Monday, December 26, 2011

It's the simple things...

I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a Myers department store earlier today.

Boxing Day. My guess is that it's the busiest day of the year for retailers. It seemed it anyway.

Hordes of people pushing and shoving. Orderly but endless queues for the fitting rooms. Loooong queues at pay stations.

Killing time, I wandered off to look at stuff for men. I thought I might compare prices with Duty Free and if they were anywhere near I was prepared to spend some money.

No prices marked on the stuff. Just a barcode.

So they expect me to go in search of a customer service executive, a marketing consultant, or whatever they're called these days, which are harder to find than a Tasmanian Tiger.

In the unlikely event that I find one, I would then have to traipse after her so that she can check the price of the item.

Then I have to take it back where I found it if I think it's not value for money.

Repeat for every item I'm interested in.

No thanks.

They can't be bothered to do something as simple as put a price on the stuff they want us to buy, I can't be bothered to give them my money.

Retailers have been whingeing all year that we're not spending enough with them, yet they do so little to make it easy for us to shop with them. And it's the easy stuff they get so wrong so consistently.

Putting a bloody price on your stock is hardly rocket science is it.  It would even give your staff, most of whom stand around bored out of their minds for most of the time most of the year, something to do.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Airport rip-off

The flight I was meeting this morning arrived late, so I was stuck at Sydney Kingsford Smith for something like two and a half hours.

Naturally the coffee and snacks are overpriced, at a good 50% more than the same thing outside the airport.

But the worst rip-off has to be the parking. Less than three hours and I was stung for $52.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brunei pics

The two weeks in Brunei were in the country's second largest city, Kuala Belait.  Second largest but it's very small - the town centre is three streets covering an area of about 100 metres X 250 metres.

There's a very nice little park on the riverfront next to the hotel we stayed in and that's where I took this photo.  They obviously take littering very seriously:

This sign in the main street intrigued me, especially the second item that can be treated:

Small country town it may be but multi-tasking has reached Kuala Belait in a big way:

Brunei is very close to the equator so it gets rain. Lots of it. So they have big open drains to run the water off:

 You need to watch where you're walking so you don't fall in...but that's only half the problem;

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happening Dubai

We've been back in Dubai for a week after our trip to Brunei and it's a good time to be here.

Daytime temperature is in the high twenties celcius with very low humidity and, for Dubai, the sky is quite clear.

There's plenty going on too.

Sporting-wise, the Third Dubai International Parachuting Championship is happening here in Dubai Marina. The huge international Dubai Rugby Sevens have just finished...with a win for England. And next weekend is golf's Dubai World Championship.

Global Village is open for business, with pavilions from many countries forming what's in reality a huge souk (market) with some real bargains.

And the Dubai International Film Festival, with Tom Cruise here for the world premier of his latest Mission Impossible movie, which was partly shot around, and on, Burj Khalifa.

December 2 was the 40th anniversary of the formation of the country. It's the longest lasting union in the Arab world which gets stronger each year and there were major celebrations all over the country.

Flight's booked for Sydney next week...and in spite of it being summer there now the weather looks less than inviting. The Sydney Morning Herald is telling me cloudy, showers, maximum 20C. And the coldest first week of summer for more than four decades.

Talking of flights, there's a story in the paper here this morning about Emirates, my airline of choice.

The traditional carriers all complain about the unfair advantage Emirates (and Etihad & Qatar) have in being government owned and demand their governments' protection.

But as I've said before, that's not the real reason they're doing so well. It's mainly about product and service.

A couple of examples.

Reading about American Airline's Chapter Eleven application we're reminded that many US (and other) airlines charge for checked baggage. Others with a free allowance give 20kg for economy pasengers. Emirates gives 30kg free.

Now Emirates are offering a baggage delivery service here in the UAE. Travellers coming through Terminal 3, the dedicated Emirates terminal at Dubai International, can arrange to have their baggage collected and delivered to them. Up to four bags will cost AED200 (US$54) delivered to Dubai or neighbouring emirates, and AED250 to the further emirates. Extra bags are AED10 (US$2.72) each.

It's the sort of thing the other airlines omit to say when complaining about Emirates taking their business. And it's service they don't match. Their default strategy in hard times is to cut services, give their passengers less and charge them more.

It rarely works, in any business.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back in Dubai

We arrived back in Dubai after two weeks in Brunei at about 1.30 this morning on an overnight flight with Royal Brunei and I've been struggling a bit all day.

I have trouble sleeping on aircraft anyway but the bumpy ride made it even harder. Just about every time I dozed off we hit some potholes which made it bumpy enough to wake me. The announcements about getting back to your seats, fastening seatbelts, lights coming back on, seatbelt sign bleeping made sure I was awake anyway.

Something like ten aircraft all arrived at Dubai within about half an hour and that's a lotta people to process. Since we cancelled our residency we don't have the E-Gate card - an electronic way to pass Immigration in about 30 seconds - so we had to join the queues.

Twenty desks but only five operating. Immigration staff like they are all over the world, not wanting to be there, doing very little to keep things moving quickly, being grumpy at best, even surly.

Fifty minutes it took to get through. Just what you need after an eight hour overnight sleepless bumpy flight.

At least it meant not having to wait for the luggage to come up. In fact the next flight's load was going round and round and the previous flight's, ours, had been offloaded to the side of the belt. Ours bags were amongst the pile, so that was the easy part for once. With the speed of the E-Gate card it usually meant a thirty minute wait for our bags to appear.

The roads were't too busy so the taxi ride from airport to apartment at Dubai Marina was an easy one.

We got some shuteye, made it to coffee at Dome (an Aussie franchise) at Dubai Marina by about ten. Then we had lunch at one of our favourite Arabic restaurants, Al Halab at Mall of the Emirates. Fresh lemon & mint juice, hommos, tabouli, shish tawook, freshly baked Arabic bread.

I felt better after that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

G'day from Brunei

Been here a week, flying back to Dubai on Saturday evening, then back to Terrigal mid-December.

The week here so far has been sunny, hot and humid. Tropical downpours but they've been during the night. The one exception was Saturday when we had a trip planned into the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.

The driver picked us up after lunch for the 1.5 hour drive and it rained all the way. That limited our sightseeing, but there's very little to see anyway.

We had a look around the two major tourist attractions, the Royal Regalia Exhibition and the Brunei Museum.

I was completely underwhelmed.

Then a visit to one of the two major mosques. Beautiful, but I've seen so many beautiful mosques that it was a bit ho-hum I'm afraid.

