Thursday 31 March 2022

Two Senators have been

in the news recently - both for the wrong reasons.

The first of these, a Senator from a very small party, claimed she was "racially profiled" at the airport by one of the airlines. The Senator in question claims indigenous heritage. 

My good friend M...., who most definitely is indigenous, mentioned the incident to me. "Not sure what she is on about Cat. She was just being asked to observe the same rules as everyone else." Whatever she made a fuss and ended up in the VIP lounge. 

I don't think that is where she belonged or where she should belong at any time in the future. My thoughts about this have absolutely nothing to do with her status or otherwise as an indigenous person. I would be very happy to see M... and many others like him in the VIP lounge. They belong there. The Senator doesn't. It has nothing to do with their appearance or who they are. It is what they are that counts with me. M... and others are people with whom I feel comfortable. They have respect for other people from all sorts of backgrounds and respect for themselves. 

The other Senator abused parliamentary privilege yesterday and made some scathing remarks about the Prime Minister. The media loved it. It was all over the news. It sent important information about the Budget to the inner pages of the press and down the list of news items. This is what they wanted. One of the PM's own team was coming out so strongly against him. It justified all those attempts by the media to undermine him - and there have been plenty of those.

It isn't the role of a PM to be popular. The media really needed this story because there was not a lot they could find to criticise in the Budget. It was a very cautious one for a government soon to be facing the electorate. 

The problem is that the Senator in question was very angry that a meeting of 500 members of the party had seen her relegated to a lower spot on the Senate ticket for the state. It means that she is considered to be in an "unwinnable" position. She won't be returned to the Senate at the election. She will be out of a job.

Rejection like that hurts. The way in which it was done was in accordance with the rules of the party in question but it would still hurt. The Senator in question might have something to complain about if the rules had not been followed. Her outburst in the Senate, behind parliamentary privilege, just showed that the members have likely made the right decision. It is also likely that the harm she has done will not be readily forgiven. Roles available to former members of parliament will be less likely to come her way.

The media of course does not wish to acknowledge this at all. There has barely been a mention of it except to suggest that everything the Senator had to say must be true or she would not have said it. It is too good a gift of a story to make much mention of the likely cause of the outburst.

I know rejection like that hurts. It happened to me in another context. I wanted to fight it but I had put too much work into making things happen. In the end I thought it was better to have something work without me than spoil everything for which I had worked. 

Right or wrong? I don't know. What I do know is I had to learn to live with the fact that fighting doesn't mean you always win. 

Wednesday 30 March 2022

An "independent" is standing for election

in our federal seat at this election.

The only problem is that this person is not an "independent" at all. She is aligned with the current opposition. Her candidature is intended to ensure that the opposition's candidate will win. There is an outside chance of course that she herself will win. If she does she will vote with the current opposition. All the polls currently suggest that they will win the upcoming federal election.

We had a similar issue with the state election which has just occurred. Another candidate did something very similar.

I have no issue with genuine independents. There have been a few over the years. There was an outstandingly good state MP. He was a genuine independent. He sought the views of his electorate on controversial issues and voted accordingly.  He voted with the government of the day on other issues - having informed his electorate that this is what he would do if they voted for him. He was popular with many on both sides of politics. 

There was an independent Senator who represented another state for around twenty-five years. He did not get voted out. He retired. He was a fierce advocate for his state and actually did do the job that Senators were originally expected to do. (Senators were originally intended to represent the interests of the state they come from. Now they are much more likely to represent the party with which they are aligned.) 

I would very much like to see more people like this in parliament. Of course it is very, very hard work. You don't have the support of a party behind you. Getting elected and then re-elected is even harder. Even if you have a strong local support base it is hard.

There are other "independents" of course. Some of them have left the party to which they belonged. We had a local MP who did that. He went "independent".  He claimed it was to "provide stability". In reality it was because he was offered a ministerial post. His defection not only meant he went against the wishes of the electorate but the state as a whole. Such people are not "independent". 

And there are those who put themselves forward saying they are "independent" but whose candidature is intended to manipulate the system of compulsory preferential voting. In order to have our votes count as valid we must preference these people even when we object to everything for which they stand. Even putting them last on the ballot paper doesn't help much. Preferences will still flow.

The current "independent" candidate is already sending out more electoral material than any truly independent candidate could afford. She has a party machine behind her but it is hidden from view and it is not the "independent" group it claims to be.


Tuesday 29 March 2022

The NBN was not working

properly this morning. I could not visit Google. I could not access my email. I could not read the papers (something I do on-line). It was all very irritating. It might have been rather peaceful if it were not for the fact that some of what I needed to do was for other people. 

It is now done - or enough of it has been done. I can write a short blog post instead.

I wanted to comment on the President of America's comments about the President of Russia.  

And that was as far as I got before the internet failed again. I will attempt to write a blog post tomorrow instead! 

Monday 28 March 2022

Climate change?

I keep saying that this "climate change" business is up to us. It isn't up to "the government".  The thing we call "the government" is really us in a "democracy" - when we have the opportunity to choose who represents us. And it is up to us in other ways. 

There are quite a lot of children in this street. It is a short street and there are fifteen children in it. Eleven of them go to the nearest junior primary/primary school - i.e. a school for 5-11yr old children. It is a brisk ten minute walk from here. There are no main roads to cross. They all get taken there in cars - even on fine days when one or the other parent is not working or is working from home. In the afternoon they all get collected again - by car. Each family has two cars.

Two more children go to a similar school a little further away. Yes, it probably isn't reasonable to have them walk there. The school was chosen "because we can drop the kids off on the way to work. It isn't out of our way". Ah yes, convenience for the parents.

The other two are now in high school. They walk to and from but they have always walked. The younger of the two walks with his mother - something he is soon going to be rebelling against but she doesn't trust him. He "dreams along and doesn't watch the traffic". But they walk because it is a one car family and their father works on the other side of the city. Their mother doesn't work and she is a "stay at home" mother who, like me, doesn't have a licence to drive. 

This pattern is repeated all over the city.  There is "no time" to walk children to school.

