The LNP’s Demonization of Retirees

As with many older people across Australia, I’ve had enough of the sustained and deliberate attack on retired workers by this Federal LNP government. Self – funded retirees have been screwed over with superannuation changes and now pensioners are being vilified and demeaned as recalcitrant beggars.

I’m a month or so off 67 years, apart from one very brief period, I have never claimed anything off either the State or Federal governments, not even for failed investment, or business decisions and I’m still working, (an 84hr week), like many of my peers. I’ve just done a very quick rough calculation of my working life in Australia, since arriving in 1975; my total taxation payments are somewhere around $900,000.

What has been deliberately ‘forgotten’ in this campaign of demonization, is that the pension on retirement, was and is, a social contract – you worked all your life, as long as you were fit and able, payed your taxes and there would be a basic, but liveable weekly pension when you could no longer work.

Yes, there have been (and always will be), a very small percentage who have gamed the system and you could add to that moaning self – funded retired investors who made stupid greedy investment mistakes, expecting 30% returns etc, then cried poor and demanded governments helped them – that is, the rest of us taxpayers. Now we can add taxi industry investors, who are demanding similar compensation as the travelling public has a better option. Governments pander to these greedy, self-righteous whingers, but smash retired working people! If you’ve been scammed – go to court, if you’ve made a bad business decision, get a bloody job like the rest of us!

There is something decidedly evil in Morrison and his mob ‘educating’ younger voters to the LNP reality that retirees are a burden and takers. Oh yes, it’s clever, especially to a generation that’s very self – entitled and self – important, but it’s not factually correct. To younger generations, I’m shocked, saddened and bloody annoyed that education up to completion of your apprenticeship or first degree (University, not Mason!) is no longer free and you are burdened with education debt, it’s not what I worked for, or hoped I’d voted against. However what you’ve had so far, my peers and I worked bloody hard to provide. You were too young to understand, but the social contract has always been that the adults provide for the young and in turn, the young become adults and eventually provide for the old.

Canberra moaning about the burden of pensions is a nonsense, the reality is Australia has the most conservative and tightest pension scheme of any in the civilised world – one really can’t refer to the United States as civilised in terms of looking after its citizens. Most First World countries provide a pension based on working life earnings, rather than the very basic, continually means tested system Australian has. We are not headed for the brink of financial disaster with a pillaging horde of greedy baby boomers grasping every dollar from younger workers, you are being fed a right wing propaganda lie.

Certainly there is a developing issue with the inevitable increasing cost of health care, in terms of people living longer, however that is being compensated for by increasing the age of retirement, plus the fact that many people are working long past any official retirement age.

What we desperately need in Australia, is leadership, something we haven’t had at a federal level for some years. As a nation, somebody should have had the courage to have stood up and explained that what we needed and expected was going to cost x and therefore as a nation, we would need to contribute y in the form of taxation, other nations, notably in Europe, have long taken this approach.  We’ve also been led badly astray by both the LNP and Labor, in allowing business to flagrantly flout, bend and evade reasonable taxation. Corporate welfare has become big business in Australia, we’ve now reached a stage where one extremely wealthy, foreign – owned media organisation is waging war with Australia’s publicly owned national broadcaster, whilst at the same time accepting multi – million dollar handouts from the federal government. Worse, that same media organisation now has the temerity and hide to single out welfare recipients and pensioners as drains on our nation? The irony!

Apparently we have an opposition party – Labor, where are they in this vicious attack on retired people? What great fighting words have you or I heard from Labor politicians? Yep, as the old saying goes, ‘Three tenths of fuck all!’

Unlike Turnbull, Abetz, Morrison, Cash, Shorten, Plibersek, Di Natale and the rest of them – Liberal, Labor, Greens et al, I will not retire with an exorbitant salary, including free air travel etc. Like many of my Baby Boomer peers, I’ve had enough.

Some years ago, there was a Grey Party, it never really got anywhere, but I think the time is now right, for a similar party to be organised and run candidates at the next Federal election, I suspect it could even be crowd funded. If you’re 50+, whatever your political leaning, this government and by their telling silence, the Labor and Greens will, by propaganda and stealth legislation, do to retired people, what they’ve done to refugees.

I for one would put my hand up.

Greg Ross

 

Qatar Business is all Class

Qatar Airlines Business Class

[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_7-imgp0100-001.jpg]110
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171205_102843-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171205_182914-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171205_222425-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171220_150625-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171220_150724-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_090737-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_022939-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_022744-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_022828-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_20171206_002456-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_20171206_004654-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_022620-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_023204-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_083656-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_083548-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171206_090551-001.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/qatar-airlines-business-class/thumbs/thumbs_6-imgp0115.jpg]10

I’ve been a Qatar Airways fan for some years now, their planes are inevitably new, or almost new, I can fit my ample ageing frame in an economy class aisle seat quite comfortably for the 11hr stint from Perth to Doha. I also happen to prefer the individual air vents on 777s – the 380s don’t seem to have them, although the 380 wins hands down in terms of silence. I also like the mix of nationalities amongst Qatar Airlines pilots and their cabin crews, not to mention the announcements in Arabic – I found it delightfully exotic, it reminds me I am travelling. Speaking of their cabin crews, I love them, they’re relaxed, friendly and genuine, an attitude not easy to sustain for ten or so hours serving 300 people in economy. My only small complaint would be that Qatar don’t appear to have a large movie library, but then that may be operator error – I don’t find the finger touch screens particularly intuitive, or easy to operate.