So it was a drive back in the rain for another hour and a half plus. Very little to make nearly four hours in the car worthwhile.

Sunday was planned to be a full day sightseeing, but having established there are virtually no sights to see we cancelled it.

A tourist destination it ain't. It's a business destination, which is the reason we're here of course.

I have plenty of photographs but I forgot to pack some cables and I can't upload them to my computer. I'll do that when we're back in Dubai and post them then.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Away for a month

I saw my visitors off on Wednesday and now I'm off tomorrow for a month.

Mrs Seabee has a business trip to Brunei and I'm tagging along for the ride, then we're going on to Dubai.

I've never been to Brunei so that'll be interesting - I'll probably post the occasional observation here and some photos when I'm back in Terrigal mid-December.

I'll leave you with a photo of some of my feathered friends who came earlier to see me off:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Holiday snaps

I took my UK visitors down to Brooklyn today, a place I haven't visited since we moved up to the Central Coast about fourteen years ago. We used to drive up there for the day from Sydney before that and I'd almost forgotten what a pleasant place it is.

I only took a couple of photos but I thought I'd share them:

Brooklyn's just off the F3 not far north from the Wahroonga interchange, has a marina, a fisherman's co-operative, a pub and a few shops, a handful of restaurants including a couple of seafood restaurants that look good (and I'll try one day soon for lunch I think).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Time for a whinge

I'm really never at my best in the mornings, especially before I've had my coffee.

And the standard of service - total lack of service is more accurate - in our coffee shops here in Terrigal makes it even harder for me to plunge into the day.

My regular place, Vanilla on Church, is closed on Tuesdays so I have to go elsewhere.

The choice is limited for me because all but two of the many cafes insist on serving trendy boutique designer coffee. And most of it is awful stuff. (If I drank cappuccino or latte it might be OK but I don't, I drink long black without sugar so there's nothing to disguise the taste).

I tried the first one this morning, sat for ten minutes while the waitresses waitpersons gathered around the till and ignored the customers. I gave up waving my arms about and left after five minutes.

Tried the other one and the waitpersons weren't gathered in a flock but they still ignored the customers.

I'm convinced there's a waitperson college where they're taught the art of looking around the cafe/restaurant without ever making eye contact with customers or looking at the tables.

Where they're taught that after delivering something to a table they must return to the counter empty handed, walking past cluttered tables but not picking up a cup or a plate.

I sat for nearly ten minutes, waving my arms about, until a customer service executive wandered over to ask whether I'd been served yet.

If I hadn't been suffering caffeine deprivation I'd have left after five minutes.

It makes me wonder whether it's the service they expect and accept themselves when they go out for a coffee or a meal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Heading north

I'm driving up to Queensland tomorrow.

The plan is to spend a couple of days with my nephew and his family, who live inland from Noosa, and then drive back with two visitors from the UK. They're flying home out of Sydney on November 9 so I have a couple of weeks to show them a few places.

We'll take it easy on the drive south and I'll probably take them into places like the Gold Coast, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Port Macquarie and I thought maybe Hawks Nest/Teagardens too. We'll just find a motel or hotel when we're ready to stop.

We have friends up in Bellingen, near Coffs, so I'll give them a call when we're in that area and if they're home we'll stop by for an hour or so.

A couple of days in Sydney is part of the plan plus obviously the attractions here on the Central Coast.

It'll be at least a week before I'm back on the computer I should think.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Laughing bird

Before we moved to Dubai I attracted kookaburras as regular visitors by giving them a couple of bits of free food each day...not enough to make them dependent on the handouts, I hasten to add.

I've picked up where I left off and I'm happy that a parent and a young kookaburra have started visiting every so often. Here's one of them this morning:

Monday, October 10, 2011

The latest Qantas fiasco

I've been listening on the radio to interviews with representatives of Qantas and the unions.

The latest selfish nonsense is that the planned strike has been called off at the last minute, after flights were cancelled or rescheduled, stuffing the plans of nearly fifty thousand travellers.

The PR machines for both sides are at full rev and both sides are taking out large advertisements blaming the other for the problems.

It's been a downward spiral for a long time for Qantas and I can't see it getting better any time soon.

It's not just the strike problems but the ongoing bad press of all too frequent accidents and incidents - exploding oxygen bottles, the near fatal A380 engine blowout, the 747 from Dallas Fort Worth having to divert to Numea because fuel was low.

If either side really cared about the public whose support they're trying to attract they'd do what the public wants. Stop the stupidity, stop damaging one of our major brands, stop inconveniencing travellers and get it sorted out.

The talk is all about an Aussie icon, yet it's a privatised company beholden to its shareholders. If we wanted to keep it as Australia's airline we should have kept it in public ownership - albiet run on a strictly commercial basis.

For years, union restrictions and high salaries relative to competitors have been a major problem.

But also for years, management has been a major problem too. Refusing to fly to places they should be flying to. Taking sections of the operation offshore. Bad aircraft purchasing decisions. Blaming competitors for the problems the company brought on itself.

I was never impressed with Geoff Dixon, the previous CEO, in my opinion far too political, far too aggressive and an average performer at best. His successor Alan Joyce is if anything even more aggressive.

High salaries and benefits are not just the province of the union side by the way. Reflecting the situation that's causing so much fury around the world, Qantas executives and directors are paying themselves vast sums from a company which, according to their own statements, is not doing well.

Have a look at the Crikey link at the end of this post, reporting Geoff Dixon being the highest paid airline executive in the world. I've also given a link to a media report of Alan Joyce's five million dollar plus annual salary

From what both people said on radio it's a standoff. They both insist they're right and neither side seems prepared to sit down and talk sensibly.

The radio report talked about the international arm of Qantas being under pressure from Middle East airlines, because they're government owned, have tax and salary advantages not enjoyed by Qantas.

That public/private ownership thing again.  If it's an advantage for Middle East airlines to be government owned, why does the same not apply to Qantas?

That's only part of the picture though.

The simple reality is that airlines like Emirates are so much better than Qantas.

I use Emirates whenever I can. New aircraft, great inflight service. The best inflight entertainment system of all, important on long-haul flights. Baggage allowance for economy class is thirty kilos.

Qantas gives us an old fleet, sloppy to bad inflight sevice, poor entertainment, twenty kilos for baggage.

And they don't/won't fly to the Middle East's most popular destination, Dubai.

Crikey's report on Geoff Dixon's millions.

