Category Archives: My soap box

How can you not like what I like?

At an intellectual level I’ve always known that being an individual entails being different to others, at least in some respects. And yet…despite age, and enough life experience to sink a ship, I keep expecting others to like what I like. In other words, I keep expecting them to be like me.

Every time I write about a book I’ve loved, or a glorious vista, or a piece of music that moved my soul, I expect that you will feel the same way. And I’m rarely wrong. The individuals who gravitate to this blog and become friends are, by and large, like me. Thanks to the power of social media, you are my kindred spirits. 🙂

By definition, a kindred spirit is someone like oneself, and on social media it happens when people are drawn to each other via shared interests. Think iron filings to a magnet. The degree to which we ‘stick’ depends upon the number of interests we share.

This filtering process happens in the real world too, but at a much slower rate because we can only physically interact with a small number of people at a time – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work etc. Plus there is no guarantee that the people we do meet will be sympatico.

And right there is one of the most wonderful and dangerous aspects of social media – the ability to consistently give us what we want.

Why? Because most of us want to belong. We want to be with people who make us feel warm and fuzzy and good about ourselves.

This is how social media bubbles form. But feeling good about ourselves involves a value judgement about what ‘good’ actually means. Even if you never consciously question your own likes and dislikes, you recognize them in others and automatically judge them to be ‘good’.

And I’m no different. I believe I’m a good person, so I can’t help believing that people who share my values are good people too.

But if we are the good people, what of the others? What of those who don’t share our values? Are they the bad people?

My head says “Of course not!” My heart says “Maybe”.

Every time I log in to Twitter and read a comment distorting some fact or praising something I consider to be ‘evil’, the anger says “Bad person, bad, bad!”

And then the shame sets in because I know that person isn’t bad. I know that if I got to know them through some other area of life, I’d probably think they were okay.

How do I know that? Because I’ve lived it. Many years ago when I lived in a shared student house, there was a girl there with a very abrasive personality. I didn’t like her one little bit. Then one day, to my shame, I discovered that the abrasiveness was just a facade to protect the sad person underneath.

More recently, I’ve discovered that many of the right wing panelists on The Drum [see footnote 1 at the end of this article] aren’t right wing about all topics. In fact, I’ve often caught myself marvelling that someone with those political affiliations could be so open to, for example, action on climate change, or same sex marriage or some other supposedly left wing issue.

I’m a left wing progressive, but I don’t intend to turn this post into some kind of pseudo political rant. Instead, I want to hammer home the fact that expectations based on social media bubbles are dangerous.

We humans are hardwired to generalise. It’s a powerful mental shortcut that allows us to make snap decisions based on just a few facts. This ability would have been a real survival mechanism back in the days of the woolly mammoth. These days? Not so much because thinking in generalities often substitutes for thinking, period.

Sadly, social media bubbles reinforce those generalities just when we should be questioning everything, starting with our own assumptions. We need facts, and we need to call out untruths, but we need to do so with courtesy because that ‘other’ person is more like us than not.

In years to come, people will look back on this era of social media and shake their heads at how bad the ‘wild wild west’ really was before it was tamed. In that yet-to-be-realised future, individual privacy will be protected by law, anonymity will not be allowed, and social media companies will face the full force of the law if they’re found to have manipulated their users.

But we’re not there yet.

cheers

Meeks

Footnote 1 : The Drum is a current affairs show on Australian TV. It’s part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation [ABC] and funded by taxpayers. As such, its charter requires that it be unbiased. That’s why the panelists on The Drum are chosen to be inclusive, and represent as many interest groups as possible, including people of both the left and right political persuasion.


Review – ATO's myTax

Is there such a thing as minus one? -grinds teeth-

In a nutshell, the ATO [Australian Taxation Office] website functioned quite well, and by that I mean the way the computer side of things worked. If you are familiar with the general workings of a complex website, you should be able to follow the logic fairly well. The problems arise from the content, in particular the terminology.

