Sundried Politicians

Australia has a excellent record in science, invention and aviation but when it comes to politics it seems that the brains of our politicians just don’t work as an ordinary person would expect.  At least as far as our conservative politicians go.  For starters our major conservative party is named the “Liberal Party of Australia“.  Further, this party can almost never form a government without the support of the “National Party” which is very conservative and has it base in county Australia.  They are now called “the Coalition“.  Theoretically the Liberal party is for free trade and the National party for protection but their intellectual reasoning has become so malformed that neither party really know what it stands for except that they are against whatever the current official opposition party, the “Australian Labor Party” is for.

There are some fringe parties which generally try to gain the balance of power in the Senate but they mostly don’t know what they are for, just what they are against.  The only one of these parties that has a good notion of what it is for in the “Australian Greens” which stands to the left of the ALP.  The other groups and individuals in the Senate are all conservative to some degree and are mostly on the protectionist and racist side of politics.

Consider some of the Coalition’s policies.  They are in favour of something called “clean coal” which is very closely akin to the idea of dehydrated water.  The coalition wants to apply money from a government agency that was created to support renewable energy sources to new coal-fired power stations.  It is very clear that coal generation is rapidly losing the fight against renewables in the free market and the Australian coalition government wants to put billions of dollars into a dying industry.  It is quite possible that even if they manage to get a so-called clean coal powerplant built that it’s owner would not be able to sell electricity to the grid because power from renewables is growing and will continue to grow in the market.

In more insanity the coalition government wants to provide $1 billion in public money to the Adani family to build a railway line from the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine to a new seaport at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.  It is clear that loading coal at this port would result in coal pollution spreading to the reef and adding to the great threat already being suffered by the reef from global warming and surface run-off.  The Great Barrier Reef provides far more income and employment to Australia than the proposed mine ever could.  Further to this, building renewable power infrastructure in Queensland, where the mine site is located, will provide near enough to four times the number of jobs that the mine and railway.  And the mine is proposed to be built in high quality farming land!  It is madness from every point of view.

There is a lot more to be written under the heading but I am trying to keep my posts reasonably short.

The New Year

At this time of year our TV stations present a lot of retrospective programmes about the year passing into history.  I detest these programmes as they look back only on what the TV station recorded and none of them do much of a job of that with the possible exception of SBS News.  At least SBS provides news that is mostly about significant international events and not about which female movie star had/is having whose baby and which celebrity insulted (add own minority group here).  And let us not forget that Hillary Clinton has been running a child-trafficking operation out of the white house (Pizza gate) and that Michele Obama is actually a man.  All of this idiocy comes from a country that has just elected a very, very strange man to be their President.  I don’t want to see “news” about things that have already been lived!  I have no interest in celebrity nor in celebrity scandals.  I don’t believe conspiracy theories.

What can we look forward to in the New Year?  Well, I don’t know of course.  Trump is just so weird and it is quite possible that his entire Presidency will be mired in attempts to get his cabinet nominees approved by Congress and in court cases about his continuing and clearly illegal attempts to (not) separate himself from his companies.  I fully expect that his administration will be plagued with claims of corruption and illegality.  I note that Boeing has now promised not to charge $4Billion for two Presidential 747-8 aircraft, a safe promise because the amount of $4Billion came exclusively from Trump’s own internal head mystery.  He has now asked Boeing to provide a price for a version of the F/A-18 fighter that would reproduce all of the promised benefits of the F-35, which will never provide the promised benefits of the F-35 and be substantially cheaper.  I wait with interest to see what Boeing might suggest!

The UK is due to begin to disengage from Europe in a few months.  Not much has happened so far except for a significant devaluing of the Pound.  Things are going on behind the scenes however with many companies looking at moving their operations to Ireland and the Benelux countries.  If Brexit is realised I would guess that the UK will sink a good deal further into the mire and the issues that caused many to vote for Brexit will get worse, not better, because they don’t really have anything to do with Brexit.

