How do we sort out Canberra ?

What to do about Australian politics.

Not an easy topic this one.  What seems to be clear (at least to me and the people I talk to) is that no-one is very happy with the state of the ‘game’ nor any of the parties involved in it. 

Aside from the management through the Pandemic, which the Feds should rightly be applauded over, all parties and politicians appear to be pretty hopeless and out of touch with what the population wants. The window dressing, secret clandestine meetings and deals, it’s all a bit much frankly.

Energy / Climate policy is clearly a big one, but there are a multitude of others.

  • Education
  • Health
  • Transport (both generally and in relation to climate change)
  • Bushfire management

The problem with the Australian two party preferred system is right there in its name.  Moreover it promotes and results in governments and political parties who pander to their investors (both financially and intellectually) rather than elected representatives representing their distinct communities. 

I don’t really care if we’re talking about the Liberals, the Nationals, the Greens or Labour. They all vote ‘as a piece’ and think based on what they are told to think, and that’s a huge problem for this so-called democracy.

The big problem is that the system is broken, and the system is enshrined in the constitution, and right now that’s a bit tricky to change. So if we’re going to have any impact we need to do it inside the constructs of the system we have. 

Now we have to ask ourselves, as individuals, what can we hope to achieve here, surely all the strings are pulled by others. To an extent, that is indeed true, however there are some important exceptions.

As individuals we have two incredibly powerful weapons available to us.

  • We spend our money on and with whom we choose. That’s a BIG one
  • We vote. That’s not been a BIG one but I’m going to argue it can be.

I’ll deal with the spending option first.

I don’t like supermarkets. I think they reduce consumer choice, I think they underpay (dramatically) our farmers and producers and I think they think far too much about their shareholders over and above everyone else.

  • I don’t shop in Supermarkets, full stop. The pandemic has show us we have a lot of options, many direct with the producers, to avoid giving more money to supermarkets. I get that you might not agree with me and that is 100% fine and great. All I’m saying is I’m making 100% sure my money goes where I want it to go by my direct spending. I’m not falling for the ‘cheap convenience’ option which allows the Super Giants to dictate what I eat and who grows it and how much they get paid. I’m doing that thanks very much.
  • I’m not in favour of continuing our use of Fossil Fuels. I drive an Electric car and either charge it from Solar or Green Certified energy suppliers. You may disagree, and that’s fine. Just make sure you’re spending on what you believe in. Equally I buy all my other energy from green certified small Australian owned retailers. It happens to cost a lot less that way, but that’s not my motivation in this case.
  • I think the Arts need to be supported, musicians paid for their work. I buy CD’s or downloads from Bandcamp or directly from the artists. I don’t use streaming services because their payment models are wrong. It costs me money to support the people I like. I’m quite ok with that.
  • I think religious organisations should be taxed. I don’t give them money. I don’t think they should be too influential in education, and they are. I do give money to non-religious charities doing appropriate (in my opinion mind you) work. Medicins sans Frontier is my chosen charity.
  • I’m not a fan of Medicare and private health insurance as a pair. It makes no sense to have both. Overall a public health only system makes sense. I don’t have a medicare card, nor do i have private health insurance. I put money away for health eventualities and I pay doctors when I need them. I still get slugged medicare levy and excess medicare level by the tax system. 
  • I think Free to air TV has had it’s day, and other than the ABC (which I watch on Iview anyway) the free to air thing doesn’t interest me. I pay Foxtel for some sport and Netflix and Prime for other stuff. I’m ok with that and I control what I watch and when, and largely without endless advertisements for gambling companies and the like.

I could go on, but you get the picture. WHERE you spend your money is exceptionally powerful and it really should be driven by your values. That WILL make a difference.

And now the voting issue

We have long had a system in Australia where one of two party groups will form government. It’s how our constitution and politics works. 

I know I’m not the only one who thinks that not only is neither party worthy of my vote, NO organised party is, and I have a very clear reason for saying so. The person I vote for in my electorate who is a member of an organised party is NOT representing me in Canberra, they are representing their party. That is not voter representation. 

ALL political parties are heavily influenced (some might say controlled) by external interests. It might be certain business groups, certain Union groups, or certain environmental groups. I can pretty much guarantee that the interests of those groups, translated in party politics, are going to be a looooong way from my views on pretty much everything. I want to vote for a person who thinks largely like I do and will fight (hard) on those views in Canberra and not fail to represent.

Now for all his faults I like Malcolm as I think he’s well balanced, thoughtful, smart and can properly represent me 90% of the time. I don’t like the Liberal party. I also like Tanya, she’s awesome, well balanced, smart and I think can properly represent me 90% of the time. I definitely don’t like the Labour party. I could go on, but you get the point.

I do want my vote to count, but count in every decision that parliament make. The only way I can do that is to either go there myself or entrust someone with “my vote”. I want to know who that is and know that they are following my basic views on important national policy decisions.

From my perspective, the only way I can see this working is for us, collectively, with our voting power, is for electorates to vote in true independents in each seat. An independent majority if you will. My understanding (though I’m no constitutional lawyer) is that we would have a hung parliament and all bills would be difficult to pass, and take some time. Personally I think that’s good. This work should be difficult, considered and well debated, not rubber stamped by a majority “party” who is largely externally controlled.

Would deals be done in backrooms ? . Most likely. Would I sometimes be disappointed in the outcome ? Most likely. Would my elected representative know that it’s ENTIRELY up to their own behaviour and representation (not the reliance on a party structure) as to whether they gain election in the future. Absolutely !. But even more important than all of this, such an outcome would send a very clear and precise message to the organised political parties. You are no longer wanted, nor relevant.

