Aug 28

Omnibus – no bus at all II Creative Cairns – illuminating ART II Youth Unemployment, a disgrace II Asteroid – too close for comfort II Trump a trickster

Omnibus – no bus at all …

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull p1_rts1y6n

Omnibus budget

The election is long gone, the census debacle a faint memory, and I thought I should just check on the $6.5 billion omnibus bill …a $1.3 billion cut with the removal of the clean energy supplement.  That amount equates to $14 a fortnight for those on aged pension and indeed all other welfare recipients including those on Newstart, who receive a meagre $260 per wk.

At the risk of being acerbic, omnibus is the Latin meaning “for all”, and refers to a passenger-carrying vehicle, originally an enclosed horse-drawn one.  Are we being penalised – transported back to the Victorian era for having spent at least $227 million holding the election and $440 million for the census (on 2011 stats), probably more with the technology bungle by IBM..$660million plus when government wasn’t even sitting.   Source: Image courtesy of The Saturday Paper Aug 28, 2016 , Journalist Sophie Morris and  Heath Pickering. Deputy Editor, Election Watch, 2016.

September is a creative month in Cairns,  there’s the Races,  fashion and the 8-day Cairns Festival (Fri 26 Aug – Sun 4 Sept).   This year is particularly exciting because I noticed months ago that there was a workshop at the Tanks for float construction.  http://www.cairns.qld.gov.au/festival/news-events/events/event-workshops/float-concept-And-design-workshop

The last time I watched the Grand Parade was when the Festival was called “Fun In the Sun” and my son was only five.  Since then what floating impressions I gained were marked by a large number of utes with balloons and cardboard advertisements.   This year I believe it will be better, much better.

The August edition of Cairns Life showcased the Melbourne SKA Orchestra on its cover (Sun 28 Aug 6.30pm).  The Cairns Festival website is promoting the Soweto Gospel Choir who will be performing in the new open air space at Munro Martin Park on Saturday 3 September.  And of course there’s the Carnival on Collins and the Grand Parade on Saturday 27 August, starting at 5.30pm followed by Fire Works at 7.30pm.  It’s the best time to be in Cairns.

In my July blog I featured a piece on installation art and again in that vein,  projection art will feature in this month’s blog.  It’s all about light. Enjoy…

Peter Solness_r0_35_656_404_w1200_h678_fmaxPeter Solness (see above) is one of a group of Australian artists whose primary focus is light.

This artwork of magic orbs was featured recently in the Weekend Australian’s magazine.  Solness is in Cairns for the Festival and he will produce five of his famous Field of Orbs events in locations around the city, painting our communities with light.  Source: Images courtesy of Peter Solness.  

Also tonight EnLIGHTenment – Ocean and Earth will see the Cairns Library coated in light and colour. From 6.30pm to 9.30pm Australian artist Craig Walsh will project digital video artworks onto the Library building using 3-D, mapping, sculpture, photography and sound. “His works incorporate stories and perspectives [that] connect with communities in a meaningful and empowering process of self-reflection in relation to environment.”  Source – Cairns Festival website. 

'Emergency' produced by Craig Walsh in Hyde Park Sydney in 2012

‘Emergency’ produced by Craig Walsh in Hyde Park Sydney in 2012

This artwork was a collaboration between Art & About Sydney and the Australian Museum.  Acknowledgement: Craig Walsh and website developers, Yuki Nakano and Scott MacKenzie. 

'Embrace' by local artists, Braham Stevens

‘Embrace’ by local artists, Braham Stevens

On Cairns public art,  I have to say I do not understand ‘Embrace’ a piece of public art costing $165,000 which is supposed to depict the reef and deltas of Far North Queensland.   Why is it black ?

The artist behind the design and work is Braham Stevens, a Woopen Creek based sculptor.  Woopen Creek is near Mt Bartle Frere, south of Cairns. It’s almost as bad as the marble rock plonked outside the JCU Administration building.

