Private Parts

SMH Page 3, 05.09.2014

Australia post has announced that from now on, they will be utilising a ‘three-tier’ delivery system: express, priority and regular. Of these options regular is the only new one, and it will be slower than previous services have been. Now I have no particular reliance on what is now known as snail mail, but watch carefully, since 1989 Australia Post has been corporatised, and as such has been required to act in such a way that it turns a profit.

The wonderful thing about our society is that a long time ago we agreed that some things just needed doing, and that everyone benefited equally from those things happening. You know, things like policing, firefighting, medicine, transportation and communication. This is a wonderful idea, because everybody uses these things at some point in their life, if not every day.

At some point, however, we collectively decided that these things should also be making money, and that the people who needed these services better pay for them. So now the State budgets rely on traffic fines, ambulance trips rely on private insurance and the Post relies on stamps. This by itself is no problem, people should have to buy stamps to send letters, but when we have government services cutting down because they’re not making budget, we might take time to examine our priorities.

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My Take on the Takes that got Took

This week we witnessed but the latest chapter in the long story about the decline of privacy in our modern society. Naked photos of several celebrities were released into the never forgetting public consciousness. Immediately articles were written and shared by thousands about the contrasting viewpoints on this new relative morality.

The article that caught my attention, however, was one that stated:

If you have ever complained about the NSA collecting data on you yet you look at these pictures, you are a hypocrite

The rationale behind this is that if you are against your own privacy being invaded, you shouldn’t participate in the invasion of others. This seems fine, however it ignores another major problem in our society. If these photos had been stolen from a random iCloud account, there would have been no mention of them outside of the site they were posted to, however the very thing that made the incident noteworthy is the thing that makes it unusual, the involvement of celebrity.

The fact is that in our society there are several businesses and media outlets that operate exclusively to disseminate information about celebrities. So-and-so is divorcing whats-his-name, who’s having a baby, and doesn’t blah-blah look horrible now that she has put on that weight.

Now this is not to say that the invasion of privacy was right, but it seems to me that the problem here is that the invasion of privacy involved nudity, and in our culture sex is the only scandal. If the leak, instead of being naked photos, had been embarrassing information about these celebrities relationships, or speculation on their weight or relative attractiveness, or if the photos had been taken by a professional stalker who was paid to follow these women around and capture them in their most vulnerable moments, we would have no issue with it.

It’s a shame, because it would be a nice line to draw. However if you want to search for the real hypocrisy, look for somebody complaining about this invasion of privacy yet still reading Women’s Weekly or HuffPost Celebrity News.

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I Fear Change! Keep things the same!

Airline Profits, Sydney Morning Herald, 31.8.2014

Airline Profits, Sydney Morning Herald, 31.8.2014

Story from the Sydney Morning Herald’s front page this morning, apparently the competition between airlines that has dropped prices for flights so much recently, and made air travel viable, has caused enormous deficits for the airline companies. This has caused Alan Joyce to say that Qantas will be limiting the total number of air miles flown, and Virgin has said that their prices will rise again.

This news is equal parts annoying and fair enough, as much as I don’t like paying more for things I understand that companies cannot operate while losing 2.8 billion dollars a year.

However!

How many different reasons do we need before we start building a high speed rail line. I hope you read the SMH today Mr. Warren Truss, because your arguments for a second airport over a nice train are falling apart before any of the promised jobs have become available. I know the Liberal Coalition doesn’t believe in Global Climate Change, so the amount of fuel used to run aircraft doesn’t matter to them, but I also know they care a lot about profits, and in the glorious capitalist system in which we live, the invisible hand of the market seems to have decided that short-distance air travel is no longer viable

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Me? Corrupt? No, I just wanted the best for you!

Much ink has been spilled over the latest round of ICAC hearings and their dramatic, if unsurprising, results. And good ink it was. With every political scandal there is of course defenders of the subjects, no matter how obviously in the wrong they were. I was, however, somewhat surprised as the content of the defence, written by Jason Gordon in todays Newcastle Herald Opinion column. The interest I have in this take, is not that Mr. Gordon seems to have started writing with the express purpose of excusing any actions undertaken by our illustrious Lord Mayor. The only issue I have with this is the same issue that our Prime Minister does in a way. Gordon writes:

“McCloy, along with every other rich bloke in this town was approached by the Liberals in the run-up to the last state election and asked to kick the can. He’s admitted to illegally giving $9975 to Tim Owen’s election campaign. He’s admitted to handing over another $10,000 to Andrew Cornwell. From his Bentley. He’s admitted to pulling about $1500 out of his wallet and giving it to Garry Edwards. And there’s another $10,000 he allegedly swung towards a Liberal bucket used to pay party staffers. He says he did it because the Labor government was in for a hiding and he didn’t want ineffective Labor MPs in Newcastle when Macquarie Street was full of Liberals.”

This goes along with the comments made by Tony Abbott today, saying that:

“political parties need to raise money. I think it’s right that political parties have to go to the public and seek support that way rather than just being able to rely solely on the taxpayer”

Don’t you see? The problem isn’t that too much money was paid to the politicians, it’s that not ENOUGH money can be paid to them. As Gordon concludes –

“Are mining companies banned? Nope. Are private health insurance and drug companies banned? Nope. Are trade unions, farming groups or government service providers? Nope. Murderers, paedophiles?”

