Sunday, February 26, 2006

And so it begins

REDUCE workers' conditions if you want to stay competitive — that is the stark choice employers face under the new federal industrial relations laws that come into effect next month, according to the [Victorian] State Government.

Attorney-General Rob Hulls has warned employers could be forced to cut the pay and conditions of workers if their competitors slashed conditions under the new laws. (Link)

Australia's new industrial relations legislation, the same legislation that's going to be providing us with all those"choices", that won't result in an "overall" reduction in wages, that cost up to $60 million dollars in advertising to inform us about the benefits, obviously hasn't sunk in and people are already getting confused about how good it is.

Such as the 2,500 slackarse Qantas workers who don't seem to understand the "engineering transformation" that's being planned in their workplace. Management from "the spirit of Australia" won't confirm where the jobs will be going but noted that costs in China are 20% lower. Which is no surprise when factory workers there can expect to be paid as much as $US625 a year if they play their cards right.

Prime Minister Howard was happy to share his views on this matter, defending Qantas' decision and saying that job cuts often reflect the commercial realities of competing internationally. However Mr Howard's views on the recent decision by his Government to again reject Singapore Airlines' decade-long bid to compete with Qantas on the highly sought-after Sydney-Los Angeles route because it was "not in the national interest" are currently either unknown or unreported.

In the meantime, the blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony is reporting that a car parts factory in Melbourne is "negotiating" a 5% drop in pay for current workers, 20% pay cut for new workers, removal of rostered days off and restrictions on sick day and overtime entitlements. And given that the company only made $25 million in net profit last year, who can blame them?

Closer to home the iconic Sydney Opera House (SOH) is currently is in a spot of bother for sub contracting an American-based multinational to undertake its building maintenance and inspection services. Employees are complaining about unfair work practices but management has made it perfectly clear that no-one is issuing threats or terminating positions - "All employees who are working for Lucas Stuart at SOH have been given the opportunity to apply for work with the new contractor if they wish to stay on site at SOH," said a representative from the SOH. The new sub contractor must know a thing or two given that they already enjoy other "Australian" clients such as Sydney Airport, AMP and Telstra. Better still, they're currently enjoying some pretty healthy profits too - 125.8% at last count.

Anyway, getting thousands of kilograms of metal to stay up in the sky is a bit like - er - rocket science so I guess I should just take people's word for the need to buy these specialist skills from somewhere else. After all, we wouldn't want to compromise safety or anything. So I must admit I was a tad surprised when I discovered that the "clever country" is needing to bring in all manner of 21st century expertise in order to keep the colony running.

Did you know that we're so unskilled that we're facing a national shortage of bakers, requiring us to import some from Vietnam? Vietnam was "influenced" by the French which is why they've got so many skilled bakers but if wages wasn't the core issue and French baking skills was the thing they wanted, you'd have to wonder why they didn't import the bakers from France? But hey - what would I know - I'm just another unskilled blight on the national landscape.

Meanwhile, Aussie icon Holden is relying on the specialist skills of welders and grinders from Croatia and Slovenia - this time through a German company who is subcontracting these services - in spite of the 1000+ workers that were laid off from company at the end of last year who are presumably willing and available to undertake these roles. There is also some contention about the wages being paid to the specialist workers.
A Holden spokesman said last night that any dispute about workers' entitlements was out of the carmaker's control because they were not Holden employees.

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars - Oi, Oi, Oi!
But the spokesman said Holden had been assisting the AMWU with inquiries.

("Assisting with inquiries"? Isn't that the sort of thing they say on CSI? But I digress...)

Given the shocking levels of ineptitude in this unclever country it should then be no surprise to read Road to Surfdom's post about Indonesian workers digging ditches in South Australia for $40 a day, which "equates to about 272,000 Indonesian rupiah and would be more than double what most Indonesians earn in a month".

Thank God they're being so amply rewarded for their contributions to this wide brown land. Clearly we're so clueless that pretty soon we'll soon be needing to import all sorts of specialist services into the country.

