Thursday, 1 December 2022

The "Voice to Parliament"

issue has yet to be debated. Yes, there has been some "discussion" but it has largely been along the lines of "if you disagree with having a Voice to Parliament" then you are racist. In other words we are being told that we "must" vote for it. If we do not then we are "racist". 

There is much more to it than that. I will try to cover some of this gradually over time but what I will try to say will be based on my study of Constitutional Law. Like all other students at my law school I was required to do two compulsory units in Constitutional Law, one of those was in Commonwealth Constitutional Law. I am not a constitutional lawyer but I know a little and that little leads me to be very concerned about what the present government is trying to do.

First of all we are being told that we need a referendum in order to change the constitution. That in itself is correct. The means to do so is set out in sec. 128 of the Constitution. It requires what is known as a "double majority" - in other words there must be a majority of people in a majority of the states before there can be a change to the Constitution.  

It is, rightly, a high hurdle. There have been 44 proposed changes to the Constitution since 1901 and only 8 have succeeded.

We are now being told that we will be asked to vote on a "Voice to Parliament" so a change can be made to the Constitution to recognise First Nations people in the preamble. The reason for doing this we are being told is so they can make representations about issues which concern them through a permanent body which cannot be altered except by another referendum.

This is not correct. There is no preamble to the Constitution. What is actually there are the words to the preamble of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900. That act was passed by the Parliament in Britain in order to give legal force to the Constitution. We will not be voting on a change to the Constitution as such. I can only assume that someone, somewhere has advised the government they need to have a referendum in order to change the preamble. The last referendum (in 1999 about becoming a "republic") which tried to change the preamble failed. 

So, we start on shaky and misinformed ground. I will leave you to consider this beginning and continue later.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Paediatric Intensive Care Units

are some of the most stressful places possible to work in.

Don't believe me? You should. You are working with critically ill children and their families, their parents, their siblings, their extended families, their other caregivers. You are working,  or should be working, with just one or two patients at a time.  You may work with those patients for a very long time. You will, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, lose some patients - despite that thirty-seven hour non-stop effort.

In PICUs you will find cancer patients and cardiac patients, patients who have had organ transplants, patients with respiratory failure and trauma patients. Sometimes there will be children who have been so severely abused you wonder that they have survived to reach the PICU. 

The PICU here is where the wonderful Whirlwind spent her last hours. She was given the very best care and attention available. From the moment she was admitted there was always someone there.  Her father was also given the same level of care and the Covid restrictions in the rest of the hospital were ignored when he asked for me to come even though I was not strictly "family".  

Any PICU is a bad place and a good place. I have written any number of communication boards over the years for patients in PICUs. I have shared in debates about whether to tell a road accident victim that "mummy" can't be there for the most tragic of reasons and how best to get a child who is conscious but cannot speak to communicate and how much information they need about their own circumstances. 

I would not want to work in a PICU. I admire those who can. They need all the support they can get.

This is why it was alarming to read that our PICU in the children's hospital could lose their training accreditation. This should not even be being considered. I know it is not just a matter of more staff or more funding. There are likely complex reasons for this that the present authorities and the government may not be happy to have to address. 

They need to address the issues. The patients in a PICU need every possible care and support - and so do their families.

 

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

The Railway Museum

is definitely worth a visit. 

I don't know why we had not been before. I know I suggested it to Brother Cat at one time but he decided on the Aircraft Museum instead. As the Senior Cat also voted for the Aircraft Museum on that long ago I was outvoted.

The Aircraft Museum was nothing like as interesting as the Railway Museum. It was fun! We got to ride on a little train which was fun too.

I like trains. I have liked trains since I was a small kitten. When I was that small the Senior Cat made me a doll's house. It was a very basic replica of the house we were living in at the time.. I loved it - but not as a house.

I promptly turned it into a railway station. I  put it next to the track belonging to my train set. (It was a Hornby set with a green engine run by clockwork given to me by my paternal grandparents. I was very, very careful of it. ) The train went all over the world.

I thought of all this yesterday as we took our friend H... to the museum. She wandered off to look at the things she was interested in. Middle Cat went off for a bit to look at something and I was left to look at the "Man in Blue" - the information booth that once graced the main railway station in the city. There on the outside were the departure signs for all the trains that used to run across the state. I had forgotten how extensive the network once was. It would be wonderful to be able to get on a train and go to some of those places now. All that stopped when car ownership became much more common. Nobody gave any thought to the future and how rail might actually be a useful form of transport.

Then I prowled on further and reached the carriages that once formed part of the old "Tea and Sugar" train that followed the railway line to the western most state of the continent. It served to bring mail, meat, groceries and more to the people living in the tiny settlements along the line. Those tiny settlements were there to keep the line in good condition. Some of them had just a handful of people and they depended on the trains for everything - just as much as the train depended on them. The train even had a carriage which served as a butcher shop. 

I looked into the compartments used by the men who ran the train. They were tiny and must have been almost unbearably hot in summer.  

I put my paws up on the immense wheels of the much smaller train that used to run across the road we lived on in the city. As I did so I remember how the guard used to lean out ringing a bell to get the cars to stop. Catching the train to go into the city was exciting for us. Brother Cat was once allowed to help to ring the bell. I suspect quite a few small boys were allowed to do just that - and that it was in complete contravention of the regulations. The train doesn't go there anymore.

I hope Middle Cat and H... enjoyed themselves. I did. I want to go back and sit in one of the carriages and imagine I am sitting on the floor next to my precious train set and going all over the world.

Monday, 28 November 2022

Buying a first home

is apparently "getting further out of reach" for many.

I suspect it has always been out of reach for some and that for many others it is something they thought they would never achieve. In this morning's paper there is a suggestion which will put it even further out of reach.  There are people in the building industry who say the tax on foreign domiciled landlords should be scrapped.

I disagree. If you live in another country it is likely there is a housing shortage there too. Build something there and rent it out. I don't know of any country where that would not be possible. If you have that sort of money you can grease palms anywhere. Okay, your investment might not be quite as secure but...

My parents were forced to rent for many years. Renting went with the head teacher's job if you were teaching in rural areas. You rented housing from something called the PBD - "Public Buildings Department". For the most part the houses were made from fibro-asbestos sheeting with corrugated iron roofing. They were functional but that was it. Other, young and usually single, teachers had to make do with living with a farmer's family or in a caravan. The situation was often less than ideal. They were paying rent and board while their more fortunate city based colleagues were buying their own homes.  Even now I can look around and see the economic advantage the city dwellers had in home ownership. 

Middle Cat was self-employed and there was no superannuation scheme she could invest in so they did the next best thing and bought a second house. The idea was that the rent would pay off the loan and provide an income. At the time it was a very reasonable way to look at things, indeed what people were being advised to do. 

But governments have a way of changing things if they can see a way of getting more money. People are not investing in housing they way they once were and this has  added to the shortage.

And of course most of those who do want their own home want it with everything at the start. They still want a single unit dwelling on a "block". That area might no longer be a quarter acre as it once was but they want "space" even if they don't actually garden. Expensive? Yes.

Is is any wonder we have a housing shortage? Making it harder for foreign domiciled people to invest, allowing others to invest on the same terms as superannuation and encouraging others to do with less at first might help to reduce the problem too.  

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Banning mobile phones in school

is a hot topic which is about to come hotter, much hotter.

The government in this school has issued a decree banning the use of mobile phones in state schools. It has done so for a number of reasons. They suggest that learning outcomes are better when students don't have access to a phone during lesson times. There is apparently some research to suggest that this is actually the case. I have yet to read any of that research and I will wait until I do to decide on that matter.

There is also the even larger issue of phones being used to bully and harass and the footage of incidents of bullying being uploaded to the internet.  I agree that is an issue, a very serious issue indeed.

There have recently been a number of vile incidents in this state which have been made much worse by the fact that they have been uploaded for others to see. The bullying is being compounded by the complete humiliation of those who are being bullied.

