Tuesday 31 May 2022

We lived on an island

once. It was rather a long time ago now and I have never been back. I have never had any desire to go back.

It was nearly the location of the state's capital - until those responsible for the first settlement realised it would not be a sensible idea. Islands can be awkward places to settle.

This particular island is not large. It is about 155km long and, at the widest point, about 55km wide. 

The first time we travelled to the island we went by sea. We went on a "roll-on, roll-off" - a vessel which takes vehicles. You drive on and you drive off. It went to the island once a week - if the weather was good enough for the vessel to dock.  It was an uncomfortable overnight trip - no cabins for anyone. 

The alternative was to travel by air. The biggest planes to the island were the Fokker Friendship type which could carry about fifty people. In reality they carried fewer people and more cargo. They could only be used under certain conditions. The island's airstrip was "basic" to say the least. The "terminal" was a tin shed.

Over the years there have been various airlines which have tried to support the route. The airstrip has improved now that the island is largely a tourist destination. It certainly needed to improve. We lived in the centre of the island well away from the airport.

While we were there we were woken one night by the phone ringing. When the Senior Cat answered it and was asked to set the school generator going. (This supplied the power to the school. The house had a 32v system.) There was an emergency. Several cars were arriving.  They had their engines running and lights trained on the unsealed road outside the school. 

A little later one of the "crop dusters" landed. These are tiny planes used to spray crops. The pilots tend to be very, very skilled. That night the pilot of one plane made two round trips and another made one to the city - each carrying seriously injured boys to hospital in the city. While he was doing it the island's doctor/vet was doing what she could to save the lives of the young trouble makers from the city.

To the best of my knowledge those boys survived. That they did survive was extraordinary. It was sheer good fortune that a farmer going home late had seen the wrecked vehicle - a stolen one he recognised. There was no way a larger plane could have landed where those small ones landed. It took farmers with headlights to show them where to land and the school lights to direct them to the area.

At school the next day we had a whole school assembly. I remember the Senior Cat talking to us all about what had happened and how serious it had been. He emphasised the risks the pilots had taken and the cooperation that had been needed by those involved. As almost every boy in the school who could reach the pedals could also drive - and usually did on the farm - he no doubt hoped it would cause them to be more careful at least for a short while.

What my brother and I managed to learn from the incident was something about the dangers of living where we lived at the time. Islands are isolated and isolating places. 

Yes, the founding fathers of the state were right not to put the capital on the island.


Monday 30 May 2022

Movies and internet access for prisoners

and the reintroduction of a car race in city streets seem to be on the government's agenda again.

Prison is supposed to be about punishment and rehabilitation. I have no objection to prisoners seeing the occasional film - as a reward for good behaviour. I feel the same way about access to television. Internet access for the purposes of learning approved new skills is fine. These things may well help to keep someone out of trouble later.

Zoom meetings with their family? Maybe. They would need to be monitored and they would need to be instead of and not in addition to face-to-face meetings. They may be less distressing for some children. At the same time if a child does not wish to see a parent who is in prison then they should not be required to do so. I once taught a child whose father was in prison. His father was a brute of a man who had somehow managed to obtain an order that his son visit him. The boy in question was terrified of him. "I don't want to see him - ever!" If there had been Zoom then I doubt it would have been any easier for the child in question.

It is a fine line though between punishment and rehabilitation. There are many other things the money could be spent on. The Senior Cat knew a man who spent many years volunteering in prisons. He taught literacy skills in them after teaching in schools all day. It helped a few but I remember him sitting at our kitchen table in absolute despair as yet another man he thought he had helped was sent back in for another long term. The Senior Cat had ideas about those things but never became involved. He was of the view it was better to keep people out of such places from the start. 

We aren't doing enough about that. We have almost completely cut art and craft from schools. The idea that children might be self-motivated and creative is at odds with the way we supervise and watch over almost every childhood activity.

If we dared to say, "I'm bored" or "I don't know what to do" our mother found something for us to do sharpish. I don't think I said either of those things after around my seventh birthday and my siblings were the same. We knew better. My brother is just as good now as the Senior Cat ever was in his workshop. He is passing the skills on to his grandchildren too. They won't have time to get into too much strife but they will be self motivated people who can entertain themselves as well.

I think this is what bothers me about the prison proposal. It is almost as if they have given up on the prisoners. The authorities seem to think they can pass over a sort of adult-sitting to the internet, to electronic entertainment. Those in their care won't be able to entertain themselves - and that is surely a recipe for recidivism?


Sunday 29 May 2022

Boat turnbacks are

nothing new. This has been the policy of both sides of government for some time now. It is the right policy. 

It is the right policy because far too many people have drowned at sea. They have drowned because they are being put on vessels which are not seaworthy. Those vessels also tend to be so overcrowded that the numbers on board would make it dangerous even for a seaworthy vessel. 

It is also the right policy because the "migration agents" who charge the exorbitant amounts for these illegal attempts to enter another country are nothing more than the worst sort of criminals. They are murderers as well as thieves. The amount of money they charge would actually buy more than one plane ticket into this country but they still tell people this is how it can and should be done.

The policy of the new government won't change much. We are too close to one of the countries from which people try to leave - and that country is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention. 

And yes, in the normal way we do hear about boats being intercepted. This is done because it also sends a message both to people smugglers and to certain people within this country who believe that this might be a way of getting "refugees" into the country.  To be blunt not everyone has the best interests of people who arrive this way at heart. 

So the previous government was not doing anything it had not done before when it announced a boat was not far off its target. What was unusual is that it was done on the day of the election. The not too subtle hint was "vote for us to stop this". The new government has complained about this. Of course it is equally possible to say that had the announcement not been made the new government would have said the old government was hiding a boat arrival and acting secretively. The old government was in a no-win situation.

Our new government is "trying to repair the relationship with Beijing".  This comes as no surprise. The relationship under the previous government was not good. There was a good reason for this. We did the right thing. We attempted to stand up to a very powerful bully. We lost.

Yes, we can do business with Beijing as long as we do it on their terms. Negotiation is not part of the game. There is no criticism allowed. The bribes must be paid. In no way are we permitted to interfere with what they want.

Beijing is now darting around the islands north of us and "signing security pacts and agreements". The "agreements" of course are nothing of the sort. Those tiny nations know they have no choice. The so called security pacts are just another name for taking over land by force while still pretending it belongs to someone else. You can live there if you like but you will do it according to our rules. We will have bases right around the region and then pounce on those ridiculous people in our territory of Taiwan.

I am glad I do not live in Taiwan. I am very worried about the way our new government is already giving in to Beijing's interests. It is possible that I could be wrong but I suspect that the vast majority of Chinese have no desire for a war with Taiwan. They will simply expect Taiwan to give in without a fight. They will see the "gifts" given to island nations and think they are ungrateful for them if there are complaints made.

But take a look at what is happening in Africa and other parts of Asia. Take a look at how countries who accepted "help" from Beijing are now even worse off than they were before. If you doubt this then why is there a message from me this morning saying that a small village in Zambia has just had the water supply from the lake cut off? Beijing gave them a "gift" of a pump in return for some men in the village "helping" with a new road built to service a nearby mine. This is how the men were paid. They did the work. Now the men are no longer needed.  The pump has been removed but access to the lake is still blocked - unless the women walk two hours for water. 

Do we really want to do business with Beijing?


Saturday 28 May 2022

"A passionate revival of a lost language"?

I am wondering how much further people are going to go in an attempt to "preserve", "revive" and "restore" something that has been gone for well over one hundred and fifty years.

There is a piece in this morning's paper about the "revival" of the Kaurna language. For overseas readers - the Kaurna were the people who lived in the area in and around this state's capital city when the first white settlers came. It is estimated that they numbered, at most, around three hundred people. 

Naturally they had their own language, culture and way of life. That has gone. What genuinely remains is nothing more than a few words of the language - and they may not be correct. The Kaurna did not have a written language and, without that, the survival of the spoken language was always going to be at even greater risk.  The Kaurna language did not survive. 

