Thursday, 29 September 2022

There is a danger of a dam collapsing

in the hills behind me. We were told about this yesterday and the state's emergency service has been working to pump water from it in the hope of preventing this. If they don't succeed they say about forty homes could be flooded.

Yes, it is a serious situation. At the same time it is  a farm dam, the sort of dam which is scattered all over the hills. These dams are used to provide water for livestock and for fire fighting. Farmers build them in consultation with other people who matter. (There is not much point in having a dam which is inaccessible to the Country Fire Service.)

Yesterday I was left wondering just how much urban dwellers know about all of this.  The answer would seem to be very little. I overheard someone complaining that the farmer in question should have to pay for what the emergency services were doing. Why? 

Unless there is evidence of deliberate wrong doing on the part of the farmer there is no reason to believe s/he should be held responsible. Farmers are actually doing everyone else a service. They are using their land for the benefit of everyone around them. In a bushfire water from a dam can mean the difference between lives and properties being saved and some of the worst disasters imaginable. It is likely that, in this instance, the farmer has been out there all night - and that s/he will be there until the danger has passed.

When the Senior Cat's closest friend moved to a property in the hills his first project, even before the house was built, was to have a small dam placed on the twenty acre property.  It has been used twice in the forty or so years the property has been occupied and both times it has helped to save the house and the surrounding houses. The dam was designed by someone whose job it is to design such things. It has needed maintenance over the years but it is an important part of the landscape.

I looked at a photograph of the dam under threat at the moment. I don't know a lot about those things but there were no obvious signs of failure to maintain it.  Simply all that has happened is that we have had far more rainfall than usual and part of the retaining wall has shifted under the weight of it. If they have pumped through the night the danger will be far less. Even if the dam collapses now it is unlikely to lead to loss of life.

Imagine though the damage a massive dam collapsing could cause. I know someone whose job it is to work on repairing dams all over the world.  His job is one of the most stressful in the world. The damage a collapse could cause in some places is almost beyond comprehension. Millions upon millions of people could be in the path of such major structures.  Dams are major and very complex structures requiring expert engineering. They are not "nice little artificial lakes".

The dam in the hills behind me is "paddle pool" size compared with some of the biggest in the world. But paddle pools are also capable of drowning children and they need to be watched over. I don't doubt the farmer and the SES people are doing just that.


Wednesday, 28 September 2022

ICAC anyone?

The proposed "Independent Commission Against Corruption" at national or federal level may now occur. It has been a long time coming.

I have no problems with having an ICAC as such. I do have some concerns about the apparently secretive nature of it. It seems there are plans to hold most hearings behind closed doors. Only those things deemed to be in the public interest will be pursued in an open court.

Now yes, this can be a very good thing. In the normal way this will sometimes protect people who give evidence about wrong doing. It can also protect people who are vulnerable for other reasons. There is sometimes information which needs to be withheld from the public for any number of reasons. 

The difficulty where corruption is concerned is that the information is going to leak out. Someone somewhere is going to say something. After that it is a game of "Chinese whispers" and false information will, at very least, spread rapidly through social media. There needs to be a mechanism to deal with that.

The other thing that concerns me is that the proposed legislation allows for "retrospective" prosecutions. I don't agree with that. If there is evidence of corruption in the past then it should be dealt with in accordance with the law at the time.  If the evidence was there at the time then it should have been dealt with then. It is not the role of an ICAC to be a kangaroo court or a lynch mob. 

There is a real danger that the proposed ICAC will however be just that. We have already heard those now in government saying that they plan to use an ICAC to pursue the previous government. At the same time the present government has prevented the prosecution - on separate charges - of a former Prime Minister and a current Minister. Unless they are prepared to go ahead with those charges then no ICAC should be retrospective.

An ICAC will be expensive, very expensive. Let's get it right.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Converting to Judaism

is possible but it is not easy. It requires time and commitment and an appearance in front of what I believe is called a Bet Din - a Jewish court. 

I talked about this once with a Jewish friend. D... was telling me how one of his concerns was that eventually Judaism may even die out because of intermarriage with non-Jews. Yes, I suppose it is possible. I assume if your mother is not Jewish then you will need to go through the process of conversion even if your father takes you to the synagogue each week. Being Jewish requires a commitment.   

I mentioned this yesterday when the question of "who is indigenous" was raised. That is another question which needs to be answered. There is nothing "racist" about asking this question. It is simply a question which needs to be addressed.

Almost every government form in this country - and a great many other forms as well - ask a question like "aboriginal or Torres Strait islander" or "identify as aboriginal" or some other form of the question. It was a question which was never asked when I was a mere kitten, indeed I do not remember it being asked for most of my adult life. It seems to have somehow become important in the later years of the last century. Suddenly there are a great many more people who "identify as aboriginal". They claim to be "First Nation" people.

There is a problem with this - not least that there never was a "First Nation". The indigenous population of this country at "white settlement" was as diverse culturally and linguistically as anywhere in the world. They did not speak as one. They did not live peacefully among themselves. Had they done so it might have been much more difficult for others to settle here. 

