Tag Archives: Australia

Viva Energy hides true emissions

The following is an email I received from Environment Victoria about the Viva Energy gas terminal proposed for Geelong. In it, Environment Victoria details how Viva Energy ‘neglected’ to include the cost of transport in its emissions proposal:

Hi Andrea, This week Viva Energy released the Environment Effects Statement (EES) for their proposed gas terminal in Geelong, and straight away we noticed something dodgy. 

Viva’s gas terminal would use the same technology as the one AGL proposed in Westernport Bay, and import the same amount of gas, so you’d expect the figures for greenhouse gas pollution to be pretty similar too. 

But they weren’t. Viva Energy estimated their gas terminal would have emissions about NINE TIMES LESS than AGL’s proposal.  

Why? When we combed through the details, we found the answer. Viva Energy has tried to exclude the largest single source of pollution – from transporting the LNG in tankers to Geelong. 

Buried in the appendix of a 13,000 page document, we found the data that gave the real numbers.

When transport emissions are included, the total climate impact of Viva Energy’s gas terminal could be up to 12 TIMES higher – even greater than AGL’s proposal would have been. 

If the gas is shipped from the Middle East, the total emissions would be almost 600,000 tonnes per year. And that’s not even including the pollution when the gas is burned in homes and businesses across Victoria. 

Right in the middle of a climate crisis, as a warmer atmosphere drives more extreme flooding and fires, Viva Energy has tried to bury the true emissions impact of their gas project.

We can’t let them get away with it – please help by sharing this on social media. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Viva’s Environment Effects Statement is part of a planning process that’s supposed to assess all the environmental impacts of the terminal. They should have been totally transparent about ALL the emissions so that the public can weigh up the pros and cons. 

At least AGL was honest enough to include these ‘Scope 3’ transport emissions, but Viva has tried to get off on a technicality, and that’s not good enough. 

Help spread the word about the true climate impact of Viva Energy’s gas terminal by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

We’re also looking for people with expertise in greenhouse gas accounting, marine ecology, toxic sediments and dredging, safety, and a range of other issues to help scrutinise Viva Energy’s Environment Effects Statement. If this sounds like you, please register your interest here >> 

This is crunch time for Viva Energy’s gas terminal project.

There’s little over a month to have your say – submissions close 11 April. We’ll be in touch about the best way to make a submission later, but in the meantime please share the social media post or volunteer as an expert.

Thanks for helping spread the word, and we hope you can get more involved in the campaign.  Greg Foyster
and the team at Environment Victoria

PS: Our media release exposing Viva Energy’s climate accounting trick is here, and it was covered by Australian Financial Review, ABC 774 Melbourne, Geelong AdvertiserBay FM and K Rock. Facebook Twitter Instagram News wrap Environment Victoria is located on Wurundjeri land and works across many Aboriginal nations. We pay our respects to Aboriginal elders past and present, recognise their continuing contribution to caring for country, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

Environment Victoria, Level 2, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia. Call us on 03 9341 8100 update your preferencesunsubscribe | privacy policy | contact

Authorised by Jono La Nauze

I don’t have Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn so if you do, please help spread the word about this corporate scam.

cheers,
Meeks


Myth busting Omicron – or no, we didn’t have to live with the virus.

A lot of conservative governments justify their policies during this pandemic with the mantra that we all have to ‘live with Covid’.

Why? Apparently because we’re all going to get it eventually.

Even a relatively trusted source like Dr John Campbell maintains that ‘everyone will get Omicron’ – supposedly because it’s so contagious. Yet the actual numbers don’t add up, even in the UK.

This is a screenshot I took this morning which shows the total number of people infected with Covid-19 in the UK…since the pandemic began:

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases?areaType=overview&areaName=United%20Kingdom

The comments in red and green are mine. I wanted to see how many people in the UK had not had any of the Covid-19 variants. The number ended up being 50 million.

Now I know that the official figures don’t include those who were infected but had only very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, so I’m going to double the official figure from 18 million to 36 million.

