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Letter 58: 5 Things I Love About Australia (and One I Loathe)

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Last week, I wrote about Australia and foreign policy — examining the federal budget for signs of how Australia sees itself and its global mission.

This week, like the country itself, I’m looking inward.

That’s not always a welcome trait — navel-gazing tends to be unattractive in both lovers and nations — but I’ve been thinking lately about what Australia is so eager to protect.

Clearly, there’s a lot, but let’s be honest: These things are personal. And they change.

So think of the list below as a temporal snapshot, in the spirit of Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity.” These are the things on repeat in my mental playlist at the moment.

Got your own Top 5? Send it our way at nytaustralia@nytimes.com, or share your list in our Facebook group.

And now, the five things I really love about Australia at this very moment:

1. The Coastline, I Mean, I Can’t Even

A cliché? Yeah maybe, but seriously, how fantastically gorgeous is the Australian coast?

From Sydney’s rocky cliffs to the Northern Territory’s tropical lagoons to the Great Ocean Road to Noosa to Denmark’s ruggedness (easily the best part of “Breath,” the movie), I am perpetually amazed at the rich bounty of the world’s most beautiful island continent.

I am eternally grateful whenever I get near it, even when I’m getting smashed by waves that remind me I don’t know how to surf.

2. Johnny Spit

Whenever I watch Australian movies — this week “Dead Calm” (great) and “Breath” (disappointing) — I find myself comparing the writing and characters to Johhny Spit, the scene-stealer of “Gettin’ Square” played by David Wenham.

John Francis Spiteri is the ultimate larrikin, a savant, a satirist and a fool all at the same time. I long for the day when I can cock my head just the way he does and tell someone, as he does in court, “Hey, you’re trying to verbal me, trying to put words in my mouth!”

3. Attica

Ben Shrewry’s restaurant in Melbourne is nothing short of a world-class gem. Dinner for two may cost as much as a diamond but it’s the kind of experience that sticks with you like a favorite wedding.

I’ve had many great meals in my life, in many cities and countries. Attica tops the list. Hands down.

4. Understated #Auspol

When I went to interview John Howard, the


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