Posts Tagged ‘Victoria’

Last-Days

 

Well, Dear Reader, we made such a total, unqualified balls up of predicting the result in the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum, (plus a minorly wrong call in the previous UK election), that we are loathe to write this post, and frankly we wouldn’t be if we hadn’t actually been ASKED to by a bunch of folks. (Oh, you gluttons for punishment, you.)

But as regular readers will know, we have long been a fan of Malcolm Turnbull, (if not of the more wild and swivel-eyed lunatics he enjoys as colleagues) and we are convinced that come mid-evening on Saturday he will already have been comfortably re-installed back in the Lodge. Indeed, despite the breathless reporting of Fairfax/Ipsos opinion polls showing the race to be neck and neck, we actually think the Coalition will win moderately easily.

In reality, the majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives are locked into one party or another barring an absolute political earthquake, and there are no signs that the electorate are about to deliver an earthquake. (Mind you, we said that about IN/OUT/shakeitallabout and we were dead wrong. Caveat. Get out clause. Right there.)

A glance at the betting is a good indication of the mountain Labor have to climb to even be competitive. The Coalition are 1.16 to the dollar – virtually un-backable – that’s about 6-1 ON – and Labor are 5-1 against. Only in WA are Labor expected to do noticeably better, and there just aren’t enough seats there to make a difference to the overall result. The odds are even less encouraging for the ALP in key target seats for Labor, like Deakin in Victoria, for example.

There are 150 seats in the House of Representatives. If either side of politics can win 76 seats, or gain the support of cross bench members to reach 76, then they can form government. On the new electoral boundaries, and assuming a perfectly uniform pro-ALP swing, that means Labor needs 50.4% after preferences to win 76 seats. But we don’t think Labor will achieve an overall swing of that extent, although we expect them to pick up a few seats here and there. WA looks very good for Labor, but that’s about it.

What we will see is a lot of Liberal/National seats become much more marginal than they were last time – as many as 20 may be won on 2% or less. Which puts the next election into play, but not this one. This will mean, of course, that the TV studio pundits will be frothing at the mouth for a few hours, but not really to any good purpose.

TurnbullWe predict The Coalition will lose between 5 and 9 seats. The swing to Labor will be about 2.5%-3%. And Malcom Turnbull will duly have his own mandate to govern.

One of the great political slogans of all time. As well as the other Democrats ' slogan, "Give A Damn". Which we wrote, by the way. <Historical factoid.

One of the great political slogans of all time. As well as the other Democrats ‘ slogan, “Give A Damn”. Which we wrote, by the way. Interesting factoid there.

Yes, a hung Parliament is a remote possibility under some scenarios – Labor would have to do much better than we think they will – but we can really only see four lower house minority seats again this time, maximum five (if Barnaby Joyce gets rolled), which won’t bring them into play – and anyway one of those, Bob Katter, is an ironed on conservative.

There is just a remote chance that Nick Xenophon’s candidate will upset the Libs in Mayo in SA, but again, it wouldn’t actually make a difference based on the two-party split we predict.

In the Senate, Lord knows what will happen. Even under the new voting system, it remains impossibly hard to call. The Liberal-led Coalition won’t get a majority, we can say that. We think the Greens will do well, and so will Xenophon.

And huzzah, we say. We have always liked it when the Government of the day has to patiently negotiate their legislative programme with the Senate. It keeps them honest. And humble.

We’ll know soon enough. And then we can all get back to worrying about Donald Drumpf. He isn’t going to win, by the way. That we can guarantee right now.

Advertisements

Gull

One night about a year ago Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink turned the late night TV shopping channel on.

It was an accidental act, in truth, but we found ourselves taken by the subject matter: to wit, buying a new camera at what looked like an amazingly low price.

NikonIt turned out, of course, that it wasn’t an especially great price, and we could have walked round the corner and bought it at the same price and got some professional advice into the bargain.

But no matter. We had always wanted a nice camera, as opposed to taking snaps using the iPhone, not that the remarkable and ubiquitous little device didn’t actually take nice snaps, but this one seemed very swish and a nice colour, and the front pointy bit went in and out really far, so in we dove.

Anyhow, as a sign for how ludicrously busy all our lives have become, this weekend is almost the first chance we have had to play with the camera, at Smiths Beach on gorgeous Phillip Island, in Victoria, Australia.

Of course, as you will have discovered previously, Dear Reader, the new technological age sits somewhat heavily on our prematurely aging shoulders. Fresh from wrestling with things that go bing, we now found ourselves poking with uncertain, stubby little fingers at a camera for which a high-flying degree in advanced sub-atomic particle physics would be inadequate preparation.

There is not one, not two, but fully three ways to make the telephoto thingy whiz in and out. meaning, of course, that it does so when one least expects it to.

Press the wrong button, and the playback screen turns into a mass of statistics and charts telling you why you have just messed up the last shot taken. Trying to get back to just seeing the photo on its own again without the accompanying science takes fully half an hour of increasingly frantic thumbing through the “destructions” as Mrs W calls all manuals, which as with most things seems to be written in a sort of pig-din Japlish which defies easy translation.

The little diagrams of buttons on the camera would be very helpful if one didn’t need a magnifying glass to see which buttons they refer to, (dagnabbit, knew we left something out of the beach bag), as the whole booklet is clearly written for people with A1 20-20 vision aged 18, which as it emanates from the Land of the Rising Yen is somewhat curious as we never yet met a Nipponese who could see past the end of their nose without glasses as thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle, so quite who the manual is aimed at is something of a mystery.