The vocabulary the Kaurna and the white settlers needed in order to communicate did not exist for many ideas and objects in the Kaurna language. The Kaurna simply had not needed the same vocabulary. They certainly did not know what a dictionary was. They did not need one. Their language was not "primitive". It was their everyday language and it served a purpose - until white settlement. Then English took over. 

Some effort was made to learn about the Kaurna language by one of the early French explorers and by church men. The latter naturally wanted to convert the Kaurna people. It wasn't until the 1920s that there was any real academic interest. By then there was thought to be just one native speaker of the language left. His use of the language was documented and recorded. 

Or perhaps I should say "what was thought to be his use of the language".  Whether he simply thought he was doing what the researcher wanted or whether he was lying deliberately we will never know. Certainly people who tried to gather information from other people in other parts of the state were being given deliberately false information about words and what those words might mean. There were matters you did not speak of outside the tribe, even outside just the male members of the tribe - and then only the initiated men. The same is true of efforts to gather information about the Kaurna language. 

The head of Linguistics at the university likes to claim they have managed to preserve around 3000 words and some of the grammar of the language which was spoken at white settlement. I do not believe that. I think they would be fortunate to have 300 words. I also think there would be differences in semantics, pronunciation and grammar. Those differences would likely be so great the speakers then would not understand what now passes for the language. 

I know that will not be a popular view but I think it is a realistic one. The Kaurna language was not "saved" and it is not being "revived". It can't be. Even now, with all the modern technology and methods at our disposal, it would be very difficult to do. What they had back then simply made the task impossible. It means a language and a culture are gone apart from a few remnants and the world is poorer for it. At best what people are doing is trying to create a language.

I am however reminded of the exchange between Humpty Dumpty and Alice

 “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things." Perhaps you can - but it doesn't mean that the word in the present and the word in the past mean the same thing.


Friday 27 May 2022

Trucks, lorries, HGVs, utes

but not trains?

There is a "warning" from the "trucking" industry that unless they get some "help" with the fuel costs some of the firms will collapse. That, so they say, will cause shortages and the price of goods that do get through to rise.

Not far from here there is also a railway line. It is a single track working that goes right through the suburbs, up into the hills and on through the  country to another state. To the north of the city there is another line which goes both ways across the country. 

And yes, goods are carried on those lines. I sometimes have to wait at a crossing as bogie after bogie clatters through after an engine or two. There can be as many as one hundred and twelve bogies behind those engines. Those engines are powerful things. At the same time other goods are being carried up and down the city freeways to and from the same places as the trains. Almost every time I am out I find myself waiting for a huge vehicle to pass before I go on my way. Often it is multiple vehicles. Locally these are not even the largest vehicles. There are no "double Bs" in this part of suburbia.

The transport industry in this country is huge. In order to serve a small population spread mostly around the coastline of the world's smallest continent there are enormous distances which need to be covered at great expense. It is an industry which employs a lot of people. 

It is an industry which wields a lot of power. People need goods. We need the fuel tankers. We need food. We need other goods. The road transport industry has grown over the years, grown and grown again. It is likely it will grow even more. 

These heavy vehicles require roads, good roads. They need all the maintenance and services which go with roads. They need the people who can provide this. 

Rail needs some of this too of course although not quite so much. Rail is also limited to going only where there are tracks. It is easy to dismiss it for that reason alone.

But I am wondering about the real economics. Realistically we are not going to be able to run those huge "double Bs" any distance on solar panels or any other form of renewable energy. 

Like so many other places we have allowed our rail network to fall into disuse in some places. "People weren't using it," was the excuse given over and over again." Yes, more people found they were able to afford a car and the costs of running it. It is so much more convenient to "just be able to hop in the car and go".  There has been no need to discipline yourself to catch a train (or a bus or a tram). 

I like trains. I can put my trike on the local passenger train and actually go beyond my normal pedal power distance. If I am going far enough I can read - a train being the only vehicle I can read on without feeling ill. I can knit. I know other people who do these things. Trains are my preferred mode of transport if I cannot pedal. The "green lobby" has been remarkably silent about all this... and not all of them use their supposedly environmentally friendly electric vehicles either. At the same time I suspect, for most other people, there is more effort involved in using a train. It seems there is also more effort involved in using trains to get goods around the country. 

We will have to pay for such lack of effort. 

Thursday 26 May 2022

For those of you who hated John Howard

so much you ousted him from his seat in the last election in which he stood, I am wondering how you feel now?

tell me this, "Are you still proud of the fact that you ousted the man who had the guts and the courage to face up to a group of gun owners and tell them, no you can't have what you want. This country is better than that. We will do what we can to protect others from this sort of event ever happening again."

Yes, we have had "mass shootings" since the events in Port Arthur but so far we have not had one which has involved anything like as horrific as what occurred in Texas this week. If you look down the list of "mass killings" (two or more people) in this country almost all of the are "familicides" - deaths within families. There is some gang related violence and incidents, such as fires, where people are instantly identified as mentally deranged. 

The incident at Port Arthur left this country reeling. This was the sort of thing that happened "somewhere else". It raised questions about gun laws across the nation. Reform came from the side of politics which might have been expected to try and block it. The then Leader of the National Party - one partner of the Coalition government had to face stiff opposition from the rural community. Like John Howard, the Prime Minister of the day, Tim Fischer stuck by what he believed to be right. He did that even when he knew it might lead to his ousting as party leader and even his departure from politics.

In the end the gun laws which were brought in have often been described as "moderate" and "reasonable". They were a measured response to an appalling situation. It is likely that most people here would think those laws are reasonable. There have been some alterations to them but nobody has suggested removing them.

The perpetrator of the Port Arthur massacre is still alive. His intellectual capacity is said to be limited. He is in the mental health unit of his state prison and will never be released.   

What we have not had here yet, and hopefully never will have, are the sort of appalling events that America has had. The idea that a teenager could buy a weapon like that used and ammunition for that weapon and then go ahead and use it is beyond the comprehension of most people in this country.  It could happen of course but our gun control laws might just help prevent it.

The "right to bear arms" in the American Constitution is not a "right to kill". It never was a right to kill. 

The "cartoon" in today's state newspaper shows someone sitting at a large desk. Behind him is the indication that this is the National Rifle Association. He is telling the figure in front of him, "Just write 'thoughts and prayers' and 'now is not the time'...you know, the usual thing".  

My response, "The only prayer worth praying would be one to find the courage to prevent this happening ever again...and now is the time."  I doubt that prayer will be answered.

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Contributor cook books

or charity cook books or multi-author cook books...or just one of those "We think it would be a good idea if we got together and did a cookbook that we can sell to raise funds for...." are on my mind.

Yesterday a good friend came to lunch and brought with her a possible contribution for a raffle project we are both involved in. We have made the blankets - look back and you might see one of them on this blog. S... however was talking to someone else and that someone else passed on a cook book. 

It is also a brief history of part of the area the raffle funds are destined for, an area my family lived in for four years. It was a "soldier settlement" - one of those areas opened up after WWII for returned servicemen to settle on and become farmers. The scheme itself has, rightly, been consigned to history. Men with no farming experience, war injuries and mental health issues from all the trauma experienced do not make the best farmers. It was not a well thought out scheme. One of the reasons the Senior Cat was sent to the school was to try and work out ways of dealing with the many issues arising from the war related issues.

It was a long time ago now and I was in my teens when we lived there but I opened the book and the names hit me with an almost physical force. Although most of the women named in the book are now long deceased I won't name them here. It will be sufficient to say I admired them when I was in my teens and I admire them even more now.

They lived in the most primitive conditions at the start. Some of them lived in tents but most of them lived in "the camp". The camp was a group of huts used as temporary accommodation while land was cleared and simple fibro-asbestos housing was put up. The school house was just the same so we always knew what to expect if we went to visit someone. The houses were better than conditions at the camp but there was company at the camp. Once on their allotted parcel of land many of those women were very, very isolated. There was no television service available and radio reception was poor. Phone calls, if you had a phone, were expensive and it was a "party line". 