So it was one evening in early December, I found myself in the economy class queue, as we presented passports and boarding passes to the staff at the boarding gate. “Mr Gregory Ross?”

“Yes,” I hesitantly replied, as the young lady tore up my boarding pass, “Is there a problem?”

“Not at all”, she smiled, “You’ve been upgraded to Business, have a lovely flight” and she handed me a new boarding pass.

I had indeed been upgraded – an aisle seat at the front of the Business Class section no less!  I stowed my backpack – it is a Bugatti backpack, so it matched the decor – and sat down to take stock of my good fortune and Qatar’s favour.

The seats are a wonder to behold, it needs five minutes to understand exactly what they are capable of – sliding footrests, everything adjustable and laying down to become very, very comfortable beds, just superb. Half way through my seat learning curve, David arrived, arms laden with the best looking Business Class toiletry bag I’ve seen, (tan leather), the prerequisite blankets, pillows, pyjamas, slippers and noise cancelling earphones, plus dining and drinks menus. I needed all the leg room just to spread out the assorted gifts!  A couple of minutes later, he returned, enquiring as to whether I would like a champagne. Here it needs be understood we had not left the terminal, the doors were still open. I went for an orange juice – I’m not a champers drinker and for some reason, red wine wasn’t available until the aircraft had taken off.

I was aware we were in take-off mode, but the quietness and ambience of the Business Class section was such that the American guy beside me and I were almost oblivious to the fact, as we introduced ourselves with that small talk one does. It was then I became aware of the physical distance between us, it’s elegant enough for individual ‘space’ not to be intruded upon, very clever design. There are only six seats across the width of the cabin.

We turned north over Gages Road and as the lights along the coast line became fewer and fewer, David returned with what turned out to be a  glorious Bordeaux red, a table cloth, glass and cutlery. He laid at the table cloth and accoutrements, proffered the bottle and asked “Would you like to try this Sir?” I hadn’t had to ask, he’d remembered my request before take-off. As I savoured the wine – well, I think my eyes misted over with the aroma and sensational taste – he laid out canapés and asked my preferences for dining.

Suffice to say, the food was exquisite, I shan’t detail every dish, however the a la carte dining experience was available throughout the flight and the quality, in terms of presentation and taste did not diminish. I ordered a ‘Traditional Arab breakfast’ and was stunned how fresh the ingredients were. It would be remiss of me not to write of the beverage list – I’m a malt whiskey and red wine cove, Qatar had let me loose in Paradise! I will not forget the 2011 Bordeaux Cabernet Merlot – David ensured it was never far from my wanton glass throughout the flight.

Qatar already offer a stunningly god service from Perth to Europe – the stopovers in Doha are incredibly short, if you choose not to stay in Doha for some sightseeing, something we must find the time to do. I regularly use the Perth to Amsterdam route and the entire flight time, including an hour and half stopover at Doha, is less than 20 hours! Previously I’ve always travelled economy – the days of a company paying for me to travel business class are long gone. Qatar’s Economy Class is amazingly good value – I always book an aisle seat and although I’m not tall, I have long legs, yet the leg room is quite acceptable.  I am hoping Qatar will introduce Premium Economy out of Perth, but if you are able to afford the extra cost (around AUS$5,300.00 return), Business Class on Qatar is the ONLY way to travel. I have thought for some time that Qatar Airways are the World’s best airline, now I’ve been privileged enough to experience Qatar Business Class, I know they are. It’s a great airline, with fabulous aircraft and equally important, wonderful staff.

PS: If you’re an A380 fan, the whisper is Qatar are introducing them on the Perth – Europe route early in 2018.

Greg Ross.

 

Travelling With the Great Unwashed on DB

 

IMG_20171206_143120 IMG_20171209_095539Travelling with the great unwashed can be both novel and grist for a novel and just as a full Moon does seem to bring out interesting people, (or perhaps that should be ‘interesting behaviour’), so too can travel on public transport. Indeed, we experienced several moments of lunacy the other day, whilst travelling by train from Northern Germany to Southern Germany.

Mind you, our first taste of stupidity, was with DB’s (Deutsche Bahn’s) internal carriage make-over – some idiot has decided glass panels placed between rear and forward facing seats is a good idea, but of course, anyone who travels on DB IC (and ICE) trains knows luggage space for large suitcases is very limited, consequently the space between those seats is ideal for a couple of big suitcases. The glass panel very successfully stops that! To make matters worse, on IC trains, the luggage racks (for larger cases) at the end of each carriage, are quite small. Yes, it’s possible to lift large suitcases onto the overhead luggage racks, however many travellers are elderly and they simply can’t manage it, not to mention that sitting underneath some poor bastard trying to hoist a 20kg+ suitcase over your head, is not conducive to relaxing. Luggage issues feature a couple of times in this tale, but before we write of passengers, we still must dwell upon DB.

