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Children of Coal: my mother’s story

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/09/2021 - 3:55am in

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community

Judith White grew up in the north of England when it still ran on coal. Her new memoir has her mother Joan at its centre.

My mother Joan was 22 years old and full of hope when this photograph was taken in 1938. She had just graduated with honours from Oxford – an outstanding achievement for the daughter of a Yorkshire railwayman traumatised by four years in the trenches of World War One.

Born 105 years ago, she had an enduring first memory from when she was two. The door was flung open one winter’s night, as she sat in her little tin bath on the kitchen floor, to reveal the figure of her father Willie, straight off the train from Flanders. Her next memory was sheltering her little brother from the sight of him, razor in hand, threatening to cut his own throat because, with unemployment rife, he had nothing to give his children for Christmas but a single orange.

Leeds, like all the north of England, ran on coal in those days, and on the labour of a working class that was always made to bear the terrible brunt of economic downturn. For all their hard work, the family was plunged into poverty more than once. Public education, together with the heroic efforts of her mother Minnie, gave Joan a way forward. She studied, gaining a scholarship to Oxford University, and in 1935 entered the women’s college Lady Margaret Hall to read French. She was the only student in her year who had to send money home from her grant to help pay her parents’ electricity bill.

In need of a job in the long vacation, but determined to improve her language skills, she became one of Europe’s first au pairs, working for a family in the mountains of eastern France. There she met two lively young men – cousins, with homes in both Paris and the country. François, the younger, asked her to marry him. In 1939 she helped his father close up the family’s provincial house, then caught one of the last boat trains out before Britain declared war.

But in the course of the war François joined the collaborationist Vichy regime, and on the eve of their planned wedding sent her a telegram to say that the marriage was off. His cousin Pierre had a very different war. He was captured by the Gestapo while helping a Jewish woman escape the occupying authorities, and died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shortly before its liberation. His young widow Suzanne remained my mother’s lifelong friend.

After the war Joan married my father Donald White, a kind and upstanding Manchester man, and left her teaching career to bring up her two daughters. She gave us an appetite for constant reading, and encouraged us to find our way in the world, wherever it might lead us.

She died in 2012 at the age of 95, some years after her three younger siblings. I am still getting to know her.

My mother is at the centre of my memoir, along with all the other extraordinary characters who peopled my childhood, and who suffered under the rule of the empire built on coal.

Children of Coal is out now and available from local bookshops, Amazon, Kobo, Booktopia and Target.

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BCTV Daily Dispatch 07 Sept 21: Community, Bautista, Doctor Who & More

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 07/09/2021 - 9:38pm in

In today's BCTV Daily Dispatch: Community mourns Michael K. Williams, Dave Bautista rolls on, Michaela Coel talks Doctor Who & a ton more!

Responsible shopping in Morley to mitigate climate change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 05/09/2021 - 3:17am in

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community

An advertorial for the sustainable economy so desperately needed despite the Federal government’s oft-quoted need for a return to business as usual.

Since the demise of the Lion’s Club trash and treasure market at the Morley Galleria undercroft due to COVID-19, the Rudloc Road shopping strip has become a mecca for Sunday afternoon bargain hunters. And as they scratch that retail itch, they are helping to mitigate one of the causes of climate change and support philanthropic activities within the community.

Three op shops run by Save the Children, The Good Samaritans and Anglicare WA, respectively, are all within easy walking distance of each other. And around the corner, in Russell St, there is also a Cash Converters.

Open between 11am and 5pm each Sunday this relaxed shopping experience can be augmented with Sunday lunch at either The Varsity bar, the Russell Inn or the Kung Fu Kitchen next door to “Cashies”. While back in Rudloc Road, the Sun On Chinese restaurant is located next door to the Samaritans.

These shops carry clothing for all members of the family along with homewares that range from the mundane to the exotic.

Good Sammie’s is the largest of the three and is a traditional-style op shop with the added advantage for the budget conscious of standardised pricing. Their size also allows them to have a selection of furniture pieces.

