Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 31 March 2012

There’s no Fuel like an old Fuel

The BA

Since I acquired my licence in 1964 I’ve owned many different cars. If I had all the money now that I’d spent buying and maintaining them over the last 47 years, I’d be a damn sight wealthier.

But I won’t go there.

Instead I’d like to take a look at the economics of running a car from the point of view of fuel choice.

I owned a BA Falcon a few years back which I had converted to a Sequential Vapour Injection LPG system. At the time, it made a great deal of sense. I was refunded $2000 toward the conversion cost ($4500) and LPG was costing about 55cpl.

This meant I was running the thing at a notional fuel consumption of about 7 lit/100km (derived by halving the average fuel consumption to account for the price relationship between LPG and unleaded, an adding about 20% because of the lower calorific value of the LPG). The only downside was the loss of a bit of luggage space. One upside was an effective touring range of 1100km on the combination of both fuels.

It was a good buy at the time, costing me about $6 per 100km to run.

Converted motor - BA. Pick the extra hardware.

 The economics don’t stack up quite so well these days for LPG.

The rebate has been reduced to $1250 and will eventually be phased out. LPG is now costing 86 cpl, and the price will continue to rise through tax changes.  The relationship between unleaded and LPG prices is not as strongly slanted towards LPG.

Putting all this together, you end up with notional fuel consumption (for a dedicated LPG Falcon) of about 8.5 lit/100km. It’s good, but not as good as it used to be.

Another way of looking at it is to express the cost per 100km. For an LPG Falcon it is now $7.31. Unleaded costs you $13.20 per 100km. Back in the day of my BA, (as I showed above) it was $6 per 100km on LPG and about $14 for the same on unleaded. The gap was wider back then.

The other option is diesel.

To compare like with like, let’s look at the newly-introduced Mazda CX-5.

On unleaded, the cost per 100km (using Mazda’s figures) is $9.65. On diesel, it’s $8.42.

Given that you pay an extra $3000 for a diesel, and that it would take about a quarter of a million kms to recoup the extra, I don’t think diesel is a proposition.

Modern diesels are very driver-friendly, and have bucket loads of torque for overtaking, but I still don’t think it’s $3000 worth of convenience.

So that’s brings it back to the old fuel (unleaded).

As I said, there’s no fuel like an old fuel.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Possum Prodding

Comfortable possum

For the last month or so, I’ve been waking up at about 3am and wondering why.

You know the feeling. You find yourself abruptly awake, but have no idea precisely why. You have a strong apprehension that something has caused it, but no idea what.

The fact that your partner is obviously still in the land of nod simply confuses the picture.

I reckon I have the ability, developed in SVN all those years ago, for my subconscious to know when something is not right. I could always sleep through routine artillery fire missions, characteristically very noisy, but a quiet movement at night out somewhere in the scrub when we were patrolling would always wake me.

Then it was an asset – now it’s a pain in the proverbial. It’s called hyper vigilance, by the way.

Anyway, this 3am waking was becoming a pest.

This mid-morning, a startled scream from my bride who was in the bedroom led me to investigate. She had pulled a drawer out in our pretty large bedroom dressing table to reveal a chubby and startled possum comfortably ensconced therein.

This critter had obviously decided that the area beneath and behind the dressing table provided a secure daytime refuge. The 3am noises that had routinely woken me were this possum coming in through the very large picture window adjacent to the dressing table, and settling down for a kip.

He/she was sleek and fat and obviously well fed. He/she was also in our bedroom. Now my bride, brought up on a farm in wildest FNQ* is generally tolerant of furry creatures, but she made it clear that this uninvited miscreant was not welcome.

He had to go. I called my adult son, home at the moment, for backup. He told me a blood curdling story about a mate who tried to remove a possum from student digs in Brisbane. The story goes that the possum attacked, ran up his arm, and inflicted deep cuts and abrasions to neck and shoulders. He was not at all keen to help.

I opened the window to it fullest extent, grabbed a broom handle, and with a little gentle prodding, furry friend was persuaded to vacate via said window. He/she scurried across the roof below the window, and disappeared into a tree, making hissy noises which I interpreted as possum cursing.

