Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I don't hold out much hope that our politicians will think of anything but their own best interest in 2015. It won't be any better in that respect than 2014.

Labor ex-ministers and powerbrokers regularly found to be corrupt, likewise their coalition opponents.

In the Sydney suburb of Homebush the state government sold a block of houses in June to developers for $5.8 million. The developer onsold it in December for $10.5 million.

The federal government continues to crow about 'stopping the boats' which contain legal asylum seekers - in spite of them being officially called illegal by the government. Meanwhile, it's confirmed yet again that tens of thousands of people are living here illegally, deliberately ignored by the government.

Historically the main illegals are Americans and Brits but they've been pushed down to third and fourth respectively by Chinese and Malaysians. They come in legally but then overstay their visa and melt into the population. Genuine illegals.

When asked what, as Minister for Women, his biggest achievement for women was in 2014 all Tony Abbott could do was squawk about removing the carbon tax. In other words, he's done exactly what we expected him to do in that portfolio - nothing. He's still spouting the lie, too, that households are $550 a year better off as a direct result of the carbon price removal.

Meanwhile his Environment Minister sneaked out data in the Christmas rush that shows carbon emissions reduced by 1.4% in the twelve months to June, beating the 0.8% the previous year. The carbon price obviously worked but is to be replaced, if the Senate allows the government to get its way, by payments to companies to not pollute.

Yep. Instead of penalising them for polluting the world we're going to pay them extra to do the right thing.

Smokin' Joe Hockey you will remember for his time as Shadow Treasurer, purple in the face screaming endlessly about the previous government's handling of the budget. Vote the Coalition in and he would fix it, get it straight back into surplus, get the economy booming, create more new jobs than you could poke a stick at.

He's in reverse now of course. Buggered it up totally, first by trying to introduce a patently unfair ideologically-driven budget of which the Senate sensibly has rejected the most unfair proposals.

The budget is getting worse and worse. Due in large part to the way they've behaved since winning power, revenue is going off a cliff. Outside events, which he refused to acknowledge when he was frothing at the mouth at his predecessor, are now one of his excuses. It's true of course, but he refused to accept that in the past.

He and Abbott led the crew spouting the nonsense that 'the adults are back in charge', that there'd be no broken promises - after endless histrionics over Gillard's broken promise over the carbon tax - that there'd be no surprises.Confidence would flood back, Australia was open for business.

All utter bullshit. It's been nothing but broken promises, childish behaviour, plummeting confidence, mass sackings, huge youth unemployment, an economic and budget disaster.  There's no surplus anywhere in sight.

The hypocrisy knows no bounds with what was the most destructively negative Opposition now, in government, crying that the now-Opposition is being negative and unfair and not simply rubber-stamping the government's proposals.

They organised a Royal Commission into Unions - nothing about that do I object to - but refuse to have one into the finance industry which has consistently stolen money from ordinary investors.

They'll do nothing about the Big Two, Coles and Woolworths, who are now dominating our economy to a dangerous extent. In the face of their denials, evidence has emerged that they do indeed use their power to bully and rip off suppliers. They've tried to con us into believing that they have our best interests at heart, claiming that they're reducing costs for consumers.

In fact, as anyone with half a brain realises, their profits are climbing all the time. They force their suppliers to pay for any price reduction consumers get - and even make them pay again to boost profit margins to what the Big Two decide they should be.

Our State government is planning to sell off the electricity poles & wires, Abbott claims the carbon price was the cause of the huge hike in electricity prices. More bullshit. Government siding with big business was the cause of the price hikes, with the gold-plating scam they agreed.

In Singapore, the Straits Times is reporting: "Electricity tariffs will be reduced in the first quarter of next year by an average of 8 per cent, energy firm SP Services said in a statement on Tuesday. The tariff reduction is due to lower cost of fuel for electricity generation, which fell by 16.4 per cent compared to the previous quarter. "As fuel cost makes up about 50 per cent of the tariff, this translates to a proportional reduction of 8 per cent in the Q1 2015 electricity tariff," SP Services said".

With our government and business so intimately tied together at the expense of the rest of us, we can only dream of such a thing here.









Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Will they learn from the Sydney tragedy?

For me the tragedy in Sydney in which two innocent people were killed raises two critical questions.

The way police deal with hostage situations is one and the way the scumbag responsible for it was dealt with is the second.

First, as I said yesterday, the emphasis on negotiating with criminals is wrong. When they're threatening other people they need to be stopped at the first possible opportunity.

In this case the scumbag - well known to police and the rest of us - was clearly visible at windows on more than one occasion. That gave sharpshooters opportunities to end the danger to the innocent hostages.

But no, the plan is always to negotiate. As a direct result, two people are dead.

In this case in particular, given the history of the scumbag, they must have known that negotiating was totally useless. You can't - and shouldn't - even think about negotiating with a mentally defective fanatically religious criminal.

We still don't know how several of the hostages were shot. It could well have been in the crossfire when police stormed the building after shots were heard from inside.

There's always the danger of the innocents being caught in crossfire when dozens of guns are going off in an enclosed space.

The way to avoid that is for a sniper to shoot the perpetrator at the first opportunity.

It's too late for the two victims but I hope that for once lessons are learned and in future the emphasis will be on eliminating the perpetrator at the earliest possible opportunity. Any negotiating should be designed solely to lure him into the sights of a sharpshooter.

Second, the scumbag was given political asylum from Iran back in 1996. That's OK, until his true personality became obvious. That's when it should have been revoked and he should have been immediately deported back to Iran.
 
Years ago he came to our attention when he sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in action. Was he deported? No, he was given a few hours of community service.

Last year his ex-wife was stabbed and set on fire. He was charged with with being an accessory before and after the fact to the murder.Instead of immediately deporting him.

Earlier this year he was charged with over fifty counts of sexual assault. Still he wasn't deported.

At the time of the hostage taking he was out on bail.

Again, will the authorities learn from their mistakes?





Monday, December 15, 2014

Why is the hostage taker still alive?

I don't understand the softly-softly default position the police take in hostage siruations.

The one going on right now in the heart of Sydney is a perfect example.

A gunman has people in a cafe held hostage, for over ten hours now. The police are out in force of course, armed to the teeth.

After hours of waiting they say they're now negotiating with the hoodlum.

He's been in full view of a window, as shown on TV:


So why didn't they shoot the bastard?

The deputy commissioner has been saying that the safety of the hostages and the general public is paramount.

Well, the best way to ensure everyone's safety is to eliminate the threat.

Forget the negotiators, there must be sharpshooters all round the place. They know what he looks like so they should have orders to shoot to kill at any opportunity he gives them.

Anything less is not making the safety of hostages and the public paramount.



More mandate crap

I really have a problem with governments and their supporters squawking about having a mandate.

The latest is ANZ Bank's CEO Mike Smith, whingeing about the Senate not rubber-stamping the government's patently unfair budget proposals.

"They have a clear mandate to govern and should be allowed to get on with it."

In the real world, the coalition, with all its components, managed just 45% of the vote. To claim a mandate when less than half of us voted for you is ludicrous.

Added to that, of course, with this lying government, the policies they went to the election with are not what they decided to give us once in power.

They have no voter approval, let alone a mandate, for so many of the things they're trying to push through - such as cuts to education, cuts to health, changes to pensions,cuts to the ABC & SBS.”




Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Enough!

Abbott brought it all on himself and he's reaping what he sowed.

Dr No in Opposition, everything was negative, everything was in crisis, the PM was a liar, outside events were no excuse for budget blowouts, changing circumstances were no excuse for changing policy.

