Australian Prime Minister Congratulates Barack Obama After Historic Election Win

The US election is finally over and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has congratulated the winner Barack Obama:

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd today congratulated US President-elect Barack Obama on his victory saying he brought a message of hope to the world.

Minutes after watching Senator Obama’s “extraordinary” speech, Mr Rudd lauded him as “a good man”.

He would ring to congratulate him as soon as possible.

Mr Rudd said he looked forward to working with Senator Obama in the closest possible way.

“Australia looks forward to working in the closest possible partnership with an Obama administration, acting together to deal with the great common challenges we face,” he said.

He said that the world relied even more on leadership from the US at the present time.

Mr Rudd said that in electing Senator Obama, the US had lived up to Martin Luther King’s famous speech in which men and woman would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

“Today what America has done is turn that dream into a reality,” he said.

“His message of hope is not just for America’s future but also for the world, a world which is now in many respects fearful for its future.”

“It is a message of hope over fear.

“This is a great day for the American people.”

Mr Rudd said the world looked for leadership on the global financial crisis, climate change and continuing challenges of security.

He said he would work closely to deal with the challenges of Iraq and Afghanistan.  [The Mercury]

This is all nice and all but I found this at the end of his remarks to be totally unnecessary:

Mr Rudd said it was a matter for the Liberal Party to explain former Prime Minister John Howard’s comment last year that terrorists would be hoping for an Obama win in the presidential election.

“It is a matter for the Liberals to explain to the Australian people and to make proper account to the Australian people,” he said.

It was a historic election moment and PM Rudd couldn’t resist the temptation to play politics with it.

Personally for me anyway, one of the good things about Obama being elected is that I shouldn’t now have random people coming up to me and complaining about George Bush every time they hear my American accent.  That was getting extremely annoying.

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Australian Dollars Falls Below 80 US Cents

I hope all you Australians that wanted to take a trip to America did it before now considering how far the Australian dollar has dropped in recent weeks:

THE dollar was trading lower this morning, falling below 80 US cents and at a three-year low against the Japanese yen after the US Congress rejected the US government’s rescue plan for troubled financial firms.

At 10am (AEST), the Australian dollar was trading at 79.85 US cents, down 2.35 US cents from yesterday’s close of 82.20 US cents.

The Australian dollar opened the local session at 7am (AEST) at 80.49 US cents, but quickly fell below 80 US cents as risk aversion took hold.

Since 7am (AEST), the local currency has traded between a low of 79.37 US cents, its lowest level since September 18, and a high of 80.46 US cents.  []

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New US Travel Regulation for Non-Visa Travelers Announced

For Australians thinking about visiting the US make sure you read this travel advisory before heading off or you might find yourself stuck at the airport:

TRAVELLERS who do not need visas to enter the United States will have to register online with the US Government at least three days before they visit, under a security regulation set to begin next year.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will announce the rule today,, a US official said.

Required online registration will begin in January and will be valid for a two-year period. Australia is among 27 nations whose citizens do not need US visas. [Herald-Sun]

I would assume there is a good reason for this but the fact that Michael Chertoff came up with it gives me doubts.

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Take the American History and Civics Test

Much has been made about Australia’s citizenship test that features questions about Australian history and civics.  This just begs the question of how well Americans would do taking the same type of test.  As this studies shows it is a good thing America does not have such a test because we would have to deport just about everyone:

In fall 2005, researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy (UConnDPP), commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s (ISI) National Civic Literacy Board, conducted a survey of some 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities. Students were asked 60 multiple-choice questions to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: America’s history, government, international relations, and market economy. The disappointing results were published by ISI in fall 2006 in The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education’s Failure to Teach America’s History and Institutions. Seniors, on average, failed all four subjects, and their overall average score was 53.2%. [Civic Literacy Report]

Make sure you read the entire link because the findings are astounding.  Harvard University showed their eliteness by having their seniors score the highest on the test by barely passing with a D+ average of 69.6%.  You can take the test yourself and see how you compare to America’s so called academic elite at Harvard.  Just for the record I scored a 86.66%.  So I would qualify to be an American and I did it without a Harvard education. 

