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Hello

Welcome to this blog, the story of a great big Australian adventure. It documents my travels, life in Australia, and a subject close to my heart – environmental conservation. 

Thrills and spills

Yesterday there was a spill in Canberra. For those of you outside Australia, let me explain that a spill is 'a vacating of all or several posts of a parliamentary party to allow reorganisation after an important change of office' (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). Spill is this week's word that was freely bandied about the media yet I, an English speaker, hadn't got a clue what they were talking about.

Of course, by that definition, it isn't exactly what happened in Canberra. Which was that, a Labor Cabinet minister and former Party leader, Simon Crean, called for an end to incessant leadership speculation and rifts within Labor by having a leadership vote that Kevin Rudd (former PM whom incumbent PM Julia Gillard ousted in 2010) could contest. Crean even offered himself as Rudd's Deputy. The PM immediately announced a 'spill' and a vote later in the day, following a much more newsworthy event that only managed secondary headlines, her apology on behalf of the nation to unmarried mothers who were forced to give up their babies for adoption over a 30-year period in the mid-twentieth century.

Rudd didn't put himself forward, however, standing by his commitment not to challenge for the leadership again unless the position was vacant and there was clear majority support for him in Caucus (the collective term for the parliamentary Labor party). Perhaps he is an honourable man, after all; perhaps he realised the best he could achieve was a very close win, which would neither have ended Labor infighting nor enhanced the Party's chances of winning the election on 14 September. So Julia Gillard won the vote unopposed, and declared the leadership issue done and dusted; Simon Crean was sacked and banished to the back benches; at least a couple of front benchers who had supported Rudd chose to fall on their swords; and political commentators went into a frenzy.

For years my friend and I have despaired increasingly about the quality of reporting, especially of politics. Even that of the BBC, whom I was raised to trust and respect and never doubt was both accurate and even-handed. We too, of course, are from a land subjugated by the megalomania of a media emperor. And now we live here, under the same corrupt influence of the 'Dark Overlord'. Please reassure me it was a coincidence that on the day that media reform laws might have been passed, Simon Crean saw fit to precipitate a distracting spill.

I am going to have to give up politics: listening to coverage – especially during an interminable election campaign dwelling on character-assassination rather than the analysis of policy; and attempting to decipher it all as part of my great Australian adventure. I love nothing more than a passionate political debate, but here the opportunities are few and far between. The most enjoyable seem to be between John Clarke and Bryan Dawe – try this for starters – or watch the programme Mad as Hell.

Which I certainly was last night as I listened to 7.30 political editor Chris Uhlmann's analysis of the day in Canberra. He declared events 'unprecedented', 'a farce' that 'does defy any kind of rational analysis'. So he promptly resorted to irrational analysis. Carried away by his own rhetoric, he insisted that 'a kind of madness has gripped the Labor Party today as it stared down the barrel of electoral defeat'. The idea that it might have been a cunning ploy to slap down Kevin Rudd and leadership speculators so that Julia Gillard and her ministers can actually legislate in the months before the election, presumably never occurred to him or anyone else in the Canberra press posse, who simply cannot bear not to obsess about Labor's infighting and its performance at the polls, forcing their chosen subjects down voters' throats rather than, for example, dissecting the Opposition's unsubstantiated claims and 'policies'.

I would like a Labor change of emphasis, too. They don't have to rise to the bait. They could list their achievements despite being a minority government. Julia Gillard is still PM, nearly three years later and despite Tony Abbot's raison d'être, to remove her from office. His umpteenth vote of no confidence in the government failed yesterday, although you could be forgiven for not knowing about it. Or his language gaffe at the forced-adoption apology event.

Here, here, here and here are some different takes on yesterday's events, just in case your computer has been tampered with and you can only access the Dark Overlord's manifesto.

Head in the clouds

Head in the clouds

Seriously off road

Seriously off road