An Aussie Eagle Flies over Deutschland

Detmold Raptor Sanctuary

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If you’re a nature lover and happen to be in northern Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia way, then you could do a lot worse than head to the beautiful medieval town of Detmold and Alderwarte Berlebeck the Raptor sanctuary in the suburban foothills. I’ve seen bird sanctuaries all over the world, but this has to be the best, even just for the surrounding picture-post card scenery in the valley below.

The sanctuary rescues injured raptors with the intention of releasing them back into the wild when they have recovered and they also breed up the birds. They have some local government funding, but rely on entry fees and donations to keep going, you can also sponsor a bird if you wish.

To drive to the sanctuary, input Hangstein Street Detmold to your GPS, the route takes you  past the magnificent Detmold University of Music and into some of the most beautiful German houses in the hills, it’s worth it for the drive alone (about ten minutes out of the city centre). The ample parking area comes up on a sweeping corner to your left, half way up a hill and you walk across the road to the sanctuary entry. There were suburban buses passing all the time, so no doubt it’s possible to catch a bus from the city centre, I don’t know if there are tour buses visiting the sanctuary, I didn’t see any. Beware, there is a substantial 250 metre steep uphill climb of wide concrete stairs to reach the sanctuary! There is an access road, so you can drop people off, then drive back down to the parking area, also if you have a disabled person with you, you can park up the top as well. I would suggest that if you have an elderly person who is not a fit walker, then perhaps drop them at the top.

The entry fees are very reasonable – E6.50 adults and E3.50 for kids (5 – 14), there are also group concessions available. It’s open from 9.30am to 5.30pm and there are bird flying demonstrations at 11.00am and 3.00pm from March through to November, plus an extra show at 4.30pm during Summer. For other months and more details, refer to their website www.adlerwarte-berlebeck.de  and yes, it’s in German but has an easy ‘click to translate to English’ button.

Entry is through lovely old style wrought iron gates, past a typical old German house, beautifully renovated, the lady at the entry kiosk spoke English and they also have an A4 sheet translated into English, explaining the birds on display and flying, however during  the actual shows, the handlers speak in German, but hey, it’s the birds that are the show.

When you’re through the gate, there is a long single story building on your right, walking past that, you get to the kiosk, selling all the usual café food, souvenirs and beer etc. On past the kiosk, you walk down a short flight of steps to the beginning of the pathway leading through the bird display area (the toilets are to your immediate right as you come off the steps.

The display is really well laid out, however you will find all the signs on the cages etc, are in German, but if you’ve got the English sheet with you, it’s all easy, besides, you’ll know what a lot of the birds are and there are world maps showing where each bird comes from. There are displays of baby birds and a lot of the bigger birds of prey are on leather leads on a grassed area to your left. It’s all very easy to photograph and for little kids to see, everyone is well catered for. The cages are in superb condition, I don’t know how often they are cleaned, but they were spotless.

There are two flying shows, the first sees everyone seated around a platform jutting out over the valley far below, the handler sends the birds flying out over the valley, where they soar majestically. In case you’re wondering, the birds are fitted with GPS so they can be located if they decide to go exploring! It really is amazing to see these magnificent creatures return of their own accord and interact with the crowd. Remembering the commentary is in German, what you need to know, is to stay seated, or the birds will land on your head (the tallest object around!) and if they do, don’t panic, stay calm – I watched it happen several times, to little kids as well as adults, with no issues. Also put all food away, or the birds will take it straight off you!  Don’t be tempted to stand to take a photo – ditto they’ll land on you! And really you don’t need to stand to take decent pics or video.

It was fascinating to watch some of the younger birds, still unsure of themselves in terms of flying, like little kids, they’re straight back to mum (the trainer) rather than soar off into the wild blue yonder, the trainer is literally calming them down, teaching them how to fly and glide. There is a real reluctance on the part of young birds to leave the nest, they expect the food to be brought to them, the trainers do exactly as the parents do, gradually put the food further and further away in order to make the young chic leave the perceived safety of the nest. It was a fabulous demonstration, with an amazing display of speed from Falcons capable of reaching 240km/h+ for short bursts! Most of these raptors can spot a mouse a couple of kilometres away. Oh and somebody asked why the different species of birds don’t fly together during the show, the handler gently reminded everyone that there is a pecking order, the bigger birds would immediately kill and eat the small birds of prey, a reminder that nature is always both beautiful and dangerous at the same time. He also told us the birds that can fly, all go flying during the day, as they get depressed if they can’t and of course wet weather stops them flying. We were there after several days of rain and consequently the birds were very happy at being able to play.

After a 45 minute break – try the chips and mayonnaise for a snack – the next demonstration is on the pretty lawn oval with a pond and waterfall. The effect of this show, is to bring the birds very close to everyone as they fly, often barely a metre of the ground. It was instructive to watch a young eagle being taught how to catch food on the wing – essential for his / her eventual survival in the wild, the trainer explained there were foxes waiting at the bottom of the valley, they knew when the birds were being trained and would eat anything the birds dropped.  I was particularly astounded when they brought out an owl, I had no idea owls could be trained in the same way as an eagle, or a falcon, or even that some owls flew during the day, as such the owl was a real highlight for me. Old Hooty was followed by a family act of three Falcons, they were a lot of fun and very chatty, finally the biggest daddy of them all came in, the Australian Eagle and you realised smaller birds and animals would have zero chance of survival. It also has to be said, the trust these animals displayed to their handlers was amazing, as each bird finished its training and exercise, one of the handlers would be standing by the doorway of the long building and the birds would all fly straight to them, sitting on leather protected arms to be walked through the door into the building.

I’d allow three hours at the sanctuary, it is that interesting and don’t forget the camera – or phone, truly an awe-inspiring display of the beauty and power of nature, as well as the obvious dedication and love of these birds by their handlers. I can’t recommend Adlerwarte Berlebeck enough.

 

Qatar, Emirates or Etihad? That is the Question!

Once upon a time, flying was genuinely exciting, one way or another, you were joining the jetsetters – that exclusive club of millionaires and movie stars, then came 9/11 and the world of travel changed, seemingly instantly. I remember the day vividly, I’d been in Queensland for the launch of Jaguar’s X-Type at Coolum Resort – in hindsight, the omens weren’t good – the X-Type failed, as did Coolum Resort, even Ansett, the airline I flew from Perth to Queensland with failed, that same day! My son had rung and woken me in the wee small hours, urging me to turn on the television. I did, sitting, watching, listening in stunned disbelief to the murderous horror that would forever be known as 9/11, to quote Leonard Cohen, “The day they murdered New York.” I flew home on Qantas, reeling as we took off from Sydney to Perth. It was surreal – Ansett aircraft were grounded on the tarmac and as we flew up over the Sydney skyline, macabre thoughts of our Qantas flight being hi-jacked ran through my mind. I landed home in Perth to a very different reality to that of some 24 hours previously; flying would conceivably never again be the relaxed luxury, so often a highlight of travelling.

Though of course, I continued to fly, both for business and pleasure, the next decade was turbulent for the airline industry – some very big names such as Pan Am disappeared forever, Concorde died in flames and Qantas did the unthinkable, grounding their fleet in dispute with their pilots. The tedious, demeaning rudeness of security checks ruined any conception of enjoyable luxury and as the industry struggled with fuel price rises and other rising costs, plus the GFC, economy seats became narrower and leg room was dramatically reduced, if you travelled in Australia, it was almost a better experience to drive, rather than fly.

But the phoenix did indeed rise out of the ashes of 9/11 and on-going crippling world financial crises, established airlines such as Qantas and Air New Zealand remodelled themselves, other airlines, such as KLM and Air France merged into strong partnerships and we began to see a revolution in budget airlines, with many established brands, such as Lufthansa, British Airways and Qantas establishing lower cost brands. In Australia, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines, assumed Ansett’s role as Australia’s second airline – it’s interesting to see now, some twelve years later, that Virgin are looking to become Australia’s business airline of choice, the role once proudly played by Ansett.

At the same time, we witnessed the rise and rise of Arab-owned airlines,  but not the established players such as Egypt Air and Turkish Airlines, the newcomers were far more exotic (to western travellers) – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar. Emirates was out of the gates first, with what became an increasingly obvious game plan to become the world’s best airline. All three airlines offered travellers state of the art new aircraft, incredible levels of business and first class travel and economy class travel far in excess of what older airlines were offering – individual entertainment screens, chargers for phones, even power points for laptops, all at a time when airlines such as Qantas offered ‘take it or leave it’ three or four drop down screens in economy class sections. These were game-changing decisions, the travelling public was rightly enamoured and the three airlines had one more major factor on their side, for anyone contemplating flying from Australia to Europe – their individual home bases, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar, were more or less on direct flight paths from Australia to the European continent and could offer substantially less travel time  on long haul flights. For Perth people, the old days of flying to Singapore and then catching another flight to Europe, often with hours of waiting time, this was a God-send, potentially shaving 10 – 12 hours off travel time and when you added the now standard waiting and queuing time for security and customs checks of three hours check-in before even boarding the flight, any extra time that can be saved is a genuine bonus.

It’s been interesting to see how our perceptions and patience with the mandatory security checks has altered, especially over the last 18 months, where once passenger rage at interminable delays and rude security staff was almost standard, the increasing descent of our world into terrorism madness, has seen a seismic shift in public acceptance. Travellers actually want these checks made and people no longer appear to be upset, shoes and belts are already off, laptops and phones on display, before anyone can even tell passengers what they need to do. As a consequence, things have become a little more pleasant, although some airports, such as Heathrow, remain a shocking experience – I for one avoid flying into Heathrow at all costs and the American experience of being fingerprinted and treated as a criminal on arrival, is unsavoury at best. Surprisingly, Europe and the airports at Abdu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar are quite reasonable, with staff efficient, but inevitably polite.