This shows a basic misunderstanding, in my opinion, over what it is that people are angry about. It’s not that we think developers are a special breed of people that should not be able to donate. It’s far less complicated than that. Quite simply it is that one man should not get to decide what ‘he wanted on Maquarie Street’, and then pay for it to happen. It makes a mockery of the concept of ‘one (wo)man one vote’, and it’s no wonder Mr. Abbott wants more of it, because without his rich puppetmasters, he’s not only out of office, but out of policy ideas.

The opinion article I mention can be found here: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2493701/icac-opinion-lets-get-real-about-jeff-mccloys-intentions-legacy/

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A Letter to Warren Truss MP

A few months ago my good friend Georgia wrote a letter to our wonderful government regarding the construction of a High Speed Rail in Australia. The response she received, in a roundabout way, stated that the government had no intention of even considering a High Speed Rail link. I wrote back and have included here my response to them, and I hope to receive another response from them, which I will also post here.

 

The Hon. Warren Truss MP

Suite MG41, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600

Dear Mr. Truss,

I write to you in response to a reply a friend of mine received (Reference: MC14-000501) regarding high speed rail and development in New South Wales, specifically the city of Newcastle. The original letter raised questions as to the viability of a high speed rail system, as well as the focus on Sydney City development in State and Federal infrastructure policy. Your reply, dated 30 May 2014, answered some of these questions, however raised many more, and as such I am writing this letter in order to clarify a number of questions that myself and many others have.

Your reply begins by introducing the location of Sydney’s new airport, touting its potential to create economic growth and jobs, with this growth to positively affect both Western Sydney and the rest of New South Wales. My first question is therefore how this will airport provide growth in the short or long term to anywhere besides Western Sydney. Secondly I would like to enquire as to the rationale behind the construction of a second Sydney airport rather than the upgrading of a rural airport such as the one in Newcastle to be able to be more useful to residents. In the mind of many residents of Newcastle an expanded airport outside of Sydney city would be much more effective at providing economic and job growth in the greater NSW area.

Your letter also states that ‘capacity pressures at Kingsford-Smith Airport mean that another airport is needed well before HSR would become operational’. To this point I would ask what your response is to the article published 15 April 2014 in the Sydney Morning Herald (Is a new airport at Badgerys Creek really needed?) stating that the same relief a second airport would provide for upwards of $6-8 Billion could be provided by shuffling existing infrastructure for a fraction of the cost. In an environment where we are told that money for development is at a premium could this money not be better spent creating something new in a different part of the state where an International Airport is not already available?

To the point of HSR development, your letter does not directly confront this issue, rather offering alternatives to any rail plan. The cited reason for the is prohibitively high costing and construction time, and you say that you will be giving consideration as to how other types of transport can meet Australia’s needs. My first question would be as to whether there is another form of transport to your knowledge that could cover the extensive distance between Australian cities in as short a time as a high speed rail would be able to? Secondary to this concern, as the only time-effective alternative to HSR would be air travel, what environmental effects in the long term have been considered when making this choice?

Finally, considering both financial and environmental issues, how much of the money spent on road upgrades, (est. upwards of $3.2 Billion in the Badgerys plan alone) would be saved if those roads were less necessary due to a quick and effective cross-state rail system, and the environmental impact of promoting popular public transport that would be used by citizens and tourists of all economic means, thereby reducing the use of cars, and the constant construction of new Sydney Freeways.

I appreciate your time and thank you in advance for your response.

Warm regards,

Benjamin J Kidd

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What You Pay For – A Micro-Story

The tattoo covered most of her right shoulder, and he found himself fixating on it, his eyes drawn back to it every time he looked away. In truth he was probably staring to avoid something more embarrassing from becoming the focal point of his vision. The image was of a small bird, a hummingbird perhaps, partially obstructed at the beak by the strap of her pale singlet. His eyes followed the strap down to the generous neckline and found the new landscape much more visually pleasing than the last. Then he realized that she had stopped talking and moved with speed but not grace to another chair, away from her side, convinced she had recognized the staring, but thankful to her for pretending she had not.

“Is there anything else?” – A genuine question, he felt, but with a playful undertone, as if she had enjoyed his stare, and the power over him that came with it. He guessed her in her late thirties, and with a recently deceased husband perhaps she had enjoyed the attention he was giving her. Or perhaps not, was the shadow of a grin there, or was it simply wishful thinking on his behalf?

“Yes, yes, a few more things,” a hurried response, as he cleared his throat, “sorry these questions are quite tedious, and detailed. I’ll try and be as quick as possible.”

“No rush. I have all day…” There it was! A twitch on the side of her mouth, a smile, caring and inviting, he felt a small jump in his heart rate, a feeling he had not had in quite a while, and quite odd considering the nature of this meeting.

“So you were married eight years ago, is that correct?”

“Yes, we were due for our next anniversary in a few months”

“And what is it that your husband did for a living?”

