Tag Archives: Australia

Australia voted…

On May 18, 2019, Australia voted in an election that we all thought was in the bag. We all thought Labor would win because their policies would be good for the whole country…and because the hard right conservative government was so on the nose. We were wrong. The hard right conservative government was returned for another three years.

The talking heads on the tv were stunned as the unfolding result went against the last 50 polls. I was stunned because this expletive-deleted government was not only being voted back in, it was being voted back in with an increased margin.

Peter Dutton, the most hated man on #auspol, retained his seat of Dickson…with an increased margin.

George Christensen, a politician who posted a photo of himself shooting a handgun and spent more time in the Philippines than in his own electorate, was returned…with an increased margin.

Why? I still don’t know. The voters of Queensland were certainly sending a message, but they were not alone. Even in Victoria, the state considered the most progressive in Australia, Labor did not make enough gains to make a difference.

For a while, I hoped that the results were skewed out of shape by the huge number of pre-polls, but by the end of the night it became clear that even if the pre-polls all favoured Labor, it still wouldn’t be enough. To put it quite brutally, Australia has done a trump, and we have no excuse. All of us voted. Half of us ignored the scandals, the corruption and the actual economic record of the LNP and voted in favour of fear and self-interest.

I am more shocked than I can say. But. The people have spoken, and that’s what democracy is about. The fact that I don’t like it is neither here nor there.

The only bright spots to come out of this election all centre around Independent women:

  • Zali Steggall beat Tony Abbott in Waringah
  • Helen Haines won the seat of Indi after the former Independent [also a woman] retired from the seat. That’s a first.
  • Dr Kerryn Phelps may, possibly, retain the seat of Wentworth.

Whether these Independents will be able to change things for the better is doubtful. There are just not enough of them, and it doesn’t look as if the conservatives will have a minority government. Ergo, they won’t have to compromise to get the votes of the Independents.

To be honest, at this point I’m pinning all my hopes on people who don’t even have the vote yet. In three years time, the 15, 16 and 17 years olds of today will be eligible to vote. Many of them care about the future. I hope they vote in a government that’s prepared to do something about it.

Meeks

 


The psychology of inequality

I read an amazing thread on Twitter today. It was written by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  [@AOC on Twitter], the young woman who is making huge waves in US politics. As an Australian, I knew very little about her and just assumed that she was someone from the usual privileged classes. Wrong. Apparently, AOC used to be a waitress, living on a tiny wage and making ends meet via unpredictable ‘tips’.

That was surprise enough, but then she went on to say:

…1 of the greatest scams in US is the idea that financial struggle is due to “poor character.”

AOC was talking about the poor in America, but I suddenly understood why the Liberal National Party coalition here in Australia has no problem with the growing inequality in our country. It’s because they see the poor as ‘dolebludgers’, ‘leaners’, parasites on the body economic. Furthermore, they believe the undeserving poor are poor because they are too stupid, uneducated, or lazy to contribute to society. Helping these undeserving poor is seen as a terrible waste of valuable resources.

Those who stand for the LNP can heap disdain on the undeserving poor because they see themselves as the source of all prosperity. They see themselves as the ones who create the wealth that’s wasted on the undeserving poor. They see themselves as the good guys because…well, because they’re rich. Obvious, right?

This unquestioned equating of wealth with goodness and value is at the heart of the inequality in both the US and Australia. The rich deserve to be rich; the poor deserve to be poor. End of story.

But as AOC goes on to say in her thread, many of those living below the poverty line in the US actually work two or more jobs. They work just as hard, if not harder, than wealthy people, but the value of their work is so much less. And who determines the value of that work? The top 1% who own all the industries that generate the wealth.

To be honest, until today, I thought that most of the people who voted LNP did so because they lacked compassion, or were fundamentally selfish and greedy. Now I understand that it’s not so much a lack of compassion that’s at the heart of our inequality, it’s a lack of experience. It’s ignorance.

I can’t speak for the super rich, but I can speak for what used to be called the ‘middle class’. My parents sent me to a Catholic primary school and then on to a Catholic high school. They gave me piano lessons, and ballet lessons and even singing lessons. Books, ideas and music were an integral part of my life growing up. University was the natural next step.

