The New Australian

Proudly nearly Australian since 2010. "I'm not grumpy, the rest of the world is just unrealistically upbeat"

The New Australian - Proudly nearly Australian since 2010. "I'm not grumpy, the rest of the world is just unrealistically upbeat"

Rum, sherry and on the lash

It was less than 6 months into my exile in Australia that I realised that the image the world is presented about the nation being populated by discerning beer drinkers was a lie and I therefore did something to rectify the situation for myself.

I started brewing beer from grain and hops, kits seemed pointless and didn’t reflect what I wanted to drink either
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Cuntville aka Mosman

The irony of this post does not escape me; bloke in a wealthy neighbourhood populated with the overpaid middle class slanders another neighbourhood populated with etc….

But let’s call it for what it is; Mosman is Sydney’s cunt central.

I’ve spent very little time stationary in MosVegas, I think we’ve had one dinner at some friends’ house and we’ve been to the zoo and gasped in awe at the prices at the monkey-themed café.

Mostly I experience Mosman on two wheels as I try to get the hell out of the place alive. I have little choice but to ride through the suburb to get to work; it’s too far to run every day (I try to do it twice a week), I don’t like taking the bus and I’m too cheap to buy a second car.

The Military Road in rush hour is the cycling equivalent of Russian Roulette with all the buses and angry commuters so I take the back roads. The danger is only mildly reduced however, but one does have the advantage of enough time to “profile” your potential killer.

You’re probably thinking I’m being over-dramatic or at least exaggerating for mild comedic effect.

I’m not.

The vast majority of car drivers in Mosman are potential manslaughter defendants.

I’m not suggesting malice (hence the legal term in that last statement) but the willful negligence demonstrated daily in the suburb is breathtaking. During an average week of cycling through the place 6 times, I witness at least one near miss.

The stretch between Upper Almora St and Rangers Rd seems to be worst. A few months ago I witnessed a BMW SUV take out TWO bikes as the driver (a washed out bottle blonde mother with iPad-watching kids called Tresemmé and Chlamydia in the back, soy latte and iPhone in her hand) overtook them and drove into a parking space neatly crunching the bikes. The riders both leapt off just in time.

That profile of driver seems to be a common factor in the majority of incidents. Again, the irony is that my significant other also drives an SUV full of kids in the morning. The difference is, Charlie doesn’t have a massively-inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement bordering on sociopathy. This is reflected in her driving style.

Before I get accusations of being one of those radical cyclists, expecting cars to follow the laws while believing they are voluntary for me, I’m not.

I only ride to get to and from work, you’ll never see me in the Sunday morning peleton with the espresso-drinking lyrca twats, I wear cheap shorts and t-shirts from Lowes and I never jump red lights.

Yet I still find myself regularly getting into arguments with Mosman drivers about the basic interpretation of the law. It seems to regularly come as a surprise to them that dropping a hundred grand on a German car doesn’t mean the road rules are waived.

Two weeks ago is a classic case in point; cycling to work on a quiet Mosman back street I heard the revving of a large engine behind me, the driver was clearly impatient and trying to pass. But he couldn’t because I chose that route precisely because cars can’t race past cyclists. The revving continued though, across a couple of roundabouts and junctions until finally, wheels spinning, he got past and raced off at double the speed limit.

And then he skidded to a stop, got out and starting screaming and shouting at another cyclist.

In my non-confrontational idiom, I pulled up by them both and offered my opening gambit;

I don’t know what he did to upset you but you certainly drove like an absolute cunt to catch up with him, didn’t you?”

As you can imagine, that went down like a lukewarm cup of vomit, especially as by this time he’d inspected the damage caused by the cyclist’s Shimano cleat on his wing;

image

That’s the front wing of a brand new CLK Merc. What do you reckon the bill will be for that, much change from $5,000?

Turns out the driver genuinely didn’t realise that he couldn’t nudge a bike out of the way to enter a roundabout first. Perhaps the repair bill will prompt him to research the road rules a little better. Think of it as an investment or cost avoidance, maybe?

So I couldn’t help wondering when I heard about yesterday’s tragedy on Medusa St, a street which isn’t a rat run to or from anywhere and doesn’t seem long enough (maybe 150m at most) to legally accelerate enough to kill someone, whether it was the same Mercedes or just a coincidence.

Except coincidences don’t often happen in real life.

A Mercedes in Mosman is like a pubic hair; every cunt has one.

UPDATE: The Mercedes driver was in a silver CLK, just like my mate from two weeks back.

Red or blue, we are still lobsters in a pot

A useful test of maturity and intelligence in politics and political commentary is how someone responds to an event which shows their chosen side in a poor light.

Those of us who dip into Sky News for their current affairs reporting would, on Wednesday night, have seen several characters, previously known for fearlessly berating corrupt Labor officials, offering quite embarrassing platitudes and excuses on behalf of Barrington O’Farrell.

Here’s a selection of three campaigners for open and clean politics and a summary of their opinion;

Gary Hardgrave – without proof of continuous ownership, the bottle could have been any old rubbish with a label slapped on.

Paul Murray – It’s just a bottle of wine, that’s nothing compared to the corruption of the other side.

Peter van Onselen – He could be excused from forgetting. After all, he would have received hundreds of gifts of goodwill and has an incredibly busy diary. And it’s only a bottle of wine.

 

These people should have known better, especially Hargreaves; he’s held office previously and knows the rules.

But it would seem that Australians have been living with governmental corruption and incompetence for so long that, rather like the lobster in the pot, they’ve not realised the temperature of corruption that they are now tolerating as normal.

 

In case you’re Australian or a bit slow, let me spell it out for you; corruption is similar to pregnancy in that one can’t be “only a bit corrupt”.

 

Accepting a bottle of wine may seem like an anodyne act. For most of us it is, but then the bottles of wine we might get from suppliers don’t have the same monetary value of a second hand car.

New South Wales officials are governed by (supposedly) strictly-enforced rules around probity. Elected officials are included in these rules. Anything worth $300 or more from a private source should be declared and added to the register. A gift or benefit may include:

 

•offers of cash or shares

•gifts, such as bottles of wine, manufacturer’s samples or personal items

•etc.

