Monday 31 October 2022

The "ISIS brides" being returned

to this country are going to be a problem. That is inevitable.

Yes, they will almost certainly live off the taxpayer dollar for the rest of their lives. They almost certainly have no employment skills at present. Even if they are able to obtain some it is unlikely they will get employment. "Who on earth would employ someone who had been married to a terrorist and has probably been brainwashed by terrorists?" someone asked me. This was well before the women in question were even out of the camps.

Those "refugee camps" are brutal places. You need to be tough to survive in one. Rape occurs multiple times every day. Many men there consider it their right to have sex whenever they wish and with whomever they wish. If a woman is a widow then she is doubly vulnerable.  She will be shared around. 

Young girls are even more vulnerable. Their services will be sold for a little extra food, for the right to sleep in an actual tent rather than makeshift plastic sheeting and much more. They are betrothed and even "married" to older men.

Bringing them back here and providing them with housing, food, health services and much more however is not going to make them "grateful". These women and children have been brainwashed.  Wear the hijab? That's not enough. Wear a burqa? That's more like it.

Those who arrived over the weekend have "apologised". Yes, they may well mean it too. They may be relieved too. 

At the same time these women are used to doing just as they are told. Their husbands told them to go with them. They did just that. Some of the more dominant women will be used to ordering other women around but they will still allow men to order them around. They did that here before they left. Many of the women would have had marriages arranged for them. That complicates family relationships, notions of family "honour" and much more.

These women will be at risk for the rest of their lives. There will always be others who believe that a caliphate is the only answer. Even if the women themselves eventually believe something different this is a religion which requires active participation. It requires far more than attendance at the mosque once a week. There will be expectations of them. 

Their children are at risk too. They have been living in places no child should have to live, experienced things no child should have to live.  They will need a lot of support. They will need watching closely because even the youngest of them will have been indoctrinated by example as well as teaching. Where will they go to school?

And are the rest of us at risk? Will some of these returnees be so radicalised that they pose a risk to the rest of us? What about the young boy who stood there holding a human head? How is he going to grow up. What about the children for whom I provided communication boards - children too afraid to make eye contact or utter a word - what about them? Will they ever approach anything like normal or will they one day lash out and harm not just themselves but others? We have no way of knowing. It does not mean we must not try.

We have been told we should not speculate or discuss their return in the media but this will happen. I have my own views about how those who return should be helped. I know others would disagree with those views. Trying to prevent discussion is just going to encourage it. We are all going to need educating too.

Sunday 30 October 2022

"Argued fiercely, swore often,

worked tirelessly, sang beautifully, laughed loudly, danced magnificently, and loved us endlessly" was how her daughter acknowledged her in the death notices. 

P... was 92. She had an aggressive form of cancer. The last time I spoke to her was at the beginning of the month. She was "cleaning up the mess" left by the council workers who had not cleared the weeds in the street to her satisfaction and wanted me to come in and help her move the television set. "Because that b.... daughter of mine shifted it to what she says is a better position but I know where I like it."

Yes, P.... was definitely a "character". At 92 she still wore very high heels. She would go to the shopping centre in bright (and I mean bright) yellow trousers and a skimpy top over which she would wear a large cardigan she had made for herself with my help. "Of course I know how to knit. They don't know how to write instructions." (A fair assessment.)

P.... "never (drank) anything but champagne". We first met over her words, "Did you make that? Good. If you know how to knit then you can tell me how to do something. No, I don't drink coffee or tea. Disgusting stuff."  I saw inside her fridge later and yes, it was stocked with champagne. 

I was invited to visit. Others who knew her told me it was a great honour. They had never been invited. "I don't care much for visitors. I shut the place up, turn on some music and dance and sing. When I get tired I sit down with a glass of champagne and knit. Knitting is clean and tidy and you are making something useful."

She cleaned houses as a profession rather than a job. Her house was absolutely immaculate. Her garden was equally immaculate. She did it all herself. Nobody else would even have dared to offer. Last summer she pruned a tree - climbing a ladder to do it. Her daughter went spare but P... just swore at her and went on working.  I queried the wisdom of climbing ladders at the age of 91 and got told, "Now don't you start. I don't tell you what to do and get that look off your face. I'm not going to die yet."

When she found she had cancer she informed me bluntly. "And don't start feeling sorry for me. I can't abide sympathy. I just want you to read this and tell me what you think the fools are trying to say." She then brandished election material in front of me and let me know exactly what she thought of all the candidates. 

A little while ago now her photograph appeared on a calendar. She was 90 and wore nothing apart from some carefully arranged "fur". "Why not? I've still got a good body...better than a lot of people." Her daughter was appalled of course. So were many other people. Secretly though I had to admire her. She managed to get away with so much.

Of course part of it was an act. She knew exactly what she was doing and the effect it had on others. She did not suffer fools gladly.

Underneath it all though I think she was lonely. She would order me to stop and talk to her if I passed when she was out gardening. She really did like me to take an interest in her garden and her knitting. I often felt irritated by her but I put up with it because, in her own way, I think she was fond of me. "You're a good girl. I don't like many people but I don't mind you at all." I think I will miss her.

Saturday 29 October 2022

"Our car was broken into last night"

Middle Cat informed me. 

I was not surprised and neither was Middle Cat or her husband. They had in fact been leaving the car unlocked expecting it to happen. As they never leave anything of value in the car and it is impossible to start without the requisite object it was actually safer to do this. The car does not get damaged.

Middle Cat heard the noise about 1am. Her husband went to investigate but did not manage to get a glimpse of the offenders. He would not have approached them but any description might have helped the police working on the problem. 

Yes, there has been a big spike in break-ins recently. Not so long ago three young offenders were caught in a neighbouring suburb - but not before they stabbed a mother and her young son. Two of those offenders were already out on bail - at the tender ages of thirteen and fourteen. The third was only twelve. They were out and about at four in the morning.  

Two of them are back in custody so the police know there are more offenders out there doing the same thing. No doubt that peculiar and highly successful communication network between offenders has been working many hours of overtime. 

After Middle Cat told me this one of the local dog walkers told me the same thing had happened to him earlier in the week. He was not quite so fortunate. The car lock will need to be replaced and a golf club from the back seat was taken. "I hope the little b.... doesn't use it as a weapon," he told me furiously, "And where in the hell are the parents?"

I hope the offenders don't use the golf club that way either. I too wonder about the parenting. Is it really that easy to sneak out without a parent knowing? I suppose it must be but none of us could have done that. The probable consequences would have been enough to stop us anyway.

"Twocking" is the act of taking a car belonging to someone else and driving it away without their consent. It used to be a rite of passage among the criminal class.  It still is. 

I worked in a school where a boy in another class had to appear in court because he was with three other lads who did just that. He was just twelve at the time and it was considered unusual and a very serious offence. His class mates treated him with contempt.

I wonder now how they would react. Children, particularly male children, seem to be able to "drive" at earlier and earlier ages. These are not rural children who learn to drive on the farm and are expected to help once they can. Those children do not leave the farm premises and they are breaking no laws provided they stay there. These are city children who should never have been behind the wheel of a car at all and yet they seem able to "twock" and break the speed limit from the time they can barely see over the wheel. One recently caught young offender was barely eight years of age. A few weeks earlier and the police could have done nothing at all apart from take him home and issue a few stern words. 

The dog walker is opposed to raising the age of criminal responsibility. As juvenile records are closed I am inclined to agree. Age is not the issue here, the offending is - and how we deal with that offending. Cars are potentially lethal weapons. Those using them can kill.  The young twockers cannot be allowed to simply get a telling off. 

Friday 28 October 2022

That Lehrmann rape trial which was aborted

is not something which I can directly comment on. I wasn't there. I have not been in court to hear the evidence.

What I can say is that it is almost certainly no longer possible for the defendant to get a fair trial.  Let me try and explain why.

First of all this trial almost did not take place at all. The reason for this was the amount of publicity the alleged incident generated even before a decision was made to prosecute the defendant. Even after the decision was made the publicity continued. The judge warned the alleged victim and the media against further comment. Comment has continued although the media has been more cautious until the trial started. That alone is a problem.