I know of another child who has been walking to school alone for as long as the school and her parents have considered it safe. She has a mother who really struggles with ill-health. She is an only child who has had, in many ways, to grow up too quickly. Her father leaves for work at least an hour before she needs to leave the house. She takes a mobile phone with her and phones her mother on arrival. Then she hands her phone in to the school office or her teacher. In the afternoon she collects the phone calls her mother to say she is starting out and then walks  home. She is a very sensible, very reliable, and highly intelligent child - the sort teachers "rely" on. But her view when I was discussing this with her? "The others could learn to do the same thing."

Yes, they could. School "drop off" and "pick up" contributes hugely to traffic. The difference during school holidays is so great that there always seem to be comments about it. The cost of doing it must be very high. There are all the associated expenses of running that second car - but it is "convenient".

This is not all though. I pedalled past one of the local high schools on Friday. The "student car park" was full. There were more cars parked in the streets around the school. "They need them to go to work/sport after school" we are told. "It isn't safe for them to use public transport".

I know that there are things which are not the same as they were when I was at high school. I cannot think of a single instance of anyone actually owning their own car. A few of the boys could drive - but they drove vehicles on the family farm. No girl had a licence to drive. They used public transport - even I used public transport. The only people I knew who did not use public transport were people who were physically incapable of doing so without assistance...and even then there was a blind man I knew who caught the bus each morning. The drivers knew to pick him up and see to it that he left the bus at the right stop. He would then wait for a colleague to walk over the busy road and see him safely across. If he had been able to get the assistance of a guide dog he would probably have done it alone. 

Petrol was almost $2.00 a litre on Saturday morning (with a voucher from the associated supermarket) - and people were still queuing to buy it. Putin's war has caused the cost to sky rocket and the flow on consequences are frightening. But we have to blame ourselves too. We have the sort of lifestyle that tries to tell us "we need to use the car" and "it is only safe if we have a car" and "there is not time". Perhaps we need to make it safe to use public transport and give ourselves time to do it. 

I will pedal on as long as I can. It's the least I can do.

Sunday 27 March 2022

"Craft in a time of pandemic

or how to usefully occupy oneself in isolation" is a book which should perhaps have been written long ago. 

The knitting group met at the library yesterday. Numbers are still down. This is not surprising. Although we meet "socially distanced" it is still something people are wary of doing. We have masks, hand sanitiser and meet in a well ventilated area. We are being cautious.

I take the view that life has to get back to something approaching what we believed was "normal" at some point. There will be changes to some of the rules surrounding Covid19 issues next weekend but the group agreed we still need to take precautions. There are vulnerable people there - and within families. At the same time there is a need for all of us to start meeting again.

I share most of the teaching in the group with someone who was not there yesterday. She had already warned us she was off on a short trip to the "west coast" of the state. (It is west of here but her destination is on the southern coastline.) While she is there she will meet with other knitters and spinners. 

There are small groups like this all over the state. Some of them are affiliated with embroidery and quilting groups, woodworking and modelling groups. Undoubtedly there are other crafts as well. Sometimes they are nothing more than four or five people who get together on a regular basis. At other times there may be twenty or more who have a formal meeting before they get down to business. 

All of them need to do some teaching. There are always people who want to know something, who need to know something, who cannot complete a project without some help. The Country Women's Association (CWA) provides opportunities to learn new craft skills each year. Other groups simply help as required. 

All of this has become more difficult over the past twenty or so years. There are times when "police checks" are needed. There are insurance issues and "equal opportunity"  considerations which have to be met. 

Despite all this things still happen.The pandemic and the need to isolate at home did cause an upsurge in the number of people taking up a craft at home. What disappoints me is knowing that too many of those people will not continue with these things as restrictions ease.They will go back to old habits and actually do less rather than more.

But I have some hope for the future of craft. I was searching for a book in the Senior Cat's bookshelf. When he was well enough to think about such things he told me he hoped I would pass some of those things on to other people. I found the toy-making book he had suggested I pass on. Next to it I also found the plans for a "paper clock". 

This "paper clock" is made from 168 pieces printed on very light card. The idea is to cut them out and assemble them and have a clock that is actually supposed to work. The Senior Cat bought the book with the idea that he might make a wooden version. It never happened. After a lot of thought and research he decided the project was beyond him. "If I had started thinking about this ten years ago I might have done it" was the sort of comment he would make about it.

But I took it out and looked at it and thought of someone who might be able to use it. He is about to have major knee surgery. He will need something to occupy himself when his rehabilitation reaches a certain stage. I wasn't absolutely certain he would want to try it but took the view there was no harm in asking.

I passed it over to him yesterday and was greeted with the words, "Oh, yes! A pandemic craft! Thanks Cat."

Is it possible we all need a "pandemic craft"?

Saturday 26 March 2022

Endometriosis is not a political

plaything. It is a very, very serious medical condition. It is a condition which deserves equally serious attention.

There were a raft of negative comments on social media yesterday when the partner of our PM came out in support of $58m in funding for specialist treatment centres for endometriosis. I suspect there would have been negative comments from the same people if she had said nothing.

What really annoyed me was that these people were using this woman and her medical condition as a political plaything.  There were comments about her seeking sympathy, about her using her condition to push a political agenda and much more. These same people have been vociferous in their support of some women who have allegedly and actually been treated badly. They have done so as long as they see some sort of political advantage for themselves. 

If anyone was attempting to use the issue to their political advantage then it is those who were criticising the PM's partner for speaking out in support of the funding. What is more they were abusing her and any other woman like her. 

They won't see it that way of course. They won't see it as causing some women to hesitate speaking up. Our current Federal MP has the same medical issue. She once admitted to me that there were mornings when she does not feel like getting up because she feels so unwell. She will never be able to have children. The snide remark from another politician about that must have been absolutely devastating. Despite that and many other things she has done a lot of good for the electorate.  I am sorry that she feels she cannot continue to handle the incessant nastiness of the position she is in. Perhaps if she did not feel so unwell so often it might have been easier.

But now I am wondering how often it is that women who really do have something to say are drowned out by others who hold opposing points of view or who twist the situation for their own benefit. I know there are men who don't speak up too but is it a bigger problem still for women? I have a feeling it might be.

