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Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas - what does it mean now?

Christmas - this time of year means different things to many people. To a Jewish acquaintance of mine for example, it means a festival that puts her on the outer with most of the people she usually associates with. One thing that it has increasingly meant is garish displays of decorations at family homes. Contests are run to find the 'best'. Tours are scheduled to travel around the more lavishly decorated. Locations of decorated homes are often published in local newspapers.

If someone wants to decorate their home, then in general principle that is fine with me provided of course that it isn't something truly offensive like a neo-nazi display or a salute to serial killers. But there is another aspect to the story.

Are we not in a time when we should be considering the environmental impacts of pretty much everything? The nations of the world have only recently concluded an angst-ridden conference to tackle the issue of global warming. Yet each December, we start on an orgy of excess consumption of fossil-fuel-powered electricity to light up garish garden displays of lights of all sorts. Largely plastic decorations - yet more petrochemical consumption - are invested in and displayed all over the place. Yet more consumption of fuel for the trails of motor vehicles going around the 'tours' of garden Christmas 'decorations'. How many light globes alone, are consumed each year in this exercise?

There are those that find putting together this display a thing of joy to do. Someone that I knew, sadly passed away now far too young, absolutely delighted in putting together a Christmas display in her front garden. But her motivation was a little different. She and her siblings didn't have much of a Christmas such as that most of us take for granted. Sure, there were presents etc, but they were on open display for long beforehand, not even wrapped. There was not even an attempt at a Santa Claus pretense. So Sandra was determined to give her children the sort of Christmas she and her siblings were basically denied. That sort of motivation I can understand.

Sadly, understandable motivations like that would appear to becoming less of the norm. Instead, we see a growing trend of 'keeping up with the Joneses.'

"Look honey - the neighbours have seven more lights than we do. Get yourself over to Bunnings immediately and don't come back until you have at least three more full strings of lights to put across the front of our place. And another couple of plastic reindeer. Do you think everyone can see our plastic Santa doing the limbo or should I turn the volume up to Three on the Richter Scale?"

When creating garish eyesores as supposed decorations becomes essentially a fashion statement, it is high time to put the whole stupid lot away - for good. If nothing else, ask yourself how much those excess decorations are adding to the greenhouse gas emissions - not just the power consumption of lights but also the resources consumed in manufacturing, transporting etc. Or consider how much more good could have been done by investing the same funds into welfare programs? Or even just as donations to charity? Or helping those we know who may be going through hard times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ageism is alive and well

Don’t let anyone kid you that ageism doesn’t exist in our society. It is very much alive and well.

I was forced to leave the labour force at age 44 through no fault of mine, on invalidity. It as a matter of record that the health injury concerned was directly linked to the workplace although no regulatory body is the slightest bit interested in the fact that my dodgy, former employer, part of the public sector, quite wrongfully pursued a program of denying any such finding being made. So I was eventually forced out.

Interestingly, representatives of my former employer tried to tell me what a wonderful life I was about to start enjoying as an invalid pensioner and how easy it was going to be to be employed once more once my health improved. Not that I believed it for a moment.

The reality is that there are virtually no prospects for someone once they are over forty and have the slightest hint of disability. And on almost every single occasion when I just ‘miss’ out, it is beyond mere coincidence that the successful applicant is younger than me. Now I am intelligent enough to realise that a great many applicants are going to be younger than me so it stands to reason that a large number of successful applicants shall be younger than me. But when it happens on each and every occasion?

Mind you, ageism is nothing new. I did my accounting degree in the early 1990s as a mature age student finishing at the grand old age of 29. During my final year, along with a lot of other commerce students, I attended an open day for the accounting profession at the Ballarat University. There, the Education and Recruitment Director for the Institute of Chartered Accountants blatantly told several students including me, that we were too old. “The profession doesn’t want you,” she said. Those incredibly inappropriate words are burned into my brain. At 29, I was too old? I spat the dummy and spent the rest of the afternoon sulking in the student bar.

Her words proved quite prophetic. When I began applying to the major accounting firms, there was no interest despite good results. My mistake? I admitted to being 29 in my applications. I whinged about it to some of the senior accounting staff at the uni who sympathised. As far as they were concerned, this was a common occurrence. The first thing that the major firms looked at was an applicant’s age. If it was more than in their early twenties, an automatic rejection occurred. Of course the profession would hotly deny it, but any analysis of their hiring practices would tell a different story.

I put all that behind me and started a new life. But at 44, I was thrown in the scrap heap. I refused to accept it. I retrained, improving my qualifications and experience. All for nothing.

Now because my pension is paid from a superannuation fund, not via Centrelink, I am automatically disqualified from various forms of assistance. My pension is just enough to disqualify me from yet other forms of assistance such as a health care card, never mind that I carry not one but two disabilities, but nowhere near enough to be able to rent somewhere myself. So I am unable to live anywhere other than community housing in the company of junkies etc. I cannot even get into public housing, although they did tell me that as a single person, even if they were able to house me, it would most like just to be placed in one of the notorious public housing drug dens which is as bad if not worse than where I am now.

Not long before starting to type this entry, I had to call the police because in the adjoining block, a drug user was screaming threats at another resident and the police intervention was required. Of course now I am a going to be target for being a ‘dog’ and calling the cops.

Thanks to stunning degrees of misinformation and, ultimately, outright lies at the hands of my former employer, I was denied workers compensation on a technicality, thereby denying me access to required medical treatment that I certainly cannot afford. That makes my attempts to re-enter the workplace even harder again.