Is it any wonder then that there are small paragraphs in the book reminiscing almost fondly about the camp and the companionship those women found there? 

I looked at the names. There was the mother of someone in my year at school. There was the woman who would play the piano so people could dance each Saturday night. (She never used music. All she did was keep a list of songs in a small notebook but she could play for four hours and never repeat a tune.) There was the woman who ran the Guides and taught me how to make pumpkin scones. On another page there was the mother of the girl who, even in extreme heat, always wore her coat in school. There was the woman who taught me history and also ran the farm single-handed when her husband had a serious accident. Next to her was the woman who came in and showed me how to run the school library. (There was a proper library room and yes, I dealt with borrowing, returning, shelving, preparing new books and more. There was nobody else to do it. I did my first piece of research there - so that the staff would know what my fellow students were reading.) 

I went on and, some pages over, there was the doctor. She was married to one of the farmers. On one occasion she had to be called to an accident next to the school. It took a bit of work to find out where she was and the message came back, "She says to tell you she'll be there just as soon as she has her arm out of the bloody sheep's uterus." Yes, she doubled as the vet. 

There were other familiar names, like those of the women who stood with the home economics teacher, my mother and me in the school kitchen. We made sandwiches and scones for the men fighting a fire which came close to destroying the school - and we did it at 3am in the morning. 

Those women worked incredibly hard. Their efforts were barely acknowledged if at all. I looked at the recipes they had contributed. Most of them were simple. They were a reflection of their lives, of a lack of money, a lack of other resources and much more. 

Someone will win that book as part of the raffle prize. I wonder if they will have any understanding at all of what went into the making of it?


Tuesday 24 May 2022

We have a flag in this country

and it is a flag we should fight to keep. There are plenty of people who would like to see it changed, for  it to become "more representative" or "less divisive" or more or less something else.

The reality is that it is a flag which represents both our past and our future and we need to be reminded of both. It is the one flag which should be used in many places. There is the "Union Jack" in one corner and the "Southern Cross" stars across the other and they should be respected. 

Like it or not we were not a nation until 1901 - Federation. For all the arguments to the contrary the indigenous people of this country were not a nation. They did not travel from west to east or east to west, north to south or south to north in order to form one people. There was no national government. At most there was only limited contact with adjacent tribal groupings. Languages were so diverse they were not understood outside relatively small geographical areas. There are many other arguments against indigenous or "first nation" statehood. We first came together under the Union Jack, as a British colony. The Southern Cross was added later. It's important but it is only part of the story. There are many other things which contributed towards making our flag. This is our national flag. It is supposed to take precedence over all other flags when other flags of this country are flying.

We also have an "Aboriginal" flag. It was first used in 1971 and was finally given an official acknowledgment in 1995. There is also a Torres Strait Island flag - in use since 1992. 

The new government has already breached the accepted protocol on the flying of the flags.It has also made clear its intention to make some other divisive moves under the guise of "accepting" and "uniting" us. Perhaps the intention therefore is to try an persuade us that the national flag is no longer there to unite us but to divide us?

National flags are often items of great pride. There are huge flags - like the one on top of Parliament House in our national capital - and small flags. I remember waving one when Queen Elizabeth came to visit and I was a mere kitten. Almost everyone had one. Later I learned to hoist, lower and fold a flag as part of my Guiding training. We saluted the flag every Friday through primary school. We were taught about the structure and meaning of it.

It concerns me now that, instead of doing those things, the "Aboriginal" flag or the "rainbow" flag or some other flag may get flown  - as if these things take precedence over nationhood. Suggesting that all indigenous people were and are "one" is not correct. I know some who are strongly opposed to the flag which is supposed to represent them. They see it as something which marks them apart from the rest of the country when they want to be part of it - even when they acknowledge that other people feel differently. A male same-sex couple I know well are absolutely opposed to any suggestion that a "rainbow" flag should ever be flown. My own view is that, if they must be flown, neither of these flags should ever take precedence over the national flag - and that is in keeping with the law.  It seems the new government is prepared to flout that law in the name of some sort of pseudo "inclusive" gesture.

I know other people will feel differently, very differently. Much is made of our "multi-cultural" and "diverse" society - all thoroughly acceptable as long as you are not seen as one of the unacceptable persons of "WASP" (white, Anglo Saxon Protestant)  heritage. 

But whatever our backgrounds (and mine is very definitely Scots WASP) we should be able to come together under a flag which acknowledges our past as a nation and the future that is possible only because of it.


Monday 23 May 2022

Renewable energy and the things we need

in the modern world may not be compatible. 

I like the idea of renewable energy. The idea of having some sort of seemingly endless source of power by harnessing the sun or the wind is seemingly full of possibilities. But how realistic is it really?

I know there is so much discussion about this out there that you are probably yawning and saying , "Really Cat! Write about something more interesting or I won't bother with you again."

Right. What about these things - cement, steel, plastics and ammonia?

 I read an article recently by one Vaclav Smil. He talked about these things. He made a simple point. We use more and more of those things every year - and they all require fossil fuels to produce and use. His argument is that we can't cease using fossil fuels while we continue to use these things. We need to use these things in order to feed and house the people on the planet. This is a reality of the modern world.

There are some solar panels on the roof of this house and on other houses in this street. It is that sort of neighbourhood. People have tried to do what they considered to be the right thing. At one point the Senior Cat even considered adding more solar panels. Then he did a little more research and decided against it. As always he discussed it with me. "The benefit is not there," he told me.

And it isn't. Why? Solar panels have to be made - and that requires far more energy than people realise. Presently they also need to be transported - more energy. They do not last forever.  At present there is no way of recycling them and this is becoming an issue. It will be a major issue in just a few short years. They will take up far more space and be the potential cause of much more environmental harm than a container of nuclear "waste" which would take up far less space and provide far more power over a longer period. What is more nuclear power doesn't depend on the wind, the sun or the water. 

We need cement and steel to build the places people live and work in. We need ammonia for the crops which feed them. All of those things take power to produce. 

It seems to me we may need to start considering ways to reduce our energy needs not ways to increase the amount of energy we use. We need to reduce the world's population. A global "replace yourselves" policy would help. Some people will never have children so population would reduce. Yes, there would be a need to take into account the needs of an aging population but increasing the population to take care of them is not the answer. China's "one child" policy was a mistake - something they have recognised - but for couples to have two children and no more? Is that reasonable? 

And we need to put much more time and money into the research and development of nuclear power. The idea that it is dangerous, that it cannot be clean and green, has to be overcome. Those opposed to the use of nuclear power still seem to be ready to embrace the idea of the benefits of modern nuclear medicine.

If we start to do these things could we then reduce our dependence on artificially produced ammonia - the fertiliser which helps to feed so much of the world's population? Let's be realistic we are not going to grow enough food by "organic" means - but we could reduce the amount of fertiliser needed if we reduced the population, ate more food which was grown locally and which was in season.

I know it is all much more complex than that.  It would require massive changes to our lifestyles. Therein lies the problem - all those "climate change" experts want to find "other ways" to reduce emissions. The reality is that it starts with us...and most of us are not prepared to do all it would take.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Compulsory preferential voting

has to go.

Downunder is about to get a government which was the first choice of less than a third of voters. No doubt the "winners" will be claiming this is how "democracy" works under our voting system. 

The reality is different. For both the state election and the federal election I was called in to help people with disabilities vote. Some of these people cannot read or write, others can but don't understand the voting process, others have a partial understanding, and so on. Whether all of them should be required to vote is another issue.

What confused almost all of them is the "how" of voting. Some of them knew "who" they wanted to put first on the ballot paper. As to "why" they should choose another and another until all the boxes had been marked on the green paper was beyond them.

"But I only want that one!" and "I don't want anyone else" were common bewildered statements. I tried to explain but some votes went into the envelopes with the person effectively disenfranchised because they would not make any further decisions. This is the outcome of having to mark every box on the ballot paper in order of preference.