Acceptance of gifts or benefits will not usually be appropriate from a person or company if they are:

•involved in a tender process with the agency, either for the procurement of goods and services or sale of assets; or

•the subject of a decision within the discretionary power or substantial influence of the APS employee concerned.

Particular care should also be taken if:

•the person or organisation is in a contractual or regulatory relationship with the Commonwealth

•the organisation’s primary purpose is to lobby Ministers, Members of Parliament or agencies.

If a gift or benefit is accepted, it is prudent to disclose or register its approximate value. All valuable gifts or benefits should be registered. (Ministers and all Senators and Members are required to register benefits from official sources valued at $750 or more and $300 or more from private sources).

 

Here’s the word we are all looking for in the dictionary;

Probity

Probity is not just the avoidance of influence but avoidance of the perception of influence.

That’s why there are rules about how many soy decaffs or tickets to the footie government officials can accept.

In my line of work I have a good opportunity to influence the selection of suppliers for fairly lucrative contracts. Corporate hospitality offers flow through to me as a consequence, most of which I decline with ease (hint to suppliers; golf is a tedious pastime played by fat dull twats who weren’t good enough to play team sports in their youth. So don’t invite me to your golf day).

There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve really struggled with doing the right thing though. A lunch with all of the captains of the rugby world cup winning teams slap bang in the middle of the month when the supplier who invited me was due to deliver their BAFO on a multi-million pound contract, for example.

I’m heading off to the sub-continent next month to meet two suppliers bidding for a piece of work. One of them has mentioned that we’ll be in a town hosting an IPL match and they have a corporate box. Now, I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of T20, I think it’s a bollocks version of cricket, but I wouldn’t mind the experience of watching cricket in a packed Indian stadium and it wouldn’t have the slightest influence on the decision to award a contract.

But no, probity is as much about perception of influence as the influence itself. So I won’t be going to the cricket match next month and I didn’t get to meet Captains Kirk, Farr-Jones, Pienaar, Eels or Johnson over lunch back in 2007.

BoF should have declared that bottle of wine, its value was 10 times the limit that the rules allow. That is why he resigned.

You can’t be a little bit pregnant and you can’t be only a little bit corrupt.

Dress for success and pay in excess

Today was going to be a rant at the hypocrisy demonstrated by the Liberal Party apologists in the Australian media yesterday, but I don’t like to blog on the same subject consecutively unless it’s a Richmond Game week, so tune in tomorrow for the “it was just a bottle of wine” takedown.

So today’s rant is a Petit Bourgeois Price Checking Ninnies post.

The previous occupants of Chez TNA, like most people in the Manli ™ area, definitely had more money than sense.

Firstly, we know this because we saw what they were paying in rent and we negotiated a significant discount on that when we moved in.

Secondly, we can see this willingness to be ripped off from the advertising mailing lists they subscribed to.

Here’s one that arrived this week;

Catalogue

A menswear catalogue for gentlemen.

Regulars here will know I’m just a tad anally-retentive particular about the quality, cut and combination of my business attire. I like to be the best-tailored man in the office, I find it adds an extra couple of percent of credibility to the advice I offer and helps justify the excessive day rate I charge. Like a high class hooker, dressing well is an investment in my line of work.

In addition, I don’t buy clothes in Australia because, without exception, they are over-priced and/or poor quality compared to what can be shipped here from the UK or the USA.

Nonetheless, I flicked through the booklet last night to see if anything piqued my interest….

 

 

Catalogue2I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to drop a couple of grand on a suit, it ain’t going to be off the peg. In fact, I do drop that much on my suits and they come from this top chap, tailored exactly to my Adonis-like frame by some reet solid folk up in t’Yorkshire. And they come with a second pair of trousers for that price too.

Ok, shoes then?

 

Catalogue3Now those are fine shoes. Beautifully hand-crafted Loakes, built in their factory in Northampton. I’m certain that I would like those shoes a lot. How do I know? Because I’m wearing a pair of that exact model right now, very comfy and smart they are too. Except I paid $100 less for mine.

 

Regardless of your personal taste in fashion, ordering items to be delivered from an Australian catalogue when the same items can be ordered directly from the manufacturer at a significant discount just doesn’t make sense.

Henry Bucks hasn’t learned this lesson yet, it would seem. Even after being told once already in ShagYerDadAlaide…..

 

Australia’s corruption problem – the solution

Australia loves to hold Royal Commissions and Inquiries into stuff. There are at least three ongoing that I can think of;

- Royal Commission into sexual abuse of minors by various church officials, but noticably, mainly the Catholic Church.
- ICAC inquiry into corruption in the New South Wales state government and various departments.
- Royal Commission into corruption, coercion and fraud in the unions.

When looking at the surnames and diminutive physical stature of the various dodgy characters going through the rotating doors of these embarassing Star Chambers, one can’t help wondering if there isn’t a simpler process we could employ than all the expensive and time-consuming investigative work required to bring the accusations to the various bent officials?

Bear me out on this, and at the risk of being accused of one of the two* greatest crimes of our modern age, that is being “waycist“, I can’t help wondering if it would not be simpler if we just rounded up anyone who qualifies under the following criteria;

  1. Has held or currently holds a senior position in a government, union or charity organisation, and
  2. Is no taller than 5ft 6 inches, and
  3. Has a surname of Italian, Greek, Lebanese or Irish origin.

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “but TNA, we won’t catch all of the cunts using that criteria“. You have a point, but we will have definitely got most of them and can use the money saved to investigate the handful of corrupt officials who are tall and/or of British origin.

To illustrate the efficacy of this new proposed approach, one need only look at the unedifying the image of the current NSW State Premier, Mr. Barrington O’Farrell, having to fall back into the classic defence we’ve all used when caught out by those in authority, i.e. deny eveything, regarless of the evidence presented to the contrary.

Did you have sex with my best friend?

 - No, it wasn’t me.

But she said you did.

 - It wasn’t.

So why have the Child Support Agency sent you a bill for the upkeep of the baby?

 - Erm, it wasn’t me?

