Friday, 11 January 2008

It ain't half hot, Mum.....

I'm in Adelaide, visiting number two son. We arrived from Brisbane on an afternoon flight that delivered us into temperatures of forty plus. It was a bit like walking into a blast furnace – reminded me of Mt Isa.

I've been here twice before, first time in the late nineties, and last time about five years ago. On both occasions it was to attend conferences, so there wasn't much time for sightseeing. This time, we have two full days, so should get to see a little more.

Yesterday we developed many new and wonderful ways of getting lost, between airport and Plympton where we're staying, and between Plympton and North Adelaide where son lives. This was not all bad, as we got to see places we would have otherwise missed, and we spoke to many locals when we were looking for directions. They were invariably helpful, especially when I introduced myself as lost and from Queensland.

First impressions (since last time) – a city drowning in the heat-induced torpor, but with a pleasant ambience and lots of space and light. It's a hard-surfaced environment – all metal and masonry. I miss the absence of timber – even the power poles are metal, and there is an air of architectural permanence absent in Brisbane.

Today dawned about ten degrees cooler, and with a refreshing breeze which seems to be blowing from all directions at once. We'll go first to the beach, and then to the hills to get a fix on the place. The hybrid we hired (just for fun) is a handy little tool, with all the motoring personality of a kitchen appliance, but it is comfortable and easy to drive.

The people – well they're just like Queenslanders, and helpful and friendly. They seem to wear suntans that are more comprehensive than at home. maybe the sun's not quite as damaging. The shop assistants tend to be curt and efficient – or at least the one's we've encountered. I was surprised to find (when I went for a early morning walk) that the newsagents are closed and the supermarkets open. This is exactly the opposite of the situation at home.

What was even more surprising to me was to be told by the checkout chick that the supermarket opened at midnight. Obviously, shopping in Adelaide in the early hours of the morning is a new and exciting trend.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Vexed Question

This article about school funding appeared today -
There have always been issues with developing a funding model that is fair and equitable. Many years ago I was responsible for allocating Special Program funding to a group of remote bush schools . No matter what we did, taking into account SES data, and indexes of cost and distance , no measure was ever completely fair.
We used a committee of locals drawn from the area and this helped a little, but it was necessary to structure the meetings carefully to ensure everyone had a fair go - the more confident and assertive were often in the ascendancy.
Bottom line is that no system will ever be completely fair, but that the decisions need to be made by those closest to the action.
Unfortunately, the current bureaucratic model is moving towards greater centralisation and control which works against this principle.

An End to Fear?

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, is quoted in Cut and Paste from Today's Australian -

I believe the most precious gift the next president could bestow upon America is an end to the politics of fear. Fear, of course, has its place. Seven decades ago, the world did not fear Hitler enough. Today, Iraq remains a powder keg, Afghanistan a strug­gle, Iran a potential danger and North Korea a puzzle not yet solved. Pakistan combines all the elements that give us an international migraine. Al-Qa'ida and its offshoots deserve our most urgent attention, because when people say they want to kill us, we would be fools not to take them at their word.

Still, we have had an overdose of fear in recent times.

We have been told to be afraid so that we might be less protective of our Constitution, less mindful of international law, less respect­ful towards allies, less discerning in our search for truth and less rigorous in question­ing what our leaders tell us. We have been exhorted by the White House to embrace a culture of fear that has driven and narrowed our foreign policy while poisoning our ability to communicate effectively with others.

One manifestation of fear is an unwilling­ness to think seriously about alternative perspectives. America’s standing in the world has been in free fall these past few years because our country is perceived as trying to impose its own reality — to fashion a world that is safe and comfortable for us, with little regard for the views of anyone else.

Perhaps Barak Obama's rapid rise has something to do with this sentiment - i.e. a yearning for hope over fear. Parallels are being drawn with Labor's victory in Oz.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

David Hicks

There are two completely separate issues relating to David Hicks.

The first is how he should be treated.
He offered his services to a group of militants who were/are a risk to our national security. From this point of view, he has a strong case to answer, even if there is no law on our books that makes it possible. In an ideal world, such a law should have been created, and he should have had his day in court being tried against it - here in Australia. He continues to have a case to answer.

The second issue is about the treatment of an Australian who is in the custody of a foreign power. He was held without trial for five years. Irrespective of what he did, this was simply wrong.

The two issues are muddied. It is possible to condemn his actions, as I do, but also to condemn the way his case was handled. Condemning the way he was treated doesn’t mean that I support his actions.
What we are left with is a complete mess - no trial, no recognition of habeus corpus, and no real closure.


Kannan Venugopal in yesterday’s Australian –

RICKY Ponting could have resolved the issue in a much more amicable way. than by going to the umpires. Can we get on with the cricket, please?

My sentiments exactly. I played cricket as a kid, and coached as a young teacher, and if any of the kids in my team had behaved the way our Australian players have in the last test in Sydney, they would have been booted out. This behaviour, of course, is not confined to our national team, but they have made it an art form.

The term that would have been used back then was ‘Mug Lairs”.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

It's a Gas

About twelve months ago I had one of my vehicles – the one I use to drive long distances – converted to LPG. By now, it has traveled 30000 since the conversion, and taking into account the subsidy provided by the federal government, the conversion has paid for itself.

For that twelve months, the price of LPG in Queensland (where I live) has sat more or less in the mid fifties (cents per litre).

In the last fortnight, it has suddenly risen to the high sixties, representing an increase of about 25%. The LPG Autogas Australia website provides this information about the origin of the product –

LPG can be obtained from two different methods or processes.

Most commonly in Australia it is extracted directly from ‘wet’ natural gas or crude oil. Almost 80% of Australian LPG is produced from this process and includes places like Bass Strait (VIC), Cooper Basin (SA), Kwinana (WA), North West Shelf (WA) and Surat Basin (QLD).

LPG can also be obtained as a by-product of the petroleum refining process which produces around 20% of Australian supplies. There are seven local refineries - Mobil Altona (VIC), BP Bulwer Island (QLD), Shell Clyde (NSW), Shell Geelong (VIC), Caltex Kurnell (NSW), BP Kwinana (WA) and Caltex Lytton (QLD) all producing LPG.

Australia has plentiful natural supplies of LPG and in 2005 exported 1.6 million tonnes (about 3 billion litres).

If this is the case, what is the reason for the dramatic increase? What has changed? Or have the oil companies simply decided that they can make a greater profit, understanding the the ACCC seems impotent to identify price-fixing in terms of unleaded prices, and they’re safe to work the same scam on LPG?

Sounds like an invitation for an aspiring investigative journalist to get busy.

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...