I admire the Prime Minister's partner for speaking up. She has not sought the limelight. Some have criticised her for not being more active of course - and again some of those would equally have criticised her for being active. It is a game which cannot be won whichever way you go but on this occasion what she did showed courage. I hope it encourages other women with the serious health issues associated with the condition to speak up. 

Friday 25 March 2022

"Ash Barty is too young to retire!"

I was waiting to collect some mail at the Post Office when the furious exchange broke out in the queue in front of me. It was a long queue and very slow moving. There were multiple reasons for this and the argument was not helping.

I didn't know those involved but opinions varied. Ash Barty, "number one" tennis player, was too young, selfish, rich enough, smug, "seems very nice", "has earned it", "give her a go" and more.

Mmm...for once nobody asked my opinion - which was probably just as well. I do have some thoughts on the subject. 

Now let me admit right from the start. I do not know how to play tennis. I know you have to hit a ball over a net with a thing called a racquet.  I know that the origins of the modern game are thought to somewhere far back in France in the 11th or 12th century. That is about the limit of my knowledge.  I have no particular desire to know more than that. 

What I do know, simply from observation, is that to get to the standard that Ash Barty reached you have to work very hard, damn hard. You need to spend hours and hours and then more hours working at it. Yes, there is natural ability involved - if there wasn't then everyone would reach that standard with the same amount of work. The big thing though is that you really do need to work at it. 

What is more it is a lonely sort of occupation. It might not seem like that. It is often referred to as "the social game"  - social perhaps for people who like to get out and hit a ball at weekends. Imagine though spending hours and hours hitting a ball as a machine sends balls at you. Imagine being one end of a court with your coach at the other constantly telling you how to do better. Imagine being young and wanting to go out with friends but having to practice, having to "get an early night", having to travel away from home but not see the sights because you are hitting a ball over a net.

I still believe that some "professional" sports people are paid obscene amounts for "winning" and for "sponsorship". Yes, they may be good but how many others have been involved in helping them get that far?

But I do support Ash Barty's decision to retire. I hope she will be able to remain retired, that she will not be put under endless pressure to return. She tried once before but this time she seems more determined. She has reached the Everest peak of tennis. There is nothing left to achieve or prove there. There are things to be achieved elsewhere. Already she has, as I thought she might, suggested that it is time for her to help other young players achieve their aim of playing tennis. It doesn't matter if there are no "number ones" among them. I think she knows that. 

So, could we leave her to get on with her life in her own way? Could we let her do something that makes her feel she is contributing something?   

Thursday 24 March 2022

Tomato soup

is something people tend to love or hate. Is that true? It may be.

I visit the Senior Cat at least each second day, more often if I can. Now he spends most of his time lying there with his eyes closed. Sometimes he is not "with us" and at others he is. He's moving to some other place. It's a bumpy, uncomfortable journey and it makes me weep - often.

Yesterday he was lucid and even managed to ask a couple of questions. He also told me something - at least he said two words "tomato soup". They made no sense to me at the time but then he told me he had "thoroughly enjoyed it" and to ask Middle Cat about it. 

She was in there around lunch time the day before. Now the Senior Cat has not had any appetite for weeks. He tries to eat to please other people. But Middle Cat tried again. Was there anything he would like to have? And suddenly there was an answer, "Tomato soup."

He has always been fond  of tomato soup. If for any reason we were out and I had not prepared anything (something which was very rare but did happen once in a while) I would ask him what he would like. The answer was always "tomato soup and scrambled egg". I used to wonder why I actually asked because he never deviated from that. I use to keep a tin of tomato soup on hand for that purpose. It isn't something I felt inclined to make even though I have no time for any other type of tinned soup. I suppose that is part of what made it special in his mind.

Middle Cat is much more adventurous than me. She went off to the kitchen in the residence and looked hopefully at the cook. Would he by any chance at all happen to have a tin of tomato soup around the place? If not if she went and bought one would he heat some up for the Senior Cat?"

Now there is no reason at all why the cook should have agreed to such a request. He's a busy man. There is a menu in the place. The residents have am either or choice. They are asked the day before and I suspect that is that for the most part. Some food gets pureed but residents don't have any special requests granted in the normal way.

But tomato soup? Yes,there was a small tin there in the pantry and yes "I reckon we can manage that". 

And he did. The cook brought it in himself. The Senior Cat smiled and thanked the cook. He drank a whole cup - more than he has had for lunch in days now. Middle Cat thanked him again on her way out. His response?

"I did it because he always thanks us for everything."

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Food shortages

are soon going to hit here. It won't be because of the war in Ukraine yet but because of the hits to the supply chains.

We had the "great toilet paper shortage" when people began to stockpile it last year. The boys who stack the shelves in the supermarket tell me that the sale of it still hasn't quite got back to normal. Some people obviously stockpiled so much they are still getting through it. 

Last week someone commented to me that there was "almost no rice on the shelves". We agreed that it must come from the eastern states and the problem was caused by transport issues due to the floods there. Then there has been the problem with bread. On three occasions over the past month I have been unable to get the bread I like from the supermarket. (It is a multi-grain loaf with a bit of body - unlike the loaf that tries to pass itself off as "wholemeal".) 

The flour for that is sourced here in Downunder. They do need to think about that.  We are going to need a lot more of that. Much of the bread we get actually comes as a mix from America.  I know, unbelievable. It is made for this country because the sugar content is much lower but damn it all we do grow wheat - and barley and oats.

The price of fruit and vegetables is up too. They are up because of the weather conditions and transport issues and a need to supply overseas markets in order to retain them.  

But, we aren't starving - far from it. The problem however may grow much greater if the war in Ukraine isn't ended soon. The Ukraine and Russia supply about twenty percent of the world's wheat. We may not use it here but a shortage of it elsewhere is still going to put pressure on our supplies. When the head of the UN's food program says there will be a shortage he isn't talking about a shortage in the Ukraine and Russia he is talking about a shortage everywhere, a shortage which will affect everyone. Rations for people who are receiving food handouts have already been halved in many places. There are armed guards on food supplies in more than one country. 

Apart from the employment implications for some I am not in the least worried about people not being able to buy some new luxury item. I am worried about people not being able to feed themselves or their children. Even if they survive the effects of starvation on seriously and critically malnourished children are life long. It isn't simply a matter of "giving them something to eat".  Starvation can seriously affect mental development as well as having life-long physical effects. 