But while my parents voted Liberal, I never did. There were two reasons for that. The first was the Catholic insistence on charity and compassion for those less well off than myself. The second was that despite their insistence on a good education for me, my parents were not rich. Dad was an engineer, but he was the sole bread winner. My parents bought a house but never bought a car because it was an unnecessary expense. They gave me the best education they could afford, but I grew up wearing op. shop clothes.

Seeing both sides of the poverty divide turned me into a Labor voter. Living on Newstart for 5 years because I was too old to be offered a job made me realise that anyone can drop below the poverty line. More importantly, it made me see that people without the benefits I had growing up can never rise above the poverty line.

That’s why AOC’s words had such a profound effect on me. Yes, there are a few, rare individuals who manage to make an absolute fortune through their own efforts, but very few [if any] do so without some of the benefits we all take for granted. Most wealthy people inherit a good start in life. Some wealthy people inherit so much wealth that they can play the ‘who’s the richest woman in the world?’ game. But none of these people are inherently ‘good’.

Wealth does not make anyone a good person, and poverty does not make anyone a ‘bludger’.

Until we can provide the kind of stable society that allows all children to grow up with equal opportunities, the economic divide will continue to grow. As it does, our democracies will turn into oligarchies and our countries will begin the slide into global ‘has beens’.

For those who are interested, I’ve taken screenshots of a couple of the tweets AOC posted:

If you’re already a Labor voter, then good for you. See you on the 18th of May!

If you’re a centrist of the Liberal persuasion, then please think about some of the assumptions you make about your world. Society works best when most of the members of that society belong to the ‘middle class’, just like you. If the middle class continues to be eroded then one day, your children or your children’s children may find themselves below the poverty, unable to better themselves because they can no longer afford the opportunities that make prosperity possible.

We all need to ‘walk a mile’ in the shoes of someone less prosperous than ourselves. Only then can we pat ourselves on the back for having ‘made it’, or not, as the case may be.

Meeks


Devil in the Wind – Black Saturday

I’m not a poetry person, at least not normally, but I’m sitting here crying as I read this poem by Frank Prem. It’s about the Black Saturday fires that claimed 173 lives here in Victoria. 

I was at home in Warrandyte that day. I’d sent the Offspring away, but I was at home with Dad and the animals because Dad had mild dementia and…I don’t think any of us really believed. I listened to 774 radio all day and some horrific reports were being phoned in, but we had the best roof sprinklers money could buy, and fire-resistant shutters. I was sure we’d be fine. And we didn’t really believe. 

The next day, the reports started coming in and finally, we believed. That’s the background. Here is the poem that’s brought me to tears.

evidence to the commission of enquiry: all in the ark for a while

well

you have to go back

to the chaos of that time

back to february

 

as the day got on

we realised we were in strife

because the thing was bigger and hotter

and faster and more unpredictable

 

it was more everything really

 

and we’d started to get word of huge losses

in other places around and about

people

property

animals

whole towns

 

so we were head-down-and-bum-up

and worried

about what was going to happen next

 

anyway

out of the smoke came a sort of convoy

led by a horse whose halter was held

by a woman driving a ute

 

in the back of the ute

a dog was running around

like a mad thing

 

after that came another car

with a float and two more horses

 

next was a vehicle that a police fellow

was driving

 

he’d been up in a chopper

trying to winch people out

but the wind got too big

so he dropped down and helped

by driving the car

with whoever he could get into it

 

then there were a couple of deer

that jumped out of the bush

when the cavalcade went past a clearing

 

and a pair of koalas

 

and three kangaroos

 

and some lizards

 

all running as part of the convoy

 

they scattered pretty quick

when the procession of them

emerged from the smoke

and the flames

but it was all in together

for a while

 

It was ‘all in together’ for a while after Black Saturday too. We grieved, and donated food, and money, and hay because the animals were starving, and because we were alive and so many were not.

The love has disappeared now, but for a while we had it and I thank Frank Prem for helping me remember. Parts of this post will become my review on Amazon because this is my memory of the devil-wind.

 


Democracy & compulsory voting

I’ve just stumbled across a brilliant article that details how and why Australia became one of the few democracies in the world to practise compulsory voting:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-01/compulsory-voting-federal-election-the-good-bits-of-politics/10825482

To be honest, I had absolutely no idea why we embraced compulsory voting, but I’ve long seen the value of it. Compulsory voting makes representational democracy more democratic. Why? Because the silent majority is forced to make a decision, and that decision dilutes the power of both extremes.

