Saturday, 22 August 2015


For all you petrol heads out there, it's time for another road test.

The vehicle is an Hyundai ("an" necessary because of the aspirant "h") ix35, which has just been superseded by the weirdly named Tucson.

She That Must Be Obeyed (the fleet manager) had originally allocated me a Focus, but its transmission started hiccuping, so the ix35 was hurriedly substituted. This one was bright red, and was the two-wheel drive 2000cc version. They come in 4WD with a 2.4 litre motor as well, but this one pulled well and overtaking was a breeze. It averaged (according to the digital readout) 7.6lit/100km mostly cruising at 100kph on the flat.

I've driven plenty of Hyundais, from the Santa Fe diesel to the i30 and the i45 but this was the first time I've been on board the small SUV. It was, as befits a fleet car, the poverty pack version, called "Active". It had cloth upholstery, steel wheels, and no reversing camera or GPS.

It did, however, have a reasonable sound system together with reliable Bluetooth. Having said that the connection was reliable, I still have no idea how to set it up. I got it working, but have no idea what I did to make it talk to my phone. I never read the manuals - they just confuse me.

Apparently local Hyundais have a locally inspired suspension tuning. It certainly handled sweetly, but I found the ride a bit jittery. This seems to be an Hyundai characteristic, as it reminded me of the i45, which exhibited the same issues.

There was plenty of room, and the driving position was about right for me. The seats weren't wonderful (a bit hard), but I experienced no aches and pains after a couple of three hour stints. I do take a break every one and a half hours, however.

These things are well screwed together, but they smell like nothing I've ever encountered before. This particular example had less than 5000kms on the clock, so still smelt new, but it was not an agreeable pong. I think it was the glue used in interior trim.

If I owned one, I'd be putting a couple of saucers of kitty litter on the floor, and parking it in the sun for a while. This usually removes objectionable pongs.

So apart from the smell, it was an entirely pleasant machine. Hyundais are always good value for money, and there are some great runout deals around on this superseded model. If you're in the market for a handy and easy to drive SUV, check it out.

Monday, 17 August 2015

We Should Have Listened to Artie

Ruined bridge on the Song Rai - March 1970

Tuesday 18th is Vietnam Veterans' Day.

I'll be working west at that time, so will post this reflection on the Long Tan anniversary early.

I came across an article on Vietnam  by Hugh White the other day, which is well worth a read. In it, he refers to a speech Arthur Calwell, the then leader of the opposition, made to the House of Representatives on May 4, 1965. Calwell was responding to Menzies' announcement of the commitment of the 1st Battalion RAR to active service in Vietnam.

Reading Calwell's speech now, with the benefit of history, is absolutely astonishing. Perhaps old Arty had a crystal ball.

Some extracts -

Our present course is playing right into China’s hands, and our present policy will, if not changed, surely and inexorably lead to American humiliation in Asia.

It looks as if he got the bit about American humiliation right.

If the idea of military containment is unsuccessful, as I believe it will surely prove in the long term, as it has already in the short term, it will contribute to that spirit of defeatism and impotence in the face of Communism.

He was right about the unsuccessful end result, but probably would not have foreseen the divisions the commitment caused in both the USA and locally, and which still linger, so many years after what the Vietnamese call the "American" war.

He well understood the moral corruption that was conscription, and was prescient in warning that the involvement of conscripts would soon be involved.

How long will it be before we are drawing upon our conscript youth to service these growing and endless requirements? Does the Government now say that conscripts will not be sent? If so, has it completely forgotten what it said about conscription last year? The basis of that decision was that the new conscripts would be completely integrated in the Regular Army. The voluntary system was brought abruptly to an end.

He was not to know that conscription in peacetime issue that would divide Australians in a manner unseen since the first World War.

Towards the end of  his speech, Calwell says -

But I also offer you the sure and certain knowledge that we will be vindicated; that generations to come will record with gratitude that when a reckless Government wilfully endangered the security of this nation, the voice of the Australian Labour Party was heard, strong and clear, on the side of sanity and in the cause of humanity, and in the interests of Australia’s security.

He was indeed vindicated, although did not live to see it, (Calwell died in 1973, two years before the fall of Saigon) and as a great Australian, would not have rejoiced. The vindication came about with the withdrawal of Australian troops in 1972. but by that time, irrevocable damage had been done.

I, for one, am grateful to Calwell, even if I don't thank those who refused to listen to him, and by their support of the Coalition in a series of elections, sent a random selection of conscripts off to fight in an undeclared war which became, slowly but surely, a debacle.

These decisions were responsible for the deaths of about 500 young Australians, and the wounding and shattering of the lives of thousands more, many of whom continue to pay the price.

It's a great shame the majority of Australians fell for the "Reds under the bed" narrative instead of listening to him.

Fear usually trumps reason, and It's happening all over again.

This time the fear exploited is Islamic terrorism. Again, there is no existential threat. At least fifty years after this speech was made,  nineteen year old men aren't being conscripted as political collateral.

Perhaps Vietnam has taught us something.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Locusts - Update

Pics courtesy Weekend Australian

Regular readers will recall this post on 27th June.

The Weekend Australian cottoned on to the same issue I posted about back then, and did a feature story yesterday. It's tucked behind Rupert's firewall, but if you click on the link above, you can read the text.

They obviously spoke to the same people I did.

It's good to know they look to this humble blog for story tips.

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...