Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

It's Christmas

I've been searching to find something appropriate to post at Christmas.
This turned up in the parish newsletter, and it fits well.
The baby Jesus was, it should be remembered, a displaced person at the time of His birth.
If posting this makes me a bleeding heart, so be it.
That's a badge I'll always wear with pride.

Lazarus at Our Gate. Australian Catholic Bishops ' 2013 Social Justice Message

"In the Gospel parable, the rich man’s failure is not an overt cruelly, but an indifference to human suffering. The rich man passes Lazarus constantly but never actually 'sees’ him - never actually recognising Lazarus’ need. 

We cannot be at peace, eating our fill, in the knowledge that a sister or brother lies hungry or sick at our gate. We know that such a state of affairs is as far as it can be from the vision of God. Our God is revealed as a God of abundance and hospitality who gives life to the world, bread to the hungry -  And Christ as our guide and saviour... God in Jesus chooses humility, service and self-emptying as the hallmarks of a love which is everlasting - sumptuous and rich".

By the end of 20 12, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide exceeded 45 million, the highest level of displacement since 1994. These are men, women and children driven from their homes by war or civil violence.

Often these people are forced to seek refuge in countries that are themselves facing significant struggles. Eighty per cent of refugees are seeking protection in developing countries, making it even harder for those nations to lift themselves out of poverty. In 2012, Pakistan hosted the largest number of refugees ( l.6 million), followed by Iran (868,000) Syria hosted 477,000 refugees and, with the recent terrible violence, 647,000 have fled seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

For millions of refugees, it will be many years before they can find a home again.  Some never do. Of the refugee population under the mandate of the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, around two thirds - 6.4 million people. - had been in these circumstances for five years or longer. Refugee camps can be the size of small cities. The one in Dadaab , Kenya, is home to about half a million people, including some 10,000 third-generation refugees born in the camp. Not only have these people lost access to t heir livelihoods, their extended families and their faith communities , but they are very often prevented from moving around freely, earning a living wage or planning for their futures.

Those displaced from their homes are prone to trauma, causing them to experience poverty at many different levels no matter how high their education or employment levels before.

Facing these odds, it is no wonder that many are forced into desperate choices --- living hand-to­ mouth in slums or shanty towns -- are spending their last savings on risky journeys to places they hope can protect them. The Catholic Church has been a source of hope and assistance to those on the move around the globe. That basic level of human solidarity - hospitality to the stranger and refuge for those seeking protection - as been lacking in our national political debate over the past decade. The recent increase in the n umber of people arriving by boat is insignificant by world standards. In 2012, as a country like Pakistan struggled to accommodate 1.6 mill ion refugees, Australia’s political leaders and media whipped up hysteria over the arrival of 17,000 asylum seekers in Australian waters.

We have been saddened to see part of our international aid budget diverted to funding for asylum seekers being processed in our community. These are men and women who richly deserve our support, but not at the expense of others in desperate need. Any reduction or diversion of international aid funds remains a concern, particularly where those funds are directed at addressing many of the problems that ca use people to flee their homelands.

The depth and breadth of poverty that still exists in our world calls us to action. That so many suffer multiple burdens of deprivation prompts deep soul searching. How is it that so many are excluded from enjoying spiritual, cultural, educational, social, economic and political freedoms? How is it that so many still lie like Lazarus at our gate, bearing in t heir bodies the cost of their struggle and denied access to the table of participation and solidarity time and again. This is the challenge for us, as Australians and as members of the global community, as we seek the path to reducing and eliminating poverty in the years to come.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Blast from the Past

I've been meaning to do this for a long time.
Getting a copy of my army records from CARO*  that is.

They make interesting reading, not because they reveal anything I didn't already know or remember, but because of the insights gained by looking at the way records were made and kept back then.

Everything was taken down in longhand. Computers weren't invented, or at least not used for the record keeping application.

They collected lots of information, although it's hard to understand why some of it is relevant.

Why did they need to know I was into photography, played the guitar and recorder, and fixed bicycles?
Given the well-know tendency of the army to post any given individual into a corps completely disconnected from civvie skills, it's more than a little mysterious.

They also got it wrong, or I told a few fibs. I did, at the time, have a couple of subjects towards a degree. I hadn't done very well, so may have been embarrassed to mention it.

I was in Cadets at boarding school, but think I made up the bit about being a signaller.

Seeing my Nationality listed as "British" is annoying, to say the least.