However…Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   Acknowledgement : Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (née Hamilton), who wrote many books, often under the pseudonym of ‘The Duchess’. In Molly Bawn, 1878, there’s the line “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, which is the earliest citation of the phrase in print.  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/59100… 

So let’s be inspired by this beautiful lightgraff work, light graff meaning drawing or writing with light.  Karim Jabbari is a Tunisian artist known worldwide for his drawing and writing with light.  Jabbari is a calligrapher whose work is inspired by ancient Arabic scriptures.  This artwork was produced at the top of a steep cliff near Albany, Western Australia.

Produced for the FORM Public Festival, this light painting was produced with local photographer Chad Peakcock and film maker Bewley Shaylor, Design and production by Karim Jabbari 2016

Produced for the FORM Public Festival, this light painting was produced with local photographer Chad Peakcock and film maker Bewley Shaylor, by Karim Jabbari 2016

Source: Victoria Laurie, journalist – Feature : Light on the Landscape, The Australian.com.au/review July 30-31 2016.

Now to a more serious discussion.

Youth unemployment in Cairns is now at 39.1% (June 2016).  Cairns total unemployment rate is 9.9%, way above the national average.   Young people_450693112-740x385Newscorp is to be commended for running a campaign to find 5000 jobs (in 50 days) for young Australians desperately seeking work.  However this is a national campaign and I don’t see any movement by Federal member Warren Entsch or State member Rob Pyne to alleviate Cairns’ staggeringly high youth unemployment rate.   This is a 10% increase in youth unemployment in a year!  The only light on the horizon was a job advertised today with the Cairns Regional Council for an Employment Strategy Coordinator.

In Cairns and the region we understand what a low wage economy is, with casualisation employing more than one in three people in tourism or retail related positions.  There are of course exceptions – jobs in the public service are well paid,  dare I say, inflated to provide senior bureaucrats with salary packages in some cases double those of ministers,  and in every State the public sector jobs have grown.  While these positions are not classed as welfare dependent, they are government funded via the tax payer and with the new Turnbull government seeking to address the deficit, yesterday citing it as a moral challenge,  it seems cruel to attack those with the least,  including young people on Newstart.

I discovered that a driving instructor working in Cairns is likely to be taking home $600 a week while working a 60 hr week.   Subdued wages growth is sapping domestic demand and economic growth according to Paul Cleary, an economist writing for the Weekend Australian Business Review this month.

Unions are battling to hold on to weekend penalty rates but have been unable to address growing job insecurity and casualisation, which is hiding mass levels of under employment.  The minimum wage is set at $17.70 per hr but many employers are finding creative ways to avoid even paying that minimum.

The Economist suggested we review Keynesian economic theory – when an economy is operating below full employment, demand rather than supply determines the level of investment and national income.  This suggests spending rather than saving,  a suggestion that would probably cause Scott Morrison to have an apoplectic fit. But I’ve got a solution why don’t all the politicians (and senior bureaucrats) take a hair cut.  Backbenchers earn $200,000 a year, and don’t get me started on their entitlements.

Artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. Image via NASA

Artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. Image via NASA

Asteroid – too close for comfort

Lastly on Tuesday August 2 (as reported in the Courier Mail), NASA announced plans to launch a probe to study Bennu,  an asteroid which crosses the Earth’s orbit every six years.  In 2135 Bennu will fly between the moon and the Earth,  too close for comfort according to Arizona University Professor Dante Lauretta who says the asteroid could affect the earth’s gravity and potentially put it on course for the Earth.  The asteroid travels at 101,000 km/hr.   The NASA probe with align its orbit with Bennu in August 2018.  Clear for take-off.

Footnote: ” Grandpa Trump trained as a barber, but made his money with a string of saloons and brothels” up on the Klondike (Yukon, NW Canada) in the 1890s. Friedrick Drumpf – grandmother of Donald was a German immigrant who returned to Germany after the goldrush in 1901.  He was subseq-uently deported back to the US for dodging his tax obligations (sound familiar) and military service.  With a changed name,  ‘the Donald’ seems to be a chip of the old block,  the trump card – a trickster.