“Mostly nothing, he sat on his computer for a few hours a day, trading in the foreign markets.”

“Stressful work?”

“I wouldn’t know, I left him to it. That sort of thing never held my interest.”

“Just as long as you got the proceeds right?”

“I suppose so, not sure I like how you say that though.” The smile vanished.

“My apologies of course. It’s my job to ask these questions, nothing personal.” The flash or anger left her face, but the playfulness didn’t return. “Did you know that your husband had raised his life insurance amount two months ago?”

“Um, well he mentioned something about it, I didn’t really think about it too much though. I never really handled the money, unless, as you say, I needed it”.

“You would admit, though, that the timing seems suspicious, your husband increases his life insurance then two months later he dies in a fire that also claims your house and belongings. You should be collecting a pretty penny, I imagine.”

“The company says ten million” the flicker of a smile was back, perhaps…

“They also sent me out to question you. What does that tell you?”

“That somebody at your office likes you, and wanted to do you a favor?” No doubt, she was flirting with him now. It was totally inappropriate, and he knew this for sure, yet he didn’t care in the slightest.

“Maybe. It’s certainly not the worst assignment I’ve gotten. The problem is that this report from the fire department implies the fire was man-made, or woman-made as the case may be.”

“What do you mean? There were a ton of fires that night, they raged for days!”

“I remember, even our illustrious Prime Minister was on duty with the Fire Brigade.”

“Exactly! There were hundreds of homes lost, why would they think that mine was any different? Just because it was worth some more money?”

“Well, there were a lot of homes lost, but yours was the only one in your street, or even your neighborhood. All the others happened over the hill.”

“We had some dry brush in our back yard. Must have had some sparks come over the hill and light up.”

“Yeah I’ve heard that story before.”

“Where?”

“In your statement to the police, and the firies, and the insurance company. You seem to have it practiced pretty well.”

“It’s what I think happened, where’s the crime in that?”

“No crime, just convenient is all. How old was your husband?”

“He would have been sixty five this year… almost due for retirement”

“And how old are you?”

“How old do you think I am?” Was that a wink?

“Late thirties, around there I guess?”

“Thirty eight, dead on. How old are you?”

“A bit older. Not as old as your husband though”

“Was that meant to mean something?”

“Just that he is a lot older than you.”

“Are you implying that would make me love him less?”

“Maybe, I don’t know what you like”

“If I said that he was too old for me and I just liked his money, would that go in your report?”

Yes. The answer was yes. But what he said was “It doesn’t have to”, he was way past inappropriate now. At the moment, however, he cared more about hearing her story, and he was still staring.

“Well, he was, and I did.  I didn’t have to do much to get it and I had a pretty good life of my own when he didn’t… need me.”

“You didn’t resent him for coming on to you? Stealing your youth?”

“I sold my youth. Not on the cheap I might add. I have my regrets, but I suppose it would be short sighted of me to just see the negative when I take so many positives for granted”

“The fire didn’t jump the hill did it?”

“I didn’t see it, if that’s what you mean”

His head shook

“How much do you make as a – what are you called? Claim investigator?”

“‘Bout a buck fifty a year”

“I’m supposed to be coming into some money, maybe we could share some of it. Do people offer that a lot?” There was no shadow, no innuendo now. She pushed her chest forward ever so slightly and maintained eye contact, well, for as long as he did.

“Sometimes. Usually when they know I don’t believe them.”

“What do you usually do when they offer?”

“Depends. If I like them I do one thing, if they’re a dick I do another”

“Do you like me?”

“I’ve liked people less”

“What’s going to be in your report?”

“I guess nothing you need to worry about.”

“That’s a relief. I was beginning to stress!” I’m sure you were, he thought. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight? I know a great Italian place, they have some excellent wine, it would help me relieve that stress”

“Not tonight. I have to get back to the office, finish up my report. I’ll call you though. Can you sign here before I leave? Just to confirm I came and saw you, all that bureaucratic shit”

“Sure thing” there’s that wink again.

He put the papers in front of her. She leant over to sign them and he stared one last time, but not at the hummingbird. He picked them up and walked out towards the door. He wouldn’t enjoy writing this report but it had to be done. She wouldn’t be seeing a dime of that money, as soon as he handed in his report that would be guaranteed.

But he’d make sure to call her again first.

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A Treatise on Partnership

In the early hours of the morning,
He lies awake at night,
He’s a sad man going down a mad mans road
Trying to find the perfect life

She says come with me,
And I’ll show you how,
Believe in me
And I’ll help you now

And the conversation’s lagging,
And the anger comes around,
And the only way you can get away
Is to burn it to the ground

He says stay with me
And I’ll help you now
Give me a chance
And I’ll show you how

When you wake up from the dream
And you slam against the wall
Everything is not what it seemed
Even though you gave your all
And the shadows seem to linger
In the place that no one knows
There’s no time for introspection
That’s a road down which you don’t want to go

When the dinner plates are empty
And the guests all say goodbye
When the clothes come off and you’re alone in bed
Looking for the reason why

You can come with me
And I’ll help you know
You’ll help me too
I’ll show you how

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