitalists who wish to amass personal fortunes by investing in Australia's gigantic mineral resources. An observer might ask rhetorically whether the Australian people are truly reaping the benefits of all the precious stuff that these capitalists are ripping out of the guts of our dear wide brown land.

I love a sunburned country
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of drought and flooding rain
I love her far horizons
I love her jeweled sea
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me

To put it bluntly: Are companies operating in Australia being taxed heavily enough? That's to say, heavily enough to provide the Australian people with a decent infrastructure. Well, the answer seems to be no. Results of a recent joint study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Bank paint a devastating picture of Australia's business tax system, whose complexity is ranked as 47th in the world. Concerning the total tax paid by Australian businesses, we're in the 127th position in the world, out of 183 nations whose economies were examined. So, to my mind, there's no great secret about why Australia should be rolling in wealth and yet incapable of putting a decent bridge across the Clarence River of my birthplace.

I declared recently, in my article entitled Repetitive Aussie apologies [display], that Australia needs a republican political revolution. This may or may not be true. But meanwhile, before launching a bloody revolution, it might be worthwhile to look into a simple and essential business tax reform.