Meanwhile the little twirly thing on the top offers you fully twenty “shooting modes”, and heaven forbid you should try and photograph a sunny Aussie beach in “Night Portrait” mode, as the seagulls flying by suddenly all look like Ring Wraiths or Dementors come to drive us back into the cottage.

Plumping for “Scenic” seems like a safe option, until you realise the sub-Menu offers you fully fifteen variations of scenic to choose from. Choosing between “Cloudy” and “Dusk” looks tricky to the untrained eye …

Seagull at dusk. Or cloudy. You choose.

Seagull at dusk. Or cloudy. You choose.

Then, when one finishes the hour-long process of turning the damn thing on, one realises that there is actually more to taking a good photo than pointing and pressing. More digital photos (and before them, bazillions of miles of film) must have been taken of waves crashing on rocky seashores than almost any other subject matter you care to name. One very quickly realises that taking a good photo of a wave is clearly nigh-impossible. There is that wildly improbable nexus of the right camera, the right setting, the right moment, and that indefinable “eye” that true photographic geniuses have.

Which we, Dear Reader, do not.

Looking west at Smiths Beach

Luckily, the world is such an intensely beautiful place that it is impossible to entirely stuff up photographing it even with one’s new techno-rich clicky thing. We did, we think, nevertheless manage to make the photos quite big and a suitable format for desktop wallpapers. Feel free to nick any you like.

A Spring day on a beach in rural Victoria is probably the best balm for the soul imaginable. Even when your camera is just another way of reminding you that the world is hurtling ever onward to a place where you no longer really belong.

No, these photographs are not very good.

DSCN0218

Looking East

But the world is. The world rocks.

(Gettit? The world rocks. Oh, never mind …)

wasp nest

The European wasp Vespula germanica is native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. Records show that the European wasp first reached Tasmania in 1959, where it soon became well established. However, it was not until 1977 that the European wasp was first recorded on the mainland in Melbourne.

About a year before the European wasp reached Tasmania, the English wasp Vespula vulgaris was recorded in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It is a close relative of the European wasp and has very similar colour markings. The English wasp has not enjoyed the same success as the European wasp and has only spread to the eastern parts of Melbourne and Gippsland. But for all practical purposes (venom potential, nesting position, biology etc) the European and English wasps may be considered as the same. In the remainder of this article, we only refer to the European wasp, however, many of the comments are equally applicable to the English wasp.

Research has shown that the spread of the European wasp has been greatly aided through hitching rides on human transportation. So the European wasp probably arrived in style by boat or plane!

At present, the European wasp distribution appears to be restricted to the cool and wet climates of coastal southern Australia. It occurs throughout most of Victoria and Tasmania. In country New South Wales, nests have been located at Coonabarabran while several nests have been recorded in south-east Queensland. In South Australia, the European wasp is well established throughout the hills surrounding Adelaide and Adelaide itself. And in Western Australia, it has been recorded from Perth and Albany.

Unfortunately, the European wasp is here to stay in Australia and eradication of this annoying pest is no longer an option. Despite early frantic reports labelling it as a ‘Killer Wasp’, no human deaths have been recorded in Australia. However, we must learn to live with this nuisance or pest and take precautions when eating and playing outside.

First aid

From personal experience, the sting from a European Wasp is more painful than a sting from a honey-bee. We were once stung on the leg when a wasp flew up it when we were making a major presentation at the Studley Park BoatHouse. Needless to say, the event was paused while ice was applied.

For most people, a painful reminder of the sting, sometimes lasting several days, is the only after-effect they will suffer.

Applying an ice-pack to the sting site helps reduce the pain and swelling. The ice-pack should contain a mixture of ice and water rather than placing ice directly on the skin.

Some sting victims may have a hypersensitive reaction, while others who have suffered several stings, may develop an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to a sting may involve puffiness of the skin extending well beyond the sting site, or the development of an asthma-like condition making breathing difficult or, in severe cases, the heart may stop beating.

wasp applying ice using inhaler

If a victim is suffering breathing difficulties, then a salbutamol inhaler (‘Ventolin’) should help breathing. Needless to say, if this does not settle the problem, an ambulance should be called immediately.

When a known wasp-allergic person is stung on a limb, the recommended first-aid treatment is the same as for snake bite, ie. the pressure-immobilisation technique.

The limb is kept still while a bandage is wound around the sting site. Wrap the bandage around the limb a few time away from the heart side of the sting (ie. towards the fingers or toes), then firmly wrap as much of the limb as possible bandaging upwards to the groin or shoulder.

applying bandage applying bandage

The wrapping pressure should be firm but not constrictive. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Never apply a tourniquet.

Locating a Wasp Nest

The easiest way to confirm a European wasp nest is to see a stream of yellow and black wasps flying in and out of some site.

European wasp nest site

European wasps usually forage for food within 50 to 250 metres of their nest, although in some instances they have been recorded flying several kilometres for food. If you have a large number of European wasps interrupting your outdoors activities, then you can probably assume you have a nest nearby.

Whatever the wild-eyed amongst us might say, do not, under ANY circumstances, seek to deal with a wasp nest yourself, unless you want to risk spending time in hospital from hundreds of stings. Just call a pest control company, for goodness sake.

