Thursday, September 05, 2013

It's time

Yep, it's that time again.  Time to do our civic duty and roll up on Saturday and scratch a few numbers on a scrap of paper.  That triennial chore done, we'll all have the right to whinge like crazy about whatever we don't like that the new government does.  Or at least that's what some, maybe most, people seem to think.

But I beg to differ from what seems to be this prevailing view of the limits of our obligations as voters and citizens of a democratic state.  I think it's our duty to take an active interest in politics on an ongoing basis; to keep abreast of the developments in Canberra and the reasons for them; to understand the basis of policies and legislation, not just be able to recite, parrot-fashion, the slogans the parties put out for our consumption.

How could we create a society where our observance of democratic ideals was more that a few minutes 'work' with a pencil every three years?  Well, the current group of voters are probably lost to the idea of becoming more involved, unless something will directly affect the price of their house, their job, their local school or hospital etc.   Such is the selfish nature of our society that the 'me, me, me' ethos is all too pervasive.

Most adults in Australia, despite some exposure in school to a subject usually called 'Civics" or similar, do not really understand the vagaries of the preferential voting system or how Parliament 'works'.  How many people on Saturday will vote '1' for the candidate of their choice and then thinking it makes no difference, number the other squares randomly?  If their first choice is a bit-player candidate then their vote will go to either Labor or Liberal/National, depending on which of these two they put above the other.  How many will vote '1' for the candidate they would prefer to win and leave the rest of the squares blank, thereby inadvertently voting informal?   How many will make up their minds between taking a how-to-vote at the polling place gate and entering the polling booth?  Many in my experience.

The answer to this problem of mass ignorance, as in most cases, is in our young people and our schools.  Not only do children have the idealism of youth on their side, they are in large measure untainted by the prejudices that permeate all sides of politics.  A more comprehensive effort to teach our youth the importance of an active engagement in the democratic process and a better understanding of how the voting and Parliamentary systems work would pay huge dividends in better government, albeit in 10 years time.

In the meantime we'll get the government that a largely uninformed and unengaged electorate gives us.  Those of us who actually take an interest will just have to wear it.....and whinge.  At least we'll have earned the right.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What Volatility?

The TV ad that perplexes me the most at the moment is that ad for a bank or super fund that starts with something like, "do you wonder how all this volatility will affect your savings/super.

What volatility?  The unemployment rate hardly changes month to month and is remarkably low by world standards. Ditto interest rates.  Many Australians still take overseas holidays at whim, coffee shops and other purveyors of indulgence abound, indeed proliferate.  An Australian over the age of 10 without a smart phone would be hard to find.

So where's the volatility?

Mostly in the pages of the main stream media- MSM- seems to be the answer. Negativity and the promotion of it, sells newspapers and reports of how the government is quietly and efficiently going about the business of good government does not.

Tony Abbott certainly has tapped a rich vein with his Dr. No impersonation but will he last till Sept 14 or is the situation more volatile than that?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vale Lionel Rose

"A horse runs with his lungs, preservers with it's heart and wins with it's character" (Federico Tesio)

Lionel Rose wasn't a horse but he was a champion athlete and just like the champions bred by Federico Tesio he prevailed in and out of the ring against obstacles that others might have balked at. 

Sport is a great leveller. The $1000 gelding can beat the million dollar colt if he is good enough and wants to win badly enough, just as the little black kid from Jackson's Track can become a World Champion if he has the courage and the desire to do so.

I'm not surprised they will pack Festival Hall today to see him off.  It's a fitting measure of the character of Lionel Rose, a great boxer and a wonderful human being.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Just who is running this democracy

There are countries where the military has assumed control of the government and imposed itself on the citizenry, in some cases for decades. eg Burma, Libya.
We do things differently here in our democracy called Australia.
Or so I thought till 'Kate' revealed that some of her fellow cadets at a ADF training facility had videotaped her having sex and broadcast it. That's not a violation of democracy; just Kate and maybe women in general, but the Defence Force's subsequent actions were. They apparently tried to keep the Minister (that's our representative in the Parliament by the way) in the dark and said no law had been broken, there was nothing could be done, apart from giving the men involved a couple of days off their leave and making Kate front up to trial on an unrelated minor matter the next day.
The Minister rightly saw red and told them they were somewhere between "insensitive" and "stupid". Restrained of him in my opinion. They were both at least.
The ADF seems to think that because Ministers come and go with governments they can thumb their noses at any attempt to pry into their archaic procedures and practices.
But they fail to see that the constant factor here is we, the citizens of this democracy, who resent a bunch of boys with toys telling us that we have no place in interferring with what they do and how they do it.
If the Generals and Admirals and other cowboys of the ADF can't get the message that Australia is a modern democracy with modern values then maybe it's time for some early retirements.
Or maybe they'd like to take over the running of the country entirely. What’s their position on a Carbon Tax?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feeling Exhausted after last Saturday

Finally we are rid of possibly the worst NSW government in living memory. As a former Labor member and a dedicated 'leftie' you will appreciate that it must have been bad for me to wish for a Liberal government. Truth is, they are, unfortunately, the only alternative.......... at the moment. The time will come when The Greens will overtake Labor as THE party of the left. But not while they continue to display the political naivety we saw on Saturday.
I was handing out How to Votes for the Greens at Kangaroo Valley. Their Lower House HTV recommended a '1' for the Greens candidate, Ben, and a '2' for Independent (former Labor member and Kiama Mayor) Sandra McCarthy then nothing. The fine print said you may number more squares if you wish but dedicated Greens supporters were more likely to follow the card and go 1,2 as suggested. Unfortunately all these ended in the 'exhausted' pile and played no part in the result.
It's unfortunate that not many people understand the workings of the preferential voting system. Most either can't be bothered or have an erroneous understanding but either way the OPTIONAL preferential system we have in NSW leads to many votes being wasted. The Federal system is to number AL:L squares thereby forcing voters to put one of the major parties (most common scenario) above the other. In most electorates this reults in being forced to choose between the Labor or Liberal candidate. If you can't do that stay home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bring it on

The member for Gilmore has called for a debate as to whether Australia should embrace a nuclear future. Great idea. But first I think she should go on a fact-finding mission to Japan, a country with a history of involvement in nuclear power dating back to before the end of WWII.

While there she should immerse herself in the culture, eat plenty of the local produce, partake of the waters and generally soak up the atmosphere of the country. In this way she will pick up the vibe of the place and see what makes it tick.....tick, tick, tick.

I'm sure she'll come back highly energized by her experience and be able to illuminate us with a glowing report on the current state of the nuclear industry in Japan.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just for you, Tony

My last entry on this blog was Nov 21, 2010. Not that there has been a shortage of topics to get excited, alarmed or furious about. It's just that I've been very busy and nothing has really got my goat.............until now.

Today Tony Abbott spoke at a rally against a Carbon Tax. He spoke to a group of people, including Pauline Hanson, best described as Bogans. ie the ugly Australians most often seen at anti-Muslim school rallies and anti-asylum seeker protests. They have a right to protest; this is not Libya. But today they, and Tony Abbott, crossed the line of respectability. Amongst the posters were "Ditch the Bitch", the 'bitch' being the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Tony Abbott spoke standing in front of a very large banner which proclaimed "JULIAR,  BOB BROWN'S BITCH".
Even if he or the Liberal Party didn't provide the banner, a potential Prime Minister should have had the acumen and common decency to insist that the banner be taken down before speaking. By not doing so he has effectively eschewed any right to the top job.  Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey were notable absentees from the rally. Wise indeed.

In 1993 John Hewson was a shoo-in in the polls to win the Federal election for the Liberals. Then he made a fateful decision to indulge himself in a series of shopping centre carpark rallies. The party faithful and political groupies in attendance shouted and screamed on cue. The TV news reported these rallies and showed footage of JH leading the chanting.

The public's reaction to this hoopla? Well, my dear old Mum looked on and sagely commented than she saw shades of Nazi rallies in those Aussie carparks and that it made her feel very apprehensive about John Hewson's bona fides as PM.