Second, in the jurisdiction in which the trial is being held it must be held before a jury. There is no provision for trial by judge alone. Now a new trial has been set for February next year. Trying to find twelve jurors within the jurisdiction who have not been influenced by the publicity and the discussion is going to be very difficult, if not impossible. Even if they went to the extraordinary measure (and expense) of finding twelve jurors outside the jurisdiction then it is still going to be difficult finding jurors who have not, at very least, heard about the case. 

Third is the cost. One reason for the defence not giving evidence will be an attempt to reduce the costs for their client. If they believed, as they obviously did, that the prosecution case was so weak that there could be no conviction then it would have been wrong to continue. At very least they believed there could not be, as there must be under the law, a unanimous verdict. Yes, the defendant can seek legal aid at a certain point but prosecution will be at an advantage. 

And yesterday another issue was added to this volatile mix. The alleged victim made a tearful statement outside court. Why her legal team allowed this is beyond my comprehension. The police have, rightly, been informed and asked to consider prosecution.  Yes I am well aware she was seen to be very upset. It still does not mean that she can make statements of the nature she allegedly made. The media repeating those alleged statements could also be in contempt of court.

Those are legal issues. Then there are the other issues. There is the issue that the alleged victim was, if reports are to be believed, offered a very large sum of money to "tell her story". What is more this was apparently offered to her before she went to the police and laid the complaint. If true this will raise questions in the minds of some people, including potential jurors, about the other purposes of pursuing the matter. No, it is not a "simple" matter of alleged rape. Rape itself is never a simple matter. There are also issues with the timing of the breaking of the story and the alleged involvement of other people, in this case some of them being politicians seeking reelection. To even suggest there is nothing in any of this merely leaves many of those following the story wondering whether there is something in it after all. It was even suggested to me yesterday that the alleged victim's outburst yesterday was encouraged by those advising her in order to have the case abandoned. She would then be free to pursue her lucrative book deal and all that goes with it. I won't comment on that suggestion but it was made.

Then there is the question of jurors doing their own research. This was almost bound to happen. The nature of the academic paper which was researched is perhaps interesting and if it had not been presumably copied and taken into the jury room would anyone have been any the wiser? The only way to prevent a jury from accessing the internet for legal information is to sequester the jury - something which almost never occurs. It is expensive to do and places undue pressure on the jury if a unanimous decision is required.

The very fact that the jury was apparently having difficulty in coming to the required unanimous decision is cause for concern in itself. What if that happens again?  Even if the required guilty or not guilty verdict is reached there will be many who disagree. Either way lives and careers have been ruined. There will be no winners in this affair.

It should never have been allowed to reach this point. How do we ensure a fair trial for both sides without allowing the media to take over? 

Thursday 27 October 2022

Equality for women?

The Prime Minister is now telling us that he is putting "equality for women centre of the budget". Apparently he is doing this with "cheaper child care, investing in women's safety, and six months paid parental leave". 

I am not sure how this works. We have already discovered that the "cheaper childcare" item is nonsense. That is nothing more than spreading the cost further. 

Investing in women's safety? The initiatives came from the previous government, indeed before that. We had a previous Prime Minister - one famously accused of being a "misogynist" - who actually tried very hard to get more done while spending part of his leave working with indigenous people. One of the reasons for doing that was to try and better understand how the problems arose so that any programs would be more effective. There is nothing new about this investment. The programs are simply being rebranded and the "new" funding is just coming from other sources. That is not to say that these things are not important or necessary. They are. Just don't say they are new initiatives concerned with the equality of women.

And "paid parental leave"? The government is not paying for that. Employers are paying for it. Yes, of course every employer will be happy to pay out for twenty weeks, rising to twenty-six weeks. 

Don't get me wrong. I think it is a very good idea for parent and child to be together that way. If it encourages bonding and breast feeding and other positives then it is a good thing. I am not sure however that it will really mean everyone will be able to take it. There will be pressure to return to work - especially if  "cheaper childcare" is also in the mix.

And to my way of thinking there is a great deal more to equality for women than these things. The idea that "going to work" somehow represents "equality" is something I find difficult to understand. 

My mother went back to work full time when the Black Cat was three. It was not something she intended to do. The Education Department asked her to return. At the time they were so desperately short of teachers they were doing "pressure cooker" courses for women - six months of intensive training - and then sending them out into the classroom. My mother, as a fully trained and certificated teacher, was considered too valuable to stay at home. Negotiations were made. The Black Cat could go to school too. In the two teacher rural school (the Senior Cat had the upper classes) my youngest sibling could wander in and out of the classroom while her mother taught. My mother was paid at the same rate as those women with six months of training - a rate less than men. Was this equality? No, of course it wasn't. 

That in itself was bad enough but my mother also had to deal with keeping house and bringing up a family. The Senior Cat always worried that he did not do enough to help. In reality he did far more than most men of his day but women still did more. They still do more. Even in households where the activities of daily living are supposedly shared women still seem to do more than men, often much more. This is what the "equality of women" returning to the work force really looks like. It's a much more complex issue than being able to go back to work and have someone else help to pay to care for your children while you earn the same wage as your partner. 

Of course some people want to go back to work. Others believe they need to go back to work. Is going back to work about equality for women though?

Wednesday 26 October 2022

The Budget is a disaster

in the making. It is going to leave most of us even worse off than could be expected in the current economic climate.

There are savings which could have been made but the present government's political agenda has won over responsible economic policies.. That this political agenda has been dressed up as "responsible" economics just makes matters worse.

The government is pushing ahead with the "renewable energy" mantra. In doing so it is supported by the Greens of course. Both groups are trying to tell us that this renewable energy lark is not just responsible but essential. It is neither. Using our "per capita" emissions,"demands" from "climate change" gurus and international organisations like the UN the government is now telling us that instead of that $275 reduction in our power bills the bills will go up by 56%.  

In all this the government still steadfastly refuses to even contemplate nuclear energy...while still allowing the raw materials for this to be sold abroad. This is pure politics. "Oh, but it takes ten years to build a nuclear power plant," they tell us, "The cost is too high and we still have the problem of what to do with the waste."

It doesn't take ten years to build a nuclear power plant of course. New nuclear plants are nothing like the old style plants of so much current concern in the Ukraine. They are much safer and cheaper than they once were. The cost may be high but, once built, the cost of running such a plant is low compared with many other forms of energy production. The "waste" levels are also getting lower and lower and storage for them is getting ever safer. Of course nuclear power isn't going to bring in the vast sums of money hoped for by those who have invested in "renewable" energy. 

Yes of course "renewables" have their place but we need a balance. We need to think further ahead than the next election.

Then there is that vast sum of money being spent on "cheaper childcare" and "paid parental leave". Yes, as I said elsewhere, children are our future. We all need to pay something towards their care and education. At the same time I do not believe we should be paying parents to abandon the care of their children to the state. This is effectively what the childcare measure is proposing. Parents are being told "hand over your children to us so that you can go back to work and we can indoctrinate them". It isn't being put like that of course. It is couched in terms of "careers for working women" and "socialisation and school readiness" for the young. 

 We are being told that these things are essential. Are they really? I have pointed out elsewhere that the cost of going to work can be high. It isn't always the best option in either financial or lifestyle outcomes or both. 

Urban areas of course have been given more than regional areas. It is all too easy to "forget" the rural communities. Their voting power is low. It doesn't matter if they do the hard physical labour of providing our food - and get paid so little to do it. When the cost of fruit and vegetables goes yet still further up there will simply be complaints from many urban dwellers. There won't be cheaper childcare in rural areas. It is unlikely that there will be any childcare in many places and self-employed farming couples don't have the time or money to get their young children to school. The older children might catch the yellow school bus but there is no such transport for preschoolers.  No, this move is about politics rather than people. 

This budget, like so many other budgets, is about shoring up political support. It has been made more difficult by the need to be seen to be politically correct. 

It is as well I like to read and that I have a reasonable stash of craft materials that don't require power. I won't be turning the heating or cooling on - but I might try and keep the computer running.  


Tuesday 25 October 2022

The Budget is out today

and I have no doubt that it will be a very political document.

This government went to the election saying "we have a plan" over and over again. They never actually told us what the "plan" was but people believed them and here we are.

We were also told we would be getting $275 lower electricity bills and that there would be more money for a range of other things. Since then of course there has been the usual "the economy is in worse shape than we had been led to believe and we can't do the things we promised". It seems all sides of politics can use this excuse and we just go on believing them.

