Saturday, December 01, 2018

Was it a cross or a tick or a number?

There was an election in our state of Victoria last weekend. The conservative Liberal Party was demolished in both the upper and lower houses of parliament. The progressive Labor(sic) Party won handsomely. It is unbelievable how close some very safe Liberal Party seats came to being lost, and there are still a couple on a knife edge. The party's brethren voted in droves against the party they would naturally support. Policies: High speed European standard trains to regional Victoria towns. We need much faster trains, but European standard high speed at 300 km/h is impractical. Build a new power station? What when and where? How will it be fuelled? Who will pay for it? Australia is now firmly on the path of renewable energy and it now becoming cheaper than generating electricity from dirty bruning damp brown coal. Climate change? School children went on strike this Friday and marched on our streets over our Federal (and State) government's lack of action on climate change. At the least the naive little buggers' hearts are in the right place.  We won't even go down the road of the Liberal Party and female representation. 

The state's  upper house voting is a curious beast as it is preferential to nth degree and brings about some weird results, such as the hire car drivers party winning two seats, the hunters and shooters party winning a couple, but The Greens being reduced to just one upper house seat from five although they had quite a high primary vote. Such is the nature of Victoria's Legislative Council and preference dealing. Professional preference dealers really came to light at this election. 

The sitting Labor Premier of our state, one Daniel Andrews, performed quite well in his term of office, and even managed to cast aside some election corruption from his person. He campaigned terribly well and while the conservative media got stuck into him, he managed to convince the electorate that borrowing $40 billion in the next 25 years to build things was a good thing. Given our state can borrow money at 2% interest rate on the international market,  he is probably right. I would have nothing now if I had not gone into serious debt earlier in my life. It wasn't easy, but you do what you have to do.

My own state seat of Prahran is still undecided between Labor and The Greens, with The Greens slightly ahead. There are a lot of poor people in my seat. There are a lot of rich people in my seat. There are a lot of gays in my seat (oh, perhaps I should rephrase that one). There are a lot of alternatives in my seat. No one was more surprised than me when The Greens won the seat at the last state election, and again I am surprised that The Greens are a little ahead in vote counting even now. We voted early, but not too often. I shook the hand of Sam Hibbins, the sitting Greens candidate who was in attendance at the polling booth, and the gay Labor candidate Neil Pharaoh, who is part Irish and part Maori. I quite like Sam. He comes across and warm and sincere and in his one term of office he did get things done.

So, if sitting governments lose office and allow an opposition party to win, this was not the time.

Which brings me to the Her Majesty's Leader of the Opposition, one Matthew Guy. I will condemn him straight off by damming him with faint praise. He is not bad looking, has good grooming and can talk well enough.

For me he was tainted meat long before he became Leader of the Opposition. He was a former Minister for Planning and approved some very inappropriate large buildings. 

He approved redevelopment of a huge swath of industrial land for highrise apartments in the Port Melbourne area, without putting in the appropriate infrastructure or controls. Developer mates made fortunes as land was rezoned. Fortunately the government has turned back what would have been a planning disaster.

Then the was Guy cracking lobster claws and drinking Penfolds Grange with an alleged mafia figure at The Lobster Cave (note, while we have eaten there twice, no Penfolds Grange was consumed and we had cheap meals using shopper dockets).

Is that enough to make him unelectable? There is more. He went down the law and order path during his election campaign, I think without actually mentioning black youth gang crime, but it was there, if not said. He planned to legislate that if someone broke bail conditions while awaiting trial, they would be straight back in gaol, which on the face of it sounds appealing, but how many more gaols would we need, never mind that it might not be the best course of action for some people, usually decided by a magistrate. While I might have a 'lock 'em all up' attitude, I know I am wrong and the more laws that are made to control what judges can do, the less well the system works. Judges are not unaware of public opinion about courts and sentencing.