I travel to Europe often, usually at least twice a year – my wife is German, (she travels more frequently than I do), plus we have a lot of friends (and my wife’s family) throughout Europe. For many years, my airline of choice was Qantas – the Flying Roo has fantastic cabin staff, older, wiser, relaxed, very capable and friendly, however Qantas some years ago, stopped flying any international flights out of Perth, forcing travellers such as myself to either fly to the east coast of Australia and then carry on overseas, or to fly with other airlines. Qantas introduced me to Premium Economy, on a flight to the USA in 2009, I was immediate convert. With the exit of Qantas from Perth (as an international carrier – I know they’re now offering flights ex Perth to Singapore, but in my case, the horse has bolted), I began to fly economy to Singapore and once or twice to Bangkok, then travelling Premium Economy with airlines such as Air France, the only bugbear being the often long waiting periods between connecting flights. The one time I tried the Bangkok connection, it didn’t work for me – although I’d booked with Lufthansa, the flight was on a code share flight with Thai Airlines, all good until we landed unexpectedly at Phuket and had to leave the aircraft, then re-board, back in our seats, only to be told we were now on a domestic flight and therefore drinks couldn’t be served! The leg from Bangkok to Frankfurt was also flown by Thai Airlines and as much as I love 747s, the Thai Airlines 747s are as tired and feature lacking as those of British Airways, two airlines, I sadly wouldn’t bother flying with in any capacity these days.

Inevitably, on my wife’s urging, based on her experience, I started to fly with the new Arab airlines. Although none of them offered Premium Economy, my wife assured me that legroom was excellent on both Emirates and Etihad, she was sure I’d be comfortable. She was right. She was also right about the excellent food and of course the feature packed wonderfully quiet new fleets these airlines offered. And of course, they all flew far more direct routes to Europe.

On a flight last year, I flew code-share with Etihad and KLM, Etihad to Dubai and KLM to Amsterdam and found myself conflicted. Whilst Etihad offered beautiful aircraft with every conceivable extra, compared to KLM with, yes, another tired 747, the KLM cabin crew were far nicer and friendlier – for me, it was just like being with my old friend Qantas. It confirmed the suspicion I’d had for some time about Emirates and Etihad – yes, the aircraft were stunning and yes, the cabin crews were very professional, but those same cabin crews were cold, they were not interested in you as a person, any semblance of service came to a stop as soon as the obligatory meals were distributed. To get a glass of wine, you had to go back to a gallery, where the request would always be met with cold agreement, bordering on disdain. It always worked with me, I’d only ask once, then wouldn’t go back for another drink. The KLM difference was remarkable, I felt at home. And in case you’re thinking it’s a cultural thing, (in terms of religion), I don’t think so, the cabin (and flight crews of these airlines are truly multicultural, you’ve just as likely to be served by a French person, a Swedish person or an American, as you are by an Arab person. I’ve reached the conclusion the coldness is a taught corporate culture. After my last European flight (January 2016), I’d more or less decided to go back to my Perth – Singapore – Air France to Europe routine. Then I needed to make a quick trip to Europe in July, I searched the internet and thought I’d try Qatar Airways, mainly due to the impressive turnaround time of just one and a half hours at Doha, both ways and the economy airfare was very competitive as well.

So how was Qatar?

Well, I’m still in Europe, as I write this blog and will be until mid-August, so I’ve still to return home to Perth, however I am an unexpected convert.

The 777s on both legs were, as expected practically new and the overhead luggage lockers were deep and accommodating, capable of dealing with the occasional lady who always seems to have more on-board luggage than the rest of us have downstairs in the luggage hold. I particularly liked the individual air vents – I’m one of those who like air on my face. Speaking of legs, the legroom was excellent – sure, if the person in front is one of those sociopath buffoons with no sense of politeness, who leans his or her seat right back, egress will be awkward, but the economy class legroom remains very acceptable, as is the bum room – too much information, but I’m a big bloke! … which segues into shoulder room, that was a revelation. I have very wide shoulders, (old rugby union forward!), one of the reasons I always choose an aisle seat and inevitably, I have to move my shoulders to let the cabin crew past with trolleys etc, I didn’t have to on either flight. I have no idea whether the Qatar aisles are wider than those of other airlines, but the fact remains that I didn’t have to squirm around when people passed.

Unfortunately the movie libraries were very small compared to Emirates or Etihad, I struggled to find something I wanted to watch, so I’d give a C mark for movie selection and I did find the touch screen system difficult, it didn’t seem as user friendly as other airlines. The food was fine, nothing exceptional but tasty and very acceptable in terms of Economy class. Being niggly, it would be nice to have wine and whiskey in glass rather than plastic, the other airlines all serve wine in glass … as it’s always the little touches. The coffee also was excellent, but if you want a coffee during a non-meal serve period, it will be just out of a jar – yep Nescafe or worse. But, the service! Ah, the service!

The service is magnificent, whoever is training the cabin crews deserves a medal, the girls were fantastic, genuinely friendly, yes, efficient, but fun and relaxed. To go back to my previous point of culture, on the leg from Doha to Amsterdam, one of the cabin crew was an Egyptian girl Karenan, so professional, yet relaxed and fun, even to the extent of taking an interest in Erehwon the Luck Dragon – who travels everywhere with us, (a bit of mad fun). On both legs, the food, the water and the wine was both freely available and offered, indeed I overheard cabin crew politely asking people to drink more water to prevent dehydration The culture within Qatar Airways suits me! I felt welcome, I felt my business was appreciated.

The airport at Doha is not in the same league as the monuments to utter wonderful mad excess as those at Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but it’s very efficient, very easy to navigate – obviously designed to move people as quickly and easily as possible. It looked to me that most aircraft leave and arrive on the tarmac, with passengers transported to the terminal by bus, rather than direct terminal bridges, but that’s not a fault, there’s inevitably a short bus or train trip at virtually every airport these days. I also really like fact that passengers weren’t forced to walk a long false, winding, annoying trail past myriad duty free shops, as drives me mad in places such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Security staff were polite and friendly – Perth airport staff could take a lesson.

It was salutary to land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, it was a shambles last year and although it was better, the walk to the baggage roundabout and the incorrect signage is still a disgrace. When you get through the shambolic dysfunction, out into the main arrival area of the terminal, Schiphol is fantastic, with easy, obvious access to trains and buses etc, but they sure could do with a fact finding mission to Doha to see how things should be done.

The whole trip from Perth to Amsterdam, including the one and a half hour stopover in Doha, took just 20hrs and 20 minutes, not including being processed through customs and security at either end, pretty impressive and that leads to what for me, is the crux of the matter. Although we now accept and readily agree with close security screening, it’s still not a great experience and as you land, you know full well, you’re re-entering the world of queues, security and questioning, so if you’ve been blessed with 17 or 18 hours of relaxed, happy and professional service, well fed and watered, you’re in a far better frame of mind to deal with customs and security requirements, you’re relaxed.

Hat’s off to Qatar Airways, a couple of tweaks with your entertainment system and proper glass for wine and you, for me, are the best. I’d advise anybody to fly Qatar. A friend who has flown Business Class with Qatar tells me they offer the best Business Class he’s experienced. I’m actually looking forward to my flights home, usually I think, “Oh God, somehow I’ll get through this.”

Greg Ross

Ridesharing – The Highs, Lows, Hints and Mints,

You’d have to be living the life of a cave dwelling hermit, to not be aware of the massive change in the taxi industry across the globe. Most of us, especially the younger generations are very aware that the Dutch company Uber, has completely changed the way we think and use transport. Not many people under thirty say “Call a cab,” anymore, the catch cry is “Grab an Uber.” We all love it, the seemingly perfect solution to bad service, old, smelly, noisy cabs and aggressive, sullen drivers, not remotely interested in short destination fares.

My wife and I started using Uber a couple of years back, in fact our first Uber experience was in Sydney, our driver’s previous passenger had been Kim Beasley, the driver, a South African guy, was everything the normal taxi driver wasn’t – friendly, chatty, helpful and cheaper!

Earlier this year, having reached theoretical retirement age, meaning nobody wants to employ you – you’re too old, regardless of life skills and experience – I thought I’d look more closely at the what Uber had to offer. I’m a tour guide driver of old, I thrive on interaction with others, I really like people and drive a reasonable car. In fact more often than not, when I arrive, people say, “Oh my God, don’t tell me I’ve ordered an Uber Black!”

It proved somewhat tortuous – they really weren’t that keen on person to person contact, or answering questions, a bit like most big business these days I guess – you know the story – “You’ll find everything online, “ code for ‘WE DON’T TO TALK TO YOU! GO AWAY!”  I struggled on, purely as I felt the App-driven concept was brilliant and there had to be an interesting future for what has become known as the Rideshare industry. I was under no illusions that it was a full time proposition, but it did strike me it would have to be a reasonable source of extra income, perfect for somebody like me.

The delays in approval were agonisingly slow, any query I had as to progress, was met with bland, generic texts or emails, phone calls were obviously not even on a back agenda. I later learnt that at that point in time, Uber was overwhelmed with drivers, so people were put on the backburner, until needed. There appears to be about a three month churn factor, as drivers discover the rainbow is ephemeral and somebody’s already raided the pot!

About four weeks into the ludicrous machinations, (late March this year), another rideshare company appeared in the news – Shofer, with a different take on the rideshare game. With Uber, drivers – well, the euphemistic term Partners is used by Uber, but that’s corporate doublespeak bullshit – drivers supply their own vehicles and not only pay tax on what they earn, (as they should I hasten to add), they also pay the GST on the full amount the passenger pays – Uber pays no tax! How good is that for a business model! Is that Clive Palmer I hear weeping on the golf course at Coolum? Plus, they take a minimum of 20% of the gross fare, with newer drivers (post 1 April 2016) 25%, so if your fare is $20.00, the driver is actually payed $16.00, but then has to pay $2.00 GST, so his or her actual earn for the $20.00 trip, is $14.00. Of course, he or she has to pay for the fuel, all running costs and allow for depreciation. I know , I know, you can’t wait to sign up as a driver either!

Shofer, on the other hand, use their own cars, Toyota Camrys, usually hybrids and it has to be said they are the perfect vehicle for the task, roomy, very economical, quiet and Toyota tough, not to mention, that 18yr old Narelle, can Bluetooth her phone through the speaker system so she can play her music rather than the driver’s. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite so screechingly noisy as four inebriated teenage girls speaking over each other at top volume while playing some screaming talentless talent quest bird on the radio! Drivers carry Ibuprofen, they usually need it after a Friday or Saturday night. In short, Toyota’s Hybrid Camry is the best taxi in the business and Shofer’s business model is undoubtedly the best taxi model anywhere – safety is paramount with all cars camera equipped and even panic buttons for passengers and drivers alike.