Source: Ben MacIntyre – The Times, London March 5-6, 2016

End of Blog Quote: Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.  Robert A. Heinlein‘s short story “Logic of Empire” (1941)

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Jul 30

Populism II Walking on Water II Trending II A pocket rocket

Writing my blog,  I never want to consider this a task. It’s more a passion – the fact is that it’s a process, a research job… requiring discipline with deadlines.  This month’s blog is devoted to issues relating to democratic capitalism, art, technology and innovation. Again your comments are welcome.

POPULISM

Evgeny Morozov, TED fellow and journalist,  writing for The Guardian in early April said “wars in the Middle East, refugees, increasingly regular terrorist attacks… are all symptomatic of a crisis in democratic capitalism.  Changing a capitalist economic system (implicit rule by the few) to a democratic political system (the explicit rule by the many) is problematic.  The system’s objectives are to promote equality, justice and fairness.  800px-Evgeny_Morozov,_Author,_To_Save_Everything,_Click_Here_(8568053409)

Morozov tells us that as democracy comes under threat from inequality and terrorism, Google and Facebook have taken over.   Morozov claims that the financial industry has been buying time but the fourth industrial revolution – big data automation is just around the corner.  I don’t want to believe that Google and Facebook could take over essential services although agreed, the ability to implement change on a large scale is increasingly limited to technology giants, e.g., IBM and the Qld Health’s botched Payroll system.

Remember our last election with Shorten and Turnbull  – it was a 24/7 media circus,  boring the viewers over on eight week long period.   “Technology firms are becoming the default backgrounds in which our politics is conducted” says Morozov.  I’d say ‘yes that’s true of Australia.’  And, writes Morozov techno firms are “impossible to undo. As democracy comes under threat from inequality and terrorism, Google and Facebook have taken over.”

Source: The Guardian Weekly 1.04.2016 p.18  http://www.evgenymorozov.com/  

WALKING ON WATER

This glorious installation was conceived by artist Christo with his late wife Jeanne-Claude.  It was nearly 2 miles long and connected two islands .   gallery-1466464763-gettyimages-541024670Built in Italy’s Lake Iseo the installation used 200,000 high density polyethylene cubes …pictured are people just enjoying a stroll on the fabric walkway.

Interesting to note that both Evgeny Morozov (above) and Christo, were born in Bulgaria.  Christo’s wife was born in Casablanca of a French military family, sadly she died in New York in 2009.

See more http://christojeanneclaude.net/

AUSTRALIAN START UPS

“Optus Chairman Paul O’Sullivan has warned that many of the new start-ups are not paying enough attention to building new businesses that serve a broader social good.  Despite the mushrooming of incubators and the influx of capital.” (Akhikari, The Australian July, 2016).  Mr O’Sullivan further says “We read so much about the unicorns,  your Ubers and Airbnb but we think that’s all there is.”  Optus has launched a Future Makers program designed to foster digital innovation and provide a helping hand to entrepreneurs with ideas that have the ability to change the social landscape.

Continue reading

Jun 30

ABC content II CCS II after Brexit II New capitalism

Switching off from electioneering has been difficult over the past two months, but now I have to pay attention as Saturday 2 July looms. Fortunately you may say,  this blog hardly mentions the Australian election,  except I did complete the ABC’s Compass survey to find I am a progressive, whatever that may mean.  This blog is about our public broadcaster the ABC,  a success story with carbon capture follows.  After Brexit comes opportunity – a courageous result and a reflection on ‘Time for a better capitalism’.   Your comments are welcome.

ABC content, endless repeats!

images - Michelle GuthrieBefore starting her new job, Michelle Guthrie spent three weeks in India at a meditation retreat.  Now as head of the ABC she faces ongoing challenges with funding.  Talking with Megan Lehmann for the Weekend Australian’s Magazine 18-29 May,  she revealed that two days into the job the ABC budget was cut by $6.5 million and 14 jobs had to go.  The Communications Minister at the time was Malcolm Turnbull.

A further $254 million is to be axed from operational base funding over the next two years.  Now I understand why the ABC programming is full of repeats. Four days after taking the reins,  Guthrie had to front a Senate Estimates Inquiry to answer questions about the ABC’s perceived ‘left wing bias’, Perceived by whom I would ask.  Ms Guthrie confirmed “she had no plans to alter the ABC charter to allow for advertising or subscriptions.” However rumours persist that sponsorship of programs is on the cards along with (god forbid), pop up advertising.

