Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Another mass shooting

in the United States and it isn't even appearing in my Twitter feed for some reason. Have we really become so inured to these events that they no longer have any meaning at all? 

That frightens me. When my goddaughter was young she was not permitted to watch the news. This wasn't a decision of her parents - although they concurred - it was a decision of the school she attended. It was a fee paying school with a lot of very wealthy families, the children of household names and more. Parents often appeared in news items and, until the girls reached the Senior school (at age eleven) the school asked that girls not be exposed to such news items on television. They were not isolated from the news but how it was presented was kept under control. 

I know there are arguments for and against this stance but I do wonder how children really perceive such appalling events. Does it seem real? I know children get upset, very upset, when their teachers talk about issues like climate change and other more controversial topics. It is apparently desirable to teach the young about some things but not others - and to make sure they only get taught the "correct" way of thinking about them.

Do we shield children from knowing that there has been another mass shooting in a country a long way from here? Or do we tell them and try to make them understand that this is the reason we try to limit gun ownership in this country? 

We aren't immune. There are those here who would do the same if they had access to similar weapons  and something happened to set them off on that destructive path. I know someone who worked in a bank. There was a hold up in the bank and a gun was pointed directly at her. A shot was fired in the same hold up - although not at her. She never went back to work there. To this day she cannot enter a bank or a post office - both places where a similar incident might occur. Her life has never been the same. 

We get "warned" about footage in the international news service I half watch. There is more than one reason to be doing something else while the news is being read. I have no desire to see the death and destruction which is all too common. For the most part I listen. If there are subtitles I might need to look up but, for the most part, I will guess at what is being said. (Those subtitles are often only an approximation anyway.) 

The Senior Cat ceased to deliberately watch or listen to the news in the last few years of his life. He felt there was nothing he could do any more and such things distressed him. He would see or hear things in passing and was still concerned but he chose not to dwell on such things. He knew I sometimes had (and still have) no choice because my job involves helping those who have some of the most difficult and challenging jobs on the planet. That doesn't mean I need to dwell on issues I can do nothing about. It does mean that I must do what I can.

I can do nothing about the latest mass shooting in another country but I can be concerned for those involved. Is that enough? I will worry for myself if it ever comes to the point where I say, "This is nothing to do with me."  It is always something to do with me.


Monday, 4 July 2022

The "Voice to Parliament" referendum

was under discussion yesterday. It is a topic I have avoided discussing. To criticise the idea at all is seen by some as "racist" but there are good reasons for concern. 

The idea is that a "Voice" would give "First Nation" people the right to be consulted about issues which directly concern them. They actually already have that right but it could be enshrined in law with nothing more than an Act of Parliament.  A referendum would only be needed in order to enshrine this in the Constitution. 

Is that necessary? There are people who see this as important, very important. It is the "recognition" they crave.

The reality however may be very different. Indigenous people have had ways of being heard for many years. They had the right to vote very early on. In this state all men had the right to vote from 1856 and all women from 1895. It didn't matter whether you were "indigenous" or not. You could vote - and people did. 

Among the papers we sorted when my maternal grandfather died was the correspondence with his father, my great-grandfather, about the Sunday sermon he gave to the indigenous people at Point Pearce prior to an election. He was apparently encouraging the men to vote. These people had the means to elect a voice to parliament and they did. 

It was not until 1971 that an indigenous Australian was voted in to the Senate but, once there, Senator Bonner did an outstanding job for twenty-one years.  What is more he understood the real role of a Senator and did it for everyone in the state he represented, not just along the party-political lines the Senate has become. The Senior Cat once met him at a conference and spoke highly of his grasp of educational affairs. The good Senator saw education as the key to many things.

Perhaps it is education which is needed now, not an extra layer of government. This has been tried in the past. There have been various councils, committees, consultations and more. They have all been designed to "inform" and "advise" government about the needs of indigenous Australians. None of them have worked very well.

There is likely a very good reason for this. The needs of indigenous people are very diverse. Indigenous people in remote communities have very different needs from those in urban communities. People who identify as "indigenous" also vary immensely. I can instantly identify my friend M.... as indigenous. It is much more difficult to identify some others who claim indigenous heritage and claim to speak for indigenous people. 

M... is of the view that there is no need for a "Voice". He is of the view he has the right to vote, that others have the right to vote. He once considered nominating for the local council but thought politics, even at that level, was not right for him. We do have indigenous members of parliament at both state and federal level. Indigenous people actually have greater numbers there than women in representative terms. M... thinks indigenous people are doing well. Perhaps they are.

I think I want to know a lot more about this "Voice". It's an important issue, one we need to get right. In order to get a change to the Constitution it will take a majority of people in a majority of the states. It's a big ask. We need to be informed. 

That however is not the view of everyone. I was sent this yesterday. It apparently came from an article in our national newspaper three days ago. I will have to go to the library to ready it but it concerns me. People will want to know what they are voting for or it might not be achieved.  Image

Sunday, 3 July 2022

So God is dead again

is He or She?  Our ABC (the Downunder equivalent of the BBC) is telling us this again. It's all to do with that statistic in the Census which told the powers-that-be that the number of Christians in the country had dropped - again.

Apparently it is something to gloat about. I am not sure why but the ABC seems to think this is a good thing.  Other media commentators also seem to believe it is a good thing. You know the sort of thing I mean...people have stopped believing in "myths and fairy stories".

To me however there is a bigger problem. People have stopped believing in the other things which made or make religion of some sort still relevant.

This was something the Senior Cat thought a lot about. He had some long conversations with priests and ministers and pastors and others about this very topic. He saw it as a teaching issue. Religion had to be relevant to everyday life. 

In the course of his teaching career he was also expected to be the local minister/priest or person of religion. He was expected to give guidance. It was the sort of thing teachers in remote areas were expected to do. They were expected to attend church and participate. We kittens went to church on Sundays and we saw our parent in the pulpit. He would be there with a glove puppet, a naughty monkey, and he would be telling a story. He would relate that story to real life. It was teaching rather than preaching. 

Three days ago a woman who had heard the Senior Cat teach/preach more than sixty years ago told me about one of those occasions - and how it had influenced her youngest to change course. That woman is of course now an old woman herself but it has stayed with her all this time.  The Senior Cat would be surprised and relieved rather than pleased. He worried about those church services. Was he doing the right thing? 

I think he was. He talked to those charged with religious duties about this very sort of thing. "Religion has to be relevant to every day life," he kept saying. He loved the language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the language of the King James' Version of the Bible but he knew that other, more modern, versions were what would be understood. He knew they needed to be used. He wanted people to give examples of "practical Christianity" or "practical anything else they believe in for the good of others". 

The media isn't helping here - and it isn't just social media. There is a sense of gloating by organisations like the ABC. It is as if they are saying, "Isn't it good we have stopped believing all this Christianity nonsense?"  Naturally they will respect other religions for fear of being called to account but Christianity is fair game. If they are to be believed it's all about "sexual abuse" and "conversion therapy". I beg to differ. If someone can give me an example of a religion, any religion, which does not ask for acts of compassion to others at all then I would like to know about it. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. It isn't a matter of believing in "myths and fairy tales" or "miracles". It is a matter of believing in one another, of caring for each other, of following the commandment to "love one another".  As long as we believe that, whether we go to church and whether we have other beliefs or not, religion is still relevant.  The ABC should be supporting that.


Saturday, 2 July 2022

The "per capita emissions" statistic

which is quoted as being "among the highest" (and sometimes just "the highest") in the world for Downunder residents has to stop.  Like many other statistics it is being abused.  Even if it was correct it would be wrong to use it.

I was heavily criticised a couple of days ago by someone who considers himself an expert on all things "climate change". Even his like-minded friends are tired of his constant talk about the topic. Yes, it is an important topic but there are other important things too. 

He caught me as I was unlocking the trusty trike and told me I needed to do even more. Why was I buying that plastic box? I should be recycling a cardboard box. Mmm...I don't think a cardboard one would last long in hot water.  He still wasn't listening.

I wish he would listen. There are reasons why our per capita emissions are so high in Downunder. It isn't because we are being irresponsible or we don't care. 

