Friday, June 29, 2012

Nauseating spectacle

People are saying the asylum seeker debate was frustrating. I found it nauseating.

Sobbing politicians from across the political spectrum, male and female, old and young, senior and junior, in speech after speech. The house awash with tears. But no action.

Independent senator Nick Xenaphon summed it up nicely:

"I think the Australian people are entitled to regard the Federal Parliament, if we can't resolve this in the next day, as a bunch of petty pissants, because this is something that cries out for a solution".


"They didn't want to see people crying, they wanted the bloody problem fixed".

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Greens are gone

When Bob Brown recently and unexpectedly resigned as Leader of the Greens my immediate thought was that the party would very soon go the way of the Democrats after their Leader Don Chipp retired.

The process has been accelerated by the performance of the Greens'  new Leader, Christine Milne, on this evening's 7.30 programme on ABC.

Parliament is right now debating the asylum seeker crisis - after 100 people died in a boat sinking a couple of days ago another has sunk and at this moment survivors and bodies are being pulled from the water.

From the moment Milne appeared on the screen she was losing votes. An inane grin is inappropriate at a sombre moment.

The power obsessed clowns in Canberra  seem to have realised at long last that public opinion is increasingly hostile to their posturing and is demanding action. They even seem to be approaching some sort of a compromise so that at least some action is taken that may help to stop the deaths.

That's the pressing need of the moment. Give a lead, send a message that will help to deter people from risking their lives in leaky unseaworthy boats to get through rough seas to Australia.

According to Milne the Greens' position is that it will shoot down in the Senate any bill the House passes.

She rabbited on about long term solutions, UN agreements, we should welcome a much larger number  of asylum seekers...

All well and good for a long term philosophical debate, but people are drowning now and there needs to be some action about that now.

If there'd been one of those worm things on the screen, the thing they use in political pre-election face-offs, it would have shown that the more she spoke the more voters were fleeing the Greens for other parties.

An astonishingly inappropriate, incompetent, out-of-touch performance.

You can watch the interview here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Basket case

What to do about, with, Qantas?

We have regular stories about the troubles - international division losing hundreds of millions, services being cut, flights being cut, thousands of staff being laid off, share price at record lows, no dividend to shareholders for years, new aircraft deliveries postponed, safety issues with a number of 'incidents'...the list goes on and on.

Usually 'national carrier' appears before Qantas but that's misleading. It's far from our national carrier when a) it's no longer state owned and b) its share of international travel to and from Australia is small and shrinking.

It's not the 'national carrier', it's just another airline competing for business.

More people are travelling to and from Oz but Qantas' share of it is dropping steadily; over 80% of travellers decide not to fly Qantas to get to or leave here.

When the stories talk about the competition the words 'state owned' appear before the Middle East airline names, claiming this makes it unfair competiton.

If being state owned is such an advantage, why did we privatise what was then our national carrier?

And if it was to be privatised why were restrictions put on ownership?

Reflecting the way Qantas itself has been managed for decades,  bad decisions.

The domestic division is making money, but with budget airlines increasing their activity (as is happening world wide) I can see that changing.

While Qantas was fully protected by the government it did well. But the result of the protection was that Qantas got fat and lazy, got away with bad management decisions, got away with overstaffing, with low productivity, with poor service and attitude.

As the blanket of protection was lifted the problems began to bite.

When it had to face competition it floundered.  It's been left for dead by many of its competitors which offer better service, better destinations, better fleets, better fares.

But the problems are so well entrenched that it's too late in my opinion to repair the damage.

The only possible light at the end of the tunnel I can see is a change to the Qantas Sale Act so that another airline can take a large stake and keep it going as a feeder for its own network.

Failing that, Qantas will continue to lose market share, international and domestic, and will continue to shrink. It may well end up as a purely domestic airline with a minority share of even that market.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A whinge about whingeing

Poll after poll is showing how dissatisfied and depressed we are, in spite of the fact that the economy is doing well, people are earning more than ever, unemployment is very low, jobs are being created.

The underlying fact for the negativity is that we're a nation of whingers. You'll even hear Aussies whingeing about whingeing Poms, who, to be honest, we leave for dead in the champion whinger stakes.

So we're ready to go when we're told that we're in a bad situation. Great, something else to whinge about!

The negativity is coming from three main areas.

One, Tony Abbott and the Opposition.

Too many of us are not bright enough to realise that he has only one thing on his mind, to become Prime Minister. He claims everything the government does is bad because in our hung parliament it will only take one vote to move to his side to get him into The Lodge. Far too many Aussies can't see through it.