Across the road, Anglicare is a veritable Aladdin’s cave with retro bric-a-brac dotted throughout the store. “Head office has given us a fair degree of latitude to develop the shop as we see fit,” said store manager Tierney McPartland. “We take pride in our clean and uncluttered layout with a customer focus. But, you never know what treasures you’ll find lurking in an op shop.”

A couple doors up the road the Save the Children op shop is taking a more youthful approach and playing music to shop by. “It might be a bit on the loud side,” said Sunday shift supervisor, Henry Bateman, “but hey, that’s kids for you.”

The goods on display in all three op shops have been donated by the community. It is a practical expression of this neighbourhood’s adaption to climate change.

“I’m amazed at what comes through the door,” said Save the Children’s Henry Bateman. “It ranges from Grandma’s cherished bric-a-bac, now she is no longer with us, to unwanted gifts and of course, yesterday’s fashions. A couple of days ago a band new, top of the range Phillips food processor, in its original packaging, came through the door. It had all its attachments along with an unused warranty card. It quickly found shelf space at 10% of its retail price.”

The 70-year-old Bateman spent the majority of his working life in the arts and entertainment industries and his passion shines through. “We have curated books and music. Our fiction is curated by author with a section devoted to classics and collectables. We also have a selection of non-fiction titles that can be most kindly described as eclectic,” he said with a wry grin.

“We are now building up our music collection,” Bateman stated. “It is curated by type rather than genre. We have vinyl, music cassettes, VHS tapes, CDs and DVDs. And they, like the non-fiction books, are eclectic in their presentation. I like the idea of Gustav Mahler and Ry Cooder sitting in juxtaposition with Chuck Berry, you just don’t know who you’ll meet when you flick through our collection.”

“And we are currently working with our Malaga warehouse to source music videos and stand-up comedy videos for a recently added section to the collection,” he added.

While they and their fellow op shops present this intriguing shopping adventure, they are all in the serious business of mitigating climate change. “Becoming proficient in recycling is a given if we want to leave a halfway decent planet for our kids,” Bateman said. “I mean, it’s in our name.”

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Individualism Vs. the Common Good in America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 30/08/2021 - 10:30pm in

Photo credit: Corona Borealis Studio / Shutterstock.com _____ America is in a watershed moment. Since the 1980s, the country has...

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BCTV Daily Dispatch 26 July 2021: Doctor Who Trifecta; Community Rules

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/07/2021 - 9:39pm in

In today's BCTV Daily Dispatch: Doctor Who Series 13 hits a trifecta & Community continues to rule. Plus, Dexter, Ratched, The Sinner & more!

Ageism and the secret to living a long life.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/06/2021 - 4:58am in

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community, Health

The Archibald is 100 and Peter Wegner has won the 2021 prize for his portrait of 100-year-old artist Guy Warren who commented, “One hundred years is a hell of a lot of experience. I’ve survived the Great Depression, a war, I’ve survived serious medical difficulties and I’ve survived COVID – touch wood. The secret to living a long life is you just have to keep living.”

The winning artist, Peter Wegner has painted 90 centenarians so far and is moving on to paint 110-year-olds. He thinks Warren will make it as a subject.

At 70, I wrote In Praise of Ageing, a book where 90-year-olds told their life stories. I wondered what it was that enabled some individuals to live well past average life expectancy while others sit in a corner just waiting for life to end. Was it more than good luck and strong genes?

Between the Spanish flu of 1918 and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 global life expectancy doubled.  That is some achievement. Medical science has played its part but there is no question that attitude influences longevity, not only how long you live, but the extent to which you enjoy your long life. “Life must be lived”, as Guy Warren asserts. His view is straightforward.

