Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Women driving in Saudi Arabia: hot music video

February 6, 2012 2 comments

M.I.A. – Bad Girls

I came across this jaw-dropping music video and had to share it with you because:

1. You won’t have seen anything like it before.

2. You won’t have heard anything like it before. Listen to it twice. It’s serious girl-swagger on steroids.

3. It makes a statement and it makes it well. Really well. Love it or hate it, but you can’t un-hear it. Its effect stays with you. It may even inspire me to work on my reverse-parking (because girls can do anything).

As you may know, women in Saudi Arabia are banned by clerics from driving. This restricts their ability to work, socialise and do many of the things women in the west take for granted. They are completely dependent upon males driving them and essentially supervising them in public. Read more about the stirrings of an Arab Spring for Women.

MIA, the British visual artist turned singer, will be responding to her favourite YouTube comments on 10 Feburary 2012. Go say hi.

What I love about this particular music video is that it mocks the arbitrariness of the unwritten rules which prevent Saudi women from driving as badly as their men and participating in society. It leaves their religion alone. Let people believe what they want without ridicule, but let fly at the way they conduct themselves in the world when it’s oppressive.

Occupy Brisbane, or not…. Part 1

October 23, 2011 1 comment

People would be familiar with the Occupy movement which started on Wall St and spread via social networking to a city near you. Including, to my fair city, Brisbane, Australia.

It just so happens, that I walk past this spot on my way to work most mornings, so I took a few pictures to show you what it really looks like, on an average day (without the promise of a news crew and time to assemble a rent-a-crowd.) Those who believe in genuine demonstrations or who have weak tickers, look away now.

View from the Adelaide St footbridge

So much foot traffic coming their way, every morning, from Central Station....

With so much traffic in the general vicinity, anyone with a bit of chutzpah would be able to do something with a good cause….

So, what's the cause, again? And why is there no-one around to give information at peak rush-hour?

To be fair, read the helpful sign. This cause is about the 99% of us who are apparently represented by this group, except that all of us are on our way to work, except them.

Wow. That's lots of people. (Not).

Australia Day. And no, Sir Parkinson, we’re no British mini-me

January 26, 2011 2 comments

Happy Australia Day everyone!

I hope today is the day that everyone who’s lucky enough to be here, sends up a thought or prayer of gratitude. It’s the day we celebrate our “Lucky Country” status. Even those who’ve recently been down on their luck know that if you had to be in a natural disaster, better here than just about anywhere else: more than 22,000 flood-cleanup volunteers in Brisbane on one Saturday alone would suggest this.

Australia has always been a country of droughts, floods and fires. But it’s also the place where no matter who you are, you can roll up your sleeves and make something of yourself. Even convicts who were sent to the much maligned Port Arthur convict settlement had the opportunity to work off their crimes and sins and be released into the most beautiful country, to start life anew.

British tv personality, Sir Michael Parkinson, gave this year’s Australia Day address, being the first non-Aussie to do so. If it works, so what, is the Australian attitude to most things, and this was no different. Having a whinging Pom address us as a nation on our special day? So what, turn the meat on the barbie, darl. But, after his speech, he told reporters,

Why should Australia not be a republic? “It’s its own country, its own man. I find it incomprehensible that it’s not that now.

The dear man jumped on the trendy Republic bandwagon, without fully appreciating the Australian psyche, which is a shame, given that Parky’s insightfulness is supposedly legendary.

What Parkinson missed is this.

In Australia, we’re a practical bunch. If it works, it works. We’ll fix just about anything with a coat-hanger and superglue. We don’t care what you do or how you look, as long as you try to join in and carry your own weight – except when you absolutely can’t – then we’ll carry you. We recognise that we were once a colonial outpost, but while the rest of the world was preoccupied, something happened – we grew up.

