Opinion


Jaywalker's "Voice Your Opinion" 

Everyone has one and they are all welcome here.


This page will offer a regular topic for discussion for all members to express their views.  It's been said that discussions should avoid sex, religion and politics, but even those topics are OK as long as we all abide by the basic rules of good manners and consideration for others.

I'm Jaywalker and I’ll be hosting this page and will be responsible for ensuring that comments do abide by the rules and for changing the topic. However, I welcome any suggestions for new topics.

193 comments:

  1. For our first debate, I thought we would start with the subject of an article in our local paper a few days ago.

    It was suggested that Tasmania should trial a complete ban on smoking for anyone born after 2000. What do you think?

    We ban many other things until children are adults.

    NB Please hit the Reply button to post your comment.

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    1. It's a good idea - maybe our young rebels of teenagers would be happier 'sneeking a smoke' than dabbling in other illegal pursuits.
      BUT
      We have so much trouble with criminal activities due to illicit drugs - do we really want to criminalise another?
      And would the teenagers go over to the mainland more frequently so as to 'have a smoke at Grannys'and stay there?

      Good idea, but we would need to look at the effects of so doing if it were to take smokes out of the legal agenda for our teenagers....

      BUT - I like it

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    2. I really like the idea and although the adverse health impacts of smoking are well documented I don't think the addictive aspect of this substance on the human psyche is highlighted enough.

      IT IS AN ADDICTION and although a legal substance those attemting to quit too often confront the same withdrawal challenges similar to any other addiction.....and often do this completely alone without any guidance or support mechanisms which may provide an insight to smokers as to what to expect when caught in the grip of an addiction.

      Geez over the years I've known several people who would rather spend their last dollar on cigarettes than eat, and are often very distressed (even a bit maniacal) during withdrawal of this substance. i.e. anxiety, anger, craving etc. It's just an idea but perhaps some sort of 12 Step program similar to AA would suffice or perhaps help in some way.

      Again I would support a trial ban on smoking for teenagers born after 2000 and certainly can't see it doing them any harm and it might be worth a try.

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    3. Made a mistake - attemting should be `attempting'. See ya.

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    4. It's probably such a radical idea that we tend to think it wouldn't work but it might stop many from getting started so early whch makes the addiction is harder to break as leoniecoe says above.

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    5. It's a great idea, but how would it be enforced?

      We already have a ban on under 18s smoking. They have to show proof of their age before buying ciggies, and all ciggies (and anything pertaining to smoking) are hidden from view and locked in cupboards.

      Paradoxically, you can go into any specialist shop and buy a bong!

      Like alcohol, they will either get their older friends to buy for them, or steal their parents, siblings or friends smokes.

      Will it be up to the shopkeepers to enforce this rule? If so, it's already doomed and I speak from personal experience.

      I'm a smoker and whenever I go to the Supermarket to buy a pack, there is always a kid of dubious age buying a packet. The girl behind the counter doesn't check his ID and doesn't care.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm all for stopping children from smoking however I wonder who will enforce it and how?

      I'm pleased that Tassie is at least making some efforts.

      (Sorry, posted it in the wrong section, so I deleted it and remembered to hit the Reply button this time :-) )

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    6. I understand what you're saying, camelia. I wonder if it is something that would start slowly and eventually become more widely accepted over time if it was applied with sufficient force and consistency? Once there were no laws at all about smoking and drinking and driving and marrying ages. Now there are and the majority abides by them although there will always be exceptions. Perhaps it's something that will take a generation or two but needs to start somewhere.

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  2. Can you keep a secret? Neither can I. (It's Jaywalker's birthday tomorrow. ssshhhh!)

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    1. The secret is out, I saw it on FB. Happy birthday, Jean. Hope your day is just perfect.

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    2. Happy Birthday Jaywalker. Best wishes and enjoy your day.

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    3. Happy Birthday, J. Best wishes for a lovely day.

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    4. Thank you, everyone. We went to see a local production of The Mousetrap which was very enjoyable and out to a family dinner tonight as it was my partner's birthday on the 31st and d-i-l today. Would have loved to see the Melbourne or Sydney production of The MT but wrong time for us as we already have a Melbourne break booked in September/

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  3. Sorry I haven't been on here lately. Had a few weeks casual work and couldn't refuse the money!

