Sunday 31 March 2024

The importance of eggs

is not to be underestimated.

Last week I gave a friend of mine some egg cartons. I had been saving them for some time. I kept forgetting to give them to her and there were several waiting for her. 

As I passed them over she remarked, "We both eat rather a lot of eggs don't we?" 

This is true. She has hens so I am the occasional lucky recipient of a few very fresh eggs that come from well fed hens who roam her garden. That's even better.

But eggs have been on my mind for other reasons this past week. It is Easter Sunday and there are eggs everywhere. I am not doing an Easter egg hunt in the garden this year because half the children in the street are away for the weekend. The general feeling was that it was "not fair" if the absentees missed out. That's fine with me. It's been fun but it is a bit of work. I have showed two of the children around the corner how to dye their own eggs "like our yia-yia used to do". (Their grandmother was Greek-Cypriot.)  I only know how to do that because another Greek-Cypriot grandmother, Middle Cat's late MIL, showed me. P... was horrified to discover Middle Cat and I did not know how to do this. Those eggs were just plain hard boiled eggs dyed so as to have red shells. 

I have seen fancier eggs of course. There are always some in Handicrafts at the state's annual Show. The Stewards refuse to handle them. They look too delicate. The problem of handling and displaying them is left to the judges. There was always one by a friend who now sadly has dementia and has been taken by family "back home" to Europe.

And there were the Easter eggs of my childhood. There was the little egg-sized egg we were given at school. It was made from cheap chocolate covered in foil. We children ate those on the day we were given them. Then, in my family, we would be given two more. 

My maternal grandmother insisted on giving us eggs made from sugar-paste. "They last much longer," she would tell us. Really? They were supposed to last?  We dutifully thanked her each time. Mum would put them up in the cupboard "so you don't eat it all at once". She would break off bits and give them to us. We would take the pieces outside and bury them in the garden because, although we liked our fair share of sweet things, we did not care for those eggs.

My paternal grandparents gave us chocolate eggs. They were Cadbury chocolate eggs of course, probably all that was available at the time. They would also be broken into pieces and we would suck the pieces slowly to make them last. I can never remember chewing a piece of chocolate egg. It was something you simply did not do. 

Now eggs of the Easter variety seem to come in all sorts of varieties and sizes. I observed at least seven different sorts at the supermarket checkout. There were chocolate rabbits and chocolate bilbies too. I do not care for the idea of the latter. Chocolate bilbies are just politically correct nonsense and not nearly as popular as one or two people like to make them out to be. I looked at them and wondered, yet again, if I should find out what those "creme" eggs are all about but did not bother.

Yesterday I saw some beautifully dyed and decorated eggs. One of the Ukrainian refugees had made them. Today they will be given to people who have been good to her and her family.  Her neighbour N... showed me these as he photographed them so she could send pictures back to her more distant relatives in Kyiv. He isn't a religious man at all. He describes himself as a "devout atheist" but he said, "This is what Easter should be about."  

Saturday 30 March 2024

They had an election and (almost)

nobody voted.  There were just 2,583 formal votes for the state's "indigenous voice to parliament". This despite the fact that there were more than 30,000 people eligible to vote. 

There were forty-six people elected, twelve with less than twenty votes each. Four of the unsuccessful candidates received no votes at all - which means they did not even vote for themselves. Now the Minister responsible for this "voice" is telling us it is a "strong first result".

I am sorry but I think this is absolute nonsense. The whole thing had plenty of publicity, a lot of publicity. My good friend M... wanted nothing to do with the whole thing. He felt the national "Voice to Parliament" had been firmly rejected at the referendum and that the state "voice" should not go ahead. "It isn't what people want." 

It seems he is right. Last night I heard one of the successful candidates interviewed on the only news program I watch. She was asked why it was important to have a voice and what they hoped to achieve. Her response was just as I feared it would be.  For her it was all about the same policies that divide and separate, that are supposedly "saving" a long lost culture. It was about "preserving" and "reviving" languages which are not only no longer spoken but not able to be revived at all. Even if they could be revived they would not be fit for life in the twenty-first century because they do not include the ideas and vocabulary needed to survive. 

Her response was not about how to address the issues around the learning and skills needed for life in this century.  It was still about clinging to some sort of imaginary, romantic past.  That will not work. 

The result of the election was not a "strong first result". It was an indication that this is not what people want. They did not feel it was important enough to go and vote. As M... put it, "People are being told what they want again. They were asked if they wanted that sort of voice and they said no. It's a waste of money."

The whole exercise has cost a great deal of money so far. It will cost more as the members of this "voice" meet. They will make demands which cannot be met and do not meet the needs of those they have been "elected" to represent. This "voice" is about politics, not people.  

Friday 29 March 2024

Is the Easter Bunny real?

Apparently one of the children at a local school asked this question of a Baptist pastor this week. He told them "no"... and upset a lot of children in the process.

Now "no" may be the correct answer but it was also the wrong one. He acknowledged that but I suspect the damage has been done for some children. 

This last Christmas I asked T... across the road to dress up as a Christmas elf and deliver the activity packs to the other children in the street. He is old enough to know that Santa Claus or Father Christmas does not and does exist. He just gave me a knowing grin and went off to do the job telling me it was "fun" to help. He told me later his younger brother, H..., was still not sure about this. It was important not to spoil it for him or for the younger children in the street.

Until his death Middle Cat's father-in-law used to dress up as Father Christmas for an hour or so on Christmas Day and hand out presents. We all knew, children included, who it really was...and that it wasn't him either. It was all a bit of harmless fun. 

I know I stopped believing in Father Christmas before I went to school but I kept my mouth firmly closed in case adults stopped giving me presents if I did not believe. I also remember my first year at school. The "Easter Bunny" came to visit. We had all made little cardboard "nests" in which to put an egg. The whole of the infant school was sitting on the floor in the hall when one of the teachers looked out the window and told us she had seen the Easter bunny.  I looked at her and she gave me a look back which told me not to say anything. Later she told me something like, "You know it's just pretend but some of the others don't know that. Don't spoil it for them."

And that's the thing isn't it? It's "pretend" but it is "pretend" for the fun of it, to bring a little pleasurable anticipation into life.  I rather wish I had gone on believing in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny much longer than I did. It might have been fun to go on an Easter egg hunt believing a rabbit had left them there.

Middle Cat's MIL was a very devout woman. When "Greek" Easter, Orthodox Easter, came around she would dye eggs the obligatory red and give them to us. It was not the same as the Easter Bunny coming to visit. She knew that and there was always an Easter egg hunt for her grandchildren...even when they were just a little bit too old for it all. As one of her grandchildren put it, "It's just as important for Yia-yia to be the Easter Bunny as it is for us to pretend." The Easter Bunny does exist for that reason alone. 

Thursday 28 March 2024

Would you like to vote for someone else?

The recent result in the by-election for a seat in state parliament has shown how ridiculous our electoral system is. 

We do not have "first past the post" here. I acknowledge that there are problems with that. It will often mean that a candidate a minority voted for gets in. That is why there are "run off" elections in some parts of the world for the most important positions.

What we have instead is a system of preferences. In a sense it is a sort of "run off". We are told if we do not like candidate A then we can choose candidate B and then candidate C and D and E or however many candidates there are on the ballot paper. That sounds fair and reasonable - until you realise that to make your vote for Candidate A a valid one you must also preference, in the order of your choosing, all the other candidates on the ballot paper.

This is where the system falls down. I have explained why elsewhere but I will explain it again. Say you have three candidates. At an upcoming election there is a debate about reintroducing the death penalty.  Candidate A is strongly opposed to this. Candidate B supports bringing it back in for a number of offences and Candidate C supports bringing it back in for murder. 

You are also strongly opposed to the death penalty so you want to vote for Candidate A. In order to vote for Candidate A you must also preference Candidates B and C. 