As a lawyer Ms Guthrie spent 14 years in executive positions with News Corp in London, Sydney and then Hong Kong where “she took over from James Murdoch as CEO of Star, an organisation with 300 million viewers across 53 Asian countries.”  From 2011 working for Google, Mr Guthrie oversaw partnerships and business in the Asia Pacific.  She is ideally placed to promote ABC throughout Asia.   With an ‘inclusive’ management style, Ms Guthrie has said she prefers unleashing people’s potential rather than directing.

Is the ABC more reflective of left wing opinions?  She thinks not, but Ms Guthrie does want to see a more diverse ABC inclusive of Australia’s changing ethnic and cultural identity. “As commercial organisations come under more pressure, content becomes even more valuable.. we’ve got to make sure we encourage a creative ecosystem so people are coming to us with great ideas”, she said.

While I feel encouraged with Ms Guthrie at the helm of our national broadcaster and the potential for enriched partnerships in production and distribution,  I would prefer to pay a subscription for the ABC than have it controlled by Government with endless repeats or worse, have programs sponsored with pop  up captions.  It is after all, our ABC. Continue reading

May 28

Freedom bloggers, Hope and Faith, 3 of Time’s 100 most influential people

This month’s BLOG will NOT focus on the forthcoming election or Australian politics.  I reviewed so much stuff this month but the articles and work that really stood out belonged to bloggers, advocates and artists.  Time magazine’s most influential people – in this case, those little known. Enjoy…

CONTENT –  Freedom to Connect  II  ‘the Voice of Freedom’ II Different Strokes II Hope & Faith II Most influential people – Time magazine

FREEDOM TO CONNECT

rememberaaronsw.com

Aaron Swartz – blogger, celebrated activist, talented programmer

Aaron Swartz – blogger, celebrated activist, talented programmer – think Creative Commons and  Wikipedia.  Aaron Swartz’ blogs have been published posthumously.  “At the time of his death in 2013 (aged 26), Aaron was facing federal prosecution for data theft having downloaded the archives of the digital library JSTOR which he believed should be accessible by everyone not just academic elites.  Facing jail time and financial ruin, he hung himself.  After his death the charges were dropped.”  Source: Emily Gould, The Guardian Weekly 01.04.16 p35.   

You can nominate someone for the Aaron Swartz Award – Aaron Swartz had a unique ability to use technology to empower people, democratize access to information, and organise movements. 

More on Bloggers…THE VOICE OF FREEDOM

Raif Badawi is described as ‘The Voice of freedom” by his wife Ensaf Haidar.  Ensaf Haidar is a member of an affluent Saudi family.  Her new book briefly reviewed in The Times (April) by Catherine Philp, explains her background and the plight of her imprisoned husband, blogger Raif Badawi.

Continue reading

Apr 30

Morrison’s nightmare budget II Congrats new councillors

CONTENTS:  Budget and Gender Balance

It seems the political climate couldn’t get much worse for Turnbull and co., with its first budget due on Tuesday 3rd May.  This week PNG demanded that the Government act in closing down Manus Island detention centre and there’s no back up plan.  Yesterday Opposition leader Bill Shorten announced an ambitious carbon emissions policy identifying a 45% reduction target similar to that of the UK and Germany. Labour’s model is based on an emissions trading scheme.  ‘Just another tax’ says the Government.  Its policy is based on a 26-28% reduction in emissions underpinned by the Emissions Reduction Fund set up after the carbon tax was repealed,  this fund pays polluters incentives to reduce emissions.

Coral bleaching_1460365127656

Coral bleaching – Heron Island Great Barrier Reef February 2016

The day before in Cairns, Environment Minister Greg Hunt committed $50 million to local Natural Resource Management organisations to further assist farmers with ‘run-off’ after it was reported that 93% of the northern section of the Reef was suffering severe coral bleaching as a result of climate change and high water temperatures.    Call me dumb but I don’t know why the money isn’t going to help the scientists move established colourful unaffected coral bommies into the decimated areas once water temperatures fall.  This they did around Green Island years ago after a severe coral bleaching event.

