d e a n   f o r b e S                                                            w a l k i n g ,  n o t  r u n n i n g . . .

MEDIA commentary 2019


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COVID-19 cases per million population: Australia - 1,095; USA 41,453; Spain 35,428; Brazil 30,047; Britain 24,264.


Victoria closed the border for people coming in from Sydney and the rest of NSW. For all but north shore residents, you needed approval from the Victorian government. Further entrance now will require 14 days isolation. COVID-19 has wrecked my plans. The spread from the north shore is now being contained with a local lockdown for the next few days. Residents in the rest of Sydney are urged to minimise activity and wear masks when out of the home. 


Got me. A Coronavirus outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches. All the states reacted quickly with impositions. Victoria’s imposed immediate two weeks lockdown for those from the north shore or just about anywhere else in greater Sydney. More to follow, according to the press. The only good news at present is that water testing in the north shore shows little or no Corona, suggesting that it may not have spread far.


CSL announces that they are terminating the Coronavirus vaccine developed in Queensland. A surprise. Good that the government was addressing the risk by accumulating other vaccines. Flinders University researchers are still actively working on a possible vaccine, but in need of extra funding.


3,000 Corona virus deaths in a day in the USA. Increasing numbers of people, close to Trump such as bumbling lawyer Rudy Giuliani. NSW is doing well, with more flights coming in and out. Can the small infection numbers in Australia be maintained over the Christmas break? The UK has stared vaccinating on small numbers. Australia is more likely to start around March. The aim is to watch carefully the UK and US before starting to cover large numbers. With very low new victims and death rates low the government can move slowly and learn from the USA and UK along the way. 



ABC news and (sometimes) QI are obsessed with criticising NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. On and on they go. At least it takes some of the heat off Victoria’s Dan Andrews. Berejiklian has been the outstanding Premier in the management of COVID-19 outbreaks, and is well liked by the NSW people across the board.


South Australia hits the headlines. Positive testing of a Spanish man working in Adelaide leads the Premier to call a one week plus total lockdown. It was a huge surprise for Adelaide people. The assessment by the experts suggested it may be a very fast evolving strain of COVID-19. But within a day or two it emerged the worker revealed he had lied, having said he bought a pizza from a pizza shop, when he actually worked in the shop. It changed the assessment of the specialists, who decided this was a more routine problem and could be treated in the normal way. A furious Premier agreed and decided the lockdown would be opened up by tomorrow. 


Vaccination priorities announce by the PM. All in Australia will have the opportunity of being inoculated by the end of 2021. The initial priorities will be health care workers, indigenous population, and the elderly.

The PM also wants all states be open by Xmas. WA and Queensland are the laggards. The NSW border with Victoria will open on 23 November. My first chance to get to Melbourne in early December, I hope.

The news for higher education is not so good. The PM has blocked students from getting quarantined on entering the country and then progressing into language or other studies, and on to university. This leaves at least 130 students stranded. There are already some pilot programs involving postgraduate and honours students which will be allowed to continue. 


Joe Biden has won, though Trump still believes in a magic cure. Biden has made dealing with the US’s failed COVID-19 a priority. A huge task ahead for him. Melbourne has had several days with no or few infections. It is opening up, bit by bit.  


Joe Biden is on the cusp of claiming the Presidency. Pennsylvania may well give him the win.  Trump is ranting and raving, causing chaos. He is demanding re-counts and is often incoherent. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the US. It is one of Biden’s big challenges, given the ineptness of Trump’s approach to the virus.  


The Wall Street Journal headline: Biden Edges Closer to Win. Midday headlines on the ABC. Six more to reach the 270 electoral votes needed. Wins in Michigan and Wisconsin the reason. Trump wants to subvert the ballot.



I haven’t yet been tested for COVID-19  because I have no symptoms.  But what about if I am asymptomatic? About 15-30% are. COVID-19 sure is tricky. The nose swab - polymerase chain - is the main testing used in Sydney. There are others tests, with more on the way.

More snippets: It is reported that Australian household savings are currently up by $100 Billion, and that will rise to $115 Billion over the whole year. We are a cautious lot. Finally, that election is next week. How would Australian’s vote if they were in it?

Finally, according to the Sydney based United States Studies Centre, 49% of Australians in their survey would vote for Biden, 23% for Trump in the election on Wednesday.


Despite concerns about COVID-19, Sydney’s up market housing is booming. In my morning works I often gaze across Darling Harbour and check on progress on the Crown Residences at One Barangaroo. The Packer led Crown Casino is under investigation for a range of dodgy company practices and is yet to open. The Residences are on the market at an eye-watering prices. Bottom of the range two bedroom apartment are priced at $9.5 million. Another lot of twelve are valued at $20 million, and four at around $40 million apiece. A two level, six bedroom penthouses is available for upward of $100 million. Even winning a lottery is not likely to generate enough to by that one. Fortunately we still have low levels of Coronavirus infections. And even Victoria is starting to open up.


Dan Andrews continues to be criticised for the on going harsh block down he has sustained in the greater Melbourne region. The reason, he says, is that is the only way to reduce the numbers of daily infections and deaths. NSW success, however, owes a lot to the successful digital tracing that was implemented and improved over the last few months. Andrews doesn’t seem to have not appreciated the success NSW has had, and seems obsessed with the tight restrictions he has championed. Melbourne people are screaming out for relief from the shutdown. Today he announced another extension of the shutdown. The long term impact on him and the government will will be significant, you would think.    


Gladys Berejiklian is under attack. The Premier of NSW is accused of being to close to a former parliamentarian who is rightly being pursued by the Independent Commission Against Corruption ICAC). She has stated on numerous occasions that she had done nothing illegal. I, and a big part of the NSW population, trust what she said. Her management of COVID-19 is the best of the states in Australia, and we need that leadership to get us through the worst of the pandemic. I hope ICAC is capable of understanding the nuances of the situation.  


Bad news internationally. Many countries that seemed to be consolidating control are experiencing outbreaks. Countries like South Korea and Singapore. And the UK is struggling, whereas the USA in many states seem to have given up trying to slow the infection rates. The White House is becoming a no go place for anyone hoping not to become infected. Trump seems to be in denial.

Victoria is at last managing to make some progress in reducing new infections. The political haggling continues with the Premier hanging on to his role despite constant criticism. More and more, though, I am becoming more concerned by the complexity of COVID-19 and the likelihood an effective inoculation is still probably a year or more off.


Trump’s ranting and raving performance at the first Presidential debate was followed with him being diagnosed with Coronavirus symptoms and taken to hospital. He is well behind in the polls and appears to be panicking.

There is more opening of borders with the notable exception of Victoria and WA. And the politics of the situation in Victoria is ramping up even further. To say Dan Andrews is in deep political trouble is an understatement. Meanwhile Victoria is making some slow changes. With the warmer weather starting to emerge, there is increasing concern that states will struggle to ensure that beach goers behave responsibly and maintain appropriate distance from others.



Warm weather again. But Darling Harbour is nearly empty when it would normally vibrant and busy. Not many eating in the restaurants, and the walkways are deserted. It is quiet, eery and unsettled. Like people are waiting for the next downpour.

The SA Premier announced that now NSW has recorded a couple of days without infections of locals (ie everyone except those arriving on aircraft) and therefore will open the borders for SA and NSW residents if NSW can sustain no infected residents. SA could do it, but NSW is five times larger than SA. How long before SA changes its mind? My guess is two weeks.


We are steadily leaving behind winter and I look forward to more consistent warm sunny days. I still have a muted sense of unease, a result of the extraordinary capability of COVID-19 to rapidly mutate and evolve. I have face masks made by M in my pocket which I occasionally pull out when I am in the supermarket or when walking into the Sydney CBD. I am free to walk or drive wherever I like in Sydney or the Central Coast. I can walk along Shelly Beach or along Pyrmont’s section of Sydney Harbour and take in the beauty of these places.