Inevitably this was a topic of discussion with other people too. I have found out that other people also object to having to mark every box on the ballot paper.

"Tell me why I should help to get any other bastard over the line," someone told me.

Another told me, "How can I preference anyone else when I think even my first choice is barely worthy of my vote?"

Yes, we have a problem. Preferences may have some merit - although not in quite the way we handle them. Compulsory preferences are a different thing altogether. What can happen - and does happen - is that a person with fewer first preference votes can end up being elected. They get in on preferences - compulsory preferences.  They would have lost were it not for those compulsory preferences. 

Compulsory preferential voting allows for a manipulation of the system. There are a range of "independent" and "minor party" candidates in play. They have the support of the major parties - and indirect funding from them. They may be "one issue" people or "popular issues" people. They will subtly "encourage" you to vote for a major party.

All major parties do this. It only pays them to do it because of the compulsory nature of preferential voting. Without that there would be no need. 

The ideas that this is somehow "democratic" or "encourages diversity" need to be hit on the head - and hit hard. This is how we now have a government that is the first choice of less than a third of the country. Yes, we can argue that the second, third, fourth etc preferences are ours and ours alone, that nobody can tell us how to vote. That is not the problem. The problem is being required to vote for those choices when we may find their policies abhorrent - and then find they get in on those preferences. It is time to acknowledge that and change the way we vote.   

Saturday 21 May 2022

Gender neutral bathrooms

or the "removal of doors" in a toilet block at one of our northern suburbs high schools is the latest piece of idiocy in the "gender debate". The cubicles still have doors but the facilities are now wide open to public scrutiny.

There has, rightly, been a backlash. It is an area which has more than its fair share of social problems. The move will not make things "safer" for those using the facilities. Students will always find a way around that. What it has done is make it more difficult for some students to actually use the facilities at all.

This was reported in the paper this morning but  I actually learned about it several days ago. A friend who is closely associated with the school in question told me about the way in which several girls from minority ethnic backgrounds had approached her. They are distressed by the action. For them using any public facilities is something they find difficult. Using something wide open to public view is a step too far.

"They are trying to hold on until they get home," my friend informed me.

I didn't bother to ask about the urinals for the boys. The girls were her concern - and mine. Too many of them come from backgrounds where these things are not mentioned to others, even at home.

This is a step too far, much too far. This is not some sort of "gender equality" issue. It has nothing to do with "equality".  If you need to provide for "transgender" students then provide a much smaller "unisex" facility they can use discreetly.  They may actually feel much more comfortable about that because how many genuinely transgender students feel any need to flaunt their sexuality? The answer to that question is apparently very few. It may be just as difficult, if not more difficult, for them to use  "equal" facilities.  Yes, we are talking about catering for the 0.0005% of the population who have an overwhelming desire to "change". 

Using public facilities is difficult enough for most people, even when the facilities are single sex. What we do there is something the vast majority of women keep private even within their own homes. It is why men rarely speak to another in such facilities.

Why the vocal minority has been allowed to dictate to the majority in this matter is something which genuinely disturbs me. 

Friday 20 May 2022

Working from home is

not as easy or as desirable as some people seem to think.

There is an article in this morning's paper about the reluctance of some workers to return to the office. In that article is the suggestion that some people are pulling their weight and others are not.

My guess is that many people would not be pulling their weight. They will be doing the minimum required. 

I can hear howls of indignation now. How can I possibly know this?

Well, I have worked from home for more than thirty years. I am over the legal retiring age now and I am not doing as much as I once did but I am still working. I know how tough it is to work from home.

Working from home requires discipline. It requires real discipline. I have a number of friends who work from home. One of them goes into her office on a regular basis. If she is not going into the office then she starts work at her computer at the time she would leave the house. By then she is dressed as if going to work. She has had breakfast and fed her cat and done everything else she would need to do apart from pack her lunch box. If the kitchen is a short distance away she sees no point in doing that. She is disciplined in a way that very few people are or ever will be.

Another friend has her studio at the end of her garden. She walks down the garden path to the studio at the same time each day. Once there, unless there is something that urgently needs her attention, she remains there and works. "By walking down the path I tell myself I am going to work. If I don't work then I don't eat." This is a powerful motivator for someone who is self-employed. Again, she is disciplined.

Before the advent of the internet and the resources now available I used to spend a day a week at the university. I tutored students and I used the library resources there.  I did the same in the local library. Even doing that was not easy. "Oh, you're here in the library? I was wondering if..."  Students would interrupt too, even outside tutorial times. 

When my mother became ill I spent more time at home. Email became available. I could do much more at home by using that - even on the old "dial up, download, do and dial up again to send" regime. Now the computer is on from the time I get up until I turn it off and head for what is usually a well-earned sleep. The internet means I do not need to travel far but it has meant I am more available and need to be more disciplined. 

I tried to make a routine. I had to tell people "no, I am working. I am not available". That has lost me some friendships. People think they understand but they don't. I can answer the door with a pile of papers and three dictionaries in my paws and people still think I have time to drop everything. Even now I would find being able to say, "I start work at 9am and finish at 6pm" a luxury. Instead I have to start and finish when international time differences allow. That requires a different sort of discipline from my studio owning friend.

Work has to take priority even now. I am sufficiently "retired" that I can try and plan ahead to take a day off. I can make medical appointments more easily. But, if there is work to be done, I still need to do it. This morning it was a chilly 5'C when I climbed out of bed and it was just on 5am. By 5:30am I was in a Zoom meeting with someone in another country. All I wanted to do when it was finished was go back to a nice warm bed for another snooze. I didn't. If I had done that then there would have been no blog post and I would not be ready for the meeting I now need to pedal off  to attend.  

But, if you are working from home today, please stop reading this and go back to work.


Thursday 19 May 2022

And you are not entitled to this information either

There is a case before the Supreme Court of our capital territory which should be of concern to all of us. I won't go into the details. Put simply a solicitor is asking for a great many government agency documents of a highly sensitive nature so as to contest the legality of an alleged spy operation. He is asking for them so as to defend himself against certain alleged illegal acts. 

He is claiming he is entitled to contest the legality of those acts, that there are legal limits on the way the our national security agency operates,  on our foreign relations and national economic "well- being"

His application has been refused. One ground for this has been that it is unnecessary for the government to prove the legality of the actions of their agents beyond a reasonable doubt in order to prosecute the person in question. It is all very complicated and, even though I had to study some criminal law and evidence at law school I am sure that I would get lost in the finer details and arguments being presented to the court. It may well be that more matters relating to this case will end up in the High Court - at least some matters have already gone there. Very little of what is going on in the Supreme Court has been made public - and with good reason.

I don't envy the judge presiding over the case. It will be full of all sorts of such matters.

The case was brought to my attention again yesterday. Someone I know sent me a link to some information about it - information in the public domain - and asked me what I thought about it. Should this person be permitted to let the public know if he thought an illegal act had occurred?

In the course of my work I have had to sign many documents which have prevented, and still prevent, me from saying anything about the matters I have been involved in. There have been times when I have thought, "How absolutely ridiculous not being able to talk about that" or "Why on earth don't they want people to know about that?" At the same time I have kept my mouth firmly shut. I have never been asked to do anything illegal or harmful - just the opposite. I am however conscious that there are people who risk their lives to minimise potential harm to others.

"Spying" is not any sort of James Bond scenario. It never was. It is even less likely now. It was,and still is, intelligence gathering - finding out what other people plan to do and how they plan to do it. When necessary plans might then be put in place to alter something or even sabotage something. Yes, of course it is done for the benefit of those doing the spying but it can also be done for the benefit of others as well - often ordinary citizens. It means catching the bombers before the bomb goes off, the shooter before s/he shoots. 

It also means recruiting people to tell  you these things, sometimes without realising they are doing it. It means taking risks and going in to situations where, if caught, there  is not going to be much anyone else can do to help. 