About 80% of European wasp nests will occur in the ground with the remainder usually found inside buildings.

Why are there so many wasps about right now? In all probability it’s because we’ve had a dry winter followed by a mild, dry summer. No underground flooding has happened to restrain their lifecycle.

Remember, Europeans live with these wasps and have done for centuries. Their sting is nasty, but not deadly. Ice really will help, as will any well-known anti-sting ointment, and if the swelling bothers you perhaps an anti-histamine tablet.

Four key tips:

Stay still.

If you’re afraid of bees and wasps, this may sound as reasonable as eating jelly with chopsticks. But the worst thing you can do when a wasp flies around your head is swat at it. What would you do if someone took a swing at you? Right. So if a wasp comes near you, just take a deep breath and stay calm. It’s just trying to determine if you are a flower or some other item useful to it, and once it realises you’re just a boring, un-tasty person, it will simply fly away.

Think about your garbage.

Wasps love sweet things, like empty soda and beer bottles with dregs in them, and will check out any food waste in your garbage, too. So don’t let food residue build up on your garbage cans. Rinse bottles before throwing them away, rinse your bins well now and then, and always make sure your bins have tight-fitting lids on them to keep wasps away from your garbage. This will substantially cut down on the number of wasps hanging around your home.

Feed your pets indoors

Wasps nests can live on the food you put out for Fido, and his bones. Bring his food bowl inside, and any bones you give him to chew, at least during peak wasp season. It will make it less likely he’ll get stung, too.

Think about what you wear

Wasps are mainly looking for flowers stuffed with lovely nectar. Don’t wear floral prints outside. Dur. There’s a reason bee keepers and pest exterminators wear white: flying insects tend to ignore the colour.

In summary

wasp trapWasps are with us, bugger all we can do about, basically.

It’s essentially pretty simple. Don’t make your home attractive to wasps, and they’ll go elsewhere.

If that’s too hard, then build your own wasp traps with old soda bottles and one-way entries.

The ‘net is full of examples, just look around, or you can buy them at hardware stores, too.

Be aware that spraying wasps with some knock-down glop may or may not help defend you. They don’t succumb as quickly to popular insecticides as flies, for example. And you should be aware that a downed wasp may or may not be dead, and their stinging mechanism is one of the last things to decline as they die. Also, the Queen is popping out new wasps much faster than you can kill them, so it’s probably a fruitless effort, unless you can locate the nest and remove it. Ignoring them may take resolute willpower, but it’s probably the way to go.

One old wives solution is possibly good advice, as it they often are. If you’re picnicking, and there are wasps around, then locate a small quantity of something sweet and attractive 25 yards or so from where you’re sitting. My Mum always used to use a piece of cardboard with jam smeared on it. Worked a treat.

Just be careful out there.

 

Other husband's spend their weekends watching football. Oi.

Other husband’s spend their weekends watching football. Oi.

 

One of Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink’s favourite leisure activities, Dear Reader, is to grab a gold pan and head to the streams around Ballarat and wade around looking for flecks of alluvial gold. This is always more fun if it’s done in cold, steady drizzle, or blazing mid-summer sunshine.

"Did you find something, did ya? Did ya?" "No guys, it's time for lunch." "Oh."

“Did you find something, did ya? Did ya?” “No guys, it’s time for lunch.” “Oh.”

So far she has managed to find four mosquito bites, an old Coke can, and a husband who prefers to sit on the bank eating ham sandwiches and taking photos of the meadow flowers with his iPhone.

But this would obscure the fact that others are more lucky, especially those peculiar bods wandering around with a stick with a plate on the end of it and a pair of headphones.

Grumpy husband unearths 2.7kg gold nugget

Grumpy husband unearths 2.7kg gold nugget

A Victorian man is $141, 000 richer today thanks to his wife.

Kerang resident Mick Brown had just given up smoking and was in such a bad mood his wife told him to get out of the house to give her some space.

A seasoned prospector, Brown decided to let off some steam by searching a patch of land near Wedderburn. Wedderburn is a rural town in Victoria, Australia on the Calder Highway, 214 kilometres north of Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne.  It is mainly a farming community but its early residents were gold miners and prospectors.

One of the main attractions for tourists is Hard Hill Reserve where, with a bit of imagination, one can feel a sense of what it was like in the ‘old days’ living in tents on the goldfields. Apart from gold, a number of Eucalyptus stills used to operate in the district and a replica still has been situated on the site and is fired up, by arrangement, for tourist buses. On site is one of the original batteries for crushing the ore and removing the gold. A puddler is also on site and a demonstration of it working can be seen during the annual Gold and Heritage Festival held round about the end of February and the beginning of March. The town  is a popular spot for hopefuls with gold detectors who are still finding the occasional nice nugget.

But  42-year-old Mick did not expect to find anything having scoured the area many times before without success.

It was his lucky day.

Just 15 centimetres below the surface Brown struck gold, unearthing a 2.7 kilogram nugget.

“I thought, ‘bugger me, it is, it’s bloody gold,” Brown told local media.

“I just dug it up, 87 ounces of the good stuff.”

He has affectionately nicknamed his find “Fair Dinkum” which is Aussie slang for “real”.

Asked what he would do with the money, Brown said he planned to pay off his debts and buy his children a spa. Good luck to him.