Come election day, the polls were proved disastrously wrong. There had been an unexpected turnaround in public sentiment in the last few days of the campaign. John Hewson was a political dead duck. Who knows what it was that caused this unexpected reversal but I like to think that my Mum was right, yet again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Welcome back Pauline.

I read that failed pollie, Pauline Hanson is to (re)settle in Australia, having disowned her birth country just a few months ago proposing to live in England instead. "I love England but so many people want to leave there because it's overrun with immigrants and refugees," Ms Hanson said on return.

Further she has not ruled out another tilt at politics. Why would she? I used the term ‘failed Pollie’ very loosely because, while not elected in 2007 to the Senate in Queensland, she did collect $213 095.49 in Public Funding from The Australian Electoral Commission for her token effort. Not a bad little earner. All she has to do is keep her public profile up and she can probably do it over and over.

Let’s see, how could she do that? How about appear on a popular TV show, announce she’s moving overseas and then come back, propose rejoining the Liberal Party (as if they’d have her). In short, anything to keep the brand “Pauline” active. Anything that is except come up with an original idea of any political substance.

There must be a still mostly white, Anglo Saxon, conservative country out there somewhere a la Australia 1950. Somebody find one for her please. No matter that it’s probably as dull, boring and backward as Australia was before we discovered the economic, cultural and social advantages of multiculturalism based on tolerance and understanding.

Welcome back Pauline.
 

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Beware of Pollies Bearing Showbags

As a kid I, like most others, attended the Royal Easter Show at least every few years. The biggest attraction and the one that required the most comtemplation, was located in the Horden Pavilion. My dilemma, which of the seemingly hundreds of different showbags would comprise my two, my parents' imposed limit.

I would be escorted up and down the aisles, weighing up the pros and cons of the various bags. Some contained sweets that would give short-term satisfaction but be gone before we got home. Others contained plastic toys that might last marginally longer. Still others included magazines and puzzles that one could enjoy for weeks at least. My parents would advise but ultimately it was my decision. It was a difficult choice and a taxing one for a child from a poor family who was determined to make best use of his limited budget.

Recently I watched Tony Abbott announce his party’s aged care policy- spend the same as Labor but slightly differently would be a good summation. Then I saw Julia Gillard promise more money for something or other. Later I watched Bob Brown deliver The Greens campaign launch speech; real vision for a future Australia. All this prompted memories of my childhood and my visits to the Hordern Pavilion.
As a kid I often made the mistake of choosing the lollies or the cheap plastic toys but as I matured I increasing opted for the bags with more satisfying, less ephemeral inclusions.

As this election campaign unfolds, if you are feeling you are being treated like a kid; being promised $ here and more $ there but the adult in you knows it’s actually a con to get your vote, then ask yourself which pollie’s showbag would you advise for your children’s future.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The (Not So) Great Debate

Having watched the debate between both our would-be PMs, I’m reminded of the old slogan of the Homer Hudson ice cream company: “Find out what the people want, and give ‘em lots of it.” It’s a great recipe for ice cream but not necessarily a great way to run a country.

Both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott seem to be totally poll-driven. Neither shows any true leadership although Ms Gillard does at least appear more statesman-like.

It’s little wonder that neither wanted Bob Brown on the same stage. Both would have paled by comparison with the only pollie with real conviction and courage to prosecute what’s right, not just what’s popular at the moment.

If you’re feeling a little depressed at the thought at either Julia or Tony as our next PM might I suggest you have some more ice cream. Just remember though, whilst it tastes great at the time, ice cream is bad for you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Our Own Aussie Oracle

Paul the Octopus has thus far picked six successive winning teams in the World Cup and this uncanny ability of a member of a 'lower order' to outsmart human pundits has got me thinking.
My horse has been training a lot better since Julia Gillard became our first female PM and is due to start in Canberra no less, tomorrow. You might recall (see blog below) that he was running increasingly badly as Kevin 07's fortunes waned.
What if he wins tomorrow? Does that mean he is predicting a Julia Gillard led, Labor Party victory at the upcoming Federal election?
Should I organise a start for him at Nowra to bolster the chances of the defeat of the current Liberal Member for Gilmore? Since her electorate now almost reaches Kembla Grange racecourse would that be close enough? He's won there twice before so another start there is on the cards.
Should I declare my candidacy on the strength of his return to form? Could a miraculous victory by the man with the silly name- but not the silliest ideas- be possible after all?
He's number 4 in race 5 at Canberra tomorrow if you fancy taking his advice.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Form reversals and the Super Tax

My horse lost again last today; third poor run in succession. Apart from confirming the suspicion that the weight of my money could stop a train we decided that after-the-race punters are much smarter that their pre-race cousins.

With that truism in mind let me pass comment on the Federal Government's Resource Super Tax, or rather its handling of it. It would appear that the idea was hatched by the Gov's inner circle and presented as a fait accompli to the industry, unions and public alike. Contast this with the concensus approach which might have had a completely different outcome both practically and electorally. (Or are they the same thing in an election year?)

What if Kevin 07 had called in the big players for a 'chat' and presented them with an ambit claim for the 40% tax hike and then intimated that he was negotiable. By the end of the day they might have been happy to have walked away with, say, a 25% Super tax. No mega advertising campaigns- from either side, no slide in the polls, no stockmarket hiccups; just a lot of extra cash for schools, hospitals etc. Hooray for Kevin!

Almost a year ago my horse was going gangbusters; seven placings in a row including two magnificent wins at Kembla. Now he's struggling to beat time. A bit like Kevin really, isn't he. Hope springs eternal though and we're already planning his next start at which we reckon he'll improve many lengths and win running away. Don't laugh, it can happen. Don't know if Kevin can do likewise but if you think it will help I'll put a few dollars on Tony "Great Big New Tax" Abbott for you.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Downright Offensive

Church Leaders in Sydney (Pell, Fisher and Jensen) have used the occasion of Easter to put the boot into we atheists for not being, as they see it, active enough in the area of community service.

This is obviously a ridiculous argument as the large numbers of non-Christian members of service clubs attest. In any event who declared that you need to be a member of a ‘club’ to do a good deed for others. Many of us regularly ‘do unto others’ on an informal basis. Does this not count?

Count towards what, I hear you say. Good question. So lets take a look at the questions of motivation and reward for effort.

A long suffering battered wife has finally had enough and in the face of yet another beating picks up an axe and takes what she sees at the time as her only opportunity to get out of her predicament. No doubt she will be charged with murder and probably convicted, although many of us, if on the jury, might be tempted to recommend a medal instead.

What will be her sentence? No doubt the judge will, quite rightly, take into account the dire situation she found herself in and her consequent mental state at the time. If she receives a custodial sentence, it will almost certainly be much lighter than that dispensed to the axe murderer who kills for the vicarious pleasure of it or because “the Devil made me do it”. In other words motivation is a key factor in determining the essential ‘quality’ of the act and the result, or reward, will be much different.

So, why should not the same logic apply to the corollary of acts of evil? ie good deeds. Take for instance someone who performs acts of kindness for the sake of it or because his/her own sense of right and wrong compels them. Should this not be seen as intrinsically more worthy than someone who helps others because he/she fears the wrath of God in an afterlife? “God made me do it” should result in a discount in the perception of the ‘quality’ of the act, just as the axe murderer’s crime is seen as more heinous than that of the battered wife, although the result is exactly the same; one person dead.

So how should good deeds be rewarded? Here on Earth, in this life, we have a range of ways of doing so from Orders of Australia through various lesser honours all the way down (sic) to bunches of flowers and pats on the back. Using the argument outlined above these honours should be heavily skewed in favour of atheists but I suspect they are not. The Christian lobby has long claimed the moral high ground for itself as evidenced by the statements by Pell, Fisher and Jensen yesterday.

In an afterlife, should it exist, I’m sure the system will be much fairer. No doubt the ‘discount’ argument will be applied rigorously at the Pearly Gates and as a consequence Heaven is likely to be heavily populated with altruistic atheists and, God willing, Pell, Fisher and Jensen et al are unlikely to be able to annoy us for eternity. Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Twelve Days of Copenhagen

So Copenhagen is finally over. Years of wishing and hoping but not much actual effort are to be replaced with a statement which ‘seeks to limit’, ‘promises the most vulnerable’ and ‘hopes for a binding treaty’. Sounds like more wishing and hoping to me or at best, too little, too late.