And, like it or not, there has been a great deal of intermarriage between the "original inhabitants" and the "settlers". The heritage of many people who now "identify as aboriginal" is now so mixed that nobody notices their heritage as they pass on the street.  At the same time it is some of these people who are the most outspoken about the need for "reconciliation", "a treaty", "truth telling", "the Voice", the "stolen generation" and more. They make claims about the "disadvantage" they suffered in the past and the disadvantages they continue to suffer today.  They are demanding special privileges, extra financial assistance, the "preservation of language and culture" and much more. 

Disagree with any of this and you will be labelled "racist" - and I know I will be. Is that really the case though? Who and what are we really supporting here? 

Yesterday someone tried to say that all this was rather like trying to maintain Judaism. I can't see that. Identifying as Jewish is not the same as identifying as indigenous. There are strict rules governing the former even though there is also diversity. There is Hebrew, there is the Torah, there are rituals which are common even while there are differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews. There is much more which brings the Jewish community together. 

There are no such rules governing the latter. The common thread seems to be "disadvantage" and "righting the wrongs of the past". I am not sure it is quite the same but I am willing to be otherwise informed.

Monday, 26 September 2022

Growing cannabis

legally across the nation is the Greens latest legislative proposal. It is claimed the Commonwealth can override the states on this matter. Even if they can though would it be a good thing?

The other claim made by the Greens is that 40% of the (presumably teen/adult) population have smoked it at some point and that it is policing the ban which does more harm. Apparently this is sufficient reason to legalise it.

A former neighbour has written two academic papers on driving under the influence of cannabis. I disagree with his findings, indeed there is a major flaw in his argument that the presence of cannabis is not an issue. I know many other people agree with him. Others agree with me. 

The dangers of tobacco consumption are well known. While it is still legal it is less acceptable than it used to be to smoke. Fortunately there are now places where it is illegal to smoke but we have a long way to go. Why should those of us who don't smoke (in my case have never even tried) be forced to inhale secondary smoke - something which is every bit as dangerous? I avoid locations where people are still allowed to smoke. I am not asking them to stop even while I believe they are foolish to continue smoking.

Cannabis is no better, indeed may be even worse. The long term effects of cannabis are not to be taken lightly. It can lead to similar physical problems and it can also lead to issues of mental health. That "high" doesn't last. I don't believe there is any such thing as "recreational" use.

I know cannabis was used around the universities I attended. In one case the chief suppliers of it were the police themselves. If you knew where to go on campus on a certain day between certain times it was easy to obtain.  I talked to a member of the police force about this. He didn't bother to deny it. He just shrugged and said, "At least we know who's using and where they are getting it from."

I wonder how many of those otherwise intelligent users now have issues. Do they still use it? 

Drug dealers also depend on illegality to make a profit. Making cannabis legal is not going to solve that issue. Withdrawing supply may well increase the use of other even more dangerous substances. 

All that said the benefits or otherwise of medicinal cannabis oil are still being explored. It would be perfectly possible to legislate for that purpose alone and perhaps we should.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

"Show and tell" or "the morning talk"

at school used to fill me with dread. I simply loathed it.

I have no idea what my classmates thought of having to stand there in front of their peers and say something about an object they had brought along to school. I suspect the majority of them hated it as much as I did.

It was embarrassing and it was boring. My classmates would stand there on one leg and then the other. They would twist and turn and wriggle all over. Some of them would whisper and others would almost shout out of sheer nervousness. Even the most apparently confident would hesitate. "Um" and "Er" were the most commonly used sounds. Words failed some altogether. 

I remember one boy bringing in a toy steam engine and just standing there unable to speak. It was clearly well made but also home made. Finally the teacher asked him, "Who made it?" 

"My granddad." The two words were an effort.

"Did you help?"

He nodded. 

I remember holding my breath and willing the teacher not to ask him any more questions. Of course she did. He couldn't answer them. He just stood there for a moment longer and then, mute, rushed back to his seat. Perhaps oddly for a group of children we did not tease him. Instead, at "home time", he was there surrounded by his friends with his mother in the background explaining how it worked. 

I have no idea what sort of marks he finally achieved for his "show and tell" morning talk. I can guess and I can guess the sort of comments written on his report card. It is unlikely they were an accurate representation of his ability.

On my way home yesterday I stopped to speak to two young boys of my acquaintance. They showed me something their grandfather had just made with them - a steam engine. They told me how it worked.

I had never met their grandfather - or so I thought. He came out of the house as I was talking to the boys. He nodded to me and the older boy introduced me politely as "This is Cat and Cat this is our granddad." We talked briefly about the steam engine. It was a wonderful piece of very precise engineering. I said so and mentioned my maternal grandfather's work. Their grandfather nodded.

"I had a grandfather like that." He didn't say anything else but I suddenly knew here was the same man who had found it impossible to say anything in front of his classmates. 

I did not remind him of the incident. There would have been no kindness in doing that. I didn't even tell him I had been in the same classroom.  It may have caused him to remember. I did think of his daughter once saying, "Dad's a man of few words."