The key to putting all of this behind me is to simply get back into work. More money and I can move to better surroundings. I can afford more of the required medical treatment. I can make myself an even more desirable job seeker. Yet after considerable efforts, this is proving a staggering waste of time. A multi-qualified individual with a strong set of experiences and skills, I could not even get so much as a poxy casual job with the Christmas casuals. I now cannot even afford to travel down to spend Christmas with my aging parents this year. I have no idea how I am going to break that news to them.

For some reason, nobody gives a damn about those who fall through the cracks and seemingly nothing but insurmountable obstacles are placed in the way of them if they try to rise above it all.

The moral of the story is, if anyone over 40 is ever in danger of being forced out of the workplace on health grounds, do anything and everything to fight it. Cling on by your fingernails. Use every single possible means of fighting it. Find and use any and all avenues of appeal. Because once you have been thrown onto that scrap heap, you’re going to stay there.

The end of the job network saga

I posted some entries about the ludicrous nonsense I was put through in trying to join a job network under the Job Search Australia program. Time to post the final outcome.

I was finally admitted to the program that I had tried to join back in July. However as a direct result the staggering degrees of messing around that were only resolved after I had to resort to the DEEEWR complaints line, I was only finally admitted to the desired service so late in the year, that there is virtually nothing that they can do to assist me until next year. The job market simply dries up this time of year.

I received a written apology from the job network that took me on but not only didn’t have anyone to assign me to, but then initially refused to allow my file to be transferred to my preferred supplier.

I have written to the assessment service that not only caused the problem in the first place but then gave me entirely incorrect information that started me having to commence everything through Centrelink again. I was forced to make many pointless telephone calls to Sydney at STD rates. I am yet to receive a response let alone any dialogue on reimbursing me for me unnecessary STD telephone calls.

If matters had been handled properly in the first place, I may well have been in work by now as a result of that support that is available. But now there is nothing that they can do for me until the Canberra business world starts ‘working’ again next year. And my own attempts at finding work have been a staggering failure for some time now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who's ignorant and uneducated?

Last Wednesday, Prof Alan Fels stated in the wake of the government refusing to enact the recommendations by Fels to lift Parallel Import Restrictions, that the public had the government to blame for more expensive books. Now he has changed his story.

In a very public display of what can only be described as pique, Fels has claimed that the government has bowed to the opinions of a small number of ignorant and uneducated authors.

Who the hell does Fels think he is? I am a published author in my own small way. I joined the campaign against lifting PIRs. I am an accountant and economic statistician by qualification and experience as well as holding post-graduate professional writing studies. I take considerable offence at this clown calling me either ignorant or uneducated. This coming Thursday I shall be interviewing a highly successful author who holds three separate degrees as well as a Doctorate in Human Letters. My, we authors really are an uneducated lot, aren't we!

This is the same Prof Fels who for years while heading the ACCC, continually claimed that there was no evidence of any wrong-doing by oil companies. Meanwhile, we ignorant, uneducated slobs, did the practical thing of watching the pump prices. Whereas any reduction in the price of crude (ah - the joys of petrol pricing parity, gifted to the nation by then-Treasurer John Howard in the late 1970s - whatever happened to him by the way?) took a week or so to 'filter' through to the pump price, yet the moment there was an increase in the price of crude, it immediately hit the pumps. That happened across the board, regardless of company or location. But that was apparently too bleedin' obvious for the good Prof to notice.

Prof Fels has made quite a deal of noise about the price reductions he claims would have resulted from lifting PIRs, by comparing the price of a book available in say the USA with the same available here in Australia. The coalition of major book retailers, lead by Dymocks, who have been staunch supporters of Fels in this matter, have stated that the reduction that may have resulted could have been as much as 12%. However the price differentials that Fels likes to show off were far greater than a potential maximum of 12%. So even his supporters, who have publicly vowed to 'continue the fight', cannot agree with him on what the savings might be.

Incidentally, the good Prof with his apparently superior education, appears to have missed out entirely on the basic economic premise of ceterus paribus, loosely translated as 'all things being equal.' Simple comparison of market prices between significantly different economies breaches that economic fundamental. But perhaps he slept in that morning at uni.

I keep harping on the point of taxation in other posts. In all the hoopla, why is it that Fels and Dymocks et al, continue to ignore the simple fact that most of that potential 12% saving could be achieved in one fell swoop (pun intended) by removing taxation on books? I seem to remember the then-Labour Opposition joining with the Australian Democrats in opposing introduction of GST on books, prior to the Democrats leader, Meg Lees, blatantly rolling over for John Howard in the Senate.

We already have a taxation infrastructure for managing exemption of certain 'supplies'. It would not be a big deal to extend those to cover exemption of books. But Fels, in his apparent wisdom as a product of his superior education, pushes instead for a scheme that would require creation of new, expensive infrastructure, not to mention the imposition on the tax-paying public of the proposed government grants to compensate authors for the loss of income that Fels admits would result.

On this subject of author income, please do realise that we aren't all J. K. Rowling, getting mega-bucks. Studies have shown that writers as a whole are very poorly paid. We are not in general a pack of greedy oiks, complaining because we can't upgrade the Rolls this year or have to put off installing that helipad.

Throughout this saga, Fels and Dymocks et al have continually claimed that the object of the exercise was to realise cheaper book prices, yet the simple measure of removing taxation is ignored in favour of a set-up that would have the long-term impact of a wrecking ball smashed into the Australian publishing industry, under the guise of having market forces driving price reductions.

