Saturday, 29 September 2007


The chickens are coming home to roost for the architects of the Orwellian-named "Workchoices". Barbara Bennett, director of the Government's Workplace Authority, confirmed yesterday that 25000 of the recently submitted agreements fail the governments "fairness test".

Put simply, these agreements (involving 4000 employers) disadvantaged employees. To add to the confusion, between 3000 and 4000 employers have been asked to resubmit their agreements because of insufficient information.

It has become abundantly clear that the ill-considered changes to our industrial relations laws were a product of political dogma - not rational economic policy. Unfortunately the Coalition misjudged the mood of Australian workers, who generally do know what's in their best interests, and the back pedaling they've done since has created total chaos.

And it's costing us $93 million in taxpayer funded advertising.....

Friday, 28 September 2007

Dr Karl

I’m sure, dear Blogger, that you’ve heard Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s interesting and lively chats on Auntie. He is a great communicator, and possesses a quirky sense of humour. He’s also a great debunker of popular myths, including the one about the boiling frog. (You know the one – put a frog in cold water and slowly heat it and the frog won’t notice and will eventually be boiled alive). It’s a useful metaphor – often employed to illustrate unperceived creeping threat or change – but according to Dr Karl it’s complete bunkum. Apparently the frogs experts (can’t remember the right term) explain that the frog simply hops out when the water gets uncomfortably hot.

Well, anyway, the esteemed Doctor, second only in the celebrity stakes to that other Doctor (Who – of course) is standing for the senate representing the Climate Change Coalition in NSW.

It’s unlikely he’ll get in, apparently.

I hope he does. He’d liven up the senate no end.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Madness in Burma

For a first hand look at the madness that the military regime in Burma is inflicting on its people go to -

It makes horrifying reading.

The blogger in question apparently works in a hospital and has seen casualties coming in. I'm not sure of the gender of this person (Ko Htike) but his/her courage is beyond question.

Boat People – in Retrospect

Fellow Blogger, do you remember the influx of Vietnamese boat people between 1975 and 1990? I have clear and vivid memories because in the period 1976 – 1980, I was in charge of a unit for disabled high school kids in a Western Brisbane High School. At the time in the same school, a unit had been set up to provide schooling for Vietnamese adolescents who had arrived, mostly on boats.

I had a bus license, and also had access to a bus through a neighbouring Special School, and on a few occasions was shanghaied to drive busloads of these kids and their teachers around to attend movies and community activity. It was a good deal, as I was able to trade my time for help and resources from the well-equipped migrant unit. The Vietnamese kids were also very good to the students in my unit. I also used to try my ex-army Vietnamese out on them – not very successfully. “Show me your ID card” and “Stop or I’ll shoot”, didn’t always go down well with youngsters who had recently escaped military oppression.

On one occasion, I was driving a group of about twenty to a movie showing at Enoggera (can’t remember the theatre's name) to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The theatre was just down the road from the Enoggera Army Base where I was discharged early in 1971 after returning from Vietnam. As I parked the bus in front of the theatre, and the Vietnamese students started filing out, I heard shouting. A car had pulled up in the left lane of the two-lane road beside which the bus was parked, and the bloke behind the wheel was loudly abusing the Vietnamese students as they got out of the bus.

"F**king Noggie bastards”, “Slant-eyed C**ts” were some of the things I heard.

Fortunately, the teachers hustled the students into the theatre very quickly, and I don’t think their command of English was sufficient to completely understand, but they must have known that his intent was hostile.

I started to get out of the bus, but by the time I did, he’d driven off. I got a good look at him, and despite the fact that he wasn’t in uniform, I was certain he was army by the look of his hairstyle.

Despite this incident, I’m firmly of the opinion that most Australians have a tolerant attitude towards Refugees. This was a very isolated incident.

Having said that, there are politicians who will exploit this underlying fear and hostility, and those in power at the moment are fine examples. In this respect, Australia has gone backwards since.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Spinning the Climate

It took a read of “Wheels” magazine for me to discover an interesting story about political spin and global warming. I am addicted to reading road tests and fantasizing about the machines I can’t afford to buy. Hopefully if I did have the means, I'd also have the sense to spend it on something a bit more enduring than a car. Apparently most millionaires buy second-hand cars.