My medical classification of A1 is interesting, given that I'd had a mild case of Polio as a toddler, and ended up with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

The funniest bit is having my papers stamped as "Potential Officer".
In the first five minutes of my officer intake interview I told the guy with the handlebar moustache that I thought we should get out of Vietnam.

That was the end of the interview.

* Central Army Records Office

Saturday, 7 December 2013


Silver is the new black.

Regular readers will remember that my bride's Ford Focus was hailed.

This, as I pointed out at the time was an ill wind. We were about to trade it, on a late model second hand vehicle, and had been doing the rounds of the various yards in Toowoomba in preparation.

We'd found a Mazda 3 (Skyactiv SP20) which looked pretty good - only 17000 km - but weren't happy with the lousy trade-in. Then we found out that the payout of the Focus was $3000 more than the best offer as a trade, so decided we might as well buy new.
Red cars go faster.

The Mazda was a good car, but lacked both refinement and rear seat space compared with the Focus Trend, that we bought. We didn't want to have to put up with whinges from adult offspring on the fairly rare occasions when we carried them in the rear. The Mazda's Skyactiv technology (including idle-stop) was interesting, but the economy gains marginal at best.

The Focus is like all small Fords, a treat to drive, although the loaner car (a 1600cc Ambiente with the old-fashioned hydraulic power steering is actually more tactile). I believe that a car is for driving, so you might as well enjoy it. The Trend (2000cc) has electric steering. It's initially very light, but firms up as speed increases, and has a good road feel.

We were loaned this until the Trend turned up.

My bride, fortunately, is of the same opinion.

After about a week of ownership, the Trend is looking OK.

It's fun to drive, very quiet, and comfortable. For an old fart like me, it's not too difficult to enter and leave. SUVs are superior in this respect, but we weren't inclined to be saddled with driving around all that extra metal.

It comes with a full size spare (rare these days), 60 profile Michelins, and the Sync feature which allows you to talk to it.

This works well with the phone, but is a bit unnecessary with the audio, as you can do most things using the steering wheel mounted controls.

The sedan is lighter, stronger, and easier to see out of than the hatchback.

And if I want to shift anything large, I'll use the trusty ute.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Welcome to Queensland

I'm reposting this from the 7RAR Facebook pages.

When it comes to living in Queensland these days, it says it all.

A young soldier has told of being strip-searched by police in front of his home as the Queensland Government's tough anti-bikie laws continue to take a toll on recreational riders.

1RAR soldier Private Noah Schefe, 22, who is a member of the Townsville chapter of the Patriots Motorcycle Club, was searched by police outside his home about three weeks ago, late at night, after he returned from the chapter's clubhouse.

He was not charged with any offences.

Patriots Australia is a military club for serving, former regular and reserve members of the Australian, Commonwealth and Allied Defence Forces.

It regularly participates in fundraising for charities, recently raising $4500 for Legacy Townsville.

The club publicly condemns all criminal activity, and is not included in the government's list of bikie gangs declared as criminal organisations.

Pte Schefe said the police officer who searched him was not aware of the club, nor had any interest when told about it, despite Pte Schefe showing the officer his Defence ID card.

``He got me up over to the cop car and put me up against the car and started pulling everything out of my pockets and taking my boots out,'' he said.

``The other cop had my bag on the bonnet and pulled everything out of my bag, searching the whole lot.

``They had me there for probably a good half an hour, at 1.30am, with all the lights on and everything.

``All my neighbours saw it - I'd just moved into this house about two weeks beforehand - they're sitting there thinking they've got a criminal bikie who's moved into the neighbourhood."

There are about 20 members of the Patriot's Townsville chapter, who based their constitution on the Defence Law Manual, following the rule of civilian law.

``We're only doing good things for the community,'' Pte Schefe said.

``To be treated like a criminal, for the same reason someone's shot somebody on the Gold coast, it's absolutely ridiculous."

Local Government Minister and Mundingburra MP David Crisafulli told motorcyclists gathered at a public rally at Anderson Park yesterday the new laws should not be making innocent people feel like they were being treated as criminals.

At least 100 motorcyclists attended the protest, alongside riders from across the state as a show of solidarity against the laws, aimed at criminal bikie gangs, that have resulted in the harassment of law-abiding people.

Mr Crisafulli told the crowd gathered at the rally the Government's laws were in place to target the one per cent of bikies carrying out criminal activities.

``The rules are there to protect the community and I don't think we should move away from that,'' he said.

``By the same token, the rules should not be there to make innocent people feel like criminals.

``Because you ride motorbikes, and have tattoos, it doesn't make you a bad person."