It would all be so different if only he could be given the power to govern.

In the year or so since he was given power - he didn't win it, he was gifted it by Labor - it's been an unmitigated disaster.

More broken promises - read lies -  than you can poke a stick at, the most unfair budget proposals in living memory, arrogance causing a fractious Senate to be even more hostile, a huge budget blowout, no chance of meeting the 'budget in surplus' bragging.

As it was with Labor, the problem with the budget is falling revenues, and they're falling faster than ever. But there was no policy to do anything about that, just cuts to expenditure which affected ordinary people.

Meanwhile, multi-nationals get away with paying little or no tax, mining companies are given concessions, including our money to subsidise their fuel costs, while paying a fraction of what they should in tax. The paid parental leave rort is still on the cards, money for religious, and only religious, school counselors was found.

Worst of all are the lies. Just as his mentor John Winston Howard did, he said anything, told any number of lies, in the pursuit of power.

And it's continued, naturally enough, since he gained power. He's even lying about lying.

His election-eve promise of  'no cuts to the ABC or SBS', for example, was broken, he and his ministers obfuscated, using convoluted garbled phrases to try to con us into believing it wasn't a broken promise.

In the face of the obvious ridicule he now says the action 'was at odds' with his earlier pledge. At odds! He has broken his promise to the electorate. Another one.

It was changing circumstances that caused it, he claimed. The reason he was so scathing of when Labor used it.

Again like his mentor, he and his ministers are thrashing about blaming everyone but themselves.

The Opposition is the cause of so much of his problems, he tells us. They won't just rubber-stamp his proposals, they're being obstructive, they're 'feral' he says.

This from Dr No!

The debacle that was the Labor government, thanks largely to Kevin Rudd, was nothing compared to this rabble.

Deceit, lies, secrecy, arrogance, unfairness, looking after their mates at the expense of  ordinary people - even with Anonymous Bill  as Labor leader this will be a one-term government.

Abbott will be thrown on the scrap heap of history where he belongs.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Why?

What's this thing with people sticking their tongue out when they're photographed, selfie or otherwise?

I'm seeing it more and more in the mainstream media and online, from 'celebrities' to nonentities.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Abbott's damage control

Panic time for government after sustained fury at many of their budget proposals, and rejection of bills by the Senate.

Such is the unpopularity of their policies that they're looking more and more like a one-term government, so it's time for urgent damage control.

With his own MPs starting to panic about losing their jobs, Abbott's talking about 'scraping barnacles off the ship'. Or backing down from some of the more unpopular, and unfair, proposals.

The extra tax on visiting a GP - the 'co-payment' as they like to call it - is a possible non-starter, although his front-benchers are still talking about getting it through the Senate - or simply by-passing parliament if they can't.

That's a threat they've used before, although it's obviously a threat to democracy.

The idiots are also parroting the phrase about a 'sustainable Medicare' being dependent on the $7 extra tax. Which contradicts their other claim that the money will be going to a medical research fund, in which case I can't see how it sustains Medicare.

The man behind it all, Smokin' Joe the Treasurer, has joined the Opposition wherever it is they're hiding. He, and they, have become totally invisible.

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill something-or-other, is either  deliberately in hiding or is so ineffective as to be invisible.

Alternatively, he is out there but the media is deliberately ignoring him, and his front bench.

My money's on it being the people Labor elected to the top positions, and now is the time to get rid of them and replace them with a team that has character and can produce policies.

Meanwhile, Abbott continues to break pre-election promises by the handful. Remember him, and his front bench, screaming red-faced every day at Julia Gillard over her, one, broken promise?

They got saturation media coverage, yet we see nothing about his myriad broken promises from the current Opposition.

You know what - just as Abbott came out on top because Labor gifted him the last election, I think it's shaping up to be exactly the same result for the same reason at the next.

All the attention is going to Jacqui Lambie and the PUP and none to Labor.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blue November


It's jacaranda time again, and they really do look stunning.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A new low

I'm not usually surprised when Tony Abbott embarrasses us, but I could hardly believe my ears at his speech opening the G20 meeting.

The most powerful leaders in the world, the world's media watching - and he brags to them that he stopped the boats, he whinges about not getting his $7 tax to see a doctor and uni fee increase legislation through parliament.

Worse, given the emphasis on climate change, the US/China agreement, Obama's speech, he brags that he scrapped the carbon tax.

Small town small time, a pygmy way out of his depth.

His myopic narrow thought process is on view too. What matters, he says, is jobs now, not what might happen in the future.

Like fishermen complaining about catch limits and restrictions because it puts their jobs in jeopardy. No understanding that to continue unrestricted will kill their jobs forever when the fish are all gone.

Abbott can't join the dots, doesn't understand the ripple effect that all actions or inactions have, the interconnection.

What a complete and utter embarrassment.




Sunday, November 09, 2014

Property obsession

Something I've talked about for while is at last getting some media coverage - our obsession with property investment.

I posted about it back in May  saying that we treat our houses as simply another commodity to be bought and sold.

Now that the CEO of ANZ bank has started talking about it, saying there's "an irrational obsession with housing as an investment class", the subject is getting an airing in the media.

The facts back the argument too. In Sydney we're getting a thousand auctions a week, while here on the Central Coast at any one time there are around fifteen hundred properties on the market.

There are endless stories about how first home buyers are priced out of the market, the shock jocks incorrectly blaming 'cashed up Chinese buyers', and talk about bubbles about to burst.

The ABS has just released its September housing data, which confirms the market is being driven by investors, using negative gearing, who are out-competing owner/occupiers, including first time buyers. In September there was a 3.7% jump in investment lending to $11.94 billion.

Until the culture changes, until we think of houses as places to live rather than as a commodity, the problem won't disappear.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Choice? What choice?

Trying to do some shopping yesterday, I ended up ranting - yet again - about the influence Coles and Woolies have over our lives.

They have identical products and, increasingly, less choice on offer.

And their dominance (they have 80% of the grocery market) has forced indpendent retailers to join co-operatives and franchises. So, for example, independent delis have all but disappeared - they're now Peters Deli's - and they sell exactly the same stuff as the Big Two.

So, bugger all choice.

Today I was interested in the comment from Coles' boss John Durkan.

He said while Coles would continue to reduce its product range, it would always be a full-line supermarket because 'customers expect choice when they come to Coles'.

How's that for a contradiction in terms in one sentence.

And, by the way, they've again been revealed as conning us by lying about their 'fresh 'products.

A few weeks ago it was the bread - 'baked fresh daily' in their own bakery but in reality much of it imported frozen from overseas. Now it's apples, which they advertise as 'spring' fruit when in fact they were picked back in April and have been in cold storage for the last six months.

Their mates in government won't, of course, do anything about it. But it's not only against the public interest to have two such huge companies dominating our economy, it's downright dangerous.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mind boggling treasurer

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey was on the radio this morning, waffling on in his usual style. But a couple of his comments really were mind boggling.

First, his complaint that the Opposition was being negative.

This from someone who was very much part of the Opposition which by common consensus was the most negative we've ever had. The party which set the standard for negative opposition.

Joe Hockey: ...In their heart of hearts, the Labor Party knows this; that's why I think everyone's a bit surprised at how negative they have been...

CHRIS UHLMANN: Why is this government bewildered by the fact that the Labor Party is being negative in Opposition when you made that template and they saw how successful it was.

Why would they have a mature debate when you wouldn't have one when you were in opposition?

JOE HOCKEY: Well I don't accept that.


Denial of the obvious truth.