Parkinson, like many others, insists on painting Australia as a pre-teen (tween) who should move on and become a surly teenager – that, to establish its identity, it needs to deny its past (especially the good bits and harp on about the bad bits) – and move away from its roots. This is sad. It’s also a misjudgment of character. Worse still, instead of letting us celebrate who we are, Parky tells us what we should be. If the Republic rant had to be included, it could have been more thoughtful, like…

Australia is its own country. It wouldn’t be surprising if it became a Republic, but then, that’s up to the Australian people. It’s not for me to say it should be the case, because that would be me assuming some sort of colonial authority, which would be highly ironic on Australia Day.

Parky, over here, you should know, that just because we love you, doesn’t mean we’ll listen to you, particularly if you preach. So it is with the Queen. Except that she has the good grace to know her place. If we want to become a Republic and we have nothing else to spend millions upon millions of dollars upon, we’ll give you a call. Thanks, mate. Remember, we’re a practical bunch and spending millions of dollars to remove references to the Queen in all our statues, and chucking out all the dinnerware and cutlery and stationery in Parliament House and our embassies… well, it doesn’t seem that practical, does it?

So, Happy Australia Day, fellow travelers. Or, Orstraya Day. ‘Cos we don’t need to say it like Parky, to know what it means to us.

E-books & the death of book stores

November 9, 2010 5 comments

With the arrival of e-books, people in publishing are deeply worried about:
A. the survival of brick ‘n mortar book stores; and
B. the future of traditional paper publishing.
What the conversation is missing, is the consumer.

What do consumers want?
Do they want paper books to continue as they are?
Do they want physical book stores?
Do they prefer e-books and e-stores?
Can they continue to have both?
Will they mind waiting longer to get Print On Demand books, instead of just taking something off a shelf?
What about the cost of books and e-devices?

In this post, I’ll focus on the effect of pricing and invite your thoughts.

The price of books & the death of book stores

The price of books in Australia is always a contentious issue. They seem expensive and yet, very few authors can live off their writing and book sellers are bleeding. People in all aspects of publishing live modestly. There’s lots of love, but not a lot of money. Why?

Book shops are diversifying more into gift lines and coffee, since book selling is becoming uneconomic due to:
* on-line selling;
* predatory discounting practices of department stores; and
* e-book retailers because (in Australia) brick ‘n mortar stores aren’t able to sell e-books (why?!).

I’ll briefly touch upon the main players in the price wars.

Parallel importation?
Over a year ago, book sellers, led by Dymocks, thought that parallel importation would save them. The New Zealand uptake of that policy proved disastrous. You can’t have eggs without chickens. Killing local publishing to save local book selling is at best, wonky thinking.

Predatory pricing
Big department stores sell books cheaper because they demand around 70 per cent off from the publishers, and they use cheap books to lure more people into the store to spend money on other things (to offset the discount). This dynamic works for consumers until the competition is killed off, then prices go up and choice goes out the door. It’s not competition; it’s a killing field.

In Australia, GST is applied to all stages of a book’s production. No government has been open to dropping it. Economists tell me it’s because book sellers will apply the GST savings to their own bottom line and not pass it on to consumers.

So the choice is: GST revenue to the government to churn and burn, or leave it in the industry so that more businesses can keep their doors open (and possibly, pass on price reductions to consumers in the line of normal competition?). Frankly, I would’ve thought that an “Education Revolution” (to use a Labor Party slogan) might’ve included books.

E-books will be the final blow to Aussie book stores, unless…
E-books are currently retailing around $9.99 on Amazon and according to Michael Hyatt, there’s no likelihood that prices will sustainably drop below that point. E-publishing and e-distribution, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t deliver big cost savings.

I think that once publishers work out all the other funky things they can do in the e-world, prices will eventually go up because they’ll be producing more on-line content to sell their books. Publishers will rise from the ashes of burned out book stores insofar as they’ll be selling directly to online consumers.