There will come a day, but we’re not quite there as yet, when we will vote on bills electronically on our devices, when they are important. Real time referenda if you like. We will then truly be engaged in the laws and behaviour of our country. It will be different, initially burdensome, but a good outcome.

So in simple terms, there you have it. You Spend, and you vote. It’s up to you what happens next.

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

13 November 2019

The Hon. Scott Morrison

Prime Minister




Dear Sir,

You and your government friends have been elected into government, not power, as much as people like to use that term, as representative of the Australian people. That means you are there and acting by our grace, not the grace of any god or other fictitious being. We put you there, and we can remove you. The Queen can do that too you know, and though she’s a frail old thing, I wouldn’t put it past her if enough of us start yelling.

I also wish that people would stop calling ALL politicians leaders. Sure there are and have been some, but it’s clearly not a universal trait that comes with the keys to the big house. Most party politicians are puppets, of business, of unions or some other factions.

You see, you’re not the Bishop in a large Catholic community, nor are you the Admiral or Captain of a defence force. You’re not a CEO or an Entrepreneur. You’re not the captain of the footy team or the school headmaster, you are a public servant. When you cease to serve the public, you are nothing. My contention is that you have reached that position.  As a public servant you are bound to do what the public desires you to do. There is NO mandate for you to have an opinion, or make decisions you ‘think’ are correct. You and your mates are speakers of our opinions and our requirements because, for the moment, it’s a bit hard for all of us to vote on every piece of legislation. That’s coming, but we’re not quite there yet. Personally I’d like that day to come sooner, but we’ll see. I am working on some theories in that direction as we speak.

Now I know that you and your mates have lots of buddies in the fossil fuel businesses. I also know and understand that much of Australia’s prosperity has traditionally come from digging stuff up and flogging it overseas, so it is kind of obvious that you’d like to keep doing that. I’m sure Nokia would like to still be selling 6110’s and Kodak their film cameras and services, but you know what, the world moved on a bit and made them redundant. You’re probably next to be honest.

If we want this country to prosper into the next century, and I do, then we need to take hard calls and make brave decisions. Forget fossil fuels for a start, that game is done. It’s now just a question of who’s going to get left without a piece of coal to sit on when the music stops.

We have a unique and powerful opportunity to catch up and then lead the world in Energy technologies. We have the raw materials, we have the climate. Hell we even have some people who are not completely stupid who could make some of this happen. Those CSIRO boys have been known to show an IQ point or two in the past.

We have an opportunity to be involved in the space race. We have some pretty good open areas in the country which can be used for launches, tracking, testing etc.

We have the opportunity to be a great test bed for new transport technologies. We have space and distance in abundance. Where is our test Hyperloop ? Why are we not pushing technologies for this. There’s long been the discussion about fast trains between Sydney and Melbourne, but we could potentially even leap frog that to the new game. Imagine a Hyperloop service from Sydney to Perth. At 1200 km/h that’s under 3 hours each way. Being more efficient than the current farcical loading and unloading of passenger jets, that’s a similar fully elapsed time of flying between Sydney and Melbourne.

Yes, I know we need to keep the Economy running TODAY in order to achieve the new reality, but that’s the job. The job isn’t propping up the status quo forever.  Keeping things running is what we call “business as usual” it’s the job we give to people who are capable, but not overly bright. The bright ones are here to work out where to next, how, how much, where do we get the money etc.

I think, to quote one my esteemed clients, “you’re so busy pulling people out of the canal you haven’t got the time to walk 300 metres upstream to see who’s throwing them in !”.

Almost everything we do in our day to day lives is based on scientific proof and associated developments. We all intrinsically believe and understand the science processes and how they contribute to our well being and advancement. Somehow you don’t think that applies to climate science and the associated recommendations for remediation. I don’t know why, but i assume it’s not news you like, so you and that orange flavoured mate of yours label it fake news and keep digging holes to stick your heads in. That’s the behaviour I expect from a child, not an elected representative. Getting back to that point, has your government (or should I say OUR government as it not yours at all) got a solid understanding of how many of the community believe climate change is real ?  Have you asked ? Are you going to ? If not, why not ?

What do you think the purpose of OUR government actually is ? I’m not sure we’re in complete agreement here to be frank. You seem a bit fixated on a small percentage of what I think a government should be doing, i.e managing the broader economy. I think there’s a lot of other stuff we expect (well I do anyway)

  • Manage the Economy (including making sure it exists in 50 years time)
  • Ensure the health and longevity of the population including the underprivileged 
  • Encourage innovation and competitive global participation in same
  • Minimise government waste and maximise government efficiency
  • Maximise incentives to small business and reduce red tape which interferes with innovation and employment
  • Encourage the development, directly or indirectly, of suitable economic and social infrastructure
  • Look after the planet FFS
  • Maximise well-being either through employment, UBI or other means.
  • Allow our country to participate as a World Citizen.

Perhaps you should go on a working vacation to the Shaky Isles and spend some time with Jacinta. Sure that’ll be a challenge and you might have to justify some of your present thinking with her. I think it would be good for you (and for us). If nothing else we need a break from you pretending to be the all powerful headmaster. And you getting away from a few of the other loonies is a good idea as well.

Now I know, and you know that our system of government is 100% flawed and broken and it needs to be changed. That needs a wholesale rewrite of the constitution and some innovation of its own. Not simple I grant you, and like to be the cause of lots of calls to 2GB. It’s kind of important though as anyone who’s had the patience, and nerve to sit through question time realises the absolute waste of time , space, money and intellect that the present system is trying to prop up. A bit like the fossil fuel game really. Dinosaurs.