And with the world containing 6.5 billion people as of today, most of whom live in the charmingly named "developing world", I don't think we'll be running short on suitable employees in a hurry. In fact, at 272.000 rupiah per day, pretty soon we'll be able to hire as many servants - er - employees as we want. Assuming we're employed too, that is.
THE nation's employers have scored a big win in a battle to stop unions escaping the Howard Government's new workplace laws, after a group of Boeing employees were refused the right to seek refuge in the NSW system.

A full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission yesterday overturned a decision by its NSW counterpart that had forced Boeing to accept the state tribunal's authority.

The Australian Workers Union is now blocked from trying to use the NSW labour system to have non-union individual employment contracts at Boeing replaced with a collective union wage agreement for 22 of the company's maintenance workers. (Link)

Remember Howard *insisting* that no-one on existing awards would be forced to give those up?

The great God Google tells me that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is "the Commission that deals with industrial relations matters". But if people who have signed Australian Workplace Agreements are beyond their jurisdiction and everyone's going to be forced to "choose" to work under Australian Workplace Agreements sooner or later, then what the hell are the AIRC funded to do and who the hell will be protecting us all from being exploited by unscrupulous employers?

Makes me wish we had a body of people we could pay to look after our interests. Like a government or something.

And if you're still not disturbed, consider this:

The new industrial relations laws haven't even come into effect yet.

Thanks to Ivan for the photo

Friday, February 24, 2006

Unfit smothers

I’ve just read that South Dakota has made abortion illegal except in cases where the procedure must be performed in order to save the life of the pregnant woman. Meaning that things like rape and incest don’t count as legitimate reasons anymore.
Representative Hunt was blunt about why he and other took a hard line: Providing protections in "special circumstances" -- such as cases where children are raped -- would have diluted the bill and muddied the push for a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe.
Now just in case you were reeling over the “special circumstances” that will no longer legally be considered justifiable cause for termination, I’ll just remind you about the bit at the end where they intimate that their goal is to overturn Roe VS Wade in the Supreme Court, leaving the way open for all the other states to follow suit.

I wonder how these pillars of society feel about capital punishment? Constant war? Extraordinary rendition? The 25 million each year who rely on soup kitchens to survive? ‘Cos if the sanctity of human lives is their thang, it's a wonder they find so much time to hound women about their bodies and life circumstances.

No-one likes abortion. Least of all the woman going through one, I would think. But it seems that there’s always been a need for it one way or the other, legal or not. That the people entrusted to govern a society would withhold the procedure from a pregnant 12 year old who was raped by a relative tells you a lot about their moral compass.

Get rid of the bastards before it’s you they come to "help".

Thanks to armcurl for the picture

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Great. Thinking carefully about stuff makes it less likely that you will make the right decisions. Which you'd think I'd have worked out by now, given my life history but hey, I was too busy thinking about it to stumble across the bleeding obvious.

At least I don't exist.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Endangered species

People who are snide and uncharitable would probably say that the reason I have a Logic Happens bumper sticker* on my car is that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to find it in a busy car park. That is not true. That is only true when I'm driving government or rental vehicles and only because they're always white and identical

The reason I have a Logic Happens bumper sticker (promoting our wonderful ABC) is that I think of it as a counterpoint to all those cars on the streets that proclaim that Magic Happens. I'm sure magic happens, but it's only magic because it hasn’t become science yet, such as the magical cult of John.

Yet in spite of the considerable achievements of science and the scientific method we still seem to have a collective image of scientists as geeks and geeks being somehow dorky. And it seems that they see themselves this way too. Otherwise pitiful articles like this wouldn't make it into the ranks of

So it was a nice surprise to come across this site where children were asked to draw pictures of scientists, taken out to meet some, and then asked to draw them again. Seems like a good way to counteract the anti-intellectualism that seems to pervade so much of our culture. And it sure beats the crap the so-called intelligence agencies come up with.

(*If you're looking for a scary bumper sticker story, you're in luck!)