Then another classic of either misunderstanding or a refusal to accept the truth:


JOE HOCKEY: Well, no, no, hang on. Governments do not create jobs; ultimately, businesses create jobs, and you've got to create an environment where business has confidence to go out and invest...

We have, according to their own organisations, something over 1,200,000 public servants in Australia. That's 10% of the workforce and their jobs were created by government.

The full transcript is here.


 



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Enough is enough

Yet another in an endless saga of trucks running amok on our already overcrowded roads.

In Dee Why an out of control truck smashed into eight cars. Six people were hospitalised, one in critical condition.


Photo. John Grainger. Daily Telegraph

The truck driver claimed the brakes failed.  The fleet of his company, Top Express, was checked and two further trucks failed the inspection.

As a result of the crash, police brought forward their planned operation targeting semi-rigid and rigid trucks, such as the truck that crashed.

They pulled over 21 trucks and 14 failed the inspection, including the two from Top Express.

And a driver allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine. He was given a 24-hour driving ban while the sample was tested.

The problem is that with politicians and business in each others' pockets at the expense of the rest of us, this is just going to keep on happening.



Monday, October 20, 2014

The juveniles are in charge

On winning the last election, Tony Abbott declared "the adults are in charge"  - in itself a juvenile remark.

Since then examples of the juvenile attitude of Abbott and many of his front bench have been coming regularly.

The latest include Abbott's aggressive threat to 'shirt front'* Russia's President Putin.

Typical of his hairy-chested, aggressive schoolyard bully-boy persona.

Now we have the idiot Finance Minister Mathias Cormann name-calling, saying Labor leader Bill Shorten is a 'girlie-man'.

Not only is it infantile, it's not even original, having been used regularly by right-wing Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What an embarrassment this lot are.


*'Shirt-fronting' comes from AFL, where it describes the action of one player deliberately crashing chest-on into an opposing player.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Official version vs reality

The ebola outbreak confirms once again the disconnect between the theory laid down by authorities and what actually happens in real life.

It's around us all the time.

Governments tell us how important tourism is to their economy and how they welcome us with open arms - then we meet their Immigration & Customs officers at the airport. And boy, is it different.

Politicians tell us they stand for election because of their desire to make things better for us - then line their own pockets at our expense.

Store owners tell us that we, their customers, are their number one priority - then we have to deal with bored, disinterested staff.

With ebola, governments beyond west Africa have been saying there's no problem, cast-iron protocols are in place and there's no danger of anyone catching the virus.

Then, as in the US, when citizens do catch it, it's obvious that the protocols are far from adequate - and people dealing with patients ignore them anyway.

In Texas, where the original patient died and two nurses contracted the virus from him, another nurse has revealed:  ...scenes of "chaos" at the hospital with staff having no idea how to tackle the virus. She said the hazmat suit she was issued had a large gap in the neck and that materials used to treat suspected Ebola patients were left festering in corridors for days.

She claimed that suspected Ebola patients were wheeled around the hospital without protection and that doctors were told it was acceptable to move between rooms without disinfecting.

Dr Frieden of the US Centres for Disease Control & Infection defended his agency's handling of the Ebola crisis while conceding the agency may have allowed a Texas nurse to fly on a commercial airline even though she was among a group of health-care workers involved in treating the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the nation.

Once again a huge disconnect between theory and practice. Yet real life never seems to be taken into account when protocols are designed. Nor is a system developed for ensuring that people at the bottom of the ladder who have to deliver whatever it is, actually do deliver what was promised.






Amazing difference

Blue Mountains October 2013...


Blue Mountains October 2014...


That the start to Spring this year is way colder than we're used to has shown up clearly in the Blue Mountains.

At the same time that last year that they had temperatures in the high thirties and a bushfire that destroyed two-hundred homes, this year they had snow,

Monday, September 29, 2014

Government bribing dictators

Isn't bribing foreign governments illegal?

Not, apparently, if you're our government.

In the latest move which has appalled the world, a minimum of $40 million of our tax money is to be given to the leaders of Cambodia - universally recognised as one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. In return they will take some refugees who were seeking asylum in Australia.

The UK's The Independent newspaper summed it up nicely: "Canberra’s latest ‘solution’ to its refugee problem has shocked even seasoned observers. 

Under the secretive agreement, Cambodia will resettle an unspecified number of refugees currently held in an Australian-run detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru. In exchange, as well as paying resettlement costs, Canberra will donate an extra A$40m in aid over the next four years...even seasoned observers of its policy over the past decade are appalled.

Still recovering from civil war, genocide and Vietnamese occupation, Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest nations. It has a shocking human rights record. It has sent asylum-seekers and refugees back to countries from which they fled. Those who escape that fate live on the margins of Cambodian society.

Amnesty International branded the deal “a new low in Australia’s deplorable and inhumane treatment of asylum-seekers”. The UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) called it “a worrying departure from international norms”. Alastair Nicholson, a former chief justice of Australia’s Family Court, said it was “inappropriate, immoral and likely illegal”.


Not only an appalling decision but once again we have secrecy instead of transparency, something we've come to expect from the Abbott government, especially from Scott Morrison.

He's the man responsible for this and many other totally unacceptable decisions, but he's lauded as the top-performing Cabinet member, slated for promotion and even more responsibility.

It sums up this government perfectly.



Ideology before reason

"There is absolutely no good reason for the Federal Government to own a private health insurance business today."

Mathias Cormann,

I can tell the Minister for Finance two overriding reasons why Medibank should continue to be publicly owned. In fact I said it back in a March post.

One, it gives a large measure of control over the premiums charged by the private health insurers, using market forces. Instead of laws and regulations - surely an aim of the 'small government' Coalition? - Medibank can exert a strong influence by keeping its premiums under control. Competition - a catch-cry of the Coalition - means the others would need to follow suit.

Two, the hundreds of millions contributed to the federal budget by Medibank would continue year after year. Sell it and you get a very short-term windfall but bugger all in future years.

But no, ideology wins out yet again.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Selective justice

Former Speaker Peter Slipper ripped off taxpayers by using $954 of his Cabcharge vouchers for private visits to wineries. He's been hounded for years, lost his job and has just been sentenced to 300 hours of community service.

Meanwhile, more than a few of our other elected representatives continue to rip us off, yet they get away with it.

Recent examples are serial offender PM Abbott's trip to Melbourne for a party fundraiser, which he charged to taxpayers as he organised a visit to a cancer centre the next morning, and Christopher Pyne's junket with his wife to London and Rome.

Pyne's charge to us included not only his wife's expenses but $1352 for a few pre-flight hours in a hotel and $2060 for the use of Heathrow's VIP Suite.

I hear no suggestion that they will face court for defrauding us.


Abbott rip-off 

Pyne rip-off 




Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another one gone

Ten and counting.

A tenth NSW Liberal politician has been exposed by ICAC as taking 'donations' illegally and has gone to the crossbench.

They should of course be going to jail, not the crossbenches.

It's corruption, plain and simple. 'Donations' is code for bribe. Politicians in the pockets of big business, in it for themselves at the expense of the rest of us, and often the environment.

As we ordinary voters have long known, developers routinely bribe politicians and officials in order to facilitate approval for dodgy developments.

As a result the country is full totally inappropriate developments, built at hugely inflated costs.


Sydney Morning Herald reports here.

Bizarre verdict

Someone's in your bathroom behind the closed door.

You get your gun, loaded with hollow point bullets which are designed to cause maximum injury, and you quite deliberately fire four shots through the door.

The person inside is killed

That has to be murder doesn't it?