As every German rail traveller knows, DB have changed their scheduling, yes, the geeks have tweaked the system, taking into account every possible permutation of speed and distance. Brilliant! Except they’ve totally forgotten to include the time it takes to alight from one train, walk (read run!) to another platform, then board the other train. The new scheduling allows, with several connections, about four minutes changeover time! And if that’s not enough to catch you out, the stations create traps to baffle even Einstein! We got off one train at Platform 11, knowing we had five minutes to get to Platform 16. The lift had a queue a mile long, so down the stairs we went. At the bottom, looking left and right to see which way the platform numbering went, we couldn’t see Platform 16. Scratching our heads, panicking about time, trying to see why platform 16 wasn’t next to 15, we suddenly saw that platform 16 was actually on the same platform as 11. Yes, we could have got out of our train and walked four metres across to the next one!

Back up the stairs. Thankfully, in what has become usual practice for DB, the train was late, which brings us to carriage numbering and placement. When one books a seat, you’re allocated the seat and carriage, for example Seats 21, 22, Carriage 209. The stations then have a carriage diagram (“Wagenstandsanzeiger”) on display and platforms are also alphabetically listed, so you can see what position your carriage will stop at, for example 209 at C position on the platform. Brilliant! Except that nobody ever seems to tell whoever assembles DB trains that somebody else has made a diagram, consequently every station in Germany has passengers dragging and pushing suitcases, running up and down platforms trying to find their carriage. I have long held the theory that the German rail network has grown so big, it’s reached a critical mass and is now beyond ordered (now there’s a word to make any German stand to attention) control.

So we climb aboard. There are two small open suitcase compartments either side of the entry door, BUT there is a belligerent looking frumpy teenage girl leaning against the left compartment and another one, crouched on the floor level of the right hand compartment. There are bags on the shelves, the stupid bitch is crouching in the only available luggage space. I smile nicely and ask her to move. She points up at the top shelves (already loaded with luggage) and goes back to her book! Dumbfounded, I look across to where her chubby mate is leaning, to see if there is any space behind her. She doesn’t move, just looks at me with a sour look. I fight back a fleeting impulse to smack its insolent mouth, then turn back to Crouching Tart. “Would you mind moving, I need to put these suitcases in there.”

“Put them up there!” Crouching Tart orders me, pointing to the top shelf.

“Mate, I don’t want to lift the fucking things up there!” She doesn’t give a flying fuck. Fat Tart pipes up, “There’s room here,” and grudgingly moves aside. I have to rearrange several other suitcases, while Fat Tart looks on, very annoyed that I’ve interrupted her. Finished, I look around to see there are quite a few empty seats spread around the carriage, I shake my head at the rude bitches and walk down to our seats. At the next station, more of the same, except German travellers are more polite than me, they hesitate looking at Crouching Tart and Fat Tart, but say nothing. Incredible and not a guard in sight to bring some order (there’s that word again!) to the stupidity of it all. Our carriage fills up as we leave the station, about five minutes later, a guard announces there are plenty of spare seats in the next carriage. Crouching Tart gets up, she and Fat Tart leave for the next carriage, but won’t look at me as I glare at them, hoping the train will suddenly stop. Order returns.

Another station. The girl beside me leaves and there is a spare seat. A young woman comes along, asks me if the seat is free, I smile and say “Yes.” She sits down, leaving what appears to be her friend standing beside her. Then she jumps up with a phone charging cord in her hand and starts looking for the 240 volt charging socket. I hadn’t been able to find one, so I’m hoping she’ll find it. She is all over the seat, exclaiming loudly in an Eastern European language, obviously annoyed that there doesn’t appear to be one, at one stage even lifting my arm to see if there’s one under it! She sits with her arms folded, looking rather annoyed, then turns to her friend and starts loudly haranguing her. People are looking startled, but she just gets louder, to the point where it’s impossible for Ann and I to have a conversation. The young girl sitting next to Ann has been trying to work on her laptop, but has given up, as I think has everyone around us. Eastern Europe is still shouting and telling off the other girl. I tap Eastern Europe on the shoulder. Dark cold eyes turn on me. “Shut up!” I said. Eighty pairs of eyes are suddenly on me. “What do you mean shut up?” Eastern Europe angrily says.

“Exactly that! By all means chat away, but there’s no need for all the bloody loud yelling!”

“You shut up!” She replies, then lets loose with a stream of German, which roughly translates into her assessment of me as a fucking arsehole. “Speak German!” she orders me, which is good coming from another foreigner. “I’m not German!” I smile coldly at her. I think it then occurred to her that I would not be playing by German rules in our short but lively relationship. She sat quietly, then a seat change occurred a few seats further down and another seat became available next to where her friend was by now sitting. Eastern Europe moved there, glowering at me now and then. Ann said she didn’t want to brand anybody, but neither girl had luggage and she suspected they were travelling for nefarious purposes – eg: luggage theft or pick pocketing. At that moment a lady ticket inspector entered the carriage. You have never seen two girls leave a carriage so quickly, yep they didn’t have tickets. Our ticket inspector watched them running with narrowed eyes and spoke into her two way radio. I sat there thinking that as young women seem to be so self-centred, aggressive and rude these days, perhaps DB could have a carriage for unruly young women, to let the rest of us travel in peace and comfort. They could scream, hiss and scratch each other’s eyes out without interference from civilised people.