My compliments to Ashlee for the great drawing

Rocket science

I've just read that George Bush may have consulted Michael Crighton about global warming. Yep. The same guy who wrote Jurassic Park and all those other wonderful adventures. Fictional adventures. And who did a podcast for Ken Wilbur's Integral Naked. And has been slammed in the press and the blogosphere. Now don't get me wrong - I actually have all the Crighton books and one of the reasons I like them so much is that he provides alot of science in them that is pitched at dummies like me who never studied it, don't understand it well and like to have things explained in really simple ways, like through a fanciful story. (Waait a minute....)

At this rate I suppose the next scoop will be that the proposed NASA funding cuts are the result of Elton John being brought in as a consultant for Rocket Man...

Thanks to Dominique Alyce for the photo

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

R U 4 real?

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle in Australian politics at the moment about a drug called RU486 which is used to induce abortion, is legally available in other western countries and currently can only be approved by the Australian Health Minister. I encourage you to read the "Usage in Australia and New Zealand" section of the Wikipedia article link I've provided for an interesting background on the matter.

In recent times a new Bill was tabled in Parliament to put the authority for approval of the use of RU486 in the hands of Therapeutic Goods Administration. The Australian Medical Association was in favour of this outcome, saying that it was a medical issue, not a moral one. Others, like the Catholic church railed against the proposal.

Senators voted on the Bill and the majority voted in favour of giving the Therapeutic Goods Administration authority to decide on whether to revoke the ban on RU486. Unsurprisingly, an amendment to the Bill was proposed shortly thereafter:
The amendment to be introduced this week to the House of Representatives would ensure parliament could vote on the drug if it was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration by making any decision "a disallowable instrument".
Which to me sounds like something the 13th fairy at Sleeping Beauty’s christening would do but hey you voted for the bastards, not me.

Then yesterday a politician called Dana Vale became quite vocal in backing the amendment. Not on the basis of new medical evidence. Not on the basis of an anomaly in the voting. Not even to complain that allowing the "rare conscience vote" had been ill advised. Dana thinks that we should legislate to keep the RU486 alternative out of the hands of doctors because “we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions every year. You multiply that by 50 years - that's 5 million potential Australians we won't have here” (meaning that we’ll be "overrun by Muslims" in 50 years, as it turns out, rather than suggesting the human race is in danger of extinction). Is Dana inferring that outlawing the drug will somehow stop women from having legal abortions using existing options? Or is she is predicting a sudden rush of interest as the new drug becomes available, a bit like the iPod Nano craze? Dana also didn’t clarify precisely who she means by “we”, or explain how Muslim parents of future "potential" Australians should interpret her words.

Now I’m no philosopher or logic queen, but it doesn’t take a mental giant to conclude that Dana’s thinking seems a bit bent. Her views add nothing to the debate about whether the drug is an appropriate method for terminations, nor do her statements refer to safety or cost or any of the other issues that may be relevant at a time like this. What Dana seems to be concerned about is all the little white Christian babies we're not having.

It really makes me squirm to see Dana on a limb like this so I thought I'd help her out by brainstorming a number of alternative ideas she could propose to her colleagues, that would still allow women in Australia to be offered the best care and medical advice at times when they’re in the unenviable predicament of having to make a decision about a pregnancy in circumstances that are dangerous or untenable.