But the heaviness of COVID-19 weighs me down. I feel subdued  and frustrated. My daughters and their eight grandchildren need to return to school. I also want a return to normality, but I intuitively know that it will inevitably be different to the past. And we are yet to know what it will be like. I hope the current work on developing an effective vaccination is successful. I don’t want a future where we are not free to travel. I am a Boomer, after all.   


Frustration at the closed  borders of Queensland, WA, NT and SA. Victoria is also criticised but it deserves some leeway because its problems are much greater. The National Cabinet is working, but obviously not getting all the PM’s desires fulfilled.

A new decision to get 24,000 Australians back to Australia by Christmas has been announced. Arrivals will be required to have a 14 day quarantine, unless they are coming from New Zealand. NSW has indicated its willingness to increase the number of flights into Sydney, but it is necessary for all the states with international airports to should their share of the arrivals. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the states are reluctant to increase the numbers in case it creates a boost in infections. NSW is, to its credit, willing to take on the biggest load, but is demanding the other states take on some of the responsibility. Good luck with that!  


A searing piece by Paul Kelly in the Weekend Australian. Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are “erupting in populist provincialism”. The three state Premiers are characterised by “inward looking provincialism, exploiting a risk adverse, protectionist, health based isolation promoting the notion of ‘each for itself’”.

And, as it happens, quite separately, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian quickly ripped apart her Deputy John Barilaro’s loopy threats on pending koala legislation.  


The media have joyfully latched on to the snarky moods of several state Premiers. From my jaded perspective Victoria’s leader Dan Andrews is copping the most because of what was for a while a rampant rate of infections and deaths. The NSW premier has been annoyed with Queensland and Victoria’s hard borders strategies. Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory also have annoyingly rigorous restrictions on cross border travel.

At the National Cabinet it was decided to aim towards the opening of current boundaries by Christmas. However, Queensland, which has an election on 31 October, seemed to be uncertain about what it would do after the meeting. Western Australia has gone full macho and said it will decide its own pathway.  



The focus on an inoculation grows. Russia’s claims are considered fake news. University of Queensland is the leading group in Australia. But what if people refuse to accept inoculation? Sweden is the country said to have effectively used the herd immunity strategy but it appears a big cost in terms of deaths. Herd immunity is not popular in Australia at present. But could that change? It might.


Qantas news. Unlikely to be flying significant volume of international flights  until the middle of 2021. Current most in demand travel is Sydney to Ballina Byron and Brisbane to Cairns. And return flights as well.


Growing complaints about states refusing to remove blockades at borders. Anger is focused on Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern TerritoryFrustration and Tasmania. NSW had one new infection yesterday, despite thousands of tests. I’m reminded that JobKeeper funding ends on the 28th of March. Small tertiary institutions will struggle to survive unless international students are well on their way to Australia.

China claims that Wuhan has had no new Coronavirus cases since mid May. But there are no means of cross-checking the data, leading to uncertainty about the statistics.

COVID-19 is a key focus in the US election. The Democrats are relentlessly critical of Trump’s hopelessly jumbled and incompetent approach to the Coronavirus.   


Frustration that many states - all but NSW, basically - are closing their borders or keeping them closed. It is also a serious problem for people who work in a different state to where they leave. It is even more frustrating to not be able to cross a border to visit a medical doctor.

Qantas has announced a huge loss. It doesn’t expect to be back in mainstream international travel until the middle of 2021. And even that may be over optimistic.


How different will Australia be after COVID-19? Many of us, including me, say that Australia will be a different place. Here are a few random thoughts:

# Aged care practices will be forced to change significantly

# Real efforts will be made to identify high risk significant health threats such as pandemics

# City work places may giveaway to an increase in home based activity

# More on line communication will mean less demand for air travel

# Many Australian expats will return home

# There will be significant community demands for a strong Australian state

# Immigration strategies will be re-worked

# There will be a more balanced approach to climate change

# Universities will rethink the way they manage research and teaching

Or, quite possibly, none of the above. 


Victoria. An alarming number of health care workers infected surprisingly due to community transmission rather than via the health care workplaces. 911 health care workers are currently infected. A total of 181 Victorians have died due to COVID-19. A man in his thirties has died - he is the youngest to die from the COVID-19 in Australia. 


Hundreds of infected people are identified evert day in Melbourne. It is frustrating for all of us. 450 newly infected people yesterday. Two of my daughters and their spouses and six grandchildren live there. It is a dark, heavy cloud looming over me and it must be worse for those in Melbourne.


There is an increasing understanding that the Coronavirus will loom over us for some time to come; that significant numbers of medical staff are ill and some will die; that the economy will take a further battering especially in Victoria; that more jobs will be lost and that many in the community will struggle to find different sources of income; and that people of selfish or criminal intent will take advantage of fragile or naive communities.

Melbourne is locked down for six weeks. People must stay at home from 8.00 pm until morning, and householders are only allowed out for short periods to work or buy essentials.

NSW and the rest of Australia seem to have not been battered as Melbourne and much of Victoria have been. But the situation can change very quickly as it did for Melbourne. This is the Australian experience and it is scary. Sydney residents are starting to wear masks when out, signalling a more serious response to the situation.

How will the US achieve the reductions it needs in the absence of a competent national government?




The Victorian second Coronavirus wave is increasing rapidly, causing several states to tighten up their borders and making sure that the problem is taken seriously. NSW is seen as the next most likely state to experience a significant second wave. The streets of Pyrmont are still quieter than usual but on the green areas along the Harbour you see many walkers and bicyclists. I feel a little more tense than I have been. The reporting on the Victorian situation, and the reaction by Queensland cutting cross border movement with NSW, have raised awareness. Pyrmont was briefly a hot spot when a carrier was known to have visited the Star Casino, but the Sydney focus is on outer suburban areas and restaurants and abattoir.  


What’s different about today because of COVID-19?

1 I will be staying in all day reading, doing this blog and looking out the window.

2 I have been talking with my daughters in Melbourne and Dili on WhatsAp.

3 My new glasses have not yet arrived. It takes an extra week due to the pandemic.

4 When I walk to the supermarket I will have to decide whether to wear my colourful face mask.

5 The Weekend Australian is thin. It is heavily focused on COVID-19 and concerns about China’s aggressive foreign policies and strategies.

6 The Adelaide football team has lost its first seven games in a row. Adelaide United (soccer) is on track to be in the finals. Flinders University are a team are a sponsor.


After an alarming increase in infections Victoria may be flattening and possibly decreasing numbers. The cases per million of population is revealing: Victoria one case per 913 people; NSW one per 2,274 (steady, but watchful); Tasmania one per 2,340 (an island - should be fewer); ACT one per 3,879 (small population with highish job security); SA one per 3,938 (good); WA one per 4061 (we hear little from WA); Queensland one per 4,822 (keeping out people from Victoria helps); NT one per 8,204 (surprising, given the macho swag).

Four of the hotspots in Victoria are abattoirs: locations in Colac, Somerville, Tottenham and Diamond Valley.

Victorian police are active. 16 people have been fined for not waring face masts in the city. 101 have been fined for breaking Coronavirus rules.


Victoria has 403 new coronavirus victims today and there have been five deaths. The Thai Rock restaurant is one of many hotspots. NSW is desperate to reduce the impact of Victorians on the state. The Premier calls it a soft lock down. Don’t travel this weekend, she says. She feels for areas such as Batman’s bay which was savaged by bush fires a few months back and residents have now become the centre of a COVID-19 hotspot.,

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announces Australia’s budget deficit last financial year was $86 billion due to COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, he was aiming for a budget surplus of $5 billion.

