May: A month of goodbyes

Actor Bill Hunter Image copyright AP
Image caption Australian actor Bill Hunter died earlier this month aged 71

May has been a month of goodbyes in Australia - Claude Choules, the last living link to combat in World War I and the oldest Australian, the actor Bill Hunter, the Aboriginal world boxing champion Lionel Rose, the spin bowler and coach Terry Jenner.

Cricket also said farewell to Jenner's most famous pupil, Shane Warne. I blogged on him last week - but when it came to comments, the post did not trouble the scorers. Some might call it a duck. I prefer to look on it as Warnie going out with a maiden over.

May also saw the commentator Glenn Mitchell resign from the ABC, thus depriving cricket fans of one of the great voices of the southern summer. The ABC is hoping still to coax him back, I hear, and I hope it succeeds in time for the first test at the Gabba.

Perhaps you could add Oprah to the list of farewells, given she became almost a brand ambassador for Australia in her final season. Alas for the local tourism industry, the Oprah effect is being trumped by the "strong Aussie dollar" effect.

Talking of the extraordinarily wealthy, the annual Australian rich list, compiled by BRW magazine and released in May, proved what we have known for some time - mining now trumps the media as the way to make money in Australia.

Absent from the top five was a Packer or a Murdoch. Instead, four of the top five slots were occupied by people who made their money from the mining boom - Ivan Glasenberg, Andrew Forrest, Clive Palmer, and, at the very top, Gina Rinehart, Australia's first lady of iron ore.

It is the first time the rich list has been headed by a woman, and she has become the richest ever Australian.

Flying to the moon

On politics, the blog on Lindsay Tanner, another recent departee, got you talking and sharing. A piece by the ABC's Barry Cassidy on the dearth of strong opposition leaders in Australia was also controversial, not least for his criticism of Tony Abbott: "[He] still sits with the long list of low achievers.

"His populist, contradictory, rhetorical and shallow analysis of the budget has been matched only by the shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey."

It is the kind of analysis that produced this broadside in the Spectator Australia from James Patterson, who said the Canberra press gallery had badly underestimated the Liberal leader.

As for the political non-story of the month, it surely came from the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which criticised Kevin Rudd, the foreign affairs minister, for racking up so many frequent flyer miles - a real foreign minister visits foreign countries shocker.

"Globetrotter Kevin Rudd has notched up a staggering 384,000km in overseas air travel since becoming Foreign Minister," said the Telegraph, "the equivalent of flying to the moon".

"The former prime minister confirmed his status as our leading frequent flyer by visiting 43 countries in an eight-month odyssey in which he has spent four days in every 10 overseas."

Here is the feisty response from Michael Fullilove, of the Lowy Institute, a foreign affairs think tank that always punches above its weight: "This is a classic - no, an epic - example of small-country thinking. It reveals a depressingly shrunken opinion of Australia's possibilities.

"Do we really take such a straitened view of Australia's role in the world that we cavil at the cost of airline tickets for the person responsible for managing our international relations?' You can read the full piece here

As for the cultural event of the month, here is an alternative and subversively critical take on Chris Lilley's Angry Boys.

In May, we also said farewell to the old blog format and hello to the new. I like it and I think it works, but I know many of you do not like the character limit. I hear you. It was also good to welcome back Wollemi to the comments. A man, I suspect of advancing years, for a time I feared we had lost you, too.

And one last farewell - Ian Woods, the Sky News Australia correspondent, is leaving Sydney and heading home. A fine journalist and the friendliest of rivals, we will miss him.

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