These include:
  • Outlaw all non-Christian marriages. That should discourage at least some of those other heathen religions from breeding unnecessarily.
  • Lower the age of consent. Research shows that the higher a woman’s education level the less likely she is to have lots of children so I wouldn’t even risk waiting until after the School Certificate. And with the baby bonu$, you’ll be quite a hit with more than a few 14 year olds, I’m sure.
  • Raise the baby bonu$ for natural blondes. Have a special lane in the supermarket too.
  • Remove the current ban on cloning and clone all our favourite Australians starting with John Howard so that we’ve got a spare PM when he announces his retirement in 2023. Hell - make it a baker’s dozen. There's never enough Honest Johns, I say.
  • Deport childless adults back to the countries where their families originally came from. This might prove a problem in the case of Aboriginal adults but I’m sure your new department of Family, Community & Indigenous Affairs could work on that.
  • Restrict access to contraceptives and fund some cute retro ads where the Intelligent Designer shows that it’s wrong to spill seed/remain barren. Encourage drunken fornication. (I know this is disgraceful but we live in exceptional times. It calls for exceptional measures. Do you want white babies or not?).
  • Sneak into temples and secretly spray people with that new aerosol contraceptive formula created by those patriotic Australian researchers from Melbourne.
  • Ask “real” Aussies like Steve Irwin and John Williamson to donate their sperm and offer it as an IVF option to those over-educated, unpatriotic white lesbians who refuse to party like it’s 1949.
  • Recall all white part-Australian babies back to Australia, starting with the Kingaroo
I was going to mention things like affordable child care, secure industrial relations legislation, family friendly workplaces and that sort of stuff but I didn't want to sound too ludicrous.

Hope that helped, Dana. Yell out anytime, OK?

Photo by viclic

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Spread the love

the sweetness of your tender kiss
so soft against the morning mist
conceals the fact
that by mid afternoon
your stench will
choke me

Happy Valentine's Day, folks!

Image by Beppie K

Sunday, February 12, 2006

News vultures

It's probably not a good idea for me to post this because it only draws more attention to something I think we as a society spend waaaay too much time on but I'm not sure how to do it without mentioning it. So apologies to the poor bastard who is the subject for this post, who is having his story retold in order for me to make a point about salacious journalism dressed up as lamb.

Former Cold Chisel roadie dies on flight screams the headline, yet the story is about a man who probably had lots of different jobs in his life given that he was 56 years old when he died. So even if he spent as many as 5 years of his life working for Chisel (which is a long time in the land of rock and roll) he still would have had another 35 years of doing something else - probably lots of other something elses. (For those of you who don't know, Cold Chisel was the same vintage as AC bloody DC - great band but ancient history chronologically).

Is it relevant to the story that in his early 20's he earned money carting around guitars and amps for an Australian rock band? Has he ever been profiled on one of those "where are they now?" shows? Or been interviewed in the music sections of our better newspapers? No. If I had to guess I'd say he'd have had some trouble generating the same publicity for himself if he were still alive.

If he'd died from a common disease, the newspapers would be calling it "fat bastard, divorced, funeral Friday" or something. And his relatives would be the ones footing the bill for the classified ad.

The story isn't about his work with Cold Chisel. Or the fact that he died. It's just a tawdry excuse to tell a sorry tale about a poor man who was having a pretty shitty time of it by the sounds of it, who lost the plot, acted on his rage, felt terrible remorse and then hanged himself.

There. Feel better knowing the story? Tittering yet?

What really disappoints me about this sort of lowbrow journalism is the way they seem to have no concern for how spreading the story may affect the person's family and friends. Is it compelling news? Do people all over the world "need to know"? What if he hadn't worked for a rock band - what if he'd once almost slept with a girl whose sister was the hairdresser of the guy who cast Desperate Housewives? Would that warrant the inclusion of his sorry tale in this Herald, this messenger, this information channel that is the medium through which so many learn about what's happening in the world?

Nor do they seem to have considered how much this poor man must have suffered - certainly at the end of his life and probably for some time beforehand. This, from the same newspaper who on another page will have a story about the importance of understanding the signs of depression.

In the news, over the back fence and by the water cooler, these sorts of stories become the things we discuss because we're bored or boring or just too stupid or scared to reach out and relate to something genuinely interesting or real. I once heard it said that there are three kinds of people: Those who talk about themselves, those who talk about others and those who talk about things or ideas. I thought that was a great way of looking at our own patterns as communicators and thinkers. What kind of society would we live in if we overturned the pyramid, spending most of our time sharing and discussing ideas, then other people, then ourselves? It's a genuine question I'm asking. I really don't know.

