Sep 30

Dr Who II Guthrie goes II This magic pill II Mediating with Machines II Organic Plastic II ReefGATE II Headlines of Impact II

Welcome to the September Blog.

Contents:   Dr WHO II ABC boss goes II Magic anti-ageing pill ? II  Mediating with Machines II Organic Plastic II ReefGATE and Headlines of Impact …

Meet Jodie Whittaker age 35 and the new Dr. WHO.   Most famous for her part in Broadchurch, a British detective series aired on the ABC, Whittaker was brought up in Skelmathhorpe,   Yorkshire.  Her father ran a window business, her mother was a nurse. 

She graduated in 2005 from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama,  and was immediately cast in Ostrovsky’s The Storm at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre,  next came Venus with Peter O’Toole.  Then Broadchurch, Trust Me and Journeyman

In 2008 she married Hollywood actor and heart throb Christian Contreras, whom she met at Drama School.  They have a three year old daughter.  

This first season for the 13th Doctor has been shot in Wales.  Classified as a great tragedian but also a great comedian,  (we live in exciting times),  let’s see what the new Dr Who can produce.  The program starts on ABC TV October 8th.

Talking about the ABC,  Guthrie has gone.  This is good news for the ABC and its viewing audience.  The public broadcaster has suffered million dollar cuts via Turnbull and Abbott over the past five years.  Admittedly Guthrie has had to be their hatchet man,  but with zilch qualifications in content,  repeat after repeat, and the sacking of staff, her management style wasn’t  in line with the Board’s direction. 

Guthrie was formerly a lawyer working at Google.  ABC journalists reported somewhat unkindly,   that her digital expertise was superficial…  “There was total bewilderment at Google when Guthrie got the job,” one ABC insider said (The Australian, Deborah Cornwall, Sept 25, 2018, Front page).

Nor am I interested in hearing any more bickering about the sacking.  Canberra itself seems to be a cess pot of drama and ridicule,  aided and abetted by the 24 hr news cycle.   Hardly worth reporting… hence no blog in August during the Turnbull exit.  I sailed to Rottnest Island and also found a love of my life. 

This magic pill … do I believe it.

Featured on the front page of The Monthly, (Sept 2018) Professor Sinclair who is taking his own age-boosting molecule says his biological age went from 57 (he’s 49) to 33 as a result.    His 79 year old father who began the treatment 18 months ago, is now white water rafting, caving and recently spent 6 days carrying a backpack up Cradle Mountain. Professor Sinclair says his pill could be on the market in 5 years.

In 2017,  the Research Team published a paper showing how a vitamin B derivative Nicotinamide Mononucleotide reversed the decline in blood flow to tissues and organs associated with age, and improved the exercise endurance of mice by 60%. 

Professor Sinclair believes age is a disease we can treat..  But do I believe him?

Let’s explore, …”Infertility could be reversed, paralysed people could walk again and a 70 year old body could be reprogrammed to be just 20 yrs old!” These astounding claims come from Professor David Sinclair and his team at the University of New South Wales,  who claim to have developed a cell reprogramming process that could regenerate the human body.”   (Reporter Sue Dunlevy, News,  Sunday Sept 2, p28)

The child of two bioscientists, Sinclair founded Sirtris Pharmaceuticals which was bought by GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million last year.  His 1% ownership stake provided further funding. “We are committed to making our biomedical breakthroughs accessible and affordable to all, regardless of age or background.”  Sinclair’s research is going through clinical trials US FDA.   Always open to new discoveries if it doesn’t break the bank.  Professor David Sinclair Intro

Two Australian Universities wade into the abyss …

The Australian National University  and RMIT are getting involved in Artificial Intelligence.  The ANU’s 3A Institute is offering a 12 month Masters Degree in the Applied Science of managing and living with intelligent machines.  3A stands for  Autonomy, Agency and Assurance.  Only ten students will be selected, 

The Institute is the brainchild of Professor Genevieve Bell and the Degree will be a combination of engineering and computer science,  developing procedures and rules to mediate the interaction between human beings and intelligent, autonomous machines. As a cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist Prof Bell is best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development.

Prof Bell joined the ANU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science in February 2017, having spent the past 18 years in Silicon Valley helping guide Intel’s product development by developing the company’s social science and design research capabilities. 

Prof Bell now heads the newly established Autonomy, Agency and Assurance (3A) Institute, launched in September 2017 by the ANU in collaboration with CSIRO’s Data61.  The new applied science degree is all about artificial intelligence, big data and the internet and how as humans we mediate the interaction.

RIT Online has added artificial intelligence to its growing list of technology subjects on offer online …. Teaming up with Amazon there will be courses on virtual reality and augmented reality.  The platform Sumerian lets developers build apps without specialised programming or graphic skills.  Apple and Adobe also work with RMIT driving adoption of emergent technologies (Reporter  Supratim Adhikari, The Australian, Wed Sept 12,  p31).

New plastics on fertile ground – that’s the headline in the Weekend Australian Business Review in early September.  “Combine the minds of a plant pathologist, a chemist and a business student and what do you get?  A biodegradable plastic made from seafood waste that improves the quality of soil when buried. ” (Source: Sarah Jane Tasker, Technologist, Business Review) …BRILLIANT.   

Carapac cofounders Jared Wood, Kimberley Bolton and Michelle Demers (pictured below – image Hollie Adams)

University of Sydney graduates have created an organic plastic that can protect food, biodegrades when buried and is good for soil.  Jared Wood was doing a PhD in chemistry when he found a way to turn the crustaceon material into a plastic.  I found the material was biodegradale and healthy for plants.  Kimberley does the business side of things… how we can best sell it. 

Carapac graduated from technology incubator Cicada’s GlowLab program last year and its first project is strawberry punnets.  Widely applicable for other disposable products and single use plastic,  Carapac is currently seeking seed funding of $500,000 to set up a pilot facility.  Prototypes will be delivered for trials. Sounds like a winner to me.

Update with Reef Lotto now ReefGATE

So, the current PM insisted on giving away $444m to a private foundation in one year, with little proper process, so he could save his small surplus in future years. ⁩ explains in The Saturday Paper.  

The grant – $443 million – has been awarded to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a body with 6 full time and 5 part time staff, and a turnover of less than $8 million.  It’s focus is BUSINESS COOPERATION. The new PM, expedited the grant process so that a small surplus could be seen to have been earnt in the lead up to next year’s election.  EXPEDIENCY…. Goodgreef !
Enter Stage right …
Last PM Malcolm Turnbull talking with Chair Great Barrier Reef Foundation over dinner … Dr John M. Schubert…. 
PM:  Now listen Schubert,  I’ve got a bit of a problem with the surplus, I want to give you about half a million dollars?  If you don’t mind…
Chair : No.. er … what for?
PM:  well the reef thing of course, fish and pollocks..
Chair:  I see
PM: I need to get rid of it before the end of the financial year
Chair: oh a tax problem,
PM: No not exactly, it’s so we can have a slight surplus next year ….old chap,
Chair: I see. Consider it done PM.   Let’s party out at Hamilton Island.
Headlines of Impact : 
China to extend lifeline … to cash strapped Venezuela,  oil rich, the country has already received $65 billion from the Chinese,  another $6.9 billion is neither here nor there.

Low dole, high rent, housing stress…

This week the Greens will reintroduce a bill to raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance by $75 per week with the bill to be debated in October.  These payments haven’t increased in 20 years.  Newstart is $539 per fortnight that’s a lousy $269.50 per week and $56.50 weekly rent allowance.

Not a good idea ….The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had expressed concern that the $12.98 Billion dollar takeover of the APA Group – Australia’s biggest gas pipeline company, might give CK Group (a Hong Kong consortium), a monopoly grip on most gas transmission and storage facilities in Western Australia.

The group has now undertaken to divest its WA acquisitions.  But it will still mean that a Hong Kong based company (read Chinese) will be in charge of Australia’s biggest gas and storage facilities along the entire Eastern coast. The deal will make the CK Group led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure,  the biggest pipeline player on Australia’s east coast.  BUT the deal still needs clearance from the Federal Government’s Foreign Investment Review Board.   Thank goodness.  This surely is not a good idea.

END OF BLOG QUOTE :  Reverse Gear – 

 …we opened our purse to the Salvos on Friday night, Unemployment was not a word we had encountered,  music, art and culture were secured in our psyche,  spirituality was a  higher level of accepted experience and our leaders governed with integrity and compassion… new cultures were open doors,  we gave to the poor…  (Ecl_2018)

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Jul 29

I We Must Dig Deep II  Sound Bytes II More strange bedfellows II Inside Assad’s Syria II Helsinki – Syrian peace deal brokered II Israel’s humanitarian flight II Labor’s Super Saturday II

Welcome to the July Blog

Contents:  II We Must Dig Deep II  Sounds Bytes II More strange bedfellows II Inside Assad’s Syria II Helsinki – Syrian peace deal brokered II Israel’s humanitarian flight II Labor’s Super Saturday II

As everyone who has bothered to read my monthly blog knows, I consulted on content and payment in June to no avail.  Thinking long and hard whether or not to continue I received this email:  Don’t give up we need more realistic news reporting…we don’t get it on TV anymore and if Gov gets its way our very few journos will be financially strangled or silenced with anti terrorism laws.  Am not sure how long I will continue but for the moment – you have the privilege of enjoying my writing 🙂 

 In May I reported on the $443 million given in the Federal budget to a little known private foundation run by oil and airline executives. Now two months down the track, there is a Senate Inquiry in Brisbane today questioning why tax payers money has been redirected from AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science, the CSIRO and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority,  to the GBR Foundation which is chaired by a former boss of Esso, the Commonwealth Bank and th BCA – the big end of town.  Call me a cynic but if the Government thinks big business will replenish its electoral coffers as a result,  I doubt it.  In any case, Labor has the Unions and of course the Liberal Coalition has the Murdoch press.   I’d say its evens.

Dig Deeper says the Cairns Post – R U Kidding?

The Cairns Port Authority has State approval for widening, lengthening and increasing the depth of the shipping channel already.   According to Ports North, the declared depth for the proposed channel deepening is -9.4m LAT, compared to the current channel declared depth of -8.3m LAT. The complaint on the front page of the Cairns Post (July),  that the dredging will not allow 320m cruise liners in,  is tedious. 