The judge in the Oscar Pisorius trial says it's not.

I'd demand a retrial.







Friday, September 12, 2014

Appropriate sentence

For once a court seems to have got the sentencing of a criminal something approaching appropriate for the crime.

Go back two and a half years to the day that three innocent people were killed by a drugged-up truck driver, which I posted about at the time.

Vincent George killed them when he crushed their little Ford Mondeo with his huge B-double truck. He's a serial offender, found guilty many times of drink driving and speeding, and he'd been banned from driving five times already.

On the day of the accident, he was high on illegally obtained methadone, was speeding and had been driving for the past 22 hours with a break of only 4½ hours.

He first tried to put the blame on an L-plater in front of him. Then he offered to plead guilty to a charge of dangerous driving occasioning death. Sensibly, that was rejected by the Crown. He was charged with three counts of manslaughter, and guilty is the verdict.

He was sentenced to 17 years in jail with a non-parole period of 12 years and nine months.

Whoever at his employer, another serial offender,  Lennons Transport,  gave him the job should be charged too, with aiding and abetting.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Nasty Aussie expats

For a few years now there have been sightings of red back spiders in Dubai, and now they're apparently appearing in Abu Dhabi. So maybe they're all over the UAE now.

Pretty but nasty little critters, the females' body is only about 10mm long (the male is less than half the size), glossy black with a bright red stripe.


They're amongst our most dangerous spiders, although an antivenom is available and as a result there haven't been any deaths here for about half a century. Press reports say that UAE hospitals have it available.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Another lie exposed

"Carbon Tax is gone! Repeal will save average family $550 a year, Abbott says"

The claim that Abbott's been making since before the election is the main headline at   The Australian Conservative.

Not only a claim, but something that obviously influenced some, uninformed, people to vote for him.

The reality of course is nothing like the claim, as confirmed by the letter I received today from my energy supplier.

I quote: "...this equates to estimated savings for an average New South Wales customer of $158 for electricity and $35 for gas over this 12 month period."

 That's way less than half the amount he untruthfully said we'd save. But don't hold your breath for him to explain himself.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Pell true to form again

The appalling Cardinal George Pell proves yet again how unsuitable he is, and all his like-minded colleagues are, for high position in the church.

At the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sex Abuse, appearing via videolink from the Vatican, his comments were true to form.

His church has no responsibility for its employees' (priests) actions he said.

To support that the said: “If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don't think it's appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible.”

Not surprisingly, after an inevitable pause as people gaped open-mouthed and had to do a double take to make sure they'd heard correctly, there is outrage.

 Dr Cathy Kezelman from Adults Surviving Child Abuse said the "outrageous" and "appalling" analogy could do a lot of damage.

Nicky Davis from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said: "He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors. It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behaviour that is inexcusable."


The Australian Trucking Association said Cardinal Pell had insulted every truck driver in Australia.
"There are more than 170,000 professional truck drivers in Australia," the chair of the association, Noelene Watson, said in a statement. "They have families and children. Cardinal Pell's analogy is a deep insult to every one of them."

 It's water off a duck's back of course. He and the heirarchy simply don't get it, don't care and just want what they've always tried to do - sweep it under the carpet.

Further to that, his employers at the Vatican have refused the Royal Commission's request that they hand over the files of Australian priests accused of sex crimes.
 
THE Vatican said the commission's request for documents on each allegation involving an Australian cleric was "neither possible nor appropriate".






Monday, August 18, 2014

Spinning like a top

Premier Mike Baird has popped has head above the parapet, obviously after panicky damage-control meetings of the Lib's heavyweights.

But what a cock-up.

They've decided not to put up candidates for the two by-elections caused in the Hunter by corrupt sitting members having to resign.

The excuse is that it's an act of atonement for letting down the electors.

In reality, of course, it's to avoid the humiliation of a complete rout on polling day, which is too close to the next state election for their comfort.

What it actually tells us is that they can't find honest candidates or trust their faceless men not to repeat the corrupt practices.

And it's hardly democratic, denying rusted-on Liberal voters the opportunity to vote for their preferred party. With our compulsory voting, who are they going to vote for?






Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back in wintry Oz

Three great weeks in Vienna, twenty-six hours traveling and back to the cold wet weather.

And back to a continuation of the crooked, incompetent, out-of-touch politics we've become used to enduring.

ICAC hearings so far have meant eight NSW government (Coalition) members have had to go, the weak Premier has his head down and won't take a lead, the crooked Lord Mayor of Newcastle is still in his office, there's a plot to try to get rid of popularly elected Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, led by the appalling shock-jock Alan Jones and his mates at the Shooters & Fishers Party, in cohoots with the government.

The plan is to give businesses in Sydney two votes each in elections, the expectation being that their votes will go to the Lib's side and therefore against Clover Moore.

Federally, Joe Hockey confirms time and time again that he's far from being the person we need as Treasurer - only he and his far-right extremist mates think his budget was in any way fair, his latest confirmation that he's out of touch with the real world coming with his defence of the fairness of his proposed petrol tax rise: "The poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases." 

He again demonstrated the government's bully-boy attitude when he threatened  'emergency action' saying he would and hand down a Queensland-style austerity budget if his plans such as the $7 GP 'co-payment', fuel tax rise and higher education changes were not passed by the Senate.

The media, or at least the non-Murdoch section of it, is endlessly exposing the fraud we're being exposed to by the so-called financial planning industry. Financial advisers need less training than a hairdresser before they can start working - an eight day course which is being routinely abused. Two of the biggest players, Commonwealth bank and Macquarie Bank are having to contact thousands of their customers who may well have had their life savings decimated by bad advise - given for no other reason than to enrich the advisers. At the same time the government is pressing ahead with its watering down of the laws previously set up to give savers some protection.

The ICAC hearings are mainly about politicians taking bribes from developers - it's unlawful for developers to donate to party funds - and of course all deny that the money is in any way connected to giving the developers any advantage.

The same story is emerging nationally, with the Libs having set up circuitous methods of receiving unlawful donations and funneling them on to their candidates.

The same of course was true of the previous state Labor governments, with ministers like Ian  Macdonald and power-brokers such as Eddie Obeid involved in $ millions of crooked deals.

Half a century ago president Eisenhower talked about America's military-industrial complex. Our version is a political-business complex. Politicians working with big business to their mutual advantage and to hell with the rest of us.

A pox on all their houses.






Saturday, July 19, 2014

Vienna here we come

We're off to our favourite city , Vienna, tomorrow.

The weather looks good, low thirties celcius daytime and low twenties overnight, which'll be a pleasant change from the cold, windy, wintry stuff we're getting here now.

Here's what we're looking forward to:










Tentative plan is to do some day trips, which we'll book when we're there. Places like Bratislava, Budapest, Salzburg are possibles, plus maybe the Vienna Woods and Danube Valley.

But the majority of the time we'll stay in Vienna, getting to know it better, exploring for new places, trying out new restaurants and cafes. Mostly on foot, so hopefully we'll walk off any over-eating.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bypassing democracy

They just get worse and worse.

Minister for Secrets, the appalling Scott Morrison, refuses to answer legitimate questions in parliament about the asylum seekers reportedly held captive for over two weeks on a customs ship.

Bully boy Treasurer Hockey says if he doesn't get his way with his budget he'll simply by-pass parliament and make cuts anyway.

Two fingers to parliament, democracy and us.

Remember the hairy-chested threat by Abbott to give us a double dissolution if the Senate didn't roll over and do exactly what he wanted? It's what we need, but he knows so well that he'll be thrown out of office by a huge majority if he does that he won't carry out his threat.