Australia looks to be in for exciting times.  If the ratbag right of the Liberal party does split and form its own party under the already registered name Australian Majority they will substantially weaken their own position as well as the position of the Turnbull Liberals who will still have ratbags in their ranks.  And keep in mind that Turnbull’s completion date for his third rate NBN has passed and the NBN is nowhere near completion.  For the first time I have obtained a rough date for the roll-out of the NBN in our area of Canberra; July 2019.  Even if it happens it is unlikely that we will be able to be connected before the end of 2019.  On top of all this Turnbull’s Mixed Technology Model (MTM) has turned out to be, as I predicted it would, an absolute disaster.  Over the next few years quite a few homes in Sydney and Melbourne will be connected with Fibre to the Curb, a new glass fibre system, but will still have to rely on their copper connection from curb into the house.  It would be so much simpler, and I believe cheaper, to run the fibre connection right into the home, thus providing almost the same benefit as the original system of Fibre to the Home which was not actually the ALP’s proposal but the public service’s proposal which was adopted by the ALP as the only viable solution.  It’s going to have to be done eventually because already Australia is falling behind our trading and other partner countries in our region.

I wonder when the Australian government will begin to take seriously the shortfall in F-35 performance against RAAF needs?  And what might they choose to do about it?  Canada announced that they were going to cancel their F-35 order but have not been able to do so.  I very much doubt that Australia will ever be able to get rid of the F-35 order even now after it has been announced that the aircraft will never by completed in the sense of achieving full operational capability and because it costs so much the US is not even going to try to complete it.

Interesting to note is that all the real effort against global warming in Australia is coming from ordinary people and some businesses.  Our government is utterly incompetent and dishonest about global warming and is doing as little as it can possibly get away.  This means that of all developed countries Australia is the only one where CO2 output will continue to increase.  Many Australian households are investing money in massed solar arrays, joining their own rooftop systems by way of a company structure to their neighbours and local larger-scale solar farms.  By doing this they are greatly reducing their electricity costs and receiving dividends from the companies involved.  These companies are often financed by the people themselves because they expect to make far more this way than be leaving their money in banks where the banks gradually steal it by way of interest issues.

I expect we will learn more of Trump’s internal head mystery as the  year goes on but I doubt that we will ever understand what goes on inside that thing.  It should be regarded as a black box where little can be fed into it (due to very high surface resistance, sort of the opposite to a black hole) and what comes out of it is almost entirely self-serving codswallop.

Summer Silence

There is in NSW Australia a 3,000 km² area of semi-arid woodland in temperate north-central New South Wales, Australia. It is the largest such continuous remnant in the state. Unfortunately in recent times this forest, named the Pilliga Scrub or just “The Pilliga”, has been opened up to fracking operations. You can see the fracking operations in the upper right, between the A39 and B51 roads. They are the small bare areas on the map below. They should never have been allowed.

Map picture

When I was growing up I spent a fair bit of time in The Pilliga. In summer it is very hot and very quiet.  The heat is quite oppressive and shade not all that abundant. However, if you sit still and listen you don’t hear much, just the occasional rustling of a goanna in the undergrowth. Occasionally I would hear an Australian Raven, sometimes called the undertaker of the bush, it was a remarkably miserable sound as the last note of the call was extended and fell in tone. They are quite big birds and often weight more than half a kilogram. They were always rather intelligent too, using tools to get at ants and grubs. If you point a stick at them they would often fly away, just in case you were about to shoot at them with a rifle.

Except for a few species the trees of the scrub seemed to all stop growing at about 6 metres (20’). Exceptions were the big iron bark trees (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) which legally belonged to the state railway before concrete sleepers began to be used. The timber getter could come onto anyone’s property to cut the iron barks into sleepers and deliver them to the state railway. Red Ironbark is a very strong, tough, eucalypt specie with very rough bark. the wood was often used in wharves and bridges because of its strength and very long lasting properties. It is very hard to work but does produce a beautiful finish. These trees could grow up to 10.3 metres tall (about 34’).

That part of Australia gets most of its water from thunderstorms so actual falls in any particular part were very variable but they tended to average out at about 560 mm (22’) per year. My father reckoned however that the actual rainfall was gradually reducing; I think he must have been aware of global warming very early on. He first mentioned it to me in the 1960’s.