Endless droning on and on and on about how bad things are. Even when very positive growth & employment figures were released the Opposition did it's best to talk it down.  They were desperate to find something negative to say, but the best Joe Hockey could manage was "think how good the figures would be with a good government".

Their scare campaign about the 'carbon tax' has worked well, with many people somehow believing that they will pay a carbon tax.

Having seen how successfully they've conned people with it, they blame everything on the 'carbon tax'.  Every bit of bad news sees Abbott or a shadow minister jumping in front of a microphone with the first words being that it (whatever it is) is because of the 'carbon tax'.

Plants close because they're old and inefficient, or because overseas competitors produce the product at half the price. 'Job losses because of the carbon tax' scream Abbott, Hockey and the others.

In spite of tens of billions being poured into mining development they endlessly tell us that because of the 'mining tax' investors are fleeing Australia and the mining industry is about to crash, with huge damage to our economy and thousands of job losses.

It's reached even more farcical levels with the NSW (Coalition) government putting up public housing rents 'because of the carbon tax'.

I really am sick and tired of the dishonesty of it.

Interesting by the way that while 60% of us don't want Julia Gillard as Prime Minister the same percentage don't want Tony Abbott as PM. The same figure for both of them, 60%. We don't want either to be PM...but we'll get one of them under our much vaunted democratic system.

Area number two is the media. 

We know there's no news in good news and we'll get mainly the bad stuff in our news outlets, but it's reached epic proportions of unbalanced reporting.

Virtually nothing but doom and gloom. Companies close, people lose their jobs and the media is full of it. Stories about jobs being created?  Nothing. You're not going to read or hear about that.

Our economy is still growing, unemployment is way down the media is full of doom and gloom about the imminent collapse of the Euro zone, America's economic problems, China's slowdown and how all that is going to destroy our economy.

The strong Aussie dollar is decimating our manufacturing industry they tell us - unless they're reporting Abbott saying it's the 'carbon tax' that's doing it. Either way, our manufacturing is all but dead and buried.

Negative stories from wherever they can find them fill our media.

And third of course, the government.

It's beyond my understanding how they are totally incapable of countering the bad news, of effectively answering the Opposition's claims. The best they can manage is to say that Tony Abbott is Mister Negativity.  It sounds nothing more than typical political slagging off, it doesn't even begin to counter the negativity.

Even worse, they can't even do the simple thing of promoting the good news.

So the good news is hidden while Australia and the world's bad news is beamed at us 24/7. And at the next election we'll ghet a new PM who's just as unpopular as the current one.

No wonder a nation of whingers is whingeing.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Can't fool me!

Indian Mynah birds are a real pest, especially for our cafes with outdoor areas.

They're attracted by the dropped food and suger of course and it's far from hygienic with the mess they leave behind.

One of our cafes spent what I assume was a fair bit of money on buying several large, fierce-looking, fake but realistic owls.

They were put on a number of the tables and they frightened the mynahs away...for a few days. It didn't take them long to work out that the owls were fakes.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Not long enough

Matthew Milat, the great-nephew of serial killer Ivan Milat has been sentenced to 43 years in jail with a 30-year non-parole period for the brutal murder of 17-year-old David Auchterlonie.

His accomplice Cohen Klein was sentenced to a 32 years in jail with a 22-year non-parole period.

A deliberate, pre-planned, cold-blooded thrill kill.

Forty three years might just be somewhere near an acceptable sentence...but only if that is the non parole period.

I've never understood the system - if a sentence is forty three years then forty three years is what should be served.

Sydney Morning Herald has the story  here

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The bureaucratic mind

I've never understood the way bureaucratic minds work and I came across yet another example the other day.

A seat in a local park is/has been damaged. Nothing that couldn't be fixed in about fifteen minutes by a man with a hammer and a few nails or a screwdriver and a few screws.

That's what a non-bureaucratic mind would work out...but if you work for a council there's a different way of doing things.

Bureaucrats don't send a man with hammer/nails or screwdriver/screws to repair the furniture.

Bureaucrats send a man with metal poles, plastic caps, a big hammer and a few metres of ubiquitous red plastic barrier material to set up an exclusion zone, leaving the furniture unrepaired.

At a (much) later date someone is sent with hammer/nails or screwdriver/screws, removes the exclusion zone material and repairs the furniture.

What was needed is done eventually but only after extra work was done, extra trips were made, extra material was used and extra costs were run up.  It's our money of course, so it's not something the bureaucrats need take into consideration.

It reminded me of a posting this time last year I did on my Dubai blog after a trip to the UK.

Here's a repeat of that post:

...a classic of the way the bureaucratic mind thinks so differently from the rest of us.

