Thursday 29 February 2024

Mail delivery?

The mail finally arrived after 4pm yesterday. This is the one delivery in a day every second day. 

We do not get as much mail as we once did.  It is impossible to get some things in the post now. If you want to keep a paper record then you need to print the bill, the receipt, the notification, the information off for yourself. Examination results day was a nightmare (or should that be daymare?) of waiting to hear the "postie's whistle". On a birthday there would be an eager rush to the letter box "just in case" someone had sent a birthday card.

Yesterday's mail, so late in the day, was late in another way as well. It contained some papers I had been asked to look at. There they were in a large bright yellow envelope. There was my name in very clear, thick black print. The address was correct. The post code was correct. The amount of postage was correct. 

Why then has it taken the Downunder postal service seventeen days to deliver it from an address that is just 11.2km away? It would have been faster for the sender to walk over here. Had either of us had a car it would have been faster to deliver it by hand. (The sender is in his late eighties and no longer drives.)

I phoned him to let him know it had finally arrived and that I would deal with it immediately. He sighed. "Thanks Cat. I'll get my son-in-law to pick it up from you.When would be convenient?" 

We arranged a time for later last night. I went ahead and did the necessary work for him. I wrote the letter he will need with it. When his son-in-law arrived full of apologies for all the "fuss and bother" I told him it would not have been a fuss and bother at all if the postal service was working as it should work. I told him I had written a letter as well and suggested, as he knows all about the problem, he read it through. We could change it on the spot if necessary. He read it through quickly and shook his head, "That's fine. If P.... doesn't like it for some reason can I email you? I'll run anything else by you as well. I should have scanned the damn stuff in and sent it to you that way."

We looked at each other and then he said, "And, guess what?" 

"You will be delivering those papers by hand," I told him. 

So much for the postal service. Is it any wonder they made a $200m loss last year? 

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Ah those statistics

are at it again! Really, they should be rounded up!

The "gender pay gap" issue was in the news last night and in the paper this morning. And yes, I believe equal work should result in equal pay. The Senior Cat also believed this. He was one of those who fought for female teachers to be paid at the same rate as male teachers. He also fought for their right to "continuous" service when they married - instead of the absolutely ridiculous requirement that they "resign" and then be "re-employed" - losing all their sick leave and long service leave in the process.  Yes, those things made a difference to their pay packets as well.

But the report seems to have been about something different. It took "averages" here, there and everywhere. It did not look closely at the differing types of work done. There was no real consideration given to the fact that women tend to work in areas where everyone is paid less. It may not be right but it is what happens.

I wonder how accurate the report really is. Yes, there will be differences but do all women really earn less for paid employment in positions of equal responsibility when you take all the other factors into account? There is a comment by someone that female airline pilots get the same rate of pay. I know bus and train drivers do too. Supermarket employees vary but that has more to do with length of service and responsibilities. There is a female surgeon I know who earns more than many of her male counterparts in the same field.

The neighbour who works for the tax office complained that he was not earning as much as several of his female colleagues but he works from home. The last time he went into the office was in November. He doesn't need to travel to and from his workplace. He takes his two children to and from school. He is doing what many women have done for years...and gets a little less because he is actually doing a little less which is directly involved with his work.

Perhaps we need to look at these things and then adjust the statistics and work on the pay gap from there. I think the pay gap exists and it needs to be rectified but it might be that there are other things we need to take into account.

Still, it won't do any harm to round up those statistics and put them in their rightful place.  

Tuesday 27 February 2024

"Unemployed" or something else?

I have been going through someone else's "work" history and it makes interesting but very depressing reading.

This person did not finish school, did not finish the secretarial course they went to do instead and lasted just eleven weeks in the first position they were lucky enough to get. This was as a very junior office person and apparently it was "boring" and "I don't want to be stuck in an office all day". 

All right, find something else to do. They flitted from one thing to the next, a few weeks here, several months there. "No, I don't know what I want to do." 

There was marriage but the need to work to pay for the new house. That did not work either. There were still multiple jobs that were "boring". The marriage was dissolved. There was travel overseas on the money from the settlement although there were debts owing. 

Back here there were more low level jobs that never lasted. It was always someone else's fault when told employment would be terminated. The jobs were still "boring" and "nobody gives me anything interesting to do" and.... well, a litany of excuses. There was one course after another at TAFE but these were never quite finished. After all, finish the course and you might be qualified for something.

This person now "qualifies" for the age pension...and has done nothing of value in their life. I know of other people who are the same.

I also know of a man with Down Syndrome who has been in open employment all his working life. He retired at the end of last year. He needs a bit of help with his finances but he has his own unit and a regular income. When he retired, knowing he would need to feel useful, someone found him a role in a large charity facility. He was delighted to be "going to work again". I saw him yesterday and he gave me a cheerful wave as he was carting out rubbish. "Getting a bit dirty," he told me.

I pedalled on thinking to myself, "No, you aren't getting dirty. You have never been dirty. You are clean. It is the first person who has done no real work in their life who is dirty."

I am alarmed at how easy it is for someone who doesn't want to work to avoid the responsibility of doing just that. They are taking up places at TAFE that could be used by people who really do want to do the courses but are pushed to one side because these people have priority. The money being wasted on these policies is ridiculous. The "mutual obligation" requirement and the demand that applications be made is not working. 

If someone with Down Syndrome who can barely read and write can hold down a job for more than forty years then so can many others. Perhaps we need to change the way those avoiding work are being "paid"?

Monday 26 February 2024

Clementine Ford has no place

at Writers' Week. That someone who is openly helped to out a private group of Jewish artists, writers and other creative people and published details about them simply to stir up trouble is  totally and utterly unacceptable. 

No doubt I will be heavily criticised for saying that. I will be told that this is about "freedom of speech" and that Ford has "every right to express her opinion".  If you do say that then you will be wrong. This was not about any form of freedom of speech. There was no need to do what was done. It was not done to try and prevent harm. It was not done for the purpose of informing people. It was not done for debate. It was done for hate.

We do have a right to express opinion in this country. I am doing it right now. That right comes with responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is not to cause harm to others. Ford knew full well that publishing that list was going to cause harm. She intended it to cause harm. She has made no secret of the fact that she is anti-Israel and pro-Palestine. She also uses her position to make sure others know what she believes...and encourage them to believe the same.

Writers' Week, as I first knew it, was a wonderful event. It was there for writers as much as it was there for readers. I am fortunate in having met many amazing writers. They did not always agree with one another. There could be some clashes at times but, with one or two exceptions, they would shake hands or clap each other on the shoulder or hug at the end of a session. They would introduce me to their friends and their not-so-friends. Their politics varied as widely as their writing styles. They went out into schools to talk about writing, not politics or issues. The events for the general public were also about writing too. It is what people wanted to know about. How do you write? Where do your ideas come from? How do you plot? What is structure? How do you build a character?

It seems that has gone now. The week now seems to be largely about people like Ford and politicians, past and present, who are there with a "message". It might stir people up - but are they reading? I suspect most of them will go to the library for the latest well written crime or romance instead.  Perhaps they will be better off for it as well.

Sunday 25 February 2024

How to dress for the part

you are playing is back in the spotlight. One of the big supermarket chains has apparently told its workers they may not wear "stickers" relating to indigenous or sexual preference issues. Outrageous!