Putin's war in Ukraine is contributing to misery in many places far beyond the borders. We complain about the price of fuel going up and demand increased pay to cover the increased cost of living. In reality we need to tighten our belts a notch and remember that even those of us who are less well off live in comparative luxury.

Could someone please capture Putin and put him in a cell in the Hague? I am sure they are more comfortable than a bomb shelter.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Saying "thank you" is an alien concept

to some - or so it would seem.

I have been puzzling over this yet again. Nine days ago I had two short emails from the person who was then my local MP. They were both very personal notes. One of those notes was a "thank you". This was in the middle of an election campaign. She was very, very busy - but she found time to say "thank you". 

Unfortunately she has not been re-elected. I say unfortunately because she really was a good local member, perhaps the best we have had in many years. She got things done at a local level and really tried to represent local interests. 

I wonder how many people have said "thank you" to her. I suspect it won't be many.

I was listening to the BBC news this morning and there was someone for whom I have felt a good deal of concern and sympathy who, instead of saying "thank you" for all the work that went in to helping her was criticising the British government for taking so long to help.

Perhaps that person (and most of you will be aware of the person I am referring to) is simply unaware of how very, very delicate the negotiations had to be. Even so not thanking the government at all seems to me to be not just ungrateful but unwise.  Many others will now believe that it was a simple process. It was actually a very, very complex matter.

We need to say "thank you" to others even when we don't want to do that. We need to say "thank you" even when they smirk and preen in response, even if we feel they don't deserve it.

Why? Because failing to say "thank you" makes others feel less inclined to do something like that again. It may not only be the person who performed the act but others who observed it and our response to it who will feel less inclined.

Someone let me into a busy stream of traffic yesterday - well, let me get across it so I could pedal up the side of the stream. I "thanked" him by acknowledging the gesture with a raised paw. Around here it's a common way of thanking people for similar acts.  As he passed on my right across the railway line he smiled at me. I am sure it means he will do the same for someone else in the future.

This is why it is so important to thank other people. Failing to say "thank you" is selfish.


Monday 21 March 2022

The transgenders in sport debate

is not something I have wanted to discuss with anyone. My own belief is that a person's sexual leaning is their affair. I see it as a private matter. 

If life was simple I would see a male/female and sperm/egg divide. I also know there are people who have a strong desire to be the opposite of the male or female they were at birth. It seems to me that such a desire is not possible to achieve although there are ways in which partial adjustments can be made.  I know people who have endured medical interference in an attempt to become what they were not at birth. Yes it does require endurance and yes it is medical interference. It can be physically as well as emotionally painful. Whether it is right or wrong is for those involved to judge, not me.

What does concern me though is the demand for unequal "equality". Let me explain.

I had to actually go to a meeting last week. It's a small committee and we know one another pretty well. One of the other members brought up the transgender issue with me while we were waiting for the meeting to start. 

"I wasn't sure about coming today. One of the residents is transitioning and it is proving very difficult for everyone."  I could guess which resident. I can also imagine that, in that particular residence, there are some major issues to be addressed. What is more I am not at all certain that transitioning is going to help that particular person. It may well make matters worse than before. S/he already has some other  and very serious issues. My fellow committee member is of the same view. But the resident has been to "counselling" and the process has begun. I hope it works and I am wrong about the likely outcome but I am concerned for him/her and the other residents in the group house.

Someone else joined  in at that point and said, "Well J.... has just stopped playing basketball because of this sort of thing. There is a girl-boy on the team and 'she' is much bigger and so J... was getting knocked around. The coach says B....has the right to play on the team and that we are just prejudiced. It isn't that at all. She is just so much bigger than any of the other girls. They are supposed to use the same changing room too and now the girls don't want to change in there. I didn't want her to give it up but it isn't safe." 

There was a robust discussion at this point about "responsible" parenting. I don't have children so I kept my thoughts to myself but I do feel there are issues that need to be addressed. Everyone feels safe and secure and welcome. It also means that there might be places and times where adjustments do need to be made. 

Young girls are often very self-conscious about the changes to their bodies. I believe this needs to be respected just as much as the right of the child who wants to transition being able to change in the change room of their choice. I know there are people who disagree with me - and who may well disagree with me here.

There is a woman in this district who has transitioned. She is very tall, indeed very tall for the male she once was. Her general physique is much like that expected of a footballer. I don't know if she plays any sport but I have tried to imagine her on a female basketball team. I find it difficult to believe that any team she was on would not be at an advantage if she had even a modicum of skill. How do you balance that out against the right of others to play a truly competitive game?  

There are often good reasons to deny people the right to certain activities. There might also be the means to allow them to participate in other ways or in limited ways. I know of a man with Down Syndrome who is able to use a ride on mower on the family farm. He is very good at it - but there is no way he could get a licence to drive a vehicle on the roads. He knows that.

I had a blind friend who was incredibly fit. He was a solicitor. He and his dog walked into the city office each day. He played cricket at weekends - with other visually impaired men. He did not expect to be on the local team for the sighted. His view of the world was perhaps what we might term "realistic".

Is there one answer to the transgenders in sport issue? I doubt it. At the same time I think there is a need to accept there might be some limits imposed on any of us - imposed for the safety and benefit of other people. 



Sunday 20 March 2022

The election result in this state

was the expected "blood bath".  It is not a good result. Winning by such a large margin is not a good thing for any party.

In this instance it is of particular concern. The party in question has made a lot of "promises". They will be able to fulfill almost none of them.We all know that politics is about the art of lying convincingly but this time they did not even need to do that.

The immediate past government had Covid19 to contend with and I think it would be fair to say has been punished for handling it well. People didn't like the restrictions. They believe, in the perverse way that people will, that the restrictions were not necessary because we didn't have the case numbers they had in the eastern states. That we might have had much higher numbers without those restrictions is not something they seem able to recognise. It played into the hands of those opposed to vaccinations and those opposed to vaccination mandates.

Much was made of "ramping" - ambulances having to wait on arrival at hospitals.  Much was made of delays in getting an ambulance. No mention was made of the increased demand on services because of Covid and the number of unnecessary call outs. No mention was made of the other huge demand for ambulance services - a demand brought on by the incoming government's closure of mental health services.  Attempts to raise these issues in the media failed. The outgoing government tried to get the message across but they failed. The media simply wasn't ready to acknowledge that such a good story was false. 