Many will be relieved to hear the announcement that the JobKeeper support will continue after 27 September at a reduced rate.  


Wild weather. Waves along the Central Coast are five metres. The Manley Hydraulics Laboratory measured a wave of 11.5 metres. Big problems for homes along Wamberal Beach in the Central Coast.

Victoria 428 new infections, 5,165 cases. The 99% Unite nutters say it is all a hoax and urge people to decline being tested.


Melbourne’s spikes has become Sydney’s mini-spike. The Cross Road Hotel in the south has become a hotspot. Pyrmont too! Someone from Melbourne has the Virus and came to Sydney. He (I assume) also dropped in at The Star casino. So now Pyrmont is a hotspot. One consequence as of yesterday is that a planned flight from Sydney to Darwin and then to Deli is in jeopardy. Prior to yesterday an overnight in Darwin at a designated hotel would have connected the two flights.

Update. Deaths per million population. Italy 578; UK 545; Sweden 545; USA 410; Canada 232; Australia 4.


The research groups working on a COVID-19 antidote includes teams at Flinders University and UQ. I have confidence in the global researchers, but less so in the companies and governments that will seek to leverage power and influence and extract excessive profits.


Things were opening. Then a spike in new infections led to areas in the western part of Melbourne being locked down. A regional lockdown wasn’t enough. Now the whole state is in lockdown. A group of 1960s residential public towers took the brunt of the lockdown, with special rigour on finding infections people. A heavy police presence was criticised by residents, saying they are being picked on.

I’m till unsure about the protagonists of herd immunity. The argument put forward is that the government should focus on the vulnerable: the elderly and those with comorbidity. Among the remaining population between 30-80% of Australians have a natural immunity. They can cope. The remainder should protect themselves until there is an effective vaccine available.

Sweden has taken a herd immunity strategy. Australia has not and is criticised. Sweden has over 5,000 COVID-19 deaths, Australia around 100. It strikes me that Sweden is taking a huge risk. Having said that, will the current strategy leave Australians vulnerable as those pressing for the herd immunity believe?



SA State borders scheduled to open on 20th of June. Victoria doing it tough. Contact tracing remains a key strategy, following up the impact of those with the disease. About 6 million subscribe to the App, but more need to subscribe to improve the impact. That includes me. At the end of September the Government’s funding for Jobkeeper etc ends. Central Sydney is about half as busy as it usually is. Pyrmont is about a third as busy as it would normally be. Face masks are rarely seen. 


New COVID-19 numbers.

Deaths per million people:

UK 638; USA 370; Brazil 253; Canada 226; Australia 4.


USA 2,411,413. Brazil 1,188,631. Russia 613,148. Sweden 6,326. Australia 298.

COVID-19 is a black swan event. News reports suggest that Europe will be blocking visitors from certain countries, including the USA.


Media focus has shifted from COVID-19 to the economy. The ABC is attracting significant interest, especially from its staff. The universities were briefly on the front pages. But national concern is most needed on the small and medium enterprises and the shifts need to succeed in a post COVID-19 world.


Breakouts in China. And in Melbourne.

But the Melbourne events do not connect with the march a couple of weeks back (6/6/20). While Australia moves forward, the thought of new breakouts and the likelihood of not being safe travelling overseas for the next 1-2 years is a downer. It may mean a boom for holiday destinations in Australia. After droughts, fires and COVID-19, they deserve some good luck.


While Australia has done well to managing the Coronavirus, the need to control the virus, rebuild the economy and deal with a spike in community demands and expectations will challenge national and state governments.


Brazil has the third highest victims after the USA and England. Currently 802,828 cases and 40,919 deaths. Beijing has an outbreak, and tightens down again. At home PM Morrison wants interstate travel to open up.

The Senate said no to JobKeeper support for university staff. The fact that Australian universities and the community have generated student international export income of about $40 billion a year may have something to do with it. But the new financial year earnings will show a different figure. And revenue will be down in 2020-21 as well. 


What impact will the Coronavirus have on the participants in the Black Lives Matters demonstrations? It is a question in the USA, as I heard on Planet America last night. We should get an insight towards the end of next week.


More big changes. In Pyrmont and Ultimo, the speed limit was 50. Now it is 40 kph. And new pop-up cycle ways are appearing.


The 4 Corners program on the search for a Coronavirus vaccination revealed the complexity and the significant amount of work going into the task.  University of Queensland researchers are prominent in the task and moving towards having something that can be trialled with humans. I did not know that Flinders University researchers have been developing in this since the appearance of SARS. A big problem for the researchers is that money flows into the research when there is a pandemic, but disappears when the immediate problem has diminished. The role of big phama and the huge profits to be made are another complex matter. I noticed that CSL would produce the UQ vaccine.


The Black Lives Matter protest followed days of rioting across the US. Victoria, SA and Queensland approved the local event, knowing it contradicted the social distancing laws. NSW said no, but was over-ruled by the Court at the last minute. Emotion was high among participants. Estimates of about 10,000 protestors in the large cities. There was a heavy police presence, but little or no violence. Helicopters hovered over Sydney’s inner city well into the evening. Will the event lead to a new Caronavirus outbreak? NSW has just completed 10 days without any new infection.


The Northern Territory has announced the completion of the three stages. It took me by surprise. It means the border is open, and, of course, full opening of the pubs. Will there be any new international flights? To, for example, Timor Leste?


Brazil’s figures are a worry. Confirmed victims 585,000. Recovered, 268,000. Deaths 32,568. Brazil is overtaking Italy in the ranking of numbers of deaths. The large cities are suffering: Sao Paulo has 7,667 deaths, and Rio 5,462. I don’t know how robust the figures are, but Jair Bolsonaro doesn’t seem to be worried.

Surely Trump’s inept management of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the street riots of the last few days, and his ineffectual international presence, will have a big impact on the coming presidential election.


Timor Leste is an interesting case. The official figures: 24 confirmed Carona  victims; 24 recovered Caronavirus victims; and no deaths of Carona victims. It is a poor country of 1.3 million, and many have moved back to villages to reduce risks. Doctors associated with the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin have been monitoring the situation. 


The restaurants can now open with more patrons. Walking past the restaurants in Pyrmont’s Harris Street last night it looked very quiet. But it was early, and it was a Monday, the least popular night for eating out. Which direction will the duck waddle? Some research is needed.


Four Corners reminds us of the impact of Spanish Flu in Australia in 1919. It ripped through the country, but many mainstream nurses and doctors bravely put their lives on the line to curb the virus. Several times in the program we saw events very similar to now.



Universities Australia puts forward actions to facilitate students wanting to come to Australia. It would include pre departure testing for COVID-19 and 14 days quarantine on arrival in Australia. A proposal has also been put forward by independent higher ed colleges.


Australia is undertaking 30,000 tests daily. Around 20 positive results per day. 

But there are still risks from a complex virus and complacency within the community. Will we consistently wash our hands? Will we persist and maintain social distance?

Will people take too much interest in false information and the crazies with there conspiracy theories and untested views on how to deal with complex and changing diseases?


The land borders of NSW and Victoria remain open. Of course. People are free to drive the Audi within the state or outside it. Which means from NSW to Victoria, or Victoria to NSW. But Queensland, SA, WA and the Northern Territory borders are closed. I fail to see the reason for this. To make it worse, no opening is likely for some time.


Writing in Campus Morning Mail, Dirk Mulder warns about deferrals by international higher education students. Last year at this point there were 3,592. This year it has reached 19,310, with Chinese students making up the majority. A thought: Victoria is an enthusiastic participant in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Will Victoria end up having as many withdrawals as, say, NSW?