Any teacher will tell you that the single biggest hurdle to learning is new terminology. Not only does the student have to learn new terms specific to the subject matter, they often have to learn new meanings for familiar words and phrases used to describe very unfamiliar concepts.

The best software programs deal with the problem of terminology by having context sensitive lookups. For example, if a question is about ‘Sole Traders’, there will be a little [?] at the end that can be clicked. Clicking that lookup displays a short definition of the term.

Lookups are a great idea…if they’re executed properly, and that’s where assumptions come in. Experts have so much knowledge of their areas that they cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone who knows nothing. So many basic terms do not have lookups because… “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

Duh no, it isn’t obvious. Not unless you’re a tax accountant.

I’m not a tax accountant. That’s why it took me well over two hours to lodge a couple of years’ worth of returns. The first was relatively easy because I was doing it as a normal person. The second was much harder because I was doing it as a ‘Sole Trader’. Basically, Sole Traders are people who work for themselves with a company name and an ABN [Australian Business Number]. Casual tutors like me often work as Sole Traders.

But all Sole Traders are not equal. Working out what variety of Sole Trader I was involved yet more terms I didn’t understand. I used every lookup, accessed Help, tried the so-called online chat help [basically just an algorithm] and even tried DuckduckGo. Despite all that, however, some of my answers were the better of two bad choices. In other words, pretty much guess work.

Surely there’s a better way?

Yes, there is. It’s called paying for a professional tax accountant.

Decades ago when I could afford the money, I actually had a tax accountant. These days I have to DIY and hope for the best.

I can’t be the only person having issues with the ATO’s myTax software because there is a real live group of volunteers who have been trained to ‘help’ with myTax! Whether they just help with the website side of things or the actual tax side I don’t know. What I do know is that myTax is a major disincentive to retirees thinking of working for themselves.

One exhausted retiree signing off.

Meeks

p.s. While I’m in a venting mood, here’s one for the Guttenberg developers – it’s really annoying when you go back to edit a paragraph and the floating toolbar covers up part of what you’ve written. This seems to happen when the paragraph is at the top of the screen area:


Ad Hominen…add who??

Ad Hominen is a form of argument that occurs a lot on Twitter. This is the long winded definition:

Ad hominem (Latin for “to the person”),[1] … typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, …, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.[

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

I prefer the much shorter one: intimidation.

Too strong? Think about it. Why do people argue in the first place? To win. So if you can make your opponent back down, or back off, you will have won the argument…right?

Wrong. The argument has not been won. The argument has not been addressed at all. It’s still there. All you have achieved is to scare your opponent off by attacking them personally.

Isn’t this precisely what happens when a woman is sexually harassed but remains silent because she fears for her job if she speaks up?

Isn’t this precisely what happens when people in an organisation witness wrong doing but don’t speak up for fear of ruining their careers, or even ending up in jail as ‘whistleblowers’?

Intimidation can take many forms, but at its heart it is the need to win at any cost. Correction, the need to appear to win at any cost because intimidation doesn’t actually change things. It doesn’t solve any problems. It doesn’t persuade. It doesn’t change hearts and minds. It simply sends them underground where they fester.

In my head I see a weedy little guy shouted down by a big, burly guy. Mr Weed slinks away in humiliation, but in the privacy of his own mind he knows he’s right. And so the anger builds. The next time he sees the big, burly guy, he’s got a gun in his pocket. Bang. Take that. And so it goes.

I grew up respecting facts and logic, courtesy and genuine debate. To me, name calling was the last resort of a loser. I guess I really have become an old dinosaur because these days, name calling has become the first resort of many people on Twitter.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Western democracy is in trouble, people are becoming more and more polarised, and we all feel as if we’re not being listened to, or even heard. But intimidation only escalates the problem.

Intimidation also has the capacity to turn potential allies into foes. I discovered that yesterday on Twitter. I thought I was having a polite discussion with someone I follow when The Pack descended and launched a personal attack against me for daring to disagree with something. I became angry at the form of the attack and any sympathy I may have had for their cause went flying out the window.