The big "thing" this time is "cheaper childcare" for preschool children - so that both parents can go back to work. This infuriates me. There is no such thing as "cheaper childcare". Someone has to pay for it. 

Now yes, I know that children are our future and we all need to pay for our future. We all need to pay towards the education, health and well-being of the young if they are to grow into wage earning adults who pay the taxes that provide the pensions and... well, you know the sort of thing I mean. 

But could we stop saying "cheaper childcare"? It's just dishonest. What it really means is that anyone who pays tax but does not have a child or children of the relevant age is going to pay more so that the  parents of those children in childcare pay less.

We are also being told we will pay "less" for some medicines. I have no argument with making sure people can pay for necessary medicines. It might well be that it will help some people remain in the work force and they will then pay tax. It should certainly help some at least live a little more comfortably and be free of some of the anxiety surrounding their illness and their everyday circumstances. But are we going to be paying "less"? No, we are simply spreading the cost a little further around. It is more dishonesty.

Those things however almost pale into significance when you consider the likelihood that the federal government is going to announce funding for an expensive "rail loop" that has not been found to be cost-effective. It will be built in a state which has an election coming up. In order to fund it projects in other states, mostly in rural regions, will be cut. This is apparently a good use of our taxes. It will help to keep some politicians in power. No doubt there will be similar projects announced and others cut.

I would like to be able to take over the budget of the country for several years. It would be good to be able to say, "No, childcare is not going to be cheaper. We may pay for it differently but it will not be cheaper." It would be good to be able to say, "No, we are not going to build that rail loop. We are going to put the money into expanding the rail network where it is most needed. That will also supply work." 

It won't happen of course. I won't listen to the Budget speech tonight. It will be better to read it tomorrow. Maybe I simply don't understand the meaning of the word "cheaper".  

Monday 24 October 2022

I am not responsible for the deeds

of my ancestors. I am not responsible for what they said or their attitudes.

What people said or did in the past may now be considered wrong but it does not make me responsible for that. How could I be?

Yesterday someone asked me to explain "what the current uproar in netball (was) all about". I explained it was because the one indigenous player objected to wearing a logo on a uniform because of something that was said thirty-eight years ago by a now dead person.  It is the dead person's daughter who was willing to sponsor the sport to the tune of $15m.  That same person, a billionaire, is also using her money to support a range of activities her late father would be unlikely to have approved. 

Yes the billionaire is different. She doesn't share her father's views about many things. What is more she is not responsible for what he said or did any more than I am responsible for what my beloved Senior Cat did. 

"Apologising" for the deeds of others seems to have become something which is expected. In this country there was a national "apology" delivered by the Prime Minister of the day to the indigenous people of the country for the past wrongs done to them. It was one of those "feel good" acts for which he was widely praised. 

I actually cringed. It was embarrassing. Here was a man I had not voted for apologising on my behalf to a present day group, not all of whom supported or wanted the apology, for past actions taken by people over whom we had no control.  Had the PM simply said, "We acknowledge the harm done by past acts" and then outlined how they intended to ensure such things did not happen again I would have been much happier. I also know indigenous people who feel the same way. They don't want "apologies". They feel uncomfortable being asked to accept them.

I am well aware that my feelings about this are far from "politically correct". It may even lose me the remaining readers of this blog but, if you do go, then please at least think about it. Hartley's idea that "the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there" is something we need to acknowledge but we also need to acknowledge we are not responsible for what our ancestors did.  What we are responsible for is what we do now.

Sunday 23 October 2022

Go woke, go broke?

I am very much hoping that there is not a back flip on the withdrawal of the $15m donation to the netball association.

While I am genuinely concerned about all those young girls who like to play netball and whose teams depend, however little, on the funding there is something bigger at stake here. We need to stop this ridiculous business of being told how we must think and what we are permitted to say.

The person who offered the donation had a father who was not in the least "politically correct". He said what he thought and he also said things which were designed to stir up controversy.  Social media did not exist in Mr H...'s day. He could get away with a great deal more then than he would now but he still knew how to use the media to get free publicity. 

His daughter is different. Yes, she might be an extraordinarily wealthy woman but her values are not her father's values. She is employing many of the people for whom her father had no time. What is more she is much less interested in flaunting her wealth and using it for political influence than are some of her fellow billionaires. (Yes, she is not above using it but there are others who are far more interested in doing just that.)

That is not to say I like the lady. I don't know her. I have never met her. I am not likely to meet her. I have no interest in doing so.

But she would not be where she is today if she wasn't a pretty hard headed business woman. She knows the power of sport. Withdrawing the funding is not a decision which would have been taken lightly. It is for that reason I hope she does not do a back flip and reinstate it. 

If it does nothing else then it just might be that, if the decision stays in place, it will be a wake up call to the rest of sport. They need to know there is a price to pay for sponsorship. You can't take the money and then tell the person who gives it to you how to behave.

At the present time our local councils are trying to get the state government to change the rules about who pays council rates. They want universities, schools, hospitals and churches to pay more than they already do. (Officially they are not supposed to pay any but of course there are other ways of ensuring they do pay something.) If changes were brought in then universities, already struggling, would cut more courses. Schools would cease running certain activities and cut back on others. Hospitals would increase the cost to patients and churches would close - and along with their closure would come the closure of the biggest social welfare organisations.  More money would need to be spent providing the services that many now volunteer to do through groups associated with such services.  It could not be done as cheaply.

I would rather see the Sikh community providing free meals in the present flooded areas than a local council charging for the same.

Saturday 22 October 2022

Security breaches

are serious things - very serious things. 

Over the course of my working life I have had to do things like sign what are often called "official secrets acts". I have had to keep my mouth firmly shut, my paws clear of any keyboard and more. To do otherwise might, on occasion, have risked the lives of other people. 

It all sounds a bit dramatic but, for me, it is usually nothing more than a simple thing like knowing X person is going to Y location at Z time. All it means is that X is taking a risk and the information is not to be broadcast.  I am well aware though that people further up the line do know a great deal more. If I said anything then I could be responsible for putting such people at further risk. You just don't say anything to anyone, anywhere or in any way.

There have been two serious security breaches here recently. One was at a company which provides phone services. The other was at a private health insurance company.

The first one was able to access information like passport numbers. If I had been with that particular company and used my passport number to "prove" my identity then I would be in the process of having to renew my passport. For most people their passport number probably has no security risks attached at all but mine would. I know there are other people who would be in the same position as myself and it would be more than "a nuisance". 

I was not involved in the private health insurance scheme either and I am thankful for that. There is nothing sinister or shameful in my medical records but I made the decision not to put my records on the national register. It would be good to have them there but there are security concerns. ( Someone else with the same surname and a similar given name has a serious medical condition but her records have been mixed with mine and the government seems incapable of sorting them out. ) Some information however does need to be held by the insurer.

Now there is talk of making such providers pay enormous fines if their systems are breached and they are found to be at fault. Yes, good at the level it will make them more vigilant. 

I wonder however just how successful this will be. I am all too well aware that even your average teenager can find their way in to places they have no business to be. Indeed, you don't even need to be a teenager. There was an incident here several years ago when two boys in a local primary school hacked their way into the school computer records - just to show it could be done. A local high school had a security breach last year. At the beginning of this year one of the local businesses spent thousands sorting out a security breach. Fortunately for them those responsible tried to make an unauthorised transaction while the owner of the business was in the bank. It was stopped instantly.

But we are now expected to do almost all our transactions "online". I went as far as to agree to having an electronic bill sent to me for one of the utility companies. ( I had to change the name on the account to mine after the Senior Cat died.) I was reluctant to do this but the price for a paper bill was also ridiculous. I still won't pay the bill online. I will go to the post office to do that as before. Once I had agreed however I suddenly found I was being made "offers" for other goods and services. I had not agreed to this. I don't want those offers. They are inappropriate. At present I am trying to get my name removed from the marketing data base...and I am wondering how far the reach extends.

There is much more to "security" than not having a system breached and information stolen. It means not passing information on without direct (not implied) permission. That need to give permission has to apply right down the line. It has apply in just the same way as I do not have permission to say anything about when X is going to Y. 