The channel will allow cruise liners of 300m in.  Those advocating for more dredging need to be mindful of the fact that the Cairns economy is dependent on tourism. 

The Brisbane, a cutter suction dredge barge, dumping dredge material from the Port of Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area / Marine Park.

The existing Dredge Material Placement Area (DMPA) is located at S16º47’24” E145º48’48” which is approximately only 9km north of the Cairns Port.  You can see our mountains clearly.

(Source: CAFNEC)…Trinity Bay is an eyesore at low tide and I would suggest part of the problem is the sediment/turbidity drifting towards the coast from dredge spoil – settling and coagulating.  

The DMPA diameter is 1 nautical mile (1,852m) and covers approximately 269ha. This site has been in use since 1990. But dredging goes back a long way in Cairns to 1913, when the spoil was originally used for land reclamation of the Portsmith area.  Chris Calcino rightly points out that the Federal Government’s Reef 2050 plan does not restrict the size of dredging work, it just means the Port Authority has to find onshore placement.   The problem here is that the Federal Government only excludes capital works dredging spoil, maintenance dreading seems to be okay !

The map  illustrates the planned expansion of the existing dredge dumping area within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.   The estimated capital dredging quantity for the channel design is 5,073,600 cubic metres. A dredging production rate of around 180,000 cubic metres per week can be expected. Based on the estimated capital dredging quantity, the dredging programme will be about 28 weeks.  

The estimated annual maintenance dredging for the proposed improved channel is 580,000 cubic metres. By comparison, the current average annual maintenance dredging is around 320,000 cubic metres. It is suggested the increased dredging will seriously affect the northern beaches.  (Sources: Map, Ports Nth, Cairns Shipping Development Project, and cartoon – Cairns Post 16 Aug, 2014).  

Swimming at Trinity Beach in July I noticed the water was brown and beneath my feet instead of course sand,  there was an oily mud extremely similar to dredge spoil which settles on the bottom when calm.  The sandy beach was full of tourists and families enjoying the summer holidays.  Apart from the turbidity,  the dredged spoil contains lead, cadmium and arsenic, how do I know this,  I’ve had it analysed.

In October 1990 some friends and I collected and bottled the putrid mud from the seafront of Trinity Bay.  We sold it at the local Rusty’s market in sealed glass specimen bottles.

At $2,  it was well received.  Our stall also had a poster “Dumping Mud is Dumb”.    That year the dredging had been increased by 300% to allow an oil tanker through.  Mud balls as thick as my fist appeared on the beaches at Holloways and a small child playing in the putrid mud below the rocks at Machans, nearly drowned in front of my very eyes.  A tractor lent by the local farmer,  pulled him out, after attempts by locals with ropes, had failed. (Source: Cairns Post & Sunday Mail,  October 1990.)

That was 1990, Cairns now has a Cruise Liner Terminal and the surrounding parklands are full of tourists and families enjoying the winter sunshine.  No one can deny that the Port Authority has improved access to the waterfront and created beautiful parklands in the process.  Yes – numerous surveys have shown locals are in favour of more cruise liners and they believe the channel should be widened as do our politicians and indeed that is precisely what is going to happen.

In February this year details of a $120 million upgrade to the Port of Cairns was reported by the relevant ministers, the Honourable Cameron Dick and the Honourable Mark Bailey.  Economic modelling suggests the project will deliver an $850 million boost to tourism in FNQ.  Construction is scheduled to start in early 2019.

What is frightening is the intention to dump dredge spoil within the GBRMP at all.  The project still awaits Federal Government environmental approval.   In May 2015 the then Minister for the Environment, Hon Greg Hunt MP signed off on The Reef 2050 Plan including regulations to ban the disposal of capital dredge material in the Great Barrier Reef marine Park.

The ban applies to all present and future applications for capital dredge disposal.  This means that the capital dredge disposal for the Cairns North Proposal will have to be addressed.  The assumption here is that this dredge spoil will have to be treated and used as land fill.  So when the Cairns Post advocates for more and bigger cruise liners to enter Cairns,  remember there is the downside to the dredging and its environmental impacts in a World Heritage listed area.

As one of the holidaymakers interviewed for the Cairns Post article (News 06, 19 July, 2018)) said “…giving development priority over the environment  [is] counter-productive.  Without the environment people won’t come.”

Trump Less…

Whatever this man says or does has implications globally.  His meeting on July 16 with Putin showed him cowering beside a relaxed open Putin clearly enjoying the spectacle.  Writing in ‘The Saturday Paper’ Martin McKenzie-Murray said, “…the best thing I read on Helsinki this week was an open letter to Trump written by Anthony Maslin.  (Pictured below: Anthony Maslin and Rin Norris with their three children before the fateful day – Source The Guardian Newspaper.)

Maslin’s three young children and their grandfather were blown to bits four years ago almost to the day (July 17, 2014), when a Russian BUK missile blew Malaysia Airlines MH17 up over Ukraine.  Russia suggests Ukraine was responsible but on May 25 a journalism think tank in the UK, identified Olle Ivanikoff,  a High ranking Russian Intelligence officer in the area at the time,  as a key suspect.   The missile was fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists and transported into rebel-held territory from Russia.

Anthony Maslin’s letter to Trump … “Mr Trump – You invented and speak a lot about ‘fake news’.  But let’s try talking about something that’s not fake – let’s call them irrefutable facts.  That passenger flight MH17 was shot out of the sky and 298 innocent people were murdered is an irrefutable fact. That the plane was hit by a Russian missile has been proven to be an irrefutable fact. That this killed our 3 beautiful children and their grandfather and destroyed our life and many other lives is an irrefutable fact. That the man whose arse you’ve been kissing did this, and continues to lie about it, is an irrefutable fact.

So you don’t need to look it up,  irrefutable means impossible to deny or disprove.  It’s not anger that I feel towards the two of you, …it’s much much worse – it’s pity.  You have no empathy for your fellow man, and you clearly have no idea what love is.  So you have nothing.”  

The Australian Government is intent on holding Russia to account for the tragedy and is seeking compensation for the 38 Australians murdered on the flight. Suspects charged with involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur) over war-torn eastern Ukraine will be tried in the Netherlands after Russia blocked efforts to create an international tribunal. Dutch prosecutors have said in the past that they are likely to file murder and possibly war crimes charges.


Designer babies – The Nuffield Council on Bioethics said changing the DNA of a human embryo could be ‘morally permissible’ if it was in the future child’s interests and did not add to the kinds of inequalities that divide society.  The report does not call for a change in UK law but urges more research …looks like the flood gates are about to open!  (Source: The Guardian Weekly, 27 July, 2018)

Google slap but that’s all it is… a $5.1 billion dollar fine by securing the deominance of its search engine on Android phones.  Google’s value is $720 billion.  Yes just a slap.  

More strange bed fellows – Reporting in The Weekend Australian, World News July 1,  Amanda Hodge wrote,  Malaysia’s democracy champion Anwar Ibrahim (see Malaysia’s Mandela in my Map blog) who was himself imprisoned for ten years on trumped up sodomy charges and released only recently, was seen praising the election victory of Erdogan in Ankara, this week.  Turkey’s autocratic ruler is fighting against so-called Kurdish militants in eastern Turkey and Syria. 

In Turkey more than 160,000 people have been arrested since the 2016 coup failed.  A further 100,00 have lost their jobs (civil service, academics and media) amid deteriorating human and democratic rights.  It was however to the Turkish embassy in Kuala Lumpur that Anwar Ibrahim turned in 2008 when facing a second spurious sodomy charge – perhaps it’s payback time.  

To be fair to Turkey,  more than 3.5 million people displaced by the 8 year war in Syria, have sought refuge in Turkey.   Their numbers via births and new arrivals are increasing by approx 1000 people a day.  (Source: Brookings Institution, Washington).

Inside Assad’s Syria …VICE on HBO  … an excellent report by young journalist Isabel Yeung, Jan 11, 2018

World democracies

“Mass migration, terrorism, transnational criminal activity and international economic upheavals bring a longing for order”,  wrote Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’S former Supreme Allied Commander in Time magazine, July 23, 2018.  “That seems to be the driver of creeping authoritarianism [ – that lack of order].  Today…one could be forgiven for believing that democracy has ended.  Russia and China are trending toward one-man rule, [as is] Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, similarly with Duterte in the Philippines.”   But argues Stavridis,  Spring has persisted in Tunisia, Chile, Indonesia and South Korea.  Most of the world’s most developed countries are still committed democracies – Japan, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Germany and the United States.

Helsinki – brokered Syrian peace deal

John Bradley reveals an outstanding case for hope,  with “The rehabilitation of Assad” in The Spectator this week (21 July, 2018).  “…few noticed the most tangible outcome of this week’s Helsinki summit.”   Senior US and Russian diplomats in close coordination with leaders from mutual ally Israel – brokered a deal to end the Syrian civil war. 

The solution was apparently Bashar al-Assad.   The Syrian Government, directed by Russia, is to offer guarantees to Israel regarding the Jewish state’s security.  With Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates backing Israel,  and Turkey in line with Russia,  the deal was done.  Trump is eager to withdraw the 2000 US special forces still stationed in Syria.  Benjamin Netanyahu days before the Helsinki summit, had another meeting with Putin in Moscow,  his ninth in 18 months. 

Israel’s concern was Iran,  and the Iranian forces settling down in Syria with the Hezbollah fighters – they should return to their own countries.  Putin seemed to agree to keep everyone far from the Israeli border and then announced a $50 billion direct Russian investment in Iran’s oil and gas sectors.  Hezbollah can now retreat and Iran can save grace.  Syria is now a Russian protectorate. 

Trump then trumpeted “I made clear we will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against Isis,  he said in Helsinki.”   An extraordinary statement.   And Russia now has a warm water port on the Mediterranean coast.







The monstrous dictator has won – Bashar al-Assad has bombed, gassed and starved his enemies out of the biggest cities.  Half a million of his own people have died, 6 million are displaced …similar numbers of refugees have fled.  Assad’s survival is a lesson in the art of butchery.  

Writing for the Economist “It would be no surprise if Syrian refugees many times more numerous than the 750,000 Palestinians uprooted during the birth of Israel,  became similarly radicalised.  Refugees are straining services in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey,  it is reported.  Now Assad will have to beg to rebuild the devastation he has wreaked. ”  I doubt begging is in his DNA.  (Source:  The Economist, The Weekend Australian, June 30-July 1, 2018)

Israel humanitarian flight 

Patrick Wintour writing for The Guardian Weekly (27 July) reported  “Members of the White Helmets were thought likely to be targeted by the Syrian army once it regained control of south-west Syria over the coming week.  The White Helmets have saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict at great risk to their own,”  writes Wintour. 