Why am I suddenly so pessimistic? I have just read the survey of beliefs of Australians in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It contains many surprising (at least to me) findings but perhaps the most revealing are these two- only 42% of Australians believe in the Theory of Evolution but 63% believe in miracles.

Whilst it would be hard to find a credible scientist who does not believe that Darwin nailed it 200 years ago, the majority of Australians, almost all of who studied Evolution at school, refuse to believe that for which there is ample evidence, even within the DNA of their own bodies. Yet none of us has witnessed a bona fide miracle but the majority believes them to occur. Go figure!

What’s this got to do with climate change? Think about this- very few scientists of note still do not accept man-made climate change as fact, yet many of us with lesser, or no, qualifications to make an informed decision on the matter still refuse to believe the obvious.

If the World is to avoid climate change it will not be because the average Joe and Mary or their representatives, our political leaders, have taken the bull by the horns. It will be up to the scientific community to come up with solutions, largely off their own bat. Hopefully there are nutty professor types out there now, in garages and backyard sheds or grossly underfunded laboratories, working away on new techniques to get us out of this mess.

Or perhaps we are waiting on a miracle or some sort of sign. A partridge in a pear tree?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Old? Never. Aging? Maybe.

It's my birthday on September 9 and we're having a party at The Chocolate Shop from about 6pm on Saturday 12th September.

If you got an invite I hope to see you there. If you didn't but should of, then please accept my apologies and rock up anyway.

To find out how old Geoff will be on

09.09.09
you have to either
  1. look at this screen while standing on your head or
  2. turn your monitor upside down or
  3. use Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow keys to turn your screen upside-down. (Use Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow keys to restore screen or, if you prefer, simply stand on your head when operating the computer in future.)

    The Chocolate Shop is at the entrance to the carpark behind the IGA Supermarket in Berry.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Stepping over the line.

Performers, artists, writers and even bloggers tend to push the boundaries. That's part of their role in highlighting what they see as important in society. An open, democratic and vibrant society depends on the different viewpoints expressed by our more creative and motivated individuals.

In their zeal to be first to make a point these individuals sometimes overstep the boundaries which society at large deems acceptable. The Chaser's recent 'sick' joke about dying children is a good example.

In many cases this boundary of acceptability is a wide, grey blur rather than a distinct, black line. The position of the blur and the line can change over time as society's attitudes change.

However there are some things that are wrong on a fundamental, instinctive, even biological level. One is the sexual exploitation of children.

Not long ago we had the stir created when 'photographic artist' Bill Henson exhibited a photograph of a naked young teenage girl. As I said in an earlier post, the fact that the girl's misguided parents consented to the photo made it no less exploitative. The fact that many excused the content of the photo in the name of art made it no more acceptable in a society which values the innocence of its children either.

Again this week we have seen another blatant example of child abuse perpetrated in the name of creativity. I refer to the lie detector test on a 14 year old girl about her sexual experiences which 2Day FM's resident grub, Kyle Sandilands and his sidekick, Jackie O performed live on air. Perhaps unknown to them, she has previously been sexallly assaulted once before and broke down on air. But it was not at that point that The Grub and Grubette were at fault. The real offence occurred at the point they conceived of the segment and decided to go ahead with it.

After a week Sandilands and Jackie O are off air and he has lost the gig at Idol. These decisions should have been instantaneous but at least we are rid of them, for the time being.

At some point society and we as individuals must take a stand. If someone says to you that "perhaps" they overstepped the mark or that it was "probably" a bad idea, jump down their throat. Tell them in very clear language that what occurred was an affront to civil society and women and girls in particular and ANY apologetic sentiments are seen as condoning the sexual exploitation of children.

Sometimes stepping over the line of good manners is preferable to allowing these travesties to continue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's in a Name?

What's in a name? A lot sometimes, it seems.
I changed my name to Of The Above None before the last Federal election so that I would appear on the ballot paper as NONE, Of The Above.
There were two very good reasons for doing so. Firstly, it gained me a lot of free publicity and as the only Independent candidate in the field I had no party to fund my campaign. Most of my friends, whilst supportive, were rusted-on Greens so most of the funding had to come from my own pocket.
Secondly- and this was the original motivation and more important reason- I wanted to encourage voters to think about the idea that there is more wisdom than that which emanates from the parties. There was, and still is, a message in my silliness.
So it was with this background that while listening to Malcolm Turnbull give this week's excuse for not supporting Climate Change legislation, I suddenly thought that he should follow my lead and change his name also.
Descriptive names from Native American tribes, or those that sound like they could be, were popular at one stage.
"TalkAlotDoNothing" would just about sum Malcolm up.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Seat at the Table

So the truth is out there. Malcolm Turnbull looks forward to an Australia where everyone has private health insurance. The unambiguous implication of this is that a Government system of universal health cover, paid from taxes, would no longer exist.

I suppose as a squillionaire he can indulge himself in a belief in what I call the Magic Pudding* theory of economics. That is, by skillful economic management it's possible that everyone can be rich, all at the same time. We can continually take from the pudding and it magically regrows for the next meal. I suppose that way it's easier to ingore those who find it hard to get a seat at the table. It's all their own fault, somehow.

We've just had over a decade of relative, though not universal, prosperity but all things come to an end and the current economic circumstance in which our pudding is shrinking bear testimony to the fact that an ever expanding economy is an illusion.

In reality Malcolm's real world view a dressed up version of that old favourite of the elite everywhere, the Rich Man's Table theory of economics. This holds that some individuals are better able or placed to generate economic activity and therefore it is largely due to their enterprise that the economic 'cake' grows. Further they seem to believe that they are therefore entitled to the lion's share of the cake. Of course in their unseemly haste to consume the spoils of their efforts they will invariably cause crumbs to fall from the table. That's where you and I seem to enter the theory.

Perhaps we need to take a long hard look at what we expect from our society. A biologist will tell you that we can achieve our basic goals- food, shelter and a reasonable chance of finding a mate if we were to go back to living in small tribes of tens or hundreds rather than the millions we now find ourselves amongst.

Why did we congregate? Surely it was so that we could achieve economies of scale, especially in the areas of defence, food production, education and health care. Surely it was not so that we could prey more effectively on each other?

We would dismiss in an instant as ridiculous the idea that we should have private defence insurance. That is, one could pay some money each week and in the event of an invasion a highly trained, well armed team of private soldiers (mercenaries) would rush to your defence while the great unwashed sought salvation from an underfunded, underequiped ADF.

Similarly, why should we countenance private health insurance. It's dressed-up, legalised queue jumping.

Take a look at Malcolm (Bill Barnacle) Turnbull's future Australia by reading how the private health insurance lobby has a stranglehold on government in the US. Click here.

* THE MAGIC PUDDING by Norman Lindsay. The story features a walking, talking pudding that likes to be eaten and never runs out. The pudding is owned by three companions: Bill Barnacle the sailor, Bunyip Bluegum the koala, and Sam Sawnoff the penguin, who form the Noble Society of Pudding Owners (aka the Liberal Party?). They engage in various adventures, wandering around the country, happily eating, conversing and singing, except when forced to defend their property from pudding thieves.

Did you see it?

Did you see the counter at right click over $666,666,666,666 ?
Now there's something to tell the grandkids.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pushing the 666 Button

As I write this at 9pm on Thursday 16/4/09 AEST an amazing figure is about to flash past on the counter to the right. Soon the US will have spent a mind-boggling $666,666,666,666 on the war in Iraq. What an achievement!

I'm not the least superstitious- at least not in my saner moments- but the line up of multiple 666's and the war in Iraq seems to have a certain apocalyptic symmetry.

You could argue that this money would have been far better spent on hospitals, schools, combatting the War on Warming (the real war we need to fight and win) and a myriad of other more socially responsible initiatives but this would deny the Boys with Toys (the military) their once a decade chance to test their new playthings in real life (and death) situations.