Current executive salaries

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Doing the obvious at last.

Something I've been going on about for years is harvesting and recycling water instead of pumping it out to sea.

That's how we waste trillions of litres of water, even though we're the driest inhabited continent, we have regular and long droughts and we run our rivers dry through crop irrigation.

Now, at last, there seems to be a small step in the right direction.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald: "The City of Sydney council is finalising plans for a recycled water network to be established throughout much of the Sydney."

It's been a long time coming.

The vast majority of the water we use is not for drinking but for commercial uses. Council's chief development officer for energy and climate change, Allan Jones, says that no more than 20% of the city's water needs to be of drinkable quality.

The SMH report is here

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Typical long weekend

It's a long weekend so naturally it's wet, cold and windy.

We went into summertime this morning too, the clocks went forward an hour and the temperature managed to get to a high - if that's the right word - of 16C.

With the wind and rain it felt a lot less and the town is full of miserable looking tourists trudging around wondering why they didn't stay in bed all day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The sky is falling!! Again.

More negativity and another repeat scare campaign from vested interests, this time AFL and rugby clubs combining their efforts and money to oppose the government's proposed attempt to help problem gamblers.

The idea, in simple terms, is to have gamblers using high-cost poker machines commit to a limit on their bet. That is, you think you can afford to lose $100, you set that as your limit. When you've lost it, as you will, the bar comes down.

The clubs - which in reality are as much casinos as football clubs - are using the same old tired untrue scare claims as others before them. It'll be the end of the clubs, they'll have to stop their sponsorship of Good Things, there will be massive job losses.

These are clubs with billion dollar TV deals and more sponsorship than you can poke a stick at. Yet a curb on people giving them even more money, which they can often ill afford, by pumping it into the clubs' pokies will mean the end of the world as we know it.

Of course, many people will fall for the nonsense, just as they do with so much crap from politicians, business leaders and others. I'm encouraged though by the thrust of most of the comments left on media reports about the campaign, which demonstrate that there are people who see it for what it is.

Read the Herald's report here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unnecessary gloom

We have very low unemployment, one of the strongest economies in the developed world, companies making good profits, a resources boom, a high standard of living and high quality of life. Yet there's nothing in the air but doom and gloom.

Retail billionaire Gerry Harvey commented on the paradox recently in his usual blunt style when he said "Australians should be as happy as pigs in shit".

The relentless negativity is being driven from the top, from our elected leaders, leaders of business and the media. Their focus is nothing but their own interest and to hell with what's good for the country.

The federal opposition's deliberate strategy is negativity. Keep shouting that everything the government does is wrong, play the fear card, drum up support for that view and with a minority government the chances of getting into power are improved.

Big business like the miners and banks, in spite of making record profits bigger than many countries' GDP, are running negative fear campaigns against any new regulation or tax.

The media concentrates on negativity, highlighting all the negative spin the opposition and companies are pushing and publishing whatever bad news they can find from home and abroad.

Example, we had a week of reports that a vast convoy of trucks, cars and caravans several kilometres long was massing to descend on Canberra from all over Australia. The so called  Convoy Of No Confidence in the government was to protest against the proposed carbon tax, the mining super profits tax, the short-lived ban on live animal exports to Indonesia.

Not by coincidence, those are the things the vested interest cabal has been concentrating on.

The convoy would block all roads around the capital and bring the entire city to a halt.

It was classic alarmist stuff and in reality there were no problems. The start of the rally was delayed because so few had bothered to turn up. Naturally the opposition addressed them to whip up more fear amongst the few hundred protestors and the ABC reported the leader of the opposition even took the opportunity to drive the lead truck into town.

For more negativity the media runs opinion polls every few days on the performance of the government, the popularity of the PM, people's preferred leader of the ruling party. They endlessly fuel speculation about a leadership challenge, undermining the PM's authority and standing.

White anting is the phrase for it.

The relentless negativity, whingeing and predictions of doom eventually get through to people and take us on a downward spiral to gloom and depression.

But as long as our leaders think of nothing but themselves and their own interests it won't change. And it won't change because they're not about to put the interests of the country first.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Perfect day

Sunshine from a blue cloudless sky, temperature at 30C with a gentle breeze, crystal clear air.


Then about 5pm a southerly came through and the temperature dropped ten degrees in less than an hour.

The weekend is forecast for a maximum of 20C with some showers.

Today I did a lot of work outside but it's shaping up for a weekend doing stuff inside the house.

There's plenty to be done inside and out so I just go with the flow of the weather.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bushfires have started

After the big wet we've had there's a worrying amount of fuel for bush and grass fires, so all it needed was a spell of warm dry weather.

Leura fire. Photo. Nick Moir, Sydney Morning Herald

The big problem fire seems to be at Leura in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney which the Rural Fire Service has listed as Out of Control.

They have thirty fire trucks and three helicopters trying to protect property but they're having to work in the thing the fire fighters hate most, swirling strong winds. The weather bureau has issued severe wind weather warnings for several areas and wind is around 50kph with gusts of over 100kph.

The gum trees around my house are bending and whipping about in the gusts and there's a very loud noise from the wind blasting through the trees.

The RFS website currently has 80 incidents listed. In addition to Leura there are three others with an alert level of Watch & Act and status of Out of Control.

The advice for that level is: When you hear a Bushfire Watch and Act Message, it means a fire has started and conditions are changing. The fire danger rating will probably be very high to severe. Your life may be under threat and you need to act now to protect your family and your neighbours.

The warm weather is forecast to last all week and the winds will be with us through tomorrow too.

RFS website.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

We lose again

How we're treated with contempt by our politicians was revealed yet again in an article in the Herald. The subject was water.

I've posted before about the appalling water mismanagement we get from our politicians. When it rains most of the water we collect is simply funneled out to sea, and we don't recycle water. Instead we get energy inefficient desalination plants.

But Heath Aston's article throws light on a much more sinister game involving the $1.5 billion sale of the Kurnell desal plant by our state government.

"Fifteen months ago workers at a dam 200 kilometres south of Sydney switched off a set of high-pressure pumps that have played a critical role in safeguarding Sydney's precarious water supply.

Transfers from Tallowa Dam, on the upper Shoalhaven River, had added more than a trillion litres to Warragamba Dam over the past decade before the taps were turned off.

The absence of that extra water, which fell from 152 billion litres in 2008 to zero this year, has been crucial to Warragamba remaining below 80 per cent full - the trigger point at which the Kurnell desalination plant must be shut down."