Universities are not entitled to JobKeeper funding and are vexed about it. Many small businesses contributing to higher education are eligible. Even when the Government realised it had over-estimated the cost of JobSeeker etc by $60 billion it held its ground. 


NSW announces that on 1 June pubs, clubs and restaurants can open. And it is a Monday night. Interested to see how keen the restaurants are, as generally in the past few were open. 


What changes will come about, or accelerate, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some random thoughts on a cold day: 1 We will need a new international greeting to replace the handshake and kissing. Elbow touching? Foot to foot? 2 Will home-work replace the office? Probably not, but I can imagine a shift away from the conventional city office. 3 Many people couldn’t deal with social distancing. We will take it more seriously in the future.


The Chinese economy seems to have taken a beating. But it has become a little more clear about China’s role in the origins of COVID-19. There is much more we need to know and that is the task of the WHO and the key nations.

Paul Kelly writes that China’s approach to Australia is to treat it as a lackey of the USA, imply it is a racist nation, is trying to foster conflict between government and business, and encourage a split between the central and state governments. The embrace of the Belt and Road Initiative by the Victorian Government is a concern.      


Australia now has just 516 people with Caronavirus, with the largest numbers in NSW (388) and Victoria (96). There are none in South Australia or the ACT, just one in the NT and three in WA. Despite its higher numbers the Premier of NSW will on the 1st of June open up access to restaurants, pubs and clubs with up to 50 customers at a time. Will the other states follow? I’m guessing they will.

Globally there are currently over 5.1 million people known to have Caronavirus. 1.5 million are in the USA, followed by Russia (317,554) and Brazil (310,087), then the UK, Spain and Italy. That is if all the numbers are accurate. Many would be underestimates.

Putting things in context, the population of the USA is about 15 times larger than Australia. The USA has 3,056 times more current Caronavirus victims than Australia. How could a country with the worlds most impressive medical researchers and practitioners have failed so badly? Will we ever hear a credible Presidential explanation?    


Will the international students return to Australia, and if so, when, and where will they go? I am prepared to say that yes, students will return, albeit slowly at times, encouraged by the relatively well managed response to COVID - 19 in Australia. The two main competitors - the UK and USA - wouldn’t give any new students much confidence at present. I think cities such as Adelaide have an opportunity to increase their share of students by highlighting the safety side of things. Attractive to parents, perhaps not so attractive to students.


First ride on the ferry since March. Only a handful of people on board. Circular Quay was quiet, as were the surrounding offices. M and I had dinner at Wok Station, our favourite Pyrmont Thai place. We were given a warm welcome-back, and the food, as usual, met our needs. Watching out over Harris St on a barmy evening reminded us of the unusual experiences we have had during the time of the Coronavirus.

I have four important meetings over the next week, with all on Zoom. This is a critical time for the small providers of higher ed or services to higher ed. Will enough foreign students be fronting up over the next few months to keep the small service providers solvent? That is the key question.

The global politics surrounding COVID-19 is hotting up. China is active, along with Russia. The USA under Trump is prone to shallow and occasionally loopy statements. The world needs a fair and productive global response. Who are going to be the leaders?


Several days of angst when all my writings on my laptop can’t be accessed. Impossible to get any sense out of Apple or Microsoft who have given up helping out customers. Eventually I decide to contact Flinders University where a very helpful IT specialist - Andrew Duke - discovers the problem was that Flinders had decided to drop me off their list because I am ‘retired’, albeit that  I am an active Emeritus Professor.


A warm day and many people and children by the water in Pyrmont. There is another shift within the community and people are out in numbers to enjoy the warmth and experience another step forward. Small children climbing fearlessly to the top of structures in the playground. Gatherings around cafe’s for a coffee and food. A few annoying adult men trying unsuccessfully to show off their skills on skate boards. Unfortunately, none fell into the harbour.


Australians look hopefully to a successful first of three stage openings and activities along with growth in employment. But most are wary of hot spot COVID-19 out-breaks. The libertarians arguing against the strategy are unconvincing and have no impact.


The situation of international students has been a concern. Many have lost their part time jobs, and they haven’t been eligible for Commonwealth government subsidies. From the universities point of view, international students brought in $32.4 billion in revenue; or exports to put it another way.

State governments are stepping in. South Australia is offering support to students totalling $13.8 mill, Victoria $45 million, NSW $20 million, Tasmania $3 million, Queensland $2 million, ACT $450,000. Not really an easy list to understand.


I have a flu shot in a car park at Mingara in the Central Coast. Fast and free. Took about 10 minutes, tops. Demand for flu shots is increasing due to COVID - 19 anxiety. A relaxing five kilometre walk with M around Shelly Beach and Bateau Bay in the warm afternoon sunshine. 


Drive to the Central Coast in the late afternoon. Heavy traffic in both directions. I could sense the opening up of many people, but what are they actually doing during the warm summer days?


A series of warm, sunny summer days has brought out many people in Pyrmont. All for exercise and health, of course. The playgrounds are still blocked off. Many cafes and restaurants are selling takeaway food, but the are not particularly busy.


The government, in the form of the National Cabinet, which includes State leaders, releases a three stage plan. It is left to the State and Territrory governments to determine how and when to act.

1 Liberate the libraries, and open the community centres and playgrounds. Small cafes and restaurants can open with 10 customers seated.

2 20 people can gather in homes. Gyms, cinemas and theatres can open. Some interstate travel will be allowed.

3 Gatherings up to 100 allowed. Travel to New Zealand possible. Food Courts, interstate travel OK. Pubs, clubs and food courts can open.


The Forum and Communications Committee of the Academy of Social sciences in Australia (ASSA) met on Zoom. The CEO, Dr Chris Hatherly, was at home and looking after a couple of small children. Reminded me of my time at the ANU. The ASSA podcasts are doing well, attracting growing numbers. COVID-19 is the focus of most of the podcasts and will continue to be for some time. I intervened by saying we all need to have new podcasts on a diverse range of topics, even if COVID-19 has the largest number.


Drive to the Central Coast for a Doctor’s appointment. Have a list of my reasons if the police pull me over.

1 Visit partner’s residence (I think this is a legit reason).

2 Doctor’s appointment.

3 Better internet for the work meetings I am chairing on Zoom (might not be significant enough).

It didn’t matter, however, as there were no police stops along the way.


After a few days of having back my old laptop it crashes again. I treck back to Mac to Front, frustrated that I couldn’t catch up on my website. 



More mood change. It is morning and Woolworth is fully stocked and there are only a handful of customers. I am the only person with a face mask and I’m really doing it because it is rather elegant (M made it). People are waiting outside the coffee shops for their brew and breakfast. The word on the street is that there is only one person with the Coronavirus in Pyrmont.

The Premier has announced that from Friday it will be possible for two adults to visit your home (with kids) rather than one. A smell step, you might say.

An hilarious - but tragic - piece on Planet America on Donald Trump and his views on how he thinks we could destroy the Coronavirus. And chilling to see the rapid increase of people who have followed his advice and have ended up seriously ill.


Back on line - thanks David at Mac To Front. The new government Coronavirus app was launched with a much larger take-up than expected. There is a subtle change in the mood. People are wary, but are less inclined to stay inside. There are still some hotspots, such as the inner west of Sydney. But even those have patches, such as Pyrmont, with very few known new infections.


The situation now: Australia has had 6,673 infected with the Coronavirus, and 78 deaths. NSW has born the brunt with 2,982 infected and 32 deaths. The cruse ship Ruby Princess alone has 700 infected, and 21 deaths, which I assume are included in the NSW numbers. By comparison, the USA had 925,000 cases and 52,296 Coronavirus deaths. The population of the USA is 13 times bigger than Australia. Its Coronavirus deaths are 670 times greater than Australian deaths. How can this be explained?


