Saturday, August 19, 2006

So There!

Employees in the Australian Capital Territory have been warned they face jail if they leak confidential information to the media. "Put simply, it is a criminal offence to disclose confidential information and carries a substantial fine, or jail, or both," said a memo from ACT Public Service Chief Mike Harris, adding he was disappointed by the numerous "unprofessional" and "inappropriate" leaks.

Newspapers were able to quote the memo exactly since it was leaked to them the same day it was issued.

This is True

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What's Green, Brown and Pale?

Greens Party leader Bob Brown has had his attempt to get the Senate to establish an inquiry into the religious group, The Exclusive Brethren, rejected by 59 votes to 4. He argues that the Exclusive Brethren are secretive, abusive towards ex-members, and he suspects it has links to the Liberal Party. He's upset that in recent elections, the group has taken out full-page anti-Green advertisements in Tasmanian papers, even though the group are forbidden from voting. But Senator Eric Abetz of the Liberals says that Bob Brown has raised no allegations of illegal activity against them, and the push for an enquiry is just an attempt at payback. In his opinion, the motion vilifying the Exclusive Brethren marks a new low in Australian politics. And Labor and the Democrats seem to agree, since they also voted against Senator Brown's motion.

Certainly the Brethren are secretive and a fairly closed group. They reject technology including radio, television and computers, and many other aspects of modern lifestyle, and believe themselves to be the exclusive people saved to Heaven. They meet for prayer meetings every day, and on Sundays pretty much all day. Their women have their heads covered in public, and they deal as much as possible with other Brethren instead of the wider public.

But does any of this justify an attempt at a Senate inquiry? The fact is that any Australian citizen or group has the right to advertise as long as they pay the bill, and so long as an Authorizing Person is listed on the ad if it is a political one. Does Bob Brown then think that because they don't vote, they shouldn't be allowed to comment on politics? I don't know many Brethren, but I have known a number of Jehovah's Witnesses - their belief system also tells them they aren't allowed to vote. Mormons likewise. But I've known Jehovah's Witnesses who do vote, despite this, and I'm sure there are Brethren who do as well. And if not voting was grounds for not being allowed to comment, what then of the United States electoral system, which is non-compulsory and usually gets a pretty poor percentage turnout compared to Australian elections. Are all those who don't vote in the US not supposed to talk politics?

As to the secrecy, because they reject technology, there isn't a lot of information to be found on the internet about them, and what there is, is usually published by an ex-member who obviously gives a slanted view. But the information is there, for those who care to look for it. And as to the charge of rejecting ex-members, what group doesn't? Jehovah's Witnesses are notorious for cutting off completely anybody who leaves them, as are Mormons and a hundred other fringe groups. Even the local Footy or Apex club is likely to have little to do with those who they have been practically family with, who then choose to reject them and go their own way. That's not evil abusive rejection, it's just human nature.

The fact is that Dr Bob Brown, leader of the Greens in Tasmania, is a self-confessed homosexual, and by the strict standards of belief of the Brethren, he is going to Hell, a very real place where he will live for eternity in burning torture. And his party, like all fringe parties, must take on all causes to swell the numbers of its supporters. The Greens came to power on the basis of environmental protection in Tasmania, and soon became outspoken on any issue that had a few supporters attached to it, as a quick list of their official policies and initiatives shows:

Aboriginal Affairs, Affordable Housing, Agriculture, Ambulance, Arts, Child Protection Initiative, Coastal Integrity, Democracy and Participation, Dentist, Early Intervention, Economic Development, Education, Employment, Energy Wise, Environment Rescue Package, Forests, Gambling, Health, Housing, Industrial Manslaughter, Industrial Relations and Workers Compensation, Justice, Lyons Electorate, Planning, Police and Weapon Control, Protected Areas World Heritage and Wilderness, Smoking, Tourism, Transport, Treasury and Finance, Visitor Scheme, Waste, Water Policy Funding, Wine Industry Initiative, Women, Worker's Compensation Initiative, Youth

Someone needs to explain to the Greens the meaning of the phrase, "Jack of all trades, Master of none." By continually taking on each and every cause that will get them a few more voters, the Greens lose all credibility as impartial thinkers who base their decisions on an intelligent analysis of the facts. If there was a new factory at Whoop-Whoop announced today, tomorrow there would be a press release from the Greens saying what a terrible thing it will be for everyone. This sort of attitude keeps you in front of the reporters and their cameras, but it doesn't make for much trust in them. That's why they've been solidly pounded at every election in recent history.

The Greens need to get back to basics. They need to remember what it was that got them elected in the first place - it sure wasn't battery hens, immigration or transsexual nazi eskimos. If they can remember what brought them to power in the first place, if they can "return to their first love", to put it in Biblical terms, perhaps then the public might return them to the position of power they once held in this State.

ABC Online Senate Rejects Inquiry
Tasmanian Greens Policies
Wikipedia - About the Exclusive Brethren

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

True Trivia

In the early days of the colonization of Africa, a British cartographer surveying the country pointed at a tall mountain and asked his guide "What is that called?" That's how Africa came to have a mountain whose name, roughly translated, is "Mount Your-Finger-You-Idiot."