Some years ago a critical water supply in a remote place was at risk. This was discovered because someone else was somewhere he had no right to be at a time he said he was somewhere else. People went in to secure the site. One of them was caught - and lost his life. Nobody has ever been charged with his murder. It won't happen.  This is the nature of "spy work" and its consequences. Do we charge the informant - who saved the water supply and thus the lives of many people - for what amounts to trespass and the death of another man? 

The work of our "spies" may not be as straightforward as people would like.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

No you may not have that information

and we have every right to deny you access to it.

Right at the moment there is a rather heated discussion going on about the release of the "costings" for the election promises being made. The present government has released theirs but the would-be government has refused to release theirs - yet. They are saying people can wait.

They are also saying people can not only wait but they might not get all the information they want. "All you need to know is who is going to have the bigger deficit" is what they are telling us. 

Really? I suspect most thinking people will want to know where the money is coming to pay for the promises being made, especially some of the more outlandish promises.

"Oh, we will tax "the rich" more," doesn't quite cut it with me. I am not rich. I am actually poor. I still don't see "the rich" as an endless source of money. 

Many "rich" people - even "the bastards we love to hate" and "those who have minimised their tax" have actually worked extremely hard to get to "rich". Along the way they have employed other people - people who have not had to take the risk of losing everything - and taken on responsibilities most of us would run from. I don't want to suggest they are perfect - far from it. Many of them have done some very dodgy things and "sailed close to the wind" more than once. But these are the people who help to provide employment so that other people can pay their taxes and get the services they need. 

Take too much from these people and they will simply pack up and go somewhere else. It's a balancing act. 

I have already voted of course. The estimated size of the deficit is not something I wanted to know. What I wanted to know (and found out) was what the policies of each party are, who would benefit most, and how they intended to pay for them. With that information in hand and information about the candidates I made a decision. I did a similar thing for the state election - and I now have a list on the freezer door to see how many of their "promises" they are able to keep. (It won't be many.) I'll do the same thing with whoever wins on Saturday.

But we do have a right to that information. It helps people make an informed and responsible choice. Refusing to provide it on the grounds that another government didn't do it until tomorrow is not an excuse. There were other reasons why it did not happen on that other occasion. This is more to do with trying to prevent scrutiny because the "promises" being made cannot be kept. Most people know and expect that. It is the nature of politics. 

What worries me is those less informed people who want to believe they are going to get something for nothing, something "the rich" will simply "give" them.  

Tuesday 17 May 2022

Parking in a "disabled" space

is NOT the thing to do. Please, unless you have a permit to use one, do NOT do  it.

I don't care if you are "just dropping someone off" or "just dashing in to pick something up" or "answering a call" or "there was nowhere else" or any of the other excuses that people seem to think allow them to do this.

Middle Cat has a permit. After major back surgery, two knee replacements - one still causing major mobility issues, an ankle which has been "pinned" in more places than I care to think about, and more issues she needs it at the moment. If I happen to be out with Middle Cat then the permit is useful for both of us.

The Senior Cat had a permit. I have just returned the Senior Cat's permit. 

I would be eligible for a permit but have so far resisted because those spaces are at a premium and other people need them more than I do. 

And this is what makes me so angry when one of our "independent" candidates for the election on Saturday claims that she had every right to use one of those spaces because a volunteer was "just dropping off some t-shirts to another volunteer. It only took about forty seconds." I am sorry but I don't care what s/he/you were doing.  You do not use that space.

Yesterday the rear chain came off the tricycle yet again. I cannot get it back on unaided. Fortunately I was on the footpath but I might easily have been in the middle of the major road I was about to cross. I phoned Middle Cat because I was on my way to the doctor to get my flu vaccination. She could let them know and then come to help - the two of us managed to get it on between us the other day. Of course it was raining to add to my woes.

To make a much longer story short Middle Cat eventually called the Access Cab driver who transported the Senior Cat so many times. Would he take me and the trike to the bike shop if he was not busy?

Very fortunately he was at a shopping centre a short distance away and, after making sure his passenger was safely inside at a dentist appointment, he came to help. (The trike is now at the bike shop and, knowing it is my mobility device, they will deal with the problem as soon as they can today. ) 

We were lucky there was a parking space in the side street. The driver, L-G, was able to off-load my tricycle there and I could wheel it into the back of the shop. What is more we were parked in a legal space. L-G went off knowing Middle Cat would come and pick me up a little later. I had time to watch.

The rear parking area has parking for two medical services, a shoe shop and the bike shop. There is parking for people with permits. A van pulled in to make a delivery to the shoe shop - into a place which requires a permit. When he left about five minutes later another delivery van for a business across the side street pulled into the same space. It was still there when Middle Cat came to pick me up.

But what had happened in the mean time was the bike shop van had parked across the rear of the delivery van. The driver had done it quite deliberately.

"He can come in and ask me to move," the bike shop driver told me, "I've told the owners over there time and time again."

He will probably have to go on doing that. It's not making for good relations with a neighbouring business but I admire him for trying. I told him about the election candidate.

"Last person I would vote for," he told me. I hope a lot of other people feel the same way.


Monday 16 May 2022

It is compulsory to attend the ballot box

in Downunder. The Electoral Commission actually says it is compulsory to vote but of course it isn't. Nobody can tell you what to do once you take the papers and go to the point where you can mark the ballot paper without other people watching.  Whether you  actually mark them at that point and how you mark them is entirely up to you. What is extraordinary is that the vast majority of people do actually mark the ballot papers - and that they mark them in a way which means their vote counts.

If we are to do our civic duty in a democracy we should vote. It is our responsibility to vote. At the same time I am wondering more and more about the "compulsion" to do so. 

Our current election, one which has proven to be particularly nasty in terms of the "campaigning", has been a topic of conversation for days now. As such I have been waiting to get accosted by some of the more radical elements in the local electorate.

It happened yesterday. They arrived at the front door. There were two of them from one of the most extreme elements. I told them I had already voted and  to go away. They did not leave.  They wanted to know how I had voted - none of their business. They wanted to know if I supported the views of their party. I told them to leave or I would call the police. They left but not before telling me what they thought of me, one them using the best Anglo-Saxon. 

These two young people will be voting for the first time. I wonder whether they will go on voting for a party with such extreme views or whether they will eventually grow into an understanding of what can and cannot be done. (If you want a million new houses someone has to pay for them.)

Then I began to wonder yet again what would happen if people in this country were not compelled to attend the ballot box. Would people vote? More importantly, would a majority of people vote? 

It is said we get the government we deserve in a democracy. It is said that a democracy is the least harmful and most representative form of government. Both these things are making assumptions which may not be true. 

We are assuming that people know something about how government works and how the voting process works. I suspect that there are far too many people who have no idea that the Senators are supposed to represent their states - not a political party.  I am absolutely certain most people have no idea what our Constitution says or how it works. If they had then the nonsense which has been peddled about our present PM and his actions in certain matters would not be tolerated. I doubt anyone understands the iniquities of the "compulsory preference" system. No, don't tell me that is "more democratic" than "first past the post". It isn't. It can be manipulated, especially if you have the money to do it.

Last year I was asked for some help. The person who asked me is not very articulate. They needed help. I tried phoning, emailing, mailing their local federal MP because it was a federal matter. There was no response at all. It is a very, very "safe" electorate. I went to the electorate office - and was told to put it in writing. When I pointed out I already the electorate secretary simply shrugged and suggested I try again. Not interested? No, not at all interested.

So I contacted a Senator I know slightly - a Senator from another party. I told their secretary what had happened and asked if they could help the person in question. Now it is not really their role to do this. It should have been dealt with by the local federal member. The reaction was quite different. The problem was solved a fortnight later - and the local member, who had done nothing, was taking taking credit for it last week.

What I would like to see is a system which required those who want to represent us actually have to work to do so. Yes, some of them work hard but the compulsory attendance at the ballot box means those in very safe seats can do nothing - and still take the credit for what happens.  



