Monday, December 30, 2013

Strange name...

We regularly hear about strange names that Japanese car makers give to their models, but here's a French one:

Duster? What were they thinking of?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas in Dubai

In Dubai over the holiday season, where I'm feeling the cold a bit after the nice warm weather I left back in Oz.

I arrived a few days ago at about 6am to 17C and heavy rain at the airport, although as we drove along Sheikh Zayed Road towards Dubai Marina it eased off.

Later on the way to Dome Cafe for coffee there was evidence that the marina area had also seen some heavy showers:

The rain was followed by a couple of windy days so the air is unusually clear now and the sky has been as blue as I've ever seen it in Dubai - and for two or three days on the trot. Let's hope it stays that way, I'm not happy unless there's a blue sky.

The other thing I love at this time of year is that it's marigold time for the landscaping all over the city. My favourite colour is the gold/orange/yellow palette and there are tens of thousands of gold and yellow marigolds in mass plantings.

And the malls are nicely decorated with Christmassy things, thankfully much more tasteful than the awful over-the-top commercial crassness of a few years ago. There are bargains to be had and I've picked up some shoes and trousers that a) I can't find in Oz and b) if I could they'd be a hell of a lot more expensive.

Daytime temps are up to the mid-twenties celcius, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, eating out is varied, excellent and inexpensive and, unlike in Oz, Baskin Robbins ice cream is available. So yes, I'm having a good time!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Aggressive is in

We had yet another weekend of alcohol fuelled violence in Sydney and yet more life-threatening injuries to innocent people.

The usual hand-wringing followed, as it always does, but nothing will be done to address the problem.

The Australian Hotels Association takes the US' NRA line - 'guns don't kill people, people do'. Nothing wrong with alcohol, nothing wrong with the licensing hours, nothing wrong with suburbs awash with licensed premises, nothing needs to be changed. Alcohol is innocent, it's people that's the problem.

Indeed they are, but an aggressive Neanderthal loading up with alcohol is a recipe for disaster.

The government is run for big business, so we can't expect anything to be done by them.

Paramedic Hameura Kohu and his colleagues managed to keep this week's most seriously hurt victim Michael McEwen alive as they drove him to hospital.

He talked about the senselessness of it all. "We realise it will happen again, every Friday and Saturday," he said.

He added that the violence was becoming more vicious. Even in alcohol fuelled attacks in the past "people didn't punch people in the head and then stomp on their heads...that's a fairly new thing," he said.

Actually of course, aggressiveness has become woven into the fabric of society, even in the most unlikely places.

We have it here in our politics, with the Abbott opposition years dominated by hairy-chested aggression - which they've inevitably continued now they're in government.

You will have noticed, I'm sure, that motor vehicle designers are pumping out aggressive looking cars and 4X4s these days.

And a series of TV promos for upcoming programmes have highlighted just how bad the aggression thing is getting.  We have several running on the commercial channels for the laughably-named 'reality' programmes coming up.

Cooking shows have become an aggressive contest. Renovation shows have become an aggressive contest. Dancing shows have become an aggressive contest.

We have promos featuring the contestants dressed as martial arts experts, as ninjas, as Avengers. All threatening to smash the opposition.

In cooking, dancing and renovation shows, for God's sake!

Is it life imitating 'art' or art imitating life?

Monday, December 09, 2013

The Qantas nonsense continues

The Qantas nonsense just goes on and on, as it has for a decade or more. It's a private sector company claiming to be the national carrier, consistently badly mismanaged, treated as a cash cow by its staff, unable to stomach competition and demanding taxpayer money to keep it going.

That was the situation under previous CEO Geoff Dixon and it's continued under Alan Joyce.

While it was a virtual monopoly it was complacent, the unions demanding and getting ridiculous staffing levels with ridiculous conditions and salaries. And demanding job security.

That continued with the rolling strikes of a couple of years back, when CEO Alan Joyce's reaction was to  gave the finger to Qantas customers by suddenly grounding the entire fleet.

Management has been substandard for years, getting into costly investments in Asia which have produced only losses, building the wrong fleet of aircraft, giving in to union demands.

It's laughable that so many people wanted a state owned company to be privatised - the old catch-cry of  'government should not be in the business of owning an (in this case) airline' - but for years since privatisation there's been support for its endless calls for government money.

They used their unique position, financial and particularly political muscle to successfully beat off the domestic competition of Ansett and others, such as Compass, which tried to compete.

But they can't stand true competition. They're waging a huge campaign against Virgin, desperate to stop it raising capital so that it can compete more effectively. Joyce clings to the belief that Qantas'  market share must not fall below 65%, so every time Virgin increases capacity Qantas trumps it, resulting inevitably in falling yields.

Management continues to be hysterical about competition, spending so much time and effort worrying about it that the management of their own company must be suffering.

It's also laughable that an airline which was state owned but is now privatised complains bitterly that state owned competitors have an unfair advantage. If there's so much advantage in being state owned, then Qantas should still be. It must have been a huge mistake to privatise it.

The simple fact is that the airlines in question not only have a much lower cost base but, critically, are so much better managed.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon made the right call when he said a few days ago that Alan Joyce and the entire Board should be sacked.

The rating agencies have Qantas at junk status and shares are at an all-time low.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Dumbed down debate

One of so many things to have been dumbed down is political debate and comment, demonstrated by the furore over the decision not to allow America's ADM to take over GrainCorp.

The furore harks back to Tony Abbotts' line that now the Coalition is in power, 'Australia is open for business'.

It was, of course, nothing more than a soundbite, a political cliche tapping into the claim that the Coalition is more business-friendly that Labor. Beyond that it's meaningless.

Yet the media is full of hysterical comment that the decision not only means the government has reneged on its 'open for business' claim but that foreign capital will flee the country and will avoid Australia in the future.

A meaningless soundbite and one rejection against dozens of approvals. The sky will not fall in.

Monday, December 02, 2013

What a shambles!

The last federal Labor governments were rightly criticised as shambolic.

Leading the criticism was the Coalition - but now they're in power they proving to be no better.

There's the refusal to give any information regarding asylum seekers, with 'no comment' replies to perfectly legitimate questions coming ad nauseum. So much for transparent government as promised by Abbott pre-election.

What PM Abbott claimed were important relationships were destroyed by his attitude to Malaysia and, particularly, Indonesia. The latter has suspended all co-operation and joint exercises.

Then they put the state governments offside, including Coalition states, with their broken promise on the Gonski school reforms. There was unity, Abbott said pre-election, with the then Labor government which brought in the reforms. A few weeks into government and the dreadful Christopher Pyne, now Education Minister, announced that Gonski was dead, it was back to the drawing board and he would be coming up with a new plan.

Abbott backed him to the hilt, telling us that they hadn't broken a promise. He claimed there were the promises they'd made and the promises people thought they'd made.  Shades of his mentor John Winston Howard's 'core and non-core promises'.

The NSW Premier furiously accused the Coalition of still acting as though they were in opposition rather than government.

Now today there's what is being called a spectacular backflip. The government has announced that it will honour Labor's Gonski commitments after all.

In Julia Gillard's time as PM it wouldn't have been a 'backflip', there would have been frothing at the mouth with screams about lies from the Coalition, the Murdoch press and the shock-jocks.

Monday, November 25, 2013

No surprise poll

The first Neilsen-Fairfax poll since the election has been published and it says people think the government is a big disappointment.

No surprise there then.

Primary vote is down 5% for the government, up 4% for Labor. Two-party preferred has Labor leading 52% to 48% (at the election it was the other way round, 46.5% Labor, 53.5% Coalition).

Governments are in the image of their leader. Tony Abbott was consistently unpopular before the election and people voted not for him, his attitude, his policies but against Labor.

Labor made such a hash of it with the Rudd/Gillard musical chairs and inability to communicate that they had to go.

The problem was an alternative people didn't really want either.

As I said before the election, Abbott wouldn't, couldn't, change his personality. He's belligerent, confrontational, aggressive, dismissive, stubborn. It did the job in opposition but it's far from what's needed in government.

The poll says people have realised that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Viewless lookouts

Another example of how bureaucrats think and act differently from the rest of us is the lookout contradiction.

I've seen it in many places around the country - councils use our money to build lookouts where there are spectacular views. Then they allow the vegetation to grow to obscure the view.