Drivers pay a weekly fee of around $340.00 for the fully insured and equipped vehicle, that’s around $150.00 less than what a Bailee driver pays for a taxi each week. All the driver has to pay is the fuel, Shofer even supply the phone, so it really is a very fair and honourable system. The trouble is, nobody knows about it. Everybody thinks Uber, nobody thinks Shofer and Shofer is dearer than Uber, though cheaper then taxis and I suspect the majority of rideshare passengers are price driven. The example I often give, is that a $32.00 ride with a taxi, will cost $25.00 with Shofer and somewhere between $18.00 and $20.00 with Uber … unless there is an Uber surge on!

I was so intrigued with the Shofer business model, I decided to give it a go, but the lack of passenger numbers eventually saw me hand the car back. They are genuinely great people and I remain convinced, theirs is THE model for the future of the taxi industry, but without a substantial and sustained increase in marketing and advertising, the message will take too long to get out to the public, meanwhile, drivers are subsidising the service. Hopefully it’s changed, but I found I would go out for several soul destroying hours and get maybe two jobs for $50.00, after 200kms, then repeat the same journey using my own car as an Uber vehicle and earn $200.00 for 110kms. I should also add that Shofer takes nothing from the rideshare fee, their business model is based on leasing the car and phone fully insured. In the finish, as much as I like their concept, I simply could not afford to go on subsidising it. So I decided to try Uber on a more regular basis.

The work is there, make no mistake, if I turn on the Uber App before I back out of the garage, 90% of the time, it pings with a ride and it never stops. Sure, there are periods when things go quiet – 8.00pm – 10.00pm on a Friday or Saturday night and it’s a waste of time driving on Mondays, but apart from that, the business is constant. However you soon learn to drive smart.

Sticking around the CBD or Northbrdige on a Friday or Saturday night is a waste of time, traffic jams, kids wanting to hop half a kilometre from one bar to the next, which equates to maybe $4.00 for twenty five minutes, thanks but no thanks. And you can’t find anybody – they’ll request an Uber at the bar, then take ten minutes to come out, all six of them, wanting to fit in the car. I know people find it very hard to get an Uber out of James or Murray Streets, in the early hours of the morning, let me give you a tip – walk to Roes Street or Milligan Street and call from there, an Uber will pick you up in two minutes. Another tip if you’re at the Casino – it’s difficult to find people, walk out to the hotel on the corner and call for the Uber there, the cars will get to you very quickly.

It all sounds good, BUT, Uber consistently reduce the fares, the name of the game being to squeeze any competitor out.  “Great!” You say! But they also increase their commission, all the while urging drivers to provide bottled water and mints to passengers – at the drivers expense! It’s usually only the young passengers going half a kilometre who ask for water and mints, I always tell them they’ve had a win with the reduced fares, so truthfully, there’s no money to supply free water and mints. Some pout, others see the point.

There are substantial benefits for the community – young people are no longer drink driving, they catch an Uber and that’s not a market taxis ever had, Uber created it, so socially, every Uber on the road is helping reduce road trauma and making our roads safer. That’s a huge as yet unrealised benefit (by the authorities), the trouble is, every Uber driver is subsidising every passenger and every Uber driver is treated with contempt and disdain by Uber generating a virtually complete breakdown in trust between drivers and Uber.

The great shame of all this distrust, is that ridesharing is a brilliant 21st century concept, it’s just that Uber have applied 19th / 20th century employer attitudes to their drivers.
It is actually very similar to the majority of mining companies – where the employee is treated like an idiot child, with no respect, hidden beneath a thin veneer of care. And really, Uber’s absolute insistence, on no person to person contact and reliance on bland data driven text responses, is no different from say dealing with a telco or a government department.

Just watch and listen to a politician avoiding answering questions, or reacting as say Colin Barnett – getting angry and confrontational if questioned. The sad reality is Uber treats drivers exactly as most other businesses and large employers do, although it’s important not to single out Uber as being any different to most large companies – they simply do not see any value in their drivers (employees) as individuals with skills.

Collectively, Uber drivers hate it, but are powerless to do anything. Question a public servant or demand an answer, or respect and you know very well you’re going to the back of the queue. Question an employer and there goes your job, or at the very least, any opportunity of advancement. Question Uber and they’ll disconnect you from the system, no ifs, no buts and certainly no explanations and sometimes, they’ve convinced some poor bastard to buy a car on hire purchase, all the while steadily reducing his possible income with fare reductions and more and more cars on the road. Quality will not be sustainable and already taxi drivers are coming over to Uber, bringing with them the entrenched attitudes that brought the industry to virtual oblivion.

Just two things would make the job viable – a 15% – 20% increase in fare structure and payment of the GST by Uber. The only other need would be genuine respect for the drivers.
Now it’s not going to happen, but how interesting would it be to see Richard Branson, open up a Virgin Rideshare business, applying the business ethics and moral principles he so strongly insists on. He could cherry pick the best drivers and vehicles and unlike an excellent provider like Shofer, he has no need to build a brand, Virgin is known and trusted across the world.  Wishful thinking aside – well, I did Tweet the idea to him today – I can see the rideshare game is a developing business, it’s nowhere near its full potential or final guise and is crying out for decency.

If you like using Uber, spare a thought for the ordinary hard working man or woman behind the wheel, you might think it’s irrelevant to keep them waiting for four or five minutes before you go out the door, you might think you’re socially above them, you might even feel you are absolutely entitled to water and mints and you can wield enormous power over the driver, by not awarding them five stars.

Did you know if you keep awarding drivers three or four stars, which realistically may seem fair and very reasonable under normal circumstances, Uber has a very different take on three and four stars, they look on a three or a four as bad bad and very quickly will cut a driver off the system as punishment.  And don’t think Uber’s not coming for you, they are primarily a data gathering company. Yes, Uber is now the biggest taxi company in the world, yet they don’t own any vehicles – well, there are no doubt company cars for senior managers, but to understand what the company really is about, take a look at your mobile phone and see what Uber is learning about you 24hrs a day.

The Uber rideshare concept is brilliant and I remain eternally optimistic that a Richard Branson will introduce ethics to the concept, meanwhile, if you like a driver and his or her car, ask for their card / phone number, call and pre-book them when next you need an Uber. When you get in their car, that’s when you use the app, with the call going to the nearest vehicle, in this case, the one you’re sitting in. Better still, as is more frequently happening, when you call your favourite driver to pre-book, pay him or her what Uber would have charged you, just give the driver the cash, it’s not going to cost you anymore and you’ll have looked after the person looking after you.

One more thing, safety, the State Government has brought in some sensible requirements for ridershare drivers – all drivers must have an F or T Class license extension, all rideshare cars (Uber or Shofer) must have a full annual safety inspection and a valid Omnibus license (for the vehicle), copies of this paperwork MUST be carried in the car and produced on demand. If I felt something was not quite right, I would also insist that the driver show me written proof that he or she has Rideshare insurance. The driver must also produce, on request, a colour photograph, in other words, his or her license. There is very good in-built safety in the Uber system – as the passenger, you get the driver’s name, picture, mobile phone number, make of vehicle and car registration when you book the ride, take a quick look when you make the booking and if the vehicle arriving is different, or the driver looks different, don’t get in, ask to see the paperwork and driver’s license.

But if everything’s kosher and 99.99% of the time, it is, then spare a thought for the slave labour and conditions the person taking you safely to your destination is working under. One thing is for sure, neither Uber, nor the State Governemnt could care less about the person you’re entrusting your safety to. Maybe you might like to write to Uber and your local MP, that way you’ll ensure ridesharing remains the wonderful answer to modern city transport needs it has already become. It’s up to you, the marekt dictates. Enjoy the ride
PS: If the thought of an ex tour guide and roadtrain driver with 50+ years of safe driving experience, with a black S60 Volvo sedan with leather and woodgrain appeals, then by all means give me a call or text on +61 418 953 275 or email me on gregory.w.ross@gmail.com
Cheers
Greg

All Bound for Memory Town, Many Years Away – Georgy Girl – The Musical

screen-shot-2016-02-01-at-2-09-19-pm-wfdaquandpmb

Long ago, far away across the Tasman, around 1968, I asked a girl to walk with me through the stunningly beautiful Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, to see if we could sneak into the Seekers concert being held that night at the Brooklands Bowl. We did, it was magic … in more ways than one – after the concert, walking back through the dark, we didn’t see a ditch had been dug across the path and fell in, finding ourselves surrounded by twinkling glow worms – a boy fell into the ditch, a young man helped a young woman out, which kind of segues into the fact that in the history of the Seekers, a young woman helped three young men out. So it’s fitting a musical about the Seekers should centre around Judith Durham.

I was the grateful recipient of tickets from a great mate, Keith Potger, who just happens to be one of the Seekers. I took my youngest daughter, Saraj, which was appropriate, for in her then job at Variety Club, some 16 or 17 years ago, she introduced me to Keith and our friendship flourished. And so to Crown Theatre Perth on a cold wet winter’s night.

The set is minimalist, just a little bit too so; it seems everyone is relying on backdrop film technology in live theatre. I’ve only ever seen it done magnificently twice – the 1996 Michael Jackson concert and the 2004 David Bowie ‘Reality’ concert. Sure it worked well during the Seekers 50th Anniversary concerts, but in terms of live theatre, it does seem lazy. Certainly it was slick and the lighting excellent, so too was sound quality throughout the evening, but …

Here, I must state the singers were superb, but the script was as lazy as the set, it simply did not allow for character to shine through, although I knew I was watching and listening to really top notch actor / singers – Pippa Grandison  as Judith Durham), Phillip Lowe  as Keith Potger, Mike McLeish  as Bruce Woodley and Glaston Toft as Athol Guy, plus Stephen Wheat and Luke Joslin.

Yes, it’s endearing to have a character slip in and out of an MC role, (Luke Joslin as Judith’s husband), but I would have preferred meat on roles, some fleshing out of characters. By intermission, it was obvious the musical should have gone to a dramaturge for development – the boys became cardboard cut outs – it’s a musical! Poetic licence and musicals go together like a horse and carriage. Throw in a song writing scene with Bruce Woodley and Paul Simon, perhaps a scene where Keith realises he’s fallen in love with Pamela. We didn’t get any of that in the first half, what we did get was several scenes whichwe wer then told never happened – so what else was made up became a disconcerting thought mantra.We did get plenty of scenes with Judith’s mom and dad, which kept reminding me of scenes from ‘Back to the Future,’ but no real depth. Worse, there weren’t enough Seekers songs to fill in the missing ‘book’.

