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

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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

 

 

 

Raconteur Photography

Every Picture tells a story

Wedding Photography Pics

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A Touch of History:

I first started shooting weddings back in the mid 1980s, in the days of pretentious, often tipsy celebrants, convinced of their over-riding central importance. However after several years, fate intervened and a long career path as a marketing manager in the automotive industry, followed by a long period working in Western Australia’s mining industry meant I simply didn’t have the time to continue photographing weddings as a profession, although I often found myself shooting weddings for friends and family.

The need to find a photographer to cover my own wedding convinced me to reconsider wedding photography – there appeared to be a plethora of inexperienced, ‘though well-meaning people available, as well as some admittedly experienced photographers charging like wounded bulls! Then there was the consideration of style – I’m not the posed shot of lovers leaping from balconies sort of guy, I like to capture the reality, the tenderness, the hesitation, the emotion and the fun, so and I began to think there was a niche for a relaxed, laid-back experienced photographer to offer great service, realistic prices and a friendly smile.

My wife and I (Ann’s also an excellent photographer and will help out when needed) decided that after we returned from a two month holiday in Europe at the end of 2015, I’d establish the business, although I haven’t resurrected the ‘Chauffered Photographics’ name, from back in the days when I offered a wedding car for free along with the photography. Although, never say never – I just might get around to buying a suitable wedding car at some stage – I’m not sure the bright, bright yellow XR8 is quite everyone’s choice of wedding car – although … if you want to use it as a wedding car you can – I have the appropriate F Class licence.

The Detail

Relaxed, realistic (read candid and natural) photography capturing the essence and feeling of your special day. All photographs are high res, digitally edited and supplied on a USB stick. All packages also include a selection of small JPEGs for your social media sites. There are no watermarks on the photos and copyright is yours, with the understanding that any published photos credit the photographer (me!). Photos available for collection within two weeks of your wedding taking place.

Should you choose me to cover your wedding – thank you for the honour, however we should meet and talk through your requirements, it’s your wedding, you know what you’re looking for and there are sometimes family situations which need care, or special people you want photographed. It’s one of the most emotional moments of your life – you both need to like and trust the person behind the lens. I find for most couples, it’s virtually impossible to meet during working week days, so I’m more than happy to sit down with you after hours.

The Packages

Please note: All packages cover weddings within 50kms of Perth CBD, a mileage charge of $1.00 per kilometre is applicable for venues more than 50kms from the CBD. Regional venues, such as Margaret River by negotiation.

Bronze   $300.00

One and a half hours maximum coverage, including ceremony, bridal and family photographs at the ceremony location.

Silver   $500.00

Three hours maximum coverage, (includes up to an hour and a half at the reception), covering ceremony, bridal and family photographs, along with initial reception photography.

Gold   $1,200.00

Up to nine hours, covering your wedding from the bride’s preparation, through to the Bridal Waltz.

Please note: We request that all wedding packages should be paid in full, two weeks before the wedding day.

Thanks for taking the time to consider me for your wedding, I look forward to meeting with you both.

Mob: 0418 953 275

E: greg.w.ross@bigpond.com

Refugees – A Crisis On Every Level

Several people have asked me to write my thoughts on the current refugee crisis in terms of people fleeing the Middle East and Africa. I’ve hesitated about writing anything, as the situation is so complex, I find it impossible to give a simple two paragraph analysis. Seemingly every point or personal judgement has an equally valid counterpoint, yet somehow, our world has to find a solution and I believe we all have a duty to be involved, after all, many of our countries contributed to the problems. Two things are certain, to be a politician dealing with the situation must be the stuff of nightmares and to be an unwelcome refugee must be a nightmare. My thoughts, for what it’s worth:

The exodus of people fleeing poverty, or violent religious and political persecution from the Middle East and the African continent, has, as we are all aware, become not only a humanitarian crisis, the like of which has not been seen since WW11, but also a trigger point for heated, increasingly xenophobic debate on migration, poverty, religion and compassion. At the core of the crisis are the barbaric lunatic groups such as ISIS, Al Qaida, Boko Haram and Jemaah Islamiyah, not to mention oppressive regimes such as that of Assad in Syria.