So they actually use our money to give us lookouts with no views.

We have two in Terrigal, overlooking the bay, beaches and headland:

Well, they would overlook the bay, beaches and headland if the bloody trees were removed, or at least regularly pruned.

It's what you and I and the rest of the non-bureaucrat world would do.

Only if you're a bureaucrat do you think a lookout with no view is a good way to spend ratepayers' money.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Arrogance and ineptitude

It's not the problem that's the problem, how you deal with it is the problem.

The problem isn't that our security services hacked into the Indonesian President's personal phone, and amazingly into his wife's too. The problem is the arrogantly inept way our government is handling his complaints.

Dismissively, Abbott says "all governments gather information", and even worse, that we did it for the benefit of the Indonesians, resulting in the Indonesians recalling their ambassador, ceasing co-operating with us, and a full blown crisis.

It isn't the phone-tapping that's the cause of their fury, it's the way Abbott has handled it since it became public knowledge.

What a bunch of arrogant amateurs Abbot & Co are.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kindy's back

The kindergarten's open for business again, with the infantile name calling stupidity that we've come to expect from this crop of politicians.

Instead of getting on with the serious business of running the country they're still acting like badly behaved children. They fall about like five year olds as they call each other the sort of names that five year olds come up with. 'Electricity Bill', 'Typhoon Tony' is the level they manage.

What a poor example and embarrassment they are to the country.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Secret, arrogant government

As expected, the government is reflecting PM Abbott's persona with its aggressive arrogance.  

To make it worse, it's all being done with as much secrecy as they can muster, apparently under tight control from the PM's office.

No-one's saying anything about anything. Parliament still hasn't opened for business more than two months after the election, there are virtually no press conferences, no statements from Ministers.

We have the ongoing saga of senior government figures, including the PM and a quarter of his cabinet, ripping taxpayers off by claiming expenses for private activities such as attending friends' weddings and footy finals.

There's public outrage and demands for tighter rules - maybe something akin to the way the tax office deals with the rest of us when we claim for business expenses. In an acknowledgement of the rorting, some of them have repaid some of the money, although only a fraction of it.

True to his arrogant nature Abbott declared: "I am not proposing to change the system. You don't want members of Parliament to be prisoners in their offices".

The clamour continued so suddenly he's announced 'reforms'  which he says "...will help to restore public confidence".
In fact that's all they're designed to do, they certainly aren't designed to stop the rorting. More arrogance, treating us with contempt.

We also have the fast deteriorating relationship with Indonesia caused by belligerence and arrogance.

As soon as he became PM we had the usual political platitudes from Abbott about how important the relationship was, we wanted to be warm, close friends co-operating on a range of regional problems.

When it was revealed publicly that our Embassy in Jakarta had been and was being used to spy on Indonesia the Indonesians were furious, not surprisingly.

They got the same contemptuous treatment that we're getting. 'We don't discuss security matters' they were told.

Surprise, surprise, that put them in an even worse mood.

Then an asylum-seeker boat was stopped by one of our naval ships, which was ordered to take the asylum seekers back to Indonesia. That was one of the actions that, in Opposition, Abbott said his government would take - but they didn't bother to discuss it with Indonesia.

The Indonesians refused to take them, and after a two day standoff we've had to back down. The asylum seekers are on their way here.

The arrogance of the government is also highlighted by their secrecy on asylum seekers.

In Opposition not a day went by without them screeching about stopping the boats, about the emergency on our borders. Now they're in government the issue can't be discussed. Nothing is said other than at a weekly 'briefing' - at which nothing is said and media questions go unanswered.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Lieutenant General Angus Campbell at the last meeting were asked about the latest situation. "I will not discuss on-water operations" the General said ad nauseum.  

As the Sydney Morning Herald said: "The federal government has refused to answer the most basic questions about asylum seekers".

Have a look at some of the questions and 'answers' here:  Q & non-A

An outrage

It has to be one of the most badly botched criminal cases for years.

Kieran Loveridge, an habitual thug, well known to police with a string of previous charges including assault, malicious damage, assaulting a police officer, theft and affray, went on one of his alcohol fuelled rampages through Kings Cross. He smashed random strangers in the head as he roamed the streets

In a one hour rampage he punched his first victim, a 17-year-old youth, about 10pm. A few minutes later he  attacked Thomas Kelly, who was killed. He went on to attack Matthew Serrao, before assaulting Rhyse Saliba just after 11pm.

Quite rightly he was charged with the murder of Thomas Kelly. Inexplicably the DPP then agreed to reduce the charge to manslaughter, after Loveridge said he'd plead guilty to all the charges.

So he turned up in court, very different from his usual self. Well dressed, business shirt & tie, neat, tidy, scrubbed and polished. Crocodile tears and professed regret worked - the judge felt sorry for him and gave him four years.

An absolute outrage. A ludicrous sentencing decision from a judge completely out of touch with reality.

It's no punishment for an habitual and dangerous thug, no deterrent for other Neanderthals like him. They'll be out raising a glass to the judge this weekend. Changing to the lesser charge and the sentence are akin to aiding and abetting.

Loveridge was also sentenced for four assaults he committed on the same night that he killed Thomas Kelly. In total he got away with a sentence of seven years and two months with a non-parole period of five years and two months. For four assaults and a murder.

Predictably there's been a huge public outcry. The NSW Attorney-General has said he's asked the DPP to review the sentence and consider if there are grounds for appeal.     

Monday, November 04, 2013

More stupid food

I post every so often about stupid food that's been served up, usually with a photo or two.

This time I don't have photos because I haven't eaten at the restaurant in question - and I doubt that I ever will. Well, I say 'ever', but in reality I can't see the place lasting more than a week or two.

It's a new restaurant that opened this weekend.

They say they're a 'pizza bar & grill', strange because there are only two grilled items on the menu.

But the stupid food comes in on the pizza menu.

Now remember these are pizzas:

pulled pork knuckle, smoked tomato, preserved lemon, mushroom, sobrasada.

Worse is this one: peking duck, hoisin sauce, chilli, coriander, cucumber, fried shallots.

They're pizzas.


Sunday, November 03, 2013

We have smoke

Usually the view is something like this

But this morning it was like this

Smoke from the Blue Mountains which affected Sydney so badly yesterday arrived on the Central Coast overnight.  It's as bad as I can ever remember it, even when we lived in Sydney and had fires all around us, including in the adjacent Lane Cove National Park.


Friday, November 01, 2013

These aren't children

We have more examples of something I complain about every so often - thuggish young men committing violent crimes but being taken before the children's court.

A sixteen year old has been charged with bashing a 93 year old woman, trespass and drug possession.

Unbelievably, he was bailed to appear in the children's court.

A Jewish family of five all suffered injuries when they were attacked by a gang of young hoodlums as they walked home from dinner.

The hoodlums included two seventeen year olds, who are already on bail for assaulting a police officer. They too will be appearing before the children's court.

To say a change is long overdue is an understatement.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Doesn't add up

Looking at the labels on various clothing here I realised just how much is made in Bangladesh.

That's been in the news of course since the deadly fires and building collapses in factories there recently.

The excuse retailers give for manufacturing in third world cheap-labour countries is, of course, that the costs are so much cheaper.

Yet they're selling here not at prices that reflect their minimal manufacturing costs but at full-on Australian retail prices.

If you're going to charge customers thirty or forty dollars for a T-shirt, as they are, surely you could manufacture it locally?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Quality revealed

Tony Abbott said he had appointed his Cabinet on merit. Only one woman in it, because the rest of the women on the conservative side didn't have what it takes.

An example of what he rates as meritorious comes from Greg Hunt, our Environment Minister.

The level of ability, intelligence, common sense of that Minister was revealed over the unseasonal bushfires we're having in NSW.

The fact that they're so fierce so early in the year after unseasonably wet then unseasonably dry conditions led world scientists to suggest they were related to climate change.

Not true, said Minister Hunt, and he'd done his looking at Wikipedia.

No, really.

See, proof that we didn't need a Science Minister, all we need to know is available on Wikipedia

He told the BBC: "I looked up what Wikipedia said just to see what the rest of the world thought. It opened up with the fact that ' bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year due to Australia's mostly hot, dry climate'.

His boss had already dismissed comments from the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. She was, Abbott declared, 'talking through her hat'.