Another significant point consistently overlooked by Fels and co is that the likes of the USA and the UK flatly refuse to have anything to do with lifting their own equivalents of PIRs. Yet those are the economies that stand to benefit by dumping onto the Australian market. That product would not necessarily even be the same as that published here. Take the example of the author Michael Robotham. He is a major seller in both the UK and the USA. However on at least one occasion, the US publisher made him rewrite part of a novel, removing part of the text, because it was too 'sophisticated' for the US market. Robotham has told me that the box of freebies of that US edition that he was given, remains unopened because as far as he is concerned, that is not the real novel that was published elsewhere, including Australia. Guess what edition would be dumped onto our markets in the wake of lifting of PIRs.

Significantly, the major publishing chains have not supported the Fels proposals. These are multi-nationals who could have benefited by dumping excess production that through sheer economies of scale (see Prof - we're not all as ignorant as you claim and understand something of economics) can be produced cheaper there but they could see the long-term view. Driving margins down yet further, simply means there is less money available for publishers to bring on new authors. We aren't all magically like Stephen King, Jack Higgins, Bryce Courtenay or Tim Winton. In fact, at the start of their publishing careers none of them were the accomplished authors that they now are. It is already becoming harder and harder for new novelists to get into the mainstream. The Fels proposals would have pretty much screwed an entire generation of new Australian authors.

Exactly who is demonstrating their ignorance here? Not to mention chronic short-sightedness. And who stood to really benefit? The multinationals and a small number of major book retailers trying to further tighten their control of the market while pretending to be in the pursuit of some altruistic ideal.

In all of this fuss, I am reminded of the late Nigel Hawthorne in his wonderful portrayal of the English civil servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby. Sir Humphrey described the behaviour of politicians thus: "we must do something; this is something therefore we must do it."

Perhaps the good prof should consider a career in UK politics rather than acting like a petulant schoolboy, with voluble complaints when the ref has called him for a foul on the footy field. Of course he could always just take his ball and go home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honesty? Fairness? Don't make be laugh

Is it so wrong to expect common decency? Honesty? Fairness? Apparently in this day and age, it is.

Major employers are allowed to lie through their teeth to workers compensation insurers, coincidentally keeping their insurance premiums down by minimising the number of successful claims. The insurer is allowed to apply law that isn’t even in effect at the time of your claim, despite said law not being retrospective. You are allowed to simply ignore findings of bodies such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. In the public sector, the agency responsible for workers compensation and overall employee health and safety, Comcare, will similarly not bother worrying about workplace implications of adverse AAT findings.

Many people are like I was and of the opinion that the Commonwealth Ombudsman was an independent arbiter. Nope. It if is in anyway connected to a workplace, they will claim that the matter arises out of employment and is therefore out of scope of their office. Offer up evidence of blatant lies, deception and withholding of material evidence by a governmental employer and similar evidence of the regulator, Comcare, refusing to even look at it, and still the Ombudsman shall say no, that is a matter of employment.

Nobody cares if an employer knowingly costs you any chance of having the appropriate industrial body look into things, which is in turn another excuse for the Ombudsman’s office to put it in the ‘we can’t be bothered’ file.

In short, bare-faced liars like the Australian Bureau of Statistics are allowed to do whatever the hell they like. Use staff up. Make them work excessive hours while banning them from overtime and access to higher duties (i.e. getting paid for the higher level functions that you are actually performing). Ignore medical advice and warnings whenever it is convenient to do so. Pretend you have no knowledge of workplace health issues. Above all, lie, lie and lie some more. Lie to Comcare. Lie to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Lie in formal statements to government-appointed solicitors.

It doesn’t matter how many laws or regulations you break, or that you are acting in blatant bad faith, because nobody will do a god damned fucking thing to stop you.

As for the individual perpetrators, they get promoted.

Is it any wonder that the poor fuckers like me end up becoming so screwed up in the head that they end up with multiple suicide attempts?

yet more on the PIR issue

In wake of the decision not to lift Parallel Import Restrictions, Prof Fels has announced that from now on, all book buyers are to blame the government for more expensive prices as a result of the decision not to adopt his recommendations. An unnamed major book retailer has criticised the decision, claiming that adopting them would have lowered book prices by some 12%. I am prepared to wager that this unnamed source was in fact Dymocks, given how strongly they supported the recommendations, which just quietly would have helped strengthen their market share and dominance.

Both Fels and the likes of the Dymocks chain (that I now flatly refuse to purchase anything from) argued strenuously that the only way to bring book prices was the complicated system proposed by Fels, of lifting import restrictions, thereby creating greater 'competition' with a system of grant funding to support authors whose income had been reduced.

How about a reality check for a moment? By far the most direct means of producing an immediate reduction of 1/11th of the cover price of books is to dump GST on books. Other products are GST-exempt and such an approach would not require the creation of all new infrastructure that the Fels recommendations would have required.

If these parties crying foul at today's decision are fair dinkum, then they would have been campaigning for the government to lift taxes on books and achieve the same end result of cheaper books without throwing the equivalent of a wrecking ball through Australian publishing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

latest on the the assistance issue

Roughly a week after the matter had been passed to the provider's admin to see what could be done, when I followed up by telephone (yet another STD call I am out of pocket for) not only had nothing been done, the person had little idea what I was talking about. I probably shouldn't be surprised as this is the same admin area that has repeatedly failed to make any contact with me during the weeks of this saga, despite assurances that they would be.

In fairness, I did receive a return call this afternoon from that individual, so it would seem wheels have slowly started turning. But it has all had to be referred back to Centrelink. Not my local office mind, but to another branch office that is actually across the border, in another State, with that office waiting for a manger to decide what, if anything, can be done, and then refer it back again to my local office.

