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.