Tag Archives: politics

Dear Mr Turnbull – India is leaving us behind

Originally posted on Climate Denial Crock of the Week: India charging ahead on renewables. Vying with China for global leadership in the growth industry of the new century. Meanwhile, Washington looks longingly to the 19th century. Watch for new video on this topic coming very soon. Meanwhile, Denmark has decided to offload oil interests, and…

via As US Dithers, World Charges Ahead to Renewables — Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!

India is surging ahead with renewables because the India government recognizes that renewables will be cheaper in the long run than fossil fuels. China is doing the same, and both countries are positioned to become the power houses of industry in the coming decades.

But where does that leave Australia? Fumbling in the dark, that’s where. We could have become world leaders in solar technology, but the lack of political vision and will sent our innovative companies offshore, and now we import the technology from…China.

All that potential, wasted, because our politicians are ‘scared’ of upsetting the apple cart. So instead of leading, we follow, and in the process, we get left further and further behind.

Ten years ago, the Australia people voted with their wallets when they installed record numbers of rooftop solar panels. But instead of rewarding us, successive governments have tried to slow or stop small scale solar altogether.

And then there’s Adani…taxpayer dollars to fund the hope of short term gain. Pathetic.

Meeks

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The end of Representational #Democracy?

People tend to talk about our Western systems of government as ‘democracies’, but the reality is that they are only representational democracies.

Why ‘only’?

Because the original Greek definition of democracy was one man, one vote. Of course by that definition, neither slaves nor women could vote, but it was still a pretty amazing concept in a world of Kings, Emperors, Warlords and other hierarchical and dictatorial forms of government. When a civic decision had to be made, everyone would crowd into the plaza and vote with a show of hands. Simple. Direct. And non-scalable. Imagine how big a plaza you’d need for even a small country like say Hungary.

By the time some of the countries of Western Europe decided to give this democray thing a go, they’d already figured out that one man, one vote simply couldn’t work, not for big places like England and France. So they invented a system that allowed their citizens to choose between just a few people for the right to vote. The person who ended up being chosen at the grassroots level would then go up to parliament and vote on their behalf. This is the basis of representational democracy – one person voting in the name of lots of people.

Now representational democracy was a great invention in its time, but the reality has never lived up to the hype because all those representatives ended up being funnelled into parties. Then factions within those parties would compete amongst themselves. Eventually, one person would gain enough power to represent not only the whole faction but also the party. This leader would then go head to head with the leader of the opposing faction until one of them won. Eventually, the leader who won would get to represent and make decisions for…all of us:

we the governed

 

Forgive me for this child’s view of politics, but sometimes we have to remember what’s real and what is merely an aspiration. At the moment, the kind of democracy that gives each man and woman a vote that actually matters is still just a pipe-dream.

Or is it?

During the lead up to the recent Australian election, many of the political pundits mentioned that a massive proportion of eligible young voters were not registering to vote. [In Australia, voting is compulsory and anyone 18 and over is supposed to register their name on the electoral roll].

Were these young people merely apathetic? Just not interested in politics? Not interested in politics as we know it? Other?

At 63 I can hardly speak for the young, but as someone who lives on the internet, I can make a few educated guesses:

  1. I don’t think the young are disinterested in politics at all
  2. I think they are merely disinterested in the traditional form of politics taken for granted in the West.

Now let me make a few guesses as to why:

  1. change.org
  2. Facebook [and Tumblr and Twitter and…and….etc]

What does social media have to do with politics? And disaffected youth? Everything.

Todays 18 year olds have grown up having a direct say in the issues they care about – via Facebook et al., and organisations such as change.org and getup [amongs others]. On these platforms, groups form almost organically and as the groups grow, they gain a voice, a voice that is being heard by pollsters and politicians alike. The major parties may deny that they take any notice of online petitions, but no institution is large enough to withstand the fury of a self-righteous group.

So the young have found a platform and those in control are paying attention, and this is happening in real time, day after day. Why on earth would these young voices care about an election that happens only once every 3 – 4 years and does NOT reflect their views?

