Archive for July 23rd, 2020


Crossing The Ditch

Linda Lou Burton posting about Adelaide, Australia from Little Rock, Arkansas – The plan for Thursday, July 23. Sleep late. Morning walk. Lunch at the Intercontinental. Check out. Wellington Airport. Board a Qantas. (Always loved that name!) Fly to Adelaide, Australia. Let’s keep my now-defunct-due-to-COVID19-RTW in the present tense today, it helps with the imagining.

Leaving Wellington is hard to do. But then, I am heading for a major Bucket List Tick – my sixth continent! Born in North America, got to South America and Antarctica in 2005, made it to Europe and Africa in 2019. 2020 is the year for Australia and Asia, all SEVEN CONTINENTS finally under my belt. Or feet, more properly put. Walk on all seven continents. Check it off!

But today, I have to cross the Tasman Sea. Folks in that part of the world call it “The Ditch.” It’s about 1,400 miles of water between New Zealand and Australia, and water being what water is, no fences define it, though geographers will tell you the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean are to the north, the Cook Strait (that’s the water between New Zealand’s two main islands) to the east, the Southern Ocean to the south, and Bass Strait to the west – that’s the bit that separates Tasmania and the Australian mainland. Got that?

There is so much to tell you about Australia. It is the oldest, flattest, driest inhabited continent on earth! And it is both a continent, and a country. It has six states, and two territories. It is almost the size of the United States. I am googly-eyed to get there.

ACT – Australian Capital Territory. Area 910 square miles. People 427,419. Capital Canberra.

Like the United States, Australia has set aside a portion of itself to serve as the nation’s capital. The spot was voted on, chosen (though not without heated discussion, of course), and the capital city of Canberra was built from scratch. The ACT is in the southeast part of the country between the state capitals of Sydney and Melbourne, an enclave within the state of New South Wales. More about Canberra, of course I’ll visit there.

NSW –New South Wales. Area 309,130 square miles. People 8,128,984. Capital Sydney.

Everyone has seen the photo of the Opera House in the Sydney harbor, and it breaks my heart that I can’t fit Sydney within my RTW timeline. My parents raved about the city when they visited years ago, so I’ll have to let their footprints serve for me. Sydney is not only capital of New South Wales, it is also Australia’s most populous city. NSW edges Australia’s east coast, such a pretty state, with beaches, agricultural plains and highlands in the middle, and the Snowy Mountains to the west. Yes, they have skiing there. Nicknamed The First State, NWS was originally founded as a British penal colony. That was 1788. Just look at it now!

QLD – Queensland. Area 715,309 square miles. People 5,129,996. Capital Brisbane.

Queensland is huge. I’m not kidding, only 15 COUNTRIES in the entire world are bigger than the state of Queensland in Australia (which is the 6th largest country). And Queensland is diverse. It has mountains. It has tropical rainforests. It has deserts. It has sandy beaches, and yes, Queensland is where you go for those world-famous Pacific waters coral reefs, if diving is your thing. Its nickname is The Sunshine State, its capital is Brisbane and sadly, I’m not visiting Queensland either. I do have a friend there though! I met Jennifer last year on my trip to Portugal-Spain-Morocco (yes, she rode the camel in the Sahara) and loved hearing her stories of farm living – flying off to boarding school as a child; koalas in her back yard when her kids were growing up. So, hi Jennifer! Thanks for sharing a taste of Queensland with me.

VIC – Victoria. Area 91,761 square miles. People 6,651,074. Capital Melbourne.

I am headed for Victoria as Melbourne is my first stop beyond the Tasman Sea. The state is small, but lots of people live in The Garden State (wheat, barley, pears, apples, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes in abundance). With the Australian Alps to the east and the Little Desert to the west, the OMG city of Melbourne sits midway, right on the harbor; Australia’s busiest seaport. Architecture ranges from 1800s Victorian to high-rise modern (52 skyscrapers!). It has the country’s most extensive network of freeways and the largest urban tram network in the world. Tullamarine Airport is where I’ll be changing planes often, wait and see how many times I stop here!

TAS – Tasmania. Area 26,410 square miles. People 537,012. Capital Hobart.

Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, situated directly south of Victoria across the Bass Strait. There is a main island, with the capital city of Hobart in the southern part; but the state also includes 334 surrounding islands. Tasmania’s fascinating history of geology, peoples, settlements, and colonization make it a place I’d love to know more about and wish I had time to visit. It is generally Australia’s coolest spot, thanks to Southern Ocean breezes; maybe the reason for its nicknames – The Apple Isle and The Holiday Isle.

SA – South Australia. Area 402,903 square miles. People 1,759,184. Capital Adelaide.

I’m spending two nights in Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city. Some of the driest parts of the country are in SA, but the Adelaide area has plenty of water. One is the nearby Murray River, one of my reasons for stopping here. South Australia seems to have two nicknames – The Festival State and The Wine State. I’ll let you know which I find most appropriate after my visit, either one sounds like a party!

WA – Western Australia. Area 1,021,478 square miles. People 2,639,080. Capital Perth.

Queensland is huge, but Western Australia is REALLY huge. It makes up the entire western third of Australia! It touches two oceans – the Indian and the Southern. The Tropic of Capricorn runs across the middle of it. The Great Victoria Desert and The Great Sandy Desert sit on either side of that. If you stand at the edge of Kansas and look west to the Pacific, you’ll sort of get the idea of WA’s vastness. It seems to have two nicknames, The Wildflower State and The Golden State; that last one makes me think of California. I’ll tell you much more about WA when I visit the capital city of Perth, my last stop on my 6th continent.