End result - I have actually gone backwards from the position I was in four months ago.

Oh and there was more little joyful bit of fun - when my preferred provider endeavored to start the process to have me transferred, I am told that the provider I was stuck with actually refused to do so.

Parallel Import Restrictions to remain!

In the face of strenuous opposition around the country, the Australian Productivity Commission had recommended to the government some time back that Parallel Import Restrictions on books be lifted. The whole slew of recommendations were, in my opinion, a poorly considered short-term view. The justification was that books would become cheaper. The income base of existing authors would supposedly be protected by recommended introduction of government grants. Tough luck for those who were not already published authors and faced an even steeper uphill climb under the Fels scenario. There were other means of making books cheaper, such as lifting tax on them. Instead, Professor Allan Fels and his cohorts argued strongly that the only means of making books cheaper was to allow excess production from other countries to be dumped on the Australian market. Significantly, countries such as the UK and USA, while being in a position to shift more product onto the market outside of current Australian publishing channels, flatly refused to lift their own restrictions.

This morning, the Australian Competition Minister announced that the government would not be implementing the recommendations. This is a victory for the entire Australian publishing industry. Significantly, about the only voices in favour of the Fels recommendations were a narrow coterie of big business interests.

Following is a press release from the Australian Society of Authors. While it is rather gratuitous as there were definitely more than just the ASA campaigning against these recommendations, nonetheless it does reflect wide-spread pleasure and relief at this morning's announcement. Ironically, Prof Fels was due to be debating this very subject at 12:30pm today at the National Press Club, with the CEO of Melbourne University Publishing. The topic? What price cheaper books? I wonder what dear Prof Fels had to say?

From: Jeremy Fisher []
Sent: Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:24 AM
To: Jeremy Fisher
Subject: PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate!

PRESS RELEASE: ASA Members Victors in Parallel Importation Debate

The ASA congratulates its members and our colleagues in the Australian publishing industry in their united, sustained and ultimately successful campaign to retain territorial copyright.

“The ASA membership has once again demonstrated its quiet strength,” ASA Executive Director Dr Jeremy Fisher declared. “Our members have been constantly telephoning and writing to their parliamentary representatives pointing out how the removal of territorial copyright would destroy Australia’s literary culture and publishing industry. Their persistence has been rewarded. Our leaders have listened. Today’s announcement by Competition Minister Craig Emerson that the parallel importation restrictions in our Copyright Act will remain unchanged is a clear victory for Australia’s literary creators.”

Dr Fisher also acknowledged that the Australian publishing industry was facing significant pressures and authors needed to bear these in mind.

“Minister Emerson correctly highlights the fact that e-books and digital technology are having an impact on the Australian publishing industry,” Dr Fisher said. “The ASA welcomes change. We constantly seek new means to increase authors’ incomes. We are currently in discussions relating to fair contracts for authors with regard to e-books and products such as Kindle. We have also taken an active role in the US-based Google Book Settlement, which will see authors being able to pursue income streams for out-of-print works. The ASA will always seek improved income streams for its members in both print and digital forms.”

Dr Fisher has announced that he will leave the ASA on December 11 to take up the position of Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kevin Federline a father for the fifth time?

Who the &^%$ cares? He is a failed backup dancer who got some notoriety for marrying Britney Spears, who subsequently told him by SMS that the marriage was over. He's getting a ridiculous amount money from the Spears money machine to keep him the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed. Pretty nice gravy train if you can get on it. His attempt at a rap career was a joke. "I'm gonna be a big star, Gonna get a big car."

Who gives a fruit bat's fundament that he is possibly going to be a father for the fifth time? Yet this crops up as 'news'.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Can we be of assistance?

Here in Australia, we have all manner of assistance programs. One of the latest incarnations is the Job Services Australia program. This is a service that was recently overhauled and supposedly provides access to various job placement networks. If you are like myself and suffering from a disability, you can access a quite specific part of this network to provide tailored assistance.

How it operates is like this.

You make contact with a preferred job network and learn that first of all you need to attend your doctor and pay him his fee to complete a lengthy medical referral. Next you make contact with Centrelink who record your contact and assure you that they will be in touch shortly with an interview time and place to have a job capacity assessment completed. Several weeks shall pass by without contact despite you making regular follow up and having various staff confirm that yes, you have been making contact and yet further assurances of rapid follow up - that never actually occur. The next step is to visit an actual Centrelink office and refuse to leave until they have done what they had promised to do about a month before - make you an appointment for a job capacity assessment.

Centrelink will now realise that your disability pension is not paid via Centrelink but via a superannuation fund. Centrelink staff shall now lecture you that you are not eligible for any referral to the Job Services Australia program, despite all advertising to the contrary. All in the jolly spirit of the occasion, you need to engage in a a shouting match in order to attract the attention of a supervisor who will then inform his delinquent staff member that you are indeed eligible for referral and to make an immediate appointment for you. An immediate appointment is in fact in a week-and-a-half's time.

With the appointment confirmed and the lengthy medical report done, you confirm that your preferred provider is still in fact prepared to take you as a client, noting that you are already a client of other services of that organisation. With that confirmation in hand, you head off gaily to the job capacity assessment. A very pleasant young lady shall then interview you, take the copies of detailed medical reports that you thought to take with you and send you on your way. As a result of this assessment, it shall be determined that your preferred network cannot in fact take you, although do not expect anyone to actually make contact with them to make sure of their facts. Instead you will be referred to yet another network.