In Sydney some of the main beaches are closed. Not the case in the Central Coast. Surfers, beach walkers and those just out for a walk and a coffee wander around Shelly Beach. Social distancing is more or less followed.


The big retailer shops, Coles and Woollworths, are both very busy from mid-day to the afternoon. Not much social distancing. And only a few staff and customers have face masks. There are only a handful of people with the Coronavirus in the Long Jetty area at present. But if a hotspot appears it would be in the shopping centres, is my guess.


Driving from Pyrmont to Shelly Beach in the late afternoon. Am I breaking the lockdown laws? I don’t think so. 1. M lives in the Central Coast and I am entitled to visit her. 2. I have an appointment with my doctor, who is based at Mingara Medical. 3. I need good internet for the on-line meetings with the board members of two of the education companies.


Oh no! My old laptop on which I write and publish my website crashed. And so did my iPad. Though it turned out it was OK. I took the laptop off to Mac To Front to have an assessment. They said several of the staff have old Macs like mine, and they thought it could be fixed.


As the focus on the post-crisis period increases, universities, in particular, are making a lot of noise. It is focused inwards, but also outwards at the government and how it will deal with international students. Expectations of international students all ready and keen to return to Australia are what the universities, and other institutions engaged in higher education, are hoping for. But the government still has to deal with the possibilities that a rapid influx of foreign students may risk an increase in the virus. But if students coming back to Australia are significantly reduced in number, universities will face major budget cuts and smaller institutions will be driven to the wall. 

8/4/20 Easter is approaching. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian tells us she usually goes to a holiday house at Easter but this year she will be staying in Sydney. Being inside is crucial to getting on top of the Coronavirus, they say. The police will be out to ensure this happens. I am driving back to Pyrmont from the Central Coast. My daughter and granddaughter have been ‘locked in’ in my house for a fortnight after getting out of Timor Leste. The M1 is very busy, but traffic in Sydney is quiet. I wonder if I will be stopped by police enforcing the need for the lockdown. I think through my explanation - I am coming home for the lockdown! Later I try to fashion a piece of cloth into a moderately successful mask. I failed.


Overall I feel a little down. The weight of the virus drains me as I wonder each day if I am showing any signs of infection. I’m not and my temperature is fine. But the Coronavirus can latch on to you at any time it is nearby, and symptoms won’t necessarily appear for up to two weeks. Or, on occasions, not at all, even if it has infected you. The uncertainty    


On Wednesday the 18th of March M and I went to the S. H. Ervin Gallery in Sydney. We took a ferry to Circular Quay, then walked up the hill to see the exhibition of Margaret Olley’s works and paintings from her collection. It was worth the visit.

As we walked back towards Circular Quay we found ourselves surrounded by people getting off the cruise ship the Ovation of the Sea. As it turns out, passengers had not been checked for health before leaving the ship. It was a significant mistake. Many passengers had contracted Coronavirus, and at least one passenger later died. There will be an inquiry to explain why there was insufficient assessment of departing passengers. M and I were relieved to have recently passed the two week waiting time for infections of the Coronavirus to appear. 


Over the last week there has been a significant slowdown in the growth of victims. The number of Coronavirus deaths stands at 28, and 5,314 are known to be infected. Australia needs to benchmarked against Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. Along with Australia, these countries seem to be the most successful in slowing the virus’s impact.


In Shelly Beach and into a rhythm. Avoiding people is taken for granted by us, and many others, in this area. Some walks to the beach, which has been beautiful in the early autumn. But the 14 day wait each time to know whether you have the infection is stressful. Shocked by inner city backpackers who take no notice of requests to keep a distance from others. There is such heavy coverage of Coronavirus on TV that it drains my spirits. The daily routine is very slowly starting to feel more comfortable. 



Family arrive from Dilli, where there is only one known person with the virus. However, people are scared and angry and see this as a foreigners disease. Many moving back to villages. My family settle down in my apartment for two weeks in hibernation and I move out.


The streets of Pyrmont are deserted this morning, apart from activities on one or two construction sites. The social isolation strategy is starting to bite. The panic over closing, or temporarily mothballing, enterprises is putting unemployed individuals in dire situations. Massive government funds directed to the unemployed and precarious workers has its limits. But the media focus is on the health consequences, where those with the virus are escalating, although deaths from the virus are few.


It is Sunday and there a few on the streets. COVID-19 is taking a toll. Small higher education providers are struggling just as are other businesses. It will test our resilience like never before.


On my way to Coles. I arrive and it is being evacuated and firetrucks are coming. Apart from this, the streets of Pyrmont are very quiet.


A few days in Canberra. The National Gallery of Australia and a few others. Canberra was busy, but the Pavilion on Northbourne was quiet. Three or four small groups were eating when usually on a Friday it is packed.

We drove back and stopping at the Fitzroy Falls. Quite a few visitors and the small towns were busy. The country was green and farms seemed to be doing well. People appeared to be getting on with their work. Although it almost seems to be business as usual we noticed in shops items associated with the Coronavirus such as hand cream and temperature measuring implements were also in very short supply.


Scott Morrison at full throttle on the morning news. We can’t destroy the economy - keep working! The airlines have been hit the worst. Do not travel abroad. 20,000 new nursing graduates to take on jobs. Domestic travel is low risk. Don’t visit remote indigenous communities. Getting on top of things will take six months. And a lot more. A daughter, her husband and grand-daughter are still in Dili. Australia will no longer accept Australians returning after 30th of March. They get tickets but the husband, a diplomat, must stay behind.


The worst day on Wall Street in three decades. The markets were in a panic. Trump’s bumbling had been making it worse, but he started to realise the reality of the situation. The central banks are active trying to prevent a global meltdown.


16/3/20 I was slow in starting the blog. Coronavirus had been on the news initially around January and February but the focus was China. Then Italy and Iran came into the picture. We were thinking it would have a limited impact in Australia. We even planned outings.

A couple of days in Canberra to visit the National Gallery of Art, followed by a few days in Brunswick later in March. We were driving to both so could manage our exposure to other people. Then a few days in Uluru in mid May.

How much of that will actually happen now? Australia’s situation is 336 people diagnosed with the virus, and five deaths. It rained most of the day, so I stayed in, apart from a walk to Woolies for some extra food, and a walk in the late afternoon sunshine. Is it Coronavirus or COVID-19?


The intensity and focus of Australia’s response to COVID-19 is impressive. Trump’s comments on the virus were rambling and incomprehensible. An embarrassment.      


Crikey, COVID-19 is making its mark globally. After a sluggish start the Australian government is listening to the health experts. The next three months are crucial.    


The World Health Organisation announces COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) is a Pandemic. Many believe it should have been declared earlier. They imply that WHO was too influenced by China, where it had initially failed to release information on the breakout of the virus.


Remember  Barry McGuire’s 1965 song ‘On the Eve of Destruction‘? It’s on my mind. But despite global warming and the Coronavirus I don’t think we’re on the path to destruction. And I’m not stock-piling toilet paper.    


Shops are selling out of sensible products like hand cleansers, but why the rush on toilet rolls? Sydney’s response to the Coronavirus threat at the local level will be interesting to follow.


My first note in the diary on Coronavirus. ‘A grey rhino - A known unknown. Xi Jin Ping’.



I am in Adelaide to Chair the Council of a small private higher education provider. We talk about the need for more students, and I ask if the breakout in Wuhan will impact on international students. The Government is to restrict students from China coming to Australia.

Returning to Sydney late in the evening I get a taxi home rather than my normal thing of catching the train. The driver owns the taxi. He says there is very little demand, and many drivers are walking away. He intends parking his taxi and not taking his cab out until the situation changes. He says he does well out of taxi work so he can have some time off. He forgot to put on the metre so he suggests I pay him whatever I like. I give him the usual fare in cash and he asks for extra money to cover the cost of entering the airport.