But the clincher for me was even longer ago. Here are some snips from The Age. His behaviour in public office has been disgraceful and he should have never been near government, let alone be Leader of the Opposition. But this is not to say either that the Liberal Party doesn't have serious problems within its much diminished Federal and State ranks.

On September 8, 2011, Mr Guy stunned many in politics, planning and the law, when he used special ministerial powers to override the local Bass Coast council to rezone 24 hectares of farmland for housing at picturesque Ventnor on Phillip Island.

The intervention was against the advice of two expert planning panels, the minister’s own department and lawyers, and the unanimous position of the local council.

It sparked a storm of protest including from local residents, Mr Guy’s own Liberal colleagues and even US celebrity Miley Cyrus. (then girlfriend of Hollywood actor Liam Hemsworth, whose family also lives in Ventnor)
Days later, Mr Guy was forced into a humiliating backflip. He was later sued by the then purchaser of the property, Carley Nicholls. She had signed a sales contract on the basis of the rezoning, anticipating a windfall from the rise in land value.
At the time, Ms Nicholls' husband, Jim Hopkins, was a property developer, member of the Liberal Party on Phillip Island and family friend of Kennett government-era planning minister Rob Maclellan.
Key documents in a massive, 80,000-page dossier assembled by the Andrews government and tabled yesterday show that Mr Guy, as planning minister in the Baillieu-Napthine government in 2013, personally ordered a last-minute settlement be paid to the owner and purchaser of the Ventnor farmland on Phillip Island.
The settlement cost Victorian taxpayers $2.5 million plus costs, for a total of more than $3.5 million, the documents reveal. Senior lawyers had told the government that it should have paid a maximum of $250,000 plus legal costs.
The documents show Mr Guy ordered the multimillion-dollar payment despite repeated legal advice from a number of senior lawyers that the government had a strong case, and there was little or no grounds for a damages claim against it.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Changing the world, by one light tube at a time

Ok, this is not earth changing and probably will only save a tiny bit of the planet, but I am the grandchild of my my maternal grandparents who constantly nagged us, don't waste water and don't waste the electric.

The building next door has lighting on the roof top plant area. Someone turned them on a couple of years ago and the lighting has been on ever since. They are old style fluoro tubes. Wasteful, but they don't bother me too much.

But across the road while we were swanning about South Africa, someone turned the rooftop plant lighting on and these are not fluoro tubes, but more modern lighting. I don't know what. So they have been on for weeks and while they probably use less electricity than the building next door's lighting, they are very bright and somewhat spoiling our night time view. I had a brief look for the owners' corporation contact details, but came up with nothing. I think I must write a note and blue tack it up at the building's entrance. Look, not even dark and they are clearly visible.

Later edit: The lights at the building across the road are now off after the very day I wrote about them. I need to put my tin helmet on. I am being monitored.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

South Africa Bits

Two really good things about South Africa:

People rarely sound their car horns, which is a bit surprising if you remember the vuvuzela problem at the 2010 World Cup soccer.

The other is that I never saw anyone spit in public.


By the end of the tour I was getting pretty ratty with some members of our group who kept hogging viewing places to take photos. There would be a ten minute photo stop somewhere, and they would have to take a group photo in front of the view, then another group photo including the person who took the first group photo, and then individual photos in front of the view.

In my view there is way too much of 'this is me in front of....' I think R and myself took two photos of each other in front of views when it was quiet. Our tour guide took a couple of us together in front of a view.

Initially I was considerate of people taking photos of themselves in front of a view with a selfie stick. I soon got tired of that all the time, and so just ignored how their precious selfie photo may be spoiled by an old man in the shot. Basic manners, courtesy and sharing.

The Tour Company: 

Good value for money. Things were well organised and our tour leader very friendly and competent. What a terrible responsibility for Gattina who uses the company and who I sought advice from. What if the holiday was awful? Well, I really wouldn't blame Gattina.


