Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Too busy to blog for the past couple of weeks, I've been acting as tour guide for two visitors staying with us from the UK.

We've done the rounds here on the Central Coast - Terrigal, Avoca, Hardys Bay, down to Brooklyn and Mooney Mooney and had a ferry ride from Davistown to Woy Woy, which I hadn't done myself before.

That's one of the nice things about showing people around, you tend to do things you don't get around to doing on your own. You also get to see the places afresh as you point out things of interest.

We had a day in Sydney too, taking in Circular Quay, The Rocks, Opera House, Harbour Bridge, then a ferry across to Darling Harbour.

 Hardys Bay


Our visitors enjoyed the wildlife in Terrigal, especially the
cartoon-like pelicans at The Haven and the water dragons.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jobs going begging

Over the years it's happened regularly and it's happening again. And I don't understand it.

Trying to get a tradie for some work, that is.

This time I need someone to build some retaining walls in the back garden.  I checked the local paper's classified ads, rang some numbers, explained what I needed and asked them to visit to give me a quote.

They all give me a day when they'll be in or around my area, say they'll phone to give me a time, take my number and address.

No-one calls, no-one visits.

I phoned again, got the same promises.  Again, no-one phones, no-one visits.

Third time of phoning one of them actually turned up when he said he would. Took the details, promised a quote by e-mail "later this afternoon".

It arrived today, seven days after "later this afternoon".

I'm still trying to get someone else to visit so that I can compare quotes. This has gone on for over two weeks now.

The tradies pay to advertise in the paper for work. I have work worth something like $3,000. But they make it almost impossible for me to give it to them.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

"I find myself not guilty"

There's the usual problem with the latest example of police abusing their power - apart from the abuse of power itself of course. I refer to the fact that the police will investigate themselves about the incident.

Video of the incident has, as they say, gone viral. It shows a small, skinny young man at the weekend Mardi Gras with his hands handcuffed behind his back in the charge of a police officer twice his size.

Reports say the initial charge is the heinous crime of...steel yourself for this...offensive language.

The video shows a big crowd at the scene adding plenty of shouting and screeching, then the officer grabs the young man - hands 'cuffed behind his back remember - by the throat, throws him to the ground then puts his big boot on the young man's back.

It was a pose reminiscent of the old-time hunters standing proudly with their foot on the back of the elephant they'd just so bravely shot.

To me that pose underlined the contempt the officer has for not only the law but for public opinion. And of course, arrogant confidence that he'd get away with it.

We also hear another officer saying that filming must stop as it's not allowed.  Bullshit of course. A clumsy attempt at damage control.

The police minister and others have been spouting the usual cliches. We don't know the full story. We don't know what led up to it. Maybe the officer was provoked. Blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is clearly on film.   A small, skinny young man was in custody, hands 'cuffed behind his back. Hardly a threat to anyone. An officer grabbed him by the throat, threw him to the ground and stood with his foot on the prisoner's back.

What came before doesn't change that fact, nor does it justify the attack.

I see that since the incident more charges, predictably, have been added - assaulting police and resisting arrest.   Handily, they can be used as an excuse for the force being used.

There was another similar incident too. Another man says a disagreement with police about him crossing the road led to several officers throwing him to the ground, kneeling on him and kicking him.

He's also been charged with assaulting police.

It's an all-too-frequent occurrence, from excessive and unnecessary use of force to tasering to shooting.  And most incidents are then investigated by the police themselves.

That they close ranks, rehearse their version of events with each other and - as in the Ballina case* - lie, is not in dispute.

After each incident we're told exactly the same things - the police have a hard and dangerous job.  That most officers are honest, hard working and obey the rules. That they need community support.

I fully agree. But I also see that the minority who break or bend the rules is far too large, that we have these incidents all too frequently. And that sure as hell doesn't attract community support, it generates distrust.

The whitewash of an internal enquiry adds to the distrust. Not only the more serious breaches but all incidents need to be independently investigated.

Here's the video on YouTube

* Ballina

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Adding to Sydney's gridlock

The PM has offered at least a billion dollars towards the WestConnex motorway subject to three conditions. One is that it runs direct to Sydney CBD.