That was a relief, as whilst I hold a current possum-catchers licence, earned after many episodes of possum removal in schools as principal, I had no possum traps. You were once able to hire them from the Toowoomba Regional Council if you held a licence.

We will need to acquire a screen for that window. Possums are creatures of habit and without one, nocturnal visits from our mate and his/her rellies are likely.

Hopefully 3am wakings are not.


Fitzgerald’s Comments

Tony Fitzgerald has made relevant and caustic comment about the political scene in Queensland after last weekend’s election.

I’ve learned to listen when he speaks out. He doesn’t very often.

His flensing of the Bjelke-Petersen era corruption was masterful, and demonstrated both courage and forensic skills. It’s no accident that he pulls no punches on this occasion, coming down hard on the malaise that infects both sides of politics.

Some extracts –

"Statements of the Premier are encouraging, but much has been left unsaid and the jobs for the boy’s gravy train has already started - that's a shame."


“The current toxic political culture can be radically altered by an infusion of public-spirited talent to counteract the mediocrity and venality of those power brokers and professional politicians, whose life experience is limited to learning and practising the dark arts of misinformation, secrecy and character assassination,"


"Self-interest makes it unlikely that political parties and politicians who benefit from the current system will initiate real change - their likely mind set is that it's their turn.

I reckon he’s nailed it.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Amazing Device

For years (over 40) since I’ve been working in the field I’ve watched small changes in wheelchair design.

Basically, the advances seen in other areas such as automotive and aircraft design have not been duplicated for personal mobility devices for people with disabilities.

The major advance has been modular design, but this has disadvantages in terms of tailoring the modules to the changing physiology of developing kids, and needs physiotherapy supervision.

Where I work, physiotherapy supervision is the exception rather than the rule.

Things may be changing.

Scientists in Turkey have come up with a ground-breaking device. It’s not a wheelchair. It’s more a personal mobility device.

It looks a bit like a Segway but there the resemblance ends.

What is different about this thing is that the person enters from behind the device. It allows a range of movement and would provide for almost total independence for people with spinal injuries resulting in paraplegia.

It is expensive, and has been developed on the other side of the world, but holds out hope for the future.

A couple of observations – why Turkey? Why not the USA or some other country recognised as a leader in technology?

And why now? This technology has existed for years. It’s taken a long time for it to be synthesised into something useful.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Myth Busted

This story should be required reading for all the hysterics out there.

What is really funny is hysteric-in-chief Scott Morrison's attempt to distract when confronted with the facts.

But then, when it comes to xenophobia, facts are usually irrelevant.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Have Another Look

If I wrote that the Queensland state election was a landslide to the LNP, I doubt anyone would disagree.

Being the recalcitrant that I am, however, I'm going to challenge both that assumption, and that language.

There's absolutely no doubt that the LNP have won the vote count by a country mile, and that they will have untrammelled political power. You would also assume that most Queenslanders would be well and truly behind a party that had secured such a thumping majority.

Let's ask that question. Does the LNP actually have majority support when it comes to primary votes? You'd assume I'd have to be deluded to believe anything else after the MSM coverage of the last 24 hours.

*The LNP secured 49.7% of the primary vote, representing a swing of +8.1. Labor received 26.9%, a swing of -15.3. Between them, the Greens and KAP received 18.7% and others (presumably independents) 4.6%.

Interesting. The "landslide" to the LNP was actually 8.1%.

Now let's add the totals of the non LNP votes. It comes to 50.2%. Wait a minute, isn't that more than the LNP on 49.7%?

So more people voted against the LNP than for them.

That's a "landslide"?

Perception is everything.

*All my figures are from Antony Green's website.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Loose Language

I’ve had it to the back teeth with commentators accusing Julia Gillard and Anna Bligh of lying.

This meme has been picked up by the MSM and done to death. Maybe it’s time to do a little fact checking.

Let’s start with Gillard and the carbon tax myth. The sequence of events went something like this.