South Africa is very well set up for tourism. Everyone seemed well trained and the professional guides at attractions were the best I have come across in the world, and aside from our own tour guide and the Kruger Park guide, they were all black South Africans. It was like they had a tertiary degree in their field of work, and perhaps they did. They also had bright personalities and were often quite funny, especially our hunky ziplining guide Nigel. Our Monkeyland guide was telling us about the parents of one of the monkeys, for reasons I have forgotten, and she pointed out which monkey was the father. Someone asked, How do you know he is the father? With a naughty smirk on her face she said, we watched them.


Copper Witch quite correctly stated that hippos (c'mon, I am not going to spell it in full) kill more people than any other animal. But why? Through the bush and scrubland are paths, often leading to water, that are used by animals, including hippos. The path might be hundreds of years old (my guess). Now what is a human to do if they want to walk somewhere? They will use the easy walking animal path and around the corner comes a very cross hippo. How do hippos kill people, I asked? With their mouths. They stun them and then just crush the human body and bones in their jaws. Our tour guide had a friend who was killed by hippo. Not the Kruger Park guide who had a young friend killed by a leopard. And they say Australia is dangerous.

African Time and Service:

We were very soon told that our tour did not operate on African time. We had to be where we were supposed to be at the correct time. It would seem African time is a bit more of a loose thing. We were queued for where we knew we would get good coffee in a supermarket. Thanks to the shenanigans of our fellow Canadian travellers, we were a little late back to the coach. Meanwhile, umpteen checkout staff stood at tills doing nothing. Could not one or two have been transferred to the coffee service area? Service in South African shops and supermarkets was slow and perfunctory. Polite? Yes. Friendly, sometimes, but lacking sincerity. But I do remind myself I am in prime tourist locations.

Public Safety:

I am Australian and I am used to being cosseted by all sorts of laws and regulations to protect me. Dorothy really learnt she was not in Kansas when in Portugal and I had to warn R not to push back his chair more than a millimetre more as he would tip over backwards down a serious drop. It was also thus in South Africa. The country has a long way to go to protect people against their own stupidity. Perhaps people are used to looking after their own wellbeing. What a novel idea. Its recycling of waste could be a lot better too.

Coach Fun and Games:

At times we were on the coach for long periods. Our guide spent a lot of time talking on the microphone. Twice I managed to flatten my phone battery with heavy usage. No USB on the coach for recharging. Twice crap movies were shown, which no one paid much attention to. There were singalongs, national anthems, one of group taking over as tour guide on the coach and explaining to us the significance of a rock we had just seen. Yes, it had to be one of the Irish. Music quiz games, all sorts of fun. One event was a mock auction for a bottle of wine. Yes, again, an Irish was the auctioneer. At the final bid call, up popped the hand of the New York Mama who wants to shoot Hillary Clinton. Her hand rose slowly. We called out encouragement, go H. There seemed to be some hesitation in her bid. Then her hand continued on up to adjust the overhead aircon vent. She brought the house down. I expect even Hitler may have played a prank once or twice in his life.

The Travel Group:

Perhaps I have said this already. I can't remember. But our travel group were generally very relaxed people. Our cruise on the Danube, our Rockies Mountain train/coach trip and our Mediterranean cruise had quite different people; more wealthy, more conservative. I never felt a great level of comfort with the people on those tours, but I certainly did feel quite relaxed on this trip. I can't believe how nice the Irish lasses were to us, and other people were too. I am more reserved than R and by the time we were getting towards the end of the trip, I was quite liking a number of people in our group. It takes me time, but others have said I am worth it in the long run.

My Favourite Moment:

Probably being in and seeing the swirling mists on Table Top Mountain in Cape Town, although staying and whale watching at the delightful seaside town of Hermanus was pretty good too, not to underate seeing all the animals.