The people carrying out this attack belong to one of Australia’s smaller political parties. I’ll simply call it party X because the followers of the bigger ones are no better.

I’ve never voted for party X, but I actually agree with some of their principles. But not all, and that was the problem.

“O con noi o contro di noi”—You’re either with us or against us. [Benito Mussolini]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You%27re_either_with_us,_or_against_us

Group think demands that there be no dissent, or else. As a result of yesterday’s ‘or else’, any chance party X had of winning my vote in the future is gone. That is the flip side of intimidation.

As an individual, my vote counts for very little. But there are a lot of people like me. We may not subscribe to the ‘group think’ of a particular party, but we do care about significant issues. We are potential allies in the fight for those issues, so using intimidation tactics against us is the equivalent of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

If we are to have any chance of saving the world, and ourselves, we have to start treating everyone with respect.

cheers

Meeks

p.s. this post was written using Guttenberg for the first time.


Ageism

I met a man today. I was strolling around my garden with Mogi, and my first coffee of the day, when he came to read my gas meter.

On the way out, the Gas Man made a smiling comment about Mogi, my pint-sized chihuahua cross, and we got to talking about dogs:

Be sure to get my good side

A lot of conversations start with dogs in Warrandyte. The Gas Man has two Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

One thing led to another, and I soon discovered that the Gas Man spends most of his working life walking the hills of Warrandyte, checking meters. I’ve walked some of those hills, and they are bloody steep.

I must have looked utterly horrified, because the Gas Man quickly explained that there were very few places where he could [safely] park his car, so in between parking spots he had to walk. On really hot days he’s ‘allowed’ to start at six am so he can finish by about 1pm.

I looked at the Gas Man and saw someone in his mid fifties, with a weathered face and a bit of a paunch. He was cheerful and well-spoken, but he looked older than me, and I’m 66.

“You haven’t considered a career change?” I asked.

The answer shocked me. No, he hadn’t considered getting another job because he knew that if he left this one, he’d never work again. Ageism.

The Gas Man is doing the kind of job men twenty years younger would hate. What’s worse, he’s going to have to keep walking the hills of Warrandyte until his body fails, or the company decides he’s not efficient enough any more. I can guess what happens after that because it happened to me too. You apply for NewStart to ‘tide you over’, but no one wants to employ you, so you scrape along until you finally qualify for the pension.

Why does no one want to employ you?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I imagine that in physical type jobs, older workers are seen as less ‘strong’, or perhaps even as a liability – e.g. what happens if they have a heart attack on the job? Given how many physical type jobs are already automated, why employ an older person when there are hundreds of younger ones available?

White collar workers are in a slightly different boat. We may have experience and skills, but will we be able to learn the new technology? More importantly, will we expect to be paid commensurate with our skills and experience? And what happens if we get sick? The statistics show that older people fall prey to all sorts of debilitating illnesses. Better to hire someone with lower dollar expectations and a longer [working] life expectancy.

And then there’s the perception that older workers will retire soon so why bother training them up?

I’m not saying that I have had personal experience of these scenarios. I haven’t. Most of my experience is of silence. You send off your CV and nothing comes back. You ring up a few places to inquire if they received your CV, and there’s a kind of embarrassed ‘oh, we’ve got you on file’. That translates to, ‘yes, we probably got it and binned it straight away’. I have very good qualifications, but the earliest ones date back to the 1970’s. You can’t hide that.

No one admits to ageism because it’s ‘illegal’ to discriminate against someone based on age, but it does happen. More importantly, the bar to employment is getting lower all the time. I shudder to think what will happen when the workers of the ‘gig’ economy become too old to maintain that frenetic pace. Age may be ‘just a number’, but it’s a very important number.

When the Gas Man went on his way, I finished my coffee and dragged out the lawn mower. If he can walk up and down our hills, rain or shine, five days a week, I can do a bit more mowing, even if I my bones do creak a bit. Motivation can come from unexpected sources.

