Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Classy stuff

The standard of people foisted on us to be our 'representatives'  in state and federal politics is a regular theme here.

There's another fine example from Canberra, reported in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

"A SENIOR Liberal senator branded a colleague a ''f---wit'' yesterday during a heated discussion about cut-price milk.

The NSW Liberal senator and farmer Bill Heffernan used the expletive to describe the Victorian Liberal senator Scott Ryan, who favours cheap milk.

Sources said Victorian Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella leapt to Senator Ryan's defence, telling Senator Heffernan: ''Why don't you go and pop your Alzheimer's pills.''

SMH report here

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's the way she tells it

I was listening to the Prime Minister on ABC radio this morning and the reason she has such difficulty getting the public to relate to her is obvious from the interview.

She's stiff, stilted. awkward and sounds far from natural.

Even when she's ad-libbing she sounds as though she's reading from something written by a speechwriter. It's a combination of the words & phrases she uses and her delivery.

Margaret Thatcher had a similar problem and had expert coaching to try to at least soften the way she came across.

Our PM is in urgent need of something similar.

Listen to the interview here.

'Like Dubai' cliche

My blogger pal Jad Aoun has been waging a campaign for a while now.

He says on his blog profile: "Welcome to the place where I track the over-used, tired, cliche to describe destruction, demise and doom: looks like Beirut". 

He sends out The Looks Like Beirut Certificate to the guilty parties.

I'm thinking of copying his idea in relation to Dubai, having seen a number of 'like Dubai' references to new developments.

The latest is Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, commenting on James Packer's proposal to build a high rise hotel at Barangaroo.

She doesn't like his plan ''to plonk a clumsy Dubai-style hotel" in the development.

Have a look at jadaoun here

Clover Moore's comments here

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gillard 71, Rudd 31.

In spite of all the white anting that's been going on to destabilise the government, designed to get Rudd back the job of leader, they're exactly where they were when his party fired him.

Seventy percent of them don't want him as their leader.

It's achieved exactly nothing in the personal ambition stakes but it's severely damaged their party and it's been damaging for Australia.

From the leaks before the last election all the way through to today it's been a distraction, obviously taking focus away from what governments are elected to do.

I'm not holding my breath but maybe now they can get back to doing the job we pay them, and pay them well, to do - run the country.

Watching ministers in tears as they said who they would be voting for and listening to the self indulgent speeches has been nauseating.

I'm sick and tired of self serving, self important, self indulgent politicians, blatantly interested in nothing but their own position of power, influence, privilege and money, insulting us - as Rudd did in his loser's speech  - by parroting "we serve the people of Australia, not ourselves"

They say it when they resign too - 'it's been a privilege to serve the people'. Senator Mark Arbib has just done it in his resignation speech following the leadership election. That also included the tired old 'need to spend more time with my family' - as though the same doesn't apply to people working all hours but not in politics.

The old cliche about people getting the politicians they deserve is yet another cliche that can't be right. We don't deserve the rabble we currently have in Canberra, surely.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Gambling has never made any sense to me but the extremes it's going to leave me speechless.

This ad is running in today's papers ahead of tomorrow morning's Labor Party leadership vote:

I have to say that if people are brainless enough to risk their hard earned wages on guessing the colour of a tie or a jacket that may be worn, they deserve to lose it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Truck deaths charges

A follow-up to my post last Thursday about the triple fatality caused by a B-double truck driver.

The driver - serial offender Vincent George - has been charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death. His licence has been suspended - yet again - and he will be in court - yet again -  in May.

Police are saying that when the results of toxicology tests are known he may face further charges.

There have also been reports suggesting he's been driving beyond the legal hours.

In addition to that, they found that the speed limiter on the truck had been disabled.

Road safety authorities are reported to be carrying out an unprecedented operation on the trucking company, Lennons Transport Services, which employed George, a driver with a history of offences and licence suspensions.

They are inspecting trucks at the depot and also on the roads of several states. They're saying that the drivers will be tested for drugs and alcohol and their trucks will be searched, some by drug detecting dogs.

ABC News reports that Police Assistant Commissioner John Hartley says the operation should sent a warning to the entire trucking industry.

"We are determined to send a clear message to truck operators flouting safety regulations across the state. You will face serious criminal charges," he said.