So if you’re content with continuing to be a dinosaur burning dinosaur fuels, and destroying what’s left of the planet so you can continue to sit around with your mates and chat about lefties and greenies and people who give a shit being crazy, I’ve got a recommendation for you. Log onto your favourite online movie hire site (and perhaps in your case pop down to Video Ezy) and get a hold of V for Vendetta. Pop it on the tele and watch it. At least twice. Maybe it’s fiction, who knows.

Just so you know, I don’t have a beard, and I don’t live in a commune. I’m not vegan (although i do see the point) and I’m currently sitting on the top floor of a skyscraper in Sydney in the office of my company (which I own). I make a very good living and pay a shed load of tax, as do most the companies I own and run. We provide good employment for our staff who earn good wages and also pay a shed load of tax, you’re welcome ! I think you’re complacent, dumb, arrogant and missing the point. I’m sorry to be blatantly rude but the deal is you’re not doing your job to my satisfaction and if you worked here like that, well, you wouldn’t. So I think it’s time we spoke to your boss (Lizzie) and had you removed. It’s for the best really.

To be 100% clear here, I’ve almost always voted Liberal (or at least made a concerted effort to not vote labour) in elections (at least Federal ones) as I don’t think the other guys are any better, different, bit no better. So when I say we’ve put you there I’m speaking from a position of authority. It’s become the case in Australia that knowing who not to vote for is the easy decision. It seems governments are formed when everyone else falls over and the last few standing grab the prize.

There will be a day, when we’ll look back on this and wonder, how the hell we left you goons there for so long. I know it’s because the alternatives are completely unpalatable. 

Sincerely yours,

Why I think the Tesla (and in particular Musk) haters have the bulls by the horns

I’ll come clean up front and admit that I own a Tesla road car and shares in the company. I’m also a mid 50’s white anglo Male car enthusiast, which means I probably should be a doubter of the Tesla / Musk plans.

Recent comments by ex G.M Exec Bob Lutz and others have caused me to get the keyboard tapping though, because I think they are so wrong in their thinking about Tesla and Musk and what makes the game tick.

Lutz and others have said that Tesla is headed for the automotive graveyard and that this will represent a massive historical failure etc. He might be right on one count (I personally don’t think so) in that maybe Tesla will go out backwards in the next 5 to ten years due to competition from the “traditional manufacturers” in the electric market. If it does, that will be a SUCCESS for Musks plan, not a failure and that is what these guys don’t get.

Musk set out not to build the worlds most profitable car company, but to prove that Electric cars can work, and be good cars and be in demand an MOST IMPORTANTLY stop the development of fossil fuelled cars. The more competition he gets, the more his point is proven and his success assured.

If you’ve ever watched kids racing cars (or Karts, or bikes) you’ll know they are fast not because of skill (so much), but because of lack of fear. They have a single fixed goal, no fear and they just go for it. As they get older and get responsibilities and families and memories of their life etc. fear and anxiety develop and they SLOW DOWN and become risk averse. Tesla (and Musk in particular) are the young race drivers, and Bob and his cronies are the older slower (once upon a time successful) guys reminiscing about “how fast I was”. Are there risks in the Tesla approach, you better believe it. Have their been and will there be more failures, Absolutely.

But I think Tesla will survive and I think thrive and here’s why

Tesla has proven ALREADY that motoring is becoming a software business.

Are there risks in trying to prop up dead industries whilst dabbling in new technologies ? I don’t know, ask Kodak, or Photocopier companies, or printer manufacturers. I own a Tesla (well the bank does) and I presently also own a couple of fossil cars. I’ve come to refer to them as the “Fax machines” in the garage.

Apple proved conclusively that phones and computers are a software business many years ago and they seem to have done ok. Steve Jobs said early on “Any software business that really serious about it has to build their own hardware”

Apple went up against Microsoft IN CHOSEN MARKETS and made them look silly. Tesla have done exactly the same, and embarrassed the traditional automotive guys to catch up. Microsoft tried that with Windows Mobile (for phones). It seems to have not gone well for them…………..

Why was (and for now is) Apple successful. A massive fixation on design, on the product, on helping people understand what they want before they wanted it. Jobs was a god like figure to many of his employees and most of his customers. The similarities are pretty clear.

The dinosaur auto manufacturers have been playing down the threat from Tesla and Electric for many years only to be slowly coming around (now that they’ve amortised as much of their investment in Fossil fulled plant and machinery as they think they can get away with). Are they abandoning their dirty habits and going full on Electric. No their not, why not ?. Here’s a few possible reasons:-

  • They don’t really believe it’s true
  • They have fear and anxiety like older race drivers ?
  • They have a customer based they’ve “sold a line to” who they can’t yet abandon
  • They want to see Electric cars at a loss to “hurt” Tesla (Lutz actually suggested this in his comments)

People bought Windows phones, I know a few of them. Some people said they weren’t a bad effort, but it was always clear Microsofts heart wasn’t in it it. It wasn’t “The Game” it was “A game”. They failed, they don’t talk about it. Tesla, and more spectacularly Space-X have had a LOT of failures. They talk about them.

For Tesla, renewables is “The Game” and for Musk it’s what he sees we as humans MUST do. Profit and success are ancillary. Sounds like Jobs and Apple to me. They’ve done ok. (RIP Jobs, you did great work).

Dreamers Circus – Second Movement – A Review

I should start out by openly stating I am a massive fan of this trio from Denmark & Sweden after accidentally catching them live in Sydney a number of months ago (quite a number now). A trio that mixes expert Violin, Piano accordion, piano, guitar (and it’s many ancient variations) into something truly modern and exciting. Yes, it’s exciting to listen to.