Peace descended, we poured wine, opened cheese and chatted with the lovely girl next to us, who was on her way to Switzerland to spend the weekend with her boyfriend. Suddenly yelling started.

Three or four rows behind us, against the rear of the carriage, were seats for disabled people – room for wheel chairs etc. A disabled guy was sitting there taking two seats with a lady beside him. A rather overbearing German bloke came along and wanted to sit there, demanding the disabled guy fold his legs up and stop taking two seats. The disabled guy patiently explained that he couldn’t fold his legs and the lady with him politely added to the explanation, but to no avail, the agro bloke was having none of it, becoming louder and more aggressive with every second. I looked at Ann, thinking “I can’t let this disabled chap try to defend himself alone, I’ll have to step in.” Ann knew what I was thinking and said “No, leave it.” Just at that moment a conductor came along and very quickly sorted out the boorish pig.

All the while, we were travelling alongside the beautiful Rhine and I was wondering why people have to be such arseholes, when things are always relatively easy to sort out, or apply reason to, when it started again!

Another guy had entered our carriage and he was trying to find a place for his suitcase, in doing so, he was moving some other suitcases around to try and fit his in. Well the shit hit the fan.

A woman jumped on her high horse. He had moved her suitcase. No matter what he said, all very reasonably, she was having none of it. It was like being under the command of vitriolic female officer in Stalag 13, as she became more and more strident and offended. I looked around, there was really no issue, the suitcases were a bit of a jumble, as there were so many, but the corridor was still clear and everyone’s luggage was secure, however the woman wasn’t for turning. The argument got so loud and ludicrous, the conductor came back from the carriage next door. Like all of us, he’d had enough – ours was just one carriage, God knows how conductors cope if this nonsense is repeated carriage after carriage. Anyhow, in trying to reason, he sort of snapped and asked the poor bloke where he was getting off. The bloke told him. “Good,” said the conductor, “It’s the next stop, just take your case and wait by the door!” This was a bit unfair, as he wasn’t the trouble maker. Worse, the bloke’s stop was actually an hour away, which undoubtedly the conductor knew. However the two had certainly been separated and peace had once again descended … almost.

The agro German woman was by now so hyped up, she had another lady cornered and was regaling her with the whole tale. After literally almost four minutes, she stopped long enough for the other lady to explain she was English and spoke no German!

We’d had train travel by the time our train arrived at Freiburg, however a beautiful apartment awaited us, we settled in and went to the Christmas Markets, full of good cheer, unaware there was one last mad moment lying in wait for me. This time, DB were not involved.

The markets were crowded, too much so, just like Muenster and Dresden, just too many people, all you could do is shuffle along with the crowd, trying to pick your way through any space that briefly appeared; in these situations, we always find it better for Ann to follow behind me, as my old rugby player shoulders are broad enough to clear a path for her to follow in – please note, there is nothing misogynistic in this procession, just safe passage for Ann!

Of course, there are always those who will make a path in a crowd no matter what – as any shopper knows, beware of Asian ladies on a mission, they will cut you off at the pass, the counter, the door or, most importantly, at the sale item. Anyhow, in peripheral vision, I became aware of a large German bloke in his mid to late fifties, wearing a beige overcoat striding through everyone. He was heading diagonally across my path, scattering people around him, it was obvious he didn’t care who was in his road. I briefly saw his face, he was coldly sneering. By now he was on me and I mean ‘on me.’ He just pushed into me, quite deliberately and utterly unnecessarily. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Yes, you know what’s coming – I can’t let arseholes get away with that sort of shit. So in the best Kiwi Rugby tradition, I pushed back, with considerable force – Kia Kaha. He didn’t expect it, stumbled, then somehow managed to get his balance back. Apparently he looked back at me and Ann tells me a young couple were smiling broadly, I strode on, however I do believe he probably stopped pushing people around, at least for that night.

And that dear people was a perhaps fitting finale to a rather tiring day’s travel with DB.

Greg Ross

 

 

 

 

TORUK – Pandora Brought to Life Magnificently

 

Toruk

[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_195424.jpg]80
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_230832.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_230919.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_230957.jpg]10
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_231122.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_img_20171125_231241.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_200616.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_200618.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_201531.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_201557.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_201717.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_202844.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_203403.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_203528.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_204322.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_205036_001.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_205521.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_212534.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_212557.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_212558.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_214743.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_214845.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_214848.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_214850.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_214909.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_215311.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_215501.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_215738.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_215756.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_220254.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_220348.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_220349.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_220505.jpg]00
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/toruk/thumbs/thumbs_20171125_220507.jpg]00

I think I’ve just seen the best multimedia show ever – TORUK.

I’ve long been a fan of Cirque du Soleil productions. With the exception of a hideously sycophantic Michael Jackson tribute, I’ve always found their productions to be surreal, poignant, marvellous entertainment. The formula of stunning acrobatics, music, lighting, pathos and fun, led by often wickedly humorous  ringmasters is almost unbeatable. When the Montreal circus comes to town, we have to go.