I have tried explaining this to people before. I live on the largest island in the world. It is also the smallest continent. It is also the driest continent. It has a population which is much, much smaller than that of California. Our population comes in somewhere between those of Texas and Florida. The vast majority of the population live around the coastline. There are huge distances which need to be travelled. In the past, thinking we have lots of space, major cities have spread outwards so even everyday travel involves distances. To do that many people use cars.  That adds significantly to emissions.

There is also the issue of supplying power - an essential in the modern world - to this spread out population. Power plants are expensive to build and providing the means of transmission is also expensive.  The smaller the population the more expensive it becomes. Until recently many people lived in single dwellings on blocks of land isolated from everyone else. It is still what most people want if they can afford it. It is still the way those planning expansion think.  Each of those dwellings needs to be cooled in summer and warmed in winter. Many of those dwellings also have two or more cars associated with them.

I could go on. Yes, we need to change the way we live. Most people will probably agree with that but there are also the issues of geography and population. If we all lived much closer together then our "per capita" level of emissions would drop and drop dramatically.  Our population is really very small. Our climate is generally such that if heating and cooling demands were less and car use was cut dramatically we would be one of the lowest polluters on the planet. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen.

The idea that we can reach the magical "net zero" through the use of renewable sources alone may or may not be achievable. Demands that we do it based on a "per capita" emissions statistic  do not take into account all the things which contribute to that statistic.  Perhaps it is time to rethink the way we use the statistics...and of course change the way we live.

Friday, 1 July 2022

The new Prime Minister of Downunder

is still strutting the world stage. It is Europe this week. He is mixing with "world leaders". His new partner is also doing her "first lady" stunts. His Foreign Minister is back in Asia, in particular Malaysia right now - where she was born. So far they have not fronted parliament.

The law requires them to do that no later than thirty days after the day appointed for the return of writs. They are going to be able to do it - just.  Once there the sitting schedule shows that they will also be spending very little time actually in the house.

It seems they are so confident about their increased numbers and their ability to get legislation through they are not too worried about the process of doing just that.  That worries me. 

The present government went to the election saying "we have a plan" and then "we have a plan" and then again "we have a plan". Once in a while there would be a vague reference to what that plan might actually be and an even vaguer reference as to how it might be achieved. It is now becoming obvious that those "plans" were all too often nothing but "ideas" that would appeal to an unthinking electorate which is compelled to attend the ballot box. Those of you who know me will also know that this is one of my concerns about our so-called "compulsory" voting system - the compulsion to attend the ballot box. It means people vote because they believe they must, not because they are informed. 

If the present government also believes it can get legislation for its agenda through parliament without too much scrutiny then we could be in real trouble. There are too many "plans" that need work before they are in any way fit for implementation. We have already been told that the promised lower electricity prices will not be achieved, that in fact we will be paying more than ever, a lot more. Pay rises are fuelling inflation and the Reserve Bank is trying to put the brakes on by raising interest rates. Those things would have happened whichever party was in power - but it will be harder to handle with all those "plans".

The Prime Minister has been smiling and pontificating overseas. He has been making himself out to be some sort of "world leader" as he shakes the hand of the French President. The French President is looking rather smug - as well he might given his country has just been paid close on a billion dollars for a supposed "breach of contract". (Contracts that size have a lot of wriggle room on both sides. Those in the know say that the French have been well and truly overpaid winners here.)  

Of course Europe is important to us. We have ignored Europe for far too long. While Britain was part of the EU we didn't really need to be too concerned. We let them do the work. Now we need to do some instead. But I wonder about all the claims our new politicians are making. I wonder about all those claims that we won't be able to do business with the EU unless we do this or that or the other thing. I wonder what the real agenda is because I am quite certain it is not the pleasant, rosy agenda the new PM is claiming.

Someone called him "Airbus Albo" recently... "Absent Albo" might be a useful description as well.  

Thursday, 30 June 2022

The number of Christians is dropping

and now comprise around 50% of the population - according to the Census data this year.

Almost as soon as the figure was announced someone tried to place the blame for this on the former Prime Minister  (a church going "fundamentalist"). They also place blame on one of his predecessors (a devout Catholic who once began training for the priesthood), and a Cardinal (eventually acquitted of sexual abuse by a seven-nil decision in the High Court). 

That they themselves might have anything to do with the drop in the numbers of people going to church was something this person, and many others, were apparently not even prepared to contemplate. My own reasoning suggests that they have more to do with it than the three people they mentioned. 

When it is a choice between your child playing sport for their school on Sunday morning or going to church then sport is going to win. It will win because the child will be told by the school and their peers that this is what is expected of them. This is the right thing to do. Going to church is not right. It isn't what you do on Sundays. Sundays are for school sport. 

It used to be that Saturdays were for school sport, before that it was even played between Monday and Friday. Now it has crept into Sundays as well. 

There are other reasons for not going to church as well of course but the range of activities which have become available on Sundays have made an impact.  With that have come the very vocal non-believers who are determined to "convert" anyone with such beliefs into non-believers. 

It is also some of these non-believers who insist that Christmas cannot be celebrated but Eid (and like events) must be observed in order not to appear "prejudiced". 

The Senior Cat was a church goer. He went not because he believed in what he considered to be "myths and fairy stories" but because he believed in the other things a church community offered. These were things like friendship, community support, care for others, living your life in accordance with Christian principles, and more. It is perhaps as good a reason as any for going to church. From the time he started teaching he was called on, like so many other young male teachers of the time, to provide a local rural community with the Sunday service. That Sunday service was a very important event each week. It brought people together, people who often saw very little - if anything  - of their neighbours during the week. It also allowed people to share their worries and help one another.  

We had "RI" in school too - "religious instruction". It was just one lesson each week. In the city it was taken by volunteers - who often had discipline problems - but in rural areas it was usually a lesson provided by the teacher. I don't remember being told to believe anything in those lessons. I do remember being taught about the fundamental principle - "love one another". We were taught about "do unto others..." too. We were given examples in Bible stories and in other stories. 

All that seems to have gone in schools but the children across the road are well up on Ramadan. They know about other such events too, even if they have no idea what is meant by "disciple". 

I wonder what would happen if we stopped all school sport on Sundays, closed the shops which are now open, and the internet ceased functioning for a few hours. Would people go back to church? Would they go to find companionship and support? 

The Senior Cat was  very interested in why people didn't go to church. He was also interested in what might cause them to choose to go to church. We both agreed that school sport should be returned to Saturdays - even if people didn't use Sunday to go to church. Those who want to should not be prevented from doing so because Sunday is convenient for those who choose not to go to church.  Those who might find some sort of comfort or companionship there should  be able to go if they wish. Or should we simply accept that non-believers have more rights than believers? 

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Renting a place

to live is becoming increasingly more difficult and more expensive. One of the minor parties wants to put a stop to that by making it impossible for landlords to raise the rent for at least the next two years.

I don't think that's going to help at all. It may actually make matters worse. Middle Cat and her partner have a rental property. It represents  what would otherwise have been Middle Cat's superannuation...the money they will in part depend on when her partner retires. The rent is helping to pay off the mortgage. They could almost certainly get more in rent but they have very good long term tenants in the property.  Both of them believe it is better to have it that way than worry about what sort of tenants they might get if these moved out. Over the years they have increased the rent in line with inflation...but only just. Right now they are also paying to own the property in other ways. The rent does not cover the costs of owning it - only owning it in the long term and other factors will make the property worth anything. 

But other people think they are "rich". They aren't. That property and the one they live in are modest.

Last night the woman presenting the financial report on the news mentioned that the Census figures which have just been released showed that there were a million unoccupied houses on Census night. That should shock people when we have so many people searching desperately for somewhere to rent, to sleep at night.

There is a house at the end of this street. It has been vacant for eight years now. There was an old couple in there when we moved in. The wife died first and the old man went on living there alone. I went in and out of the house on a number of occasions when he needed help. It was built in the seventies and well maintained if starting to look a little shabby. When I last saw it the place was much better than many rental properties I have entered. 

