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The next God’s Own Country

It is time New Zealand's long-held claim to be “God's Own Country,” first made in 1890 by Thomas Bracken in one of his poems, should be handed over to its true holder, Australia.

Fri, 25 Nov 2011

It is time New Zealand’s long-held claim to be “God’s Own Country,” first made in 1890 by Thomas Bracken in one of his poems, should be handed over to its true holder, Australia.

Many didn’t believe me when I wrote earlier this year that Australia is the large country equivalent of Monaco (of which more later), with the highest median incomes and standard of living.

Australian author Peter Hartcher has brought all the information together in a new book, The Sweet Spot, that will make sense to all the Kiwis who live there and thrive.

I suspect Hartcher, who is political and international editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, is also having a hard time convincing anyone, most of all his fellow citizens, of their good fortune.

Their achievement is not due to luck, he writes, but to getting the formula for prosperity right. Those who care about such things should read Hartcher’s two-page summary (“The envy of the world” in The Spectator Australia) and some of the back-up evidence, such as the OECD’s Better Life Index, where Australia can be compared with New Zealand, and the UN’s latest Human Development Index (hybrid version),  which puts Australia on top ahead of Norway.

Hartcher’s conclusion is one all Occupiers should read:

"Australia’s accomplishment is far greater than generating wealth and services for an elite. The rich can live well in any country. That is no achievement. The wider picture is that Australia is one of the world’s fairest countries, one of the most tolerant, and one of the safest."

But to be fair, Australia isn’t for everyone; this BBC story shows many who have come from the UK do not want to live in a suburban cultural desert after travelling halfway round the world.

The road to Bendigo
The cultural gap is no better illustrated than comparing the Principality of Monaco – the world’s second smallest nation after the Vatican – with rural Victoria.

However, the worlds of fashion and film will bring them closer together from March to June next year when the Bendigo Art Gallery hosts Grace Kelly: Style Icon.

This is the exhibition first curated by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, with support from the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, and is a major coup for Bendigo, which has exclusive rights for Australia.

A lavishly-illustrated book features the contents of the show – Grace Kelly’s couture collection from her days as a 1950s film star through to her marriage to Prince Rainier in 1956 and premature death at 52 from injuries in a road accident.

Kelly’s breakout role was in High Noon (1950) and her career flourished at the hands of Alfred Hitchock (To Catch a Thief, Dial M For Murder, Rear Window).

She pipped Judy Garland for an Oscar in 1955 playing the downbeat heroine in The Country Girl. But primarily she was known for her glamour and sense of style, best typified in her final film, High Society (1956).

A good summary of her Hollywood period and influence on fashion is Laura Jacobs’ cover story in the May 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, where Kelly was on the cover to publicise the Style Icon show when it opened in London. But the best stuff is in Donald Spoto’s biography (2009), though I can't track down any published excerpts.

Details for the exhibition can be found here.

Land of the Monégasques
Monaco is one of those places that must drive the Occupier movement mad.

It has, among other things, the world’s highest concentration of police for each of its 35,000 residents; the highest income per capita (GDP-based) at $US152,000 and no income taxes; and the world’s highest life expectancy (90). It has no official unemployment and about 40,000 workers commute each day from Italy and France.

Monaco also has 15 five-star hotels to choose from and boasts several of the world’s mega-events, including a superyacht show, the world’s largest charity ball and Ernst & Young’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

The Monaco Grand Prix and Monte Carlo Rally remain highlights on the world’s motor racing calendar. The principality covers just over 2sq km, thanks to some landfill, welcomes tourists of all means and has a tourism bureau as close as Australia.

Stripping for a cause
The Arab world’s had another bad week. Post-revolutionary Egypt has been condemned by the UN’s top human rights official for excessive use of police violence against demonstrators.

Bahrain’s ruler has received a critical report outlining how its security forces used torture and refused medical treatment for those taking part in “Arab spring” protests.

Yemen’s strongman of 33 years has finally accepted an offer to quit in return for immunity after months of unrest.

And that’s just today’s news. The there's the Naked Blogger of Cairo.

The New York Times reports Alkiaa Magda Elmahdy has set off a “wave of outrage” in a country where kissing in public is prohibited, most women are veiled and Christians are regularly persecuted.

The Times and other western media say Egypt and Tunisia are undergoing a strong dose of Islamification after the overthrow of largely secular dictators.

The German media, for one country, are fascinated by a particular aspect of this and other protest movements, including the Occupiers and Ukraine’s Femen – the desire to take off your clothes to attract attention to whatever the cause.

That this tactic is highly successful is demonstrated in detail at Spiegel Online, where a variety of naked bodies are on display, Egypt’s blogger included.

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The next God’s Own Country