(Hackers  - don't bother - the information is on an entirely different network.)


Friday 21 October 2022

A bikie's moll?

 If there is a little political turmoil in Upover right now pity us here in Downunder because we have some too...and ours may actually be every bit as serious.

Yesterday it was announced that the deputy leader of the Greens in the Senate had been asked to resign. She was asked to resign because, she had undisclosed relationship with a bikie while also on a joint parliamentary law enforcement committee. She was receiving confidential briefings about law enforcement and criminal gangs. The bikie in question was involved in these things.

"Asked to resign?" She should not even have been asked to resign. She should have been sacked - and forced to resign her position as a Senator.  

Of course this is not the way the Greens do things. They claim to be very "democratic" about such things.

This same Senator tried to refuse to swear an oath "to a coloniser Queen" on entering parliament. She gave a Nazi style salute in the Senate as she eventually did what was required of her.  Since then she has appeared at protests shouting vile language at the police and refusing  to move on. There is more but I won't go into it here. This alone is enough to suggest that the Senator in question is not fit to hold the position of Senator.

Will she go? Almost certainly not. The reason for this is almost certainly going to be because her own party won't want to be seen to do anything which might be seen as "racist". Yes, the Senator claims to be "indigenous", to represent the interests of indigenous people. It is for this reason that the present government will also be treading carefully and why the media is treading carefully.

In her home state there is a slightly different feeling among  at least some of the indigenous people she claims to represent. One of them sent me an email last night - one I didn't see until this morning. "Is there any way we can get rid of her? She's an embarrassment. We don't accept her."

I am left wondering how such patently unsuitable people manage to get elected. I never wanted a political career and still have cold shivers over my narrow escape. I would not have been good at the job but there are others I know who would have been - and they feel as I do. 

We need to change politics but I have no idea how to do it. It is going to be a rough ride to the next election.

Thursday 20 October 2022

"Dummies waving their arms around in the air"

was the unbelievable comment behind me in the supermarket.

Now my sign language skills are around the preschool level. They are appalling. Even if I knew more signs I don't have the manual dexterity needed to improve them much. The sign languages of the deaf (in this case Auslan) are languages in their own right. They require real skill and just as much learning as any other language. I respect those who use Auslan, BSL or any other signed language.

I also know that deafness is a very, very serious issue. People who are even "hard of hearing" or whose hearing is "not as acute as it used to be" are often isolated from what is going on around them. I help out where I can. It has been an automatic response from me since I was in my early teens and I first came across a profoundly deaf person. We sat together on the long bus journey every Friday night for a year. She was about the same age as me. It was either sit there staring straight ahead or trying to make conversation. I ended up helping her with her homework. We sort of understood each other. Over the years I have managed to learn a little more - enough to try and help when necessary.

And that is why I try to help the profoundly deaf man I sometimes see in the supermarket. It doesn't bother me in the slightest that we look a little "different" as he patiently waits for me to tell him where he might find something or he tells me his dog has been to the vet or that his sister (also deaf) is having another baby. It is simple conversation, every day conversation. 

Most of the people I know in our local shopping centre (and I know a lot) just shrug and tell me, "I don't know how you do that" (and no, they don't want to learn).  Then there was the unbelievable comment from someone I don't know although I have seen him around  the shops. It was, "Look at those dummies waving their arms around in the air. Wouldn't you think they wouldn't want to advertise the fact they can't talk properly?" He knew exactly what he was doing. It was not ignorance. He was laughing.

I lost my temper. I lost my temper there in the middle of the aisle. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I am still recovering from a heavy cold which caused a bout of pneumonia. I was  no longer contagious so I had made the effort to go and get some milk. I was tired and all I wanted to do was curl up on my sleeping mat and go back to sleep.

All that might have been the case but nobody was going to get away with that. I stood there, blocking the aisle, and I told this man exactly what I thought of him. I did not swear. I did not need to swear. I could still tell him.

"F.... you," he told me and turned around to walk off. His way was blocked by someone else.

"She's right you know," two people told him.

" idiots all of you," he told them and pushed past. 

I took a deep breath and prowled on to get the milk. As I was getting it another voice said quietly behind me, "I really am sorry for my husband's behaviour. He's just been told he is going to need hearing aids but that is no excuse."

I feel for both of them. It isn't going to be easy. 

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Sport should be for recreation.

It should not be a career.

I admit I take very little interest in sport. It simply doesn't interest me. The Senior Cat was the same. We never watched it. He never had any idea who had won or lost anything. Brother Cat and I might know who has won something - simply because the information was in the news and we have heard it in passing. Even Middle Cat, who played both softball and hockey at state level, does not watch sport on television.  I suspect the Black Cat might but her television watching habits are utterly different from the rest of us. We just can't be bothered. 

I know one of the things which bothers all of us is the ridiculously high amounts of money that "sportspeople" can get for playing and for "sponsorship".  Yes, it is nice that you have developed the physical ability to hit a ball, catch a ball, run, turn a somersault, jump, or run faster and better than most people can dream about. It is good you have put all those hours of training in and that you were so disciplined about it. But, for what? 

It is non-productive. Sport should be a game. It should be recreation. Even if you are playing in a team and want to win it should not be an almost life and death matter where your every move is analysed, where you are berated for not shaving off an extra one tenth of a second. And, being at the top or near the top does not give you the right to tell others what to think or how to behave - especially those who are helping to pay you.

There have been more instances recently of high profile sports teams and individuals trying to push another agenda.  This has now gone beyond the demands that team wear "pride" jerseys or refuse to acknowledge an alternative version of history.

These stars and their teams want to be paid with the money associated with "sponsorship" but they don't want to acknowledge or support where it comes from? Then I say don't accept that sponsorship. It doesn't matter whether you are the individual or the team. If you can't acknowledge the support then don't accept the money.  I don't believe you should be paid for playing anyway.

When I was a mere kitten cricketers were not paid the way they are now. There were no million dollar plus contracts - or the equivalent at the time. You were just as likely to be served by a teller in a bank who was also a test cricketer. My paternal grandfather made suits for some of them. They expected to pay him what everyone else paid - and he expected to be paid. They did not advertise his business. Cricket was a game. 

Those cricketers gave up time now and then to do things like play against the children at the annual camp for disabled children run by the Girl Guides. My only achievement in the field of sport was at just such a match. (Yes, I really can claim to have bowled Sir Donald Bradman!) They did not get paid for that and it did not even get a lot of publicity. There was no sponsorship involved. It was just something they did if they were available. The banks many of them worked for "sponsored" them in the sense that they gave them the necessary time off to play. Practice sessions were after working hours. 

It is oh so different now. I don't believe it is any better. Now that money, especially such large sums of money, is involved other problems have crept in. I suspect it is the same in all so called sports. 

Cut the sponsorship. Cut the salaries. Ensure those who want to play at this level are trained for other employment as well. It might actually make a difference.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Thieves and vandals

and more.

I wonder how many other people were infuriated by the sight of "activists" pouring good food on to the floor of a supermarket as a "protest"? Yes, the milk the so-called "climate activists were pouring on to the floor was good food, food which could have helped to feed a hungry child. It was a stupid and potentially very dangerous act. To my mind such "activists" are simply thieves and vandals - and they need to be treated as such.  

The same goes for those who throw paint at works of art, glue themselves to works of art, lie down in roadways, block venues and more. I really don't care what you think or what you are protesting about. You are encroaching on the rights of others. You are committing criminal acts and you are often diverting services needed by others.  All too often you also get away with it.

Why should you? If you are a "pensioner" or "unemployed" and you "cannot afford to pay a fine" then I am sorry but other ways will have to be found to make you pay. The idea that you "have not really done anything wrong" because you feel so passionately about an issue is beside the point. The law has to apply equally. If you are taking milk and pouring it on the floor then that is theft and it has to be dealt with in the same way as any other shoplifting incident. If someone slips on the milky floor and breaks a bone then you need to be liable for the consequences. It is not sufficient to say that the shop should have dealt with it - even while the incident is occurring. How would you feel if an older person slipped, broke their hip and this led (as it all too often does) to pneumonia and death? Is your "climate activism" still more important? 

I know there are people out there who do feel that their climate activism should not have the same the consequences. They really do believe that everything they do in the name of "climate change" should not face the same consequences because the issue is so important. 