I think bullying has increased since I was at school. Yes, it occurred but unless it was well hidden from me, my siblings and my teacher parents it was not common. We got teased and there was some name calling but vicious bullying was rare. If it did occur then it was other students who dealt with it. We sent the offenders to Coventry more often than not. I suspect the adults were aware of that but they left it up to us.

The current generations of students, those in the mobile phone era seem less able to handle those situations. Does the amount of screen time they are involved in have anything to do with their capacity to interact and maintain friendships have anything to do with that? I suspect it does.  I know students who tell me their lunch period is spent sitting with their friends - but they don't talk to each other. They play on their phones. 

It isn't going to be easy making sure students don't use their phones in school. How it is going to be policed is a matter for individual schools. I can think of a number of ways of doing it but some are expensive and others are time consuming or even both. 

There are some students who need them. They can be a safety issue or a medical issue. There is K... who walks to and from school alone. Her father is at work and her mother is not well enough to walk her to and from. She has been using her phone since she began to walk alone. She phones her mother when she gets to school and when she is about to leave school to walk home. She hands her phone in for the rest of the day. "It's not for playing on," she once told me. That's a good use. 

I know another child who was diagnosed with diabetes late last year. He uses his for medical purposes and the departmental policy allows for that but he is worried about having the phone taken from him by other students. 

And of course there are students who used theirs in a responsible way, to make essential calls to family or perhaps take a photograph for their class work. 

Of course there will be arguments for and against. I just feel for the teachers who have to try and stop their use. It is not going to be easy. It may not even be possible.

 

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Airports late on Friday afternoons

are best avoided - unless of course you are picking up a good friend.

Our good friend H... has come to stay with Middle Cat for a few days. She flew in from one of the eastern states after leaving the cruise ship and of course we were going to pick her up.

Getting to the airport at the hour in the afternoon is a challenge anyway.  As we drove on the last part of the journey I watched the planes coming in overhead.

"That's probably H...'s," I told Middle Cat as one with the correct logo was approaching.

"Good, plenty of time." It usually takes about fifteen minutes for domestic flights to land and passengers to disembark.

We arrived at the pick up point. There was no sign of H...  Of course you cannot wait in the pick up zone so Middle Cat left me on the pavement to look for H... and did another circuit. 

One of the airport staff whose impossible job at that hour is to herd cars rather than cats looked at his list and said, "It's just landed." Informed of this Middle Cat went off again and I waited...and I waited...and I waited. No sign of H...

Middle Cat did a third circuit - it takes a while. Then she called out to me that H... was collecting luggage and would be there  shortly. I waited some more.

The pick up area of course is rather long. I was staying in one spot - how else do you expect someone to find you. 

Along came another nice member of staff. "You stay here, I'll see if I can find her," she told me after asking if she could do anything to help. Off she went and yes, there at the other end she found H... getting into the car. She came running back as Middle Cat waited to get back into the slow moving traffic flow. She stopped anyone parking where I was waiting and waved Middle Cat into the spot to pick me up.

They drove up to me and H... climbed quickly out of her seat and gave me the best possible hug and opened the other door at the same time. I collapsed into the seat and we all chorused, "Thankyou!" to the helpful person. She smiled back and went back to herding cars and looking after the lost.

I am not sure I really care much for airport pickup and drop off zones but someone like that can make all the difference.  

Friday, 25 November 2022

Long service leave?

Do you even know what it is? Do we still need it?

For those of you in Upover and elsewhere I probably need to explain. "Long service leave" was the ten days annual leave you could accrue each year over a period of ten or more years and then use for some other purpose.

The original idea was it took so long to travel between Downunder and Upover public officials needed the extra time to "go home" every so often. It grew into something that anyone in the public service sector could get after ten years. In a sense it is an extra ten days leave a year - after ten or more years.

Not everyone took their accrued leave. They simply retired a little earlier. Others used it in other ways. Some people used it for the benefit of their careers or to help others. 

I know people who accrued enough leave to take a year out at half pay (i.e. twice as much time at half pay). They did post-graduate courses and used those to obtain promotion. It was a good use of the scheme.

The Senior Cat used some of his leave to do an extensive study trip in western Europe to study the teaching of reading. He obtained a scholarship to help with the additional expenses. When he came back he worked closely with another member of the Education Department on what was then called "the Reading Centre" - a wonderful resource of materials about the teaching of reading. This was eventually shut down by a government trying to save money. (They also closed the School Libraries Branch and areas involved with Music, Science and Art. It has not saved money. Teachers needed those resources.)

The Senior Cat's cousin used his leave to take his two children out of school for a year. The family travelled around the entire coastline of this country. M...., a geography specialist, used the trip to educate his children and to collect materials and photographs for using in teaching. 

Someone else I know used their leave to do some research in an obscure archive somewhere in the United States. Another used it to gain some practical metalworking skills which he then passed on to high school students here.

Yes,  teachers often used it for the benefit of other people. I know so many teachers I have heard about these things. I also know other professional people have often done the same. Long service leave is still potentially valuable in that way. 

But do other people need it? We have gone from two weeks annual leave to four or more for everyone now. In addition there is parental leave, sick leave, bereavement leave and more. Most employers are very accommodating about things like dental and other medical appointments. When long service leave began those things were not nearly as readily available as annual leave. 

Long service leave seems a rather outdated idea now. It doesn't necessarily go with you from one job to the next in all parts of the country. The nature of work has changed. People don't often stay with the same employer for so long.

But if it is there and it is still used for the purpose of study or research or extending skills then it may be that it does still have something to commend it. Should it be retained if used for that purpose?

Thursday, 24 November 2022

We are living beyond our means

and unless we want a level of inflation similar to that of some economies with dictators at the helm then we have to cut back.

I am no economist. I manage my personal finances and I have managed the finances of those for whom I have had power of attorney. I am fortunate enough not to currently be in debt. That does not mean I will never be in debt so I tend to be "careful".

I wonder however how careful the present government is being. They insist the industrial legislation they are trying to rush through parliament before Christmas is a good thing. It will, they claim, give workers more money in their pockets.

Really? Where's the money coming from? If I employ someone at say $10 an hour then I need more than that to pay them. There are all the largely hidden costs of employing them. There is the employer superannuation contribution, the long service leave contribution, parental leave, the payroll tax and so on. When wages go up those costs go up too. The money has to come from somewhere so I charge more to provide goods or a service. The people who buy those goods or that service then pass the cost on and the whole cycle continues and inflation rises. 

The idea of home ownership is still something for which many people are aiming. It's a great aim and there are still plenty of people who will achieve it. The problem is not with that aim in itself it is what they are aiming for within it. 

There was a serious housing shortage when I was born. It was still very serious for a considerable number of years after that. Building materials were in short supply. Land had not been divided into those "quarter acre" blocks people thought were so desirable. As such things became available people built basic housing. Those who could afford it built basic three bedroom homes. Then they gradually bought the "whitegoods" to go in them. Even more gradually they made improvements. There would be a shed for the car, the lawn mower and the gardening tools. The garden would be developed slowly. People planted fruit trees and a vegetable patch. It was hard work but they did this as they paid off their mortgage. 

Now people want to move into a house that has all the "essential whitegoods". They want state of the art airconditioning and a landscaped low maintenance garden they can sit on their "patio" and stare at. There will be two cars parked under the carport and much more. All this costs far more. Our standard of living has risen.

But it might be that it has risen too far. Friends of mine recently got rid of the second car. It was tempting to keep it because it was very convenient but the children are now in high school - old enough to walk to school alone. They will be able to repay their mortgage earlier this way and deemed that to be more important. 

The government really needs to get rid of "the second car" too. It might be nice to have but we really don't need it. All those "allowances" and the "leave" for this or that or something else is something for which we have to pay. It isn't "free" in the way the government is trying to suggest. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

This "World Cup" thing

is already irritating me. 

Anyone who knows me well will know I don't do sport of any sort - apart from a (very) vague interest in the psychology of the game of cricket. I have never been to a football, rugby or soccer match in my life and I have no intentions of doing so. What little I have seen on television will suffice thank you very much.

