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.