The latest CD, ‘Second Movement’ is quite amazing. I don’t know if it’s a folk collection, a small symphony (as the name suggests), a whole new Genre , Modern folk, or just ‘World Music’ (and no I don’t mean just !).

Frankly, I don’t care what you call it, it’s a beautiful musical journey and expertly delivered. I was very happy to purchase a decent bit rate version knowing what these three are capable of and I certainly haven’t been disappointed in the 4 weeks I’ve been playing it. I recently treated myself to some new Hi-Fi components and this album has been a real treat to explore them with.

The tracks flow like an old school album used to, it’s not a collection of songs, it’s a journey into a style which is very engaging and brilliantly recorded as well as performed.

In a slight departure from the first album, there is real pace and intensity here, a lot of light and shade in the sounds and the delivery. It’s like, to me, the musicians have become more comfortable with what they are doing, and let the music develop. And who knew that piano accordion could be so cool. In fact I think that’s the thing with this recording, it doesn’t care what people think, it’s got a confidence in its own sound. Hell there’s even some vocal like musings on sofastykket which work, strangely.

I quipped recently that they are like a new version of one of my all time favourite bands, the UK based SKY with Australian Guitarist John Williams. I now thing that’s an ill placed claim, because whilst these guys are clearly as talented as Williams, Monk, Fry and Peek it’s an altogether different sound. SKY were always trying to sound different and classical at the same time (largely successfully) but these guys are just playing what they love, and it’s bleedingly obvious.

There are no discernible bad tracks on the album to my ears and I must admit I find it hard to pick a favourite, it seems to change daily. As Jeremy Clarkson once said of his favourite album, Who’s Next by the Who, I like, and I mean I really like, every single track. Surely that’s the measure of a great recording. There are no ‘passenger’ tracks here. If you push me I’ll say “Prelude to the sun” is outstanding and has some Australian connections (via Princess Mary of Denmark, a huge fan of these guys) and is a tiny bit of a standout.

The musicality of the work, and the natural sounds are quite brilliant.

To be an effective review I feel i should be critical of this work in some areas. I’m struggling to be honest. I’ve probably been top to bottom over the tracks at least 40 times and i’m not tired of any of them. OK, if pushed I can say it’s probably crap as ‘background music’ (a term I really dislike anyway. It’s an attention seeking recording, an why shouldn’t it be. It’s Art after all.

So how do I conclude ?, well here’s a link

A Room in Paris

to the somewhat strange video clip of the ‘single’ such that there is one. See what you think, but if your tastes are anything like mine, you’ll need the whole album, it’s very good indeed.

High Res Audio – I’m confused at the record companies and the public.

High Res Audio – I’m confused and very annoyed at the record companies and the public.

Let me explain in as simple terms as I can.

The Compact Disc, for audio usage, was invented in 1982. For those of us old enough to remember, it doesn’t seem so long ago. In reality people, that’s 33 years ago.

Our TV sets were colour analogue receivers and FM Radio was only just becoming the norm, and I mean only just.

Put another way, we are presently using, as ‘state of the art’ audio a digital technology which is 33 years old. If CD’s were our computers, that would be equivalent to the ‘then newly released’ Commodore 64 and Lotus 123 V1.0.

One year earlier Sony had a digital camera which recorded onto floppy discs.

In that context you might understand why I’m fuming about the lack of publication and availability (in Australia at least) of what is broadly referred to as Hi Resolution Audio. Let me explain the technobabble as best I can.

Prior to CD’s we had audio in analogue format (remember analogue cell phones etc). This was a continuous stream of audio sounds crudely in many cases reproduced from vinyl records via turntables, needles etc. It worked and in some cases was very good. Because we hear in analogue (not in 0’s and 1’s) it sounded pretty natural but the media (Vinyl) often let the technology and the sound quality down.

The CD introduced digital storage (1’s and 0’s) which were written to the magic compact disc via computer technology. The analogue sound was converted by electronics ‘listening’ (sampling) to the audio and making the conversion. The is the A/D (analogue to digital) conversion part of the puzzle. When you want to listen to it, it goes back to analogue via D/A (digital to analogue) conversion, or DAC.

As we know from computer screens (which have gone from 650×350 in 1984 to typically 1920×1080 now), printed digital photos etc etc. the concept of resolution refers to how many pieces of data (1’s and 0’s)  are used to trick our analogue brains into seeing something which is continuous. More pixels means a smoother image, less ‘errors’ and more ability to ‘describe’ the subject with more ‘digital paint’.

Bill Gates once famously said no computer is ever likely to need more than 640 Kbyte of memory, and here i am on my laptop with some 60 times that amount.

So, back to audio. We’re still in 1982 basically, and that has been deemed by the publishers to be ‘all we need’. Well frankly, I need more.

There is some debate about the human ears ability to pick up the difference between CD quality (16 Bits at a sampling rate of 44Khz) vs HRA (High Resolution Audio) at (say) 24 Bits at a sampling rate of say 96Khz. The debate is valid BUT if some people (and I’m one of them) think they can hear the difference, why not sell the higher resolution recordings at a premium to those who want it. In the computer technology style developments, its basically a 12 month screen resolution upgrade.

The objections seem to be (with my associated refutations)

  • We don’t have hi res recordings (Rubbish all modern recording is done digitally and at higher res than i’m asking for)
  • You can’t tell the difference (I believe I can, and so can others, and we’re happy to pay for the privelige)
  • They take up more space (Yeah like digital storage space is expensive and hard to get…. NOT !!!)
  • Apple don’t support hi-res (Actually their hardware does, I play at 24/96 on my iPhone, just not with Apples software or Apple supplied music)
  • The average person doesn’t care (Nor did they care about screen resolution, digital photo resolution etc. until they saw it)
  • People just want to stream not buy music (yes and no, and another topic altogether), but Hi_res streaming is starting to happen anyway.