Now comes the problem. Candidate B belongs to the party which is promising free child care to parents of children under the age of ten. It is a very popular policy among families with children of that age but not popular enough for Candidate B to win the vote outright.Candidate C agrees to tell people to preference B if B agrees to tell people to preference. Candidate A has no such agreement but suggests that C is more moderate and compulsory preferences should flow to them.  Voters go off to the polling booth and do just what "their" first choice candidate tells them to do.

All this can (and is) manipulated in attempts to win seats. Both the local and the federal seats in my area changed hands at the last election because of some very clever manipulation of preferences. We can say all we like about it being ultimately up to the voters but many voters are like sheep and do just as they are told. They vote for the same party all their lives and do it unthinkingly. Those who do think find themselves voting for candidates whose policies they oppose.

If we are to have compulsory attendance at the ballot box then we need to be done with the compulsion to preference against our will.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

A legislated age to use social media?

There are renewed calls for a legislated age to use social media. It seems that some people believe there is a means of preventing children from using any sort of social media.

I doubt that is possible. There have been attempts to bring in rules banning the use of mobile phones at schools. Given that students almost invariably have lap tops now that is not going to impact their ability to learn. Turning off the phone may actually increase that.

I know teachers who have welcomed the phone ban. It is difficult to teach when students are sneaking peeks at their phones and sending messages to their friends (and enemies) during a lesson. During my time at school people made paper planes and sent their illegal classroom messages that way. They were much more likely to get caught. I never used that method. (No, I was not "good". I could not make paper planes and being "the teacher's kid" puts a stop to a lot of things.)

There are suggestions that banning mobile phone use during the school day has helped to improve behaviour, reduce bullying and increase social interaction. If it is true then there is something to be said for it. 

Would it work if they tried to ban social media use? I am not sure they can ban social media use. If they could and it actually worked then what would take the place of it? I am concerned about the increasing use of our education system to try and inculcate left wing ideas into students. They need to be presented with a range of ideas without being told this one is right and that one is wrong. If face to face contact increases and students talk more to each other away from screens it might be useful but only if they are presented with that range of ideas.

If we try to prevent all social media use then it will only seem even more desirable. It isn't good for a seven year old to spend hours playing games. It is good when a thirteen year old teaches learns about tatting from You Tube videos and comes to knitting group having mastered the basic knot. There needs to be a balance there. If the means is there to prevent a young child from signing in to unsuitable matter then it should be used. If the means is there to prevent children spending more time at a screen than a set number of hours week then it might be a good thing. Apart from that I doubt that banning social media will work. That horse bolted long ago. 

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Fake media?

I have no doubt at all that the "bots" have been flooding social media. The idea that the Russians and the Chinese are trying to "destabilise" other countries is all too believable. If you are a dictator concerned with increasing your grip on power then bots on social media are sure to be seen as a way to do it.

I know there are "scam farms" in some countries. They are there to take money from the gullible and even the not so gullible. I do not tell myself I am immune from all this even if I am aware of it. There are measures I can take to try and prevent this but I may still be a victim as they become increasingly sophisticated.

It is much harder to try and work out what is "real" and what is "fake" when it comes to "news".  It is much harder to do this even when I am in the "fortunate" position of sometimes getting information from people who are actually in a situation the news media is talking about. I know that even then the information I am getting is coming from people who will have certain prejudices, who may not be fully aware of what is actually happening, or who may not be able to say what they wish to say unimpeded by censorship.

Not so long ago I was at a meeting where an issue was brought up. Three people in the group were absolutely convinced that something had happened. I knew it had not happened and so did someone else. We were both there at the time. We directly observed what was going on. We said this. 

Were we believed? No. We were told we "must be wrong" and "it could not have happened like that".  I asked where they had obtained their information. Yes, a commercial news network, then "Twitter" and "an internet site". Those three sources had all repeated a story which was completely wrong but it was believed. It was believed over what two of us who had actually been there observed. This is the power of not just social media but mainstream media. It frightens me.

There is technology out there to prevent some of this but there needs to be more than that. We need to teach children reading comprehension. They need to learn to read critically, to question what they are being told and the sources of the information they are being given. What concerns me is that they are not being taught this because it would prevent schools being used to indoctrinate as well as educate.  

Monday 25 March 2024

Are the results being inflated?

I saw a young friend yesterday and she proudly showed me something she had done at school. 

"I got a gold star!" she told me. I told her I was pleased she had a gold star but when she went off to play her mother told me something which disturbed me.

"Everyone got a gold star." 

We both agreed that this was wrong. Her daughter's work was good but it was not outstanding. She is not yet old enough to really understand what the "gold star" meant.

Apparently you no longer give gold stars for outstanding work or outstanding effort. Everyone gets a gold star. You all "win".  I actually thought her school had stopped giving out such "awards" but apparently not. 

I did not give out gold stars to my year 6 class. Back then they were, on average, a year younger than they are now but they did not want gold stars. We actually talked about how I might reward them for extra effort and the most popular suggestion was "tell my Mum about it". I did tell their parents about it. I wrote a note home for one boy one day. He had been really struggling with something. His father, a policeman, was not very sympathetic towards his son. The following day however he turned up (in uniform) and told me how much he had appreciated being told his son had put so much effort in. For the rest of the year that child worked so hard.

I went on to have a conversation with first the mother of the little girl and then her father when he came inside. We agreed that the results children now get are being inflated with praise. There seems to be a constant flow of words like "good job" for the most average of efforts. 

I know I always being told I could "do better than that". My brother agrees. (We talked about this last night when he called me about something else.) We remember the gold and silver or the coloured stars at school. They were something special. They were something we worked to try and achieve.

On top of that there seems to be another trend. There is a trend to give students higher up school and into university better results than they actually deserve. I have marked many essays for students and have been told all too frequently that my assessments of their work are too low.  I have even been told, "You can't fail anyone." The students have complained I am "too tough".  Is it really too tough to expect an essay which shows evidence of having read the required text, thought about the problem and given the answer some sort of structure? Is it too much to expect the ability to write a sentence and spell the words correctly? Why should I give a Credit to something which is not worthy of it?  Thankfully I no longer mark papers on a regular basis. It was a constant worry.

We don't need constant approval. Even as children we should be working for gold stars not merely being given them.  

Sunday 24 March 2024

There was a by-election yesterday

and I consider myself fortunate I did not have to vote in it. This has nothing to do with the mud-slinging which was going on between the two candidates put forward by the major parties. What really worries me is the more than twenty percent of people who voted for the Greens.  I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Greens manifesto.

Manifesto is particularly apt in this case. The Greens are what I have heard described as a "watermelon" party. They are green on the outside and red on the inside. They are a party with communist like policies. The policies often sound wonderful but, if you really think about them, they won't work. Communism doesn't work. 

This is not about people being rich or poor or equal in all things. It is about what will actually work and allow everyone to eat. The Greens are all for making sure there is more public housing. That may well be a good thing in itself. They are also about increasing the size of the population by bringing in more refugees. The problem is that we already have a housing issue and other issues. We brought in 528,000 people last year - into a country which has a major housing issue. We have made the situation worse not better. We don't have the land for housing, the infrastructure like roads and power and sewage are not there. The materials to build houses are in very short supply and the prices have gone up so far that they are becoming unaffordable. 

The Greens say this is not an economic issue. They simply say that taxes, especially taxes on "big business" have to rise. At the same time as they are saying this they are endeavouring to stop all mining and make sure that nobody builds houses on areas that "belong" to "First Australians". They cheered recently when the greater part of a small remote town was "returned" to the local aboriginal community - without the people who lived there even being consulted. 

Their policies are full of contradictions and economic impossibilities and yet people will vote for them. They vote for them because they keep being portrayed as "saviours" of the environment, as the only party which has the plans to halt "global warming".  The major parties are worried but they won't condemn them too hard because they know that people will still believe they are nice, friendly, warm and cuddly tree huggers who have the answer to our environmental woes.

It is time we taught people to read party policies and the economic consequences of the same.  

Saturday 23 March 2024

Not just a "privacy" issue

and those who are still claiming they have a "right" to know need to shut their mouths and pull their heads in.