There seems to be something about the human psyche that means we feel compelled to hit the destruct/self-destruct button every now and then.

Don't bother reading on if you are expecting me to come up with a rational explanation for this bizarre behaviour. I don't understand it either. All I can do is comment on it and depair over it like many millions of others with a firmer grip on the reality of everyday life than the pollies and Generals who have their fingers on the triggers and red buttons of the World.

Speaking of nutters with their fingers on the trigger, Commodore Frank Bainimarama seems to be following the script in leading his country down the self destruct path. Frank's beef seems to be that the indigenous population have been or are likely to be overun by the Fijian Indian community.

Well Frank it's like this. The Fijian Indians are a hard working, commercially astute people who don't see their prosperity flowing from a life of navel gazing and drinking kava. In a perfect world we'd all like the indulgence of the latter lifestyle but the realities of the 21st Century mean that the only way you are likely to achieve it as a full-time pursuit is at the point of a gun. History shows that this situation will not endure. The pointees resent it and eventually hit back.

So instead of swimming against the tide of history, Frank would be doing his people a bigger favour by attempting to bring the two Fijian communities together, instead of pushing them apart. If not, then as if joined by an invisible elastic band, at some point the tension between them will mean they will be pulled back inwards towards a violent collision.

Perhaps in a decade or so this particlar button will be pushed.

Lest we Forget.

Friday, January 16, 2009

They have a Dream

I'm told some animals, even non-human animals, dream to some extent. In fact, I've seen a video of a cat chasing an imaginary mouse while sleepwalking. But I think that it would be fair to say that non-humans dream of everyday stuff, like mice or other tasty treats or perhaps being chased by a predator. I doubt they dream of grand ideas like liberty or democracy. Only humans dare to dream beyond their everyday experience.

Take the people of Palestine for instance. They've not experienced real liberty in living memory, yet they dream of one day returning to their homeland that they believe is rightfully theirs. Why? Because it is the land in which their grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc., were born.

Only one thing prevents their return; the dream of another people who believe that many thousands of years ago their God gave them the very same bit of this Earth.

They took their chance to return to their homeland at the end of the Second World War after two millennia living elsewhere. They organized themselves; they fundraised to buy arms; they formed militant groups which carried out terrorist activities against the Arab population (the Palestinians) and the British, who still had colonial control of Palestine; they mobilized World opinion and eventually the UN ratified their claim to the land of Palestine.

The Palestinians meanwhile were either forced to flee to refugee camps in neighbouring countries or live as second-class citizens in their (old) homeland.

Two peoples; each believing in rightful sole ownership of the same bit of dirt. Each with a dream of living peacefully in their homeland. It’s a real dilemma.

This brings us then to the thing that really sets us apart from the animals. We alone seem to have the ability to believe that our dreams can be authoritative statements of reality even when there is no supporting evidence or even evidence to the contrary. We can cross the line from imagination to delusion.

So let’s look at the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Whose dream is more real? Which is rooted more in reality? Which is more evidence-based and which is more fanciful? Who has more right to the bit of the Earth now comprising the State of Israel and the two Palestinian territories, the West Bank and Gaza.

Are the Palestinians delusional in their claim of ownership based on 2000 years of tenure or are the Israelis even more realistic and righteous in their belief that their God* gave the land to them? Does divine proclamation override legal title based on inheritance?

Well, let's give the issue a contemporary Australian context and see if that helps us decide.


Put simply, if you side with the Palestinians you probably have a right to give short shrift to any Aboriginal person who knocks on your door and claims ownership of your house on the basis that his Dreamtime belief is that his people are the rightful owners of your land.

If you side with the Israelis then you should immediately contact your local Aboriginal Land Council and organize the transfer of ownership of any properties you have title to.

Unless you’re delusional, of course.

*Possibly the same God as the Palestinians’ God and if so this begs the question- Why didn’t he tell the Palestinians he was dispossessing them?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Childless man has no idea

The Bill Henson controversy has been ignited again by David Marr’s latest book, which defends photo-artist Bill Henson’s right to take naked images of teenage children. My personal view is that it is fundamentally flawed on two counts.
Firstly, to argue that all is allowable in the name of art is to argue that ‘extraordinary rendition’ (ie torture) is permissible if we are able to extract information that we may put to some ‘greater good’. The same fundamentals apply.
The two arguments go like this. They, the enemy, use torture because they are barbarians, but we, we apply 'justifiable' force for the greater good because we are the righteous ones. Similarly pornographers take sexually suggestive photographs of children born of heinous motives but artists may take very similar but award-winning photos that are then hung on gallery walls to great acclaim (usually by other artists).
We would not condone the action of a parent who allowed his or her child to endure significant pain in the name of art. Why are some parents lauded by the arty-farty brigade for allowing their children to take part in an activity clearly on the fringes of normal society’s standards of modesty?
Secondly, Mr Marr is a childless man. It may be that he imagines that he can understand the completely different view a caring parent of a child might have on this subject but, by definition, he does not. He is therefore a member of the group least qualified to comment on the rightness of the actions of Bill Henson and in particular the irresponsible parents of his subjects.


You may like to sign the petition at Bravehearts. Click here

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Do we have a Clayton’s Democracy

The dust is settling on the Council elections and our new Council is all but decided. Certainly we have a new Mayor. I’m sure we all wish all new Councillors and new Mayor Paul Green well and will extend the usual honeymoon period to them to allow them to find their feet.

Then we’ll get stuck into them too. They will inevitably make decisions some of us will disagree with, although probably with not quite the ferocity as we felt obliged to react to the excesses of the previous Council.

In the meantime a look at the process that delivered our Mayor might be interesting.

In the Shoalhaven we have what is officially termed a ‘Popularly-elected Mayor’. That is, there is a separate election by the residents for the position of Mayor. In many Local Government Areas the Mayor is elected by the new Councillors from amongst themselves. There are obvious arguments for and against both systems.

One plus in our system is that the people get the Mayor they want, at least to a point; not the Mayor the dominant faction on Council decides. On the other hand, the popular election of the Mayor creates an extra position on Council. Thus we have 13 on our Council; 12 Councillors plus the Mayor. It can also be the case that a celebrity Mayor will be elected on the strength of his/her profile as, say, a local media ‘star’.

Over the last several elections the State Government has been tinkering with the method of voting. We now have a different system, or more accurately, variations on a system, in each of the three tiers of government. Each though is based on a system of preferences wherein a ballot paper can pass from candidate to candidate depending on the numbers a voter places on the paper. It should be remembered that the net effect of a preferential system is not to elect the most popular candidate but rather the least unpopular candidate.

Locally we now have, at least till they change it again, a State Lower House style, ‘number as many squares as you wish’ model for the election of Mayor and an above and below the line system of electing Councillors. However this above and below system is different to the State and Federal Upper House models. If you choose to vote below the line, only a minimum of four squares need be numbered, it being the number of Councillors to be elected. You may number further squares if you wish. If you choose the above the line option then you get to decide the flow of your preferences by again numbering as many squares as you wish. The backroom preference deals of previous elections are thankfully gone.

This new Local Government election system would, on the face of it, seem to have brought together the best of all options in that it gives the voter maximum choice to allocate his/her vote(s) where he/she deems fit. Ah, but even silver clouds can rain on the parade. The downside to all this choice is that many votes ‘exhaust’ and do not aid in the election of anyone. This was the fate of 17,972 votes in the Shoalhaven Mayoral vote just decided. If we add to this number, the informal votes and the number of voters who just didn’t turn up, then the votes cast which actually determined the new Mayor of the Shoalhaven was a mere 52.6% of the 66,298 eligible voters. Paul Green was declared the winner with 19,953 formal votes after preferences, a tick over 30% of the electorate.

In other words only one in two eligible voters actually took part in the determination of the Mayorship and the Mayor was elected by a definite minority of the electorate.

How can this be? Please explain? OK, here goes. Thinking caps on please. If a voter chooses to number less than all squares then his/her vote may not still be ‘alive’ as the final preference distribution is done. This final distribution occurs when only three candidates are left in the count and the ballot papers of the candidate with fewest votes are allocated to the other two. If any of these ballot papers do not have a number next to one of these remaining two then it is cast aside and does not play a role in determining the winner.