After intermission, the pace picked up considerably, the lighting came alive and the storyline stepped up several notches, at last we had drama and pathos, the black and white scene switching to blood read was fabulous theatre, I finally began to feel involved and by the finale, bathed and washed in Woodley’s finest song ‘I AM AUSTRALIAN’, surely the best national anthem we will ever have, I had tears welling in my eyes. This was what I’d hoped the musical would be. Sadly, irrespective of how good the actors were, they could not save a basically dull script.

It was a lovely night of theatre, ephemeral nostalgia swirled like welcome mist over water, but the Seekers story deserves better. Throw away the book, employ a new set designer, keep the same actors and singers and costume designers, but rework the script – why not throw in a cameo of Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer, John Lennon etc, to set the Aussies in London theme? Artistic licence is fine in a musical.

Please don’t misunderstand me, it was a great night’s entertainment, fabulous everlasting music, a tribute to wonderfully talented people performed by wonderfully talented people, all crying out for a better book. Speaking of crying out, one lunatic was missing from amongst us last night – Cammo.  The mad bastard would have loved it and just as at the finish of the 5oth Anniversary concert, he would have starred down at me and scoffed, “You’ve teared up! So have I!”  I just looked around and he was gone.

Someday, hopefully in a long distant future, the Carnival will indeed be over, yet these ordinary Aussies, including the Sri Lankan born Potger cove, will always be pivotal to our musical history, their tale needs the right telling.

Greg Ross

Confessions from Eden Hill – A Chardonnay Socialist’s Let loose at a Booth

Election Day July 2nd 2016

[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_01-20160625_133830.jpg]620Declaring support
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_1-img_20160629_094826.jpg]60My SMH political results
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_02-20160702_040250.jpg]704.00am at Eden Hill Primary School
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_03-20160702_073827.jpg]80As I always suspected, Malcolm leans to the left.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_04-20160702_091727.jpg]60The Swedish Billboard.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_08-20160702_143148.jpg]60Friendly fire.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_09-20160702_143755.jpg]60This Medicare card was very clever
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_3-l1050573.jpg]40This could be a collectors piece very shortly
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_2-l1050570.jpg]40Back to the Future - No, I can't explain.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_07-img_20160702_140029.jpg]40This must be the future!
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_05-20160702_135741.jpg]50Cleaver Greene stands for nothing at Eden Hill!
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_10-20160702_153147.jpg]40Cleaver and his larrikin WA supporter
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_1-20160702_180221.jpg]30
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_16-20160703_111030.jpg]30I'm in ... only just!
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_15-20160703_111015.jpg]40The count
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_14-20160703_111005.jpg]40It certainly is
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_13-20160703_110948.jpg]40It's Party Time!
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_12-img_20160703_103545.jpg]40Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday morning
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/election-day-july-2nd-2016/thumbs/thumbs_1-l1050567.jpg]40My two party preferred candidates.

Though I lean naturally to the left – well, perhaps not so naturally – I was raised in a traditional right wing union-loathing Pakeha Kiwi home and went to the pre-requisite oh so English boarding school, but finding myself alone and penniless on Oz soil, some forty years ago, gradually shook and reshaped my political foundations.

I do fondly consider myself a bit of a swinging voter – I’ve handed out How to Vote cards for Colin Barnett (Liberals), Ben Wyatt (Labor) and even myself (Independent) and now Tim Hammond  (Labor) – twice! – though I’ve yet to met him.

The question of who to support this election was tricky, for though it’s correct Australian voters do not vote for a Prime Minister, in a weird sort of twice removed way, we actually do, whether it’s a primary vote for a party, or your vote becomes caught up in the Two Party Preferred count. The dilemma for me was I like Malcolm Turnbull, but, as Leonard Cohen puts it so aptly in his song DEMOCRACY – “I love the country (in my case man), but I can’t stand the scene.” The reverse applies when it’s a question of Labor – I just cannot warm to Bill Shorten. However over these last tumultuous 12 months or so, it’s become increasingly obvious Malcolm just wanted to be King, he had no plan other than to sit upon the throne and be worshipped, vain, blatant and finally, hollow.

It seemed I would have no choice other than to vote for a candidate I liked. Then Tim Hammond announced he was standing again. Game over for me. I rang the Labor Party, offered space for a poster on our front fence and volunteered to man a booth for Tim. They accepted and asked if I’d like to also scrutineer, I was delighted, as I love the political process. And so to the day of reckoning down at the local school at the end of the street.

Knowing election material can be torn down and ripped apart in the shadows of night, I turned up at 4.00am, startling the lone security man, who’d been tasked with guarding everyone’s signage and already there was a tale to be told. A lovely young migrant guy from India, he was cold, lonely and worried about his motorbike and backpack whenever he had to walk around the block and was only able to have the 12 hour job if he agreed to be paid in cash at $19.00 an hour, no penalty rates, super, insurance or anything else. I don’t know whether the AEC has responsibility for that situation, but it is a bloody disgrace. Somebody fix that please!

We quickly ascertained that he would park his bike in front of my car and I would keep an eye on it whilst he soldered on on dawn patrol. Time passed, I read the West Australian and The Australian, learning to my dismay that my vote-to-be was incorrect. 6.00am and some Liberal Party supporters arrived, genuinely nice people, I think a little surprised to find I wasn’t on their team, nevertheless, we gelled.

6.30am, war was declared. No, not between the red and blue camps but Stormin’ Norman from the AEC! He came out of the gate all aggression, loathing and arrogance, demanding banners be removed from a section of fence, laying down the law like some army sergeant. It shocked all of us, it was so unnecessary and demonstrated a complete lack of people skills. Somebody had to say something to Bluster Incorporated, so I spoke up, “Mate, slow down, relax, we’re all adults, you’ll bust a foo foo valve, give yourself a heart attack, we’re OK with whatever’s needed.” He ranted on walking away as we spoke. The Liberal people shook their heads at me and warned I should stop, perhaps that why I tend to vote leftish, I simply cannot stop when confronted with that sort of nonsense. I warned him to behave; he didn’t respond and stamped back to his lair.

Bemused at his display, we started to remove our offending displays, during which time, two Labor Party operatives arrived, distinctly unhappy to see me removing their material – they too immediately assumed I was a Liberal offender. It took a minute or so to gently explain I was on their side and we were jointly under attack from a third party.

Then suddenly a bread delivery truck arrived, parking right behind me, in that “Now you can’t see my bumper in your mirror!” territorial truckie manner. “Are you waiting for the bread?” demanded said driver.

“Ah no,” spoke I.

“Well I can’t just leave it here!” He loudly exclaimed.

I began to suspect his father was working for the AEC. “Mate,” I replied, “That’s fine, leave it here and we’ll look after it until somebody arrives who knows about it.” He softened and unloaded the bread. Not long after that, a guy from the Eden Hill Primary School P&T arrived to claim the loaves. Ah, the Sausage Sizzle!

7.00am and incredibly, a few people were starting to gather to vote, on a cold morning, an hour before the booth was due to open! One bloke went home for coffee, but the rest stayed! Then the AEC sergeant came out to inspect the parade ground, along with several privates, all of whom, he spoke to in the same manner as he’d addressed us, we then understood it had been nothing personal, he genuinely had no people skills. The space he’d demanded seemed to suit his purpose, the minions erected the AEC signage and I said, “Excuse me, where are the toilets?”

“No!” He said, “You can’t use them, they’re locked, the school is closed.”

“Strewth!” I said, “What are we supposed to do, we’re here for several hours?”

“That’s not the AEC’s problem, it’s yours, you’ll have to find a way to deal with it!” And once again, he walked away. I was beginning to get the distinct impression the AEC was the enemy here, not the other political parties. By now, a lady had arrived for the Greens and two guys for the Australian Liberty Alliance, the guys were delighted to find free space on the fence so close to the gate, it broke my heart to inform them death and destruction, in the form of 150kgs of hate from the AEC would reign down upon them should they hang anything on the space.

Too much information, I know, but by now, it was almost 8.00am, I’d been there for four hours, it was cold and my aged bladder was screaming! Indeed we all had a similar problem and we had two ladies amongst us. The mantle fell to me to go and see what could be found. I entered the gate. Finding a lady with an official AEC vest, I asked where the loos were. “Follow me,” she smiled and said, “They’re round the other side of this building”. We walked around, she pointed out the toilet block and said “Your door is on the left” and went back to her duties. Mentally relieved, I strode towards the door, suddenly a door on the right opened and there stood a large lady, keys twirling in her hand, glaring down at me. “You can’t come in here, they’re locked!”

“Well you’ve used them and you’ve got a key!” I responded.

“That’s nothing to do with it, they’re locked and you’re not allowed to use them!”

“What’ll I do, piss on the lawn?”

“You’ll have to!” she triumphantly exclaimed and strode away.

Fair enough. As usual, strip men of any dignity, we’re used to it, but for decency’s sake what about the ladies amongst us? Later, people were queuing to vote for considerable periods of time, surely the AEC can arrange for toilet cleaning after a voting event, you sure as hell wouldn’t be able to organise a private event without facilities being available.

It was busy more or less from the moment the gates opened at 8.00am, often queues were forming. At one stage, the sergeant appeared, surrounded by minions once again, they moved along the crowd, asking who was in the electorate and who was not, establishing two or three different queues, it worked, people were being processed more quickly. He triumphantly reappeared, strode towards us and announced “I’ve fixed that, they’re moving now!” We almost applauded, he was right, but sadly more people kept arriving.

I love the game of trying to guess who somebody will vote for. When a young woman arrives with green hair, pierced lips, ears, nose and god knows where else, it’s a fair bet she’s voting Green, ditto with the dreadlocked guy, although the Marijuana Party may feature somewhere in the mix, but it can be difficult. Eden Hill is being gentrified and the demographic is eclectic, sometimes the well-dressed woman in Prada will shock you, declaring she’s voting Labor, but more usually they swirl past, Botox lips curling in disdain at having to walk past the proletariat swill. I tended to confuse them – after so many years drinking copious red wines and malts, not to mention weekly banquets, nobody, except sail makers, builds t-shirts in my size and the Labor Party just didn’t have the funds to stretch that far, so I was, perhaps appropriately, neither obviously Red, Blue, Green or otherwise, it became fun.