The news that the Princess of Wales has cancer is not perhaps as great a shock to many as it might have been. Thoughtful people would have realised that it was something serious. The fools who hang on every word uttered about "the Firm" or Royal Family of course did not realise that. All they were concerned with was that "information" was "being kept from them". 

Well it was information they had no right to have. Yes, that's was information they had no right to have.

My late mother had cancer. She died following a diagnosis of stomach cancer. Our family had to go through all the associated problems of supporting her, supporting each other, dealing with all the well wishers and much more. There were issues some families did not have when faced with such a diagnosis. My mother was a Christian Scientist, a member of a sect which believes any illness is an "error" of mind which can be treated without medical intervention. Now she had to accept medical intervention in an attempt to save her life. My youngest sister did not cope at all and caused all of us even more worry when she tried to make the problems all about her instead. The Senior Cat, a man who did not even notice other women, had to face the fact he was going to lose the love of his life. Brother Cat and Middle Cat had to find ways of telling their children their grandmother was ill and going to die. In the middle of it all I was trying to make sure a household was kept running as well. 

Mum left us of course. We were adults. We knew what the diagnosis - stomach cancer - meant. We knew our mother was going to die. It was a matter of finding ways of coping with that and, apart from the Black Cat, doing our best to support the Senior Cat. 

Although we had many people give us support, something I will always be grateful for, it was still a family thing. We did not have to endure the media constantly speculating. There were things we could still keep to ourselves. There were no demands for statements, interviews, announcements or details - and those demands from strangers, from people who had never met our mother.

There are three young children in the other scenario. They will know their mother is not well. They will know it is serious. What they do not need is the scrutiny which is currently taking place. They do not need the other children at their school asking questions, perhaps even making fun of the situation. They do not need the paparazzi trying to take photographs or intrude on their lives at any time but they especially do not need it now.  They do not need the constant, time consuming criticisms made of their parents for refusing to share the details of what for anyone else would be a private matter. 

To anyone out there who thinks they have a "right" to know the most intimate details of all this - you don't. You have never had that right. It doesn't matter what position someone holds in the community you will never have the right to such information.  

Friday 22 March 2024

The "unholy" row about

private religious schools being able to "discriminate" against students and teachers who do not adhere to their teachings and beliefs is puzzling me. Why would you want your child to attend a school which did not support your beliefs if there was an alternative? Why would you want to work in one which did not support your beliefs?

It brought me around to thinking about another issue as well. How, as a parent, do you face the fact that your normal, average, taxpayer funded state school is almost certainly teaching your child things you do not believe and may find offensive?

I have been to both state schools and a fee paying school. I attended the latter only because it was not possible to complete my education at the state school the Senior Cat was then the principal of. Nobody could. It only went so far. Students who wanted more had to go elsewhere. My parents wanted us to finish our schooling so off we went. 

At the school I attended there was an attempt to make me attend confirmation classes for that particular brand of the Christian faith. I remember sitting in the headmaster's office as he explained the importance of all this. I listened to him and then told him politely that arrangements had already been made for me to attend confirmation classes elsewhere. The way he had been putting the need for me to be confirmed could hardly prevent that. 

I know now he was not happy about it but there was no "unholy" row about it. I was the only student who was not going to be confirmed in his church but I was going to be confirmed. It was a compromise on his part I suppose. 

But what if I had simply refused to be confirmed at all? What if I had said that I didn't believe any of the Christian teachings of the school? What if I had actively tried to disrupt what was a major part of the school's teaching? (We had a "religion" lesson every day at that school - forty minutes of it.)

I think at the latter point the headmaster would have been within his rights to say I would not be welcome there. I know there are people who will disagree with me about this. They will say the school should still have accepted me and accommodated my beliefs. They will say it is "discrimination" not to do that but I don't believe it is. There may have been an alternative. Perhaps I could have gone to other schools. That one was chosen because it happened to have a place for me as a boarder.  (It was not a good school and I was very unhappy there but it was not because of the religious teachings.) The decision had to be made quickly because of the circumstances at the time. It was a compromise. (My mother wanted me to go to another state to a school for "Christian Scientists but the Senior Cat opposed that strongly. He was right to do so. It would have been a disaster.)

Adults have choices denied to children but they come with responsibilities.  There are times when people need to compromise. The proposed legislation does not allow for that and it may do more harm than good for that reason.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Trump v Rudd?

I never thought I would agree with anything Donald Trump had to say. That I almost agree about something worries me. His words about the former Prime Minister of Downunder turned Ambassador to America were not far off the mark.

Kevin Rudd is not a nice person. When he was Prime Minister I heard endless complaints about his behaviour, especially his behaviour off-screen and out of the public eye. A veteran of his side of politics once told me "he is the rudest PM I have ever had dealings with". This man considered him worse than Paul Keating. 

Both Rudd and Keating are former Prime Ministers who should get out of politics. They are a danger to the country. They are not the "China" experts they would have us believe they are or that others would have us believe they are. Their real skill is in doing what China wants and making it look as if this is what we want. As they also still wield a good deal of power over the Labor party (make that a lot of power) they are still dictating policy. It's not good.

While the thought another Trump Presidency alarms me it may bring about the end of Rudd's ambitions. He is possibly doing less harm there than he would have in his preferred role as Secretary-General of the United Nations but he is still doing harm. He interferes in matters no diplomat should interfere in. He is still managing to have far too much influence on policy here. I know there are people who are worried he will one day say something that will cause a really major issue between people who really do matter.  

It is said that diplomat is a man who is sent abroad to lie for his country. In this case we have a man who has been sent abroad and now lies to his country. He does not have Downunder's best interests at heart. I am not sure the man he criticised has his country's best interests at heart either.


Wednesday 20 March 2024

We need more information

and it needs to be actual and accurate information about many things. 

There is a by election coming up in this state. It is in a very marginal seat. The retiring member is in the Opposition. Naturally the present government wants the seat. It will allow them to say that their "policies are working", that the government is popular and much more. 

One of the candidates once worked for a big accounting firm. After she left some of those who worked there were found guilty of wrong doing and sacked. Apparently this means that she was also guilty of wrong doing and should have been sacked. She was also a sleeping director in another firm which went bankrupt and apparently she is also responsible for this, indeed solely responsible if some comments n the media are to be believed.

The other candidate who matters (in that they might have a chance) has come under similar levels of criticism. Her husband's business is alleged to have been getting preferential treatment because of her relationship with the party. She denies any association with this although she is named as having an active role in his business.

I am happy I do not need to vote in the by-election. Why? Because these allegations are not helping people make up their minds. They are actually a hindrance. I, and many others, want to know whether a candidate has the qualifications for the job. What have they got to offer? What are their actual skills?

It is the sort of information which is kept from us at almost every election. We get told all sorts of things. Mud is slung but facts are few and far between. We vote blindly. Actual information is apparently of no importance.

It seems our federal government does not want vital information either.  We are now being told that the heads of the two most important national security agencies will not be present when national security is being discussed. Yes, they did the government some bad news recently, very bad news. It is their job to do just that but I suspect this news was even worse than usual.  

National security is not there to give the government good news. It is there to tell them the bad news, that things are not working the way they should, that a senior "someone" has passed on information which has harmed the country and so on. It is information the government needs. 

Of the two issues I find the second one, our lack of information about national security issues, far more concerning but it is brought about by the poor quality of the candidates and the even poorer levels of information about them. We need people who can seek out actual information and make informed decisions on that basis. Can anyone else see a problem here?

Tuesday 19 March 2024

The late Stormy Summers

was a stormy woman.

For those of you in other parts of the world allow me to introduce the late, great, weird, wild and stormy Stormy Summers.

Stormy Summers ran a brothel before brothels were even mentioned in the "city of churches". She was a "character". 

I always thought Stormy was a lot older than me. Yes, she was older than I am but not quite as old as I thought she might be. Perhaps it might have something to do with the life she led.