Or is it? The supermarket I normally shop in has a dress code. The staff wear black or black skirt/trousers and white tops. There is a "tie". This means the staff are recognisable even if the younger members of staff sometimes managed to do a bit of "styling" to their clothes. They have name tags - given names only. 

I would do away with the tie but I see nothing wrong with requiring them to wear black or black and white and the name tag. They are after all at work. I don't believe they should be able to add contentious statements to their clothes. In that supermarket they don't. I assume it is company policy. 

In the other supermarket in the same shopping centre the clothing requirements are different. It is there that apparently some staff are demanding that their "right" to wear contentious "stickers" is "respected". They have a "right"?

School uniforms are still worn by the vast majority of children in this country. It is something which causes comment from some overseas visitors from time to time but it is generally accepted as a good thing here. There are no arguments about what to wear to school. There is much less competition around clothing.

We see uniforms in other places as well - the police, the ambulance service, firefighters, the armed services and in companies providing all sorts of services to the public. The are the robes worn in court and in church.  On the rare occasions on which I have gone into court I know I am expected to dress to a certain standard - preferably darker, plainer clothing. It is because I am there to be a support for someone else. I am not there for myself.  It is not about "look at me". I would not be doing my job if I went in wearing "look at me" clothing.

And surely the same thing applies to anyone in a role which involves serving others in any capacity? Unless your role directly relates to the issue in question shouldn't you leave your stickers, badges, t-shirts etc at home waiting for your time away from work? I don't want to be served in a supermarket by people who blatantly display a preference for any one thing over another. 

The idea that there is some sort of "right" to do this, along with all the other "rights" some now demand leaves me wondering what is going on? Have they forgotten they are there to do a job - and that someone else is paying them?


Saturday 24 February 2024

Keeping financial records

is something we are required to do - for seven years. Anything prior to that is not usually something we need to look at. Bills are usually paid by then. Tax is sorted out. Gifts given have long been put into use or used. 

There are people who keep "everything" and they may keep it forever. Most of us don't do that. 

Right now it is making my life, and that of two of my siblings, very difficult. I have no idea how it will go. I thought however of some things I have had to deal with over the years. 

At one time we lived next door to two elderly spinster sisters. They were interesting people. Both of them had travelled widely, indeed done so much that travel companies called on them to lead tour groups when they retired from their other employment. 

When one of them died the other called on me and the neighbour on the other side to clear out her sister's belongings. 

"There is rather a lot. I just can't do it. I can't face it, " she told us. We thought there could not be that much...and we were wrong. K... had kept everything, or so it seemed. There were boxes and boxes and boxes. She had kept receipt after receipt after receipt. One ancient receipt recorded the first hat she had bought from her first pay. The envelope in which she had received her first pay was there in those days.  

Over the years she had kept all her cheque butts, all her bank books and bank statements. All these things were neatly bundled together in disintegrating rubber bands. She had almost certainly never looked at them once she bundled them together like that. Her wardrobe contained shoes she had not worn for years. She had been careful with those and her clothes. All of them showed signs of being mended when necessary. The shoes were stuffed with old fashioned "keepers" and winter garments were covered in cloth bags. 

The Senior Cat came in and took away boxes and boxes of theatre tickets, bus tickets, rail tickets, airline tickets, theatre programs, art exhibition catalogues. All of them were incinerated in the incinerator we were legally allowed to have then. We packed her outer clothes into bags. We put the shoes in boxes. Along with seven umbrellas and eleven walking sticks we took it all to the charity shop. 

We were left with her books, mostly travel related. The Senior Cat called someone he knew to come and see if there was anything of any value. I remember him saying, "I don't think so...unless someone is interested in travel memorabilia." There was one entire bookshelf filled with photograph albums. The albums were full of photographs she had taken and postcards she had bought. There must have been many thousands there. Her sister just shrugged and those were thrown out too. 

I wish now we had kept those albums and some of the other things, kept them long enough to write a biography. It might have made an interesting exhibition too. There was a whole life in a detail that most of us could never hope for. It might have taught us a lot about life as it was from when she was born in the reign of Queen Victoria and into an era when she could fly to all of Europe but also to all of Africa, South America, China, Japan, Mongolia. She trekked into Tibet, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro...and always regretted not going to the Antarctic as well as the Arctic.  There is nothing left. I hope nobody wants proof she bought that first hat with money from her first pay packet.  

Friday 23 February 2024

"What exactly is your "fair share"

of what someone else has worked for?" I wish I had been the person who had thought of saying that in that way.  It comes from the American economist Thomas Sowell.

S..., who mows the lawn, was here on Wednesday. It was a very hot day and I insisted on him stopping for a cold drink as well as taking a bottle of water with him. This is an arrangement I have with his wife. (It has been in place since he had a kidney stone some years ago - something which happened because he was not drinking enough. I may be only one stop in every two weeks but it is, as A... put it, "One more reminder to drink enough.")

He was talking about trying to get his very active MIL a place to rent at the age of 91. Her lease is up and cannot be renewed because the property is being acquired by the government. It means she will be homeless unless something can be found. In this case the government should perhaps be doing more than it is to help but the conversation moved on to people who own more than one property. S.... is of the view "If you have worked to buy it then good luck to you." He went on to say that he thought people who had worked for the things they had should, reasonable taxes for essential services aside, be able to keep those things for which they have worked. 

It was obvious S... has spent a lot of time thinking about these things. He sees work as something which should produce a reward. I will therefore try and save the article from this morning's paper in which Thomas Sowell is quoted. S... doesn't get a paper but he will be interested in the article. It says much the same as he was saying. It also queries the increasing amount of legislation which is being brought in by the present federal and state governments. It all seems to be concerned with "workers' rights". The Greens actually managed to sneak in a clause which would see employers in prison for contacting workers after hours. I asked a Green the other day whether that should apply to an employer calling an employee to say the factory was on fire and "get down here to save your job". I was stunned when their response was "Yes. That's the job of the fire brigade." 

I would want my boss to call me. I would want to go and help. I would want to do it because in order to get my "fair share" I would expect to work for it. Am I wrong?  

Thursday 22 February 2024

Someone has gone missing

and the police are trying to find her. They are putting all the resources they can into finding her...and they are not being "helped" by social media, gossip, rumour, speculation and scuttlebutt. 

A woman went missing eighteen days ago while out on her normal morning run. The police do not believe she has gone of her own free will. More than that I do not know. I would not begin to comment on what her life and family relationships are like.

Someone I once knew here also disappeared for a time. I did not know him well. Brother Cat knew him too. There was no social media back then. The police no doubt used different methods to try and find him. Certainly they eventually reached us in their long line of people who "might" know something. As both Brother Cat and I had been in another state at the time of his disappearance we were not able to offer any help. 

We "speculated" of course. That was inevitable but we didn't join in the buzz among his friends. It was not because we were not interested but because our parents spoke to us about how frantic his parents were. They were nice people. We knew them reasonably well. It might not have been on a daily basis or even on a casual cup of tea basis but we knew their names. Our parents chatted to them in the street or if they were passing each other in their respective front gardens.

I saw his father a few weeks after his disappearance. His father was sitting slumped on a chair in the local chemist. His complexion was that odd "grey" colour that comes with exhaustion. I didn't speak to him. He wasn't looking at me - or anyone else. The chemist came out with the prescription he was obviously getting filled. There were quiet words of advice and a nod of the head. 