The new network you are referred to shall initially deny all knowledge of any appointment having been made but after some days, eventually someone discovers how to turn the computer on and actually check. A pleasant half-hour is then spent filling out forms and you will then be told that a case manager shall be assigned in two weeks time, but noting that you shall have to complete mandatory training programs before they will actually start helping with the job search. Naturally anyone seeking assistance is an illiterate delinquent who needs extensive coaching before they can be turned loose on unsuspecting employers.

Now if you are a conscientious little swot as I am, you will continue the job search all the same and have an amazing opportunity present itself, with the potential employer particularly interested in the prospect of some governmental assistance that comes with employing you as a participant in the Job Services Australia program. The next step for you is to contact the job network provider to explain that you have potentially found a position but need to be able to provide contact details for the prospective employer to discuss things with. In response to that good news, you will be informed that thou shalt have a case manager in two days time although the file has yet to leave the desk of the chap who did the intake interview the previous week. Well why not rush a case manager through - all the hard work will have already been done for them and they get an easy 'success' to add to their Key Performance Indicators.

With our pessimistic old friend, Murphy, working overtime, after a week or so you make contact once more to see what's going on. Now it transpires that there isn't a case manager even available but one shall be made available in the near future. Another week goes by and you discover that there never were any case managers even available in the first place but instead recruitment action is pending so you can expect to get someone, sometime, who is brand new to it all and won't have a clue about how things work.

The joyful news shall continue for yet another week at which time you are advised that recruitment is still pending, but naturally, you are informed that you shall have a case manager assigned 'soon' although no indication can be provided as to when this may actually occur.

As you ruminate on this fun little experience of being out of pocket for doctor's bills and mounting numbers of telephone calls, you will recall that the lovely young lady who did the job capacity assessment, assured you that if things were not working out with the assigned network, all you have to do is call and she would arrange a transfer to another provider.

Being cautious, you will first contact your preferred provider - again - and be told by them - again - that they are happy to take you as a client. With that glad news to hand, you then contact the parties who did the job capacity assessment. However due to the office in the nation's capital not having anything as luxurious as someone who can assess the computer file, you will be asked, quite politely, to spend money on STD telephone calls to their Sydney office. These friendly people in Sydney will confirm that yes, they shall contact the assessor the following day and get things moving for you - sorry that it didn't work out for you so far.

Several days later you will then discover that your preferred supplier has not heard so much as a misplaced rectal emanation from the assessors but you will receive a mysterious telephone message asking you to contact a specific person at the assessor's office. Sadly, when you return that call, said contact at the assessors will not have the faintest idea of why you are calling or what she is supposed to be doing. But that situation is easily rectified with yet another telephone call to the lovely young lady you saw the previous month in that same office.

Oh dear, she shall inform you. Our administration were supposed to call you. We cannot transfer you to another provider at all now as too much time has passed since the assessment was done. The file is locked and I cannot access any information - what is your telephone number by the way?

The particularly joyful news is that you need to start the entire process all over again, just as you had done four months ago. But never fear, you shall be informed of a telephone call being made the following day to explain just how this is to be progressed. When the promised call does not eventuate, you will call the assessors - yet again - only to be told - yet again - that nobody can assist. Entirely puzzled by the state of affairs, you will contact your preferred supplier to see if they have heard anything. Now you shall learn that the preferred supplier, equally mystified as to what is going on, has made contact with the supplier that you were actually directed to. They will have informed your preferred supplier that they have no intention of releasing your file (why would they - numbers of clients means more government money to them) and that, yes, you guessed it, you are to be assigned a case manager in a week's time.

The preferred supplier will by now be almost as frustrated as you are and shall suggest that they will contact the assessors themselves to try and find out what on earth is going on. But of course Friday has come around once more and the world has stopped turning, not to resume gravitational orbit once more until Monday.

Perhaps you should consider a formal complaint to the Education Department the preferred supplier shall suggest. After an hour of fruitless search of the Department's website, you will have failed to come up with so much as a contact telephone number or even an address to post a letter to.

So next week, after all the gleeful excitement of the past wasted four months, you get to start it all over again. In the meantime, because of the stigma of being disabled, employers shall continue to not want to have anything to do with you. Unclean! Unclean!

Here in Australia, we have all manner of assistance programs. What a pity that they're actually a time-and-money-wasting load of bollocks that keep the perpetrators in work but do nothing to help those actually seeking work.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

services? rip off more like it

My new rant is against unscrupulous mobs who advertise on television for all manner of 'services' on your mobile phone. We're talking porn, personals, stupid things about love and relationships - the list keeps going on and on. These are naturally the sort of thing designed to attract the attention of the younger subscriber. But how many read the fine print on the bottom on the screen?

The cost of these things is pretty steep. Take for example the one I have just read on an advertistment just now. The service is some nonsence that tells you facts about your name. The cost - $3 sign up fee and $15 a week.

How many unsuspecting subscribers get caught by this? Not a single one of these 'services' is worth messing around with, let alone that exorbitant cost for a nonsense service.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Movember - let the growing season commence

I am really entering the spirit of Movember, growing a moustache for charity. I shall be shaving my upper lip for the last time for a month at midnight tonight. Thereafter it will be really important for me to remember NOT to go shaving off the burgeoning growth. Easier said than done for me at times.