In my Blog dated October 2016, I put together a piece on theWhite Helmets, Syria’s angels. Trained on how to search collapsed buildings, put out fires, handle unexploded bombs and chemical attack, the White Helmets themselves are under fire.  Three of their own buildings were bombed in Aleppo. One hundred and forty one White Helmets were killed many the result of so called two-tap strikes, where the Assad regime or Russian aircraft circle back and make a run at the first responders who have scrambled to aid survivors.

This is precisely why Israel evacuated 98 White Helmets from Syria’s northern border to Jordan last week.  A total of 422 people were rescued by Israeli Defense forces  on Sat 21 July, 2018,  at the request of the US, UK, Canada, Germany and others.  It was an important humanitarian gesture by Israel.

But hundreds of these rescue workers still remain in Syria at risk of being systematically targeted as the Syrian regime. The northwest is the last major area still held by rebels. Idlib faces frequent bombardment and President Bashar Assad has said it is now his target. Assad has accused the White Helmets of being an Al-Qaeda front. Adding to his fear of capture, Ayed (a white Helmet left behind) said that when the army advanced into his district of the southwest this month, it seized paperwork at the White Helmets base. (Image- Zuma Press).

“The most important thing is the names and identities of the volunteers, and our special identification cards. This is what damages us the most. The papers and the names were not destroyed, they are now in the hands of the regime,” he said.  Let us hope these brave volunteers don’t end up in a blood bath.  (Source:   23 July 2018)

Labor’s Super Saturday

Lastly –  A jubilant Bill Shorten has hailed his party’s success in the Super Saturday by-elections as a signpost for Labor to win at the next election, with the party regaining all four of their seats.  A message for Alexander Downer – keep your comments to yourself, bad loser. (Source image:

Quote of the month:   No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted – Aesop’s Fables from The Lion and the Mouse, Greek, died 564 BC.

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May 30

II Reef Lotto II Arts – Alexandra Palace II No to Affordable Housing II Malaysia’s Mandela II Bidi Bidi – release from hell II

Welcome to the May BLOG

Contents :  Reef Lotto II  Arts – Alexandra Palace II No to affordable housing II Malaysia’s Mandela II Bidi Bidi – release from hell II

Now that the budget has been and gone (see Reef Lotto), and the Royal wedding with all its pomp and ceremony was televised globally,  we have a breathing space.  Trump and Nth Korea are on-off again,   so trending… let’s see.   Try Donald Trump meeting the Queen, he is in the UK on Friday 13 July  (bad choice of date ! if you’re superstitious which I am, black Friday). 

$443m for Reef 

This is the headline of the front page of The Saturday Paper with a wonderful pic of our PM … he so loves his selfies.  Here’s another courtesy of photographer Steven Brennan.

The largest government grant for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef has been awarded without tender, to a tiny foundation.  Andy Stafford writing for The Saturday Paper talks about resilience not climate change.  Not so the government, its climate and energy policies are a train wreck

“Publicly the government still supports Adani’s Carmichael coalmine,” writes Stafford.  The grant – $443 million – has been awarded to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, a body with 6 full time and 5 part time staff, and a turnover of less than $8 million.  The body is focussed on BUSINESS COOPERATION.

Stafford further states “the foundation started ‘with a small group of businessmen chatting at the airport while waiting for their flight, wanting to do something to help the Great Barrier Reef”.  It’s so left-field.  The foundation’s MD Anna Marsden said “It’s like we’ve won lotto… we’re getting calls from a lot of friends.” 

“Labor senator Kristina Keneally summed up: ‘I am trying to understand how.. the greatest contribution … to the Great Barrier Reef went to one foundation without a tender process,  without advertising, without a competitive process and it would seem, without invitation from government.” 

 “God help the Barrier Reef,” was the blunt response of Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellent for Coral Reef Studies.”  Professor Hughes says the core issue with coral bleaching is global warming. 

Cairns – Gateway to the Reef

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, its economy is reliant on tourism.   The city’s population hit 164,500 in 2017. Overall total passengers at Cairns Airport grew by 5 per cent reaching the 5.2 million marking growth across all sectors.  International passenger numbers increased 7.6 per cent to 659,010 for the year (Source: Cairns Airport).  Hence my interest in this budget bonanza for business.

During the Prince’s recent visit to open the Commonwealth Games, the Prince’s Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation hosted major companies to a Reef Round Table (read talkfest).  Those invited included Lendlease, BHP, Qantas, Boeing, Australia Post, The Star Entertainment Group, The Walt Disney Company, Affirmative Investment Management, Virgin Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, UQ, WWF, Greening Australia, and many others including  representatives from the Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the Australian Government and Queensland Government.

The  Great Barrier Reef Foundation website promotes the Reef to businesses. Donations are welcome.  

Climate Change

We [GBRF] believe climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef.  (They’ve got one thing right.)

We support the Paris Agreement

 The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is acting by prioritising projects that build the Reef’s resilience to the impacts of a changing climate and participating in constructive dialogue on policy options.

At the Foundation’s recent Reef Roundtable with the Prince of Wales, Lendlease Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Steve McCann said, “The Great Barrier Reef is universally recognised as one of our planet’s greatest natural wonders. Its protection and preservation requires collaboration between government and the private sector, and we’re ready to contribute our skills and resources to assist.

“Lendlease employees from around the world will work with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and engage with local indigenous communities, to undertake on-ground conservation activities.” 

Prince Charles flanked by Foundation MD Anna Marsden (right) and GBRMPA’s Dr Russell Reichelt at the Reef Roundtable  Photographs: Greg Sullavan

Today, the Foundation spruiks itself as the lead charity dedicated to raising funds for scientific research to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s coral reefs.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Chair, Dr John Schubert said, “Coral reefs are critically important ecosystems, supporting 25% of all marine life on the planet and supporting the livelihoods of over one billion people world-wide.

“Aside from its outstanding natural and cultural heritage value, the Great Barrier Reef alone supports over 64,000 Australian jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy annually” concluded Dr Schubert.

Projects for the International Year of the Reef will be funded up to $190,000 per project.

The Prince’s Trust Australia Chair, Margaret Jackson AC said the royal visit was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work currently being done …As we mark the International Year of the Reef, we have a responsibility to collaborate across government, not-for-profit, the private sector and with local communities to ensure we safeguard the Great Barrier Reef and its natural assets for generations to come.”

The Foundation was established in 2000 in response to the United Nations World Heritage Convention encouraging countries with world heritage sites to establish a national foundation whose purpose is to invite donations for their protection.

Monitoring the reef

The Future Reef project [being undertaken through the GBRF] is taking the ‘pulse’ of the Reef using specially engineered water sensors mounted on a ‘ship of opportunity’; Rio Tinto’s RTM Wakmatha vessel.  (Forgive my cynicism, but this tanker goes through the Reef, laden with bauxite on its way down.)

Before taking up the role of Managing Director in 2016, Anna Marsden was CEO of Queensland Ballet where she led a major change program resulting in enormous growth. Anna holds board positions with Brisbane Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and Circa.

I’d say strategic marketing is her forte.  Please,  you the reader and viewer assess whether this small Foundation has the ability to truly deliver on $443 million of taxpayers investment money.

Easy linkages, easy connections and we’re all in the money! 

With a corporate partner like Google, what can go wrong?

Lottery restores old theatre – A little known Victorian Theatre is being restored in Alexandra Palace by a lottery grant. The theatre will officially open on 1 December with an as yet unnamed headline act, but the 2 December celebrations are the “don’t miss” event.  There will be a gala night of music, comedy and circus so if you are in the UK in December, save the date. (Source: Guardian Photograph Graeme Robertson/Source image : Evening Standard online.)

Govt doesn’t want affordable housing – this alarming headline written by business editor Ian Verrender for ABC News online (Mon 28 May, 2018) was explained in his erudite analysis.

Infrastructure and high rises – keeping the bubble afloat, Sydney’s skyline


“When the market is running hot, you need to get in quick.  And when it’s cooling, its an opportunity to grab a bargain.”  Either way,  Verrender says “there’s never been a better time to buy.”   The major capitals are declining while regional values are gaining.  Units are outperforming houses.  There is strong demand for affordable housing.  “Some analysts argue that last year’s crackdown by the banking regulator on investment loans is affecting the market.  Investors mainly use interest only loans to maximise on the benefits of negative gearing.”

Currently major banks are heavily exposed in that 60% of their loans are allocated to domestic mortgages.  “Our household debt is ‘just shy of’ 200% of our annual income”  Verrender says “and it ranks among the world’s highest.”  

“Hocked to the eyeballs,” Verrender says “it’s no wonder household consumption is sluggish, retail is struggling and inflation is anaemic.” 

Low interest rates and an increase in infrastructure building has kept the bubble afloat.  Our large and growing intake of migrants is capped at 190,000 and last year 128,550 skilled migrants entered the country.

“This large intake has given the impression that our economy is travelling better than it appears,” argues Verrender.  “Wages are stagnant and as for job creation, we are standing still.”   Lastly and in conclusion the analysis suggests our skyrocketing housing costs are not the result of a supply problem.  Instead there has been a deliberate attempt to increase demand to maintain an illusion of economic growth.”   Ouch!

Malaysia’s  Mandela

Anwar Ibrahim has been serving a five year sentence on trumped up charges.  This past has been his second jail sentence, the first was trumped up sodomy charges instigated by Mahathir Mohamad,  Malaysia’s then Prime Minister and now newly elected Prime Minister once again at 92.  Mathathir deserves credit for collaboration – seeking a pardon for his long time opposition leader and promising to turn over power to him within two years. 

Source/Image: Coutesy of Dr Khoo Boo Teik, The incorrigible optimist – pictured Anwar Ibrahim and the new Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in court.

 “In my darkest hours of solitary confinement I had never given up hope that something good was to come of the ordeal. And now, after more than a decade of struggle and profound challenges, we are on the threshold of a new beginning” Anwar Ibrahim.  

A royal pardon by the Sultan was formally executed yesterday – May 11.  Anwar Ibrahim can now run for parliament.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article (author unnamed), the Journal states “Malysia needs Anwar’s leadership to rebuild its degraded institutions.  But first he has to clean up corruption.  Only Anwar combines the political skill, …liberal values and moral authority to carry through the necessary reforms.” 

Anwar Ibrahim has been a political prisoner since 1998.  By forbearing revenge and letting the judiciary follow the law, Malaysia’s multi-ethnic people may yet achieve democracy.  Some $US4.5 billion has disappeared from the state-owned IMDB,  it is critical that Mahathir cleans up corruption but more importantly he has to honour his promise.  Let us pray.

(Source: Editorial board – Wall Street Journal, The Weekend Australian May 12-13, 2018 p13.)

Bidi Bidi – release from hell

Uganda supports the biggest and many other large refugee camps.  About 3.5million people have fled South Sudan’s civil war as refugees.

Primary school children at the Bidi Bidi camp attend school and their little play attempts to explain why their lives have been uprooted, why they have been forced to flee their homes and why they have ended up in Bidi Bidi. 

“Where is the money?” Salva Kiir,  the president of south Sudan, asks his deputy Riek Machar.

“I bought guns.”  “Where are the guns? Kiir insists,  “I will show you… We shall meet in the bush.”  Gun shots ring out, people are killed and so began South Sudan’s civil war.  Since the civil war,  300,000 people have died and 3.5 million have been displaced.  

Unbelievably with its torrid history under Mugabe, Uganda is a welcoming country.

It represents a bright spot in this bleak global landscape of refugee despair. Rather than packing refugees into quasi-permanent tent camps, which are often in austere locations like deserts, and miles away from local communities, “Uganda has chosen a policy of inclusion over marginalisation”.

World Vision, Uganda

Refugees are provided with a fertile parcel of land to cultivate, as well as a “starter kit”, which includes seeds to plant food and construction tools to build a home. If they wish, they may lease other parcels of land and open their own businesses. Refugees in Uganda have the same access to public services, like schools and healthcare clinics, as Ugandan nationals. They are even allowed to vote. The Ugandan model poses a sharp contrast with the restrictive refugee policies of other countries including Australia.  (Source : London School of Economics, Marina Elgawly is a MSc candidate in International Relations at LSE.)

During the day adults till land.  Some volunteer with NGOs.  Other have started small businesses, transforming nearby forests.  The children go to school.  And while the settlement now covers more than 250 square klms, there are positives.

Betty Dawa’s fire is luke warn, her family of two children and husband Julius Wani, have eaten their only meal of the day – posho, dried mashed maize and beans.  “We do not have much but we have a lot.  We have love and we have our culture,” Wani says. 

In August 2017,  the UN reported that the number of refugees in Uganda,  had passed the million mark.  Women can get raped here on their way to fetch firewood.  Many are still routinely raped by their husbands who believe a woman must never say no.  Wani explains “the refugee women are raped … because the community is angry and resources are shrinking”.  Women have long been pawns during conflict.  

But Wani and Onzia say they love their life and are content to stay in the camp until the war ends and they can return to South Sudan.  “We just want to go home,  not to Europe, not to America.. why should we go there to wash dirty plates when there is so much land for farming?” Onzia says. (Source: Guardian Weekly 25-31 May 2018, Front Cover “We just want to go home”, International News pp4-5, Reporter: Patience Akumu)

Quote of the week :  You can’t live a positive life, with a negative mind.

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Apr 04

Weeping Window II Refugees welcome II Finland happiest II Two cities II Cobalt II Debt & Inequality II

Welcome to the March BLOG

Contents: Weeping Window II Refugees welcome II Finland happiest II Trump II Two cities II Cobalt II Debt & inequality II 

Having sung in this cathedral in Hereford, it seemed appropriate to promote the image below. The photograph of The Weeping Window conjures up visions of Romeo and Juliet and Rapunzel,  the installation actually comprises several thousand handmade ceramic poppies.  It is a touring tribute to Britain’s first world war dead.  Very beautiful and meaningful.  The artist is Paul Cummins with designer Tom Piper.

Source:  The Guardian Weekly 230318, Matt Cardy, Getty Images,  the images are sourced from The Ross Gazette and Hereford Cathedral School. (“There’s a place for us” – music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)


Sicily welcomes refugees…

Since 2014, “Sutera in central Sicily, has augmented its dwindling population with dozens of asylum seekers.  The school has been reborn; the butcher and grocer are happy; the birth rate has rocketed.”   From the 1970s to the 1990s Sutera increasingly lost its citizens due to mass unemployment. 

As reported by Lorenzo Tondo, “Deborah, 26, a Nigerian victim of trafficking is one of 50 asylum seekers now living in the town.”Deborah was raped by traffickers in Libya. Her daughter Sophia was born in Sutera and she is now a year old.  Thanks to children from Ethiopia, Pakistan and Nigeria,  the school is now safe from closure.   Two neighbouring towns are now following suit – Mazzarino and Milena.  Today the locals say the true salvation of Sutera  is the refugees.  (Sources Images: Typical Sicily, Pinterest)

Another positive story …

Finland has overtaken Norway to become the happiest nation on Earth according to the UN.  The top four places on the 2018 World Happiness Report are Nordic with Denmark and Iceland following.  The Nordic countries scored highly on income, health, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.   Considered the best governed, the safest and most stable, Finland today has a population of 5.5 million.  Pictured : a village inside the polar circle – & ‘Rainbow’ Pixabay free images – Finland.

Finland is sandwiched between Norway, Sweden and Russia, see map.



Trump again – Gary Young, a journalist writing for The Guardian Weekly (23.03.18, Comment&Debate, p20) had this to say on the Trump presidency “Witnessing Trump’s presidency unravel so spectacularly provokes a perverse joy.  The venality is so baroque, the vulgarity so ostentatious,  the inconsistencies so stark,  the incompetence so epic and the lies so brazen, it leaves you speechless.”

This after President Trump unceremoniously fired his Secretary of State,  Rex Tillerson and the previous week Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was sacked two days before he would have qualified for a full pension.  McCabe said he was targeted because he is a potential witness in the investigation into collusion between members of the Trump election campaign and the Kremlin (Julian Borger, International News, p7).    

Meanwhile the European Union has proposed a levy of 3% tax on the revenues of big technology companies –  think FAANG– Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google,  those who  operate in Europe but have little or no physical presence there.  The proposal requires unanimity among the EU member states to be adopted.  Australia should do the same.  Source: The Economist, March 24, 2018 (p8).

Comparing two cities – Copenhagen, Denmark and Kinshasa, Congo

Copenhagen (remember our Happiest Nations),  in 2015 had a population of 1.3 million and yet it is projected in 2050 to have precisely the same – 1.3 million. 

Declining birth rates, ageing populations and good infrastructure allows many cities to focus on the environment. Copenhagen’s lord mayor, Frank Jensen,  said “today our harbour is so clean we can swim in the water,  62% of Copenhageners ride their bike to work or school.”  It’s a green and liveable city.  Copenhagen wants to be the first carbon neutral capital city by 2025.

Now look at Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Population in 2015 – 12 million and projected population by 2100,  83 million that is nearly a 900% increase.  If we compare to 2050 as we have with Copenhagen, the expected population is still projected at 75 million. Kinshasa is dysfunctional, ringed by vast shanty towns of informal settlements.  Its infrastructure is nonexistent or collapsing.  Source:  – Kinshasa, ringed by shanty towns.  

According to the World Bank,  what is happening in Africa is that small scale informal trading is not adding enough economic benefit.  But investment in Africa is happening via China, note their investment since 2010.  



China’s investment is linked to its Belt & Road initiative. The two legs of the new Silk Road, however, are not single routes but rather consist of a network of links connecting different parts of China to the world.

The ‘Belt’ aims to link the western parts of China through six economic corridors to Central Asia, Russia, Europe, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, and Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, the ‘Road’ – somewhat confusingly – is a sea route designed to link China’s coastal parts to Europe and Africa through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and through the South Pacific in another route.

Altogether the Belt and Road initiative covers 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and over a third of the world’s GDP.

Source: Star Graphics & China Business Review

Cobalt demand up

Today an electric vehicle uses about 10kg of cobalt and more than half of the world’s cobalt reserves and production are in one dangerously unstable country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  (Pic – 2 little boys (aged 7) working in a cobalt mine)

Eighty percent of the cobalt sulphates and oxides that make the all important cathodes for lithium-ion batteries are refined in China.  The remaining 20% is processed in Finland.  But the raw materials come from a mine in Congo which is majority owned by China Molybdenum.   GEM, a Chinese battery maker has said it would acquire a third of the cobalt shipped by Glencore between 2018 to 2020.  That’s equivalent to half the world’s production going to China.  Cobalt has risen from $26,500 a tonne in 2016 to above $90,000 a tonne today.  Production in Congo is set to increase but investment may be deterred by the recent 5-fold increase in royalties on mining cobalt.  Source:  Goblin Metals, The Economist March 24th, 2018 p63,  image:  Collective Evolution.


I wondered when this subject would next rear its head and at last Professor Tony Makin (Economics) at Griffith University has dared to speak the unspeakable – “our unsparing outlays are unsustainable”.

In 2013 we were correctly informed that the budget deficit had to be addressed as a matter of urgency.  But despite the rhetoric, little has been done to reduce federal spending. Labor queried the Foreign Secretary’s expenses bill of $1.2 million in 2017 but nothing came of it.

Australia’s net public debt is about 19 per cent of GDP.  The interest on our public debt is about $13.4 billion.  “Each percentage point rise in interest rates adds another $3.7 billion to the annual interest bill, more than the government spends on housing.”

“Public debt will keep growing until we reach surplus predicted by Treasury to be 2021.  The Coalition has gone silent on deficits,” said Professor Makin.  “There is no doubt our company tax rates are not competitive.”  China and Ireland – classed as two miracle economies prospered on the back of tax breaks that discriminated in favour of foreign investment.

The company tax rate is 12.5% in Ireland and 17% in Hong Kong and Singapore.  Personal tax cuts mooted down the track are simply not affordable.  While promoting further company tax cuts, Professor Makin also suggests “these should be accompanied by cuts to government spending.” Apart from middle class welfare (and we will say something about that shortly),  “there are billions spent on assistance to agriculture, mining, manufacturing and construction.  Industry assistance only benefits some businesses [but] at the economy’s expense.” 