 

BoF is probably feeling more than a little uncomfortable at the moment. So, to cheer him up, here’s a great John Lee Hooker riff supercharged up into an excellent feel good song. Just don’t tell your wife you’ve been to the place they are singing about, (“they gotta lotta nice gals there“);

 

*the other being “climate change denier”.

 

 

UPDATE:

How funny. As I hit “publish” on this blog post and then tweeted the link directly to @barryofarrell, I was wondering if it was perhaps libellous in some way. “Ah, fuck it“, I thought, “this blog is hosted offshore anyway, so good luck with proving an Australian libel case“.

Turns out I could have simply said, “Barry O’Farrell lied through his fucking teeth yesterday” and not worried at all about the legal consequenses.

There’s no “U” in QandA

…..and not really a “me” either.

The news industry has undergone some radical changes over recent years with once megalithic newspaper, TV and radio organisations seeing their business model denuded of profit and their speed to print/broadcast undermined.

When I think about an average week of news consumption personally, I estimate that I receive 90% of my intake from free online sources with the remaining 10% from TV and radio. I think the last time I read a physical newspaper was in a hotel in India on a business trip and I honestly can’t recall when last I paid for one.

Of the online news sources, I like Twitter. Yes, it’s full of absolute guff and pictures of that woman in the United Airlines social media screw up, but it also has some absolute nuggets which don’t make it to the mainstream until multiple verifications have occurred to minimise legal action. Rolf Harris’ arrest 6 months before the TV, radio and newspapers, for example.

On the subject of Twitter; I’ve noticed a little Twitterstorm regularly occurs on Monday nights when the ABC broadcasts “Q and A”. So I thought I’d drop in last night and see what all the fuss is about.

The format is familiar to those growing up in the UK; it’s basically “Question Time” but sans one of the Dimblebys.

The announcer advised us that QandA (spaces or no spaces? It’s difficult to know which to use) was hosted by Tony Jones, which nearly answered a nagging question I’d had for a while now, that is, “what has he been doing since playing bass in Generation X, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and then The Sisters of Mercy?”.

Of course, I was confusing him for Tony James and the answer is that he formed “Carbon Silicon” with Mick Jones of the Clash/B.A.D. and they seem to only play gigs at their local gastropub in Notting Hill.

I was a couple of choti pegs into the evening at this point and I must admit to then wondering whether Tony James and Mick Jones had fathered a bastard son and called him Tony Jones, but the opening credits finished and we were into the show so I let that thought pass.

My first impressions of Tony were that he has an extremely punchable face. There’s some sort of sneery supercilious thing going on with his eyebrows which, added to his whiny voice and scripted one-liners give off a vapour of smarm mixed with arrogance. Think Bob Monkhouse but less funny and not so orange.

He also has obviously subscribed to the George Dubya Bush school of body language, that is, he believes in making himself look as physically large as possible by keeping an unnatural gap between his arms and body. Remember what I’m talking about?

 A brace of war criminals

Yeah that.

Tony was probably a journalist once, researching news, doing interviews, writing information in an articulate and erudite way. Now he reads scripted one liners in response to carefully-selected questions from a carefully-selected studio audience.

Our panel for the evening were all women. Being my first time of watching, I don’t know if this is unusual of not or whether it’s like the AFL competition and they do themed weeks to “raise awareness”? I assume that soon there’ll be an Indigenous Round with Adam Goodes standing pointing at an offensive member of the audience and an ANZAC Day Round where the audience all roll up in Wallabies shirts stinking drunk from gunpowder breakfasts at the Dawn Service.

On the panel were the following ladies;

Penny Wong – She’s a senator who used to be in the previous government. She wasn’t very good with numbers back then, I recall, and supported her party’s intransigence in legislating for same sex marriage despite being one of the likely first candidates for the ceremony when it eventually becomes law.

Marise Payne – She’s a senator in the current government. I know nothing about her other than that.

Michelle Garnaut – She owns a restaurant in China, apparently.

Jacqui Lambie – She’s a new senator from Tasmania representing the Palmer United Party. She’s quite orange and particularly inarticulate.  

Judith Sloan – An economist, a profession which I am constantly bemused still exists due to the gerrymandering of central banks. Surely “commentator on central bank policy” is a better job title?

So, on to the questions.

First up was a young and earnest lad asking about the possibility that the pension age might have to be raised. My advice (given loudly to the TV) was that he ought to worry more about his dental health than the state of his pension as he had a set of gnashers that would scare Shane McGowan’s dentist.

In between scoring cheap party political points (usually prefaced with the sentence, “now is not the time to score cheap party political points”), most of the panel failed to grasp that “retirement age” is a misnomer; you can retire whenever the fuck you want, you just can’t claim the state pension until a particular age…… and it’s means tested anyway. Judith picked up on this eventually and also pointed out that the people most likely to need the state pension are those least likely to live that long.

Penny Wong conveniently forgot that the reason the debate about pensionable age was being had in the first place was that the demographic maths no longer stacks up; young people are unable to fund retiring old people.

Michelle Garnaut was asked how the wonderful ex-Communist state of China, a country happy to slaughter those campaigning for democracy only 20 years ago, handled retirement? “Much better”, seemed to be the summary of her response. Thanks.

I’m sure that the enforced one child policy since 1979 and increasing longevity rates haven’t added any creeping demographic issues in China, have they Michelle, ma belle? Fucking idiot.

Second question; another earnest young man, this time a 15 year old boy in a sweater. Here’s a tip to 15 year old boys everywhere; if you want to stand a chance of losing your virginity, don’t ever wear a sweater. Ask Bardon.

Something else about pensions, “do we have to work until you die?”. I don’t know mate, it depends what work you end up doing; nobody owes you a cradle to grave existence. If you decide to study climate bollocks you might find the funding drying up pretty soon.

Jacquie Lambie (never trust anyone who chooses a stupid spelling option for their name) said something on the subject too but unfortunately I haven’t been here long enough to penetrate her particular accent so I can’t report the substance.

Another question. This time from an old lady who said that she was still working in her 70s so how dare anyone tell her she has to retire?

I again shouted at the TV that “retirement age” was a misnomer and nobody was making her retire. Charlie looked at the vein in my forehead with concern.