What a very stupid plan! That has to be twenty years behind the times.

Go to any European city and see how they've been destroyed by cars. The extra roads, the ugly signage all over the place, the noise, pollution, parking.

What we have to do is keep vehicles out of cities and the only way to do that is to provide a viable alternative. That means good, efficient public transport, which is where the money needs to be invested.

The problem now is that we have old, outdated, inefficient and slow public transport 'serving' Sydney. I include taxis in that.

My own experience of commuting into the CBD is that in spite of the overcrowded roads, commuting by car is by far the most efficient and the fastest.

I've tried trains but there are too many problems with them. They're incredibly slow. They're overcrowded and uncomfortable. Too many of them are way beyond their use-by date.

There's also the problem of lack of parking at the stations.  If you can't drive to and park at a station you have to take a bus. That adds a huge amount of time to the journey because they travel a circuitous route before they get to the station.

From a previous house a commute that took one hour by car took two and a half by public transport.

From where I am now on the Central Coast I can be in the CBD in less than one and a half hours by car. By public transport I get an uncomfortable journey that takes an hour longer even if I catch an 'express' train.

So like thousands of other people I drive, because the alternative is unacceptable.

Travelling is such an important part of the economy that we have to get it sorted out. That means investment in efficient, fast public transport into and around the city.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Trees and bloody councils

Dealing with the local council is something many of us have problems with.

They think differently from us, councillors and bureaucrats alike. They speak a different language.

I think the problem is actually that far too many of them have power way beyond their abilities.

I've been told what I could and couldn't do, told what I had to do, by young, inexperienced, untalented council empoyees who I wouldn't even have put on a short-list for a job with me.

Trees are a big problem. I remember a run-in with a council over a huge liquidamber just in front of a house we previously lived in.

There was a large branch growing at a dangerous angle and it was obviously going to come crashing down. I called council for permission to lop it, so they sent an 'expert' to have a look.

It was not a problem, he decided, so it need not, and could not, be lopped. We debated the point at length. In the end I told him that when it did crash to the ground, causing damage and possibly injury, I would be holding him responsible and taking the necessary action.

He would not be responsible, he confidently assured me, because it would be an act of God.

It duly came down a few months later, smashing the fence and breaking the neighbour's water pipe. A big loss of water in a drought period and a fair bit of money to repair the damage.

Two tree/council stories on the same day last week highlighted the problem, and the double standards.

One concerned a similar but more serious tree event.

The council had been told a 30 metre tall Norfolk pine swayed dangerously in high winds.

"We are extremely concerned it may fall on our  neighbours' house, causing severe damage. But more importantly, it may even injure or kill someone," residents wrote in an application to remove it.

The council rejected the application because their 'expert' arborist deemed the tree to be in good health and condition, with no structural faults. He added that it was a significant landscape feature that providing amenity to the area.
The council even suggested that the tree should be heritage-listed.

When, inevitably, it did come down it destroyed a house and narrowly missed the occupants.

I do hope the people responsible are held responsible.

The other story on the same day was the opposite - a council removing trees against residents' wishes - and demonstrates the double standards.

Some four years ago a project for the Exclusive Brethren to build a large meeting hall was first proposed. Residents lodged objections and the project was rejected twice, with the Land & Environment Court also ruling in favour of the residents.

Now the new council has approved it and with unseemly haste the stand of trees has come down.

We're in that particular council's area and we have a dangerous, huge gum tree on council land in front of a neighbour's house. For years various neighbours have asked for it to be removed - we've even agreed to share the cost amongst ourselves. Always rejected.

Council 'improved' the road a couple of years ago and to do it cut away soil and roots, destabilising the tree even more. They even removed the twin tree completely because it was in the way of their 'improvements'. But the remaining tree, I'm told, now has a preservation order on it.

It will come crashing down and it will destroy property, plus who knows what injury to people.

It's all just more confirmation, as though we needed it, that we have far too much government staffed by people with far too little talent and ability and far too little concern for the people they 'serve'.

Tree flattens house.

Trees removed.