He said he was willing to speak to motorcycle riders about "getting the balance right" on the legislation.

Motorcycle Riders' Association Townsville spokeswoman Karina Ewer said the "one-per centers" were not the only ones being targeted by police.

``We've had a woman pulled over nine times because she rides a Harley,'' she said

``There are people here from all walks of life, and we have all been affected in some way, and we won't accept being classed as collateral damage."

She said the bikie laws were having a devastating effect upon clubs who conducted charity fundraisers.

``The MRA raises about $10,000 for Christmas every year through its toy run, every year,'' she said.

``We literally had people walking to the other side of the street to stay away from us, for the first time ever."

Last month the Australian Motorcycle Council (AMC) launched a fighting fund to raise money for any High Court challenge against the laws.

Monday, 2 December 2013


Somebody posted a reference to Chickenman on the 7RAR Facebook page the other day.

I thought it might be a good idea to post a link on this blog, as I know a few fellow vets read it, and it might bring back some memories.

Anyhow, I couldn't find it, so am posting this instead.

It was played on AFNVN in 1970, when I was there, and no doubt many years before and after.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A Pollies' Promise

Because I'm a teacher (have been one now for forty-five years) - I felt heartened by the Coalition's promise before the election, that they would implement the Gonski recommendations.

There is so much in the Gonski concept which is of significant value to the target group of kids that I work with, namely students with disabilities in remote and rural settings.

Now, after yesterday's events, I regard the whole thing as being in jeopardy.

That's my problem, I guess, because I have skin in the game.

But the broken promise is probably a more fundamental issue. From here, it's glaringly obvious that nothing that the current government promises can be believed, and they have taken power on a scam.

Sure, the Gillard government broke a promise on the Carbon tax, but when the promise was made, there was no awareness that there was going to be a minority government.

No such excuse is available now.

Perhaps it's simply a feature of contemporary conservative governments.

Remember Newman's statement in Queensland - "Public servants have nothing to fear from an LNP government."

He then proceeded to sack 14000 of them.

Update - The coalition have performed a double back somersault with pike which in the final analysis, is not the same scheme as promised by Labor, and leaves them plenty of wriggle room.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Unintended Consequences

On my many travels along the Warrego, I have noticed a strange and growing phenomenon.

There are heaps of Hi-Luxes with hi-viz markings tooling up and down the highway. Invariably, they clump together like some form of mobile soap scum – you know, the pattern that develops on the top of an old washing copper.

I’m old enough to remember that.

Anyway, these utes are all owned by mining companies. These same mining companies have pretty much colonised the Surat basin.

Each and every on of them is fitted with a GPS tracker. This cunning device, sends a signal back to a base somewhere. This signal contains real time information about speed and location.

If a unit exceeds the speed limit, an alarm goes off back in base, and the driver comes in for a grilling.

Consequentially, they all stay 1kph below the limit.

Given that you need to exceed the limit to overtake anyone travelling less than about 90 kph, mining vehicles don’t overtake.

Hence the “clumping” which is inherently quite dangerous, as motorists not carrying tell-tale GPS will try to pass long convoys of slow vehicles.

It indicates centralisation taken to extremes, and is a text-book example of unintended consequences.

And it is dangerous.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


My bride's car is looking sad after an encounter with a hailstorm

Almost every panel has sustained some damage. It came from nowhere, and there was nowhere to go.

The picture doesn't look too bad, but the turret, the boot lid, and the door panels are all damaged. Even the plastic trim around the number plate was smashed.

We've had a series of evil little super cells which have been popping up everywhere, and moving very quickly.

This is the way these small super cells look on radar.
The insurance companies are thoroughly geared up for this eventuality, and I was able to lodge a claim over the phone, and book an appraisal at the same time.

That's happening next Monday, so unless there's a backlog of vehicles being repaired, repairs shouldn't take too long. It will be interesting to see how much it costs. I reckon at least $2000.

It was closer to $8000!
Car is therefore written off.
Actually, it's an ill wind, as we were in the process of getting quotes on a trade on a new car, and the payout was $3000 better than any dealer was prepared to give. They're doing deals and are swamped with cars at the moment, so are trading low.
Consequently, the order is in for a new car, and the dimpled Focus will be departing forever on the back of a truck tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Driving the Warrego

I've been driving up and down the Warrego Highway in this job since 2006, 
and have seen lots of changes.

Not all of them are for the better.

This was brought home to me yesterday when I arrived on the scene of an accident at 6.30 am on the journey West.