The next question came from a viewer; Charlie TNA from the Manli ™ area of Sydney asked if I would rather switch the TV off and find something more productive to do with my time and, if so, she’d meet me in the bedroom.

~click~

.

.

.

Apparently the “hashtag” for Q and A is #Qanda, which sounded familiar. I originally thought it might have been a Matt Munro song, but realised I’d confused it with this one;

 

No, #Qanda reminds me of the Englebert Humpledink song, “Quando Quando”, which everyone knows means “when when” in Italian.

My advice to the 900,000 regular viewers of Q and A is next week, when quando considering watching the bollocks that is QandA, just spend the hour listening to Englebert’s greatest hits and save the risk to your blood pressure.

Autumnal Activities

As we saw last week, the Indigenous weather service at the Bureau of Meteorology correctly predicted a cold southerly bluster and large seas outside Sydney Harbour’s heads.

Therefore the planned sail up to Pittwater has been postponed.

What to do with a (relatively) cold weekend then?

The usual kids’ sports are a given but we’ve also got some extra time inside the house because of the weather.

In amongst the usual board games and activities to entertain the kids, I’ve gone all a bit “The Good Life“;

Firstly, 22 litres of beer mashed, boiled

image

…… and in the fermenter.

image

For those who care; 4kg pale malt, 250g crystal malt,  150g chocolate malt, 100g wheat malt, 30g each of Challenger and East Kent Goldings hops. Safale S-04 yeast.

Then, after a couple of runs in the 9 minute marinator with 1.5kg of rump steak, brown vinegar, soy sauce, loads of corriander, black pepper and salt, here’s the snacks for next weekend’s drive down to Melbourne to visit our friends Wes and TLM;

image

The drying box was knocked up with chipboard, flyscreen and 2 cheap PC fans sucking air past the meat.

Biltong is one of the few good things to come out of South Africa (see also Charlize Theron and Pinotage).

Rainy weekends aren’t so bad.

Wither the weather?

 Those who have followed this blog for the last few months may recall that La Famille TNA are snotty yachties. We own a boat with sails (as opposed to a “stink boat”).

 

Anyone who has ever sailed a boat knows that the most important consideration is not the matching Henri Lloyd jacket and trousers, it’s not the quality of ice in the gin and tonic and it’s little to do with the price tag on your floating gin palace; it’s the weather.

 

If you want to go north but that’s where the wind is coming from, you may want to consider tucking in behind a large land mass, dropping the anchor and settling down with a good book for while.

 

The weather forecast, therefore is something you become intimately familiar with. Generally, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology are pretty accurate over the short term (by this, I mean 3 days, not their Climate Bollocks 100 year forecasts). So that’s where we would go when planning, say, a passage out of the Sydney Heads and North up to our new mooring in the Pittwater/Hawkesbury/Brisbane Water region.

Like this weekend, for example. Here’s the current forecast (next updated at 5.30 this evening).

Forecast

 

That tells me that Saturday is ok but Sunday would be a better day to make the journey, nice calm seas and a beam reach up the coast. Which is exactly what I am currently planning on doing as long as that forecast holds or the wind backs  to the south.

However, I thought I’d have a wander around the website and look at what other data they offer.

 

Hey buddy, can I get an indigenous version of the weather forecast?

Sure you can, have a nice day!

Red Sky at Night

Now, I am the first to see the benefit of ancient wisdom in these matters.

Red sky at night, shepherd’s/sailor’s delight, red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning, for example, is an ancient rhyme (Jesus says a version in the Gospel of Matthew) which speaks to the prevailing winds in much of the planet (west to east) and the fact that particles in the sky between the observer and the sun indicate a departing or arriving storm front.

 

Similarly, observing a high flat cloud pattern in the southern sky in Sydney tells you to prepare for a big southerly bluster to come rumbling in to town in an hour or so. Cold winds of 30 plus knots and unpleasant sea states.

This type of knowledge will be contained in the Aborigine lore that the BOM website refers to, I’m sure.

 

However…….

 

Do we really need to pay for a government department to provide a regular alternative forecast based on the Australian equivalent version of “red sky at night”?

 

Before you get all vifended on me in the comments telling me it’s all part of our rich heritage and there are valuable lessons to be learned, etc. Ask yourself these two questions;

  1. How many clicks does the following page get per day and,
  2. Of those page views, how many resulted in someone changing their planned activity after viewing a forecast of this level of detail?

Bugger all and fuck all, respectively, I’d suggest.

Personally, I’m going to be raising the sail based on a forecast made with the knowledge passed on to me down through the generations of, erm, satellite images not this one;And now the shipping forecast

It ain’t AFL hot, mum

It’s a peculiarly British trait, I think, for otherwise heterosexual males to feel perfectly comfortable to camp it up a bit or even dress up in drag at the slightest excuse.

Think of the original female roles in Shakespeare’s plays, pantomime dames, Dick Emery, David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging” video, me on Sunday mornings when Charlie has taken the kids to swimming lessons, etc.

It’s an aspect of the motherland’s culture which hasn’t really emigrated to the colony here. Perhaps due to the more Irish genetic line that Australia can boast (cough), or maybe the history of rough frontiers and hardy survival, the males are a little less ready to open themselves up for ridicule by exposing their feminine side in this, apparently otherwise, home of the ubër-Renaissance man with little hint of misogyny.

So it’s a constant source of amusement then to hear the victory songs following the end of an Aussie Rules match.

You’ll know immediately what I’m talking about if you have. If you haven’t, well, they are camper than a row of tents. Examples are available on YouTube if you need to hear what I mean.

The newer clubs (as opposed to the VFL to AFL relocated clubs, such as South Melbourne becoming the Sydney Swans) have more modern sounding recordings but often still to older traditional tunes. Fremantle, for example, arrived in the 90s with a Stravinsky melody on amphetamine.

The old guard though, have this vaudeville, end of the pier genre running through their songs and the official recordings of them are almost a snapshot in time. They are a bizarre cross between the theme from Monty Python and something worthy of The Black and White Minstrel Show with a bit of “It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum” (which, coincidently was supposedly set in Deolali, where we get the slang “to go Doolally tap” from) chucked in for good measure.