She smoked heavily and drank heavily (mostly scotch) until about ten years ago. She dyed her hair outrageous colours long before dyeing your hair outrageous colours was acceptable. She often dressed in outrageous clothes. She drove a black BMW sports car (won at the casino). It had the number plate "STORMY". She ran for parliament and once ran for Lord Mayor. (She didn't get either job but she made a very good showing at the polls.)  

The "sex industry" is something that deeply disturbs me. I find the idea of it sickening. I am also realistic enough to know that we are not going to stop it. There is a need for laws around it, not simply laws which try to halt it. Stormy knew that women were at risk, that some of them were doing it to support families. She tried to give them a safe place. 

Despite the cigarettes and the alcohol she was implacably opposed to other drugs. Anyone caught with drugs on her premises was out on their ear with no second chance.  I heard about this from a woman I once helped with the pile of forms she needed to fill in. She loved Stormy for helping her turn her life around. The other "girls" she "employed" loved her too. 

Even the cops admitted her premises were clean and well run. The problem was that they were not legal. The cop who referred the woman who needed help with the forms actually said to me, "It would be better for everyone if she could run that damn place without interference from us."

Stormy had her ups and downs. Some time ago I did actually wonder what had happened to her. I assumed she had died but no she was still alive at that time. She had "retired" long ago. She was apparently caring for her third husband - a man she had already divorced.  

The men in her life were often rough and tough. They were members of bikie gangs and more but there were also politicians (often of left persuasion) and one of the city's most colourful journalists. I know of one Roman Catholic priest who counted her as a good friend because of the way she helped some of his parishioners.

Stormy was a "character". She was one of those people who does a great deal to help others without making a fuss about it. There was an occasion on which a hotel in the city was going to sell their old blankets before buying new blankets. Stormy went in and bought the lot. Then she went around the park lands and made sure that the homeless had new to them blankets.

And yes, she ran a brothel - and therefore had run ins with the law. Eventually the police managed to get the brothel closed down although she defied them all the way...and not just to court. Many in the community argued it was wrong to prosecute her.  Stormy ran a brothel because she cared.


Monday 18 March 2024

Is a "traumatic upbringing" the

answer to everything?

There is a second case of someone using NDIS funds to enable them to have sex with an underage girl.  The abuser in this instance is said to be "autistic" and to have "cognitive impairments".  Apparently that excuses the behaviour.

My question is "does this person know the difference between right and wrong?"  I know people who are autistic and who have learning issues. They also know the difference between right and wrong. Their behaviour may be impulsive and they may behave in ways which seem strange to other people but they obey the law. Indeed these people are much more likely to wait for the green man before they start to cross the road than most people. They don't shoplift. They validate their tickets on the train too.

Perhaps they have not had a "traumatic upbringing" though. Perhaps it is a valid excuse for behaving badly. It is certainly an excuse that is used often enough to try and explain away wrong doing. 

This bothers me because I know other people who have had very traumatic upbringings who have done well in later life. They have, against all odds, managed to succeed. These are people who have lost both parents in childhood or have fathers who have been (or still are) in prison. They are people who have been sexually abused. They have been through refugee camps and come here with nothing but gone on to be successful members of the community.  There is G..., an orphan, who lost both hands after being attacked by a machete in a refugee camp. He now teaches maths in a higher education facility in Africa. He has married and has two children of his own. There is J... who was brought up in the cult like atmosphere of a religious sect and not only left at sixteen but finished school and went to university. He supported himself throughout. There is M... who, at sixteen, was told she would be marrying a much older man. He was a widower with three small children. She sought help before it happened and left her family and her community. There is Y... who was sexually abused by her father and grandfather who finally found someone willing to help her. She has gone on to have a professional career and to care for the person who cared for her. 

A traumatic upbringing is not the sole reason for wrong doing. It may well contribute to it but people do overcome that. It isn't easy to do but they have done it, even without high levels of support from others.

I admire the people I have mentioned above. They have had to work to get where they are today. There are others I know who do not have that intellectual capacity but they are not likely to break the law. They would not seek sexual pleasure using NDIS funds. If NDIS funds are being used for that purpose then all their funds need to be withdrawn.  There are other people who can use the funding. 

Sunday 17 March 2024

Eek! It's St Patrick's Day!

Actually I am not too sure about this "day" business.

As regular readers of my witterings on these pages will know I have a very good friend who just happens to be a nun. I have known her for a long time. We have had many a conversation over the years but I don't think we have ever had a conversation about St Patrick or any other "saint" as an individual. 

I know very little about "saints". I do remember saying something to a former priest of the church the Senior Cat attended about some tedious process requiring "the patience of a saint" and his response as we were still trying to get the task done, "Most saints were very impatient people." I have also said it to some dog owners I know as they wait, with varying degrees of patience, for dogs to do what dogs do. I am impatient too but I am no saint.  

I am not really sure what saint hood actually is. What are these things called "miracles"? Most of them sound pretty unlikely to me....and others can be explained in other ways.  Perhaps it is the timing of things which matters. If miracles occur then it was surely one when, after months of not going into his beloved shed after my mother died, someone phoned the Senior Cat and said, "I need some timber cut on your circular saw." It meant opening the shed and the two men spending a morning carefully cutting some of the most valuable timber available for the purpose of repairing something in the cathedral. 

When B... asked for that and the Senior Cat said, "Of course" then things changed. The Senior Cat went back into the shed. Things did not "go back to normal" because "normal" had changed but the Senior Cat went back to creating things for other people. That mattered. It was a huge step forward in the grieving process for the Senior Cat - and a huge relief for me. 

B... would laugh if I told him he was a saint. He isn't one. He is just an ordinary human being who happened to ask for the right help at the right time, help to do something for someone else. I suspect this might be true of a lot of "saints".  His surname happens to be an Irish one.

I won't go looking for leprechauns today. I will smile if P... tells me it is St Patrick's Day and there is some sort of special mass for the occasion. I am conscious we don't seem to worry about St David or St Andrew in the same way.  It will be good if some of my Irish friends have some fun in their own way.

And I will remember the man who said, "I need some timber cut on your circular saw."


Saturday 16 March 2024

"Mac" attack?

Apparently there was an IT problem yesterday - at the location of a "MacDonald's" frequented by a young male of my acquaintance. No, he is not related to me. I know his grandparents. (His grandfather told me about this as he was out walking the dog.)

It is this boy's habit to go home or to his grandparents from school via this fast food establishment. He has more pocket money than his grandfather thinks a boy should have and some of it is spent in this way. Yesterday disaster hit. There was an IT problem. The place was closed. It wasn't fair! 

He turned up at his grandparents place "starving". There were apparently a great many other teens from his school in the same position. 

"He had two slices of toast and Vegemite instead," his grandfather told me, "Of course M... (his grandmother) wasn't going to see him "starve". The kid doesn't know what "starving" means. We don't either."

No, we don't. Food was sometimes short in our house when I was growing up but Mum always managed to put a meal on the table. We ate home cooked food, had the once a term "treat" of buying our lunch from the school canteen and the once a holiday treat of fish and chips out of greasy butcher and then newspaper wrappings. We thought those occasions were wonderful.

Yesterday I took some time out and went with one cousin and his partner to see another cousin and his partner. The second set have not been well and they wanted to celebrate some good news at last. We had a simple "brunch" sort of occasion at a small cafe overlooking a lake. The surroundings were very quiet and very peaceful. We chatted quietly and caught up with each other's news. We watched people walking their dogs and the boats sailing on the lake. The temperature was perfect for sitting outdoors in the shade. 

"That was as good as being on holiday," my cousin's partner said at the end of it.

He was right. It did feel like that. We had "coffee" and a small amount to eat. The food was good and the staff were friendly and helpful.  None of us do it very often. I certainly cannot afford to do it. It makes such occasions all the more special and memorable.

The young male who goes home via "Maccas" everyday will never have that pleasure. I really feel rather sorry for him.