While gossip is a fairly common human activity that is evident in many cultures and may even serve some legitimate purpose, it still doesn't excuse the way we collectively contribute to the misery of others by supporting magazines and publications who turn it into a public spectacle. It may have been different in the past, when communities were smaller, where the other person's existence had some relevance to your own life or where the tedium of a harsh lifestyle and few outlets for expression may have required those sorts of channels. It may even still be different at an individual, local level; something to do with the monkey part of us that likes to create and participate in uproar. But surely we don't need to keep mass producing, consuming and practising this sort of stuff? Surely??!

I keep thinking about the life of this man who may have been a father, a fisherman, a dancer, a story teller, a cook, a swindler, a Scrabble player or a drunk. How would we know? And if we don't, is it our business to appropriate the other parts of his story, like he's some character in a book we can pick up and put down again? And whose business is it in the first place at all - are all of us potential fodder for tomorrow's tawdry news? Says who?

I'm not even sure what this rant is about except that I'm really sad for this poor man who by the sounds of it had enough unhappiness in his life without some newspaper using an ambiguous headline (which sounded like it may have been about an air crash) and a cheap rock band connection to sell more newspapers. And that then points to us.

Rest in peace, mate. I wish someone had helped you sooner.


WTF?? In a world where news is pretty thin on the ground, what with world peace certain, no corruption in high places and religious ties between nations being the most healthy for decades, HERE IT IS AGAIN just in case you missed exactly the same story yesterday, although this time we're going for the audience that prefers a headline that cuts to the chase...

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Zero sum laude

I've sometimes idly wondered how particular things end up getting googlebombed and today it has finally dawned on me in a tangible way. And, being a community minded kinda gal, I feel like sharing it with my exclusive readership of three.

Zero is a pretty nothing sort of number – null, void, empty. Not the sort of thing I'd call my kid or use as a greeting. So I’m a bit surprised Coca-Cola decided to use it for their new product Zero, even though this “intelligence” would have taken a small army of market researchers a lot of time and money to accumulate. But hey, they must know what they’re doing – Coke is probably more well known than Jesus in many parts of the world.

I’ve seen the billboards, heard the ads, even almost bought the T-shirt. But I can’t say I really started paying attention to the product until I saw a post by Antony Loewenstein a month or so ago that referred to it specifically.
"You may have seen the billboards around town: "Why can't you have a sick of work day?" is one example. It's all about the "Zero Movement", whose manifesto reads: "Rid the world of all the negative consequences that limit us all." A new message appears on the site every day, pseudo-philosophy dressed up as meaningful pronouncment." and then reveals that it's an advertising campaign.
Which is fine, yeah, calm down, Antony. But then he continues:
Soon enough, the "movement" started appearing in online forums but the cultural jammers weren't far behind.
Rather mortifyingly, the culture jamming site he refers to tells the reader:
They've bought billboards and the backs of magazines.

They call themselves 'the zero movement', but what are they?

They're a bunch of advertising wankers pretending to be a grass-roots movement.

They're spending Coca-Cola's money to try to get you interested in drinking a product called 'Coca-Cola Zero'.

So what is this great new product? Well, if it's anything like the US version, it's a can of undisclosed ingredients mixed with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium. Yum!

Loewenstein then goes on to add:
This kind of viral advertising and "grass-roots" marketing is becoming increasingly common in an environment saturated with useless products, drinks and food. It's legal and possibly quite effective, though ethically suspect.
At the time, I agreed, adding a comment to the post that said:
On the other hand they're skating on thin ice here. When I read the post (without knowing it was about Coca-Cola) I thought it was satire. Wouldn't take too much to turn it into a big PR mistake for Coke. Are you listening Adbusters? Billboard Liberation Front? CNNNN?
And I pretty much forgot about it. Smirked whenever I saw the billboards but otherwise became immune to the branding in public spaces where the product has blended in with all the other loud shirts.

