Friday, September 01, 2006


I've been retained -- gratis, sadly -- by the Australian Broadcasting Corporaton to do U.S. election coverage with their national political reporters.

The Australian relationship with the U.S. is one of the mysteries I hope to understand during our time here. On the one hand, American cultural influences are pervasive -- movies, television, music. On the other, Australia clearly has its own unique cultural character. People regard the U.S. with a mix of affection and uneasiness (not counting the guy we ran into in Sydney). I'm reading a book on politics in the 1990s, by a journalist named George Megalogenis, The Longest Decade, in which he claims that Australia is like a younger brother to the U.S. who is looking for respect. He notes most Americans give little thought to Australia (and people are a bit prickly that our main Austrlalian cultural reference point is still Crocodile Dundee -- the equivalent would be assuming that There's Something About Mary or Pulp Fiction give you a complete picture of the U.S.). Clinton, in his 14,000 page memoir, mentions Australia only three times (yes, people counted), only one more reference than Albania warranted. There is a Simpons episode, in which Bart insults an Australian, who then takes his complaint to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is introduced skinny dipping floating on an old tire, holding a can of Fosters.

But Australia is clearly a power in the pacific region, despite its small population (21 million) compared to Indonesia (200 million), Japan (130 millon) and China (1.3 billion, 65 times larger). Several officials have mentioned that in foreign policy, Australia "punches above its weight." The biggest factor is that Australia is a middle power, who by definition must look outward.


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