In early April at the COAG meeting,  we had the bizarre idea that State governments set up their own tax revenue streams and take over the responsibility for health and education.  That thought bubble fell like a lead balloon.  Previously in February Labour had tagged changes to negative gearing – only now to be made available on newly constructed homes and the capital gains subsidy was to be reduced from 50% down to 25%.  Negative gearing occurs when the cost of owning a rental property outweighs the income it generates each year.  this creates a taxable loss, which can normally be offset against other income.  The RBA confirmed negative gearing is used overwhelmingly by wealthier, older Australians.  Mr Turnbull slated Labour’s policy saying it would “significantly reduce investor demand and house values.”

There was the Royal Commission into the CFMEU which found fault on both sides – the union and the building companies. This was used to justify the return of the Australian Building and Construction commission which would have required the repeal of the Fair Work Act 2012 and amendments – it didn’t get through the Senate. Threats of a double dissolution by the PM then resulted in July 2 being named as a potential polling day. Labour then sought to introduce the need for a Royal Commission into the banking sector.   A subsequent bill to reform senate voting was approved, meaning we all mark above or below the line. Senator David Leyonhjelm says the governments changes to Senate voting will make it almost impossible for small parties to win a seat.  We shall see.   Continue reading

Mar 31

Online tutoring II Headlines of Impact II Innovation

Contents :

Online tutoring – new service

Headlines of Impact – UK rejects Sunday trading/ Green light for China’s port cities/ Sydney Grammar bans laptops in classroom / Jobs facing disruption

Innovation – TOMS & ATLASSIAN

Previously I have never taken advantage of my monthly blog to promote my business, this blog is an exception.  Research1M9169687-english-around-usedia’s new online tutoring service is targeted to largely, international students with NESB (non-English speaking backgrounds).

Australia wide, university funding has been cut,  an overhaul of the training sector is imminent and needed, and globalisation is producing growth in international student numbers in both Australia and overseas.  This is particularly so if the study combines paid work and/or the opportunity to obtain residency.  Learning beyond Grade 12 is now big business with all the inherent concerns of quality and bias.  Education is now Australia’s third largest export adding more than $19 billion to the economy last year (Sam Buckingham Jones,  The Australian 29 Mar 2016).

While R1M previously focused on community development and community capacity building largely linked to welfare and the promotion of linked government policy, the focus of the business has now changed to education.  Online tutoring as a form of learning, gained pace at local universities as early as 1995, some twenty years ago.  Now it is firmly ensconced in all degree subjects.  On the new webpage Online tutoring there is more detail with hourly rates for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.  Feel free to browse.

Headlines of Impact 

Dr John Vallance, Principal Sydney Grammar

Dr John Vallance, Principal Sydney Grammar

Sydney Grammar School Principal John Vallance has banned students from bringing laptops to school.  Up to year 10 students must submit their assignments and essays handwritten.   Academically Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top performing schools, among its alumni is the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  Dr Vallance also criticised as ‘crazy’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.  Students won’t be able to write by hand… they will lose this capacity.  Source Image: Brad Hunter, The Weekend Australian March 26-27 Continue reading

Feb 29

Out of ammo… powdered milk II Brexit II the new Tobruk Pool

“Out of ammo?” It’s hardly a phrase one would want attributed to the World Economy,  but there it was, a high impact headline on the front page of The Economist (Feb 20,  2016).

I was thinking I would have preferred to do this month’s Blog on Brexit but …way too complicated. Then the Weekend Post journo, Susie O’Brien drew my attention to powdered milk and foreign ownership. In Tasmania,  The Van Diemen’s Land company is being purchased by a Chinese billionaire for $280 million.  The company is the nations largest dairy.  “In Victoria between 40 and 50 dairy farms are being purchased by Chinese backed interests,” said O’Brien, and there has been a shortage of milk powder (baby formula) in Australia.

…Now we know why 80% of Australians are opposed to foreign ownership of agricultural land (Lowy Institute).

A priceless quote from the EU finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici,  “There is no plan B.  It doesn’t help us to envisage disaster scenarios.” Let’s hope GB stays in the EU.