Interviewer Razia Iqbal asked Mr Hunt whether the Prime Minister still thought climate change was, as he famously said not so long ago, “absolute crap".

The precious Mr Hunt didn't like that.“Look, with great respect you can swear on international radio, you can invite me from Australia to do this, you can be profoundly rude, I'm happy to answer, but I'm not going to be sworn at”.

Ms Iqbal pointed out that she was simply quoting his boss.

These are the best we've got?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Invisible government

In the months leading up to the federal election you couldn't keep them out of the media. Tony Abbott was there every day in a fluoro vest or hairnet, driving trucks, 'inspecting' pie factories, visiting towns which, he said, would disappear from the face of the earth due to the 'carbon 'tax'.

The then Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey was in the media almost as much, as were Christopher Pyne and Scott Morrison.

There were endless crises they kept screeching about. There was a national emergency because we'd lost control of our borders, there was a budget crisis, there was a crisis of confidence.

Then they won the election and it went eerily silent.

Parliament hasn't been recalled and won't sit until mid-November. Ministers seem to be gagged. Abbott hasn't been seen in his high visibility gear since election day. Hockey could have been abducted by aliens, he's simply disappeared. As has Pyne.

So much for emergencies and crises.

When they have made it into the media it's been bad news. Scott Morrison, Immigration Minister, is getting coverage because he's directed his department to call asylum seekers 'illegals', which is getting a lot of criticism.

Boat arrivals have disappeared from the media because there's a government blackout on the subject. In opposition they made it a daily news feature, now they won't talk about it except at a weekly
'briefing'. Other than establishing their ludicrously titled ' Operation Sovereign Borders'  office they've done nothing but implement the previous government's policies.

Hockey made the news only when he continued his attack on the economy, seeming to forget he's now in government. He continued his tricks from his Opposition days, using old IMF figures to warn us that growth rates had been revised downwards and unemployment forecasts had worsened.

And a quarter of the Cabinet has managed a dishonourable mention because they've been ripping us off with fraudulent expense claims. One of the worst offenders is Abbott himself, claiming for trips to friends' weddings and to take part in or watch sporting events.

He and some of the others have paid back some of the expenses, although Abbott is digging his heels in by insisting that the sporting events were legitimate political business. Naturally, he's refusing to put a stop to the rorting.

For the rest of us a claim for business expenses for such blatantly private events would see us in big trouble with the tax office.

There's another lie - Abbott said it was an election about trust, and we could trust him and his government.

They conti9nue to lie about the benefits of their plan to repeal the carbon ' tax' too. They're still saying each household will be $550 a year better off as a result of the ' tax'  being removed. Environment Minister Greg Hunt is trying to make it sound even more, claiming that each family would save $3,000 over the next six years.

The Coalition's election ads talked about the supermarket saving's we'd make due to their policy of removing the carbon ' tax' . In fact, as Woolworth reported, prices went down 2.9% in the year after carbon pricing was introduced. And the horrendous electricity price increases we've been seeing over the past few years had little or nothing to do with carbon pricing.

So there's yet another lie because we're not going to see a saving of $550 a year for each family.

Abbott had a quick trip to Asia, where he tried to mend fences by explaining away his derogatory remarks about our neighbours as simply part of our 'robust' political scene.

Being Abbott he couldn't bring himself to apologise. Yet he surely owes us an apology for the hysterical lies he and his team fed us pre-election. Unfortunately, inevitably, a lot of people fell for it and believed the rubbish.

What an inauspicious start.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fire update

Although the temperature has dropped and the gale-force winds have gone we still have serious fires burning all over the state.

Just an hour ago the RFS issued Emergency warnings for two of the fires in the Blue Mountains, which have flared up again.

The Springwood fire seems to be the worst and the update included a frightening warning. For anyone still in four areas of that fire it's too late to leave. They've been told to prepare to defend their homes and to take shelter as the fire impacts on them.

That fire is huge. It's burnt over 37,000 hectares - over 80,000 acres - so far.

The fire perimeter the RFS is fighting they say is now over 500 kilometres, with nearly 100 fires burning.

So far just under 200 homes have been confirmed as destroyed and there are fears that there may be casualties found as teams search them.

Firefighters have come in from interstate to help, from Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the ACT.

And the weather forecast is for hotter, windier days ahead.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bad fire day

There's a bad fire situation around Sydney today.

It's the worst fire weather - about 34C, only 10% humidity and fierce winds gusting up to 90kph.

The Rural Fire Service website has just crashed but a few minutes ago it said:

Major Fire Updates
ABC radio, the emergency broadcaster, normally has updates every fifteen minutes in fire conditions but today is so serious that the Sydney station I'm listening to has replaced normal programmes with non-stop fire information .

People in areas of the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands are being told to evacuate immediately or to take shelter as the fires are on them and out of control.

Several schools have been evacuated. Newcastle Airport is closed and evacuated, roads are closed all over the place. Water bombing aircraft have been grounded because the winds are too dangerous. Some houses have been lost, many others under threat, but so far, thankfully, there are no reports of injuries.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said: "if we get through with less than 100 homes destroyed today, we have been lucky".

In the residential suburb of Baulkham Hills and the city of Wollongong, people are reporting embers falling in their gardens. The high winds are blowing embers way ahead of the fires, starting spot fires.

A man has just called in saying the fire is across the road from his house in Yellow Rock, there are no firefighters there and there are about forty neighbours gathering together to try to get to safety. There's no way out so they're planning to go to a previously burnt area, which seems to be their safest option.

A woman from Yellow Rock says they have no water or electricity and they're trying to put out spot fires with wet towels.

The RFS are saying it could well be our worst fire day since 2002.

With all this going on - firefighters risking their lives, people trapped by fire, houses being destroyed - someone has just phoned in to say he's just reported to police an absolute mindless moron who threw a cigarette but from his car.

And there are regular reports of drivers not pulling out of the way of fire trucks which are desperately trying to get to help people.

As usual, while most people do the right thing and there are heroics with ordinary people doing extraordinary things, there's a minority of self-interested, mindless, selfish morons.

Yeah, right.

If the so-called carbon tax is removed, as ministers keep insisting it will be, a whole lot of people are going to be confused and sorely disappointed.

They're the idiots who believed the fabrication from the then opposition that it was going to cause the destruction of whole communities and was the cause of our relentlessly rising electricity bills.

It was all part of the hysteria created amongst the gullible designed to get Tony Abbott into The Lodge, of course.  Like so much else of that campaign it had no basis in fact.

So the gullible will be expecting their electricity bills to plummet when the "great big tax on everything" is removed.

Pigs refuelled and ready for take-off.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another truck disaster

There are so many examples - without adequate regulations, and enforcement of them, human nature comes to the fore, with greed and self interest ahead of anything else.

Trucks on our roads are a constant reminder of that, the latest example resulting from the fatal crash and explosion of a fuel tanker.

In 2009 a fuel tanker operated by Cootes Transport rolled and exploded, killing a father and his two children plus the truck driver. The coroner made safety recommendations, which haven't been implemented.

Last week a fuel tanker operated by Cootes Transport rolled and exploded, slamming into several cars, killing two men and injuring five other people. Had passers-by not risked their lives to pull people from burning vehicles the death toll would have been worse.

As a mechanical fault was the probable cause Cootes, vehicles were pulled into roadside inspection stations. Police inspected Cootes' fleet, issued numerous defect notices. A police spokeswoman said a swag of "major defects'' were found in twelve vehicles, including brakes, wheels and suspension faults.

It's obvious that we need uniform nationwide regulations, not different state by state regulations, and far more inspections. Not after preventable tragedies but regular, constant checking designed to prevent the tragedies.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back in Oz

Back in Oz now after a trip to Dubai and on to Vienna.

Dubai's back on its feet again after the GFC, construction projects are under way, the new airport is about to start passenger flights, the final part of the Creek extension is about to start.

Web enjoyed Vienna so much on our last (first) trip in June that we decided to squeeze in another visit before the cold weather sets in. The first three days were sunny and warm, which is what the forecast had been for the whole nine days we were there.

Wrong. It got cold.

So into my favourite shop to buy a winter coat, we rugged up and still enjoyed our time there.

Here we've just had our hottest September on record and a mixed bag so far for October.

Yesterday was 37C with gale force winds in the afternoon. Late evening a southerly change blasted through and the temperature dropped 10 degrees in fifteen minutes.