If you are really unlucky, I shall post progress photos in here to prove it is actually growing. And of course my (very) few readers can always sponsor my tending the facial fungus by visiting:

Just to prove it isn't just looneys like me doing this, see the following I have extracted from an official Movember announcement:

Powderfinger's Golden Rule #1
Movember Ambassadors, Aussie rock legends and all round good blokes Powderfinger, are in. As part of their involvement, they're not only growing Mo's, they're donating $5 from every copy of their new album GOLDEN RULE pre-ordered or purchased from What could be better than that? Perhaps their weekly GOLDEN RULE for growing a mo. Here's the first.
It goes a little something like this...
"If there's one golden rule to starting my Mo, it's that preparation of the surface is everything. I've heard from a reliable source, that it benefits from a little fresh lemon juice rubbed in gently early on to help stimulate the hair follicles and promote thick vibrant shrubbery. There's a long way to Mo, but I'll start right here...". Darren Middleton.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

technology can really suck - but not as bad as the suppliers!

OK - so it is time to go broadband even though my finances are very limited. I check out some wireless broadband options, accepting that such an option would not be as good as a fixed broadband connection. I select a supplier based on the information that they give me, including assurances that I would not have any problems connecting to the wireless broadband network at home.

After wrestling with it and getting hopeless response times, I was put onto their online support system on the Friday, only to receive an automated response that the 'Help' person would not be available until the Tuesday. Yeah, that's good 'support', isn't it? Today that individual responded. In fairness she has attempted to be helpful but the end result was I cannot expect to connect at anything better than less-than dial up speeds, unless I sit outside in the middle of the garden keeping the cabbages company, rather than use the unit in-doors. So much for the assurances I was given before forking out my very limited cash. Begs the question - should I have to accept a service that I can only use during the day time, sitting outside, assuming the weather is clement, or unless of course I am prepared to use the unit via torchlight at night seated among the lettuces?

I am not joking - this so-called broadband unit gives less-than my old dial-up up service. Bloody pathetic.

I doubt there will be any chances of getting any sort of refund.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There are times when...

You know those occasions when you make a complete, utter effing idiot of yourself and when the realisation hits home, you feel absolutely, ridiculously small? I went through that today, not once, not twice but three times. And that by about 9:30am. By that time I felt only marginally larger than a crippled flea from an underfed dog. So I had to do my best to apologise to all concerned and make some sort of amends. By about lunchtime I had taken refuge in a quiet place where I had no immediate access to telephone or Internet thus minimising the chances of making an even bigger fool of myself.

If any of the recipients of my misplaced wrath should happen to read this entry, then I can only apologise yet again.

I could blame my medications for not doing their job properly or the fact that I felt justified in my initial anger. But the fact remains that I made a complete and utter idiot of myself on three occasions and was completely and utterly in the wrong on each damned one of them.

Yep, I am ashamed of myself and embarrassed.

I have recently become aware of a reader or two that I was not aware of. Hey folks (and that includes you Louisa!) - don't be afraid to post a comment so I know that someone has actually read my journalistic gems.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Popsciple Awards time

I have decided on a special awarding of a Popsicle Award.

A few hours ago, leader of the Australian Opposition, Malcom Turnball, stated that he has the full support of his parliamentary colleagues.

Hmmmm let us examine that statement for a moment.

'Ironbar' Wilson Tuckey has lead the WA branch of the Liberal Party in railing against the leadership ever since John Howard was dumped by the electorate and has been quite vocal against Chief Turning Bull.

Bluggerguts Joe Hockey has been blatantly ambitious in his climb through the political ranks. Despite his public protestations of support for John Howard just a couple months out from the last Federal election, he was very quick to join the ranks of those jumping on the 'I told John Howard to quit' bandwagon with almost indecent haste. Of late he has been uncharacteristically quiet, just as Chief Turning Bull went very quiet while he was orchestrating the political assassination of his predecessor. So it comes as no surprise that Hockey now announces that he has been sounded out about contesting the leadership. Lots of support there, isn't there Malcolm.

The Mad Monk, Tony Abbott has made no secret of his aspirations to the top job and in recent months has been taking obvious steps to rebuild himself into something softer than the nasty, verbal-headkicker we all know him to be. And in the wake of John Howard's demise, Abbott stated his intention to stand for the leadership, although that only lasted for about twenty-four hours. I couldn't see many bookies giving long odds against Abbott not making his own push behind the scenes.

And now an unnamed member of Turnball's party room has allegedly stated that Turnball 'will not go the distance".

So I make a special presentation of my Popsicle Award to Malcom Turnball for being stupid enough to try and pretend that all is well. If he actually believes his own words then he doesn't even have so much as the Popsicle stick keeping his ears apart.

Some people just don't know when to let go

After all these years, Mr T is still pushing that bullshit persona he built up in A-Team. That was more than twenty years ago. Now he is so desperate, the old B A Baraccus character is used in a stupid ad for Snickers or something similar. And I have just seen him appearing on a new cooking appliance 'infomercial'. He's fat, starting to really look his age while trying to pretend he is still the stupid thing he portrayed twenty-five years ago. He is even still trotting out the tired old line 'I pity the fool'.

He is so sad that it isn't even interesting retro.

Some people really just don't know when to let go.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Privacy, schmivacy

Here in Australia, we have a wonderful little thing called the Privacy Act, 1988. The Act contains ten core principles for the protection of personal information with the remainder of the Act largely devoted to administering the Act's protections. More recently, the jurisdiction of the Act was extended to cover both the public and private sectors. The application of the Act is overseen by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

There is only one problem with this setup – it's a load of bollocks.

A reality check – it is entirely feasible and possible for a large employer to entirely disregard the Act, lie to the staff of the OPC and essentially do whatever they want. The final finding in a recent formal complaint 'investigated' by the OPC has actually firmly established a precedent which indirectly gives employers a green light to behave in just a fashion.