A sporting organisation in this country is in trouble because activists within it do not want to wear a uniform which also advertises the prospecting company which has given them a $15m donation to see them through the next four years. You don't like mining or prospecting for potential mining? Fine...don't accept the donation. You can't have it both ways. Face the consequences. If it means the end of your sport too bad...but just remember that not everyone in the group feels the same way and what about all the young ones coming up who might want to play it some day? What you cannot do is accept the donation and then expect the donor to give in to your demands. Your activism will have consequences.

These things do not mean people cannot be "activists" but we have to recognise that there are other, legal, and much more effective means of being an activist. They may not be as much "fun". They may not bring about the adrenalin thrill that a confrontation with the authorities does. They may not give you the publicity you crave but they are much more likely to bring about a result. 

And just by the way... all those supposedly "environmentally friendly" soy, almond and coconut milks have issues of their own with respect to nutrition and environmental impact. That herd of cows in the field may actually be helping rejuvenate the planet more than most people want to recognise.


Monday 17 October 2022

My next moves as Prime Minister

would be to deal with issues like transport, agriculture, manufacturing, education and the arts.

Yes, I know you probably don't think the last one is even important but allow me to start with transport. I would have the transport industry up in arms and going on strike but I would expand the rail network and use it. Forget all those thousands of heavy vehicles using the road network and put goods on trains instead. No, don't give me the "but this is double handling" argument - that could employ people too. Put many more goods on trains and save a great deal of fuel, damage to roads, accidents and more. Revitalise the rural rail networks and use them to not just transport goods but as a tourist attraction.

There is the issue of public transport for people too. As PM I would be looking to dramatically increase the amount and use of public transport. I would make it much more difficult for people to simply walk a few metres to their cars (even their electric vehicles) and then drive to their work place. Using public transport may not be as "convenient" or "comfortable" but it could be efficient and the additional exercise of walking or cycling to a bus, train or tram station could be good for general health. I would also increase the number of cycle tracks in urban areas. All children would be taught to ride bicycles in schools and, on leaving primary school, would be expected to catch public transport or ride a bicycle to school. There would be no "student car parks". 

Agriculture is vital. As Prime Minister I would be talking to farmers about the changes needed so that we could feed ourselves. What do we need to grow more of? Should we be growing water heavy crops like rice and cotton? How can we grow more vegetables and make them worth something for the work involved? Local production needs to be expanded. There should also be reduced rates for people who can show they have a working, productive vegetable garden in their own back yards. 

Working with the forestry industry I would also introduce a massive tree planting program. The right types of trees would need to be planted in the right places. Some of this would be aimed at producing food for native wildlife as well as the human population. As part of this there would a program to encourage, as far as possible, the eradication of rabbits.  Programs like this could be used to train the young unemployed and provide them with jobs in forestry and related industries. 

All right C.... that's a start. I would like to know what you would do!


Sunday 16 October 2022

If I was Prime Minister

what would I do? 

The question was posed yesterday - and my response was that I would do some things which would perhaps not be popular, especially with some politicians. Of course that assumes that I would have certain powers most Prime Ministers do not have.

I would first introduce a "truth in advertising, truth in media comment" law to prevent people with political aspirations (candidates) and politicians from criticising one another simply because they hold another view, dislike someone, want their job and so on.  Yes, I know it would take a great deal of "fun" out of the election but at least we would have far more idea what we were getting. The penalty would need to be disqualification for running for election or having to pay for any subsequent by-election.

As for the elections themselves I would give voters a chance to decide on (1) whether compulsory attendance at the ballot box should be retained,  (2)whether compulsory preferential voting should be retained and (3) possibly raising the voting age to twenty-six.  Funds for election campaigns would be strictly limited with all parties and individuals only being able to spend a set amount. This would require candidates to concentrate on content and quality rather than quantity.

I would also require Senators to, as originally intended, run on a state and not a party ticket. That would return meaning to the Senate.

That done I would then turn my attention to the overall government of the country. I would ask for state and local government to be done away with. In their place I would like to see non-political regional entities which were responsible for carrying out federal policies and specific local projects and services. These would include responsibility for local roads and rubbish but rates would be decided by the federal government.

Taxation would need to change. It would need to be simplified. A new tax act would need to be written and the many loopholes currently used to prevent paying tax would need to be closed.

Any tax on the principal place of residence needs to be abolished. Tax on properties owned in lieu of superannuation must only be taxed at the same rate as superannuation holdings.

Right C.... there's a start...if I get any responses I will continue tomorrow.



Saturday 15 October 2022

Accusations of rape, vandalising paintings

and telling us we "must" vote according to the plans of the present government.

I think I need to move to another island...and turn off the news.  I would miss some people -  such as regular readers of this blog - but there is something wrong with the way we are being given the news now. 

Almost every night a news story will come with a "warning" that the content might upset and a link to a site in case it has upset someone and they need help.  Yes, it is upsetting. Yes, people do need help.

At the same time do we really need four full pages in today's paper about a rape case that has not yet been decided? Would we need four full pages anyway? Who on earth would reportedly pay $325,000 for a book deal about such an incident?  And that is the least of it. The media has been banging on about this for weeks now - to the point where the trial almost did not go ahead. Very little has been heard from the accused but a great deal has been heard from and written about the alleged victim. Everyone is different but I can't help thinking about all those rape victims who have never had their day in court, who perhaps have never been able to speak up. Hearing about something like this must be so hard for them - and almost impossible to avoid. 

And why give the fools who do senseless acts of "protest" like gluing themselves to a Picasso (in Melbourne) or a van Gogh (in London) any publicity at all? It will only encourage others to do the same, particularly as they will no doubt get nothing more than a sympathetic slap on the wrist from the courts. In this city two "activists" were not fined anything "because they have limited means to pay" even after they caused a major disruption to morning traffic. No, it isn't the way to get the message across. The media thinks it is though. It would be better if these things were not reported at all - starve such activists of media oxygen. They need to find positive ways of getting their message across...planting more trees perhaps?

The present government also seems to believe that getting a message across involves telling only one side of the story or the argument. Yes, there will be a referendum on the issue but you don't need to know what arguments there might be against our idea. If you oppose that "Voice" you are automatically a "racist" - even if you are one of those the idea of a "voice to parliament" is supposed to benefit. The media is telling us it is wrong to vote "No" even when legitimate questions are being asked. 

We are being told it is no longer possible to think for ourselves, that we must follow the "correct" way of thinking. Really? Isn't this how we stop growing?  

Friday 14 October 2022

How to charge an electric car

in one easy lesson?

My cousin T.... lives in central London. He doesn't own a car. He sees no point in it. If he and his partner want to use one then they can hire one.

"They're just a nuisance Cat. The parking is horrendous. There's plenty of public transport."

They also risk their lives on bikes...something which does concern me because I will need to do the same on a tricycle if I ever go back to the London. 

And they risk their lives walking along the streets. "It's like walking through spaghetti in some places...all these people charging their cars..."

Ah yes, yet another problem with all these green, climate change ideas. Is it really just a simple matter of coming home in the evening, parking and plugging in to recharge the battery?

A Twitter user posted this yesterday: "Dear Neighbour, You may have noticed that...... is turning very green. There are now 4EV in the street which is great. 

As we encourage everyone to go green, we have been presented with some challenges in relation to electricity use. In short our infrastructure is from 1822 and our cars are from 2022!

The EV crew all met last night and we were thinking about setting up what we will call a "Roster Ration" basically to enable the charging of our EV's we will roster our charging days times etc, and we ask that during this time you ration your electricity use. Ie: air cons, washers, dryers etc off when we are charging our cars. 

The small sacrifice today will help put an end to global warming and associated issues. all of our contact details on the revers so join the convo so everyone wins

I have no idea whether it is true or not but it does suggest something of a problem. If there is a limited amount of power available then who gets to use it?

There is air conditioning in this house. I don't use it very much. It is much too expensive for just one person. We used it more when the Senior Cat was here. He struggled with the worst of the cold and the heat once he could no longer be active in the garden and the shed. We did not use it all day every day. Instead we put on an extra layer of clothing.

There is a washing machine...well come on. They are a fairly standard item aren't they? I certainly don't use it every day. I recycle the water and the sheets and towels go on a short cycle.