In America, e-books are rapidly gaining popularity. The Aussie uptake has been slow and the publishing industry has been reluctant to respond to the new paradigm. Australia doesn’t have the population to shoulder massive market changes as readily. That being said, we can’t put it off any longer.

So, what will e-books do to the price of books in Australia? Not much, it seems, unless the government removes the GST from the equation and revises competition law. With the GST in place, more people will shop on-line to avoid it and brick ‘n mortar book stores in Australia will continue their rapid decline in the face of anti-competitive practices by bigger players.

People will go to book shops to have coffee, browse inside books and then purchase them (either in paper or electronic format) elsewhere, online. That’s not a sustainable business model. Book sellers had better come up with something new, quickly, to value-add to the experience of loving books.

While $9.99 for an e-book is up to half the price of a traditional book, you have to buy the e-reader as well. And even though they are coming down in price, will you be buying one for your kids this Christmas? They aren’t so forgiving when dropped. And how many e-books do you have to buy to make up the savings as against the cost of the device?

I’m not against e-books. I’m not advocating for them, either. I love what’s inside books and where those books take me. People should have a choice. I just hope that the Australian government and industry get the balance right, before our favourite book shops bleed out.

What do you wish you could tell the government or publishing industry in Australia? Do you think book shops will survive?

N.B. I encourage all respectful views. Feel free to disagree, without being disagreeable. No-one has all of the answers. Sharing is caring.

Weather for ducks

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

To say it’s raining in Brisbane would be an understatement.

Rixie, Dixie, Nina and Rita are wanting webbed feet, or flippers. (I’ve now put them up on the clothes drying rack on the flooded back patio).

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there’s an extreme UV risk today (um, really?) and rain will ease (eventually they’ll get it right).

I’m hoping that all this rain now, means my annual camping trip isn’t washed out after Christmas.

I’m also wondering whether the price of water will come down, or whether in some secret public/private deal, high prices will be locked in to repay all those lovely desalination plants (including the one they couldn’t turn on because the endangered Lung Fish was found nearby AFTER completion! Since it lives to 100yrs, we might be waiting a while….) (Perhaps they made their way from Traveston Dam? Rascals!). Anyone trying to FOI the government or council on water prices may find it comes under the exemption for Commercial in Confidence. Otherwise, it’s totally transparent, like TOTALLY.

Bring out the Slip ‘n Slide (while the water’s free) ….

UPDATE: Reader Lucy suggests that since someone has to pay for the new infrastructure for recycled water and desalination – that it should be footed by big water users, including industry. (That sounds pretty good insofar as it could get the domestic water bill down, but we all know we’ll be made to pay by industry indirectly sooner or later…. Still, worth considering.)

BHP Billiton finds its soul; or Marius Kloppers sees a business advantage in pricing carbon

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Not green, but MEAN. BHP plans to bury its rivals in a State forest near you ...

Has anyone wondered why the CEO of BHP Billiton Australia, Marius Kloppers, was against Kevin Rudd’s CPRS & Resource Super Profits scheme, but this week comes out ahead of anyone else to announce that Australia has to ‘get moving’ on carbon pricing?

Kloppers is a smart man, who out-maneuvered everyone on the recent mining tax negotiations. Keep that in mind, when answering this multiple choice question. And also remember, that a tax is a tax, no matter how many times you rename it, or whether you put happy-feeling words in its title.

So, is Marius Kloppers:
(a) Suddenly mad;
(b) In secret negotiations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard which could benefit BHP if he were to shout support pre-emptively (Labor modus operandi involves hanging someone else out to test public sentiment & then backing away if it goes badly);
(c) Keenly aware that it would be in the interests of shareholders and BHP to price out smaller competitors;
(d) In Team Julia, not Team Kevin; or
(e) A Greenie.

The Australia where everyone had a chance to ‘have a go’ and where small companies could work hard and grow, might just be behind us. The fact that no-one is shouting “anti-competitive behavior” is most vexing.