However at the moment it is almost impossible to avoid hearing about this "World Cup" thing in Qatar. It seems this is "soccer" and there are lots of teams playing.  

It is also "mired in controversy".  Really? This puzzles me.

Any international event held in Qatar was always going to cause problems. Qatar is that sort of place. 

If you are actually a citizen of Qatar and prepared to abide by all the Islamic imposed rules, regulations and responsibilities then it is possibly quite a pleasant place to live. I rather doubt it though - the heat would get to me very quickly. 

If you are going to visit there then there are things you need to know, customs and laws you need to observe. You are a visitor. 

If you visit the house I presently live in and you smoke then you will be asked to smoke outside. It is the same at Brother Cat's place and at Middle Cat's place.  Years ago, when she first met her partner, Middle Cat put her paw down firmly and told one of her partner's male relatives that he could not smoke in her car. It caused an uproar but she stuck by her demand. Despite the uproar she was respected for it and other female members of the family (none of whom smoke) followed her example. Yes, you are a "visitor" in the car. Don't smoke if you are asked not to do so.

It is the same in Qatar. Alcohol consumption is not allowed in Islam - don't look for it or demand it at their sporting fixtures or elsewhere. Same sex relationships are forbidden in Qatar. It doesn't matter how important the rest of us might believe those relationships are it is not right to go "demanding" they be allowed there or even showing support for them. The matches being played are not about same sex relationships. They are about being able to kick a ball in certain ways into certain places. 

We might well want to complain about other human rights abuses but don't do it there. In a sense you have accepted an invitation. You are a visitor and you should behave politely and "eat what is put in front of you" as someone else said to me.

If you want to criticise then don't go there. Criticise from outside the country if you must. Your hosts will mostly be ordinary people who, from all accounts, are prepared to be friendly and accommodating. Make friends and talk to them - their English will likely be better than your Arabic. Stop trying to turn a game into politics. I might be more interested if it was simply something done for pleasure.

Oh I understand Downunder lost their game against France but I have to confess it doesn't upset me. Should it? 

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Secure jobs? Better pay?

Our federal government is currently trying to pass a very contentious piece of legislation through parliament. While there are parts of the legislation which are no doubt necessary there are other parts which are very clearly designed to hand back control to the union movement.  That will cause disruptions.

Let me tell you another true story. For many years my BIL worked for a small firm in the technology industry. It was actually very small when my BIL was asked to join it and help to build it up. 

He did very well there. He liked the boss. It seemed everyone liked the boss. He held regular meetings with all the staff. Even the intellectually disabled man who kept the place clean, emptied the bins and took things from one place to the other was included in the staff meetings. Pay rises were negotiated in house as were times when leave would be taken. There were end of year bonuses and the boss took everyone out to dinner at the end of the year. It was a very good place to work and the business was doing very well.

Then the boss became ill, very ill. The vultures circled and took over the company. Things changed. My BIL left, as did a number of others. They were fortunate enough to have other jobs to go to but not everyone was that lucky. The unions moved in and demanded everyone join a union. They would do the negotiating. Leave would be decided by others rather than negotiation. Pay rises would be decided by union negotiation rather than on the work done. The cleaning was outsourced and the intellectually disabled man was out of a job. Those who had taken over the thriving little business were happy with this, indeed one of them was a former union boss.

Since then the original work place of my BIL has been taken over twice more. Each time it has grown bigger but has it grown better? My BIL has dealings with it occasionally. He might have risen high in the ranks there but he does not regret leaving. His current place of employment is not perfect but very few of the staff belong to a union yet. The unions have tried of course. They have been allowed to enter the buildings and try to "negotiate" but the workers apparently feel they have other means of negotiation and legislation to back them.

Only around 14% of workers now belong to a union. It is clear that many people no longer see the need to belong to a union. Of course unions will say differently. They say people will only get "real" pay rises if they take on the negotiating. 

I doubt this. My BIL's experience was very different. I know many others are in the same position. Reducing union "negotiating" power has not led to the fall in wages and conditions they claim. The vast majority of workers are better off than ever before because of legislation brought in over the years, legislation designed to secure jobs and wages. Yes more people would like to have permanent rather than casual work but the world has changed and the "job for life" our parents and grandparents had is no longer there.

Of course our present government is run by a party which was begun by the union movement. If the legislation succeeds then we will see a return to union control but it won't see the "good old days" of jobs for life. They simply don't exist. 

Monday, 21 November 2022

The school is too big!

One of our local high schools has more than 2,200 students enrolled. Another has more than 1,500. There are waiting lists for both schools. Families living inside the catchment areas know that even if a child has a sibling at the school the second or third child may not be able to attend it.

The first school has the added attraction of being a school which offers the International Baccalaureate as well as the local exams. The second school is one of the oldest government schools in the state - my mother and then my brother attended it - and had a reputation for high academic success rates.  

The first school has a large number of students from Asia. They are from families who may not be able to afford private boarding school fees for their children. Their children live with families, often families who have children of their own at the school. These students do pay tuition fees but they are generally less than those paid to private schools. 

Both schools have facilities or programs some schools do not have. One of the boys next door is in the accelerated Maths program at the second school. It is in fact how he managed to get a place at the school.  

But questions are now being raised about these schools, in particular the size of these schools. I started "high school" in an area school. "Area" meant just that. It was spread across a wide rural community. Most of the students came on the big yellow school buses. In this case the Senior Cat was the headmaster. It was his role to move the school from being a primary school to an area school with a secondary section. There were fourteen of us in the first year of the secondary section. It was a new venture with new teachers.

The teachers also had to teach in the primary section of the school. We had no subject choices. My parents decided I needed to learn Latin. That meant doing it as an extra subject. The Senior Cat gave me the text book "An intermediate Latin grammar" and told me what to learn. When he had time he would test me - often at the meal table. (It is not the best way to learn Latin.) 

When the Senior Cat was moved to yet another school to sort out the problems there it was much the same. (He was the Education Department's "trouble shooter" - sent to schools to sort them out before being moved on.) There were more students but still only about one hundred and fifty altogether in the secondary school. There were still no subject choices. Everyone did the same thing. 

These big high schools are different.The first two years there is not much choice but after that there are, within limits, subject choices. How much choice students really have is something I question. Students are "encouraged" to do maths, science and technology. The arts subjects are not as highly regarded. They are not seen as "needed" in the way maths and science is. While it may not be openly stated in the information literature the idea is that all students should be aiming to enter university.

These schools do not encourage subjects like woodwork, metalwork, cookery, art and the like. Those are subjects which are seen as best left to the least able.

Add that to the size of these schools and there will be problems. I know too many students who are getting lost despite the best efforts of their teachers. It is impossible to monitor behaviour outside the classroom so some of them are being bullied. They are not achieving as much as they could. Their teachers barely know each other, let alone the students they are supposed to be teaching.

In that first small area school there were almost no facilities - although we did have a small "laboratory" which doubled as an art room. We had no specialist programs but anyone falling behind was always given extra help. Everyone took part in sport because everyone was needed to make up team numbers. Even I was told to "stand there and throw the ball to... and then get off the court/field/pitch before you get knocked over". (My job after that was to score or even, on occasion, umpire.) 

 Yet these very big schools are supposed to have "facilities" and "specialist programs" and all sorts of opportunities. The best are taken for sports teams but too many never really participate in anything. 

I was talking to K... recently. She is about to start at the 2,200 school next year. Until recently she was looking forward to it. She thought it was going to be "fun". K...has grown up a lot this year - something sadly necessary due to having a very ill parent. Now K... is much less sure about high school. 

"I think it is too big Cat. It might be all right but in primary school we all know each other and our teachers know us. That helps a lot."

K... is motivated and, in some ways, mature but she is feeling anxious. There is not much I cam say to reassure her because I think she is right. Those schools are too big.