And then, as he went to stand, the chemist placed one hand gently on this man's shoulder. That was all it took. He started to weep. The chemist took him behind the counter and I know no more. That is what that man needed, genuine sympathy. He didn't need all the chatter that was going on. Speculation wasn't helping. He was grateful for all the help they had been given trying to find his son but all the "we are so sorry" and "it must be so hard" and so many similar comments did not help. 

Nobody knows what happened to this lad. He did eventually arrive home after being missing for some months. He then spent months in hospital in a highly traumatised state. His family moved after that. There are still people who speculate but they don't know - and they still do more harm than good.  

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The men who knit you know

nothing about.

This will be a very short post this morning. (Your resident cat is attempting to keep the garden alive in the heat so watering needs to be done.) 

But, I do have something to tell you. Middle Cat and I had to do some work on "the problem" - i.e. all the paper work surrounding the Black Cat's demands. So we got together yesterday afternoon and, when we had done it we did a little essential green-grocery shopping. As I was selecting more tomatoes (mine having given up in extreme heat of the past couple of days) someone spoke to me.

"Are you the person who usually wears her bicycle helmet?" 

I said "Yes" and wondered what was coming. 

"You know M.... don't you and she suggested asking you..." And then he was telling me about what he was knitting and what he needed. Now any intelligent individual will realise that men do knit. It was a male occupation long before it was taken over by machines. Women do it largely for pleasure less so.

But here was a young man, a student, who knits not just for pleasure but for others. He showed me pictures on his phone over the many smaller garments he has made. Most of them are pullovers with simple designs on them.

"And now I thought I'd like to try some animals...things like koalas and kangaroos. M....said you might have some ideas. Can you help?"

Yes, I can...and willingly. He gave me his email and I have just sent off the charts for him to use. I have told him he can come back to me if he gets intro strife. And, somewhere in a war torn part of the world, there will be some young boys warmer next winter. 

He told me, "You see I need to do it because somebody did it for me." 

Tuesday 20 February 2024

A "book train"??!!

Oooh, I want one!

Someone I know has just put up a picture of the "book train" at the New York Public Library and I have train envy...again. 

I like trains. I have like trains since I was very small kitten. I had one of my very own once. It was a clockwork Hornby. It was green. Mum must have welcomed that present almost as much as I did. It kept me occupied for hours.

But this train, the one in the library? It is there for transporting books from one place to another of course. I think there may have been another one at the Bodleian before they moved so much material to what a friend describes as "Elsewhere" - a storage facility at Swindon. There might be similar "trains" in other libraries I suppose.

It would certainly save some work. 

When I began my law degree we were taken into the Law Library and shown around. As a curious little cat I had already ventured in and prowled around...and felt overwhelmed. It was on three levels, all of them groaning under the weight of books, much of them sets of law reports dating. Some of the material in them dated back to the fourteenth century.  (On one occasion we had to trace a case back as far as we could. Most of the students gave up sometime in the 1800's. My late friend C.... and I went back to one in the fourteenth century. It was written in Latin. I used it as an example when tutoring first year students later in my career.)

We would be given reading lists. They were often long. We were expected to do them before the lecture. I know some of the younger students never opened a book. They relied on the lecturer to cover all the necessary material. We "mature age" students - anyone over the age of twenty-six - took it a bit more seriously. We read...and read... and read again. We took great piles of books from the shelves, looked up the case in the reading list and read it. There was the joke about needing to do a degree in weight lifting before you did your law degree. The piles would be returned to big "return" trolleys. They were emptied several times a day. It was heavy work.

I am sure the staff responsible for returning the books to the correct shelves would have welcomed a book train.

Monday 19 February 2024

There are new demands for churches

to pay council rates on their properties used for religious purposes. It is perhaps a quirk of the law they don't. The actual amount councils lose is not that great. The amount they might lose if they were allowed to demand rates be paid on these premises might be far higher.

The number of people who now go to church each Sunday is a very small proportion of the population. When I was a mere kitten it was much higher. It may even have been a majority of the population. It was something you just did. I doubt many people even thought about what they were doing. It was a habit. If you didn't go yourself you sent the kids off to Sunday School so you could have a bit of a lie in or time with your partner.

So church going might be a thing of the past for many people but reliance on churches has increased. It sounds unlikely but it is a fact. Anglicare is the biggest social welfare organisation outside government. Yes, it gets government assistance to run the many services it runs but it relies heavily on volunteers. Those volunteers are becoming increasingly hard to find. They are getting older. Like everyone else their disposable income to cover the cost of volunteering is less than it was before. Yes, it can cost more than time to volunteer. There are people who volunteer every week, even every day.

St Vincent de Paul does the same. Our local charity shop runs on volunteers alone. It's a big building. At one end is the space for "Fred's Van" the section which feeds people living on the streets. I go in at times to help with people who have "left their glasses home" - in other words are illiterate and need more than simply a form filled out but I do very little. I am not one of those who turn up day after day dealing with so many people who need so much.

The Uniting Church, the Baptists, the Lutherans and yet still more all have a range of services. They have charity shops (for which they often do pay rent to landlords) to provide clothing, household goods and more.  Almost all those places have people working in them who give still more in other ways.

And they all, even allowing for inevitable waste of resources, run on far less than it would take for the government to take over and run the same services at the same level. What councils lose in rates is more than made up for in what they gain in services. Perhaps it is time they looked at that before making a renewed demand for churches and volunteers to do and pay still more.


Sunday 18 February 2024

We all knew Alexei Navalny

was a dead man. His actual death came as no surprise at all. If anything the only thing which surprised me was how long Putin took to have it happen.

I know there are people out there who will still say, "Even Putin wouldn't..." They still don't want to believe that all those falls from high windows are not suicide. They never want to believe that some people, of lesser notoriety, are not put to death by aircraft.

Yesterday someone I know phoned me. It didn't sound like her and it took me a moment to realise who it was. She sounded odd because she was crying, crying over the death of Navalny. It was an extreme reaction but she is a fragile person who spends far too much of her time dwelling on negative things. I let her talk for a while because I was concerned for her but I could not help thinking she was naive not to realise this was going to happen. It was inevitable.

Middle Cat's BIL felt quite differently. His politics, unlike those of his brother, are best described as far left. I never discuss politics with him. His brother does not discuss politics with him. His reaction was to say that this is what you have to expect if you challenge Putin. None of that surprises me.

What disturbs me however is that the rest of the world will do little, if anything, apart from express their "concern". All that will do is further convince Putin he has done the right thing in removing Navalny. His opposition no longer has a strong leader. He can put out the spot fires easily enough.

It is why however that, despite the cost, the west needs to support Ukraine. Putin will not stop at Ukraine. He will want to move on from there to former countries of the old USSR. He wants to be known as the person who brings it all back together into what he sees as a glorious future based on a glorious past. The map matters more to him than the men and women fighting for it.

Navalny knew what was going to happen to him. Zelensky also knows that the support he relies on is fragile. The rest of us need to hope that Navalny's death has strengthened that support. 

Saturday 17 February 2024

A $100,000 year wardrobe allowance?