All the large employer has to do has fail to keep any records. The OPC will not express the slightest concern about engaging of external consultants on the strength of a verbal contract and zero records kept about any briefing of the consultant or even what personal records are made available to them. The OPC takes a position that whatever said employer tells them will be considered to be the truth by default. Consequently, said employer can tell the OPC the biggest load of codswallop it feels like, secure in the knowledge that the OPC will consider it to be truth. A complainant on the other hand, is required to furnish evidence. On the surface that may seem fair enough, but if the employer has not kept records, then it is going to be dashed difficult to furnish any evidence to contract the employer. And the complainant's word is simply not good enough.

Now for where things get really ridiculous. The Act expressly puts a duty on the employer to ensure that its relevant records are complete and accurate. If this material is considered to be public sector Official Records, then these duties and obligations are supposedly even stronger. However when push comes to shove, nobody gives a flying fruit bat's fundamental if the employer has not made any attempt to keep any records of how it has used the employee's information.

Where things become rather alarming is when you learn that even if the complainant furnishes hard evidence that the employer has been dishonest in its dealings with the OPC, the Commissioner's staff will fail to even respond to those matters. For example, my former employer claimed in writing to the OPC that it had held express permission from me for the engagement of a external consultant to review certain matters. In point of fact, no such express permission was ever held. I denied ever providing any such express permission and challenged the employer via the OPC to produce it. No such evidence was ever provided. The employer then claimed in writing that I had threatened to commit self-harm if the employer did not undertake the external review of these matters. Yet another bald-faced lie. Another denial of ever making such a threat was similarly ignored. And another outrageous claim accepted by officialdom without the slightest evidence to prove it.

My former employer repeatedly attempted to mislead the OPC by a combination of exaggeration, misleading material and outright lies. And the OPC accepted every bit of it despite the employer being unable to produce one single piece of evidence supporting those claims. In contrast, I not only provided a degree of evidence disproving certain claims, I further provided a body of evidence which suggests that on the balance of probabilities, that employer word wasn't worth a flatulant goat's rectal emanations. But my case was doomed from the outset simply because the OPC values the employer over the complainant, to the point of having not a single concern about the employer's record keeping practices not even meeting the required standards of the Act and other legislation and regulation. There wasn't even any concern about the party responding on behalf of the employer having a significant conflict of interest in the matter. Nor any concern about the workplace Privacy Officer failing to investigate thoroughly.

The harsh reality is that the entire foundation on which the operations of the Privacy Act, 1988 rests, is utter bollocks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It is official - Sam Newman is a fuckwit

When it comes to things shown on the screen, I am not easily offended. But former AFL star, John 'Sam' Newman recently managed to do it to me.

Newman is one of the hosts of the Victorian Football Show. Now controversy is nothing new to Newman, but he has gone way too far this time.

On the program aired on September 17, first up he looked at a news item about a woman aged over 100, looking for another husband and finding one who was considerably younger than her. Newman pointed at the groom and declared him to be a monkey. Shortly after, he claimed that the groom was 'just out of the forest.'

That was bad enough. But then Newman started on Serena Williams and her recent dispute with a line judge. He held up a picture of Williams then suddenly pointed back to the man he had just referred to as a 'monkey', clearly implying that he was suggesting Williams was also a 'monkey'.

This sort of behaviour is simply not acceptable in this day and age. And what really irks me is that this idiot is paid some one million dollars per annum by the Channel Nine network.

Another Popsicle Award!

As dear old Victor Meldrew would have said, “I don't believe it.” [Apologies to my US friends – Victor Meldrew was an English comedy character and that was his catchcry.]

A burglar in the US, during a housebreaking, decided to log into the household's computer and check his Facebook page. What the???

When the householder came back home to discover the burglary, she discovered not only had someone been there but that they had logged on to her computer. And the burglar had failed to erase their Internet traces. So it was an easy task for police to check the Facebook page and trace said burglar.

What a bloody idiot. So congratulations to one of the stupidest burglars I have ever heard of, for being the latest recipient of my Popsicle Award for only having a popsicle stick keeping their ears apart.


Lately I have enjoyed going to the cinema more often than I have done for years. In these days of extensive video libraries and pay-tv, who really needs to? But it must be said that there are some films that just need to be seen on the big screen.

As a kid, it was quite a ritual during our school holidays for my younger sister and I to have a trip to the flicks. I dare say Mum went along with the idea to get us out from underfoot for a while, particularly as she still had two younger children to look out for.

Back then, we had just the one cinema in my home town, Bendigo. When I say one, I do not mean one complex with the standard cluster of small theatres in them that we see these days, but a single building, a single theatre, a single, monster screen. The Golden Plaza was a remnant of the golden years of cinemas before the television revolution killed so many of them off. Bendigo had at one time supported a number of cinemas but The Plaza was the only survivor.

This was a cavernous place. Ornate gilt-decorated staircases writhed up either side of the actual theatre entrance, leading to the luxury of the upstairs seating. Luxury was a relative term as I do not seem to remember much difference between upstairs and downstairs.

An attendant was resplendent in a green felt uniform with gold braid decoration, busy patrolling the place, his flashlight ready to stab out into the darkness to reveal troublemakers, or worse, a pair of teenagers engaged in a bit of sly snogging.

My sister and I sometimes managed to con Mum out of the extra couple of bob-forty cents each from memory- for us to be able to sit upstairs. Being the conniving little sods that we were, and it was probably my idea to begin with, we bought the cheaper seats downstairs and spent the difference on junk at the concession stand. Of course any lollies we obtained by that subterfuge had to be well and truly scoffed down before meeting Mum again afterwards.