There is a dryer too - but it has not been used since my mother died in 2000. I see no point in it. I have four perfectly good and easy to use "clothes horses". We had one for things which could not go in the dryer (things like "woollies") and then the girl next door gave me three more "because we don't use them". I do use them. It might take a bit longer to get the clothes dry but they work just as well. Most of the time they go out under the back verandah out of the rain but still in the fresh air. If the weather is wild then the house might look a bit like a laundry but it is just me and I can put up with it.

But the idea that I should not do these things because someone else is charging their car is too much. I have not, although I often wanted to, asked the teens next door to stop playing games on their computers because it slows my internet connection to a point where it is almost impossible to send or receive anything. I don't ask the neighbour on the other side to turn off even one of his seven computers. (He makes a living playing the stockmarket when he is not acting as an interpreter at the hospital.) In fact I have never asked anyone to turn their power off for my convenience. 

I would turn it off if there was a limited supply available and somebody needed it for a life-saving medical device. That would be absolutely the right thing to do. Turning it off so that you can just walk a couple of metres to your car in the morning instead of catching the bus or the train? No, I don't think so. If this is about your "feel good green convenience" then think again. If enough people catch the bus or the train that might make a difference. If that's "inconvenient" then perhaps you need to rethink your ideas about saving the environment.  

Thursday 13 October 2022

Power bills will come down

of course they will! The Prime Minister has promised us! We were promised a drop of $275 by 2025.

And people believed him. We had a change of government. The new government was going to solve all the climate change issues. We were going to be world leaders in renewable energy. People were going to be able to afford electric vehicles and there would be charging stations right across the country. Solar panels on rooftops would be feeding so much electricity into the grid that we would have sufficient for domestic use. The wind turbines were going to run industry across the country. Oh yes, it would take a little while but it could be done without bankrupting the country.

Now that the government has been installed it is a different story of course. They are apparently not to blame at all for the expected minimum 35% rise in power bills next year. Suddenly it is "the war in Ukraine" and the failure of the big power generators to get on with the job of supplying power with "renewables" and...and... 

And no, you must not mention the "N" word  - nuclear power is not an option. Even if it was an option in one way it apparently costs too much and takes a decade to build just one nuclear power plant.  Right now of course we can't even find somewhere to store nuclear waste - so what little we have gets stored at the facility for nuclear medicine in the middle of a very large city.

I am more than a bit tired of all this. The idea of "renewable" energy is not the panacea it appears to be. There are genuine problems with the production and disposal of solar panels and wind turbines. There are genuine problems with the supply and distribution of the power they do manage to generate. Power bills were never going to come down even if all this worked - and the experience in Europe shows us that the demand for energy is far greater than the "renewables" alone can provide. 

I also know the nuclear option is problematic but it seems there is very little research going into solving those problems. Why aren't we researching nuclear fusion? Yes, it is a very difficult issue but if the problems could be solved then fusion might go a long way towards solving the world's energy needs.

Perhaps I am just too pessimistic but I really don't see all this "climate change activism" working. Certainly our power bills are not going to go down....but, wait a moment...didn't the Prime Minister promise us they would? 

Wednesday 12 October 2022

So just who is "aboriginal"?

The question has come up in an article in this morning's paper and with it some concerns. It is a question which interests me.

Apparently there has been a 25% increase in the number of people "identifying as aboriginal" since the last census - five years before this one.  Questions are being raised about those numbers - and rightly so.

There is supposedly a three part indigenous identity test. The test reads this way "An Aboriginal person or a Torres Strait islander is a person of Aboriginal descent or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as such and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives". 

It is not a test which works very well. There is no "aboriginal genome" so it relies on people "identifying" and others as "accepting". It is possible to have one great-great-grandparent thought to be aboriginal in order to "identify" as such.  It is also possible to be, as a late friend of mine was, initiated into a tribe without any blood connections at all. (He never identified himself as such on any form but his funeral service was begun with words spoken in the tribal language rather than English.) 

My good friend M... whose skin is the colour of dark chocolate never answers the question on forms but he is clearly "indigenous" when you look at him. M.... sees no point in the question. He is not looking for any sort of consideration.  He has made his own way in the world without that - although it has not been easy.

But the article in the paper suggested that there are concerns in indigenous circles that there are people taking advantage of the way in which this is handled. There are people who, seeing an opportunity to get the "benefits", are abusing the ease with which it is possible to identify.  This infuriates me. Any benefits need to go where they are most needed.

If you have one great-great grandparent who was known to be from X... tribe then yes why not be proud of the fact. At the same time though also acknowledge that another was an Afghan camel driver, a third an Irish miner and a fourth an English prostitute. That is actually a much more likely mix. 

The question of just who is aboriginal is going to need to be addressed. It will be vital to face it fully before the proposed "Voice" referendum is put to people. That won't be easy.

The presence or absence of some sort of benefit should not be what defines a person as one thing or the other.   


Tuesday 11 October 2022

A new hospital?

The city I live in has a "central business district" (CBD) surrounded by parkland. It was deliberately designed this way. There is a "square mile" with a grid of streets, surrounded by the land, then "the river" - which is not much more than an oversized creek - and then you go up a small rise to the cathedral and another grid of streets.  Yes, it was all designed by one Colonel Light. 

The good Colonel thought that the green belt was important. The park lands are supposed to be there for the enjoyment of the residents of the state "in perpetuity". 

Naturally some people think it is fine to encroach upon them. They put in a race course - and not just for horses but cars. They have buildings dotted over it which belong to various sporting clubs who use the area for tennis, cricket, baseball, softball and more. Some of it is rather bare, other parts have small gardens - one of them a lovely Japanese style garden. The old cemetery is there. 

Along the river bank they have built more and more. Perhaps that is inevitable. 

The problem is that none of this has really been planned very well or very sensibly. There is a limit to expansion...unless you use the parkland. There are divided views about that. A chunk has been already been taken for the hospital which was built a few years ago. Now they want to take another chunk for the dedicated women's and children's hospital - which is  currently on a too small block on the other side of the river. 

Yes, they need a new hospital for children and the women's area certainly needs to be expanded. That said I look at the hospital which was opened a few short years back. It was said to be "world class" and was certainly extraordinarily expensive - the most expensive in the southern hemisphere in fact. The architecture was said to be outstanding.

There is just one problem with all this. The place really is not fit for the intended purpose. My doctor-nephew worked there for a while. The place has no staff rooms or even staff lockers. It has no meeting rooms. It has no canteen for the staff. (It has no kitchen at all. Meals are brought in from outside.) Patients are only in single rooms. That may be very nice but there are problems associated with that too. It makes the place incredibly expensive to run. It is difficult for the staff to monitor patients, especially when staffing levels go down rather than up. It is why our friend P... phoned me after twelve one night. I had to phone the hospital to get them to phone the ward to get someone to go to her. Nobody had checked on her for almost six hours. 

And the building has so much wasted space. There are large areas that serve no purpose - an entrance area the size of a cathedral and a lay out which requires twice the number of lifts - none of which can be used in an emergency. The power has failed more than once and it is only good luck the emergency generators kicked in for the theatres. (There are too few theatres and they are not in the right location.) 

Now they want to build something similar next to it for the children. The plan is to actually build something with a smaller number of beds for a growing population. The staff are still trying to get the basic staff facilities they need. They are saying that individual rooms, except for the most critically ill children who are constantly being monitored, are not suitable for children. If adults will leave their beds when they have been asked to remain there then children most certainly will.

Are the architects and the planners listening? No, they just want to use that green space.

My own view? Build something that works, not a monument to a firm of architects. Don't take away all that green space. Leave it there and give sick children a green space. It might make all the difference. Just ask people what they think of Queen Square Garden near Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Monday 10 October 2022

The "Frontier Wars"

or a documentary series was recently screened on television here. It is a version of the history between the white settlers and the local people they met.

It is not a pretty history but then history rarely is. In this case however it has been made out to be something it almost certainly was not. There is almost no suggestion that the two groups made any attempt to mix or get along with each other. It concentrates almost entirely on a failure to do so. 