There is currently a defamation case going through the courts here. One of the "defendants" is a television "journalist and presenter" who was reportedly being paid, quite apart from her massive salary, a $100,000 a year wardrobe allowance. It was apparently reduced to $40,000 a year following the debacle which has led to the court case.

This person has apparently been "earning" so much that she has a multi-million dollar property in a very exclusive area of a capital city too. I am sorry but I find all that absolutely obscene. The television company in question must really be raking in the advertising dollars because of her appearance and appearances. 

I know some journalists. I don't know them well but I doubt any of them earn anything like this woman is getting. They certainly do not get a "wardrobe allowance". It is much more likely they are wearing flak jackets and risking their lives in a complex humanitarian emergency like a war zone. They are not following up "human interest" stories in comfortable suburban settings.

The "wardrobe allowance" though really got to me. Even at that meagre $40,000 it is almost twice as much as I spent on everything last year. I lived on just over half what this woman was getting as a wardrobe allowance. Yes, she has to "look good" for television, especially commercial television. I suppose she does. I don't know. I only watch television for approximately half an hour a day (and then only because I feel a need to see what other people are being told about world affairs.) 

But I know people who can "look good" for far less than that. I know a woman in a very public position, a woman who needs to "look good" because she frequently appears on television. I also know, because I once repaired a hand knitted cardigan for her, that she spends very little on her wardrobe. When she buys something it will be "classic" and the best quality she can find. She knows the rules - mix and match and so on.

I suppose I just feel disturbed, even distressed, that someone can spend so much on clothes when there are people I see in the local charity shop looking for something they can wear to an interview. There is something wrong when this happens.

And yes, most of my clothes come from such places. I can still dress appropriately when I need to - but I don't own a dress and I would not have spent $100,000 on clothes in my life time. 

Friday 16 February 2024

Working out of hours

is nothing new. My BIL works in a role where he needs to be in contact with America during their office hours. To add to the complications the hours vary from one side of America to the other. He is still expected to start work at 9am and stay until 5pm. He often does not take a proper lunch break. He doesn't get paid "extra" for this. It is simply part of his job.

Teachers expect to work outside school hours too - often very long hours. When the Senior Cat was the head of area schools the teachers drove the children to school in the morning and home in the afternoon. The tiny "additional salary" for that did not begin to cover the time or the responsibility.  Those same teachers were still expected to do everything else a teacher normally does. There are still teachers doing the same thing.

Doctors don't drop their stethoscopes when the clock hands reach the end of their shift. They often continue on far too long. A surgeon certainly does not drop tools in the middle of a surgery because it is time to go home.

There are probably very few jobs with any degree of responsibility where you can look at the clock and say "I am going home now." I certainly cannot do that. I am responsible to other people who do not have that luxury. 

The government's "Right to disconnect" laws, rushed through parliament, have already been shown to have unintended consequences. Certainly the idea that contacting an employee after hours should be a criminal offence is ridiculous. If an employer really is taking advantage then there are remedies and the vast majority of employees are aware of those remedies. I know any number of employers and not one of them would call up one of their employees for something trivial. 

There was a flood in a building not far from here recently. It was caused by something outside the control of the employer, indeed not on the property. The manager was called in late in the evening. He could not handle the situation himself but if it wasn't handled the company would potentially have lost millions and some of the staff would have been out of work. He did the right thing and called in some of the staff to help. They had to work until the early hours of the morning to resolve the problems.  Yes, they were compensated for what they had to do but the one who was telling me about it told me he was quite okay with being called in to help. 

"It was an emergency situation. We knew what needed to be done so we went and did it. If the government thinks it is right to make that sort of thing difficult or even impossible I reckon they have another think coming."

The rare employer who takes advantage is going to find it difficult to get good employees. There are others who, like the former employer of a neighbour's son, tell their staff to hand their work phones in when they go on leave. That is probably the way it should be done.


Thursday 15 February 2024

The government is going to tell us

what we already know...and they are going to spend $40m doing it. They are going to "spruik" the "tax cuts"!

It would have been far cheaper to ensure that all politicians had been required to mention them in the "newsletters" they send out from time to time. It can be done.

Our last federal politician used to do quite a good job of informing us - in "dot point" form - of what was going on. Yes, of course she used the newsletter as a "vote for us" as well but the information was there. It was there in a quick to read format that could, if people wanted, be kept for reference. 

Our present federal politician is not doing that. Her missives have been full of glossy photographs telling us what a wonderful job she is doing - and telling us very little about what is going on. Okay, maybe I am a little biased. I didn't vote for her. I don't like her. That said, there are a good many other people who complain about the same thing. They make the same complaint about the state member as well.

One of the advantages of being in government is that you can use money to advertise what you are doing...and tell the people how good you are. I wonder though about the waste of money. We had half a billion dollars wasted on the Voice referendum last year. The government took that to the people against advice. It was, they said, what they had "promised" to do. That was a promise that might well have been broken, especially as they are still contemplating on spending money on parts of the entire process which were firmly rejected at the time of the referendum. 

Now they want to spend our money telling us why they have broken their promise with respect to the tax cuts. They are still trying to tell us that "everyone is getting a tax cut". Perhaps it depends on how you look at it but it is really playing with words because not everyone is getting a tax cut by any means. Governments do not give tax cuts like that. Other measures have to come in to cover the revenue lost.  I know one retired accountant and one present accountant and they have both told me that people will be no better off.

I think I could put that $40m to better use. It's a pity they won't let me try.  

Wednesday 14 February 2024

I took some real money

out of the bank the other day. The bank teller looked a bit puzzled as I explained what I wanted.  Yes, someone had given me some bank notes and I was changing them for coins. 

"But won't you be getting people to pay by card?" I was asked. 

"No, the whole point is that it is a "gold coin" event," I told the teller, "These are children. My friend is trying to teach them about money."

It was clearly beyond the teller. Perhaps it is just as well that I had offered to do the transaction for P.... while I was in the bank myself.  I was in the bank for rather more complicated reasons relating to the scholarship fund for our African "family". P... would probably have given the teller a lesson about the proposed lesson.

But it set me thinking that some children never see money now. I observed a boy of about seven paying for something in the supermarket. He was using a card of some sort. The checkout person was not too thrilled when the child asked for a receipt but I breathed a sigh of relief. At least that was something. I did wonder how much he really knew about money though. 

Apparently one of our more outspoken and wayward Senators was in strife the other day because the Parliament House canteen will only accept cards...or will they. He stood his ground and told them that cash is legal tender and failing to accept it was not on. He won. 

It is not unusual though to find a business saying they are "card only" and that they do not deal in cash. I do not like that. There are times when only cash will work. Half a million people in a neighbouring state discovered that yesterday when the power went off. It is why I keep a small amount of cash in the house. (No, I will not tell you where and you would never guess.) 

Some years ago there was a cafe in the hills behind me that said "card only". I was there one day with a friend and we had planned to go in. She saw the "card only" sign and said, "They obviously don't want my business." I was surprised because she uses a card constantly. Then I realised it was pension morning and many older people were doing their shopping. Many of them would have cash and she was thinking of them as well. We moved on and she bought me a very nice cold drink a little further along the street. The "card only" cafe failed a short time later.

There is still something to be said for "real money"...and some people know it. 

Tuesday 13 February 2024

No more "fairy bread"?