Make no mistake, in a representational democracy, only voting blocks actually matter. Individual votes matter hardly at all. For example, here in Warrandyte, we are part of the Jaga Jaga electoral area. Jaga Jaga is never mentioned in post election commentary because it is a safe Labor seat, and has been for a very long. Thus, no matter how I vote, my vote has no effect on the outcome of the election because it would take a massive change to turn Jaga Jaga into a swinging electorate. And swinging electorates are the only ones that can really change the final outcome of the election.

So for young people living in Warrandyte who do NOT believe in Labor’s values, voting is essentially pointless, and exactly the same thing applies to Labor voters in a safe Liberal electorate. Yet all these young people have had a taste of what true democracy could be like.

They have made their voices heard on social media and that is the kind of system they want: one person, one vote and each vote counts.

We do not yet have the technology to make online voting, issue by issue, a reality. The internet is simply not secure enough, not yet, but it will be, and when it is, I believe representational democracy will change. It will have to. Brexit and Trump and the [possibility] of a hung parliament here in Australia guarantee it.

We who are governed want to have a say in how we are governed. We want democracy.

cheers

Meeks


Tony Abbott stays. Not happy Jan.

angryI just watched Phillip Ruddock announce that the Spill motion in the Cabinet was defeated in a secret ballot. Quite substantially too. So the Mad Monk stays.

For those unfamiliar with Australia politics, the Prime Minister is not chosen by the electorate. He, or she is chosen by either the Coalition Cabinet [Liberals] or the Caucus [Labor]. The Cabinet [and Caucus when Labor is in power] is made up of those elected representatives who have been invited to ‘front bench’ positions in the Ministry – i.e. positions of power such as Treasurer, Foreign Minister etc.

As the Cabinet [and Caucus] elect the Prime Minister, they are also capable of unelecting the Prime Minister. One way of doing this is to call for a Spill motion. Essentially this means that a majority of Cabinet Ministers are dissatisfied with the current Prime Minister and vote to have the position opened up.

If the Spill motion succeeds, anyone is free to put their hand up as a potential Prime Minister [including the current one]. Cabinet then has another vote to decide which of the possible candidates will be the next Prime Minister. And sometimes, the previous Prime Minister ends up being re-elected to the position.

Sadly, this particular Spill motion was defeated. As a Labor voter I’d far rather see Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister than Tony Abbott, but for the moment at least, we don’t get a say in the matter.

Fortunately for us, I don’t believe this Spill motion will be the end of the matter. When one third of the Coalition government is unhappy with the Prime Minister, that discontent doesn’t go away just because the other two thirds dig their political heels in.

My prediction is that after a period of ‘walkee lightly lightly’, Tony Abbott is going to go back to being just the way he has always been. After all, why shouldn’t he? Didn’t he defeat the Spill motion?

As discontent builds, both in the Coalition and in the electorate, things will come to a head again. We saw it with the Rudd/Gillard debacle, and I believe we’ll see it again in the Abbott government. Either way I can’t see Abbott’s government being voted back in at the next election.

cheers on this sunny Monday morning,

Meeks

p.s. and for younger Aussie readers, the ‘Not happy Jan’ came from a very funny, and very popular TV commercial. The phrase sort of crept into the national lexicon for a while. For us oldies, it’s still there. 🙂

 


Is this the end of Aussie apathy?

revolution picBack in the ’70s, when I was going to uni., we used to bemoan the fact that our parents, and most ‘adult’ Australians, just didn’t care about big, political issues. So long as the economy was ticking along nicely, they were happy to keep the incumbent government in power. For example, Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister from 1949 – 1966. That’s 17 years, without a break!

We, however, were more politically aware. We cared. We would hold our governments accountable.

We, of course, were the Baby Boomers, and we did do more than our parents before us, but there were still unspoken codes of conduct for voters and politicians alike:

– A State or Federal government had to be really on the nose [Aussie for really bad] for it to be voted out after just one term [3-4 years],

– Parties did not knife their leaders in the back, at least not once they were in power. That kind of politicking was meant to happen behind closed doors, while the party was jockeying to get out of Opposition.