Take a look at Australia’s government debt clock – $621 billion and rising.

Source: Commentary, The Australian April 3, 2018 p12.


Yes that is how Australia was described by Anglicare’s Executive Director Kasy Chambers.  The organisation commissioned a research paper and report into tax benefits in late March, and what they found was shocking. 

A staggering $68 billion in taxpayers dollars is spent keeping the wealthiest households wealthy… every year.  That is greater than the cost of Newstart (at $11 billion) or the entire Aged pension program ($44 billion).

Here is a list of the tax benefits paid to the top 20% wealthy Australians:

  • Capital gains tax concessions and exemptions
  • Superannuation concessions and tax breaks
  • Private education tax exemptions
  • Private health care tax exemptions
  • Negative gearing
  • Discretionary trusts

Yep that’s $37 a week taken from every worker in Australia not to mention the foregone tax revenue $68 billion every year.  Something’s got to give.

Source:  The Cost of Privilege, Anglicare Australia and percapita.

End of Blog quote :  Modern slaves are not in chains,  they are in debt.

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Feb 28

Jobs versus Ai II Uni versus TAFE II Aged care innovation II Hanson – cut payroll tax II Gas for Twiggy

Contents: Jobs versus Ai II Uni versus TAFE II Aged Care innovation II Job Active not working II Hanson – cut payroll tax II Gas for Twiggy

Nearing the end of February and there’s been little news on the national front over the past couple of months with the pollies away on their summer vacation.  Plenty of scandal though and even now,  they’re back hurling insults across the floor in the first week of parliamentary sittings – where’s the policy?

We’ve done gay marriage but what else?   Now the government wants to give big business a tax cut down to 25%.  Can we afford it, no… will it bring jobs I doubt it. 

On jobs versus Ai,  Associate Professor Dr. Louise Floyd has been focusing some of her research on robotics and the gig economy.  Her new  book ‘Employment Labour and Industrial Law in Australia’ published by Cambridge Press was co-written with Steenson, Coulthard, Williams and Pickering.  Dr Floyd who works at James Cook University, Cairns says ‘there’s a revolution happening in the workplace’… more worrying is her projected belief that ‘all workers will be replaced by robots.’   

Writing in The Australian today,  Tim Dodd the Higher Education Editor said “Universities will feel the force of disruption and come under pressure to offer shorter courses with content more relevant to an automated economy driven by artificial intelligence, according to high level US political and policy adviser Bruce Reed. 

Mr Reed will deliver the keynote address at the 2018 Universities Australia Conference in Canberra this week.   “Universities will have to move away from full length degrees down to a 3 year degree and these microdegrees will be more specific.”    Another interesting point raised in the article is that universities are teaching and honing in on skills that are hardest to automate – critical thinking, judgement, collaboration, emotional intelligence,  all things that AI will take longer to assimilate.   

With the next wave of  disruption there will be increasing pressure on workforces globally especially on semi-skilled and non-college educated workers.   Reed also pointed out “We have an enormous opioid crisis, life expectancy is falling as Americans over 50 are killing themselves with drug overdoses, suicide and alcoholism.  Sociologists now refer to these deaths as the ‘deaths of despair’,  there is a sense of loss and deep anxiety within the next generation.  

Peter Van Onserlen writing for the Inquirer at the weekend, was critical of a front page headline “Unis failing to deliver for business”.  In the latest employer satisfaction survey undertaken by the Federal Government, 84% of businesses were satisfied with graduates they hired.   Examining the tables, the worst performing uni – the University of Southern Queensland scored 78.4% (just 1.6% short of a distinction !) while the top performer, James Cook University had an overall satisfaction of 90.6%. 

Van Onselen goes on to suggest that the negative spin espoused by the Ai Group,  reminded him of the constant culture-war bashing of the ABC.  Universities are as much about research as they are about teaching with academics (like Dr Floyd) expected to spend roughly 50% of their time developing technological and scientific breakthroughs as well as forewarning on social, economic and environmental challenges.    Underfunding under Howard and full fee paying overseas students have resulted in the commercialisation of university education.   In December the Federal Government proposed funding cuts of $2.2 billion for universities.  In addition there is the lowering of the threshold for the repayment of HECS-HELP fees from $54,869 down to $42,000 with a sliding scale of 1-4% of taxable income as the new repayment rate.  

Tuition fees paid by students both Australian and international, now contribute more to the income of Australian universities that the government grants they receive.  More than 20% of income comes from international students alone.  Last year 350,000 international students studied here.  Some of our leading universities will earn up to $700 million from international student tuition fees in a year.  Our tertiary education sector is now our third largest export at $30 billion a year.  

Uni versus TAFE

Since the coalition gained power, there has been a 31% decline in the number of hours of TAFE education delivered, and nearly a 15% fall in government funded TAFE places.  Last Friday, Labor’s shadow minister for education Tanya Plibersek, announced that a Labor government would hold a national inquiry into post secondary education.   The Business Council has called for whole scale reform of the VET sector, suggesting a crippling skills shortage is coming in nursing, community care, mechanical engineering and technology.  There is no bridge between intellectual and practical studies. 

TAFEs are now too starved of funding to bridge that gap. Labor has been quiet on the intended $2.2 billion cut to universities,  its intention is to focus on VET.   Looking at the whole picture,  if as Louise Floyd suggests robots will replace the majority of jobs, we need to think about how people will live,  surviving on a meagre universal wage (see Jan. blog re Finland),  perhaps taking up horticulture, plumbing, building and welding at TAFE is not such a bad idea after all –  a small holding,  a shed,  some vegetables and an increased appreciation of nature seems like a good solution.  

Sources: Matthew Killoran, Cairns Post Wed 28 Feb 2018 p13, Peter Van Onselen, Inquirer – The Weekend Australian Jan 13-24 p20,  Tim Dodd, Higher Education – Spectre of AI looms over unis and work, The Australian Wed 28 Feb p28, Robert Bolton & Iain Watt, Australian Financial Review, Mon 26 Feb p14.

Aged Care Innovation

Populist newspapers like The Australian tend to dramatise,  but there is no denying Australia will have an increasing number of retirees, estimated at 5 million by 2040.  In the article entitled “An Aged Care and Health Tsunami will swamp  us unless we act now” it is estimated that 180,000 more carers will be needed and 85,000 more nurses” within the next seven years.

In the article by Van Smeerduk and Mead (PwC and Australian Unity),  it is suggested that governments invest in an independent mechanism for trials with new community partners and innovative models of care, the price tag  is estimated at $500 million to start this innovation accelerator.   Less than a month on, and the University of Wollongong has launched its own $500 million project to bring health clinics, an aged care centre and a retirement village together with health research and teaching.  Lend Lease have been selected as the proposed partner.  

The university will focus on translating health research into practical applications, creating new models of “patient centred” care.  Wollongong vice-chancellor Paul Wellings said – “The first stage (on the 7.5 ha site) will include a 108 bed residential aged care facility, 199 independent retirement units, and retail shops.  The main health clinic ‘intoHealth’ will be modelled on the Mayo Clinics in the US.   This project will transform the university’s old innovation campus.  Image : Health & Wellbeing Precinct planned for University of Wollongong

Sources: James Van Smeedijk – PwC,  Rohan Mead MD Australian Unity, Tim Dodd, The Australian Wed 28 Feb., p28.

Job Active not working !

Front page headlines of an audit of government funded job agencies has raised issues over fraud with fewer than 40% of clients finding long-term work.  “…more than a third of job agencies performed so badly they should be disqualified.”  There is plentiful evidence that job agencies induced and harassed former clients for payslips from their new employers (irrelevant of whether the job was filled by their efforts), in order to claim financial bonuses.  Job Network providers,  now known as Job Active agencies are handed incentive payments every four weeks after a client starts a job and then again at three months and then six months. These incentive payments can total $13,750 for each client.  I know I have worked in such an agency.

Fewer than 40% of clients remain employed after the six months,  and many of the placements are government sponsored.  Further almost half of the $1.7 billion spent on job agencies goes to administration costs.  Of 1648 employment services, 569 were found to be at fault.  In Western Australia where the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash lives, just 14% of the 107 employment services sites met the grade.  The bonuses in many cases are the only revenue keeping some of the agencies afloat so tight are the contracts they are tied to.   

There are moves within the Labor Party to assess the entire employment services model although parliamentarians are tight-lipped on the policy.  Ed Husic, employment services spokesman said “We spend roughly $9 billion on these govt job programs,  the second largest area of procurement outside of defence.  We have 730,000 people out of work, 40,00 employment service consultants and only 20% of their clients find work for more than 6 months.”   Even the CEO of Jobs Australia, David Thompson, said the system was a hopeless mess and hugely ineffective and had been run to the advantage of large companies.  On average staff in these agencies have a case load of 150 jobseekers,  some have 300 on their books.  It’s cheap and ineffective.  In addition 43% of providers have a risk rating of “extreme or high”, with more than half rated ‘extreme’ due to concerns about their ongoing financial viability.  There are also between 4000-4900 suspected invalid claims per quarter.  Fold it up and start again is what I say.

Source: Rick Morton,  Social Affairs editor,   The Australian  Tues Oct 31, 2017 front page headlines.

One Nation will not be supporting tax cuts for big business.  According to Senator Hanson, companies could pay down debt, increase shareholder returns, and/or lower prices.  The shortfall in tax will increase debt.  Senator Hanson goes on to refer to the American tax cuts which are expected to double US debt in the first year and add more than $US1 trillion to debt in 10 years.  Senator Hanson makes the point that the government needs to give investors globally competitive electricity and gas prices.   “Experts say we have the weakest tax regime for offshore gas so foreign owned multinational petroleum companies do not pay for our gas nor do they pay tax on profits made from our gas.     I challenge the goverment to do a deal with the states and remove payroll tax – that will lead to more jobs.   But Scott Morrison reckons he’s got the job market covered with 400,000 new jobs last year.  (Source:  The Australian Mon 26 Feb. p12)

Andrew Forrest (Twiggy), the billionaire who took less than a decade to build the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer wants to sell ‘gas’.   Via his private energy company Squadron Energy he is investing in a new venture called Australian Industrial Energy.  

A shortage caused by exporting east coast gas to the world in the form of liquid natural gas is best answered by importing LNG to a re-gasification terminal at one of NSW industrial ports. 