Revised estimate of people infected with Covid-19 variants = 36 million

When you subtract 36M from 68M you get 32M who have never been infected with any of the Covid-19 variants, and that’s after two years and multiple variants, including Omicron B1. Curiously, data from the UK seems to show that 68% of those infected with Omicron have been re-infected. In other words, previous exposure did not give them immunity against the variant.

Why am I banging on about stats and who has or hasn’t been infected in the UK? The answer is simple:

  • I hate grand sweeping generalisations that are not based on actual data and,
  • much of what we do here in Australia seems to reflect the trends happening in the UK… and the conservative government there wants to open up completely, based on the narrative that everyone will get the virus anyway, so they may as well make the best of it.

The truth is a little more nuanced. According to everything I understand about herd immunity, you need to have at least 70% of the total population immune to a virus for the herd immunity effect to kick in. Not just recovered from the infection but actually immune to it.

Why 70%? because that’s roughly the number of immune people you need to stop the virus from being able to replicate – i.e. spread through the community:

Herd immunity ‘ring fences’ the virus

Essentially, people who have already had the infection – and are immune to it – crowd out the new infections, so even if someone is sick and shedding the virus all over the place, that virus is falling on people who are already immune so it can’t replicate. It’s been ring-fenced.

So let’s have a look at the UK. Are they at 70% yet?

No, they’re not. More importantly, immunity gained from earlier variants of the virus doesn’t seem to provide immunity against the current variants.

In other words, having had the virus once does not guarantee you won’t get the virus again, and that means there can be no herd immunity.

The lack of herd immunity means that those who have never had the virus are not protected. Therefore, learning to ‘live with the virus’ has nothing to do with protecting the vulnerable. It is ALL about protecting the economy.

Let me be more specific. The policy of living with the virus is essentially throwing all the vulnerable members of the population under the bus. Some will live, some won’t.

So who are these vulnerable people?

They include all the conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers for sure, but they also include those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – i.e. because the vaccine would have a negative reaction with their particular medication or treatment – or those with compromised immune systems for whom the vaccines are much less effective. But the list also includes those who have been fully vaccinated.

The current crop of vaccines were developed for the earlier variants and are much less effective against Omicron, so in a way, we’re right back at the start of the pandemic when we didn’t have any vaccines at all. Until a vaccine specifically designed to target Omicron and its siblings comes along, even being fully vaccinated is no guarantee of protection.

Yes, Omicron et al., may be milder than Delta, but it’s not mild. Calling it ‘mild’ instead of ‘milder’ was a neat bit of spin to justify opening up completely. Only now are we seeing how deadly this ‘mild’ virus actually is.

So why are our governments getting away with this? The answer is rather brutal: right from the start, they told people that “…only the elderly, the disabled or those with ‘co-morbidities’ will die so…don’t panic”.

The nett effect of this messaging has been to make the age groups most likely to spread the virus resent those most likely to die from it.

Why should young, healthy people have to suffer lockdowns and restrictions to save a bunch of people who are probably ‘going to die anyway’?

I believe that question, and the resentment that goes with it, is why conspiracy theories have gained such traction. People don’t want to admit how they feel so they latch onto mad stories about legitimate targets – i.e. governments and large corporations.

To be honest, my trust in governments and large corporations is pretty damn low, but the bottom line is that the people in these age groups want to live with Covid…because they don’t think it will affect them. They believe they are immortal so they don’t consider the possibility that they might have a ‘co-morbidity’ without knowing it. They don’t think about long Covid, and what it could do to the rest of their lives. They just resent having those lives interrupted for the sake of a bunch of people they don’t care about anyway.

Which brings me to a rather painful question: if a majority of people in a democracy want to let people die, is a government justified in giving them what they want?

I believe the answer is no. Once elected, the representatives of any democratic government are bound to protect everyone in that democracy, even those who voted against them or those who may have become a ‘liability’.

Protecting all members of society is the cornerstone of the social contract our parents accepted on our behalf when we were born: we give a select group of people a certain amount of power over us in exchange for the protection of the group. Why else obey laws or pay taxes?

Once that core promise of society is broken, trust dies and society falls apart.

