The A-Rods of Essendon
Australian Rules football, a hybrid version of the sport, is an unofficial religion in Melbourne. But last season was marred by controversy. The Demons were accused of throwing games to get priority draft pick; a celebrated Saints player was accused of rape. All that was eclipsed by allegations that the Essendon Bombers were engaged in an experimental performance-enhancing-drug program.
This past fall, the Labor Party was defeated by the conservative coalition led by Tony Abbott: a skimpy-swimsuit-wearing former journalist who’s vowed to stop incoming boats carrying asylum seekers. Hundreds have turned out in recent months to protest on behalf of those asylum seekers, most of them from war-torn Muslim nations, who are being held in offshore detention centersa measure receiving scrutiny from the U.N. Human Rights Committee.
From unreliable trains to congested roads, Melbourne transportation is always an incendiary topic. This past December, tension reached a fever pitch over plans for a multibillion-dollar tunnel: Several were injured during police clashes with protesters (including residents with homes in the construction path and those arguing the government had no mandate for the project). Construction is set for October, but the Victorian deputy opposition leader has called for the plan to be taken to the next state election.