This morning I needed a long sleeved shirt and jacket when I went for coffee and they say it'll reach only 22C.

I think I'm about over the tiredness and jetlag now. I have lots of notes about things I need to get off my chest on here so hopefully I'll get around to it soon.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Stopping the boats (from being talked about)

"AN asylum boat has arrived at Christmas Island, the eighth since the election and the first since the Coalition stopped the practice of announcing boat arrivals as they occur.

There were an estimated 76 asylum seekers on that vessel, bringing the total number of asylum seekers to arrive post-election to 480 at that time. Today’s arrival of an estimated 30 people is expected to push the total past 500."

The Australian

It reminds me of the old Vietnam thing, 'declare victory and leave'.

In opposition Abbott & Co manufactured a daily attack on the government, accusing it of having lost control of our borders. There was a national emergency, they shrieked. Only their Operation Sovereign Borders would stop the boats.

The media meekly followed along, giving it daily coverage.

Now they're the government they've revealed their real strategy - pretend there are no boats arriving by saying nothing about them.

The gullible will fall for it of course and believe Abbott has delivered on his promise to 'stop the boats'.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Back in Dubai *

The trip back to Dubai took two days this time! Left home at 5pm on Sunday, arrived in Dubai mid-afternoon Tuesday.

The Emirates A380 eased back from the gate right on time, just after 9pm, then just sat there for ten minutes. The captain came on to say there was a technical problem, an engineer had been called to have a look at it and we were taxiing back to the gate.

Engineer arrived, captain told us it was an air-conditioning problem and they were working to fix it.

Then he told us they were talking to Dubai about the problem.

Around 11pm, dangerously close to curfew at SYD, the captain said spare parts would have to be flown in, so we were being disembarked, would be put up in a hotel if necessary and told our new arrangements asap.

Getting out again was quick and painless, the luggage arrived quickly, people were on hand to guide us back through the deserted and half-closed airport to the original check-in desks. Emirates staff were there to arrange a hotel if pasengers needed it. I assume they arranged taxis for people living in Sydney to go home to wait.

Next day, Monday, I discovered I was on the red-eye on Tuesday morning, which meant a 4am check-in. They'd put me in Rydges hotel, which is literally across the road from the international terminal so it was a 3.30am wake-up call.

Managed to doze a bit on the flight so it wasn't too bad, and arrived at 2pm.

At DXB the SmartGate had decided to play games with us again.

I swiped my card, the gate opened and I went in. The recorded voice was a good way behind me, because it told me to swipe my card and enter.

That's what the old E-Gate used to do, get all out of sequence and go haywire. The SmartGate obviously has the same glitch because it refused to recognise my fingerprint and told me to go out and start again.

Second time it was exactly the same result. Third time it told me only one person was allowed in the gate at any one time. As I was completely alone, and I've lost some weight, that was a surprising development.

Anyway, it told me that as there were three of me we should report to the officer on duty.

So, as happened so often with E-Gate, I had to go to the Immigration officer and hand over my passport and smartcard. No problem then of course, she just stamped me in and I was free to go.

But even with the glitches it's still a hell of a lot faster than going through the non-smart Immigration desks. Last time I did that it was over an hour of queueing - not what you need after a fourteen-plus hour flight I can tell you.

Dubai's not as hot and sticky as is normal in September, which is usually the most humid month. Temperature is around 37C to 40C and with relatively low humidity, that's comfortable for me.

A few days to get over the jetlag and tiredness and then, on Monday, we're off to Vienna again for a week. We enjoyed it so much last time we decided to fit in another visit before the cold weather arrives in central Europe.

* 'Back in Dubai' by Sal Davis was a local hit song back in about 1978. We played it at every gig we had with our mobile DuneBeat Disco and it always went down a storm. It's on YouTube now and you can hear it right here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

You couldn't make it up.

The new prime minister himself has taken primary responsibility for women's issues.

The Guardian

New government entirely predictable

There seems to be some surprise at the early actions of Tony Abbott's new government. Astonishingly that must mean people didn't realise what an Abbott led government would be like.

A protege of John Winston Howard, aggressive, swaggering. Howard's attack dog and an avid follower of his policies and approach. A far right conservative with a mindset back in the fifties. What his government would be like was quite obvious.

Like Howard's government this one has already demonstrated that it'll be spiteful.

Their first move, before they'd even been sworn in, was to cancel Steve Brack's appointment as consul-general to New York. Their first move after beeing sworn in was to sack three department heads.

Spitefulness will be, as it was under Howard, a feature of Abbott-led governments.

Then there's the fact that our new cabinet is all male, with one exception. Questioned about it, Abbott said there would have been more if Sophie Mirabella had not lost her seat.

So even at best, there would have been two women in cabinet, a point the media didn't see fit to mention.

If, as we're expected to believe, there are no Coalition women MP's good enough for the job it says a huge amount about the attitude of the two parties.

In addition to the scrapping of the Climate Commission there will no longer be a science minister, that portfolio being spread around amongst ministers. It's still vague, Abbott only saying that it would be 'largely' under the Industry minister, but science is clearly being sent to the outer.

It's very early days but the pattern's been set with plenty more along the same lines to come.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Preference system must go

I'm more than delighted to see that something I've been complaining about for years has suddenly gone mainstream.

It's our utterly ridiculous voting system, with the preference system, as I've long said, decidedly shonky. It's the opposite of democratic, the opposite of fair, because our votes end up being given to candidates we didn't vote for. And because candidates being voted for by a few hundred people can end up being declared the winner.

Regardless of who you vote for, your vote will end up being given to someone else. 

It has to be the worst system in the world.

What seems to have brought it into the mainstream is the Senate seat given to Ricky Muir of the Australia Motoring Enthusiast Party.

That's in Victoria, where there were 34 'parties' contesting the six Senate seats.

The Coalition got just under a million votes, Labor about three quarters of a million, The Greens something over a quarter million and those parties took five seats.

The count for the final seat, which you can see here in detail,  then went off into never-never land.

It's mind-boggling. For example:

Count 36: Barry MICHAEL (Palmer United Party) excluded

  • 91,139 (3.75%) votes originally from Palmer United Party distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 6.
  • 11,152 (0.46%) votes originally from Katter's Australian Party distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 44.
  • 16,674 (0.69%) votes originally from DLP Democratic Labour distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 39.
  • 12 (0.00%) votes (549 ballot papers at 0.0225 transfer value) originally from Socialist Equality Party (Ticket 3 of 3) distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 22.
  • 10 (0.00%) votes (429 ballot papers at 0.0225 transfer value) originally from Group AJ distributed to Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky MUIR) via preference 41.
By the time they got to Count 38, 'Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Ricky Muir)' was given the final seat.

Out of millions of voters, 12,292 voted for Ricky Muir. He got less votes than nine other minor parties, coming thirteenth. Yet he was given the seat.

We have similar results in other states too.

I agree with the ABC's respected election analyst Antony Green, who says in Sydney Morning Herald: "It would be a bit of a joke, except that these senators have just been handed six year terms in high paying and well staffed Senate seats with significant powers over how the country is governed".

But I disagree with him totally when he says: "A better response would be to deal with the real problem, above-the-line voting. Getting rid of this would put preferences back into the hands of voters where they belong".

The real problem is not above-the-line voting, that simply exacerbates the problem. No, the real problem is the system of references itself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bushfires starting early

I suppose it was inevitable after such a dry, warm winter and a record warm start to spring.

Today is 30C with very strong gusty north-westerly winds, so the fires have started and homes are under threat as I type.

The Castlereagh bushfire burning out of control near Nutt Road.

In Castlereagh, in the ABC photo above, the fire is headed towards a dozen homes. An emergency warning is in place and people, including a school, are being evacuated. Firefighters backed by aircraft are struggling to protect the properties, with the unpredictable gusty winds causing spot fires ahead of the main fire front.

An emergency warning is also in place in Windsor around Richmond Road, with the Rural Fire Service saying the blaze could impact properties. The RFS says residents should take shelter but in spite of community information that they should head to Penrith Whitewater Stadium, the RFS says they should not because there is fire in that area.

The fires are widespread and covering large areas too - a very high fire danger alert has been issued for the Illawarra, Sydney, the Central Ranges, the Hunter, the north west and the north coast. There are currently more than forty fires burning uncontained around the state..