As a member of the silent ‘middle’, I think that’s a Very. Good. Thing. The whole point of democracies is that the majority decide important issues. But if only the far right and the far left care enough to get out there and vote, the winner is always going to be from one of the extremes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, means that ordinary people who just want to survive and get along don’t have a say.

Another thing, which is specifically referred to in that article, is that compulsory voting makes greater choice possible. Instead of only being able to vote for the two or possibly three major parties, compulsory voting gives independents and smaller parties a chance as well. If they get in, their votes have to be won…via compromise, and compromise dilutes the extremes again.

I hope the IPA never get their way and scrap compulsory voting. We do not need extremes. We do not need people to be so polarised that they hate each other. We need compromise and balance and more choices, not less.

Australia’s democracy may be young, but it works. No offence to either the US or the UK, but I wouldn’t want to live in either country at the moment.

cheers

Meeks


Melbourne Airport – 46 C at 2:26 pm

I don’t think it got anywhere near 46 C at Warrandyte, but it was bloody hot nonetheless. Coldstream hit 43.8 C and I think Warrandyte would have been similar.

Feels almost blase saying we only reached 43.8. This is a temperature graph from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:

I grew up in that middle bit where there are a couple of hot spikes but mostly cool to cold troughs. I remember what summers were like back then. We lived in a solid brick, Federation Edwardian house that stayed cool most of the time. We didn’t even own a fan. Back then, the priority was staying warm in winter.

Now…43.8 C, air-conditioning and multiple fans and the inside temperature of the house stayed at 30 C all day. Bearable, but only because we were lucky and only lost power for about 10 minutes.

Is this ‘proof’ of Climate Change? Or is it just weather? When I look at that graph I can’t help thinking we’re experiencing the predicted, climate change extremes already, and that scares me. If this one day was so bad, how will we cope with even worse days?

And yes, there are still those who believe that all of climate change is just some kind of global conspiracy. I’ve been arguing with a few on Twitter today. But you can’t really have a ‘meeting of minds’ when the other person attempts to use personal put downs to win the argument.

Logic doesn’t work with people like that. Facts don’t either. Yelling and name calling might, but I was brought up to believe that emotive arguments are shameful and weak. That people who use them are shameful and weak.

So I walked away with my integrity intact but a truly bad taste in my mouth. Not because I didn’t ‘win’, but because I couldn’t change things for the better.

When did facts and logic become such blunt tools?

You’d think I’d know better. My Mum was an emotive arguer and it used to drive me crazy. I guess the truth is I never found a way to discuss anything with her, not without it becoming a huge screaming match. Apparently, I still don’t know how to do it. The only difference is that I’m 66 instead of 16, and I don’t yell and scream any more…

Apologies for the rant. I’m hot, tired and angry. 😦

Meeks

 


Powerline fiasco in Nth Warrandyte

Residents in Nth Warrandyte were without power for 18 hours today. We were without power for 18 hours today, and you’d better believe that we were not amused. But the problem goes deeper than simple inconvenience. The powerlines that keep failing are these  super-dooper new ones:

As you can see from the photo, the new powerlines are much thicker than the old ones. They are also supposed to be much safer than the old ones, and therefore less likely to start bushfires in this highly bushfire-prone area.

Of course, the safest option would be to put all powerlines underground. But that would be expensive, wouldn’t it? So instead we get this half-baked alternative that keeps breaking down.

How do I know the problem is in the new powerlines? I know, because Nth Warrandyte is pretty much the only area in which these new lines have been completed. Nth Warrandyte also happens to be the only area where these long, unexpected, unplanned power outages seem to occur.

Don’t get me wrong – we’ve always had power outages in Nth Warrandyte, for as long as we’ve been here, but never like this. And never accompanied by bangs in the middle of the night. The Offspring saw and heard three explosions last night, just before midnight. Each one briefly lit up the night sky… from the exact area where the problems have been occurring.

The utility company in charge of our powerlines and electricity infrastructure is SPAusnet. This is the same company whose infrastructure may have caused the destruction of homes in Warrandyte in 2014.