Going to the flicks was a real experience back then, to be savoured, even though the fold-down seats were hard and not especially comfortable. People respected the unwritten rules. There was no talking. Rustling of chip bags etc was kept to a minimum. And of course there were no bloody mobile phones.

Today, the norm seems to be at least one burk per session who forgets to turn the phone off. Even worse are those idiots who decide to answer it. I've seen it happen – an effwit answering the phone and having a conversation on it during the bloody film. There is constant rustling and crinkly of bags. The bigger the audience, then the greater the chance of getting some whisperers who don't let up for the entire length of the film.

As I go to the flicks now, it is in much more comfortable seating. I can decide for myself whether to have a feed of overpriced snacks (or sneak my own in). If I am cunning, I go to mid-afternoon screenings (an advantage of being pensioned off and thrown on the scrapheap early) when there are very few in the audience and you could be all but alone to enjoy the visual feast. Yet somehow, it all still fails to capture that faded elegance and grandeur that I knew thirty-five or so years ago.

I still miss it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Another Popsicle Award

Damir Dokic strikes again. Phew - what a loony. And isn't it interesting that it is always someone else at fault. When he was banned by Wimbledon for threatening a vendor over the price of salmon, it was Wimbledon who were at fault. And now it is Australia's fault that his daughter, tennis player Jelena Dokic, has claimed that her father physically abused her. So to this fruit basket, the obvious response was to call the Australian embassy in Belgrade and threaten to turn a 'bazooka' onto an embassy vehicle. But then when, naturally, police were called in to check the idiot out, they found homemade bombs and an a significant array of firearms at his place.

Now if you're going to dumb something incredibly dumb like threaten an embassy, it doesn't take a lot of brains to realise that the police will be calling around pretty soon afterwards, so why keep a supply of stuff on hand like that?

So congratulations Damir, you eff-wit - you're the next winner of my Popsicle Award for only having a Popsicle stick keeping your ears apart.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The best laid plans...

There is a kitchen clock at my place. It periodically stops working. Being a sufferer of Duck's Disease (my bum's too close to the ground) I have to clamber up on a chair to grab it and give it a gentle shake to get it going again.

So why does it stop like that? I suggested that perhaps the gears aren't rotating properly, that perhaps there was dust in the internals?

My housemate eventually decided to investigate. It is not like the good old days of tight-wound clock springs waiting to spring free. Surely it would not be that difficult to have a look?

So the back of the little black box was carefully levered off off, only to have small white plastic cogs drop out, the tiny motor fall out, the clock hands drop off - in short, bits everywhere.

Uh oh.

We both had a go at reassembling it. I managed to get cogs back in and driving each other in what looked like the right manner. But there was no way that the tiny motor would also fit in that space and the back clip on again. What on earth?

In the end, I decided that it was like a Rubik's cube. Easy to do if you know the trick, mind-bending fury if you don't.

The clock is still in bits, waiting to be replaced.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Banking Bastards

I think we are definitely seeing signs that deregulation of our banking industry has some serious flaws.

The current economic crisis was significantly the result of a poorly regulated American financial system which allowed banks and other institutions to generate massive paper profits which eventually collapsed.

Here in Australia, these institutions are on a sounder footing. First, when interest rates are rising, they pass on more that the rate increases, which they are permitted to do. Now, yet again, when rates fall, they refuse to pass on all of that decrease.

The last time this happened, the banks overall only passed on 80% of the decrease with Malcom Turnball having the arrogance to basically claim that it was that only happened because he told them to. And now the banks are passing on even less of the rate cuts.

The banks and their shareholders profit but at the expense of the poor sods in the street. And it is all part of the same money-grubbing that brought the US system down. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has spoken out about international corporate greed, but look at what is happening in our own backyard.

Unprincipled bastards - nothing has really changed since my days in the banking industry during the hedonistic 1980s.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

small update on Einfeld

A small postscript to the last post on Marcus Einfeld. Last night an interview with Einfeld was aired on Australian television. On being asked if he was an honest man, Einfeld took exception at any suggestion that he was anything but honest. Give me a break - the arrogance of His Dishonour just beggars belief. He had just pleaded guilty to the charges of lying to court - does an honest person lie to court? Does an honest person only admit to the lies in order to avoid even more trouble? Does an honest person get others to join in the web of deceit and deception? Of course not. Marcus Einfeld is an unrepentant liar and a disgrace to society in general and the judiciary in particular. In short, he is dirt.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Justice is served!

Remember former Justice Marcus Einfeld who lied through his teeth over and over again to avoid a $75 traffic infringement and the accompanying licence demerit points, even to the point of claiming a dead woman was driving the car? Then he had a friend swear on oath that she was with him in another town at the time of the offence, driving his mother's car, only to have that scam collapse when security footage proved mum's car hadn't left her place that day, let alone transport His Dishonour out of Sydney.

The New South Wales Supreme Court has sentenced this lying piece of scum to a minimum of two years in prison in a three year sentence. I was quite concerned that the judiciary would close ranks and attempt to protect one of their 'own'. Clearly however, the judiciary is as pissed off with him as the rest of the world. Justice Bruce James described Einfeld's behaviour as planned criminal behaviour - which is exactly what it was. James further described Einfeld as engaging in deliberate, premeditated perjury. Pretty damning stuff.

How funny is it going to be if Einfeld finds himself doing time with people that he banged up?