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Bush Attends “OPEC” Meeting and Thanks “Austrian” Troops

I don’t think President Bush is stupid as many people claim, after all he did graduate from Yale and has a master’s degree from Harvard which are universities that doesn’t just hand out degrees to anyone.  However, with that said, President Bush has to be the worst public speaker we have ever had as a US president:

President Bush had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Sydney Opera House.

He’d only reached the third sentence of Friday’s speech to business leaders, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, when he committed his first gaffe.

"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The president’s next goof went uncorrected — by him anyway. Talking about Howard’s visit to Iraq last year to thank his country’s soldiers serving there, Bush called them "Austrian troops."

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show Bush saying "Austrian," the official text released by the White House switched it to "Australian."

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out — the wrong way. [Tom Raum, AP]

You would think after nearly 7 years in office his public speaking skills would have improved by now, but it actually appears they are getting worse. 

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Anti-Americanism in Australia

I was reading the Yanks Down Under Forum yesterday and noticed a thread that was started with a someone asking if Australians look down on Americans or not? From what I have noticed living here is that I have experienced much more anti-Americanism in America than I have ever experienced here. I have always maintained that the biggest anti-Americans can be found in America itself. 

However, with that said there is a segment of Australia that is anti-American just like in other areas of the world I have been too because it is en vogue and the fashionable thing to do now a days.  The usual stuff I see around here is people bitching about the US government and passing stereotypes about Americans when they don’t think Americans are around.  However, in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth I actually had random people come up to me who heard my American accent and asked if I was an American or not and then go into anti-Bush tirades. 

I’m not one to pretend to be a Canadian, so if someone asks I always respond that I’m an American and if that means I have to put up with a few seriously intellectually challenged people every once and awhile so be it.  I would say the guy in Adelaide was the worst because he was complaining about Bush, American greed, multi-national corporations, 9/11 conspiracies, and all the usual leftist talking points and here he was a hippie dressed in freaking skirt who smelled.  Really it was a kilt but it was just really strange.  These guys piss me off, but my wife and I just ignore them and get away from them because I don’t want to get in any fights with them and face getting deported over idiots like that guy in Adelaide. 

This comment on the Yanks Down Under forum really got me laughing:

I have one really funny story, though – My husband and I went to see Casino Royale when it first came out and the theatre was completely packed. We were seated next to a couple and I sat next to an Australian woman that just talked…and talked…and talked. I generally just smiled and didn’t say anything and then the lights went down and the previews and commercials started.

A commercial for the Nike iPod came on and a woman’s voice with a distinct American accent, started talking about how many kilometers she had run that day.

The woman leaned over and said in the most condescending, self righteous tone, "I didn’t know that stupid Americans even knew what a kilometer was!" Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle…

I looked at her straight in the eye and said, "Well, actually some of us do…."

The blood drained from here face and she looked like she had just taken a fastball in the stomach. She started apologizing profusely and back-pedaled as fast as she could. I told her not to worry about it several times, but she was clearly mortified that she didn’t know that an American was on the receiving end of her comments.

This is the type of stereotypical comments you hear over here when people don’t think there is any Americans around.  It isn’t just American either.  There has been a number of times where I felt uncomfortable with comments made about the Aborigines from Australians along with other ethnic groups.  Australians do not have the political correctness bug like we have in America where the biggest race baiters in the country Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are allowed to go on TV for a week and demagogue the Imus story.  Imus’s comments would barely raise an eyebrow down here while race baiters like Jackson and Sharpton simply do not exist. 

Additionally the media here is horribly anti-American in my opinion and I have just simply stopped watching it because it was so bad.  The TV news is very tabloid like.  The papers are for the most okay at least here in the Melbourne area at least, with the Age newspaper being the anti-American liberal paper and the Australian being the more conservative pro-US paper. 

However with all that said, I have done a lot of traveling down here and I have met a lot of people from across Australia.  For some reason it seems like I meet the coolest people in caravan parks.  Anyway I have found the vast majority of Australians have treated me very well and I have been invited to more barbeques than I can remember.  So if you come down here and you are American, for the most part if you remember the golden rule and treat people the way you expect to be treated, Australians will treat you in kind. 