It was an all-too-familiar scenario. Two young men in a small sedan had been heading East and had stopped on a three lane section of road (two lanes West; one lane East) to turn on to a side road. A woman driving a larger car had not seen them (sun in her eyes?) and ploughed into the back of their car at full speed.

On that section of road, full speed was probably about 80kph.

By the time I'd pulled up, a bloke in army uniform had helped her out of her car and was doing a good job of looking after her, so I went to the help of the two men in the other car. It had copped a helluva whack, as it was about two-thirds its original length. The fact that it folded up pretty comprehensively, probably contributed to the fact that neither were badly injured, although shocked and bruised.

I sat them down, offered reassurance, and set about trying to make sure that no one else ended up adding to the chaos, as the position of the sun was a problem for the Eastbound traffic.

Most drivers slowed, but about 10% didn't. Unfortunately this 10% are always on the road. I see them all the time.

The towies turned up  in about ten minutes, and the emergency services people in about fifteen. The towies obviously monitor the police frequencies.

Fortunately, none of the injuries were life threatening, but I'd be surprised if the woman in the second car didn't need to spend some time in hospital.

I resumed my 350 km journey, pondering how much more dangerous this road has become since I started driving it seven years ago.

The explosion of mining development in the Surat basin has a cost. There's so much more traffic, the road has been steadily destroyed by the heavy machinery, and seems to need rebuilding every two years.

Your taxes and mine are paying for this. It's a pity the mining companies aren't paying their share, and it doesn't look like they ever will.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Factor of Ten

Today is Remembrance Day, and our thoughts turn to the winding down of the commitment of Australian troops in Afghanistan, the longest military conflict in our history.

In reflecting on that, two apparently unrelated images caught my eye.

One was a recent video grab of a C-17A landing at Tarin Kowt. On board were the next of kin of Diggers killed in Afghanistan. There was also an interview with a father. It was dignified, but there was a pervading sadness which characterised this man’s responses to the journalist's questions.

The other was a shot I took on a visit to Vietnam a few years ago.

 I was with a group of Vietnam vets conducting a service in the Long Hai hills commemorating the loss of nine diggers from 8RAR in a mine incident in February 1970. I took this photo, because my son, at that time the same age I was when I served there, read the service. I was revisiting – my son was there for the first time.

Caught accidentally in the top left of the shot is one of the 8 RAR crew, a big man, over six feet and built like a truck. Tears were glistening in his eyes.

I rediscovered the photo when I was cleaning up my computer hard drive, eliminating images that were no longer worth keeping. I kept this image, and it immediately connected in my mind with the Tarin Kowt grab.

There is a strong sense of loss associated with both Vietnam and Afghanistan, but that’s not all they have in common.

They were conflicts that hummed away in the background of our daily lives. As a nation involved in both, we weren’t officially at war, but young men and women were in harm’s way 24/7 in countries that most of us hadn’t heard of prior to the military commitments.

There were regular media reports, but generally they skimmed across the surface of the reality experienced by the diggers and their families. Like dingoes howling in the night – we heard them, but there were not affecting our lives. They were always there, always menacing, but well in the background.

For the fathers, mothers, partners and children of these Diggers, they were not background. Whether these soldiers served in Vietnam or Afghanistan their next of kin dealt daily with the understanding that at any time they might hear dreadful news. They accepted this as part of their lived reality.

For most Australian’s however, this was someone else’s dread, someone else’s fear and someone else’s problem.

In 1970, I was the one that was away, so I have no real understanding of how my parents dealt with this dread. It would not have been easy. The two hundred and fifty letters they wrote gave me some inkling.

Both of them detested the policy that sent conscripted men off to war – my father, as was his way, volubly and loudly – my mother, quietly and hidden in her heart.

It’s only since I’ve had children of my own that I’ve begun to appreciate the pervasive dread that came with this situation of separation in conflict. Adapting to separation is difficult enough when children are living normal lives. They do grow up and leave home, after all.

Parents and next of kin living the forced separation driven by involvement in conflict endure a vastly different situation.

For my parents, and the families of the serving soldiers then and now, whether they were in Vietnam or Afghanistan, the fact that their loved ones were constantly in harm’s way must have been hard to accept.

Nothing can be done when living this situation, except to endure, to manage, to focus on the mundane and to carry on. My parents obviously did this, as did my five siblings. I came home safely, and life went on.

For about 500 families, in the case of Vietnam, and 40, in the case of Afghanistan, life changed utterly. Many returned, completely changed, both physically and mentally, and they and their next of kin had to live with that.