There are of course, some shows we are told cannot tour, due to their sheer complexity – the stunning ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE Beatles tribute show in Las Vegas is one, although some Rolling Stones stage set-ups would have to rival Cirque’s Beatles show for elaborate intricacy, however Cirque du Soleil are the undisputed masters of the genre, they know what works and what can be done on the road.

Which makes TORUK all the more intriguing, with this show, they have altered the winning formula, to great effect! In some ways, this show is even better, with the introduction of superb video projection, puppetry and a narrator telling the story in English.

TORUK is AVATAR. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the stage show and I suspect, even if you never saw AVATAR, you’d still love this production.

The show was staged at Perth Arena, another departure from the enormous circus tent venues. Basically the whole floor was taken up with the set, the audience seated in the tiers surrounding the stage. The only glitch in the production centred on the audience being encouraged, on arrival, to download the TORUK app and use their mobile phones as interactive tools with the stage show. Download speed was so poor inside the venue, interval arrived before our phones could open up the app. Interestingly, given the paranoia of some acts towards photos, with the provision for obvious reasons, of no flash settings, there was tacit approval of using phones to take a photo or two.

Speaking of glitches, although none of the following were anything to do with Cirque du Soleil, we had a couple. As with most shows these days, in order to prevent traffic congestion, free public transport is offered, however when we arrived at the Bassendean Station, we found the Midland to Perth line was down for the weekend, the trains were replaced by buses. Yep, we drove into Perth, only to find as we neared Northbridge, that roads were blocked off everywhere for the Gay Pride Parade, but hey, it’s good to see the city pumping with action.

After our walk to the venue, we wanted a water each – $5.00 for a small bottle of water! Perth Arena, you are gouging bastards! We took the hint and joined the wine and beer queue. So far, we’d learnt that public transport is a waste of time and social responsibility in terms of encouraging people to drink less is a no no. Points taken. Still, Perth Arena is a superb venue, although we then discovered neighbours can be a problem. Two elegant young women sitting beside us were the epitome of social grace … until the show started. Then they began talking, about the show, but talking … loudly, indeed if the volume of music rose, so did their voices, to the point of utter distraction. People were turning to look at them, but they were happily oblivious. Finally, I cracked. “Listen ladies, you seem like nice people, you seem to be enjoying the show, but you haven’t shut up for the whole fucking time! Shut up! Please!” Just then the lights went on, intermission and they could clearly see they weren’t popular. The second half of the show was uninterrupted. We had, by this time, given serious thought to asking if we could change seats, a couple had sat directly in front of us and one, or both, had no use for deodorant. Yes, the first half of the show was a touch difficult – we couldn’t hear or breathe. Rant over, back to the show.

The performance was very physical, but less acrobatic than a normal Cirque Du Soleil, in some ways it was a combination of acrobatics, puppetry, ballet, opera and multimedia, incredibly effective. And where Cirque Du Soleil shows usually leave you to weave your own version of what you just witnessed, this show had a defined story line, centred around the Tree of Life. The puppetry was astoundingly effective – those who have seen stage shows of the LION KING will recognise the concepts. It was a wonderful way of bringing the AVATAR animals to life, culminating in the magnificent flying dragon – a puppet so large, an actor could ride it.

The use of video projection to change the scenery was spectacular, whether it was volcanic lava flowing across the forest floor, or the tide coming in on a beach or water flowing from the Home Tree. The music backing was perfect, although not a live band as such and the actors appeared to be miked, although it may have been soundtrack laid down before the show hit the road. They spoke Na’vi, (the AVATAR language), only the narrator spoke in English.

This show brilliantly brings James Cameron’s world of Pandora to life, depicting a time before that of the movie. The show first premiered in Montreal (Cirque Du Soleil’s home base), in December 2015. It is quite simply a masterpiece of entertainment, we came away knowing we had some something very special. It was uplifiting and almost lost for words – Wow! – is probably as good a description as is possible. I hope it comes round again, my grandkids would love it. Don’t miss it.

Greg Ross

 

 

 

Staff Surveillance – When Does it go Too Far?

As a road train driver on a mine site in Western Australia, I find myself bemused at the amount of surveillance I am under when I am working.

As with many transport companies these days, the prime mover has the usual external surveillance camera, plus a GPS monitor which must be signed into, tracking vehicle speed, plus drivers must wear ‘Optalert’ glasses which monitor eye movement and send alarms to both the driver and the employer if eye movement indicates tiredness.

Now in this day and age, I think most people would agree that the above measures have sound merit in terms of safety, however, the prime movers also have an internal surveillance camera constantly monitoring and recording the driver (video and sound) and no matter how I look at it, there is something creepy and intrusive  about it.

We are constantly told, in passive aggressive mode, that “These are monitored and we can see when you light a cigarette, or use a mobile phone! Anyone caught will have a ‘Window Seat!” – mine talk for being fired.

In a way, I don’t mind – well – I accept it … sort of!  If some poor sad bastard gets a kick out of scrolling through hours and hours of drivers talking to themselves, singing, scratching their balls (or fannies as the case may be), picking noses etc, then who am I to deny them their thrills. I’ve reasoned that the sort of person who undertakes such a roll, would probably delight in getting a job hiding multa nova cameras in roadside bushes, or as a parking inspector.

