The leadership retreat was movingly opened tonight by Renata Pryor, from the Ngaro tribe, the traditional owners of the Whitsunday Islands. She said her people have lived on these islands for at least 40,000 years. Fortunately, she is a great-grandmother so the long, generational chain still has a good way to run.
Laying into Lessig
I know I should remain focused on things Antipodean, but I couldn’t resist browsing through some of my usual hotspots. D-squared Digest rips into so-called cyberlaw guru Larry Lessig here and here. Fun and accurate.
Perspective from the bottom
It isnt just the night sky, with the Southern Cross looking brilliant, thats different from down under. To some extent, the whole world looks different.
People here are concerned with many of the same issues as the people I speak to in London. Everyone is talking about Iraq and Bush, about the shortcomings of the Johannesburg summit, about the moribund nature of the global economy.
But you feel a long way away from the centre of things. For me, on a visit, thats nice. Im struck, however, by how many Australians go all wistful when I say Im from London. Despite modern communications and the ease (time excepted) of air travel, they feel cut off too.
The seemingly obvious answer is for Australia to yoke itself to Asia, which is comparatively on its doorstep. In the mid-90s, both Australian government and business tried to reposition themselves as players in Asia. (The Asia crisis of 1997 put the brakes on these aspirations, mistakenly, I think.) It didnt really work in two directions. Although there are a lot of Australians from east Asia now, the country remains Anglo-Saxon in culture and attitudes. And from the Asian perspective, Australia neither looks Asian nor feels geographically linked. My flight the other day, for example, from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane, took eight hours. Most of east Asia is a long way away from the centres of population and business in Australia.
And as a friend here pointed out, the rhetoric of joining Asia wasnt really followed by much useful action. Look, he said, at the boards of any big Australian company. How many Asians are there? The answer is generally none. So theres still a mountain to climb. But this magnificent country, with a fairly small population, distant from just about everywhere, needs to find more effective ways of tying itself into the rest of the world.