Have a great day, my friends,

-hugs-

Meeks

 


7 things I learned about the ATO

I’m going to start this post by sending my heartfelt thanks to the wonderful woman from the Bendigo Bank who went above-and-beyond to help me find deposit information – from an account that was closed a year ago! At the end of this post you’ll find a quick how-to about finding specific names on the statements available via online banking with the Bendigo. But first, I need to explain why my deposit information is so important. It starts with Newstart.

I went on Newstart back in 2013 and found a couple of casual tutoring positions in 2014. Like a good girl, I reported every cent I earned to Centrelink and did all the right things, except for one – apparently I should have lodged a tax return.

I should have lodged a tax return in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well.

Why didn’t I lodge tax returns for any of those years?

Because no one told me I had to, and I assumed that my earnings were well below the tax free threshold. As it turned out, they were [and are], but apparently I should have lodged a return anyway…

I rang the ATO, and after a two hour conversation, I learned 7 things:

  1. People who are on some kind of pension and don’t earn an outside income must lodge a ‘non-lodgement’ form for the relevant years.
  2. People who are on some kind of pension and do earn an outside income must lodge an actual tax return, no matter how little they earn.
  3. Individuals and Sole Traders [such as Indie authors and tradies] can lodge a tax return through a tax agent [$$$] or online at the ATO. Those are the only two options. I’ve already complained to the ATO in writing. Nothing will change and pensioners like me will continue to struggle because of the following:
  4. To lodge a tax return online, you must have the ATO linked to your MyGov account.
  5. You can link the ATO to your MyGov account via a Bank Account or a Centrelink payment summary but…the Bank Account has to be the same bank account you used the last time you lodged a tax return. For some of us that could be decades ago. As for the Centrelink payment summary, it only seems to work if you haven’t received any outside income – e.g. from casual work.
  6. The only option that worked for me was to ring up and ask for a linking code. Frankly, that was the only easy part of the entire two hour conversation.
  7. If your tax return is at all out of the ordinary – e.g. if you’re on an age pension and run a small business as a Sole Trader – and you can’t afford a tax agent – you’ll be told to go to Tax Help. Tax Help is basically a group of volunteers who can help you fill out the online forms. Maybe. Given that a paid employee of the ATO couldn’t help me, I can’t help feeling just a tiny bit sceptical.

Before I do anything else, however, I need to go back and find out how much I earned above and beyond the Newstart allowance for the years 2014 – 2019. This year is fine, but the information from the previous years must have been thrown out when I did one of my rare ‘clean ups’. That left me with 3 casual employers to worry about.

This is where the Bendigo Bank rode into my life on a white charger. As I was pulling my hair and wondering what to do, I remembered that all of my casual pay would have been paid into a bank account. Eureka! All I needed to do was go back through all that old information and I’d find how much I’d earned.

I was right, except for one thing. I’d nominated an unused ‘cheque account’ for my pay. When I reached retirement age last year, I decided to get rid of the cheque account as I never used it. Another disastrous clean out.

This led to my final phone call of the day – to the Bendigo Bank. The lady I spoke to was so nice, so understanding, so bloody patient she deserves a medal. She found the cancelled account and went through it, transaction by transaction, looking for the three employers I’d named. And she found them.

There are literally no words to describe my relief. Now I can give the ATO the exact information they need so I can avoid any possibility of becoming a ‘Robodebt’ victim. Anyone living in Australia knows the horror stories circulating about Robodebt victims. I was honestly terrified that I’d end up as one of them. And I owe it all to one, nice lady at the Bendigo Bank. So here’s that quick how-to I mentioned:

How to search online statements via the Bendigo Bank.

For starters, login to your Bendigo Bank account and click on the account you want to check.

Next, at the top of the account transactions you’ll see four options. The one on the far right is ‘Statements’.

Click Statements and specify the year or time period you’re interested in [card accounts allow you to go back for many years, easy saver accounts only go back 2 years].

Open the statement of your choice. It’ll open as a PDF document. To save yourself a lot of time and eye-strain, hover the mouse over www.bendigobank.com.au as shown below:

Now, press Ctrl f on your keyboard.