Sunday 15 May 2022

Writing letters

on actual paper and posting them is something I used to do often. Now I use email for many of the same sort of letters.

Just how rare a letter is became obvious yesterday when one of my young neighbours saw me reading one that had been handwritten.  He was bewildered by it. I doubt he had ever seen one before. His parents get almost no mail at all. Anything which comes is probably advertising material or perhaps the occasional official letter. A handwritten letter has probably not been put in their letter box for years.

I tried to explain. It took me back a bit.

I am not sure when I was sent my first letter. I know I was not yet five years old because I remember being given the letter in the kitchen of our house in the tiny country town in which I was born. It was from my godmother. She was on holiday in another state. There was a postcard for my mother and a "proper letter" for me. My godmother had printed it because I still could not read "grown up writing"  or cursive. I know there were some tiny drawings - something she was very good at - and she would have kept the words simple enough. I could read but she knew I would want to read it by myself...and I did.

I don't think there was a postal delivery at all there. People would have picked up their mail from the post office. There were little boxes on the outside wall or you could go in and ask for it. The postmaster knew everyone. (He also ran the manual telephone exchange.) He would leave a message in your box if something would not fit in there. Fridays were the busiest day. Farmers would come in from the surrounding farms and pick up mail, feed and repairs while their wives went into the general store. We often saw them standing outside the post office looking at their bills...and the letters.

Making a telephone call was expensive back then, particularly one to the city some sixty-five miles away. People wrote letters. My mother wrote to her mother more than once a week. My father wrote to his parents once a week. It was how they kept in touch. They must have had letters from other people as well but I knew about the replies from "Nana" and "Grandma and Grandpa". "Papa" (my mother's father) did not write anything except business letters. That was unusual enough for me to remember people commenting on it.

When we returned to city there was "the postman". He came around twice a day on his  bicycle Mondays to Fridays and once on Saturdays. If there was mail for you he would blow his whistle after he had put it in the letter box at the front gate. "Nana" always hurried out to get her letters. "Grandma" didn't hurry. "It might be a bill. It can wait."

Yes, those letters with the "windows" in the envelopes were not letters anyone wanted. It was the letters with the "real writing" on the front that my mother and my grandmothers always wanted to get. 

We went on over the years getting letters delivered to the box at the front gate, to the "box" at the post office, to just the school, and back to the box at the front gate. The number of  letters with "real writing" has become less. Mail in general has become less. People use email.

Email was not known when I started writing letters about what became International Literacy Year. Some time ago now someone asked me if I thought it might have been "easier to do all those letters" if email had been available. The answer is no. I would still have written actual letters. The people I contacted might have taken even more notice than they did - taken notice because an actual letter is something you can actually hold. An actual letter does not depend on power in order to read it. There is still "something" about a letter that is not the same as email, that makes the message in it more significant. 

My young neighbour wanted to know why the person who had written the letter had not emailed me or phoned me. I tried to explain. They live in a far off place. There is no email there and making a phone call would be very expensive.  I could see he really couldn't quite comprehend or accept that. His grandparents are off to New Zealand shortly. His grandfather and I agreed that a postcard at least might help him understand what mail with "real writing" is all about. 

Saturday 14 May 2022

The politics of personality

rather than policy have been rather too obvious recently.

We seem to have a choice between a man who makes no secret of the fact that he is a committed Christian of the "fundamentalist" church and a man who boasts about being brought up by a single mother in social housing.

I am not sure why these things are so important. I do not go along with all the beliefs of the man who claims to be a committed Christian even though I strongly agree with the general tenets of the Christian faith, those of "love one another" and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  Nor do I go along with the idea that being brought up in social housing by a single mother somehow qualifies you for the top job in politics - especially when a closer investigation shows that this is not quite what it seems to be and you went to a very prestigious Catholic high school.

The former man has been denigrated right along for his beliefs. Christianity, especially that particular type of Christianity, is not seen as acceptable by many.  The latter man has constantly raised his background as somehow making him worthy to take on the role but not everyone likes it.  

Not so long ago we had another Prime Minister who is also a committed Christian. He was heavily criticised for adhering to his beliefs with respect to things like same-sex marriage, his support for someone (wrongly) accused of sexual misconduct, and much more. Even his long-standing volunteer activities were criticised. It was as if all these things are unacceptable. We had a Prime Minister who was  a heavy drinker and who had an affair which resulted in divorce. We had a Prime Minister whose rudeness, although it rarely reached the press, was legendary among those who had contact with him. I could go on.

So, what do we really want from a Prime Minister? Under our system we do not choose (vote) for the Prime Minister. We might know who it will be but the party which forms government is the party which chooses the Prime Minister. The party chooses the person they believe will win them the next election, the person they want as their spokesperson. 

This should also be about the person best able to act as leader, decision maker, and representative of the government. It should also be about the person most competent to represent the country on the world stage. We need an intelligent person, a person who is on top of all the necessary facts and figures, a person who is able to speak fluently and handle those "gotcha" questions with ease. They need to be likeable, friendly, "everyone's mate", have no beliefs that anyone can possibly disagree with, and so much more.

I am waiting for such a person to appear. This is how the politics of personality works...except I am not sure it ever has or can.


Friday 13 May 2022

Really disenfranchised?

I have spent rather a lot of time this week giving "voting assistance" to a group of people with disabilities. 

Before anyone accuses me of "stealing votes" let me explain. These are people who might be intellectually disabled. They cannot read or write or, if they can, they cannot do it well enough to fill out a ballot paper without assistance. There have also been some people who do not read or write English but have the right to vote and need help to understand how it needs to be done. There are people who have no capacity to hold a pencil. 

There are a good many people in our society who need assistance to vote. They need assistance given to them in such a way that they vote in accordance with their wishes, not the wishes of anyone else.

This is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I have done it before on many occasions. It never gets any easier. 

Of course I could make it easy, very easy. I could just go ahead and "suggest" to some of these people that they do "this" or "that" or "something else". I could fill out a ballot paper for someone who cannot read it in any way I wanted to fill it out if I was going to take their vote from them.

But, for me, a vote is far too important for that. This person has their name on the electoral roll. They are required by law to "mark the ballot paper" - or get someone to do it in accordance with their wishes.  I do what they want. I do my very best not to influence them. I sit beside them, not opposite them. I do that because I want them to see what I am doing and not see my face. I try to keep my voice neutral. These things are important.

This week I have had people tell me, "I want that person because she has red hair like me" and "He looks nice so I want him". If that is how they have decided then it is up to them. If, after as careful an explanation I can offer, they decide not to mark their ballot paper properly then I have to accept that. Their vote won't count if they don't mark all the squares on one paper and at least six squares above the line in another. That is up to them.

Some of these people simply do not understand the process at all. They may understand the concept of choosing one person but not more than one person. The idea of "preferences" is beyond them. I have tried explaining this over and over again but they tell me things like, "No, I only want that person."

I expect these people to have problems, problems understanding. If they did not have problems they would not need voting assistance. What bothers me more though is that there seem to be a great many people who should be able to fill out their ballot papers unassisted who also believe that they "must" follow the preferences on a "how to vote" card or  that they can mark just one box and have the vote counted. 

I am coming to the conclusion that our voting system is unnecessarily complex - and that is really disenfranchising too many people. Their votes may be counted but do they really understand enough about the way the system works to make their vote count?

Thursday 12 May 2022

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

was shot and killed in the West Bank yesterday. 

I don't know what happened but I suspect the Israeli authorities will be deeply concerned about this because she was well regarded by them as well as all those to and for whom she reported.

I never met her. I have never met almost all the journalists with whom I have sometimes had fleeting contact. 