“I still feel like I did when I was 55 or even 35 – there’s no difference. People talk about embracing the dignity of old age. F–k the dignity of old age! I don’t want to know anything about it. If anyone thinks you should go into an old people’s home while you’re capable of doing what you’ve always been doing, you should tell them to go get nicked. Retirement is an absurdity! I’ve never understood the idea. People see it as the point where they can stop working and do what they’ve always wanted to do – but then they find it’s far too late! Give me another 10 years and I might start thinking about retirement.”

But others lose that fighting spirit required, as support and encouragement in their transformed longer years disappears. There is no social policy planning for 100-year lifespans.  Politically and socially, we have struggled to come to grips with this dramatic demographic change.

There have always been old people, the difference now is that more people are living much longer. Those like Guy Warren, who age successfully share several characteristics. They are not just the privileged. They are not sickly people, although most do have physical issues which they manage. What stands out is that over the years they have reinvented themselves; they have restructured their lives as circumstances change, and they show resilience in dealing with hardship. They have been adventurers and risk-takers. While a certain amount of good luck is involved in growing old without accident, disease, and social catastrophe, some aspects of successful ageing are negotiable.

Perseverance and self-motivation are traits that are significantly associated with longevity. Successful long lifers enjoy the company of others of all ages. They are community-minded and remain interested in politics and current affairs. They manage their routines and their needs independently, and although lonely from time to time, they take action and are not isolated. They are not consumed with regrets and have learned to live day by day, remaining interested and interesting.  Throughout their lives, they had felt loved and worthwhile. They are inspirational people, role models for life in the prime of old age.

However, a major obstacle to a successful old age for many of us is discrimination or ageism. It is insidious and invidious in its effect and starts eating away at us early in our life span. For women, it comes early in all kinds of forms, but men don’t miss out.  In 1976 when my husband Don was carried into Hospital Emergency, having smashed his foot in an accident, he heard a nurse say, ‘We’ve got an old one out there’. Don was 40. The QALY index (Quality adjusted life years) used by health professionals to measure the impacts on health of medical treatments, is applied. It is something we have heard more about during COVID when there have been discussions about who should get the ventilator or the vaccine.

So, when is someone old? Is 50 the magic number? Is 70 now the new 60? Are we old when we qualify for a Senior’s card? When we retire from the workforce? When we qualify for the pension? When we get sick? When we have grandchildren? When we have grey hair? When we access superannuation? These points are arbitrary, but all describe boundaries from which, once we are described as ‘old’ we are assigned to a category, where we enter a downward path from which there is no return.

We are ‘let go’ at work, our job applications are unread, technically we are left behind as every facility and service is moved online, our life experience is devalued and sometimes those who have been significant contributors to the community are shut out from any further active contribution, suffering the loss of esteem and relevance, despair, and grief.  We enter a stage where we can be patronised, ignored, shouted at, called love, dear and darling, or ultimately, collectively in aged care ‘the lovies’, by nurses who are well-intentioned but don’t bother to remember our names. We are no longer individuals and are expected to dwell on the margins of society.

Don’t have a stroke or an accident if you haven’t got an advocate to argue for your placement in a rehabilitation centre and expect no help from the NDIS if you are over 65. Ageism is endemic to our long-lived experience. It has led to the scandalous, disturbing, and unacceptable conditions exposed by the Royal Commission into Aged care Quality and Safety (March 2021).

Guy Warren is an outlier, but there are more and more of us coming along. The way society responds will determine whether those increased years, science, and education have given us mean the diseases and pains of ageing will be squeezed in to an increasingly short period at the end of a long life, or whether morbidity is being extended with more people spending more time with pain, disease, dementia, and neglect. Our attitude to life makes a profound difference but attitudes are not self-generated in a vacuum; they come from a society that recognizes and respects multi-generational difference and intergenerational exchange at every stage of a long life.

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Letter regarding Afghan staff who have worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/06/2021 - 4:35am in

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community

Dear Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration,

The undersigned are a group of Australians who have worked in the Indo Pacific in government, business and the media from the sixties until the present day.

We would ask you and your ministerial colleagues to arrange residence visas for those Afghan staff who have worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan.