Australia: vibrant and competitive one day … dull and anti-competitive the next….

Mouse in need of a chiropractor & ALP in need of a bigger trap.

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Reader JB, sent in a picture and her experiences with this particular mousetrap…

JB writes:

Mouse eventually got caught using my home baked choc chip cookie in trap. However new fangled traps not good for an extra large mouse…very distressing night. Woke with banging and loud squeaking to find mouse had been caught by trap which was on my kitchen bench and its struggling caused trap to move along bench and off the end on to floor resulting in mouse running around my kitchen with trap on its head. Very disturbing night. Scott got it outside and released trap to allow a mouse to slowly walk off with a crooked neck! All this at midnight last week! Not good! It was an extremely large mouse though. Guess the moral of the story is to use the old fashioned traps which were not available in our Woolies though!

So, the mouse ran off with a crick neck (right-leaning) and was last seen in the marginal seat of Lilley.

All things considered, this is probably a good metaphor for the ALP’s 2010 federal election campaign — mistaking man for mouse. Julia, you’ll need a bigger trap to catch Tony and you might need reader JB’s recipe for choc chip cookies…

Kids in Adult Prisons – only in Queensland

August 18, 2010 2 comments

Eighteen years ago, on the 5th of August, 1992, the Queensland Labor Government made a pledge to amend the law so that 17 year olds would be transferred back into the juvenile (now, “Young People”) detention system and taken out of the adult prison system. Labor has forgotten its pledge to Queensland children and there is a campaign afoot to remind it.

You might wonder why this matters. You might also think there’s nothing you can do about it. I know: both those thoughts crossed my mind too. Some time ago now, I’d worked for almost 2 years in criminal defense, which is enough time to become cynical about the world and burnt out by the misery of it all – so much so that defending insurance companies afterward seemed like a cake walk. However, I digress.

In 1992, when the Juvenile Justice Act (now, “Youth Justice Act”) was passed by Queensland Parliament, the Labor Government pledged:

“It is the intention of this Government, as it was of the previous Government, to deal with 17-year old children within the juvenile, rather than the adult system, as per the Kennedy Report into prisons. This is consistent with the age of majority and avoids such children being exposed to the effects of adults in prison, thereby increasing their chances of remaining in the system and becoming recidivists. This change will occur at an appropriate time in the future.” (Qld Parliament, 5 August 1992:p.6130).

There’s always been the legislative scope to easily change the position to allow 17 year old offenders to be dealt with pursuant to the Youth regime rather than the adult regime, but no regulation has ever been established, meaning Queensland is the only state that treats 17 year old offenders as adults.

This raises a number of questions:
* Why use tax-payer money to fund a report which the government chooses to ignore? I want a refund. Or value for money. And an apology to the author of the report.
* If Queensland is the Smart State, how come the law defines an adult to be an adult of 18 years except when it’s a 17-year old committing a crime here and not elsewhere? Something yonder brays.
* Under the Child Protection Act, there is an obligation to investigate incidents of children who may be at risk of harm. How does this work when the government is the one putting the child in harm’s way?
* Is it not foreseeable that putting child offenders in with adult offenders would increase risk of injury to the minors? One might cough sideways three times in a way which could sound like “negligence”.
* How is this not a contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? (as Damian Bartholomew points out).

Queensland’s Children’s Commission, Anti Discrimination Commissioner, Queensland Heads of Churches, United Nations and youth and legal advocates have urged the government to fulfill its commitment to transfer 17-year olds from adult prisons to juvenile detention centres. The Youth Affairs Network Qld, which is the peak body promoting the rights and interests of young people in Queensland, has postcards circulating, which people can write comments on and send in to the Premier, Anna Bligh. While one must appreciate that there are plenty of other priorities in government, especially now, with election fever and State Labor struggling in the polls, it’s inexcusable that a decision can take that long to implement. But of course, bad kids don’t win sympathy or votes in voter-land. Besides, kids don’t vote, either, so screw that.