My musical expertise doesn’t extend to trombone, 4 string banjo or kazoo so I can’t comment accurately on the techniques used on these songs but if “comedy trombone” and “circus banjo” are playing techniques, then these are songs are fine examples of the genre.

Irony isn’t a strong national trait here otherwise there’d be a lot more chuckling when the final whistle is blown on a tough match of contact sport and the Benny Hill music pipes up to celebrate.

It’s like the aural elephant in the room, nobody seems to hear it. I was at a Swans match last year with an American friend and, at the final siren, we both stood there and chuckled and then looked around to see nobody else had got the joke. How strange.

To be fair, up close the Swans didn’t quite look the physical force we’d expected them to be too;

Sydney Swans

 

 

Low turnout, low expectations

“Banana republic” is a description one wouldn’t usually associate with Australia but the election process coupled with the endemic political corruption could lead the unkind observer to that conclusion.

Voting is compulsory, non-voters are punished with a fine. Strictly-speaking, voting isn’t compulsory; turning up at the polling station or posting a form is, regardless of what you subsequently write. They haven’t made spoiling your ballot paper illegal…. yet, though you’d be excused for reacting that way when you see one.

We’ve seen before the quality of country Australia shares this forced voting system with, and it isn’t a pretty list. But association and similarity with a bunch of banana republics, tin pot basket cases and dodgy African states doesn’t mean Australia is one.

There are some consequences to the system which are either too subtle for most of the local commentators and politicians to observe and articulate or are too convenient to make a fuss over.

Amazingly, a Sky News commentator let it slip at the weekend when he was repeating a statement made by a Labor (sic) Party spokesman, possibly Stephen Smith, at the WA election (I dont recall which journalist nor which politician but, as I don’t get paid to write this stuff feel free to fuck off research it yourself).

The statement was that, in low turnout elections, 40 of 100 of the people who don’t vote probably would have voted for Labor (sic).

Which, in English, means 40% of the ambivalent will vote for Labor (sic) if forced to choose. i.e. a low turn out hurts the left.

Before delving into a moment of I told you so gloating, let’s just wander back to point at the elephant in the room;

Low turnout???

It’s a 100% compulsory voting system! Even if you were on your two year drinking snakies in the SheBu Walkabout working holiday visa in London you still get fined for not voting.

What is the definition of a low voter turnout in a mandatory voting regime?

About 70% for by-elections and 3rd elections in a year due to AEC fuck-ups apparently. In general elections, the turnout percentage is in the low 90s.

The fine in WA for not voting is only $20 and that’s peanuts to the average Western Australian, considering everyone I’ve ever met in Perth is a millionaire. But what’s bad news for democracy is potentially good news for the coffers of Western Australia; the election costs $20m to hold yet makes $8m in fines (1.45m voters). There must be a temptation to screw up another couple of counts, call the voters back a few more times and see if they can turn a profit on the further reduced turnout, surely?

Anyway, back to this compuslory turning up voting business. During the general election, this organ suggested that compulsory voting benefited the left. A commentor on this post took issue with that point.

Turns out (see what I did there? This stuff isn’t just thrown together, you know) my hunch was correct. Here’s former Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirming it for me;

“I am a bit worried, I have to say, worried about a low turnout,” Mr Smith told reporters.

“It’s been a bit of a trickle. A low turnout hurts Labor most.”

So I feel it is entirely appropriate to repeat what I now believe is the most likely hypothesis to explain this fact;

Labor (sic) governments are “big governments”. Until the ratio of civil service employment to private sector tips the balance (and Christ, it must be fucking close), non-compulsory voting must have a slight significant bias against Labor.

 Let’s add this to our reasons why Australians get the political system they deserve;

  1. The politicians enter politics with an already inflated sense of entitlement, almost that they have completed their “Corruption Apprenticeship”.
  2. A politcal class increasingly populated with the Irish cute hoor culture (h/t Joe Blow) and Mediterranean-style patronage.
  3. An impenetrable voting sytem with myriad choices which, if not fully understood, can be delegated to the voter’s first choice candidate to make on their behalf.
  4. People who ordinarily are not motivated to vote are penalised for exercising their right to apathy and subsequently choose whichever party is least likely to threaten their benefits and entitlements.

 

So perhaps this picture does represent a good sample of banana republics after all;

 

Bananas

The freakonomics of Australia’s Politics

Politics differs in Australia to most similar western so-called democracies. Broadly-speaking, one gets the impression that the majority of politicians in say, the USA, Britain, Germany, etc., entered the profession with noble intentions and a desire to make a positive difference for their electorate. We can argue the toss about whether the dogma they follow is effective or desirable but the motivation is noble for most.

And then there is the Australian political class.

The theory this organ has developed through observation over a three year period is that the vast majority of Australian politicians enter politics with the view that they are serving an apprenticeship.

They first arrive in their position via a limited number of routes; the left are primarily given their first state or federal parliamentary seat after a short but aggressive career living it high on workers’ fees administering a union. A smaller number come directly from the university Labor (sic) party, then a state party office followed by a federal or state seat.

In fact, there are scant few exceptions to those routes for politicians on the left. You would be hard pressed to find more than two in the current shadow cabinet.

On the other side of the Australian political duopoly the routes to office are mildly more diverse but not greatly so. There may be a law degree involved and a little time working for one of the big firms before the gift of a parliamentary seat is offered. Less often, the Liberal or National MP may have spent some time building a career in a large corporate or running their farm, but these are the exceptions.

Just in case you think the statements above are an exaggeration, a while back, I had a look at the backgrounds of the then shadow and actual cabinet. Labor (sic) here and the other lot here.

With the exception of a couple of gentlemen farmer types and a mediocre rock singer, they all fell neatly into the union/student activist/lawyer categories.

What is common between both sides is the sense of entitlement upon attaining the goal of state or federal parliamentary power.

Regardless of route, after a suitable period working in the lower ranks they will be rewarded with a position with enough influence and power to enable an expontential increase in their personal wealth. An opportunity they seem to grasp with two hands with very few exceptions.