Alright, maybe not, but it makes a good joke. However, there is a lake in Africa which translates as 'Lake Lake', because when the cartographer pointed and asked what it was called, that's what the word the native gave him turned out to mean. Just goes to show, even back then locals enjoyed making fools of the tourists.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Guide to Australian Language

How are you? - "Still alive I see?"
Good - "Not bad"
Terrible - "Can't complain"
I like you - "You stupid bastard"
I hate you - "Is that right?"
I love you - "Piss off"
May I have a beer? - "Chuck a tinnie at me, mate"
May I have another beer? - "Hey, you alseep over there or what?"
Thanks for the beer - "About time"
May I date you? - "What about it then?"
May I marry you? - "Suppose we should be hitched"
I'm pregnant - "Too late mate"
Goodbye - "See ya"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Up North

Australia is about the same size as the USA, but it's founders didn't see the point of dividing it up into more than six states because no-one can survive in most of it anyway - or so they thought. One hundred years after Federation, our population has spread from one end of the island continent to the other. If you read my early blog article about life on the Speewah cattle station and thought it was exaggeration - well, you were right, but its only just exaggeration.

In the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia, things are so far apart doctors do make house calls - by plane. The Royal Flying Doctor Service does the rounds every day of the year, and leaves medical packs with all the contents numbered, so that consultations can be conducted by radio when they're not around. Not so long ago, a man's pregnant wife was ill so the doctor told him to give her a number 7 tablet. The man checked and there were none left, so he gave her three 2's and a 1. She survived. Kids also use the radio to 'attend' school, and cattle are usually rounded up by helicopters. When a farmer up there calls a glass of water a flood, he's not completely joking - some places they haven't had a single drop of rain for 20 years. In these parts its not unusual for every single resident of the district to turn out to a weekly dance or movie, even though for some of them its a two-day drive there and back. Trucks are called road trains, eighteen-wheelers with up to ten trailers on behind, and in every load they carry as much beer as groceries. And spare a moment to pity the two station-hands whose vehicle broke down a year or two ago, and who died trying to walk back to the station.

The tales of the Speewah I blogged previously were tall tales, definitely, but maybe not as tall as some of the men and women who really live 'Up North'.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Driving Around

Officers have charged a man after he was detected travelling at nearly three times the speed limit in Sydney’s west today. Just before 2am, officers from Macquarie Fields Highway Patrol observed a green Ford Falcon XR8 travelling at 160kmh in a 60kmh zone on Cleopatra Drive, Rosemeadow. The vehicle stopped a short time later and the driver allegedly ran from the vehicle. After a short foot pursuit officers arrested the man. The 21-year-old Raby man was subsequently charged with drive vehicle recklessly/furiously or speed/manner dangerous. He has been bail refused to appear before Parramatta Bail Court today.

News reports of acts like this always give me a laugh because of the language they are couched in to avoid slander, libel and general criticism. The police always allege this or that, when they watched the whole thing and know damn well who did what. If there's any doubt, the question needs to be asked - when will the police stop chasing innocent victims and start chasing the real criminals - the cars that cause this sort of incident!? We're forever reading in the papers how a man was travelling in a car when the car veered to the other side, causing an accident, or how police observed a vehicle behaving in a strange manner. According to the reporter in the story above, it wasthe car travelling at 3 times the limit, not the driver - clearly he himself wasn't even capable of that sort of speed, because when he got out of the car and ran off on foot (after the car stopped), they soon caught up with him. Perhaps, in these days of libel and slander laws, they should be more careful and say that an alleged car was allegedly detected supposedly travelling at maybe 3 times the generally-accepted limit, possibly in Sydney's west, probably today.

We have a definite advantage here in Australia when it comes to driving, since we're one of only a few countries that drive on the correct side of the road. How all those Americans don't run into each other all the time has me puzzled!

If you're planning on visiting Australia and driving yourself around, remember these simple rules:
1. The left side is the right side.
2. The right side is the wrong side.
3. At any intersection, the biggest vehicle has right of way.
4. A yellow traffic light means floor it or you won't get through this intersection.
5. A red traffic light means you've only got another second or so to go through.
6. In Melbourne, to turn right, stop in the left lane.
7. In Sydney, turn any way you like as long as it gets you out of the city.
8. In Northern Territory, turn any way you like because roads and paddocks look much the same.
9. Any time you see Christmas lights flashing, it's probably the police behind you.
10. Any time you see the Easter bunny, you probably shouldn't have had that last drink.

And a special warning about driving in the Northern Territory. Things are so far apart up there that most drivers change their model of car at every service station, not just their oil. Road trains (eighteen-wheeler trucks with anything up to ten trailers being towed behind) use the same road as you and never drop below a hundred miles an hour, so if you see one in your mirror (if you check it often you should get a couple of seconds' warning), get out of the way, fast. The bull-bars on the front of those rigs are designed to push real-size bulls out of the way, as well as kangaroos, fences, stalled cars and the occasional mountain. And don't think he's going too fast, either - up north is the only place in Australia where the speed limit is 'no limit', because if it wasn't, no-one would make it down to their local and back at night before they had to be up for work in the morning.

There's lots more that could be said about driving in Australia, but what's the point? Your chances of having an accident while driving yourself around Australia are so close to 100% that the difference isn't worth betting last Sunday's collection plate on. But what can we expect when all you tourists learn to drive on the wrong side of the road back home?