Our government sought to honour them, and they did this passably well in the case of Afghanistan. Fallen soldiers were brought home with honour. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were present at the ramp ceremonies. And so they should have been.

Looking back to Vietnam, they did less well. Initially, bodies were not repatriated, but interred in Malaysia. Twenty four casualties of the Vietnam War are buried in the cemetery of the Terendak Garrison at Malacca, in Malaysia. After 1966, they were repatriated, but without any of the ceremony afforded casualties of Afghanistan.

This situation was a product of the times. The war in Vietnam was almost always divisive, and it probably made political and practical sense to treat repatriation in a low key manner. Only the kin of those killed know whether this has been a source of bitterness.

Given that 249 of these casualties were conscripts, it would indeed be surprising if there was no residual hurt. Some of this may have been assuaged to a degree when the recent stalwart efforts to repatriate soldiers missing in action in Vietnam are considered.

The Repatriation of Flying Officer Mike Herbert and Pilot Officer Bob Carver in 2009 were the last two. They went missing during my tour. Bob Carver was from Toowoomba. Now that these two are back, all are home.

It is encouraging to note two other recent developments.

One was the joint visit of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to Afghanistan to honour the drawing down of our commitment.

The other was the visit of the next of kin to Tarin Kowt.

Maybe in the last forty years our nation has learnt something about honouring our servicemen and women. Maybe we have also learnt to honour the suffering and sacrifice of their next of kin.

As this is written, casualties in Vietnam exceed those in Afghanistan by a factor of ten. Is it reasonable to conclude that during the last forty years our recognition of the sacrifice of our servicemen and women has improved by the same amount?

Paul Kelly at the Empire

I post this because I attended this live performance at the Toowoomba Empire Theatre.

I can't remember the date, think it was 2008 - but I'll stand corrected, gentle reader.

The large unit second from the right, is Mick Albeck, a Thallon lad. The harmonys are magnificent, and the performance electric.

Paul Kelly - Australian musical genius....

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Incompetence Vs Conspiracy

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.

This quote from Napoleon Bonaparte is relevant in the context of a new book written by an Australian ex-detective.

The gist of the story is that John Kennedy was actually killed by a member of his own security detail on November 22nd in 1963.

That, on the face of it, sounds far-fetched, but given the variety and range of conspiracy theories produced since the Kennedy assassination, it’s at least as credible as most.

The interesting point, of course, is that he claims incompetence, rather than a malicious conspiracy, killed Kennedy, and given my personal experience and memories of the weapon in question, I find it strangely compelling.

Put briefly, McClaren (the author) claims that although Kennedy was wounded by a shot fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the book depository, the shot that killed him was actually an accidental discharge from an AR-15 carried by agent George Hickey who was traveling in the open-topped vehicle following Kennedy’s car in the motorcade.

He bases this on ballistic evidence, and claims that he went to the case in the same way as he did as a detective, with no pre-conceived ideas, and relying purely on verifiable fact.

McClaren claims that the shot that killed Kennedy was a hollow point high velocity round fired from a .223 AR-15, a weapon which in 1963 was a novelty to the security detail. He says that Hickey was not trained on it and was carrying it for the first time on 22nd November 1963.

Occasionally I carried an Armalite rifle 40+ years ago. The Armalite is the military version of the Colt AR-15. I remember that the rotating safety switch had three positions – safe, semi and full auto. Safe was 180 degrees across from full auto. I remember an incident in my unit when a digger (a company clerk) went out on an overnight TAOR patrol carrying an Armalite.

In theory, he was trained on it (a couple of sessions in rookies in Oz), but had never carried the weapon in country.

On the way out through the wire, the clerk tripped, the weapon discharged on full auto, and the high velocity rounds did terrible mischief to the lower leg of the digger in front of him. This bloke was RTAd, and after extensive surgery, his leg was saved.

It was discovered that the weapon was on full auto, which the digger carrying it had confused with the 180 degrees opposite safe.

In the light of this memory, McClaren’s explanation of Kennedy’s death is entirely believable. It’s probably worth a read.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Great Queensland Bikie Scam

Photo courtesy Mackay Daily Mercury

I've lived in Queensland most of my life, and have never had an encounter with an outlaw motorcycle gang.

That experience would be shared by most Queenslanders. I doubt many of us lie awake at night worrying about bikies.

The Newman government, however, have cottoned on to the obsession the media have with outlaw motorcycle gangs, and are milking it big time.

Big blokes with tatts, big black motorcycles, and fortress-like clubhouses make great TV.