There is yet another article in this morning's paper claiming that "fairy bread" is no longer acceptable at  school events. Apparently there is a list of "red" foods. It includes things like fairy bread, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, jam, honey, fruit juice, cream and (wait for it) butter. Children should only be allowed to consume these things at school "twice" a term...and deep fried meat like patties or burgers, deep fried chips, ice-cream, muesli bars with toppings and all sweets (lollies) are right out.  The humble "fritz and sauce" sandwich, the staple in many lunch boxes is also a big fat red "no". (Fritz is "devon" interstate - a sort of processed meat which I personally loathe but many children love it.)

Schools are being told that these are "guidelines" but in reality they will be expected to enforce them. 

There are already enough problems. You cannot send your child to school with a peanut butter sandwich in case another child is allergic to peanuts. Vegemite is banned because it is "too salty". Processed cheese is frowned on. Send your five year old to school, the one who has just started school, with a comforting slice of homemade cake and there will very likely be a note from the teacher telling you this is not allowed. The teacher may not agree with this but they will be following the "guidelines".  In one extreme instance a "cup cake" was actually removed from a lunch box and the child was not permitted to eat it. 

I know we have a "growing" problem with obesity and more but I look back on what we had for school lunches. Mum gave us meat on Mondays - if there was anything left over from the "Sunday joint". If there was nothing left we had Vegemite. We had peanut paste (as it was known back then) or cheese. Occasionally we had egg. Sometimes we had tomato. It was all white bread too because the bakery didn't make anything else.  Mum would put in cake or biscuits (home made) and an apple or banana or mandarin.  The school "tuck shop" was all about pies, pasties, sausage rolls, double cut rolls filled with ham or fritz and then "cream buns" or iced finger buns split and filled with butter. We came home in the afternoon and consumed "weet-bix" with Vegemite....oh, all that salt! 

In our family we did not get "fritz" sandwiches because Mum could not afford it but plenty of children had them more than once a week. We weren't fat. I can only remember two children who were seriously overweight. Perhaps there were others but most of the time we were too active...even I was an active child.  At night we ate a lot of mince meat with potato, pumpkin and peas or beans and perhaps fruit and custard for afters. We spent our pocket money on "lollies" too.

Somehow we survived all of this. Most of us are still here in our sixties, seventies and eighties. The Senior Cat lived until ninety-nine. My godfather may even make it to one hundred. Their diet was even worse - if you consider all the "red" foods they ate each week.

Perhaps it isn't lists we need but exercise? 

Monday 12 February 2024

Getting rid of things like

like "how to vote" cards at polling booths and "stamp duty" on houses might just be a good idea. They would both save money. 

Those "how to vote" cards are an extraordinary waste of paper and ink and the energy required to print them. There are far too many people involved in standing outside polling stations and harassing people as they go in. Some people were refusing to take the cards but many others were taking one from each party - presumably in order to try and keep their voting intentions entirely private. That what they do in the privacy of that little enclosed space is their own affair seems to go unnoticed as they endeavour to do "the right thing". 

I have always, and I mean always, refused to take any cards. I know how I intend to vote before I leave home. It is my duty to know that. If people do not know how they intend to vote on the day they should know - or perhaps mark the paper with "none of the above" or "I don't know"? 

The legislation could be changed to allow one "how to vote" card in each carrel. Perhaps we could do away with the iniquitous "compulsory preferential voting" system?  I have said elsewhere that, if voting is "compulsory" then we must do away with the compulsion to preference. 

And perhaps the money saved there could go towards being rid of the excessively high amount of "stamp duty" we pay on transferring property in this state. I know it is a tax the government depends on it but it is a tax which makes little sense. Paying $32,500 in "stamp duty" on a $650,000 piece of land alone is more than enough to prevent some from buying anything at all. The tax is enough to stop some selling and downsizing so that others can benefit.  This is a tax which was once used to actually do the paper work involved and ensure that our Torrens Title system actually worked in the way it was intended to work. It has long since become a "nice little money earner" for the government...along with so many other things. If they actually put the money into housing for those who need it I would not mind so much. 

Let's be rid of those "how to vote" cards and put the money saved into housing for those who need it.  

Sunday 11 February 2024

"He has some work to do first"

I heard one of the local mothers say some days ago.

There is an article in this morning's paper questioning what age children should be able to have a job for which they are paid. Now they are talking about this country, not a "third world" country where very young children do work.

In this country there are laws about how old children should be, how many hours they can work and what they have to be paid. Those laws vary from one state to another. Those laws do not apply to working in the family business either.

Growing up in a rural area we knew that the children on the farms were expected to work.  When the wheat harvest began at the end of the school year the Senior Cat knew that the eleven and twelve year old boys would not be at school. They would be at work with their fathers. They would be working very long hours. Getting the harvest in was important. The harvest was going to feed the family for the following year. The boys looked forward to working that way. They were intending to "go back on the farm". School was not considered important.

In the dairy farming area we moved to it was even more obvious. The boys were expected to help with the milking both morning and night. The girls would be feeding calves (which is more involved than most people realise) and doing other chores. 

Nobody got paid to do those things. If we, "the teacher's kids", were invited to a farm then we were expected to work too. It was part of being there. It was the way you then had time off to do something considered to be "play".  Brother Cat could drive a tractor long before he had a licence to drive a car. He could deal with the milk cans too. I could prepare calf feeds, use a scrubbing brush, stack timber on the wood heap and more.  

We never played around when we were doing these things. It was work. We understood it to be work. We knew we were not going to get paid for doing it. It just had to be done before you had "fun".  Later still, in yet another location, there were sheep and all the work associated with them, especially at shearing time.

We had our jobs at home too. Mum had us organised. She could not have been a full time teacher in a senior role unless she had us organised to do so many of the usual household tasks. There was a chart on the fridge so that everyone, even the Senior Cat, knew whose turn it was to do what. Even "swapping around" was strongly discouraged. We were not "paid" to do any of this - but our Friday sixpence or (later) shilling would be withheld if the work was not done. My brother and I had to do something extra in order to get the money for the collection plate on Sunday. 

Here in the city many children never have any sort of paid employment and it is obvious some do very little to help at home. Others are expected to work, especially in family run businesses. Across the road the two boys of the paediatrician and her husband do have regular jobs to do. It is what will make H..., the older of the two, come across and put my bin out and then bring it in again - without being asked. It is something he knows he is expected to do - just as he does theirs. It's a little thing perhaps but he had just come home from school the other day when I went to do it. He ran across the road and told me, "That's my job Cat."

He's going to be a good citizen. He knows work needs to be done.  I can pay him with a "thank you". 

Saturday 10 February 2024

My Chinese New Year horoscope

is in the paper this morning. I have not read it. I am not likely to read it.

I also know that the people who run the "traditional Chinese massage" service in our local shopping centre will read it. They will take it all quite seriously.  I have used their services (on the advice of my doctor) on several occasions. During conversation it has come to light that these interesting people do believe, at least to some extent, in these things.

This morning however, seeing the two pages devoted to these horoscopes, I was reminded of something else. You see, one of the many things I have done in my life is be a "housemistress" in a boarding school for girls. Now I was only a "junior housemistress". It meant I was expected to do things like supervise prep (homework) and supervise a table at meal times. I was fortunate in that over the weekends I was usually "volunteering" at a residential nursery school for profoundly deaf children. The boarding school and I had come to an arrangement that I did extra nights during the week so I could fit in the nursery school as well. 