The old man's children have kept the place. They have relatives in the country who "holiday" in the city for the bare minimum number of nights to keep up the insurance requirements and the tax man happy. It has four bedrooms, a living area, a dining area and all the usual requirements. It is on a piece of land that is twice the size of a usual block of land. The outdoor area would be ideal for children to play in. If it is eventually sold the most likely thing is that it will be demolished and multiple dwellings will replace it. Right now though it is vacant almost all the year.

To me this is the sort of thing that should be under review. It is the third such property I am aware of in this district. Another has been vacant for eighteen years and another for almost five. They could be housing families in need. I know it may well be not what those who own the property want but is it right? There surely comes a time when the needs of those willing to pay rent outweigh whatever reasons the owners first had for not doing something about it.


Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Blocking traffic in order to

"protest" about "climate change" is about as irresponsible as you can get.  It actually endangers lives.

Yesterday some idiots - and there is no other word for them - blocked a major route in and out of the biggest state capital in Downunder. We were treated to footage of someone who had locked herself to the steering wheel of a car. I suppose it was her car and she had used fossil fuel to drive a considerable distance to get there - but that would be beside the point. There she was blocking a highway. The traffic was banking up. People wanted to get to work, to drop children off at school, get to medical appointments, care for the elderly and much more.

Now I am all for using public transport if you can. Brother Cat and Nephew Cat both studied for their university degrees on trains in this way. It took them no more time to travel by train than it would by car and they could use the time. I use train travel for similar purposes even now. 

I also know that not everyone can do that. There are people who need to use other forms of transport. Our cities are not so compact that everyone can walk or ride a bicycle to work. Public transport needs to be greatly improved everywhere - and this will almost certainly never happen.We are a car owning country. Most people can and do drive - probably far longer than they should. 

Trying to change that by "protesting" isn't going to work. It can't be done. Demands for more people to use electric vehicles are also unrealistic. Those vehicles are expensive and not as clean, green and versatile as we are often told. That may come but, right now, we need other vehicles as well.

All this seems to mean nothing at all to those protesting. For them it seems there is only one answer - action must be taken immediately. The cost is something they don't even consider. They don't see themselves as bearing any of the cost. It is somehow "other people" who need to do that.

And it is other people who are bearing the costs of their actions too. The cost to the taxpayer of the police operation, of the delays  caused and of the arrest of even a few are immense. It could have cost someone their life if an ambulance was delayed. 

There are other ways to protest. There are much more effective ways to protest that do no harm to anyone. Those ways require real research, time, and sustained effort. They don't provide the same short term adrenalin fix - but in the end they are much more effective.  Perhaps it is time to teach "Effective Protesting 101" in school? 

Monday, 27 June 2022

"Mentally ill" children on "anti-depressants"

have apparently reached numbers such that there is a call for the medication to no longer be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It seems that there are some at least who believe that there are too many children on anti-depressants.

If there were any children on anti-depressants when I was in the infant and junior schools I was not aware of it. It is actually highly unlikely. I suspect there was very little such medication around and it would only have been prescribed in the most severe cases. Any child prescribed something like that would have been acting out in ways that would likely have alarmed anyone with any powers of observation at all. 

We knew some other children we thought were "a bit odd". No doubt there were people who thought some of us were "a bit odd" too. There was an "opportunity class" in my city infants and junior school. It was intended for children who had learning difficulties of one sort or another. For most of us it was just another class. Out in the playground they were treated fairly equally if they could keep up. I got far more teasing than they did and even that stopped if I was prepared to hold one end of the rope for "long skippy". I only remember one boy we didn't mix with because he was so strange.   

So, why all the children on anti-depressants now? I know there were children who were anxious and who were going through seriously stressful times. I later did my practice teaching in a class where there was an "elective mute" - a child who would not speak. The teacher was impatient with her. She took the attitude "she can but she won't". I met the child's mother. The mother was concerned, very concerned but the child was not on medication of any sort. She wasn't even getting any extra help anywhere. I often wonder what happened to her. She really needed to be in a much smaller and more supportive environment where she could succeed at something in her own time. 

I taught children who were on medication for things like epilepsy but I never had a child on anti-depressants of any sort. This was even when children had lost a parent or were in homes where domestic violence was rife. One child who was often in the library was very afraid of walking to and from school alone because a stranger had once attempted to grab her and drag her into his car. Her friends knew and escorted her to and from school without fail.

I am sure there were children who were mildly anxious through to very worried, mildly anxious through to barely functioning some of the time. It was not dealt with using medication. It was dealt with in other ways. I remember one child in another class coming back to school after his father died suddenly. It would be one of the most stressful experiences a child could go through but nobody thought he needed anti-depressant medication. 

It makes me wonder whether we aren't encouraging children to feel "depressed" and "anxious" now. We start teaching them about issues like "climate change" and "equality" and "rights" and much, much more from a very early age. We tell them how they are expected to think as well as how they are expected to behave.  Instead of playing outside unsupervised they are given music lessons or tennis lessons or taught to kick a football. There is "screen time" where they are not interacting with other children in the way we did. Even in secondary school many children are not going to and from alone. There are still "after school" activities and increasing amounts of homework. Some children would have no idea what to do with "free time" because they simply do not have any. 

Is it any wonder if they lack resilience? Is it any wonder if they get depressed and anxious? Is it any wonder if they end up lashing out or, at the other end of the scale, withdrawing completely?

Perhaps we need to change our expectations instead of medicating the children.



Sunday, 26 June 2022

Russian debt levels

have gone through the roof - or have they?

On my way home yesterday I met V...'s sister. She arrived from Haarlem in the Netherlands on Friday. 

We had emailed each other after V..'s Alzheimer's diagnosis. Her English, like so many other Europeans, is excellent. N.... is still working and has had to take leave to come and take her sister back "home". 

"We have corresponded but I don't know her as well as I should," she told me. "She is eighteen years older. I didn't really know her when I was a child."

I had guessed as much. V... was born just before the war. N.... is very much a post war baby. Their lives have been very different. N... knows the world of finance intimately. She tells me that, even with sanctions, those at the very top in Russia are still doing very nicely. That comes as no surprise. 

What did come as a surprise was how well her own family seemed to be doing out of it all as well. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I know there are people making money out of the war in Ukraine. There will always be people making money out of any war.  I just don't know people like that. I don't want to know people like that. N...'s family is clearly doing very well indeed. Paying for V...'s needs is something I suspect they will not even really notice. They can pull strings and get others to dance. They already have V... down for a community which sounds suited to her needs. It is far better than any facilities we have here. It isn't cheap. 

I am pleased for V... Right now she seems excited but anxious. Everything is happening very quickly.  N... has already used contacts here. The house contents are already being sorted, most given away but a few packed. The car has been given to the neighbour who disabled it to prevent V... from driving. Her pot plants have gone to other neighbours who watered the garden when V.... was away on a trip. 

V.... knows those things have to go but I can see it hurts. Her sister is being ruthless. V...'s comfortable old clothes are being thrown out. I went into the house with N... and found V... wearing the shawl I had made her some years ago.

"It is not going. I am keeping it. You made it. The Russians cannot have it."  

Her confusion shows in such statements. But it was N...'s reaction which was interesting.

"Now I understand," N... told me, "You made it. Of course it must go with her. The Russians cannot have that...none of them can afford to pay for such things."


Saturday, 25 June 2022

Overturning Roe v Wade is a declaration

that women are second class citizens and that rape and murder are not  crimes.

I am sorry there is no other way to put this. 

Many years ago I went to a women's only meeting at university. It was also by invitation only. The woman who came along to talk to us had been through one of the most horrific experiences imaginable. She had been raped by her father. On discovering she was pregnant she was forced to undergo a "back street" abortion - held down by female members of the family as her father's female cousin "dealt with the situation".  She ended up spending months in hospital. She  would never have children. Her father was never prosecuted. She no longer had any contact with her family. What she spoke to us about was the need for safe and supportive means of abortion in such circumstances. There was absolute silence in the room as she told us her story. It still haunts me. I am glad I was invited to attend the meeting and that I went but I still find it difficult to even begin to comprehend what she must have felt. 

Her story alone should be enough for all of us to acknowledge that abortion needs to be available. If it is not available on all occasions then it must be available on some occasions. 