Many of us who share the roads with these oversize and inappropriate vehicles will think the operation should have been undertaken a long, long time ago.

Speed limiter disabled? You see the number of trucks hurtling along at way over 100kph and that's no surprise.  More like par for the course.

Drivers doped up so they can stay awake to drive more hours than legally permitted? Common knowledge. Years ago there was a burst of publicity about rampant pseudoephedrine use amongs truck drivers. The story soon disappeared though.

Years of indifference. Years of policians in bed with the trucking industry. Years of increasing numbers of these vehicles on our inadequate roads. Years of people being killed by them.

To say enough is enough is an understatement.There needs to be an ongoing, constant inspection of trucking companies, of all heavy goods vehicles and their drivers. Not just electronic surveillance, log books, speed limiters. As we know only too well, they can be circumvented.

It also needs physical inspections.  Highway patrols, trucks pulled over for roadside drug & alcohol tests and vehicle inspections. Weighbridge stations all open 24/7, not the hit and miss system we have now.

Truck companies need to be regularly inspected without notice. So do the premises of individuals who operate as sub-contractors with their own trucks.

As for the case in question, a person convicted of killing someone by dangerous driving can be sentenced to a maximum of ten years imprisonment. If there's a conviction, let's see the full weight of the law this time.

I don't know what the law says about the driver's employer in an instance such as Vincent George/Lennons.

At the very least their decision to employ a driver with such an appalling record endangered other road users, so anyone involved in that decision should be removed from the company, and the industry, immediately.

And of course if there was any knowledge of vehicle tampering  or of drivers' illegal behaviour then again the severest action possible needs to be taken.

And we need our politicians to get the trucks off our roads.

Afternoon update

It's a running story which will go on for a while, especially as the police are still looking for a couple of dozen Lennons trucks which are out on the roads.

Meanwhile we're hearing that of 23 vehicles so far inspected, ten of the company's trucks have been tampered with, including seven allegedly modified to exceed the maximum speed of 100kph.  Some modifications have been reset back to where they should have been, according to AC John  Hartley on the radio this afternoon.

And a driver has abandoned one of their trucks in Victoria. Police said the driver was nowhere to be seen but they found a log book in a rubbish bin.

Oh, and you'll never guess:  "Lennons declined to comment."

However, the company website assures us:

A state of the art C-Track real-time GPS fleet management system has been implemented to ensure that the vehicles and drivers are continuously monitored.

Lennons Transport Services implemented a strategy that ensures that Lennons and their clients due diligence requirements are met by implementing the Trucksafe Industry Accreditation program as well as the Transitional Fatigue Program.

It is a policy of Lennons Transport Services that we will operate to ensure that the well being and safety of all our employees will never be compromised in the day-to-day operations of the business.

Picky of me I know, but I'd like to have seen them say other road users' safety would not be compromised. They only mention their employees.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Enough already

For weeks now the main story in the press has been ex-Prime Minister Rudd's alleged upcoming challenge to unseat incumbent PM Julia Gillard. More than the main story, it spills over to the inside pages, the editorial and columnist pages too.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing else is going on when, even with a minority government, things are in fact happening.

The traditional media rants and raves against the 'new' media of the internet, against bloggers, against Twitter. They need to take a close look at their own role in their decreasing relevance.

Gossip in place of real news, endless opinion polls about how the political parties would fare 'if an election was held now' - which it isn't, an obsession with personalities and 'celebrities', a complete lack of balance.

It's no wonder we're turning increasingly to the wierd world web for our news.

The media frenzy about the alleged challenge has reached such a pitch that the government seems to have been sucked into it. Front and back benchers and party officials are increasingly talking to the media about it rather than the real issues. It's reached the stage where it's started to dominate the agenda.

Ploughing through the pages of it you keep reading that Mr Rudd is going to mount a challenge but he isn't going to because he has nowhere near the numbers he needs to win.

The real story - and it's only worth publishing as a one-off  -  is that not surprisingly Mr Rudd would like his old job back, but he doesn't have the support to get it.

That's it, print it - once - and move on to more important things.

As the media isn't going to do that there's only one answer.