AIE is funded by Forrest, the second investor is Marubeni, a Japanese trading house, the third investor is  JERA.  JERA is the LNG buying house for Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric Power. 

JERA is the world’s biggest LNG buyer accounting for approx 10% of the market. JERA purchases 35 million tonnes of LNG per year,  to place these expanding volumes JERA is going to expand as an LNG trading house.    AIE is going to need 2 milllon tonnes of LNG annually.   AIE is suggesting it can provide 75% of the NSW market requirements in gas.  It hopes to use Australian LNG.   

Many manufacturers have complained that the new contract pricing demanded has been nigh on extortionate.   Pricing and potential unreliability makes electricity an unlikely alternative energy source.    There is talk at Squadron of a ‘virtual pipeline’  linking east coast gas markets to regional liquid natural gas markets.  Queensland’s three LNG plants consume more than the whole of the domestic gas market.  Gas producers are struggling to sustain export and domestic demands.  

Victoria is also considering two similar proposals using an FSRU – floating storage and regasification unit, anchored off a specific coastal port … it would then be sent to the onshore pipeline network.    A third option is the west to east pipeline advanced by the Federal Government with a pre – feasibility study due next month.   If the imported LNG was from WA,  it would form a virtual east-west pipeline by boat.  In Australia JERA has interests in the Gorgon, Wheatstone, Ichthys and Darwin projects.   Gas is a transition fuel moving Australia towards a renewable energy future.   See end of Blog quote below:

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Jan 29

Welcome to 2018 II The Grand Seducer II emotive images II the new slavery II Kurds help and hindrance II Reflections on 2017 II

Welcome to 2018

The French President Emmanuel Macron

An image, photograph or painting, it’s the visuals that catch my attention always.  So it was with The Grand Seducer, Emmanuel Macron – even his name says ‘elite’.  Macron was featured in The Weekend Australian Magazine,   the photograph is magnetic.  In the article by Harry de Quettteville, Macron is described as mesmerizing, a master manipulator.  He seems to take such interest, he is clever but above all,  he is a seducer. 

Just turned 40 in December, Macron is one of the new young leaders (Trudeau at 46 is another, and he has just stepped in to strengthen the Trans Pacific Partnership – free trade).  Macron is placed to “unleash a revolution, peel away the bureaucratic stultification and free the French economy.”  Open, lively and charming, the ‘Deuxieme gauche – second left” is Macron’s reason to be.  His connections both political and financial are unrivalled.  Even his private life is exceptional,  he married his former drama teacher, Brigitte who is 64 and has three children by a former marriage. 

On the left he presents as anti-establishment BUT his critics see him as far right, “the frontman for a cabal of unvarnished capitalists who intend to turn France into a US style economy”.  Whatever his modus operandi, this seductive french man is set to re-establish the glory of the French state. 

Emotive images – Bound to happen this Iranian woman is now missing.   International media are re-publishing her photo to draw attention to her plight.  Her name is Vida Movahed, 31, and she has a 20 month old daughter.  Reliable sources confirm her arrest.  It was bound to happen, protesting elevated and alone, and without the mandatory veil.   (Times, Weekend Australian, Jan, 2018).  Protests have been raging again in Iran over government corruption. 

The new slavery – with robots set to reduce jobs for humans, the universal basic income idea has been promoted by battery man, Elon Musk and FB king, Mark Zuckerberg.  BUT the current trial in Finland where 2000 people aged 25 – 58 are being paid $680 a month is viewed with pessimism.  There’s no obligation to seek or take work,  those that do can keep the $680 a month.   How very generous,  $680 a month.  Australia’s Newstart is $538 a fortnight,  $1076 a month.  and you have to either volunteer or study to get paid.  UBI is a bad idea, it’s a lazy solution, read ‘slavery’ down the track.  Yes we have a problem but making a whole new class of welfare dependent individuals,  is not the answer.   Try some innovative thinking.

Turkey’s president has launched a campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria.  A Pentagon spokesman said US and Turkish military commanders had in the past discussed a secure zone along the border with Syria,  but no decision was made.  Now Turkey is taking the lead,  bombing the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) who have worked closely with Washington against Islamic State during the Syrian war.   Further raising tensions, the Turks have floated bombing Manbij, where there is a US military presence.  

And another flashpoint,  Jerusalem.  Below an emotive image from an earlier blog.  Despite being part Jewish,  I feel sorry for the Palestinians.  They are fighting a losing battle. 

A Palestinian boy looks on near burning tyres during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomen, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus.

September 19, 2014. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini 

Reflections on 2017 – in January Skynews put Australia’s deficit at $436 billion (being revenue less spending) that is 17% of GDP.  Yet in December it was published at $300 billion or 20% of GDP.   It seems journalists cannot get it right and neither can I.  

Ministers Porter and Trudge spruiked Centrelink’s debt recovery system.  “We’re owed $70 million and recipients aren’t making any effort to repay it.”  Centrelink’s mistakes,  they overpaid the recipients.  “The government is hoping to recover $4.5 billion mmm HOW?  didn’t we just hear the debt is $70 million,  Must be talking about this spruiking … with robots, if you can get them to answer! 

Affordable housing was also in the headlines.  Then February 2017,  it was farewell to the Obamas.  An independent national review of politicians entitlements was completed in March 2016.  the Government said it would adopt all recommendations.

Senator the Hon Scott Ryan  Image David Foote-AUSPIC/DPS

Special Minister of State, Scott Ryan, pictured (Dept of Finance and Remuneration Tribunal) is said to have failed to implement even one.  Then in January 2017,  the PM announced new compliance,  Health Minister Sussan Leys was duly appointed and she in turn appointed,   guess who?? Scott Ryan. 

Also in February,  with the appointment of President Trump there was plenty of coverage on fake news, housing affordability and budget deficits.  It was reported that one in three Australians were being shortchanged on their SUPER.  Missing is $3 billion a year says the ATO,  but they have no resources to monitor situation.

In March China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ policy was featured, with surging power bills and JCU innovation.  I also promoted my new business Online Tutoring.  My last Japanese student completed her Masters via UTAS and attended her award ceremony in December 2018 in Launceston,  congratulations Reiko. 

Finally in March the Federal Government stepped screaming and kicking into the energy crisis. At JCU Townsville, Dr Madoc Sheehan, Professor Heimann and two research students successfully produced a micro-algae biofilm that can absorb nitrogen and heavy metals from tailings dams.  

In April our BLOG belonged to bloggers, advocates and artists.  Aaron Swartz think creative Commons and Wikipedia, suicided as a young man.  Raif Badawi is still in prison in Saudi Arabia, put there by his own father for espousing religious freedom and gender equality.  First flogged (50 lashes) in a public square in Jeddah,  he has not been leashed since due to international public outcry.  His wife and children have asylum in Canada. 

And a special memory test in Britain can now reliably diagnose Alzheimers.  

June 2017 necessitated the title ‘Bloodsuckers’ referring to Aveo, an Australian company with Malaysian and Hong Kong linkages,  Aveo is known to gouge money from pensioners – 40% of their estate when they leave the village.  Norway spent $4.4 million upgrading the world’s global seed vault.  thank you Norway.  In July we featured rare timbers in Tassie, being brought to life from the depths of lakes.  Inequality was making headlines around the world.  

In August the R1M blog promoted the new Cairns Aquarium and the Mount Emerald Wind Farm.  There were driverless and electric cars and drone taxis,  particularly relevant when my son was about to set up his own driving school.  September,  we veered to Bitcoin.  I say veered,  it is a digital currency beyond restriction and confiscation they say,  but it is restricted … to 21 million units.  In October when I first decided to find out what Bitcoin was,  one bitcoin was worth $5243.  Created by an Australian called Craig Wright in 2008,  he also claims to be Satoshi Nakamotor.  Confused,  I am.  There are now only 4.3 million bitcoins left to mine.  Punters say 30% of the 16.7 million in circulation will be lost forever due to hard drive crashes and misplaced keys.  I won’t be purchasing anytime soon,  I can’t imagine it.

October was when we sadly reported the bombing of the White Helmets in Sarmin, Syria.  Seven of their brave volunteer medics died,  Russia was implicated… from the US,  there was no comment.   Murdoch failed in his battle for SEVEN in Australia and the ‘gig economy was defined by job insecurity.  SUPER – it is not.

November’s blog again featured Australia’s debt.  Our GDP of $1.6 trillion is 69% let’s say 70% based on services.  Cut to university funding forecast – $1.2 billion. It’s our third biggest export.  Student fees are scheduled to rise by 7.5%,  HECS threshold will be slashed down to $42K,  thus discouraging young people from going to University.  Maybe the government only wants international students who pay their way.   And in December,  the calm before the storm,  debt was still headlining.

eyes of a Dreamer by artist JR (Mexican border)

Rover Thomas, indigenous artist

These are some of the images that caught my attention.  And as we leave 2017 and begin a new slate with 2018, my new year’s resolution is to get fitter,  it can’t be that difficult.  

scanning – driverless cars

An eagle captures a drone









Irish artist, Peter Dunne – the road to Thamsar Jot, India



End of blog quote – Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground  Theodore Roosevelt. 

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Unemployment – the tip of the iceberg

Nov 29

Calm before the storm I House of cards I Future of work I Protection and risk

Contents:  Calm before storm and House of Cards refer to the economy, Future of work and Protection and risk.  

Renewable energy jobs in select countries (excluding large hydropower). CREDIT: IRENA

The QLD election has come and gone, and I welcomed the brevity.  We are now into another Christmas and the heat is on. The calm before the storm refers to both Qld’s debt – $71.98 billion,  and the Commonwealth government debt. In June this year the Commonwealth debt reached more than $499 billion.  Gross debt will hit $725 billion in 2027-28, according to the budget documents, but by international standards, Australian government debt remains low  !!!  The most relevant figure of net debt, gross debt minus the country’s financial assets, currently sits at $300 billion or 20 per cent of GDP. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, reporter Eryk Bagshaw, June 14, 2017)

The majority of this blog features a Report on the economy by Matt Barrie, co- authored with Craig Tindale.  The Report concerns the future of Australia’s economy and in every way this influences all of us,  our children and grandchildren. The Australian economy as a whole, has grown through a property bubble inflating on top of a mining bubble, built on top of a commodities bubble, driven by a China bubble.