Instead he'll continue to do what he vowed never to do - negotiate with minor parties and independents.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Qantas fiasco

The Qantas situation is getting more and more ridiculous.

We have endless whingeing about 'unfair' competition from government owned foreign airlines, appeals from Qantas for government support, a government plan to open the airline up to foreign ownership rejected by the Senate.

They rabbit on about it being Australia's airline, the national carrier, a big employer of Aussies, headquartered in Oz.

Well, it was when it was state-owned. But they decided to privatise it, which changes all of that.

The choice is simple. Either re-nationalise it, so that it is once again truly the national carrier, or remove all the ridiculous obstacles to it being truly privatised, and stop calling it the national carrier.

What we have now is an unworkable mish-mash of the two - a company which is presented as a national asset but which in reality is a private company, but with restrictions on who can buy shares.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

PM's insult to victims of Japanese atrocities

Even though Abbott wheedling and crawling to foreign heads is what we've come to expect I could hardly believe my ears when he praised the Japanese for their WW11 heroics.

I was going to pen some words, but then came across a letter in the SMH from Jenny Rollo of Putney and I realised I couldn't say it better. Of all the letters I read condemning the actions of the moron Abbott, this stood out:

How dare you speak in praise of Japan's military skill in WW11, Tony Abbott. Your statement is appalling and insensitive to all Australians.  Remember Australia? You are supposed to be representing its people. That would be the men and women who were starved, butchered, raped and tortured. The ones imprisoned and worked until it killed them. The ones whose Red Cross boxes were stolen by their captors. My uncles and my father witnessed their unspeakable atrocities.  You shame us all with your cruel policies. You insult us with your words. Not in my name. How dare you.


Monday, July 07, 2014

The age of entitlement powers on

Cartoonists so often nail it with a few pen strokes, as did Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald:


The age of entitlement is over, we've been told by this government.  What they didn't do was to finish the sentence, as Moir so brilliantly illustrated. The unsaid part of the sentence was 'unless you're wealthy'.

Nothing wrong with trying to get the budget under control, nothing wrong with means testing, nothing wrong with ensuring those claiming a benefit are entitled to it - all as long as the load is spread equally and fairly.

Which it patently is not.

All sorts of tax minimisation schemes, family trusts, multi-billion dollar companies paying little or no tax.

Banks ripping off their customers and then covering it up, while the Finance Minister is trying to push through changes which will make it easier for them to con their customers. And of course the government has dismissed the Senate enquiry's call for a royal commission into Commonwealth Bank's ripping off of investors and the subsequent cover-up.

All mates together, keep it in the club, look after each other...at the expense of the rest of us.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Morrison has to go

The Dept.of Foreign Affairs says of Sri Lanka: 
 We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka at this time because of the unpredictable security environment. 

The Prime Minister, in relation to sending Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to that country:  

... Sri Lanka is not everyone's idea of the ideal society but it is at peace . . .

I prefer to believe the travel advisory.


As for his Minister for Secrets, Scott Morrison, he has to be the worst we've had in government, even worse than the appalling Philip Ruddock. I never expected him to be unseated from that unenviable position but Morrison's done it at a stroll.

The arrogance of the man, apart from anything else, is breathtaking. He was elected to represent and serve the people.  Instead he treats us with utter contempt and refuses to say what he's doing in our name. If he says nothing is happening then nothing is happening, so we can piss off and mind our own business.

It's the modus operandi of the old USSR right here right now in Australia.

He's an absolute disgrace and having him in government tells us all we need to know about the man who keeps him there, Tony Abbott.







Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mandate and secrecy bullshit

Abbott's been telling the incoming senators they have a duty to support him because the voters gave him a mandate.

It's what all governments claim, but rarely is it true.

The people who gave Abbott a mandate are only those who voted for him. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, the various Libs and Nats candidates got 45.55% of the total votes.

When you are elected in spite of most people voting against you, you don't have a mandate 'from the people' - you have a mandate from the minority who voted for you.

The majority of voters, 54.45%, gave a mandate to the parties they voted for to pursue their policies.

The incoming senators have a duty to the people who elected them to keep their promises.

We have reports of an asylum seeker boat in trouble, but naturally the appalling Scott Morrison is hiding behind his secrecy campaign, refusing to answer questions and tell us what's happening. He won't discuss 'operational matters' of course - except when it suits him.  He and Abbott couldn't wait to tell the world when they claimed six months of no boat arrivals.

What the country needs is for Abbott to make good on his threat and go for a double dissolution.

We still wouldn't get the government we need of course. Apart from the odd independent, Nick Xenophon comes to mind, none of them inspire any confidence. But at least we'd have a less extremist, less biased government.

The real problem is that the wrong people are going into politics for the wrong reasons.








Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not good enough

Well, not cricket scores against us by the Dutch or Spanish and a much better team performance in both matches.

What was really disappointing was that too many of our players don't seem to be able to concentrate and don't understand the basics of the game.

Against the Dutch we would have won if we'd scored the third goal - but the decision to take a side-foot shot when the ball was sitting up perfectly for a shot off the instep meant it sailed over the bar instead of into the net. And then a basic goalkeeping error allowed a stoppable shot to go in for the winning goal.

Against Spain the first fifteen minutes were good but then it all fell apart and the Spanish strolled it without ever going into top gear.

The concentration levels and basic mistakes were the main problem. Our right back was missing in action, allowing endless threats and goals to come from unmarked players on the Spanish left wing, and the opposite flank wasn't much better.

And ball-watching allowed unmarked players acres of space in which to create danger and score goals.

We have a problem with this squad of players, in that their skill levels are way below what's needed at international level. Whether they have the raw talent to learn the skills is doubtful in my opinion.

But making excuses for them being young and inexperienced at this level misses the real problems. 

The basics of marking a man, not allowing them space, stopping the crosses, are something schoolboy footballers understand so there's absolutely no excuse for these 'elite' players. Nor is there any excuse for them not to be able to concentrate and focus on their duties for ninety minutes.

And those are the really disappointing let-downs.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Treating us like mushrooms

Another classic example of a company ignoring a question, ignoring reality and instead issuing a meaningless PR message.

This time it was our Virgin airline.

An initial report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau says they continued to operate a turboprop regional aircraft on thirteen sectors after an incident Virgin later suspected "might have caused significant structural damage" to the tailplane.

In response to the report Virgin said - yes, you guessed it - the safety of its guests, (guests? Passengers you dickheads!) crew and aircraft was its No.1 priority and protocols were in place to ensure safety was maintained. 

That covers it nicely. Don't mention the incident, don't tell the traveling public what happened or what steps have been taken to make sure such things don't happen again, just photocopy the 'mission statement' and send it out. Job done.

It's becoming the norm with business and their bedfellows the politicians to ignore the question and parrot the slogan or the soundbite. They're treating us with utter contempt.


The World Cup

I've watched three World Cup matches so far and from them it's obvious the officials in charge of matches are either incompetent with little knowledge of the games'  rules or they're corrupt.

From the evidence so far they're going to ruin the tournament.

As for Australia, naive doesn't even begin to describe their defending in the first half, when they allowed Chile to score two soft goals. No idea of positioning, no marking of opposition attackers, just standing around ball watching.

The other major problem is the number of times their own progress was halted or Chile's progress wasn't, by a total lack of concentration. Far too often they were watching the play rather than being part of it, caught flat-footed or standing when they should have been moving.

And goalkeepers must either stay on their line or if they come out for the ball they must get it. Coming out and then floundering about like a fish out of water, as ours did for the vital first goal, is not an option.