The PM has to call a leadership election herself.  Ask her rivals to put up or shut up. Have the vote and put an end to the nonsense now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Birds Eye View

A natural thing to do, watching the cricket on a Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fatal system failure

Back to my theme of getting trucks off our roads, because there are two stories being covered in the media today.

One is about yet more deaths by truck. A young woman's car had broken down on the Hume Highway, a tow truck driver was helping her and both were killed when a B-double hit them.

Reports are saying that the B-double driver didn't see them until it was too late, tried to swerve but hit them.

Didn't see them!? Why not? Sitting way up high in the cab of a large truck?

We need some serious questioning of the driver and any witnesses to get to the bottom of that.

The other story is that Vincent George, the B-double driver who crushed a Ford Mondeo  killing the three occupants, was in court for another driving offence and his appalling driving record came to light.  He's been convicted of seventeen offences.

He's been caught speeding ten often he's endangered other road users by speeding in his monster truck without being caught we can only guess at.

He's been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

He's been found guilty of negligent driving.

And he's had his licence suspended five times.

Here's what he did on the Hume Highway. Yes, he's on the wrong side of the road, which is a dual-carriageway - you can just see the carriageway he should have been on in the top right corner.

Photo Ten News/Daily Telegraph

He was obviously a danger to other road users and he shouldn't have been allowed to drive anything, let alone B-doubles.

How did the system fail so disastrously and allow him to keep on driving?
And what about his employer, Lennons transport,  who must have known his driving record? Why did they employ him to drive B-doubles?
Their response to the  Daily Telegraph  is no surprise: "Contacted yesterday to ask why George was allowed to continue driving trucks despite his bad record, Lennons Transport did not return calls."
Three innocent people dead because a rogue driver was not taken off the road.
Not good enough, is it. It needs an investigation to find why and who, followed by changes to the system and for those responsible to be held accountable.

By the way, if you're not sure about the size and weight of a B-double, the photograph gives an indication.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Small but nasty

We have plenty of wildlife around including regular visits from Rainbow Lorikeets, Kookaburras and even a pair of King Parrots.

Less welcome, much less, is the abundance of spiders.

This one I very nearly walked into a little earlier:

Big but harmless, it's a Golden Orb.

Much nastier was one of these my neighbour found wandering around the garden on Sunday, a Mouse Spider:

And even nastier, because my neighbour on the other side was bitten by one last week, is the White Tail:

Very painful I'm assured, large swellings, an urgent drive to the doctor and a few days to recover.

There seem to have been many more spiders around this year than usual, a result of our very damp summer I guess.

The bottom two photos are from the excellent website of the  Australian Museum

Friday, February 10, 2012

Glass houses and stones

There was a huge fuss in the middle of last year when (surprise, surprise) an Indonesian abattoir was found to be severely mistreating animals. There was understandable outrage when film of the abuses was screened. A lot of it was because Australian animals were being mistreated - as though the nationality of the animals is relevant.

Our government put a temporary ban on live animal exports to Indonesia, amid the usual hysteria about job losses and businesses going bust.

There was massive media coverage and on radio I heard more than one caller talk about the same kind of appalling treatment being meted out to animals in our own abattoirs.

Now film has emerged of exactly that, recorded in secret and screened on ABC TV's Lateline last night.

To their credit the owners of Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors handed over the film to the authorities. It has also been handed over to police. Although, as it's described as a small family business I'm surprised that the owners appear to have been unaware of what was going on.

The abattoir has been closed and apparently the workers involved have been stood down. Let's hope that's just the start of it. The Prevention of Cruelty act allows fines of up to $110,000 or two years' imprisonment.

Something we complain regularly about in Dubai is the lack of enforcement of laws and regulations. It looks very much as though we have the same problem here.

It makes very unpleasant viewing, but the Lateline report is here.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Small runway

No room for error with his landing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Upholding the law?

Disturbing information has come from the NSW Police Minister's office.

Our police force paid out more than $5 million in the last financial year to compensate people for false imprisonment, police assault and malicious prosecution.
Law & order is a joint effort between police and public.  But for the public to work with police we need to be able to trust them, to have confidence in their honesty and integrity.
Behaviour like this does nothing to promote confidence and trust.
I read the report in the  Sydney Morning Herald.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Crystal ball malfunction

No surprise to me that yet again alleged experts were wrong in their guesses predictions.