Now we just have to persuade Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink that a weekend’s light gardening in the suburbs is more likely to yield more long term personal satisfaction than standing in a stream miles from anywhere, swatting flies.

To learn more about “fossicking” (love that word) in Victoria, head here:

http://www.energyandresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources/recreational-prospecting-and-fossicking

Some of the other big nugget finds in Australia can be seen here:

http://www.sbs.com.au/gold/story.php?storyid=113

For reasons which need not concern us here, we were this morning browsing the Victorian Police crime statistics for the last year on offer, 2012-13.

We came across this staggeringly depressing statistic:

Incidence of rape against minors

This year 542 +0.71%

Last year 538

Incidence of rape against adults

This year 1,106 +1.5

Last year 1,090

child abuseYou might imagine, Dear Reader, that we are about to fulminate against the growth in the incidence of rape in both cases, in a sort of Colonel Mustard-like “Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells” manner.

But although we deplore the fact that the figures are rising rather than falling, we suspect the slight rise recorded is due to natural population growth.

 

Yes, we would have hoped that we would be seeing a steady decline in these stats, given that we are all supposed to be becoming more “aware” of the disgusting nature of sexual violence. But it appears it is a very slow process.

Something for those with the purse strings of Government advertising budgets to consider, perhaps.

We should see all domestic violence and rape and sexual assault as part of the same patriarchal continuum, and until men take it seriously, it will continue.

But what really horrifies is the raw number of more than 500 rapes against children in a year. Coming up for one-third of all rapes.

500? Five HUNDRED?

How many of these are against sexually active teenagers isn’t the point.

Rape is rape, it is never justified, and no excuses or attempted slut-shaming of the victims is ever acceptable. And although they were all against people who are legally children, ie under 18, and so there will be some mid-teens in there, it’s a pound to a penny that many of these crimes were against what you and I would recognise as children. Kids. Little tackers.

And this is the REPORTED cases. Ye Gods, the mind boggles. Unreported cases would run into the thousands.

Given the high profile given to many of these types of cases in the UK in particular, and in the various enquiries into child abuse in Australia, especially involving religious and community organisations, not to mention the recent brouhaha in the UK press about whether or not there was a high-level pedophile ring operating at the top of British Government (involving, allegedly, those close to at least two Prime Ministers, and perhaps even one (now deceased) Prime Minister), we simply suck in our breath in disgust and horror that this most avoidable and heinous of crimes, which leaves lives shattered sometimes beyond repair, is so persistent and pernicious despite the obvious fact that for the offenders the advice is utterly simple and unavoidable: don’t.

Just don’t. Do something else for your kicks, don’t do that. They are KIDS, for fuck’s sake.

To steal the innocence from a child, to betray their trust, to warp and bend that child’s value system until it is unrecognisable, to sometimes terrify the child into silence: these are crimes which demand the most urgent enquiry and vigilance, and an unrelenting determination to root out the offenders. Not one adult offender in this area can possibly imagine, for one moment, that their activities are anything more nor less than utterly destructive and illegal.

We must be unyielding in our attempts to cure this plague. Period. Full stop. That’s it. End of.

(Post scriptum: this article obviously talks about Victoria, Australia. I would be very happy to publish statistics from elsewhere if you can look them up. I urge you to find out how prevalent this crime is in YOUR community. And if you know of a community where it is LESS prevalent, perhaps we can all learn why.)

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

 

Bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition continues today with the publishing of another poll that shows just how dramatically the Liberal and National parties have slumped since 2013’s election.

The latest poll shows the Abbott government is now a full 10 points below its election-winning vote. This is way beyond mere “out of honeymoon” blues.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian on Tuesday, puts Labor ahead of the coalition 55-45 per cent in the two-party preferred vote, a further depressing drop of two points for the coalition since the previous poll two weeks ago.

Primary support for the coalition is also down two points to 35 per cent, from 37 per cent, while Labor is up one point to 37 per cent – two points ahead of the coalition. This result would have seemed impossible in the dark days when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were engaged in their death struggle. It remains to be seen if Tony Abbott goes down in history as the only man capable of breathing new life into the Labor corpse which seemed crucified, dead, buried, with multiple stakes through it’s heart and then cremated such a short while ago. That they are even competitive again so soon is startling.

It’s not all good news for Labor. Outflanked on the left, the Greens have also gained three points in the primary vote – up to 13 per cent.

Voter dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott has reached the highest level since he became prime minister, 62 per cent, and is his worst personal result since November 2012, The Australian reports. With his approval rating at 31 per cent, Mr Abbott’s net approval of minus 31 points is the worst for a prime minister since Julia Gillard scored minus 34 points just days before she was replaced by Kevin Rudd in June last year, when she was widely considered to be leading the Labor Party to certain disaster. It will not have escaped Liberal and National backbenchers that Abbott now appears to be doing the same.

 

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

 

Whether Abbott’s vast slump into extreme unpopularity will prove enough of a motive for the hard heads in the Liberal Party to replace him with the much more moderate Malcolm Turnbull remains to be seen. We have always been of the view, even before the last election, that Turnbull would be Prime Minister before Christmas 2014. Abbott is both simply too relentlessly self-satisfied and negative to play the role of Prime Minister, a job which requires the ability to reach across the aisle to independents and natural Labor supporters to build a centrists’ coalition.