Of course we have historians who are attempting to research all this. In terms of "history" they are fortunate in that they only need to go back to 1788. There should be plenty of material available. One of the problems is that there is actually not that much material and almost all of it comes from "white" accounts. Another is that what is available does not always fit with the politically correct version of history - that the whites were always in the wrong, that they deliberately brought in measles infested blankets and they massacred  the indigenous population without ever facing any sort of justice. 

Of course this is not true. There is fault aplenty on both sides. What is more there is yet another strand of history which is almost impossible to research and which is never mentioned - that of the wars between indigenous tribes. The so-called "welcome to country" ceremonies are rooted in some of the ceremonies which were performed to invite neighbouring tribes onto land a tribe considered their own. It would seem there were often clashes between groups.

I know very little about all this - well no more than anyone who has read a reasonable amount of history. What I do know something about is the relationship between my paternal great-grandmother and the indigenous people along the section of the Murray adjacent to the dairy farm. I was told about this by her own children - my grandfather and his brothers and sisters. Let me explain.

My paternal great-grandfather was a sailor, a ship's pilot and a self-taught maritime cartographer. He was responsible for mapping a good deal of the coastline up and down what we call "the Gulf". His work allowed the many ships of the day to come in and out of what was then the main port. In the course of that work he met many indigenous people and apparently had excellent relations with them. When he retired he, like so many other members of the clan, took up a second career - as a dairy farmer on the River Murray. Great-grandpa and his wife had not been there that long when he died very suddenly as he was herding the cows in to be milked. Great-grandma took over the running of the farm and with it the business of being the local shopkeeper and postmistress. It also meant getting on with the local indigenous people who lived along the banks of the river.

Great-grandma's ideas about that probably did not please everyone. She actually employed them and paid them. She saw to it their children were clothed - although not necessarily shod. She saw to it the children attended school (and church on Sundays). Her grandchildren (the Senior Cat and his cousins) played with them when they were there on holiday. 

"Grandma treated them just the same as anyone else," one of my great-aunts told me. I don't doubt that was true. My great-aunt was known for her "robust" way of speaking and would not have hesitated to criticise. When the Senior Cat's cousin was writing the family history and researching the time spent there he came across other documents, often from people outside the family, which said the same sort of thing. There are old photographs of groups which  include members of the local indigenous community.  

Yes, it was probably very "paternalistic" if you like - but that was the way things were often done then. The idea however that relations were often "bad", so bad that murder and mayhem were more common than good is patently ridiculous. The penalty for murder was death - on both sides.

As a family we like to think of Great-grandma as someone special and in many ways she was. At the same time I suspect there were many other women who were in circumstances similar to that of my great grandmother.  I think it is very likely they had the same sort of relations with the local indigenous communities with whom they found themselves living. Nothing else makes sense. 

Sunday 9 October 2022

"I don't like school"

a young friend told me yesterday. 

I was not surprised to hear that. She is an unusual child. It would be easy to label her "on the autism spectrum" but I don't think that is right. She is actually socially very able. I have had some fascinating conversations with her. She reads widely and is constantly asking questions. "The teachers don't like that", she tells me.

No, they probably don't. The sort of questions this child asks would get in the way of what most teachers need and want to teach. This child learns "differently".

Her aunt, with whom she lives, tells me that the school is "worried" this child is not "fitting in" as she should. "At that parent-teacher night I was told she wasn't making friends and she doesn't fit in well with class activities. Of course they said they were making allowances because of all the trauma but really they have no idea how to handle her."

I am inclined to agree with her aunt's assessment of the situation. B... is one of those rare children who probably really would be better off learning alone for the greater part of her time. Her curiosity seems endless. It was her birthday recently and I gave her, at her aunt's suggestion, a book about polymer clay beads. She promptly researched polymer clay, "So I know how it works." Her art work at home is stunning, full of movement and life. Her aunt is an artist and encourages it. At school though, "It's so boring there. They tell you what to do and I got told off for doing something different." 

We have talked about this too, about the apparent need to conform and when to conform. She doesn't like this at all. Next year she will be starting high school and it isn't going to be easy. "There will be heaps more homework and I need time to do things."  

Her aunt has offered music, ballet, tennis and other classes. B... has turned them all down. "Politely and I can't say I am sorry I don't have the bother of getting her to such things but it might be a way to mix."

I am actually not too worried. B... walks a dog for a neighbour who does not really have the time to do it.  It's how we met. "I know a lot of people from walking him. It's a good way to meet people." As the dog seems to be very protective of her the walks seem safe enough for both of them. 

He's also a good companion. I haven't any doubt that B... will learn to mix in her own way and in her own time. She will almost certainly learn to tolerate school a little more as she gets older. I also suspect she is one of those people who needs her own space and time for herself. There is nothing wrong with that is there?



Saturday 8 October 2022

Teaching "mindfulness" in school

is apparently one of those "things" we are supposed to not merely accept but embrace.  It is also a term I had never heard of when I was at school - either as a student or a teacher. There is a piece about this in the paper this morning - and the results might not be what some people expect. Research is even suggesting it might be harmful for some.

I am wondering though whether, in a sense, I tried this with one class once. There was one of those issues in the playground. It had aroused hot passions and my class was restless and angry when they came inside. I was not going to intervene. It was a playground issue. They were capable of sorting it out for themselves. 

What I did do was say something like, "Okay gang I know you're upset. You can sort it out at lunchtime if you really think you must but please try and remember the no fighting rule. In the mean time just sit quietly and try and think about something you like instead. I'll time you for a minute and then we'll get on with the next lesson."

They were quiet. At the end of the minute one of the boys said, "A minute is an awfully long time." Nobody else said anything.

That was the end of the issue. If anything happened at lunchtime I did not hear about it. I can only assume my approach worked - and worked because I didn't fuel their anger by discussing the issue. I also gave them a short period of time in which they were asked to be quiet. They knew when it would be over.

I doubt the same thing would have occurred if I had told them, "Let's try some "mindfulness" to get over this." I may be wrong but I don't think ten and eleven year old students work that way. They have no desire to "meditate" and no idea how to do it. Why should they?

Meditation might be good for some adults but I suspect it takes years of training and discipline to do it effectively.  I know meditating is not, as some people think, about "blanking out your mind" or "thinking about nothing at all" but it is still very difficult to do something like concentrate on a single calm issue. I also suspect meditation takes many forms - prayer perhaps for some, music for others, spinning or turning a potter's wheel. There must be endless ways to meditate that are not normally recognised as such. Meditation must surely be about something we enjoy if we are to find it a relaxation. 

Someone I once knew was told to by his doctor to "try and relax a bit - go out for a walk perhaps". This man took the "walk" bit seriously. He set off for a "brisk walk" every day - rain or shine. It did nothing for his anxiety. He was still as anxious as ever. He was moving house and writing a text book as well as lecturing. On the day he managed to spill his coffee everywhere in the law school canteen someone said, "T.... slow down. Did you go for a walk this morning? Yes? But how did you walk?"

I remember him just looking at the other person who then said, "Did you do it in a hurry? Did you just about run it? Yes? Then slow right down and look at the gardens as you pass. Plan your own garden as you are doing it."

Two years later he brought the person who suggested it some of his first tomatoes. The suggestion had worked for him. That seems to me a good application of "mindfulness". 

It seems to me that this mindfulness thing is not something that can be simply taught to a group of restless teenagers who show no interest in it. Most of the teens I know would simply resent it.  They are not interested in such things when they are labelled with terms like mindfulness. If we don't dictate then asking them what they can do now in order to get something or somewhere they want to be in the future seems more likely to succeed. Mindfulness and motivation seem more likely to come together that way.

I might be wrong about all this...but it interests me.


Friday 7 October 2022

Breakfast and lunch at school

apparently now needs to be provided to seventy-five thousand in this state. This is of course what the media is saying - and we all know they love to exaggerate any issue.

It is likely however that it is an issue for too many. It has been an issue for a long time too.

My mother was the head of the first "junior primary" school in this state to provide breakfast for some children on a permanent basis. The children concerned were provided with "weet-bix" (similar to Weetabix to those of you in the UK and then bread and Vegemite (similar to Marmite) and milk.  Not only did it provide the children with some nutrition it got them to school. 

The school secretary and the woman who ran the school canteen were responsible for most of the work involved. Somehow they found the money to buy an extra loaf of the cheap bread used to quietly give the children involved a sandwich at lunch time as well.