We don’t talk about trust much, but everything in society depends on it. Trust allows us to use bits of paper as ‘money’. Trust allows us to walk around without being in fear of our lives. At its most basic, trust allows us to trust others.

Trust in government and ‘the capitalist system’ has been falling for decades now. I truly fear for the future of Western democracies.

Meeks


How do you measure success in a pandemic?

I’m writing this as someone who lives in the most locked down city on Earth – Melbourne. We suffered through the first wave of Covid-19 and lost 820 people to the virus, but that death toll could have been much, much worse; during the first wave in Italy, 35,142(1) Italians lost their lives.

Returning to the first wave of Covid-19 in Melbourne, we eliminated the virus and kept it from spreading to the rest of Victoria and the other states by putting ourselves into a VERY strict lockdown. That lockdown included a curfew and a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Melbourne. It worked. In fact, the same restrictions continued to eliminate the virus from Victoria until NSW, with the tacit approval of the Federal government, decided that we all had to ‘live with Covid’. Thanks to our long border with NSW, we could no longer keep the virus out.

The other States and territories – Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT – continued to keep Delta out until Omicron came along. Western Australia is now the only state still trying to keep Omicron out. Across the ditch, our New Zealand cousins have not given up the fight against Covid-19 either. The battle may have changed from elimination to a fighting retreat, but it continues. The battle also continues in many of the countries of Asia, but we hear so very little about them.

I created the following spreadsheet from data published by https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries The website provides covid-19 related information about every nation on Earth.

That’s a lot of data and the forest tends to get lost in the trees so I created a subset(2) of the data to show the difference between the Asian approach to Covid-19 and that of most Western countries. I’ve included Australia and New Zealand as part of Asia, because that is what we are.

In the screenshot below, the data is sorted by total deaths:

Iceland did the best with just 46 deaths while the USA did the worst with 904,038 deaths, but Iceland has a very small population while the USA has a very large one. In the next screenshot, I sorted the data according to deaths per million in order to account for differences in population size:

Iceland appears on the top of the list, again, because something is screwy with the ‘per million’ figure. I suspect a human error resulted in the decimal point being left off, but I’m too lazy to look up the population of Iceland to be sure.

Setting Iceland aside, the data suddenly reveals two surprises:

  1. China does the best with just 3 deaths per million. [Remember that China has a population of roughly 1.4 billion people]
  2. Hungary does the worst with 4,285 deaths per million.

Hungary is the country of my birth. It’s a small country with a small population [roughly 9.6 million]. That population is now smaller by 41,229 people. I’m glad my parents are no longer alive to see what has happened to their country. That said, the USA and the UK have the dubious honour of having the second and third worst results after Hungary.

So how do you measure success in a pandemic? Is it money saved? Or lives?

In a recent video, Dr John expressed disbelief that China would continue to eliminate the virus ‘in the age of Omicron’. In the comments, all sorts of theories were raised, most denigrating China’s strategy as futile, draconian and only possible in such a tightly regulated nation. The unspoken assumption was that no sane person would want to live like that.

I’m not an apologist for China because I don’t think it needs one. Yes, the Chinese government probably is guilty of human rights violations, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The murder of George Floyd in the US brought the plight of Black America into sharp focus. When police feel they can kill Black Americans without fear of consequences, that’s a human rights violation. When children can be murdered at school because there is no gun control, that’s a human rights violation.

Here in Australia, the media shone a spotlight on our asylum seekers recently, but only because a famous tennis star was locked up with them for a very short time. What we’ve done to asylum seekers in the name of ‘stopping the boats’ is also a human rights violation. Would they be treated the same way if they were white and came from a European country?

But our human rights violations aren’t restricted to asylum seekers. The ‘deaths in custody’ of hundreds of First Nations Australians doesn’t rate a mention unless there’s some political twist to the story. That’s an ongoing human rights violation, yet no one wants to haul Australia off before the Court of International Justice in The Hague. Is it because we belong to ‘us’ and everyone else is ‘them’?