There are currently seven other bushfires with Watch and Act status around Sydney, including the close-in suburb of Lane Cove, at Blacktown, the Hills District, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter. We have one nearby too, at Wyong here on the NSW Central Coast.

All are currently listed on the  RFS website as 'out of control'.

And we're only in early September.

Update: At 3pm two more of the fires have been upgraded to emergency warning, Winmalee in the Blue Mountains and Blacktown. There are unconfirmed reports of home losses in Castlereagh, where it's also said that outhouses and vehicles have been destroyed.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Lies exposed already

Even before the final seats are declared, the lies fed to the electorate to win power are already being exposed.

The new federal parliament won't be sitting until  'late October or early November' according to Tony Abbott.

Up to Saturday he insisted that we had a national emergency with our borders and a national emergency with the budget.

A lot of people fell for it too. I wonder how they feel now at their gullibility, now that one of his first announcements as PM-elect is to say that there's no hurry to resume parliament for a couple of months, meaning we can't be facing emergencies.

"My emphasis will be on being purposeful, methodical, calm and conscientious,and the last thing I want to do is rush the Parliament back for a photo opportunity before the substance of the work is there for it to do."

He's telling us he'll be calm and methodical. So if there were emergencies, why no calm methodical work prior to the election he knew he'd win to address those emergencies?

Because, of course, there never were any emergencies. It was a lie created to frighten the ignorant and ill-informed into giving him their votes.  


Predictably, the word 'mandate' is already being bandied about by the major parties and interest groups.

As all incoming governments do, the Coalition is already Senate-bashing. 'We have a mandate' to do what we want to do and the Senate must go along with it.

The Labor side is claiming a mandate from the people who voted for them, to oppose government policy. Business groups are claiming the incoming government has a mandate to change the rules in their favour.

What bullshit it all is.

If we wanted to give them a mandate we'd vote for the same party for both houses. That would give them control to do what they want to do unhindered. But that almost never happens.

Very, very rarely do we vote for the same party to win both houses. We don't give the lower house winner control of the Senate because we want a check on the worst excesses of whichever party rules the lower house.


Sunday, September 08, 2013

A few election thoughts

It went as predicted, with Labor losing the election, although not as badly as many had suggested they would.

Kevin Rudd hung onto his seat but only on preferences. He polled over 1,000 votes less than his Liberal opponent but preference deals changed it into a 4,000 vote lead. 

He, rightly, took responsibility for Labor's defeat and stepped down as leader. For the sake of his party he should follow Julia Gillard's example and retire from politics. With his record, while he's in parliament there will be doubts about his ability to keep out of leadership intrigue.

Elsewhere around the electorates, there was a mixture of surprises and predictable results.

Remember Jaymes Diaz, the Liberal candidate who expounded his party's policies but when questioned couldn't remember what they were? The interview went viral on YouTube and on international media.

The media here dubbed him The Scarlet Pimpernel throughout the campaign after that, because he disappeared totally from view as his minders kept him well away from the media and electors.

In spite of that, 30,000 people voted for him - fortunately it wasn't enough and we won't see his incompetence in parliament.

Another one I gave a mention to, Ray King, got a similar number of votes in his electorate, but again it wasn't enough to get him elected.

In my electorate there was a good example of how our shonky preference system is used. Our Mayor, Lawrie McKinna, stood as an independent, saying his preferences were crucial to both major parties, which is true in such a marginal seat. He put his preferences up in a bidding contest, offering them to 'whichever party promised most for the area'.

That was his stated reason for standing in the federal election. Nothing to do with the country and what might be best for it, just parochial local stuff.

So he gave them a list of what he wanted, which included the relocation of a government department, 'support' for a regional airport, university and performance arts centre.

The Libs won the bid when, according to McKinna, they offered $10 million for the arts centre - with conditions mind you.

He came third with about 9% of the votes so his preferences added a good number to the Libs candidate, although in reality with the big swing against Labor she didn't really need them to win. In a closer election though it would have made all the difference.

I'll be fascinated to see whether any of what he thinks he negotiated actually happens.

As for the new PM, I have serious doubts about his ability to change his nature into what's needed for the job. He's always been the aggressive destroyer, which served him well as John Howard's attack dog and as leader of the Opposition. But it's a far cry from the attributes a Prime Minister needs.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Giving the election away

Default position for our politicians is to avoid answering the question at all costs.

Pushing hard to top the table as the worst of all is Prime Minister Rudd. He must have lost thousands of votes for his party with his constant off-subject waffling.

He was at it again on the ABC's AM programme yesterday.

The first question he was asked was: "If the polls are right, you won't be Prime Minister this Saturday night. How much of the blame will you shoulder?"

Pretty straightforward I thought.

His answer: "As I said before, I think what your listeners want to hear this morning is what our policies are, and what the alternatives are, and at this stage of the campaign, we are left simply poking in the dark in terms of what Mr Abbott has in his hidden box of cuts - large scale cuts - to jobs, to hospitals, to schools. And the reason why he's keeping it under wraps is he doesn't want to frighten people into not voting for him.

And I think people are beginning to scratch their heads and wonder about this and if they're in doubt about it, they shouldn't vote for him".

The interviewer let that one go through to the keeper and moved on to the subject of the Coalition promising to scrap the carbon tax. Part of it was to ask whether Labor would block in the Senate the Coalition's (laughable) Direct Action policy on carbon emissions.

Naturally he waffled, so was asked the simple question: "Getting back to the point of the question. Would Labor block it?"

The answer to that should have been yes or no or we haven't decided yet.

Not to waffler Rudd though. He said: "Our position as far as our policies for this election, is absolutely clear. These are the positions we're taking into the 2013 election. People will vote for them one way or another. I'm in the business of this election in order to secure a win for the Government because I believe that's the best outcome for all Australians including on climate change.

Post election speculation is something I don't enter into."

There was a big surge to Labor when he resumed the leadership, but the more he's gone on like this the more supporters he's lost. Even in his parochial home state of Queensland.

I can't see him lasting long in the job post election - assuming he retains his seat, which is in serious doubt.

Asylum seeker bogeyman

It worked so well for John Howard, the racist stunt of creating division and hysteria about boat people, that the Libs under Tony Abbott have pushed it again to the max.

He even channelled his mentor a couple of weeks ago with his 'we will decide who comes here' speech. And the boys and girls in the band are dutifully following his lead.

Our local Liberal candidate has two slogans on posters I drove past today. 'Under the instruction to 'Vote Liberal' the reasons given are  'More jobs. Stronger borders'.

Stop the boats, you see.

And in a Sydney electorate we have the Liberal candidate blaming them for traffic jams on the M4 and queues in our hospitals!

Fiona Scott (she who was described by her leader as young, feisty, with a bit of sex appeal) told the ABC that "Asylum seekers are a hot topic here because our traffic is overcrowded".  Asked to explain by a bemused interviewer she said "Go sit in the emergency department of Nepean Hospital or go and sit on the M4 and people see 50,000 people come in by boat; that's more than twice the population of Glenmore Park where we just were".

The saddest part is that they don't need to resort to plumbing the depths like this, Labor - and Rudd in particular - has handed them the election on a plate.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A week to go...

A week to go before the Coalition is voted in to be our next government. They'll win by default because people have turned against Labor, so it'll be an anti-Labor vote rather than a pro-Coalition vote.

All they have to do is to avoid too many gaffes and they've played the game well, avoiding answering questions and keeping their candidates well away from the media and voters. They've turned down invitations for candidates to appear on radio and television, except for the heavyweights - Abbott, Hockey, Julie Bishop. There've been cameo appearances by Christopher Pyne and Shadow Minister For Stopping The Boats Scott Morrison. The rest are nowhere to be seen or heard.

The Nationals have been completely invisible apart from Barnaby Joyce, the only person from the Nationals to put his head above the ramparts, and that's only been once or twice.

Both sides, or rather both leaders, have been announcing 'policy' on the run, promising billions of dollars for just about anything on the day they think will attract a few votes. It's all bullshit of course, it simply won't happen.

When the Coalition takes over there'll be the usual claim that now they have access to the real figures things are much worse than they thought, so thanks to the previous government they'll be unable to deliver on their pre-election promises.