Somehow, the very people who are fleeing from the horror of Islamist terror organisations, are being branded as the terrorists they’re fleeing from, simply because the majority of them are Muslims, although many are Christians. If we go back to the barbaric IRA days of the 1970s, did we brand all Catholics as terrorists because the IRA professed themselves to be Catholic, or all Protestants as terrorists because the dreadful Ian Paisley was a Protestant? Of course not.

Unfortunately the current refugees, for the most part, don’t look like us – ‘us’ usually being of white Anglo Saxon / Northern European ancestry. They wear different clothing, their lifestyles seem very different and their religion appears totally alien to our expectation of a modern civilisation based on Judeo-Christian ethics. Not so long ago, seeing a woman wearing a burqa meant you were visiting an exotic destination somewhere in the cradle of civilisation, nowadays you’re likely to see a woman in a burqa at the local shopping centre and it can be confronting. I personally feel very uncomfortable with it (in Australia), primarily as I believe it represents a misogynist affront to every woman and our sense of freedom and values. I am however, untroubled with the hijab (or a sikh’s turban, or a nun’s habit for that matter) – I can’t see a reason to flaunt a religious belief in public, but hey, to each his or her own and to be fair, the question begs – shouldn’t we be free to wear what we like? For all I know, many Muslim women may feel safe and comfortable in a burqa. Having said that, the only women I’ve seen quoted in the media as favouring and liking the burqa, appear to be woman who have converted to Islam and my life experience of people who have converted to any belief system, is they are often far more fanatical than people born into a faith. There is a very telling site on the internet of women from Islamic nations who wish they weren’t forced to wear burqas, or hijabs.

My point in discussing the burqa, is that generally most of us have very little understanding of the Muslim faith, we haven’t needed or wanted to and I think if we’re honest, there is a subconscious hangover from the days of colonialism and the British Raj, deep down, we believe we’re superior. It’s very comfortable and terribly easy to be a condescending tourist, you know the sort of thing –“Oh how lovely”, “how quaint,” “It’s just so beautiful and old world the way they carry goods on their heads” and so on. In Bali, we gasp laughingly in disbelief and take photos of incredibly overloaded motorcycles, not for one minute caring that those people have very little and are desperately trying to eke out a living. But we’re suddenly very uncomfortable when the same people arrive in Australia, or New Zealand, or the UK, or the USA, or Germany, or France etc, desperate to make a new life for themselves and don’t forget the USA’s long-standing horrendous attitude to Mexican people.

My first experience with a person of the Muslim faith in Australia was in the late 1980s, when, as a Greyhound driver out on the Nullarbor heading east towards the South Australian border, a passenger came up to me and asked me to stop the coach so he could pray. I was stunned and told him politely I couldn’t do it. He became very agitated and it was an uncomfortable trip for everyone from then on. My next experience with a person of the Muslim faith was in the mid 1990s, when I was fortunate enough to meet and be invited to the Perth home of Professor Samina Yasmeen, surely one of the most gentle, educated, thoughtful and delightful people on this Earth, light years away from the ISIS terrorists who profess to share her faith. In recent days, I’ve had several brief chance encounters with Muslim refugees in Germany and I couldn’t wish to have spent time with better people.

Sadly with so many people fleeing to the sanctuary of western democracies, many people in western countries are understandably worried about a perceived clash of cultures. Quite apart from the shocking reality of home-grown terrorism, what most of us have witnessed through the media in the last thirty or so years, is that many of the hard-line Islam based countries are run on brutal barbaric lines. If one takes a country such as Saudi Arabia, where daily beheadings and public viewings over coffee are an accepted norm, why should we expect an Islamic terrorist organisation to behave any differently? Brutality is what the leaders of these organisations have grown up with, it’s normal to them and the West has sanctioned, helped, financed and accepted brutal dictatorships throughout the region for a long while and still does. Bashar Al-Assad stands as testimony to this, if his own people don’t get to him first, you can guarantee some country – probably Russia, will offer him sanctuary, given that the end-game for Putin in supporting Assad, is surely the establishment of a Russian military base in Syria.  ISIS is said to fund its operations with the production and sale of oil and the madness of this trade means they’re even selling oil to the people fighting them.