    One interesting snippet - my work is at Hansard and one of the parliamentary discussions was about the idea I posted above about banning smoking. Apparently the idea comes from Singapore with the acceptance that although it will be a long, slow and imperfect process, after some years it will produce new generations who accept that smoking is illegal. The suggestion was made that Tasmania be a trial for the rest of Australia because we are small and manageable as an experiment.

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  4. A new discussion:

    Should MPs private lives be open to media scrutiny and comment? My mother was always of the opinion that if a MP was caught lying or deceiving about his private life, then he probably was dishonest in his job. Others feel that a person's private morals shouldn't be judged. What do you think?

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    1. Yes, I do think that an MPs personal life should be kept private. I am not interested that they smoked pot at university, that their sister is a lesbian, that their brother has affiliations with bikies or that they have an illegitimate child. However, and it is a big however, once they take office, their conduct must be exemplary. They have sworn to uphold the law and suspected breaches should be thoroughly investigated and if proven to be guilty (not in a trial by media!) should result in instant dismissal. Penalties and fines should be trebled for MPs. Rorting their expense accounts or using government property or services for their own ends is fraud and should be treated as such. Why should MPs suffer only a slap on the wrist when caught DIL, for example, when you or I are punished? Personal immoral conduct, if not against the law, should not be publicized.

      Accountability is another issue. In corporate life, financial mismanagement results in dismissal and sometimes personal liability. In government it results in a new portfolio.

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  5. That was the case - until a couple of decades ago when a very ladylike member of cabinet and a very suave politician were mentioned in Parliament as 'sharing the same room'. I think Bill Hayden dissociated himself from that remark......at the time
    Then Mr Fraser was found somewhere in Asia minus his trouser.

    Going much further back, in England the Profumo affair had to be made public as it spelt dangers for diplomatic secrets

    In all those cases I really think making a politicans personal life publiic has been a very good way to go

    However I don't think the personal life of a relative should be publicised - unless it impinges on a persons political leanings

    For example Katter's brother is homosexual and Katter is firmly against the recognition of homosexuality. Under the circumstances wouldn't he be better to be politically neutral on the subject?

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  6. I think its time for freash input on asylum seekers. When people are drowning on their way to what is illegal entry surely it is more than time for the Federal Government to move.
    Can we afford the accommodation, pensions and processing costs of those who get here safely? Or the burial costs of those bodies retrieved from the sea.
    Can a solution embrace both the Malaya option as well as Nauru? And what about making residency in Australia conditional on those people returning to their country of origin when conflict settles (if it ever does)
    Love to hear your opinions - I am not nearly as passive about the matter as I was two years ago

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  7. Is this a dead issue

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    1. Asylum seeker issue I think is blown out out of proportion. Australia does not force people to get onto boats and try their luck here. That is their choice. However, once they arrive, their claim should be processed in the usual manner to judge whether they are asylum seekers or people who are opting for better opportunities. If they are simply entering illegally for better opportunities, they should be deported. Watch out for the tidal wave of Afghans etc that will hit Australia in 2015 as they flee the Taliban - and as Australia was part of the war effort - we will be obliged to accept them. So we better get out immigration settings right BEFORE this happens!

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  8. I think the reason for lack of comment is that people are realizing they have no power to change the situation. Every western country now has the same problems and in most cases they take in a much bigger proportion than we do. Even small countries such as Sweden has a huge refugee and immigrant problem which is swamping their welfare budget. And if you have been to the UK recently you will know the massive extent of their problems. This is the current state of the world we now live in.. We are bound up with international laws and treaties and UN agreements and nothing will change. Political parties in opposition claim they will change things, but in practice they never do as once they gain office they too are caught up in international requirements. We little people really have no power in these matters so while debate is interesting and cathartic, the reality is that it can't change the world as it now is. I think people are starting to realise we are tilting at windmills unless we have a complete revolution.

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  9. PS. There is much discussion here in England about them getting out of the EU. Many people want to see an end to the huge influx of migrants and refugees into the UK. The EU has meant that anyone who lives in a poor EU country such as Romania or Poland can freely migrate to Britain and immediately claim benefits, and millions have done so. If the UK does stop further immigration there will be a huge backlash.