None of them deserve our vote, but voting's compulsory.  And worse, our shonky electoral system will deliver our votes to people we didn't vote for.

For the lower house in my electorate we have nine candidates to vote for in order of preference. We have Labor, Liberal, Greens, (Clive) Palmer United Party, Fred Nile's Christian Democrats, Democratic Labour Party and three independents to number from one to nine.

Voting for the Senate is always a joke but this time it's even worse than usual. The ballot paper is over a metre wide with 44 parties or independents putting up 110 candidates. The Electoral Commission is providing magnifying sheets in the polling booths because so many candidates have had to be packed in that the type is too small for many people to read.

We have two ways to vote for the Senate. One is 'below the line', which means numbering each party in our order of preference, and  every single box must be numbered for the vote to count.

Realistically almost no-one will do that. Attempt to do it properly and you need to find out what the 44 parties stand for, which is just about impossible anyway. Then you have to spend more time deciding which candidate you like the best, which you dislike the most and where all the others come on your like and dislike list. 

So most voters will take the easier option of  'above the line' voting.

That means voting for a party or group by putting the number '1' in their box only, above the black line.  It's much easier but it means, as the AEC says, voters are allowing the order of their preference to be determined by the party or group they are voting for.

And of course that's where the shonky backroom deals have been done and our vote is given to someone we didn't vote for.

It means, for example, that we could get Pauline Hanson as a NSW senator thanks to the preferences deals she's done with other parties. She's high on the preference tickets issued by the Shooters & Fishers, the Liberal Democrats, Christian Democrats, Katter's Australia Party, the DLP and Rise Up Australia party.

The Newcastle Herald throws a bit of light on the murky world of preferences:

If  (Hanson) wins (only) 5 per cent of the vote this time, minor party preferences give her a serious chance of winning. She is one of several outsiders who have cornered the best of the preference deals...and stand a chance of vaulting into the Senate on the back of those preferences.

While a party requires 14.3 per cent of the vote after preferences to win a Senate seat, in 2004 Family First candidate Steve Fielding won a seat in Victoria with 1.9 per cent of the vote, but lots of preferences.

That could be matched this time by Ray Brown, who heads the Building Australia Party ticket. His party will get eight second or third preferences from other parties, and is in the top 10 on no fewer than 27 of the 42 preference tickets submitted.

Few voters will fill in the 110 boxes required to allocate their own preferences, so party tickets will decide almost all preferences from the state's 4.8 million voters.

Some of them show surprising preferences. The No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics will allocate preferences to the party which introduced the carbon tax (Labor) ahead of the one that plans to abolish it (the Coalition). The Shooters & Fishers and the DLP will also give preferences to Labor ahead of the Coalition.

Conversely, the Republican Party is directing its ultimate preferences to staunch monarchist Tony Abbott, while the Protectionist Party will give its preferences to the Liberals' Arthur Sinodinos, who is more of a free trader.

The system needs changing but only the government can do that and they'll only change it if it gives their party an advantage.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Truck danger

It's been a while since I had a rant on here about the need to get trucks off our roads. That's because it's been a while since I drove on a freeway or main highway and so I haven't been endangered by dangerous truck drivers.

But they're back in the news again with the release of figures from NSW police.

In spite of the well-publicised blitz against them some eighteen months ago, companies  and truckies are still breaking the law - and endangering other road users - by tampering with the speed limiters.

Sydney Morning Herald reports that of 7,474 trucks recently inspected by authorities, 245 had non-compliant speed limiters. And in an operation on the M5 motorway in April, tampering was as high as twenty-five per cent of trucks checked.

The article includes the experience of  Geoff and Joan Dartnell, almost killed by a truck driver.

Mr Dartnell overtook a huge B-double truck which, he says, then sped up and clipped him from behind, sending his car spinning out of control and off the road. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Crash investigators found that the truck's speed limiter was set above the legal limit.

Last week an operation on the M7 motorway revealed 184 defects in 56 trucks. The day previously, Bobbins Transport in NSW was raided and their sixty vehicle fleet was grounded as part of an investigation into speeding and drug use.

The crackdown that's been going for just over a year has seen 61,520 infringement notices issued and over 1,000 criminal ' chain of responsibility'  charges against four companies.

There's still talk about ' rogue operators'  but it's much more widespread than that, as motorists and th3e figures can testify.

There really is only one answer to the problem, get the bloody things off the roads.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

From the ridiculous to the bizarre

The asylum seeker political bullshit has now gone completely off with the fairies.

Tony Abbott has long been whipping up hysteria - so successful for his mentor John Winston Howard - with his insistence that it's a 'national emergency' and his endless parroting of 'we have to stop the boats'.

He started to move into a Monty Python policy area when he came up with a faux military slant to support his 'national emergency' rubbish. Within a hundred days of taking power, his government would activate 'Operation Sovereign Borders' with a three-star military officer heading it.

Now he's gone even further into the land of the absurd with his latest escalation.

To stop asylum seekers coming by sea from Indonesia he's planning to buy Indonesian fishing boats.

In his fevered imagination this will deny 'people smugglers' the ability to buy them.

He's serious. No, really, he is.

As with all their 'policy' announcements, there's no detail. Exactly how it would work will be "left to the discretion of our people on the ground" he said.

BTW, it's estimated there are three quarters of a million fishing boats in Indonesia

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yet another dud foisted on us

He ran a website that's being called, among other things, offensive, off-colour, sexist, inappropriate.

He is Kevin Baker, Liberal candidate for the seat of Charlton here in NSW. Well, he was until his website came to light. Now he's the former candidate.

The site 'included offensive references to incest, domestic violence, racism and child abuse and jokes about sex with strippers.'

When that information hit the media he quit. And rightly so - although he should never have been there in the first place.

Yet another dud candidate put up for people to vote for. I posted about others on August 8, 9, 16 so we're getting one every few days.

You can bet they're just the tip of the iceberg too, there'll be plenty more who sneak through under the radar with some of them ending up in parliament. Then, as with so many over the years, there'll be sweeping under carpets and they'll get away with it for years. 

There are names that spring to mind like Sir Joh, Russ Hinze and the Queensland gang, Obeid, MacDonald and the gang here in NSW, Peter Slipper, Craig Thomson...

Obviously the parties don't bother with background checks before they embrace these people and put them up for election. But then why would they, that would imply that they actually give a damn about the electorate.

The reality is that they spout the clichés their spin doctors tell them to about serving and supporting and caring and understanding, but their actions tell us the real story.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Say what?

Two articles sitting next to each other in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning had me shaking my head.

Then first is about BlueScope Steel. The CEO was reported a bad year - naturally it was all down to everything other than management.

His company achieved a year-to-June net loss of $84.1 million and a revenue decreased $1.1 billion compared to the previous year. After his report the shares crashed 16%.

The adjoining article was about executive salaries. BlueScope's CEO, yes, the very same man, was rewarded with an almost doubling of his salary package, up from $2.8 million to $5.1 million.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Campaign stuff up

Today the media's finally caught on to what's been happening on the election front for at least the past week, and the reason behind Kevin Rudd and Labor's plunge in the polls.

It's the same reason Labor under Julia Gillard took such a battering - a total stuff up with communications.

We never heard about the legislation that was passed, the good policy decisions under Gillard. And we're not hearing them from the Rudd team either.

The first huge mistake in my opinion was Rudd trying to cover the past negativity by saying the country needed a change. That gave Tony Abbott the perfect opportunity to say, as he did, that Labor says you need a change and you do - a change from Labor to us.

So obvious and such a basic mistake I simply can't understand how all the minds running the Labor campaign didn't see it.

Now they've gone negative. Instead of being positive, instead of pointing out their achievements, they're simply attacking the opposition.  'Abbott will be bad for you' is the total thrust of the campaign.

It won't work, as the polls are showing. Rudd is now just another politician, slagging off the other man.

It's quite deliberate too. Rudd told us they were being outspent ten to one by the coalition on advertising, the ads were all attacking the government with negativity so Labor decided to shoot back in kind.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Again, it was such an obviously wrong move that it's as if the coalition is running Labor's campaign!

It's textbook stuff that students of politics - and marketing - will be surely reading about in the future. Running  'our competitor's worse than us' as a theme doesn't work in any kind of marketing campaign.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Stay on message - say nothing

The result will be closer than it would have been but it still seems that we'll have Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister after September 7.