While water is being pumped out to sea the desal plant is running, using huge amounts of energy, and we have to pay extra for the desalinated stuff. All to keep Warragamba dam at less than 80% so that the state government can collect a billion and a half for the sale of the plant.

And you can bet there'll be clauses in the sale contract that give the buyers, probably foreign investors by the way, guaranteed income whether the plant runs or not. Just in case Warragamba by accident fills to over 80%.

The government gets a boost to the budget, the buyers will get a guaranteed income. The only losers will be us. Stuffed again by our elected representatives.

The full story is here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


There was a big moon and a silver sea this evening:

Friday, September 09, 2011


I just left the computer and walked into the lounge to be greeted by this:

It was the most vivid rainbow I think I've ever seen, the colours very clearly defined.

I ran for the little digital camera because I thought I'd share it with you.

The wonders of modern technology; I saw it literally no more than two or three minutes ago and here it is on the wierd world web already.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Help with the gardening

With all the rain there was over the past few months our garden when we arrived back was a lush green. Unfortunately most of it was weeds:

There was, still is, a lot to do in the house so I hadn't got around to the garden. But a volunteer came in and he's done a great job clearing the weeds:

He works hard and long every day, digging out the weeds and taking them away.

Here he is:

Hes building a nest, or mound, and'as brush turkeys build HUGE mounds he needs all the greenery he can get.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Getting there

If you've been though a house move you'll know the chaos you have to put up with for a good few days.

Furniture is, generally, in the right rooms but not where you finally want it.

We have polished timber floors in most rooms and just dragging furniture around isn't good, it damages the floors. So each piece needs to be lifted and moved carefully. I can tell you the muscles feel it fairly quickly...

You have to sort out the artwork to decide which pictures will hang where. Then do all the measuring to get the picture hooks in the right place...after dashing off to the hardware store to get the hooks.

The kitchen is probably the worst. Piles of crockery, glasses, kitchen gadgets all needing to be put somewhere. And usually the first place isn't right when you start to use them, so you move it all around to different drawers and cupboards.

Clothing is much the same. The first priority is to unpack it and hang it in wardrobes or put it in drawers. But when you start to use it you realise it's all over the place and getting dressed means walking about looking for the next item.

So that gets moved too, at least once.

And setting up the electrical equipment. If you move from overseas as we have the plugs have pins that don't fit the sockets so they all have to be replaced.

Wire up speakers, amps, CD players, radios...then you find out that some were damaged in the move. Or in our case, maybe in the crash into our neighbour's house.

But we're getting there.

Most of the heavy lifting is done and most rooms are sort-of organised. At least with the furniture in place and  most of the artwork hanging in place...with gaps where the damaged ones will hang when they're repaired with new frames and glass.

From here it's mainly tidying up. Moving stuff to more convenient cupboards, getting all the books and music sorted out on the right shelves or in the right cupboards.

We had plumbers in last week for half a day upgrading the taps and fittings in two bathrooms and next week we need to organise an electrician to replace seven or eight old light fittings with new ones.

Then I'll have to get out into the garden to see what needs doing there.

Never a dull moment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Third time lucky

At the third time of trying the shipper finally delivered our belongings. A week late, drama along the way but it's here.

The RTA kept the container for nearly a week doing whatever tests they needed to do in relation to the crash into our neighbour's house.

I would have thought all they needed it for would have been to check that it was secured properly (it was) and that the weight was OK for the truck (it was). 

Why that took a week is anyone's guess.

We found surprisingly little damage, considering. But naturally the stuff that was damaged was stuff I'd have put on the 'please take special care of this item' list.

A beautiful art deco floor lamp (I'm a collector of art deco) shattered. A unique art deco flower vase badly damaged.

A prized hand carved very large Thai wooden horse now only has one ear.

The fax machine is now in two parts, two paintings have smashed frames and glass, but the paintings themselves are OK.

I anticipated much worse after what it had been through.

A sea voyage from Dubai. From and back to base here when the first truck broke down on the F3. Back up the F3 followed by the crash into the neighbour's house followed by the whole rig being lifted up by crane, then dragged at 45 degrees out of the neighbour's drive.

A week with the RTA, back to base, unpacked and loaded onto a furniture truck, then finally up the F3 yet again.

There were 120 packages in all but we managed to get the majority unpacked so the delivery guys could take the packing material away. I'm glad they did because it was almost a full truckload.

We still had twenty or so boxes unopened when they left - clothing, bedding and books mainly - and all that packing material is cluttering up the garage until they come to take it away next week.

And I tell you what, I'm aching all over. Moving furniture around, carrying boxes of books from room to room, assembling shelving is manual labour the muscles aren't used to.

A rest from it tomorrow because we're in Sydney all day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Overgrown schoolboys...

...yet they'll be ministers in our next federal government.

The standard of our members of parliament is nothing less than appalling.

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports yet another example of their infantile behaviour:

It was raining heavily in Canberra on Wednesday so, after question time, Julia Gillard walked the corridors back to her office rather than cut across a courtyard as she usually does.

As she strolled past opposition MPs' offices, Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey, like two schoolyard ne'er-do-wells, trailed about 10 paces behind, heckling. Hockey was bellowing the Engelbert Humperdinck lyrics: "Please release me, let me go, 'cause I don't love you any more …" Pyne, doing his best to affect a menacing gravitas, was taunting repeatedly: "You're drowning Julia, not waving, you're drowning.''

 Photo. Sydney Morning Herald
The Honourable Christopher Pyne. Federal Member for Sturt. 
Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training, 
 Photo. Ray Strange. Herald Sun 
The Honourable Joe Hockey. Federal Member for North Sydney.
Shadow Treasurer.

As the writer of the article, Phillip Coorey, says, by any measure it was disrespectful behaviour towards a prime minister.

But it was more than that. Regardless of the office of the victim it was inappropriate behaviour for any adult. Stupid, childish behaviour by any standard.

From people who will be federal government ministers it's astonishing.

This is the standard of the people who will govern us.

The electors of North Sydney and Sturt should know what they need to do at the next election.

As should electors of all the other constituencies which have sub-standard, unworthy, embarrasing candidates foisted on them.

You can read the full article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Still camping

We have no date for the container with all our belongings to be delivered. It's still on the truck and the whole rig is with the RTA while they investigate how and why it ended up in the front of a neighbour's house.