To be specific with respect to the 2008 Mayoral election, the last three candidates standing were Paul Green (17,897 votes), Greg Watson (14,599) and John Fergusson (11,951). Fergusson was excluded from the count and his ballot papers examined in order to allocate preferences. However, only 320 indicated a next preference for Watson and 2056 for Green. The majority (9575) of Fergusson’s ballot papers did not have a number next to either Watson or Green and were deemed ‘exhausted’ votes. Many other ballot papers exhausted at earlier stages of the count because voters chose not to number all squares.

The short of it is that if you chose to not place a number next to one of the two most ‘popular’ candidates ie the two who had most votes just before final preference distribution, then your vote played no part in the election of the Mayor. You may as well have defaced the paper or stayed home.

So there’s the shortfall in the system. Unless you have a crystal ball and know in advance who the two most popular candidates will be, so that you can be sure to mark a number next to at least one of them, then it’s best to number all squares.

So why not make it compulsory to number all squares. The short answer is that having compelled you to turn up with the threat of a fine, the powers that be figure you will feel more relaxed and comfortable about the process if you are given more latitude in filling out the ballot paper even if it effectively disenfranchises up to 50% of voters.

Similarly, numbering less than all squares on the Councillor ballot paper can also lead to your vote being exhausted and taking no part in the result.

The answer to the problem is not simple or one-dimensional. Governments and the media can help but the real key to a more participatory democracy is a better-educated and motivated electorate. The following are my observations.

Firstly, the machinations of the preferential system are not well understood by voters. Education is obviously the key here but a common system in all three tiers of government elections would ease the confusion.

More information in the media about the candidates, particularly the small party and independent candidates and a greater willingness on the part of the average voter to study the field would not go astray either.

Then, given that a voter has made the effort to turn up, willingly or not, is it too much to ask that he/she spend a few seconds longer filling in all squares, above or below the line, as he/she sees fit?

There is no perfect system. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” I would add that a democracy in which up to 50% of votes are effectively not counted is intrinsically inferior to a participatory democracy where every vote counts.


Having said all of the above, the Council we have is the one we have to live with for the next 4 years so it's up to all of us to make it work by offering constructive critism where it falls due.

One thing is for certain, no group on the new Council has a mandate for anything more specific than a change from the excesses of the past.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Is this a private party or can anyone join?

What a strange political party is Greg Watson’s Shoalhaven Independents Group. Perhaps it holds regular dance parties, trivia nights and other fund-raisers but I have never heard of any. It appears to emerge from the shadows once every four years for the express purpose of fielding candidates at Council elections. Between times it appears to do nothing except collect donations, provided to the party, to the exclusion of other parties and candidates, in great philanthropic zeal by a select group of developers. Then, at election time it acts as a convenient vehicle for certain candidates to minimize their out-of-pocket campaign expenses by accessing some of this considerable warchest of funds. (Approximately $90,000 at the 2004 election.)

The party also removes the burden of all that paperwork associated with keeping records of donations and expenditure etc as now required under recently passed, NSW State Government legislation.

Take the case of the off-again, on-again campaign of former real estate agent and soon-to-be property developer Cr Willmot. The South Coast Register (15.8.08) reported that Cr Willmot felt obliged to rejoin the Shoalhaven Independents Group party despite having resigned after a “huge blue” with party leader Greg Watson. What obliged him? “The cost of audits and the requirements to have a registered officer means you have to run with a party”.

What terrible fate then awaits the thirty-eight truly independent candidates in the Shoalhaven and the thousands more around the state? How will they cope with all that paperwork, post-election?

Perhaps Cr Willmot is not good with paperwork, although this begs the question of how he managed as a real estate agent and causes me considerable worry about his effectiveness as a Councillor.

But more importantly I would like to know on what basis Cr Willmot was readmitted to the party he left so abruptly? What undertakings were he required to make? Or can anyone join the Shoalhaven Independents Group and have their campaign funded by the development lobby?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Picking the Spin

It's nearly that time again.

That's right, on Sept 13 we get to vote again and exercise our democratic right to elect the very best of us to high office. In this case we are being asked to elect a new Shoalhaven City Council.

But this time let's do it right. Pay no attention to the extensive advertising campaign about to be unleashed by the incumbent Shoalhaven Independents Group Party (SIG) led by longtime Mayor, Greg Watson. The Group is anything but 'independent'. It is a fully registered political party.

Instead, pay close attention to the facts-
  1. this Council is controlled by one party led by one dominant individual.
  2. the dominant party is funded by a number of large developers, many of which have benefitted from recent decisions of this Council.
  3. this Council has made a number of decisions which are directly opposed to the community interest and often in the face of contrary advice from council officers and/or the Dept. of Local Government.
  4. this Council has been and is the subject of several inquiries by the Dept. of Local Government.
  5. several prominent local citizens including former State Member John Hatton have called for the activities of this Council to be investigated by ICAC.
  6. long term dominance of any level of government by any one political group/party or individual is unhealthy and can lead to bad government.

Do not be fooled by claims that the economy of the Shoalhaven will collapse if the Watson crew are no longer in control. We already have an unacceptable level of unemployment and under-employment.

When times are tough economically we need governments, at all levels, that are sympathetic to the needs of citizens as individuals not too busy to listen because big business has bought their ear.

Ignore the spin, hit straight down the line.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rule 303.1

I caught a rat last night.
His crime? He invaded my kitchen. He invaded my kitchen and I killed him.
No doubt the rodent wished me no harm; he told me no lies; he invaded my kitchen not someone’s country.
Still, I killed him.
I did not give him a State funeral. I will not be recommending him for a medal or knighthood.
He was a rat and I killed him.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Deeper pockets needed

The NSW Premier says he may ban political donations and revamp the system of public funding of elections. The intention is admirable, though I don't believe for a minute the Premier is a passionate convert to the concept of an election as a fairly run race, being as doing (or at least saying) something was forced on him following the scandalous behaviour of members of his own party on Wollongong Council.

Don't hold your breath for any actual change in the reality of the electoral process. Even if donations are banned, the parties will still be free to hold their inevitable raffles and other fund-raisiers. Till now a typical raffle might have as a prize a bottle of wine or similar. If donations are banned expect the typical prize to be a car or overseas trip. Tickets may still be a dollar, so the party faithful will still be able to show their support by buying 5 or 10 tickets but the big ticket sales will be made to those who currently buy the ear of a Minister via a large donation.

-"How many tickets for you, Mr. Property Developer?"

-"1000 thanks and by the way, who do I speak to to make an appointment with the Minister?"

-"I'm sorry Sir, I think you need 5000 tickets for that".

The second thing that is unlikely to change is the minimum number of first preference votes a candidate is required to achieve in order to qualify for any public funding at all. Currently Federally and in NSW the threshold stands at 4%.

This doesn't seem much but that's several thousand votes. In the recent Federal election for the seat of Gilmore there were nine candidates including myself. Of the nine only three (Labor, Liberal, Greens) qualified for funding. The other six received no 'reward' for their efforts at helping make democracy work.

Indeed in my case, as the only Independent candidate, I had to meet virtually all my expenses from my own pocket.
I don't expect that anyone will be doing us little guys any favours when the Electoral Act is redrafted. The system is currently designed to funnel the majority of the money into the coffers of the Labor and Liberal parties.

A 'donation-free-zone' Electoral Act will simply deliver more taxpayer money to the BIG TWO. The only real difference is that developers will have to get deeper pockets, not in order to fork out more money but to hold all those raffle tickets.

Link- http://www.efa.nsw.gov.au/state_government_elections/election_funding__and__entitlements

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The New, New Australia Day

Readers will be aware that only last year did my family decide on a day on which to celebrate Australia Day. see Australia Day takes a giant step forward by going back one below.

However we now have an even better one; Feb 13, the anniversary of The Apology. So next year skip the Old New Australia Day, the Old Australia Day and save yourself for Friday February 13. Let's have a party to celebrate the New Australia's first birthday.

