Alex Massie

Department of Wildlife

Department of Wildlife
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SM, a friend from college days, draws my attention to this gem:

Australia's top treasury official is taking five weeks leave to look after endangered wombats.

Ken Henry, treasury secretary and animal conservationist, has warned that hairy-nosed wombats are "on death row".

But opposition politicians - and even wombat lovers - question if now is the time to be thinking about wombats.

Inflation is at a 16-year high, interest rates are up and fuel prices are rising. Mr Henry will also miss a central bank meeting.

Mr Henry will be looking after 115 hairy-nosed wombats in an isolated spot in northern Queensland, with no mobile phone coverage and two-and-a-half hours on a rough track from the nearest town.

"There are 10 times as many giant pandas in the world as there are these guys," said Mr Henry.

The opposition isn't sure this is a great idea even though, in what must be one of the lines of the year, Brendan Nelson acknowledges that "I think we all love the hairy-nosed wombat."

More details here. This strikes me as entirely admirable. Indeed, Mr Henry is setting an example other politicians public officials (edited, thanks Peter) should heed. Certainly politicians - and we - would be better off if they a) had interests outside politics and b) took longer holidays. Much longer. One suspects that Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling would appreciate five weeks off, looking after, say, the petrels and puffins on St Kilda.

Photo of a hairy-nosed Wombat by Flickr user Macinate. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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