A TransPerth bus driver turned up, “Where’s One Nation?” she loudly demanded. “They’re not here,” we informed her.

“Well I want them, I’m voting for Pauline! Are they on the other side?”

“Yes”, I quietly thought.

“Well in that case, who’s Labor, I’ll have to vote Labor.” She took the Labor How to Vote card, astounding every one of us. Quite how she made the quantum leap from Pauline to Bill had all of us in shock, but it certainly gave us something to talk about. By now it was 10.00am, my first shift was finished and it was time for a four hour break. I’d decorated the strategically placed Volvo with Labor stickers and didn’t want to move the billboard, so I walked home. On the way (just the next street), a young Asian family, Mum, Dad and a little girl walked towards me. I noticed the lady was carrying a corflute poster – ah, Clive was about to arrive! Yes, PUP was heading for the booth, the guy was carrying a handful of leaflets, I almost asked them for a photograph, but, if I say so myself, a sensational idea formed in my pea brain.

“They’re all there now,” I thought, “The Sex Party, Stop Sharia Law, Take Back Australia, we only need Please Explain. No!” I realised, “There is another worthy candidate missing – Cleaver!” I almost ran home, straight to the printer.

Rested, coffeed, fortified, I wandered back to school and just like the PUP family before me, I too carried election material, yes, Cleaver Greene was about to break loose – raise the electoral bar as it were. “What are you up to?” questioned the delightful Liberal lady, “OMG!” The rest of my fellow HTV volunteers gathered around. “Oh God!” sighed the Liberal chap, “I love it!” declared the Greens lady, “I’ve got to take photos”, said our Labor team leader. It does have to be said the Australian Liberty Alliance guys seemed not overly impressed, the PUPs had hung their sign and vanished, while Pauline’s mob had also visited, hung and gone – hmm, sounds like a Vietnamese restaurant – I think they’re OK with Pauline these days, it’s just those damn Muslims! Which does segue into a wonderful scenario some time later. A Sikh guy came along; one of the Liberty Alliance blokes approached him, explaining about sharia law, Islam and immigrants taking over and so on. I couldn’t take my eyes off the proceedings, as the Sikh gracefully extricated himself from his new found unwanted compatriot.

The hardest people to gauge were the hipsters – the young twenty something guys with the loggers beards and the pipe thin cords, cool, inevitably tall and always alone, they took nothing from anybody, not a word, perhaps a nonchalant almost imperceptible shake of the head, none of us knew. Very good boys.

Rusted on Labor voters were inevitably easy, they told you in no uncertain terms, the best one was probably the elderly Hungarian guy, who drove up with his wife in their red AWD and due to ill health, wanted to park in the school, I called out they could as long as they voted Labor, the Liberal guy joining in the fun, told them, they’d have to vote Liberal, which unleashed a three minute lecture on how he’s only voted Labor in 40 years and carpark or no carpark, nothing was going to change that!  We ushered him straight in. Rusted on Liberal voters were also easy to pick – they didn’t smile, had no banter and looked on anybody not wearing a blue Mighty Quinn T-shirt, as something the fly spray hadn’t worked on, stereotyping I know, but it is how it was. Now and then, couples would come along with opposing political views, inevitably very funny comments from one and chilling silence from the other, really great stuff to observe. Of course, there were also the “Fuck them all, they’re all liars and thieves, I don’t even want to be here!” people. It was the perfect opportunity to say to them, “Then have I got the candidate for you!” Yes, swiping Jiminy Cricket and caution from my shoulder, Cleaver Greene would make his appalling appeal.

5.00pm and by now, it was the stragglers ball and fair to say most of these were beyond even Cleavers’ reach, they seemed to wear a ‘Vote or be bloody fined’ shadow. At one stage, one of the AEC girls came out looked at us and said admiringly, “How much are you guys paid?” She was genuinely shocked to find we were volunteers and said there was no way she’d do it for free. I guess she was smarter than us, she was being paid and had a toilet to use!

As the Sun went down in the west, our collective thoughts turned to dismantling the hoardings and placards. At 6.00pm, I signed the Scrutineering Form and walked into the voting area to present myself and diplomatic credentials … to none other than Stormin’ Norman, who, to his credit, raised not an eyebrow as he studied me. “It’s five minutes past six!” He triumphantly cried, “You’re too late, you can’t come in!”

“Oh,” said I, “Alright, I’ll buzz off.”

“Well?” He said to the gaping Liberal chap, “What do you think?”

My Liberal counterpart said, “Well, he’s just been cleaning up and we might have to confer on things, I don’t have a problem, he’s been here all day!”

“Alright, I do things by the book, but I guess it’s the intent that counts, you can stay.”

“Oh great,” I replied, “Where’s the toilet?” Silence, you could have heard somebody taking the piss. Then the fearsome Lady of the Toilet Keys spoke up, “Around the other side of the building, you’ll need a key!” Another of the helpers also needed the loo and we set off together.

“Stop!” Thundered the sergeant, “This form is signed by somebody we don’t have, you can’t act as a scrutineer! There is nobody called Louise Pratt!”

“Yes there is,” I replied, “She’s a Labor Senate candidate.”

“Well I don’t know her!” he responded. I began to think he was related to Joe Bullock, they had a certain physical similarity. My Liberal supporter said, “She’s a senate candidate, it’s fine.” The commanding officer looked at his papers, nodded and relented, I was allowed to stay. It was a close thing, we were just seconds away from my producing a note from Cleaver Greene to say I could do anything I wanted.

I found the counting process fascinating,  Sarge explained the Scrutineering rules – we were allowed to touch nothing, observe everything and query anything, plus we were to witness and sign lock numbers on the voting boxes when they were opened or closed. In answer to my query as to whether I could pass on information as the night went on, he said yes, everything was now open and it was important there were no secrets.

The AEC girls and one bloke were straight into it, Lower House first. Everything was sorted by candidate name, with the forms initially put into piles of 25. It became obvious very early on (6.50pm) that Tim Hammond was going to win this particular booth. By the time it got to the Two Party Preferred count, Sarge was under a lot of pressure – he was keeping an eye on the start of the Senate count as well. At one pivotal point, he asked my Liberal friend to stop counting out loud, as he was trying to concentrate, he explained to me that everything had to be legal that’s all he was trying to do. I started to feel sorry for him and realised that all he needed was a course in developing people management skills.

By 7.30pm the three of us compared notes and figures, everything matched and Sarge rang the AEC results office, where they rightly congratulated him on having all figures complete, right down to the Two Party Preferred count. He had done well. I prepared for a long night observing the Senate count, but the Liberal man, said not to bother, it would take several days and there was no sense in waiting, nothing would be achieved that night, probably not for several nights, Sarge agreed and we all parted friends … I think.

I drove over to the Bayswater Pub, where the function room was a sea of cheering and laughing red t-shirts. Surprise, surprise, Tim had ordered opened, some very good reds (I’m not a beer drinker) and I settled in to watch the ABC coverage, but alas, the crowd were in fine humour, but very loud form, cheering or jeering at the numbers flashing up on the screen, I could hear nothing and eventually, as I really didn’t know anybody, I decided to quietly sneak home and watch, (read listen), to the telecast in the comfort of our own lounge, I hope nobody was offended.

The results coming in were fascinating, the marketing man in me was impressed with Bill Shorten’s speech – the Victory speech you give, when you haven’t necessarily won,  a twin barbed message to Malcom and would be Labor leaders. Like everyone else, I waited and waited and waited, alas, it seemed Malcolm had thrown his crown, sorry dummy, in the dirt. His continuing non-appearance at the Liberal Party wake was jarring in its bad form. I gave up went to bed.

Postscript: It seems I missed nothing in terms of what Malcolm had to say, but his actions have confirmed I made the right choice. I became certain during polling day that the senate would be unworkable and there would be another election within twelve months – I’d lay money on it now. I’m glad Tim won his seat, though we have never met, my gut instinct is he’s a decent caring man. I’m glad Steve Irons won Swan, Tammy Solonec’s attack was both completely wrong and an appalling disgrace. I’m glad Ann Aly appears to have won Cowan, Simpkins and the Liberal Party reached the gutter in their desperate hate-driven smears against her. I can’t believe the people of New England voted Barnaby back in and I’m dismayed that fear and loathing is once again rearing its ugly, vicious head amongst sections of the voting public. I also think the results should give sections of the media cause to reflect, the public has, in its own way, given a message that they will make the decisions, not the media. I’m glad I had the good fortune to work alongside some really lovely people from all political persuasions,  as we politely pestered trapped voters.

Finally: Whether you like the result and message, or not, the fact is, the Australian people have told the politicians and the media what they think of the candidates, parties and process.

Post Postcript:  Cleaver, oh Cleaver, you wonderful mad rake, the Tweets I made have gone viral, it seems Australia is crying out for you. I’m glad I was able to contribute in some small way to both yours and Tim’s campaigns.

Cheers

 

 

 

 

La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs & Margaret River – A Perfect Match

Cape Lodge La Chaine Cocktail Event

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Western Australia is not only an ancient land, it is also vast – experts tell us France fits into WA four times, Germany seven, yet such is the nature of the geology and climate, the population is only around 2.6 million and most dwell in the southern region, with 2.2 million in the Perth area. We’re often told Perth is the most isolated city in the world, indeed, the closest city is Jakarta and it is perhaps that very isolation that gives the Indian Ocean city a different vibe, a different feel from other Australian cities. And like all cosmopolitan cities, the locals have their favourite playgrounds, perhaps none more worshiped than the true South West, where the rain falls heavy in the winter and the endless surf breaks all summer long. An easy three hour drive sees you driving amongst splendid tall Eucalypt forests, pristine beaches, a multitude of wildflowers and of recent times, some of the finest wineries in the world. With the growth of these wineries, inevitably, restaurants and cafes have been created to showcase the region’s wine and produce. Three of the foremost wineries – Cullen’s, Leeuwin and Vasse Felix, are rightly these days, almost as well renowned for their food as for their wines. Fabulous five star accommodation venues such as Cape Lodge and La Foret Enchantée, plus a plethora of resorts, hotels and B&Bs discreetly dot the landscape, the spectacular growth of the wine industry, along with magnificent scenery, has seen hospitality become the main game of what was once equally rich grazing land.