Yes, I had brief contact with her once. It was over ten years ago now. I didn't know her name then. I was, to say the least, wary of even speaking to her.  I made her wait while I made a very expensive international call on a mobile which did not belong to me. It might all sound all very "spy drama" but dealing with people in Palestine is something you do carefully, very carefully. She checked out so I listened to what she wanted and why she wanted it. At the conclusion of the conversation I did as she asked and arranged for what she wanted to happen to actually happen. When that was done she risked her life for a second time and went back to the person who had asked her to get help from me. They worked together in one of those moments of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation that still make me hope that the peace process is not completely snuffed out. 

I had no great role to play in any of this. If I had not been available there were other people who could have been asked. I just happened to be there. 

Now I feel privileged, privileged to have had any contact with Shireen. She sounded pleasant, friendly, concerned - and willing to risk her life to help others. I saw her occasionally in news reports and she always seemed the same. That very brief contact made me even more aware of the dangers of her job. It made me even more aware of the dangers faced by journalists who report from war zones and the other complex humanitarian emergencies the world has to face.

I look at these people and think they have to go on working under the same conditions as the people living in the places from which they are reporting. They sleep (in their bullet proof vests) when and where they can. They eat when and where they can. They go without both food and sleep at times. They work in all sorts of weather and at all hours of day and night. They do it all under the constant danger of being imprisoned, tortured, and even killed by the "enemy". 

Listening to them it is easy to believe they are simply dispassionately reporting on what is going on around them. I don't believe that is the case. These international war and disaster reporters face the very worst of human tragedies every day. If they are good at their job they will appear to remain calm but when what they see stops affecting them then they can no longer do their job effectively. 

When I was contacted late last night it was by the person Shireen had risked her life for all those years ago. The words were simple, "Cat, I have lost a friend." Perhaps we all have - we just don't know it.

Wednesday 11 May 2022

"That's not my job"?

I am getting thoroughly fed up with an advertisement I cannot avoid seeing. It comes from the party which is, if opinion polls are correct, the party poised to win government at the election.

The advertisement has taken the words "that's not my job" which were spoken by the PM but used them completely out of context. The advertisement is designed to make people believe that the PM has not (and won't) take any responsibility for governing the country. 

The problem is that when the words are put into context  what the PM is saying is something very different and something very reasonable. For example in one of those clips he is saying that it is not his job to tell people how to spend their money...their personal money, wages and savings.  In that he is absolutely correct. 

If you leave those words out, leave out the context in which it is said, and use just four words "that's not my job" then you get a completely false picture. That is of course what the advertisement intends. 

It is false advertising that in any other setting those promoting the advertisement would be asked to remove and issue a retraction. This however is politics and different rules seem to apply.

Should they? Perhaps they should but I think there are limits here. This is not simply an encouragement to "vote for us". It intentionally libels the PM of the day. 

If you have the policies to do the job then there should be no need to use such tactics.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

The early voting centre

near me was crowded yesterday - and not in a good way.

I had to return the Senior Cat's postal voting papers and I wanted to be sure he was marked off the roll. There have been too many instances of a deceased person's vote being used for me to feel comfortable about anything other than getting this done immediately.

It was for that reason I headed off to the local early voting centre. It is in a church hall not far from here.  

The place was crowded - but not with early voters. I actually had some difficulty finding somewhere I could park the trusty tricycle. There were so many A-frames advertising candidates, leaders, parties and slogans that it was like trying to negotiate a maze. I finally found a place on the far side of the centre. There were not as many A-frames there but I still had to weave my way through eleven of them  in order to enter the building. 

In doing so I also had to run the gauntlet of people trying to thrust "how to vote" fliers into my paws. I kept telling them "I have not come to vote" and "I am not here to vote" but they kept trying anyway. 

This took so long the person I needed to see had gone off "for a quick lunch break. She should be back in about ten minutes."

I went to the Post Office a little further down the road and paid a bill before returning and going through almost the same process all over again. I lined up like a good little cat and waited my turn. The Returning Officer was back from lunch. We dealt with the issue, sharing mutual condolences over each losing a parent. I signed the necessary form.  

"If you want to vote now..." told me with a wave of the hand. Did I? Yes please! I knew what I wanted to do. I've done my homework. I am not going to change my mind between now and election day. I lined up again - for the third time. There were only three people ahead of me and they moved straight off. 

"Over there," I was told. I went across to the official marking names off and handing out the papers. He looked at me and said, "Hello Cat."

I looked at a vaguely familiar face. He smiled. "We went to school together - but I was two years above you."

"House captain - but not for my house," I said. I couldn't remember his name but that didn't matter. He handed over the papers. There was no time to talk which is probably just as well. At least I remembered that much.

I filled out my ballot papers, put them in the right boxes and prowled out cautiously. Nobody bothered me on the way out. I unlocked the trike and took a moment to look at what was going on. There were more than fifty A-frames dotted around that I could actually see - and probably more elsewhere. There were thirteen people I could count handing out "how to vote" fliers. 

This was the early voting centre. Polling day is not until the 21st. I looked at the slogans dotted around. Most of them are offensive and make accusations that are unwarranted and often downright untrue. There is more advertising of a similar nature along the road - a busy road.

This campaign is the nastiest I have ever known. I am relieved I was offered the opportunity to vote early. Now I can concentrate on helping those I had to assist in the state election. It is not going to be easy helping them understand what it is all about and still making sure they make their own decisions.

Monday 9 May 2022

Diplomatic relations

with another country are never simple. "Best mates" may be what the leader of the country tells his or her citizens but the reality is more likely a relationship of cautious negotiations on both sides.

You do not simply pick up the phone, dial a number and talk to your opposite number - even if you both happen to speak  (approximately) the same language. No, even those phone calls are made through others. Secretaries will phone one another. Is s/he free? How urgent is it? Is there a crisis? What do they need to talk about? Who else needs to be involved? Those are just a few of the considerations.

The media here has made much of the fact that our Prime Minister (who is in "caretaker" mode) did not pick up the phone and speak to the Prime Minister of a small Pacific nation. According to the current Opposition and the media this should have been done because the small nation had signed an agreement with a much larger one. The larger one is seen as a threat to regional stability. Oh and the relevant Minister should have been flying off to talk to the Prime Minister of the small nation. 

Really? These assertions are absolutely ridiculous. This is not how it is done. It is irresponsible to even suggest it. It would have been seen as interfering in the affairs of another country. 

Of course the Opposition does know this but it makes for a good story, one that makes the government look bad during an election campaign. It is also why they complained when their Foreign Affairs spokesperson was not included in the meeting which eventually did occur. 

That meeting, like any other at that level and about matters like that, would have taken time to negotiate. It would have been particularly difficult to arrange when the government of the day is in caretaker mode. It was made even more difficult by the fact that the third party involved is at odds with the present government here. It has made no secret of the fact that it wants a change of government here. That means treading particularly carefully. Negotiating a meeting would have been very difficult. The details would have been agreed to at the last minute - quite possibly on a "take it or leave it" basis by the other side. 

The Foreign Affairs spokesperson on the other side was informed the meeting was taking place. She would have been asked what issues she wanted raised. Not inviting her to attend should not however be taken as a breach of caretaker conventions. There was only a few hours notice. She was campaigning elsewhere and in all likelihood was not going to be able to get to the venue in time.  No, you don't do those sort of meetings  via Zoom or any other electronic device. You do them face-to-face for reasons of security. 

So the fact that she was not "invited" is of little significance. There were a range of factors that almost certainly made it impossible for her to be there. It wasn't a "snub" or a "breach of caretaker conventions". It was simply the circumstances of the day. 

Perhaps the present Opposition (and the media) think we are all too lacking in intelligence to understand these things. If this is the case then I am more than a little concerned about the way they will treat us for the next three years. 

Sunday 8 May 2022

Opinion polls?

I have lost count of how many times I have been called in the last few weeks with "automated" surveys asking  me for my "views" on the upcoming election. 

Although I don't recognise the phone numbers I do need to answer the phone. I need to answer it because I don't remember every single number - there are several hundred at least - and it might also be a legitimate call from someone who needs to talk to me.

But these "automated" surveys? I put the phone down as soon as I hear "This is an automated...". If there is a real person at the other end of the phone they get a firm, "I don't answer these surveys" and I put the phone down for them as well.