I am no expert on pregnancy. I have never had children. I do know the term "ectopic pregnancy". I do know that there are other times when an abortion can save a life. Do we really believe it is right that a woman should die because a "safe" abortion is available? What if she has other children? Do we deprive them of their mother?

There will be people who will say I have no business to even be commenting on a decision of the US Supreme Court but this is a decision which will have implications for women around the world. We have been told we are second class citizens who do not have the right to take action even in the most catastrophic of circumstances.  At least some women will now seek far more dangerous ways of obtaining an abortion. If caught they will end up before the courts as will those who are attempting to provide them with help. People will go to prison for "murder" - potentially even when they are actually saving a life because legislation can have unintended consequences.

The law is supposed to be there to maintain an orderly and safe society for everyone. Why is 51% of the population not entitled to that?

Friday, 24 June 2022

Journalists do know better

 and while they make mistakes like the rest of us they also make calculated "mistakes" in order to stir up controversy or discussion or to influence an outcome.

I  suspect the last is what is behind the remarks made by a journalist about an upcoming court case. Downunder readers will almost certainly know who I am talking about. 

It is a case of alleged rape. The young female in question has had a lot of very favourable media coverage. She has "bravely spoken out" about her alleged experience. (I use the word "alleged" here in the legal sense - not yet shown to be the case in a court of law.) She has made "admissions" about her own behaviour, including the reasons she delayed reporting the incident. 

Whatever actually happened (and she may be telling the truth - or the truth as she sees it) this all seems to have been very carefully stage managed. It's a very serious allegation. If found guilty the young man in question will find himself behind bars for a lengthy period. His career has already been ruined. 

But apparently this is not enough for the journalist in question. She made some statements at an awards ceremony where she knew full well that they would be more widely reported. She knew full well that those statements would stir up further controversy. I have no doubt that the extensive legal resources behind her were consulted and that they decided to take the risk she could be charged when her words caused yet another delay to the proceedings. 

"So, why would she do it?" someone asked me yesterday. I have wondered this too. There is more than one possible answer to this. I don't find any of them satisfactory. 

It could be the journalist in question believes she is simply supporting the complainant. It could be she believes the public needs to be reminded of the upcoming case. There is the possibility she wants to stir up more discussion about an issue all right minded people find abhorrent. It is possible she wants the defendant to sweat a little more prior to the proceedings. It is possible she simply wants people to be informed.  All those things are likely. 

There is also the possibility that the complainant is becoming anxious the defendant might be found "not guilty" - and that her own behaviour might be found wanting.  She might not want to withdraw the case but if the law decided the young man could not get a fair trial. If it went no further his character stained for life and she would still be seen as the victim. 

I know nothing other than what little I have seen and heard in the media. And yes, that is only a little because the paper work would already run to hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. The journalist in question was doing no favours to anyone. Her profession is the poorer for her actions. 

Thursday, 23 June 2022

I wonder what the union movement would do

if they were not permitted to spend any money on any form of political advertising? What on earth would they spend all those funds on? How could they possibly spend that much simply for the benefit of those who have paid their dues? 

National and state elections are expensive to run but taxpayers foot the bill for the actual election process. It is political parties and their supporters who foot the bill for all the pre-election advertising. In this the Labor party has the upper hand because they have union funds to rely on. 

Whenever they claim how much "big business" supports the Coalition (Liberal and National parties) and how much it hurts Labor's campaign people try to show them that Labor actually has far greater support. This is always rejected.

In the last election Labor outspent the Coalition. Labor was, if the figures in today's paper are to be believed, responsible for 62% of the advertising. The Coalition was responsible for 28%.  

In reality Labor spent even more because some of the "independents" were actually Labor candidates by another name. They were there to divert votes in the preferential voting system - candidates who had no real chance of getting up but who would garner votes for Labor because so many people follow "how to vote" cards either without thought or because they believe they must.  There was $12.5m spent on advertisements across Facebook and Instagram alone...$5m of that was directly for Labor, another $3.5m was indirectly for them. 

I suppose all this must do some good. Advertising is a big industry. People make millions out of making the wretched things.  

I am not immune to advertising, nobody is. We are all influenced by it and by what others think and say about products and people and ideas.  I do like to think that I at least try to think about these things. 

It is this which has led me to wonder what would happen if the union movement actually spent the money they get from members in other ways. For years the union movement was able to extort membership fees from unwilling participants. They demanded everyone in some industries "belonged to the union" - and yes, the union owned them. If the union told them to do something then they did it. The union could get them sacked more easily than the boss could do it.

My paternal grandfather was a tailor. For many years he employed almost forty people. His business was in a heavily unionised area near the docks. Grandpa's business was one of the few that had no union members. There was a union his employees could have joined, indeed he was approached to have someone come in and talk to them about it. He put it to them and they declined. They saw no point. He paid them well. Grandpa, being far beyond his time in such things, even had a sort of maternity leave scheme for the women as well as sick pay and more. They were not going to get anything from the union they did not already have and they were not going to jeopardise their working conditions by joining one. 

As a teacher I was expected to join "the institute" which was the union at the time. I stopped paying my dues when I went back to university and I never took it up again. I worked in a school for severely and profoundly disabled children and we all refused to go out on strike. We could because none of us belonged to the union. There were other avenues for people to get the help they needed. We used those if necessary. It is one reason why numbers have dropped and only about 14% of workers belong to a union. Despite that they still have massive funding they can rely on. They can still pay fines imposed for breaches of the law. Some of it must come from "bargaining" with employers. 

And so I wonder what would happen if unions could no longer be involved in funding election campaigns. What would happen if they had to actually use the money for the good of their members - and not for political power?


Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Our solar panels are worthless

- at least to us.

Thinking he was doing the right thing the Senior Cat had solar panels installed several years ago. They are designed to feed electricity into the grid and we were supposed to get at least a small return for our investment. 

This was being done all over the place. My BIL, who knows how these things work, installed some at the same time. He organised ours as well as his. We probably didn't pay quite as much as most people because he knew the owner of the company in question and, having the necessary qualification as part of his degree, he helped to install them.

The return on the so called investment has not paid off. We still haven't covered the cost of installing the panels. In the meantime the electricity generator has been selling the power they buy from us back to us at a greatly inflated price...around 800% at present. 

I have now had a notification informing me that the price they are prepared to pay has dropped even further. At the same time they are still trying to encourage people to put more panels on every available roof.  They seem to be succeeding too. People believe they are doing the right thing.

I am less sure. The real cost of installing solar panels is much higher than most people think it is. There is the cost of making and transporting those panels, the cost of the unit which connects the panels to the grid, the cost of maintenance and more. There is an environmental cost too. Solar panels are not the nice, friendly green things people like to believe they are. They don't last forever - although they do last longer than they first did. They are made from some environmentally unfriendly materials. There are problems disposing of those that can no longer be used, especially in environmentally responsible ways.  

Someone has just had a new house built on my regular pedalling route. I was introduced to him recently. We discussed the fact he and his partner have not had solar panels installed on their roof. The house has been designed with the environment in mind so I was curious and so was the person who was making the introductions.

"I'm an accountant. I did the calculations and, taking everything into consideration, I came to the conclusion that we can better return on other more environmentally responsible projects."

It started to rain at that point so I excused myself but I'd like to know what those projects are. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Greens Leader Adam Bandt does not

 have a clue. He is a fool who is simply making matters worse. I would like to think he is not aware of that but I have a nasty suspicion he is deliberately stirring the pot for the purposes of publicity.

He held a press conference yesterday and refused to have the national flag behind him. Instead he had the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Island Flag. He has no right to use either of those flags. As a member of parliament however he is required to both use and respect the national flag. Yesterday he did neither.

He was undoubtedly encouraged in his actions by the fact that an eastern state has set aside $25m for a flagpole and an Aboriginal flag on the bridge across the harbour. This has, rightly, been criticised as a waste of money.  There are many things money is needed for in a state which has been devastated by fires and then floods. A flagpole won't feed people.

In this council area we now have the Aboriginal flag flying in a number of places, along with "rainbow" flags. Our national flag which should, by law, be taking precedence over these flags has been relegated to a secondary position. Those responsible for when and how the national flag should be flown are flouting the law to make "politically correct" points that only a very small minority believe are of any importance. Indigenous people have not even been part of the decision making process. It has been done "for" them rather than "with" them.