This election was also held in the midst of still considerable Covid restrictions. There are still large numbers of people in isolation. They were supposed to be able to pick up voting papers from testing stations - one excuse for being able to leave the house. That would not always have been possible. There were no provisions to allow people who were in hospital to vote. In aged care residences people who had postal votes and wished to use them had to rely on staff to help. 

And voting in community housing for people with disabilities? That is always a problem and this time it was an even bigger problem. No, "carers" were not going to take people out to vote on the day. 

I went into a group house on Friday. This was organised by a parent of one of the residents. It was not a popular move with the carers but they didn't quite dare deny me entry. They had already been warned by the parent in question that they would be reported if any of the ballot papers had already been filled out and returned. 

"Do your best Cat...but I really don't think any of them should be voting," I was told.

No, we are not talking about denying anyone the right to vote. This person's child has problems making simple decisions. Asked if they want to wear "this t-shirt or this one?" they find it hard to answer. Choosing the candidate they want is something they find almost impossible. Explaining to them that they must then go on and choose yet more because of "compulsory preferential voting" rules is something harder still. The others who live in the same house are no better at making such choices. They have no idea what the policies of the candidates are. 

I tried to simplify it as much as I could but without any real success. These are not informed votes at all. They may be the free choice of those voting but they are not informed. I was reminded more than once of my maternal grandmother telling me, "I voted for D..... because he looks nice."  I often wonder how many other elderly women did the same.

We have to live with the results of this election for the next four years. Something similar is likely to happen at national level. After that we get a chance of sorts to call those elected to account. It is democracy of a sort but such large majorities are dangerous. 

Saturday 19 March 2022

Oh the joys of politics

and the envy of those who are not going to get that very generous "pension".

The man who has been the Treasurer is retiring. He has been in politics for the past forty years. It is a long time, a very long time. I have a vague memory of him being elected to his Upper House seat...and there he has stayed.  He has had more than a few problems to deal with in his time. One of the biggest was the collapse of the state's bank- something which occurred while he was in opposition but he and his colleagues had to deal with after the election. There have been other issues too. The last two years have been hard with Covid19 issues hitting so many areas.

But now the knives are out because he is going to get a "very generous" pension. Any yes, it does sound good. It is more money than I will ever see. 

He gets his pension under a very old state government scheme. It was compulsory at the time. It is the same scheme the Senior Cat was required to pay into. It was devised by someone the Senior Cat and I both knew for many years. At the time it seemed fair and reasonable. State based public servants had to pay a percentage of their salary into the scheme. The government matched this and, over the years, it was topped up to cover inflation. You paid tax on it then - and you pay tax on it now. 

This is the scheme that almost covers the cost of the care the Senior Cat is receiving. We still need to dip into his savings to cover everything. Strictly speaking he should not be paying more than 85% of his income on his care but there are ways around that - and they are used almost everywhere.  He gets none of the "perks" of the pension. He pays tax on all this instead. All this stops on the day of his death. If my mother was still alive she would get two thirds of his payment - and still be required to pay tax on it.

There are still many others being paid under the old scheme. It was clearly unsustainable and it was dropped some time ago. For some, like our former Treasurer, it seems generous. Many would say what the Senior Cat gets is also generous. In doing so they forget that some of these people have worked extraordinarily hard in roles that are not simple 9-5 roles. The Senior Cat was sometimes in the school office at 7am. He would leave at around 6pm and then go back for an 8pm meeting on more than one night a week. He was also expected to be a social worker, a marriage guidance counsellor, a financial adviser, a lay preacher and much more. If there was school sport being played on a Saturday he was expected to be there - and available to the parents.  Any good school principal would have been doing the same sort of thing. 

Those of them who did country service were also expected to live in sub-standard housing supplied by the government - for which they paid rent. They did not have the opportunity to buy their own homes until they returned to the city. They used their own cars for work purposes - and received no allowance for doing this even when they had to travel hundreds of kilometres.

Yes, that scheme has changed now but that was the scheme at the time. It is not quite as generous as it appears to be at first glance. I also knew some senior members of the education service who died soon after retirement. If they were married then yes their partners were paid two thirds but payment to those who were not married or widowed ceased immediately and the funds returned to the government coffers. If the retiring Treasurer died tomorrow his widow would get that two thirds...and like many a politician's partner I suspect she would have earned it.

If we want better politicians we need to pay them more than peanuts.


Friday 18 March 2022

Mental health in war

time and afterwards is something to which we do not give nearly enough attention. 

The first time I went to England I went by sea. I did not intend to go by sea. I am not a good traveller and I was miserably seasick for far too much of the journey to enjoy it. Any chance to land on dry ground for a moment was something I accepted with relief. 

When the ship docked in Rotterdam we were told we had about three hours to see a little of the city. Several of my fellow passengers hired a taxi and, taking me with them, asked the driver to give them a guided tour. 

Like many other Dutch he spoke very good English. He agreed and told us about what it would cost.

"But first we will go somewhere near. I will start the meter after that." He took us to a deserted piece of land. There had obviously been a building or buildings on it. It was overgrown.

"This," he told us, "was the Germans. We do not forget."

I have not forgotten that. It was a long time after the war I was shown that. It is much further away in time now. 

For the rest of our short time there he was a very pleasant and very informative driver. We more than "got our money's worth" but I wonder whether my fellow passengers remember that incident. The place obviously meant a great deal to our driver.

There are people I know who pass our city's "war memorial" every day. It is there on the north terrace of the city. I wonder if they look at it every day. Are they aware of it? I doubt it. It is much more likely that it only comes to their notice when they plant the crosses for occasions like Anzac Day or Remembrance Day. Even then do they think about what those crosses really represent - lives lost. Do they consider all the wounded and how their lives have changed forever - and how the lives of their families have changed forever?

My godfather is a returned naval officer. He was injured during WWII. His hearing has never been the same. He has worn a corset ever since because of the damage to his back. On the surface he appears stoical but there have been times when the combination of physical and mental damage have almost overwhelmed him. He knows people who have been overwhelmed. They took their own lives because they could no longer bear the physical and mental pain. The same has occurred since then in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East and Afghanistan. 

