Archive for July, 2011

australia's creeping inertia

australia’s creeping inertia

There are many things that fill me with pride as an Australian. There are others about which I am increasingly embarrassed. We all have long lists on both sides of that ledger. The one which disturbs me most, and which can most impact our long term prosperity, is inertia.

I’ve been in the UAE, China and Singapore recently and returned wondering why we’re being beaten hands down in development of convention centres, bullet trains, sustainability programs, new hotels, freeways, and even knowledge economies. The world is moving at an incredible pace. In many areas, we seem to lag, even behind the developing world. Why?

Within the context of “free market” principles, national sovereignty is diminished as global markets, multinational corporations and global institutions play a major role in shaping our economy. While these forces also prevail in emerging markets like China, they are matched by a hunger to catch up and exceed, which is strongly nurtured by State. By contrast, inertia is rife in Australia, not so much in the private sector, but certainly in public policy.

 I’ve spoken with a few wise heads to get an angle on our malaise (in the spirit of “first seek to understand”) and have developed some thoughts. I wondered whether to tackle the ultimate sacred cow by asking “is democracy itself the problem – and do democracies inevitably tend to inertia?” On reflection, I think the issue is more the way our democracy is manifested. Australian democracy today is being impacted by four forces:

  1. The shape of politics today

- Reform is always slow and politics is about compromise  – a challenge enhanced by the current political mix. Without masterful negotiations or bipartisan support for reform, we have a melting pot for inertia.

- As membership of, and interest in, political parties diminishes, the influence of factions and divisions increases, resulting in a sub optimal mix of candidates. There are too many poor performers, insufficient diversity, too many lawyers and union officials, too few business people and visionaries. As a consequence, we have fewer issues focused debates and more fixed partisan positions, with vested interests buried in ideology and inaction.

      2.    Our relative comfort and apathy

Australians have not faced any prolonged shock or discomfort since the end of the WW2 more than 60 years ago. While there is poverty and disadvantage in our country, standards of living have continued to improve. As consumerism grows and people increasingly “have what they want when they want it”, they are becoming less happy, readier to find fault and carry a higher expectation for “the Government” to fix things. We’ve become more apathetic and short sighted and this flows on to major projects – where is the next Opera House, Harbour Bridge or renewed public transport system? Are they a priority today?

      3.   Media

Lack of media diversity and standards is a major concern. In many of Australia’s media markets, only one single company dominates.  John Faulkner captures the argument – “the media’s freedom to publish was once a safeguard for our democracy. Today, as trash tabloids and opinion-for-hire commentators destroy any semblance of a debate of ideas, the principle of informed decision-making at the heart of the ideal of democracy drowns beneath racy headlines and print-now, retract-later coverage. Radio shock-jocks and shallow television infotainment do the same”.

         4.    The digital revolution

Technology has shrunk and accelerated our world, generated more choice and shortened our attention spans. There are greater demands on our time and more attention to the short term than the longer term.  Faulkner again – “opinion pollsters report a lack of interest or understanding in politics from the very same people racking up massive mobile bills voting for an Australian Idol contestant. This disinterest breeds a vicious cycle, for those who don’t speak up will find nothing so certain as that they won’t be heard”

Solutions?

These four elements are causing indifference, distrust and disengagement about politics and democracy – and apathy about our future. What can we do? Here are four thought starters:

  • Achieve electoral reform at candidate selection level through absolute transparency
  • Win bipartisan support for application of the benefits of the resources boom into infrastructure and other long term benefits, such as creating a knowledge economy
  • Overhaul media laws to achieve diversity, debate and responsible reporting with a view to the future of the country and the globe – not just selling papers. As this is being posted, there are cries for a media review based on the events in News Corp.
  • As individuals, bother to be heard. The world is changing and solutions are not always driven in the traditional way. Look at what GetUp is achieving, for example.

We must achieve major reform and progress in these relatively strong economic times, rather than having to wait to react in the bad times. What about a sovereign fund? That aside, it’s up to us all to make a difference, in a democracy that’s tested but not broken.

30 great australian wines under $20

30 great australian wines under $20

July 4, 2011  |  life, wine review  |  3 Comments

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED BY A NEW ONE – GO TO http://rebounds.com.au/category/wine-review/

NOTE:  December 2011 – Many people are still visiting this site from search engines. While some of the wines are still available, I have updated the list which is reflected in the latest “best 20 wines under $20 – christmas 2011″ I suggest you use this list first. 