I am getting very tired of all of this and so are many other people I know. People such as Bandt do not represent the majority. Bandt is not speaking for anyone apart from himself and (perhaps) his party. Even within that party there are people who disagree with his stance on the flag. It is his stance which is actually racist and divisive. He has been given the publicity he clearly wanted but what has he achieved? 

Most people are afraid to even discuss such issues for fear of being labelled "racist".  I don't want token gestures like flags and an "indigenous voice in the constitution".  I do want more people like Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in parliament. She will do good for everyone. I leave you with her Twitter response to Adam Bandt's actions. Well said Senator. We can all learn from what you had to say.


Monday, 20 June 2022

Recruting police is

under scrutiny in this state. Apparently three training courses have been delayed because there have not been enough applicants - despite an entry pay scale which appears to be very generous.

I have had very little to do with the police - and hope to keep it that way. Nevertheless I can see they have changed the way they work over the years.

As a kitten I was taught that you trusted the policeman. You went to the policeman if you were in trouble or if you were frightened by something. I would like to think I could do that for children now but I am less sure.

Before I went to school we lived in a very small country town. It was one of those "everyone knows everyone" places. We roamed the entire area on our little Cyclops tricycles. (There were no "two wheelers" for the very young.) The boy across the road from us must have been four. He would line us up, watch for traffic (there was almost none) and get us all across the road to go to the railway station. I used to think he said, "Like the guard" but now realise he was probably, because of his Irish origins, saying "Like the Garda." 

I once mentioned that to an Irishwoman who lives in this district. "Oh yes, the policemen in our town all did that with the children. It helped to teach us about road rules. Of course they could they were out on foot or on bikes for the most part."

My paternal grandparents lived near a police station and we knew the policemen who worked there. Grandpa knew them because he occasionally made or mended uniforms for their seniors and left them there to be collected. 

There were the two London bobbies who interviewed me and another girl the day we went to enter the local post office only to be actually knocked over by the two thieves armed with guns who were leaving at speed. We were probably in no danger at that point but it was a very frightening experience.The police were straightforward and very kind, indeed went as far as to phone the head of the department and let them know what had happened to us. 

There was the policewoman who came to tell the Senior Cat his cousin had died. They could find nobody else at the time and looked for the same surname in his personal phone book. That was okay. She was doing a job she was trained to do, a very difficult job. I would have appreciated it if the male with her had sat down as asked instead of looming over a frail old man who was no threat at all but perhaps they are trained not to sit down in those circumstances.

We were burgled and they came to investigate the damage. Several days later another one phoned. She had recognised the Senior Cat's name because her mother had taught with him. It was a simple, "Is he all right?" I appreciated that and so did he - but I doubt the call would have been made without that.

But apart from that even I, with a clear conscience, wonder what the police are doing if I see them in our local shopping centre. It's usually pretty quiet and I assume they are getting a drink or their lunch. But it is there the problem starts. They are not usually visible. They are rarely on foot. They are isolated in patrol cars. The local police stations have closed and now the police are housed in much larger and more impersonal centres. 

All those things may or may not make a difference. I suspect though that they do make a major difference.

There is also something else I cannot quite put my paw on. It was confirmed by a policeman I once met on a train. He helped me get the trike on board and we were chatting in an otherwise almost empty carriage. He had come from northern England. He had trained there and, much as he liked the lifestyle here, he was going back. 

"It's different here. The training is different. Your lot don't have the same sort of training perhaps. Everyone I talk to is ill at ease even when they have done nothing wrong."

He was saying something I have noticed. If the police are somehow being taught (perhaps unconsciously) to remain at a distance then it is going to be much more difficult to do their job. That isn't going to fill the recruitment intakes. 


Sunday, 19 June 2022

Changing names in order to prevent

a few people being offended, removing statues, changing the history books and more is going too far. 

The latest of these is a rugby organisation renaming a cup they use in competition. It was once named after the explorer Captain Cook who seems to have been a basically decent sort of individual of his time. He certainly was not interested in invading territory or keeping slaves. (No, he is not the Mutiny on the Bounty man. That was Bligh.)

Now the cup is named after two people - of whom almost nobody has heard. It is all part of the "politically correct" moves that some organisations decide to take or which, more likely, are forced upon them.

Someone called in to see me yesterday. In the course of conversation I was asked, "And what do you think about this "indigenous voice to parliament?" 

I groaned inwardly. I knew he would be in favour of it, strongly in favour of it. I am opposed.

I asked him once how many indigenous Australians he actually knows. He looked a bit puzzled and then shrugged and admitted he didn't know any.

I do know some. I have known them since childhood. They have varied. There was the old (at least to us) man who lived in a very basic hut outside the tiny community we lived in for two years. He had meals at the "hotel" in the town but he had them in the kitchen there. He washed there too because there was no water at the hut. I suppose he might have helped with the cleaning or the washing up or something else. I have no idea what he actually lived on.We children knew him because, when he was in a good mood, he would tell us some of the indigenous stories of the area. Of course we had been told to stay away from him but he was harmless. Unusually he didn't drink alcohol and actually warned us about it. Knowing him was a positive experience.

We knew urban aboriginal people too. I still do. M... is one of my closest friends. His mother, R..., is someone I still miss. They are the successful hardworking sort of people you hear nothing about. 

There are others of more mixed heritage who have often been in contact with the law. They are often those we hear the most about. The demand for "an indigenous voice in the constitution" is coming largely from the advocates from and for this group. It's a poisonous political football.

"We don't need it Cat," M.... keeps telling me, "We have the same right to vote as everyone else. We have indigenous representation in parliament. The Constitution is for everyone."

Of course the idea of indigenous recognition in the Constitution is something separate from that. The problem is that it is based on the false notion that this country was one nation before white settlement. It wasn't. Even the ideas now espoused about being "caretakers" of the land rather than "owners" varied across the country. There were hundreds of languages and they were far from understood by others. There were all sorts of cultural practices which were foreign to other areas. It was not a united nation or even a small group of united nations. The idea that recognition in the Constitution with a "voice" in parliament will represent and satisfy all indigenous people is simply wishful thinking. It may end up being even more divisive. There will be people saying, "I don't want that mob representing me."

There has to be a change to the country's Constitution to get this up - a majority of people in a majority of the states. It is one change that will almost certainly get up. It has the support of both major parties. People will vote in favour for fear of being called out as "racist".  I just hope it doesn't lead to further division.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Transgender issues in sport

are back in the news today. Apparently the swimming gurus are meeting to make a decision about how the issue should be handled.

This is an issue I have discussed with people who know far more about physiology than I do. They say that, even with "reduced testosterone levels", there will be transgender people who have an unfair advantage. 

Whether this is true or not is perhaps something that only time will show. What concerns me is that, in the process, there might be other people who do not succeed at sport when they should. There might also be people who do not participate as much as they could.

This is about being concerned for everyone, not just a few. Another issue presently under discussion is the finding being discussed in a longitudinal study. There is strong evidence that having a physically active and healthy childhood leads to not just better physical health in adulthood but also better intellectual and emotional health. 

This is surely the sort of outcome we should want for everyone? Right now we have a second type of pandemic - a pandemic of obesity and related issues brought on by less physical activity due to Covid19 issues. There are also serious issues with "long Covid". The last thing we need is a reluctance to take up a sport earlier in childhood because someone on the team is much bigger or stronger.

I know there will be people reading this who will say "but transgender people have the right..." and "transgender people must be treated equally". Yes, they do have rights, some rights. They have the right to be treated equally under the law and that law must be respected by everyone. We need to look at what that equality actually is rather than simply taking on an emotional response to it. "Equality" is not about "advantage". It's about fairness and respect for all.

Friday, 17 June 2022

Waiting at the surgery

is something that irritates me. Yesterday was infuriating.

The GP will give me a "telehealth" appointment if she can but there was a form that needed to be filled in so I dutifully made an appointment. Of course that had to be made via the internet these days with something called "HotDoc". Gone are the days when you phoned and asked to see someone. If you have internet access you are expected to use it. 