 

Sunday, 20 November 2022

If the blue bird falls off the perch

I will be more than disappointed. It will also mean finding another way to communicate with two groups of people - a group with which I still work and a group I have grown to know and like.

Yes, I am talking about Twitter. I know people tend to love Twitter, hate Twitter or tolerate Twitter. 

I was introduced to Twitter by my friend V... discovering it and mentioning it. I prowled over and looked at it...mmm...maybe or maybe not. I left it for a bit and then someone else mentioned it. We put our heads together and came up with a solution to a problem. We could use Twitter to communicate quickly and easily with everyone. That "DM" (direct message) function was just what we needed. 

We have used the DM function to ask for help, to give help, to make decisions, send out urgent information and more. It has saved time and money. I would go as far as to say it has also saved lives.  Twitter could be accessed in some completely unexpected places. I wonder if Elon Musk has any idea how often Twitter has been used by aid workers? We don't want Twitter to fail.

Then there are the other people/organisations/media outlets I "follow" on Twitter.  Some days I barely have time to look, on others I can put a paw around the door and look in for a few minutes on several occasions. If there is an incident I can be informed almost immediately. I can follow up opinion pieces or find my way to government documents.

It has therefore been alarming to see what Mr Musk has done to Twitter but it has been even more alarming to see what others have done to Twitter. Twitter was not perfect but it will be less perfect if people simply leave. If you didn't like what was happening there you could block people or mute people. You didn't need to listen in . You could starve the haters, the racists, the bigots and more - starve them of oxygen. 

Leaving Twitter was not the answer. I have set up a Mastodon account in case Twitter fails completely but Mastodon is not the answer any more than Reddit or Linked In or Facebook or Instagram or Pinterist is. I don't yet understand how Mastodon works. It certainly does not have the simplicity of Twitter and it won't have the accessibility.

If you have a Twitter account perhaps you might reconsider what will happen to other users. It might sound like a perverted sort of "fun" to see the world's richest man lose his title and billions with it...but Twitter should not be about him. Twitter should be about those of us who use it to help others - some of those aid workers risking their lives need your help.



Saturday, 19 November 2022

Losing your ability to speak

is a terrifying idea - and that is what has just happened to someone I know.

I don't know this person well. She is very shy and rarely said anything at all. She is a nun, one of the small and diminishing group of Dominican nuns who live on the same convent grounds as my friend P...  Her entire adult life has been lived in an extraordinary period. She has gone from wearing a habit and believing she would only leave the convent for things like dental appointments to dressing in civilian clothes and driving a car.  

I suspect those changes were harder for her than for most of the nuns. Being a nun would have suited her. In the beginning they would have found ways for her to work without the need for too much contact with others. My friend P... on the other hand was told she would be a teacher of the deaf, a job she did for many years. C... worked in other ways.

P... brought her here once. The Senior Cat was still at home then. C... came to give me her quilting things. She could no longer do her beautiful work and I was going to pass the last two on to be finished for charity.  C.... and the Senior Cat actually talked to one another. It took C... a little while to relax but soon she was answering the Senior Cat's questions and he was showing her some of his woodwork. Later P... told me that she had never known her friend to open up like that to a stranger. 

I am glad she had that time here and that I could later tell her the quilts were finished and had been passed on to benefit those in need.

Several weeks ago she had difficulty in speaking. It was an effort. She felt a little strange. She asked to see the nurse who visits there regularly to help some of the other elderly nuns. The nurse was immediately alert to a problem and a trip to hospital was arranged. A diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour was made. C... came home and, as is their way, the rest of the community rallied around. She would stay with them as long as possible.

Then a few days ago she woke one morning and found she was unable to speak. She pressed her emergency button. It called the ambulance and she was taken off to hospital again.

P.... called me on Thursday evening and told me and asked, "Could you make one of those communication boards for her?"

My immediate thought was, "I don't know how much use that will be." But, I didn't say that. P.... and I discussed it for a few minutes. As P... still cannot drive after her own time in hospital I said, "I'll come down in the morning and we will do something together. You start thinking about what C... might need to say."

I hauled out the file I keep and put together some of the material I thought would help P.... 

Yesterday I went down to the convent. P... greeted me with an expression which was a mix of anxiety and relief. We went to work and produced the sort of simple thing that I have done so many times for able adults before now - words on a page so that someone can point and express their basic needs.

As we worked I explained to P... why this or that should be there or how to do something else. I could see P... beginning to relax, to look a little more hopeful. 

P... mentioned the nun who is "boss" (no longer a Mother Superior) was going to be away. I asked her who else was going to be available for decision making.  P...made a phone call and I also spoke to the "boss". The phone was on the loud speaker so she didn't actually say anything but I could hear the "I'm glad you are there giving P... some reassurance" in B...'s voice.

Because yes, this was not about giving C... a voice again. I had not been to see C...  If I was called in to the hospital to help I would do things quite differently. I suspect, because of the area of the hospital in which she is placed, someone will already have tried to do something very basic or arranged to do something.

When I first met P... I suppose I had the idea that, being a nun, death was something she would at least view differently. Perhaps she does too but it still means the loss of people she has lived with for many years, of whom she is fond and cares about. 

We took our work over to the office and laminated the result. The girl in there was very kind to P... She met my eyes over P...'s head as she bent over the end result. We both knew this was being done for P... as well as C... 

Friday, 18 November 2022

The NDIS or National Disability

Insurance Scheme was supposed to provide extra assistance for those who need it most. 

Such a scheme was never going to be cheap but it should have been affordable. It should have been affordable because people with disabilities have the same right as anyone to a dignified life.

What has happened is what I feared would happen. The "squeaky wheels" have managed to get oiled and many others are getting nothing at all.

If you are a young person with even a mild disability and your parents are prepared to fight for you then you can get almost anything at all under this scheme.  

I have no arguments at all with speech therapy for a pre-school child if the assessment is that this will benefit the child in a way which will allow them to progress normally into the school system. That child may not appear to be "disabled" but it could be the means of preventing a much greater disability. It may mean the child starts school without any concerns. It's a good use of NDIS money but I am less sure of other things.

A child of my acquaintance has just been given a bicycle. It was given to him for the purposes of "socialisation". His family is well able to afford a new bike for him, several new bikes in fact. It just happens he has a mother who knows how to work the system. He has already had an i-pad and he gets ten hours a week of "tuition" which is really nothing more than child-minding. (He and his "carer" will ride their bikes in the local playground in the time he is supposed to be getting "tutoring".) It is said this child is "on the autism spectrum". I know him well enough to know that he is a little different but he is not, in the view of his teachers or myself, autistic. He is a "loner". He just doesn't like being with other people, especially other children. His school progress has been patchy but his achievements place him just above average on the NAPLAN tests. He is not "disabled". 

I am well aware that what I have said will not be popular with everyone. There are people who will understand I do not understand the term "autism". I think I do understand it. I have worked with autistic children. I have also worked with children who have related issues. Some of them have genuinely required help - and often not received enough or even any at all - others have not. At the same time there are too many children I know, or have known, who are not getting the help they need because we closed "special schools" and "integrated" the children who attended them into the mainstream. It doesn't always work.  

I have worked in special schools where there have been not just specialist teachers but speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, a psychologist, social workers and more. No, they are not cheap to provide but the results have often been outstanding. One school, long closed, produced five students who went on to university in the five years I was associated with it. One of them obtained a doctorate - to add to the doctorate obtained by a student who left the school two years before I worked there. There were also students who obtained certificates at other further education establishments. All but the most profoundly disabled obtained work in a wide variety of fields. They have been active in their communities. All of them say they could not have achieved as much if they had been to a mainstream school.

Unless the NDIS can provide the same level of assistance to children like this then it is failing and will continue to fail. Unless the proposed "review" of the NDIS can overcome these problems,unless they have the courage to remove funding from some and provide it to others then the system may even collapse completely. Children should not have to wait two or three years for a wheelchair or VOCA. A child should be able to have an assistance dog trained to alert adults to a medical emergency. 