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  10. Here in Australia according to Abbott we are being invaded by boat people. Now his definition of invasion is radically different to mine but gee it eases the conscience don't it ?.

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  11. Please Jaywalker - another subject for 'Your Opinion' I just can't think of one....or I'd suggest it....

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  12. In Jaywalker's absence, here's a topic of interest to me.

    Do we read to learn, to question, to view people/customs/life from a different perspective, to grow, to entertain another point of view and to think?

    Do we read to make ourselves seem more wordly and intelligent, so that we can name drop. Oh I've read all the greats, Lawrence, Proust, Huxley, Shaw, Joyce, Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway etc?

    Do we read so that we can live vicariously through other people's experiences, either real or imagined?

    Do we read to escape our own perceived drudgery of the minutiae of everyday life?

    These questions occurred to me after what seems to be the spectacular failure of anyone to "Ask the "Author" D. R. Smith any questions whatsoever.

    Are we uninterested in the creative process of how a book is born? Are we uninterested in who gave birth to this book? Aren't we intrigued as to how the bones of an idea are hand carved and honed into a Novel? Don't we want to delve into the psyche of the person responsible for delivering us their finely crafted creativity?

    Are we simply bystanders and non participants? Are we apathetic?

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  13. I think we are hesitant to show our lack of knowledge. With apologies and respect the books of both authors featured on this website are unknown to me - and I really don't know what to ask....Me? I read for amusement, to escape the hum drum of everyday life, to pass the time (especially on the train). And most of all to give me more to think about than home maintenance, work and finances.

    Yes, I am an escapist

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    1. I had half formulated a reply before I left for work this morning which echoed Madeleinea's thoughts. DR Smith's 'Ask the Author' has been the most popular page this week, according to the stats for individual page views. There is definitely interest. That we are unfamiliar with the author's work does make it difficult to pose relevant questions. Although I know we have a couple of aspiring writers, the majority are readers only and perhaps are more interested in the work itself. I will ask if DR can post a direct link to a sample of his writing.

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    2. Here is a small sample of his shorter works:

      http://www.writing.com/main/portfolio/view/drsmith

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    3. Hi Camelia,

      Yes I agree with Sandra this is an interesting topic and there's a couple of reasons why I didn't ask our guest author `D.R.Smith' a question.

      Firstly, I kind of wanted to ask him almost the same questions I had asked Peter West but felt a bit foolish fronting up with the same questions again so declined to do so. Secondly and likewise - I was unfamiliar with D.R. Smith's work but kept on wishing I had read something he had written as a sort of reference point to my questioning - thus allowing me to pick his brain in relation to character creation, themes, plot development, setting, language choices etc. and his reasoning and purpose behind these choices.

      Finally in relation to your question as to why we read. Well I guess over the years I've pretty much read for all the reasons listed, but these days prefer to read non-fiction in order to learn and be informed.

      Some years ago I undertook some study which required reading a set book a week to get through the semester - almost a type of `force reading' (`force feeding' only with books)- it was unpleasant and allowed me little time to real savour this literature. Needless to say I gained little from this experience - except to say I'd done the work. But returned to some of these same books and some of these same authors years later which I tackled unpressured and at my own pace gaining a greater appreciation of this work in the process.
      So as well as everything I already said - choice and enjoyment also play a big part in why I read.

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    4. Hi Camelia,
      I used to read to escape into another world, blotting out all worries but now I am older I love to learn about the different cultures that exist in this world but told in fictional style.
      I can't imagine NOT having a book on the bedside table! At the moment there is another on the kitchen table!

      In response to your comment on the lack of questions to D.R. Smith, perhaps one reason is that to interview/ask questions of someone you need to do some homework prior to that interview, either on the person or his work, and that takes time. I wish there were more hours in the day!!

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    5. Hello Madeleinea,
      I'm going to make you my first new Aussie friend, like it or not. TAG, you're it. So there! lol

      Since I'd first been approached to share a little time with you fine folks, I hadn't taken any time to explore other areas on the site... until now, when I stumbled upon this section.