And yes, I dutifully responded to the reminder the day before. I even said "Yes" via a text message. (I don't do text messages in the normal way - my paws are too clumsy for that.)

And then I pedalled the twenty or so minutes to the surgery and arrived at about six minutes before the appointment time even though I was certain the doctor would be running late. Yes of course she was running late.

I checked in at the desk as required. Now please note that. I checked in at the desk. I told the new person sitting there my name, my telephone number, my address, my date of birth, the doctor I was expecting to see. I told her all of that.

I was told to go and sit down and wait. It would not be long.  I waited. Someone came out of the doctor's room about ten minutes later. Someone went in. I waited. 

There was nobody else in the waiting room - it being around lunch time on a rather dreary sort of day. I looked at the clock. I had somewhere else to be too. 

The person who had gone in came out. I waited. I waited some more. The other receptionist wandered over and asked if I was waiting to see a doctor. I told her who I was waiting to see. She looked a bit puzzled. I waited some more.

At forty eight minutes after the appointed time - almost an hour after I had checked in at the desk - the receptionist who had checked me in strolled over and asked, "Did you check in at the desk?"

"Yes, you checked me in," I told her. She clearly did not believe this.  

"You aren't on the list," she told me.

"I gave you my name and...." I reeled off the other information she had asked for and in the order she had asked for it. She looked blankly at me and strolled back to the desk. She made a phone call - clearly asking the doctor whether she would see me.

The doctor looked out, looked at me in a puzzled sort of way and called me in. Nothing was said but I was feeling so thoroughly irritated by this I actually said,

"I was not late and I know you can't help running late sometimes. There was a problem at the desk."

The doctor sighed. "Sit down Cat. Let's get this form dealt with - do you have to be anywhere?"

"I have another meeting starting about now."

There was another sigh but we raced through the form and I left. I was unlocking the trike when there was a call from the receptionist who had checked me in. I had to go back right then. I had to put my paw print on something else as well. She could have told me about this before I went in to see the doctor but nothing was said.

Of course there was someone else ahead of me by the time I reached the desk. The receptionist was being very short with an elderly man whose first language is definitely not English. He was trying very hard to be polite but clearly did not understand what she was saying. I intervened and rephrased her question so he did understand. She glared at me. He smiled.

I managed to hold my tongue still but it was an effort. Later in the afternoon I spoke to Middle Cat and told her what had happened. She growled, "Her! She's hopeless!"

Middle Cat never has telehealth appointments. The doctor always needs to see her but the receptionist in question had, on the last occasion, insisted it had to be a telehealth appointment. Middle Cat, who knows a great deal more about medicine than anyone there apart from the doctors, stood there and quoted the legislation which requires the doctor to actually see her. Behind the receptionist the practice manager apparently silently raised both thumbs in approval. Middle Cat told me, "Let the practice manager know what happened Cat. It's the only way she can find out what's going on."

I thought about it - and spent more time working out a polite way of putting in a miaou of complaint.  I wrote it and emailed it off - not so much for me but for the doctor who does not need the added pressure of an incompetent receptionist and an old man for whom English is a second language.



Thursday, 16 June 2022

The 5.2% pay increase

awarded by the Fair Work Commission has already been claimed as a "win" by the Prime Minister and the union movement. The former smugly suggested his government was "delivering for the lowest paid workers". The latter claim it would not have come about without their intervention. 

Both are wrong. The lowest paid workers are getting nothing at all - indeed most of them work for nothing. A few get the "Carer's Allowance" for their care of a family member. Of those that do, and I know a few, they use the money to help pay things like the electricity bill. For the most though there is an army of unpaid grandparents and the like who are simply expected to "volunteer" and who might even be paying to do so. 

And while the union movement might like to try and claim credit the reality is that the Fair Work Commission meets on a regular basis and sets the minimum wage. That's what the FWC is there for and, while union demands might be put before them, it is not how wage increases are decided.

Now yes, inflation has risen. The Reserve Bank wants this back under control and the 5.2% increase is of concern to them. It isn't going to help. Someone has to pay for the wage increase.

Someone in the next street employs a number of people. Knowing what was likely to come he held a meeting with them, showed them the books and said something like, "I am paying myself less than I am paying you. I can afford to pay four of you the likely increase - not five. Or you can all keep your positions and when the two new contracts start in September and October I can increase your wages then and give you the back pay. It's up to you. Everyone kept their jobs. He's a good employer with a good business that was hit hard by the pandemic. His workers are loyal and work hard for him.

It was one of his workers who told me about this. He had come around to see me to ask if he could have a look in the shed for a piece of timber. Out on one of their regular jobs he had found a small job which needed doing to make it easier for a disabled employee in another business to do their job. He was going back to do it in his own time. This is the sort of man the other one employs.

"None of us wanted to see anyone else lose their job. He'll pay us when he can and if he can't then too bad. Things are tough and that bit extra would make a real difference but we all have mortgages and you know what that means."

Not everyone could afford to put that sort of offer out there. There are places where a union person would object and demand the wage increase even if someone else was out of a job. I wonder though how much of this sort of thing will go on. I hope there is more understanding when people genuinely need to work out ways and means of paying the increase, much more of it. Pay rises are undoubtedly nice but keeping a job is surely even better?


Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Rolling blackouts are

being forecast as we struggle to work out how to reach that supposedly magical "net zero" point considered so important by so many.

It is winter in Downunder. The state I live in gets quite cool but we almost never see snow - and then only for a day or so at a time in the hills behind me.  I can add another woolly layer and, due to my mother's foresight we have a gas cook top. "If the power fails I can still make something hot," was her argument. It's a good one. 

And I am fortunate that I still live in a house. I am not living in a caravan or a tent or living rough. I have that extra woolly layer - and the Senior Cat's ancient quilt if I need it. 

Of course, in a blackout, I would not be writing this or thinking about the responses to this morning's batch of work emails. (They would be unread but are now already downloaded. I was thinking about them as I had breakfast too.)

But should we really be having these problems? We have some of the largest sources of potential energy in the world - coal, gas, uranium, hydro-electricity. We export coal, gas and uranium to countries who use those things as their sources of power. Here we are closing down coal fired power stations - and yes we should. They are old and dirty. We are attempting to do the same with gas - which is in short supply because we export much of it. Nuclear power has been a no-no-no in Downunder for more years than I care to remember - even while we are happy for other countries to use the uranium we mine. 

No, we are supposedly going along the "renewables" path. Nobody is actually dare mentioning we might fail to reach the end, the holy grail of 100% renewable energy that is safe, secure, genuinely sustainable, efficient, and environmentally sound. 

The reality of course is that we won't. Without reliable sources of power the modern world cannot operate. People are going to have to do without heating in winter, cooling in summer, the endless use of private means of transport. The use of electricity in other places and for other purposes would have to be cut back - in some cases drastically.  The cost would be massive.

I note the Greens in parliament are apparently happy to fly to the nation's capital when parliament sits. They use cars, computers and mobile phones, heating and lighting. At least one of them has a diesel vehicle.

Those who are demanding we look to nothing but renewable sources of energy keep telling me nuclear power is not an option. It is "too expensive" as well. Really? Why should that stop all research into the issue - look at fusion instead of fission and how to recycle the "waste" perhaps? It may be that we actually have to do something about it - and do something about it in the not too distant future. I doubt many people are going to say, "Oh good, a power cut. That means we are doing the right thing and saving the environment."

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

The $12 lettuce is leaving

the salad. It is likely the salad is leaving too. Apparently people don't eat it.

I have eaten out once with family this year. It was a get together at a local pub. There was salad on the table - along with hot bread rolls and olives and olive oil. We ate the lot. We had "entree" size serves of "mains". I think everyone cleared their plates.  The only thing nobody bothered with were those tiny packs of butter wrapped in foil. I imagine they were given to other people as we left those behind.

As a family we like salad vegetables. When the Senior Cat was home I made salads right through the summer. They were "naked" salads - no dressing - but I made sure there was always a variety in there. The Senior Cat grew lettuce leaves of various varieties but he never had much success with the "iceberg" type lettuce. I would occasionally buy one of those. If we had no lettuce leaves to hand then I could always get loose leaf lettuce mix from our excellent greengrocer. It is not cheap but you don't need a lot.