I could add many more examples. I won't but will those responsible for the eventual review please ignore some of those squeaky wheels and look at the wheels which are not turning at all? 

Thursday, 17 November 2022

"Acknowledgment of country"

is the practice of stating words which recognise that an activity is taking place on land that is considered to of special significance to an indigenous tribal group. I have mentioned it just recently but I will try to explain again because it is back in the news for a disturbing reason.

It is a very recent practice. When I was at school. and later at university, nobody had ever heard of such a thing. Now it is almost impossible to attend any group event of any nature without someone making such an acknowledgment.  I have heard such acknowledgments at training for public servants, at weddings, at funerals, at the opening of an art exhibition, at craft meetings, at a book launch, at a meeting of social welfare organisations, in court and just about everywhere else.

The words are usually said with much less care than is taken over the Lord's Prayer in parliament or those taking an oath in court. It has become something that "has to be said" but equally something most people simply want to get out of the way. It makes some people cringe and many others feel at least mildly uncomfortable but it seems it is a requirement. Forget to do it and someone will say something. They will shame someone in to doing it or report them to a higher authority.

And recently one of our universities has gone even further. They are now requiring all students in all faculties to do a unit which is said to teach them about indigenous culture and more. At first the unit was openly labelled "compulsory". If you failed to finish the online course work and pass the examination you would not get your degree. This applied to all students, even those in subject areas where indigenous culture had no relationship with what was being taught. There were complaints and the unit was no longer "compulsory" but the university got around this by making online lectures unavailable to those who had not completed the unit. The university went as far as to say that students even had to write such an acknowledgment on their examination papers even in courses like engineering.

One of the engineering students failed to write an acknowledgment on his/her paper and was marked down because of it. The student complained and the lost marks were eventually reinstated.

The reinstatement of marks was the correct decision but the problem remains. Yes, it is a problem.

I have been giving a little long distance help to a student working in an area of interest to me. In an email she has told me that there is a great deal of disquiet among her fellow students about the unit itself as well as the compulsory nature of it. It seems the students are very wary of actually saying anything for fear of being seen as "racist" if they do criticise, being marked down for failing to write the acknowledgment and of failing to get their degrees if they do not do as the university is now demanding. 

I have not been able to sit down and talk to her about the issue and find out more about what is behind it. I have looked at what information is available on the university website. Here it is:

Overview of Indigenous Australian Voices Program

Comprising four online modules, each will take approximately 40 - 50 minutes to complete.

Module 1: Living and working on the land of the Kulin Nations
Students will learn who Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are, and in particular, the people of the Kulin nations, the Aboriginal people who are the traditional owners of the lands of the greater Melbourne region.

Module 2: A Journey Through Time
Students will learn about the oldest living culture in the world having been on these lands for over 60,000 years. Students will also be introduced to some of the key events for Indigenous peoples since the arrival of the British in 1788, including the social, political and historical events of Australia's past that continue to shape our nation today.

Module 3: Here and Now
Students will learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in contemporary Australia and how the past has impacted the present and will continue to impact the future

Module 4: Becoming an Agent of Change
Introduces students to the practical ways that each individual can begin to be an agent of change for and with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and our communities.

Yes, it should only take about four hours to complete you say? What's four hours? Just do it and get it out of the way? 

Many students will do just that but what will they really learn? Even the first module outline presents some problems. Indigenous cultures are incredibly diverse and often what is being taught is not a reflection of reality. The second module actually refers to "the oldest living culture" when there is no such thing.   

It is clear from what is being said in the outline that the unit is intended to indoctrinate, not educate. I doubt it will reduce "racism" or increase "reconciliation". Perhaps those who oversaw the idea and introduced did so with the best of intentions but, like the demand for an acknowledgment, it will be seen by most as simply something that has to be done.

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Taking an "app" into an exam?

Should you be able to download "Grammarly" on to your mobile phone and then take the phone into the examination room to sit your English Literature exam?

I would have thought not but that is just what some students in this state did - and they were allowed to do it. We are being told "it is the ideas which are important, not the spelling or the grammar".  

I disagree, particularly as not all students had access to "Grammarly". If you are doing an English Literature paper then your ability to spell and use correct grammar should be part of the examination. An examiner should be able to see that the student has the capacity to spell and construct a sentence. Those things are part of being able to express an idea. 

I am not saying students should be perfect spellers or always use the correct grammar.  I am not a perfect speller and my grammar leaves something to be desired. Perhaps I should use Grammarly too but surely using it in an examination is something else?

When I was at law school we were taught to write what were called "examination summaries". They were really a sort of precis of what we had been taught in each subject. We were encouraged to put down the rules which applied to certain concepts and the cases we could cite in an answer to a question.

We were told about this in our first year. There was a day devoted to this and other essentials - such as how to use the law library. Now much of what we did then is done rather differently. Computers have changed the way students learn the law just as much as they have changed every other area of learning.

At the time though I could see other students, usually much younger students, struggling with the idea of examination summaries. I talked this over with my tutor and even told her, "I have never used one in an exam. I write them, but I don't use them."

She told me that was the way it should be. Students should not even have the time to look at anything like that once an exam had started. I thought about this a good deal. At the end of my first year, after the exams were over and I had done far better than I had dared to hope, I took it on myself to write something for the following year's intake. I did it because I was asked to help give a group of international students some extra help with the very precise language the law often needs.

I passed the paper I had written over to my first year tutor and asked if it would be all right to provide it to the group I was going to help. What happened was unexpected. I was asked if everyone could use it. All the new students were given a copy. Students in later years could have a copy if they asked for it. The university went on using it for many years after I left. I was contacted twice and asked if they could update small parts of it. It was passed on to other students in other places as well.  All this was unexpected and I have simply felt grateful that other students were able to benefit from something I had to learn. I was able to learn a lot by writing it.

But knowing how to write an examination summary that might help them was not something that would do the learning for them. Not all the suggestions in it would help all students. They still had to do the work. They had to be able to solve the problems with which they were presented. They had to understand the concepts and know how to apply the case law.

If we consider "Grammarly" as the "how to write a summary - or how to write the English language" in this current setting then I think it is possible to see that having the program available is really not appropriate. Certainly if they do have it then all students should have it - and most did not.  A well prepared student should not have time to consult such a thing. An able student should not need it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

The power is still out

in some areas - and may still not be back on until tomorrow at the earliest. 

We have been fortunate here, very fortunate. The weather on Saturday was the worst I can remember in years. We had 49mm of rain in twenty four hours in this suburb. People living in this short street are just thankful we are high enough and far enough away from the creek not to have experienced flooding. Indeed the new flood mitigation measures seem to have done the job. There is water lying around but it is not deep enough for concern.

There were high winds too, not the sort of winds you experience in a cyclone but still strong enough to do considerable damage. Friends who live up in the hills behind me had a tree fall on their carport and will now be seeking a replacement for their car. When I saw J... in the post office this morning she just said, "At least it didn't fall on the house".  She still looked shaken.

Other people had to be rescued from rising water. The Country Fire Service site was a mass of red "ongoing" incidents. The State Emergency Service was trying to work in the most appalling conditions. 

Middle Cat took me to the shopping centre yesterday. Riding the trike through the water lying around is not safe and my little vehicle also needs attention - a trip to "bike hospital" will occur when the technician goes in on Wednesday. But yesterday Middle Cat and I parked in the underground carpark area. There was still rather a lot of water on the ground.

It would have been a good idea to wash the windows here. I could have left the rain, which was coming in horizontally, to wash the suds off. I left the windows shut and abandoned all attempts to go on with clearing out a small shed. (It's a miserable task anyway. All the things in it belonged to the Senior Cat. I hate giving away his magic apparatus, his conjuring books, his gardening and woodwork books. There are piles of novels to go through - but most of them will go to his church or the street libraries which have sprung up around the district. That's what he would have wanted.)