Most of us recall vividly when in 1975,  the Whitlam Government failed to evacuate our Cambodian and Vietnamese staff when Phnom Penh and Saigon fell to the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese army respectively. Some of us were in the Indochina theatre at the time. Others spent substantial periods there.

This omission was in stark contrast to the actions of the United States, and of other countries which had been involved in the Indochina wars on the side of the United States.

It was assessed in 1975 that locally engaged staff would probably be safe in Saigon and Phnom Penh.  That assessment was wrong. Only two of some 80 staff and their family members survived the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. After the fall of Saigon, a large proportion of our employees were sent to re-education camps.

Put simply, we failed to repay loyalty to Australia.

We appreciate that the situation in Afghanistan differs in important respects to that of Indochina in 1975, one of which is that Kabul and some other areas of Afghanistan are not in imminent danger of capture by the Taliban.

However the situation in Kabul has been deemed too unsafe for Australia based staff. It follows that Afghans who were in our employ must also be endangered.

We would argue that if there is a possibility that our Afghan staff could be killed or mistreated because of their employment with the Australian Government, their security should be taken as seriously as that of those Australians with whom they worked.

Moreover history shows that there is often little or no time to process permanent residence applications on a case-by-case basis – as was one argument in 1975 for lack of action regarding our employees.

We note the positive approach to permanent residence which is being taken in relation to those Afghans who have worked closely with the Australian Army. Australia’s other employees should be accorded the same consideration.

The signatories of this letter do not propose to release it as a public document.

Yours sincerely

David Armstrong
Michael Brogan
Alison Broinowski AM
Richard Broinowski  AO
Penny Burtt
Jocelyn Chey AM
Prof. Peter Church OAM
John Connor
Mike Courtnall
Jim Crowe
Rawdon Dalrymple AO
Ross Dalrymple
Mike Davis
Bruce Dover
Hon. Gareth Evans AC                   
Steven Fitzgerald AO
Carrillo Gantner AO
Cavan Hogue
Malcolm Hudson
Prof. John Ingleson
Miles Kupa
Christopher Lamb
Dr. Simon Longstaff AO
Michael Mann AO
Ian Macintosh
Ian Macphee
John McCarthy AO
John Menadue AO
Geoff Miller AO
Prof Tony Milner AM
Carl Robinson
Glen Robinson
Michael Ryland
Tim Storer
Peter Varghese AO
Sue Walker
Patrick Walters
Trevor Watson
Grahame White
Mack Williams
James Wise

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Classic 100: “The music you can’t live without” on the ABC, which we can’t live without.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/06/2021 - 4:56am in

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community

Detractors of the ABC might not appreciate how important it is to them personally. Apart from the obvious news and current affairs, a constant major pleasure for us comes from ABC Classic FM. At the moment they are conducting their 2021 Classic 100 countdown. Voting is underway until Monday 7 June. The countdown itself will be broadcast throughout the weekend of June 12 and 13.

This year is the 19th Classic 100 countdown. Previous rank holders can be viewed in the Classic 100 Archive. Over the years, listeners have been asked for their favourite pieces in many categories, including piano, opera, concerto, chamber music and symphonies. Two have been dedicated to just the one composer, Mozart (2006) and Beethoven (2020), both prolific.

This year the Classic 100 is about the music you can’t live without! It’s not too late to vote – you can nominate 10 pieces from an enormous selection. It certainly is not too late to listen.

For the committed classical music buff, this is an event not to be missed. And so it should also be for those who dabble in classical music or those who are curious but unconvinced about wanting to get involved.

Make a weekend of it. Even if you only have the radio on in the background there will be countless times when you will be drawn closer to the speakers, to sit down and listen. Prepare to be entertained.

If you want to vote, how do you choose your 10 compositions? Here I have given my selections under various categories. They are not in any particular order of preference. The links are all to YouTube, which means you may have to cope with ads at the beginning. Some are for videos of actual concerts, others are recordings. They aren’t necessarily the best performances, but I hope they will be worth listening to and maybe provide some inspiration.

