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My Sri Lanka U Thant Lecture on ‘Science Sustainability and the Future’ used influenza and infectious disease stories to explore themes that were very much along the lines of work done at the United Nations University. While there were several interviews and accounts in the quality Sri Lanka print media, including an English language article in The Daily Yomiuri, there was the usual sense of wondering whether what I’d said and written was of the slightest use to anyone. Still, a number of people attended the 11 am talk, we met many notables, caught up with old friends Kumiko Mizuno (a medicinal chemist) and  Sri Lanka from early Canberra days, and enjoyed an elegant lunch and reception hosted by the  Sri Lanka  Embassy.

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Located in the historic Mita District, Australia’s Tokyo legation inhabits 13,000 square metres of prime Tokyo real estate. Purchased in 1952 from the descendants of the Hachisuka family, who were prominent in the unifying Tokugawa Shogunate of the Edo period (1603-1867), the new (from 1990) Embassy, Ambassador’s residence and staff apartments are (unlike the situation in Washington) all located on the same site. The aluminium-faced Embassy building is impressive and it was a delight to walk and talk in the beautiful gardens, some of which date back to the days of the (largely demolished) Hachisuka mansion. If there had been extra time to look around the neighbourhood, it would evidently have been possible to visit Shinto shrines from the same Edo era that saw the Japanese ascendancy over Okinawa. But it was not to be. That evening, we checked out of the ANA Hotel and were back to Narita for the flight to Melbourne.

John McCarthy’s next ambassadorial post was as High Commissioner (the title used in other British Commonwealth countries) to India, where I met up with him again in the course of a trip to promote scientific interchange between Australia and India. I don’t recall who paid the airfare, but it would have been either the federal government or the University of Melbourne. The only other time I’ve had a ticket to an international meeting supplied (directly or indirectly) by the Australian taxpayer was when (still living in Memphis) I was invited to participate in an Australian Trade Mission to Taiwan hosted by the then Liberal Minister Nick Minchin. That experience was not repeated, maybe because my participation seemed to be more of a distraction than of any real value to the underlying business objectives.

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