I’m sure China’s strategy of elimination isn’t motivated by pure altruism, but I suspect the Chinese government has worked out that its economy depends on the health of the populace. Dead people can’t manufacture anything. Dead people can’t buy anything either. Maybe that’s a lesson all neo-liberal governments need to learn.

Vaccines are great but they’re not a silver bullet that will save us from the inconvenience of old fashioned contagion control. To save lives, we have to have both. To save our economies, we have to save lives first.

Meeks

(1) Finding the number of total deaths in the first wave [for Italy] was surprisingly hard, or perhaps I didn’t search for the right terms. In the end, I had to calculate the number of death [for Italy] from a graph put out by the WHO:

https://covid19.who.int/region/euro/country/it

If you go to that graph and hover your mouse over each column, you can see the total deaths for that period. I copied the raw numbers into the spreadsheet below so I could get a total just for the first wave in Italy:

(2) The data I used for the comparison between Asian and Western Covid-19 results is detailed below:


A Bear called Frank

No, this is not a post about a personable grizzly – we don’t have any in Australia. The closest we get is the legendary ‘Drop Bear’.

<<cue hysterical laughter>>

<<cough>>

No, this post is about my good friend Frank Prem and the Beechworth Bakery Bears he has come to know and love. Frank is an Aussie poet-storyteller who brought me to tears with his stories of the Black Saturday bushfires that killed so many in our state. This time, however, Frank has created a beautiful book about teddy bears:

These gastronomic Bears greet customers in the Beechworth Bakery, Victoria, Australia

I love teddy bears and have a whole shelf full keeping me company in my office, so I fell in love with the Bakery Bears at first sight!

In the latest Bear book – Waiting for Frank Bear – Frank gives voice to these cuddly Bears and shows us their Bears-eye-view of the world, both the good and the bad. Coming out of the pandemic, we need books like these, books that bring this topsy turvy time into perspective and help us rediscover what it means to be human.

A peek inside the hardcover book

‘Waiting for Frank Bear’ will be released on November 14, 2021. That’ll be tomorrow for those of us in Australia, the day after for the rest of you? You can pre-order now though. 🙂

Amazon links for Waiting for Frank Bear :

In Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/Waiting-Frank-Bear-heard-Beechworth-Bakery-ebook/dp/B09KG4Q8K6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1636774991&sr=8-1

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09KG4Q8K6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

If you’d like to know more about Frank, you can find him on his blog: https://frankprem.com/

Or on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18679262.Frank_Prem

Or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvfW2WowqY1euO-Cj76LDKg

You know that ‘Resistance is futile’ [Doctor Who, 1963] so do it! lol And to all the Star Trek fans out there – I watched every episode of Doctor Who as a kid and that phrase was most definitely in use long before the Borg apparently used it in Star Trek. I also watched every episode of the original Star Trek, which is why I’ve never been able to watch the new generation re-make.

Live long and Prosper!

cheers,
Meeks


Worldbuilding with Inkarnate

All speculative fiction writers know about building worlds with words, but what if you need more than words to visualise the space in which your story takes place?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist yet even so, I recently discovered that a guestimate right at the start of Vokhtah was not only wrong, it was very wrong. That, plus needing a distraction from my first jab of AstraZeneca, lead me to Inkarnate, a brilliant, fantasy map making app.

Within the first week of playing around with Inkarnate, I had a map of Vokhtah that was a million times better than the dinky map I’d made using only Corel Draw 8. The trouble was, the more I worked on the map, the more I noticed the gaps in my worldbuilding. You see, the eyries of the Vokh don’t just appear as haphazard dots on a map. They are chosen for very specific requirements, such as:

  • the security provided by the cave system,
  • the proximity to water [and hence to food animals]
  • and the distance from other Vokh [the greater the better].

But if eyries have pre-requisites, so do the Trader caravans that service them. All iVokh can fly, including the Traders, but few can fly well. As for the Plodders who carry the bulk of the Traders’ goods, they can barely fly at all. And this is where biology and terrain combine to create problems, because if eyries need to be near water, but Plodders can’t fly over obstructions like rivers, how do the caravans travel from gather to gather? [A gather is like a human market place.]