In short, there was an element of the gentleman’s club about Australian politics. I think we can safely say that old school etiquette is well and truly gone. Or as our much unloved PM, Tony Abbott, once said, ‘dead, buried and cremated’.

In the last four years we’ve seen a never-ending merry-go-round of parties and leaders, all wanting their 15 minutes of fame. But we’ve also seen the electorate throwing its weight around like never before. The voice of the people is loud and raucous, and it’s being heard in high places.

[Sorry about the cliches but you must admit they fit really well just there. ;)]

A lot of the motivation behind the electoral swings is self-interest – middle and lower class [sic] voters are sick of politicians who promise one thing and deliver pain instead. In the past we’d shake our head with a cynical ‘Hah, politicians, what can you expect?’. These days our cynicism has turned to anger, and even if we can’t force the politicians to behave, we know we can pay back some of the pain they give us, and so we do.

So far, this awakening amongst the electorate has not been particularly good for politics because, instead of motivating politicians to ‘do better’, it’s just motivating them to jump faster every time a poll confirms or predicts a slump in popularity.

That is not the way to run a country. But, not knowing, and not caring what the electorate wants is not the way either.

The thing that excites me is that we, the voters, are finally starting to train our politicians. Catering only to the big end of town is not acceptable. Catering only to the unions is not acceptable. Making surpluses on the backs of the weak and needy is not acceptable. Being effing selfish is not acceptable. Being arrogant is not acceptable. Being a professional politician is not acceptable.

We are still a long way from training our polies to be ethical servants of the people, but I think we have made a beginning, and that is worth cheering about.

So if this truly is the end of Aussie apathy then I’m all for it. I’d rather see some chaos amongst the political parties than go back to the polite, but paternalistic standards of the past. Voters unite!

cheers

Meeks


Victory on the Chaplaincy programme – scuttled by Labor. What??

I just learned that the High Court has ruled against the Chaplaincy programme indirectly, by ruling that the funding model was not constitutional. As this type of funding model is also used by the commonwealth to fund about 400 other programmes, this is going to give the Abbott government a massive headache.

Despite the court ruling, however, Abbott has gone on record to say that he will do whatever it takes to keep the chaplaincy programme going. Excuse me?

Just to quickly recap for those who may not have been following this issue ; the Abbott government refuses to fund professional counsellors in schools, but clings to this ridiculous, religious patronage. Unless your child happens to belong to the denomination favoured by Tony Abbott, he or she will not get much value from this so-called caring programme. Yet this is exactly what Abbott supports.

Egalitarian? No.

An appropriate use of taxpayer funds during a horror budget? No.

Respectful of our multicultural, multi-faith, sexually diverse society? Hell no.

But I’m not saving all my bile for the Abbott government. Labor gets a big fat serve as well. Instead of coming out against this farce, Labor apparently will support coalition legislation designed to make the programme – ‘legal’.

I have very little time for Bill Shorten, but this is beyond belief. Is Labor brown-nosing that diminishing segment of Australian voters who are white, protestant or catholic and over 60?

Not happy, Bill, not happy at all.

Meeks


The Marie Antoinette disorder [in politics]

low carb hazelnut cakeMarie Antoinette pirouetted in front of the mirror, admiring her milk-white neck, or perhaps the priceless diamonds that nestled there. She really should have asked for matching earrings…

A timid knock on the door interrupted the Queen’s weighty deliberations.

“Entrez!” she trilled, not at all pleased.

The door opened to reveal a haggard man in full court regalia. When he bowed, the light streaming in through the windows of the Petit Trianon lit up the bald spots on his head.

“Majesty!” he said.

“Lord High Chamberlain,” she replied. “Why are We being disturbed?”

“Deepest apologies, Majesty,” the Chamberlain replied, absently brushing another hank of hair from his shoulder. “A delegation has arrived to petition the Crown. It seems the people have no bread…”

“No bread?” the Queen said, her perfect forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them eat cake!”