This will cause a ‘Find on page’ box to display at the top of the screen. Start typing the name of the company or person you’re looking for.

If it’s found, the statement will automatically move to the appropriate page and the item will be shown with a small highlight. If it’s not found, you’ll see a message to that effect next to the search box.

I hope you never have to go back over years of transactions, but if you do, this neat trick will make it a lot less painful.

Okay, my brain hurts. I’m going to go do something mindless now.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


How to save $$ in Victoria [Australia]

This post is for Victorians on a tight budget – i.e. people on Newstart, the Age Pension, Disability Pension or young people working in the GIG economy – and concerns energy bills such as gas and electricity.

The first, critical step to saving on your energy bills is to understand that utility companies bank on us being too busy to go out and actively look for better deals. The new initiative by the Victorian government only means that energy retailers have to inform you of their best deals. But those best deals could still be very expensive when compared to the rest of the marketplace.

To give you an example, I changed my gas supplier about a year and a half ago. At the time, my new gas supplier offered the best deal according to the Victorian government’s own comparison website:

https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au

This morning, when I did a fresh comparison, my existing gas supplier was close to the bottom of the list, and their best deal was over $400 more expensive [per year] than the new ‘best deal’. As a result, I got on the phone [contact details supplied by the government website], made sure the quote was still accurate and…signed up:

When AGL’s best is no longer the best, I’ll move my gas account again.

Gamers would recognize this as ‘churn’. The term refers to how gamers move from one ISP to another to get the best deal. I don’t ‘churn’ often, but since I became an age pensioner, I’ve learned that loyalty simply doesn’t pay. These days I ‘churn’ my gas, electricity and comms suppliers on a regular basis.

So what’s involved in comparing prices?

Once you land on the government’s comparison website, you’ll be asked a series of questions about how you use your gas [or electricity]. It pays to make your answers as accurate as possible so dig out your most recent bill and keep it handy. After you’ve completed all the relevant questions, the website will do some kind of general comparison and present you with a list of the best matches for your circumstances.

Gas pricing is a mess with about five different rates in both the ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ categories, but don’t let it scare you. One easy thing to compare is the daily supply charge. Essentially this is the amount you pay for the privilege of having a gas connection. In other words, even if you don’t turn the gas on at all, you’ll still be charged that daily supply charge.

All retailers charge you for supply, but the amount varies. AGL’s daily supply charge is 62 cents. Another retailer I looked at [not one of the most expensive ones] was charging 83 cents. Assuming the rates don’t change for 365 days, that’s $226 vs $303 per year [or a saving of $77 per year].

When the cost of living means you have to think twice about buying that latte, a saving of $77 is nothing to be sneezed at. And when you add that small saving to the actual cost of using the energy, the savings really do add up.

So please, bookmark that government comparison website and check it out, at least once a year. Doing your homework and making a change will probably take an hour, all up, but the way I see it, I’ve just earned over $400 for that hour. Not a bad hourly rate, don’t you think?

And finally a word about keeping all your eggs in one basket. Energy retailers that supply both gas and electricity will try to convince you to move both utilities to them. Doing so may be more convenient. It may also be cheaper, sometimes. But…a cheap gas price does not automatically mean the electricity price will be the best available price as well.

Remember, the best price a retailer offers is not necessarily the best price from all retailers. Compare…and save.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 


Climate change & Australia’s National Security

Australia’s current Federal government has been flogging the dead horse of ‘national security’ for a long time now, yet when it comes to Climate Change, they’re incapable of seeing the potential for true national security impacts.

What impacts?

Answer: the refugee crisis looming amongst low-lying pacific nations.

As sea levels rise, many of these small, island nations will either cease to exist altogether, or they will lose so much land mass that their populations will be squeezed past tolerable levels. One of the first to go will be Tuvalu:

Click the photo to be taken to Alltop10.org

As the largest, and emptiest land mass in the region, Australia will have to take responsibility for its share of displaced people. These Refugees won’t be from the other side of the world, they’ll be on our doorstep, and we will have a moral obligation to help.