The evidence is irrefutable. A list of names, far from comprehensive, follows which gives a flavour of what I’ve observed since being here;

Peter Slipper
Craig Thomson
Eddie Obeid and his army of little Obieds
Ian McDonald
Mark Arbib
Micheal Williamson
Arthur Sinodinos

Many of those are NSW specific but that’s likely to be more due to my point of observation.

The list could be pages long if you had the time to sit on Google researching it. And those would be just the cases which make it to court or the attention of the last three investigative journalists alive in Australia (Margo Kingston, Lindsay Farlow, Kate McClymont – there must be a male one but I struggle to name him).

Ponder the nature of some of these offences too; millions of dollars in corrupt mining contracts to relatives, $200k pa for 50 days consultancy work to manage the accounts of a government body that was being ripped off to the tune of millions of dollars, paying for sex on a union credit card, taking a taxpayer-funded limousine on a tour of vineyards.

One can almost rationalise the big ticket crimes. Indeed, I’ve often thought that although I’ve never taken a bribe or a backhander, I can’t say for sure that I never will, it would just have to pass a strict risk/reward equation and it would need to be big enough for me to never have to work again.

That admission of potential fraud aside, anyone who honestly (using that adjective loosely) thought they could frig a deal where a farm became a multi-million dollar mining operation overnight without a incriminating paper trail must have gone into the affair with a very particular mindset.

Perhaps the attitude wasn’t that different to the petty idiots who fiddled little stuff though? The hookers, the taxis, the dinners, etc.

Is there a difference? In quantity, yes. In ethos though, perhaps not. There’s got to have been a mindset which rationalised the fraud, however petty, as justified as part of the perks of the job.

This is where The New Australian theory of Political Corruption Apprenticeship comes into play.

The theory is as follows;

As a direct consequence of their route into the profession, the majority of Australian politicians, regardless of creed or dogma, arrive in parliament with a pre-existing sense of entitlement. This results in systemic petty expense fiddling but also massive fraud depending on the intellectual ability of the politician.

It’s unconscious knowledge really. How else can one rationalise the lack of contrition by those caught if not that they genuinely didn’t see the immorality or illegality of their actions?

Sure, there are those few who possibly enter the system with altruistic motives but, game theory being dominant, they find themselves sidelined at best and, more likely, ridiculed for their foolishness in the backrooms and edged out of the spheres of influence.

The book Freakonomics by Sudhir Venkatesh describes the pyramid nature of drug dealing gang members in the USA. The average hourly wage for the foot soldiers is less than $4 and those who make the big money have a very short life expectancy.

One can’t help wondering if there’s a similar effect being experienced in Australian political life?

Think of the hookers and wine tours as the actions of the young kids who sell the individual hits of dope on the streets of Los Angeles while the mining contract fraudsters are the equivalent of the Mr. Big who is destined to die in a hail of bullets. There aren’t many retirement homes for old aged ganstas.

Perhaps that’s the most depressing point of this; very few of these crimes ever result in custodial sentences. Is the law too soft, is it being applied too leniently or is there a third, more corrupt explanation.

Go back and review those names listed above and draw your own conclusions.

Joan Lennon; Imagine there’s no gender

This is a tricky one to write, I almost feel like I ought to demonstrate some caring credentials to prove that I’m not anti-(insert list of people who have different genders or sexual preferences to me) so this post doesn’t get bundled into some rampant right wing homophobic pigeonhole.

 

For the purposes of government business, there is a third gender now in Australia. Neutral or X or whatever name eventually gets put on the form. After several court appearances the high court has ruled that Norrie doesn’t have to be described as male or female on the NSW Births/Deaths/Marriages Register.

 

I’m sure this makes Norrie very happy and we can all bask in the glow of our inclusivity and caring nature.

 

What’s the consequence though? Potentially a lot of forms and computer systems need to be amended now at some considerable cost and effort, one presumes. The court cases themselves weren’t cheap either, several solicitors, a barrister for each side of the argument, judge and court administrators (Norrie’s side was pro-bono from DLA Piper, by the way).

 

To what end? I don’t know. Norrie feels better about him/her/their self, sure, but what’s changed in the world? Not a lot I suspect.

 

One can’t help thinking that this was a very expensive and reasonably disruptive example of attention-seeking. The individual disaster that is Norrie’s life (born a man, had the op, didn’t like being a woman either) is unfortunate but just doesn’t feel significant enough to base policy and law changes on. As a percentage of the population, how many people are going to identify themselves as “neutral” in gender? 50 people would be 0.0002% of the population, does anyone think that there will be more than that? There’s probably more people who’d jump at the opportunity to be labelled as “Jedi” for their gender.

 

There are two temptations which most commentators in the Australian press have eagerly grabbed with both hands when writing on this case; firstly, self-congratulatory guff about modern Australia’s attitude to gender and sex. Secondly, a big rant about how the world will end if we teach our kids that gender is more complex than man or woman.

 

I don’t give a flying fuck for either side of that argument, to be honest. I just want to know why I have to pay for any of this tosh?

 

Think about it, if we are going change the forms and IT systems at the B/D/M Register, tax office, RTA and countless other agencies for this precedent case, why bother with gender on there at all? What difference does it make what’s between my legs when I’m driving so long as it’s not an open bottle of single malt and a spliff-rolling machine? Sure, there’s an element of identification with the gender, i.e. if I get pulled over and offer my wife’s driving licence a smart traffic cop (possibly an oxymoron, I know) should be able to spot the fraud, but one would hope the photo gave the game away first.

 

Think of the money we’ll save by not printing those extra two or three letters for “Title” on all those forms and ID cards. Millions of dollars in paper, ink and electricity saved at a stroke.

 

I’d be happy with funding that change. I’d like a whole lot more made at the same time too; I’d want to go a lot further and have some legislation which details the minimum and maximum information a government body can collect and hold about the individual. After recently completing the form for Dad and Partner’s Pay I was astounded at the level of detail required to receive a non-means tested payment; surely a birth certificate of the baby, proof of my partner’s and my identity and the bank account I’d like the money to go to would be enough? Oh no, that’d be too simple. Here’s the form, good luck.