On the other hand, it is a major invasion of personal privacy. Effectively, one spends 12 hours a day with camera a metre away from one’s face, watching every move and listening to every sound. You have to ask yourself what it’s really all about. I mean, if you don’t trust a driver, don’t hire them in the first place. The subtext is “We don’t trust you for one minute,” in other words, there is no respect accorded the employee.

Now this may be overly simplistic, but if you don’t want people smoking in a vehicle, don’t hire smokers and it’s easy enough to catch somebody who will answer their phone while driving – ring the bastard! Then there is the issue of what happens to the collated footage – it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that somebody might think it’s funny to edit various clips and put them together on a YouTube video, which could be very embarrassing for some people. As far as I know, companies do not explain the collation process, or guarantee privacy, I suspect lawyers could have some fun with that.

It’s often said, that being a FIFO worker is exactly like being in jail, expect that theoretically, you’re a free person – well you are … sort of. One wonders what human rights lawyers would say about prisoners being monitored with cameras one metre from their faces.

I stated at the beginning of this muse, that I found myself bemused – I have absolutely nothing to hide – I don’t smoke, I certainly don’t answer the phone whilst driving, even though it’s usually a supervisor ringing, as two way radio reception can be unreliable! Yes, we’re allowed to carry our mobile phones with us.

However every time I get in the rig, I look at the camera and think, “Well I don’t give a flying fuck, I’m still going to adjust my balls if I’m uncomfortable, I’m still going to swallow a Panadol if I’ve got a headache and I’m still going to sing along like an out of tune lunatic at two in the morning.”

But also, every time I look at it (and sometimes I grin at it), I know the camera is the company’s statement that they don’t trust or respect me, reinforced by constant threats of instant dismissal, if any rule is seen or heard to be broken. In the case of this video surveillance, it’s not too hard to envisage increased rules being applied – ‘You can’t play that sort of music,’ or ‘You were heard to swear by the two tarts looking at the video back in Perth!’ The dreaded ‘First and Last Written Warning’ will be sternly issued!

I am certain companies set out on the surveillance road with the best of intentions in terms of trying to ensure safety of both employees and equipment, however the process, no doubt unintentionally, is now slipping uncomfortably close to voyeur mode, with companies in danger of becoming out of control control freaks, based on what can only be interpreted as a complete lack of trust in their employees.

Greg Ross

The Kiwi Elections …. from An Ex-Pat Perspective

Although politics fascinate me on many levels, the one country I’ve taken very little interest in politically, is my place of birth, Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud – New Zealand. However the reported rise of the new Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern in just a few short few weeks, coupled with my ongoing despair of Australian politics – the choice of that sad fop Malcolm Turnbull, or the bland, poll – driven turn-off of Bill Shorten, not to mention the relatively new West Australian Labor Government starting to look uninspired, uninspiring and as completely lacking in vision as the previous Liberal Government, has created a desire for vision and spark.

So knowing very little of the current state of play in New Zealand politically – I haven’t lived there since the early 1970s, indeed I’ve lived far longer in Oz than I ever lived in New Zealand – I sat and watched the New Zealand election unfold on ABC TV this evening. Which in itself is interesting – hell, apart from Dr Who, I don’t watch, or listen to the ABC any longer. I’ve learnt from bitter experience in the last two state elections that the ABC operates on a two party plus Pauline Hanson agenda politically, the so-called right wing station, 6PR, is far more inclusive. My TV station of choice has become SBS and my radio stations, 6PR and Curtin Radio. Having spoken for me for years, the ABC is no longer of very much interest. Then again, I long ago cancelled my Australian and West Australian newspaper subscriptions. But I digress – as always!

It was fascinating watching the various Kiwi politicians front the media. Apart from Winston Peters, I had absolutely no knowledge of any of the other contestants, including somebody called Bill English, who has apparently been the New Zealand conservative (National) Prime Minister.

As Leonard Cohen once wrote – you knew I was going to quote him – the judgements are severe – well, maybe not, perhaps more instant impressions.

Jacinda Ardern: No doubt the Elephant in the Room is the teeth. I couldn’t take my eyes off them and they certainly play a major role in everything she does – she constantly rolls her tongue over them and sort of swallows and purses her lips over them. It was utterly disconcerting watching her being interviewed, or giving speeches.

I liked her. She struck me as a decent human being, however, her post-election speech was piss-poor. No fight, very little graciousness and little on display in terms of understanding the politics of the moment. Whatever she was thinking, it wasn’t motivational. Possibly she has her mind set on the next election, but to not mention Winston Peters – she cannot form a government without him, was either naïve, or a deliberate ploy. I concluded she was good, shows a lot of promise, but needs a few more years in the sparring ring.

James Shaw: The Greens leader struck me as affable and likeable, but a bit lost in the wilderness. Earnest, but probably irrelevant.