Friday 15 March 2024

Building houses in remote

indigenous communities is the latest move by the current federal government in their attempts to "lift" the well-being of these communities.

The cost is said to be $4bn over the next ten years. They will build two hundred and seventy houses a year - at a cost of $1.5m a house. $1.5m? That alone should be ringing alarm bells about the scheme. Even allowing for the extra cost of building anything in a remote area that seems excessive.

Something similar was tried more than two decades ago under another government. They took the advice of the now defunct ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islander Commission) and built some houses in a remote community. It did not work. The houses have been trashed.

One major reason for it not working was because the houses were built where there was no work. They were built where people said they wanted to live because it was "their" land but they had no means to support themselves there.  And they are doing the same thing all over again. They are building houses where there is no work, where there will be no work. 

"Oh but this is where they want to live," is the argument being put forward, "They have the right to live on the land they consider their tribal land, the land to which they have a connection. We need to provide housing where people want to live."

No, we don't. You provide housing if people have no other choice. It might sound harsh but this has to be an economic decision as well as a lifestyle decision.

My parents were required to teach anywhere in the state. The Senior Cat had some tough schools, much tougher than many of his colleagues. He was regarded as the Education Department's "trouble shooter", the person sent in to sort out issues and then be moved on. We lived in some remote places and yes, housing was supplied. It was not supplied to all teachers. Young single teachers lived with families. They often shared a bedroom with the students they were teaching. In one place they lived in caravans parked next to the houses the government had supplied to people moving in to clear land and farm. We lived in the most basic of fibro asbestos housing. In one place the house was so poorly built there were tree growing under the house because the land had not been properly cleared. The bedrooms were so small Middle Cat and I spent our time there sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There was no running water or electricity when we arrived.

We put up with all this and many other issues because we had to. The place we lived in has barely grown in the past fifty years. There is a silo there now that was being built when we left and that is the only reason the population increased. It will not increase in any other way because there is no work there. The farms are being consolidated as young people move to where the work is.

In other remote areas other young people are also moving away because there is no work. According to the last Census the communities in which it is proposed to build these houses are also smaller than they once were. People are drifting away, even those who claim great cultural attachments to the land. They are moving to areas where life is more comfortable and a lettuce does not cost $11. They want all the stations available on the television set not the single station which supposedly caters to their interests. They want the doctor and the hospital. 

Those of them who are concerned about such things also want opportunities for their children. They want their children taught in English in schools that have more facilities. That may be the most important issue of all.

So why are we going to build houses in those areas? Is it really what people want or need? Or has it got more to do with people who live much more comfortably in the city and who have employment telling us something else? Is this really about "preserving the culture" of the wrongly named "oldest living continuous culture on earth"? If it is then that is nonsense. We may not like it but the "traditional" culture and way of life no longer exists. Building houses is not going to help that but employment might help to preserve what remains.  

Thursday 14 March 2024

Who should pay for aged care?

 There is currently a "discussion" about who should be paying for aged care - and the inevitable suggestion that the "wealthy" should pay more.

I am not wealthy by any means.  For the purposes of this argument I would be considered "poor", even "very poor".  That said I am not expecting the "wealthy" to pay more for their aged care than they already do. Most of them are already paying more anyway.

The Senior Cat was paying 85% of his income into the nursing home at the end of his life. It was by no means the only expense involved. That was just the base rate. There were all sorts of hidden costs involved. We dipped into his savings all the time he was there. We did his laundry because it was an additional expense. We bought his pharmacy items. (We also bought the latter from the chemist of our choice which was much cheaper than the chemist the nursing home used. They had a neat little arrangement between them.) We paid for anything above his basic board and lodging, even the "entertainment" he was often helping to provide.

Despite all this he would be one who would be "caught" by the current proposal. The house would have been sold and yet more money would have been taken from the proceeds. I doubt the standard of care would have gone up. The Senior Cat had a reasonable standard of care given to him but it was (a) because he was articulate and polite and (b) because Middle Cat and I took it in turns to go in on alternate days. That was hard work but I do not regret the commitment we made one little bit. It was the only way we could be sure he would be as well cared for as possible under the circumstances. I still wish he had been able to end his days here in his own home. I still feel guilty that I am no longer going in and out of that nursing home on alternate days because, as one of the staff told me, "Visitors like you keep us on our toes." They should not need visitors to be doing the right thing.

I am tired of being told the elderly need to do more to pay their own way. They often have. Many of them have worked hard for fifty or more years. They scrimped and saved and bought their own homes, homes without landscaped gardens, patios and swimming pools. If they went on holiday it was not to Bali. Most of them made one big overseas trip when they retired. Some of them bought a caravan and "did a bit of travel" around the state - or even to another state if they could afford the fuel costs. 

The next generation, the more recently retired who are not yet in need of home care packages and nursing home facilities are retired only from paid work. They are the generation which do the school runs, the before and after school care and the school holiday care. They care for children when they are ill and often for the very elderly as well. This is also the generation which coaches the footy team and makes sure the school has enough volunteers to help with hearing the little ones read. These are the people who do the vast majority of the "volunteer" work without which society would fall apart. They spend their days so busy doing things for other people some of them wish they were back at work for a rest. 

An aging population is an issue. It is a problem. The idea that everything should be taken from them in order to pay for their care is not going to solve the problem. If people believe that is going to happen then they will simply spend what they have while they can.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Daylight saving is now beyond

usefulness. It is a bad joke.

It is no secret that I have never liked "daylight saving". I am a morning sort of person. I get my best work done then.  I miss the light early mornings of my childhood, before the nonsense started.

This morning I have put a load of washing out in the 7am semi-darkness. As I did that work began again on the demolition site two doors down. Yes, they can legally start at 7am in the semi-darkness. 

We have almost another month of this madness. Our clocks don't return to "normal" time until the 7th of April. It is even later this year than it was last. It is being done to appease those who tell us that this is what people want because they are going to "Festival" activities and playing sport. 

The reality is that only a very small proportion of the population is doing these things and they mostly live in the city. People in rural areas have other concerns. 

But there is also another little oddity. This state is already out of kilter. We are currently nine and a half hours ahead of GMT but we should only be nine hours ahead. The half hour is wrong. If anywhere should be half an hour ahead it is the neighbouring states. What we should really be doing is turning the clocks back an hour and a half...and leaving them there.

Daylight saving is supposed to be a good thing. It is "used" by people to do things in the evenings...or so they tell us. I have yet to discover anyone who consistently uses the lighter evenings to garden, play sport, go to an open air concert, walk the dog or even just sit outside with a glass in their hand watching the kids tear up and down the lawn they have just mowed in the evening. It just does not happen. People may do these occasionally, very occasionally. Most of the time they come home, make a meal, chivvy their young into doing their homework and watch television or use their computers. They go to bed at what seems to be the "right time" because they always go to bed at that time. They get up at the "right time" in the morning because that is the time they have always done it. They feel constantly tired but they put it down to other factors. The idea that they might not be getting enough sleep when their body tells them they need it is something they dismiss as nonsense. 

At the changeover point back to a time which is more in keeping with the natural rhythm of nature we will have the usual spate of accidents caused by the time change. There will be other health related issues too although they will not be quite as bad as we go back closer to what our bodies tell us we need. 

I am willing to accept that daylight saving may have some use somewhere. I do not know where this could be but perhaps some far flung point of the globe has a need for it. It isn't needed here. At our latitude it makes no sense at all, especially when we are not even in time with our longitude.

If you live in this part of the world and really use daylight saving every day please let me know. I would like to "meet" someone who really benefits from it.  

Tuesday 12 March 2024

The Greens leader has spent more

on two private jet flights recently than I have spent on everything in the entire year. He added another $57,000 on commercial flights (twice the amount I had to live on) and $12,000 on car hire and a further $29,000 on COMCAR and taxi trips. On top of that he has spent $204,000 on "printing and communications". 

