Archive for February, 2014

The sorry saga of Australia’s offshore asylum seeker gulag is not just about bringing suffering and hopelessness to those in detention. In fact for the government contractors who run the island camps it’s a lucrative business.

The eponymous G4S, a provider of ‘security solutions’, claims to be one of the world’s largest employers with 625,000 staff in 125 countries. It earned $244 million for managing Manus Island camp for 5 months. Australian-owned Transfield earned $302 million for looking after the Nauru camp over the last year, but will now take over both islands, under a non-tendered 20 month contract for the bargain basement price of $1.22 billion.

My trusty solar-powered calculator was put in bright sunlight for this calculation. With 1,332 Manus and 867 Nauru detainees it works out to $554,798 income per inmate for Transfield: KACHING! By the way, they are people like us, not hardened criminals – the detainees I mean! A good little earner for Transfield though, paid straight out of our squeezed taxpayer purse. It would certainly buy a helluva lot of incarceration in our regular prison system.

Interestingly objections to the morality of Transfield’s detainee operations are coming from artists in the Sydney & Melbourne biennales protesting against their sponsorship of them. A dilemma indeed for arts organisations and those purporting to critique society.

On a tangent from gulag service providers, but equally repugnant, is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop trying to stitch up the Cambodian government to take our asylum seekers. With Australian aid of $329 million over the last four years, we are one of its largest donors, so her bargaining chips are huge. Human rights abuse is rife in Cambodia, social welfare is non-existent, 20% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of children under five are malnourished. Our Julie is plumbing new depths of cynicism and hypocrisy on our behalf. But who cares, right? Out of sight and out of mind, at any price.

Barbed wire

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The Allen v Farrows Saga mentioned in Woebegone Woody and reader comments also prompted some insightful analysis by Lee Siegel. As he says, we punters swing between believing Allen, then Farrow, back to Allen, as counter-claims are aired and dissected in social media and mainstream. The complex moral, emotional, psychological and intellectual twists are worthy of literature, and maybe satisfy a similar need, or more precisely, want.

Siegel explains: “falling boundaries between private and public, an old morality increasingly muddled by new laws and new technology, and the dominance of a no-holds-barred media, have made moral conundrums that once never happened, or touched the lives of only a few people, the daily fare of millions”.

Allen and Farrow’s incredible larger-than-life story has long been in the public domain, and he made his crust from portraying neurotic relationships. So they were always grist for the insatiable celebrity rumour mill, particularly with such salacious grainy kernels to grind. Their penny-dreadful just keeps on giving, new chapters and episodes.

I reckon Siegel’s theory is pretty spot-on, and he backgrounds and develops it with great flair. News has become literature. Life is creating art, not imitating it. Who needs Jane Austen?

For those interested in more Allen v Farrow ‘facts’, read comments by TRH3 on Siegel’s piece, quoting from the 1993 Custody Ruling.

Newsagency Toodyay

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In the chatter about whether Our Cate deserves an Academy Award for her role in Allan Konigsberg’s latest film Blue Jasmine, critical voices have been rare. But Alan Stokes skewers it perfectly: “dull, miserable, one-dimensional Woody Allen”. Oh yeah, for some reason as a young man Allan K changed his name. Already suss? Wow, Allan, Alan and Allen all in the first paragraph.

Our Alan adds the icky factor over Woody’s child molestation scandal, with echoes in the film. I had no empathy for Cate’s character Jasmine, and like Alan, found no redeeming features in her or the story. I’m not a fan of Allen’s work, which is often painfully over-wrought, unfunny, obvious and unenchanting.

Since Annie Hall I’ve avoided his films, with occasional viewings to re-test my objections, but never found reason to change them. I relented this time because of the hype over Our Cate’s performance, but Blue Jasmine’s no exception. Except it doesn’t try to be funny.

Read Our Alan, as he adds it all up to a definitive NO vote for Our Cate’s award.

Apologies for the alliterative woes of Woody, and Winton recently, but KC’s charter is to call them as I see them, particularly if it goes against the flow.

Old woody 2

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Very Wicked Camper

Time for some tabloid titillation. In fact, it’s about that virile part of male anatomy. Sometimes pictures really do speak for themselves. The offending campervan, in all its resplendent glory of cliched national stereotyping, was spotted recently at Bondi Beach. Where else! Imagine touring the Wide Brown Land in it and happily tooling around genteel National Party homelands and burbs. The mind boggles. Anyway, enjoy. Or not?

Wicked camper 1

Wicked camper 2

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The Abbott Australian government was quick out of the starting box in its environmental demolition derby. Any government body with climate or science in its name is good for the chop. As are annoying environmental protections, otherwise known as red tape. Which of course means that approval processes for development applications, aka mining, have to be streamlined. Already the Abbott Pack have an impressive list of all the above, but they ain’t done yet.

No Science minister in the Federal cabinet. Climate Commission abolished. Ditto the Climate Change Authority. Legislation to abolish the carbon price. Ditto Federal environmental safeguards for biodiversity. Murray-Darling off the threatened ecosystems list. Rolling back no-fisheries provisions in Australia’s marine national parks. Review, that is reduce, Australia’s renewable energy targets. Approval of the world’s largest coal port construction near the Great Barrier Reef. Cuts to CSIRO staff scientist numbers. Abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Extract 74,000 hectares of World Heritage listed Tasmanian forest for logging.

Wait till Abbott’s merry band of environmental thugs really get in their stride, and pull the whips. We’re all in for a rough ride, so this list will no doubt grow much longer. Unfortunately Abolish Abbott day is three years away!

Abbott abolition

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Regular readers would know that despite its isolation Kookynie is a social bouillon of new ideas and trend-setting. The foodie movement has not passed us by, au contraire. Exciting additions to the pub’s menu board are showing the way: for example, a dish with fried meat and breadcrumbs called schnitzel, which can be either beef or chicken. And it uses stale bread bits to make the crumbs, which dovetails nicely with our sustainability ethos.

Recently, the Council elders thought of getting a celebrity chef here for a stint of cooking in our renoed kitchen, to inspire other new outback dishes. And maybe put Kookynie on the gastronomic mappemonde. Notice how foreign words add savoir-faire (sorry!) to this story. An alphabetical world cuisine listing would also put us in front of Korea too – clever marketing!

The search for an inspirational chef produced a shortlist with Perry, Bourdain, Adria, Ottolenghi and Oliver. They were all keen to come, but finally, out of sympathy for the Poms over losing the cricket again, we settled on Jamie. Travel was booked and a room reserved at our historic hotel, which unfortunately has no ensuite bathrooms. He was cool with that. The town population was in a state of high excitement, all six of us.

Well, actually some of this story is more the figment of an over-active imagination. But we did manage to acquire some of Oliver’s spirit with the arrival of his herb cutter, now affectionately known as Jamie. As in, could you please pass me Jamie, when you have some saltbush or dried quandongs to prepare. He is definitely cutting-edge and a welcome addition to our model outback kitchen.


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