Eric Rolls (now deceased) wrote a book about The Pilliga and named it “A Million Wild Acres” and subtitled “200 years of Man and an Australian Forest”. It is not brilliantly written but it is very interestingly written and if you can find a copy I would recommend it to you. Of course the Australian aborigines had occupied the area long before white men did and evidence of their occupation can be seen at sites within The Pilliga.

The Outback

The Outback is the majority of the Australian landscape away, mostly, from the coast but some coastal areas can also be genuinely regarded as being ‘outback’. Very few people live in the outback because the climate is harsh and communications, particularly in the internet age, are fairly poor.

Americans like to talk about how everything is big in Texas but in Australia we have a few cattle properties (I guess and American would call them ranches) which are actually bigger than the entire state of Texas.  This is why Australian cattlemen use helicopters to round up and drive cattle when they need attention or are to be sold.

Image result for helicopter round up Australia

Helicopters used for cattle (and camel) round up are flown very low and the job can be quite dangerous. To watch a helicopter round up is to experience a rollercoaster of excitement.

Many years ago, in the 1800’s, Australia imported a small number of camels and Afghani cameleers to manage them. They provided transport into the outback before there were roads or any other form of communication. When road trains, railways and aircraft began to be developed the need for the camels ceased and they were allowed to run wild. And they bred! Now the Australian outback is being overrun with camels, very big and very healthy camels, so it came about that some Australians began to round up camels and export them to the Middle East. I know the bloke who started this and he has described to me what it was like when it all began. Of course the business was quite speculative then and has had periods of no activity.

The camels have been exported for use in racing and for slaughtering for their meat. But Australia still has far too many camels in country that was never meant for them.  They muddy water holes and make them unavailable for the animals that would normally use them, so efforts are being made to bring the camel population down to a manageable number.

The Afghani cameleers brought Islam to Australia and as a result we have hundreds of mosques here, many of them much older than most Australians would believe.

Image result for number of mosques in australia

Australian Mosque, built sometime between 1861 and 1882. It has been abandoned for a long time now.

Here is a much more modern and still used mosque in a Sydney suburb:

The interior of this mosque is quite beautiful, spectacular.

Australia is, and has long been, a very culturally diverse country, a fact that I revel in and greatly enjoy. There are quite a few descendants of the original cameleers living in Australia now.

The Sun and Australia

When European artists first came to Australia they noticed that the Australian sun provided a different, brighter light.  This light was captured in many paintings completed by these artists.  Sunlight in Australia remains uncommonly bright and is often noticed by visitors from the northern hemisphere.  Australian sunlight affects life here in many ways, similarly to everywhere else but with more strength and magnified effects.

As poet Dorothea MacKellar wrote in her best known work My Country Australia is a wide brown country.  Your can hear the poem here read by the author herself:

I have lived in Australia all my fairly long life and I perfectly understand the poem because I have lived every part of it.  Australia is often an absolute delight to the senses but can also be terrifying, capricious in ways that are not known in other countries.

Australia’s forests are made up mostly of many varieties of eucalyptus trees and these burn hotter than other tree species and are therefore harder to fight and they spread rapidly.  Rain sometimes falls in sufficient quantity to reinvigorate the inland sea which is now represented by the mostly dry Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre).  after heavy rains in the NT and Queensland the Diamantina and other rivers begin to flow and after some weeks the water may reach Kati Thanda.  At Kati Thanda the dry salt is covered with water and millions of water birds converge to begin a breeding frenzy.  When the lake eventually dries again tens of thousands of chicks will die as their parents disperse over Australia.

Australia has migratory birds that fly from the northern hemisphere to feed and return north to breed but there are also bird species that migrate within Australia.  Unlike similar birds in other regions these migratory birds do not follow established routes.  Because Australia’s rains are so variable they follow the water, wherever it goes.  Sometimes a few of these birds make it as far as New Zealand.

Sometimes Australia’s sun is a great burden, driving fires and flooding rains.  We have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, not a thing to be proud of!  But we have mostly learned to live in our country and while Australia has many animals and insects that can kill we actually enjoy a better rate of personal safety than many other countries.