Abbot is not a conservative. He is not a “one nation” Tory. He is a radical right winger – a born-again Thatcherite, his idol in his youth. As such, he was never going to sit well in power with the essentially small-C conservative Australian public. We are seeing the hubris of Nick Minchin and others on the hard right coming home to roost. They wanted their boy – they got him up by one vote – and now he is proving to be manifestly un-re-electable. A great opposition leader doth not a great prime minister necessarily make. They might have won less big had Turnbull remained at the helm (they might have won bigger, too), but they would have won more enduringly.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also regained a 10-point lead as better Prime Minister that he took after the budget – on 44 per cent, with Mr Abbott on 34 per cent. We do not believe he is yet “popular” – he has neither the common working man’s touch of a Bob Hawke or the swaggering certainty of a Paul Keating. But he has hardly put a foot wrong yet, revealing that he has both a good “ear” and a smart brain. His meek persona also contrasts nicely with Abbott’s arrogance.

It is well-known that Shorten wishes to keep his powder somewhat dry, and not to “knee-jerk” to every mistake or missed step from the Coalition. Thus former federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan played Shorten’s stalking horse yesterday when said Liberal-National Party backbenchers were too gutless to speak out against the “savage cuts” in the budget, which he sees as reflected in the Newspoll. “If they had any decency, they’d be standing up in the party room and holding the LNP to the promises they made to the people of Australia at the last election but they’re not because they’re gutless,” he told reporters in Brisbane. “There’s no spine in the LNP backbench either at the state level or the federal level. They sit back and meekly accept the savage cuts … which are going to hurt the peace of mind and welfare of families right across Australia.” You can expect to hear a lot more of that as each and every Budget action wends its way trhough the legislative process.

To be fair, Swan was probably speaking from the heart, too. As a Labor backbencher during the early 1990s, Mr Swan led a revolt against the Keating government’s unpopular post-election budget that increased taxes.

Anyhow, the next few months will be interesting indeed. From being one of the most successful Opposition leaders the Liberals have produced in a long time, Abbott may well go down as their most unsuccessful Prime Minister. A recalcitrant Senate filled with newly hopeful Labor and Green representatives is now replaced with one with even greater complexity. At first blush, the new Senate looks like a more amenable one for Abbott. But appearances can be deceiving. Clive Palmer, for example, knows full well that supine agreement with the Government – any Government – would render his populist message irrelevant. There’s no point being “anti” the establishment and then joining it, as the Australian Democrats discovered over the GST, and the Liberal Democrats in the UK and the Free Democrats in Germany can attest more recently.

We can therefore expect regular little eruptions of rebellion from Palmer and his mates, and watching his eye for publicity and gesture politics one can expect those rebellions to be on core issues, such as the politically smart agreement to scrap the unpopular carbon tax and return the dividend to ordinary voters as a reduction in household costs. And if they aren’t core issues, he will trumpet them as such, anyway. And every time he lays a glove on the Government, Abbott will not only look dumb, but weak. A terrible combination.

The essential problem that Abbott faces is that by manufacturing a financial crisis out of a structural deficit (which is not, after all, the same thing) he has critically reduced his room for manoeuvre. As a result, he is now stuck with slogging round the country telling everyone, basically, bad news, for at least the next 18 months.

He might even have pulled that off if his presentation, and that of his very lacklustre Treasurer Joe Hockey, had been less simultaneously preachily self-congratulatory and ham-fisted. But apart from his suddenly incoherent and uncertain delivery (has any senior politician anywhere in the world ever said “Er” so often?) he has also wedged himself by a serious of actions that were never going to get through the Senate, and which were guaranteed to appear mean and un-necessary.

The most obvious example is the GP co-payment, which looks and smacks like nothing more than soak the poor, and should never have been advanced in a month of Sundays. But once advanced, it was not “sold”, beyond a repeated mantra that this was somehow “for the good of the country”. Scores of worried little old ladies and the chronically ill duly queued up on talk-back radio stations of all political inclinations to tearfully ask what would become of them now they couldn’t afford to go to see their doctor. The message that the co-payment was theoretically designed to be capped at a maximum of $70 a year completely failed to cut through. Once again, the central Liberal Party message-meisters and their political puppets have been shown to be far less competent and aware than they are often painted.

Denis Napthine. If he's not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

Denis Napthine. If he’s not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

(A similar problem assails the Victorian Liberal and National Parties, where two years of good financial management and the resulting announcement of the biggest-ever infrastructure spending program in the State’s history – in any State’s history, actually – is being completely overwhelmed by the unpopularity of the Abbott Government. Liberal and National Party publicists seem at a loss to know how to punch their message through. (There’s a clue in this paragraph by the way, boys.) Meanwhile Denis Napthine despairs in his eyrie and Daniel Andrews hugs himself with glee, saying very little, cheerfully waiting to fall into office. But that’s another story.)

Those surrounding Abbott need to understand this: it’s one thing to drag down an unpopular Prime Minister in whom trust has been lost. It’s quite another to sell a swingeing austerity package that very few people think is needed in the first place.

They – and he – need to lift their game very fast, or yibbidah yibbidah, that’s all folks.

 

 

Well no, that ain’t true. On reflection, that was the successful ten-fingers and ten-toes birth of the Fruit of One’s Loins. But last Saturday was similarly exciting, and for many of the same reasons.