In all this though I am thinking about the power. As I said we did not lose power here despite the fact that lightning hit the roof at least once and there were seemingly endless strikes all over the street. It was not safe to leave the house. The lights flickered almost constantly but the power stayed on. 

That it did not in other areas and is taking so long to be restored is surely a wake up call. Our much praised "big battery" was flattened in less than two hours. Yesterday people were being asked to turn off the links that feed solar power into the grid because it was sunny for a while. Apparently we can't actually harness and use all that power just some of it. We can't store it.

It all seems very strange to me - and it concerns me. We have a long way to go before we get this "renewable" thing right - if we ever do.I need to be thankful though - that I do not live in Ukraine where they are going into winter without power.  

Monday, 14 November 2022

A $20,000 fraud investigation

into an alleged $15,000 fraud? 

I think I must be missing something here - and I am not the only who thinks this way.  How can this possibly have been justified? What were those pursuing the case trying to achieve?

We have had a case before our supposedly "Independent Commission Against Corruption" for several years now. The man at the centre of the case was head of a large government  entity. He apparently hauled some of his staff over hot coals for harassing a young female member of staff - and has paid an enormous price for doing the right thing. 

Complaints and allegations were made about him. ICAC was asked to investigate. Had he made a taxpayer funded trip to a horse race in another state? Had he had a holiday overseas instead of working as he claimed? 

It went on and on. He denied it all. His legal team produced evidence to show he could not possibly have done these things. ICAC went ahead anyway. The matter was thrown out of court for lack of evidence from the prosecution. 

Instead of accepting that, ICAC tried again with various government figures telling them how important it was to succeed. Why? 

ICAC sent people overseas to see if they could find the evidence. They did it without informing the relevant authorities there. Even if it had not been required in law (which it certainly was) it would have been courteous. Two people went and they spent longer there than the man they were prosecuting spent there. They took a "weekend break" so they did not need to work for ten days straight. The two investigators found no evidence apart from evidence which backed up the claim that the man they were investigating was actually working while he was there. It cost them more to do this than the claims made by this man.

No, they did not give up at that point. They came back and started to pursue the matter in the courts again. It was not until two days ago the prosecution finally admitted they had no evidence of any wrong doing at all. They actually had evidence supporting his claims of working while he was there. The case was dismissed.

All that has happened is that a man apparently innocent of any wrong doing has had his life turned upside down. He has no job, no career prospects, no money in the bank, massive legal bills and his health has suffered. The only thing that can be said in all this is that his family has remained steadfastly loyal to him.  

Compensation you ask? Getting compensation is not going to be easy - even getting his legal costs might be an issue. The taxpayer will ultimately pay. In an interview he said he is leaving that up to his legal team.  He was quiet, polite but obviously emotional as he was speaking.

It has also brought ICAC into disrepute - the very entity which is supposed to prevent this sort of thing. It has brought the legal system into disrepute as well. 

I don't know this man. I have never met him and I am not likely to meet him. I do know someone who does know him and they say he is exhausted, so exhausted he can barely feel relief.  

We are supposed to be getting a similar ICAC at Federal level. It is supported by both major parties. The previous government may have been able to bring legislation in had it not been for public service delays and distractions. There are already concerns it will be used in a manner not intended, as a "witch hunt" rather than for the intended purpose. 

In another state similar legislation is being used to investigate matters which involve the current Premier. He is using his position to delay any findings being made public until after an election is held. 

Politics in Downunder is not free of corruption. Our Public Service is definitely not free of corruption. We have a political system which can be and sometimes is manipulated. That said, we can vote. Our election campaigns are largely free of violence - although not necessarily of intimidation at times. Almost everyone can put themselves forward as a candidate too.

So, why in the heck did only thirty percent vote in the non-compulsory council elections in this state? Why do some council areas have to hold additional elections because of a lack of candidates? 

We can do better. 

Sunday, 13 November 2022

The wrong person was elected

as our mayor.

No, it is not simply because I voted for the other person. It is because I genuinely believe he was the better candidate and so did many others. Unfortunately just a few more voted for self-interest. 

That is what it amounts to...people voted according to what was or might be in it for them. They did not vote according to what might be best for the community.

I had a sneaking suspicion mid last week that this was going to happen. People I know were avoiding the question of the election and the likely result. One person said, "I haven't got my solar panels yet and if..."

Oh yes, those solar panels. Those "free" solar panels the mayor offered, the "free" this and the "free" that. I tried pointing out that our rates were paying for these things. The response was, "well I might get something back from my rates then". No thought was given to everyone needing their rubbish collected.

Yesterday we had a massive storm in this state. The wind was so strong the rain was coming horizontally at the windows. We had lightning strikes and then more lightning strikes. Anything loose was flying at speed through the air. It was very dangerous to be out. I did not put a paw outside all day. Somehow the power remained on in this area - there is something to be said for being on the same section of the grid as a hospital. It flickered frequently but it remained on and for that I was thankful because I was watching our emergency services website. 

I stood in the centre of the house and made a couple of calls from the mobile to check that people who cannot get out alone had people with them. They all had people but one of those people was outside using a chain saw to clear enough of a tree to get their wheelchair access van on to the road that leads into the township. It was just one of many trees flattened by the storm.

I thought of this and the mess that will need to be cleared away by council workers and others. The cost is going to be huge. It isn't catered for in the budget. How will the mayor who has just been voted in again weigh the clean up against the solar panels? Will the solar panels win because she "promised" them? It's a financial impossibility to provide everyone who wants them with these. This has been said over and over again but people still believe they will be among the lucky ones who, not having put their own in earlier, will now get the "free" panels. 

This is the person who also wants to change the date of our national holiday and who believes that indigenous and rainbow flags are of greater importance than the national or state flags.  The Christmas carol concert (attended by people from all religious groupings not just Christianity) will be held "for the last time" this year under her reign. I am reliably told she only agreed to have it because it could have affected her chances of re-election. She also made her political leanings (far left) very obvious  when she ran for state parliament. Apparently she intends to try again for that - using her position as mayor to help.

For me local government should be about local issues. It should be concerned with the state of the local roads and footpaths, with the maintenance of the parks, with the collection of rubbish and with the library and other community services. It should not be about politics or which flags are flown. 

The wrong person was elected - and we will be a poorer and less cohesive community because of it. 

Saturday, 12 November 2022

"Hacking is easy"

S... told me. He had the good grace to look extremely uncomfortable as he said this. We both know about his hacking and the harm it did me. Since then his punishment - turning up to get extra tuition from me and having to do some extra work on top of doing his actual homework - has turned into a sort of friendship.

It was something I definitely did not expect. I hoped he might turn into a better kid at the time. I now have hopes he might actually turn into a decent student with something other than a criminal career ahead of him. He had a lot of catching up to do despite a distinction in hacking.

S... really does know something about hacking, quite complex hacking at that. I have a sneaking suspicion that, if asked, he could hack his way into some very sensitive material indeed.

That said he seemed genuinely concerned about the recent actions of those who hacked into the Medibank site. They have been drip feeding the data onto the "dark web". I don't understand the "dark web" apart from the fact that it is somewhere I do not want to go. It sounds full of the most horrendous things. I did not ask S... whether he has explored it. I am sure he has but I now suspect it would have been out of curiosity and that what he found there would not have been of any real interest to him.

What he did say to me though was interesting, "What if someone suicides because their private information goes there. I mean like they have already tried perhaps and it is on their medical records and it gets published and then because of that they do it again and they succeed?"

"Well what do you think?" I asked him. 

He shrugged and said, "It's a bit like helping someone to kill themself I guess. I know I could do it but I couldn't do that."

I assumed he meant he could hack into the site - and I am sure he could - but he would not publish such details. I am certain he would not. He knew a boy, not much older than himself, who committed suicide earlier this year. He barely knew the other boy but it has rocked the foundations of his world.

"Hacking is like scamming," S... tells me, "It's easier than being a burglar. You can do it away from you. It doesn't feel like you're really hurting someone even when you are. It's not like taking stuff from a shop. It doesn't feel like that at all."

