Australia: Out of pocket in the outback
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Australia: Out of pocket in the outback

The Dish, Parkes: the town authority is sitting tight and hoping for a return to stellar performances

Until now, the most famous thing the small Australian wheatbelt community of Parkes could boast was a massive radio telescope on the outskirts of town known locally, with typical Australian reduction, as ‘The dish’. Nationally recognizable, the dish was the one thing that connected Parkes and, by extension, Australia, to the world and beyond. Moonshots have been traced and tracked from Parkes. Visiting US citizens – astronauts and their counterparts from Nasa – would periodically add foreign dash to Parkes’s determinedly middle-Australia ethos.

Now another dashing US presence has given Parkes a foreign prominence it would rather not have. It is called Lehman Brothers, and its September failure has given Parkes’s city fathers a A$14 million ($9.2 million) headache – and an international prominence they could do without.

That’s the level of exposure the Parkes Shire has after investing the funds of its hard-earning ratepayers in now near-worthless securities touted by Lehman’s Sydney-based Australian offshoot, Grange Securities.

But Parkes is not alone. As many as 50 Australian municipalities are unlikely victims of the sub-prime mortgage market collapse a Pacific Ocean away in the US.

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