Some friends recently asked me to nominate the best Australian wines under $20. Given that my blog targets this segment, I’ve decided to post the list, and to seek support from you to identify other entries. It’s totally subjective and isn’t the product of exhaustive sampling. More like the start of a conversation. I have provided links to the best price I can find, but can’t guarantee that they’re the lowest. If you’re buying, make sure you get the vintage specified. Some of these have almost sold out, so be quick. Here are 30 of the best value Australian (I should say Australasian as there are four NZ entries) wines available today:

SPARKLING WINE

  • Back Vintage Chardonnay Pinot Cuvee Brut at $12.99 – simply stunning. On line.
  • Bundaleer NV Sparkling Shiraz – Southern Flinders Ranges. Decadent! $18 cellar door.

CHARDONNAY

Isn’t it great to see Chardonnay returning to its rightful place at the top of the white varietals? The best value and quality tend to come from Yarra Valley and Margaret River, with Tumbarumba, Tasmania and Adelaide Hills snapping at their heels. Cool climate rules!

  • Oakridge 2009 Over the Shoulder Yarra Valley Chardonnay – cheapest of David Bicknall’s many chardonnays, but wow! $18.99 at Randall’s
  • Xanadu Next of Kin Margaret River Chardonnay 2009. $16 @ Vintage Cellars.
  • Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010. Halliday 95. Sensational. Restrained. Cloudwine at $19
  • Madfish Sideways Margaret River Chardonnay 2009. $15.99 at Winerywines
  • Barwang Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2010. $13.90 Dan Murphy. Value

RIESLING

As a category, these wines represent outstanding quality and value for money in a global context. It’s hard to go past the Clare and Eden Valleys.

  • O’Leary Walker 2010 Polish Hill River Riesling. Fantastic! $16.99 @ Winestar on line
  • Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2010. Brilliant. $17 by the case @ Auswine on line
  • Jim Barry’s Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2011. $19 mail order. Excellent. (Find some 2010!)
  • Jacob’s Creek Reserve Riesling 2010. A ridiculous $13 @ Grays on line

SEMILLON and SAUVIGNON BLANC

Hunter and Barossa are the two strong Semillon regions, with an occasional gem from Margaret River. Best Sauvignon Blancs from NZ. The big trend now to blends of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc:

  • Peter Lehmann Margaret Barossa Semillon 2005. Winner best white wine Sydney Show 2011. $24.75 at Kemeny’s. If this is breaking the rules or too dear, try the straight Peter Lehmann 2009 Semillon @ $13.
  • Brokenwood Hunter Semillon 2009. Sydney Gold, Halliday 95. $16.94 @ Mycellars
  • Leeuwin Estate MR Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009 $19.99 at Vintage Cellars
  • Rabbit Ranch Central Otago NZ 2009 Sauvignon Blanc @ $19 from Cloudwine
  • Astrolabe 2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. $19.99 at Nick’s

PINOT NOIR

Good pinot is expensive so there are slim pickings in this segment.

  • Pencarrow 2009 Martinborough Pinot Noir. Great value. $17.99 @ Nick’s
  • Yeland’s Way Pinot Noir Martinborough and Central Otago blend. Available from boutique retailer, Cloudwine, for $16
  • Hoddles Creek Yarra Valley Pinot Noir also from Cloudwine for $19

SHIRAZ

Typically Barossa and Heathcote are the heroes, however good shiraz is widely grown:

  • Leopardwood Reserve Heathcote Shiraz 2009. $15 at Wineboss or Yarran Wines  James Halliday 94. Exceptional value.
  • Thorn Clarke Shotfire Ridge Barossa Shiraz 2009. Rich. $17.99 at Topwineries
  • Hardy’s HRB D641 Shiraz (from several areas) $19.95 at Dan Murphy. Excellent wine
  • Innocent Bystander Syrah 2009 from Yarra Valley and Pyrenees. A Rhone style elegant, ethereal wine. $16.99 on line from Topwineries

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

The two outstanding Cabernet areas in Australia are Coonawarra and Margaret River:

  • Kemeny’s Hidden Label Reserve 2008 Coonawarra Cabernet KHL 2518 $17. Value!
  • Brand’s Laira Blockers Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. $19.95 Dan Murphy (Watch vintages on this – for example Vintage Cellars have the 2007)
  • Ringbolt Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. $17.95 Dan Murphy
  • Xanadu Next of Kin Margaret River 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon $16 at Vintage Cellars.
  • Flametree Embers Margaret River 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Member price $15

OTHER REDS

  • Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2010. Great food wine. $16.99 Wineboxwarehouse
  • Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Butcher’s Block Shiraz Grenache Mouvedre 2009, a hot price of $16.90 at Dan Murphys.

Maybe you can add to this list. I can only dream about them as I soldier through “Dry July”