NT – The Northern Territory. Area 548,640 square miles. People 244,761. Capital Darwin.

I’m putting NT last on this list because it is officially a territory, and not a state. But I’ll be making two stops in this incredible, almost-other-worldly place I’ve been longing to see for years. My two stops are Alice Springs and Uluru – I’ll tell you all about them later. Sadly, Qantas connections just didn’t work timewise to get me to the capital city of Darwin, a grievous fact! And The Ghan, the train that runs between Adelaide and Darwin, runs just twice a week. Nickname for the NT — The Territory. Natch.

I’ve made a solemn promise – I’m not only going to reschedule my RTW when COVID-19 restrictions end and the world is safe for travel once again. I’m going back even after THAT, to stay at least a month in the Land Down Under.

And that’s my story, as I imagine myself flying across The Ditch.


From the Queen Bee to the MMP

Linda Lou Burton posting about Wellington, New Zealand from Little Rock, Arkansas – This is a major election year in the United States, with politics running hot and uncertainty running high under the shadow of COVID-19. As I’ve studied the island nation of New Zealand these last few days, I found that 2020 is an election year there too – they do it every three years. So I dug in to see how it’s going.

I learned that New Zealand ranks high in civic participation, with almost 80% voter turnout in recent elections. Considered one of the world’s most stable and well-governed states, the country is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, and Elizabeth II is the queen of New Zealand and therefore head of state.

Now hang on and follow this trail, remember that the Beehive in Wellington is comparable to the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Here goes:

Head of State

As Head of State of New Zealand, the Queen has a range of royal powers which include signing bills into law, formally appointing governments and Ministers, appointing judges, and opening and dissolving Parliament.

Her representative, the Governor-General, currently Dame Patsy Reddy (2016), has full authority to act on the Queen’s behalf when the Queen is not physically present in New Zealand. Make note: The Queen has visited New Zealand on only ten occasions since 1953, the last in 2002.The Constitution Act states that the Queen, or the Governor-General, can only exercise any of the royal powers with the advice and consent of the Government of the New Zealand.

Head of Government

The New Zealand Government is the central government through which governing authority operates, within the framework “the Queen reigns, but the government rules, so long as it has the support of the House of Representatives.”

Parliament consists of the Sovereign, (the Head of State) and the House of Representatives, (the elected legislature.) Parliament has 120 seats.

The Prime Minister is New Zealand’s head of government, with the authority to lead the government while answering to Parliament. The Prime Minister is formally appointed by the Governor General, based on agreements between parties and internal leadership votes. Jacinda Ardern (2017) serves as the current Prime Minister, an elected member of the Labour Party – the largest party in the coalition Government formed after the 2017 elections.

Political Parties in New Zealand

There are five parliamentary parties in the 52nd Parliament.

  • The ACT Party has one member of Parliament. Read more
  • The Green Party of Aotearoa / New Zealand has 8 members of Parliament, all from the party list. Read more
  • The New Zealand Labour Party has 46 members of Parliament, 17 elected from the party list and 29 electorate seats. Read more
  • The New Zealand National Party has 54 members of Parliament, 15 elected from the party list and 39 electorate seats. The National Party is in Opposition. Read more
  • The New Zealand First Party has 9 members of Parliament, all from the party list. Read more


MMP is the voting system in New Zealand. It stands for Mixed Member Proportional. A registered voter gets two votes under MMP:

  • A party vote for a political party to help choose how many seats in Parliament each party gets.
  • An electorate vote for a candidate from the area the voter lives in.

Every candidate who wins an electorate gets a seat in Parliament. They are called Electorate MPs. The remaining seats are filled from party lists. Every party has a list of candidates ranked in the order the party wants those candidates to be elected to Parliament. Candidates elected from a party list are called List MPs.

Usually no party gets enough votes to govern alone. Parties often need to come to an agreement with other parties to form a government or pass legislation. Some types of possible agreements are:

  • coalitions — when two or more parties join together to form a government
  • confidence and supply agreements — when one party agrees to support another on certain issues and laws that are voted on in Parliament.

Who Can Vote

You are eligible to enroll and vote if you are 18 years or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and you’ve lived in New Zealand continuously for 12 months or more at some time in your life. If you’re of Māori descent and enrolling for the first time, you may enroll on the general roll or the Māori roll to choose which electorate you vote in.

If you’re in New Zealand, you’ll be able to vote from Saturday 5 September to 7pm on election day, Saturday 19 September. Voting places will open across New Zealand, so everyone has a chance to vote. You can vote from overseas from Wednesday 2 September.

At the 2020 General Election, you can vote for the parties and candidates you want to represent you in Parliament, and you can vote in two referendums: whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal, and whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force, giving people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

Making It Safe To Vote

Keeping everyone safe is essential. Voting will open 2 days earlier than usual, and there will be more voting places to reduce queues. Vote locally and bring your own pen if you can. Hand sanitizer will be provided at voting places, and there will be space for physical distancing. If you need to stay home, you’ll have other ways of voting including voting by post.

Preliminary election results will be released from 7pm on 19 September; official results for the general election and referendums will be released on Friday 9 October.

This information was taken from the following websites, an impressive and useful array of tools to keep New Zealanders informed: