September 28, 2016

Horse 2169 - Fragments IV: My Mind Is Going; I Can Feel It

CC24

I had a rather strange experience yesterday when I came downstairs to collect a stack of documents and the chap who handed them over to us asked if my kind was capable of doing the work required. When my boss tried to clarify what "my kind" was exactly, I was asked where I lived, and was met with the rather tart answer that it was rare that people like me ventured into the eastern side of Sydney. This chap's wife then said without any hint of irony or humour that it was a good thing that the M4 extension would be tolled as that would keep the rabble from disturbing the tranquility of the east. Of course I said nothing and politely took my leave but it left me with the impression that I was not welcome to even be in this couple's presence.
The thing about groups which we freely associate with, things like churches, sporting groups, clubs, circles of friends and acquaintances, is that they mainly come from socioeconomic backgrounds which are broadly similar to our own. Apart from connections in the workplace and possibly family, most of the people who we voluntarily meet with live reasonably locally to us. The rise of the Internet has meant that people's contact circles have grown very large tentacles but broadly speaking, people who we have real world contact with are likely to be broadly similar when it comes to the sorts of housing and lifestyle to our own.
What I've come up against here is not uncommon and I have seen this on several occasions before but it seems to me that as time goes on, the frequency that I'm running into this sort of thing is increasing and the amount of ambivalent callousness which is displayed is becoming more blatant.
Someone far more intelligent than me said that classism was an advanced form of racism where people discriminate between members of their own race. I don't know to what extent that is true but I do know that as people become very rich indeed, the degree to which they have any empathy for the rest of society decreases.

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CO21

The Constitution of Australia has proven difficult to change. Of the 44 referenda which have been put forward, just eight have passed. Mostly this is due to the operation of rather famous section 128 which requires that in order to change the Constitution, a referendum needs to pass with a majority of voters and in a majority of states. The former is to prevent the smaller states from bullying the big ones and the latter is to prevent the bigger States from bullying the smaller ones.
So far, no new states have come into existence as a result of other provisions of the Constitution but even if they did, they would need to exist before any constitutional amendment was proposed. If there was going to be several questions put forward on the same day, such as recognition of aboriginal peoples and the creation of new states (say North Queensland and New England), then the constitutional amendment would need to be passed by 4 of 6 states which existed at the time that the question was posed and not 5 of 8 states as those two extra states would not exist until the change was officially given assent by the Governor General.

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DP12

This election more than any other has well known candidates for President. Even twelve months ago, the name recognition levels of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was easily +98%. Both of them have been in the public eye for at least two decades and that level of recognition extends deep into the Anglosphere. If you are an English speaker and have had access to a television, radio or even that new fangled internet thing and haven't heard of either Trump or Hillary, then maybe you are living in the apartment directly underneath Dwayne Johnson.
Donald Trump is the physical embodiment of Thanksgiving. Not in the sense that he is thankful for his creator's provision or for a celebration of the harvest, but in the sensem that he resembles that racist drunken uncle who says things and is unencumbered by the thought process and indeed any sense of tact.

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JJ119

Despite the fact that Juggernium would be extremely massive, its chemical properties would be fairly easy to guess. As it would be a Group 1 element with only one electron in its outermost shell, it would be quite conducive to forming ionic compounds and specifically salts. It would want to lose its outermost electron to attain a shell which is like Nihonium (118) and that electron would be free to go and join up with a halogen like Chlorine or Bromine. JCl would be stable chemical compound like NaCl is but it would face the problem of the Juggernium spontaneously falling to pieces. I don't know how long the half life of Juggernium would be but I don't expect that it would be terribly long. The theoretical chemistry of such a massive beast is sound, even if the actual real world stability of something which would only exist because it was deliberately created would not be sound at all.

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MO14

One of the remarkable things about the 243 bus is that it appears to have cornered the market in weirdos. There is a chap sitting at the front of the bus (who I'm afraid to take a photograph of, in case weird things happen to me), who is wearing a clown outfit of the sort that would have appeared in 17th century comedy del arts. This person is a modern day Punchinello, Pierrot or Harlequin. If you think that those pictures of sad clowns in opportunity shops are sad and creepy, try sitting ten feet away from one in real life.
Not only this but the 243 bus would otherwise be a uniquely depressing experience if it wasn't for the presence of a weird clown, because of all the bus routes that I've been on, this one uniquely goes from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular and via a patch of suburbia which would make Stepford look like a hip and happening place. This is a land of 3 Series, A4s and C-Classes, with recycling bins full of empty Cab Sav bottles, and completely devoid of any visible signs of life. If the Curiosity Rover has accidentally landed in Cremorne and not Mars, it might have come to the conclusion that it too was a cold, lifeless rock but one that was better furnished and with the occasional clown passing through.

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PG18

I'm kind of sad to see Paramatta Golf Course fall into chronic disrepair like this; not because I happen to play a lot of golf but because I like the idea that people are playing golf. Say what you like about golf being a snobby game, the truth is that most if not all the courses out in the real world are open to Johnny Schmuck and Jill Schmoe.
Paramatta Golf Course in particular was where I played the two greatest holes in my miniscule and obscure golfing career. One was a shot on a Par 3 which I played with a 7 Iron and landed less than four inches away from the cup; the other was a serious hook which somehow managed to pass in between a rubbish bin and a tree and landed about two yards away from the hole on  Par 5, thus giving me a short putt for an albatross.

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PR27

The presidential debates from 2000 between George W Bush and Al Gore look positively pedestrian now. Al Gore who had been Vice President was hoping to step up into the top job and he tried to project a calm image. He not only excelled at projecting a calm image, he did so to such a degree par excellence that he managed to appear as though he was the calmest and most boring man in the world. In contrast, W (who as far as I know is the only President to have become synonymous with just a single letter) managed to display a remarkable amount of competence in those debates. I suspect that history won't be terribly kind to W but it doesn't change the fact that even though he traded on the image of being somewhat bumbling, he very much he sat square in the middle of his party's policies and provided he didn't stray too far from party position, he remained acceptable to both the majority of his party and indeed to a majority of voters in places that mattered.
Even if the chads hadn't fallen off in Florida and Gore had been elected President, then the events of ten months after the election wouldn't have played out much differently at all. There was only one voice of dissent to the legislation which has subsequently enabled at least four different military engagements, the most obvious being in Afghanistan and Iraq, and because most of the advisors from the military would have been the same, then the only real difference would have been the tone by which the war was prosecuted.

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TX12

In addition to Thorn and Eth, some of the other letters of the alphabet need to a better job. X for example should be pressganged into making the "ch" sound and not the "cs" which it currently does. Words like taksi, bokses, foks, look pretty obvious. K can easily do the job which it already does, which would leave C free to take on the "sh" sound.
Silent e needs to die. If a vowel needs to be changed, then change it. German has no problem with this and adds umlauts above letters.

Wë këp xikens in þhe ced. 

September 27, 2016

Horse 2168 - Wynyard Walkway To Barangaroo - A Step To The Future

Ever since I was a wee lad, I have always been fascinated with the built environment. Whether that meant roads, railways, dams, canals etc. the things which ferry people and goods fro and to were always fun to look at. That also includes things like bridges, viaducts, pipes and tunnels and especially train stations. I think that it's pretty easy to say that the physical infrastructure of a city is one of the things that imparts character onto that city. Infrastructure and public works, along with arts and culture, are part of the clothing of civilisation and infrastructure and public works in particular are like the skeleton thereof because even after the people have long since gone, they are what remains. 

Customers of the Sydney Trains network (and I hate to use the word "commuter" since they ceased commuting our fares to a lower rate), will have noticed that the wraps have finally come off of Wynyard Railway Station and I have to admit, I think that it's rather a bit pretty. 
Other adventures in architecture in this city have resulted in some of the most hideous things that I have seen. Many housing developments obviously look as though they have been designed on a computer and copied and pasted a million times over. This new station hall and walk through to Barangaroo, looks like a veritable temple to the future; which is something that always looks good in railway station architecture.


At the far end of the walkway is a large vaulted canopy, which covers a set of stairs and escalators. Travellers then plunge into a vast tunnel, which is large enough to drive a bus through. At the other end of Wynyard Station is the Hunter Connection and although the walkway through that is probably as equally wide, the ceiling is far lower and feels kind of claustrophobic. With this walkway, they've created a space which is tall enough to feel airy and bright and that makes it pleasant to travel through.


There is a set of strip lights which run along the ceiling and these are hinted at with a set of tilework below. There are fitted wall panels which must have some sort of snap fitting and these line the sides of the tunnel. I don't know which street we pass under but we soon arrive at another set of stairs and escalators, accompanied by an elevator in a glass container.



The distance from base of the stairs to the very top of this particular chamber, must easily be about three storeys and with shiny panelling and lights that are seemingly off in the heavens somewhere, the place feels massive and grand. The whole thing tightens up again as you pass the sign to the station proper and the entrance hall itself.


I don't know if it's deliberate on the part of the designers but by separating the station Hall from the walkway visually, it has created moments of distinct transition. To me that has the same effect as passing through an art gallery or a large house, when you pass from room to room. I think that's kind of fun in something a functional as a walkway because it gives you moments of transition between the various spaces. I think that it's always fun to pass from one place into another where the transition opens up and gives you a sense of vastness. 


As you move into the station hall, the ceiling in this section is made up of thousands of strips, and the services such as electric, fire extinguisher lines and other bits of plumbing and conduit are kind of hidden if you want ignore them but accessible enough should maintenance staff need to repair something. I think that it's fine but will look incredibly dated within a decade. It works in a place like the QV building in Melbourne where the whole thing is playing on an industrialist vibe and although it isn't ugly, I'm still not sure that it fits in with the rest of the design cues that they've given us.


Beyond the automated gates where fares are collected via the Opal system, the basic infrastructure of Wynyard Station from 1932 is still kind of evident. Obviously they couldn't just rip out the whole station and build it anew but they have tried to clad the ceilings and the main concrete support pillars in a new skin and I'm not entirely convinced. If you look upwards, especially in stairwells, you can still see the wooden boards that have been in place for more than eighty years and I don't know about you but that doesn't fill me with confidence.
I kind of liked the old brick booking booths and the older brown colour scheme but they've done away with all of that. Any concession to the past has been obliterated as we look towards a glorious shiny future.

I do like that if you are on the main entrance level to the station, that you can see long sweeping views through it. This has meant that the station has the illusion of appearing bigger than it used to despite being in exactly the same space.


Upstairs and downstairs; on the platforms, the renovations haven't yet been fully realised. The tile work on the floors has been finished, with that same grey slate replacing the older brown bricks that used to be there. What hasn't been updated yet, are the pillars which hold the ceilings up, and the station furniture. I imagine that the pillars will eventually be clad in a similar sort of white panelling as the walls of the rest of the station and I expect that the station signage will get that same sort of orange and black theme as Town Hall has got. Town Hall recently was fitted with a few roundels in the style that would have adorned the station when it opened in the 1930s but they have been stripped off again and I don't hold any hope whatsoever that Wynyard will receive any roundels of its own. In an attempt to speed forward into the future, the past has been treated as a station to which trains no longer stop at. The thing is though, the London Underground and the Paris Metro both prove that provided you keep a corporate identity, you can embrace futurism, art deco, brutalism, gothic revival and a whole host of different architectural styles and still make everything work together. Sydney Trains appear to have settled on a sort of anti identity and their stations look like they could be anywhere.

The new walkway through to Barangaroo looks really cool and I like it very much and I think that the renovations to Wynyard Railway Station are very sleek and pretty indeed but neither of them look like they particularly belong to anywhere. I hope that someone is eventually given a proper graphic design job to tie together the network in a cohesive design language. At the moment, there are blank canvasses just waiting for someone to come along and give it that little spark which starts a fire.

September 24, 2016

Section 127 - to be added to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

127. RIGHTS OF THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLES OF AUSTRALIA
(i) The rights of  the aboriginal peoples and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Australia are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(ii) In this Act, "aboriginal peoples of Australia" includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(iii) For greater certainty, in subsection (i) "treaty rights" includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements and rights that may be so acquired.

(iv) The aboriginal peoples are hereby recognized and affirmed as the original inhabitants and custodians of the land.

(v) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (i) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

(vi) The government of Australia and the State governments are committed to the principal that, before any amendment is made to this section 127 that a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, that the Governor-General will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and representatives of the Federal Executive Council to participate in the discussions on that item.

Done.

Referendum please.

September 21, 2016

Horse 2167 - Objections To A Treaty Are Flimsy

A common argument which is thrown up against the idea of a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islands peoples is that the idea itself is invalid because a sovereign nation can only make treaties with other sovereign nations. I think that this is bunk.
As it is usually understood at law, a treaty is an agreement between two entities which are legally binding on both of them. In the case of treaties between nation states, treaties are most often made at the end of hostilities or at the beginnings of other formal endeavours. The Treaty Of Paris is an example of the former and the Treaty Of Rome an example of the latter. As well as peace treaties which end wars, defensive and other military treaties commit nations to the aid of other nations in the event that they find themselves in conflict. Treaties like NATO and ANZUS are examples of this.
It is worth remembering that in New Zealand, the Treaty Of Waitangi came about because the Maori collectively rose up against the British in open hostility; which resulted in armed conflict. What's different about the first peoples of Australia is that they were not one people, nor did they rise as a single entity against an invading foe, nor did they have a common language. Had    circumstances been different and they had had a common language, then a treaty might have arisen. As it was, at one of the Constitutional Conventions, one of the reasons cited as to why New Zealand would eventually not become the seventh state of Australia is that the then Governor Of New Zealand feared an Aboriginal uprising and didn't want a war in Australia in the same way that it had occurred in New Zealand.

They were many, and the white settlers were few, and when our hearts were not softened by the missionary, we were controlled by the thought of the Maoris' numbers, and of their rifles. Therefore we recognised their right to their own land, and instead of confiscating it we admitted their claim to its full possession, administration, and disposal. 
- Hon Captain William Russell, Constitutional Convention (1890)

I don't know if this is a tacit admission that there was or could have been a state of war which existed between white people and the first peoples of the land but it does at least indicate one of the reasons why there is no existing treaty. It could be argued that just like the Korean War which hasn't officially come to a conclusion and therefore no peace treaty can exist, that the initial conflict between the Commonwealth and the first peoples of the land hasn't been officially concluded; if that's true then it makes sense that there's no treaty. I can only assume that the people who are opposed to the writing of a treaty must either be in denial that a state of conflict and injury exists or perhaps more troubling, that they like the idea of being at war with the first peoples of the land due to unadmitted issues of racism.


What I reject though is the underlying motive which would drive someone to try and halt discussion at that point. What this says in principle is that the nation should be held accountable or responsible for any past injustices and injuries which may have been called and that there endeth the matter. The argument that no treaty with first people should be made, is basically a refusal to admit that actions have consequences and is in my opinion, little more than repackaged racism which has been wrapped in a thin layer of legalese.
If this be true and people want to argue this in the theatre of legal language, then the best response is to couch a counter proposal in a different set of legal language. If you can't get in through the door, then climb in through the window.

The suggestion that entities such as governments can not enter into agreements and contracts with things that aren't governments, is bunk. Governments regularly enter into things like leasing agreements, contracts with businesses to build things like infrastructure, contracts with utility companies, as well as with individuals in the form of labour contracts which might be negotiated with the aid of unions which themselves might be free associations. The suggestion that governments can not enter into legally binding contracts and agreements with smaller entities including to the most atomic of entities, individuals, is repeatedly and demonstrably untrue.
Something that I've found deliciously hilarious while reading through the series of arguments which created the Commonwealth Of Australia, through the instrument of the Constitution, is that the idea of an agreement is continually reinforced. Not only does the preamble mention that the Constitution itself is an agreement between the people of the six states but the word that keeps on repeating to describe the nature of the thing which is to be created is the word "federal". The word "federal" is derived from the Latin fœdus, which was an agreement between the Roman state and various vassals, clients and individuals. When the word was reapplied for use in the setting up of nations such as the United States, Switzerland, Canada and Germany, all of which were seen as different sorts of models of federation, they all referred to an agreement between either the various states which founded them or perhaps most famously in the case of the United States, "We the people". Logically if an agreement can arise between things which aren't nations as we understand them, or as a mass agreement between the people themselves, which literally create the nation state out of nothing, then the idea that a nation state can not enter into an agreement with various people, is in my opinion bunk.

I don't claim to know what sort of thing at law that such an agreement might take but I do know that there are brilliant enough legal minds in Australia who can work this out. The agreement might take the form of a compact, which is similar to the arrangements between entities like Palau, Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia have with the United States. They have a Compact of Free Association which is not a treaty because they aren't really sovereign states but they're not really independent either.
Whether the instrument is called a treaty, a compact, a covenant or some other legal agreement is more or less irrelevant to me; what is important is what it intends to do and how the various people groups join it. The argument that the various Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island groups are not a single cohesive bloc and therefore any attempt to begin a multi party agreement is futile, is in my opinion totally bunk.

The European Coal and Steel Union developed into the European Economic Community and then later the European Union proper. Countries have been joining it and it has changed and gradually grown in import. A theoretical agreement between the Commonwealth Of Australia and the first peoples of the land, might take the form of something similar as each individual people group considered the significance of it to them. It also need not be static in the way that say existing treaties have a tendency to be but be a living document as the various groups and the Commonwealth think about how they relate to each other.
Probably English would be the default language of said document but I think that it would be singularly excellent it as each people group ratified it, that copies should be issued in each new language and some gallery kept, preferably within Parliament House itself, of all the copies in the various languages.

Okay, the thing might not be a treaty but that surely is only a matter of legal pedantry. The agreement, whatever you want to call it, should be the end goal and that surely is what's important. The document isn't even the most important thing here either. What is of greatest import is having the Commonwealth Of Australia as an entity, take responsibility for its actions and make a plan for action and peace with its first peoples. The hardest part of this process is making the Commonwealth realise that it has acted beastly in the past and that it needs to take action as a result.

September 20, 2016

Horse 2166 - The Plebiscite Is Probably The Only Proper Course

With the Greens opposed to allowing the plebiscite on same-sex marriage to go ahead and the Labor Party indicating that they might follow the Greens, the plebiscite is looking increasingly unlikely to happen. Sections of the public who were in favour of it back when Prime Minister Tony Abbott proposed it, are now more likely to oppose it and it the plebiscite doesn't take place, then although the legislation might pass the Senate, it more than likely would not pass through the House Of Representatives. Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Penny Wong, said that she opposed the plebiscite because it would encourage ugly debate in the nation.
I was asked to write something on this subject via an email which was as filled with bad language as it was badly written. Rather than argue the question itself, what I find more interesting is the process and the mechanics of democracy itself.

Firstly, it must be said that there is no way that this could be a referendum question. Referenda in Australia are specific questions which relate to amending the Constitution. Same-sex marriage and changing the definition, relates to the Marriage Act 1961, and so a referendum isn't the instrument which is to be used. A plebiscite might be held according to exactly the same rules as a referendum but because the Constitution itself holds no provision to make plebiscites binding, they are not binding.
The thing is though, if a plebiscite were to be held and the government of the day were to collectively ignore the will of the people, that would wrought such a betrayal of democracy that I think that even in a modern democracy like Australia which is exceptionally calm when it comes to issues of politics, there would be so much protest that I suspect that force would be needed to stop the masses from entering the parliament. This argument that a plebiscite is useless because it is not binding, is deeply dishonest and whoever spouts this kind of nonsense should be held up in the light of criticism as such. I suspect that if a parliament were to ignore the wishes of the people, there would be people with actual pitchforks walking in through the front doors of Parliament House.

I found it interesting listening to Justice Kirby a few weeks ago on this subject and he said that because Australia doesn't have a strong tradition in holding plebiscites, that holding one now on this subject is almost like holding a trial of a group of people in the court of public opinion and he didn't think that that was fair. I'd argue that he has this exactly backwards and that just because Australia doesn't have a tradition in holding plebiscites, is itself not a good reason not to hold them. In fact as a voter who has spent my entire voting life being ignored by both sides of the political divide, the fact that we the voting public haven't been consulted on many issues, is in my opinion bad government.
Australia like the United Kingdom, from whom we inherited the Westminster system of government is a parliamentary democracy where the executive of the nation lives inside the parliament as opposed to outside of it as is the case in the United States. This means that in Australia like the United Kingdom, we don't actually get a good for the executive of the nation. In the United States though, the idea of direct democracy is alive and kicking; California in particular has a very strong tradition of putting things to the people for a public vote.
What I find interesting about former Justice Kirby's comments is that because tradition has meant that we haven't done something in the past, that should do dictate that same set of demands into the future. I think that that is rubbish. I would have loved a plebiscite on the sale of the Commonwealth Bank, or the sale of Telstra, or the introduction of the GST; all of which I think were absolutely terrible policies that we're still suffering the consequences for and will continue to do so possibly for the rest of my life at least. The other thing which I think is deeply disappointing about former Justice Kirby's comments is that he thinks that the general public isn't fit to make the decision. I argue that for an issue as personal and critical as this, the views of 226 people sitting on leather couches in no way adequately represent the will of the people.

I find it that the argument that there should not be public debate on this issue because it might spark ugly comments, somewhat troubling. Already one side of the debate is being painted as being rational and the other as being bigoted; though truth be told, all I'm seeing is rank hypocrisy on both sides. Already there are ugly comments in the public arena of ideas; so what is exactly at stake here? It is conveniently set aside, either through common ignorance or perhaps wilful denial, that Christians are charged with submitting to the authorities and this was written at a time when they were literally being slaughtered in stadiums for the entertainment of the public. If you assume that the Marriage Act 1961 does change either as the result of the Parliament spontaneously passing the legislation or being obligated to by weight of plebiscite, then churches and religious institutions are still bound by the law and have to comply with it. Even churches and religious institutions would admit that there is a difference between the concepts of crime and sin, and changing the Marriage Act 1961 only has the net effect of defining the former and not people's opinions of the latter. I can say with almost absolute certainty that churches would still be free to conduct their own business within their walls and that the change of law wouldn't change a single aspect of those practices. I can also say that those people opposed to the practices of religious institutions would still be opposed.
If that be true, then the desire to shut down a public discussion on the issue of marriage, is actually an imposition to refuse the right to free speech to churches and religious institutions. Maybe that is the end game here. If that's true then it's really weird that the progressive left should want to use authoritarian ends to further their cause. It's even weirder that they're asking for the refusal of direct democracy. Maybe the unbelievable truth is that both sides of the debate are just as stubborn and bigoted as each other; with both of them denying it. In an argument like this where the fight is eye for eye, all sides are blind.

As a Christian, I want to see a plebiscite held on the Marriage Act 1961. Instantly I suspect that I will be labelled as a bigot for daring to suggest such a thing. The weird thing is though that I think that I would also be seen as some sort of heretic as well. I even suspect that it would pass and that the law would be changed as a result. The common sentiment which is often thrown about is that parliament should just pass it already and that the plebiscite is only a delaying tactic and that might very well be true given the level of toxic politics in this country, but the suggestion that the general public is unfit to decide this sort of thing (and indeed many more pieces of critical legislation) is a very serious thing indeed. Burn me on the pyre of public opinion if you like but you may as well have said that people should be denied the franchise entirely for precisely the same reason.

The several problems here. If this is something which should left to parliament to decide then what does say about the incompetence of the general public? If the parliament then decides that the Marriage Act should not be changed then the way I see it, those opposed to holding a plebiscite should cease to complain immediately. If parliament is the sole arbiter, which you have deferred to, then you have no moral capital to call on when it returns a result that you don't like. If on the other hand this is something which the public should rightly decide, then it should rightly decide it.
The complaint that the public shouldn't decide what are and are not civil rights is mostly bunk. As a right is something which is either allowed by law, or claimed as the ability to act and then defined by law, then ultimately every law which exists moves into the realm of civil rights to some degree. The plebiscite in my opinion is confirmation that the only legitimate arbiter of decisions like this is the electorate. As for the argument that other civil rights weren't put to the people, it is worth remembering that something like the franchise isn't a right in Australia but a duty at law, the right to free speech and to bear arms weren't decided by a vote but claimed as the result of the English Civil War and then the so called "Glorious" Revolution, the 1967 referendum on the status of Aboriginal peoples was indeed put to the people and most of the other things which would consider to be rights were codified in 1948 with the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights but only after a couple of hundred million people were destroyed and strewn across the battlefields of Europe and Asia. In that light, a vote where the people mark their intentions on pieces of paper seems like a trifle.

If marriage is a civil right, then the way that I see it, the only legitimate way that it should be claimed as such is by the general public. I think that parliaments aren't competent it fit to make decisions such as this.

September 19, 2016

Horse 2165 - Three Tombstones

With the last Ford Falcon having already left the body shop and the Toyota Camry and the Holden Commodore also facing the end of the line, I thought it worthwhile to look at the fate of these three cars and why it has come to this.
The general problem that we have in Australia is that the cost of production is too high. Bear in mind that I didn't say that the cost of wages was too high because you could have an entirely automated production line with only a few technical managers giving oversight and tending to the machines when they failed and there would still be a problem. If wages were effectively as close to zero as they could be, it still wouldn't be good enough. I also didn't say that taxation was too high because for years the car makers have been collecting billions in government subsidies and then sending the profits back overseas for tax purposes. With an effective taxation rate of less than zero, it still wouldn't be good enough. No, the thing which ultimately killed off car manufacturing was when the Federal Government decided to take the subsidy payments away. That and the fact that other governments were waving bigger piles of money to the car manufacturers to set up shop over there.
I digress. This is a specific blog post of what should have been and what will be. Que sera sera.

Toyota Camry:
The Camry is pretty well close to the über example of a world car that has no identity and could literally come from anywhere. Apart from the badges which appear on the back of them, depending on the market in which they are sold, Camrys are practically identical the world over. A car for the Americas is no different to one made in Thailand and sold throughout Asia and is also no different to one made in Australia and then sold in South Africa. Toyota derive some benefit from testing cars in Australia but they don't specifically develop them for here. Just like the Yaris and the Corolla, the Camry will become an imported car like every other car sold in Australia but it will be entirely irrelevant where it is built. Australian Camrys might have bits from Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Canada and myriad more other places but no one would be any the wiser and nor would they care.

Ford Falcon:
The Falcon is pretty much dead, buried and cremated. Almost certainly, Australia will not be getting the Taurus and nor would it need to. The Mondeo already fills Ford's marketing strategy for Australia and the Focus and Fiesta fall in nicely behind it, as they do in the rest of the world. Ford have replaced the functions that the Falcon served as its performance car in Australia with the Mustang and it must be said that the Mustang is about selling an image more than anything else because when it comes to things like panel fit, it's rubbish.
There might have been a faint possibility that the Falcon could have been given a stay of execution by replacing the Crown Victoria in the North American market but Ford killed that one off. The hole left behind by the Crown Vic's departure has been mostly plugged by the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford have found themselves trying to claw their way back into the market with their own Fusion Hybrid to little success.

Holden Commodore:
General Motors have indicated that they intend to keep the brand Holden alive but beyond 2017, its actually pretty meaningless. What it does mean is that unlike other places in the world where they have several brands on the same lot, they will be able to put anything on sale and shove a lion on it.
The Commodore is a story of collective idiocy from the Renaissance Center in Detroit. The Commodore had sort of previously appeared in America when the Monaro was sold as the Pontiac GTO and then the sedan became the unimaginatively named Pontiac G8 before that brand was killed off. It was them sold as the Chevrolet SS and has always looked unimpressive in terms of sales as only the 6.2L V8 variants have been sold. It would have made more sense to sell the Commodore as the Impala in its entirety, from the 3.0L V6 all the way up the model line and included all of the variants including the wagons and utes but I suspect that the Union Of Auto Workers in America had more political clout inside the company than Australian workers who were out of sight and out of mind and so far away that they may as well have been on the moon.


It's sad to look at the end of an industry and of course I realise that this is part of a much broader picture where just about every manufacturing industry is going away. The description in the national anthem that "we've golden soil and wealth for toil" wasn't supposed to be a business plan. Nevertheless, the sad fact remains that all three of the car makers were always overseas corporations and they have acted rationally and as you would expect in the pursuit of profits. My offer to buy one of the Australian manufacturing operations for $1 still stands but it looks as though the three factories which exist are destined to become tombstones to Australian industry.
Even if costs were zero and we were throwing piles of money at the car manufacturers, they still would have left anyway. Que sera sera.

September 17, 2016

Horse 2164 - Pumpkins and Penguins

We live in a changing world. The world is heading slowly towards a state where some the things we once thought commonplace might not be around for future generations to enjoy due to issues like climate change, habitat destruction and the pressures of farming. There are some people though, who don't stand idly by and watch as the world falls to pieces; some people who care enough to make a difference; some people who will not accept the world that might be.
In particular, the members of the Pumpkins and Penguins Association of Australia (the PPAA) are fighting for the preservation and protection of pumpkins and penguins so that future plebian people can enjoy them.

We've all seen the terrible horror which is wrought every October in America, when Pumpkins have their innards scooped out and candles are inserted for Halloween. As culture creeps across the world, we're beginning to see that here too. But who cares for the pumpkins? Who says no to the insidious peril plaguing the pumpkins?
Likewise, it is possible to go to Phillip Island in Victoria and watch as the Fairy Penguins march up the beach to their nests. In days of yore they would have made the trek from the bitterly cold Southern Ocean to their little spots of calm unmolested but today they have become a public spectacle and they are in as much peril as the pumpkins.

In late 2016, the PPAA was launched to try and do something about these two vulnerable tribes of small things. Of course the obvious question is why pumpkins and penguins? What possible connection could they have with each other? The reason is simple. Both the flesh of pumpkins and penguins is essentially inedible. It is only through processes like boiling, baking and burning that pumpkins and penguins are remotely palatable.
The other connection has to do with those lamps made from pumpkins in October. Traditionally the source of candles for pumpkin lamps came from whaling but owing to conventions on the sea, most shaping has ceased and the whaling that still occurs is frowned upon. As a result, the makers of long lasting pumpkin candles have had to source new materials and this has meant massive reductions in worldwide penguin populations. As aquatic creatures who live in extremely cold conditions, penguins have a thick layer of blubber and they also produce oils. These oils and blubber are both flammable and burn so consistently that it is simply cheaper to extract material from penguins than it is to refine other oils. If you were to set a penguin on fire (heaven forbid), you would get an even burn for a long time but you would not be able to do very much with the rest of the penguin afterwards. After penguins have been processed, they are usually discarded; to the benefit of no-one.

There is the theory that it could be just as easy to stem the creeping tide of Halloween but that ignores the wider problems of pumpkins and penguins being mercilessly slaughtered every year at Christmas as well. The anonymous society S.A.N.T.A, which is already on several watch lists including Amnesty International and The International Labour Union is well known for its continued use of slave labour but it is less known for its exploitation of penguins as beast of burden. Not only are penguins are favoured because of their ability to withstand the cold but when a penguin has come to the end of its useful working life, it is mercilessly discarded after having its oils and blubber extracted.

The PPAA came together after two seemingly unconnected protest groups came into contact with each other on the steps of the Victorian State Parliament Building. After realising that they shared common grounds, the two groups merged and the Pumpkins And Penguins Association Of Australia was launched. Its first meeting took place on the south bank of the Yarra River and it very quickly grew in size from a membership of fourteen to literally tens. It is estimated that if current membership sign up trends continue, then by the year 6016 there could be as many as 147,758,563,300 members. The future could be very promising indeed.
It maintains a very visible presence at major events and displays its black, white and orange banner proudly. Although there have been some unsavoury actions taken by the militant wing of the PPAA who call themselves Ornge, which is mostly for the advocacy of pumpkin peace and rights, these are isolated and generally shunned by the rest of the association.

The PPAA' most vocal supporter is eccentric billionaire and philanthropist Leon Muss, who in addition to his continuing campaign to keep humans on Earth until at least 2028 because expeditions to Mars (which is a cold dead rock) to investigate future colony plans is patently an idiotic idea, has also contributed to the PPAA's causes through his awareness campaign on radio and television. The series of advertisements with the slogan "OH NO IT'S BURNING" has been criticised for its graphic depiction of burning penguins, using found footage which was covertly recovered from S.A.N.T.A.
In addition to this, the independent candidate for the Senate in Victoria, Ryan Ryan, made reference to the PPAA in one of his stump speeches but failed to secure the necessary funds to make it onto the Victorian Senate ballot paper.

September 10, 2016

Horse 2163 - Childcare Workers Deserve Higher Wages Because Children Are Small Humans (Humans Are Horrible)

http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/gender-pay-strikes-to-shut-childcare-centres-20160905-gr8ynj.html
Children in daycare centres will be sent home early on Thursday, as some of the sector's 80,000 mostly female staff strike to narrow the large pay gap between men and women.
Several childcare centres in Melbourne's north and south-east will be forced to shut soon after 3pm, and staff will suspend normal activities at a centre in western Sydney, in a dramatic escalation of the early childhood workforce's battle for better wages.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 6th Sep 2016

Good.

Anyone who has worked with children in the capacity of a teacher, child care worker, in a youth or sporting organisation, or as a parent, would probably agree with me when I say that children are not just like small humans, they are small humans. Everyone is born, spends a great deal of time mewling, puking and whinging, and then we get taller. The only difference between children and say people in the legal or banking professions, is the quality and expense of their clothing. I have seen lawyers, judges and people in positions of supposedly responsible management exhibit exactly the same sort of unreasonableness as I've seen in six year olds. In the case of judges, it has unfortunately been proven that one of the factors which determines the outcome of their decisions, is whether or not they've had lunch. In other words, it matters not if you're six or sixty, how you behave can be affected by whether or not you've had din-dins.

So when I read that childcare workers are going on strike because they want to be paid more for doing a job, which can literally mean cleaning up after humans have soiled their pants and not just metaphorically speaking, I think "good on them". Working with small humans is a job which is undervalued by society and I think should be better rewarded. Notwithstanding the fact that many small humans are the offspring of equally horrible and irrational big humans, who can be equally as unreasonable.
What I don't understand is why this argument is being framed around a social justice and gender pay gap narrative. The media likes to portray this sort of thing in those terms and those terms only, mostly because the media and especially authoritarian and economically rightist media likes to portray just about every issue as a distillery of extreme positions because that helps to sell copy.
If we remove the obviously emotive framing device which is designed to make other unreasonable humans who read it, start raging and spitting invective, then what we have here is an ordinary pay dispute which must have passed the point of rational negotiation and the people supplying their labour feel that there is no other logical way to make their point known and their feelings voiced. Say what you like about the relative skills required to do the job, the point remains that having to work with small humans can be a horrible job and they feel that they're not rewarded enough for doing it.
To the hard nosed authoritarian north and the touchy feely libertarian south, y'all can stop yelling now. You're both starting to resemble those same small humans which need looking after.

What I found interesting in the course of looking at this, wasn't rates of pay or hours and working conditions but the argument that supposedly unskilled workers don't have a right to protest this. The opinion expressed on talkback radio (and this could be an argument that I need to stop paying attention to talkback radio) is that because these people don't have degrees and higher education to the same extent as teachers and university lecturers, that they shouldn't be allowed to make a protest. The sentiment is that they should just accept their conditions and of they don't like them, they should leave.
It is this sort of attitude which exactly describes in my opinion why people who work with children do deserve to be rewarded better. Not only are they asked to put up with children but they need to deal with their parents; and the sort of parents who send their children to childcare facilities are likely to be either more stressed out because they are busily trying to make ends meet and need both parents working or more likely they are single parents who are almost always mothers because faulty fathers have abrogated their responsibilities.
The truth is that there more or less has always been either an implied right to protest or a statutory right to protest. The right to free speech most definitely exists in Australian law and the Fair Work Act 2009 confirms the right to industrial action, which by the way includes the withdrawal of labour services.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/fwa2009114/s408.html
Protected industrial action
Industrial action is protected industrial action for a proposed enterprise agreement if it is one of the following:
(a)  employee claim action for the agreement (see section 409);
(b)  employee response action for the agreement (see section 410);
(c)  employer response action for the agreement (see section 411).
- Section 408, Fair Work Act 2009

You don't tend to hear about industrial action in the twenty first century as much as in previous years because our relationship with work itself is changing. Nevertheless, I rather like the idea in principle of a strike. With respect to the issue of labour markets, a strike has the effect of sending an immediate jolting signal that the supply curve for labour upwards; this should have the effect of creating both a new equilibrium position for the price of labour within that market. It should also be noted that the labour market is a very very sticky one when it comes to changing prices. Unlike the price of petrol and oil where the price is as viscous as the product itself, the equilibrium prices in the labour market are as sticky as a mixture of honey, concrete, bubblegum and Pritt stick, which has been turned into marshmallow sized objects and shoved up the nose of Toxteth O'Grady.

I hope that the outcome for these childcare workers is good. Working with humans is mostly horrible and working with the offspring of horrible humans is bound to be even more horrible. The obvious question which needs to be put to those people opposed to increases in rates of pay for childcare workers is would they do the job for that rate of pay if it came down to it? If the answer is "no" then you seriously have to bring into question the content of the character of such a person. I will admit that I trade in hyperbole when writing these things but the fact remains that working with children is hard and if anyone in society really deserves their wages, it's definitely childcare workers; even more so than people in the legal or banking professions, who spend far too much time mewling, puking and whinging.

September 09, 2016

Horse 2162 - Porsche Sees Red Over Not Seeing Red Dust

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-08/porsche-accuses-nt-of-nanny-state-approach-to-speed-limits/7824424?pfmredir=sm
Luxury car brand Porsche has accused the Northern Territory Government of running a "nanny state" for removing controversial open speed limits on some stretches of road.
The NT, along parts of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, has been the only part of Australia where drivers can travel as fast as they want.
New Chief Minister Michael Gunner said that would change by the end of the year after he implemented his pre-election promise of removing the unrestricted speed zones.
- ABC News, 8th Sep 2016

Well done Porsche. Good for you.

I read this on the ABC News Website after hearing about this on the midday news on ABC Radio National and I thought to myself: "Here is a prize doofus who has probably never left the city and has no idea about the real world." Given that he is from Porsche, it's more than likely that he's never left the black top in his motor car and apart from the Hume Highway and possibly the Pacific Highway, has never been down any major stretch of highway in Australia.
One thing is certain. As someone from Porsche, it's not his company who is on the hook for the expenses incurred because someone has wiped either themselves or some innocent person out in a motor accident. No. That is picked up by the good and fair people of the Northern Territory and by extension the people of Australia through the Medicare levy.

As someone who likes driving quickly and who would very much like to build a racecar, even if it is just a 24 Hours Of Lemons car, I understand perfectly that the road is not a racetrack. Although I think that the speed limit on the Hume Highway should be raised to 150km/h in parts because the road is easily of good enough quality, I also think that there is no way in Hades that other parts of that same road should have their limits raised to 100km/h.
A dual carriageway with grade separated intersections is a good idea and in a country where the distances are massive, I think that it makes sense from a safety standpoint to raise the speed limit so that people spend less time on the road and that this would reduce accidents which are the result of fatigue. I also think that roads with no hard shoulder can not support those kinds of speeds and that in a lot of places where all you have is a two lane road with one lane in each direction, a speed limit of 100km/h is madness. Yet this is exactly the sort of road that this person from Porsche wants the limits raised on and even abolished altogether.


The Stuart Highway in particular, that ribbon of road that slices the country in twain, is mostly a two lane road with nothing but red dust, spiky bushes, giant bouncing rats and running suicide birds who make up the coat of arms, and death, death and more death extending in all directions. If you're eating up the miles in a low slung sports car and you happen to hit a rock while doing two miles a minute, then you should expect to join the red dust, spiky bushes, giant bouncing rats and running suicide birds, and death, death and more death, in a couple of shakes of a lamb's tail. You will become part of the landscape, part of the never never and part of the dream time as you taste the red dust clouds of death.
I wonder if he's ever experienced losing control of a car while doing 32 in a 100 zone while in the Snowy Mountains because he found black ice. I wonder if he's ever gone camping and found that a nuggety looking wombat has taken umbrage with the tyres of his car and slashed them all to shreds. I wonder if for him, the wallabies are just a rugby team that him and his school chums went to see and not some brown thing that literally decided to jump out in front of you on a poorly graded road. Probably not to all of these things.

I'd also further posit that the actual number of Porsches which pass down the Stuart Highway is numbered in double digits every year if that. Sure, the excuse given is that other companies have been given dispensation to use the roads for advertising shoots but that's a very different and specific set of circumstances and not comparable with the usual run of big four wheel drives, semis, b-doubles and road trains which pass down The Track. This is one part of the world where owning a CB radio is advisable and moving out of the way if you happen to be in a tiddler of a car, is appreciated.

I also find this pretty strange:

"We've done a pretty good job of killing off the local car industry, the manufacturing of local cars in Australia, and now it seems the Northern Territory Government's doing its best to deter international car companies from coming to Australia to spend money and invest in the local economy," Porsche's director of public relations Paul Ellis said.
- ABC News, 8th Sep 2016

Well yes, you have done a a pretty good job of killing off the local car industry. For your bit Volkswagen, you stopped building cars here in 1976. As for: "Coming to Australia to spend money and invest in the local economy" What investment would this be then? Is VAG setting up a manufacturing plant here? Not a bar of it.

I really don't think that this man from Porsche has any clue about anything like this from his cushy leather clad office. Come to think of it, the Western suburbs of both Sydney and Melbourne are probably a complete mystery to him. He probably has more in common with the folk of the 9th arrondissement in Paris than he does with the people of Spotswood or Kingswood, let alone the road that takes you from Daly St Darwin to King William St Adelaide.

September 08, 2016

Horse 2161 - Every "Commuter" In Sydney Is Dead

It is Thursday morning, the 8th of September 2016. As of today, I am officially not a commuter.

This doesn't mean to say that I've quit my job, nor does it mean that I've ditched public transport in favour of driving to work, quite the contrary. What it does mean is that I am a pedant and that I have reasonable comprehension and literacy skills, and that I am going to take a word on its dictionary definition and not just the popular and incorrect vernacular.

In the early days of the Central Line on the London Underground, the price from any station to any other station was tuppence. This mean that regular passengers who went to work and back home again had to pay twice a day. By the end of the week, they'd bustled through the turnstiles ten times and also paid ten times. After passenger volumes had risen to the point of insufferance and because the various lines were still privately owned and in competition with each other, the Central Line decided that it would sell weekly and monthly passes for travel at discounted rates. Thus, people who had paid for a periodical pass, had their fares commuted to a lower rate. In the case of weekly passes on the Central Line, that rate would be one shilling or six trips.

It might surprise the vast majority of people as they travel forth and back across the city, that technically the act of travelling is not commuting. Commuters were named that because they'd had their fares commuted to a lower rate. Australia should be familiar with the term because from the beginning of British settlement, the first convicts who were sent to the colony of New South Wales, had their sentences commuted from death to transportation. Some would probably have argued though that transportation wasn't really a commutation of anything because Australia is a harsh country that where the wildlife and even the dirt itself is actively trying to kill you.

When Transport Minister Andrew Constance saw that people were taking advantage of the system, he obviously made it his mission to hurt as many travellers as he possibly could because the only conclusion that I can reach is that after reading about the latté sipping rat runners in active wear, who were running between tram stops in the inner city so that they could get cheaper travel, he took deep and cruel umbrage. In consequence, as of Monday this week, instead of a "free travel reward" which had actually been calculated after eliminating weekly, monthly and other periodical passes, all trips beyond the eighth will be charged at half rates where previously they were charged at a zero rate.
What this has meant is the end of the latté sipping rat runners in active wear, dashing between tram stop in the inner city, and for those of us who travel forth and back across the greater metropolitan area a direct punch in the hip pocket. By every practical definition of the word, because most of us have seen a sudden and very real fare increase, the era of the commuter is over.

On the 5th of September 2016, all commuters in Sydney died.

Because I live so far away from where I work, there is no way around it, I will pay more. The absolutely beautiful thing about this from a policy perspective is that because this happened in 2016 and not towards the end of the election cycle (with the next NSW State Election taking place in 2020) there is nary a thing that the good and fair people of NSW can do about it. There can be no backlash through the ballot box and because the election is four years away, the current sharp pain that we experience will be replaced by a permanent slow one and it will become the new normal.
I also find it galling that The Daily Telegraph who originally caused the media attention by yelling blue horror across its front page, has also gone silent on the subject. Their slogan "We're for Sydney" rings even hollower than the main bell in the clock tower at Sydney Terminal. To me this begs a deeper question about who actually made the policy, and if it was a case of looking between man and pig and pig and man and not being able to tell who is who, then that's even worse.

The pill that I found particularly hard to swallow was that only yesterday I saw the Transport Minister Andrew Constance in a hire car; which means that he personally doesn't have to live with the pain that he's inflicted. The old adage that you should walk a mile in someone else's shoes looks like Mr Constance is delivering a vial of micturition as he travels around in his lovely hire car. This is like a consignment of elderly footwear manufacturers, with the added irony that they are now paying more to travel to work.

The sad thing I see as I stand on the train to the city, is that the people who travel with me are all quietly enduring this. I look out over many pairs of blarey eyes which still haven't had the sleep wiped out of them; and I think to myself that they've mostly already swallowed the pill in silence.
By the time that this is published, I will have already arrived at work; after having paid for the ninth trip of the week. Where previously I would have paid zero for it, even paying one red cent for it means that my fare hasn't been commuted but exactly the opposite. All commuters in Sydney have officially died. Vale.

September 07, 2016

Horse 2160 - How Is It Not An Invasion?

Perhaps it should be of no surprise to anyone but the twenty Senators in the 45th Parliament who have indicated their support for the removal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, are all white people - every last one. At the same time, in the House Of Representatives, we have just had the maiden speech of our first indigenous MP, Linda Burney.
This speech would have gone unnoticed by the vast majority of media if it hadn't been for the choice of one hot button word "invasion". The speech sat relatively dormant for about twelve hours into the publication of the daily Hansard transcript and then everything just sort of kicked off and went from smouldering to absolutely cat scratch insane.

http://australianpolitics.com/2016/08/31/linda-burney-alp-barton-maiden-speech.html
Let me tell you a little of the Wiradjuri story. In Wiradjuri lore Biami is the creation spirit. He is the source of both our physical and moral landscape. The story of invasion and conquest for the Wiradjuri is a brutal one. The deadly art of poisoning waterholes and flour began in Wiradjuri country. Massacre sites are dotted all over my lands
...
In Barton, from the beach in Brighton-Le-Sands you can stand and look towards Botany Bay where the First Fleet in 1788 first entered these shores. Settlement or invasion is a matter of perspective—of whether you were on the shore or on the boats in the middle of the bay. I spoke earlier of truth-telling. Perhaps another great act of honesty and healing would be a permanent remembering of those frontier wars, just down the road at our national war memorial.
- Linda Burney, Maiden Speech, 31st Aug 2016

So I thought I'd add even more wood to the glorious bonfire of public insanity by throwing on logs of actual truth and then standing back and letting the flames burn even higher, Wilder and hotter.
Let's do this in the style of a Year 9 Debate. I define the word invasion to be:
Hostile actions by a military force with the intention of gaining territory and occupying it in the name of one entity while depriving another entity of its use and enjoyment. 

I don't honestly see how by any possible practical definition of the word invasion, how the events of 26th January, 1788 were anything but an invasion.
The First Fleet which came sailing through the heads in that balmy January, late in the eighteenth century consisted of six transport ships, three supply ships, three Royal Navy escort ships and the ten-gun HMS Sirius, which was Commander Arthur Phillip RN's personal ship. The whole thing was a Royal Navy operation and if the sight of eleven Royal Navy ships didn't suggest that this was an invasion, then the deployment of redcoats who were to become the New South Wales Corp's should have done.
Even if you discount the fact that the convicts probably came against their will, the suggestion that this wasn't an invasion is both ignorant of reality or deeply dishonest and denies the facts of the matter. A Royal Navy operation with the intent of taking land away from the native peoples and at the point of gun isn't an invasion? Seriously?

One only needs to look at the set of instructions which is were given to Commander Arthur Philip to get a sense of what they were tasked with.

http://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/resources/transcripts/nsw2_doc_1787.pdf
It is therefore Our Will and Pleasure that you do immediately upon your landing after taking Measures for securing Yourself and the people who accompany you, as much as possible from any attacks or Interruptions of the Natives of that Country, as well as for the preservation and safety of the Public Stores, proceed to the Cultivation of the Land, distributing the Convicts for that purpose in such manner, and under such Inspectors or Overseers and under such Regulations as may appear to You to be necessary and best calculated for procuring Supplies of Grain and Ground Provisions.
and:
It is our Will and Pleasure that in every such case you do issue your Warrant to every such to the Surveyor of Lands person as you may think competent to the discharge of that trust to make surveys of, and mark out in Lots such Lands upon the said Territory as may be necessary for their use; and when that shall be done, that you do pass Grants thereof with all convenient speed to any of the said Convicts so emancipated.

There is no sense of negotiating with or even recognising the existence of first peoples, let alone any claims that they might have on the land. Not that the Eora people who first witnessed the arrival of eleven ships coming up Sydney Harbour would have even the slightest idea of English civil and common law. As it was, it took until Mabo v Queensland (No 2) in 1992 for the nation state to recognise that the de facto ruling of Terra Nullius was invalid; so what hope would have an illiterate people who didn't even speak the language have, some 206 years earlier?

What I found almost bizarre was the reaction on talkback radio that the suggestion that the 26th of January as an invasion was racist against white people. I mean technically you could argue that that sort of language was meant to humiliate and offend and therefore be a trigger under 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act but that actually denies that other rule which lives in conjunction with that same act in that it is legally impossible to defame the dead because they can not personally take any offence whatsoever. Unless you have access to time travel or have the ability to reanimate or resurrect the dead, then such a claim would fail over instantly.

Quite obviously rolling back the effects of 228 years of settlement is both as impractical as it is impossible but I don't think that such a thing has been suggested. What Ms Burney's speech has done for only a few and rare select times in the nation's history is speak words about an injury from the perspective of the ones who have suffered an injury. It always seems weird to me that the person responsible for things like indigenous affairs of women's issues should be someone who isn't indigenous or who isn't a woman. I have said in the past that I hate the idea of recognising indigenous Australians in the Constitution because I see that as a token and rather pointless gesture*; what Ms Burnley's speech illustrates exactly why we need indigenous representation not in the words of the Constitution but with footsteps and voices from the floor of the Parliament itself; even if people don't like what they have to say. I would rather truth be told by the people who need to speak it, than voices speaking to them who really do not and can not sympathise with their experience.

*See Horse 1534: http://rollo75.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/horse-1534-aboriginal-recognition-in.html

September 03, 2016

Horse 2159 - The Über Way To Avoid Responsibility

It seems that tax avoiding, entitlement avoiding and corporate pirates Über have been beaten to the punch when it comes to rolling out autonomous vehicles and finally doing away with meatbag people pilots for their cars. On the 1st of September, the company Newtopia began a service in Singapore of six autonomous vehicles which will operate as taxis.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/08/25/world/asia/ap-us-autonomous-taxis-singapore.html?_r=0
The world's first self-driving taxis began picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday.
Select members of the public can hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by nuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup. While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, nuTonomy says is the first to offer rides to the public.
- New York Times, 25th Aug 2016

This comes ahead of Über's own plans in the city of Pittsburgh to launch their own autonomous taxi fleet of Volvo XC90s.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-uber-is-going-to-test-its-new-self-driving-cars-in-pittsburgh/2016/08/24/ab48c3be-696f-11e6-99bf-f0cf3a6449a6_story.html
Uber Technologies Inc. will begin using self-driving taxis to ferry customers around Pittsburgh as soon as this month, a first for the industry in a race among automobile and technology companies to make driverless cars commercially available.
Uber’s service, using specially-equipped Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles and Ford Focus, would appear to be the first time that commuters could hail a ride in a driverless car. But while the effort signals a breakthrough in commercialization of the technology, it won’t be a brave new world of robot cars: Two Uber employees will be sitting in the front seat of each vehicle.
- Washington Post, 24th Aug 2016

Don't get me wrong, I am not some sort of technological Luddite who wants to return to a utopia which never existed. The steady rolling on of technology is as inevitable as the obvious outcome after a sledgehammer meets a stationary egg. My objection is the same as before when it comes to companies like Über, Lyft et al. in that I don't like freebooters who extract profits from the public without paying tax and contributing to the upkeep of the infrastructure which they derive those profits from. But now I have a new series of questions and objections and I don't think that anyone has been putting any thought into the outcome at all.
Imagine that it is the year 2030. A million houses have been put up and torn down and virtually every car which currently sits on the road will have been replaced. I'd wager that a considerable proportion of those cars will be autonomous and that they will be mostly indistinguishable from other cars which are driven by human pilots.
Question: if an autonomous car knocks over a pedestrian, then who is responsible?
Question: if an autonomous car knocks over and kills a pedestrian, then who is responsible?

I have been on trains which run autonomously and the experience is unremarkable. It might be a little weird to look out the front of a train which has no driver but the novelty wears off in about thirty seconds. It is probably already likely that I have also been on an international flight where the pilots have made zero input in flying the plane. Again, up the back of the aircraft in scum class where you don't even get to watch the telly without paying extra for it, you simply wouldn't know whether or not the plane was being flown by Mikhail and Johnathan or ZX-73647 and GK-18954. The biggest difference between trains, planes and automobiles is that automobiles do not run on specific routes and would need to drive on regular streets with other cars driven by erratic meatbag pilots and in an environment full of even more erratic meatbag pedestrians; especially small meatbag erratic pedestrians who haven't yet developed road sense.

Rules with regards motor vehicle accidents have reasonably well established protocols when it comes to apportioning blame. Usually it will be the car behind which is blamed for failing to avoid a collision, or a car which has changed lanes or turned through an intersection. The rules with regards a machine and a person on the road though, haven't as yet been thought about as far as I'm aware. Given that a company like Über already skives on any responsibility that it might have by placing their drivers on the hook for motor accidents (the "sharing economy" does a very poor job when it comes to actually sharing liability), they are likely to argue that autonomous vehicles can't be held responsible for unforeseeable circumstances which they will argue are caused by humans. If the human wasn't there and didn't run into the road, there wouldn't have been an accident.

I can already see companies like Über and Lyft objecting to the legal requirement that meatbag human drivers have to comply with when it comes to Third Party Injury Insurance. The objection would spring from the argument that people should already be aware that stepping into the street is dangerous and without a human in control of an autonomous vehicle that direct responsibility to be careful no longer exists. Of course, if you can actually prove that it was the machine's fault for failing to take action to avoid an accident, then good luck in trying to seek damages and sue because almost certainly there will be legal fictions in place, such that the total value of the company which owns an autonomous vehicle will be a peppercorn. A corporation is already an ingenious device for obtaining individual profits without individual responsibility; an autonomous vehicle owned by a ten cent corporation will be an ingenious device owned by an ingenious device for obtaining individual profits without individual responsibility.

There is of course the behemoth in the room; the one which pulls the peasants' plough, and that is the issue of large trucks and buses. Companies like Penske in the United States already have their hat in the ring when it comes to autonomous trucks and they have willing partners like Mercedes-Benz and General Motors who also want to sell them. A truck is obviously something of magnitudes in order of insurable interest and so haulage companies would want the question of who is at fault in an accident answered very quickly. With a thing that moves mostly from depot to depot and does so mainly at constant speed, the intelligence of the machine would be called into question less often. Nevertheless, those sorts of issues about who is at fault in an accident are still relevant.

My grand hope is that legislators think of meatbags more than machines of metal and wheels. In the race to throw out human pilots, which is exactly what the whole drive for autonomous vehicles is based upon, I hope that legislators think of the public instead of business owners who stand to gain the most from this new technology. In places like the mines in the Pilbara operated by Rio Tinto where there already is an existing employer/employee relationship and responsibility to provide a safe worksite at law, the use of autonomous vehicles and massive ones at that, are covered by workplace safety laws. I fear that companies like Über and Lyft who already want to abrogate any responsibility that they might have to the nation and the general public, would argue that a similar relationship does not apply to them.

August 30, 2016

Horse 2158 - The Sweetest Argument In The World?

http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/australia-and-new-zealand-battling-over-manuka-the-champagne-of-honeys-20160825-gr1ibe.html
There's a fight Down Under over manuka honey, the so-called superfood famed for its antibacterial qualities. On one side, New Zealand beehive owners say they should have exclusive rights to the manuka name. On the other, Australian producers say the manuka tree that gives the sticky stuff its name is an Aussie native and their honey is just as super as its Kiwi cousin.
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Aug 2016


You couldn't make it up, could you? To recap, there is a campaign underway in New Zealand to restrict the use of the name Manuka Honey to New Zealand, on the basis that the word "manuka" is a Maori word.
Manuka is the name in Maori of the nectar of the mānuka tree or Leptospermum Scoparium, which after being found in New Zealand, was also found in Southeastern Australia, it is this flower which bees visit, which makes Manuka honey distinct from regular old normal Honey. The interesting thing is that there is a suburb in Canberra called Manuka which is also named after the plant and for lack of a different word in Australia, the same plant inherited the same name.
I'm not going to hide my contempt here because I think that it is utterly ridiculous that this is even being entertained and here's why.

Usually names if they are to be protected, are done so on a regional basis. Champagne for instance, can not be called champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France; otherwise it is just sparkling wine. Balsamic Vinegar Of Modena must come from the region surrounding Modena in Italy. Newcastle Brown Ale even has a protection order upon it, though that is somewhat clouded, and in theory must come from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Manuka, isn't a region or even a place and so, how can it possibly be held under a regional name protection order? It makes more sense that Hereford Beef should come from Hereford because at least Hereford is a real place; unlike Manuka which although is a real place, is not in New Zealand.
I can understand New Zealand's whinge because Australia has been pinching things from its annoying little brother since ages ago. Australia is world famous in New Zealand for stealing Kiwiana and passing it off as our own. Just think about Russell Crowe, the Finn Brothers and the Pavlova. We'll gladly take credit for them even though they came from New Zealand and not Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald's "Australian Of The Century" in 1999 was Sir Donald Bradman which is understandable but in second place was Phar Lap, who wasn't Australian but a New Zealander (and a horse).

We've been linked together as a pair of feuding brothers since before we were both nations. Australia and New Zealand fought alongside each other in the Boer War and New Zealand is mentioned in the Australian Constitution and would have been part of Australia if they had passed the referendum. After gaining nationhood, we continued to fight in World War I, at places like Gallipoli, the Somme and Ypres, as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps or ANZAC; both nations celebrate ANZAC Day. Our two flags look too much like each other for comfort and many major firms do business on both sides of the ditch.
That still doesn't change the fact that when it comes to things like the Bledisloe Cup, the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the cricket, we are the best of enemies and the worst of friends.

It doesn't surprise me that there would be a claim from New Zealand on the name Manuka Honey but it kind of ignores one little thing - the English language is a vulture.
The English language stole words from everywhere it's been. The words buffalo, pyjama, jubilee, samurai, orange, banana, potato, kangaroo, billabong, have all been pilfered and put to service in the great behemoth of the English language. The word "manuka" might very well be a specific word to describe a specific thing but I just don't think that it means that the word belongs to the Maori as a thing that can be owned anymore. The word has jumped the fence, left the pasture and has joined the long paddock along with the other words; once it has escaped, I don't think it will ever be tamed again.

This also leads to an interesting dilemma. Suppose that the word "manuka" is wrangled for New Zealand use only, does that mean that businesses in the suburb of Manuka in Canberra should be forced to abandon their names? What if through some bizarre coincidence (which might become a test case), that there was an apirist in the suburb of Manuka, then what? Would a business called Manuka Honey which was from Manuka be forced to change the name of its product even though Manuka Honey was honey that came from Manuka? Would a regional claim which isn't based on the name of a region, hold legal weight over a claim that wasn't based on a region but certainly had a sense of place? Such a thing would be even more specific than just a regional claim.