So we're still camping, but thankfully in this weather it's indoor camping. We have power, heating, functioning bathrooms and kitchen, a few odd chairs and a kitchen table. We also have a couple of suitcases of clothing so we're not too uncomfortable.

We won't know what damage there is to our belongings until the container's eventually delivered and unpacked.

It's got the usual fragile glass stuff you have around the house - mirrors, table tops, shelves, lamps, pictures, drinking glasses, crockery - but anything could be damaged in a crash like that.

Fortunately for the people involved, the house and hopefully our stuff in the container, the truck didn't have much speed when it ran into the house. The damage was really caused by the weight rather than speed.

It was a huge slice of luck that no-one was hurt and you'll see why if I describe the location.

Our street, like many in Oz, runs along the crest of a hill. Our side has  enough level land for houses, then the back gardens drop away down a hill.

The opposite side has no level land, it drops away just a couple of metres from the street. The houses on that side have their entrances at that ground level but the land drops away so sharply that from just inside the front wall there's a lower level. In other words, in effect they have their front doors on the first floor.

The house the truck hit has a downward drive and the roof eaves are level with the road, so it's a steep slope. Joining the end of their drive to the front of the house is (was) a timber deck. Fortunately the deck is more than a metre above the ground at that point.

The runaway truck's front wheels demolished the decking and it lurched into the abyss. The bottom of the chassis jammed on the concrete edge of the driveway and that's what stopped it.

The second photo in my previous post gives an idea of the layout.

Had the truck gone into the house, remember, that would have been at first floor level, so it would have crashed through the floor to the lower level.

I don't think there's any doubt that it would literally have totally destroyed the house and it would all have careered on down the hill.  If that had happened the two people in the house and the truck driver wouldn't be with us now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back with a bang

Our arrival home is making the evening television news.

Our container arrived...

...through the front of a neighbour's house.

Fortunately no-one was hurt.

Yesterday I posted that the container truck had broken down and they'd re-scheduled delivery for this morning. Promisingly, the truck arrived on time.


Instead of reversing into the driveway to where they'd unload, the driver made a mysterious and very bad decision.

He parked on the slope between the drive and the road.

He and his crew had a coffee and then decided to reverse the truck to where they should have parked in the first place.

The driver later said the brakes failed, including the hand brake. What happened was that the truck rolled forward, across the road, down the driveway opposite and into the front of the house.

Fortunately the house is built on a steep hill and between the driveway and the house is - was - decking over a deep hole.

That saved the house, the occupants, the driver from a very serious situation because the front wheels went into the hole, the bottom of the truck jammed on the edge and it stopped.

As a result, although the front of the truck hit the front of the house it didn't carry on through.

There is, my neighbour tells me, interior damage to the floor, a couple of walls and a bathroom but an engineer has inspected it and said there's no major structural damage and the house is safe.

Two fire trucks, an ambulance and the police turned out and as it was commuter time the road was chaotic for a while.

Long discussions about what to do took place because the truck loaded with the container is jammed down a deep hole, the road isn't wide enough for a tow truck to manoeuvre even if they could pull it they called for a large crane.

The plan is apparently to lift the front of the truck and drag it back until it's in a position where they can tow it.

It's six hours after the event and the crane has just arrived. I've checked and a lot of men in orange safety jackets are milling about talking, pointing, measuring...

The police say our container is now evidence. They need to keep it for at least 24 hours after they get it out to check that it doesn't break any laws.

The removal company say that as it's a unique situation they can't tell me much more right now.

When the authorities have finished with the container it may come straight to us or it may have to go back to base. They'll give me a new delivery time when they can.

By the way, for anyone who fancies a particularly interesting removal, we're using Allied Pickfords.

I must say that they've been good with communication. They've kept in touch by phone regularly and an executive turned up to apologise and get first-hand information.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Welcome, welcome, welcome

I see from StatCounter that a lot of people are coming here from my now defunct 'Life in Dubai' blog. Thanks for taking the time to do that and welcome to 'Life in Oz'.

We only arrived back in Oz yesterday, I turned on the computer really only to update my virus protection but I had a quick look here to see what was happening. I haven't had a chance yet to do any tracking back to see who the visitors are...some old friends are there I hope.

A quick update for anyone who may be interested - a good non-stop flight on Emirates, although because strong tail winds were going to push us along the departure was delayed for about 45 minutes. (Sydney International has a night time curfew to give residents some noise-free sleep). Even so we arrived early and had to fly around in a holding pattern until the airport opened.

It was about 13C and bucketing down with rain.

Now adjusting to the six hour time difference is the main focus. Going to bed at midnight when the body thinks it's only six in the evening takes a few days to sort itself out.

The container with our belongings was due to be delivered to us at seven this morning. I knew it was all too good to be true - they called to say the truck had broken down. The clutch has gone, they say, so it has to be towed back to base, the container reloaded onto another truck...tomorrow is the new promise.

It's a cool day with a blue sky, a few clouds, sunny, clear air with no sand or cement dust in it -

Friday, August 12, 2011

Police lose the plot

The riots in the UK have made clear to even those who couldn't see the bleedin' obvious - especially the police and politicians - that the police have their policing wrong.

Exactly the same mistakes are being made by our police here and for the same basic reason.

In the UK, here in Australia and in many other western countries, they've changed the reason for their existence.

The primary role of police is preventing crime, protecting law abiding citizens from harm and property from damage. The key word is prevention.

That's what they've changed. And what a monumental and society-changing change it is.

Now they let the crimes happen and try to catch the perpetrators afterwards.

They changed police force to police service and started calling people they deal with their customers.

This change in police culture is broad in its reach. There wouldn't be many of us, for example, who haven't seen police with radar guns hiding behind shrubbery to catch people breaking the speed limit laws.

Allow them to break the law and catch them afterwards.

What they should be doing is preventing the lawbreaking. A police motorcycle rider sitting in full view would deter speeding, would prevent the lawbreaking, would give us safer roads.

At the other end of the scale it's the same. In the UK the rioters and looters were allowed to do as they pleased as the police stood and watched. They did nothing to prevent it. After the damage was done the police are using CCTV footage to arrest the criminals and bring them to court.

The criminal activity spread like wildfire as other morons saw that the London looters were allowed to do as they liked, so they copied it. And they were allowed to carry on unhindered.

What stopped it? Police out on the streets. Doing what they're supposed to do, prevent the lawlessness.

In the UK, exactly as we have here, cuts to the police budgets are blamed.

Simplistic rubbish.

