31st August, 2011. G’day from sunny Adelaide. I am here on a short lecture tour organised by the Search Foundation, and supported by the Don Dunstan Foundation, Catalyst , the think-tank in Sydney, as well as trades unions in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Sidney.
It’s an interesting time in Australian politics, not only at national level with the controversy around the new carbon tax, and yet another political sex scandal….but also here in Adelaide, the home state of Don Dunstan, progressive Labour Premier from 1967-79. Dissatisfaction with the current Labour leadership has forced the resignation of Mike Rann, the premier. And today, the Australian Supreme Court has ruled illegal the government policy of deporting refugees to Malaysia…..So interesting times…
But arriving at Adelaide airport, and standing in the slow and long passort queue, more than a little dazed after the long flight from London, I was confronted directly with the crisis back in Europe. There was only one customs official clearing our long queue, and so it moved very slowly….Next to me were a couple with two restless kids, so I handed over my phone and offered to teach them how to play my favourite game: “Angry Birds”. (Although to be honest the reason I really love it is for the sound effects and those had to be turned down in the queue….) We soon got chatting, and it turned out that they were a family from Ireland. Mum and Dad, they told me with shock written all over their faces, had both lost their jobs in the past few months. Four years ago, they raised a mortgage and built their own home. Now they have abandoned both their home and their families to start a new life in this strange city. The father had found a job, and they had rented a home somewhere in Adelaide – they had no idea where and hoped that the Satnav on the hired car would get them there. They know no-one in this city, and the pain of leaving behind her family was etched in the face of the mother…The teenage daughter looked sulky, and the younger boy grumpy….There was clear anxiety in the father’s face. And incredulity as they discussed the way that private Irish bankers are being bailed out, while they are obliged to pay the cost of the crisis….I wished them well, and hoped that Australians would welcome them….
It’s a bad old world….but great to be among Australians determined to do something about transforming it.