Where Australia goes we go … down

Australians trudge back to work today after their 221st anniversary holiday. Or not. Even the lucky country is retrenching. Whole mining towns are shutting up.

As the rich world reverses down its debt mountain, taking the developing world with it, Australia is being driven off its lofty coal and mineral prices uplands. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are between them shedding 20,000 jobs. read more

Saint or saviour: Obama's big agenda

Barack Obama takes office today — actually, tomorrow, our time. Two years ago close to this time Ben Bernanke took office. The two are joined at the hip.

Obama comes to office with reverence befitting a saint or a saviour. He is neither. But if superhuman acts are expected of him, that is because his agenda is superhuman. read more

Modernising Labour if it loses

A cloud will hang over the Labour party’s pre-election “congress” this month, the thickening cloud of election defeat. But, if the worst comes to the worst, there is a silver lining.

The rule of thumb in Westminster democracies such as ours is that after a long period in office a party goes into deep decline. The Liberals in Canada have. The Australian Liberals did in the states and now have federally. The British Tories are only just emerging from their whiteout under Tony Blair. read more