That was more than forty years ago. The school secretary and my mother became good friends. After my mother died I maintained the friendship and M... and I would ourselves meet for "breakfast" a couple of times a year. We talked about those school breakfasts. M...had brought up four boys on her own - boys who all did very well indeed. Money was extraordinarily tight at times but she fed them well, clothed them well and made sure they not just attended school but did well there.  She knew, from experience, that it was very hard work but it could be done. 

M...however had no great expectations that the breakfast program or "club" as they called it would change anything.  I have no doubt she was right. At least some of the children who needed breakfast then would have had children and now grandchildren who need breakfast now. They need lunch too.

Of course there are some of these children whose parents are in situations outside their control. If illness hits a family or one of the children has special needs then they may well need extra help - help they would never consider asking for in the normal way. But there are others who "expect" to be given these things.

M... could be extraordinarily outspoken. More than one parent who smoked was told "Not in here. Cigarettes cost money and we don't want children seeing money spent on that sort of thing."

She longed to take charge of their finances, to prevent them from spending money on cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, entertainment, fast food and much more.  M... clashed with social workers who took the attitude "we can't tell them what to do" and "they have the right to spend their money in whatever way they wish". M... was of the opinion they did not have that right. They had a responsibility first to their children and the needs of their children.

I am inclined to agree with M... There is no excuse for the vast majority of children to go hungry in this country. We have a wildly expensive and very generous social security system. No, it isn't easy even with that - but it can be done. It is why I supported the cashless welfare card. That card may have its many problems but the problems of those without it are even greater.

If children are coming to school without breakfast and without lunch then we need to be asking why this is so. We need to ensure that the money coming in is being spent on what it needs to be spent on. If some people need extra help then we need to make sure they are getting it - and that others are not getting it in place of those who need it most.


Thursday 6 October 2022

The "inclusive" football club

which has just caused their new CEO to resign a day after he was appointed perhaps needs to reflect on how "inclusive" it really is.

The CEO in question was forced to resign because he also belongs to a church which opposes abortion and same sex marriage. It is apparently one of those small fundamentalist churches - perhaps one of those where people raise their hands and sway as they sing. 

I know many people who feel uncomfortable about that sort of behaviour.  That's fine. I don't feel comfortable myself - but then, like most people, I don't feel particularly comfortable about displaying my emotions in highly charged public settings. What is not fine is telling someone else they cannot hold a public position the group they belong to holds such beliefs. 

I am not particularly in tune with Roman Catholic theology but I think the hierarchy are also supposed to oppose abortion and same sex marriage. That said I know at least two RC priests who are remarkably tolerant about these matters, indeed more tolerant than some non-church goers I know. I know Anglican priests with similar views. While I don't know what rabbis in general believe according to a Pew Research paper around 80% of Jews believe homosexuals should be accepted. 

I undoubtedly need to better inform myself about a great many things but it seems to me that the actions of the football club are not in keeping with their claims to be a club which claims to be "inclusive" and to "support LGBTQI rights". If you cannot support those things and support someone who privately holds other beliefs then it seems to me to be prejudice of another sort. To inform someone that they will not be employed because they hold beliefs that will not impact on their day to day work role is surely discrimination of the worst sort? 

If we allow that sort of discrimination to take place where will it end? Will we continue to tell people they cannot be employed because they hold another position on global warming, mandatory sentencing or the death penalty? What if they deny the existence of dinosaurs or refuse to wear a jersey to "celebrate gay pride"?

Is it perhaps time to stop demanding everyone thinks the same way even while claiming to support "diversity"?    

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Syrian refugee camps

may be "hell on earth" but please don't expect all of those who get the opportunity to leave to be "grateful". They won't be.

There are plans to "secretly" remove the women and children who are "Downunder citizens" and return them to this country. The very fact that (a) it is supposed to be a "secret" operation and (b) that it has been made known (even if the details have not) is something for concern.

Many people assume anyone in a refugee camp will be so grateful to leave they will willingly embrace a better life elsewhere. That's a mistake.

Yes, there were very young women who were "tricked" into going. The belief you are "in love" with someone can cause people to do these things. Certainly some of them were naive enough to believe what they were told about a life of luxury under the about to be caliphate. There were also others who had more idea what they were going into but their belief in the jihad was so strong that they went.  

They went even though they were breaking the law in this country and they knew it. They went even though they knew it was a war zone. They went even though they had been made aware of at least some of the difficulties they were going to face. 

Nothing would have prepared any of them for the reality. It may not even have made any difference. They would still have believed in the ideals and wanted to work towards them. 

And many of them still feel that way. They are not going to be grateful. They are simply going to see it as a set back. Returning here is simply going to mean carrying on the jihad in other ways in this country.

Their children, especially the young males, will have been brought up to believe these things. You can't hold contrary views in a refugee camp. A contrary view could cost you your life. It is all that you will have been told. There is no other point of view to be had. Disputes are settled by violence, not negotiation. Rape is so common that it is seen as acceptable by many. There are brothels in refugee camps.

There have been plenty of people in the wider community here who believe we should simply "bring them home". There are also any number of aid workers who have similar views although workers on the ground are much more aware of the likely issues.

The government is moving more slowly on this. Physically removing people from the camp - if they want to leave - is one issue but repatriating them is another. All of these people will need to monitored, many of them for life. The young males will be particularly vulnerable to radicalisation but the young females should not be excluded from this possibility.  Many of them have missed years of schooling. Those who have had some schooling will have had a schooling very much at odds with what is taught here.

The present battle may have been lost but the war has not been lost. We are going to need to be continually vigilant for years to come. Be prepared to help but don't expect to be thanked.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

School tired?

I had a long letter in the state newspaper yesterday. This was unusual in itself. The paper does not really like long letters. They prefer more short letters, perhaps a greater range of opinion. 

But I thought they might print mine - and they did. I was suggesting part of the current discipline problems in schools might, among other things, be due to the changing way we are educating students and what we expect of them.

Inevitably I found more than one local dog walker ready to challenge me.

"We have to get more students to university," he told me, "They won't get jobs if they leave school as soon as they can."

I disagreed. I still disagree. I am likely to go on disagreeing.

We do not need more students going to university. We need less. I have never been a believer in "all students should aim for university". I have had to try and help far too many students who have gone to university simply because they have been told they "must". They have no desire to learn more. What they really want to do is "get out there and get a job". They want to, as some of them put it, "start living". It doesn't work that way of course but they believe it will.We probably need more of them to take "gap years". If they end up not going to university at the end of that year then fine. They may never be ready to go but some of them will go later. 

But there is another cohort of students who are not getting the attention they should be getting. They are the students who are most definitely not university material. They are not even school material. They are the students who would have left school very early, at twelve or fourteen. They would have gone into the workforce. There would have been jobs for them in the trades. Some of them would have been apprenticed others would have simply been employed in perhaps quite menial but nevertheless essential jobs like garbage collection and roadworks, cleaning and shop work. Some of them still achieved great things.

The Senior Cat had a cousin who left school at fourteen. He was apprenticed in the metalwork trade and won an award. He was never out of employment and eventually ended up working in very senior positions indeed. Even when he "retired" he was called back in to give of his experience and expertise. He was at the same technical high school as a man who later became the Governor of the state. Neither of them thought university was for them.

We have done away with technical high schools of course. They were considered "wrong". They were thought to mean some students were never going to "achieve their best". But what does that mean? 

There were still problems in those schools and in the "normal" high schools, of course there were. At the same time I don't think there were as many problems. Students who were more interested in making things with their hands had an opportunity to do metalwork, woodwork, dressmaking, "domestic science" and more. They saw some point in learning the arithmetic needed to measure and cut. Now we expect the same type of student to learn to computer code.

I can still clearly remember the pride on the faces of the Swedish boys at a residential centre for those "at risk". They were all considered to be potential school drop outs. They had not been achieving in the classroom. These boys were spending time in a residence for what was termed "school tired students" and they had built an "ice yacht". Their pride in it was justified and they had all developed skills they would be able to use for the rest of their lives. It must have seemed an expensive program but I think it would have paid for itself in the end.

Perhaps we have the wrong expectations of some students. They are "school tired".  They need to learn with their hands as well as their heads.