Monday, August 30, 2010

Understanding the Australian election

As both main parties in Australia struggle to form a viable minority government, another in our series of single sentence explanations that make everything clear. This one came from a friend in Melbourne.

"Neither major political party deserved to win - and they didn't!"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Easy for you to say

Following yesterday's tragic events in Manila, Hong Kong politicians from Chief Executive Donald Tsang downwards have been quick to express their anger at the handling of the hostage situation by the Philippines police. It is of course easy to sit back in a comfortable room in front of your big screen TV and pass judgement in such cases. Perhaps they should give a thought to whether the right course of action is so obvious when you are out there with inadequate protection facing an armed kidnapper in torrential rain. Yes, the Philippines police appeared to lack training, equipment and leadership - all the fault of politicians, not the officers themselves. Despite this, they put their lives on the line, facing gunfire and eventually successfully rescuing at least some of the hostages alive. Don't they deserve some credit for this?

As for the Hong Kong government placing the Philippines on its tourism blacklist, advising against travel to the country, this is a silly knee-jerk reaction. The proper use of this mechanism is in cases where the security situation in a country presents a general threat to visitors, such as in Bangkok a few months ago during the clashes between the government and redshirt protesters. There is no such general danger in the Philippines - the biggest risk most Hong Kong tourists face there, unless they visit the remoter parts of Mindanao, is that of the occasional pickpocket and the country's appalling driving standards, both of which can be found much closer to home.

This was a one-off incident of a disgruntled armed nutcase running amok and killing innocent people who just happened to be there at the time. Such incidents happen from time to time in many countries, including in recent years Canada, the UK, the USA and China. It is hard to imagine the Hong Kong government advising against travel to any of those countries had a similar event occurred there.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I'm In, You're Too Late

Another of the little ironies that make life interesting: both Australia's two main party leaders, promising to get tough on immigration as part of their campaign for today's election, themselves arrived in Australia as Pommie immigrants.

When I hear people complain about asylum seekers, I think of my Huguenot ancestors - French Protestants who fled to England to escape persecution by the Catholic church - the same church, renowned for rampant child abuse, that would-be Aussie PN Tony Abbot belongs to.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Understanding Afghanistan

Sometimes one sentence is all you need to make sense of a complex situation. Last year in England I happened to ride in a taxi driven by an Afghan refugee. We got chatting, and he told me "All the politicians in my country are bandits, thieves and warlords". Just bear that in mind when watching the news.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trouble and strife

Probably the silliest story of the week comes from Italy, where a mother complained to the police that a young woman on the beach was "troubling" her two sons, aged 12 and 14, by rubbing suntan oil into her "ample" breasts in a sensuous manner.

Having been a teenage boy myself, I can assure the mother that the only thing troubling her boys was probably their mother's presence at the scene.

"Used to wear iron shoes with ease"

Watching Aljazeera a couple of days ago, I saw a trailer for a coming programme on the experiences of a Liberian immigrant to the USA. What struck me about this is that the state of Liberia was founded as a refuge in their ancestral continent for freed slaves from the harsh treatment and oppression they faced in America. As a keen student of the ironies of history, I find it an interesting comment on changed racial attitudes in the USA that the flow of people is now in the other direction.