Then, a coupla days ago, Larvatus Prodeo reported on some comment spam that had started turning up on people's blogs. Such as the message received by poor Ms Fitz (who can quite look after herself, but why let that get in the way of a good story...). She received a message from someone called "Dave Zero" that said:
Hi 'Ms Fits'.

I reckon these days everyone's far too worried about responsibility in general. Me and my mates have been reading about this great thing called "The Zero Movement" and now realise that what we really need is zero responsibility.

We've been inspired to put together a bit of a site about it, so if you want to read more then head over to
This was followed by a disclaimer at the end saying:
PPS. And before anyone asks - no, we're not affiliated with the Coca-Cola company or anything like that. We love the new Coke zero, but we're definitely NOT on their payroll. We're just a couple of regular blokes who are really into the zero movement philosophy. Are you?
And that, dear readers, is where I started to become interested again. This sort of behaviour deserves to be lampooned right through the blogosphere, in my opinion. It's like those silly Sony people using that feeble paint by numbers grafitti to get some street cred - I mean, GAWD - who the hell advises these clowns? So anyway - until yesterday I was still chuckling, thinking it'd be fun to do a parody and making a mental note to myself to think of something suitable.

Then today Armaniac got the googlebomb thing happening, where linking to a site repeatedly will result in your blog postings coming up on Google when you use a specific search term. And Mr Lefty was close behind. And I thought I'd join the fray. Call me a slavish follower, call me a viral marketing tragic, call me exactly the sort of person the zero movement may be trying to lure into its sugar-free web.

But then, as I put the final touches on this post tonight I notice that the zeromovementrocks blog has posted a message saying that it was a bit of a joke, a site where they’d hoped to start some satire, definitely not related to Coke or the "real" Zero movement. And you know what fellas? Even if you’re telling the truth, what has happened is pretty interesting anyway. I just visited the "real" Zero movement site. They have a blog. They even have comments that look like they've been written by 13 year old girls which either means they were written by 13 year old girls or 30 year old marketing assistants who read Dolly for inspiration. Can we take it seriously? Are kids falling for it? Is this the 2006 equivalent of the Juicy Fruit debacle of 2005?

Between the two sites, I can't tell which is cheezier, frankly.

So I guess we'll never really know whether "Dave" really was employed by Coke. Gut feeling tells me yes, caution and a reluctance to get my pants sued off says no. And I think this sort of thing is going to get harder and harder to spot as time goes on, as our common language becomes more colonised by the marketers and our population more vacuous. Anyone who spends much time on the internet will have come across this sort of thing at one point or another and it's great to see sites like taking them to task. But I wonder if we'll win in the longer term. If I use "the outside world" as a standard, my guess would be no.

Are we unwittingly playing into the hands of Coke? Is any publicity good publicity? What's the capital of Latvia? (Which reminds me - a note to the teachers and grammarians out there, is it "rhetoric" or "rhetorical" question? And if so, why?).

Salut to LeoL30 for the photo

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Loony toons

I doubt there'd be a person in Australia who hasn't heard about the Danish cartoon thing by now. I've avoided posting, largely 'cos I have such conflicted views about the matter and also because I've been too busy running around the blogosphere following the conversations and participating when appropriate.

I did feel however that I should post something, so what I'll do is refer you to Shelly from Burningbird who pretty much sums up how I feel about the whole thing.

In the car earlier I also heard the utterly delectable Bill Leak commenting on the matter saying that one of the regrettable things about this story is that the original cartoons were neither well drawn nor genuinely funny. Leak (whose cartoons can be found here) also recounted a story where he had once felt the need to depict Mohammed in a cartoon he was preparing for publication. Realising that it would unnecessarily offend Muslims to draw the prophet, Leak depicted him from behind, sitting in an armchair with only his feet showing under the chair.

What I admire most about Bill Leak - and other talented comics, artists, writers and the like - is how he is able to be irreverent and reverent at the same time, realising that one is not the opposite of the other.

Other interesting commentary

Thanks to ClintJCL for the photo