The most talked about feature of the US presidential election was the demographic and spatial divides long suspected but suddenly very clearly in view.
David Taylor in his article Republican White Guys Don’t Jump highlights that only 690 of more than 3000 counties on the US went the Obama’s way on election night, meaning essentially that the cities - younger, more ethnically diverse and more educated - chose Mr Obama. The rural areas - older, whiter, less educated - went for Mr Romney.
A glance at Australia suggests that we have the same issues in play. The heavily divided and often bitter political debate is a reality. Our sparsely populated rural areas continue to favour the conservative side of politics while the inner city votes progressive. Regional areas are also less culturally diverse, less educated and ageing faster than our metropolitan areas.
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You really have to wonder how spectacularly insecure or under-endowed a bloke must be if he chooses to demonstrate his masculinity by shooting a majestic animal such as a giraffe or a hippo.
Yet these are the very people which the self-styled hard man from North Queensland, Bob “No Poofters” Katter, has surrounded himself with as he builds a support base for his fledgling Australia Party.
It is tempting to write Katter off as a harmless nut or an amusing novelty on the political landscape who will never exert any influence over policy. The polls suggest however that his party may poll strongly in his home state at a federal election.
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What started as a ripple is now growing into a powerful protest wave sweeping across our great nation.
In the space of a week, it has been fed by a series of fiery meetings in outback Queensland and southern States, a symbolic funeral service in Perth and gatherings in Brisbane and Melbourne.
At first glance these might seem unrelated, but beneath the surface they are connected by a strong under current of people pushed to the limits. The Perth “funeral” on the steps of Parliament House involved the “death” of property rights, complete with wreath laying, a piper in full regalia and a cortege to Cottesloe Beach for symbolic burial.
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This tricky little election of ours has indeed delivered a bizarre but welcome insight into Australian country life.
And no-one, least of all our country cousins, could ever have predicted such a windfall that, for the first time in a very long time, both left and right of politics are actually listening to a word or two about troubles in the bush.
Thank you Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott and Bob Katter for reminding Australians that – yes – people actually do still live “out there”.
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It was an election campaign filled with memorable images. Tony Abbott, like some cabaret crooner with a cordless microphone, hitting the swirly carpet to schmooze the crowd at the Rooty Hill RSL. Mark Latham busting out of his enclosure to go on the rampage at the Brisbane Show. Discharged patient Kevin Rudd, his senses deadened by pethidine, poring over an electoral map of Queensland at a staged summit with the woman who pinched his job.
Given the result of the election, there’s another lesser image which might not be emblematic of the campaign, but speaks volumes about the utterly bizarre policy outcomes it has delivered.
The image was of Independent MP and gentleman farmer Tony Windsor, in moleskins and a leather-shouldered knitted jumper, riding a tractor mower which probably cost as much as a Holden Barina, tending the lawns at his country manor as he finalised his extortionate crusade to turn our national government into the vassal of the laughably persecuted rural class.
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As we patiently await the formation of the next federal government we should pause to reflect on what a hung Parliament may actually mean for consumers, small businesses and farmers.
While clearly a very important issue, it’s one that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. For starters one would have to say that it wouldn’t take very much for consumers, small businesses and farmers to get a better deal. All too often both major parties have failed to deliver real and meaningful reforms.
There have been obvious exceptions. We had the small business reforms in 1997 from Peter Reith and we had Peter Costello deliver the Birdsville Amendment against predatory pricing. We also have some exciting possible developments in South Australia where Labor State Backbencher, Tony Piccolo, has been pushing franchising law reforms. Western Australia is also fast becoming a battleground for possible small business reforms.
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When the shower on the bottom floor landing began sprinkling water on my face I knew our project was complete. We had built a three-storey tree house, decked out with a cooking area, carpeted living room and water supply system.
Parents from Baradine came to admire it, the Australasian Post came to photograph and the four of us – Bimbo Kelly, Rusty Patterson, Oscar Purdy and Emu Emerson (that’s me) – came to make it our “adventure home”.
Oscar and I built on the design work of Bimbo and Rusty who, in 1968, spent days walking along the gullies of Baradine Creek in search of a gum tree big enough to cradle a tree house. Obligingly, there it was - a magnificent soaring red gum, its roots plunging deep into the wide shoulder of the sandy creek bed. At its back, over a fence, was a stand of native cypress pine trees – a perfect source of timber.
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In an election year many politicians including the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader will travel the nation hoping to impress the electorate and attract votes.
They will discover that Australia is divided into two groups - those in the bush who wear elastic sided boots as standard acceptable attire and those who assume they are missing out on something typically Australian and promptly buy a pair.
The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wears boots all the time no matter whether the occasion is formal or informal. The Opposition Leader Tony Abbott wears them when dressed in jeans and casual shirt but he did not wear them when temporarily lost at Fossil Creek. Bill Clinton has two pairs and both George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger each received a pair as a present from John Howard during visits.
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Rosedale is a small country town in central Gippsland. Now a stop for tourists on their journey from Melbourne to the Ninety Mile Beach, the Gippsland Lakes, or southern New South Wales, Rosedale was, from the earliest days, a resting point for weary travellers.
Following the discovery of gold at Walhalla, the town became a staging point for the Cobb & Co coaches transporting miners, supplies, and gold between Port Albert – and later Melbourne - and the rich goldfields.
Although there are no major ranges between Melbourne and Gippsland, a combination of swamps, and a heavily treed chain of hills between the Great Dividing and South Gippsland ranges deterred exploration from the fledgling Victorian capital. As a result, south eastern Victoria was opened up by explorers from southern New South Wales.
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