What I've been doing with my time ...

This is for those who wonder what I've been up to in Perth when I'm not sitting on the beach


The thing that's taken most of my time this year has been chairing the Rottnest Island Taskforce. For those who've never visited Western Australia (shame on you), Rottnest Island is a Government-owned island about 20k from the mainland off Perth. It is a favorite holiday destination for Western Australians, and has a beautiful, unspoilt coastline. It is also home to the quokka, a small marsupial that gave the island its name when early Dutch explorers mistook it for a rat.

The West Australian government decided to set up a task force to look into some of the structural and financial problems facing the island, and asked me to chair it. It's a fascinating job. People keep saying enviously that I must be getting lots of trips over to Rottnest. To which the answer is yes: I'm becoming an expert on electricity generation, sewerage treatment and so on. That shuts up those who think I go to laze on the beaches! We've now published our report, and the Government has accepted almost all the recommendations.

Another job that's taking up a fair bit of time is chairing the West Australian Interactive Virtual Environments Centre. IVEC aims to increase the usage of high performance computing in WA-- it's a consortium of universities and other research organisations, with interests ranging from grid computing to oceanography and from geoinformatics to bioinformatics. This wasn't an area I knew much about, but I've learnt a lot--both about the subject and about raising money from State and Federal Governments!

I'm also on the Senate (governing body) of the University of Western Australia. It's been an interesting time, when both the UK and Australian governments have been reviewing university funding, and producing very similar recommendations allowing universities flexibility to charge higher tuition fees. UWA, along with other universities in Australia, was then faced with deciding what fees to charge - something that arouses strong passions.

I sit on the Premier's Science Council, whose most recent task has been reviewing applicants for a Major Research Facilities grant. A very diverse shortlist, ranging from healthy food to minerals exploration, and from eScience to genomic medecine. Once again, I'm learning a lot about the strengths of WA, as well as the economic and environmental issues it faces.

The economic future of the State is also relevant to the ICT Industry Development Forum, which I've been a member of. This has done work on issues such as broadband infrastructure for WA. I also continue to take an interest in e-government issues, following my role as e-envoy for the British Government.

Outside Australia, I've been involved in a group looking at the privacy implications of RFID tags - see this article for example. I'm a member of International Public Policy Advisory Council which was originally established by the Auto-ID Center, but whose work in this area has now passed to EPCglobal. A speech I gave in Japan sets out my views on some of these issues.

I've also done work for the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. This has concerned issues such as global governance and the New Program for African Development (NEPAD). See for example the material produced at the conference I attended in Bellagio last December.


I spend far too much time updating my Grateful Dead website!

Sailing is great in Perth: reliable strong sea-breeze for most of the summer. I do foredeck on a Dragon at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. It's very good racing, with at least half a dozen boats capable of winning any race.

Katie and I also sail in twilight races on other boats on Wednesday evenings. Very civilised, with a 6:15 start, so we can leave home at 5.30 and leap on board. Not serious racing, but a lot of fun and a barbie at the Club afterwards.

I try to keep fit by cycling --with the Royal South Beach Cycling Association. More on the history of the RSBCA soon - I was one of the co-founders and it celebrates it's 20th anniversary this year.

Katie and I play bridge together - not as much as we'd like, but there are too many other things to do in the summer. We play a few Congresses in the winter with mixed results.

Otherwise we walk the dog on the beach in the early morning, play tennis at sunset at Cottesloe, mess about in our 25ft powerboat. Katie rows her single scull on the Canning River before the sea-breeze comes in.

It's a hard life.