My girlfriends’ parents recently traveled out from England to meet us and have a holiday in ‘sunny’ Oz – instead it pissed down rain the whole time they were here. But on the last day of their trip Down Under, the Lord turned the thermostat up, parted the clouds and put on a typical sultry summers’ evening. So for their last supper we went out for dinner, to a restaurant in Darling Harbour called Cyren Bar Grill Seafood. The food was decent enough and the service was fine – with some of the best views of Sydney’s shimmering skyline you can get. A sour taste was awaiting us though; for when the bill came my girlfriends’ father noticed something foreign on the bill – a ‘Sunday surcharge’.
It’s something I personally don’t remember seeing listed on the menu, nor anywhere in the restaurant – and it definitely was not something that we were informed about by the staff. We’re not talking about small change here either – it equated to over $20 for the four of us. I didn’t ask for specifics on the charge (as it was not the time nor the place) but it’s something I’d never personally seen on a bill before, and I was taken aback. I proudly told him that it was because we pay decent penalty rates to our workers on the weekend (compared to similar industrialised nations), but I personally felt embarrassed about the incident and uttered to him in my puzzled state that it was just something that we do, and that it was standard practice. But was it? Why had I not experienced this before, and why were we not informed before ordering? Do I simply just go to the wrong (or right) restaurants? In light of the current talk about changes to penalty rates and industrial relations in general I thought this was an area that really needs picking apart. So here’s what a bit of digging has found me…
On February 12th, a report titled Closing The Gap was released. This is an annual report that details where we’re at in regards to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’. So to quickly sum up what issues the report is trying to address, I’ll quote Oxfam:
Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world — but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous Australians can expect to live 10–17 years less than other Australians. Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. The mortality rates for Indigenous Australians is on par with some of the world’s most impoverished nations. The United Nations Report, The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (2009) indicated Australia and Nepal have the world’s worst life expectancy gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
You know when you’re on par with frick’n Nepal, you’ve got some issues. (more…)
The other day I came back to work with a nice tan, a subtle spring in my step and a relaxed physique. I hadn’t been into work for over a week and so naturally the question my colleagues asked of me was ‘Where had you gone?’. I let them try and guess – ‘Vanuatu?’, ‘Fiji?’, ‘Bali’ – nope, closer to home. ‘Byron Bay, the Gold Coast?’ – Wrong Again. Try Canberra. They collectively screwed up their faces and said in unison, ‘What the fuck is in Canberra?’
A fair lot, to be honest, but that isn’t the reason for this post. The reason for this post is something far more important than the ease of navigating Canberra’s overly large roundabouts – it is about beer. That bitter, bubbly nectar that brings me so much joy (and hangovers in equal amount). Across the road from the apartment we were staying in Canberra was a 1st Choice Liquor store. My girlfriend’s father, being the decent man that he is, went out and bought me a 6-pack of boutique pale-ale beer for the evening. I’d been trying to convince him that Fosters was actually Australia’s joke on the world, and that we don’t drink it – mainly because we have so many other better beers over here. He came back with a six-pack of SteamRail Craft Beer – The Ghost of Eyre Pale Ale, for me to have with dinner that evening. It was quite a title for a beer and I’d never seen it before, but being from hipster Newtown it fitted the caricature of a local craft beer. Quirky labeling, flowery descriptives, funky colours, and the obligatory suave artwork (in this particular case it had two burly men with trendy beards/moustaches, tattoo’s and a Colonial themed type font) were all found on this epitomization of a craft boutique beer. With a title like The Ghost of Eyre Pale Ale I confess I briefly dreamt it may have been created by a small brewery on the Eyre Peninsula, brewed in the basking heat of the Australian desert and chilled beneath ground in a rock-chiselled cellar in Coober Pedy. But alas, further research showed this to be pretty far from the mark. Despite it’s website stating that SteamRail is ‘Craft Beer’, it’s actually a beer mass produced by Coles. Well this finding flies in the face of what a craft beer is. According to the Australian Craft Beer Industry Association, craft beer is independent, traditional and 100% Australian owned, with no ownership or control by a major brewer.
Malcolm Turnbull walks up to the bar on the second floor of Parliament House in Canberra. The barman greets Turnbull as he approaches the bar and asks him what drink he would like. Malcolm thinks on this a moment and says he wants to be ‘a little risqué’ and requests a shot. The barman nods in appreciation and requests to know what shot the federal Communications Minister would like. ‘A wet pussy‘, Malcolm purrs.
‘A wise choice sir’, the barman opines, ‘a shot with a name that truly encapsulates your very being, sir’.
I hope you all like my attempt at wit and humour. To those that don’t yet appreciate my whimsical sense of amusement, I’m sure you all at least got a hefty dose of the giggles watching the Liberal Party seemingly fall apart on live national television this morning. What I’ve most enjoyed about the whole saga is how much the Liberal Party seemingly think there are no comparisons to be drawn between what is currently happening to them and what happened to the previous Labor government. But the comparisons are seemingly endless, with factions being the most obvious factor in the highly entertaining #libspill saga. This is no difference to the left-right divisions within the Labor Party that destroyed the careers of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – (and continues to hang around Bill Shorten like a bad smell) and the divisions within the Liberal Party; both are corrosive.
In my last post we were looking at China. We’ll probably continue that trend because, well, that’s what we agreed upon… and I’m a man of my word. I’d hate to leave you all in suspense. Let’s pick up where we left off: China and resources; this time around we begin by looking at that sticky icky stuff again (however we’ll get to the people of China very soon).
Oil has been called ‘the life-blood of the global economy’ – and for no small reason. It has, more than any other resource on earth, played a pivotal role in the great economic transformation that included an explosion in wealth and population growth across the globe over the last 150 years. However, unlike the U.S.A which founded most of its military and economic strength off of its oil wealth in the early 20th century, China “is already dependent on external sources for 54% of its oil, and many experts predict it will be the world’s largest importer of oil by 2025”. As noted before though, China’s “increasing dependence on external sources of energy has led it to befriend any number of authoritarian regimes…” meaning for the foreseeable future, a steady stream of oil is guaranteed. When China has turned to its’ immediate region to lock in future oil supplies (more…)