Hang out the flags

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I have a difficult relationship with flags and the past few weeks haven’t helped. From the loutish behaviour of a few English football supporters in Marseille, to the feverish nationalism surrounding the Brexit vote, to the trampling of flags following the exit of the England football team from Euro 2016. Flags have a lot to answer for.

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Caught in the net of Telstra

Telstra

‘No internet’. Welcome to the world of Telstra.

There are still occasional elements of life in Australia that leave me befuddled. Like yesterday’s discovery that Woolworths, one of the big two grocery chains over here, is one of the most profitable supermarket businesses in the world.

Just think about that for a moment the next time you’re wondering why there are no cucumbers, or you are sorting through bags of limp pre-washed salad trying to decide which one is the least offensive – you are interacting with one of the most successful businesses of its type in the world.

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Fast track to the future

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Soon, the slow train to Sydney won’t be the only rail option in Canberra.

Things are getting quite exciting in Gungahlin, Canberra’s newest suburb. For a couple of years now, there has been much talk of a light rail line running from Gungahlin to the city centre in Civic, but soon, work on the line is expected to begin.

It may seem odd to get excited about what ostensibly amounts to the start of several years of roadworks – and there are plenty who oppose the idea of building a tram network in Canberra, as the arguments ahead of October’s local elections confirm — but I have my reasons.

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Political science

The flag and mast above Parliament house, seen from below.

The flag above Parliament House changes direction less often than Aussie politics.

There’s a wonderful old Randy Newman song called ‘Political Science’, which was brilliantly covered by a favourite band of mine, Everything But The Girl. Its opening line goes: “No one likes us, I don’t know why/ We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try…”

These words, and the song’s title, buzzed around my head this week as the landscape of Australia’s politics shifted following Malcolm Turnbull’s successful ousting of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party leadership challenge.

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Building Canberra’s future, project by project

There was a bit of a sniffy article published in the Canberra Times this week about the current ACT government’s ambitions for the territory’s future infrastructure.

As far as I can tell, the newspaper got hold of an ACT government ‘wish list’ for all the things they’d like to build in Canberra over the coming years.

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The meeting places: Old and ‘new’ Parliament House

Having visitors is always a good prod to get out and about in your home town and so, when Nanny CBRbound came to visit from England recently, we did a grand tour of all the things Canberra has to offer.

High on our list of ‘must visits’ were the two parliament buildings – I’d been to Old Parliament House once before, briefly, when they held their grand Easter egg hunt for kids, but the place was packed out and I wanted to return on a quiet day to more fully take things in. And despite driving past ‘New’ Parliament House dozens of times, and even running past it during the Canberra 5km, I’d never ventured inside.

The view from the entrance of Parliament House towards Old Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin.

A visit to Parliament House has been on my wish list ever since we arrived in Canberra.

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Democratic rights

I’m sitting here, watching the UK election results roll in. The BBC keeps thanking me for staying with them through the night, but in truth, it’s not much of a hardship from my Canberra desk with beautiful sunshine streaming through the window.

Although I’ve been gone for ten years now, I still retain an interest in UK politics. However, I don’t vote any more – largely on the ethical ground that it feels unfair to vote for a government that I’d never have to live under.

My interest exposes a strange fact of expatriate life – that, while you retain voting rights in the country you have no intention of returning to, without citizenship, you get no say in the government of the country that takes and spends your taxes.

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The stories of a nation

One of the things that Canberra excels at, is placing people at the heart of the Australian story.

There are museums aplenty, frequent ‘one off’ exhibitions, and numerous monuments to what it means to be a part of this nation’s history.

A tourist brochure promoting the Australian War Memorial with a poppy laid on top.

The Australian War Memorial, part tourist attraction, part lesson, part pilgrimage.

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A healthy tip for new migrants

As a new migrant to Australia, there are some things that take longer than others to understand. And none, save pensions, seem more complex to me than the issue of healthcare and private health insurance.

I’d like to say that we’ve cracked it and that, below, you’ll find a short précis of all the things you’ll need to know as a new arrival in Canberra, but that’s far from the truth. But what I have cracked is a little tip that so important that I shudder to think that we may have missed it. Continue reading

Changing who we are

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, gave a speech to the Australian parliament last week, largely in response to the security questions raised by the Sydney siege a few months ago, but also in recognition of the lone-gunman attacks in other countries such as Denmark, the trickle of Australian nationals making their way to fight with Islamic State in Syria, and the highly publicised call for attacks on western shopping malls.

A few days before, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt made a similar address in Copenhagen. But, while Abbott’s speech focused largely on security measures, Thorning-Schmidt included an important additional point: “We have to understand what has hit us, but we must insist on acting as we do. Think and talk like we want to. We are who we are.”

News of the shootings in Copenhagen rolls in on the TV.

The shootings in Copenhagen shocked Denmark.


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