From their parallel world you get this:

A bureaucrat sees the overgrown shrub, goes back to the office, writes a notice, gets it printed and laminated, goes back to the site and pins the notice in place. Then presumably puts in a requisition to the environmental solutions department to carry out the necessary landscaping.

A non- bureaucrat would simply have gone back with a pair of shears and trimmed the offending leaves.

The other side of the world but bureaucrats are the same the world over.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Expensive rubbish

We hear endlessly from retailers that times are bad, very bad, for them.

Their problems are not of their own making, naturally. Their problems are caused by everyone else - it's government policies, it's taxes, it's because we insist on buying online, it's because we're not spending...

I was wandering around our local shopping mall this morning, where most of the shops have sale signs all over them. ' Up to 70% off ' is typical.

It seems obvious to me that one very good reason why we're not spending in their shops is that almost all of it is badly designed, badly made crap.

And hugely expensive.

And shop after shop, every second shop seems to be selling women's clothing/shoes, is selling almost identical crap. And they all have it with similar hugely expensice price tags.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that there's only one wholesaler in the country, who has a couple of trips a year to Chinese sweatshops, loads a few ships with cheap crap and brings it here.

Then everyone adds their huge percentage margin and it's offered to us at prices many multiples of what it's actually worth.  Even after the 70% discount.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Relief from the clowns

Federal parliament is on holiday, so for a couple of weeks we'll be spared cringing with embarassment at the infantile behaviour of the self-serving hypocrites who so badly 'represent' us.

Politics is scraping the bottom of the barrel and our much-lauded democratic system isn't working any more.

The system itself, or the way we arrange it, is under question but a bigger problem is the lack of quality of the people who go into parliament.

Even the Deputy Speaker, now in charge of the House of Reps because Speaker Peter Slipper has had to stand aside, has acknowledged it:

“It’s terrible that people think we behave like juvenile delinquents and sometimes (in) question time, that’s what it looks like,” says Anna Burke.

So is the juvenile delinquent tag sometimes a fair one?

“I think so,” she says.

"It’s very intense. It’s very loud. People don’t get when they’re listening on TV or the radio, the noise, the cacophony of sound from people speaking; people yelling.”

Her toughest day in the chair?

“The Opposition brought out a full, life size cardboard cut-out of Kevin Rudd, the then Prime Minister and nobody was going to behave so we literally had to shut Parliament down.”

That was Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, who alternates between naughty schoolboy and bully, demonstrating what terrible choices we're given because he's very probably our next Treasurer.

Last week it descended further into farce, with the unedifying spectacle of would-be Prime Minister Abbot and the manager of opposition business Christopher Pyne running for the exits and banging on the doors to get out when Craig Thomson moved to vote with them.

Behaving like ten year olds in a school playground, yet they'll probably lead our next government.

Lack of quality

It's the biggest flaw in our democratic system, the lack of quality candidates.

The big plus of democracy is that we can get rid of an existing government at the next election. The big minus is that we can't replace them with anything better.

We have no say in the quality or ability, or honesty, of the candidates. We get whoever's foisted on us by a handful of party apparatchiks. And we have compulsory voting...imagine the voter turnout if we hadn't become used to that.

Flawed system

Then we have a problem with the system itself, where one or two parliamentarians elected by a handful of people in a small electorate can dictate government policy.

With the major parties tied at the last election either party could only govern by doing deals with the Independents.  "You want my vote?  Here's my list of what it will take to buy it."

Independent Tony Windsor was voted for by 56,415 people. Rob Oakeshott was by 40,061 voters, Bob Katter by 38,170 and Andrew Wilkie by 13,788. Demonstrating the absurdity of our system, Wilkie came only third in the election but then 'won' on preferences which gave him 33,217 and the seat.

In total, out of over 14 million voters less than 150,000 voted for the four representatives who decide whether  government policies will be killed or approved.
Even worse, people not voted for are awarded a Senate seat on the basis of preferences, having done dubious preference deals with other parties. They then dictate policy.

We have that in NSW with the Shooters (and Fishers) Party having two seats in the upper house which is enough to kill or approve government policies.  They said they would vote against the government's policy to sell our electricity generators unless shooters are allowed to go hunting in national parks.

To get the electricity sale through, the government, having said prior to the election that there would be no deals whatsoever with minor parties, have caved in to the Shooters' demands.

From just over 4 million of us who voted in the 2010 state election only 150,741 voted for the Shooters.

The problem is that the only people who can make the changes we need are politicians. And there's no way they're going to think of anything or anyone other than themselves.

Deputy Speaker's admission.

The Abbot Pyne dash

Shonky Shooters deal