Unless there's a massive improvement Spain and Holland will rack up a cricket score.




Friday, June 06, 2014

PS on housing

A PS to my last post in which I said that we treat our housing as just a commodity to buy and sell.

The local paper here on the NSW Central Coast  has a snapshot of the property market, which supports what I said.

We have just under 140,000 dwellings in the region. Currently on the market are 1,608 dwellings, a perfectly normal figure for any time.

General time on the market is 69 days so you can easily work out the absolutely massive turnover of property through a year.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not homes, simply a commodity to be traded

It's yet another record property weekend, with 900 houses being auctioned in Sydney.

And there we see the problem.

The problem isn't what too many people are claiming - cashed-up Chinese pushing up the prices to the point that poor Aussies are being priced out of their own housing.

Every weekend we see hundreds of houses being auctioned, demonstrating the real problem behind our housing costs. We've developed the culture that it's just a commodity to be bought and sold to make a profit.

The reserve Bank put out some information last week, reported in Sydney Morning Herald. 

Amid anecdotal claims some local buyers are being priced out of the market by cashed-up overseas investors, a new submission from the central bank examines official data on the topic.

It says foreign investment in residential housing was at most 5 to 10 per cent of market turnover, and last year the government approved $17 billion in property investment from overseas, with most of the money funding the purchase and construction of new homes.


As foreign investors' share of the market has remained fairly steady over the past two decades, the Reserve concluded overseas buyers were not the main reason for price rises over the period.


It's not foreigners to blame, it's us.





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Admit the mistake and replace Abbott

Not only is Tony Abbott hugely and increasingly unpopular with the electorate but the Liberals themselves are coming to realise what a mistake it was to make him their leader.

He won the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull by just one vote with just enough members believing Turnbull wouldn't be able to lead them to government. A bad error of judgement, because the Coalition would have won with Jack The Ripper as leader; Labor gave it to them on a plate.

The Coalition won even though Abbott was hugely unpopular right up to the election. Now with his entirely predictable actions since, he's plunging ever further down the drain of unpopularity and taking the party with him.

Not only has the electorate woken up to what he's all about, the state and territory leaders are in open rebellion and an increasing number of his own party are voicing disapproval. So are previous Lib leaders including his mentor John Howard.

The party did a huge disservice to the country by electing him as leader and thus foisting him on us as Prime Minister. They owe it to us to take a leaf out of Labor's book and get rid of him in a leadership ballot.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Killer trees

Yesterday's local paper has a story about yet another dangerous gum tree in a residential area, something I've complained about in previous posts.


As I said in those posts, branches come crashing down from gum trees year round.

Photo: News Ltd

This big lump came down early one morning which, as the resident said, was lucky because later in the morning and in the afternoon the road is full of kids from the nearby school being dropped off or picked up.

He said that the tree, outside his house, "had shed several branches over the years" and added that it's "a beautiful old eucalypt, but safety has to come first".

Council wasn't much help. They have too many trees to monitor them all, they said, so they want residents to monitor them and inform council if they think there's a problem.

Trouble is that their default position is to say there's nothing wrong with the tree, or it's protected.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Catching up

It's been a while since I was here but it's been a busy few weeks.

We had another trip up to Singapore with a side trip to KL. Singapore was back to its normal uncomfortable humidity, the rains having returned after the very unusual dry spell I posted about in February.

To KL the budget airline Air Asia had the schedule that suited us and it was sort of OK. Like so many of the 'budget' airlines it isn't much cheaper than the full-service carriers by the time you pay all the extras - an $89 advertised fare more than doubles in reality.

The real problem, and surprise, was the airport. It was designated KUL so I assumed it was the usual KL International, but it wasn't. It was a very old airport way out in the bush somewhere and in this age of terrorism the lack of security was mind boggling.

The aircraft park on the tarmac, passengers clamber down the steps and wander about in confusion.

There are a couple of employees waving passengers in the general direction of the terminal & exit and vague signs dotted about. Incoming and outgoing passengers, international and domestic, are all wandering about together, past the luggage collection/distribution area, past all the parked aircraft and the other airport sections.

Not a sign of any security people anywhere.

Back in Oz we had to go up to Newcastle a couple of times, then overnight to Canberra, then a Saturday drive to Sydney airport -Saturday is the busiest day on the roads and it wasn't a fun drive. All of that used up a week.

That's the traveling done for a while so we can relax and get stuff done around the house and garden. There was good rain while we were away so the weeds are doing well.

And then the budget of course. The media has been saying that Abbott has reneged on his promise to lead a government of no surprises. I disagree. He's acted in exactly the way I expected him to.

In spite of us being one of a handful of countries with a AAA rating, with an economy the envy of the world, he and Smokin' Joe have continued their scare tactics from their time in opposition, screeching endlessly about a budget crisis, a budget emergency, a budget disaster.

All bullshit of course, as the leading economists keep telling us, but it suits their extreme ideological agenda.

Abbott hit the radio waves this morning, trotting out the cliches and sound bites written by his spin doctors and, as is his way, repeating each one so the hacks would be sure to write them down.

Young people must 'earn or learn' he repeated several times, the Medicare payment to visit bulk-billing doctors is a 'co-payment' - that's worked already, with all the media using the 'co-' in all reports.

The budget-we-had-to-have is all the fault of the previous government, naturally, and nothing to do with ideology.

All right-thinking people will accept that there's a long term budget problem if we don't take steps to put strategies in place now, but this lot haven't done it. No vision, just politics and ideology.

Hit the weakest and neediest in our society while protecting the big end of town and big business.

A tough budget in the first year, blamed on the previous government's profligacy, most of the actions delayed until after the next election, then the next budget will be easier and the last one before the election will be designed to buy votes.

The only surprise for me with Abbott breaking so many pre-election promises is that he's broken so many in one hit and so early. I thought he'd spread them out more than this.

It does confirm the cynicism of our politicians and the contempt they have for the rest of us. Say anything to get into power, con the gullible and once in power forget all that and do what you really intended to do all along but didn't have the guts or honesty to put on the table.

And where's the Opposition? MIA.

They've done it again with the wrong choice of leader. Smokin' Joe caused giggles in parliament calling him Electricity Bill but he's more like Beige Bill, dull, boring, uninspiring. His shadow Treasurer's missing in action too, in fact the whole shadow cabinet seems to have disappeared.

A pox on all their houses.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Racing back to the fifties

 Photo Sydney Morning Herald

Much hilarity throughout the land at the PM's announcement that he was bringing back the titles of Sir and Dame, confirming that his mind is firmly back in the days of empire.

Much criticism too, not just from the left and republicans but from his own party, and even from his mentor, arch-conservative John Winston Howard.

But there are deeper problems highlighted by his action.

He didn't bother to discuss it with his colleagues in the coalition, he simply took to the media to announce he was doing it. That's a worry in a democracy.

So is the fact that it demonstrates yet again his fifties mindset, far from what the country, any country, needs in the twenty-first century.

And of course his total contempt for what the majority want, and what they want is clear from the reaction.

I was also disappointed to see that the outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce accepted the title of Dame, after previously declaring her republican leanings. I wish she'd gracefully declined the offer.

Attorney-General encourages bigots

George Brandis seems to be trying to outdo the appalling Philip Ruddock in the role of Attorney-General.

The highest law officer in the land told the Senate: "People do have a right to be bigots you know. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigotted."  

His boss, PM Abbott, backed him when questioned in parliament too.

It was in the context of their plan to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and replace it with a watered-down version.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 - SECT 1

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group. 