As the national committee finalised the itinerary for next year’s Concours International des Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs, (to be held in Perth), two things became blindingly obvious – there had to be a tour of the South West region in the event itinerary and the timing was perfect for the establishment of a South West Bailliage.  Enlisting the help of well-known region professionals – Rob Gough (Settlers Tavern,  Margaret River), Michael Whyte (Brand Manager, Howard Park Wines and Vice-Conseiller Culinaire – Jacqui Read-Smith (South Metropolitan TAFE), the committee sent out invitations to attend an introductory cocktail party at Cape Lodge to be held on the evening of Tuesday 14th June.

Although as expected, a number of invited guests were away on well-deserved holidays, the evening was a splendid success, with professional guests including Aaron Carr (Executive Chef Vasse Felix), Vanya Cullen (Cullen Wines) and Trish and Dennis Horgan (Leeuwin Estate). Dennis merits special mention, as he has been a professional member of La Chaine for more years than he cares to remember and was duly presented with a La Chaine brass plaque in recognition of his wonderful service.The organising committee wish to express their gratitude to Drew Bernhardt and his team at Cape Lodge for the superb food and service and to both Peter Schrader (Irvine Wines) and Michael Whyte (Howard Park Wines), for the wines, the quality of guests was justly matched by the food, wine and location.

Norm Harrison, (Bailli Délégué Australia) and Wayne Teo, (Bailli Regional, Western Australia), performed dual MC duties, with Norm taking the guests through a synopsis of La Chaine and his hopes for the establishment of the South West Bailliage. It was wonderful to have the runner up in the 2015 Australian Jeunes Chefs Rôtisseurs amongst the guests, voicing her enthusiasm for La Chaines and the competition.

It was a truly magical eve, in the very best tradition of La Chaine – fine food and wine and relaxed genuine camaraderie in a glorious setting. Norm and Wayne finished the evening thanking guests for the interest and obvious enthusiasm, then presenting Drew with a La Chaine plaque for outstanding service shown by Cape Lodge. The committee looks forward to assisting in whatever way required by the soon to be established South West Bailliage and would like to express sincere thanks for the interest and support offered in emails, by those who were unable to attend.

As a postscript, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful night at Settlers Tavern with hosts Rob and Karen Gough on the Monday night, followed by a spectacular lunch and wine tasting at Cullen’s on the Tuesday, with host Valma Cullen. The wines were, as to be expected, stunning, however new chef Colin Anderson, deserves special mention for the exquisite food, including a Haggis with Quail Egg that will surely quash any negatives regarding the wee Scottish morsel. The South West is truly the Jewel in the Crown of the West.

Greg Ross

 

 

Subbie Truckies, Safety, Cash and Turnbull’s Government.

 

Haul Road Capers 045I’ve seen some hijacks in my time, but nothing quite beats the Federal Government’s manipulation of the minimum pay rates for truckies legislation, it’s been brilliantly painted as a TWU grab for membership and cash, but for those of us who actually work in the industry, rather than somebody such as the current Employment Minister Senator Michaelia Cash, who, so the story goes, was last elected on less votes than Ricky Muir, the reality is starkly different.

I’ve worked in the Australian trucking industry on and off since 1975 and I’m still working in it. Though I’ve never had the courage / been naïve enough (take your pick) to own my own truck, I have worked for sub-contractors several times. A select few grasped the opportunity to sell to bigger competitors and did well, but most, including some friends, have gone broke and lost everything, in the honourable pursuit of being their own boss, mixed with a love of machinery – I think all of us in the industry are afflicted with diesel in the veins.

Let us be utterly frank, subcontractors (Subbies) exist in the trucking industry for no other reason than they provide a service cheaper than what it costs the big companies to provide the service. Why buy a truck and employ a driver if somebody else will provide the truck, driver and fuel far cheaper than you can and you make a profit just sitting in the office?

Even better, it’s a free market out there – dog eat dog, everyone undercuts everybody, no contract is really safe and there are always clauses to drop the rates if conditions dictate. Often the subbie owns the prime mover, but not the trailers, indeed pulling company trailers is one way to save wear and tear on the prime mover – everyone of us has had instructions from owners not to use the prime mover brakes, only the company trailer brakes, in all circumstances.

The sad thing is, 99.99% of all sub-contractor owners buy a rig, or two, or three, with the very best of intentions – to provide a good life for themselves and their families and, if they need drivers, to be a good employer. Without a doubt they are inevitably salt of the earth, dinky di, hard-working good people. Unfortunately they usually aren’t good business people.

So they mortgage the family home for a prime mover often worth more than the house, as there’s the offer of what looks to be an excellent contract. The banks and finance companies don’t care, as long as the house is secured. Things usually go well for a year or two, so well in fact that more often than not, the subbie purchases another prime mover. Unfortunately that’s usually around about the time the initial vehicle needs some major work. It’s perhaps two years old with 700,000 kilometres on the clock.

Now with two trucks, he’s got to employ, or ‘subcontract’ a driver, although it’s got a bit harder in recent times to ‘employ’ a driver as a sub-contractor – “No worries mate, just get a business number and pay your own tax.” These days the taxation department regards these arrangements as Employer / Employee arrangements and there’s superannuation to be paid, it’s a bit tricky, but it still happens on a regular basis, there’s no choice.

There’s often an unspoken expectation that the driver will work in the same way as the owner does – long hours, some of them unpaid and also that the driver will “fix things on the road,” regardless of the fact that mechanical repairs done by a non-qualified technician are illegal – try facing a court after an accident to explain that the repairs were done by a non-qualified, non-trained person.

Now that the owner has placed him or herself in a hideous position of financial pressure, two things have to happen before anybody else gets paid – the driver has to be paid his or her weekly wages – most drivers will hang around through to the second week waiting to be paid, but then they’re gone – and fuel has to go in the rig. The fuel companies don’t muck around, payment for fuel is instant, straight out of the owner’s bank account, very few owner-drivers have the luxury of fuel on credit, although sometimes, if they haul for a large trucking company, they can refill at the company bowsers, but that of course is deducted from monthly invoiced haulage payments. That’s if the payments are made monthly, often big companies hold back on payments and the owner driver is expected to cope, it’s very easy to dispute an invoice and drag payment out for a couple of months.

When this stage is reached, the owner driver, who probably is not actually driving at this point, will put off one driver and start driving himself. All the while, the next bloke with a huge overdraft and desperate for another contract to somehow manage his repayments, knocks on the big contractor’s door and offers to haul at a lower rate – he’ll do anything to create a cash flow, (the “We may have to repossess your house” notice is in the glovebox of the prime mover). So the company gives their contracted subbie an ultimatum – “Mate, times are tough, there are a lot of blokes knocking on our door who’ll cart for 10c a kilometre less than you do.”

He needs that cash flow too, so what does he do? Yep, he meets the opposition rates. And guess what, the company demands an even tighter schedule –  the freight has to be at the delivery point at a time that simply cannot be done safely with proper fatigue management. Next stop, the Speed supplier. Pop those pills and keep going, there simply isn’t any choice. The east west run from Brisbane / Sydney and Melbourne to Perth is notorious, you can tell long term drug-taking east westers by their missing teeth and the madness of their conversation. You often find them on mine sites, their bodies and minds broken and they always have tales of losing everything, including the marriage. They seek refuge in what they hope is a more controlled environment, but sadly they often can’t take the rules and regulations, which in a simple twist of fate, are usually all about safety.

The spiral to ruin is almost inevitable. The initial hope, then the change in fortune, the pressure, always the pressure, the mechanical break downs that can’t (financially) be properly repaired, the wages that can’t be paid, the desperate attempts to keep the rig going, the repair shortcuts, the pills to keep working shockingly dangerous hours and so on. Those of us who drive for big companies always know when a subbie is working with us – he’s the one who can’t stop for a break, will drive faster than anybody else, run the yellow lights and plead for one more load, all the while laughing at employee drivers as not being real men or truckies. I can recall a situation a couple of years back, when subbies were doing a job on Kargotich Rd in Perth’s southern suburbs, where several employee drivers, myself included, asked if we could use another route, as it had become dangerous with desperate subbies, sure enough the accidents happened, it’s on the record.

The other side of the coin and make no mistake, this is all about profit, is that the rest of us, the public and the big companies all win. Everything we buy, from food, through condoms to condominiums are subsidised by truckies. The Federal Liberal government  understands only too well how much costs would increase if truck owners were paid decent money, there would be outrage from all of us – yes, you and me. If the big companies had to buy trucks, or add to their fleets and employ drivers on penalty rate wages, while working to proper fatigue management standards, I estimate costs of everything would rise by at least 25%, immediately.

So of course it’s vital to squash the legislation introduced by a union loving Labor government and the saddest point is that owner drivers are so trapped in the situation, they can’t possibly agree to the legislated changes. They are telling the truth, many of them will lose their trucks, their businesses, their houses and their marriages, no question of it.

So the very thing that would give the owner driver operator division of the industry a secure, viable future and make our roads safer, will in fact ruin them. Except that a fair number of them would survive in the immediate future – there simply aren’t enough trucks to replace the owner drivers, big companies would have to use them. The poorly run and the terminally insolvent would go – they always do anyhow – but well run operations would survive.

However, it’s not going to happen, most independent senators are buckling to government pressure. Interestingly, Senator Ricky Muir stands out as opposing dropping the changes, good on him, he must know a bit about the industry. I haven’t been able to ascertain where the Greens stand on this.

I note that Senator Cash has a wealth of experience in industrial law, I wonder whose side she usually  fought for – big business, or the little guy – the owner driver, or the employee?

Senator Cash and her government, along with several independent senators, seemingly desperate to keep their seats, want the status quo to continue, that is: the appalling truck accidents, the appalling bankruptcies and the appalling destruction of good people. When Senator Cash stands and declares she’s supporting mums, dads and family trucking businesses,  my lip curls. Gillard and the Labor Government had the courage to finally try and fix a broken, terribly dangerous industry. Senator Cash and Prime Minister Turnbull are having none of that.