Australian PM Scott Morrison declares Coronavirus a Pandemic. Before the WHO! ‘Scotty from Marketing’ got in early.


Australia’s travel bans on Chinese students due to concerns about the Coronavirus may well have long term financial consequences. There is growing concern because of the potential impact in higher education institutions.


Chairing the Board of an English language school in Adelaide. The question crosses my mind: will the events in Wuhan have an impact on students wanting to come to Adelaide? 


The loss of life due to the Coronavirus is mounting. For higher ed providers, especially high ranked universities, the financial fallout will also have a huge impact on student revenue.




Much coverage of a virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The government eventually decides the only way to stop the rapid growth of infections is to confine everyone to the homes. They are brutal in dealing with those who disobey. Some people are able to video their apartments and some street scenes. The weather is very cold, and the roads are covered in snow. Australia halts airline connections with Wuhan.


High rise apartments have been approved for Sydney’s new fish market sight. However, approvals have not appeared for Star Casino’s Pyrmont Tower or harbour side high rise which I think means Darling Harbour and the current shopping mall.

I know this thanks to Independent Member for Sydney Alex Green and his Sydney News pamphlet. Nothing on the Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy has been distributed to me by the Sydney City Council or the state government, or the developers, for that matter.

Pyrmont is best suited to median rise apartments and offices. A good case is the two year old 6-floor Harris Street commercial block that I look across to. My view is half covered by trees and bushes. It is a far better kind of development than the out-sized  (29/11/20)

[Earlier posts were in 28/4/30 below and on 10/1/19 and 10/8/19 on the 2019 Blog]


The tension between China and Australia early this year was partly fuelled by the Australian PM calling a pandemic before China. In addition he may have given the impression that China had been lax and failed to report on the gravity of the outbreak. Since then the relationship between the two countries has become very fractious and dangerous, particularly for Australian citizens in China.

The Australian government has been increasingly tightening down on Australians and Chinese in Australia who, it believes, may be unfairly collecting information on sensitive Australian research and lobbied Australian parliamentarians, scientists and influencers. New Australian legislation has attempted to eliminate or reduce some of these going-ons. China is, of course, retaliating with blockages to trade and focusing on individuals, including journalists.

Clive Hamilton’s 2018 book Silent Invasion. China’s Influence in Australia, which I reviewed on this blog (and also in my Books and Writers section) opened my eyes to things of which I had little knowledge.

It is in both countries interest to identify and eliminate genuine concerns on both sides before they have a serious impact on communities in both countries. I hope that both countries have the negotiators to separate real concerns from those of little genuine concern on both sides. (10/9/20) 


It didn’t take long while reading The Rip Curl Story before waves of surfing memories crowded my thoughts.

After a few years of schoolboy football and cricket, it was surfing that consumed my youth. I first surfed on a board as an eight or nine year old in the late 1950s. My parents owned kiosks located on the Glenelg beach foreshore where my brother Grant and I spent several years of our youth.

We learned how to surf while watching the surf lifesavers stand up on their heavy-weight  boards, often riding them straight towards the shore. We grasped the basics of riding the heavy rented fibreglass surfboards, not knowing that we were missing out on the rapid evolution of surfing, particularly in Sydney.

Our father ordered a surfboard for us to ride. It was a long sleek wooden board that lifesavers used mainly for rescues and surf carnivals. It had a hollow inside where water seeped in and had to be discharged after paddling time on the sea.

I struggled to ride waves on the narrow board. My position was made worse by the wax I expected to use to get traction. But it wasn’t wax – it was a slippery substance for polishing timber planks, not providing grip. Recognising the difficulties I was having dad sold the wooden board and bought a second hand blue malibu surfboard from one of the emerging surf shops in Adelaide. It was a heavy board, but it was a real malibu style surfboard. I was in my early teens and at high school. Change was underway.

At Brighton High School in the early 1960s a group of surfers began to come together. Names such as Alistair and Jeremy Boot, Peter Bennett, Malcolm Chandler, Peter Vivian, Yarn Lindsar, John Sutterby, Brian (Hindu) Thomson, later known as Du, Michael Fairbairn, Peter Gehlig and my brother Grant. No women surfers in the group.

The waves along the coast from Brighton through Somerton and Broadway to Glenelg were around a less than impressive 1-2 feet, though much larger during storms when the waves could be up to three or four feet and destructive enough to tear down jetties and move mountains of sand and seaweed. In winter we would wear old football jumpers in the expectation they would keep us warm when in the water. They didn’t.

Malcolm and I both had trailers for our surfboards which were attached to our bicycles. He regularly made the mile or two journey from Somerton to Glenelg. I occasionally took the trailer to Broadway, but not much further.

My favourite spot was adjacent to where the Patawalonga – the Sturt River – passed through a lock before it reaches the sea. We would leave the trailers and towels on the south side beach and paddle across to the outlet and surf on the north side. I would go surfing even if it was cold and raining and the waves a foot high.

If we had a couple of shillings – Australia went decimal in 1966 – after a surf we could drop into a nearby shop for a drink or a hot pie. But the best was to come when I turned 16. (29/8/20)


In the late 1960s two young hairy blokes started making surfboards and wetsuits in a broken down shed in Torquay on the Victorian coast. The Rip Curl Story’s centrepieces are the two owners. Doug Warbrick, universally known as Claw and described as the thinker of ideas and Bryan Singer, SingDing to some, the organiser and fixer.

The story of Rip Curl’s rise is extraordinary. Tim Baker’s book has a bland title but this is not a vanilla company puff-piece. He probes deeply into the life of surfers, surfing and the surfing business in Australia and abroad. His book navigates its way through Rip Curl’s history revealing how it grew while maintained its credibility among surfers. In contrast, its Torquay competitors Quicksilver and Billabong eventually drifted into mainstream businesses targeting the weekend beach and surfer crowd.

The first surfer neoprene wetsuits appeared in the 1950s. Many surfers could only afford an old football guernsey, usually with the arms hacked off with a pair of blunt scissors. The homemade wetsuits were dripping wet, very heavy and cold. Warbrick and Singer found a way to make quality wetsuits so their business swerved away from surfboards to focus on wetsuits.

Local Surf Life Saving Clubs and Associations were initially a focus of many surfers, but not all. From its earliest days in Australia surfing culture centred around finding waves and drinking alcohol. In the later 1970s and 1980s the drug culture attracted surfers and it still occupies a significant niche. The darker side of drugs is skimmed over in the book as if it was a minor outlier of the surfer culture. Rip Curl wisely chose to support the Bells Beach competition and brought on board and sponsored hot young emerging surfers to build the brand. Bells gave it credibility across the surfing world.

Rip Curl’s expansion overseas was critical. It developed a relationship with Paris based Frenchman Francois Payot who established a place at Hossegor which became a crucial surf location and base for Rip Curl and its future connections especially in Europe. The third largest Rip Curl business after Australia and Hossegor was in the USA, which was always difficult, in part because of clashes in business culture.

Other key connections included Indonesia – Bali, initially - and later Brazil where the outstanding surfer Gabriel Madena was based. Not all international connections worked harmoniously. In Chile, for instance, a run in with the local Mafia caused an accelerated departure. 

In the early 2000’s there was a shift in Rip Curl business thinking as it moved away from ‘libertarian management style’ (p 351). Rip Curl took on establishment Board heavyweights including James Strong and Ahmed Fahour. With limited success. Corporates simply couldn’t connect with Rip Curl’s culture. The surfers later realised that the strength of Rip Curl was the organic connections embedded within the broader surf ethos and the idiosyncracies of its communities. They duly shifted back to those closer to the surfing culture and it worked for the business.