We had tomatoes from the garden, cucumbers and capsicum from the garden...and more. It was all good food - and good on our hot summer days. I'd add protein and a small amount of carbohydrate and we had a good meal. 

This is the sort of thing I want to eat if I am going to pay to eat out. I want good, fresh food. It doesn't have to be "fancy". I am not interested in "fancy". I am willing to try something different if it is offered to me and does not contain something to which I am allergic. 

But apparently the price of salad vegetables and the amount that are wasted are causing establishments to remove salad from the menu or, at very least, ask people if they actually want it. Gone,  apparently, are the days when you got a lettuce leaf, a quarter of a tomato and a slice of Lebanese cucumber. Yes, of course it is harder to keep these on hand than a frozen schnitzel and chips. 

It really isn't doing anything to help the nation's weight problems... but it will help me. I don't eat out very often... and it will be even less often if I can't have a salad with my fish! 

Monday, 13 June 2022

Paying for the NDIS

- the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I think we all knew that the cost of the NDIS was going to blow out - now up to around $60bn a year. It cannot go on that way.

I strongly support the idea of a NDIS. The cost of having a disability or having a family member with a disability can be enormous. It can have a massive financial impact on an entire family. There are people who need help and who should be able to access it.

There are also others who are playing the system. That has to stop.

There is a family not far from here who have a profoundly disabled child. So far they have received almost no help from the NDIS. They bought the specially designed wheelchair themselves. The mother does not go to work because she could be called to the school at any moment - and while all the Covid restrictions were in place she was at home alone caring for the child. The father is incredibly supportive but you can see the strain. The other two children have gone without all sorts of things considered "normal" because the money needs to go towards caring for their siblings. They are great kids but it is getting harder for them too. The older one will be able to work part time next year. "I guess I can get a job at the supermarket or something. It might help a bit." 

The cost of the wheelchair alone was enormous. They need a wheelchair accessible vehicle too. The child's food has to be specially prepared and much more. It is all very expensive.  This is the sort of situation the NDIS is designed to help.

Another family has a child who is partially sighted. She needs special aids at school in order to be able to cope but she is falling behind because the aids needs upgrading and the teacher aide is often called on to deal with a very disruptive child in another class. The family has borrowed money in order to pay for equipment she needs. They are struggling to pay the loan back and pay the rent.

A friend's granddaughter is turning four shortly. She has had almost no interaction with other children because of Covid19 issues. This child also has life-threatening allergies and a communication disability which, if treated now, will be a much smaller impediment when she starts school.  She needs speech therapy but her family will need to pay for it privately if she is to get any.

These are families who need help. They cannot get it from the NDIS.

There are other families I know who are accessing help. It is "nice" that they are able to get it but I wonder how they managed to get it. One family has a child said to be "on the autism spectrum". From my own observations as well as reports from the school and from others who know the family this child is a child in need of firm discipline. He knows exactly how much he can get away with and how to get what he wants. He has just had a new i-pad (the third) from the NDIS. His "disability" is so mild that people feel it should be handled quite differently.

Another has a daughter who is refusing to go to school. She was home-schooled during the Covid lock downs. Her parents have now accessed hours of home tuition for her at a speed which has astounded everyone. There is no physical reason for her not to attend school, indeed the psychologist has said it would be better if she did.

I could go on. I know adults who desperately need more help, some who could work if they got that little bit of extra help. It's the sort of thing the NDIS was intended to do.

The whole idea needs an overhaul. I know that there would be fury at some losing the assistance they are getting but if it cut the costs there so that others got the help they really need then it needs to be done. We have to stop the "squeaky wheels" getting assistance they don't really need and giving it to those who do need it. If someone can actually do a day's work if they get assistance for an hour in the morning then  they should get that help. 

We closed the special schools and the institutions on the grounds that people would be better integrated into the community. The reality is that it looked like being the cheaper option. What it seems to have done is allow a different group, a group which may not need the level of assistance they are accessing, to rort the system. That is wrong.  

Sunday, 12 June 2022

I am going to put my head on the block

and say that I believe the Nadesalingam family should be returned to Sri Lanka.

I know that will shock a lot of people. They will believe that I am anti-refugee. They are wrong. I am taking this stance because I am pro-refugee. 

For those of you overseas who don't know the story. The Nadesalingam or Murugappan family have been the subject (and one might say victims) of a long running immigration case in this country. The parents came here separately by boat and then attempted to claim refugee status. They met here and married here. Their claims for refugee status were found not to be valid on more than one occasion and attempts were made to return them to Sri Lanka. While this was going on they moved to a small country town and had two children. 

They were then the subject of an early morning raid and moved to a detention facility. The town, or at least some outspoken members of it, decided to fight the issue of their deportation. They succeeded by using the birth of the children and their departure was halted at the last possible moment.

These people are being used as pawns in a much larger game, a game worth millions of dollars to the "refugee industry" of the legal profession and some others. There are other "spokespeople" who get a high from "fighting for refugees". It is all a very big business indeed. And it is not helping refugees.

I know it may look as if it is but millions have been spent on this case alone. Millions will be spent on other cases as a result of this case. If the Nadesalingam family is permitted to stay then it will set some very dangerous precedents. It may well do far more harm than good to the many refugees who need our help.

I have no doubt that the two little girls are very much loved and I do feel very, very sorry for them. Their lives have not been normal. They have been in and out of detention and even now their future is not completely certain. No child should have to experience what they have experienced. 

But this is not, as some would have us believe, the fault of the previous government. It is, in the first place, due to the actions of the parents. They were found not to be refugees. I am told there were very good reasons for that decision. They were actually offered the opportunity to return to Sri Lanka and make an application to migrate legally. They were told that this would be "favourably considered". Instead they - or their advisors - chose to fight the decision in other ways. 

There are thousands upon thousands of people in this country who support this family. They see them as being refugees the previous government denied the right to stay. The reality is different. These are people who did not come here in accordance with the law. They were found not to have valid claims. They refused to leave.  

Now it seems likely the minister responsible in the new government will make the politically popular decision to use his powers to allow them to stay in defiance of the courts. That is wrong. 

I think of the millions of refugees in this world who want to go home and cannot go home - because, for the most part, refugees do want to go home. The homesickness some of them experience takes a massive toll on their mental well being even when they appear to be successful in so many other ways. One reason for the success of so many is the desire to be able to go "back home" one day and do something for their birth community.  These people are not "migrants". There is a difference between migrating and fleeing persecution. Refugees have stories to tell and we should be listening.

But this family is being used and abused by people who claim to have their best interests at heart. Genuine interest in their welfare would have been to advise them to return to Sri Lanka and put in that application to migrate. That way they would not have put at risk so many others.

Refugees are people, not an industry for advocates or the legal profession.  

Saturday, 11 June 2022

An unlocked front door

was something that needed to be dealt with yesterday.

I keep a front door key in a safe place outside because I am always concerned I might lock myself out of the house. At the same time I have become used to wearing my keys on a lanyard because I am also worried about leaving my tricycle unlocked.

 I know - more than one person thinks I worry too much about these things. Really? We have been burgled more than once. It is a very unsettling experience. I am still angry with the person who stole the watch my mother gave the Senior Cat on the occasion of their 50th Wedding Anniversary - and thankful that the necklace he gave her was safely in Middle Cat's possession by the time the burglary occurred. 

It was with those things in mind that I was equally concerned to see my neighbours immediately opposite had left their front door open. Now I might not have thought too much about this in summer but why would they have the front door wide open on a rather cool day? There were no cars in their driveway. (They have two.) I went out and checked. No, neither car was parked in the street.

So I prowled across the street. The screen door was not properly shut and the main door, as I thought, was wide open. I called out. There was no response. I opened the screen door and listened. Absolute silence. The house was empty. I called out again to be sure. I found the key on the other side. I pulled the door shut and locked it. Then I left a message for S.... on her phone. She was likely busy seeing patients. 

It was not until lunch time I had a relieved sounding message back thanking me. "M...and the boys must have been in a real rush."

The same thing happened once before some years ago. On that occasion it was understandable. S... and M... had rushed off to hospital. H... , the younger of the two boys, was just a tiny baby - a very tiny baby. There was reason to be concerned about him. 