I have travelled in COMCARs (these are chauffeur driven cars provided to parliamentarians) and I have also been given taxi vouchers to get to meetings. When these things have happened something has been said like, "Cat, there's a COMCAR bringing in X... and we can divert it to pick you up as well" or "Cat, there's a train strike but we need you at the meeting so here's a taxi voucher."  Fair enough. They want me there. I don't have a travel allowance.

But some politicians seem to think they have the right to unlimited travel and unlimited expenses.  When it comes down to the Greens leader, a man who leads a minor party which wields far too much power, this is even more disturbing. Does he really need to do that much travel?

Zoom meetings may not be perfect but it is possible to get a lot of work done this way. I do it all the time, so do my colleagues. We all think it is a vast improvement on waiting for each other to respond to emails. I am sure there are many other people who can work the same way and do work that way. I know my BIL is only too pleased not to have to catch the "red eye express" interstate. It saves time and money. He isn't quite as happy that he sometimes needs to work until midnight because his firm is global but that is another story. Still, why catch a plane to go to a meeting if you can just go into the office and attend the meeting that way?

Actually seeing people in the flesh is good of course. Zoom meetings are not quite the same but they can be done. The "National Cabinet" met that way during Covid lock downs. So why does the Greens leader, the very person who should be working that way, choose to travel? Is it because he is only "green on the outside"? I suspect this is the case.


Monday 11 March 2024

Do you know what a "stobie" pole is?

Unless you live in this small part of the world then you have probably never heard of them.  

They are power line poles made of two steel beams kept apart by a slab of concrete. They are used in this state because white ants would otherwise eat the timber which would be used.  The stobie pole was designed by a Mr James Stobie in 1924.

He designed some other things as well although I nothing about these. My maternal grandparents lived next door to his sister and Mr Stobie apparently spent a good deal of time in my grandfather's workshop. The "new" workshop certainly showed signs of being designed by someone who had designed a steel and concrete pole.

These poles have been the cause of many accidents - or so the drivers of the cars which have hit them will tell you (if they survived to tell the tale). They are also the cause of another problem now. 

They are apparently where the infestation of fruit bats or flying foxes are choosing to roost. Middle Cat tells me that they are getting more and more outages in the evening because the bats land on the poles. The outages may not last that long but they are long enough to cause widespread problems. 

How to solve the problem? There are two solutions. One is the very expensive solution of putting the power underground.They have done this with the new suburbs to the north of the city. It is not likely to happen in the old areas around here. 

The other solution is to get rid of some of the bats. That solution has the tree-huggers up in arms. What?  Why should we get rid of any of those bats? There were around 10,000 before Covid and now there could be as many as 60,000. They are actually a Covid related problem - caused by some things not being done during lock down and more. The pampered darlings of the "green" industry have even been treated to cool showers of water in the heat.

These creatures are the carriers of some of the most serious diseases we have. They are causing economic as well as environmental harm. This is apparently something some of the tree-huggers believe we should just accept. Really? I would much rather the parrots outside my window right now had the apples from the tree in which they are sitting. I do not care for bats. 

Sunday 10 March 2024

There was a fight on the

railway station platform yesterday - or so I am told. My informant told me that a drunken aboriginal man was staggering along it. He was apparently in genuine danger of falling onto the tracks so someone caught hold of him. Then the "fun" started and there was a "fight" as he lashed out and called those who had gone to his aid, "F.... white bastards."

I am glad I was not there to witness the event but it made me wonder yet again about just who is responsible for what. I wondered who would have been held responsible if the police had been around - as they often are at the railways station.  It is all too likely that, if charges had been laid, the white men intervening would have been called out for "racism". The idea that they might actually have been doing their best to help would perhaps have been taken into consideration but they would almost certainly been asked if skin colour had anything to do with their actions.

And what would have happened to the aboriginal man. "F....white bastards" is a pejorative term is it not? If the word "black" rather than "white" had been inserted then wouldn't any reasonable person see it as "racist"? 

"They were just trying to help," the person telling me the story said. She had been shocked and a little frightened by the incident. "I know he was drunk but the way he was behaving was just going to make someone be racist."

 Before it eventually closed I had a long association with a school for children with cerebral palsy. All the children there were considered able to learn, some less and some more than others. They were all considered able to learn something of great importance - good manners. It was something the school was very, very particular about. When manners were being talked about there would often be a reminder that these students might need more physical help than other people. It was absolutely vital that they accepted help graciously, that they said "please" and "thank you", and that they made the effort to do as much as they could for themselves. 

It was an approach which worked. The students of that school have turned out to be fine citizens. All those with the physical an intellectual capacity found employment. In some cases it was "niche" employment in roles designed to suit them but many of them went into open employment. Those able to do it went on to further education, several went to university. Until the school closed they had an annual reunion. I was always invited even though I had not attended school there. The same level of good manners was on display at the reunions. 

I have heard horror stories of other reunions but these were always a way of getting together, of checking on each other for well being before social media took over our lives. They had grown to be the sort of people who would, given the capacity, have reached out to help the man on the railway station platform. 

Racism is abhorrent. I have been with friends when they have had racist insults and slurs directed at them and I know it hurts. It should not happen but there is the other side to the story too. There is a need to accept help graciously when it is needed and know how to decline it when you can do something on your own. There is absolutely no reason to hit out at help and call the would-be helper "f.... white bastard". That just makes it more difficult for people in the same position as yourself.  


Saturday 9 March 2024

Where do you get your news?

I was asked that question yesterday, asked by someone who "does not bother with any sort of news".

According to him "it's all lies". Where,  I wanted to know, does he get the information that allows him to vote in an informed manner? Oh, he gets that from the "stuff" he gets in the letter box..."but I always vote Labor" he told me.

This same man has an opinion about a great many things. I have often heard him telling others about his views. Most people take very little notice. He is actually a bit of joke - except that he isn't. I consider him potentially dangerous. 

The current issue of whether Meta should pay for the news it disseminates is a serious one.  Governments and the mainstream media services want them to pay, of course they do.  They equally object to paying Meta to use a service they believe should be "free".  Somewhere along the line there is going to have to be a "balance" of some sort.  

It won't be balanced news as such but it will perhaps provide news from more than one source. We need at least that much. The current government in this country is trying to introduce measures to prevent what they call "false" news from being disseminated. There will be strong penalties to try and prevent people from spreading such "information".  

That may seem like a good thing if it stops people from telling the rest of us that every single virus infection can be cured by learning to stand on your head and eat garlic licorice while doing so. It is not so good if it also prevents people from being told to wash their hands in order to help prevent the spread of germs.

Trying to stop the spread of "false" information is not going to work. It will just send such information underground and cause it to spread unhindered.  It may even have a reverse effect to the one intended - unless our access to social media is severely curtailed.  As we do not live in North Korea it is unlikely people will tolerate the sort of restrictions placed on those who live there. 

I am fortunate in that I get my information from a wide variety of sources. I also know the information I get is coloured by the knowledge and opinions of those who have gathered it. It is possible for me to read two stories about the same issue and get very different "information". It will depend on who is telling the story - and for what purpose. The only thing to do is try and look at the "facts" presented and see where they agree. There might be a nugget of reality in those "facts". That is surely better than news filtered by Meta or the government?  

Friday 8 March 2024

Why do "elite" sportspeople

go out and get drunk?

I will have no sympathy for this Sam Kerr person if she is found guilty of the alleged offence of calling someone else a "stupid white bastard". I will have no sympathy because it is not acceptable to call anyone that - whatever you might actually think. 

I certainly do not have any sympathy with someone who does something like that while drunk and, allegedly, having left a seat in a taxi covered in vomit. If that is true too then the offence is even greater than simply calling someone names in the heat of the moment.

Middle Cat and I were talking about this yesterday. We are both at a loss to understand why these so called "elite" sportspeople would go out and get drunk in such a public manner, indeed why they would get drunk at all. Yes, they are under pressure to "succeed" by "winning" but surely that is all the more reason to remain sober? 