The blame must go to the change in police thinking, on the way the resources are utilised and the thinking behind it. They're no longer a force but a service, with customers. They aren't on the beat, are not visible on the streets, but are sitting back in centralised police stations watching CCTV.

A few years back a mate's shop in Terrigal was ram-raided and a lot of valuable stock stolen. The shop is literally across the road from the police station. But that's all but been abandoned and is manned for only a few hours a day.

In the British parliament debate on the riots PM David Cameron said that at any one time only 12% of officers are on the beat. He refuses to accept that the police cannot be organised more effectively.

I'm sure the same applies here.

We need more effective use of the police we have and they need to go back to basics.

They need to be out on the streets preventing crime.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nearly there...

I've just received an e-mail from the shipping agent in Sydney to say our container-load has been cleared by Quarantine and Customs and is ready for delivery.

I'm amazed, I assumed it would take much longer and I anticipated a bill for fumigation and/or taxes, neither of which have been mentioned.

We're in on Sunday morning so I'll call the agent on Monday to arrange delivery as soon as they can.

Can't wait to be back!

Monday, August 08, 2011

As you were.

With the current GFC dominating the news I thought it would be relevant to copy & paste from my Dubai blog this post which dates from over a year ago:

Learning from mistakes?

Major factors behind the global economic meltdown:

Historically low interest rates held for a very long time.

Vast amounts of money spent or committed by governments.

Banks' tele-sales people pestering consumers with phone calls offering credit cards.

The financial industry creating 'complex financial instruments' (actually worthless pieces of paper), sold to each other and unsuspecting investors for huge amounts.

Huge salaries and bonuses for bankers and other business executives, based on short-term (this year's) profits and share prices.

Retailers offering big-ticket items at big discounts with no deposit, nothing to pay for several months and financing at very low interest rates.

How we're dealing with the global economic meltdown:

Historically low interest rates held for a very long time.

Vast amounts of money spent or committed by governments.

Banks' tele-sales people pestering consumers with phone calls offering credit cards.

The financial industry creating 'complex financial instruments' (actually worthless pieces of paper), sold to each other and unsuspecting investors for huge amounts.

Huge salaries and bonuses for bankers and other business executives, based on short-term (this year's) profits and share prices.

Retailers offering big-ticket items at big discounts with no deposit, nothing to pay for several months and financing at very low interest rates.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

I've never believed the old cliche 'we learn from our mistakes'. The evidence is that we don't, we just keep repeating them.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Two part economy

I've been living in Dubai for the past six years, and I see an interesting comparison with Australia.

Let me give a brief bit of background.

In Dubai we had the construction boom the whole world was talking about.

There were two important things the world got wrong about it, which is relevant to the subject.

One, "that's what oil money does". In reality, oil money had nothing to do with it.

Dubai has never had much oil. There's been a brief burst of income from the sixties from a couple of small fields, which was very sensibly invested in infrastructure.

Two, "Dubai is all about real estate". In realty, from its beginnings in the 1880s, it was about business, about trading. Oil is less than 5% of the economy.

Actually there's a third thing the world misunderstood. 'Dubai' didn't put the mind-boggling sums of money into its vast developments. A huge amount of the money was from outside investors, who poured literally hundreds of billions of dollars into the emirate.

Dubai, as always, put money into infrastructure designed to support the real economy, including a vast new road system, the first Metro rail system in the region, a huge new public bus fleet, huge development of Dubai International Airport and the start of a brand new airport which will, when it's eventually finished, be the largest in the world.

(Sceptics should bear in mind that in just fifty years Dubai International has gone from start-up to now being the world's fourth busiest international passenger airport, with 50 million passengers. It's also the world's seventh busiest cargo airport, handling nearly three million tonnes last year. And it's rapidly climbing both league tables.)

I'm not really digressing, because the point is that Dubai very clearly had a two-part economy. The boom of the temporary real estate bonanza was one part, the other part, the important part, is the real underlying economy.

That's where I see the comparison in my first sentence.

Australia clearly also has a two part economy, the temporary commodities bonanza and the real underlying economy which is the important part.
As with Dubai, the wealth being generated by the bonanza isn't being fairly or widely spread. As with Dubai, it's dependent on outside factors beyond our control. As with Dubai, it will come to an end. And we need to strengthen our real economy for when it does end.

We need to get on top of the situation, and quickly. The irreplaceable natural resources are being taken, huge profits are being made but as a nation we're not getting our fair share.

We must maximise national income from the boom while it lasts, to invest in developing the real economy. In both infrastructure and business.

For example, we need a rethink on tourism, which includes appointing new people with new thinking. Since the Hogan 'shrimp on the barbie' campaign we've got it wrong time and time again and our tourism revenues have long been on the slide.

We need more manufacturing, and in particular value-added industries.

Sending so much raw wool overseas for others to turn into consumer products and sell around the world at a good profit is the least possible business we can do with the resource.

We should be keeping plenty of it back here and processing it for our designers to turn into high-value materials, fabrics, clothing, furnishings.

We cut down our trees and sell them as woodchip. We should be using it to create more wealth for ourselves by making everything from top level furniture to toothpicks from it.

Exporting being difficult because of the tyranny of distance has long since been untrue. Our big trading partners are now in Asia, but even north America and Europe are easily reachable with modern transport.

We need an efficient, fast rail system to move material around the country to manufacturing and export points. We need airports - and an airline - relevant to the twenty-first century.  And we need the ports upgraded so that we can ship exports out efficiently instead of seeing dozens of ships anchored on the horizon waiting to get in.

The frustrating thing is that with the quality of our politicians and the level to which our politics has sunk, none of it will happen.

We'll continue to let the bonanza slip away from us and we'll continue to do the simplest thing possible.  Shear it, grow it, dig it up and send it in bulk overseas for others to make the profits from.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Dept. Store extinction

Here in the rest of the world Australia rarely gets a mention in the media.

It's usually the bizarre - the neck bomb story from Mosman is curently making news internationally, shark and croc attacks get coverage, 'roos attacking pensioners and other animal stories do to.

On the serious side there's the very occasional story about how we avoided the GFC, our high interest rates, and the Aussie dollar's rise is included in foreign exchange stories sometimes.

The big retail slump is one such story currently getting Australia into some of the news outlets.

While the reduction in spending is pretty much across the board the reports emphasise that by far the worst hit are the department stores.

And last month of course David Jones gave the markets warning that a dramatic slump in sales would result in a half year 20% drop in profits against last year.

