The Null Device
Australian playwright Ron Elisha has written a play about Julian Assange and the Wikileaks affair. The play, Stainless Steel Rat (named after an anarchist antihero devised by scifi author Harry Harrison, whose name Assange chose as his OKCupid and Couchsurfing pseudonym), is playing at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, and seems to be more about Assange-the-cipher than Assange-as-known-to-his-friends:
One problem for Elisha and for the director, Wayne Harrison, comes when big international figures make their entrances. Dmitry Medvedev, for example, who wants to give Assange the Nobel peace prize for exposing America's secrets, comes across as an overpowering Russian oligarch figure. While it works in terms of the comedy, his character seems more like Vladimir Putin than Medvedev.
Elisha's pithy one-liners are delivered with brilliant timing. At one point the Assange character is in Wandsworth prison, once also home to Oscar Wilde. "This cell is reserved for people who have been careless with their genitals," his character says.It is not clear whether the play will be performed outside of Sydney.
Sydney's status as one of the world's most liveable cities has recently been threatened by spiralling rents and property prices. In an attempt to turn this about, the New South Wales government has announced that it will pay Sydneysiders to leave, with eligible residents standing to get AU$7,000 to move to the countryside:
The one-off grants to move to country areas will be payable to individuals or families provided they sell their Sydney home and buy one in the country. The country home must be worth less than $600,000 (£390,000), something that won't be hard in most rural areas. It will cost the taxpayer up to $47m (£30m) a year.
As much as boosting regional areas, the scheme is also about making Sydney more liveable. The city's population is 4.5m and predicted to grow by 40% over the next 30 years, putting unprecedented pressure on infrastructure and housing.The government reportedly considered increasing the building density in Sydney to something approaching European levels for almost five minutes, before it was pointed out that doing so would be fundamentally un-Australian, and would violate Australians' rights to a house on a quarter-acre block with a two-car garage, which, much like Americans' right to bear arms, is sacrosanct and not negotiable.
It's not clear whether Melbourne (which is about as expensive as Sydney these days, making up for its lack of a spectacular harbour with a thousand funky laneway bars) will follow this lead and offer people money to move to Geelong or Moe or somewhere.