In book 1 of Vokhtah, the only river the Traders had to cross was the Little Blue, and it had almost stopped running by the end of the dry season [Tohoh]. The ford across the river was dangerous but doable. But then what about the other seasons?

In my current WIP, I sidestepped that problem by saying that no caravans could travel during the wet season [Kohoh]. Neat. Unfortunately, when I came to filling in the Inkarnate map, I could no longer avoid the issue of terrain because the story of Vokhtah continues on past Kohoh into Tuhoh [the season of new growth] and beyond.

How in heck was I going to solve the problem of river crossings?

The solution to the problem of rivers required a complete rethink of the map, starting with geology and basic physics. Water always flows downhill, and depending on the slope and density of the material it flows through, it either slows down and spreads out:

… or it runs swiftly and carves out gorges. And sometimes it creates land bridges that span the gorge from side to side:

Or sometimes the bridge is actually the rim of a pool that sits high above the river. When the level of water goes back to its normal level, the rim provides a way from one side of the river to the other:

When there is too much water in the pool, it cascades over the rim and becomes a waterfall that feeds the river below:

And yes, I spent a couple of days just researching rivers and terrain here in Australia. 🙂 Much of the info. I discovered came from these videos:

The middle video was shot by an amateur so the helicopter noise is quite loud, but it feels real, as if you’re sitting in the helicopter, experiencing the trip along with the pilot and sightseers. Videos 1 and 3 are professionally produced and provide better visuals.

One of the things I learned was that Katherine Gorge, which is where most of the images were shot, is actually a deep cut through a plateau. All the images I’d seen before this were from the river level and made it seem as if the gorge had cut its way through a flat plain. Not so.

The realisation that the gorge was part of a plateau changed my whole perspective about the Inkarnate map, and how the eyries and caravans [of Vokhtah] would interact with the geology. The end result is this:

Click the image to zoom in closer. The legend on the left identifies the icons used in the map, including the eyries belonging to the Vokh, from the most powerful [large purple] to least powerful [tiny white].

The fuzzy purple areas represent the native vegetation of Vokhtah. As the planet is quite different to Earth, I had to re-imagine the evolution of plants without chlorophyll [the thing that makes Earth plants green and which they use to synthesize food from sunlight, water and minerals in the soil]. I pinched the idea from Earth plants that don’t have chlorophyll of their own. They’re basically parasites, but hey… 🙂

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly why I chose purple/lavender but you’ll notice that most of the water sources on the planet are shades of purple as well. A trick of the visible light off water in a binary star system maybe? The notable exceptions are The Eye [the lake at the top of the map], and the two rivers flowing out of the Eye [Little Blue and Big Blue]. The Eye is a maar lake and it was formed from a volcanic eruption.

This is a photo of Blue Lake in Mt Gambier [Victoria, Australia]:

Click the link above to discover more about volcanic activity in Victoria.

All of the photos and videos in this post are of Australia, and this ancient land was my inspiration for Vokhtah. Thanks for coming on this little journey with me. 🙂

In my next post, I’ll start posting tips and tricks I’ve learned about Inkarnate, and how to use it with Corel Draw 8 to achieve special effects.

cheers,
Meeks


80% vaccination target – what does it really mean for Australia?

I’ve read the Doherty report on which the Federal government’s 4-phase plan is based. The modelling in that report is based on vaccination rates of 70 and 80%…of people 16 and older.

Hmm, I wonder how many children and teens there are under 16?

To find out, I went to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and downloaded a spreadsheet of population data by age. This is what it looks like:

I added up the numbers [shown in red] the old fashioned way:

1,556,615 +
1,628,393 +
1,595,700 +
296,168 +
———–
5,106,876
———–

So, 5,106,876 out of a total population of 25,698,093 won’t be counted at all. AT. ALL. That’s a lot more than I was expecting.

Hmm, if we subtract all those kids from the total population, how many people are left?

25,698,093 –
5,106,876
————–
20,591,217
————–

So, only 20,591,217 Australians are actually eligible for the jab.

Hmm, how much is 80% of 20,591,217?