Since the British were so arrogantly stupid as to ignore the knowledge and advice of T.E. Lawrence re tribal lands, groups and allegiances and simply drew territorial lines in the sand to divide up the Middle East as spoils for allies, (they did exactly the same with Pakistan and Bangladesh), the region has been simmering with tension and tribal hatreds, add to that the establishment of the state of Israel and the simmering hatred has magnified a thousand times. I don’t know why, but for some reason many left wing people these days seem to have a hatred of Israel and anything “Jewish”, the anti-Semitism is frightening, the current British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn is a startling case.  I don’t know what it is that people don’t understand about being attacked every day, surrounded by hostile nations and organisations who have always openly declared their aim is to exterminate Israel – if you fly on an Arab owned aircraft, Israel doesn’t even appear on the flight path maps. All I would say to Corbyn, is “Mate, if you were PM and we were being attacked every day, I’d want you to not only defend us, but take pre-emptive moves.” It’s just possible that the best thing that could happen with ISIS, is for them to follow up their newly stated aim of attacking Israel, the Israelis won’t stuff around! France has just as much dirt on its hands as England in terms of colonisation on the African continent and places such as Syria and although we quickly blame the USA for every fire in the Middle East, the reality is in recent years we’ve left the USA to deal with the arrogant mistakes of the British and the French.

This is not to deny that past USA policies have created nightmare situations, but the facts is it was France and England that led the push to oust Gadhafi and England and the USA, plus Australia, led the push into the lie that was Iraq. George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard have got off lightly considering the insanity they’ve created and left us to deal with. And people wonder why Barrack Obama is leery of putting troops on the ground in Syria, it’s never worked before in the region and there’s no reason to believe it will again, besides, I don’t think he has the taste for what would inevitably be the death of millions of Syrian civilians and the death and maiming of many US soldiers. Putin is another story – he’s possibly more dangerous to ISIS than Israel, where Israel does care but would have to act in self-defensive, pre-emptive or not, Putin doesn’t care, he’s looking for revenge, a military base and an ego boost on both his home and world stages.

The world is lurching to the right, seemingly moving inexorably to totalitarian governments, ordinary people such as you and me are under surveillance in a way that would have brought about absolute outrage and the fall of governments 20 years ago. Australians will remember when the Labor Hawke government wanted to introduce the Australia Card for every citizen to carry, Labor still bears the scars and there isn’t a politician in Canberra who isn’t aware of that debacle.  Poland is the latest example of this insidious creep – the Polish government is acting more and more like the old Soviet Union, with a virtual take-over of the judiciary and a crackdown on journalistic freedom of expression. Democratic EU governments across Europe are calling for, or already putting razor wire border barriers in place, even Germany is now calling for border protection. The UK is better off than most other EU countries – the Channel is a natural barrier, the buck stops with France and the English are very happy about that. I’ve lost a long friendship with somebody in England, who although married to a wonderful woman of African heritage, is frightened and stridently outspoken at what he perceives as the Islamisation of England, unstoppable migration from Africa and the inability of the UK to look after its current population.

It’s entirely possible that this refugee crisis will destroy the EU in its current form, France, Germany and England cannot realistically expect Turkey and Greece to retain, shelter and feed the millions of people pouring in to their countries, yet the barriers are going up. It’s a growing crisis that will inevitably reach an explosive point in the near future. The poorer East European countries cannot and will not support the millions of people either, the temptation to send the refugees on to the wealthy West European countries will become politically irresistible. It would be a fair bet to imagine that sometime in 2016, everyone will need a passport to enter or leave any EU country.

In the USA, Donald Trump, might actually become President – how far from the humanity and fundamental decency of the Kennedy era would that be? Possibly he’d only last a year or so before they’d have to impeach him as a maverick making his own rules, however the damage he could wreak upon the world, let alone his own country is frightening. Sadly the strident xenophobes are having an effect, President Obama has signalled he’s rounding up illegal Mexican families and sending them back, regardless of individual or family circumstance, not to mention that Uncle Sam’s economy is built in part on the virtual slave labour of Mexican people. In Australia, people on social media and in demonstrations are openly campaigning to “Take Back Australia!” From whom? As far as I know, nobody’s taken the joint!

