Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has surprised us on many occasions (a global parliament?), but it still came as a shock to Australians this week to hear of his retirement prior to next year's federal election.
On Friday, Brown, 67, who was elected to lead the Greens in 2005 and whose political career spans 30 years, resigned from his post. During his tenure, he has seen the Greens appoint an unprecedented 10 federal parliamentarians. The party has also been a forerunner on the national progressive agenda using its significant sway with Labor to make a stance on contentious issues such as carbon pricing, the mining tax and gay marriage.
At a time when resources are fuelling the economy, creating a national narrative typified by Dr Suess' The Lorax (in cinemas now!), Brown has given a new generation of Greenies (Earthians?) and left-wing thinkers something tangible to believe in, but has also raised the ire of many a business leader disgruntled by "green tape", thereby giving national politics some grit. Fellow Tasmanian Christine Milne replaces Brown with her sights set on ameliorating the rural sector.
Nuclear totalitarian state North Korea continues to keep the world on its toes, this week placing one finger on the red 'go' button for its missiles launch. It was a resounding no-go, giving new leader Kim Jong-un reason to hang his head in embarrassment. The long-range missile, launched in honour of the 100th year celebration of late leader Kim Il-Sung's birth, disintegrated a minute after launch. Reports suggest nuclear testing will now go underground.
Syria is also treading a path of trepidation: Thursday's ceasefire announcement, after 13 gruelling months of fighting between the regime of President al-Assad and his army and rebel insurgents pushing for democracy, was met with skepticism both locally and abroad.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy told a French TV station Friday, "I don't believe Bashar Assad is sincere. I don't believe in the ceasefire, sadly." UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described the ceasefire as "very fragile" and Syria's ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari reported violations of the truce in the aftermath of its agreement. The UN-Arab league has deployed observers to monitor the progression of peace.
The Opposition's nanny subsidy plan continued to attract headlines as the ACTU joined the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association in support of financial assistance for in-home care for working parents with provisos, including appropriate regulation of the industry to avoid exploitation of workers.
Tony Abbott believes the plan would ensure working women would be economic and social assets to the nation; the Gillard Government has described it as welfare for the rich. Meanwhile, the Fair Work Ombudsman has launched an investigation into unpaid internships. Who needs a nanny when you can have an "intern" fetch you the milk? And why pay off your HECS debt when you can intern overseas?
Girl With a Satchel