Brenda Cooper

Observations about Australia

I’m about half-way through a trip to Australia.  Yes, there are kangaroos all over.  I find them adorable, but they are also big.  I mean, really big.  I did not imagine how much power they have.  Other things remind me that “down under” is different from home.  The birds all sound different, and birds that are essentially parrots fly around about everywhere.  They look prettier than they sound.  The country is beautiful and vast.

Australia is greener than the US.  I haven’t met any climate change deniers.  I’m sure they exist – I’ve heard they do.  But everyone I’ve talked to considers climate change real and by and large Australia is acting that way.  They just introduced a carbon tax bill that’s expected to pass.  Almost every toilet and shower head I’ve seen manages water well. Outlets need to be turned on to be used.  Solar power is fairly common.

The Internet is awful.  Slow, expensive.  Almost no free wireless.  They are totally right to be doing a national broadband plan to get fiber to the home.  Good for them!

The economy is rocking down here compared to us.  They have a few stock problems when we have a lot of stock problems, so they’re affected by our economy, and Europe’s, and I hear some worries.  But they have low unemployment (about 5% which represents the usually unemployable anywhere), and some of the CIO’s I talked with at the conference I attended are having great trouble hiring.  Many people attribute much of the current economic strength to the booming mining business which is feeding resource-hungry China.

The people are by and large happy, friendly, and capable.  They like to work, they mostly work hard but not the insane hours many of us work. They seem proud of Australia.  They are mystified by current American politics, and want to understand it (so do I).  They have universal health care and retirement and no real worries or problems with either that I can tell.

This is sort of half-way report after Canberra and Blackheath (in the Blue Mountains) and I’ve just checked into Sydney, which I’ll report out on in the next few days or just after I get home.  I feel insanely lucky to be here.