To have your own horse – a horse you own, or at least, a horse of which you own the left nostril and right fore-hoof – win a race at a major city track is simply thunderously, life-changingly, breath-holdingly thrilling. Especially when accompanied by Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and said Fruit O’Loins, neither of whom could historically be considered huge horse racing fans, but who are now swept up in the emotion of it all just like everyone else.

She’s been nursed along to this point. Some owners have dropped out along the way, impatient with her somewhat slow progress. The rest of us have hung in there, grimly muttering “She’s a big girl, needs time to mature.” As the starter heads to his position, the anticipation is almost unbearable. Will she load in the gate properly? (She has a habit of not doing so.) She does. An ironic cheer goes up from the “connections”, much to the amusement of the hardy souls braving the autumnal rain at Sandown. Will she get a jump? Can she make it from the outside barrier far enough in to be successful? She does. A huge start, settles nicely in second although it took a huge effort to get there from the outside barrier. Has she really got the lungs to win a 1600 metre race with a couple of other smart looking gee-gees in it after spending all that energy at the start? The trainer looks pensive, but excited. The trainer’s manager can’t even bear to watch. The jockey was confident heading out, but then again, he only looks about 12, so what would he know?

 

'At's my girl.

‘At’s our girl.

 

For the record, she hit the lead about 400 out and held on, showing real guts, and winning by a head. If you would like to watch the roughly 1 minute 40″ of heart-thumping action just click the link below.

http://www.racingnetwork.com.au/khutulun-takes-step-right-direction/tabid/83/newsid/19234/default.aspx

It takes a while to sink in. She actually won. A serious race, paying serious money, too. We have a racehorse on our hands, after all the wondering and worrying and hard work by the stables. And she simply seems to love running, to boot. She just seems to know what is meant for her, and gets on with it.

From here, fame beckons, and not just in the wildest imaginings of her over-excited owners. Texts turn up from “people who should know”. “Wow, what an effort.” “Blimey, mate, she looks really, really good.” The connections stand around, pinching themselves in half-disbelief. Probably one too many whiskies after in the bar, too, but who’s counting? Not today.

Khutulun – pronounced “Koo-too-lun” – which the commentator seems unable to master – was a warrior princess. Daughter of Kublai Kahn. A famous wrestler, horsewoman, and archer. Basically, one tough little lady with a heart of steel.

How very appropriate.

I feel like a kid who’s had ten red drinks and a bar and a half a bar of chocolate at a birthday party. I expect to come down by about this time next week. In the meantime, bear with me, Dear Reader. Normal service will be resumed when we find ourselves able to think about anything else but the feeling as she swept past the post …

You should try it. Really, you should.

This astonishing photograph was taken by Sarah Haddid, flying into Melbourne last night.

What is most terrifying for me is that our house is so close to all that. You can actually put your finger at the end of the Eastern Freeway and pretty much cover the Wellthisiswhatithink compound. The flames came to within two blocks of our local shopping centre. Friends in the middle of it all had to evacuate to us.

And yet, bizarrely, were it not for the emergency authority website, Facebook and radio, we would not have known it was happening. The wind was in the other direction – no smoke or embers. Bizarre.

Melbourne dodged a major bullet this weekend. I find it hard to summon up enough praise for the fire authorities and the volunteers and paid firies who keep us safe, at great risk to themselves.

Incredibly, it was five years to the day since Black Saturday, which very nearly impacted, perhaps fatally, on my family, and which brought death and destruction to so many others.

This is a beautiful land. It is also very frightening, sometimes.

As we write, there are still 26 out of control fires in Victoria. Our prayers and concern go out to everyone involved.

flowers_16x9-408x264

 

We noticed a comment made by a judge in America, sentencing a drunk driver who killed another driver to six and a half years in prison, that in America substance abuse was involved in 65 percent of criminal cases in which the accused pleaded guilty. We suspect the statistic is very similar elsewhere in the world.

Certainly visiting Old Melbourne Goal for the Whitelion charity “lock in” a couple of years ago means that Wellthisiswhatithink was made privy to some of the more alarming facts about the Victoria, Australia prison population. Specifically that over 80% of criminals in goal in Victoria on any given day are there for drugs offences. Most of them not drug kingpins, of course, but people a long way down the feed chain. People picked up for minor offences that would be better off in diversion or rehab programs than sitting in chokey, where access to their drugs of addiction, of course, are nearly always available.

The judge concerned commented that “I firmly believe that alcohol and drugs are almost an epidemic in this society. This is a very serious matter – a very serious matter – because it concerns all of society,” he said.

Every day in the United States, almost 30 people die in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver, amounting to one death every 48 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, a US government agency.

It put the annual cost of alcohol-related crashes at more than $51 billion and the total number of drunk-driving fatalities in 2010 at 10,228 – about a third of all traffic deaths.

Victoria leads the world in reducing road trauma, through an extremely aggressive program of driver education, (including extremely graphic TV ads), road speed cameras, and reducing speed limits. And at one level at least, the message on alcohol appears to have got through.

The proportion of drivers and motorcycle riders killed with a BAC greater than 0.05g/100ml has declined from 38% in 1987 to 16% in 2011.

Since 1991, Victoria Police have breath tested more than 20 million drivers and riders from Booze Bus operations, catching close to 70,000 drivers and riders  with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over this period.