I'm sure they'll all trot out the usual excuses - the high dollar, people buying online or overseas. But, have you been into a dapartment store recently? I was back in Oz a couple of months ago and wandered around a few of them.

That's where you'll see the root of the problem.  It can be summed up in one word. Boring.

Strange, but not unusual for far too many companies, that the management can't see the obvious.

I couldn't believe how boring, how uninviting, unfriendly, bland the stores are.

Boring shop design - although in reality 'design' is too strong a word to describe the layout.

Boring products, displayed in the blandest way possible.

No customers in sight, so the stores are manned by bored staff who stand around in their bland, empty environment for hours on end. Nothing to do but move a few hangers aroud, shuffle things on shelves.

Department stores have turned themselves into the dinosaurs of retailing.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Nearly there

I did the final paperwork for the move back to Oz today, which was cancelling the Dubai residence visas.

My sponsor did mine but as I sponsor Mrs Seabee I had to battle the bureaucracy myself to get hers cancelled. And to get back my deposit of AED10,000 ($2,5000), which I had to pay to get her visa in the first place.

Actually, for a government department, it wasn't too bad. Waiting around is inevitable but it's an orderly numbered tickets system and plenty of seating while you wait to be called.

For the visa cancellation you need both sponsor and sponsored's passport, your airline tickets showing that you're actually leaving, the inevitable photocopies of it all and an Arabic letter detailing what it is you're applying for.

Every office has a small, crowded, chaotic typing centre which issues the appropriate letter, for a small fee and after a long wait.

Deposit refund is another section, another numbered ticket, another long wait in the typing office for an Arabic letter, photocopies of all the cancellation paperwork, a walk in the 50C heat to the bank branch outside where after a short wait I was given my deposit back in cash.

So that's all the paperwork done and the flight is booked, arriving in Sydney on the fourteenth.

The tracking system says the ship with our container has arrived on schedule in Sydney. Customs and Quarantine will take a couple of weeks or maybe a bit longer, so hopefully it should be delivered not too long after we arrive.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Power tends to corrupt...

...the first part of Lord Acton's often repeated saying which he made back in the eighteen eighties.

It's very relevant to the momentous events going on in the UK surrounding Rupert Murdoch's brand of 'journalism' I would say.

Another saying that springs to mind is 'one law for the rich, one for the poor', but this time it's happening in reverse from the usual meaning.

The hypocrisy of the general public is never more evident than in the Murdoch saga.

He's made his squillons and gained his power & influence by feeding the public obsession with gossip and personal details about people's private lives, the more dirt-raking the better. His papers are as downmarket as you can get, with even the once internationally respected The Times and Sunday Times going on a rapid downward spiral when he took them over.

The public's insatiable appetite for dross gave tabloid rags like The Sun and the News of the World the highest readership in the UK. In Australia it's the same with his tabloids versus the broadsheets. Friends tell me it's the same in India, where he's also building an extension of his empire.

Then the hypocrisy. As long as the gossip and lurid details were about royalty, footballers, politicians and 'celebrities' the illegal means of obtaining the information were not questioned.

But when exactly the same methods were used against ordinary people - an uprising.

It's not the unprofessional, immoral, illegal actions which have caused such outrage. That's been caused by who the victims are this time.

They won't of course, but people should take a long hard look at themselves for accepting illegal practices when they were used against well-known people. That's encouraged the practitioners to see their illegal, immoral actions as normal practice, happily accepted by the public.

Then there's the side to this saga that will be society changing.

When our Rupert bought into the UK's newspaper world he was a breath of fresh air.  He challenged the establishment, as very few did in those days, and broke the print unions which were killing the hand that fed them. (I had personal experience of them when I worked in London ad agencies).

But as his influence with the public - read voters - increased so did his interference in politics. Now there is evidence not only of his power to influence the highest levels of government but of his organisation's illegal activity in phone hacking, fraudulently obtaining personal information ('blagging') and bribery of police.

The mutual back-scratching of News Corp., politicians and the police isn't new but it's reached new depths.

No-one knows how much more there is to discover. Was it confined to the now thankfully defunct News of the World? (Always a dreadful example of tabloid 'journalism'). Was it even confined to the UK? The FBI in the US is looking into alleged breaches of US law. Here in Australia, where his empire began and where he owns nearly two thirds of our big city newspapers, MPs are calling for an inquiry into media regulation.

This time News Corp won't be able to sweep it under the carpet as they did earlier, sacrificing a couple of, albiet guilty, fall guys. I've always maintained that the culture of an organisation is set at the very top. Underlings do what they believe the boss will be happy with, often what the boss indicates he'll be happy with.

To make matter worse, far from making a couple of minor mistakes in handling the crisis, as Murdoch told the (his) Wall Street Journal they'd done, he's made uncharacteristically massive errors. I suspect the years of increasing power and influence have made him overconfident about what he can get away with. But arrogance and treating people with disdain aren't cutting it any more.

It needed an immediate admission that the practices were totally unacceptable. An immediate apology and promise that he was on his way to sort it out and hold those responsible, right to the top, to account. An urgent personal apology to the family of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler, the hacking of whose phone started the public outrage.

He should not have refused to attend the parliamentary hearing - a bad decision since reversed only as he realised the severity of the storm and threats of a summons to appear were made.

He should have immediately dropped his bid to buy the whole of BSkyB, 'pending the outcome of the current investigations'. Instead he tried to remove it from the political arena by having it referred to the competion watchdog, then had to withdraw the bid anyway. Calls are now being made to consider whether News should be allowed to retain its existing 39% holding.

All in all, mistake piled on mistake. As I said, out of character and massively damaging to the empire. Perhaps even fatal to it in its present form.

It will certainly lead in the UK to a formal distancing between media proprietors and politicians and between the media and police. Perhaps a new media regulator, maybe no more self regulation. More attention will be paid to the meaning of a 'fit and proper' person in relation to media owners. Quite possibly stronger regulations about the percentage of media one person can control.

Very senior people are going to be held responsible for their actions and lose their jobs - instead of the usual platitude of  'I take full responsibility' with absolutely nothing happening thereafter.

And much more transparency all round.

The results of all this may well be felt in other countries, including Australia, which could also end up with changes relating to media.

It's a big, big story which will run for a while yet, with more sensational revelations to come I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hot & cold

The weather here in Dubai is very different from Terrigal at the moment.

Friends tell me it staggered up to 12C in Terrigal, while here the top today is set to reach 45C.

