Sunday, March 26, 2006

Larry or Katrina?

Miranda Devine, a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald among other things, is not my favourite person. I reckon she is a downright nasty piece of works and I think she should marry the Herald Sun's columinst Andrew Bolt. Oh God, what offspring they would produce.

On the evening news of the day the Cyclone Larry struck, this hideously common and carping woman said, "Effing do something now. That is my message for them. Get off their fat arses and do something," said Innisfail local Shiralee Hazel, standing in a relief queue last week.

She had clearly absorbed the content of the coverage of Cyclone Katrina in the United States.

I shan't go on as Miranda Devine said it much more eloquently than I can.

This is no New Orleans, so stop with the whingeing

March 26, 2006

I'M sorry, but if you live in a place prone to cyclones every 80 years and a cyclone comes along after 80 years, what's the surprise?

We in Sydney are very sorry for the people in northern Queensland who have lost their homes to Cyclone Larry. But, much as we will miss their avocados and bananas on our supermarket shelves, we can live without their whingeing.

No one was killed, a few people sustained minor injuries. This is hardly Hurricane Katrina. But watching the news last week, it was clear a lot of people with little imagination were trying to recreate New Orleans in Innisfail.

Five minutes after the cyclone hit, locals were whingeing that "they" haven't come and fixed it for them. Do they not have their own arms and legs?

"Effing do something now. That is my message for them. Get off their fat arses and do something," said Innisfail local Shiralee Hazel, standing in a relief queue last week.

Australians, especially outside the big cities, used to pride themselves on their self-reliance and resilience, forged in a hard, unforgiving land. Now, according to images beamed back to Sydney, they have become helpless victims. A category five cyclone comes to town and it's all the fault of Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Prime Minister John Howard.

No doubt there are plenty of admirable people quietly getting on with rebuilding their communities, but we didn't hear from them. Instead we heard people complaining that State Emergency Service volunteers (who have been working round the clock) were only handing out tarpaulins, not staying to spread them out. God forbid that people might have to do some work themselves.

When Howard first turned up in Innisfail two days after the cyclone, he was jeered and booed. "Come and join the line, Johnny," shouted someone queuing for emergency payments.

The mood changed once he put his hand in our pockets and announced a multimillion-dollar relief package.

"You're too damn late", the Gold Coast Bulletin's headline read, summarising the supposed "anger and frustration" of the community. "Politicians flood North Queensland for photo opportunities as thousands of tonnes of aid sits stranded beside a highway they failed to fix."

Bob Katter, Queensland independent MP, whinged: "People stood in the rain waiting for two days. They had nothing to eat and no cash. It's just wrong . . . There is simply no excuse for that."

Premier Beattie finally caved into his own frustration on Sky News: "When you get a category five cyclone which belts the hell out of the community, you're not going to restore [services] in 30 seconds."

The fact is that authorities gave plenty of notice of the cyclone and evacuated 1000 people from vulnerable coastal areas on Sunday, the day before Larry hit, presumably saving lives. The emergency services could not have been better prepared, having gone through a week-long cyclone training exercise in Cairns in January.

General Peter Cosgrove, who is co-ordinating the reconstruction effort, said drily the only thing that might have been done better was if we had "moved Australia about 200 miles west and avoided the damn cyclone".

The endless whingeing is a reflection on an affluent consumer culture in which people have come to expect that everything they want can be delivered in 30 seconds piping hot and preferably free if they only scream loud enough. No inconvenience is tolerable, not even for an instant, and the consumer is always right. The consumer has become a tyrant.


  1. I read this article and think she does have a valid point. I think Australia has become a bit of a "soft" society, with many people having an expectation that if something goes wrong in their lives, they will be bailed out by government. Maybe the government and volunteer agencies concerned could have been better prepared to deal with the aftermath of Larry more quickly ... I find it hard to be critical from my reading of things. Residents in the area, knowing the cyclone was coming maybe could have prepared themselves better, stocked up on food, cashed up etc. Who knows? But whats the point of people blaming the government or anyone for a natural disaster like this?

    Those abusing the people there to help need to take a good hard look at themselves. What do they really expect? Instant fixes to all their problems? The people complaining about being given a tarp but not having it installed ...grow up and stop whinging.

    Back to my point about the softness of many Australians. You will find many people in Innisfail who will find themselves seriously underinsured and unable to afford to rebuild their homes. This happened in the Canberra fires three years ago. Many expected, and got to some degree, handouts from government. I wondered about the sort of people who can't be bothered to spend $500 a year to insure $400-500k worth of property. Wait till interest rates go up a few percent - their will be so much screaming and crying poor from people who've overcommitted themselves - and pressure applied to governments to bail them out in some way (and governments will respond, the political pressure will be too much to ignore).

  2. Suppose we better qualify our thoughts with, well me personally, have never been involved in a natural disaster. It must be pretty awful and people don't always behave well. But that woman on tv was downright calculating.

    I had rather large mortgage when interest rates were 17%. It would be an absolute disaster to many if it happened now. And yes, the squeaky wheel will get the oil if enough wheels are in the right electorates. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  3. The news really focused on what we prefer to call "the bludgers" of the town. We are embarrassed by them.
    What you didn't see is many actually helping each other out, nailing new roofs on, even making crazy jokes to lighten the atmosphere. Sure, we had no power for 7 days, but we pretty much expected it. We didn't expect the mobile coverage to die, that really sucked. It also sucked losing the roof (we made sure the builder had it created as Cat 5 proof). The tree landing on the car didn't help either...considering there wasn't a tree near it when the cyclone started.
    It sucked that because we didnt live in innisfail, we didn't get help for 5 days (food, water, tarp, etc). My family had enough for 4 days, but we shared it out with the rest of our little subdivision, so we only ended up with enough food for 2. (our neighbours moved up 2 yrs ago from Vic, they thought the cyclone was a joke).
    Basically, many of us are hard workers. We are getting off our arses and cleaning up, not lining up for cash handouts that won't buy anything anyway, like the bludgers you saw on tv.
    BTW, does anyone have a roof they don't want? I'll trade you for it with toothpick rainforest and green bananas. I'm afraid its all I have left.

  4. Minka, I am sure the media has a lot to answer for.

  5. Well done mate on this! She is a no good city B! What she says is truly un australian and disgusting.