Marie Antoinette, born on 2 November 1755,  beheaded by guillotine on 16 October 1793.

* * *

There is no historical evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said those infamous words, however the willful blindness behind them could well have been true. Sadly, modern day ‘rulers’ seem to be afflicted by the same disorder.

I am, just at this moment, thinking of our estwhile Treasurer,  Joe Hockey. Apparently Joe Hockey is trying to float the idea of pushing the retirement age out to 70…perhaps to claw back some of the money Prime Minister Abbott wants to give extremely well off women in the form of paid maternity leave.

It goes without saying that women capable of earning $150,000 per annum are in desperate straits, and need all the help they can get. The same cannot be said for Baby Boomers, such as myself, who selfishly refuse to pop off, and will soon become a huge burden on the welfare system.

Mr Hockey’s brilliant plan is to make Boomers keep working until they hit 70, at which point they may, or may not get a pension.

Now, I have to say that I never planned on retiring, at least as a writer, but given how hard it is to find a job at 61,  I do wonder what jobs Mr Hockey has in mind. Bricklaying? Plumbing? Garbology? Or perhaps some of the high flying CEO’s will burn out at 40 and make way for us mature types?

Or perhaps Mr Hockey doesn’t really care that there are no jobs out there for us. I’m sure his number crunchers have already worked out that having Boomers on the dole NewStart Allowance, is preferable to having them on the Age Pension.

Let’s do the sums. A single Pensioner at the maximum rate gets $842.80 per fortnight, or $421.40 per week. An unemployed person on NewStart gets $508.00 per fortnight, or $254.00 per week. I’m no maths genius, but even I know that’s a saving of $167.40 per person per week. That is $8,704.80 per year. Now if the retirement age is raised from 67 to 70 [for men] and from 65 to 68 for women, the government will save $26,114.40 per Boomer during those 3 extra years of -cough- work -cough-.

Another benefit of pushing the retirement age out to 70 is that many of the poorest Boomers may well die of starvation,  freeze to death in winter or die of heatstroke in summer as they try to juggle the conflicting needs of buying food, or paying the utilities out of $254.oo per week.

Of course, not all Baby Boomers will be affected by the new retirement age. Those on big incomes and hefty superannuation payouts will be fine. They will be able to access their superannuation at 60, and use all those lovely dollars to replace their ageing Mercedes with a new Beemer, and still have enough left to last them till they reach 70. With luck, and judicious spending, they should then be eligible for the full pension because all of their superannuation will be gone.

So let’s take those Boomers out of the equation. Who have we got left? Hmm,  apparently there will still be quite a few Boomers with a disability [and no superannuation], unskilled manual workers [men and women] with very little superannuation, single parents [mostly women] with little to no superannuation, and divorced women with grown children who never managed to accrue any superannuation at all…

* * *

Tony Abbott is staring into the mirror, admiring his spandex when his deliberations are interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Enter!” he growls, not at all pleased.

The door opens to reveal a haggard man suffering from severe alopecia.

“What is it Joe?”

“Um, I got the budget into surplus, Tony, but there’s a delegation of Boomers outside, and they’re not happy. They say they can’t get a job…”

“No jobs?” the Prime Minister said, his forehead creased in a tiny frown. “Why then, let them have NewStart!”

* * *

I rest my case.

Meeks

p.s. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

 


Where were you when… ?

… Gough Whitlam was deposed as Prime Minister of Australia?

Some of you will be too young to remember the furor the Whitlam sacking caused. Some will not have even been born. But I was there, and I was shocked that such a thing could happen to an elected government. 

We were all shocked again in 2010 when a second Australian Prime Minister was ‘sacked’. The fact he was sacked by his own party just made the betrayal even blacker. 

Last night it happened again, with the sacking of Prime Minister Julia Guillard, but this time there was an element of poetic justice about it. 

For those of you unfamiliar with recent Australian politics, let me give you a quick recap of events.

2007 – Kevin Rudd led Australian Labor to a huge victory in the polls. His Deputy was Julia Guillard.