 

The thing is, I don’t think my suggestion will be implemented because I don’t think the court case was really about equality, I think it was about publicity. Everyone had an agenda in writing this precedent and I’ll leave it to you to consider what each potential agenda might have been.

 

As for Norrie; he/she/they may now be “intergender” in the eyes of the law but there is a much more straightforward and older noun in the English language we could use without any malice; Confused.

 

Equal rights for the confused is not the basis of good law.

Richmond calling to the far away towns

I received an email yesterday from an ex-colleague from the UK. We’d not exchanged any communication for a couple of years but I had a spare moment this morning so gave him a call (he’s up north in Asia this week).

Firstly, a pen portrait of the chap;

A pleasant enough bloke I suppose, a tad diminutive (he used to roll up the cuffs of his shirts and make them into “double” cuffs with cufflinks because the standard arms for his neck size were too long), has an unfortunate yokel accent from deepest Swindon and always took the international gig if we had a choice. I was happy as a sandboy with this as I’d learned a long time ago that business travel, like golf, is best left to those who have made a poor matrimonial choice.

That last assumption proved very prescient one Christmas when spouses were invited to the company ball and he turned up with his mum. Or at least that who I thought she was until he introduced her as “my good lady wife“. Oh yes, he’s one of those bilingual wankers who insist on speaking ponce; “oh, methinks the lady doth protest too much“, or “perchance I can tempt you for a post work beverage, sir?“, etc. We’re not living in a fucking Merchant Ivory movie pal, so speak English.

Anyway, his mum wife; dumpy, frumpy loudly opinionated on matters with which she was particularly inarticulate and wearing a face that looked like it had fallen out of Ugly Towers, hitting every balcony on the way down. And she was the first woman he slept with ever.

Not a fucking surprise then, that whenever the two of us were presented with a “3 months in KL or 6 months in Aldwych” option to split between us, he always got the airmiles. The prospect of getting off at Swindon station at 7pm on a cold and wet February evening only to be jumped by a frisky west country Shrek fresh from cleaning out the stable (oh yeah, she was a horsey bore) would have probably got me inventing assignments abroad too.

Ok, character assassinations complete, what did he want after all these years?

My contact list.

Apparently, he’s been spending considerable time in the last couple of years out in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam for work and, guess what? Yep, discovered he prefers their version of femininity than the one he drunkenly fumbled all those years ago in a Swindon pub car park.

He’s dumped the harridan, “found a lovely lady in Thailand” and now needs the benefit of my industry contacts to get a permanent gig in the region so he can catch up with all the sex he’s been missing since about 1983. That’s a lot of sex. I’m surprised he’s been able to walk in the meantime, what with the stored volume an’ all.

I don’t have a photo of the newly-purchased introduced couple yet and the point of today’s post isn’t to aim for a new high score in the Richmond Game, simply to confirm via anecdote that this organ’s theory on Richmonds holds true; that is, a poor choice of marriage partner often ends in Richmond.

Depending on your circumstances, you might want to consider that for a moment.

If you’re a bit of a wanky middle aged man in an unhappy marriage, it’s probably best to cut your losses early and hit the Richmond option while you’re still scoring in the low 50s. If you’re the other party in that marriage, perhaps carrying a bit of weight and generally acting like a shrew, you could consider cutting out the bread products, sticking a bit of lippy on and losing some of the other type of lip.

Just call me Dear Deirdre.

No, you fuck off.

It doesn’t sound much of a threat, to be honest, Tony

 The Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, Tony Sheldon, held a rally with “several hundred” Qantas union members last weekend in Sydney to protest about the planned 5,000 redundancies. That doesn’t sound like a great ratio, does it? Almost as if most of the members are resigned to the fact that they are going to get a relatively generous pay-off or are even looking forward to it.

 

Anyway, Big Tone, the heavy-hitting pull-no-punches union leader, had some strong words for the airline ahead of the job losses. He committed to fighting these cost cuts every inch of the way by, erm, not calling a strike.

 

That’ll show those greedy “management” types, eh, Tones?

 

Actually, Tony is doing exactly what I’d do if I were in his shoes; he’s accepted that the company needs some drastic changes to turn the balance sheet around and is working with the management to help find efficiencies and streamline archaic work practices.

 

But he can’t admit that though, can he? It doesn’t play well in the workers-good, management-bad cartoon life of Australian industrial relations.

In fact, he’s in a bit of a bind; go on strike and risk the remaining jobs or cooperate with the effort to turn the company around to profitability and be seen as a class traitor.

 

What to do? What to do?

 

So, in the absence of calling “all out, brothers and sisters” he’s threatening “other” measures.

 

What could these other measures include?

 

Blocking roads (and) …..civil disobedience” apparently.

 

Bloody hell, why didn’t you say so before Big Tony?

 

The main idea behind protesting using civil disobedience is to have a large number of people commit petty crimes which would be administratively difficult to prosecute due to the volume and comparative importance. It makes me wonder what form the Australian modern day equivalent of Gandhi marching to gather salt might take?

Gandhi

Here’s a few I’ve tossed out, like a crisp packet next to a sign saying “Don’t Litter”;

 

  1. Gather all the TWU members together to ride bicycles around Martin’s Square without wearing helmets.
  2. Organise a convoy of vehicles all with drivers who have left their licences at home.
  3. Hold a mass “change the plug on an electrical device without a valid electrician’s certificate” event.
  4. Order a delivery of unpasteurised “bathing milk” and have the more artisan members of the union have a cheese-making party (one for DaveInThePeople’sSocialistRepublicOfBalmain).
  5. Light a barbecue on the beach.
  6. Smoke cigarettes whilst standing exactly 9.98m from a recreation ground.
  7. Set off some fireworks in New South Wales.
  8. Order $1,001 worth of goods from an overseas retailer and don’t declare the GST .
  9. Engage a printing supplier to produce 5,000 lifesize cardboard images of Neanderthals and have the members racially vilify them.
  10. Swim outside the flags.

 

Of all of these, that last one is my favourite. That should show them…..

 

Up the workers!

 

(I’m all right Tony Jack).