Rip Curls response was The Search. They believed it captured the ‘true values of surfers’ who would be better called ‘artist’. Surfers were different in their views. They somewhat over-stated their claim saying that ‘by not going to school they have learned more than their peers’ (p 200). In the era of The Search, ‘surfers would branch away from competition into more of a cultural exploration’ (p 220).

Women were the critical core of the Rip Curl workforce, but their role is given relatively sparse coverage. They made the wetsuits, organising themselves appropriately and cooperated with each other. They socialised and they strategized. Very few are named in the book, and little is heard about the way they organised and delivered high quality surf products. They were essential workers yet behind the scenes.

Women surfers were for many years largely invisible to Rip Curl and the surfing community. As women customers became increasingly attracted to trendy beach gear they increased increasigly became more visible. Quicksiver led with the release of its Roxy label. Sustaining the demand for beachware forced Rip Curl to pay more attention to women. Rip Curl responded by giving more attention to outstanding surfers such as Stephanie Gilmore and Brook Farris.

As a substantial history of Rip Curl and surfing in Auatralian there is, surprisingly, no Index list of names of people or places. It is something I value in non-fiction writing. Not all readers strictly follow the chapter sequence; like me they prefer to roam around book pages looking for connections. 

Gold Coast author Tim Baker has undertaken numerous interviews and extracted an interesting history from those episodes. Committed surfers often have good memories because they are deeply embedded in the surf culture and invariably talk at length about their surfing experiences and history. The author provides the reader with numerous comments by surfers, well research and in their own styles of expression. Surfers are like soldiers, rich in stories that are embedded in an independent kind of culture and experience.

Rip Curl eventually sold for $330 million. Its’ value was higher sometime before the final sale. Some reflected that they should have sold in 2006. Rip Curl is now under new ownership and it does not provide any information on the current company. Will it survive in its new structure and ownership? Can it contribute to ‘Torquay the epicentre of surfing in the State’ as Rip Curl did in the past? And what damage will COVET 19 force on Rip Curl? Recent news is that Rip Curl wholesale division is struggling. Like most businesses, there is much to be re-thought over the next year or two. (8/7/20)

Tim Baker 2019 The Rip Curl Story Ebury Press, Melbourne


The Government has circulated a plan to alter the structure of university student fees. The responsible Minister is Dan Tehan. Is this the time to do this, with massive drops in universities revenue? I don’t think so. 

The Government says they are reducing the annual fees for discipline’s they believe are in the nation’s interest. Agriculture, Mathematics, Clinical Psychology, Nursing, Teaching, Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Studies, IT and Science.

A Maths student who now pays $9,698 would be reduced to a payment of $3,700. It would please Maths students, but would it attract more students into the discipline? Three disciplines – Dentistry, Medicine and Veterinary Science – will remain much the same. Currently students pay $11,355 pa.


The areas where students will have to pay a significant increase are Creative Arts, Law, Management, Communication, Humanities, and Society and Culture. Students in these categories would face a huge increase. A Society and Culture’s student’s annual fee would rise from $6,804 to $14,500. That’s way more than Dentistry and Medicine students would pay.

The impact on the Social Sciences is a mixture. Environmental Studies, Teaching and Clinical Psychology do well. But Society and Culture, Communications and Management take a beating. The Prime Minister was a product of the social sciences, including Geography. He should come clean and explain why the social sciences are more important than Dan Tehan seems to think.  (24/6/20)


Don Dunstan became Premier of South Australia in the groovy, laid back 1960s. A cool, intelligent lawyer he dived into politics and became a successful reformist Premier and a supporter of Gough Whitlam along his path to becoming Prime Ministers of Australia.

As a student enrolled in an Arts degree in politics I thought he was something special. Dunstan was a breath of fresh air in a suffocatingly staid state that in the 19th Century had been the most progressive in the country. Like Dunstan I was a member of the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam and marched behind him in the street-filling event of May 1970. He had the courage and style that the students wanted to see in our leaders at the state and federal level.

During his two periods in office from 1967-1968 and 1970-1979 he transformed South Australia, which had long been under stifling conservative rule. Dunstan changed that, making South Australia the most progressive and reformist government in Australia. Angela Woollacott’s book reminds us of the significance of Dunstan’s contribution both to South Australia and Australia.

The Dunstan family were descendent of Cornish folk, the Cornish community being a considerable component of the South Australian population. His parents had moved from Adelaide to Fiji for work, where Don and his sister were born and raised. Don returned to Adelaide to attend St Peters College, catching the tram from Glenelg. He later entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Adelaide, referring to himself as ‘a refugee from the Establishment’ (p 38).

Tom Playford, a wily but poorly educated cherry farmer, had led SA from 1938 to 1965 with the help of an electoral gerrymander. Playford struggled in the lower house because it was elected by the residents of urban Adelaide, and not the smaller rural community whose electorates enjoyed an outrageous gerrymander in the Legislative Council. Dunstan reformed SA’s electoral gerrymander and gave a voice to the significant urban majority.

He supported Aboriginal land rights and women’s rights, relaxed censorship of books and films, reformed drinking laws and decriminalised homosexuality. British military worthies were routinely appointed as SA Governors. In 1971 Dunstan instead appointing a scientist Sir Mark Oliphant. And to top it all he bravely travelled to Glenelg beach in 1976 to reassure citizens after a clairvoyant had predicts a devastating tidal wave.

Dunstan resigned at 52 years at his doctor’s insistince. He had been Premier for 10 years. In his last years Dunstan argued with his five wives about their respective relationships. One of them, Adele Goh, admitted to him that she had  many relationships while with Dunstan. When he became aware of this after her death he was gutted. 

The Dunstan decade had a real impact on those in Adelaide in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After breaking decades of political drought, Dunstan, though far from perfect, led the state into the modern era. Ending the stifling years of gerrymander was critical to South Australia’s future. A journalist said he is ‘our answer to [Pierre] Trudeau – urbane but hip; patron of the arts; fashion dandy’ (p 170).

Angela Woollacott’s book is balanced, informative and revealing. She rightly highlights the significance of Dunstan’s impact across the Australian political landscape. Donald Dunstan had style and charisma, and a few faults. His legacy remains, though there has been stuttering progress and little vision in the years since Dunstan’s departure. (8/6/20)

Angela Woollacott 2019 Don Dunstan. The Visionary Politician Who Changed Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney.


Last year the push by the Star Casino to get permission to build a gigantic 64 storey block didn’t get the support it needed (see STARS AND CROWNS 1/2/3/4/5/ 2019). Residents were a key group in opposition.

But the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the City of Sydney are now looking at the develop of a ten Pyrmont Peninsula Place Strategy which includes Pyrmont and neighbouring Ultimo. Let’s hope the two groups work productively together, and balance community needs and reasonable economic orientated development.

There are some big players seeking to build in the Pyrmont Peninsula. Residents are, inevitably, wary. In addition to The Star, which is still pushing on with its proposal, there is Mirvac property developers with plans to demolish the existing shopping centre in Darling Harbour and replace it with a new shopping centre and a 153 metre tower containing 357 apartments.

The Western Harbour Alliance and the Committee for Sydney has in mind a development rather like what has been done in Singapore. It would would include - gasp - a cable car running through the area. It is spoken of as a key part of a $20 billion vision for Pyrmont. This, I hope, has no support, especially given an overhead monorail line once wound its way through Pyrmont and the CBD but was demolished a few years ago.

Pyrmont was a major port and industrial centre, and a home for poor people and port and industry workers. Its profile is now more middle-upper status and one of the most densely settled parts of Australia. The local History Group hosts regular meetings to share stories of Pyrmont and its people. It is a functioning community which seems to support a diverse range of people.