Every night for about a week, the television news has featured a raid on a clubhouse. You'd wonder why they're not all raided at once, until you understand that there's more media mileage made out of stringing it out.

Our police minister says we will now all be able to sleep nights n the clear certainty that we are safe from bikies. I'm not sure that curing insomnia comes within the operational brief of the Police minister, but there you go.

I'm unaware of anywhere else in the world (including one-party and totalitarian states) where it's illegal to wear certain regalia. It was illegal to wear green in Ireland under the British occupation, so I guess it comes from the same colonial handbook.

You can also be charged with gathering in a group of three or more if you are a member of an outlaw motorcycle club. This kind of legislation is typical of one party states. Given the numbers in parliament, and our lack of an upper house, a one-party state describes Queensland pretty well.

Collateral damage is likely.

This article in the Mackay Daily Mercury describes the effect on the Vietnam Veterans' Motorcycle Club - a charity.

From that article -

Wolf believes all motorbike riders are being lumped in with the criminal gangs.
"It's not the guys up here that are causing the problem."
A big concern for him is being forced to remove his patches.
"We're Vietnam Veterans and that's something to be proud of and a way we express our pride for our country," he said.
"It's an insult to the veterans of this country if they try and take our patches off us."

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Art Deco in Charleville

Sometimes you discover the completely unexpected.

This week I was in Charleville, and went for a walk in the early evening. It was 35 degrees maximum, so the early evening was the best time for exercise.

I took a detour down a lane near the railway station and came across this building.

It's not a very good shot (the iPhone was all I had), but it's recognizable art deco and a bit of a gem, I reckon.

It's obviously some kind of gate house setup, and probably harks back to the days when it was a much busier place than it is now. It's on railway property and given the air conditioning, is obviously still in daily use. 

The fence and signs don't help the appearance, but if you can imagine it without the add-ons, the integrity of the building is still there.

There must be a story behind the design. I'd love to know  it.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Collateral Damage

Here’s an extract from this article in today’s Catholic Leader –

Claims by the Federal Government that Sri Lanka is safe enough for the return of asylum seekers from Australia have been challenged by a representative of Brisbane archdiocese's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.
CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt made the call after a recent visit to Sri Lanka as part of a group of 30 Catholic justice and peace workers from across Asia and the Pacific.
"My personal encounters with Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka have convinced me that the situation for Tamils and critics of the Sri Lankan Government is extremely difficult," he said.
"I came face to face with survivors of the civil war.
"The systematic way in which Tamil men are being arrested and detained indefinitely looks suspiciously like ethnic cleansing to me." He said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had visited Sri Lanka a week before and came to the same conclusion.

It’s mind-boggling how systematic human rights abuses can be selectively ignored in the quest for stopping the boats.

Quite clearly, the end justifies the means.

That’s not a policy I thought I’ve ever see being pursued by an Australian government.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Hate Mail

I’m sure you get them now and again - hate emails that is.

I know I do, and generally ignore them. They come from a variety of sources, usually related to networks I belong to, or more often, used to belong to.

But this time I didn’t.

I thought it might be interesting to send the thing back with a correction, purely for the hell of it, you understand.

So here is the email –

 Boy o boy..... you got to read this one, can't stop shaking my head.
Is This for real ?
The word "Dhimmitude" is found in the new health care bill; so what does it mean?
Thought this was interesting and worth passing on.
Obama used it in the health care bill.
Now isn't this interesting? It is also included in the health care law.
Dhimmitude -- I had never heard the word until now. I typed it into Google and started reading. Pretty interesting; It's on page 107 of the healthcare bill. I looked this up on Google and yep, it exists... It is a REAL word.
Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-Muslim populations conquered through jihad (Holy War). Specifically, it is the TAXING of non-Muslims in exchange for tolerating their presence AND as a coercive means of converting conquered remnants to Islam.
Obama Care allows the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States . Muslims are specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance, and also from the penalty tax for being uninsured. Islam considers insurance to be ,"gambling", "risk-taking", and "usury" and is thus banned. Muslims are specifically granted exemption based on this.
How convenient. So I, as a Christian, will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivable, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax. Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan will have no such penalty and will have 100% of his health insurance needs paid for by the de facto government insurance. Non-Muslims will be paying a tax to subsidize Muslims.
This is Dhimmitude.
I recommend sending this on to your contacts.
American/& AUSTRALIAN citizens need to know about it --
snopes.com : Health Insurance Exemptions Apr 13, 2010 ...
Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-muslim populations ...
The Obama Care bill is the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia ...
Keep this going. Every non-Muslim needs to know about it.