Prior to the election, Gillard stated clearly that no government she led would introduce a carbon tax. Subsequently, after the election the only way Labor could win government was to form an arrangement with the Greens and Independents. She did so.

At the same time, Abbott was also trying to persuade the Independents to support the Coalition. You can’t tell me that Abbott wouldn’t have been prepared to compromise to get the Independents on side. In this, he failed, and in this, Gillard was successful.

The situation was now entirely different, and no one (including the pundits in the MSM) predicted a minority government. Her government was in power on the back of a combination of Labor and Green votes – not the situation she (or anyone else) had envisaged when she made the statement about the carbon tax.

It’s entirely logical to assume that the majority of voters supporting the Greens and Labor also supported the decision to put a price on carbon. This is borne out by the dip in Labor’s polling when the CPRS was deferred by Rudd. Try a line of best fit on the graph above post May 2009.

Her statement was predicated on a situation (a majority Labor government) that no longer existed. How then, can it be a “lie”?

It’s a little bit similar to promising the kids a party, having the car break down, or the dog needing to have major surgery (Vets always charge more than doctors), and not having enough money to pay for the party. Even children understand that. Apparently the MSM do not.

Bligh was caught in a similar situation. Selling government assets provided a means to protect the jobs and livelihoods of many Queenslanders. The asset sales got many Labor stalwarts offside, and it may have been better politics to dump projects and workers.

The simple fact of the matter was that she was unaware of the full impact of the GFC on the state’s finances prior to the 2009 election, lacking as she did, clairvoyant qualities. Again, the situation changed, and again, a decision had to be made. There was no “lie”.

Admittedly, either or both could have gone back to the electorate. I wonder whether in a similar situation Abbott or the LNP in Queensland would have done that.

I wouldn’t bet on it.

The bottom line is simply that accusing these two leaders of lying is at best playing fast and loose with the English language, or at worst bending the truth to breaking point.

What they did may not have been good politics, and may have been inept, but “lying”? Fraid not, on any accurate interpretation of the language.

But wait a minute. Bending the truth is lying, isn’t it? Developing a political meme to discredit an opponent doesn’t make it OK. Funny that - isn't "lying" what Gillard and Bligh are accused of.

Talk about pot and kettle...

Political Symmetry

There’s something about Queensland politics that favours symmetry.

If you care to go back to 1916, you’ll note that T J Ryan, the Queensland Labor Premier was in no-holds-barred conflict with Billy Hughes, Prime Minister, over many things, including conscription.

This was the era of the famous Warwick Egg Incident, although much of what was going on at the time was a reflection of personality politics between Ryan and Hughes.

Move forward to 1975, and we see a similar state-federal conflict between Whitlam and Bjelke-Petersen. Except that the party allegiances were reversed, the situation was uncannily similar – two politicians with large egos fighting tooth and nail. The replacement of Bert Milliner with Albert Field by Bjelke-Petersen was just one of the more bizarre events during this period.

After the Labor split in Queensland in 1957, the Coalition was in power until 1989. This period of 32 years saw entrenched corruption take hold in the police force, leading to the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the demise of conservative government.

Again, move ahead to the present era, and we see a Labor government of more than 20 years reduced to a political rump after corruption and incompetence took hold. The pattern is the same as what occurred in the late eighties, only the politics are reversed.

Why does this happen in Queensland?

In the first place, the lack of an upper house means that the shock absorbing effect of such a chamber is absent. Queensland politics, will, I believe, continue to lurch from one extreme to the other as a result. Strong personalities with untrammelled power will always have a tendency to overreach. It has happened too often in Queensland to be a coincidence.

In addition, Queensland is essentially regional in culture. This means that there is always competition between competing regional interests. Usually it’s the bush versus the South East corner. When the two interests get together and get organised through the formation of a political alliance (in this case the amalgamated LNP) a great deal of political power results. It’s taken the conservative side of politics a long time to wake up to this salient fact, and now that they have, they are reaping the rewards.

The old saying – “All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” is specifically applicable in Queensland. Understand that, understand symmetry, and you begin to understand our politics.

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