In the Innerscape trilogy, I forecast that Australia would accept its responsibilities in the region, albeit grudgingly. The way things are going, however, I’m no longer sure we will. But what if we don’t?

If Australia’s government continues denying the impacts of Climate Change, we’re going to be caught without a paddle when reality proves the deniers wrong. There will be refugees, and if we refuse to accept them, our poorer neighbours will not be able to cope. That’s when they will look at our large landmass and tiny population and say “this isn’t right”, “they shouldn’t be allowed to shirk their duty”, “they’re letting us suffer while they live selfish, greedy lives”.

Guess what happens then?

Haven’t we, and our Western allies invaded other countries for similar, ‘humanitarian’ reasons?

For a more detailed analysis of the impacts, please read the article by Chris Barrie on the Conversation Room[Chris Barrie is Honorary Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University]

We have to stop thinking of Climate Change as a ‘choice’. It isn’t. We’re going to be hit from all sides in the not-so-distant future, and only a concerted, united effort with our neighbours will save us.

If the military can see that Climate Change is a problem for national security, why can’t the Liberal National Party?

Meeks

 

 


Drought proofing Australia

Drought is nothing new in Australia. Dorothea McKellar wrote about it in My Country, a poem that I, and all Australians of my generation, learned off by heart in school:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

But last night I saw something that truly shocked me. It was an aerial view of the reservoir of a small town in NSW. The reservoir was half empty, and the water was an unpleasant green.

But that was not what shocked me.

Snuggled up next to the reservoir was a huge tanker. It was pumping water into the reservoir because the town had run dry:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/7-30/series/0/video/NC1901H153S00

But that was not what shocked me.

What shocked me was the realisation that much of the precious water going into the reservoir would soon begin to evaporate. Even as it was being pumped in, it was starting to evaporate out. And all of Australia’s dams and reservoirs are like that – open to the air, the wind, the sun and the heat. Water wasted by the gigalitre.

Open reservoirs were the only way water could be stored in the past. But it doesn’t have to be like that. It would take money, a terrifying amount of money, and a political will that has not been seen since World War II, but those outdated, primitive reservoirs could be updated into underground water storage units.

It is possible. If we can build concrete swimming pools, and massive damns like the Snowy Hydro scheme, we can build concrete reservoirs for the most threatened, inland towns of Australia. Or perhaps we wouldn’t use concrete at all. Maybe we could repurpose all that plastic waste and use it to line those underground water storage reservoirs.

We could also stop giving away the life blood of our rivers to mates with deep pockets. Our food security relies on irrigation. The water for that irrigation comes from our river systems. But instead of protecting those river systems, we’ve allowed them to be plundered for cash crops like cotton:

Part of why cotton takes up so many nutrients from the soil is its extensive root system. In order for the roots to develop enough to obtain those nutrients, lots of moisture is needed, especially early on.

Could someone explain to me why cotton is being grown [by huge agribusinesses] in an arid country like Australia? Without massive irrigation, taken largely from our rivers and flood plain harvesting, cotton could not possibly survive in inland Australia. Yet it’s happening, and it’s generating huge profits for multinational businesses such as CS Agriculture Pty Ltd:

“….(which owns Cubbie Station) in Australia. Shandong Ruyi is the ultimate shareholder of this new Australian group…”

“Since CS Agriculture took control of Cubbie Station, the struggling cotton property has been transformed by a major reinvestment into the business, including upgrades of water-saving infrastructure…”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/rural-news/2016-06-21/cubbie-ownership-changes/7517058

The ‘water-saving infrastructure’ includes massive damns that harvest flood plain water. I should also point out that Shandong Ruyi is a huge Chinese textile company:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shandong_Ruyi

Australia needs foreign investment, but as one of the most arid countries on Earth, exporting cotton via Shandong Ruyi is akin to exporting our water. In my not-so-humble opinion, that is insane. Allowing this to continue when said export is destroying land and communities in the rest of Australia is…criminal.

