Weekend of Surprises

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Sydney, Oct 16: What an eventful weekend it has been for three countries with the highest readership on this website.
On Friday the 13th, the Malaysian government unveiled its Budget, and you can read the reactions from pundits here.
As a former journalist with the mainstream media in Malaysia, I recall the only memorable aspect of covering budget night was the free food provided by companies to those working on the business desk. We consumed it during late hours while gathering comments and feedback from stakeholders after the Finance Minister had presented the budget.
Typically, the budget involves significant spending with minimal trickle-down impact.
It’s as if no one on the ground truly feels the difference between the current budget and the upcoming one.
Nevertheless, it was always enjoyable to cover due to the free food and the opportunity to work late, earning some much-needed overtime to boost my month-end salary.
In Australia, we witnessed a historic referendum initiated by the current Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.
The referendum centered on a single question, involving a choice between YES and NO concerning the First Nation and Torres Strait Islanders people.
Details about the referendum remained unclear until the last moment, with many Australians unaware of it until the eleventh hour.
A significant doorstop interview conducted by the Australian national broadcaster SBS in an Arabic-speaking neighborhood in Sydney’s West highlighted the poor explanation of the referendum, especially among non-Caucasian Australians who now represent a large demographic in the country.
Several factors likely contributed to the failure of the vote, including the diminishing popularity of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the lack of awareness regarding the referendum’s details, leading many to opt for the NO vote.
The only territory that voted YES was the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), while the majority of the country voted NO.
The failure of the referendum resulted in a significant promotional campaign and a hiring blitz.
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) employed over 100,000 individuals to administer the referendum, both in the lead-up and on the day itself, which was on October 14.
In addition to temporary employment for thousands, the AEC spent a substantial amount on promoting the referendum through leaflets and booklets.
If you have a PO BOX like us, you likely noticed the bins filled with these promotional materials.
Despite the expenses, the referendum did not succeed, and the funds could have been allocated more effectively.
Since taking office, Prime Minister Albanese has been spending public funds extensively.
For instance, he swiftly settled with the French on the failed submarine deal, paid a substantial sum to Brittany Higgins for a rape case that has yet to be proven, and now this failed referendum.
It remains to be seen what other expenditure ideas Albanese has for public funds.
Finally, across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, the young Chris Hipkins lost the election to another man with the same name who resembled the American rapper Pitbull.
Jacinda Ardern, the most successful New Zealand Prime Minister, stepped down in January of this year. After visiting Auckland last year, I observed that the place requires effective governance and strong leadership to take the country to the next level.
Hopefully, the newly elected Prime Minister Christopher Luxon possesses the qualities required.
I recall seeing somewhere on social media that, for once, farmers in New Zealand are content with this election and their new Prime Minister.

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