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My Christmas cake friend

7 Comments
11 December 2014 | Catherine Marshall

Naively decorated Christmas cakeOn Christmas Eve I will deliver, for the twelfth year in a row, an iced, naively decorated fruitcake to my oldest and dearest Australian friend, Enid. I will pull up into the driveway of her brick home. She will open the front door before I have even knocked, and before she’s even kissed me hello will tell me how beautiful the cake is and how she couldn’t possibly cut into it.


Australia turns its back on a world in need

11 Comments
11 December 2014 | Paul O'Callaghan

Boxing Day Tsunami Sri LankaAs we prepare to mark the tenth anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami, Australia's proud achievement in being the largest per capita provider of overseas aid at the time is being overshadowed by reports of further devastating government cuts to our aid program. Successive cuts - including 20 per cent in the May Budget - mean that we are starting to be seen as a country turning inwards. 


Hapless Joe Hockey

12 Comments
09 December 2014 | David James

Joe HockeyOne of the fascinating aspects of Australia's political pantomime is the manner in which the Federal Treasurer is forced to metamorphose into a used car salesman who is spruiking the Australian economy. One reason for the relative impotence of the Treasurer is that the Federal government only has control over fiscal policy. Monetary policy, the interest rate, is set by the Reserve Bank, not the government.


Is there a defence vote?

4 Comments
01 December 2014 | John Warhurst

Northern Australia defence forces exerciseThe wider Defence community is now ascendant in the Australian community, yet the ADF has still suffered an effective cut in pay. Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie is projecting herself as the defender of defence personnel and promising to vote against all government policy until the pay offer is upgraded. But there are strong reasons to suggest defence welfare may not have much of a political impact at the next election.


Jacqui Lambie and wildcard senators are not rogues

22 Comments
24 November 2014 | Tony Kevin

Jacquie Lambie tells the Senate she is quitting PUPJacqui Lambie has resigned from the Palmer United Party, apologising to the nation for weeks of acrimonious sniping and instability in parliament. We can understand the hostility of the major parties, and even the Greens, to independent and PUP senators who took office mid-year. But it is not in their self-interest to try to exploit differences and to weaken and destabilise the newbie senators.


Why the rich are getting richer

6 Comments
18 November 2014 | David James

Businessman examining moneyInvesting capital in the production of goods and services may create jobs, but it's not the best way to make money. It's more profitable to manipulate the financial system to create more money from money, which is why the finance sector does so well. The polarisation of wealth is less extreme in Australia, but we have our own capital-driven Ponzi scheme - the residential property market, which has become an exercise in making money out of money. 


Doing good and being happy

4 Comments
18 November 2014 | Shira Sebban

The Pursuit of Happiness in the Declaration of IndependencePeople of faith seem able to find an opportunity for growth, spirituality and meaning in every good deed they do, apparently experiencing true happiness along the way. By way of contrast, emotional happiness is often dismissed as selfish, elusive and unpredictable. But focusing on 'what works for us', and connection through family, friendship and community, also allows us to find purpose, and to savour many happy moments along the way.


Abbott ready to put G20 behind him

4 Comments
17 November 2014 | Tony Kevin

Tony Abbott at G20Abbott's best G20 moment was his closing media conference, where he gave an outlined the meeting's achievement of a 2.1 per cent global economic growth plan  over the next few years. But on two important matters – climate change and Ebola - the dynamic of the meeting got out of his control and produced outcomes clearly not to his liking. Abbott's counter-strategy – quite successful in retrospect – was to set media hounds running to the side-drama of Vladimir Putin. 


Hun Sen's Cambodia a mirage on the Mekong

1 Comment
13 November 2014 | Tony Kevin

Cover of Sebastian Strangio's Hun Sen's CambodiaPhnom Penh is a lively, bustling, often happy city of energetic and industrious people, with amazing growth statistics. In 2004 half of Cambodians lived in poverty, and by 2011 the figure had dropped to 20%. But this belies the terrible state of public health, the corruption in education, the abuse of human rights, and much more.


There's no such thing as a free blessing

2 Comments
13 November 2014 | Catherine Marshall

Camel at the Pushkar Camel FairI looked at the Brahmin and felt a cackle rising in my throat. 'You said this blessing was free,' I said. 'The blessing is free, but you must pay for the maintenance of this place,' he insisted, sweeping his arm up towards the ghats and the temples surrounding it. I wondered briefly what the consequence would be of defying the Brahmin's demand.


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