Every Australian needs to understand that the flood plains of a river are vitally important to the river and the land, both above and below:

‘The layered sediments of many flood plains can create important aquifers. Clay, sand, and gravel filter water as it seeps downward.’

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/flood-plain/

When you harvest the water of a flood plain, you starve the river and the land. You also starve the towns that historically relied on that river for their water. One such town is Broken Hill.

Broken Hill is not some small country town with a pub and not much else. Broken Hill is a major inland centre, and it too is running out of water. It used to supplement its water from the Darling river, but the Darling is almost dead so a ‘hurry-hurry’ pipeline is being built to the Murray river:

“The Wentworth-Broken Hill pipeline will fix things for Broken Hill, which can no longer rely on the Darling for its water supply. It will also ensure secure water supply for two new mines, Perilya Mines and Hawsons Iron Project.”

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/cry-me-a-river-mismanagement-and-corruption-have-left-the-darling-dry-20180226-p4z1uc.html

Makes you wonder whether the pipeline is actually for the town or the mines…

The biggest problem with the Broken Hill pipeline, however, is that the water it takes from the Murray will impact all the communities south from there, in Victoria. Victorian communities rely on the Murray too, as does South Australia. Allowing the Darling to be destroyed up north in Queensland and northern NSW will have a knock-on effect all the way down the line, with each ‘fix’ creating problems further south.

There is one ‘fix’ I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s desalination. We built a desalination plant here in Victoria, after the Millennium Drought. That desal plant may stop Melbourne from running dry, but what of the inland?

Australia currently has six desalination plants – one for South-East Queensland, two in Western Australia near Perth, one near Sydney [NSW], one for Melbourne [Victoria] and one for Adelaide [South Australia]. All of these desalination plants are on the coast…dah…because they make fresh water out of seawater. All of the communities supplied by those desalination plants are on the coast as well.

Now imagine how much it would cost to pump water inland from those desalination plants…

All of Australia’s water problems are of our own making, and could be fixed properly, but it would take serious nation building by a succession of Federal governments. It hasn’t happened.

Now ask yourself this: if we can’t fix the problems we created, what are we going to do when climate change truly starts to bite?

Sadly, the answer to that question appears to be ‘nothing’. Successive governments have sat on their hands, denying that we’re destroying the rivers, denying that climate is changing, denying that anything needs to be done. And we, the voting public have allowed them to get away with it because we’re scared our cushy lifestyles will become a little less cushy.

I truly hope I’m no longer around when life stops being ‘cushy’ and becomes a fight for survival.

Meeks


American politics, Australian echo

The structure of US politics is very different to what we know in Australia, but I read something today that really struck a chord:

If a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing.

That quote comes from a joint editorial published in The Washington Post. It was written by three Republican contenders for the Presidential nomination. They put aside their own personal ambitions and political differences, to protest what they see as the sabotaging of democracy in America.

For Australians who are not familiar with the American system, candidates within each political party compete publicly with each other to determine who will be the best candidate to fight the actual presidential election. Usually this is done via state primaries.

But not this time. Four US states have cancelled their primaries on the basis that Donald Trump ‘will’ win in a landslide so why waste the money? But it’s not about the money. Each of those states will vote for Trump to be the presidential candidate without consulting any of the voters in that state. As primaries are a core step in the US electoral process, this is a massive departure from normal democracy.

You can, and should, read the entire post by Jill Dennison to understand how truly disruptive this development is:

https://jilldennison.com/2019/09/14/three-republicans-speak-up/

Sadly, the Australian experience of politics has been echoing that of the US since the sacking of Kevin Rudd in 2010. Our political system is very different, but almost everything that’s happened in the last decade has been about one party or the other giving democracy the finger in order to be re-elected.

  • Rudd sacked in favour of Gillard
  • Gillard sacked in favour of Rudd
  • Tony Abbot sacked in favour of Malcolm Turnbull
  • Turnbull sacked in favour of Scott Morrison

To be fair, in the Australia system, parties choose who will lead them into an election. Parties also have the right to choose someone else to lead them, even in the middle of an election cycle, so the revolving door of Prime Ministers is ‘legal’:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Minister_of_Australia

But is the letter of the law abusing the spirit of the law?

