Sunday, September 24, 2006

Get your hands off our water

Beware Australia.
The Business Council has discovered that profits could be made from water. It wants to get its hands on water and make it a commodity - something it can trade. It has appointed a slick, softly-spoken woman to puts its case to the media, with an unctuous superiority which asserts that we, the people, don't really understand the issue the way these business people do. Business could do a lot of good for water supply, they say - if it was allowed to attract investment. It could look at all sorts of "options", it could review "pricing frameworks", it could put summer water restrictions behind us. It is just a matter of people paying the right amount for its water use. If we pay, there is plenty of water and we can use all we like. Well, business people, there is not enough water and you know that damned well. Your long shot here is that very issue. Once you have your corporate hand on water, you can "discover" the shortages and jack up the costs - ever considering the profitable return on investment that your shareholders will demand. But, of course, anything they do will be better than allowing goverments to have control of this important resource, the Business Council purrs. Governments are monopolies, after all. Water management under compeitition, "dis-agregated", would be much better. Or so they claim - so knowingly and so charmingly. This is a massive and dangerous con job by the corporate sector.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good onya, Steve

Bloody hell. Who would have thought one would be so touched to the Aussie core by Steve Irwin's funeral? Was there ever a more spectacular production, a media event on the grand scale? No wonder the family rejected the pompous old State Funeral on offer. They knew how to do it - on the stellar MGM scale. A la Steve Irwin.
The problem is, of course, that it still cannot sink in that this indomitable character is dead. His effervescence overwhelms. He was a one-off.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nasty Nanny

The anti-smoking message in Australia has been to deface cigarette packets with the most gruesome and offensive images of diseased lungs, arteries, feet and mouths. They are images so grotesque that smokers cannot bear to look upon them - which is why everyone has returned to the gracious old custom of storing their cigarettes in silver or gold cigarette cases. Suddenly, thanks to the overkill of the health messages, smoking has become rather classy - and someone has become extremely rich on the revival of cigarette cases.
The television advertisments which reiterate the imagery are harder to avoid and it is not only the smokers who are assaulted by them. No one dares eat in front of the television any more in case they have their stomachs turned by this aggressive shock campaign.
I pondered, when they introduced this disgusting health nannying imagery, if there was not cause for the same sort of treatment of alcohol. After all, smokers only harm themselves. Drinkers are responsible for road accidents, domestic violence, general brawling and vandalism and, of course, the damage to their livers potentially caused by overindulgence.
Well, I need wonder no longer. The Salvation Army has begun the push and now the media is leaping about in excitement. Alcohol bottles require anti-cancer warnings, just like cigarettes!
Of course, there is a powerful wine industry here in Australia and it is not going to like this - defacing the bottles with photographs of diseased livers and upstaging the label designs for which they pay top desigers a fortune. Of course drinkers are not going to want to look at filthy, cancerous livers as they sit down to quaff a $30 bottle of lovingly-made fine shiraz. What a turnoff! Photos of sick livers on the dining table in front of them as haut cuisine is served? I don't think so.
Just watch as a new market emerges - providing handsome bottle sheaths, the drinker's equivalent of the gold cigarette case. Come to think of it, I could get in on the ground floor of this one.

There is certainly more cause to deter drinkers from getting sloshed and sleazy than there is to stop smokers puffing, for the aforementioned societal reasons. But this movement of putting offensive graphic material in front of everyone is simply appalling. Distasteful rather than deterrent. It is a grotesque overkill by a self-righteous nanny culture gone mad with power.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The old and English

To take Australian citizenship, foreigners will have to pass a test in English - or, so the Government proposes. The Government wants the people to be able to communicate and fit in - so they have three years from arrival in the country to get the language under their belts. That is, if they want to become citizens.

Skilled migrants are tested on English to get their visa. Refugees are not. Of course. Nor are family reunion or family members of a skilled migrant to speak English. There are a lot of grannies in this lot - not all with the advantage of an education, so the idea of forcing them to learn the language would be unkind. We have a very old Chinese grandma living a couple of doors away. She still speaks not a word of English, but she smiles a lot and chugs about the district with her wheeled shopping trolley, picking out the things she needs and then offering the shopkeepers her purse to take what they are due. Everyone loves her and forgives her lack of language. After all, her job here is to look after the younger generation, fluent English-speaking students who will be keeping the country ticking over in a few years, be they scientists or techies.

The old granny darlings will never cope with language testing - so will never gain the citizenship which would give them certain rights - voting and pensions. However, so long as they are Asian or European, their families will take care of their aged needs - which is more than one can say of most Australians.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sweet spring

Spring is in the air. Boronia is in the flower stands.
Beautiful boronia. Well, it is, oddly, one of the least beautiful of flowers - little brown cups with yellow interiors, as it is grown hereabouts. But the fragrance, oh the fragrance!
The scent of boronia is in the city, that perfect scent of spring. It wafts from the flower stands and perfumes the streets and malls, drawing one to the buckets of brown and green. I love it with a passion - so much so that it is the perfume oil essence that I wear on my body every single day.
Perchance my attachment to this fragrance comes from the childhood memories of this seasonal scent - to the rapture which wafts through the city and heralds spring. I've never analysed it - just loved it.
I've tried and tried to grow boronia which grows quite happily in the wild. To no long-term succcess. I've done better with gardenias, and that is not saying much. Boronia seems such a hardy little West Australian native, but it seems very fussy about its soil. So I gave up and let the native flower farms do the work, patiently waiting for this time each year when, for a brief time, we have this aromatic bliss.
And there it sits, a big bunch here in my room - and oh, doesn't the air smell sumptuously divine.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Obesity's new epidemic