Locally Tobruk Pool is scheduled to open mid year.  Couldn’t be soon enough for me. Animated skywalk

And now back to my subject for this Blog.  As jobs go the global economy falters (The Australian,  Friday Feb 26 2016, Front Page).  David Uren, Economics Editor refers to The International Monetary Fund advice “The global economy needs bold multilateral actions to boost growth and contain risk.”  The IMF is calling for structural reforms PLUS infrastructure funding.   Australia is going on a spending spree – $ 195 billion to be precise.  Defence spending will rise from 7% of government spending to 8%.      That’s not so bad I guess.

Scott Morriso586300-turnbulln will be applauded at the G20 meeting in Shanghai for  ‘stimulus spending’. Behind the reigns is the the PM.

A few economic indicators possibly of interest  (The Economist, p76 Feb 20-26, 2016).

 

Continue reading

Nov 25

Epic journey I Headlines of Impact I Education & Employment

Seriously I cannot believe it’s four weeks to go to Christmas.  This past year has seen me visiting the local hospital more times than I wish to remember with family.  Fortunately all’s well now.

Monty, Neddy & Becket

Monty, Neddy and Becket in Almunecar, Spain 2004 – so cute and so naughty … grandchildren

On 27 December I embark on an epic journey.  The last time I saw my brothers and sisters in the UK was in 2004,  it was a hurried trip and my son Ben (then 23 yrs old) was also there, then onto Spain.

This coming trip means I re-engage after eleven years.  Ours is a large family, five brothers and three sisters in the UK and two sisters in Brisbane.  I am the eldest.  Apart from meeting up with my various nieces and nephews (some of whom I have never seen) and their children who will be grandchildren,  it will be a time to share my own son’s journey with them.

London is like a second home to me,  I lived and worked there from 1962 – 1979, the end of the swinging sixties and the very beginning of the word ‘unemployment’ !  Always on flying into Heathrow I get emotional.  Lots of memories,  it was a mainly happy and very exciting time.

Enroute I will be spending time in Hong Kong – Kowloon and enjoying the vibrant harbour and skyscraper sunsets.  Big cities fascinate me but now as I get older,  I don’t want to live in them.  Life is too frantic and people communicate more with technology that they do with each other.

Headlines of Impact

Which brings me to my second blog topic – Teaching kids the language of the future (Inquirer, Weekend Australian,  Nov 7-8, 2015,  correspondent Natasha Bita).   “Toddlers click together wooden blocks embedded with computer chips to drive a toy cart.”  This is happening in daycare centres.  The new national curriculum starting in 2016, will see coding introduced at primary school level.  This training is the language of the future between computers.  Programming is coding … the Australian economy is transitioning from mining to mind industries.

children-and-tech-3

“In the knowledge economy, children need to learn how to think” says Kate Highfield,  a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood…”only 1% of apps on the market are ‘open-ended’ meaning they enable children to think for themselves and fail or find solutions.”  Without programming/coding skills young people will have difficulty getting employed.  Australia currently relies on 10,000 foreign ICT jobs (per year).

GE (the industrial giant previously in electrical manufacturing), now employs 15,000 software engineers.  It supplies fibre optics, photonics (whatever that is !!) for chips, bioscience and data crunching.  The company has developed a “Coding for Kids’ course for Australian primary students.  “STEM subjects can’t wait until High School,” says GE’s chief information officer Mark Sheppard. Programmable devices like Bee-bot robot and Scratch are recommended for early stage learning.  Coding has its own nouns, verbs, adjectives and sentences.  Kids who code.. Continue reading

Nov 01

An Unholy War l Connections – family and travel

New York: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President barack Obama met on 28 Sept to discuss Syria.www.iindiawrites.org

New York: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama met on 28 Sept to discuss Syria.www.iindiawrites.org

An Unholy War l Connections – family and travel 

My October Blog focuses on Syria (and Europe), while most may want to switch off – I believe this crisis is going to affect all of us.  Europe will be changed by this human exodus,  please read on.