So there it was. Choice stuff, as my father would have said.

One of the people who had been sent the same email took objection, and linked to this -  http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/government/a/muslims_exempt_health_insurance_mandate_2.htm

So I decided I’d do the same, with the following observation –

To all those who have received this email.

It is completely false – see the analysis below –
Analysis: These forwarded messages contain an astounding array of inaccuracies and exaggerations, beginning with the main proposition:
  • Are Muslims "specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance, and also from the penalty tax for being uninsured," as claimed in the message?
The answer is no. This is a fictitious claim. There is no provision specifically exempting Muslims or any other religious group from mandated health insurance in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Nor do the words "Muslim," "Islam," or "Dhimmitude" appear anywhere in any version of the legislation.

I have no particular axe to grind, but I do object to hate-driven rubbish being left in my inbox. No sane person believes that religious bigotry has any place in this country.


It will be interesting to see if I get any feedback.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

It's Dry

Grassfire near Amby

In fact, it's bloody dry.

I took this shot near Amby not so long ago. For all you image Nazis out there, I know it's a poor shot.
It was taken from a vehicle moving at 100kph, and I was a passenger. I don't take photographs whilst driving.
Amby is between Mitchell and Roma

The fire was getting up a fair head of steam, and it had the wind behind it. Someone's feed was getting a caning, so I reported it (or tried to) by phoning the local rural firies. We'd just come into Telstra coverage.

They didn't want to know, and told me to call 000. Now I've always been reluctant to do this, because I believed that number was fore life threatening emergencies, but I did what I was told.

When I did, I was told that the fire had already been reported.

Someone else had come to the same conclusion as we had. Sure enough five minutes later the fire truck came into view heading West towards the fire. (We were heading East).

Anyway, I heard later that they got to it before it did too much damage. That was good to hear, as there's not a lot of good feed left out this way. The drought is creeping South and East. 

The first indicator is the ever increasing amount of road kill. The roos come in towards the road looking for a bit of green pick.

The grass is brown, and the trees grey. The colours always give it away.

It looks like it going to be a hard time until (and if) the wet arrives.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Eddie Cochrane

I realize this ages me, but it does bring back memories.

 As a kid I lived in North Queensland. Occasionally we traveled south during the Christmas holidays to stay with my dad's sister in Brisbane.

Her son (my cousin) was into the music at the time, and used to play this on a very large and imposing mahogany faced record player/radio which had great sound quality.

 Later on he became a successful DJ in the Brisbane (and later Canberra) radio scene.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Reflections on Darwin

Cullen Bay esplanade at dusk

Now that I’ve had a bit of time to think about it, I’ll post about Darwin – the city. 
I'd been here twice before. Once in December 1970 on an RTA flight from Vietnam.

The second time was on a camping holiday when I was single in 1972. That was pre-Tracy, and it's changed a bit.

First up, it’s a great place to visit. You need to pick the right time. September is OK, but starting to warm up. The humidity is high and it gets into the mid thirties.

May – July is probably optimum. On the other hand, if you have a hankering for the tropics you could do worse than get there at the height of the wet. I’d like to see those waterfalls at Litchfield in full flight, and I reckon Kakadu would be awesome that time of the year, if you could get in and out of there.

The city reminded me very much of Townsville on steroids. There’s plenty of money around, people are laid back and friendly, and the streets are full of new cars and young well (if casually) dressed people.

The racial mix is amazing. Darwin is a real melting plot. Given its history, many of those not of Anglo Celtic origin are fourth or fifth generation Darwin residents.

There’s a strong Irish contingent, many of them tradesmen who migrated because there’s not much being built in Ireland right now. Darwin, on the other hand, is bristling with cranes.

There’s plenty of good food about, if a little expensive. Perhaps I’m biased, as we ate Asian food most of the time, and I found myself comparing the prices (unfavorably) with Vietnam. I did this subconsciously, as the feel of the place (including the smells, the humidity and the accents) is Asian.

When you look at a map, that’s hardly surprising. Darwin is almost equidistant from Singapore and Melbourne.

That proximity to Asia has had a defining influence on the history of the place. It meant that before air travel, Darwin was only readily accessible from the sea, and the sea was to the North and the track to and from Asia. Hence the wave of immigration, starting with the Malaccans who traded with the aborigines before white settlement, and continued with Chinese, Indians and Japanese – the last group with the pearling industry.