I think of all this and I think of what is going on in the Ukraine right now. I think of the soldiers, many of them untrained volunteers, fighting to try and preserve "their" country. I think of the others who have stayed behind such as the far distant colleague who works in an orphanage - who has stayed because the children have nowhere to go. No, they aren't safe. Even if they survive they will have ongoing mental and physical issues. 

War doesn't stop when the fighting stops. It goes on for years. We need to remember that. 

Thursday 17 March 2022

"Mean Girls" is apparently

a term we are not allowed to use - if it applies to certain members of those currently in the Opposition.

There has been a news story of sorts flying around here in Downunder about the death of a Senator at the age of 52, possibly from a heart attack. There has been talk of the stress she was under, stress not just because of her role as a Senator.

Politics is a very brutal place. I shudder every time I think of how close I came to accidentally being one. I was at a meeting of a disability group to help those with communication issues. The main business of the meeting was to find a running mate for the person they wanted to represent them in parliament. I was asked, indeed pressured, to be that person. I declined. My work role has meant remaining politically neutral in public life. I wasn't going to jeopardise that because it could have harmed, still could harm, the people with whom  I work. I said no more than once in the course of that meeting. 

Eventually someone else put her hand up for the role. Her name went on the ballot paper under the candidate's name. Then the unthinkable happened. The candidate died very suddenly. The election was on. His name was there. Yes, you can vote for a dead person. Under our system of compulsory preferential voting a vote for a deceased person flows to the next person. 

The issue received a considerable amount of publicity in the media and, against all expectations, the second candidate obtained a seat in the upper house.  It should not have happened but it did. I could have been that person. I am glad I was not.

I could not have coped with that brutal world which is politics. The person who accidentally became a one term politician did her best. She had some good advisers and, fortunately for her, her vote was not crucial so she did not come under the pressure she might otherwise have come under. What is more she was "independent" in the sense she was the only member of that party to be elected so she did not have to deal with "factions".

It was a different story for the recently deceased Senator. Stories are now coming to light about how she was frozen out of conversations, discussions and negotiations. Her name was not on some internal party mailing lists and more. Three of her colleagues have been accused of being "mean girls" towards her. I have met and clashed with one of them and I don't doubt she has the capacity to be as she is being described. She is very ambitious, very assertive. She has an intense dislike of being in the wrong. I never observed her behaviour towards the late Senator first hand so I don't know if what is being said is true - but more people are coming forward to say it is.

In all this we have a real problem. There is an election coming up. The Leader of the Opposition is refusing to acknowledge there is any truth in the allegations or investigate them. This is despite his demands of the other side of politics and his comments on the report on the workplace culture in parliament. We will almost certainly go to the federal election without those responsible for their alleged behaviour being held to account. They are the people who are going to represent us on the national and international stage.

Is it any wonder I think there is something wrong with all this?

Wednesday 16 March 2022

We closed the mental health

facilities and other residential facilities too.

We put vulnerable people "out in the community" on the grounds that they need to be "like everyone else" and "treated with dignity". We are told we must not emphasise differences but similarities.

I went to visit the Senior Cat yesterday. Middle Cat and I take it in turns to do this, sometimes we will even both go in. He has reached the stage where he is simply lying in bed staring at the ceiling. He likes us "just to be here" we go. We often come out close to tears. He is and yet is not the father we knew and still love. 

When we go we need to do a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) every 48 hours. It's time consuming. It is expensive. It can also cause some unexpected conversations. 

The residence manager gave me the RAT materials to do my own and asked if I would mind showing someone else what to do. It wasn't going to take any more of my time so of course I agreed. And the woman and I had a conversation. Her husband is in the facility but her sister is in another one. It was her sister who was of particular interest to me. Her sister is intellectually disabled and has been since birth. She has been living in an aged care residence for some years now. Was she happy there?

"Oh she loves it. The staff give her little jobs to do. She feels useful." That's good, very good. If she is happy to fold the laundry and so on I am sure it is good for her to be occupied.

But then the woman talking to me went on, "And she has actually made some friends there. I wasn't sure at first but there are several other intellectually disabled people there and they seem to get on really well together. H...actually told me that she had found some people like herself and it was lovely."

We discussed this some more. It seems her sister recognises that she is intellectually disabled and has welcomed the company of others with an intellectual capacity similar to her own. They do things together. They help one another where they can. H... has apparently told her sister, "They are people like me."

Not far from here there is what used to be called a "sheltered workshop" for people with a range of disabilities. Over the years I have known many of the people who have worked there. I taught some of them, others have become known to me by other routes. Almost all of them have worked at the facility for many years. Are they happy there? It would seem so. There are regular contracts for the place but there is plenty of variety. One of them reminded me last week that they would soon be doing an annual job they are particularly fond of doing. Is he happy working there? He has been there for over twenty years and still doesn't like "holidays". He has friends there - something he never had when he was "integrated" into the mainstream school system.

There are pros and cons of "integration" into schools and into the community, of course there are. But I often wonder about the "integration is best" policy. I think of all the deaf people I have met over the years, people who find it incredibly difficult to mix with hearing people who do not understand their communication needs. As in many places the deaf here have their own community. They can and do support each other. Yes, they do mix with the wider community when they need to or, occasionally, because they wish to do so. Those I know are happy to try and communicate with me  - but both sides know it is not as easy as it could be and on the whole they are happier in their own community. They don't see themselves as disadvantaged; they are simply different.

And I wonder if people like H... may just feel the same way. Perhaps this insistence on "integration" is for the benefit of the apparently "normal" population. Does it make them feel less "guilty"?


Tuesday 15 March 2022

Fair and balanced reporting?

I have long had concerns about the way we are informed by the main stream media. It now seems more important than ever that we should address that issue and demand better. If we are to remain informed and involved then this is essential. It is essential to counter the "news" of social media.

"How to verify information involving the war in Ukraine, according to fact checkers and experts" reads the message on my Twitter feed. Good? It's a start I suppose. There is a lot more to it than that.