It'll be by default though, with people voting against Labor rather than for the coalition. That's been their strategy all along with the relentless negativity that everything the government has done is wrong. And it's worked.

Coalition it may be, BTW, but we're hearing less than nothing from the Nationals, we're hearing only the Liberals.

Not that we're hearing anything of substance from them, just the usual parroting of stop the boats, carbon tax, economy in crisis.

I live in one of the marginal electorates, held by Labor but only because of our shonky preference system of backroom deals. But more of that later.

The Big Two candidates were on radio this morning. The incumbent listed things Labor, and she, have achieved in the last term.

The Liberal candidate was on message and said nothing about policies, costings, vision. Ignoring the questions she insisted that what was important was what local businesses are telling her - that the carbon tax and red tape is killing them.

Only last week, she told us, a local business told her that they had to lay off 30 staff because of the carbon tax and red tape.  They're two of the big items for the Libs of course. Most of their tax cuts and spending they tell us is going to be funded by savings coming from cutting red tape.

So last week one company blamed the government for all their woes. So what. Management default position is always that someone else is to blame for the company having a tough time.

The Lib's strategy is clear. Get people to vote against the government and they win without having to commit to anything.

Quality candidates

We have another fine example of the quality of candidates being served up too, with the story today that the Liberal candidate for a Sydney seat is an ex-policeman with a questionable past.

Back in the nineties we had the Wood royal commission into corruption in the NSW police force. Ray King, the Libs candidate for McMahon electorate, was among a group of detectives exposed as having provided 'informal security arrangements' to the Marconi Club in return for meals, booze and cash. King also admitted to the commission that he often socialised there with a well-known drug dealer and brothel owner, who's in the slammer for a twenty stretch.

Still, as with  Jaymes Diaz  it won't affect people's voting patterns, up to half the electors will vote for him anyway. The vast majority of the votes for  the Big Two parties go to them automatically, regardless of anything.

Shonky system

And now back to my electorate and our voting system that I so often complain about.

Labor won last time but, naturally, more people voted against the winner than for her, 51,406 against and 33,935 for. That's something which to my mind is very wrong, but it's not unusual in western democracies.

What is different here in Oz is that the second place candidate got 3,216 more votes than the eventual winner. But after the shonky preferences deals were taken into account, Labor ended up with 1,599 more than the Libs.

So this time around it only needs a different set of preference deals or a few people changing their votes, and the Libs will win.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Debate. What debate?

The much-hyped 'leaders debate' last evening was a total waste of time.

Firstly, there was no debate. Just the chairman and three journos asking a handful of convoluted questions for the two leaders to answer in turn.

Naturally they did their best to not answer the questions, preferring to just parrot the usual clichés and slag off the other side.

Both looked nervous and ill at ease, Rudd used notes, Abbott waffled and at the end of it we know as little as we did before about policies, funding, vision for the future.

As ever, we're treated like mushrooms.

Also on the election front, the One Nation candidate Stephanie Banister who gave the interview I posted about on Friday has done the right thing and withdrawn from the election.

There are more than a few others who should do the same thing but self-interest will win the day.

BTW, I loved the comment from One Nation leader Jim Savage: "Stephanie Banister has withdrawn her nomination to stand following the disgraceful way she has been portrayed by recent media [and] ridicule over a minor gaffe in a statement she made to Channel Seven."

Minor gaffe. Right.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Another quality candidate

Yesterday I posted about a totally incompetent Liberal candidate, demonstrating his complete ignorant of the facts.

Today we have another one, but at least this prospective parliamentarian is from a lunatic fringe party.

The One Nation Party (remember Pauline Hanson?) has adopted Stephanie Banister to contest the Brisbane seat of Rankin.

Her main focus seems to be anti-Islam but as her specialist subject she's woefully ignorant and misinformed about it.

Still, ignorance and not having their facts right never stops bigots from shooting their mouths off.

In Stephanie's world Islam is a country and muslims follow the haram. While not against Jews she was as ignorant of their religion as she is about Islam, although naturally that didn't stop her telling us about it.

You can watch part of the interview here.

And you know what, there are people who will vote for her. I'll watch the numbers with interest.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

It's election time. Bring on the clowns.

I talk about it regularly, the quality - or complete lack of it - of the candidates cynically foisted on us by the political parties.

A political life here seems particularly attractive to the self-interested, to crooks and incompetents. The system of patronage and favour, of jobs for the boys, gets them preselected and we mug voters have no say in it. We simply have to vote for them under our compulsory voting system.

A real doozy of incompetence has been exposed with the Liberal party's candidate for the Sydney marginal seat of Greenway.

He's Jaymes Diaz, a local lawyer, son of a local councillor and member of a family which is said to control the electorate's party branches. He's also under the patronage of one of the party powerbrokers - one of the 'faceless men' the Coalition hammers Labor about and pretends it doesn't have itself.

Anyway, young Jaymes is out on the campaign trail and was interviewed on Channel 10. A classic.

It's deservedly gone viral and is giving the young high-flyer world-wide coverage

You can watch the interview here.   Please do, it's well worth it.

See. That's a candidate for one of our two major parties, the one that's probably going to be our next government. He hasn't got a clue.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Five weeks of crap coming up

New federal election date. It's now September 7, a week earlier than the last PM said it would be.

Naturally, the hysteria, the lies, the stupidity, the cliches are even worse than the phoney war of the past few months.

According to the man who is probably going to be our next Treasurer, low interest rates mean opposite things depending on the colour of the government.

Under a Coalition government it's a sign that they're managing the economy well. Under a Labor government it means they're managing the economy badly.

Today the RBA reduced the official interest rate to its lowest in half a century. So we were reminded of John Howard's claim that interests rates would always be lower under a Coalition government than a Labor government.

He was even wheeled out to tell us he was right, naturally...interest rates are low now because this government can't manage the economy, while his government had low interest rates in a booming economy. He didn't mention, never does, that the 'booming' economy he presided over reflected what was happening around the world - an unsustainable spending binge funded by easy credit that inevitably came crashing down.

It wasn't a boom, it was a fake boom. It was a mirror image of people giving the appearance of doing well but in reality living on their credit cards. When they max out, they hit the wall. So it was with our economies.

Our probable next Prime Minister tells us he will not form a minority government, he will never do deals with minor parties to become PM.

Yet that's exactly what his 'party' is, a deal between his Liberal party and a minor party, the old Country Party rebranded with the misnomer of National Party.

It's also what he tried so hard to do after the last dead heat election, when he negotiated just as hard as Labor to bribe the independents and minor parties to back him rather than them.

Inevitably, Rupert Murdoch has ordered his news empire here to work for a Coalition victory - Kick This Mob Out' screamed the Sydney Daily Telegraph headline the day after the election was announced.

He's going ever more to the right as he gets older but, as always, it also has a lot to do with his, Murdoch's, business interests, but the readers of his papers won't realise that. Roy Greenslade in the UK's The Guardian has a good, short, piece on it, here.

Stupidly, the two major parties are competing with each other to see who can give us the lowest taxes. Meanwhile the things our taxes pay for are collapsing for a lack of funds. People are up in arms at poor education, poor healthcare, poor policing, lack of childcare facilities.

I'm really not looking forward to the next five weeks. There'll be very little presentation of policies, no vision for the future, just slagging off the other side.

It's obviously going to be closer result than it would have been had Julia Gillard still been leading Labor and as always it will come down to a handful of marginal seats deciding the outcome.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big business government

We're getting regular updates confirming that it's not our elected governments which are running the country, but big business.

One of the big factors in Kevin Rudd's removal as Labor leader and Prime Minister was his craven backdown when the big mining companies launched a scare campaign against his super profits tax.

The government sat down with them and allowed them to write the new law, ending  up with them getting more in tax credits than they pay in tax.

We had the NSW state government meekly agreeing to James Packer's demand to build a huge casino in Sydney. They kept their decision making secret, claiming confidentiality. In reality, now that the reports have been released we see their 'justification' for approval was nothing but spin.

We have a big problem with alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney, but the liquor/licensed premises industry is, naturally, focussed solely on its profits. The pubs and clubs fight controls every inch of the way, getting the results they want.

The two big bottle shop players - inevitably Coles and Woolworths - have been offering 50% and more discounts on the back of their shop receipts. The government said it was going to ban the coupon, the companies started screaming so they were allowed to change the draft line by line.