Just about all of them told us that the RBA would reduce rates at their meeting today. No doubt about the reduction, it was just the amount on which there was some disagreement.

The RBA left the rate unchanged.

It surprises me that the media perseveres with asking 'experts' what's going to happen in the future. Whether it's interest rates, the economy, the outcome of elections or the result of a football match, the odds are that they'll make the wrong call.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Snail mail

I wonder whether this the real reason behind the phrase 'snail mail'

Snails make what must be an arduous and dangerous vertical climb of about a metre to get into my post box. Just so that they can eat the paper the postie has left.

Paper. What on earth is the attraction  of paper to a snail? 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Different eyes

There's a Reuters story on our richest person, Gina Rinehart, which has the headline "Australia's iron lady on road to world-scale wealth - report'

The story has been picked up by the paper I read each morning when I'm in Dubai, Gulf News. But they seem to have seen it through different eyes and the way they've headlined it amused me: "Widow amasses fortune worth $18b"

Sounds very different doesn't it.

Here are the stories: Reuters   and   Gulf News

Thursday, February 02, 2012

More weather

Our very unsummerlike summer shows no sign of changing. Well, except to get worse.

The Bureau of Meteorology currently has this list of weather warnings  on its website  for New South Wales.

  • Severe Weather Warning for Upper Western, North West Slopes & Plains, Metropolitan, Northern Tablelands, Illawarra, Central West Slopes & Plains, Hunter, Mid North Coast and Central Tablelands forecast districts,

  • Flood Watch,

  • Flood Warning - Clarence River,

  • Flood Warning - Bellinger River,

  • Flood Warning - Macleay River,

  • Flood Warning - Hastings River,

  • Flood Warning - Manning River,

  • Flood Warning - Orara River,

  • Flood Warning - Gwydir River,

  • Flood Warning - Peel-Namoi Rivers,

  • Flood Warning - Castlereagh River,

  • Flood Warning - Culgoa-Bokhara-Narran Rivers,

  • Flood Warning - Warrego River,

  • Flood Warning - Paroo River,

  • Flood Warning - Barwon-Darling Rivers,

  • Flood Warning - Nambucca River,

  • NSW/ACT Severe Thunderstorm Warning 1.

  • Its worst in the north and north-west with about 2,500 people cut off in various areas and the SES has just ordered the evacuation of about 2,000 people in the town of Moree and its surrounds. There are reports that helicopters are having to be used to get about 600 people out.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012

    Another Canberra farce

    So much of what comes out of Canberra is farcical, and the 'security scare'  debacle is up there with the best.

    The catalyst for it is making news because the Opposition is trying to make political capital out of the involvement of  'the PM's Office'. It's another one of those ridiculous instances of an inanimate object being blamed for an action.

    It's down to individual people, not places. A PR from the PM's office tipped off a contact who tipped off protesters that Opposition leader Tony Abbott had made some remarks about them. And that he was nearby (with the PM).

    A staffer hoping to gain brownie points and a contact with her own agenda. Not 'the PM's office'.

    Naturally, in the telling the tale changed to something the protesters wouldn't like, so off they went to shout at TA.

    And that's when it turned into a Monty Python sketch.

    The pollies were in a glass fronted restaurant and the protesters started banging on the windows.

    The security detail interpreted it as a physical threat to the PM and TA and decided they had to run for it.

    Well, TA should run for it, the PM needed for some reason to be manhandled by her guards...

     Photo. AAP

    Photo. Alex Ellinghausen
    TA, white shirt blue tie, not being manhandled by the guards. The PM, on the other hand, looks as though she's being wrestled to the ground by a member of her Close Personal Protection team.

    I wasn't there so I can't comment on the level of danger or whether the mad dash for the car was necessary. But the way it was carried out does raise questions.

    Was there no other way out of the restaurant, the only option being to charge through the crowd?

    Was it necessary to drag the PM along in such an undignified way?

    Wouldn't they have moved quicker had she been allowed to run too?

    Why are the uniformed police pushing & shoving at the rear, shouldn't they have been to front and sides?

    Was there no assessment of possible protests? It was Australia Day (Invasion Day to aboriginals) and it was only metres from the so-called tent embassy protest.

    In the end it looked like a panic-stricken stuff up.