Thursday, 26 January 2017

Six things that surprised me about Australia

Happy Australia Day.

I've spent the last month down under, and I just so happen to be departing this country on its national holiday. I'm on a plane now to Bangkok, where I’ll base myself for the next month while travelling around Southeast Asia.

I actually didn’t know this was Australia Day – their version of the Fourth of July - when I booked the ticket. But in the end it didn’t make much difference. From what I observed the holiday doesn’t seem to be a very big deal for Australians, and in fact many people I asked told me they are working today as normal. It was only made a formal public holiday in all states and territories in 1994 (although it had been unofficially observed since 1935). As one Australian told me, throwing in a Mean Girls reference, “the government is always trying to make Australia Day happen. It’s not going to happen”.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

May's Brexit vision depends on the goodwill of Australians

Brexit Britain will cut itself off from Europe and 'turn to the world'. But does the world want them? In Australia, feelings are ambivalent.

This morning in London, Theresa May will make what is probably the most important speech of her political career.

The British people "voted to leave the European Union and embrace the world" she will say, outlining a vision for the UK to completely cut itself off from the EU and instead focus on rebuilding a globally-focused maritime trading empire. The first focus will be on the countries which share a monarch with Britain - Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

I've been travelling through Australia for the past two weeks as part of a month-long visit, and I've been asking Australians how they feel about being part of Britain's glorious new trading vision. The reaction has largely been bemusement. But more on that later.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

If it comes to US vs China, will Trump make Australia choose a side?

Militarily dependent on America but economically dependent on China, Australia could be the biggest loser in a coming trade war.

I'm in the middle of a three-week visit to Australia, currently on a flight to Brisbane after a fascinating week in Sydney. As I expected, as an American I have spent the week fielding confused and exasperated questions about Donald Trump.

The sentiments have largely echoed what I read in last month's 'Dear America, why did you let us down?' New York Times op-ed by Australian doctor Lisa Pryor. "You may not know us, the people beyond your borders, but we know you," she wrote. "And here we Australians are on the edge of Asia, a small and loyal ally of the United States, caught between our strategic alliance with you and our economic future with China. We feel worried, lucky — and alone."