But there were several occasions on which I was at the boarding school for Sunday lunch in the staff room and not in the girls' dining room. It was the first of those occasions which I remember so clearly. Oh, the embarrassment!

We had eaten and I was wondering when the headmistress would leave the with royalty you did not leave the room before the headmistress.  No, it became clear we were all expected to sit there. The headmistress picked up the Sunday paper. Was she going to read it while the staff gossiped? 

She turned the pages quite rapidly and found the page she wanted.

"Right girls," (we were called "girls"), "Let's see what this week has in store for us."

She stopped and looked at me and then asked, "What sign do you come under Cat?"

I didn't even know what she was talking about.

"Your star sign," she said patiently. When I still looked confused she said, "Your birthday?"

I told her my birthday and she nodded. She then went ahead and read out the "horoscope" for the week for everyone in the room. I cannot remember how many she read. Fortunately it was not all of them as some people "shared" a sign. As she did it I watched the expressions on the face of the staff. There were several who were obviously, at least to me, not taking it seriously. There were others who were. 

On finishing the headmistress closed the paper and folded it carefully. Then she rose and said her farewells. I followed her as soon as I could. The incident had left me thoroughly confused. Surely some of these otherwise intelligent and able women didn't take something like that seriously? The words had been vague, able to be interpreted in many ways. It seemed ridiculous to me.

Later in the afternoon the headmistress and I came across each other in the school grounds. She was carrying the Sunday paper and, waving it, gave me a wink as she passed.


Friday 9 February 2024

The gentle art of t-shirt wearing

was something I needed to consider yesterday. The t-shirt I was wearing caused a small problem...more of that in a moment.

The Senior Cat did not care for t-shirts. He claimed they were "difficult to get on and off" and "they look untidy". I went on buying him ordinary shirts with buttons...and ironing them. It was not really a problem. It is the sort of thing you do when you love someone.

Brother Cat does wear them "because you just need to pull them on"! I can remember the first t-shirt he ever owned. They were a relatively new item of clothing in our childhood. Until then we were dressed in shirts with buttons. Ours were made by our mother or our grandmothers. I suspect it was the same for most children, especially if you lived in a rural area where the clothes most people wore were made at home.  The t-shirt my brother wore was given to him by our maternal grandmother. She was quite excited by it. It had very fine stripes of many colours with borders of blue. This item was passed on to Middle Cat and then to the Black Cat. It was considered a little "special". 

Now Brother Cat, having retired and no longer needing to wear a suit to work, wears t-shirt and "sweatshirts" almost constantly. They are in varying states of comfortable disrepair as he "potters" in his workshop or mows the lawn. Middle Cat also wears them almost constantly. It depends on what she is doing whether she wears one with something like a glaring cartoon cat on the front or something a little more up-market...small flowers perhaps. I don't know what the Black Cat wears. The last time I saw her she was wearing a purple top of some sort of flimsy material.

And then there is me, Yours Truly. I prefer the "polo" variety because I do not like things to be tight around my neck, especially in summer. But I do have four t-shirts. They all have some special association for me. 

It is the t-shirt I was wearing yesterday which caused the issue. It is blue and printed on the front is the one-hand manual alphabet which is used by the deaf in some parts of the world. We use a two-hands alphabet here. The friend who gave me this shirt brought it back from Penang and it has caused a lot of comment. It has been useful in teaching other people about communication issues.

I was at the library and someone tapped me quite firmly on the shoulder. Naturally I assumed it was someone I knew so I turned around. No, a complete stranger. Embarrassment flooded his face and he backed off. He mouthed, "Sorry. I didn't know you were deaf." 

Oh, the t-shirt. "I'm not deaf. Did you want some help?"

"No...but why are you wearing that shirt if you aren't deaf? You shouldn't be wearing it.  It will give people the wrong idea."

No, it will give people the right idea. I stood there and I explained. His embarrassment grew but that sharp tap on the shoulder had annoyed me. I never did discover why he had done that or what he wanted but I hope I taught him something. 

I wonder what he would make of the t-shirt with "Shenanigans" on it? 

Thursday 8 February 2024

No more corflutes?

Did I really read those words? The state government is going to ban those election corflutes? Really?

What on earth will it be like without those election corflutes out on all the "stobie" poles or cluttering up fences and railings? 

For those of you in Upover and elsewhere I need to explain. You no doubt know what a corflute is although you may know it simply as a plastic election poster. It will have the name of the party on it and it will exhort you to vote for "the Grey party" or the "Pink party" or some other party. Some will have a photograph of the candidate or the leader of the party. Yes, standard election materials and practices in many parts of the world. 

Here they get plastered on "stobie" poles...those unsightly steel and concrete poles that carry electricity along the older suburban streets of this city. (The newer areas have finally gone underground.) The poles themselves are dangerous, many a person has been killed or injured driving into them. Corflutes add to the problems they cause.

At election time it is not unusual to see a corflute on each pole along the busier roads. At the last election there seemed to be even more than usual. Some poles had two corflutes - for opposing parties. In some places, where they could be reached easily, the usual graffiti appeared and people plastered opposing views over them.

Most people I know are infuriated by them. It does not encourage them to vote one way or the other. They want to be rid of the things. I could not agree more. 

I would also be rid of the a-frames which litter the streets - and I would do that at all times and for all businesses as well. They are another danger.

And I would go further still. I would ban all the "how to vote" cards - deemed necessary because of our iniquitous "compulsory preferential voting" system. If you do not know how you intend to vote and in which order to put the candidates to make your vote count then why are you voting at all? Yes, I know. It is compulsory to attend the ballot box. It still does not mean you should need to take three or four "how to vote" cards from eager volunteers as you enter the polling station...and then just put them in the bin as you leave. We need to be rid of such things.

I suggest political parties should be allowed just one lot of election material. They should be required to state their policies in plain language on one just one sheet of paper - paper that can be recycled. The amount they spend on other advertising (including social media) should also be limited. If we did this then political parties or would-be politicians would have to be a great deal more careful about getting their message across.

It won't happen. You can't have people actually knowing who or what they are voting for can you? But at least now we might be rid of those wretched corflutes.  

Wednesday 7 February 2024

"Oooh, a $15 a week "tax cut"!

One of the local dog walkers stopped to talk to me about this yesterday. While his dog sniffed around under the fuchsia bush he told me how he was not getting the $15 a week tax cut the government claimed he was getting. 

Why? Well his rent has gone up by more than that alone. His energy bill has gone up. His food bills have gone up. He still has a car "but not for much longer".  And yes, he is on superannuation but, because of quirks to the system, he actually gets less than some people on the pension. 

This man's position is a little different because he spent years working in a remote area. He never had the opportunity to buy a house when others were buying houses. He has accepted that with good grace. It was part of the price he paid for doing something which he describes as "a useful job which contributed something".

We both agreed however that the much lauded "tax cuts" are not really cuts at all. Inflation has left most people worse off than before. Interest rates have taken more...and may yet rise again. 

And then we have that thing called "bracket creep"... the more you earn, the more tax you pay and the higher the rate at which you pay it. It is a problem which government could fix but won't because there are political advantages in not addressing it. It is much more useful to be able to offer bribes at election time.