It’s 16,472,973 Australians. [I looked it up]

If we take that number away from the total population [ 25,698,093 ] it means that 9,225,120 Australians of all ages will remain unvaccinated. 9 million people who will be vulnerable to Delta when we reach 80% and the need for lockdowns becomes ‘unlikely’.

Unlikely? We’re going to throw over 9 million people under the Delta bus but yay, we won’t have to have lockdowns?

‘Oh, but kids don’t get that sick…’

At least 1,245 Indonesian children have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began, although the actual number is thought to be higher, given the low level of testing for the virus in remote areas.

The majority of those who died were under the age of five.

According to the Indonesian Paediatric Society (IDAI), more than 100 Indonesian children have died every week since July from COVID-19.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/16/devastated-indonesian-parents-mourn-children-lost-to-covid-19

‘Oh, but those that refuse to be vaccinated have only themselves to blame…’

Almost five million people deserve to get sick and possibly die? What sort of a sick society are we?

And what about those for whom the vaccine doesn’t work? Oh…you didn’t think of that, did you?

You know when a vaccine is said to be 90% effective [e.g. Pfizer and Moderna], have you ever wondered what happens to the other 10%?

Well, for that 10% of people, the vaccine won’t work, or will only work partially. And AstraZeneca has an even lower effectiveness rate.

‘Oh…but herd immunity will take care of that!’

Herd immunity is ‘Abracadabra!’ the magic phrase that will solve all our problems. Except it won’t, not with Delta and this first generation of vaccines. Why? Because herd immunity works by surrounding unvaccinated people with a ‘fence’ of vaccinated people. That ‘fence’ stops Covid from being able to reach the unvaccinated people.

But what if there’s a hole in the fence?

In fact, there are two holes in the herd immunity fence. The first one is that breakthrough infections happen, and when they do, the fully vaccinated person is as infectious as if they hadn’t been vaccinated at all. The second is that this crop of vaccines do not provide permanent protection from transmission.

In fact, that protection looks as if it might wear off rather quickly after just four months. This basically means that the fully vaccinated could well end up infecting the unvaccinated themselves…which means:

There will be NO herd immunity.

In a year or two, there may well be vaccines that protect us from serious disease AND from infection. Only then will we finally achieve herd immunity.

Getting back to the Doherty report, their modelling included a number of assumptions based on data from March this year. Back in March, there was very little Delta circulating. Now, it’s running wild. Back in March, we were also delighted to discover that the vaccines provided good protection from transmission. Now we know that protection is short-lived.

Things have changed, but our politicians are still flogging the same plan. Living with Covid is smoke and mirrors with a generous dash of tricky numbers.

Meeks


Friendly Jordies – Blood water

This should be a must-watch video for every Australian because Australia is the driest continent on Earth, and water is life, our life:

Illegal harvesting of flood plain water in the northern part of the country is killing off the food production located in the south. And who benefits? A few very rich individuals and some multinationals that play with our water as if it were the stock market:

I knew some of this from the Four Corners report that aired in 2017:

https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/pumped/8727826

But Four Corners had to be a little…circumspect. The people in the Friendly Jordie documentary pull no punches. Our water is being stolen to enrich a few people and organisations. The theft of our water is being facilitated by politicians in the National Party, which is part of the Coalition currently in charge of politics at the national level.

Think this only affects a few small communities in the back of whoop whoop? Wrong. All of us city people will be affected too…when food becomes more and more expensive. By then though, it will be much too late.

Please! Watch this video and pass it on to others. The corruption has to be stopped, and we’re the only ones who can ultimately stop it.

My thanks to @RonniSalt from Twitter for pointing me at this Friendly Jordies video.

Cheers
Meeks


What is wrong with us?

This is the sentence that horrified me just moments ago:

Iowa Woman Admits to Hitting Children With Car Because of Their Ethnicity

It’s not click-bait. It’s real, and that makes it a million times worse.

The article is written by online blogging friend, Jill Dennison. You can find the full details, including the official statement by authorities, here https://jilldennison.com/2021/04/24/71725/

Be warned though, the account is chilling because the ‘Iowa Woman’ deliberately targeted two separate kids at two separate locations.