2010 – Julia Guillard, helped by a faction boss called Bill Shorten, deposed Kevin Rudd as leader of the Labor Party, and hence as Prime Minister.

2013 – Bill Shorten [yes the same man] helped Kevin Rudd to regain leadership of the Labor Party, and become Prime Minister a second time.

Those are the bald facts. Woven in and around those facts are a number of disturbing trends. Foremost amongst them is the power of opinion polls.

A drop in popularity amongst voters, and Kevin Rudd’s abrasive leadership style amongst his colleagues led to his original sacking by the party. Julia Guillard’s plummeting approval rating led directly to her sacking. And all these popularity contests were decided by opinion polls.

In one sense, the rising power of opinion polls can be seen as democracy at work. These polls purport to take the ‘pulse’ of a nation, and as a curiosity they are fine. However I take issue with opinion polls being used as the drivers of political changes such as these.

Why? 

1. Because by their very nature, opinion polls can only sample public opinion. If you know anything about statistics you will know that the smaller the sample size, the less reliable the results. Have you ever been approached by a pollster asking your opinion about politics? No, me neither. The only way anyone can ever know exactly what the voters are thinking is by asking them in an election where every single voter gets to be heard.

2. Because by their very nature, polls are hypotheticals and gauge only how a particular respondent is feeling on that day. Those feelings can be influenced by a number of factors, including the slant of the news media on that day. They are also not indicative of how someone will vote during a real election. I’ve been most unhappy with Labor for a very long time, but even I do not know how I would have voted if Julia Guillard had gone to the election as PM. You see I was not happy with her, but I am and will remain even more unhappy with Tony Abbott.

3. Because I do not believe that off-the-cuff public opinion should be allowed to decide such momentous changes. It’s the equivalent of a husband and wife having a spat about who should take out the rubbish, and then having an outsider forcing them to divorce over it.

In Australia, we do not have Presidential style elections where personality plays a big role in deciding who gets elected. At least, that is not how it’s supposed to work. We are supposed to elect our governments on the basis of party policies. The reality, of course, is never quite so clear cut. 

I believe both Whitlam and Rudd were elected because we saw them as men of vision… and we felt we needed visionaries in the top job. As such, they were both viewed as more than just talking heads. We felt we knew them, and could trust them. And we believed they had a blueprint for a better future instead of just more of the same old same old. In that sense, our relationship to them was much stronger than what we normally feel for our politicians. It was a marriage of sorts, and in both cases, we should have been given the opportunity to decide whether we wanted to end the marriage or not.

At its heart, Julia Guillard’s demise was predicated from the moment she sacked Kevin Rudd. She was a good politician, and under different circumstances she would have made a great Prime Minister, but her every mistake was seen through the prism of what came before. And, of course, Tony Abbott made sure that those mistakes were amplified in the public eye. Sound bites and opinion polls did the rest.

As a Rudd supporter [and Abbott skeptic] I am glad to have him back, but I do wish our first female Prime Minister could have left under better circumstances. I also wish Kevin Rudd had a better chance of leading Labor to victory in the coming election. I think he will drag the Party back from the brink of disaster, but I don’t think he will have the time to forge a victory. 

I don’t have a crystal ball but these are my predictions :

1. Labor will lose at the coming election, but only by a small margin.

2. After the election, Kevin Rudd will be deposed because those within the Party who still hate him will have no further reason to support him.

3. The Abbott government will quickly become very unpopular and will lose the next election. 

4. With luck, Abbott will be replaced by Malcolm Turnbull.

5. For the next three years of opposition I believe Labor will be lead by Bill Shorten. I think he fell on his sword for the good of the Party and that sacrifice will be rewarded, eventually.

6. Somewhere down the track I believe Penny Wong will become the first ethnic, gay, female Prime Minister. She has both charisma and brains. More importantly she is perceived as having integrity. By the time a couple of elections have been and gone, we will need integrity even more than we need vision. 

We live in interesting times, but at least I now have someone to vote for at the coming election. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. The new pc is up and running beautifully. I can’t say that setting it up was a pleasure, but it was a lot less onerous than I thought it would be. More about that when the dust settles in the political arena.