Now in the US and UK and Europe there are some websites where you can buy HRA recordings, but almost all of their content is geo-blocked in Australia and there are no equivalent websites with a wide range of HRA digital content.

So why oh why do my ears have to be content with 1982 digital audio. My equipment and my ears can tell and can handle much better. I’m sure yours can too if you ever get the chance to hear it.

The latest development to get an incredulous reaction from me is that recently i’ve been specifically asking artists and publishers for HRA versions of recordings to buy. The most common reaction is “why do you want such high quality recordings, what are you going to do with them ?”. To me this is the equivalent of a movie producer saying “why do you want my movie in BluRay that’s too good for your eyes”. I mean I understand that it’s not a mainstream concept and people are confused, but like so many things in technology and other areas of interest, once you know, you can’t believe it took you so long to find out.

OK So it’s not actually the Supermarkets Fault or is it ?

For ages I’ve been banging on about the apparent supermarket duopoly and the apparent misuse of their market position. It’s a common contention or opinion that this might lead to them exerting undue pressure or direction on pricing, suppliers, consumers etc. Are they the true villains, perhaps, perhaps not.

We live in a capitalist economy. That’s a fact whether you and I like it or not (I actually do, most of the time).

The role of the capitalist is to respond to demand in the most effective way possible and make as much profit as they can from the demand in the marketplace. Now here’s the thing, the marketplace chooses whether to buy from the capitalist or not. So if the apparent duopolistic supermarkets are making obscene amounts of money (whether or not they then use that money for questionable purposes or just paying a dividend to their shareholders) then someone, in fact a lot of someones are choosing to spend their hard earned cash at the establishments of those apparent duopolist. In other words the consumer is the villain creating the demand and choosing to have that demand satisfied in that way, by those capitalists. So the consumer is in fact rubber stamping the behaviours of the supermarkets, good bad or indifferent.

The consumer can change ALL of this, but they don’t.

So the supermarkets are innocent in all this ? Well perhaps not. Demand is something delivered by consumers to the capitalist market. It’s created by a need or a want. But what creates that need or want ? Let’s look at say.. Fresh food.. One of my favourite topics (in every sense). What we need to live is a good balance of nutritional food, fresh is generally regarded as best so as to retain those nutrients. What are our choices then to obtain such foods:-

  1. Grow it ourselves (worked once, can work again)
  2. Barter with someone else who grows what we want, in exchange (perhaps) for something we grow that they want (balance)
  3. Use a monetary exchange to purchase produce from a commercial grower (once upon a time called a farmer, not a lot of those left now but you get the idea)
  4. Use a monetary exchange to buy from a produce market (requires you to get up early and often buy more than you need)
  5. Use a monetary exchange with a providore (Butcher, Baker, Greengrocer etc.) who buys from the aforementioned markets and // or farmers and is more suited to consumer levels of supply (i.e. Just a bit of stuff we can use this week)
  6. Use a monetary exchange with a general store
  7. Use a monetary exchange with a Supermarket.
  8. God forbid, buy food at a petrol station (probably owned by a supermarket anyway)

Consumers like most people are fundamentally lazy. That’s not a criticism, it’s just the way we are. Given the choice, we’ll do less work if we can. Supermarkets play on this by locating all produce (or all produce as they define the term) in one place; The “Super” “Market”.  They also put certain foods and products they want us to buy at certain heights and in certain concentrations.

Like the Americans (don’t get me started on that little sub-culture) who started this trend, Australians are fond of doing less frequent shopping in less shops and still managing to have “everything they need” and quite a bit they don’t. So in a way the “Supermarket” companies are perhaps redefining demand by telling us what we want and perhaps redefining supply by telling us what we can have.

Unusually, we seem to like being told what we can have and how we can have it, in return for this so-called convenience. Almost as a by-product of the popularity of this convenience, the apparently duopolistic supermarket chains have considerable control over the supply AND demand; they control the input and the output pricing, only really affected by their competitive drive against each other as there seems to be very little competition in their minds or our behaviours, from outside the apparent duopoly. That is a function of concumer behaviour and the consumer is still to blame.

So in reality the perception that the supermarkets have control is brought about by our laziness to exercise our minds and rights to do something else.

So what are the downsides of this behaviour and control. These are all speculation and contention, however it may be that:-

  1. Food Products (including animals) are reported to be designed to a formula stipulated by the Supermarkets
  2. Growers are potentially disadvantaged by the control of their markets and hence their ability to price and sell their goods suitably
  3. Reduction in the availability of speciality and/or local shops because the demand (and supply perhaps) is potentially controlled by the apparent duopoly.
  4. Food Miles are typically increased because products are shipped long distances to centralised distribution hubs and then back to supermarkets. Small local producers are not favoured.
  5. Apparent and reported unfair business practices abound as rumour.
  6. Product selection tuning, whereby supermarkets could use shelf position and shelf space to change buyers habits and behaviours.
  7. Inhumane animal treatments due to cost pressures and volumes
  8. Apparent Price manipulation, by controlling demand and supply by definition you have control over price.
  9. Limitation of the ability of a farmer to sell property in the open market due to a reduction in available ‘output’ targets for farm produce, i.e. The duopoly controlling the buying and selling of supply businesses
  10. I could go on and on and on (I often do).

So what options are there for control of these practices or reducing the control of the large supermarkets. In my mind essentially there are two options and only one will work.