Later in the afternoon S...came and collected the key from me. "It's just as well we live in a quiet street," she told me.

I didn't like to tell her we had been burgled.  

Friday, 10 June 2022

Immigrant Alzheimer's

is how it was described to me.

I spent part of yesterday going to the doctor with an elderly acquaintance. Her doctor's receptionist phoned earlier in the week and asked if I would make sure she attended the appointment. This has been done before but this time the receptionist told me, "Doctor has asked me to tell you that she may need some support."

I didn't need to be told why. Some months ago she forgot to light the gas under a saucepan. Fortunately one of the neighbours went in and found out before it was too late. There have been other little things. At first we put it down to stress because of the war in Ukraine which, so she told us, reminded her of the war in Holland. But in the last seven weeks there have been other things as well.  The neighbours have been watching. One of them disabled her car after seeing her driving down the wrong side of the road. She lost her purse in the supermarket. One of the young girls in there found it in the freezer cabinet.

Three times in the last two weeks she has spoken to me in Dutch although her English has always been excellent. Even then she has struggled sometimes with the names of things. 

We went to the medical appointment together. She fussed a bit about this but didn't refuse to allow me to go with her. I slipped a note to the receptionist to give the doctor before we went in. I listed the other things I had noted and added "Alzheimer's?"

When she was called in to his room he said gently to her, "Perhaps you would like Cat to come in with you this time."

She looked at him and looked at me. The expression on her face was one which will stay with me for a very long time. She knew what he was going to say.

The problem is that she has nobody in this country. When she migrated with her husband they planned a large family. They never had children. She worked but retirement was twenty-three years ago. Her husband died fifteen years or more ago. Their rather fundamentalist church abandoned her on his death and the loss of the income they brought to it.. Since then she has lived alone. Her days have been spent gardening, doing craft work - and, I suspect, watching television in the sense she has sat and stared at the screen. 

"I want to go home," she told us. By "home" she did not mean the house she lives in but the country she came from. 

We talked about this because I know she still has a much younger sister in Holland. They communicate sporadically. We went back to her house here. She found the address for me. I did some on-line research and found both a phone number and an email address. I passed both on to the doctor's receptionist. Then I sat there and tried to work out what I should say in the email I was sending at A-M...'s request.  I wrote it in English and then wondered if I should also translate some of it into Dutch. I phoned a Dutch friend and told her the problem. 

"I'll be right over Cat. I am sure she will read English but it might be nicer for her to have the news the other way."

And so we sent the message off. This morning there is an email in my mail box. It is simple. "I am coming. I will bring her home." 

A-M... is going to go "home". I wonder what it will be like for her. 

Thursday, 9 June 2022

The rising cost of food

as well as rent or mortgage repayments is under discussion in today's paper. 

I am not surprised. It is one of those sort of "human interest" articles which get put out from time to time, a sort of reminder to us all.

Every time I read one of these I think back to our time in one particularly tiny rural community. My parents were the teachers in the two teacher school. It was in a remote area. "Very remote" was probably the nearest sheep station - a couple of hours drive north-west on an unsealed road.

Our house was "new". It was one of the fibro-asbestos sheet houses built all over the state by what was called the "PBD" - Public Buildings Department. My parents were required to live in it and pay rent to the PBD. It was all part of working for the Education Department. 

The house had been built without any supervision. The land had not been cleared properly and there were trees struggling to grow under the small stilts the house sat on. The house was smaller than the plans had said it was supposed to be. The water had not been connected. It was connected to a tap outside the house. The very narrow pipe to this ran across the top of the ground. In summer it was too hot to put your hands directly under the tap. In winter the pipe would slow to even more of a trickle if it was very cold.

There was no electricity connected. There was a woodburning "Metters No 5" in the kitchen. Using that when the temperature was rising in the summer was not the best.

My parents could afford to make some improvements. The water was eventually connected to the inside of the house. That meant the Senior Cat did not have to carry buckets of water to the copper in which my mother did the washing. The PBD provided a 32v power supply in a little shed a few metres from the back door. The Senior Cat and the man from the EWS (electricity and water supply) put it in. It didn't work that well but it worked well enough to let my parents prepare lessons at night without resorting to fuel burning lamps.

Wow! We were suddenly considered "rich". There were plenty of other people in the district who had none of these things. My brother and I remember going to visit a couple of other children from school. They lived in a "house" made from a rough wooden frame and hessian/burlap wheat sacks that had been tarred over. The floor was dirt with patches of linoleum. That was probably the worst accommodation in the small "town" but there was more in the district which was not much better. There was a police station built of brick, the town "pub" of very definite solid construction and the house attached to the bank building and a couple of other older houses of more solid construction. Most people lived as we did apart from the water supply and the 32v power supply.

The big expense for people then, as now, was the vehicle they used. They needed a vehicle. Some people had a car but most of them used the lorry (truck) as both the farm vehicle and the one which transported the family. They kept 40 gallon drums of fuel on the farm. Families survived from one "wheat cheque" or (a few) the "sheep cheque" to the next cheque. They had to budget for an entire year.

I was reminded of all this when I read the article this morning. I wonder how the people in the article would survive under those circumstances. The reality is that most of them would have no idea. They would not manage. They talk of the price of a can of baked beans and "two minute noodles". Faced with a kangaroo shot by the farmer for meat they would have no idea what to do. I certainly would not wish it on them (and I cannot tolerate kangaroo meat!)

But perhaps it would be kind if we tried to teach children something about all this in school. They might have more idea how to cope with ever increasing prices.  

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Drinks after work?

Drinks after work on Fridays as a way of saving those small places in the CBD from going under????

I read that...and then had to read it again. Did so many people really go off to "have a drink" on a Friday evening? Did they really do it before going home for the weekend?

I know "working from home" because of Covid19 has almost certainly changed the way some people work. They will never go back to a 9-5 type regime in the office. Others will return part time.

A neighbour across the road now goes to work one day a week. On the other four he takes  his children to school and he picks them up at the end of the school day. He tells me his boss is happy with that. He also tells me that he can join in a Zoom meeting and go on working at the same time. As he works in tax compliance and no doubt spends his days reading documents and checking things and filling out forms this is quite possible. 

It saves the family a lot of money. There is no need for before or after school care and, to date, his children don't have the multitude of other after school activities many families seem to believe are essential. Is his boss concerned he might not be at home and in front of the computer for a short time in the afternoon? Apparently not. 

I wonder about all this. I wonder how long these things are going to last. I also wonder if this man ever went to the "Friday night drinks with my workmates" event which is apparently the saving of small bars in the city.

I never had that sort of job. There was no bar at my teacher training college - no point as you had to be twenty-one to legally get a drink and most of us were much younger. At my first university it took me two years to find the bar - and only then because someone took me by the paw, guided me there and bought me a lemon squash. The experience of a smoke filled noisy room was enough to make me want to crawl away, put my paw over my ears and eyes and never experience it again. I have avoided university bars ever since.  I know. I am not a sociable cat.

Recently I was talking to a friend, one half of  a male couple who are very sociable. His partner has cut back his working week from five to four days. I thought he might take Fridays off but the R.... told me, "G... decided to take Tuesdays off. Mondays and he misses out on holidays. If he does Fridays he misses out on drinks after work."

Oh. I really do wonder about this. G... is looking at retirement. I know other people who go to drinks after work because they are "networking", "looking for promotion" or "team building". They are worried about not doing it and being considered  to be "not team players" or "not able to mix" or something else which might affect the way they keep their job or obtain promotion or another job somewhere else. 

Should your job, workplace relations, or promotion really depend on such things? When I was teaching and working in a school library we were generally just glad to be away at the end of Friday. It wasn't the end of the working week of course. There was marking to do, lessons to prepare, and activities to organise. We didn't simply leave it all behind us. 

I suppose there are people who do that - people who don't work shifts, who don't have preparation to do for the following day, and people who don't have paperwork to do. Perhaps it is fun for some people but I wonder how many would prefer to just go home.

And all those people who depend on people doing that for an income themselves? Surely we can find something else for them to do? I don't think it would really think it would be much fun as a job. Tell me if I am wrong.