Human ingenuity knows no bounds

I just logged on to find that the counter at right has ticked over the magic $500,000,000,000 (US$500 billion) mark.

What a shame to have missed the actual moment when $499,999,999,999 clicked over by the cost of one more bullet. Must have been exciting. Let me know if you were actually watching at the time. What a hoot.

I must set an alarm or something to let me know when the $1,000,000,000,000 mark is close. Mustn't miss that one. What a milestone for humanity that will be.

Developers, developers everywhere and not an Independent Councillor in sight

Well Councillwatchers, what an interesting few weeks it's been. We now know for sure what many of us have long suspected; Wollongong City Council has been riddled with corruption for many years.

But not only Councillors and council staff seem to have been trawlled from the bottom of the pond by the ICAC enquiry. Several State Labour pollies have been drawn into the net as well. Of the four (Brown, Hay, Campbell, Tripodi) only Wollongong MP Noreen Hay seems like she may have a case to answer. Her, or her agent's, oversight in not including some $65,000 of donations including some from, yep you guessed it, developers, is hardly confidence-inspiring.

In the last few days the spotlight has turned on Shoalhaven Mayor Greg Watson's Shoalhaven Independents Group Party, NSW's sixth most successful party in soliciting donations from developers.

What can be learned from all this? Get the parties; all parties, out of local government. Let's get back to the notion that Council is about people representing the people, not parties representing some people and certainly not parties representing developers.

Friday, February 15, 2008

From the Log of the Starship Terra Australis

Wed. 13th Feb 2008
Great day. Our new Captain Rudd said ”Sorry” to the original peoples of this Land for the effects of our continuing occupation of this magnificent place. His apology was accepted with the grace and dignity we have come to expect from these proud people.

Calls for us to leave seem to have disappeared. Instead cohabitation based on mutual respect seems to be the overwhelming sentiment of both groups; settlers and locals.

Small group of rebels led by Major Tuckey staged a walkout. They are expected to be rounded up and sent home by the next election. They have been an embarrassment to most of the crew for sometime and have well and truly overstayed their welcome.

Former Captain Howard not sighted. Thought to be living a hermit-like existence somewhere in the unchartered territories. Not expected to pose a problem.

Thurs 14th Feb 2008
Sad day. Our most senior officer of the Entertainment Corps has passed away. Commodore Smokey Dawson was an inspiration to several generations of the inhabitants of this Land.

For over 60 years he gave us great service, always making time for a song or a yarn. He was truly one of a kind. His partner, Dot, and all Terra Australians will miss him greatly.

As I heard one of the crew say, “They don’t make ‘em like that any more”.

Let’s hope ‘Smoke’ and rebel leader Tuckey have at least that much in common.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Name Change

I've changed my name by Deed Poll from Geoff Richardson to Of The Above None and announced that I will be a candidate at the next Federal election for the seat of Gilmore.
I will appear on the ballot paper as NONE, Of The Above .

More at www.noneoftheabove.com.au

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Crime(s) Against Human(ity)

The blog entry immediately below this one titled “What Will We Tell Them?” is admittedly a blatant appeal to the emotions of our readers but I thought it might also be appropriate to tackle the issue of David Hicks’ incarceration from a more logical perspective, especially in light of the PM’s revelation this week.

So here goes. Please tell me via the comments section if you spot any flaws in my logic.

Prime Minister John Howard has told a meeting of his joint party room that for some time he has had the power to have David released and returned to Australia but that he has chosen not to do so because, under Australian law, David has committed no crime and therefore would return home a free man.

If the PM has the power to have David released to what the Americans would surely regard as the worst possible outcome, then presumably he also has now and has had for some time, enough influence to get David’s captors to agree to any or all of the following lesser concessions.
- allow greater access to David by his father, legal team, human rights groups etc
- have him charged expeditiously with crimes that were actually crimes at the time he is alleged to have committed them.
- ensure that David’s treatment was at all time in accordance with the Geneva Convention and accepted norms.

The fact that the PM has chosen to not effect these changes in David’s conditions and treatment means that, in effect, he must assume defacto responsibility for all the sufferings David, an Australian citizen, has endured.
Any coalition member, including the Member for Gilmore, who fails to speak out, both publicly and in the party room, against the PM’s cruel and degrading treatment of a fellow Australian, must also assume some degree of personal responsibility.

I believe that when all the facts surrounding David’s capture, interrogation and incarceration are finally revealed, all those who remained silent but had the power to do something, anything, will stand condemned.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What Will We Tell Them?

Don’t move.

We have all been witnesses to a crime, a crime against a man and a crime against humanity. We have all seen it, little by little, night by night on the evening news. A man has been abandoned by his Government, forsaken by his countrymen, tortured by his accusers and played with for political advantage by those whose duty it was to protect him.

What will we tell our grandchildren when they ask, “ What did you do to help David Hicks?”

Perhaps he will still be in Guantanamo Bay when one of them turns the legal or political key to release him, some decades from now.

How will we explain our inaction?

Was the Government too powerful, the time too short, the mortgage to pressing or the task too daunting?

What will we tell them?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Flying the Flag on the Inside

The recent euphoria and hype that surrounded Australia Day, Jan 26, struck me as somewhat contrived and shallow. Lots of young people in particular took to the streets waving giant and small Aussie flags and sporting temporary flag tattoos. I noticed there was much yahooing in the streets of Berry when I went to buy the milk at the supermarket. The small Aussie flags were on sale there for only 99 cents but I resisted the urge (not very strong) to buy one and join the merriment. You see, I strongly suspect that at least part of the motivation inspiring the teenagers on the back of the ute across the road was their youthful predilection to party at the drop of a hat.

And it's not that I'm not patriotic. As I admitted in a previous email edition of The Tank, I cried too when 'Our Cathy' won the 400m at the Sydney Olympics. It's just that I feel public displays of patriotic fervour should be reserved for special occasions; events in which an Australian, or Australian team, is competing against another nation(s).

It has always amused me that the National Anthem is played before the rugby league grand final. Both teams are representing clubs, not nations. It would be far more appropriate and no doubt well received by the fans, if the team songs were played. As a St George supporter who saw Norm, Johnny, Reg and the boys win many of their record eleven successive premierships, my heart stirred more violently when the guy in the crowd with a trumpet played “When the Saints Go Marching In” than when we all stood when directed to mumble the words of “God Save the Queen”.

Australia, despite the whinges we have about this and that, is arguably still the luckiest country in the world and quite likely the South Coast of NSW, in particular Kangaroo Valley*, the best bit to live in. But our good fortune does not mean we Australians are in any way intrinsically superior to others. There is a very real risk that the continuation of the trend towards a more contrived, manufactured and commercial celebration of the nation will reduce our concept of what it means to be an Australian to that of a washable tattoo. Our focus, turned inward, will then be relieved of an accurate worldview.

The rise of nationalism can go unnoticed by most until too late. Before you know it it’s possible that we’ll think we know best, not just for ourselves but also for other countries and their citizens. We may then be easily led into setting about the task of fashioning the world in our own image via a series of ‘Wars of Liberation’.

Just as the original meanings of Christmas and Easter have been overtaken by hype and commercialism we are in danger of losing the real meaning of Australia Day. It should be a day for a few official functions, the inevitable speeches from the GG and PM and some quiet reflection by the rest of us on our good fortune.

Christians privately give thanks to their Lord every day. I like to think I fly the Aussie flag every day; on the inside.

Geoff

* Sorry, my bias. I’m sure where you live is nice too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Australia Day takes a giant step forward by going back one

I wrote in a previous email edition of The Tank that Australia Day is a wonderful concept but unfortunately someone chose the wrong day; being as it falls on the anniversary of the white invasion of this country.

Whenever I say this to anyone the immediate response is, “OK, what day should it be?”

No day has ever seemed obvious to me so my standard reply has always been, “Any other day; there are 364 other perfectly good days to choose from”.

However, friends and I recently workshopped the idea and came up with the ALL NEW Australia Day. It was obvious really.

Australia Day may now be celebrated on January 25, it being the anniversary of the last day that Aboriginal Australians were truly free.