Vokhtah, book 2 – some plotting

I’m a pantster not a plotter, however there comes a time in any story when I have to take a step back, and really think about the wider ramifications of the story I am trying to tell.  This usually involves thinking about the world as a whole. 

What outside forces are at work? And how will they impinge on the lives of my main characters? In particular, how will history, culture and politics help or hinder their personal stories?

The following excerpt is something I’ve been working on for days.  The scene will impact two of my main  characters. One, the Apprentice/Kaati you already know. The other is a character I introduced in book 1, but only in passing. As such, the information in this scene is vital, so it needs to be clear. But I did not want to write just an info dump. 😦

I’d really appreciate your feedback on whether I got the balance more or less right.

***

The Master of Acolytes was something of an anomaly amongst the higher ranked healers of the Guild because it had a powerful talent, but very little personal ambition. It did not attempt to curry favour with either the Yellows or the Blues, and tended to avoid Guild politics where possible.

Nonetheless, even this mild, self-effacing healer nurtured one, powerful ambition – it longed to be the healer who finally freed the Guild from the Traders forever.

The Master did not hate the Traders. It did not even object to sharing the Settlement with them, but it did fear another Great Unrest, and knew the Guild would never be truly safe while it was dependant on outsiders for any of its important needs. And Traders held a monopoly on two of the Guild’s most critical needs.

Ever since the time of the Rogue, the Traders had been the Guild’s only link with the outside world. Traders kept the Guild’s maps up-to-date, and the Trader Quartermaster made it possible for the Guild to know where and when its Triads were needed. In return the Guild offered the Traders shelter and food.

This symbiotic relationship had worked well until the Great Unrest had disrupted the Guild’s ability to service the needs of the eyries, and their Vokh. The Guild had acted quickly, yet even so, the Nine had promised to withdraw the Vokh’s protection of the Settlement if such a disturbance ever happened again.

That was when it had become obvious the Guild’s dependence on the Traders was a weakness, a dangerous weakness. Nonetheless, despite over two hundred years of trying, the Guild had not been able to breed even one healer-seneschal. The two talents could not seem to co-exist in the one body. Those Initiates with healing talents strong enough to survive the Quickening could not mind-speak, while those who could always died because they lacked the healing talents that should have kept them alive.

The Master of Acolytes was well aware of this long, long history of failure. It had personally nurtured six young candidates with the ability to mind-speak, and had watched five of them die during the Quickening. Yet despite these failures, it continued to believe the mix of talents was possible. It was convinced the answer lay in finding candidates who had the potential for both talents… before the Quickening.

All five failures had been first rate apprentices who should have made good healers, yet they had still died. And now there was just one hopeful left. It possessed a very strong talent for mind-speaking, however it was the young iVokh’s empathy that made it truly special. Even as a first year apprentice, it had shown a natural ‘knack’ for soothing fractious newborn that was unmatched by any of the other apprentices.

Of course, empathy alone did not guarantee the Quickening would trigger the full range of healer talents. Nonetheless, experience had shown that natural empathy was the best indicator of latent talents.

In an effort to release more of this latent potential, the Master had arranged for the sixth candidate to work with a powerful healer in a safe eyrie. Unfortunately Needlepoint had turned out to be anything but safe, and now no-one seemed to know whether the Triad, and its precious Acolyte, were still alive.

The only one who might know was the Yellow Councillor, but it was the least approachable, and most feared healer in the Guild.

The Master had never spoken to the Yellow, nor had it ever wanted to, but after almost two ti’m’akh of fearful waiting it could wait no longer. It had to find out if its life’s work was over.

Taking a deep, tremulous breath, the old healer raised its hand and knocked on the Yellow’s door.


Bushfire season 2011/12 is over

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself but I honestly can’t see how a fire could hit Warrandyte now – the air is crisp and cool, the grass is a vibrant green and you can almost smell autumn in the air…oh wait, that could be alpaca poop.