But let's start with something else instead. We have an election coming up in this state. Polling day is Saturday. The Opposition is expecting to win. They claim, as they always do, that they are the underdogs and that it will be a "tight" race. 

Our state newspaper has of course been covering the election campaign. They claim the coverage is "fair and balanced" but is it really? We have no way of knowing most of the time. 

Yesterday there was an article by a senior and very experienced reporter claiming that the Premier had broken one of those arcane laws surrounding our elections. This one concerned members of parliament not being able to stand within six metres of a polling booth. There was the photograph of the Premier standing just next to the porch which leads into the polling booth I attended the other day. Caught! The Premier was breaking the law! The Opposition was delighted. The photograph was incontrovertible proof the Premier had broken the law. The head line suggested that was the case...even the article tried to suggest it.

In reality however? 

Someone I know and trust - and someone I know to be a member of the Opposition's party - admitted to me that there was no "altercation" between the Premier and a staff member from the Election Commission. "Made a good story Cat but it didn't happen."

Now I was not there. I don't know what actually happened. What I do know is that I have been told two different things. Whom do I believe?  

"But there is a photograph!" you tell me.

Yes, there is. Now I know the building. My guess is that between the porch door  and the entrance to the actual polling booth there would be at least six metres. That is the distance that counts. The photograph shows the Premier outside the porch door. But why spoil a good story?     

The problem with all this is that the story was written by a senior and very experienced journalist. He has written it in a way that strongly suggests the Premier has broken the law. And that is what most people will accept as being the case. Is this "fair and balanced" reporting.

There has been an increasing tendency for journalists to enter the political arena. Some have even used their roles as journalists to enter politics proper. That must surely raise questions about their ability to report stories accurately and without bias. It may not be conscious - although I suspect it often is - but it will be there. This is why I try to get my news from a variety of sources...something becoming increasingly difficult in itself. 

Is it any wonder though that people rely on even more dubious sources in social media to get the news they want to hear?

Monday 14 March 2022

Union membership is

in decline. According to Bureau of Statistics figures it has gone from 14.6% to 14.3% in the last two years. That might not seem too much of a decline but in 1992 union membership was still around 40%.

There are other ways of negotiating a pay packet and the terms and conditions of our employment now. There has also been a dramatic change in the way we are informed about everything. The number of political parties has multiplied. 

Almost seventy years ago when the Senior Cat marked a ballot paper for the first time there were many electoral districts with just two candidates. Now those same seats will have multiple candidates. At this election my electoral district had six. Many others had at least four.  

We also have an iniquitous system of "compulsory preferential voting" i.e. You must mark the ballot paper with a number in every square in order of preference for your first choice to count. I say "iniquitous" because there are at least two things so seriously wrong with it that the system is no longer democratic. 

In order to have your first choice count you must make second, third, fourth and so on choices. I have always used the following example. An election is being held and the subject of the death penalty comes up. There is fierce debate in the community. I strongly oppose the death penalty. I would look to see who among the candidates also opposes it. I see J. Bloggs. I don't agree with everything else Bloggs has on his/her platform but I can live with the overall policies. I make the decision to vote (1) for Bloggs. Then, like it or not, I have to preference the other candidates and they all support the death penalty.  Bloggs does not get in but their preferences flow to the othe candidates. I have, like it or not, helped to vote in someone who supports something I am strongly opposed to. 

"That's democracy," you tell me. No, it is not democracy. I should be able to stop marking the ballot paper at the point where I can no longer support any of the candidates.

There are also ways in which it is possible to manipulate the vote. Some years ago a man of my acquaintance was approached to stand as an "independent" in his electorate. He was (still is) well known in the area and he might well have collected a sizeable number of votes. He refused to stand because those asking him were actually members of a major party. What they were hoping to do was get him to agree to standing knowing he would not win but hoping the preference flow would go in favour of their candidate. They would have "helped" with printing electoral material and all the work that goes into getting a candidate to succeed. If by some unlucky chance the stooge they have chosen won then they would be expected to vote with the party and perhaps even join it.  Yes, it happens.

Unions play a role in all this. They advertise heavily in ways not always recognisable to the rest of the population. Think about those advertisements that tell you how good "industry super funds" are. They are subtle political advertising, trying to soften us up. There are now reports that $15m has been taken from those funds for the purposes of political advertising at this election. That is $15m from funds intended for the benefit of people when they retire. 

Union funds have not decreased in size. Unions have access to more funds than ever before - access without consent. Combine that access with a compulsion to attend the ballot box and a compulsion to mark every box in order to have our vote count and the results may not be the "democratic" choice we think it is.  

Sunday 13 March 2022

The cost of petrol

is rising yet again and, with it, the price of everything else.

I don't own a car. I don't have a licence to drive one. I do see the petrol prices. It would be hard not to do this because I pass the petrol station going to and from the shopping centre - which incluses the chemist and the post office and like services.

There are also times when I need to call on "the Middle Cat taxi service" as my sister and I sometimes call it. I try very hard not to do that. More often than not it is because we both need to go somewhere. Her own home is five minutes driving time away and that makes sense. Even if I had a car we would do the same thing. Why take two cars if we can take one?

When the Senior Cat gave up driving - something he loathed - he bought a "gopher" and used that. Eventually he had to rely on taxis and Middle Cat's "taxi service" too. 

Yes, there was a time when there was more than one car in this family. My mother was travelling a long distance to schools with no easy access to public transport. Having a car made sense. For some years she shared the driving with another woman working in a nearby school. The other woman lived about 3OOm from us. It made sense to both of them but there were times when they both needed their own cars. 

The Senior Cat also needed a car. My siblings wanted cars - although they each had to wait until they had an income which allowed them to pay the cost of acquiring one and then using it. 

I used pedal power and public transport - the train service. (You can take your bike on a train here provided there is space available.) Yes, it did curtail my social life after dark but it was something I had to accept. If more people had used the train service it might have been safer to travel at night - might be safer now too.

All this is something I have been aware of recently. At the local station petrol prices went up 16c a litre this week. There are ominous warnings that petrol could go as high as $2.50 a litre. The war in Ukraine is one of the problems fuelling the rise but there are other issues too. 