The vast majority (99.6%) of drivers tested do not exceed prescribed blood alcohol levels. This must surely be considered one of the most successful public health campaigns anywhere in the world. Personal behaviour has changed. The stats tell the story, but so does our anecdotal experience. “Drink driving” has become socially unacceptable. To drive home drunk from a dinner party or pub would now be considered unthinkable by most of our friends and colleagues. People arrange “designated drivers” who stay sober, or use taxis, trams and trains.

But not yet, tragically, everyone. Close to one in four drivers and riders killed in the last five years had a BAC greater than 0.05. It may just be that there is a level below which society cannot put the demon of drink driving back in the bottle.

Nevertheless, jurisdictions all over the world have taken note of Victoria’s success. In an era when random breath testing, for example, is still considered an infringement of civil liberties by some Americans, we would urge them to consider giving up some of their ‘rights’ to achieve a greater right.

Survival.

An example of the “Bloody idiot” campaign that has changed society’s views over 20 years runs below. What is sad is that one can imagine wowsers complaining that the ad has a mild swear word in it, when they would be silent on the death toll on our roads. Sometimes, we feel a little bluntness is very much the lesser of two evils.

The Transport Accident Commission ads pull no punches. Nor, in our very considered opinion should they. The stats are their own justification.

So would you welcome seeing ads like this on your TV screen at night? The general opinion of most Victorians is to grit their teeth and bear it. Even as they induce a wince, it is a wince of recognition. There is communal gratitude that families are being protected by both the advertising and the law enforcement. But there is little doubt: it is very challenging.

I guess yer pays yer money, and yer takes your choice. What do you think?

Democracy becomes a farce

Dear Australia: I frankly expect better and I insist. Do you agree?

Faced with an Upper House result in our election on Saturday which is clearly ludicrous, I append below a letter I just sent to The Age and the The Australian. I’ll let you know if either of them print it.

If you are Australian, and you agree me, then I suggest you make the letter your own, and send it to Tony Abbott, or someone.

Dear Sirs

The solution to the current farce in the Senate – with preference deals delivering seats to people who initially achieve miniscule popular votes – is not to ban minor parties, nor even yet their convoluted preference deals.

It is simply to remove the requirement for people to vote “exhaustively”, (to number all the boxes), and to make the change not just in the Senate but in both houses of Parliament.

It is obviously ridiculous and impractical, if an elector does not understand or does not wish to follow a pre-set preference flow, and therefore intends to vote “below the line”, to insist that they express a preference between 97 Senate candidates, as we had to in Victoria.

And it makes a mockery of democratic will for candidates that clearly have no popular support whatsoever to be gifted a major role in determining what legislation successfully wends its way through Parliament.

Just let us number as many boxes as we like, then stop.

And it is just as ridiculous, in the lower house, to force us all to ultimately transfer our vote to one of the major party candidates if we don’t want to. We should be entitled to transfer a preference just as far as we, the electors, decide, not to be forced to end up donating our vote to a party with which we fundamentally disagree, merely because they are the lesser of two evils. That is fundamentally un-democratic.

And if, as a result of such a change, a lower house candidate fails to achieve 50% +1 in a seat, then the solution is simple – have a re-run after a short period of reflection for local electors to consider their options.

The necessary change to the electoral legislation would take five minutes to write. And it will be much more sensible, and less disruptive to Australian traditions, than many of the other ideas you will hear mooted, such as making it prohibitively difficult or expensive to establish a political party, or getting rid of mandatory attendance at polling stations. (Note, not “mandatory voting”, which we do not have in Australia.)

I look forward to our zealously reformist Prime Minister-elect acting on my suggestions forthwith.

Your sincerely
Stephen Yolland

PS Dear Reader, if you do anything as a result of reading this, let me know.

The new normal. God help us.

Angry summer indeed ...

Angry summer indeed …

This has been going on all summer. We smashed heat records in January. And then in February. This is March: South-eastern Australia has been sweltering for well over a week, with the strongest pulse of heat just before the end. This is from Rob Sharpe at the Weather Bureau, about 15 minutes ago. (It’s now 6.30 pm approx AEST on 12/3/13)

South Australia

The heat pushed into South Australia almost two weeks ago beginning an eleven day run of over 30 degree temperatures. This is the third longest run of March heat in over 120 years of records.

Mt Gambier smashed the March record for consecutive days above 30 degrees with eleven. This is five more than the record and is also equal to the summer record set in 1956.

Victoria

Melbourne has broken multiple records in this run of heat despite having records dating back 156 years. It has had the longest ever run of days above 30 and 32 degrees with nine days reaching 32.7 and above. The previous records were eight days above 30 and seven above 32, set in the same run in February 1961.

Nights have also been very warm in Melbourne meaning that buildings without air conditioning have struggled to cool from the daytime heat. The city has equaled the record of six mornings in a row failing to drop below 20 degrees. Tonight is likely to break the record with the mercury likely to be in the low 30’s or high 20’s most of the night. There is a chance that tonight will break the record for the warmest March minimum of 26.3 degrees.

All of Victoria has been bombarded by this heat with temperatures rising as high as 40 degrees at Cape Nelson. This is 19 degrees above the March average and half a degree short of the March record.

Tasmania

Records have been equaled and they have been doubled in Australia’s southern most state.

Launceston has been staggering in its consistently hot temperatures. It has doubled its record run of four days above 30 degrees with a staggering eight days, including a new record March temperature of 33 degrees.