Winston Peters: Let me be honest, I like a maverick and this smooth son of a bitch is a maverick. I liked his campaign headquarters in Russell – obviously the party’s not short of a quid! His speech was fascinating – no message to either the Nationals, or Labour, rather he chose to tell his own party members to shut the fuck up whilst he conducts negotiations with the highest bidder and he gave a Trump-like serve to the media! You have to be confident / mad, or not give a flying fuck to take that approach. But he knows neither party can form government without him, fascinating. I must confess I was taken aback to discover that his relationship with Maori people is not the best. Peters struck me as the only professional politician of the bunch – hard as nails, been there, done that. Sort of like a German Shephard – wonderful, but you’d never quite take your eyes off him.

Bill English: Mr Nice Guy. I liked him too. He struck me as honest, if somewhat plodding – I’d pick him as Deputy Headmaster, not the sucker in charge, but hey, sometimes nice guys do come first. There was a shifty looking bloke standing behind him when he made his election night speech, which subliminally screamed out, “This is what we’re really like, Bill’s just a front.” Then again, there was a similar, more thuggish bloke standing behind Jacinda Ardern – I think he was the Labour Deputy – which also screamed out what was really going on behind the scenes. It did occur to me that Kiwi Labour had adopted the long term Aussie Labor policy of when the party’s stuffed, put a woman in charge and let her cop the flack.

But back to Bill – his was the good speech of the night – not great, not remotely inspiring, just good ‘don’t scare the horses’ stuff. He sure as hell remembered to congratulate Winston Peters! Thing is, you felt comfortable with Bill – he’s the sort of bloke who steadfastly looks after the books at the local bowling club and passes the plate at church – Anglican no doubt. Conservative Kiwis would feel comfortable with him – no boat rocking.

Te Ururoa Flavell: The leader of the Maori Party lost in this election, it was decimation. This man stood beaten and rejected by voters, yet, for me, he was the man / person of the night. There was something about this guy that I crave in politicians. I knew instantly this was a bloke you’d be proud to say you knew. Fabulous speech from the heart. No thug behind him, just a lovely caring wife.

By voting him out, I think New Zealand is the loser. If old mate Bill had been totally on the game, he would have mentioned Flavell and offered him a place of some sort in the future government. Jacinda was possibly caught up in the fact that Maori people appear to have returned to the Labour fold, she too missed an opportunity.

Flavell was the only one who gave any sort of vision, the rest? Mere platitudes, but hey, perhaps that’s what the voters want. Vision can be confronting, let’s go with the Sunday school teacher.

I think New Zealand voters have missed a golden opportunity, with Te Ururoa Flavell. I think they’re right about Jacinda Ardern – she’s not ready yet. Winston Peters is an interesting card to play and the voters have placed the Joker right on top of the pack. As for Bill English, as long as he does what he’s told, it will probably work out … for the Nationals … certainly not in favour of the ordinary Kiwi, who exists on ludicrously low wages, while having to pay Australian prices for everything and with little hope of paying the rent, let alone a mortgage on properties pumped way over value by overseas investors.

But hey, you get what you voted for.

Greg Ross

Section 44 – Is Ignorance a Justifiable Defence in Australian Law?

The debacle of Section 44 and refusal by conservative politicians to stand down until the High Court rules, appears to completely undermine a basic tenant of our legal system – that of ignorance of a law being held to be no excuse.

I suspect most people would accept that if somebody has taken out Australian citizenship, they are expressing in a very fundamental and public manner, their allegiance to Australia. Like or loath him, it’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for Barnaby Joyce – as Aussie as they come – no self-respecting Kiwi would want to claim him! The One Nation cove appears to have misled the Parliament and everyone else about quite when he did renounce his overseas citizenship, but hey, that’s One Nation for you, nobody imagined it was some sort of school for ethics and morality. Speaking of which, the Nationals, from Barnaby downwards and more than a few Liberals, obviously have no truck with the Westminster system – like their One Nation cousins, they’re hanging on for grim death, quite a spectacle to behold. Power is such an aphrodisiac – or perhaps it’s the superannuation, whatever, none of them want to go.

I also suspect most people would be in favour of changing the constitution to allow people born overseas to stand for Federal Parliament, once they’d been granted Australian citizenship, however that is not currently the law. It will be interesting to see how the High Court judges treat the matter.

One thing is certain, If the High Court was to rule that ignorance was permissible in this case, then everyone in Australia would surely be able to plead ignorance of a law as an acceptable defence in any civil or criminal court case. This promises to be a fascinating judgement, there is more than the careers of a few self-serving politicians at stake here.

Greg Ross

The Hijacking of Elijah Doughty’s Tragic Death

The outcry over the verdict of the death of Elijah Doughty, has become alarming, it’s reached a stage where if one is not seen to adhere to the view that it was a racist murder, you’re shot down in flames. Protesters have hijacked the debate, to the point where comparisons are being made with the inexcusable and still shocking death of Mr Ward in the prison van, where it was impossible to reach any other conclusion other than that Mr Ward was treated as irrelevant scum, not worth worrying about, obviously seen as “… just another drunken Aboriginal,” by the contract prison van drivers.

Nobody would deny there are long-term terrible difficulties for indigenous people in the Goldfields and elsewhere in Australia. Our daily newspapers could each give a whole issue to the reasons, viewpoints and possible remedies and still not dent the surface in terms of overcoming the problems of racism, despair, poverty, unemployment, violence and drug and alcohol abuse,  however, blatant attempts to brand the teenager’s death as a race crime are in direct contradiction of the evidence and considered judgement of our courts.