The obvious question which immediately arises from this is what do you call that particular kind of honey which is made from the flowers of the manuka plant if you cannot use the word "manuka"? Other varieties are named after the plants and flowers which the bees visit, like Tasmanian Box and Redgum, so then what? I don't think that the people making the claim over the word "manuka" care even one iota about the consequences which will be wreaked; nor will they be left with the problem of coming up with a marketable alternative. It seems even more insidious that if the legal claim is successful, then you can't use a descriptor to describe the thing which needs describing.

I hope that the courts who end up deciding the fate of this, come to the proper conclusion that this is facetious and throw it out on its ear. I personally hope that this campaign fails and falls headlong into a vat of sweet sweet goo. Otherwise, this is just going to leave a bad taste in our mouths.

August 27, 2016

Horse 2157 - T' Queen Is All Northern Lyke Innit

Ey up.
'Ow Northern is the Queen lyke then, eh?

In doing research for summat totally unrelated, I've found out that in addition to her Royal Corgis and racing horses, she's got both a pigeon loft where all of her pigeons wear band with ER on, but she's also got her own troop of racing whippets.
Let me just spell this out. Her son is going to inherit the family business, she's got a place up in Scotland because London is quote unquote "too hot" and she wants summat a bit more parky out and she's got pigeons and whippets.

You can blame her grandad George V for all this when in 1917, he changed family name from Saxe-Coburg Gotha which sounds dead Krauty lyke, to Windsor which is proper English. Start singing rule Britannia and Jerusalem. In fact, he were so much in hurry to show that he were English an' all, that he were first English king t' go down mine. And he were first king t' go to football match.
His son George VI weren't even going to be king until his brother had had enough and racked off tae America. He died really young because he couldn't speak all that good and were always nervous and smoked like 40 Woodbines a day. His lungs packed up an' Lizzie were Queen at age 25.
Charlie boy has been waiting for old Lizzie to pop her clogs for what seems like forever and who only knows when we'll get King Billy IV and George VII.

It ent surprise me that the Queen is all northern. If you look back tae Lizzie I, she didnae have any kids and so Jimmy VI of Scotland went och aye the noo and took the crown of England as well. Of course Charlie I was a madman and ended up splitting the kingdom in twain, so that just proves that if you have a king which is too far northern, things get right daft. Best tae pick summat a little bit more south.

Of course you dinnae want someone who's too much o't' south because then it's all Essex and Home Counties and Burberry and no-one should be bothering wi' all o' that. So that's why the Queen keeps horses and whippets.
You can just imagine her out with her book from Ladbrokes or William Hill and looking at the form guide, or walking through the paddock wi' a can of Special Brew t' give to someone's gee-gee or dish licker in Race 5. What's her spiel if someone catches her on the sly? Well who's going to suspect the Queen? And even if they did, no-one's going to grass her up because... she's the queen.

It was probably her mum that got her on to pigeons, whippets and horses. Her mum, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons was a commoner, and in her case I expect that that meant she hung around real people. When the Second World War came around and old Adolf stupid-moustache started chuckin' bombs about, I bet that it were Lizzy Bowes-Lyons giving it a bit of Whoa and White and saying "No bairn o' mine is gaan sit around idle. She's gaan drive trucks." And Lizzie did.
Mind you, Lizzy Bowes-Lyons is probably the reason why B&H and Gordon's Gin had t' royal warrant on. She lived beyond the century, broke the ton, claimed the triple digits because she were made of tough stock o' t' Yeo (whatever in blinkies the Yeo are).

See that's the thing about the North. If it's all supposed to be grim up north, then why is it all so pretty? This is the land that gave us Peter Rabbit, Hovis bread adverts wi' boys cycling in, Yorkie chocolate, t' Angel o' t' North, Blackpool Rock, the Beatles, Gerry and Pacemakers an' Vauxhall Astras. Can't be all that grim then, eh?
An' did those feet in ancient times, walk upon England's mountains green? Yeah, where are all the mountains? Ben Nevis and Snowdon aren't even in England; so it must've been somewhere else. My suggestion is t' Pennines; and where are they? Up north!

August 26, 2016

Horse 2156 - Treaty

I was sent an email from someone called Joanna Dudley, which said:

Dear Horse,

I saw your article about why you think that recognising Indigenous Australians in the preamble of the Constitution is pointless and at first I was really angry but then I saw that your solution of setting aside places like the Senate was a practical, rather than having a symbolic solution to issue. I think that your idea is unworkable and would never be seriously proposed but what do you think about a treaty.

Yours sincerely,
Joanna Dudley. 
(email address withheld)

What I initially found odd about this email was where it came from. I am a little bit hesitant to reveal even where this was because of reasons of confidentiality. However, it poses an interesting question which I'll now unpack.
As far as I can make out, a treaty at law is an agreement between two entities which come together to either end hostilities, or alternatively to set up some new state of alliance of agreement. Most of the famous treaties such as the Treaty of Versailles, or the Treaty of Paris end states of war; hence the reason why the Korean War hasn't technically ended. Other treaties such as the Treaty of Waitangi or the ANZUS Treaty, set up a new state of being where the various parties work together for a new state of mutual benefit.
This tends to make me think that in general, constitutions and replaceable rules are treaties of sorts. Constitutions set up the rules which govern the rule making process of countries, provinces and states and corporations, therefore I suggest that the preamble to the US Constitution explicitly spells out that the document is itself a treaty; which was entered into voluntarily and which is binding.

The biggest hurdle that I can see which would hinder a treaty being made with indigenous Australians is the question of who such a treaty would be made with. Unlike the Maori in New Zealand, Aboriginals and Torres Straight Islanders aren't a single group but a richly diverse collection of many people groups. Opponents would argue that the nation can't make a treaty to such a varied group of entities but that is rubbish. There are loads of treaties at international law which have been entered into by many countries. Something like the European Union started out as the European Coal and Steel Community and that had six signatories, and it gradually changed and grew to more than twenty. The United Nations has instruments like the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and various rights declarations such as the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights and the Declaration Of The Rights Of The Child, which have been entered into by more than one hundred different parties.
Without a single unified organisation which represents all indigenous Australian people groups, a treaty would need to be entered into by the various people groups separately. Quite frankly, I don't see that as a problem at all. Most, if not all indigenous people groups, have some sort of internal organisation such as elders and they would be the ones who would sign the treaty on behalf of their people. I really don't see how this is different in spirit to covenant arrangements which might have been made between the various groups themselves.
A grand treaty made with the first peoples of Australia might have several hundred signatories on it, from all over the country and if anything, that's a symbolic act where they'd recognise each other as well as the "big mob".

Of course the whole point of a treaty is to spell out what the various parties involved intend to do. The Australian Government as a thing hasn't really had a set of principles to work with in relation to indigenous people and as a result has tended to act in piecemeal fashion and often in an unprincipled fashion. A treaty would actually mean that the Australian Government would have to face up to the fact that the country was stolen by the cunning use of flags, and then had government and nationhood imposed upon people without their say so. No doubt there will be some commentators who will argue that indigenous Australians already receive many benefits but that is to deny the fact that they are being spoken to; rather than being spoken for.
On the other hand, although a treaty would recognise the original invasion of this great southern land, it then asks the question of indigenous peoples of how the intend to move forward. Not only would a treaty require the nation to recognise indigenous peoples, it would also require them to recognise the nation. That means that although an invasion did happen in the past, those sorts of moral claims might need to be set aside. The nation of Australia in 2016 is made up of precisely zero people who stole the land by force and all direct memories of those people has also been extinguished by the march of history. At what point can you continue to hold people accountable for the acts of people who they have never even met? Furthermore, does it even make moral sense to continue to accuse someone if through the act of a treaty, they would be trying to make good upon the actions of the past?

As with any important document like this, the puzzle lies in solving the details and so I imagine that before there was a final treaty to be signed off on, there would be a series of conventions which would undertake precisely that task. Since a constitution is a treaty of sorts between "the people" and themselves, the working out of a treaty with the first peoples of Australia would probably follow similar lines of thinking, argument, discovery and agreement.
 No doubt there would be commentators who think that a treaty is unnecessary but I suspect that all of those people live in places of privilege, have never known hardship and certainly do not know what it is like to be someone who is marginalised. I'm just going to come out and accuse all of them of racism. Polite racism wrapped in the veil of conservatism is still racism; it's just a little bit more insidious; that's all.

As an Australian who has visited the New Zealand Parliament and heard references to "the spirit of Waitangi", that among other things, really makes me ashamed of this country. I think that the guiding principle of "peace, order and good government" as spelled out in Section 51 of our own Constitution, should be instructive in this case and before we even think about the idea of a republic, we should do a lot of growing up first.
I don't know exactly what a treaty between the first people's of Australia and the nation would look like but I do know that it would look better than the 228 years of neglect and dereliction that we've given to the issue so far.