Much of the nitty gritty of Australian politics is ruled by convention rather than laws laid down by the Constitution. As such, our Prime Minister is important to the voting public, but isn’t actually granted special status in the Constitution. That said, convention or perhaps the rule of common courtesy has meant that once elected, a sitting Prime Minister is not ousted by his own party [note: I’m no historian so I’d welcome clarification of this].

When Kevin Rudd was replaced by Julia Gillard – to win the looming election – many voters who liked Rudd and voted him in, felt they had been robbed. In the interests of honesty, I have to say that I’m one of them. Whatever the constitution may say, the Prime Minister who leads his [or her] party into an election is seen by the electorate as having their vote. Ousting that leader may be legal, but it takes something fundamental away from voters. And it undermines the concept of 1 person, 1 vote. Of course that concept has been undermined in a great many other ways, but this post is about the machinations within parties.

Personality politics is not a good thing, in my humble opinion, but once a political party is voted in because of the popularity of its chosen ‘face’, that face should remain until voted out in the next election. The only exception to that is if the ‘face’ commits an actual crime. In the wake of all this political turmoil, both major parties have created rules of their own that prohibit the sacking of a sitting Prime Minister. It should be noted, however, that these new rules apply only to the party concerned. The constitution has not been amended.

Constitution aside, I believe that having a revolving door of Prime Minsters for the sake of political expediency – i.e. just to get re-elected – is cynical and undermines democracy. More importantly, it raises the perception of popularity above the facts of policy.

Sadly, this seems to be the way Western democracy is headed. I hope I don’t live to see democracy wither and die completely.

Meeks


Sometimes you just can’t get a break…

I’m writing this post because I simply can’t believe the perfect storm of bad luck that’s hit me recently. It’s type or scream…

So, less than a week ago I received a traffic infringement notice. I’d been fined $207 for doing 65 km in a 60 km zone. Then today, I received a letter from VicRoads saying my car registration had expired on July the 16th, and I had until October to pay or my registration would be cancelled. Please note, my registration is not currently cancelled.

I was still going what the…? when I opened the second letter and almost had heart failure. It was a second infringement notice for being caught speeding while my registration was expired. This time the fine is for $826. WTF????

I immediately rang Vic Roads and was told that with short term renewals, they send me a letter 6 weeks before my registration expires, and a reminder 10 days after it’s expired. Had I chosen to be notified by email, they apparently send three reminders prior to registration expiring…

For those who have no idea what a short term renewal is, it’s simply a way of spreading car registration payments over four quarters instead of paying a huge lump sum once a year. As someone on a full age pension – roughly $900 every two weeks – being able to spread the payments evenly seemed like a wonderful idea. Except that four quarterly payments means four renewal notices per year. Four chances for that renewal notice to go astray.

The last renewal notice I received was in April. I paid it. I did not receive one for July. I did, however, receive the reminder sent 10 days after my registration expired. Guess what though? The speeding infringement was dated July 19. 3 days after the expiry I knew nothing about and 7 days before the warning letter arrived.

I was angry over the speeding fine because I know the spot where it must have happened. It’s either going up a very steep hill or doing down a very steep hill. If I was caught going up that hill I had probably taken a run at it; 30 year old Corolla’s need a bit of help. If it was going down the hill, you’re going to pick up speed even if you ride the brake. I imagine the company that has the contract to run the speed camera knows full well that that particular spot is as close to entrapment as you can legally get. And no, apparently the police don’t man the speed cameras any more.

So, a system that’s meant to make life easier for people on the lowest incomes has become a loaded gun just waiting to go off.

I honestly don’t know what to do. The Offspring wants me to fight it in court but…it’s my word against that of a whole system. I say I didn’t get the renewal notice; the system says I did. Or maybe it’s the hit or miss nature of it? I want to fight it, but what if I end up having to pay even more?

Apologies everyone. I just needed to vent. 😦

Meeks


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