Striking a balance between the needs of a significant residential population and  the creative thoughts and plans of gung-ho investors in a post-Coronavirus situation will be, to put bluntly, a bugger of a job. (28/4/20)


Professor Denise Bradley was a Vice Chancellor of the University of South Australia and was a major driver of Uni SA’s rise to become a respected university. She headed a significant national Review of Higher Education in 2008. Denise contributed much to the higher education sector, and was thoughtful and outspoken. She started her career teaching in schools. Indeed she taught at Brighton High School when I was a student there and I retain memories of her presence. Vale Denise. (23/3/20)



Contemporary war artists are not often featured in our major galleries.


On a recent trip up the New South Wales coast we dropped in to see the exhibitions at the Newcastle Art Gallery. On the ground floor is the work of George Gittoes in an exhibition titled ‘On Being There’ (8 February to 26 April).

From 1989 to 1992 Gittoes had a program titled ‘Heavy Industry’ that drew on the industrial cities of Newcastle, Whyalla and Wollongong.


Gittoes was a part of the Yellow House cooperative in Sydney’s King Cross in the 1970s, stimulated by anger at Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War. He acquired a taste for working in battle zones with subsequent visits to Afghanistan, Cambodia, Palestine, Rwanda, South Africa and most recently South Chicago in 2019. He has worked on a documentary film on Nicaragua and another on Jalalabad in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2015. 


His works in Newcastle are tough and rough. They have integrity. They fit his narrative. But they inevitably struggle to have a nuanced impact on the audience. We understand hardship, and we understand the tough lives of those he paints and films. But he cannot convince the viewer that engagement of the artistic kind has a durable impact on visitors to galleries or the communities themselves. The politics are just not that easy. (4/3/20)



Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) we know was the first to circumnavigate and map Australia. To add to that he also put forward the name of Australia. The cat known as Trim was a close companion of Flinders on several journeys. Trim was not just your everyday sea cat. Flinders regularly recorded the somewhat embellished activities and thoughts of Trim when at sea.


While detained in Mauritius Flinders wrote A Biographical Tribute to the Memory of Trim (Isle of France, December 1809). Authors and passionate admirers of Flinders, Philippa Sandall and Gillian Dooley have together crafted some of Flinders writings and their own snippets and text and ended up with a delightfully complex and absorbing book titled Trim The Cartographer’s Cat, The Ship’s Cat Who Helped Flinders Map Australia.


The launch in Gleebooks in uber trendy Glebe Point Road attracted about 30 people, of whom two of us had attended Flinders University. The launch speech by Paul Brunton, Emeritus Curator of the State Library of NSW, was brilliant, funny and full of insight.


I was a guileless Flinders University student in the 1960s. Returning to Flinders in the 1990s I was an academic colleague of Gilian Dooley and remain an emeritas professor. Gillian is now an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Flinders, with an interest in Jane Austen’s music collection and the writings of Iris Murdoch and Rabindranath Tagore.


Matthew Flinders and Trim are royalty but with a substantial intelect. Trim and Flinders have statues outside Euston station in London, in his hometown of Donington in Lincolnshire and in Mauritius. Full sized copies of Mark Richards Flinders and Trim’s London statue have been placed at Flinders University and in Port Lincoln. I have seen the bronze statue of Trim by John Cornwell in the Mitchell Library.


It is a quirky book to read, full of story, insight and subtle humour. It reminds you that Matthew Flinders had a kind of Monty Pythonish sense of humour. A book that helps us to see a different side of the story of British exploration of the Australian continent and its habitants. A book to be read in short episodes and enjoyed. (8/1/20)


Matthew Flinders, Philippa Sandall and Gillian Dooley 2019 Trim The Cartographer’s Cat The Ship’s Cat Who Helped Flinders Map Australia Bloomsbury, London


The re-issue of Australian Overseas Aid: Future Directions, first published in 1986, has occurred. The new volume, a reaction to the Government’s Jackson Report, has a rather nice cherry red cover, as you can see.

The Preface explained the purpose: ‘While the seriousness of the [Jackson] Report’s commitment to improve the quality of Australian aid was welcomed by the editors, we felt unhappy with the thrust of many of the recommendations. In particular, we were concerned with the Jackson Report’s tendency to see aid as primarily a means of accelerating macro-economoc growth, at the expense of aid targeted more directly at the poor in developing countries.

More importantly, perhaps, we were anxious that the Jackson Report be not seen as the definitive statement of Australia’s future aid program, but as a catylist to further informed debate on aid options.’ (p xv)

If you want to know more scroll down to my blog of 1 March 2019.



Phillip Eldridge, Dean Forbes and Doug Porter (eds) 2020 Australian Overseas Aid: Future Directions, Routledge, London & New York  (2/1/20)


How good was 2019? Well, good for me but not everybody. I have in mind the extraordinarily destructive fires in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. And the many other tragedies across the world, especially those perpetrated by humans.

Highlights? Three weeks on the catamaran known as El Gato sailing from Langkawi in Malaysia to Yacht Haven on Thailand’s Phuket was fabulous. Thanks, Grant (Blog 10/2/19). Driving up the Tasmanian east coast reminded me that there is still more to see in Tasmania, despite its size (Blog 7/11/19). A week in Brunswick Heads and a visit to Tamworth enabled a catch up with M’s family and with old friends in Mullumbimby. My family came together in Cowes on Phillip Island for Christmas and in Melbourne. 

Most years I get an opportunity to attend a day long discussion organised by the NSW Royal Society. The topic this year was Making Space for Australia. It was exceptionally good, opening my eyes to the complexity and importance of space to Australia’s future (Blog 15/11/19).

The Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia containing my chapter on ‘Knowledge, Creativity and the City’ was published (Blog 13/3/19). Routledge also published Planning Singapore. The Experimental City containing my short commentary on the back cover (Blog 28/6/19). Australian Overseas Aid: Future Directions, for which I was a co-editor, was re-published (Blog 1/3/19 and 1/1/20).

My favourite books were Bob Carr’s Run For Your Life (Blog 15/4/19), Anne Summers 2018 Unfettered and Alive: A Memoir (14/9/19) and Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell’s Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters, 1955-1964 (Blog 25/10/19). You can see my bias towards biography and memoir.

On the business side I continued to work with three providers of higher education services, enabling me to remain in touch with the broader higher education sector. It turned out to be a challenging year, but we enter 2020 cautiously optimistic. Universities do not have a monopoly on higher education, and nor should they. There is a niche for small scale specialist providers and I want to contribute to making this sector sustainable.

Onwards into 2020! (1/1/20)



Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia, edited by Rita Padawangi (Routledge, Oxford,  2019)

My Chapter: ‘Knowledge, Creativity and the City’

Planning Asian Cities: Risks and Resilience

Edited by Stephen Hamnett and Dean Forbes (Routledge, London,  2011)

paperback   eBook version

Our Chapter: ‘Risks, Reliance and Planning in Asian Cities’

Sustainable Development in China edited by Curtis Andressen, Mubarak A.R., and Wang Xiaoyi (Routledge, London,  2013)

My essay ‘China’s Cities: Reflecting on the Last 25 Years’


BLOGS 2020

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BLOGS 2020

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  1. Bullet COVID-19 Blog 31/1/20 to 30/12/20l

  2. Bullet Pyrmont Peninsula Strategy

  3. BulletThe China situation

  4. Bullet Rip Curl’s art of the wetsuit

  5. Bullet Higher Ed fees

  6. Bullet A Visionary Politician

  7. Bullet Pyrmont’s future

  8. Bullet Vale Denise Bradley

  9. Bullet George Gittoes war artist

  10. Bullet The cartographer’s cat

  11. Bullet Overseas development aid

  12. Bullet 2019 in hindsight