I have perhaps more knowledge than many people about the damage alcohol can do. I have never been drunk. I have never come close to being drunk. In all my life I have never had more than a few sips of alcohol. Each time it has left me with a sensation that is akin to touching stinging nettles - inside rather than out. It has been acutely uncomfortable. The solution is simple. I don't knowingly drink alcohol.

Obviously these sportspeople do not react like that. They apparently enjoy drinking the stuff but do they actually appreciate it? I know some people who tell me that a "glass of good wine" is a very enjoyable way of relaxing.  If that is all they have and they take it slowly and really do enjoy it then that is fine with me. Who am I to argue? That does not bother me but if they drink the entire bottle simply because it is there then I am bothered. It surely rates with eating a family size bar of chocolate on your own at one sitting? Does it actually increase the pleasure of either thing? I would have thought it is more likely to diminish it.

But there is also the damage that alcohol (or that much chocolate) can do to the body and the potential damage alcohol can do to the individual or to others. How often has excess alcohol left some innocent person dead or injured for life? How often has it ruined a reputation?

Sports people at the level of Sam Kerr depend on their bodies to perform. I would have thought that alone would make them wary of consuming alcohol, especially alcohol in any quantity. All too often there are stories of sportspeople who are inebriated and who end up in a fight or an "accident". Oh they will apologise profusely and promise not to do it again. All too often they get away with a minimal fine or even just a slap on the wrist. The "public humiliation" is seen as punishment enough for some. 

The problem however is that they should never have drunk so much in the first place. They know they are the darlings of so many sports mad people. They know they are "representing" their teams, their states, their nations. On top of all that they are often paid obscene amounts for doing just that. Perhaps we need to stop paying them so much?



Thursday 7 March 2024

Our biggest trading partner?

 I wonder when and how much more it is going to take for those currently in charge of our trade relations to realise that we have made a major error in allowing China to be our "biggest trading partner". Yes, it is a huge "market". Yes, there might be "opportunities" there. 

This does not mean that these things are what is best for us. I have said elsewhere that our relationship with China has been built on laziness, on what is easiest for us. We have also allowed China to bully us into doing things their way.

There has been a recent spat between our current Foreign Minister and a former Prime Minister (of the same political persuasion). I have met both of them...and like neither of them. The FM and I clashed over an issue when I wrote to one of her colleagues suggesting that another approach might be more "diplomatic". She disagreed. The two of them ended up doing something else altogether and I had some feedback suggesting that this was because I, and a number of other people, had "interfered". Too bad. Had they gone ahead wiser heads than mine would still have been sorting out the subsequent earthquake.

The former PM is the man who flatly refused to employ me in the role everyone who knew me at the time expected me to get. Nothing could be done about it. He once strode ahead of me and slammed a door in my face - deliberately. I neither like nor trust him.

But both of them seem to think that we should be Asia-centric above all else. We also get told that by almost every other politician - even when they privately believe something else. Our current FM might well be "mending" the relationship she and her party like to claim was harmed by the previous government questioning the origins of Covid19. 

It is certainly a politically tempting move to suggest that the problems all lie with a previous PM of a different persuasion but it is actually much more complex than that. The real problems were caused by the more favourable deals that government had managed to negotiate with individual businesses in China. They made the mistake of thinking Chinese officialdom was going to allow that.  They forgot that Chinese business is done according to Chinese rules. They do not negotiate. They tell us how business will be done. If we do not like that then they have power to go elsewhere and make sure we do not get business elsewhere as well. 

We need to work on that. It is going to take very, very hard work to restore our trading ties with the rest of the world. It is going to take a great deal of diplomatic skill to do it. The problem is right now nobody seems to even recognise and acknowledge that  let alone do anything about it. 

The former PM needs to stay silent. The current FM needs to stop pretending the problem can be solved under her watch without a major change in the way we do business with the rest of the world. If that does not happen then the generation after next are going to be doing as China says. It won't be pleasant. 

Wednesday 6 March 2024

A direct flight from

this part of Downunder to almost anywhere else should be possible. We may not be able to go from here to London without refuelling yet but we should be able to hop across "the pond" to the Kiwis or up to Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Perhaps we could go to Los Angeles or Vancouver too.

Apparently they are now "talking about it". I won't hold my breath. There is one direct flight to Singapore at present. It is also the most expensive option. This seems ridiculous but it is actually the case. It is actually cheaper to fly to another state and then fly from there - even though the distance is greater.

I was in my teens before I flew on an aircraft. That first flight was on an old "Fokker Friendship"...the plane that flew between the island we were living on and the mainland. 

Nobody had thought to prepare me for the experience. I don't suppose anyone had even thought about it. My sense of balance, not the best at any time, did not like the sensation of taking off, of circling. It is also a rough trip at the best of times because of the variation between land and sea. I was not a happy cat. I actually felt ill, very ill. Landing was not much better but at least I knew we would soon be on terra firma again. I have never enjoyed flying ever since. The same thing has happened every time I have flown. It is a long time since I have been on an aircraft. My siblings take it in their stride. They go places. They do things. Of course I have to admit there has been no reason for me to fly anywhere. There has been no opportunity either. I have not been on holiday in more than twenty years. Plans to go on one have been thwarted more than once...and are now being thwarted again. Grrrrrowl!

But direct flights to places would benefit many people. We might have more people come here if they could just fly straight in without the need to change planes. Bringing in goods might be cheaper.  It would certainly be cheaper to send goods out. That would be a huge benefit to our farming community and the fishing industry. 

This morning I was woken by planes flying in. This happens sometimes when they need to change the flight path coming in from the east and north-east. It happens when the times need to change. The airport, once situated "out in the country", is now in a very urban area. The first house Middle Cat and her husband lived in was directly under the flight path and very close to the airport. My BIL could hear the plane he was going to catch arrive at the airport and then leave for the airport. This was before all the security measures they now have in place and he was catching the "red eye express" to the next capital city. 

We still do not use planes in quite the same "commuting" way that North Americans or Europeans do...and perhaps they do less now that Zoom meetings are possible. Our airports are perhaps not quite the same. I don't know. They are still interesting places. It still amazes me that those heavy objects can actually fly. If they can fly direct to somewhere I want to go then maybe I will get the chance to go...but I am not looking forward to take off.  

Tuesday 5 March 2024

So "screen time" leads to less

conversation with your one to three year old? Who would have thought that? Really? Someone has done some "research"?

The article in the paper this morning has left me - bewildered? I would have thought it was obvious that young children, the one to three year olds in this study, were not interacting as much with an adult if they are looking at a screen. If they are not interacting then they will not vocalise as much. They will also hear fewer adult words and engage in less conversation. 

"Oh, he doesn't say much yet," is something I have heard sometimes. I have sometimes wondered about that. I have actually wondered, "Is this the result of being put in front of the electronic "babysitter"?  I have also wondered if it is something to do with being delivered to "day care", "child-minding", "preschool" or some other form of out of home care. Yes, some of that can be good, even very good. It can develop language in other ways. It can provide the vocabulary a child needs in order to begin school - but is it providing the one-on-one conversation a child once got at home when talking to an adult? I doubt it. How could that be provided in the same way? Surely it is something that teaches a child far more than the uniform vocabulary being taught in his or her other place of learning?

Children do not learn language in the way they once did. That's surely obvious? When children went to work instead of school they were surrounded by adult language and interacted with adults. It would be interesting to look at the differences in vocabulary use  between groups of children who live in places where the "employment" of children is still high and their counterparts who attend school.  I might be wrong but I suspect the "employed" children would use more words used by adults...simply because those are the words they would hear.

There are all sorts of claims made for having children in out-of-home care, including claims made about language development, but I do wonder how often this current generation of young children play with words the way we did. Why were the children I know so delighted when the Senior Cat recited nonsense rhymes to them? He was always shocked to realise they were not engaging in that sort of vital conversation. Yes, it is vital. Screen time cannot teach you to play with words the way we did.  

Monday 4 March 2024

"We are here for the fibre confused"

I tell the bewildered looking person on the other side of the information "desk". 