  • Government regulations. Won’t work because
    • It’s very hard to do
    • It’s anti competitive in many ways
    • It’s socialistic and anti capitalistic
    • It smacks of ‘big brother’
    • Although labeling products AND businesses owned and/or controlled by the supermarkets would be a very good idea in my opinion.
  • Consumers change where they spend their money. Will work because
    • It’s our choice
    • Its a free country
    • It’s possible without government assistance
    • It’s the power of the people saying what we want
    • There’s a small group of us who’ve started already.

Personally I chose, as a matter of principal, to NOT spend ANY money in the major supermarkets ever, a few years ago. So I just don’t. It’s that simple really. There’s a lot of alternative approaches, they do work and they don’t always result in more expense (although they usually do).

  1. I like the fact I know what farms my meat comes from, who owns those farms and how those animals were raised and treated.
  2. I like the fact that all of the slaughtered animal gets used and I try to use different and less popular parts whenever I get the chance.
  3. I like that I spend less money on stuff I don’t actually need and more on things that matter (to me).
  4. I like knowing the growers/store owners and being in conversation (i.e. Two way) about what I want to buy, how I want to use it and the form I like to buy it in, and even the price.
  5. I really like that my meat comes from a butcher who cares; my fruit and Veg from greengrocers who care and other items (including toilet paper) are made in an environmentally responsible way.

So why should you spend more money than you do at the supermarkets. Well this could become a very long blog if I went into the details in my head, but put simply if you don’t like what the supermarkets are doing, and that’s entirely your decision and choice based on your own assessment, you might be seen to be hypocritical if you benefit from those activities economically.

Logically therefore if the alternative is more expensive then so be it.

Road Safety…..

Hmm, Road safety……….

What are we doing about the safety of the roads themselves…… ah nothing much.

What are we doing about the skillset of the average nut behind the wheel……. ah nothing much.

What are doing about vehicle safety standards……… it’s come a long way, but there’s a way to go.

What’s the relationship between collected fines and expenditure on roads, driving skills and safety standards….. ah that’d be NOTHING !

So here’s an idea, stupid maybe, but it’s an idea.

  • Continue, if you must, to extract taxes, Oh I mean fines from motorists
  • Spend a FIXED percentage (with at least two digits and the first one isn’t 1 or 2) on Road safety improvements, i.e. safety of the road device itself.
  • Anyone caught speeding or driving negligently is not only fined but mandated to do an advanced approved driving course and a psyche assessment before being allowed to continue driving.
  • Everyone is tested for driving skills every year BUT, each year it’s a different test
    • Night driving
    • Emergency Recovery
    • Bad Weather driving
    • Small country Road driving
    • Freeway Etiquette and control
    • etc.
    • If you fail you don’t lose your license but must do the same test again in 3 months, and if you fail again, back onto P plates etc until you get better.
  • NO Licenses granted on automatic vehicles. You MUST learn on a full manual and pass your test that way. You MAY then choose to drive whatever you like (subject to the below conditions).
  • Random vehicle safety checks (shocks, brakes, lights)
  • Just fix the damn Taxi thing. FFS. Professional drivers my arse. Get the shit boxes off the road as well, what kinda joke is that.
  • If you’re going to drive a four wheel drive you’ll need a special license. These are large specialist vehicles with unique safety “features” and special care and attention should be exercised when driving them.

Have you (like me) ever wondered why if “Speed Kills” a race car can crash (dramatically) at 200 – 320 km/h into a barrier or another car, and then a barrier, rollover, fly through the air, land upside down etc and the driver gets out, brushes himself down and walks off. There’s lots of buts in this, however the biggest BUT is “BUT they don’t very often die or turn into vegetables” (YES it DOES happen sometimes). We know how to make it a whole lot safer but we’re just not doing it. The politicians are clearly stating that the lives lost are not worth the money it would cost to correct the problem.

There is only one goal, ZERO Road toll. If the Speed Kills campaign is right (and I’m confident it’s not, at least not in simple terms)  and speed is defined as distance over time (which I’m pretty sure it is) you can only achieve a zero road toll by being parked and never going anywhere, and everyone else being parked as well.

Now that might go someway to explaining NSW traffic planning but I don’t think they’re quite that clever……………………….

Why can’t Australian drivers merge ?

I don’t get it. Two lanes of traffic need to ‘zipper’ together, and yet we see all the cars foot on brakes crawl to a complete stop. Simply leave a gap, accelerate the other car into the gap and keep moving.

FFS !!! It’s not rocket science……..

And whilst I’m on the subject, surely it’s obvious that the car on the freeway or main road has basic right of way and the car merging in from an on ramp etc has to make the running, and should ACCELERATE into  the hole, not brake DURING the merge. Seriously are we that lacking in common sense. Anyone would think we’re trying to merge a split atom not two lines of cars…………………

On the road in Australia, invariably when the road narrows, we lose the left lane.

Timid drivers (young, old, inexperienced) get nervous about last minute lane changes, and hence gravitate to the right lanes.  Trucks tend to have difficulty changing lanes (because of idiotic car drivers) so they’ll often hold the right lane early before the narrowing as well.

We really don’t want them there, they need to be left most of the time (as does everyone really). So why not (like the UK) end the right lane. It clearly makes a lot more sense.

FFS !!!

Speed limits, licensing and traffic management

FFS !!

Speed limits, licensing and traffic management are currently based on stopping traffic rather than encouraging it’s flow.  Policing is based on a big stick approach, rather than a stick and carrot approach. Whilst advances in vehicle safety have been largely responsible for lower death tolls, accident rates have not changed (need to check this) and speed limit reduction is the claimed source of the road toll reduction. 