In this country that matters. It is a nation which is generally poorly served by public transport - especially outside urban areas. People often need to travel long distances to get to work and even to access basic services. For years people have expected to be able to live in single unit dwellings - and that means the "urban sprawl" has grown ever larger. The "car industry" has been a major part of the economy - building cars, supplying parts, servicing and maintaining them, have all been services which employ people. The transport industry has been built up around road transport. It's convenient. It employs more people. The rail system only goes to major hubs - and why "double handle" containers if you can just load a B-double and send it off to the precise location it needs to reach?

I confess to wondering about the economy of the claim of "double handling" but I don't know enough about the costs to argue. 

What I do know is that we are frighteningly dependent on the cost of fuel - any sort of fuel - in order to keep the country moving. 

Saturday 12 March 2022

Making allegations about

someone or something should never be done lightly. Repeating those allegations as "facts" is just as serious.

A lot of allegations are made during war. They are often untrue but they are designed to bolster the side of the individual or individuals making the allegations.

Let me start though with something else. A young person has made an allegation of rape against another person. The matter has been set down for hearing in court later in the year. As such it should not even be mentioned in the media now. The matter should be well out of the sight of any potential jurors. This is one of the cornerstones of our legal system. 

In this case that is not what has happened. The matter has been the subject of much media discussion. There has been so much discussion that the court has now warned those involved the case may never get as far as a trial.  That is surely a matter for concern? Despite that I was told during a meeting yesterday that, "Of course X is guilty." And how did they "know" that? "That's what everyone says."

This is "knowing" something in the same way that we "know" certain things have happened in Ukraine. I had an interesting exchange with someone on Twitter - someone I don't know. He was reluctant to accept that the Russians may have bombed a hospital with women and children inside. We don't "know" that he was saying. No, we don't "know" that. We were not there. We did not see it for ourselves. At the same time we have to accept, even if it is accept with reservations, some reports about such things. No, of course the Ukrainians have not behaved perfectly but yes they are fighting for their country. Action is being taken by people who know far more and the results of those actions are being relayed to us. Some of those relaying that information I trust more than others. It's a personal judgment - sometimes based on actual contact with them. I know I still need to be cautious about accepting what people say.

What "everyone knows" and what is actually the case may be two very different things. All I can say is ask "what am I being told" and "who is telling me", "why are they saying this", "were they there when this happened" and "what sort of language are they using to describe what they are telling me"? 

We need to learn to listen and read behind the words.

Friday 11 March 2022

A message from inside Ukraine

Thursday 10 March 2022

"The government isn't doing enough"

and "they weren't prepared" and "they should have been in here before now"...and more.

There have been many complaints in the media over the past week or so that the response to the floods in the eastern states has not been good.  It has been a real opportunity for the political opposition to criticise government - both federal and state. 

There have been complaints that "the government" hasn't been in there immediately, that they didn't deploy the defence forces fast enough, that the  "flood mitigation" programs still aren't in place, that they "weren't prepared even after the bush fires" and more. People are frustrated and angry. Everyone wants help immediately.

And what they want is impossible.

I know something about disaster management - not a lot and not as much as I should but I do know something. I know enough to tell me that what people want and what it is possible to provide are often two very different things. 

It isn't always possible to go in "immediately". If it was then there would not be a disaster situation. In this case it simply has not been possible to go into some areas where there is fast flowing water, obstructions that cannot be seen, debris causing hazards to everyone and much more. Yes, some people need to be rescued - often people who have left it too late to leave on their own. Others will need to be rescued through no fault of their own. Yes, you might be able to employ a helicopter to help someone from the roof of a house but such people have to be located and highly trained personnel have to do the job. It's not simple. What we see on television or in an adventure film may make it look simple but it is not simple.

There are also huge areas to be assessed and decisions made about who needs help the most. Do you save one child or an elderly couple? How do you handle the dam that is threatening to spill without causing even more damage? Where do you start the clean up...and who is going to do it? Those are questions for which there are no clear cut answers.

And there are other things to think about. Is "the government" responsible for all the decisions made about choosing to live in a flood prone area or a bush fire area? Should they be doing more? 

Think about the fire situation for a moment. Friends of ours built a home in a bush fire prone area. They thought long and hard about doing it and decided to "take the risk". They wanted to live in bush land. 

It's a beautiful area if you like natural bush land. But K.... and B.... also made some other decisions. Their home has been built in a way that reduces the fire risk as much as possible. The land around the house was cleared to the distance advised.What has been planted close to the house is designed as a fire retardant - vegetation that does not burn easily. There is a sprinkler system which covers the entire property. K... checked on it or had his son-in-law check on it each week. Now his son-in-law does what K... can no longer do. Yes, it helps his son-in-law lives next door and has a similar arrangement. They have put a lot of work in over the years and the local council has recognised that. Even now people are sent to see "how it should be done". 

But other people don't necessarily do that. They want to "leave it as nature intended". They don't clear the undergrowth. They have other fire hazards right around the house. They don't have a sprinkler system or, if they do, they don't maintain it. 

And, when a fire comes through, they are not responsible. No, it is "the government" which is responsible. The government has not done this or that or acted fast enough or had enough equipment or enough people...and so on.

Yes, there was a flood mitigation strategy which was supposed to be put in place in the eastern states. It would not have solved all the problems but it might have reduced those same problems. The money was there too. So why didn't it happen? 

It didn't happen for much the same sort of reasons that individual people don't want to do what should be done in a bush fire prone area. People tried to prevent some measures being taken because of the impact on what they see as "the natural environment". They want to live an urban lifestyle in a rural environment. It can't be done. Those who have delayed the measures which should have been put in place are now some of those who are complaining the loudest about the disaster. No, it isn't their fault. Of course it isn't their fault. They are the good guys, the people on the side of "the environment".  It is all "the government's fault". 

Perhaps it is time for media to be more honest about what is really happening out there. People need to be informed about the need to be more responsible, about the need to do what will sometimes appear to be contradictory. They need to know that taking action might save koala habitat instead of destroying it and much more. (Yes, if farmers had been allowed to put in the fire breaks they wanted to put in those fires would not have been nearly as catastrophic.)

The media needs to be more responsible too. They need to let people know more about the impact that vocal minority is having. It isn't just "the government's fault". We need to take more responsibility too.