By the way, the next Section of the Act says:

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 - SECT 18D

Exemptions
                   Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:
                     (a)  in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or
                     (b)  in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or
                     (c)  in making or publishing:
                              (i)  a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or
                             (ii)  a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment. 

So it doesn't seem much like an attack on free speech to me.

Unsurprisingly there's been a huge backlash, and not just from the left. Coalition MPs have said they will vote against the bill, Premier O'Farrel here in NSW has rejected it, Fairfax newspapers reported the Cabinet had insisted they back off, which they're doing to a degree.

Still, at least the true beliefs of the PM and his ministers are in the spotlight.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Medibank disaster

I expected an Abbott government to be bad for us but it's turning out to be even worse than I feared.

The projected sale of Medibank is the latest example. A bad move which will benefit the few at the expense of the majority, but it'll go ahead because of a mixture of ideology and self-aggrandisement.

Abbott has declared that he wants to be remembered as 'the infrastructure PM'. A short term windfall of four or five billion dollars for Medibank will allow him to build something towards his wish. But it's such a short term objective and it's bad management.

Keep Medibank in public ownership and its contributions of several hundred million dollars a year would go on year after year. Commit that to infrastructure and we and future generations would continue to benefit, rather than the little we'll get for a one-off headline-grabbing spend.

Ideologically the sensible course is the middle road, naturally. There are various things that are of such national interest that they need to be in public ownership.

Others need to be in public ownership to ensure the common good, Commonwealth Bank and Medibank being prime examples of that.

Had ComBank not been sold off we'd have much more influence over the banking sector.

Each time the Reserve Bank lowers interest rates there are howls of protest because the banks don't pass it on in full or quickly. Had ComBank been in public ownership they would have immediately passed on the full rate decrease and the competition would have been forced to follow.

Same with Medibank. Keep it in public ownership and premiums/benefits can be controlled, which means that competitors are also constrained in what they do.

But when they go into private ownership the interests of the shareholders become the focus, as it must. Profits have to be maximised and, of course, top executives will have massive salary increases and big bonuses.  That means either higher premiums or reduced benefits, or both. And the other players will follow.

So the budget loses an annual income of several hundred million dollars, we lose influence over the private health insurance market, we'll end up paying more for less.

Another reason to vote them out next election.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Totally inappropriate

A local story that seems to have gone viral is that of a coffee shop manager's rant about the inappropriate use of mobile phones.

He put up a sign saying "Fifty cent surcharge for being on the phone at the counter. It's rude!"

Murdoch newspapers carried an obviously set-up photo of him at the counter:

Photo. Waide Maguire. News Ltd.

I agree the mobile phone thing is rude - but then IMO he's equally rude greeting his customers while dressed in his underwear. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The amnesia defence

So many politicians, dodgy businessmen and other assorted wrongdoers lose their memory when fronting up to questioning that it seems to be an epidemic. The same people are amongst the worst informed in the country too, judging by the things they didn't know.

Cardinal George Pell is the latest to be suffering from the affliction.

Inevitably the Royal Commission into child sex abuse has heard that he 'wasn't aware' and 'couldn't remember' in today's hearings.

He also fell back on the old 'we're not as bad as others' non-defence, when he said that sexual abuse by priests was “a mighty issue for us because it is so contrary to what we should be about”.
But “whatever the deficiencies, I think we were ahead of some countries”, he said.

The next amnesiac in line will be Senator Arthur Sinodinos when he fronts up to the ICAC hearings. 

He's done the 'didn't know' bit already. Chairman of AWH at the same time as being NSW Liberal Party Treasurer he didn't know that donations were going from AWH to his Libs.


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Crying wolf

The gold medal for whingeing in 2013 has to go to Gerry Harvey, chairman of Harvey Norman.

He was in the news regularly through the year, whingeing about the tough times retail was having, the unfair competition from online shopping, that Aussies weren't spending, that it was the worst he'd experienced in all his years in business.

He's just announced Harvey Norman's half year results. Revenue up 3.6% at $2.99 billion, nett profit up 36% at $111.42 million.

Yep, times are tough, plenty to whinge about.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Spin doctors to block the news

Interesting revelation in Sydney Morning Herald that the Scott Morrison's Immigration Department employs a team of 66 spin doctors media liaison officers.

That's up from just 13 a couple of years ago.

It's our taxes that pay their salaries, and as it's the most secretive of all the ministries we seem to be paying them to block any news getting out to us.

That was borne out by this para in the story: (We) asked the Immigration Department to comment on staffing levels, but were referred to Mr Morrison's media team, who did not respond to questions.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Too late as usual

The killer trees I posted about last week continue to be in the news, now with a stable door and horses story.

The Dept. of Education has said that in future all public schools will have to engage arborists "to review the safety condition of trees on school grounds".

There wouldn't be a person in Australia who doesn't know that branches fall out of gum trees all year round. So you'd have thought that the bloody bureaucrats at the DofE would have realised they shouldn't be hanging over school playgrounds.

But it took the death of little Bridget Wright, killed by a falling branch which also injured two other children and a teacher, before they took any action.

It's not rocket science. You plan in advance, not wait for a disaster and then make a half-hearted attempt to prevent it happening again.

Do a perfectly normal risk assessment and remove the risks. Big gum trees are a risk, so remove the bloody things from built-up areas, especially schools.

Getting arborists to check them every so often will reduce but not remove the risk, because even healthy gum trees drop branches.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Don't need the work

It's happened to us again. A tradie not bothering to turn up for a job we'd booked him in for.

It wasn't a big job, just putting a tv antenna socket into a room that didn't have one. But the tradie knew what the job was, quoted what he wanted for it and gave us a time he could do it.

So we made a point of being home at the appointed time. We waited...and waited...called his mobile and left a message on voicemail.

Nothing. He completely ignored us.

It's a common problem and I really don't get it.

They pay to run ads in the local paper. They quote for and take the job. They fit it into their schedule, giving you a date and time. Then they just don't turn up to do the job and collect the payment for it.

Why?


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Killer trees

Another terrible tragedy caused by a gum tree in the city, when a little eight year old girl was killed by a falling branch which came down in a school playground. Three others were injured.

I've ranted about it before, here's an example, and sadly I'm sure I will again because gum trees have a mystical aura with the authorities.

I love them in the bush but they have no place hanging dangerously over houses, roads, power lines and, if we're to protect our children, especially not over schools.

Huge branches fall from them throughout the year, causing all kinds of chaos and, too often, death. As with this latest tragedy, it doesn't need a strong wind, they simply die off and crash to the ground.

There's mounting evidence that power lines coming down are the cause of many bushfires, including many that have resulted in deaths and major property losses. The ABC ran a story on the subject after the October fire crisis here in NSW.

Here are two examples in my street, both of these monsters less than fifty metres from me in either direction.



Both are over power lines - branches from the tree in the first photo have brought down power lines twice in my time here - and both will destroy houses when they fall down completely, as they surely will one day.

Councils routinely refuse permission to remove killer trees, yet no-one is held responsible when they create damage or death.

Not good enough is it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Back after a busy trip

Back in Oz after a busy three weeks in Dubai and Singapore, and as usual I'm staggering around trying to cope with with jetlag.

We went to Singapore for Chinese New Year. It's always unbearably humid there and while I have no problem with heat I really struggle with humidity. But I've never been so comfortable there because, for first time ever, there was no humidity.

Climate change is fairly obvious in Singapore - January they normally have 242mm of rain but this year they had 75mm. They had a third of the normal rain days too, five instead of fifteen.