The Offspring spoke to the utility today and described the explosions. The response was that ‘it was possums’.

Puleeeeeze. Possums don’t go ‘bang’. And even if it were possums, that would mean that the new, super thick, super ‘safe’ powerlines are even less capable of withstanding the ravages of nature around here. Not exactly reassuring when we’re facing a potentially catastrophic fire season in January/February.

The one bright spot is that the bridge renovations are mostly complete. That gives Nth Warrandyte residents one extra lane across the Yarra River in an emergency. The new Traffic lights are great as well, and both of these measures make living here just that little bit safer. Thanks Daniel Andrews!

Pity SPAusnet can’t get the powerlines right. I wonder how much it’ll cost the company if the new powerlines cause a fire, and they’re hit with a class action suit by all the residents of Nth Warrandyte? I’ll bet that going underground would be seen as ‘cheaper’. Then again, SPAusnet only paid out $648 million dollars in out of court compensation payments after Black Saturday, so perhaps not…

Not happy

Meeks

 


3D printing research – here in Melbourne

My thanks to SV3DPRINTER for pointing me to this interesting article from Swinburne University, right here in Melbourne [Australia]:

https://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2018/08/pioneering-housing-construction-with-3d-concrete-printers-at-swinburne.php

Although Professor Jay Sanjayan wasn’t giving away any technical secrets about his new process, the prospect of new materials to use in the printing process is very exciting. Nevertheless, it’s his comments about disruption to the construction industry that really got me thinking. 3D printing in construction makes it possible to automate construction.

But then what happens to the brickies and steel workers and carpenters whose jobs will become redundant?

I’m excited by the possibilities brought about by 3D printing, but also a little apprehensive. I firmly believe that some form of Universal Basic Income [UBI] will become necessary, possibly even in my lifetime. Sobering thought.

cheers

Meeks

 


Update to Miira is permafree on Amazon

December 5, 2018 Update….I am officially an idiot. I was so excited to have Miira permafree on Amazon, I totally forgot to include the link for the book. Can I plead old age as an excuse?

A huge thank you to Cage Dunn for giving me a gentle nudge in the right direction. As Bluebottle would say: ‘I feel a proper fool’. 😦

Okay, here are the urls for Miira I should have included in the post, all of them:

Amazon

BnN
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/miira-acflory/1127308201;jsessionid=0BF6E77AA708B377617AE0D06A618016.prodny_store01-atgap03?ean=2940154886793

Kobo
https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/miira

Angus & Robertson [au]
https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/miira-acflory/p/9780648162728

Indigo
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/miira-innerscape/9780648162728-item.html?ikwid=Miira&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0

Now I can relax. -hugs to all-

Meeks

I’m so excited, I don’t know what to do with myself. I finally got up the courage to ask Amazon to make Miira [book 1 of Innerscape] permafree to match B&N, Kobo et al,… and it’s happening!

So far, I’ve checked amazon.com and amazon.com.au, and the ebook is $0.00 on both! Sadly, amazon.co.uk hasn’t gone to permafree yet, but I’m sure it’s on the way. This has literally just happened, or at least I’ve only just noticed. If anyone sees Miira going permafree somewhere else, please let me know.

It’s odd, this feels like an early Christmas present. At least now I have the hope that more people will give Innerscape a try. And to celebrate, we’re getting pizza tonight.

-thinks- I might just indulge in some Cabernet Sauvignon as well. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Sakura festival…in Melbourne!

Despite loving all things Japanese, I’ve never been to Japan, but now I can say I’ve been to a Sakura [Cherry Blossom] festival. Ta dah:

[Apologies for the size of the photos. I wanted them to be as lovely as possible]

These are ornamental cherry trees gifted to Melbourne by the government of Japan. The grove was planted in Banksia Park, which is situated on the boundary between the suburbs of Heidelberg and Bulleen.

Not all of the cherry trees survived the harsh, Australian conditions, so the Japanese community in Melbourne took the fledgling grove under its wing, saving as many trees as possible and caring for the whole grove. The photo below shows one of the cherry trees that was saved:

You can see how close this poor tree came to dying.

Thanks to the efforts of the Japanese community, people like me can now enjoy a little taste of Japan without having to leave home.

Arigato gozaimasu!

Meeks

 


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