We’ve recently become aware the Australian government has been towing back boats overloaded with refugees to Indonesian waters, if the boats are too unseaworthy, (read slowly sinking), the Australian navy gives them lifeboats and supplies, then pays the Indonesian crews cash to take the people back to Indonesia. And don’t we love it – “Fuck off, we’re full” declare the stickers on car windows and on Facebook. Governments also love it, they feed off this fear, consequently we’re giving tacit approval for ever tighter restrictions on citizens, more surveillance and more totalitarian power to the police. Pushing back boats overloaded with refugees is nothing new, there’s a startling similarity with packet steamers overcrowded to the point of insanity with Jewish people fleeing Europe at the start of WW11 hostilities, being turned away from North African ports, nor were these people welcomed with compassion and joy to most of our countries. What in the name of anybody’s God have the Jewish people ever done to deserve this treatment? I am constantly ashamed of how Jewish people are currently being treated and Israel is demonised.

Time and time again, I read and hear comments about the refugees from people, along the lines of “Yeah! They’re all young men, the bastards should stay and fight ISIS in their own countries if they think it’s a problem!” or “The pricks are just trying to save themselves, they’ve abandoned the women” and so on. Obviously people choose to ignore history, since time immemorial, men have gone away to find new homelands and forge a new life for their families, once established they send for their wives and children. Think of the Chinese and Afghan men who came to Australia during the gold rush times of the late 1890s, the Greek and Italian men who came out in the early days of the 20th century, or after the end of WW11. German men came out after WW11 as well, there was nothing for them back home, indeed German refugees returning to Germany at the end of the war were not exactly welcome – there was no food or work for them, they weren’t wanted back in their own country.

These men worked in whatever country would take them, sending money home for their families, gradually establishing themselves to the point where they could bring out their families. I can’t be certain, however I suspect it would be culturally unacceptable for most of these families to send the women and children out on a perilous journey, while the men stayed at home. How many Australian blokes would think it was fine to stay home and send ‘the missus’ out with the kids, a suitcase and a mobile phone to establish a new life?

So now we’re all terrified, believing the millions of refugees streaming into Europe are all terrorists. Yes, it would be naïve to think that there are no terrorist sleepers amongst the refugees, there must be, but the reality is 99.999% of all these people are fleeing terrorism, brutal regimes and total destruction. Of course they’ve got mobile phones etc, the majority are educated, normal working people just like us! They’ll be an asset to any country providing sanctuary – unless they are marginalised and either don’t or can’t assimilate into the culture of their host country.

And that really does get right to the heart of the terrorist acts we’ve been witnessing. To the horror of governments across the world, the people committing these acts are almost inevitably home-grown, for the most part, they are the sons or daughters of refugees, who are shocked and mortified when they discover the path their children have secretly chosen. France in particular doesn’t want to talk about it, but the fact is their colonial activities in Africa and the middle east meant they’ve had to accept people as French citizens, but they haven’t accepted them socially – they’re not really French, or Belgium for that matter, with the consequence that ghettos of unemployed young people, shunned by mainstream society, with no hope of jobs or a tangible future, have become restless, ripe for the picking by radical Imans. Belatedly the authorities are reaching out, but it may be a little too late.

Australia stands out as possibly the most successful nation in terms of multi-cultural blending, perhaps because we’re young, still shaking off the shackles of British rule and as yet, we don’t have a really strong national identity, language and culture in the way countries such as England, France and Germany do. Germany is particularly interesting, in that while she was never much of a colonial power, her past aggressive culture of waging war, racism and aggressive territory annexation, has meant these days, the country can be seen as being deliberately far more enlightened than many others, Germans are terrified of their early 20th century history – witness Angela Merkel’s initial offer to accept as many refugees as possible.

Back to Australia, and here the Aboriginal people must, like the Maori people of New Zealand, be somewhat bemused at people of European descent demanding their country back! Apart from initial white convict settlement, Australia has had several great waves of migration – the goldrush days of the 1880s and 1890s, on a smaller scale, the pearling industry boom from the 1880s through to the early 20th century, then huge migration from Europe, including England, after WW11 and on a smaller scale, Asian peoples coming after the Vietnam and Cambodian wars.

Under any examination, these migrations have been an enormous success for Australia, migrants arrive to better themselves, they work long and hard and they enrich our society, bringing their cultures with them, in terms of food, lifestyle and yes, religious belief. Certainly they have communities of their own, whether it’s Hungarian clubs, Italian clubs, Greek Clubs, Chinese business associations and so on, but there is no threat, perceived or otherwise, so why are we so terrified of Muslim people from the Middle East?