I was looking at him as he said this and wondering just how much shop lifting he had done and whether he had actually scammed anyone. He gave me a sheepish sort of grin and said, "I know what you're thinking but I haven't done it. I wanted to. I could have done it to my dad when I was really mad at him but I didn't. My friend J... from my other school nicked some Mars Bars from the supermarket but I couldn't eat the one he tried to give me."

Clearly moving him out of J...'s sphere of influence was a good thing. How long could he have resisted a Mars Bar? It is also interesting that he recognises that it is psychologically easier to commit cyber crime than physical crime. 

The idea that it is "just information" is so wrong. The most recent hack is causing irreparable damage. If S... chooses to "go after the bad guys" he may do much good.

 

Friday, 11 November 2022

A "First Nations Ambassador"?

Here is yet another taxpayer funded woke idea that we are expected to take on board.

"Cat, what on earth are they on about?" M... asked me when I asked him what he thought of it, "Are they trying to say that one person could represent all of us?"

M... and I have had a few conversations about such things lately. We both agree his late mother would be up in arms over the "Voice to Parliament" idea. This is another idea M... does not think his mother would be at all happy about.

Some years ago now we had an issue here. It was to do with building a bridge to a small island which was a tourist destination at the time. The Senior Cat's cousin was one of the few who lived there most of the year round. Unlike some of the other islanders he was not concerned about the building of the bridge. He knew it had to come sometime. Others were much more concerned. They would lose their "lifestyle". 

They enlisted the help of the "local aboriginal community" to stop it - or so they claimed. What they actually did was enlist a group which claimed that the island had particular significance for indigenous women. It was, so the enlisted group claimed, part of "secret women's business". On these grounds they tried to prevent the bridge being built.

There was a long battle over this with lots of media attention. M...'s mother, R..., who was in a position to be better informed than anyone I know was as angry as I ever saw anyone. There was, she told those concerned, no such thing. It was a story people were making up in order to try and prevent progress. These people may have reached a point where they believed what they were saying but there was no secret women's business involved. There was nothing to stop the bridge being built apart from the desire of some to keep the island to themselves. There were other indigenous people who agreed with R... but the "activists" were the ones to get the publicity.  Eventually the bridge was built and all the dire warnings about what might happen have faded into nothing.

I tell the story because it is an excellent example of the sort of problems which need to be resolved before progress can be made. It is also an excellent example of the uncertainty which surrounds so many of these issues. Many people believe there is some sort of "secret women's business" surrounding the location of the bridge. R..., an indigenous woman who really was in a position to know, had never heard of such a thing. 

"It's complete and utter nonsense," she told me, "Even if it wasn't look at those women. They wouldn't know about it."

There are no "First Nations" people in this country. At white settlement the indigenous people here identified by tribal and language groupings. The linguistic diversity alone is enormous. Those on opposite sides of the country would not have understood one another. Many of those languages have now been lost. One was lost because the two mother-tongue speakers of it were brother and sister - and culture demanded brothers and sisters did not communicate with each other. The cultural diversity is so great that the idea of any one person representing all is as foolish as having just one ambassador for all of Europe or Africa. 

Apparently however this is an idea that we are now going to spend millions on. We are being told by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that it is "not about segregation but inclusion". She has gone on to say,

“I think in the world telling the full story of who we are is a good thing to do, regardless of one's political views over the Uluru statement.  This is about telling the full breadth of the story about who we are.”

The idea that it is "the full story" is wrong. I am worried that it will lead to even greater erosion of the once extraordinary diversity of language and culture.


Thursday, 10 November 2022

A wheelchair or a sex worker?

Our National Disability Insurance Scheme is again under the spotlight. The cost of it has "blown out" and will continue to rise - or so we are told. There are demands to look at who is getting help and what sort of help they are getting.

I agree it needs to be done. The title of today's blog post is not a joke. I do not personally know anyone who has been able to obtain the services of a sex worker under the NDIS but I do know people who believe they or someone they know should be entitled to just that. Their arguments go along the lines of "we have the same right as anyone else..."  I disagree.

Yesterday I was talking to someone whose daughter has recently been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. It has been a devastating blow to the family. In all likelihood both parents will outlive their daughter and have to watch her decline. Her husband and children will also have to do this. It isn't something any family should have to go through. 

It is something we know a little about as a family. The Senior Cat's cousin had MND and we were all too well aware of his decline and the strain it put on the family. There was no NDIS to help then, even had B... been young enough to benefit.

And I wonder how much help R...'s family will get with her illness. I suspect it will be very little. They will have to rely on family and, perhaps, friends. In this case the family support will be there but I am all too well aware that many "friends" will drop away. 

This however is where the NDIS should be helping. It should be helping in a practical way.  It needs to help with all the usual activities of daily living. Once needed that help should be there quickly and reliably.  

As we could not even rely on the very small amount of assistance offered to the Senior Cat I doubt R... and her family will get what they will need.  Instead we will have an entire extended family trying to cope alone. 

They will be doing this while others are getting "help" they do not need. I don't know whether "sex workers" appear anywhere but I do know that more than one person perfectly well able to do certain tasks themselves is using NDIS funding to have those tasks done for them. They find it convenient and have congratulated themselves on "getting something for nothing". What is more they have social workers and suppliers who naturally agree with them.

And then there is the child I know who will never have the necessary control to use their own voice. Her parents tried to get a VOCA (voice output communication aid) for her through NDIS. They were turned down on the grounds that she was "too young" and would not be able to use it. That left them with no choice but to find one elsewhere. The "voice" was entirely wrong for a child of any age and there was no alternative. In the end S.... who caused me so much trouble several years ago solved the problem. He asked his girlfriend's little sister to record the words the child uses and built those into the device. He worked with the child's family and the speech pathologist to do this. 

Yes, that's great - but it seems to me that the NDIS should have been helping here.  They should be helping W's great-granddaughter. Due to Covid she has not been to any sort of pre-school until this year. She did not even mix with any adults outside the immediate family. She is of at least average intelligence but she says almost nothing and what she does say is barely intelligible. Six months of speech therapy might make all the difference to her ability to start school as a "normal" child rather than one who may need ongoing assistance. Her family will be paying for it but isn't this the sort of thing for which the NDIS should be used?

And what about the local family whose son has lost a leg and whose other issues mean he cannot have a prosthesis or use crutches. His wheelchair is too small. It's uncomfortable. He is already have problems with his shoulders as he tries to push himself around. His mother told me that the NDIS have told her that any help for another chair is at least another eighteen months away. Is this how the NDIS is supposed to work?

Someone suggested that the funding model chosen was one which allowed rorting. Quite possibly that is the case. It is similar to the model chosen to fund aged care. The previous government is being blamed. It is convenient to blame them of course. 

The reality however is that the funding models are designed by so called "public servants". Those public servants are also advised by university departments which teach relevant areas like social work and economics.  Their philosophies are based on "rights" rather than genuine "needs".

Withdrawing funding from some is going to be very difficult but it needs to be done. Wheelchairs or sex workers? I'd say wheelchairs every time - it might get you to a sex worker if you so desire but you can pay for the latter yourself. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

"And she still wants to wear a dress...."

I am about to tell you a story, a true story. You may not like the story and you may disapprove of what it is about but I am going to tell the story.

I went to law school a long time ago now. Law school can be a fairly conservative sort of place. Law itself is filled with all sorts of traditions. I went to law school because my day job was telling me I was going to need to know some law, international law,  tort law, social welfare law, human rights law, planning law and more. All those kept popping up in my "voluntary" day job - not the one for which the funding had just finished but the other one. I was also trying to get the United Nations interested in an international year and do enough tutoring to keep me in milk and mice. 

