Saturday, 16 February 2008

A Parasitic Industry

During the last month, I’ve been helping two of my offspring find accommodation in Brisbane so that they can study there. This has brought me into contact with the Real Estate industry.

It’s not the first time, of course. At last count, my wife and I have lived in nine different homes since we were married. Of these, four were rented, and five purchased. This is a product of a series of appointments in schools and regional offices all over Queensland.

The one common thread through these two groups of experiences has been the absolutely hopeless level of service offered by the real estate agents encountered.

In the case of my recent experience, one of my kids is officially squatting in the students’ digs he has applied for simply because the agent concerned hasn’t gotten around to getting the assorted documents together for the property owner to sign. This agent has been sitting on them for three weeks. Independently, my son and I have been nagging over the phone. The interesting thing about this is that the excuses given to him vary a great deal from those given to me.

Also interesting is that when I asked to speak to the manager to make a complaint, I was told that they did not allow clients to do so, and the receptionist then hung up in my ear.

The upside is that he’s staying rent-free in the short term, as is one of the other students in the house who is in the same predicament. I wonder how the owner would feel if he knew?

In the case of my daughter, much the same occurred, but she’s now signed up after a delay of two weeks. What we have discovered with this (different) agent is that absolutely nothing she says can be believed. “Today” means any time during the next week, “Your room can be locked”, means that there are keys somewhere, but no-one has any idea where, and “there are only girls on that level” means that all the other boarders with the exception of one are male. The straw that broke the camels back was when I asked her for directions to her office so my daughter could sign the lease, I was told - “Sorry, I’m new to Brisbane, and have no idea”.

This from a person who earns a living selling and renting a property in the river city!

My memory of earlier experiences is no better. Buying and selling is like dealing with Piranhas, and renting is a minefield.

In Townsville back in the eighties, we rented a home to live in prior to buying. When it came time to leave, my wife and I farmed off our two infant kids to relatives, and spent two full days cleaning the house before the agent’s inspection. By the time we’d finished, it gleamed, and was a damn sight cleaner than when we moved in.

Imagine my surprise when a cleaning fee was deducted from our bond. I personally fronted the agent asking for an explanation. I was told by the receptionist that there was dust on the upper side of one of the ceiling fans in one of the bedrooms.

Being unconvinced by this, I insisted in seeing the manager. I was then confronted by two large and swarthy individuals who told me in no uncertain terms that I had better leave if I wanted all my limbs to remain intact.

At that time, with wife and children in tow, it wasn’t advisable to make an issue of it. When I made a formal complaint to the REIQ, I was told that this was common practice on the part of this agent, and there was nothing they could do, despite the REIQ accreditation.

As far as I know this agent is still renting property in Townsville.

My brother has made a great deal of money buying and selling property, but won’t use agents, referring to them as “snakes”. He’s not far off the mark.

In the end, it’s a parasitic unnecessary industry.

When I lived in Mount Isa, my family was in public service accommodation. There were literally hundreds of teachers and their families in this situation, and the whole shooting match was managed part-time by an administrative assistant who had many other tasks. Any grievances went to the accommodation committee. In my five years there, there were never more than one or two grievances heard by the committee. It puts the lie to the assertion that private industry manages more efficiently.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Watching Wilson Tuckey foaming at the mouth over the apology to the stolen generations reminded me of the sorry (excuse the pun) record of this excuse for a parliamentarian.

He has been described in the past by his colleagues - including the ex-Prime Minister - as a a "fool" and "an embarrassment to his colleagues".

But Wilson Tuckey still became a federal minister in the Howard government.

His behaviour is not surprising given that he used to believe that belting someone with a piece of 100 amp cable is OK. For this action in 1967 he was convicted of assault. The fact that this person was aboriginal and was being held down at the time is revealing in the context of Wednesday's interview.

His recent form is interesting. In 2003 he tried to get his son off a traffic fine by heavying the South Australian Police Minister, Patrick Conlon, and then lying to parliament about it on more than one occasion.

He also defended James Hardie – the building products company which was embroiled in controversy over its failure to make proper reparations to pay compensation to victims of its asbestos products.

And despite the fact that he routinely sledges the National Party, it’s a fact that he ran as a Nationals candidate in the 1974 state election for the seat of Gascoyne.

Tuckey uses smear and intimidation as a matter of course, and is an exponent of the politics of hate and fear.

At least he's on the opposition benches, so his capacity to wield power is diminished.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


We each have our own unique view of today’s apology to the Stolen Generations.

I saw it as long overdue, but in the end a very simple process. The media hype has been over the top, which was I suppose to be expected.

I wasn’t there, but was able to watch the direct telecast. It reminded me (viewing it on the small screen) of the “Welcome Home” march in 1987.

What these two events had in common was their symbolism, the recognition of a small but very identifiable group by the wider community, and the deep emotionality of each occasion. Australians are not prone to mass displays of emotion, so when they do occur, they’re noteworthy.

The most significant theme of each activity was a quest for reconciliation. This quest is of critical importance, because without achieving it we won’t move on.

It happened today.

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...