As I have said elsewhere our tax system is one of the most complex in the world. Our rate of personal taxation is also one of the highest in the world. We have a "goods and services tax" and taxes between as well as within states. No government has ever had the courage to try and do something about it.  

I wonder if we could run a national competition for a new tax system? Would it work? Would people come up with some new ideas? Would we get rid of the dreaded bracket creep and find new and more equitable ways to deal with the need for money to run the country?

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Yang Hengjun has been given a death sentence

for daring to criticise a totalitarian regime.

By publishing that statement I have almost certainly put myself in danger - should I ever go to China. I am not likely to go to China. I have no desire to go to China.

Visiting China is something I did once think I would like to do. There are still many things in China I would like to see. I am also certain that the vast majority of Chinese people are simply pleasant, ordinary people.  They no doubt go about their daily business just as we do. The difference between us is that they are not free to express their opinions in the way I can here. That is how the "leaders" control the country.

Dr Yang, a citizen of this country, but with close ties to China dared to question that. He was arrested for "espionage" while in China and, five years and a close door "trial" later, he has been sentenced to death. It "might", if he commits no crimes for two years, be commuted to a life sentence. He is a sick man. It is not likely he will survive to live through that misery to die of old age. 

By doing this China is sending a message to our government. They are saying, "No criticism will be tolerated". They are saying, "If you want to do business with us then do not attempt to put pressure on us to release him."

The Chinese market is of course enormous. We do massive business with China. It is however lopsided. They have the upper hand. They can and do set the way any business is run. If we criticise China then they retaliate. It does not matter that the criticism might be valid or that the goods are produced under conditions no better than slavery. We are not permitted to be concerned when they demand we hand over large farming areas in this country. It is simply a demand that must be met because that is the cost of doing business with them.

It is laziness which got us into this mess. Laziness and a mistaken belief that China is a "good friend". It is not a good friend or even a friend. It is not even a true trading partner working for the benefit of both countries. It is there for what it can get from the relationship and we are expected to kowtow to every demand it makes. They do not do business by our rules even in this country.

Someone I know spent years working with the Chinese to build up a business there. It is one which employs a lot of people. They needed to expand. He went through all the many hoops. He paid for all that needed to be paid for in the way it should have been paid but, when the new factory was finished, he was told that he had done something wrong.   The factory has been confiscated by local officials and he has been warned that, should he even try to visit China again, he will be arrested.  This is Chinese "business" at work. It is a story others can tell as well. Eventually it is likely that there will be some sort of "agreement" but it will not be worth his while.

This is corruption pure and simple. It is done quite openly, indeed encouraged. The only risk to the officials is if they fall foul of someone senior to themselves. Dr Yang has no hope of being able to freely expose this sort of thing. Even the highest authorities will do nothing. 

My goddaughter is Chinese but she was not born there and she lives in Singapore. Like her parents she has no desire to live or work in China. All of them have been there but they have gone as tourists - and they have no wish to go back.  "There are lots of other interesting places Aunty Cat", she once told me, "I think everyone should do business with them instead." 

Perhaps we should. We need to stop paying "rent" to the Chinese. 

Monday 5 February 2024

Dr Lowitja O'Donogue was

a remarkable woman. She died yesterday at the age of ninety-one but she used those 91 years for the good of others. 

She was born at Indulkana in 1932. Indulkana is a tiny place on aboriginal lands in the north-west of this state. Her mother was "full blood" aboriginal. Her father was a "white" owner of a pastoral property.  They were in a long term relationship and Lowitja was the youngest of their five children.

Much is made of Lowitja (then Lois) being a "member of the stolen generation". In fact she was given over, as were her siblings, to the "United Aborigines Mission" so that she could get an education. She retained ties with her family throughout her childhood and, despite not supporting the removal of children from their families, admitted that she had a happy childhood.  She made the most of her time at school too - leaving with the old "Intermediate Certificate" before working as a "domestic" for a short time. It was not enough for her and she finally managed to win the fight to enter training as a nurse. She spent ten years at a major hospital here, rising to charge nurse, before she went as a medical missionary to Assam. There she worked as relief nurse so that others could come home on leave.

It was when she came back to this state that I met her. She began work for the Education Department here as an aboriginal liaison officer. At that time we were about to leave the remote community where my parents had been the two teachers at the small school. The Senior Cat had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get some aboriginal children to attend school. He made contact with Lowitja and she made a visit to see what could be done. Like the Senior Cat she did not succeed. The families in question simply moved on. 

But I remember her coming to see us. She had a meal with us and supervised my two younger sisters in the bath tub amid many squeals of delight on their part. At the meal table she talked to my brother and I as much as she talked to our parents. There were so few visitors in that part of the world that such events have remained with me. I also remember because I felt comfortable with her - and there were not many strange adults I liked on sight.

Later I was to meet her again. She knew my late friend R... and of course R...'s son M... who is still a close friend.  I remember walking into R...'s kitchen and finding Lowitja and R.... sitting there. R... introduced me and, before she had finished, Lowitja stood and held out her hand saying, "We have met before, haven't we? Where are your parents teaching now?"

Lowtija didn't always agree with R... Her politics were more radical and her ways were more confrontational.  Nevertheless they respected one another and I respected Lowitja because I trusted R...'s judgment of her. 

I didn't see her again for many years. Then it was at a meeting where she had been invited to speak. I was simply there as an ordinary participant. Afterwards however as people milled around, all trying to talk to her, she saw me, excused herself, and came to speak briefly to me. She inquired after Mum and the Senior Cat...and put her hand briefly on my shoulder when I told her Mum was no longer with us. It might all seem as if she was simply doing what was expected of her in the position she held by then but the interest in other people was there and still genuine. I think that is what made her stand out from the crowd. It is why the aboriginal people of this country have lost such an advocate.

Sunday 4 February 2024

So you want to rent a house?

It is no secret that rental properties are in short supply. Yes, there are some landlords who have used the opportunity to increase the amount they charge. Yes, there needs to be more "public housing".

But the "human interest" story of the woman who "might need to live in her car with her three dogs" is about more than the shortage of rental properties. It is also about taking or not taking responsibility for your life.

If you own your own property and you want three dogs then that is surely up to you and whatever the local council regulations are. It is not the same if you want to rent property from someone else. A landlord might well be willing to consent to a single animal, especially for someone who needs companionship or security. Three dogs though? However much you might love animals they are, if properly cared for, expensive and time consuming to keep. If you have a landlord who loves animals and is willing to tolerate three dogs then you are fortunate. Most landlords would accept three cats long before they accepted three dogs. 

The person who was saying how difficult it was to find somewhere to rent seems to believe that she should have priority. She is on a "disability pension" and her current lease is up. 

Perhaps the landlord simply wants more rent from letting it to someone else or perhaps s/he does not want to rent it to someone with three dogs? Is it a question of responsibility perhaps? Am I wrong? Would I make a bad landlord if I said, "Just one dog please"?



Saturday 3 February 2024

Safe water or fish traps?

 What is more important - safe water for many of the "preservation" of some rocks which were allegedly used as "fish traps" by an indigenous community?