For those who don’t know, alpacas almost always poop in nice, discrete piles, as if they invented the idea of latrines. This highly civilized way of defecating means that you can walk around outside without having to wear gumboots all the time. Unfortunately it also means that the smell is rather concentrated. There is a pile of poop about 10 metres from my office window so when we have a  north wind blowing I have to seal the office off. Nonetheless I’m  not complaining. How could I when the alpacas have manicured the grass so nicely?

I have about 1/2 an acre out the back and at the moment it is as well cared for as a putting green! Except for the piles of poop of course; they look like small green volcanoes with a black caldera in the middle. The black part is the poop while the green part is the well fertilized grass around the poop. Not surprisingly the alpacas won’t eat the grass that’s too close to their piles. Can’t say I blame them but the green volcanoes do look a little odd.

Alpaca volcanoes aside though I am pleased to say that the alpaca experiment has been a qualified success. They have done a very good job of keeping the grass down directly around the house and their clawed toes are much kinder to the soil than other introduced grazers such as cattle or sheep. The one downside in using them as part of my fire prevention strategy is that they will only eat the native grasses when there is nothing else to munch on. This was partly my fault as I sowed some special alpaca feed* in the flat spots around the house during the last winter of the big drought. These grasses stay green even when the rest of the grass has gone your typical summer brown but with all the rain we’ve had the last couple of years the alpacas have been spoiled for choice and have ignored the brown stuff with disdain. Even so they have kept the area around the house well mowed and that is all I can ask for now. Come winter I am going to try and extend their pasture further downhill. If it doesn’t take because of the steepness of the slope I’ll have to think about putting in a bit more terracing [gah…more work].

So having alpacas is not a magic bullet but they are better than mowing by hand or, as seems to happen a lot in Warrandyte, not mowing at all. I know that everyone is busy and I know that many of the people in Warrandyte are new to the area but removing fuel load is part and parcel of living here. It is NOT an optional extra.

I know it’s not feasible but I’d love to see herds of alpacas wandering along Brogil  creek and keeping us all safe. They might be a bit of a traffic hazard but at least they’d do a better job of reducing the fuel load than Nillumbik Shire.

Yes, I know I’m a grumpy old ratepayer but you’d think that at $656 per quarter our local council could do something a little more practical than  telling us to clear out our gutters. Every time I receive one of their expensive newletters full of hot air and self congratulations I wonder how a shire that let, nay caused so many people to die on Black Saturday can escape all accountability.

-sigh-

I truly do wish that being elected to local council was like being chosen for jury duty – an unpleasant civic responsibility that no-one in their right mind would want to do. Then at least we might get some local government that was truly unbiased, a-political and not driven by ambition or self-interest. Come to think of it that could work at state and federal levels too…

Back to reality. Alpacas are herd animals and need the companionship of two or more of their kind or they get a bit psychotic – much like people in solitary confinement – so having just one is not a good idea. One way around this problem is to join together with your neighbours in owning and caring for them. I am one of a group of three neighbours and our four alpacas keep a total of about 2.5 acres mowed. To make things easier we invested in side gates that link our three properties. We all get on really well and that helps too.

The bottom line though is that Warrandyte is a fire prone area so if you live here then you must find some way of keeping the fuel load down on your own property. The danger may be past for this season but it will return and when the next fire does come through we will all be on our own so it makes sense to do what we can now.

If you don’t believe me do the math : there are three CFA fire stations dotted around Warrandyte, North Warrandyte and Research. As far as I know each of those fire stations has 2 fire trucks. That makes 6 in all yet even if there were twice that many they would not be enough to protect the 7393 people living in Warrandyte [2006 census figure].  So yes, the reality is that when the next bushfire sweeps through Warrandyte we will be on our own so doing things to help ourselves should be as much a part of the culture as enjoying the ‘serenity’ of living among the gum trees.

And with that homage to The Castle,  I’m going to go out amongst my own gum trees to shovel some alpaca poop. At least it makes good compost.

* Note : ordinary lawn seed is NOT good for alpacas as it can make them bloat which is serious!


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