Russian intervention  

A month ago, Russian President Putin arrived in the US to inform the US President and the UN that he was about to bomb targets in Syria and aid the Assad regime.  Talks about how to end this unholy war which has displaced four million people, were held in Vienna yesterday. While the Internet provides 24/7 updates it does seem that the catastrophic situations in Syria, Iraq and Libya have been fuelled by western democratic aspirations.   There has been no planned alternative leadership.  Who in Syria,  would be able to hold power, let alone govern the country? Perhaps Russia is in the right place at the right time.

I started to research the origins of the civil war in Syria for this blog some six week ago. I had bought my air ticket via QATAR and was watching  the first migrants arrive in Munich by train,  the Germans had welcomed them,  but now they come – 11,000 per day. The majority of these migrants are young men (65%) many unskilled.   Their countries of origin include Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosova and Albania,…  53% come from Syria.

In mid October the EU member states voted to provide $4.7 billion (Australian) to assist Turkey to provide humanitarian aid and control the boats, inflatable dinghies worth about 100 euros.  Those seeking to make the journey pay approximately $1200 to people smugglers,  the journey can be between four to ten kilometres by sea, many have died including little children.

Grim image untitled

Image: theguardian, Australian edition, Turkish police officer stands next to the body of a young boy – Photograph, Reuters/theguardian.

More than 710,000 migrants have arrived in Europe this year.  Australia’s boat people migration pales by comparison.  At its height in 2012/13,  578 boats arrived with nearly 38,000 people onboard (Monthly Statistical Bulletins www.aph.gov.au).  Most were from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

Human Exodus from Syria

The BBC reported that  9000 migrants arrived in Greece every day last week.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 5, 2015), Germany expects 1.5million asylum seekers.  Turkey is currently sheltering nearly two million refugees. As winter approaches, countries have run out of room to house refugees. Those lucky enough to make it to Sweden and Germany are being housed in tents.   It seems the EU is at capacity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to organise a quota system with all countries held to the Schengen area plus the UK and Ireland.   However Shengen is unravelling as Hungary, Serbia and now Croatia, seal their borders in an attempt to stem the flow.  And Germany and Austria are now strengthening border controls.  Frontex, the EU border Agency have been told to strengthen the borders in Greece and Croatia.

Continue reading

Sep 29

‘Dumbing Down’

SEPTEMBER BLOG

Contents : Dumbing down l Tim Winton l Dredging l Cairns Youth l Breaking News

It’s Sunday and Tim Winton’s piece in The Weekend Australian’s Magazine (19-20 Sept) excites the soul ; cultic, islets, indigenes, describing how we as Australians view our land and seascapes now “at its heart [environmentalism], is a reasonable response to lived experience, disciplined study and hard won data.” 9781926428741 - Tim Winton's latest novel 'Island Home' 290915      mc_tim_winton_portrait_800x600_7465

I was saddened to find a Letter to the Editor, indeed even the CP editor herself, espousing dredging in Trinity Inlet. Walking along Holloways Beach less than a month ago in the distance appeared a rock formation I hadn’t seen before. As I approached the estuary was clogged with mud and sand.  Thomatis Creek no longer enters the ocean. And the rock formation was unmistakenly dredge spoil, purple and red streaks of mud that you could slice like a heavy cake revealing its carcinogenic origin.

Our tourism industry, the main driver of the Cairns economy, will be dramatically affected if the dredging increases in any manner or form.  All dredge spoil would best be treated and used as land fill.

I consider I live in paradise, I moved here from London in 1985 sick of Thatcherism, the film industry had collapsed with funding withdrawn on a colossal scale. My friends went to LA and Florida, I came back to Australia and we made documentaries, funded largely from our own meagre resources.

A month ago, my Aunt mentioned she was reading Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and felt as if the author was in the room, it was a momentous journey. First published in 1869 it is an epic and considered one of the central works of world literature. We both agreed that the whole education system indeed the newspapers we read, current best selling novels and the political banter we are exposed to, have all led to a significant ‘dumbing down’ of the population.

Add the monosyllabic chantra on Twitter, the insane idiocy of young girls and boys exposing themselves on Instagram and who gives a dam about what coffee you’re drinking, and what café has a new menu, I am bored with the trivia of social media. Continue reading

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