Tucked away in a story by John Cadogan about increased carbon-dioxide levels is a reference to the oil lobby (essentially Saudi Arabia and the US), pushing the UN in 1989 to replace references to “global warming” in climate preservation resolutions to the less threatening “climate change”.

It looks as if they’re up that river in Egypt (de Nile). I didn’t expect to find it in a motor magazine!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Measuring the immeasurable

A report to be released today by the Council for the Australian Federation commits state governments to reporting school performance. This follows initiatives by the federal government to withhold funding to the states unless a standard reporting format was applied across the board.

It’s interesting to surmise on the reasons for this fairly sudden interest in reporting.

I would guess that it's caused by one significant political factor, and a few others that actually relate to education.

Governments at all levels have become increasingly aware that education is a hot-button issue. It always has been, of course, but it’s only recently that the media has cottoned on to the idea that they can sell lots of newspapers by publishing league tables comparing school results. The pollies have fairly belatedly understood that supporting this gross over-simplification of the issue can score brownie points from a nervous public with a dismal understanding of the relationship between schools, teachers, socio-economic status and results.

The educational reasons are that the sector itself now has a better capacity than ever before to collect and analyse data, and academics seem more prepared to do so.

The result of this obsession with reporting has made little or no difference to improving standards.

What it has done has made school systems and teachers turn themselves inside out trying to come up with strategies that satisfy the increasing demands for “transparency” in reporting.

I’m most familiar with the special school sector In the case of many parents of students in special schools, they found themselves with two reports – one (completely irrelevant, and adding to any grief that might already be suffering) comparing their child with the “normal” population, and one comparing their child’s results with specific agreed-upon goals.

I’m sure the gratitude of these parents towards Julie Bishop (who was the federal minister responsible) knows no bounds.

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" - Albert Einstein

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Goodbye Huey

The last of the UH – 1H choppers (Hueys) that have provided sterling service in our defence forces (first with the RAAF and then in Army Aviation) were pensioned off last week.

Finally, the “Grandfathers Axe” strategy has run its course.

I have vivid memories of leaping in and out of these things as a rifleman in 7RAR in Vietnam in 1970. Nothing takes me back to that experience more effectively than the “wocka wocka” sound of the two-blade rotor.

I remember the rush of wind in my face, laced with a whiff of Avtur, generated by 100 knots plus of forward momentum. I remember the crewie’s M-60s opening up during a “hot” insertion, and scaring the living daylights out of me because we hadn’t been briefed about this possibility.

It also beat walking in the heat with a load of gear and the ever present possibility of standing on a mine or running into a bunker system.

I’ll miss the occasional training fly-overs here in Toowoomba (from Oakey base) and the annual ceremonial activity on Anzac Day.

For those (like me) who want to wallow in the nostalgia, go to –

and download the MP3.

Bugger thy neighbour

The situation of the 72 Sri Lankans recently recognised as refugees on Nauru has scarcely raised a ripple of concern in the Australian mainstream media. Nor has it approached becoming an issue in the forthcoming federal poll.

How strange is this?

It’s apparent that the ALP won’t make an issue of it because they fear John Howard playing the fear card as he did in 2001 with the Tampa affair. This fear is rooted deep in our national psyche, and has been used by both sides of politics.

The situation that these people are in is intolerable. Their refugee status has been recognised, but because their method of entry was “illegal”, they aren’t allowed on the Australian mainland, and they have no idea how much longer they will need to stay in detention in Nauru. Apart from the considerable cost to the Australian taxpayer of this ongoing detention, the ethics of this practice don’t stand scrutiny.

It is as well that the Vietnamese boat people weren’t treated in this fashion, and it is interesting to reflect that the governments of the time left fear and ideology out of their approach to refugees.

This statement from Peter Arndt (Executive Officer - Catholic Justice and Peace Commission), provides clarity –

“Australia should accept its responsibility to process people who seek asylum in our country and give them protection in our land if they are legitimate refugees”.

Obviously, political expediency has triumphed over compassion – it’s shameful policy.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...