Perhaps he is but the steam engine said a lot.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

The Greens are not tree-hugging

activists with a responsible agenda. They are radicals with an irresponsible agenda.

A friend of mine voted Greens in the last state and federal elections. I like this person but she is, to put it simply, naive about politics. To her the Greens are the "environmental" party. My friend believes she is passionate about the environment. Aside from the fact that both she and her husband each own a car - despite both being retired and having no children or grandchildren to care for - it might be said she does.

The two of them have solar panels on the roof, they have a water saving garden, they recycle, they buy their food as "close to home" as possible and so on. They really do believe they are doing the right things.

My friend also researches these things. She can afford to pay more for clothes which are, as she puts it, "responsibly and fairly manufactured". 

What she has not researched is the election manifesto of the Greens. She saw no need for that. For her it is the party which cares the most about the environment - and that is all she feels she wants or needs to know.

One of my roles in elections over quite a number of years now has been to assist people who need help with our voting process. Voting is said to be "compulsory" in this country. What that really means is that attendance at the ballot box and marking the ballot papers is compulsory. Nobody can actually force you to vote. But the right to a valid vote is something I consider to be of sufficient importance that I try to help people without influencing their actual vote. 

It is something which is incredibly difficult to do. It is also essential that I do this in as a completely fair and unbiased manner as possible. Most people can simply mark their own ballot papers with no help but those who need help also need to sure it is their choice going into the ballot box.  I have to be prepared for questions.

I take that so seriously that I have actually sat and read (and yawned over) the policies of each party and independent candidate. This is what has made me aware that the Greens are not the friendly tree-huggers they claim to be. The Greens  policies align more with old style Communism. Were they ever to win office and have to actually implement their policies they would fail. We would be a country even more divided than we are now.

One of the Greens senators "led" a "protest" in the capital city of a neighbouring state on the day we were acknowledging the death of the Queen. This Senator was so well informed that she was throwing "blood" over "the coat of arms of the oppressors" on "our land". The red paint was actually being thrown over the coat of arms outside the offices of the Portuguese consulate - a building which, under international law, belongs to another country and is recognised as such. Her actions were widely reported in the press as a valid protest. 

This helps nobody, least of all the people the Greens claim to be so concerned about - and it does not help the environment either. This is why our voting system needs to be reviewed and reformed. It is why we need to be better informed about the policies of all parties...and why I will continue to try and stay awake as I try to inform myself. 

Friday, 23 September 2022

Is it racism...or something else?

An indigenous footballer - now retired - is in today's paper claiming that he was asked to leave a swimming pool. The reason? A white grandfather told a guard the footballer was making his young granddaughter "feel uncomfortable".

Now if this happened because of the colour of someone's skin that is totally, utterly and completely unacceptable. The question we need to ask however is whether it actually happened. If it did not happen then what was making a young girl feel uncomfortable?

Children are not nearly so racially conscious as the adults around them. I was never aware of any racial slurs among young children when I was teaching. Arguments were fought over toys and whose turn it was, not the colour of someone's skin. 

I did have a group of children come to me one play period because a man was looking over the school fence. Yes, his skin was suggestive of a mixed racial heritage. The complaint they made however was about something entirely different, something sexual in nature.  The head of that particular school was good. He had already been informed. He had immediately called the police. Fortunately a nearby patrol car was quickly on the scene and the man was removed. 

When I talked to my class before the afternoon started not one of them mentioned the colour of his skin. It was his behaviour that mattered.

I in no way wish to suggest that the indigenous footballer was doing anything wrong. The most likely possibility is that he was unintentionally invading the personal space of another person or that he spoke to them - perhaps in a way which seemed a little too friendly.  

Nevertheless the incident is viewed as a racial one, as yet another incident of "racial discrimination". I have no doubt the footballer genuinely believes it to be that. He has been conditioned and encouraged to believe it.

My friend M..., whose skin is the colour of good dark chocolate, is well aware of "racial discrimination". There have been instances in his life, of course there have. At the same time he says he has really suffered very few instances of discrimination. I think I know why. He is always well groomed and also immaculately dressed when out. He is a man who opens doors, gives up his seat on public transport, walks on the outside of the footpath and much more. It is quite natural. It is what his parents expected of him. It is what he expected of his own children and now his grandchildren.

Years ago M... applied for a promotion - and did not get it. He could have seen it as "racial discrimination" but I remember sitting in the kitchen of his mother's house when he was telling her about it. R...'s response to his disappointment was, "Maybe they just feel you don't have enough experience yet. Don't let it change your ambitions. Apply for the next one and the next one..."

Some time later the head of his unit called him in and told him there was another position coming up, "And we would like you to apply for it." He did and obtained the position which led him up the ladder to the very senior position he had when he retired. Would that have happened if he had made complaints about "racial discrimination" when he did not get the first position he applied for?

I do not want to suggest that racial issues are not an issue. They most certainly can be. I do wonder though whether they are sometimes seen as an issue when something else is actually the reason for an act of apparent discrimination.