Me Birthday:

It was the 14th of October, the second day we were in South Africa. Wow, I got away with that. Nobody knew. But on my birth certificate it is the 20th of October. My birth certificate is wrong but it lead to my passport date of birth being the 20th of October. I have to be careful when I travel to use my non birthday date as my birthday. (Have you all noted down the the 14th of October for next year when you can send me expensive gifts?) The tour leader picked up that the 20th was my birthday and so happy birthday had to be sang and I was presented with a soft toy who I quickly named Gerry. I took Gerry to breakfast next morning and on the last night at our final dinner for people to say goodbye to him.

Gerry at one of our hotel rooms in South Africa. Note the South Africa flag on his foot.

Gerry at home with us in Melbourne is wondering how tasty elm and plane tree leaves are.

So that is the holiday wrap. Thanks for all your comments and taking the time to read, even if you didn't comment.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Your wives and sisters are whoring themselves while you fight the good war

That was how some of the propaganda was presented in twentieth century wars.

You may have heard of all or none of the following propagandists who broadcast on radio in support of those who western countries were fighting against. I will leave it to the more educated among us to flesh any out, but here we go with a little about them. Radio broadcasting made quite an impact in earlier twentieth century wars, as TV did during Vietnam War.

The Irish American Lord Haw Haw who broadcast in mellifluous tones from Germany into England during WWII.

Tokyo Rose was Japanese and with her excellent English, she broadcast pro Japanese and anti American propaganda to the troops fighting against the Japanese in Pacific arena. She looks like a bit of a hard case.

Hanoi Hannah broadcast propaganda to American and other troops in perfect English during the Vietnam War. There may well have been more than one Hanoi Hannah.

But this woman is new to me, thanks to ABC History Listen podcasts. If you were a viewer of the tv show Mash, you may have heard of Seoul City Sue. I had not heard of her. Sue, actually spelt Suh as it was the name of her Korean husband, was an American born white woman from Arkansas. She broadcast propaganda for North Korea against the Americans and Australians and other fighting against the North Korea.

'Why are you, our black brothers, doing what you are, fighting for a country where you don't have proper citizen rights'.

'You Australian soldiers are drunks and louts, but your wharf workers are decent salt of the earth people, refusing to load ships to be sent to supply your war machine against the people of Korea'.

There are many theories about what happened to Seoul City Sue after the Korean War, one being that she was shot by North Koreans in 1969 because she was a double agent for South Korea. Who knows, but what a fascinating listen it was to hear about Seoul City Sue. Thanks Our ABC.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

South Africa Day 14

Our last day as a group. We descended the mountain and plateau to J'burg with some sightseeing stop offs along the way. We stayed at an airport hotel in J'burg that night and just after lunch time the next day, we were on our way home, having being away for two weeks. The hotel provided the airport transfer.

Lisbon Falls. No safety rails here.

Lumpy bits. What are they?

Show me your cliff face!

Ah, these are the things we are here to see. Most impressive.  They are called The Three Rondavels.

Yes, three of them.

Truly spectacular views.

We were told by our tour guide to not buy souveniers until this day, which was fine if you wanted to bargain over locally produced craft. R had to buy a key ring and fridge magnet for a client of his at his volunteer job, not local craft. We bought the appropriate items at the J'burg airport.

Now we are at Bourke's Luck Potholes. What made them? I forget and I am tired of googling. You do it.

And finally a stop at God's Window. I should have made a panorama photo with my camera, but I didn't. See my rant in the subsequent Africa Bits about photos.

Later update: Thanks to some advice from Marcus, here is panorama photo.

No airport train in Melbourne, but there is one in J'burg. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Mural

I am always out of my comfort zone when I am out and about north of the city, perhaps like Grace feels when she is on the southern side of the Swan River, but the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne are where all the best murals are.