  • Any road death is unacceptable. A road ‘toll’ is a clear sign we have got it wrong and it must not be tolerated or accepted. Should fines on offences be continued, a large percentage therefrom will be devoted to safety reserach to include:-
    • Minimising intersection traffic 
    • Road barriers, power poles, and trees
    • Vehicle safety including changes to restraints and other active and passive protection including consideration of roll cages and helmets.
    • Random vehicle safety checks
    • ANNUAL Driving tests on a rotating set of key disciplines. Failure requires additional training and re-testing within 3 months.
    • TV Advertising campaign based on safer driving techniques (separate blog entry to follow)

  • Massive changes are needed to aid road traffic flow. A few simple ideas
    • Concrete viaducts for pedestrians to cross under roads
    • NO RIGHT TURNS ALLOWED except in designated right turn lanes. Exempted from say 9:00 pm till 4:30 am
    • Recovery trucks and cranes on busy roads during peak periods every 3 km, stationed on the non peak side of the road and authorised to use it.
    • Merging cameras which enforce by law a one for one merging rule. No exceptions, fines issued by mail / email / direct debit
    • A general capacity for police to fine motorists for impeding traffic flow including but not limited to
      • Driver UNDER speed (10% below limits without reason)
      • Stopping without traffic / safety based cause
      • Driving in a lane more right than necessary for sustained period (cameras to be used)
      • Turning from an incorrect lane
      • Erratic late lane changing causing disruption to traffic flow
      • Failure to correctly indicate EVERY time with minimum distance warnings (60 metres++)
      • Driving in a manner likely to reduce the flow efficiency of traffic without due cause
    • Fine all Taxis on site, by definition, based on the above.
  • Offenders guilty of driving offences will be mandated to attend driver training courses rather than pay fines. The points system (modified) would continue to operate.
  • Drivers of unregistered vehicles and/or unlicensed drivers will be fined a minimum of $10,000 and jailed for up to 12 months.
  • Separate speed limits on ALL roads for low visibility conditions such as rain, fog etc vs ‘normal’ conditions. This will facilitate higher limits in some cases, during ‘normal’ conditions. Higher limits would only be available to new super license holders.
  • Super License holders will be tested annually, have a maximum BAC of 0.02 and be allowed some freedoms in speed conditions when the road, the conditions and the vehicle are all suitably qualified.
  • Speed limits to be changed to speed zones designated by a coloured road lines which designate the zoning of the road. This should allow the removal of speed signs and a more dynamic method of zone – speed assignment. For example in the unlikely event of snow in an area in Sydney, a bulletin could simply downgrade all zones by 50%. indeed that might be a good use of the otherwise useless electronic signage which has sprung up around the place that reminds us “slow down when wet……” FFS !!!
  • Vehicles will be tagged differently depending upon age and dynamic and passive safety ratings.  These ratings will change the maximum speeds allowable in various speed zones
  • Registration labels will be abolished, replaced by VIN Bar Code and/or RFID tag scanning.
  • School zones on main transit roads will be removed. Where schools occupy main road frontages, fences, overhead pedestrian bridges and suitable parking controls will be put in place to ensure children are not at risk. In conjunction with the public transport plan parents will be strongly discouraged from driving children to and from school. 
  • Toll roads will be required by law to refund tolls in the event of major delays during peak hours.
  • Aged drivers will have their licenses progressively downgraded (reverse P plates effectively) from age 65 unless they pass suitable (rigorous) driving capability tests. Restrictions may include “distance from home” and “no freeway” restrictions as well as “no peak hour” etc.
  • Variable road taxes based on engine capacity and power output as well as vehicle weight. Designated eco vehicles are exempt.
  • CBD pedestrian viaducts to maximise traffic flow and protect pedestrian safety.

FFS !! It’s not that hard.

NSW Public Transport

FFS !! – Clearly Australia and particularly NSW have transport all wrong. What can be done now and why the hell is it taking so long ?
As Motoring enthusiasts we think driving is a privilege and not a right. I enjoy driving, and others do as well. We donʼt enjoy traffic and we donʼt enjoy driving when it becomes a chore.
The fact that we have to spend so much time in cars, as a society, for the basic functioning of life and business is, in my view, incorrect and a problem.
I donʼt think we’re alone in this view either.
The simple list of issues I see created are as follows:-
  • Traffic congestion, frustration and inefficiency
  • Pollution in all itʼs forms (Greenhouse, Noise, Rubber etc.)
  • Traffic and motoring related death and associated accident costs (hospitals, insurance and legal). N.B. There are lots of well connected people who profit from this set of issues.
  • Spending on roads infrastructure, policing and courts
  • Travelling time for the average worker. The primary focus of this plan is the dramatic reduction of home to work travel times and a dramatic increase in the comfort and reliability of same.
  • Concentration of real estate wealth because of proximity importance. N.B. There are lots of well connected people who profit from this set of issues.
  • Fuel demands, pricing, and associated balance of payments issues. N.B. There are lots of well connected people who profit from this set of issues.
  • Reliance on fossil fuels and the associated greenhouse issues.
  • Industrial transport inefficiency and costs (passed on as food and related inflation)

Whilst I enjoy some of the expenditure on roads and road systems in this country, I canʼt help wondering if itʼs pretty dumb expenditure. As we expand the road networks, and add road based transport to the roads systems (buses and trucks) the more we demonstrate our failings to properly configure the countryʼs infrastructure.