That's in the shade of course, as temps are measured internationally, so out in the sun it'll be much closer to 50C. The humidity isn't as bad as it usually is in July so as I love the heat for me it's not uncomfortable.

Mind you, you can't spend too much time out and about in fifty degrees.

The big problem we've been having is the sand and dust. For the past couple of weeks the conditions have conspired to give us air we have to eat rather than breathe.

The world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, has been looking like this:

Photo: Karen Dias Gulf News

The forecaster today added that "skies are beginning to clear". I hope they're right, thick dusty air is the absolute worst condition in my opinion.

By the way, my friends also told me a bloody cockatoo has been stealing all the oranges from the tree in my backyard back in Terrigal. A small tree, it had something over thirty oranges which were ripening nicely. The cockie obviously knew when they were ready and has been taking them so I've told my friends to go and get the rest for themselves.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A doddle

I'm getting the paperwork sorted out for the move back to Oz and I did the car ownership transfer yesterday. I wasn't looking forward to dealings with a government department and its bureaucrats and I was astonished to discover that it was easy, quick and efficient.

There's a Traffic Department nearby. The information desk person directed us to the adjacent Tasjeel facility where, he told us, they would do everything.

Both buyer and seller have to go together and the car has to be re-tested and re-registered, regardless of how recently it was last done.

I paid AED150 ($37) for Express 'Drive Thru' Service and it was well worth it. We parked the car and sat in the air-conditioned office while someone took the car, jumped the queue, put it on the test bed and did whatever was necessary. Ten minutes later the car was driven back to the office.

Meanwhile we handed over insurance policies (the buyer has to be insured before the transaction can take place), copies of our passports including the residence visa page, driving licences, the existing registration card. Completed a simple one sheet form with basic information about the two people and the vehicle. Paid the fees.

That's it. Ten minutes later we were handed all the receipts, the buyer was given the new rego card. Done

It was one of the simplest transactions I've ever had with a government department anywhere.

One interesting fact. The whole transaction was done in English even though we're in an arabic country and the officer was a local Emirati. Can you imagine the uproar if in somewhere like Australia our dealings with a government department had to be carried out in a language other than English? The Emiratis take it with good grace and humour.

It is, incidentally, a reflection of one of the things I particularly like about Dubai, it's truly international. Emiratis make up only about 15% of the total population and the other 85% is from just about every country on the planet. Fortunately we have a common language, English, with which to communicate.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The move is fixed

The move back to Terrigal from Dubai is fixed.

The container with our belongings has left the huge Port Jebel Ali, forty or so kilometres outside Dubai, and the flight's booked for mid-August.

We've added a few things, especially clothing of course, to what we shipped from Oz to Dubai back in 2005, but not a huge amount. Most of the container is stuff simply being returned. A lounge suite, replacing the one we sold before we left Oz, and a new bed plus few bits of china, some artwork and that's about it for the new stuff.

We're using Allied Pickfords to ship our belongings. The Filipino guys who came to do the actual packing were great but I haven't been impressed with the company's admin/paperwork so far. It's been the usual inefficiencies so many companies are guilty of, with delays caused because files were not passed on to the next person in the chain, documents already supplied being being asked for again, the insurance policy not being forwarded to me until I chased it up.

Still, it's now all done and we just have to wait to see how it all turns up at the other end.

We're sort-of camping in the apartment, with just the basics. The kitchen and bathrooms are fully equipped of course and we have a table & chairs, bed, the laptops and a TV. It's comfortable enough for a few weeks.

The process I'm not looking forward to is dealings with the bureaucracy before we can leave.

Firstly I have to transfer the car to the new owner, which involves a visit by both parties to the traffic police. That's planned for the next day or two. I'm not sure what's involved when we get there, it'll be the usual thing here of playing it by ear.

I sponsor Mrs Seabee so I have to cancel her residence visa and reclaim my deposit of AED10,000 ($2,500+). Not something I'm looking forward to, Immigration is usually chaotic, confused, packed. People at each desk tell you something different from the last person you saw, the signs telling you where to queue are often wrong.

One huge improvement the last time I had to go was that they'd insalled a ticket numbering system. You know, take a ticket and go to the designated counter when your number is called.

That replaced absolute bedlam, where it was every man for himself, 'queues' not north-south but east-west, pushing and shoving, shouting and waving papers in the face of the person behind the desk.

I have my fingers crossed that the improvements have continued and it may be a reasonably orderly transaction. My own residence visa cancellation has to be done by my sponsor.

The Terrigal end is reasonably well set up. Our house was leased out for the past five years but we took it over again a few months ago. I've had a couple of visits to get things cleaned and tidied up and while there's still a lot to do - the house needs a complete repaint inside and out and the garden had gone somewhat feral - it's fine to move back into.

We stayed in Dubai much longer than planned. Mrs Seabee got so involved in her job that she wanted to stay longer and although I was ready to come back we compromised as married couples do and did what the wife says.

I'm really looking forward to being back.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hang your head in embarrassment

We've just had three weeks in the UK, where they're holding a referendum on a change to the voting system.

The proposition is to change the first-past-the-post vote with a system roughly like our preferences system.

Over my morning coffee I came across this feature in the UK Daily Telegraph, a fair summing up of the standard of politics, and politicians, we labour under in NSW:

"At a drunken party in his parliamentary office, the Police Minister, naked but for a pair of “very brief” underpants, climbed on top of a female MP and pretended to have sex with her. The Health Minister, who was 53, used his office to entertain his 26-year-old mistress. The Ports Minister visited porn sites on his official computer.

The Regional Development Minister – known to the local tabloids as “Sir Lunchalot” – charged taxpayers for a holiday to Dubai and Italy. The Education Minister promised to “stand by” her husband after he was arrested buying ecstasy. Several ministers were implicated in a corruption scandal involving a female town planner who approved illegal high-rise buildings in return for sexual favours and designer handbags. And the Aboriginal Affairs Minister? Well, he is doing 14 years after his conviction on multiple counts of child sex abuse.

Supporters of the Alternative Vote at next month’s referendum argue, in the words of the Yes To AV campaign, that it will lead to “more honest politics”, “rebuilding” lost bonds of accountability and trust between MPs and their voters. The antics over the past four years in the Australian state of New South Wales – one of only two places in the developed world to use the exact form of AV proposed in the United Kingdom – do not, frankly, support this claim."

Could the reason we have compulsory voting be that no-one, except possibly their families, would bother to vote for them?

You can read the Telegraph feature here.