 

 

Richmond, chips and no shame

The Richmond Game is one of skill, patience, transactional matrimony and frankly, a lot of fucking chutzpah.

Today’s example demonstrates the latter.

Seriously, I’ve taken some bloody risks to get photos for this game. If you recall, I got spotted by a couple in the Los Angeles shithole airport.

This is even more sphincter-tightening than that episode…..

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They both caught me taking the shot.

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But I took it all the same.

Yeah, I’m a shameless cunt who risks prosecution on a daily basis under the 18C law for vilifying the race known as lecherous old white guy who married someone who won’t talk back like his first wife did.

67 points.

If your wife is a great dancer…

…it might be an indicator of a previous career.

Guest Richmond from a sometimes correspondent today, Tracey, up on “The Goldie”.

Apparently 50% of this couple was throwing shapes and moving to the groove while the other half was keeping a watchful eye on the location of his zimmer frame and trying to keep his colostomy bag from spilling on the dance floor.

Indications are that this is a high scoring Richmond but points have been deducted for not getting clearer “facials”.

Your host will show you how that’s done with tomorrow’s post.

Well done nonetheless and thanks, Tracey. Have a solid 72 points.

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Democracy Hour

Don’t forget that at 8.30pm today it is Democracy Hour.

This is the annual event where we thank our preferred diety, higher being or the evolutionary lottery that created us for being born into or allowed to emigrate to a democracy. Or at least something which passes for one.

Because, as corrupt and rife with cronyism and vested interest lobbying as our system may be, we have electricity.

Access to reliable and affordable electricity is probably the single defining factor that tells you that your life is comparatively easy.

The alternative is cooking on dung fires or noxious fuels and lighting your home similarly.

Our friends The Communists Greens would prefer that as, being the unreconstructed Malthusians that they are, they dislike the human species.

This is why every hour is Earth Hour in North Korea.

North Korea

Ethiad Stadium – Say Cheese

If, like me, your Australian TV viewing is dominated by The Octonauts and Fox Sports, you will have noticed that Kwazi Kitten is a pretty cool feline ex-pirate (for a gingah) and that the 30 second advert on this webpage is getting a lot of airtime at half time and between overs.

Now, apart from selling Brand TNA, I don’t work in marketing much so I may have missed the subtlety of the nuanced messages being handed to me in this masterpiece but I think what I’m being offered here is a chance to purchase;

1. Roquefort
2. Camenbert
3. Brie
4. “..the fine dining, the sommelier…..” don’t forget the cheese!
5. Edam
6. Sainte Maure
7. “…the leather seats…..” don’t forget the cheese!
8. Aged Cheddar

Now for the final course, assiette du fromage;

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All that’s missing is a catchy jingle. I can’t believe the agency forgot to commission one.

Vilify – Vili’s Pies

There’s a law about to be revoked in Australia which is, as the joke “what do you call a dead lawyer?” says, “a start“.

This one is again, a great example of how 800 years of laws post Magna Carta have been (cough) improved in Australia.

The law as it stands prevents me from vilifying you.

That’s great isn’t it? None of us enjoy being the subject of vilification.

Fuck off.

Sure, there should be a consequence if I use language or other forms of communication to make threats against your person or property but to suggest that being not very nice is a crime seems, well, a bit fucking soft frankly.

But TNA, you stupid souless libertarian“, you say, “surely you’re not suggesting the most vile, bigoted and malicious people in society should be allowed a platform of free speech?

To which I respond, “have a look around, you thumbsucking cunts“;

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The legislation as it currently stands is as follows;

     (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

Reading that makes one wonder how the courts are coping with the backlog; there must surely be hundreds of thousands of prosecutions a month if the law is being policed consistently.

Basically, if I offend you and the cause of the offence mentions an ethnic attribute, I’ve broken the law. Interesting that it doesn’t mention faith as a cause of offence, I wonder if anyone has been prosecuted along those lines anyway?

Of course, the legislation is bad law. Why on earth should the state be involved in the most personal of choices, that of people’s feelings?

Look kids, let’s make this clear;

You have the right to choose to be offended. After all, it is possible to find offence in everything if you are thin of skin. But that doesn’t make the offence material.

Yes, people who spread misinformation about the Holocaust or claim different ethnic groups are subnormal or prone to criminality are offensive to most people but unless they are causing actual harm (by inciting violence, for example; there’s a law for that), it’s just words.

Often those words are just words on a computer screen.

We have a choice not to read words on screens. We exercise this choice daily.

Personally, I choose to walk away from personal offence from language. I keep my powder dry to be offended the most by acts which threaten me or my loved ones. Bailing out private companies with my money, taking money from me to fight the threat of global warming when there is no evidence of warming since 1998, for example.

It’s a positive sign that this legislation will be removed, it’s just a few drops in the ocean turning the tide which has brought Australia from being a tough and hardy frontier nation to an effete skinny-jeaned soy decaf-sipping beardy hipster of a country.

Take it away, Saint Strummer;

Craig’s lists: patents pending

Hi all,

The less than honourable previous member for Dobell here.

Before I make my grand entrance in the Victorian Central Court to hear my fate this morning, I’d like to document some inventions which I have lodged patent applications for. This could be my last list for some time;

1. The Kathy Jackson Punchbag. A great energy and anger release when it’s not your fault. Quite Kathartic ™ in fact.

2. The WhereThaFuk? GPS. A discreet unit that can be slipped into food and drink and then enables geo-positioning of the target when you arrive home to discover they have moved out. Battery life up to five years.

3. Anti-blusher. Like regular blusher but with the effect of reducing the the brilliance of the radioactive glow often radiated when a lie is compounded by an untruth and then wrapped up in a mendacity.

4. Menpons. Tampons for men. Tired of the inconvenience caused by the side effects of brutal male rape? Let a menpon take the load and walk into the communal showers with confidence.

5. Sphinctercam. Similar but different enough from a GoPro to be granted a patent, this ingenious device can sit there unobtrusively documenting all those stressful moments in life. Never again will you need to wonder quite how tight you clenched when the judge said the words “three years custodial”.

This could be farewell for a while, fellow listers.

Keep collecting!

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