      First, there's no need to apologize... or fear you may be perceived as having limited knowledge. I even wrote a piece entitled, A Freckled Face of Fear, whose theme deals with that very feeling.

      In fact, I found your response to Camelia's comment refreshingly unforced and HONEST. Don't get me wrong for Camelia's comments were very well articulated and has its place as well. Bottom line, to each his own course.

      It's true, I'm no Bill O'Reilly with a built in audience of millions, nor got lucky with a teeny bopper tome of wizardry as had JK Rowlings. Yet despite drafting TV market commentaries (boring stuff, lol) which appear weekly to 120 million Chinese, I'm merely an average Joe who one day woke up with a burning desire to write; to share themes, imagery, and to evoke some form of emotional reaction no matter what it is.

      No need to reiterate my previous response of what inspired writing or how I came to be published. I wasn't looking, they came to me... for the EXACT REASON you gave Camelia... that you read for amusement; especially when on a train to escape the mundane day by diving into a world we authors have created... literary excursions into zany humor, fantasy, drama, paranormal, romance, etc.

      That's precisely what Beaches is all about... entertainment. Do us a favor and take a minute and visit www.beachesofbelmont.com and read just the cover flap. You may be surprised to see a nearly identical reflection of your comment. So you see, we have much more in common than you had ever anticipated, eh?

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  14. An interesting topic, thanks Camelia.

    Why DO we read?

    I can answer 'yes' to most of your suggested reasons.

    To learn is probably the main reason. Good reading offers me something new. It can be informative, offer, as you say, a different perspective, provide a background to history or events, explore the psychology behind actions or characters, or simply be a fresh way of presenting ideas and/or a story. Sometimes, the 'wow' at the skill of the writer takes over and I am awed. I do get involved when I read a good book. I hadn't thought of it in this way but it probably is vicarious living.

    Yes, I name drop, and not only the 'greats' - always have. Not to try to prove anything but how else to you find favourite authors, books or interests in common?

    Reading, to me, is an enhancement of life, not an escape from it, just like any other interest or hobby. My personal heaven would be an enormous library and the leisure to enjoy it.

    I'd like to hear everyone's reasons for reading. Have they changed over time? Are there different reasons for reading different genres?

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  15. G'day all,

    To Sandra, Sylvia, and Leon

    ALL your comments were very well said to which I'd like to respond, in brief? First, to Sandra's truly sensitive response, which to me, does tend to cover all the bases... for "amusement", for "learning", to "stay informed", and so on... all relevant to a book in hand; its subject matter, themes, and the author's ability to make use of words that will reel you in and keep you interested. Not every author, famous or infamous, or a complete unknown will do the trick every time.

    You never know where the next “gem” for YOU will come from… one that'll provoke a belly laugh when you really need it, coax a tear of empathy, fan the flames of a past tender moment or to share a personal experience in private with your host, and so on.

    As for name dropping, to me, it shouldn’t matter where one gets their kicks. In fact, I'll wager a Foster's, I could show you dozens of segments of lesser known pieces from the classicists, and you wouldn't know if it was a Hemmingway or a Hemmingwent. Take it one tome at a time.

    In answer to Leon's NON-foolish questions asked of Peter West, we're all different, Leon... as different as insects; simply literary bugs but with different drives, favored genre, views, and with different styles and skills with which to execute same.

    Personally, I envy prolific authors, those who at the drop of a hat, can eloquently breathe life into something as mundane as an old shoe or stack of firewood. For me, I must be inspired... by anything that kneads the noodle, at any given time, for any given reason; most of them totally unexpected.

    For example, one day while sipping a mint julep, my mind wandered to when I was in grammar school, and of how I despised our Greek Mythology course. Why? Dunno, just did (bad bourbon?). To me, they were just a bunch of ancient comic book characters I could never pronounce, much less understand. So I thought I'd lighten the load for a few people who felt the same as I, and within a week, researched and penned 186 rhyme and metered quatrains on the Labors of Hercules... a lighthearted romp which was one of the two pieces that put the publisher over the top. Go figure.