The obesity issue rises stridently into international headlines. There are now more overfed people than undernourished. So the powers that be want to tell fat people what not to eat. They want to swamp the media with anti fat food advertising on the assumption that obese people are plain stupid.
How are we going to put up with it? Advertising to counteract advertising?
This is all knee jerk stuff. Research on the obesity phenomenon is emerging with all sorts of answers - not all of them pointed at McDonalds and Coca Cola. One theory points to a virus. There may be other theories linked to food additives and chemicals. Research is scant.

Of course the comfort food/fast food indulgence definitely plays a role in weight gain, as does just eating too much. Sugar drinks are major culprits, and they are not just Coke. Orange juice and milk coffee drinks are right in there.
Indolence is a key player in the weight stakes, too. But we all know all of this. Obese people know this.

So what is a new advertising campaign going to achieve?
It is going to alienate us all. It is going insult us and irritate us. It is going to compound the existing overload of intrusive marketing messages delivered by a rapaciously greedy consumer industry. The advertising world will get fatter on the anti-fat message while our brains shrivel under the repetitive barrage of it all.

If anything is an unhealthy epidemic, it is advertising.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Goodbye Steve Irwin

Vale Steve Irwin.
As he lived, so did he die - taking risks with dangerous animals.
A stingray barb in the chest is about as rare and exotic as a dangerouos animal death may be. Stingray barbs in the foot or ankle are not uncommon. But on the chest? We are assuming Irwin was swimming low over the stingray, as they filmed their documentary about dangerous seacreatures, and that the stingray became alarmed and defensive. One imagines the death of Steve Irwin was captured on film, as were the many near-misses of a danger-dotted career.

What is interesting is the effect Irwin's sudden death had in this busy metropolitan newsroom. Nobody had ever bothered to express much of an opinion on Steve Irwin in the daily joust of the work environment. But news of his death sped across the floor producing a current of jaw drops and gasps. When the first report emerged on the television news monitors, people stood at their desks, straining to hear further details. There were none - just the same wire story, embellished with old footage of Irwin among animals. There is no shortage of images of Steve Irwin dicing with danger amid snakes and crocs.
And it seems that we are bonded in sorrow about this 44-year-old enthusiast who, albiet once causing kerfuffle by waving his baby near a croc, had carved a niche as a good-natured, high-spirited Aussie. He was a real life Crocodile Dundee - not an actor. His life was unscripted and his antics ever more dangerous. So there will be no re-take of the stingray scene. It is the final reality - that dangerous animals are really dangerous.

The world's most colourful conservationist is gone - by the world's most extreme and extraordinary freak incident, stabbed in the heart by a stingray. He may be the only person ever to have died that way.

And we are all very sad.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Euthanasia Kanckered

The Euthanasia debate has lurched backwards thanks to the misguided efforts of Democrat politician Sandra Kanck. She's an odd bird, Kanck - a Christian of sorts, I believe, with a musical bent. Over the years, I've had cause to love or loathe her, depending on the issue she is embracing. Her stance on euthanasia leaves me fiercely ambivalent. She has chosen to state under Parliamentary privilege the assorted accessible ways in which a dying person may take his or her own life. By law, that which is spoken in Parliament is transcribed and archived for ever in the pages of Hansard - pages which, nowadays, are available to read online. This means that the methods of suicide which are forbidden to be published in the public arena now are there. And, of course, furore has erupted. Rightly so. Kanck has done this to make a brave protest in the cause of euthanasia - but she has done inordinate damage because she has exacerbated the blur between euthanasia and suicide. Now everyone is talking suicide in various forms of strident indignation and the issue of euthanasia has been obscured.

The important thing has always been to make a clear distinction. "Assissted suicide" in the form of euthanasia of those in a terminal state of intolerable suffering is not the same as the suicide committed by the otherwise healthy depressed, disappointed or spiteful.

And it is not "mercy killing" although, good grief, mercy plays a large role in asssissting the suffering. But "mercy killing" has come to mean knocking granny off if she is too old or dependent or turning off the life support. And euthanasia is nothing to do with others making decisions on granny's behalf. Euthanasia has to be a self-made decision acknowledged in its legitimacy by the medical profession. It is between the dying and the doctor - or it should be. But the doctor is forbidden to take any action. Which is were the whole issue becomes so dreadfully messy, becomes an emotive public debate in which suicide gets mixed up with euthanasia.

And, rather like George Bush telling critics of his administration that they are unpatriotic and on the side of terrorists, the anti-euthanasia arguers are telling the pro-euthanasia lobby that it is pro-suicide.

For once and for all, supporting the compassionate measure of allowing those who are dying in pain and loss of dignity to make a graceful exit of their own choosing is absolutely not comparable to condoning lovelorn teens or bankrupt businessmen in cutting off their lives before their time. These are different issues.

Unfortunately, Sandra Kanck, in revealing the not very secret methods by which people may leave this world by their own hand, has thrown the baby of euthanasia out with the bathwater of suicide. And it is all a bloody mess.
Silly woman.