And then there’s this from good old Uncle Sam:

How politicians have conspired to make trucking deadlier and drivers more exhausted via

Sound familiar? The following article by Louise Thornthwaite in The Conversation (15 April 2016), is insightful and to my mind correct.

https://theconversation.com/controversial-history-of-road-safety-tribunal-shows-minimum-pay-was-doomed-from-the-start-57815

This pertinent comment in the Sydney Morning Herald by Tony Sheldon from the TWU:

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/truckies-need-a-fair-go-or-more-lives-will-be-lost-20160417-go89qr.html

Expert rebuts report that questioned link between truck driver pay and safety http://gu.com/p/4tdf6/stw

https://theconversation.com/factcheck-do-better-pay-rates-for-truck-drivers-improve-safety-57639

Greg Ross

 

Uber – To Drive or Not to Drive … Pardner!

12910927_10153709468592880_2006010959_n

uber-

ˈuːbə/

combining form

  1. denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.

“she’s a self-proclaimed uberbitch”

  • to a great or extreme degree.

“an uber-cool bar”

Uber, successful? Perhaps? But at what? My wife and I have been enthusiastic Uber customers for a year or so, like so many here in Perth; previous years of experience – sorry – mistreatment by taxi companies meant we couldn’t wait to use Uber and we’ve found it very successful from a rider’s point of view – clean, well presented cars, polite, attentive, smiling drivers, little or no waiting – maybe five minutes at most and about one third cheaper than ordinary (that’s a very good adjective really!) taxis. In fact, I’ve been so taken with the concept, I decided to inquire about becoming a driver, suffice to say, it’s been a very instructive learning curve.

Uber only communicate by email and text message, they simply do not answer phones – well, try and find a number to call – and strongly prefer to have no personal contact. I thought, “Well, OK, it’s the modern business model for private and government enterprise, I’ll go with the flow.”

After my initial inquiry, I was advised by email to come along to the Uber Drivers Centre at Hay Street, Subiaco during working hours. Certainly they have a Hay Street frontage, but the door is locked and a sign directs people to the rear of the building. Trudging up the back alley, I found myself in a chaotic milling queue of people of all ages, a couple of blokes were wearing security passes and over at a trestle table, a couple of girls, complete with passes, were talking to what appeared to be prospective drivers. We were not actually in the building but in a lean-to at the back. Here I should mention that seemingly everybody you hear from at Uber has the sort of name acid freaks gave their children in the Hippy period, you know the sort of thing – “Chastity Do,” “Natone,” “Doha,” and so on, for some reason I kept thinking they were stage names, I still do.

Anyhow, Kimba pointed me in the direction of a long shelf where several other people were busy typing into iPads, “You do the application on the iPad man, input all your details, then wait over there (pointing to a couple of armchairs) and somebody will call your name.”

Details inputted, I sat down to observe my fellow applicants, there were a couple of middle aged blokes like me, the rest were a lot younger and seemed either to be backpackers, or of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or African origin, so apart from the backpackers, it could have been the outside smoking area for the normal taxi companies.

My name was called, along with another bloke, “I’ll do you both together,” the name caller said, “ Do you both have F Class licences?” she then asked. I did, the other bloke  didn’t, he was sent to somebody else for instructions on how to get an F Class licence, which I found interesting, but more on that topic later.

Tiguan, or Sechelle, whatever her ‘name’ was, told me what would be required and it all sounded very reasonable. Although to be fair it wasn’t actually stated, but the inference was the requirements were basically what the West Australian State Government planned to introduce as law from 1st July 2016. The requirements are as follows:

The car must be no more than ten years old and the age of the car is affected by new financial years. To explain, if you have a 2006 car, it will only be legal to use as an Uber car until 30th June 2016, then it would be too old. Now some of you may be thinking that a nine or ten year old car is too old, not so, most taxi owners buy their vehicles at auction as four / five or six year old vehicles and by the way, ex taxis are not allowed to be used for Uber.

The insurance class of the car on the Department of Transport registration licence has to be converted from 1A to 3F, which is a vehicle for Hire or Reward. Now I like that idea, as if the department agrees to the change, then all is approved. There is a cost, you go along to the department with the current registration papers and apply to have it changed, then pay the fee, all good.

The car has to be inspected, free of charge, by Uber appointed inspectors at a nominated time. Whether they’re qualified technicians, who knows, I had the sneaking suspicion the two guys who checked my car out were backpackers, nice guys, one was from Liverpool, the other from Manchester, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After photocopying my licence, the Uber Blonde said “We need proof of your F Class licence.”

“It’s on the back of the licence, it’s called an F Extension,” I replied.

“No,” said she, “That’s not proof, you need a document from Licencing to state that at the time, you do actually have a licence”. That threw me. She went on to say, “You’ll need a current Police Clearance, a Current Traffic Conviction history, a current medical, which we can arrange for $150.00 and you’ll need written proof from your insurance company that your car is insured for Ridesharing. When you get all this together, log on to the Uber website and create your own page, just follow the instructions and scan in each document, then you’ll be approved, after your car’s been inspected.”

I replied that as I’d just renewed my Dangerous Goods Licence, I actually had all the documentation with me, including a current medical, but she didn’t want to know, “You have to use the website, it works that way.” Looking at me as though I was a slow learner, I understood I was dismissed and she called two more names. “Come in Spinners”, I thought and wandered off, down to the West Perth Licencing Department.

Yes, they knew exactly the form I was looking for and $25.00 later, I had the proof that my licence wasn’t counterfeit. I then went home and rang up Shannon’s, who’ve insured my cars for many years. “Rideshare?” said the startled bloke at the other end of the phone, “No, I’m afraid we don’t do that.” Fair enough, I rang another couple of insurers including RAC, but they didn’t insure Ridesharing either, finally I found success with SGIO. Yes they were willing to insure the vehicle as a Rideshare vehicle, but everything depended on my driving history and experience. They felt 50 years of driving without killing either myself or anybody else was reasonable and were very willing to insure the car (an S60 Volvo sedan) for Ridesharing and true to their word, it’s written in black and white on the policy. Yes, there was an additional cost, another $300.00pa, which I felt was reasonable.

So there I was with every piece of paper correct, all the boxes ticked and ready to rock and roll as the saying goes. So, onto the website and then the dramas really started.

Virtually every document I uploaded was “incorrect”, or not spelt the right way, two weeks later, I was at screaming point, just when you complied with one text instruction, another demand would come up – eg: a special letter from SGIO detailing bullet points from the six page Insurance policy. I had a sneaking suspicion it was exactly the run-around you get from a public servant who is determined to be difficult.

Ann encouraged me to persevere, so I did. But nothing happened, I could copy in 20 text messages and emails I sent off asking for help and or instructions. Every now and then a text message would come back from another Flower Power child, or an escapee from the Lion King, with a half way understandable instruction, the rest were met with occasional emails asking me to rate Uber’s service re my inquiry. Thus far I’ve resisted.

I began to think it was perhaps me, in fact I sent them an email asking if for some reason they didn’t like or want me, would they at least tell me. No response, nothing. But I was also getting messages asking me to sign up for Uber as a Driver and offering me $200.00 for each person I signed up!

Hi Greg,

Thanks for reaching out to us for help with your recent Uber issue. Feedback from your support interaction is important to help us improve your experience in the future.

To let us know how we did, please fill out this short 1 minute survey: http://survey.uber.com/csat?tid=124814952&rid=1689166403. We look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Uber

After four weeks, I sent yet another very polite, as always, believe it or not, email asking what the delay was and received the reply below from a new Flower child – Chai.

Chai(Uber)

Mar 24, 15:56

Hi Gregory,

Sorry about the delay here. No worries, our team is currently reviewing your documents so please just stay tuned for the update on your account status. Trust me, no one wants to get you on the road faster than us!

Again, we really do apologize for any inconvenience with your account activation. This has been forwarded for further support and you will receive a notification once your account is activated. Thank you for your patience and understanding regarding this matter.

Kind regards

As I write this, it’s Saturday 2nd April and alas I have heard not a whisper since the email above telling they loved me on 24th March.  Now I don’t wish to appear big-headed, but I would have thought that a person who ticks all the boxes with ease, has the insurance in writing and a decent car, plus many years of tourism experience would probably be a reasonable Uber driver. It appears not. Things didn’t seen kosher, so I did some digging.

When I first contemplated driving for Uber, I went to the trusty accountants (great friends also) and asked what they thought, telling them I felt you probably couldn’t make a living out of driving for Uber, but there was potential to make some reasonable extra dollars in spare time. They concurred, as they’d already done the exercise for another client a few months earlier, they’d quickly established that it simply wasn’t possible to make a full time living driving for Uber, but yes, it should be possible to make an extra dollar or two. Perfect for somebody like me establishing a business -a little sideline to bring in extra cash.

When you look at the cold hard figures, Uber take 20% of every fare and that’s going up to 25% later this month. Indeed I received an email imploring me to register before the date, which of course I can’t do, as they haven’t / can’t / won’t complete the registration!

Service fee update
Hi Gregory,

We wanted to make you aware that the service fee for uberX is changing, and from 12:01am local time on Sunday 24th April will be 25% for all new driver-partners joining the platform.

This change is being made to align the uberX service fee with other products, both in Australia and overseas. It also reflects the significant investment Uber is making in technology and marketing to improve the platform for both riders and driver-partners.

The service fee for existing Uber driver-partners will remain unchanged, and Uber has no plans to change this for any driver-partners whose accounts are activated before 12:01am local time on Sunday 24th April 2016.

GET ACTIVATED BEFORE 12:01am LOCAL TIME ON SUNDAY APRIL 24th TO QUALIFY FOR THE 20% FEE!

You can check the status of your account, and which documents are still required before you’re eligible for activation, by clicking the link below.

If you have any questions on this, or anything else, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing partners.perth@uber.com

Uber BV

The drivers are responsible for the GST on the full fare and also income tax on what they earn, as far as I can tell, Uber pays nothing to the government. I stand to be corrected, but the system appears to be that when you as the customer pay for your Uber ride, the money from your credit card goes straight to Uber’s American bank account. The Uber driver is paid weekly and gets what the customer paid less 20% (currently). Let’s say the fare was $20.00, the driver gets $18.00, then pays $2.00 GST and income tax on something. So before income tax, that $20.00 fare is actually only $16.00 for the car owner / driver. Now yes of course, an accountant can make a genuine case for profit and loss, but I suspect, there’s an awful lot of loss, just in depreciation alone and with the greatest respect to everyone involved, you’re not driving for Uber to pay for the experience of meeting people, but realistically, that’s what driver partners are doing.