As a mother, I cannot conceive of any act more brutal, more evil. But the aftermath, sickened me almost as much:

‘What I don’t understand … this woman who attempted to murder children because she didn’t like the colour of their skin … is handled by law enforcement with kid gloves, while in North Carolina, a 68-year-old Black grandmother was dragged out of her car by her hair, slammed to the ground by police, stepped on, treated so brutally that she suffered a torn rotator cuff (part of the shoulder joint) … for exceeding the speed limit.’

And similar acts of brutality are being carried out, by police, right here in Australia. Against people whose

skin.

is.

not.

white.

What is wrong with us?

Meeks


Bushfire funding rort?

Australia’s Black Summer of 2019/20 shocked the world. Scott Morrison’s Hawaiian holiday in the middle of the fires shocked Australians. But then Covid happened, and we just assumed that all the money promised to bushfire victims would be distributed.

Now, it appears that even this emergency relief has been rorted.

First we learned that the Blue Mountains area of NSW received next to no community funding at all. Then we learned that a sky diving complex [not in the Blue Mountains area] was not only approved, it was given roughly four million dollars more than requested.

The shock value of these funding inequalities lasted for about a day before it faded into obscurity, at least in the main stream media. Not so on Twitter. There, independent journalists, such as Matt Lloyd-Cape have been trying to get to the bottom of the bushfire funding. What they found was that matching promised funding to actual funding was not so easy because of the lack of transparency in the process.

‘Not easy’ and ‘impossible’ are not the same though. This is some of what they found:

‘Of the $566 million promised in emergency support to people whose homes and /or businesses were burned by the fires, only 43% had been spent by the end of October 2020.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

This is the funding allocated for immediate emergency relief, for people who lost their homes or businesses in the fires. Let me repeat that. The funding was supposed to be for the most destitute of victims.

Or how about this:

‘Of the $228 million released by the Morrison Government under this program so far, more than 77% went to NSW, 8.75% to South Australia, 7.5% to Queensland and just 6.4% to Victoria. While this split seems to disproportionately favour Coalition controlled states, there still may be good reasons – it could be a matter of different reporting schedules among states, or that the states have agreed to such a division for federal resources – but without better publicly available information there is no way of knowing.

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

There’s more, of course, and I strongly recommend that all Australians read the entire article: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/bushfire-money-mystery-recovery-funds-withheld-to-fight-the-election/

I think you’ll be shocked to learn how much news you have not been getting. I know I was.

The disruptions caused by the internet are still rumbling through the news media, and traditional news suppliers have either been forced out, or forced to toe the funding line just to stay in business. As for the journalists employed by those suppliers, their jobs have never been more precarious.

Hmm…. I wonder what that sort of financial pressure does to a journalist’s ability to report the news, without fear or favour?

I recently read about a media company that supplied a list of politicians that new, young, female journalists should stay away from. Yet not a word leaked to the general public because those journalists live or die by their ‘access’ to sources within the Canberra bubble.

On Twitter, these news suppliers are known as the MSM – main stream media. They include #Newscorpse [Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps], the Fairfax press, what’s left of it, commercial TV news, and…the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

‘…the ABC was originally financed by consumer licence fees on broadcast receivers. Licence fees were abolished in 1973 and replaced principally by direct government grants,…’

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

I stopped watching commercial TV when I realised how biased ‘Sixty Minutes’ was in its presentation of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] and genetic engineering in general. I switched to the ABC because I grew up thinking the ABC was stodgy but accurate. I’ve recently had to revise even that article of faith. The ABC may not lie, but all the funding cuts have forced it to be very…selective…in the news it presents.

In my world, you’re judged not just by what you do say but by what you don’t say, and the ABC has been not-saying a lot lately.

I stopped watching the 7:30 Report a couple of years after Kerry O’Brien left. I stopped watching The Drum about a week ago when it became obvious that the discussion about Victoria’s recent 5 day lockdown would become a Daniel Andrews bash-fest. What else can you expect when the only Victorian on the panel was an ex Liberal politician?