Societe Generale’s China economist Wei Yao said recently, “Chinese banks are looking down the barrel of a staggering $1.7 trillion — worth of losses”.  Chinese bank losses “could exceed 400% of the U.S. banking losses incurred during the subprime crisis”.  These losses are largely the result of  debt-bloated and unprofitable state-owned enterprises (SOE).  But be aware 2008 banking assets in China were at $8 trillion , today they are close to $45 trillion. 

A hard landing for China is a catastrophic landing for Australia, over one third of our exports go to China. In 2007 when the GFC unfolded the US Federal Reserve cut short term interest rates.  When that didn’t work – to curb rising unemployment and stop growth stagnating, central banks across the globe started printing money which they used to buy up financial securities in an effort to drive up prices. This process is called  quantitative easing (“QE”), to confuse the average person in the street into thinking it wasn’t anything more than conjuring trillions of dollars out of thin air and using that money to buy things in an effort to drive  prices up. Continue reading

Oct 30

Witch hunt II Bitcoin Ascendancy II Eyes of a Dreamer II Headlines of Impact II

Continue reading

Sep 29

Cairns Aquarium II Driving to nowhere II Dutton’s $$ chest II Slashing human rights II Gaza – a way out II eurozone & the amazing Ms Merkel II Tweets abound, Airbnb special and Rover Thomas

Welcome to R1M September blog, featuring the new Cairns Aquarium, driving to nowhere with driverless cars, Dutton’s $$ chest II A way out for Gaza, eurozone fightback and the amazing Ms Merkel  II Tweets abound & Airbnb special and Rover Thomas.

CONGRATULATIONS are due to young local entrepreneurs, Daniel Leipnik and Andrew Preston, who this week achieved their vision with the opening of the Cairns Aquarium.

Featured this week in the Australian Financial Review, reporter Larry Schlesinger said, “A reviving local tourism market has boosted the value of the newly opened Cairns Aquarium to around $100 million deliver[ing] a better-than-expected return to the dozen high net worth investors who funded its construction.”

Pictured sharing a special milestone, Leipnik and Preston open the valves to begin filling the 1.8million litre Oceanarium. Showcasing more than 15,000 aquatic animals, fish, plants, and other organisms housed within 71 live exhibits, it opened last week, after construction commenced in November 2015.

The three-level, 7800 square metre aquarium was developed by Leipnik and Preston at a cost of $54 million. It took them six years to bring the ambitious project to fruition, with its opening marking the first new aquarium developed in Australia since the Melbourne Aquarium opened 18 years ago.  I first covered the plans for the Aquarium in my blog October 2016.  

Key to its development was securing construction finance through a $32 million fixed-term debt facility from specialist lender Gieldan Capital, a joint venture between prominent investment banker Mark Carnegie’s private equity firm, M H Carnegie & Co and fixed income dealer FIIG Securities.” 

Cairns is a dynamic tourism focussed city. This year Dubai-based Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud began developing a third hotel in Cairns having bought a motel and office building on the Cairns Esplanade. Mr Leipnik told local media he expected around 700,000 people to visit the aquarium every year.

Again a link to a previous blog – October 2012 on a clean energy future.  Tom Volling reporting in the Cains Post last week confirmed Powerlink are about to start construction of a 275kV substation to connect the 180 

megawatt Mt Emerald Wind Farm to a transmission network.  Fifty three turbines will be constructed initially, and the $350 million dollar project is expected to generate 150 jobs.  The farm will supply about one third of the Far North’s power needs. Expect to see giant blades on the local roads from the port to Walkamin. Pictured is the base of one of the turbines in construction.

Driverless cars ? Business Insider Intelligence predicts fully autonomous driverless cars on the road by 2019, but having viewed Catalyst last night,  I think it might take a while longer and who wants them anyway?  The pluses for businesses are no employees,  they’re a disrupter.  We won’t need taxi drivers, or uber drivers,  or pizza delivery boys or food delivery people period.  If we want to tour London and don’t know the streets,  hey well,  just hire a driverless car on your mobile and it will turn up at will anywhere just like an Uber car does now, except no driver.  Its robot will talk you through your trip,  find you a toilet,  take you past the Tower of London,  and even look for a hotel room in your budget range. 

Driverless cars require a massive uptake of data to make them safe and knowledgeable and companies are hoping their artificial intelligence insemination will help to avoid death by collision, miscalculation and or code deficit.  Now if you want to talk about electric cars,  that’s a different story.  Bring them on, lessen carbon emissions, batteries will propel them upwards, sideways and hopefully forwards. (Pictured: Ford’s driverless test car).

Companies involved in cartech revolution – companies manufacturing electric cars are Tesla, Panasonic, Ford and General Motors, but it’s the Renault-Nissan alliance which has moved nearly 37,000 electric cars this year, more than Tesla.  Source: Bertal Schmidt, Forbes 2017. 

Companies involved in manufacturing driverless cars are more diverse and with many more partnerships due to the requirements of high-end technology in both software and sensor technology. Google’s Waymo is developing just that. Audi is also in the race with Nvidia (graphic card maker) aiming for Level 4 autonomy by 2020 but far ahead of the pack is a Boston start-up, nuTonoy, a robot taxi now in service in Singapore.  You can take a free trip in nuTonoy (see pic) or try it as a self driving car. 

And in today’s news (28 September 2017) featured in the Cairns Post is Dubai’s ‘Hover taxi” developed by a German drone company.  Drone firm Volocopter describes its flying taxi as resembling a small two seater helicopter with 18 propellers above the cabin.  The Hover taxi has a maximum 30 minutes flying time, back up batteries and a couple of parachutes.  Airbus, Kitty Hawk (backed by Google) and Uber are all working on flying taxis. They’re a little behind Brazil who have had chopper taxis since 1999.  In fact Sao Paulo has the world’s largest helicopter fleet (420) and 820 pilots. And a chopper obviously has more power than a drone, should you need to leave that meeting in a hurry!

Business Insider, with Navigant Research today published a leadership grid for self driving cards.  Navigant ranked the 18 companies out of 100 points on those most likely to get their self driving cars on the road first. 

The German auto supplier ZF is high on the list having commercialised Nvidia’s PX2 processing platform ProAi,  PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) are using ZF also and had four of its self driving cars drive 360 miles in 2015.  This was early.  Volvo is test driving its cars with families in Sweden.  Waymo (Google’s self driving car) was launched in 2009, and Waymo has driven over 2 million miles autonomously in the US.  Partnered with Fiat Chrysler,  Waymo also had a partnership with Lyft, Avis and Intel.  BMA has advanced driving assistance right now in its luxury models and has teamed up with Intel and Mobileye.  Volkswagon and Audi are in the mix as is Daimler forecasting 2020. The Renault Nissen Alliance has proPILOT, a self drive feature that lets production cars drive autonomously on highways in Japan.  General Motors is said to be ready for mass production, its self drive cars will all be electric.   But the leader is Ford, it has an automous test fleet of 100 cars.  In February Ford invested a further $1 billion in Argo AI, a secretive artificial intelligence start up in Pittsburg…  that says to me that things still aren’t quite right. Image opp. shows how a driverless car using LIDAR perceives its surroundings.

But driverless cars are coming… and how much will they be? For starters, there is LIDAR, the highly sensitive laser sensor that is the core of almost all autonomous vehicles that’s about $85,000 currently. Ouch! (Source: Business Insider, Denielle Muoio Sept 28, 2017)

Dutton’s money chest – the Hon Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has  been on a spending spree to get help restructuring his ‘super’ department.  Over the past two years $26 million has been paid to Boston Consulting to provide both strategic and advisory services.  Most recently as reported in The Australian (Sept 6) one of BCG’s contracts to restructure Dutton’s department was upgraded from $370,000 to $2.8 million.  Nauru still hangs in the balance while Manus is closing.  The operation of both refugee camps has cost the tax payer $2.57 billion.  $28.8 million to sort out a Department that the Minister should be capable of restructuring on his own merit,  wouldn’t you think so? AND I thought we had a budget deficit !

Headlines of Impact

Slashing Human rights – The Philippines President Duterte has slashed the budget of the Human Rights Commission from $A16.5 million to $A25.00.  Nothing less than an insult. Also reported in the Guardian Weekly on the 22 September, the entire police force of 1200, has been sacked in the city of Caloocan.

Hamas and Fatah to shake hands – a power sharing unity government in Gaza and on the West Bank

Any conciliatory action on relieving the living conditions of Palestinians is welcome.  Reporting on the 17 September (SBS News & AFP) Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said a bilateral meeting with Hamas would be organised to begin working out a way forward.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.The statement comes after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials last week. Gaza is facing a mounting humanitarian crisis. Pictured above, a Hamas security guard stands near the border between Egypt and Gaza. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group has agreed to dissolve its Gaza administration and hold general elections to end its long feud with Egypt’s Fatah movement. (Source: EPA/Hassan Ali)

Gaza is facing deteriorating humanitarian conditions, including a severe electricity crisis and a lack of clean water. The coastal enclave of some two million people also has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. 

Eurozone strikes back … Growth in the 19 country eurozone has quietly outshone the US over the past two years.  Annualised growth shows the single currency bloc growing at 2.3% and production is up 3.2% on last year, said Jennifer Rankin reporting for The Guardian Weekly.  France is still behind the ball park, however Germany’s economy remains solid, Spain has bounced back not so, Greece,  but Italy’s economy is doing better despite issues over heavily indebted banks.  

Angela Merkel is back for another four years, having served 12 years as Germany’s Chancellor. Highly visible during the eurozone crisis, Merkel has stayed largely at home in 2017 steering her party solidly and strongly towards victory. She repeatedly changed position when the public mood diverged from her conservative principles.

A physicist in another life, Merkel stuck with her humanitarian discourse having welcomed over a million refugees. “We will handle it” she insisted. Germany has since, tightened eligibility for asylum, enacted tougher security and struck a deal with Turkey to close migrant routes through the Balkans.  Pictured above -German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands in front of her campaign tour bus in Berlin September 16, 2013 (Source : REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch). 

“There is no fear that the refugees will take jobs, everyone already has work” says Sebastian Sunhammer whose Bavarian factory makes trucks.  (Sources: Sydney Morning Herald, Nick Miller 23-24 September, 2017 p29, The Australian, Anton Troianovski, Berlin Sept 22, 2017 p.12 & Weekend Australian, Jacquelin Magnay Sept 23-24 p.12) 

Twitter to double tweet size – 280 letters,  what more can I say?