By now nothing was making any sense, even on Facebook, ads for Uber drivers regularly pop up, it seems they haven’t got enough drivers! I then found an intriguing and instructive site, Perth Uber Drivers Forum. If you want to know what really goes on with drivers, scroll through the site: http://uberpeople.net/forums/Perth/

The general consensus is Uber are waiting to put on new drivers (mugs like me waiting in the wings) when the Uber take goes up to 25%, as they expect to lose drivers. There are apparently too many drivers around at the moment, very few people are making any money and most drop out after a few weeks. There are some terrible tales of people outlaying money / getting into debt buying a vehicle on the basis of what they’ve been promised they’ll earn.

I don’t understand how it’s suddenly become easy, quick and simple to get an F Class extension, perhaps the State Government is so cash-strapped, they’re giving them away with Cornflakes packets! And I certainly don’t see how everybody is getting Rideshare insurance, there are some major hoops to jump through and while I totally agree with the paperwork involved, I am astounded that so many people have no trouble getting their hands on the required documents.

I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s almost a Pyramid scheme, in that Uber just brings in more and more drivers, at times that suit Uber and flood the market. It’s churning and also very similar to what employment agencies do – advertising jobs that don’t exist just to get names on the list.

The company has created a fantastic image with customers, but it’s a bit like buying Nike shoes – some poor bastard’s being squeezed to death at the other end. The drivers are simply cannon fodder, the company has no interest in them, other than the free use of a car to supply to customers and Uber will drop a driver instantly if he or she so much as says the wrong thing. There’s no recourse, there’s nobody to call!

I have no way of knowing the veracity of this, but legend has it Uber only has one full time employee in Australia. It should be remembered that although Uber is a Dutch company, it’s run as an American company and American business is not built on paying fair wages or conditions, they’ve never quite got over the concept of Slave Labour combined with the expectation that workers should make money on tips – except that Uber doesn’t encourage tips and it’s not the ethos of people in Oz. Of course, one should also remember Uber does not employ drivers, it has ‘Partners’. Yes, each driver is an Uber partner. It ain’t an equal partnership, one partner refuses to talk to the other and only one partner pays the GST, but apparently it’s a partnership

What Uber are offering car owners, is a dream of being your own boss, groovy hip meetings with groovy hip customers and the opportunity to make lots of money, the reality is very, very different, which is a great shame. There are a lot of people desperate for work who are hoping driving for Uber will be their salvation, but it won’t. The frustrating thing, is the concept is excellent, if a company set out to treat drivers with respect and as valuable genuine partners, then Ridesharing could be a very exciting, great way to make an extra dollar or two.

The other thing I’ve realised is the Genie is out of the bottle, both for Uber and also governments,

I now have a vehicle licenced and fully insured for Ridesharing, I’ve long held (34yrs) the prerequisite drivers licence – an F Class entitles you to drive for Hire and Reward and I have years of proven experience, what’s to stop me offering my services to companies, doing airport transfers, or private tours etc?

Will we continue to use Uber to go the airport etc? Yes, I don’t think ordinary taxi behaviour has got any better and day after day, I see the inevitable Prius taxis doing stupid things on the road, so no thanks, but would I drive for Uber? Well, it seems they don’t want me – perhaps I make a lousy partner!

Greg Ross

Perugino … An Italian Masterpiece

Perugino Restaurant

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A sudden barking rumble of latent power shatters the late afternoon quiet of leafy West Perth, a gunmetal grey Audi RS powers out across Outram Street and the man from Umbria is gone.

At first, Giuseppe Pagliaricci’s choice of chariot seems out of character, but on reflection, it is of course a perfect match for this renowned a la carte chef. The man, his cuisine and his car are quietly understated – unless you knew, you wouldn’t give the car a second glance, the man astutely avoids the limelight and it’s not until the first mouthful of his exquisite food that one truly understands the sheer quality, elegance and taste sensations of what has been prepared.

Giuseppe and his wife Rosalba opened Perugino some 30 years ago with the intention of paying homage to style, elegance, the very best of service, traditional Italian food, fine wines and Italy. Their suave, personable son Francesco is Maitre’d and provides the perfect foil to his father’s natural reserve.

Perugino?  Ah, to understand, we must journey to the Green Heart of Italy, beautiful Umbria, landlocked, landscaped and luscious, lying just next door to Tuscany. Umbria, crossed by the River Tiber, is the birthplace of both Giuseppe and Rosalba, offering a heritage of food, wine and culture dating back to 300BC and beyond, back to the shadows as they say in the region.  The capital of the region is Perugia, however Perugino is both the name of an Italian wine grape and the name of Umbria’s famous renaissance painter, Pietro Perugino – he who painted a fresco in the Sistine Chapel and taught Raphael.

This is a restaurant that quietly suggest a sense of style, luxury and elegance both from those that run the establishment and those who choose to dine there. Fine dining has almost become an anachronism, yet when one stumbles across the concept, alive, well and beautifully done, it is utterly refreshing.

I was there with the WA Chapter of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (Perugino Restaurant is of course a professional member organisation), for a private Sunday lunch, with members celebrating their shared passion for fine cuisine and wine.  Bailli Régional, Wayne Teo introduced several new members, with the event  getting underway in the Courtyard, followed by a four hour long table lunch of seven courses. The menu read six, however Giuseppe sent a message from the kitchen, asking if we’d like an extra course before the dessert. A resounding “Yes!” rang out, accompanied by the clinking of wine and prosecco filled glasses, whereupon a quite stunning saffron chicken appeared seemingly from nowhere.  I shan’t detail the entire menu here, however I have copied the menu and pasted it in the photo gallery.

These days, we seem to have strong debate on migrant cultures – as a Kiwi born Aussie, who vividly remembers the monotony of three veg and chops days, when I am fortunate enough to dine at a restaurant of this calibre and enjoy the fruits, the history and the expertise of another culture, I realise how truly blessed we are to have these magnificent influences and traditions.

It’s a relatively expensive occasion – work on an average of around $120.00 per person, but as they say in the movies, “No, it ain’t cheap ma’am, but quality never is.” Pick an occasion, pick a night, pick Perugino’s.

And in one of those magical ‘Hold that thought’ moments, as I packed the camera gear into the car, Giuseppe stopped by to ask if we’d enjoyed the meal. We talked of many things, then he casually said, “What I really want to do Greg, is a genuine mediaeval Umbrian meal of the period 500 to 600 years ago. It would have to be cool weather, but I really want to do that.” Dear God … I mean, Giuseppe, please, please do so.

www.perugino.com.au                        Ph: (08) 9321 5420

Greg Ross

 

La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Follows the Silks Road at Crown Perth.

 

Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Chinese New Year Dinner 2016

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The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is the international gastronomic association, dedicated to honouring the preservation of the traditions and practices of the old French guild, in a contemporary context.

The principal aims are to bring professional and non-professional, amateur members together to celebrate their passion for fine cuisines and wines and to aid and encourage the development of young chefs and sommeliers worldwide, through its national and international competitions, as well as provide international food support and aid to those in need.

The WA Bailliage (Chapter), led by Wayne Teo (Bailli Régional), organised a magnificent evening to celebrate the 2016 Chinese New Year at Crown Perth’s Silks restaurant. Norm Harrison, Bailli Délégué of Australia also attended with his lovely wife Serena.

The meal was extraordinary, commencing with a Bouche, followed by the traditional Chinese New Year Toss – fresh Tasmanian Salmon tossed with Chinese Pickle Salad, served with French Moet Chandon Imperial NV.

This was followed by an appetiser dish featuring Steamed Scallop Dumplings, Twice Roasted Pork Belly, Roasted Duck with Lychee Jelly and Baked Abalone with Silks Treasure Sauce, accompanied by a Malborough (New Zealand( Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc.

The next dish to savour, was a Double Boiled Mt Barker Chicken Consume with Premium Ginseng, followed by a sorbet. This led into a Steamed Half WA Lobster with ginger and Scallion, accompanied by a Tasmanian Dalrymple Estate Piper’s River Chardonnay.

A top-up of Chardonay and we were then presented with Deep Fried Boneless Quail stuffed with Traditional Seafood Pate and Silks Fried Rice with Chinese Gourmet Sausage, accompanied by a South Australian St Hallett’sBlackwell Shiraz.

The final course, topped with a white chocolate tribute to the Chaîne, was a stunning combination of Pineapple jelly, Ginger Cream, Lime Crumble with Lime Sorbet and wafer thin Pineapple Chips, accompanied by a Margaret River Stella Bella Pink Muscat Moscato.

The staff at Silks deserve special mention, for their elegant, restrained, highly observant manner, if you’re going to dine on the very best food, presentation at the table by the very best staff is indeed accoutrement. When your glass is full, plates removed and courses served without interruption to conversation or thought, it is testimony to the quality of both the staff and the organisation.

And there be lions! It was after all, the Chinese New Year! Yes, one may have expected monkeys their year, but it seems they wisely retreated, as two lions prowled the private dining room tables. To our delight, these lions weren’t just straight out of the jungle, not only were their table manners impeccable, they both drank a glass of champagne and of course, were duly rewarded by the adoring crowd!

However the wonderful evening of stunning food was not finished, Silks Chef de Cuisine, Pat Kuan Cheong and his staff treated us to a wonderful display of specialised flame cooking. It was beautiful theatre to watch, as the sweet fried desert underwent the flame, cooked in Virgin Olive Oil, then was bathed in sugar.

In a fitting end to the evening, West Australian Bailli Regional, Wayne Teo, asked Bailli Délégué, Norm Harrison, to present a well-deserved Chaîne des Rôtisseurs award to Chef Cheong, he responded by inviting questions from Chaîne members and guests on cooking methods and secrets, with Wayne providing translation from Cantonese where needed. And therein lies the heart of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – though the pursuit is food and wine of the finest quality, it’s not a closed society, quite the opposite, though they do not of course advertise and membership is by invitation, the Chaîne is a ‘broad church’ – if you love wonderful food, wine, ambience and company, then you may find this lovely, elegantly relaxed organisation the perfect partner.

Inquiries can be made to Bailli Regional, Wayne Teo at:

E: tchw@tajuriaholdings.com.au

M: +61 412 921 253