In essence, the problem is simple and endemic. At no time in the past, perhaps 50 years, does it appear that anyone has stood back, thought and planned our transport infrastructure from a ʻclean sheetʼ perspective. We are about to do just that.
It is my contention that adding to the population, adding to the mobility, and increasing the cost of housing and financing of housing puts immense pressure on transport. The fundamental failing of successive governments to deliver a planned, funded and executed public transport system which is scalable and efficient, results in immense and unsustainable pressure on road based transport systems and personal mobility (cars basically).
It is clear that road and traffic systems, and the related skills (or lack thereof) of drivers to participate in an efficient road based transport system mean that this is not a suitably quick moving and scalable environment.
The logical approach is a more organised, centralised and scalable environment in which public transport can be sensibly delivered. However for it to be delivered, and to be scalable and efficient it must be planned and NOT grow incrementally, but grow inside a structural and strategic plan.
As usual, a strategic approach requires rules or frameworks within which it should operate. The rules are pretty straightforward:-
  • Create a scalable transport environment
  • Reduce dramatically the number of cars on the roads at all times, particularly peak business travel times.
  • Reduce reliance on fossil fuels and production of greenhouse emissions
  • Provide a reliable sub 1 hour transport system from and to major areas and the CBDʼs
  • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year
  • Allow for days and moments of failure and provide less efficient but sensible backup arrangements that work and get tested regularly !!!.
  • Be FREE (or better) when it fails to deliver on agreed outcomes in any trip, that means if itʼs late itʼs free. The Japanese public transport definition of late is 1 minute. I like that.
  • Have a sensible, automated, electronic ticketing arrangement which allows for rapid efficient usage and rapid efficient refunds as these will be expected to be delivered.
  • Provide suitable utility and respect for the aged.
  • Have a plan for continuing improvement, funded by success.
  • Expand the liveable areas of our cities and enhance semi rural and rural lives and economies.
  • Dramatically reduce road deaths and injuries.
  • Enhance economic productivity.
  • Position Australia as smart and efficient as a world economy, enhancing competitiveness and export products and know-how.
  • Provide safe efficient transport at least equivalent to the mean transit time of a road journey at a similar time between the same destinations.
  • Be timely in frequency to facilitate convenience
  • Be charged at a suitable commercial value with discounts in place for the disadvantaged (which are only available in off peak times) 
  • Charges will NOT be distance based but trip frequency based. The same charging mechanism will work on ALL public transport and private systems with automated recompense to private operators.
  • Be free to senior citizens traveling in off peak times
  • Operate 24 hours a day at the same time intervals all day with reducing and increasing capacity at suitable times, but no change in frequency.
  • Armed state police on high risk area services
  • Have a zero cost to the traveller if it fails to meet timeliness and safety guidelines (i.e. refund the fare if the trip is delayed, unsafe, the subject of a breakdown for whatever reason).
  • Incentivise transport staff based on “on time” performance and passenger ratings.
  • Utilise electronic ticketing similar to a personal E-Tag (which also facilitates automated refunds and private transport providers). The Tags may be provided at no cost to pensioners etc.
  • In NSW provide peak travel times of less than one hour from all recognised outer urbane areas consistently
  • Lower CBD traffic and pollution by removing buses from the CBD
  • Be funded by profit sharing treasury bonds sold to Superannuation funds and investors generally or a publicly listed entity invested in by the super funds and the public etc. with suitable anti monopoly legislation.
  • NOT use ANY of the present infrastructure for the high speed links proposed (see separate paper)
  • Use ALL of the present infrastructure for low speed links which connect to the high speed links
  • Include a high speed rail link between Sydney, Goulburn, Canberra, Albury and Melbourne which also facilitates vehicle transport for passengers wishing to do so.
  • Be ZERO emission based,either via true offsets or new technologies.
  • Be delivered around a framework of operation which provides deployment and scalability for the next 50 years.
The following are the premise for the issues we face
A large percentage of persons using motor vehicle transport to and from work would not do so if public transport were:-
  • Efficient & (fully) cost effective.
  • Reliable
  • Accountable
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Comfortable
  • Safe
  • Socially acceptable

Public transport can be made more efficient than personal mobility (cars)

People will pay a reasonable fee for transport which fits these criteria.
Irrespective of technological solutions, CBDʼs will continue as the core place of business and employment for a large percentage of the population
Incrementally building on existing transport infrastructure is a pointless and wasteful strategy. What is clear is that we need a strategic focus which addresses
  • Scaling
  • Costs and funding
  • Safety and efficiency
  • Weather tolerance and comfort
  • Security

So how would this work ?

Essentially the idea is to create a series of transport hubs in decreasing size and speed of “attachment” in order to deliver efficiency and scalability. A small part of this will rely on existing infrastructures in the short term, developing into complete replacement and development over time. 
One can think of this as a series of interconnected wheels and spokes. We intend to use greater Sydney as the example as its widespread complex and hopelessly inefficient. Itʼs also an area we know well and itʼs easy to translate these ideas into real practical solutions in this environment. 
There are a few core parts to the solution as follows:-
  • Fast comfortable trains as the backbone of the solution (250 km/h to 400 km/h)
  • Clean seats, cleaned regularly by on train staff.
  • Free basic internet wireless access on all transport vehicles.
  • Maximum of 4 stops of high speed trains (major hub connections) from origin to destination (No compromise)
  • Maximum of 3 stops from intermediate hubs to major hubs.
  • No facilities for car parking at major and intermediate transport hubs
  • Secure, manned and guarded car parking at minor hubs
  • A real and ongoing reduction in the use of buses and bus services, initially only to intermediate and key hubs, eventually only to minor hubs.
  • NO buses in the CBD within 5 years 
  • An increase in the use of light rail and trams 

A CBD congestion Tax during business hours (Mon to Fri 7:00 am to 7:00 pm & Saturday 8:00 am to 2:00 pm)

Obviously a government would just implement the congestion tax and forget the rest as it would be “considered incrementally” . This is exactly why we are where we are now. 
Idiots ……….