I liked this one near Smith Street in Peel Street, Collingwood. Maybe the artist's name was to be seen, but I did not check, unless Jesus himself painted it. They are not pretty woman, just beautiful women.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Family stuffs

ABI Brother is in rehabilitation after his hip replacement for another week at least. Mother is still at Sister's on the Bellarine. Mother is bored. They, that is Sister, Bone Doctor and Little Jo, are never home. No Mother, they work, they socialise, they do community works, they exercise. Not everyone's thing, but it is their life. As of Saturday, ABI Brother is now at home and on crutches. I guess I must go next Thursday, my day off, to take him out to shops as he cannot drive for some time, although he has stockpiled, but you can't stockpile fresh. Later, I asked him on the phone if he was bored in the rehabilitation place and he said no. Everything is done for me!

Mother is doing well enough, with learning how to use a front loading washing machine and all sorts of other things. Mother and Bone Doctor have never really gotten along, but Bone Doctor is being very kind to Mother. I was talking to Sister on the phone this Thursday evening and they were having an early dinner as Sister was going to tennis and Little Jo to scouts. Cat Nikki had jumped up onto the table and started to eat Mother's dinner. This looks interesting, thought Dog Fuzzy, and she was paws up on table ready to hoe in too. Shrieking, yelling and general chaos could be heard in the background of the phone call.

Hippie Niece had another break down moment and was voluntarily admitted to a Mental Health Unit at a public hospital. If she did not admit herself, it would be done for her. She is back home but still can't cope with looking after her twin daughters. Her mother, Ex Sis Law and her husband do all the work with the twins. None of them have much money and struggle day to day. Ex Sis in Law's husband is Santa at a shopping centre in the lead up to Christmas. Not bad money. After just one day of work, he had heaps of stories to tell about the children, including the sad one about the boy who asked Santa to take away his leg calipers and the extremely precocious girl who 'accidently' fell into the toy basket. Oh, sweetheart, you fell over. Here's a toy. On your way then. He has it nailed in just one day.

Ex Sis in Law's car has failed. In her phrasing, it blew up. I had already offered our old car to her when I go on extended leave in February but she asked if she could have it now. It has now been delivered to them. R is stressed by only having one car. I am the one who has to catch a tram to work and home on Saturday (past) and Tuesday morning getting a cab to work and the tram home at lunch time. Any problem with cars is undoubtedly my fault.

Tradie Brother is being extremely good with family, stepping up to the crease at times to be there when Hippy Niece would be alone with the twins. He has installed handrails in ABI Brother's shower, as much for Mother as ABI Brother. He was talking about tree roots pushing up ABI Brother's paving in front of his garage. He was talking about taking pavers out, digging out, pouring concrete and relaying. ABI Brother dropped a bombshell to us last Sunday when we visited him. He is thinking of selling his house and moving into a retirement village, so I had to tell Tradie Brother he should not put too much work into ABI Brother's place. What a hoot! Mother will be left homeless! I expect her home will on the market come the new year, a sad time for her. But then what will she do?

We booked ourselves a nice little cottage on The Bellarine for an overnight stay for Sister and Bone Doctor's wedding. An email reply said the bedroom with more beds would be locked off unless we paid an extra $20. We agreed to pay. I will sleep on one room and R in the main room. Then Step Mother from the north of Victoria rang. Emails were sent, transport options checked. We will pick her up at So Cross Station on the morning of the wedding, stop off for lunch on the way, and Step Mother will stay with us after the wedding. I have since discovered we have one queen bed in the main room and two singles in the bedroom. We will work it out. Sister has booked and paid for a cabin with a view over the sea for Mother and ABI Brother. Tradie Brother will sleep in his 'truck' with his dog.

Fire Fighting Nephew's wife made noises about not coming to the wedding. So busy at work, she proclaimed.  Sister is not happy! I said, yes Sister, bad form on her part, but she is family so don't get too hung up on it. My lies hung me by my own words. You put yourself out for family. I was wavering between exerting some family authority or saying nothing. Or just make a delicate suggestion to the right person. I have thought about it hard and decided it is not my business. But......such things are not forgotten.

This is getting stale. I better publish Sunday.