If you happen to be reading this on Jan 25, “Happy Australia Day”

Monday, December 25, 2006

STOP PRESS: Non-Cricketer Wins Two Years in Row

A retiring Shane Warne was in the mix. The Pigeon, Glen McGrath, was also a possibility. Captain Courageous, Ricky Ponting must have gone close. We treasure those Ashes after all and all three worked extremely hard over fifteen long, hot days to bring them 'home'.

But no, The Tank's 2006 Australian Father of the Year is not a cricketer. However he also has been working hard to effect a repatriation, that of his son David from the Most Powerful Nation on Earth's gulag, Guantanamo Bay.

Of course that man is last year's winner, Terry Hicks.

No son could have asked for a more courageous and dedicated father who for five long years has battled to save his son from the tortures that are been inflicted upon him by the cowardly Neo-Cons of the Whitehouse.

Well done Terry.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oils Ain’t No Oils

Like so many actions and statements of the Prime Minister, his recent denial of a request for assistance made by the democratically elected (80% of the vote) Prime Minister of Fiji had me scratching my head in disbelief at his blatant hypocracy.
No we will not intervene in the coup in aid of the democratically elected government. That would be tantamount to an invasion. “We don’t do that.”
Breathtaking stuff. Ask the people of Iraq if Australia invades other countries.
Oops! Silly me. I forgot the unwritten subtext that, by now, I should have picked up on.
I should have understood, “No oil, no help”.

Babies and Bathwater: the difference explained.

The Federal government has assumed responsibility for the sales of Aussie wheat for the next six months whilst it considers its position on the single desk policy wherein one agency, most recently AWB Ltd, has sole rights to trade in wheat for export.
Of course we now know what the government says it didn't know (but should have). ie that AWB was paying kickbacks to purchasers, in particular Saddam Hussein, in contravention of UN sanctions on pre-invasion Iraq.
This was disgraceful, immoral and more than likely illegal but does it mean that the single desk policy is fundamentally flawed? The farmers love it. They see it as ensuring that they have the strength in the marketplace to compete with the big boys, Canada and the US.
The single desk concept is not so different to the way trade unions negotiate favourable wages and conditions outcomes for their members. Or did pre-Work Choices.
By not allowing wheat buyers to pick off the weakest or most desperate farmers first and so set an inadequately low floor price, the single desk policy ensures that Aussie farmers get the best returns for their labours.
For the next six months we are to have the Minister behind a single desk acting as a kind of government appointed farmer's union leader but at the same time the same government is busy telling us that trade unions are passe and that workers will achieve better wage outcomes under its deregulated Work Choices system.
Let's keep the single desk and the union movement and toss out AWB and Work Choices. And the current Federal Government.

A Nice Little Earner

Pauline Hanson has flagged that she may be back on the election trail with some typically racist and erroneous comments.Her motivation? Some say it's to promote the sales of her forthcoming autobiography (buy it and I'll leap through your monitor and rip yer bloody arms orf!) but I think she's on to a nice racket.
Her name and notoriety mean she will have to spend nothing from her own pocket on election advertising whilst at the same time picking up the election funding provided by the Australian Electoral Commission for candidates who poll more than 4% of the primary vote; a likely result for her. Registered political parties are entitled to election funding where an endorsed candidate or Senate group receives at least 4% of the total formal first preference votes.
Independent candidates and Senate groups are also entitled to election funding if they receive 4% of the vote. For more info click here.
At $2.05 per vote she can pick up a cool $200,000 by getting just 4% of the vote in her home state of Queensland if she ran for the Senate.As long as her (limited) popularity stays above 4% she can do this indefinelty.
Expect to see much more of Pauline Hanson, professional losing politician, over the next decade or so.

Christmas Fare for a Christmas Unfair

David Hicks is about to experience yet another Christmas at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.I thought it might be interesting to ask the US Ambassador to Australia, Mr Robert D. McCallum, Jr, what will be on the menu this Christmas dinner for David.
Email him at info@usembassy-australia.state.gov
While your at it you might like to also ask him when David can expect to enjoy a Christmas at home here in Australia with his loved ones.I'll publish his reply as soon as I get one.

Joanna To Resign?

The Member for Gilmore is on record as having promised to resign if a nuclear reactor is built at Jervis Bay. This was before the recent release of the Switkowski Report which suggested that up to 25 reactors should be built in Australia.
Murray's Beach was selected some decades ago as the site for our second reactor and some construction work was begun. It has a number of unique features which make it's re-selection more than likely-
1. It has a deepwater port
2. It is within ACT territory and so would not be subject to a challenge from a State government
3. It is next to HMAS Creswell and so has inbuilt security against nuclear terrorism, a very real possibility.
Given the likelihood that a re-elected Liberal-National coalition government would commence a domestic nuclear industry and that the Shoalhaven is in at least the top 25 sites, perhaps Ms Gash should be asked to reaffirm her committment to resign or better still, asked how she could possibly guarantee a reactor would not be built here. Email Joanna at Joanna.Gash.MP@aph.gov.au

Not Sinking, Water Rising

Alone amongst World leaders the Prime Minister has refused to concede that the quagmire in Iraq is going badly or to set a withdrawl date for Australian troops.
What was expected to be over in a few short weeks has now dragged on since March 19 2003, with no possible end in sight according to retired General Tommy Franks who led the initial invasion.
More than 2900 US soldiers have been killed and more than 22,000 injured. An estimated 356 Iraqi security forces and civilians have died in the first week of December alone.
In total over 100,000 Iraqis may have died. (British Medical Journal, The Lancet)
Total final cost (if there ever is an end) is projected at US$ 3 trillion.
Whilst the concept of the Captain going down with the ship is admirable, taking so many innocent others with him is inexcuseable.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another Ace Up His Sleeve

John Howard's Prime Ministership got off to a flying start when his stalking horse, Pauline Hanson, set the racist agenda which he refused to condemn at the time and subsequently adopted via his own particular brand of what I call 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' politics. ie he makes statements which are seemingly vague, inoffensive or harmless but which contain coded messages for those who are 'tuned in'. Here's some examples of how Howard's race cards have been played.
  • He refused to condemn Pauline Hanson on the grounds that as a politician in a democracy she had the right to express her views. This was code to any racist worth their pointy white hood that he secretly shares her opinions on Aborigines, immigrants etc.
  • "We decide who comes and the manner in which they come" was actually code for "If you intrinsically distrust foreigners as much as I do then vote for me"
  • 'Children Overboard!' was code for 'these illegal immigrants don't even love their children; they are less than human; vote for me'
  • 'Saddam has got WMDs' was code for '(Non-Anglo) World leaders we don't like have no moral scruples, let's get 'em'. Of course this neatly ignores the American use of napalm in Vietnam and radioactive ammunition in both Iraq wars, not to mention cluster bombs, the Daisy Cutter bomb etc.

Now the latest card from the PM's stacked deck is the idea of installing 'Chaplains' in schools. What a coincidence that this initiative is trotted out immediately following Sheik Hilali's silly and offensive statements about gender roles which disgraced himself and his followers.

The title 'Chaplain' was deliberately chosen by the PM. It is a word always associated with the Christian religion and no other. If he had sought to be inclusive of all religions he could have come up with a generic title such as 'spiritual advisor'. He chose not to.

The subtext here is plain- 'If you too believe that Muslims are a pack of rapists and terrorists, vote for me'.

It's all part of his 'divide and rule' strategy. The more division and distrust he can propagate, the more fearful the average citizen becomes and the more the fearful will look to the dealer to deal them a winning hand.

But if, like me, your not happy with the cards you are being dealt then perhaps it's time to consider installing a new dealer; with a new deck. Why let the Joker ruin the game? Roll on the next Federal election.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another Milestone for Humanity

I just watched the counter at right tick over to $333,333,333,333
What a great achivement. Imagine the stimulus to the US economy as its factories churn out replacements for all those bullets, artillery shells and missiles.
How long till $ 666,666,666,666 ticks over?
Will we be twice as safe when that happens?
Will a boy named Damien be elected President of the World before then?
How many Iraqis will have died at at that point?
Stay tuned.