I have to be honest, the thought of a future Australia becoming a quasi Islamic nation does not appeal to me. There have been some wonderful more or less democratic Islamic nations such as Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia, but with the exception of Indonesia and Malaysia, although they both have strict Sharia law courts and in the case of Indonesia, in Aceh Province, Sharia Law applies to non-Muslims, they have either fallen to hard line Islamists, or appear to be in the process of becoming hard line. We are told things such as Sharia Law are quite harmless, but that’s not the evidence I see and to discover in the last week, that Sharia Law is being practiced with a degree of government approval in Sydney, to me is both frightening and unacceptable, I don’t want that for my children’s children. And let’s not forget the abominations of forced female circumcision and the arranged marriages of young girls.

I’m best described as an Agnostic lapsed Church of England bloke and I am a firm believer in the absolute separation of State and Religion, but Religion interests me and everyone should have the right to follow their own chosen faith, or non-belief if it comes to that, however I also believe it is a private matter for individuals, nobody should ever have the right to impose their religious belief system on anybody else and the rule of law must take precedence over any belief in a god. That appears to be a real issue with Islam. I can only rely on what I’ve read and heard in the media, but continually we are told by Muslim leaders and their people, that Muslims answer to their god (and therefore the Imans rulings) first and their country second. Now that’s OK in principle, potentially it could even be argued that it’s ethically and morally right for an individual, but if the God you believe in is being forcefully interpreted by an Iman preaching intolerance and hate, then there is a terrible and totally unacceptable problem. As yet, I have not seen an Iman preaching love and tolerance in the way Church of England, Catholic, Buddhist and the Orthodox ministers and priests do and that worries me.

Reflecting on the above, it occurs that try as I might to avoid it, much of what I think must be affected by my own sub-conscious prejudice and I acknowledge my paucity of knowledge and interaction with the Muslim faith, perhaps my fears are groundless, but maybe they’re not, I simply don’t know.

One thing is certain, this is one of those enormously significant periods in history when there is a seismic change in terms of human migration, nothing is going to stop the millions of people fleeing these ravaged areas into western democratic countries. They don’t seem remotely interested in going to Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar etc, nor do any of these autocratic states show any interest in taking in the refugees – the quality of mercy sure as hell isn’t strained, indeed a number of credible commentators believe some of the above states are actually encouraging and helping finance the terrorist organisations. Whatever the truth, it’s telling that the predominantly Muslim refugees don’t want anything to do with these Islamic-based states, western democracies are obviously seen as far safer, better havens. Which also tells us we have nothing to fear from people who don’t want anything to do with the crushing brutality of hard-line Islamic states.

What we do have to fear, is offering sanctuary, without acceptance and reluctant grudging acceptance of unacceptable religious practice and dogma. There has never been a more urgent need for dialogue and mutual understanding, whether it’s England, France, Germany, Australia, the USA, or any other country and although we are hardly flooded with Muslim refugees, Australia does have the world’s largest Islamic nation on its doorstep. I am convinced we are in a period of profound social change and the Western world has been caught unaware.

I’m not for one minute suggesting capitulation, or a ‘She’ll be right’ attitude, events are proving ‘she’ won’t be unless we become involved on every possible level. Meanwhile, we have no choice other than to be vigilant, as far as I’m concerned if somebody has consciously become a terrorist, planning, or carrying out an act of barbaric terrorism and then cops a bullet, too bad and if some mad cow decides to rush off and offer herself in support of a terrorist organisation in the Middle East, don’t let the bitch back into Australia and sadly, if children are dragged into the parents depraved insanity, even participating, as we’ve seen in some horrifying cases, then those children cannot be allowed to return to Australia either. Who amongst us would want them mixing with our children or grandchildren? These are admittedly dreadful decisions, but they are forced on us by these terrorist butchers, yet we somehow we have to find a path through the murky quicksand, putting an end to these terror organisations, but at the same time, not losing our humanity, decency and sense of what is right, or we risk becoming exactly what the terrorists try to tell their followers we are.