They came up with fatuous arguments such as that as half price toilet paper and corn flake specials didn't increase the consumption of those items the same applied to grog.

It just goes on and on. Governments ceding control to companies which blabber on about corporate social responsibility but have only one focus, which is inevitably their bottom line.

And we're powerless, because whichever party we vote into office we get the same outcome.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Catching up

A lot to catch up on since I've been back, and a lot going on locally and around the world.

The tragedy of the nineteen firefighters killed in the US, heroes all of them. It's a word I don't use as lightly as many, but I sincerely believe it applies to firefighters.

Also in the US, the amazing escape of almost everyone on the Asiana Boeing 777 which crashed on landing at San Francisco. Looks very much like pilot error, who was inexperienced with that particular plane. It's a worry I've had since the rapid expansion of air travel a few years ago. So many new airlines, many hundreds of extra planes flying about and flight crew needed for them all. It's inevitable, it seems to me, that there must be inexperienced crews flying planes.

By the way, it's emerging what an extraordinary job the Asiana cabin crew did on the 777, getting injured passengers out at a risk to their own safety. I was astonished though to see passengers evacuating the aircraft with their luggage. The plane has crashed, fire is spreading yet they waste time, and hinder other passengers, by fiddling about getting their bags. Unbelievable.

Still overseas, the demonstrations in Egypt, followed by the military ousting the government and now today news of the death of at least fifty government supporters, killed by the military. Many other states in the region, especially the Gulf, will be delighted that the Muslim Brotherhood has lost power, but they'll be very worried about the distinct possibility that the country is rushing towards civil war.

Nowhere near as dramatic here in Oz of course. No violence in the removal of our Prime Minister Julia Gillard by the man she overthrew three years ago, Kevin Rudd, so he's now our Prime Minister again.

In many ways unfairly, public opinion was against Gillard and Labor was set to be decimated at the upcoming federal election so a change of leader was inevitable.

The electoral situation's changed with Rudd back as PM, the latest poll showing him streets ahead of Tony Abbott as preferred Prime Minister - no surprise there. And Labour and the coalition neck and neck after preferences, suggesting another hung parliament could be in the offing.

The election will not now be held on September 14 as announced by Julia Gillard but we don't have a new date yet. Abbott's panicking, demanding an immediate announcement of an early election. The longer it goes on the more he'll be exposed as having no policies, just the same old tired soundbites - 'we'll stop the boats', 'the carbon tax',  'the mining tax'.

He even wheeled John Winston Howard out to repeat the 'stop the boats' rhetoric, a man who to all but the most one-eyed diehards lost all credibility because he lied consistently about the threat posed by asylum seekers arriving by boat , and many other things.

We had a UN senior official here last week, who came to see what all the fuss was about regarding asylum seekers. He pointed out that very many other countries have a much more serious problem but don't get into hysterics about it as we do here. The reason of course is pure wedge politics feeding into the fear of the ignorant and racist. It all worked so well for John Winston Howard that his old attack dog Abbott has continued with it.

Abbott plays the role of attack dog well and he's well suited to it. He did it under Howard and he's done it as leader of the opposition. Not a good stance for a Prime Minister though.

He was back in the media again today on one of his seemingly daily photo set-ups, this time in a pie factory. Interesting that Gillard copped so much criticism for posing at home with some knitting yet not a word of criticism for Abbott and his tiresome and endless photo set ups. Like his soundbites, they take the place of actual policy announcements.

I have no problem with a coalition government, but I do have serious trepidation about one led by Tony Abbott. Still it seems that it won't be the shoe-in it was going to be a couple of weeks ago, and with any luck either he'll be beaten again or the Liberals will replace him with the much more popular Malcolm Turnbull and improve their chances.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Back to Oz

Back to Oz tonight, arriving late tomorrow. In fact I think we're the last flight to land at Sydney before the curfew.

I see from the Sydney papers I'm going to really notice the difference in weather, especially for the next week.

Here in Dubai it's been a couple of degrees either side of 40C. The eight days in Vienna gave us seven sunny days in the mid twenties celcius.

The New South Wales coast has a forecast for maximums of between fourteen and eighteen celcius and rain all week. Sunday through Tuesday have heavy rain predicted plus strong winds, up to 60kph.

Flood watches have been issued and people have been told to tie lose items down and park their cars under cover.

Oh well, it is winter down south.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I have a new favourite city

Vienna's been on my list of places to visit for years but, for no particular reason, I never got around to it.

We've just got back to Dubai after a week there and I really regret not having visited much, much earlier and much more often.

We stayed in the old city and, apart from a couple of short trips outside the inner ring, that's where we spent the full week. Wherever we go we like to just wander around the streets, the markets, eat in the cafes, drink in the pubs, absorb ourselves in the place, and we simply did that.

I realise that just one district of a city gives a slanted view, but Vienna's my kinda town I must say.

The city centre has a very large pedestrianised precinct so you're well away from the bane of most cities, traffic pollution.

The area is nothing but old, beautiful buildings on a human scale, street cafes, restaurants & bars and quality shops.

The food is something else - not traditional Viennese cuisine, which leaves a lot to be desired to be honest, but overall, and especially things like the breads and cakes and deli items.

The variety and choice in the shops is astonishing and the quality is exceptional across the board.

One of the things I really dislike is the current trend of scruffiness, especially men in what is in effect their underwear - singlets, football shorts and flipflops - in cities, shops, restaurants.

Not in the part of Vienna we stayed in, where the people are well dressed even when they're casually dressed - even the vast majority of tourists are dressed appropriately for a city.

And everyone we met and interacted with was friendly, cheerful, pleasant, helpful. Really nice people.

The whole feel is sophistication, elegance. You feel good just walking around in it, surrounded by quality.

And a bonus, the weather was just about perfect. One day with some rain, which didn't really inconvenience us, and the rest warm and sunny with clear blue sky.

We've already decided we'll be going back as soon as we can. An Indonesian waitress in our hotel, married to an Austrian and living in the city for thirteen years, told us to go back in winter, which she said is her favourite time of year there. Not for me, I hate the cold, but if we can get back before then we will. Otherwise it'll have to wait until next summer.

Plenty of photos in my camera of course and I'll post some when I have them organised.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Jebel Ali Village - the good news

I've said from when it hit that the global financial crisis was the best thing that could have happened to Dubai.

While the real economy - the trading, dealing, manufacturing, re-exporting -  was ticking along quietly in the background the property development sector went bananas and threatened to destroy Dubai.

Ridiculous projects, far too many all at the same time, were planned and many started. The worst culprit in my opinion was the the developer Nakheel. That's the company which built Jumeirah Palm Island and The World Islands, and had two more even bigger palm islands under way at the same time, plus the 75 km long Arabian Canal and dozens of other projects.

One that caused a lot of upset was the destruction of one of Dubai's few (relatively) old areas, Jebel Ali Village. Built in the late seventies it was about forty kilometres out of town and back in the day was considered a hell of a drive through the desert. These days it's simply on the edge of town down the main freeway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

But it was a unique place, self contained, with a real village community spirit, many long-term residents, including kids who grew up and went to school there.

Anyway, back in 2007, Nakheel announced that they were redeveloping the entire village and the tenants had to leave. Plans showed the usual streets of high rise apartments.

I ran a post about it on my Life in Dubai blog in 2008 when I drove into the village one morning and found it entirely fenced off. All the comments left by readers were of fond memories of JAV, of sadness that it had gone. You can read what it meant to them on the post here.

If you don't know it, here are a some photos from my post

There it was, a well-established, green, very liveable village.

I drove in that morning to find this:

Then the GFC hit, Nakheel had to put its more ridiculous projects on hold or cancel them, including JAV, which became the classic ghost town. Everything dried out, all the greenery died, the sand and dust got over everything.

But now another good outcome for Dubai of the GFC. The National reports that Nakheel is now refurbishng the villas and tenants are expected to move in around August. Not surprisingly, many of the applicants are said to be previous JAV rsidents.

"We are restoring one of Dubai's oldest and most treasured communities," the developer said. "Villas are in big demand. About 400 people - many of whom used to live in Jebel Ali Village before - have registered their interest."

With my fondness for old Dubai I'm really pleased that the madness of destroying JAV has been reversed.

The National article