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Are American Fire Fighters Wanted in Australia?

I was driving to work today and on the radio the commentator was taking phone calls about what people thought about Americans and other foreign fire fighters being paid to come to Australia and to help fight the bushfires.  A number of Aussies called in were upset that the government was paying foreign firefighters to come to Australia when they wouldn’t pay volunteer firefighters in Australia.  Apparently there is a number of volunteer firefighters in Australia that cannot afford to take the extended time off to fight the fires due to the need to maintain their day jobs.  Some of the callers said that if the government compensated them for missing work then they would be willing to fight the fires and the foreigners would not be needed. 

Low and behold I pick up the Age newspaper and what do I see the same complaints in the Age as well:

International firefighters are being paid $600 a day to fight bushfires ravaging the state as overworked volunteer crews pay their own way, the firefighters’ union says.  United Firefighters Union (UFU) state secretary Peter Marshall said he was "gobsmacked" to receive a leaked document showing government firefighting agencies were paying international crews to aid local workers.

Dozens of professional firefighters from the United States, Canada and New Zealand have bolstered the attack against Victoria’s bushfires since they erupted almost two months ago.  The leaked document, from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) to members of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC), shows these firefighters are being paid $600 a day, on top of having their flights and accommodation paid for.

Mr Marshall said in contrast, CFA volunteers were sacrificing pay and footing their own bills to help protect Victorians.  In addition, more than 800 off-duty paid Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB)and CFA firefighters were sitting idle waiting to be called on, he said.

"Until we got this document, I was always under the impression, and indeed the public would be of a similar view, that this was a goodwill gesture of people coming over to assist; it’s not," he said.  "We say this is absolutely scandalous, continually calling on the goodwill of volunteers, yet there’s an underhanded deal being done that was not publicly disclosed.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with importing expertise … however … before going overseas and paying extra money to personnel from overseas, use your resources here in Victoria."  Mr Marshall renewed calls for a retained firefighters scheme, under which a proportion of voluntary firefighters are compensated at an award rate for training and firefighting.

CFA chief Neil Bibby said it had been made clear that overseas firefighters were being paid and, conversely, Australians who assisted firefighting efforts overseas were paid for their work.  He also said CFA volunteers continually said they did not want any money for protecting the community.

Make sure you read the rest of the article, but the way I’m interpreting this is that the Victorian government has decided to bring in professional foreign firefighters to aid the professional Australian firefighters to put these bushfires out once and for all.  The added help from the volunteer firefighters hasn’t been enough to put the fires out and the way the government is looking at it is that paying the volunteer firefighters isn’t going to help put the fires out any sooner than when they weren’t paying them.  I think the important word to remember here is volunteer.  In my opinion when you volunteer you shouldn’t expect to get paid.  If you want to get paid to fight bushfires than sign up and qualify to become a professional firefighter. 

The government has also said that they will not use the Melbourne firefighters to fight bushfires because they are not trained to fight and those firefighters and are needed in the city in case a fire breaks out there.  That left the Victorian government to turn to foreign firefighters.  Yes they are getting paid very well, but as the Victorian government pointed out when Australian firefighters go overseas they get paid just as much.

In fact when I was living in Arizona a few years ago Australian firefighters were deployed there to help the US firefighters battle a giant blaze there.  Everyone was extremely appreciative of their help and no one questioned if they were paid to much.  If Australians don’t want help from foreign firefighters than demand your government hire a larger standing professional force.  I willing to bet the government doesn’t want to do that because it would cost much more to pay and maintain a larger standing force every year when massive bushfires like Victoria has seen this year is a once in decade event.  It is cheaper for the government to maintain a smaller force augmented by volunteers and then if a once a decade blaze occurs they can bring in foreign help.

Just listening to people on the radio and then reading about it in the paper the complaints to me were beginning to take an almost xenophobic tone.  It’s too bad that people are spending more time on this issue than focusing on getting these fires put out; than they wouldn’t need the foreign firefighers in the first place.

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