Airbnb special – Loftium (Seattle) will provide prospective home buyers with up to A$64,000 for a down payment on a house as long as they are willing to continuously list an extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share most of the income with Loftium over that time.  This service is “for people who don’t have the parents to help or the high income to save while paying rent,” said Ms Zhang, one of the founders.  Ms Zhang said she had had about 200 Airbnb guests in her townhouse.  (Source: Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times/ Australian Financial Review 28 September, 2017).

Digital payments, the dark side – digital bank payments have resulted in greater surveillance and a massive increase in financial cybercrime, according to Brett Scott writing in The Guardian Weekly (22 Sept 2017).  Sweden leads the way whereby every transaction is passed via banks, card companies, phone providers and payment apps.  Its citizens every economic interaction is logged in a database.  Such States have the potential to institute economic censorship.  Corporations too are anxious to acquire this data.  But I prefer the idea of cash remaining available,  I abhor the possibility of being forced to accept a pension card which only allows me 20% of my aged pension in cash.  I refuse to be dictated to in terms of what I eat,  where I buy my food and how much I spend on my car, travelling and life in general.  It’s no-one’s business except mine. So resist digital payments and hang onto your cash. PS: Couldn’t have attended the Elton John concert last night without cash, venue rules stated no food, no bottled water or alcohol unless paying cash.  Now there you have it.

Last but not least ART 

Rover Thomas, born in 1926 in the Great Sandy Desert, Rover Thomas is a renowned Aboriginal artist from the Kimberley region.  Click on the link above, to discover more of his incredible art. Rover Thomas died in 1998 but his paintings are now highly valued by collectors. Featured in The Saturday Paper this week, Partrick Hartigan a Sydney based artist, talks about the man and his work. His paintings currently vary in price from A$6000 to over A$400,000. (Pictured the magnificent Bullock Hide Story 1995.)

Quote of the month : You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible – Anton Chekhov

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Sep 01

Nth Korea II SUPA NOT II Iceberg II Screen legend II Breaking News

North Korea – short and sharp

Introduction:  With one day to research and write, this month’s blog is a challenge.

This week  the North Korean Leader decided to threaten anyone and everyone by shooting a ballistic missile over Japan. The world I think, has a short time span for reacting to atrocities, famine, and even war these days.  For 48 hrs Kim Jong Un had our attention.

North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan was a prelude to more military operations directed at the American territory of Guam, North Korean state media warned on the Wednesday.

Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un receives a military briefing in Pyongyang. Source: KRT via AP VideoSource:AP


…then the media frenzy moves to the next story. 

For me it was Superannuation or lack of it. 


In the early 2000s I seem to remember government departments were outsourcing, creating contracts, but beware the mantra – ‘don’t worry if you are made redundant …we’ll definitely keep you in mind for a consultancy’.  And lo and behold such consultancies appeared.

For usually a year or more, the consultant would manage projects with a specific focus on policy. All well and good. You got your supa paid, you got your entitlements (Minister Hockey hated the word but loved the money!).  

As budgets contracted, being a contractor could also mean months of unemployment between work. Nine months is about average for mature age people between jobs. During this time I used to withdraw from my supa to keep afloat, who can live on Newstart at $290 a week, particularly if you are a sole parent? 

But things have changed.  We’re working in the ‘gig’ economy now – read ‘short term engagements’. 

In the gig economy, we’re now puppets of Facebook and mobile phones.  We’re working longer hours for less money, and signing contracts that are dodgy to say the least, but you wouldn’t complain.  We don’t get paid if we have to take a break, burnout happens. There’s often no sick pay working in the ‘gig economy’, no holiday leave, and no superannuation.   

On contract you can’t afford to pay supa anyway,  who had that mad idea !

There’s not even any enforcement regulation it seems, although the Super Guarantee is mandatory. Employers do as they like.  Joanna Mather writing in Tuesday’s (29 Aug, 2017), Australian Financial Review confirmed that the ATO estimates the gap between what employers nationally have paid and what they owe in terms of superannuation is $3.26 billion. 

ATO Superannuation Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran said the ATO was stepping up the numbers of investigations undertaken in the area of Superannuation.  “The Super guarantee is a compulsory minimum contribution that employers must pay into employees superannuation accounts. The Senate Economics Committee is looking at tougher penalties.  Hooray.

Iceberg or New economy

The Foundation for Young Australians’ (FYA) New Work Order research series, encompasses five reports to date, analysing how disruption to the world of work has significant implications for young Australians. Established in 2015 the FYA has analysed over 20 billion hours of work completed by 12 million Australian workers each year to predict the skills and capabilities that will matter most in 2030.

Nearly one in three young people are currently unemployed or underemployed and on average
it takes 4.7 years to transition from full-time education to full-time work.  I personally query that statistic, I don’t see much full time work around, particularly permanent full time work.  It appears to be only prevalent in the public service.

The report shows that as technology reduces the need for workers to complete routine, manual tasks will be far less, they will spend more time focusing on people, solving strategic problems and thinking creatively.

A new commitment to skills, training, careers education and real jobs for young Australians; is now promised.

  • A promise and a plan for the equitable intergenerational transfer of knowledge, resources and power in the new economy

Based on subscription membership the foundation appears very helpful – creating leadership advice etc., but what will it actually do? Check out the website’s Youth Programs.   You be the judge, see what you think.

Automation is going to increase unemployment.

“Unemployment – the tip of the iceberg”

In a study produced for the Centre for Applied Economic Research at the University of New South Wales, Professor Mitchell and his Senior Research Officer Ellen Carlson, found high unemployment rates were persistent in all OECD economies.  They have been since the early 1970s and economists and policy makers claim it is the result of  “institutional arrangements in the labour market –  such as wage setting, unions, faulty government policies and welfare…[yet] after 25 years of harsh cutbacks and structural dislocation, unemployment remains persistently high.”  

Mitchell (2001) states in his conclusion,  “mass unemployment occurs because of deficient demand resulting from inadequate levels of net government spending”,  adding that the demand constraints and structural changes have been forced upon the workforce.

I couldn’t believe it this week when Senator MichaelIa Cash, the Unemployment Minister (sorry,  Minister for Employment), started spruiking ‘mature age employment’ yet again.  The government  is flailing around seeking good luck stories anywhere that will distract from its lack of policy legislation.  My god I thought,  had they found my thesis,  or noted the money poured in that direction before Howard grabbed the policy and it became the “Diversity Awards”? 

Shorten’s point

If the economy is to start moving again, people need money in their pockets. I think Shorten has a point. Inequality, issues with the Fair Work Act and superannuation, the energy crisis and yes a lack of jobs, are fuelling discontent.  We’ll be hearing more on all fronts.

Screen Legend…

This was the headline on the cover of the AFR on 13 August.  Patrick Grove couldn’t find anyone in Australia to back his start up Iflix.  His streaming service is now worth $700 million. 

Android phones are it – the way to stream content in Asia.  Writing in the Australian Financial Review, journalist John Stensholt said “Over the previous decade Grove now 42, established the iProperty Group, ICar Asia, and the IBuy Group  on the ASX. A young Grove pictured, watch him explain how he operates now in this video   

With a commerce degree from the University of Sydney, Grove joined the boom after two years at Arthur Anderson.   His property business alone sold for $751 million in 2016.

Enter iFlix which is run from Kuala Lumpur. IFlix is cheaper than Netflix.  This week the Company announced a $US133 million capital raising.  Iflix is now close to ‘unicorn’ status as a $1 billion tech company like Atlassian

Patrick Grove is still nurturing his baby.  On revenue he remarked “Celebrities are massive in our market” he said.  The typical celebrity can reach more people on Instagram than buying the front page of the newspaper every day for a week.  The company is targeting 3 billion people in 50 emerging markets in Asia.”  Smartphones – it seems they’re gold?


Having started this blog with North Korea,  I find myself quickly switching from provocative war mongering to dinner tonight.  

In January in 2016, whilst staying with my sister Candy in Northern Ireland,  my sisters and I had the most sumptuous home made dishes with a glass of wine (or three),  whilst she periodically shouted the word “homework” as her daughters meandered in and out of the kitchen tasting titbits.   Homework and pastry was the focus as the wind howled across the harbour below. 

We could even see snow on the mountains in Scotland from the living room window. This is why I end up making pastry,  it brings back so many wonderful memories.

Breaking News

CBS is set to shake up our TV market.  Having taken control of the TEN Network, the US giant is set to roll out its own streaming services in Australia.

Fortunately the planned Murdoch-Gordon take-over with bids for TEN conditional upon a favourable shake up of media ownership laws, has been thwarted. 

The looming media ownership legislation can now be binned,  one less for the government to have to think about.  Good.  

The offerings from the major public broadcaster  have been weak of recent,  and while I realise the ABC had to suffer $250 million in cuts thanks to Turnbull as Communications Minister, most people are streaming  entertainment, bored with endless repeats, cooking shows and mildly funny sitcoms. 

CBS according to Michael Smith, journalist writing for the AFR (29 Aug, 2017) “has the deep pockets and management expertise” to fix the struggling TEN Network.  The US giant was also Ten’s largest creditor with a $795.5million claim against the company.  

CBS’s All Access digital subscription membership costs only US$6 per month in the US.   Sounds good to me.


Seven members of the White Helmets rescue service were killed by assailants in a raid on their base in Sarmin.  Which assailants?  Why is the US expressing ‘sadness and horror’,  was the US responsible? See the above link.

The White Helmets, also known as Syria Civil Defence, search for survivors in the rubble of bombed buildings.

They gained international attention following an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary about their work. 

Local employment and affordable housing

I’m on his side,  yes I agree with the Major Bob Manning – the pensioner cottages in Parramatta Park should go,  save one maybe for posterity onsite but let’s get with the program – 30 couples into new affordable housing,  come on.

“ It’s a no brainer,”  says the Mayor.   Council will appeal the Heritage listing. Source: Public Housing Pensioner Cottages, Image Anna Rogers

End of blog quote

Occasionally I pull out one or other of my poetry books,  it helps to anchor myself in the garden. 

Purchased years ago in a book sale,  The Poetry of Gardens by M. Aumonier is a completely hand made book with illustrations dated 1944.  The two lines at the end of the book just delight me

“The flowers are holding revel to-night

For the garden is flooded with strange moonlight”…

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