Greg Ross

Curiouser and Curiouser … a Westpac Bank Tale

My wife is experiencing a fascinating and on-going experience with seemingly abandoned cash and corporate honesty. A couple of months back, she found a very substantial amount of money lying on the keyboard of an ATM in Perth, she then stood beside the machine holding the cash for several minutes waiting for somebody to return and claim it. When nobody, distressed or otherwise turned up, she and the friend she was with, went to the nearest branch of the bank involved, Westpac. Of the two bank employees who attended to her, the younger person was totally nonplussed and queried what my wife thought the bank could do, she didn’t seem to grasp the fact that somebody would hand the money in – hmm, in light of what has consequently occurred, she’ll probably go far up the Westpac corporate ladder. However the older woman thanked my wife, put the money in an envelope and wrote my wife’s contact details on the back of it, saying words to the effect that they’d look into it, although she pointedly didn’t provide my wife with a receipt.

In early December, some five weeks later, my wife, by then on holiday in Europe, asked me to contact Westpac to see what had happened. I rang the branch concerned and was treated with what can best be described as uninterested disdain, reaching a point where the woman said, “Why are you so interested?” I replied that as far as we understood it was lost property and that if no one came forward to claim it, my wife would be entitled to the money. “Oh no,” was the severe response, “That’s not possible, it belongs to the bank, besides, it can take up to 12 months for anybody to claim the money. It might have come from our machine, but it could have been through another bank. It all has to be traced!  Anybody claiming the money will have to prove it’s theirs.” I replied that the money was not actually in the machine, it was lying on the keyboard, it may not have even come from the machine and therefore nobody at this stage knew whose money it actually was, unless it had been claimed. Then came a very cold accusing remark, “Just because your wife found it and is now trying to get the money, doesn’t mean it’s hers! She can’t just have it!”

Slightly offended at the woman’s tone, I reminded her that my wife hadn’t kept the money, she’d been scrupulously honest, her concern was for the person who had misplaced it and she’d handed it in to the bank as the best means of finding the owner, having rung the police who advised her to take it to a branch of the bank concerned. I went on to say that we didn’t need the name or details of the person who’d lost the money, but we did require a written statement from Westpac that the money had been claimed and given back to the rightful owner. The Westpac representative replied that they would certainly not be providing anything in writing. Alarm bells rang. I responded that that made me suspicious and perhaps I should put my journalist hat on and dig a little deeper. She got even colder and said, “In that case I can’t talk to you any longer, you’ll need to ring our PR department.”  I replied that I didn’t consider it necessary at that point, however I felt our request for written confirmation from Westpac as to what had happened to the money was entirely reasonable. She responded that it wasn’t, the bank would deal with it, but they certainly wouldn’t be telling us what had occurred. We debated for a further couple of minutes, with my saying I’d reached the stage of feeling I should ring one of the newspapers as she and Westpac were in my opinion acting deviously, to the point where I thought the whole thing was unethical and as shifty as all Hell, repeating that all we wanted was proof of return of the money in writing, it surely couldn’t be that difficult.

By now, I sensed she was tiring of the conversation, she didn’t like me, she certainly didn’t like me inquiring about the cash and she sure as hell didn’t like any mention of the media.  Finally, in a rather obvious move to get me off the phone, she told she would ring me the following day (a Friday) after she’d made some inquiries, although it might take until the next Monday. Of course I understood full well that neither she, nor anybody else from Westpac would call me or my wife.

Needless to say, we’re now only four days away from the end of the year, but to be fair, I’m currently in Europe and the Telstra card is out of the phone, so I can’t say Westpac haven’t tried to ring in the past couple of weeks, however Westpac does appear to have battened down the hatches, I can only assume they’re all hiding in a vault deep under St George’s Terrace, clutching the envelope and I’d hate to be the person who lost the money, I suspect their task would be even more impossible than ours.

We still think honesty pays, however it would appear some banks march to a different ethic. One wonders at the scenario where if nobody does claim the money and Westpac keeps it, is that technically theft? Most certainly, after this experience with Westpac, I would advise anybody finding money to hand in to the nearest Police Station, sure the Police don’t seem to want to deal with it, but at least if nobody claims it, you’ll become the legal owner after three months, whereas if you hand it into a bank such as Westpac, they’ll grab it, smiling like the proverbial rat with a golden tooth and then you’ll become a pariah.

Greg Ross