jon donnison

Jon Donnison Sydney correspondent

Come here for my latest reflections and musings from Australia and the wider region

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Plane search signal 'important lead'

Investigators here say they are encouraged but cautious. The fact that the search planes have once again failed to sight any possible debris will dampen any sense of optimism.

Also, the Chinese ship has not reported detecting any further signals - which will also be of concern.

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Asylum policy: 'No comment'

In this photo taken on 14 April 2013, a fishing boat carrying Vietnamese asylum seekers nears the shore of Australia's Christmas Island

In the run-up to last year's Australian election, three words were perhaps uttered more than any others: "Stop the Boats."

The promise to end the flow of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia's shores was a key campaign pledge of Tony Abbott's conservative coalition, which eventually ended up in power.

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Philippines devastation is 'bedlam'

Tacloban has been flattened. Driving down the main high street, hardly a single building is left standing.

People say this town was hit by a wall of water when the typhoon hit on Friday. There is the stench of rotting corpses. Driving in from the airport, we saw scores of bodies lying by the roadside. For three days they have been there, with no one to bury them.

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Australia bush-dweller vows to fight fire

On a normal spring day the tiny hamlet of Hartley Vale would be an idyllic spot, nestled in a lush valley in the heart of the Blue Mountains.

But on Wednesday, people living here had fire on their doorstep.

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Australia declares fire emergency

In the middle of the bush around the community of Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, firefighters are again working through the night.

The air crackles with fire. We have just driven a few hundred yards past one of the main fire fronts.

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Australian wildfires raze homes

For families living around the small community of Springwood in the Blue Mountains, many have had their lives turned upside down. Australians are well used to the threat of bush fires, but nothing can prepare you for the moment when you return home to find your house and everything inside utterly gutted by fire.

"It's devastating but we're all here and that's the main thing," Chris Muller told me, as her daughter picked through the smouldering rubble of her mother's home.

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Tony Abbott's month in office

File photo: Tony Abbott

Australia's new Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power one month ago, saying he wanted to take politics off the front pages.

It was perhaps an unusual remark for a man who you might have thought would have welcomed that his time in the limelight had finally come.

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Australian opposition elects leader

Bill Shorten takes over the leadership of a Labor Party which is in the doldrums after a heavy election defeat.

The root of that loss of power was disunity and the soap opera politics of the Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard rivalry.

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Taking taxpayers for a ride?

Politicians the world over get a bit jumpy when people start looking through their expenses claims.

The British parliamentary scandal of 2009 supplied the UK media with ample fodder for months if not years. The famous "Duck House" claim has even provided inspiration for a West End play.

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Prince Harry in Sydney navy event

After a 20-odd hour flight Prince Harry spent much of the day at sea aboard one of a flotilla of Australian warships in Sydney's magnificent harbour.

He is here as guest of honour for the Australian navy's International Fleet Review.

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Abbott's mostly male cabinet

Tony Abbott has often faced criticism for his attitude towards women. That criticism has sometimes been emphatic, courtesy of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It has sometimes been merely embarrassed, courtesy of one of his own daughters.

Mr Abbott's new cabinet, unveiled on Monday, will do little to lessen the flak, but suggests the soon-to-be prime minister is not unduly concerned. Just one of the 19 cabinet members is a woman. Mr Abbott said he himself was disappointed with the situation. But as is pointed out here, not too disappointed to do anything about it.

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'Tony Time' euphoria for Abbott backers

"It's Tony Time" read the banner at the coalition victory party last night, as two glitzy-looking women encouraged the crowd to "gimme a T, gimme an O, gimme an N, gimme a Y" and then begged the question: "What have you got?"

The answer is Tony Abbott and with it a significant shift to the right, bringing an end to six years of an often dysfunctional Labor government.

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Tony Abbott sweeps to Australia win

Labor's six years in power are emphatically over. Australia's economic growth during difficult global financial times should have played well for an incumbent government. But the economy has begun to slow and Kevin Rudd's Labor party has been undone by disunity and infighting. The rivalry between Mr Rudd and Julia Gillard which saw the leadership of the party and the country switch back and forth did not sit well with voters.

You sense from voters that Mr Abbott's victory is not so much a ringing endorsement as a rejection of Labor. He's a conservative who has promised a tough line on immigration and asylum-seekers. He opposes gay marriage and has been a sceptic on climate change. Kevin Rudd sold himself as the comeback kid. It didn't work. His party now faces a period of further introspection.

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Australians vote in key election

Throughout this campaign Tony Abbott has been able to play it relatively safe, knowing his long-standing lead in the polls meant he simply had to avoid making a game-changing blunder. It's been his race to lose; Kevin Rudd's to try to win.

Mr Rudd has pitched himself as the "comeback kid" but after an initial honeymoon (or second honeymoon) period after he ousted Julia Gillard, his numbers began to slump.

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Why are Australians worried about the economy?

In the small town of Scone in New South Wales, people are enjoying a day at the races.

The race course sits on the wide grassy plains that stretch out among the hills of the Upper Hunter Valley. On a bright winter's day, it is a beautiful spot and there is a fair crowd enjoying a few beers, a burger and a bet.

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Asylum debate cooks up a storm

Composite picture of asylum debate

The issue of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia's shores has been prominent in the current general election campaign. Both main parties have declared tough policies, from resettling new arrivals in Papua New Guinea to revoking the visas of existing refugees.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time? That classic, cold-sweat-inducing question asked by mothers and prospective employers.

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Are we there yet?

I've managed my first face-to-face encounter with Tony Abbott, the man who the opinion polls suggest is favourite to be Australia's next prime minister.

Like many high-ranking politicians, when you meet him up close, Mr Abbott is a strikingly healthy and well-groomed looking fellow with an air of self-confidence. The opposition leader is well known for taking care of himself.

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You're the Voice

Here in Australia you sometimes feel like Julian Assange is of more fascination abroad than he is at home. "All your BBC Radio 4 listeners just love hearing about him, I just don't understand why," one Australian political journalist who knows Britain well told me here recently.

The Australian Wikileaks founder is running for a Senate seat in the state of Victoria in next month's election but most pundits here write him off as having next to no chance of getting elected.

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Polls make grim reading for Rudd

Not sure what Kevin Rudd has for breakfast, but he might need a few indigestion tablets as he wakes up to yet another bad poll for him and his Labor Party.

Of course, reading too much into any single poll should be done with caution, but there does seem to be a bit of a trend building.

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How much?

Since touching down in Sydney two weeks ago, no trip to the grocery store or one of the city's myriad of amazing restaurants has been complete without an anguished cry of "how much?", or as they say in my Yorkshire homeland "How many?"

On day one it was raspberries, A$10 ($9.20, £5.90) a punnet! On day two it was French cheese, A$149 a kilo! On day three a bacon and egg sarnie, A$12. ("What an eclectic diet he has," I hear you cry.)

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About Jon

Jon has worked for the BBC for more than 15 years. He finds himself in Sydney after following a circuitous route with postings in Gaza, Washington, Cairo and Sheffield. Jon reported across the Middle East for three years and was awarded a Silver Sony Award for radio journalism of the year for his coverage of the 2012 Gaza/Israel War.

Jon lived in New Zealand in 2000/1 where he worked as a presenter for Radio New Zealand. He is a keen cyclist and in 2002 rode the entire 3,300km route of the Tour De France alongside the race, filing reports for BBC radio.

Jon went to school in Sheffield in South Yorkshire before doing a degree in French and politics at the University of Edinburgh. He studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and got his first reporter job at BBC Radio Sheffield.

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