Why? There are at least three reasons. The first is that they are an invasion of my privacy. I rate such calls in the same way as I rate people who knock at the front door in contravention of the polite notice asking them not to. The second is that what I intend to do when I fill out the ballot paper is my business and my business alone. If I choose to share my intentions that's my business too but I am not going to share them with an automated voice or someone I don't know.  

But the third reason is perhaps even more important than the first two reasons. This is that these "automated surveys" are not surveys at all. They may appear to be but the questions are skewed to bring about the result wanted by those who are conducting the survey. They are designed as "push polling" - the practice of trying to persuade voters to vote for a particular party or individual. 

In this current election period the union movement has been working particularly hard at this. They believe their candidate in this electorate is in with more than a chance but they are leaving nothing to chance. What they need to overcome is the anti-union sentiment among many older voters and the feeling by some that the candidate abused her position as the head of a large charity to further her political aspirations. The party in question has access to the full electoral roll and they will be targetting the "polling" largely to the older age group and people they believe volunteer.

This is how the system works. Add in our iniquitous "compulsory preferential voting" and it IS possible to manipulate the result if you have enough resources.  

I know how I intend to vote. I will continue to put the phone down on all those push polling calls. 

Saturday 7 May 2022

The election campaign is getting nasty,

very nasty. 

I have to return the Senior Cat's postal voting pack next week. I wish he was here to use it because by far the best candidate is not likely to win.  He knew about her and spoke enthusiastically about her. He didn't tell me how he wanted to vote but I have no doubt that she would have been number one on his ballot paper.

Inevitably such things were being discussed before a meeting I had to attend. When I mentioned that I was going to return the voting pack someone turned to me and said, "Why didn't you use it? Nobody would have known. We could have had another vote for ...."

I almost got up and left. Perhaps I should have done. The very notion that I would be prepared to use a vote to which I am not entitled made me very, very angry. I am all too aware that the votes of vulnerable people can be "stolen" by others. It is one reason why I have spent time with some of those vulnerable people trying to ensure that they vote according to their wishes. I may not like "the person with the red hair" or "that one because he looks nice" or "she's pretty" or some other equally, to me, strange reason but it is their vote and they have the right to choose. If they insist on invalidating their vote by not having me fill out the ballot paper correctly then that is their affair too. I can do no more than explain the process and do my utmost not to influence them.

But this person seemed to think it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I think others present agreed with her. They would have used the vote and then informed the Electoral Commission that the person was deceased. That the person was deceased before the papers were even delivered would have been beside the point as far as they were concerned. If questioned I am sure they would have found a way of saying, "It wasn't me. I didn't do that."

Then there was the assumption that I would have used the vote for a particular candidate. I suppose I should have expected it from that particular person. Her politics are far left. She has been campaigning fiercely and for weeks for her candidate of choice. That anyone would choose not to vote for her candidate of choice infuriates her. How could anyone not choose this person? 

I found myself getting increasingly uncomfortable. Tactics were discussed - ways of "getting the message across". 

"Of course it's a lie but that's the way it is done. They don't deserve anything but lies being told to them," I was told, "Most people never know the difference. We tell them what we want them to hear and they believe it."

This is all too likely to be true.

The meeting started. I said very little. At the end of it I spoke quietly to the woman who chairs the group and told her I would not be coming back. She tried to argue with me but I told her what had happened and how I felt I could not work with people who held those views. She sighed and told me she felt the same concerns as I did.

"I don't want to lose your input. Give it some thought over the weekend," she told me, "Let me know on Monday."

I won't change my mind. I will be quietly prowling off.  There are other perfectly legitimate ways of working on the problems we were working on. It might take a bit more work on my part but I think the outcomes might be better.

Friday 6 May 2022

So "women" don't exist?

I am feeling - bewildered?...confused?....puzzled? I am certainly feeling more than a little annoyed. I might even be feeling downright angry.

It seems one of the major political parties in this country has removed all reference to "mothers" and "pregnancy" and "breastfeeding" from their policy documents. "Mothers" are now just "people".

This is the policy of the party which, if opinion polls are correct, will almost certainly win the election. It is the sort of extreme language that is doing far more harm than good.

I have news for the Labor party (yes Labor without the "u"). "Women" are not just "people". 

Women are the 51% of the population who are responsible for the continuation of the human race. Like the females in the rest of the animal kingdom they are the ones who become pregnant. They are the ones who carry children and give birth. They are the ones who risk their own lives to do this - and ensure the continuation of human life. So far men have not been shown to be able to do this. So far nobody has been able to show that a baby can be born and carried full term in a test tube.

Women matter! 

What is more, like it or not, women are still the primary caregivers. Men cannot breastfeed. They might be able to mix milk formula and give an infant a bottle but the reality is that women do most of that too. Women are still the primary carers of infants, of small children, of the sick, of the elderly, and of others in need. In the home they still do most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child minding. Some men may do a little more now but women still do the most. Women work much longer hours for lower pay - and often for no pay at all.

But Labor says women no longer exist. They are simply "people". Labor is not prepared to acknowledge that women have any sort of special or unique role in society - a role men simply cannot fill. 

Labor likes to say it is more committed to "equality", that it has more women involved than the other major party. Is that so? To me "equality" would begin with acknowledging the existence of "women" and their role - that 49% of people would not exist without them. 


Thursday 5 May 2022

Yes, we did have a car industry

once upon a time. It was quite a while ago now.

As a child I remember occasionally being in the "traffic jam" that occurred at the changeover of shifts at the Holden plant  on the main road from the port into the city. The Senior Cat always tried to avoid those times because it was, back then, very busy. Now I suppose it would be considered part of the normal traffic - except that it is daily traffic, not the car plant.

The car plant there went a very long time ago. The car plants south and north of the city have gone too. I can still remember the local sign used by the deaf to describe that someone worked at one of those places. 

Long before that I can remember my paternal grandfather making suits for the managers in those places. Grandpa would bring home scraps of the real leather they used for the seats. He would cut the scraps into small coin purses, punch holes around the edges and thread them with yet more fine leather strips. They were then given to charities as fund raisers. I know someone who still uses one for her keys.

I wonder what my grandfather would make of the demise of the car industry here. Somehow I doubt it would surprise him. He was always aware of what he called "disgraceful waste" - even the leather scraps were considered to be that. 

Back then union membership was compulsory in the car industry. It was compulsory in a number of other places as well. There was nothing like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Fair Work Commission. You relied on the union for the next pay rise and issues of  unfair dismissal. 

There is no car industry here now. It never really paid its way. It was a drain on the taxpayers for years. Union demands for ever increasing pay and conditions did not help. By the time they were realised what was happening and tried to save it by shedding some of the over blown workforce, bringing in "efficiency measures" and taking a pay cut it was simply too late. Yes, it put thousands of people out of work - some of them very skilled people.

Producing cars is not cheap. Cars are very complex things. They require all sorts of skills. These skills are usually repetitive - so much so that much of it can be done by robots. Was it Fiat that had the almost completely automated factory in Italy? (I may be wrong about that.)

Yesterday someone tried to tell me that it was entirely the fault of the present government's predecessors that the car industry failed here. They tried to claim that the present opposition party could have saved it. The reality is that, even by spending billions, they could not have done that.  Much cheaper cars were being made in other places. 

The same is unfortunately true of other industries here. We lost a lot of wool industry work - scouring, spinning and weaving all went. We had some of the very best in the world but we priced ourselves out of the market.

The present opposition is trying to tell us that we can return to those halcyon days of genuine high levels of employment. We can't of course. To do that people would have to accept genuine pay cuts and a lower standard of living. We are living beyond our means now and attempts to lower expectations are not working. 

Another person listening to the conversation we were having suddenly asked, "I wonder what would happen if everyone took a ten percent pay cut."

I wonder too - would even a five percent cut actually leave us better off? It sounds like a contradiction but it might help.