Hobart came very close to its longstanding March record of 37.3 degrees today, reaching a top of 36.7 degrees. Just inland of Hobart, Bushy Park succeeded in equaling its 47 year old March record of 37.6 degrees. Strathgorden and Strathan had their hottest March day in at least 30 years.

Meanwhile, the northern hemisphere shivers, ironically, in appalling cold and snow, which is, of course, equally due to the chaotic disruption of the planet’s man-made warming.

What will it take before people realise we need to take meaningful action now? Yes, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to affect our lifestyles. It’s going to mean business will have to “box smarter”. And no, it’s not all bad news – climate change will produce winners as well as losers. But the scale of change is going to be massive, even if the effect is at the lowest end of what is predicted.

But we can do it – think of the great efforts made by humanity in times of peril before. We can stop it getting worse than it has to be, and we can ameliorate the effects. Just can we please stop arguing and get started?

This is unbearable.

Fossickers in Nerrena Creek. ...

Nothing’s changed all that much in hundreds of years …

"Did you find something, did ya? Did ya?" "No guys, it's time for lunch." "Oh."

“Did you find something, did ya? Did ya?” “No guys, it’s time for lunch.” “Oh.”

A little while ago, The Wellthisiswhatithink Clan enjoyed a delightful weekend away paddling around in creeks near the Victorian town of Ballaraat, panning for gold.

This activity was combined with some good grub and a trip to the theatre (to see a version of Oklahoma with nudity, no less, which was frankly a little more than peculiar) so if we didn’t turn up any gold the weekend wouldn’t be wasted.

This apparently mildly insane hobby (the gold rush in Victoria having ended some 100+ years ago) is nevertheless great fun.

It gets one out of the house and into some of the prettiest countryside around, and gives one an understanding of the travails of the men who flocked to the area in the 19th century, and it can even yield a few specks of gold in ones pan.

If you don’t want to just head into the wide blue younder clutching your pan, the wonderful recreated-history village of Sovereign Hill at Ballaraat is deservedly one of Australia’s “must see” tourist destinations.

They even have a stream into which real specks of gold are seeded every day … enough patience, and you’re pretty much sure to end up a-hollering and a-whooping.

Some keen prospectors head out into the real bush every weekend, a wild and unquenchable fire burning undimmed behind otherwise mild-mannered eyes. The passion has even spawned its very own word – fossicking – a word which is known only in Australia and Cornwall in the UK, and which is applied particularly to digging through old tailings or the worked out areas of previous “strikes”, and in general means to hunt around for something, with an implied sense that finding whatever it is one is hunting for is somewhat unlikely. The term probably comes from the old English word  fussock, which means to bustle about somewhat aimlessly, from the same root as the word “fuss”.

Very nicely done that man. Jealous, much?

Very nicely done that man. Jealous, much? Reports suggest yesterday’s find is worth a cool A$300,000.

Anyhow we can surely expect the amateur prospecting to take an upturn now that one delighted fossicker using a metal detector has found a massive nugget just some 60cm below the surface at an undisclosed (well, dur) location somewhere near Ballaraat.

The nugget, weighing in at an impressive 177 ounces, is valued at almost A$300,000, and that’s with Gold at $1,600 an ounce and rising. If the prospector can hang onto it for a little, that figure will probably go up. (See the story about Gold Repatriation below – if central banks continue to withdraw their gold from America back to their own shores, it is possible the total sum of Gold in the world may turn out to be somewhat less than imagined, and scarcity, as we know, means price rises.)

Anyway, should you be temped to grab a prospecting kit and head to the hills, be encouraged by the fact that the find is not as bizarrely unique as it sounds. A monster gold nugget weighing 3.66kg was discovered in the same region last year. That nugget, named the Destiny Nugget by the discoverers, was said to be one of the largest nuggets to be discovered in Victoria in the past 10 years.

I bet I know where the Clan will be heading this weekend … time to pack the gumboots, I guess.

Ballaraat Courier and others

Related articles

OK, Dear Reader, of what is this a photo? (I actually wrote “what is this a photo of?” originally until I heard Winston Churchill bellowing in my ear “Never use a preposition to end your sentences with!” and rapidly corrected it.) OK, thinking caps on …

 

OK, so what's this?

Hmmmm ..... *ponders*

 

  • Is it some strange marking or pattern on a South American plain, amazingly only visible from space?
  • Is it the latest brilliant work from a yet-to-be-discovered Aboriginal artist?
  • Is it a series of goatherder’s paths high in the un-mapped wilderness of the Himalayan foothills?

Well?

What say you, D.R?

Actually, it’s the tracks left in a rockpool at Point Leo in Victoria, Australia, from some sea worm or sea slug which has now left the building.

Camera: very old battered iPhone

Shutter setting: whatever, it only has one

Light: Australian autumn sunshine – glorious day

Copyright? Nah, bugger it, go for your life. It makes a great desktop wallpaper. Feel free to nick it.

Lots of love, Wellthisiswhatithink. xox

PS Yes, it’s been a good day, thank you. Meetings should get cancelled more often.

 

Real Australian sea slugs

These are real Australian sea slugs. Aren't they pretty? Was it this type of sea slug in the rock pool I photographed? Not a bloody clue. Does it matter? Top to bottom: sea slug species Hypselodoris bennetti, Chromodoris loringi and Chromodoris hunteri.