There is a wry smile and yet another person asks another question. All this is hard work but good fun too. People have come to enjoy themselves.

Middle Cat and I spent the day at an event known as the "Fibre Feast". It is there for the purpose of buying and selling that all important commodity known as "yarn". It is vital to the life of those who knit, crochet, weave and work other miracles with long, thin, flexible strands of fibre.  

The event itself is a particularly well organised one. The people running it have been doing it for a number of years now. They put an enormous amount of work into it. Middle Cat and I went along to be an "information" stand. We were there to talk to people about the event itself, where to find things and who they should be talking to about the things they wanted.  

I had put in hours of work getting information together about patterns and where to find them because most of the stands sell yarn but they don't sell patterns. The sellers are often farm people, wool growers who sell their own yarn. Some of it comes from special breeds of sheep with their own special wool qualities. There are alpacas of various types too. This year there was someone who owns three camels and had some camelhair yarn. She had also imported some possum yarn from "across the pond" - New Zealand. There was silk and mohair and of course more and more wool mixed with all these things. 

"How much yarn do I need for....?" People kept asking this question. The answer to that often has first to be, "How long is a piece of string?" I talked people through, telling them where to find likely patterns, showing them the lists of likely sources. 

Middle Cat neither knits nor crochets - she draws and paints - but she can still encourage people to enter the RAHS Show. We both did all we could to encourage the men who expressed an interest. There was one cheerful young man in a wheelchair. He told us he had a disorder that we know is progressive but crochet is good therapy. He is also enthusiastic about it as he tells us what he has tried and wants to try. Put something in the RAHS Show? He had not thought of doing that - but if what he was wearing was any example then he should be showing things for the rest of us to see.

I caught up with some old acquaintances, people I only see at such events. My good friend W... who is almost 90 borrowed my walker to sit on for a while and showed someone how to solve their problem. Middle Cat distracted young children and dogs while their humans talked to me. Someone wandered through with two large parrots - one sitting on each shoulder. Another person came through with a guide dog in training. Later we provided "rest break" services to several stall holders who were there alone. 

By late in the afternoon the crowd started to thin out. I was almost hoarse with providing so much information. I left Middle Cat talking to someone about temper tantrums and alpacas and bought some yarn for a friend who could not get there. On the way back I stopped for a moment to talk to one of the organisers. Will we do it again next year? We looked at each other. Of course we will! 

Sunday 3 March 2024

A "scathing assessment" of

 Downunder? Apparently a Swiss tourist was asked for his thoughts about how this country is run...and what could be done to improve it. He had some interesting things to say about taxation (much higher here than in Switzerland) and resources (we have many).

There has been yet another discussion elsewhere about how many levels of government we have.

We have three main layers of government here. There is the federal government which deals with matters that are outlined in the Constitution. There are state governments (one for each state and territory). These are supposed to deal with things not in the Constitution and in cooperation with the federal government where things overlap. There is local government -supposedly there for roads, rates, rubbish and the like. All these things are supposed to work with one another, to cooperate.

Of course it does not work like this, especially when the federal government is one "flavour" and the state or territory is another "flavour" and the local government "councillors" are there because it is a stepping stone to a seat in parliament. 

We need a shake up, a big shake up. We need to be rid of at least one layer of government. It could be done. It would save millions of dollars. It would speed things up. It would bring in much more uniformity. This state has only just gone over to ending primary school at the close of year six instead of year seven. It has finally been brought into line with the other states. People fought it, said it wouldn't work and much more. From what I can see it seems to be working rather well.

We are also being told that uniform "planning laws" won't work because the needs of various communities are so different. Oddly enough we have wide ranging needs here and it seems to work. 

Perhaps it all made sense when communications were so much more difficult. Decisions needed to be made locally. There wasn't always time to get instructions from the other side of the country. Now there is no such difficulty. There are multiple means of getting in touch, with holding meetings and the like. 

But of course the state governments do not want to lose power. The immense duplication of services does not seem to worry them in the least. I do wonder though what would happen if it was put to a referendum. What would people decide it they were told a leaner system of government would ensure decisions were made much more rapidly and that it would give them thousands more in their pockets? 

Saturday 2 March 2024

So Facebook doesn't want to pay

for news content provided by other people?

The previous Downunder government tried this one with the "News Media Bargaining Code" and the result has been a $200m benefit to the news media in this country.  They no doubt will tell us that this has been a good thing. I also believe that you should pay to use something belonging to other people. 

But do people actually read the news on Facebook? I have a Facebook "account" but I don't actually read the news on it. I suppose I could look for it there but I can't be bothered. I have a paid subscription for the state newspaper and, because of my work, paid access to a number of other papers. I don't spend hours every day reading "the news" provided by them on line for free. I doubt many people do. There might be a few people who can get behind the various pay walls and other devices but that there might be so many doing this the government can demand Facebook pay for this is something I rather doubt.

I tend to be very cynical about things I read (or hear) on the media. My sources of news, real news, can sometimes be very different. There are journalists I trust to do the best they can but news gathering is a very difficult art, particularly in a war zone or a disaster situation - the sort of thing that makes the headlines all too often. Journalists will be relying on "sources" which are all too often not very reliable.  Even my sources, some of them in the very centre of a situation, are not "reliable" in that all they can give me is their point of view. 

I "pay" for my Facebook account by putting up with the advertising. I could put an "ad blocker" in place but advertisers do pay to put their content up and that is where the revenue to run the service comes from. Ignore the advertising and just read what you want to read is how I approach it.

What I do not want to pay for is government controlled "information". Our taxes are already supposed to pay for that. We have "the ABC" (the almost-equivalent of the BBC) and the various state newspapers. (Ours is actually - and very accurately - called "The Advertiser".) Our national newspaper is slightly different and the standard of journalism is perhaps a little higher. The newspapers are behind pay walls. I was not aware that Facebook was simply taking them and putting them out there for nothing. No, people here are doing that. They are putting things out there because they want us to know something or are trying to convince us of their point of view.  I am absolutely certain that Meta does not have someone sit down every morning and put these papers online. 

Are the governments opposing "free" information really more concerned about having to pay to disseminate propaganda rather than getting paid to disseminate it?

Friday 1 March 2024

So, who is the spy or the traitor?

It is a question a lot of people are asking right now. The head of ASIO, the Downunder "intelligence" service, has said that a former politician used his/her position to "spy" for another country. Apparently the politician in question passed over information to another country, information they should have kept to themselves.

Now people are demanding to know who that person is or was. I can actually think of a few who might well have been the person in question. I don't think anyone doubts which country was involved. Nor do I doubt that this sort of thing is still going on. 

It is still going on but a good deal more discreetly and subtly than before. People who are accused of such behaviour do not always realise they are giving away such information. Many of them, although not all, would be appalled to think they had actually done something which might harm their country.

Over the course of my work I have signed more than one "official secrets document" least that is how I will put it. It sounds dramatic but all it means is that I have undertaken to keep any information I might gain in the course of my involvement to myself. It has not been difficult to keep those undertakings because I have usually been very low down the line of "people who matter". I do not have a high level security clearance of any sort. If I did I most certainly would not be talking about it. I might well have been - or would be - putting someone else's life at risk. 

So why do people do it? The obvious answer is "money" of course but there are also people who do it because their allegiances lie elsewhere. There are still others who do it because they are afraid not to do it. They are afraid of harm which might be done to others they love or of the potential damage to their own reputation.

Demands to know who the person was or is are to be expected. Do we have a right to know? The answer to that is not straightforward. The ASIO boss says the person in question is no longer involved and that the present laws were not in place at the time of the behaviour. He says nothing can be done. Perhaps that really is the case. There is also something else which occurs to me and that is the involvement of a third country, a security partner. They may well know what is going on, almost certainly do, but they may not want it known either. 

Whatever occurred we are not likely to know. The real problem is that not knowing "who" leaves every former and present politician in the country under the questions, "Is or was it you?" and "What did you know about it?"