Memories

First experiences via friends, the radio or a live concert can be long lasting. In second year high school, one of our compulsory subjects was music. Our teacher used to play this minuet at the beginning of each lesson. It is perhaps the first piece of classical music I ever took notice of, and it has stayed with me ever since.

Luigi Boccherini – Minuet from String Quintet in E major, G. 275

Uplifting

Last year on P&I we wrote about the Beethoven countdown. ABC listeners had 408 of his works or groups of works to choose from. The ABC announced the top 100. His symphony No. 6 came in at number three on the list. This musical wonder takes the listener out into the countryside. So peaceful, and in many ways so unlike Beethoven. This link is to a recording by the Hanover Band conducted by Roy Goodman with instruments from Beethoven’s period.

Ludwig Van Beethoven – Symphony No. 6, Pastoral

Australian

Homegrown music does get the emotions going. But which one to choose? This list of ten memorable Australian compositions via the ABC helps. Pieces by Carl Vine, Elena Kats-Chernin and Ross Edwards are particular modern favourites. However, for pure Aussie emotion, one can’t go past Peter Sculthorpe. Any of his pieces with didgeridoo, such as Kakadu, bring out the patriotism. Small Town does too with its reference to The Last Post. On Anzac Day, along with possibly two thousand others, we attended the dawn service in the small town of Cooroy, outside Noosa.

Peter Sculthorpe – Small Town

Irreverence

Saint-Saëns was a remarkable person, with possibly questionable morals. However, there is little that is questionable about his music. He composed an enormous number of works, many of them full of fun and mischief. Wikipedia writes that Grove rates Carnival of the Animals as “his most brilliant comic work, parodying Offenbach, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Rossini, his own Danse macabre and several popular tunes”. He forbade performances of it during his lifetime, concerned that its frivolity would damage his reputation as a serious composer. If you can pick it, the fourth section, Tortues/Tortoises at 3:33 is a very slowed down version of one of France’s best known tunes – the Can Can. You will recognise The Swan towards the end. The finale reminds me of shoppers causing mayhem racing around a supermarket with their trolleys. Volume up!

Camille Saint-Saëns – The Carnival of The Animals

Sublimity

Mozart’s “Gran Partita” is a serenade for thirteen instruments: twelve winds and string bass. It consists of seven movements. The third movement, the adagio, is mesmerising – almost sensuous – to listen to, as the instruments take turns, over the top of a rhythmic beat. Thirteen seemingly disconnected performers in marvellous harmony. This link to the adagio is to a performance on historical instruments. (But you should also listen to the whole piece – the short finale is terrific.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Serenade No. 10 for winds (Gran Partita)

Performance

A performance can elevate a musical piece from ‘so-so’ to amazing, whether solo, instrumental, vocal, symphonic, operatic or ensemble. The link below might not be to one of the great performances, but it is to one of the greatest ever performers, Joan Sutherland. This is her farewell concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1990. Still hitting those high notes, in front of two former Prime Ministers. (This piece does not appear on the ABC’s list of works. Hopefully, the ABC will ensure that the actual countdown includes top performances of each composition that makes the 100.)

Home! Sweet Home – Joan Sutherland

Fun

Many composers built humour into their music, Beethoven, Mozart and Saint-Saëns to mention just three. But the fun guy of all was Joseph Haydn. Very little of his work is sad. His music almost always makes you smile and feel good. Out of his 106 symphonies, try the Surprise Symphony. His piano trios are also a treasure of playfulness and cheer – he wrote 45 of them. The whole of his Gypsy piano trio is bright and light, but the third movement is the killer. It must have been fun for Hadyn to write. It must be fun to play. And it is fun to listen to.