I did not have much time to notice what was going on around me. I most certainly wasn't taking much notice of what we called "the bib and braces brigade" or "rad fems" (radical feminists) . These were the generally outspoken group of women who wore bib and brace overalls as a sort of uniform and had, for the most part, far left credentials. Some of them were doing law as "mature age" students, others were doing subjects like politics and government. They had their sights set on changing the world. Quite a number of them had children  (but not necessarily male partners) and they were attempting to bring them up in the same way. I admit to avoiding them where possible. So did many other students. It was easy enough to do as they tended to sit with each other. We avoided them simply because they were so argumentative.

One morning however one of them stormed (and I use the word advisedly on this occasion) into the law school canteen.  She flung her books down on the table we were using to prepare for the tutorial (they were group affairs) and raged, "I don't know. I've done everything possible and she still wants to wear a dress to school!" She went on to complain about the battle she had fought that morning with her daughter, a child who had just started school. She wanted her daughter to go to school wearing boy's overalls. The little girl wanted to be dressed like all the other little girls in the school's uniform. 

It was not because they were poor and these were hand me downs. She was actually well off, indeed very well off. Her reasons were far more to do with what she considered to be the "right way" to bring her daughter up. I remember her saying things like "I want her to stand out. I want her to be an individual. I want her to know that she doesn't have to be like every other child in the place."

She finally stopped to draw breath. It was then that another student, someone who also happened to be a Senator in our national parliament, spoke quietly and said,"You are doing your child untold harm. Your daughter is unique now but she also wants to fit in and be accepted."

Ms Bib and Braces glared at her, picked up her books and walked off. She said absolutely nothing throughout the tutorial when it was held about an hour later. It was clear she was still fuming. 

A week or so later this same woman left law school. She had committed one of the acts we had been specifically warned against when we started. We had been told by the Dean in his welcoming speech about the standard of behaviour expected of law students. It was a high standard, like that expected in a court of law. Women were expected to thank a man if he opened the door for them. Equally women were expected to hold the door open for a man if he came in with an armload of books - and he would be expected to thank them.

Instead of thanking the man this woman had sworn at him. He just happened to be a very senior member of the law school staff. Someone said, "That was a step too far" but I thought to myself that she had taken that step much earlier when she tried to insist her child wear boy's overalls.

One of our current Senators has just complained because our ABC Play School program recently featured a drag queen reading a book about a little girl who wants to wear a suit (The Spectacular Suit by Kat Patrick if you want to look it up). The ABC producers have tried to defend this by saying it was "just a story about dressing up". No, it is more than that. It is a book about gender and identity. I don't think it is a great book. I wouldn't choose to buy it but I wouldn't ban it. Using a drag queen to read the book however was sending another message. It was a deliberate attempt to "educate" children about gender. No doubt the mother of the child who did not want to wear boy's overalls would have cheered loudly.  

Me? I am on the side of the child. As the once child who was different I just want to say "It is better just to fit in sometimes."

 

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Prayers in parliament

were raised again yesterday. 

This time the Greens leader in this state was trying to demand they be abolished. He also tried to say he had a lot of support for the idea. 

Er, no. His claim that 61% of people wanted them abolished is false. It was a "survey" of 600 people. That's a small sample in the world of politics. What is more there are issues with the sampling and the way the question was worded.  I would be more inclined to believe 61% of people had no strong feelings about the issue.

The Premier has dismissed the idea of abolishing them - and rightly so. I doubt however that we will have heard the last of this. The politician in question has in fact said that he intends to continue pursuing the matter. He is saying, "I am an atheist. I don't want any mention of religion in parliament."

It is the "I am..." which needs to be considered here. He was not asking but rather demanding his beliefs take priority. He is a member of a minority party and yet he apparently still believes he has a right to impose his  beliefs on the majority. One of his Greens colleagues had already raised the issue in federal parliament. Again the issue was dismissed. 

It seems the Greens believe "because we are the only party that cares about the environment" they have the right to dictate to everyone else. Some of them at least appear to have a breathtaking sense of entitlement.

Democracy is far from perfect. It certainly can be and is manipulated. Our system of compulsory attendance at the ballot box would have problems if that was all it was but add in the compulsory preferential voting demand and manipulation can and does occur. With just 9% of the vote the Greens obtained two seats in the twenty-two seat Upper House in the last state election. The two major parties have over 70% of the vote between them. It seems however the Greens still believe they have the right to dictate how parliament is run. 

Would it not be better to retain the prayers and, if you find them offensive, stay out of the chamber until they are over? There is no compulsion to be there.


  

Monday, 7 November 2022

National service?

A former Prime Minister of Downunder is suggesting that national service should again be considered. This time, he is suggesting, it should be for all school leavers but not necessarily military service.

It is an idea I have often thought about. If nothing else I like the idea of school leavers not being able to go straight from school to university or into some sort of training. I am aware that some people say mathematics students are at a disadvantage if they cannot continue without a break...but how many mathematics students are there and how much of a disadvantage are they really going to experience?

For everyone else I think it is an idea worth thinking about. As the former PM is suggesting it does not need to be military service. Having to give some sort of service to the community or country in which you live doesn't seem such a bad idea. As a school leaver most of us have had our parents and the taxpayer supporting us. Some have had a part time job, others have volunteered.

I had a regular volunteering role from the time I was fourteen. It wasn't something I intended to happen. It just happened.  In my last year at school I took on another volunteer role which lasted until I ceased my teacher training. In doing it I gave up all of either Saturday or Sunday right through term time and I worked for around ten hours on each day. It was only because the institution in question changed the way it operated that I ceased to do the job. 

What I did then was a huge challenge. I learned so much. Sometimes people have asked me if I have ever regretted giving up so much time when the other students were out enjoying themselves. The answer is no. I would do it all over again if asked. I was one of the lucky ones.

I know most people don't feel like that. They have found friendship in other ways. That's fine with me but I do wonder what sort of people they might have become if they had volunteered in other ways. 

Volunteering is not simply about having fun. It is about learning to take responsibility and empathy.  Often it is about taking on a task, planning it and seeing it through to the end. 

The former PM suggested that alternatives to military service could involve volunteering in aged care or working in indigenous communities. I know the latter is a particular interest of his. I would add things like environmental projects, building playgrounds and bike tracks, working in libraries and animal shelters. Yes, they would need a living allowance but, if they don't do the work then they should perhaps be required to pay the allowance back and their paths to further training might be blocked.

It is not likely to happen. There would probably be an outcry if anyone tried to introduce it. I can't help wondering though - would we better off if the school leaver generation was learning to volunteer?

 

Sunday, 6 November 2022

Lunch at a French restaurant

 is on the menu today.

Middle Cat and I have been invited to join in celebrating cousin T...'s birthday today.  What is more it is his actual birthday - not just one of those "around about" celebrations but the actual day. He will be 62. 

His partner contacted us early last week and made the suggestion. "The weather is supposed to be much better. I can book a table outside." He told us. 

Obviously he had given this some thought. We are all still very Covid conscious. None of us want to be inside if we can avoid it. Somewhere under shade outside sounded good and we agreed.

"What can we get him?" I asked R...  His partner thought about this. What do you get the man who has everything he actually needs? 

"I know, a Porsche," R... laughingly told me. We then agreed it might be a bit out of our price range and settled on a book voucher.  I have acquired one from the local indie bookshop - a place I oh so like to visit. I have to restrain myself every time I go past - which is frequently. T... will enjoy wandering around that.

I looked the restaurant up on the local site which tells you about such things. It is, as I expected it would be, expensive sounding. T.... and R... spend half the year in London though and they think such places are "cheap" compared with London prices.  The food sounds very French (yes, escargots are available but I will avoid them). The place has stars, lots of them. No doubt we will all enjoy it but I know I will also feel guilty about the cost.

Eating out anywhere really nice is very expensive. I can understand why. I also know it is something which employs many people. It is a vital part of the economy. Covid showed us that as well as many other things. It isn't something we do very often...indeed the last time we did it was for the same reason last year. We went to another, for us, posh place.

"You had better think about what you want to do for your birthday," Middle Cat told me when we were discussing arrangements. My birthday is still some weeks away but I know what I want to do - nothing at all.  Once a year in a posh place is quite enough for me.