The facts may not suit the protest narrative, but race or creed played no part in the decisions made by either party. The reality is as simple as it is sad: The teenage boy was a thief, he had stolen the utility driver’s motorbike.  The enraged owner went looking for the motorbike and found the thief riding it. The owner made a stupid, reckless decision to chase the rider. The teenager having already made a stupid reckless decision to steal the motorbike, made another one, in not dropping the motorbike and running off into the bush, then a further stupid decision in cutting across the path of the pursuing vehicle.

The outcome was almost inevitable and in the end, horrendous. Both parties are responsible for the consequences, one paid with his life, the other with incarceration and the lives of both families have been destroyed. The teenager’s family are wracked with despair, sorrow and possibly, revenge, while the utility driver’s family have had to flee Western Australia into protective custody under assumed names in another state.

The driver was horrified at the outcome, tried to help the fatally injured thief, called the ambulance and police and cooperated fully with the authorities, all the time expressing sorrow for what had occurred. His stupidity was in not calling the police when he found the thief riding the motorbike and in carrying out the ensuing chase. None of his post-chase actions excuse his role in what happened, but it was not murder and had nothing to do with race.

There are no winners, just ordinary people losing, however we as a society stand to lose even more, when a flagrantly false narrative is adopted to inflame the very real and disgraceful racism that permeates our country.

Greg Ross

 

 

Trumped by Fatigue

I wrote these thoughts down on my Facebook page, which I do keep private, however a number of friends have asked to share it, so I’m posting it as a public blog.

Trump fatigue, for me, is now confirmed daily, indeed yesterday, over a wonderful long lunch, a great mate and I discovered we’d reached similar conclusions about Donald Trump (I find it almost offensive to refer to him as President).

We’ve tired of hearing him about him, whatever the comments – perhaps that’s part of the Trump family plan, who knows. To me, it now appears obvious at least half of the American population admire and support him. The Republicans have an almost absolute hold on power and they now appear to applaud his every move, while the Democrats strike me as leaderless and powerless, too wounded to regroup as yet, with no sign of a potential leader on the board.

I think Trump and his family have taken control of the USA, with, it must be said, considerable support from millions of Americans and that support base appears to be increasing. I can see where not only will he complete his first term, he could win a second. The rest of the world needs to accept and work with this strong possibility.

No matter its faults and yes, as with all countries, America has had many, the USA has long been a bastion of democracy, but with the advent of Trump into power, that baton has now unexpectedly passed to Germany, where Angela Merkel, a very conservative middle aged woman with a PhD in Quantum Physics, is without a doubt the torch carrier for democracy and decency.

Trump is basically a blustering, bullying conman, unfortunately, with his finger on the button, treating his new role, as the most powerful ‘leader’ in our world, as orchestrating a game of Monopoly. I doubt the USA will properly recover the dignity and gravitas it has held for so long and certainly the position of President and the White House is compromised to the point of disparaging sneers. I have stood at the gates of the White House in awe of all that it represented, now it just seems some questionable noveau riche family have taken possession. In my time as marketing manager of a luxury car dealership, we used to call such people LOMBARDS – Loads Of Money But A Real Dickhead.

If my thoughts are correct, countries such as Australia – New Zealand is by chance, ahead of the game here – must no longer treat the USA as Lord Protector and great friend. Certainly we should remain friends, but actively pursue a policy of become essentially neutral. However in some ways, it may be a silver lining, giving us a relatively easy path to make a break from a much loved, now senile uncle.

Europe has been left in no doubt that they are on their own and they need to deal with Putin without the backing of Uncle Sam’s fire power. A new order will evolve, with the USA and the UK deliberately becoming more and more isolated. China will undoubtedly move to fill the leadership / power void, which in some ways is probably a good thing – power voids always lead to war. I don’t mean to infer the Chinese are wonderful world citizens, without a selfish game plan or malice, rather better to have the vacuum / void filled by stability.

I for one, would like Australia to declare neutrality, welcoming all diplomatic missions, whether it’s the appointment of an Ambassador, or the visit of another nation’s navy.

Allowing the USA to have major bases in Australia can no longer be regarded as security – Trump’s treatment of Qatar, where the US has a major air force base is proof of that. If it suited his business interests to dump Australia for investments in for example, Indonesia, he’d do it in a tweet. Honour and respect are not features of the Trump regime.

So I’m not going to post anymore about Trump I’m saddened for the many wonderful people and friends in the USA who abhor what is happening, but sadly in my opinion, the US is now dangerously unstable – I really can’t see too much difference between the mad bastard despot in North Korea and the mad increasingly despotic bastard in the White House.

As a footnote, in case any one should conclude I’m some sort of American hater, nothing could be further from the truth, here’s the link to a blog I wrote some years ago, after a couple of days on board the USS Stennis as a guest of the US Navy. Interesting how things change – my room mate for the voyage, was the then Member for Rockingham, he is now Premier of Western Australia.

Arrested Aboard the USS Stennis

Greg Ross