Joseph Haydn – Piano Trio No. 39 in G major Hob. XV/25 (“Gypsy”)

Tension

Drama is a key feature of music. Composers create moods of all sorts, across the spectrum of emotions. At the opposite end of fun is tension, and the master was Sergei Prokofiev. In so many of his works he takes your nerves to the most extreme edge – and leaves you there. It is as if you are in a classroom with someone scratching the blackboard with their fingers. Thankfully, he does provide occasional relief. His piano sonatas and concertos are fiendishly difficult and full of tension. His first piano concerto is only 16 minutes long, starting with dramatic rising phrases. Those nerve edging phrases reappear at the end.

You want tension! Well here we give you a double dose.

First, the concerto played by Martha Argerich, one of the all-time legends of the piano. Watch her performance to see how difficult the work is. And how marvellous it is.

Second, with Anna Arazi, a diminutive women with hands somewhat smaller than Martha’s. We saw her play the Prokofiev No. 1 in Dallas in 2015, when she was a contestant in the Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition, which permitted playing on alternatively sized keyboards. Before arriving in Dallas, Anna’s practice had been on a standard size, DS6.5 keyboard. However, she intended to risk performing on a DS6.0 keyboard, with narrower keys, requiring less stretch for her smallish hands. On arrival in Dallas she had one day only to adapt to the smaller keyboard, which had been fitted into the large concert Steinway grand. This performance is in the first round! The orchestral part was played by a second pianist. This recording was done on my iPad. The tension for us in the audience was palpable – with just one day’s practice was her choice of narrower keys too much of a gamble, will she make mistakes, come to grief, be booted out and sent home?

Martha Argerich – Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 1

Anna Arazi – Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 1

Genius

Mendelssohn’s octet for strings was written when he was 16 years old. Wikipedia includes the following quote: “Its youthful verve, brilliance and perfection make it one of the miracles of nineteenth-century music.” They advise that a typical performance of the work lasts around thirty minutes, with the first movement usually comprising roughly half of this.

Felix Mendelssohn – String Octet in E-flat major

Climactic

Everyone loves crescendos. Throw in a visual of the music and you could be in heaven, or maybe Rome. The fourth movement of Respighi’s Pines of Rome provides us with a musical vision of the pines on the Appian Way at dawn, 2,000 years ago. Imagine, in the far distance, you hear the Roman Army approaching, the ground trembling as they march incessantly closer, to the sounds of trumpets and beating drums, eventually making an abrupt but triumphant stop as they reach you at The Capitoline. We saw a performance of the whole tone poem in Genoa: the Italian audience insisted on the conductor repeating the Roman Army section. There are better recordings than in the link below, but few better visuals. Turn the volume right up of course.

Ottorino Respighi – The Pines of Rome (IV)

How will ABC listeners vote?

Listing ten pieces of classical music you can’t live without is a difficult task of course, but a lovely mind challenge.

You wouldn’t want to bet on what makes the top ten!

To find out, put the weekend of June 12 and 13 aside.

(PS Anna Arazi revealed after her first round performance that the pain she normally endured when playing the Prokofiev on the DS6.5 disappeared on the narrow keys of the DS6.0. She flew through the notes at the same speed as Martha! Ultimately she won third prize at the Dallas Competition.)

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U.S. Foreign Policy Flow Chart

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/04/2021 - 4:36am in

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community

Here’s a handy U.S. foreign policy flow chart.

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An interview with Prof. Ross Garnaut

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 28/03/2021 - 4:00am in

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community

This is an interview conducted by Michael Lester for Radio Northern Beaches with Ross Garnaut.

“My discussion with Australia’s most respected, influential and prescient economist about the sustainable, competitive and equitable path out of the depths of the pandemic recession focusing on three key reform areas of fiscal and monetary policies for full employment; integration of tax and social welfare systems for incentives to work and innovation; and, trade to capitalise on australia’s rich endowments of natural resources in a global low carbon economy. Australia has a track record of successfully tackling major economic crises with major reforms tapping its rich legacy of democratic culture and and strong policy knowledge basis.” – Michael Lester

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