Sunset on the Timor Sea

Darwin is a phoenix, being destroyed twice during the Japanese bombing (which lasted from February 1942 until November 1943) and when Cyclone Tracy wrecked it on Christmas Day 1974. The story of wartime Darwin is a sadly neglected part of our history. I doubt most contemporary Australians are aware of the ferocity and duration of these raids, and the many men and women who died on Australian soil in Darwin’s defence.

It also has an interesting industrial history.

How many of you are aware of the Darwin Rebellion in 1918? It all started with the nationalization of the pubs in 1915, and ended with the administrator being run out of town, and having to be rescued by a gunboat.
He completed his term of office from Melbourne. Now that was a punishment.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Darwin Aviation Heritage Museum

Darwin's history is inextricably linked to aviation.

As a recognition of this, the aviation heritage centre has been set up and is a must see for anyone interested in aircraft.

That includes me, and my bride and I spent a couple of hours there yesterday. My bride was less keen than I, but we'd spent the morning at the NT museum looking at cultural artifacts, so it was fair.

There is a B-52 on display. It dominates the whole museum. I'm not sure how they got it into the hangar. Some dismantling was no doubt necessary.

I've seen B-52s before, (from the ground in Townsville), and heard the sound of their raids in SVN over. 40 years ago, but had never seen one up close. As the cliche goes, they're big and ugly.

There's also a Mirage (or actually one and a half Mirages) on display. The one illustrated above was retrieved from mudflats where it crashed in the eighties. The pilot bailed out, but the thing ended up coming in at a shallow angle so didn't end up as melted aluminum in a crater.

The half Mirage is outside with no signage, so I'm not sure of the story. I'll find out. Whatever happened to it, the front half is missing.

Fighters displayed include the Avon Sabre above.

These things were hot rods, equipped with a British Rolls Royce engine which made them the most powerful example of the Sabre in their day.

The prize for the ugliest aircraft on display goes to the Huey Cobra. These things were useful in Vietnam, but only operated by the Yanks.

The RAAF used a cobbled up Iroquois, which was christened "Bushranger" and had much the same effect.

Friday, 27 September 2013


Yesterday we visited Litchfield national park, South West of Darwin, administered by the NT parks and wildlife people.

It's dry tropics country, crossed by a well-watered gorge system similar in many ways to Carnarvon gorge in Queensland, except that Carnarvon lacks crocs.

The flood plain country near the gorge is notable for termite mounds, many of which are built by termites with built-in compasses. These critters build their nests on a magnetic north-south alignment, which ensures that they take maximum advantage of the movement of the sun to keep things at optimum temperature, especially during the wet when the sun is on holiday.

This is more than theory, as scientists have exposed termites to powerful magnetic fields contradicting the natural ones. The termites will always build in the same alignment north-south to a powerful simulated field if it is stronger than the natural one.

If you look closely at the pic above you will see a dark blue bird sitting on a nest. This is a Shining Flycatcher. He wasn't catching flies when I snapped him. Like most of the wildlife he was having a kip, as it was too hot for much activity.

There are some spectular falls at Litchfield that flow all year round. These are Wangi Falls.

You can swim here. The crocs are rostered off.

Update - This is for Cav, who had trouble seeing the Flycatcher -


Katherine Gorge

Whilst I'm not a scenery tragic, Katherine is spectacular, and worth blogging.
We were shoveled into buses when we detrained, and driven the short distance to the gorge. Our bus was a "Higer", made in China, and like most Chinese made vehicles imported to this country, equipped with leather upholstery.

The cows supplying the hide must be a special oriental breed, fed on artificial grass, as the leather seemed less than kosher.

There has been a particularly dry year, so the punt that took us up the gorge could navigate only as far as the end of the first section. Both rocks and vegetation are interesting, but the vegetation more so, in my opinion.

Once you seen a rock, you've seen them all, and they don't change. The vegetation, on the other hand, is ever changing. There are trees described as calendar trees because you can tell what time of the year it is by looking at the state of the vegetation. The crocs (both freshwater and estuarine) apparently time their egg-laying according to these trees.

Clever critters, crocs, but we didn't see any. The guide claimed that it was too hot for them to come out of the water. Some of my fellow travelers were disappointed. Can't say I was - after reading the local rag (NT News) I'm crocced out.

Once back on dry land we were treated to buffalo and camel meat, crocodile fritters and soup, and watermelon, washed down with a glass of bubbly.

I'd rate the buffalo meat edible but chewy, the crocodile fritters tasty, and the soup delicious. I don't recommend the camel.

I'm not sure they are meant to be tucker except in the direst of circumstances.

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