You might ask what’s the hold up. The answers would seem to be: money and public sentiment. The spoils of the never-ending mining boom have been lost and there simply is no money to improve or extend existing facilities for young people – it’s easier and cheaper not to change things. And besides, most people wouldn’t know this was even an issue and even fewer would care, unless they really thought about it.

I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the debate. Police, who are faced with controlling other people’s unruly and criminally-inclined children are sick of the repeat offenders and the slack, limp-wristed punishment given to young offenders (which don’t have the requisite deterrent effect). Police have no interest in amending the law, and who can blame them. No-one should have to put up with the rubbish that they endure on a daily basis, while the rest of us sit back and demand better law and order but vote with our eyes closed, nonetheless.

Youth advocates also come in all shapes and sizes and have dedicated their lives to trying to help the sometimes un-helpable. Which begs the question: how, as a society, are we letting it get to this?

My personal view is that the law should be consistent – an adult is an adult, not a child with one year to go – and the government has a responsibility to children in its facilities (to protect them from harm and not to put them into an environment which all but removes any chance of rehabilitation). To that effect, the law should be changed, as promised. However, we’ve had Labor both at State and Federal levels and I, for one, would like to know why so little has been done in the way of law and order as well as for the protection of children. The social engineering sins of the past are wildly bearing fruit and rotting before our eyes. And it stinks.

Children go off the rails for various reasons, but they stay off the rails because of inadequate parenting, inappropriate social infrastructure and the decay of respect for the law and those who uphold it.

Demand that the law be changed, but also demand a change to the circumstances that see those children going to prison in the first place.

Thanks to readers: David, aa, Cheryl, Darren and ak.

Please feel free to add your comments, below. Anonymity will be respected.

This issue makes Australia look bad internationally. It transcends political battle lines.
Thank you to the following people for their speedy and thoughtful responses:
Damian Bartholomew, solicitor.
Wendy Francis, Lead Senate Candidate for Family First
Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, The Greens Candidate for the Division of Lilley
Andrew Bolt, journalist.
Nick Earls, author – Thanks for the words of support!

K Rudd ‘on the hustings’ …

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Rudd’s from Queensland and he’s back again, to help some more …

I’m not sure why, but the image of our rebel chook, sitting on top of the 8-kilo cat’s pussy palace, resonates. Perhaps both K-Rudd and Dixie have a death-wish? But unlike Dixie, K-Rudd seems to have more than one life.

In fact, watching internal Labor politics of late is reminiscent of some 80s horror flicks. Probably Dead. Then Alive. Then Probably Dead Again. Alive Again. Then Really Truly Dead. Until the Sequel. And there’s always a humongous knife left lying around.

With K-Rudd crawling out of hospital and back onto the hustings, voters are left wondering how the sequel will end. And how many sequels there’ll be.

(With apologies to Dixie the chicken.)

Categories: Australia, Pets, Politics

LOL: Joolia Trickles Up (video link)

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Finally, someone nails the Julia Gillard effect, perfectly. Sadly, I won’t be able to get that voice out of my head for the rest of the day … The question is: would she sound better in Opposition? I’m starting to think so.

The New Real Julia is the Former Julia on an even slower bpm (beats per minute). Just. In. Case. Voters. Miss. Any. Of. The. Mar-vell-ous-ness. I’m wondering where the Original Julia went.

I’m told, by people who’ve worked with her in the past, that she’s a warm, engaging, funny and highly intelligent and competent person. Perhaps the Labor machine chewed that one up and hopes voters don’t notice that Julia’s been replaced with a metronome set on largo. Perhaps it’s to lull voters into thinking there’s no way a person who speaks so slow, could pull a knife so fast.

Sixteen more days of unabated boredom to come. This has been one of the dullest campaigns in memory.

A metranome in Brisbane, today.