It's known as the green city but for the first time ever I saw brown grass, wilting ferns, stressed trees losing their leaves...




Most of the time in Dubai we spent finalising the leasing of our apartment, and running around getting things like electricity and phones cancelled.

And the inevitable battle with HSBC bank, surely the most user-unfriendly bank in a country famed for banks with appalling customer service.

For the phone/internet thing we, again inevitably, got conflicting advice. We phoned and were told that we should go on our last day because it would be disconnected same day.

When we got there we were told we should have given one month's notice.

So we filled in forms to order the disconnection...then when we got back to the apartment a couple of hours later it had already been disconnected.

In the end it all took days longer than it should have but in the morning of the day we were flying out we had the tenant in, the phone, gas and electricity disconnected, the banking sorted and various deposits reclaimed.

For at least the next year we'll visit far less often and for much shorter periods, probably either just in transit or for a day or two stopover.

Next time we have planned is June/July time when we're going back to Vienna again, but that'll probably just be a transfer of flights at the airport.

And back now in humid Terrigal - February is always our most humid month - and we're having some good soaking rain after only about 20mm the whole summer until now.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

What a difference!

We plan to visit Dubai less in future so we decided to lease out our apartment in Dubai Marina.

What a difference between the way it's done here and there.

A neighbour recommended a real estate agent, who we contacted in mid-December. She brought a few people round, one family wanted it, the lease is signed, deal done.

Apart from the speed and efficiency, the financials are the big difference.

The owner pays nothing to the real estate agent. No fee, no advertising cost. Zero. Not one cent.

The tenant pays the agent's fees and lodges a security bond.

But best of all...it's one cheque from the tenant for the full year's rent in advance. It's in our bank. Amazing.

The process also highlighted the difference between a high cost country like Australia and our cheaper competitors. That's something that's always in the news with offshoring of jobs and Aussie companies manufacturing overseas.

We had the apartment painted. That's a very large lounge, two big bedrooms, study, corridors. All with 4 metre ceilings, so there's a fair bit of wall to cover.

Six painters came in at 10am and left, job done, at 9pm. They removed all the picture hooks, filled holes and made good the walls, supplied all materials, cleaned up beautifully. Total cost for materials and sixty-six man-hours of labour was, at today's exchange rate, A$376.

There's an added factor too. The painters were all Indian, working in Dubai because they can earn very much more than they can back home.




Friday, January 24, 2014

Aggressive language

The Premier announced measures to tackle the problem of alcohol-fuelled violence, to the predictable uproar from vested interests.

The measures are a partial response to the problem, much more needs to be introduced, we need more detail and the earlier closing needs to extend state wide not just a small city strip.

I drink my fair share of alcohol and I'm a night rather than morning person, but I can't see the need to have licensed premises open virtually all night. A sensible closing time imposed on all outlets would be a huge help.

But the restrictions proposed on alcohol sellers is only a small part of the answer. We need some more complicated long term responses too.

As I said in my post four or five weeks ago, society is becoming more aggressive in all it does and says. So we need an ongoing educational programme pointing out the stupidity and dangers, and unacceptability, of deliberately deciding to drink to oblivion.And we need the media to stop the headlong dash they're on to find aggressive words and phrases to replace perfectly good descriptive words we already have.

A letter to the Herald this morning points out that the current Australian Tennis Open no-one has been 'defeated' nor have they 'lost a match'.  They have been 'dumped out', 'sent packing', 'bundled out', 'ousted', or they've 'crashed out'.

Similarly, nothing is available to win any more, whether it's a raffle prize or a seat in parliament - it's 'up for grabs'.

This unnecessary aggression can easily be taken out of the equation. We've had a change from most of the media, which is now not using the the phrase 'king hit', which glamourised the cowardly unexpected punch to the head which has caused so much mayhem. It's been replaced with either 'coward's punch' or 'single punch'.




Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cowardly thug charged with murder.

I'm pleased to see that the cowardly thug who killed Daniel Christie on New Years Eve has been charged with murder.

Shaun McNeil had already been charged with three counts of common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and assault occasioning grievous bodily harm over a series of (alleged) assaults on New Year's Eve.

Here he is, in a selfie he's obviously proud of;


A murder charge is the right approach to these thugs. Unlike the other cowardly thug, Kieran Loveridge, who killed Thomas Kelly but got away with four years after doing a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter.

One requirement of a murder charge is that the perpetrator intended to kill. But the other is that he 'acted with reckless indifference to human life'. And that's certainly the case with these unprovoked, unexpected, random attacks.

Let's hope this one goes down for a very very long time.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cowards, all of them

Yet another innocent teenager has died after being punched by a drugged up alcohol fuelled neanderthal.

Daniel Christie, 18, was on life support after being punched on New Years Eve and today his family made the decision to turn off the machines as there was no hope of him recovering.

So we have a repeat of another distraught family saying it mustn't be allowed to happen to another family. We have a repeat of public outrage. The media is saying enough is enough, it's time for action.

In fact it's already way past the time action should have been taken.

For many years the alcohol selling industry has pressurised governments, donated money to political parties and basically has them in their pockets.

Alcohol ads are all over just about every sporting event, the local papers are dominated by full page bottle shop ads, bottle shops and drinking establishments are spreading like wildfire, opening hours extend so far into the night that many people are getting out of bed to start their day as others are staggering home from bars.

It should never have come to this, but it shines a spotlight on our political system and the people in it and what it reveals isn't pretty.

Politicians focus is on keeping their jobs, the power and the rewards that go with it. They run the state for big business, big business looks after them.

If public opinion is strong enough to suggest they may be voted out next election, then we'll see some kind of action. But whatever it is it'll be far too little far too late.

There's no way we'll get it but we desperately need politicians who have vision, who anticipate problems and take action to prevent them happening.

What we have instead is an increasingly violent culture, increasing self-obsession, increasing use of drugs like steroids. So our politicians throw petrol on the fire by making it as easy as they can for alcohol to be available easily and cheaply day and night.

It ain't rocket science to work out what actually should have been done.

But they don't have the guts. They're cowards, the politicians who've allowed us to reach this sorry state, cowards just like the neanderthals who think a good night out is to get blind drunk and randomly attack without warning a complete strangers.

I'm sick of the lot of them.




Friday, January 10, 2014

What's sauce for the goose...

I'm back in Oz now, where we have a bit of an uproar about a female member of the Sydney Cricket Ground being refused entry to the Ladies Stand because some officious jerk decided her dress was too short and broke SCG dress rules.

Here's a selfie of the dress, hardly an eye-popping ultra mini:


I'm not going to get involved in the argument about the vagueness of the rules, whether they're appropriate or whether the dress was inappropriate.

But the incident hits on a point I rant about endlessly, the fact that no rules seem to be applied to the way men dress, only to women.

The point is made in one of many letters in todays papers about the incident. In it, Noel Beddoe says "I was fortunate enough last weekend to attend two days at the cricket as the guest of a member. Several men in the general members area were wearing shorts exposing several centimetres of flesh above the knee. None were ejected".

In Dubai many of the shopping malls have posters on the doors pointing out that respectful clothing is required. There's a drawing of a woman wearing a dress with shoulders and knees covered. Nothing about men dressing respectfully.

Far too often I see men in singlets and football shorts on city streets, in shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants. It's little more than being in public in their underwear.

On the sports field or the beach - or in the privacy of their own home - they're appropriate, but in other public areas  they're not.

I'm in favour of dress rules, BTW, but they must be written to include the half of the population that isn't female.