Australian Outlook

Issues Brief

24 Mar 2014
Colin Chapman

President Barack Obama will be at a G-7 meeting in Europe this week to discuss Ukraine; it’s not the G-8 because Russia is not invited. The Ukraine is overshadowing Obama’s week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East, in which he will drop in on the Pope and the Saudi Arabian leadership.  But Britain’s centre-right magazine The Spectator takes the view that Putin’s actions are understandable, and the The Spectator’s Australian editor agrees.  And when there is a crisis a map or two is also valuable – the New York Times obliges.

Europe has a number of other concerns. In France, President Hollande’s government continues to lose electoral support with the far right gaining in local elections.  In Britain George Osborne’s budget abolished the rules that require pensioners to buy a poor-value annuity with their savings pool; although many gave kudos The Observer’s Will Hutton prefers the nanny state, arguing that Britain’s oldies could not be trusted to spend their own savings wisely. But Osborne has another problem: a former counter-fraud director believes that 7% of the National Health Service budget – a whacking $9 billion – is being lost in fraud and mistakes.

Tony Abbott wants to persuade G-20 leaders in November to spend more on infrastructure. It’s a big call because there is a global infrastructure gap of more than a trillion dollars, says The Economist.

Environmentalist groups in Tasmania and elsewhere are vociferous in their support for preserving our forests – but they seem to have found a powerful ally in the World Bank, which says one in five people on Earth depend on them.

So it may be time to look for resources on other planets. Stephen Hawking told the Explorers’ Club last week, it’s time we started sending people to other planets to ensure we have a future. Stephen is the famous Cambridge University cosmologist and author of “A Brief History of Time”.