Why was he an ex Liberal? Because we voted him out at the last election. Did he agree with our elected State Government’s strategy on Covid? Of course not. Yet the 5 day lockdown worked, just as our months long, hard lockdown worked.

It’s possible that someone else on The Drum disagreed with the bash-fest, but I didn’t see it because I stopped watching and haven’t watched since.

So why the heck am I writing all this now? I’m writing because I know that most people of my generation:

  • still believe that the news media ‘can’t’ lie.
  • still have faith in the ABC,
  • and don’t use Twitter, or watch podcasts by The Friendly Jordies, or seek out independent news sources etc etc.

Why do I know this? Because that was me just a short while ago. 😦

The Fourth Estate has changed, and the old guard are dying out. A new generation of fearless journalists are rising up to fill the void, but thus far it’s mostly the young who know about them. Those young people will be our movers and shakers very soon, but they’re not there yet. That’s why it’s up to us, the over 50s to start asking questions too. And if we don’t like the answers, we have to make ourselves heard.

I do not like learning that emergency funding for the most desperate of bushfire victims has been withheld, for any reason whatsoever. This is not only morally wrong, it’s obscene.

The rort we ignore is the rort we condone.

Meeks


What, Where, When, How…and Why?

What, where, when, how and why are the necessary elements of every great story, but in my not-so-humble opinion, the ‘why’ is the key. Without it, the event [what], its setting [the where and when], and the mechanics of how it happened are like the dry pages of a history book – factual but boring. Only the why brings the story to life because the why is always about people.

We are eternally fascinated by ourselves, but most of us are small, insignificant motes living small, insignificant lives. Only in fiction can we become something more. Only in fiction can we live bigger lives…from the safety of our armchairs.

In The Game, a six-part drama produced by the BBC, we are taken back in time to the Cold War when the Western democracies were pitted against the Soviet Union in an undeclared, covert war fought by spies, assassins, traitors, and information gatherers. Both sides had developed nuclear weapons post World War II, so if either side started a physical war, the result would be mutual destruction, many times over. It would be the end of everything.

I grew up in Australia during the Cold War, and although we felt very distant from all the pushing and shoving in the northern hemisphere, the possibility of being wiped off the face of the planet was very real. I remember reading Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and wondering how I would spend my last hours of life. Trust me when I say that the fear was real, as was the threat.

That is the ‘where’ and ‘when’ in which The Game unfolds. The ‘what’ is Operation Glass. No one in the UK’s MI5 know what Operation Glass is about, but they all know there might not be a UK if the Soviet plot is allowed to succeed. The following is a short trailer from Episode 2:

All of the people shown in that scene are key players in MI5, and you automatically relate to them as the ‘good guys’, but are they? Bit by bit as the six episodes unfold, we learn snippets from the past of each player, but these snippets are not just nice to know background fluff, they are the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Put the pieces together correctly and you discover how Operation Glass took MI5 by surprise.

If you know anything about that period of UK history, you’ll know that deep cover traitors were discovered. To say more would be to spoil a part of the story. Suffice to say that the ‘why’ of each character in The Game is vital to the story.

If I were doing a movie review, I’d give The Game 5 stars along with a recommendations that you watch it on ABC iView [for Australians]. But I’m a writer, and I have to say something more, something about balance. The ‘why’ may be key to any story, but it has to be balanced by all the other elements.

Frankly, nothing bores me more than a work of fiction that reads like a therapy session using fictional characters as the medium. Yes, the deep hurts of our lives are necessary if we want to write strong, believable characters, but great stories require that we sublimate those hurts. Great stories require that we find the universal in the personal. We have to find the elements that are common to us all. Only then can we write three dimensional characters that all of us can relate to.

And then we have to place those characters in terrible situations from which they will emerge stronger, braver, better…or dead. Okay, not always dead, but you know what I mean. 🙂

May your stories grab readers by the short and curlies, and may your characters display motivation we can all recognize! Write well, all you wonderful Indies out there, and may 2021 see you all gain the recognition you deserve.

love
Meeks


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