I spent the last two years of primary school in a remote two-teacher school on the "west coast" of this state. My parents were the teachers. The school was situated in a tiny community along the railway line which carried the wheat. There were seventeen houses in the town when we arrived and twenty-three when we left. The six new houses had been built to house the wheat silo workers and their families. Yes, things were changing perhaps.

In reality they have not changed that much. The place is a little bigger.  The school has been amalgamated with other small schools in an effort to give the children better education facilities.  It is now situated some kilometres down the highway.  As I write this some children will be spending an hour or more on a bus to get to school, a bus driven by a teacher.

And everyone will be watching the water supply. The water supply is vital. The average rainfall is so low that it cannot be relied on to provide what people need. When we lived there the water supply came through on a pipe which was above ground. It was a mere 2.5cms in diameter. It barely trickled through. For the first six months my parents used to cart water in buckets into the house because the pipe had not been connected to the house. The water was not really fit for drinking. It was almost salt.  There was a very precious rainwater tank attached to the school. We actually lined up at recess and lunch time to get our enamel mugs filled with water.

The Senior Cat immediately demanded a rainwater tank for the school house as well. (The school house was new and barely fit for purpose as nobody had supervised the builders of it.) The demand was met quickly enough - but then it had to rain enough to get water into the tank.

The water in the pipe came from a dam over 300km away. On a hot day (and summer temperatures often exceeded 40'C) it was too hot to put your hands under. My mother would put a tiny amount of water from the outside pipe into the bath and then wait for it to cool down enough to put my two younger sisters in it to play with their bath toys. This was the supposed cold water tap.

Now the water supply for the same area is back in the news. The dam no longer fills the needs of the area. It has not done for some time. Water is scarce. There are more rainwater tanks of course and yes it rains sometimes. All this does not supply the water needs of an increasing population along the coast line. The government is proposing another desalination plant. They have chosen a location which they believe is suitable. They have taken into account the environmental issues involved and they are ready to go ahead, plan and build.

But there is a problem. They have been hit with a claim by the "indigenous" people of the area. They don't want the desalination plant there because it is the place where their ancestors fished, where they used some of the rocks to make fish traps. They say the desalination plant can go much further away - at a much greater expense. Everything has stopped. This is going to court. It will all go on for months.

This same small group has already prevented the building of a much needed nuclear waste dump which a majority of people in the community wanted. That was disturbing and the result was not in the best interests of all. (The waste in question continues to be stored in an inner city location.) This time however their demand is surely unreasonable. Water is essential for life. I don't much care for the idea of desalination plants but the water this one will produce is essential for the well being of the community.

Are fish traps really more important than a safe supply of drinking water?

Friday 2 February 2024

Is an eleven year old responsible

for their actions? Should they be held responsible for their actions?

There is an article in this morning's paper about the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to twelve years. I actually read the article earlier than that. It is an area which interests me in the way it has interested anyone who has taught children of that age.

Some years ago now our state government experimented with the idea of giving all school age children "free transport". It was meant to be used to go to and from school. Good idea? It certainly sounded useful. It might get some cars off the roads in "peak" periods. It would save parents some money. Oh yes, definitely an election winner.

And what happened? There were suddenly children all over the place. It may not have been that many in percentage terms but there was a definite increase in children wandering the streets. There was an increase in graffiti and other minor forms of vandalism. The truant numbers were up, perhaps by not that much but they were still higher than usual. There was an increase in "gang" activity at a younger age. It may not have been that much more but it was noticeable. It was noticeable enough for the police to be demanding that the policy of "free" transport be disbanded.

I remember standing in the main railway station waiting to buy a new ticket and watching a woman with a Down Syndrome boy of about ten. She was watching him buy an ice cream from the kiosk. He kept looking back at her, obviously making sure he was doing the right thing. He smiled as he turned to her. He had made the purchase of an ice cream on his own. It was a big achievement for him. 

Then disaster struck. Another young boy ran past him, grabbed the ice cream and ran on. A passing policeman saw the incident but did not try to pursue the little thief. I can remember his words, "He's aboriginal. I can't touch him."

To say I was furious would be an understatement but I knew where the policeman was coming from. He could do nothing. I asked the carer of the Down Syndrome boy whether I could get him another ice cream. She agreed and I gave him the money. The man in the kiosk who had seen the whole thing went through the whole process again patiently and the policeman walked them to the platform to catch their train. "So you will be safe." (Much later the man in the kiosk refused to take my money for a small carton of milk.)

That ten or eleven year old thief knew exactly what he was doing. He knew he was "aboriginal" and too young for the police to do much even if he was caught. He knew that if he appeared in the Children's Court he would get nothing more than a telling off.  Even if he had never done anything like that before he would know from others that any "social worker"or "youth worker" would be so overworked they would not have time for a "minor offence" like that.

But it was a major offence in the life of that Down Syndrome child. It is one he would not forget. He was the victim of a particularly nasty crime. No, there was not much money involved. There was very little violence. The problem was that it was the first time in his life he had tried to buy something independently. It was a huge step forward for him.

I wonder where the young thief is now. It would not surprise me to learn he was in prison or that he had been in prison or that he is not in paid employment. He needed to be caught and, the next time he had money of his own, he needed to be made to hand over the price of the ice cream to the other boy. He needed to be told there are consequences to actions.

The age of criminal responsibility can stay at ten as far as I am concerned. We just need to find ways of handling the offenders that show them there are consequences without bringing them into contact with other young offenders. The problem is that it takes resources we do not currently have.  


Thursday 1 February 2024

Dear Bank

I would like to congratulate you on your latest idiotic decision.  You really have done your best now. Let's face it, you really could not have done a better job of making it difficult for the "customer". 

Last year you sent us all letters telling us that the branch in a big local shopping centre was closing to all except "business" customers. I am not sure what you meant by that but apparently those of us with small-to-you accounts are not "business" customers. Our paltry savings are apparently not worth your while. They may add up to billions but that is beside the point. They "cost" the bank something to care for we are told. Of course that really means you are not making what you consider to be a sufficient profit while we get "interest" less than the rate of inflation.

Yes, let me get back to it. That branch was closed to so many people. These were the many elderly people who had no transport but could get to the shopping centre by public transport or on the community bus once a week. They were the many in the community immediately surrounding the shops who live on social welfare and who rely on getting to a bank once a fortnight to access their money. Oh, they can "get a card" and they can "access an ATM"? There are people who cannot do these things. They are people with intellectual disabilities, with mental health issues and who live in other precarious circumstances. 

You told these people to go to the "nearest" branch that was still open to the ordinary customers. For many of them it was a bus ride away. Some of them have been left even more confused and more vulnerable as they have had to pass their limited banking needs over to other people. 

And now you are telling me that the  new branch I sometimes attended for myself and more often attended for other people is also going to close for the ordinary customer. It will only be available for "business" customers. Apparently the people who need you most are not going to be served. The only people who matter are the business customers.

Dear bank officials has it even occurred to you that not everyone has the intellectual capacity or the physical ability to do "online" banking? Has is even occurred to you that, for some people, it can be downright dangerous not to be able to go into a bank and withdraw a small amount of their own money out of which you are making huge profits? 

This is all going to involve me in an enormous amount of work as I try to sort the issue out not just for myself but for some very vulnerable people. I really do not have the time for this. 

Yours truly

A furious Cat

PS And while you are about it could you possibly make sure the local ATM actually works as it is supposed to work?