The View from the Other Side of the Fence

So North Korea has "The Bomb". Alexander Downwer, Kevin Rudd and others in the know are convinced that this is a bad thing and I suppose they are right. I can't imagine that another member of the Nuclear Club is something to rejoice about.

We should be afraid or at the very least be concerned, they say, since North Korea is in our area of the world and its' leader is nutty enough to do something silly with his new toy.

As much as I would like to jump on the 'let's do something about this disturbing situation' bandwaggon I can't help but wonder how my feelings of disquiet about the danger of Kim Jong Il's new toy stacks up against the unmitigated fear and terror that the average Iraqi must have felt in the weeks and months before the bombing and invasion of their country by the Coalition of the Willing.

Everything is relative I suppose but more than that it is subject to the perspective of the interpretor. We are, in some small way, in danger from a brain explosion by the leader of Nth Korea as he seeks to push his point of view.

The people of Iraq were, to a much greater extent, subjected to the threat of invasion; sorry liberation, by the Neo-Cons of the Whitehouse who, whilst not using any of their already existing huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, had at their disposal the most sophisticated array of 'conventional' weapons the world has ever seen.

Which of the beligerants acted out their threat? So far only the US and its pals, including Australia, have actually used military force to try and achieve a desired political outcome.

In the process 100,000 Iraqis are said to have died in the liberation and democratisation of their country. The toll mounts daily.

Kim Jong Il is probably a nutter but has so far not been responsible for a single casuality outside his own country.

The US has bombed 28 countries since the end of WW II.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Late Mail from Capt. Arthur Phillip

Historians have recently discovered a long lost letter from the man long held to be Australia's first Governor, Capt. Arthur Phillip. The text is reproduced below and makes for interesting reading, especially for those bleeding heart lefties who think that a simple English and Aussie culture test is too much to impose on new arrivals to our fair shores.

26.1.1788
Arrived in the most beautiful and accomodating of harbours today. Ashore we encountered a most hospitable race of citizens of this bountiful land. Their obviously harmonious relationship with their environment is breathtakingly simple at first examination but incredibly complex in detail.
27.1.1788
The crew and myself, having witnessed the idyllic lifestyle of the locals, have decided to adopt their customs and language. Common good manners would, in any case, deem this course of action appropriate.
28.1.1788
Hosted a ceremony today to declare a bark humpy as 'Government House'. As it was a 'bring a plate' affair the Terra Nullians brought generous supplies of delicious game meats and berries. I must say we felt rather overwhelmed and inadequate with our megre contribution of mouldy bread and rum. Still the local chief's pleasure when I addressed him as "Governor" proved a suitable distracion and face-saver.
29.1.1788
I am gradually getting the hang of the local language. I think that we will learn it more quickly and efficiently if we speak exclusively in Terra Nullian. Will issue ban on English speaking tommorrow.
30.1.1788
The rest of the New Terra Nullians, except one, have enthusiastically endorsed my ban on English. It's a delight to see them engaging in conversation with the locals as they ask directions on cooking wallaby or detoxifying berries.
Will disipline young Seaman Howard tonight and remind him that we are the guests of the Terra Nullians. They have been completely accepting of us and we should do likewise. If they had called us names like 'wog' or 'dago' or 'chink' then I would be the first to agree that we should refuse to integrate but their complete hospitality and interest in us and our customs means we have a duty to reciprocate.
31.1.1788
This will be my last entry. Since the Terra Nullians are an oral culture and know nothing of the written word, we have decided to adopt this aspect of their culture also. We are the new chums after all and the only way we can expect future new arrivals to do likewise is to set an example for them to follow.

Yours in service of the Mother Earth,
Warramullungadatta, formerly Arthur Phillip, Capt. (ret)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Case for Segregation (from Me)

I caught the train from Wollongong to Berry last Wednesday after a day teaching at a private girl’s school. I enjoy my time there. The girl’s aren’t all angels all the time but the vast majority seem to appreciate the fact that they are receiving a quality education from committed teachers. It’s certainly the only school I’ve ever taught at where I’ve heard “Thank you for teaching us today Sir,” as students file from the room at the end of the lesson.

It’s often an education too; the afternoon train. Almost every trip gives a new insight into Australian culture and this trip was to be no exception.

I found a seat and pulled the school’s laptop from its bag to do some lesson preparation when four very giggly young girls of about 15-17 y.o. plonked themselves in the double seat, one seat over from me.

After a day of coping with only sometimes giggly schoolgirls, the prospect of spending the next hour adjacent to this four did not thrill me but it could be worse I told myself. I could have fluked a return performance of the young woman who insisted on talking loudly to her friend about the idiosyncrasies of fellow passengers. Fortunately she never got to me.

How wrong I was. Instead I was to discover that these four young Ozzie ladies had been out sex-aid shopping and were so excited by their adventure that over the next hour they couldn’t wait to rip open the packets and discuss the contents and their application/use in graphic detail.

The fact that another 20 or so passengers of all ages co-habited the upper level of the carriage with them fazed them not one little bit.

Their leader, an about 17 y.o. in fishnet stockings with designer holes, was in fine form and professed to know all about each.

“Why are they made like that,” she was asked about the first item, a pair of crotchless nickers held above head height so that my by now deliberately averted gaze could not help get a fleeting glimpse.

“It’s all about access,” was the reply from the expert.

It was going to be a long trip. I buried my head in my computer and sought visual solitude in a game of Solitaire but unfortunately, without earplugs, my ears were to be privy to a discussion that ranged from masturbation to the virtues of anal sex, from a man’s point of view of course.

All this was interspersed with much giggling and the tearing open of the packets containing various other objects including a lubricant, which they all tried on their hands and faces, followed by a vibrator which was switched on and off while Little Miss Fishnet gave a graphic explanation of its use and, for all I know, a demonstration to boot.

Several times one of the girls asked a question which LMF deemed na├»ve. Her reply was invariably, “We’ve just got to get you laid.”

When one of their number dared to caution some restraint in their behaviour LMF declared to one and all, “I can say what I like. I’m not embarrassed, I’ve got a cockring.” To prove it she held up a circular rubber object of which once again my eyes unfortunately caught a fleeting glimpse.

“I’ve been watching porn at home since I was 11,” was another of her proud assertions.

Fortunately two of their number received mobile calls during the journey and I overheard them tell a parent that their train would be in at 5.18. I was due to alight at Berry at precisely that time. Could my luck have changed? Were they too getting off at Berry? Would I have the opportunity to speak to a parent and tell him/her what their little darling had really been doing this fine day?

Well that’s exactly what I did. I suspect that at least one of them is now grounded for a considerable period of time. I don’t hold much hope for LMF. I suspect the worst of her home life I’m afraid.

The PM, the 50’s child who never grew up, apparently thinks that Muslims in Australia should make a bigger effort to assimilate. Presumably they should more quickly and fully adopt Ozzie ways and values.

The Mahatma Gandhi travelled India by train to discover “Mother India” from the grassroots up before embarking on his quest for Indian independence from Mother England.

Perhaps the PM would do well to try the 4 o’clock from Wollongong before telling us that Ozzie culture is intrinsically superior to Islamic culture.

There’s at least one Mother in Berry who would probably agree with me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An Honest Bastard

Australia is the poorer for the loss of Don Chipp, a rarity amongst politicians, a courageous and honest man. His death is another reminder that the old Australia is fading fast. There was a time when politicians (and others in public life) were essentially honest men and women who sometimes just needed a little reminder where the centreline of the straight and narrow was.

Hence the Democrats catchcry, "Keep the Bastards Honest", which Mr Chipp used to great effect. In the lexicon of Australian politics it ranks with "It's Time" and "Reds under the Bed". The Australian Democrats achieved great success under his leadership and in the years following by selling us the idea that the bastards could in fact be kept honest. Perhaps they were right at the time.

Unfortunately the modern Australia is fast becoming a 'first in, best dressed', 'if they believe it, it's true' kind of place where old fashioned honesty and the concept of a 'fair go' is not the bedrock on which our leaders' characters are built.

The fast-fading Democrats might do well to adopt the slogan inherent in our profile pic, "Stand up to the Bastards".
G.