    Similarly, The Bards Convention, a 4-time award winning spoof on phony, win-big-cash poetry contests, written in my head while marching behind my lawn mower. Another came to me when sitting at a local pub, I recalled an old joke from 40 years ago while watching a hopeless macho dude work his pathetic lines on a dubious Sheila sitting across from me. I'll end the comment here, but will share that little dual award winning item separately below.

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  16. A "MANLY" Thing?

    Across the bar from where I sit
    I'm list'ning to a sexist snit.
    Both biased in their attitudes
    Toward male and female aptitudes.

    “Oh yesh men are, you pampered prig,”
    “Shez who,” she belched, ”you macho pig.”
    Thus back and forth their spat ensued,
    When crudely boasted drunken dude.

    “One manly thing you must agree,
    Higher than you, a man can pee.”
    “I’ll tell you what,” she poked his chest.
    “Let’s go out back and see who’s best.”

    'Tween tipsied pair I'd been viewing,
    A pissing match is surely brewing.
    I have no clue how she’d compete,
    But truly has my int’rest piqued.

    Hence, I followed to alley way
    To sneak a peek and watch the fray.
    “I'm first," she said, "you puffed-up creep.
    Now step aside, then watch and weep.”

    Hell bent to end their sexist wars,
    She lifted skirt and dropped her drawers.
    Then arching back she wet the wall;
    Whizzed half as high as he was tall.

    “Beat that, you twit, as you can see
    I’d managed quite a lofty pee.”
    “Ha ha, not bad for ditsy blonde,
    Now comes the champ with wicked wand.”

    But as he pulled his weapon out
    And aimed it high about to spout,
    She tapped his arm and said so sweet:
    “Uh, ah-h— like me: no hands, can't cheat.”

    His manly pride just hung exposed.
    Nary an inch his pistol hosed.
    “Oh well," she smirked, "looks like you lose,”
    And left him mute with soggy shoes.

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  17. I have printed out your reply, Mr Smith..... and will read it before answering - you certainly have a nice way of writing.

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  18. Okay - Mr Smith. I would love to write. But I have this block in my head - one needs a degree in Journalism first.
    And I don't really want to write for a 'popular' audience.. I have this enormous passion to write of the injustices I see, to sway people to my point of view. Books that are unlikely to have a plot or any rauchy sex scenes... and not biographies either.
    I'd like to start on a PhD (do you have one) embracing indigenous studies... (I am a very ambitious person, at my stage of live you don't need to make a living from your books,) and I like to be very thorough in my research......
    Any suggestions

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  19. Madeleine - I say go for it, the PhD I mean. Why not start with writing an article on your subject of passion and contact your local newspaper?
    I love writing, have done since I was a young girl and my goal in life is to write a novel. Well I've got 4 sitting in a drawer waiting for me to take some action. Too many ideas, not enough time!
    I don't have a degree but plenty of life experiences.

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  20. In a past life, I was aquainted with a top-end-of-town Lawyer. He had a PhD and proudly diplayed it on his business-card thusly:

    Dr. Ivor Nobrains PhD
    Lawyer

    At a working lunch one day I enquired as to how long it took him to aquire his PhD.

    "It took me 3 long, hard years". he replied gloating.

    There were oooh's and ahhh's from the other diners.

    "And in which Discipline of the Law did you achieve your PhD"? I pressed.

    He mumbled and took a mouthful of food. I pressed again, "Pardon? which Discipline did you say"? "Human Rights, Family Law, Commercial Law"?

    When he finished his mouthful he quietly replied. "14th Century Dance". "I have a PhD in 14th Century Dance".

    The other diners smirked beneath their linen napkins.

    Madeleine, I tell you this story not to put you off getting your PhD. If you want to get one, then by all means do. I'm simply trying to point out that not every person with a PhD is smart and not every person without a PhD is unintelligent.

    If you take a PhD in your chosen field and then write about it, you will be given more acceptance.

    If you simply want to be a Novelist, then ulimately, a PhD won't be necessary.

    Why don't you do both?

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    1. Well said Camelia!
      Writing should come naturally; you've got to love doing it if only for own pleasure and satisfaction.

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  21. Sorry for the slight delay in response, Madeleine, but too much mean and nastiness in me has me under the weather lately. Nevertheless... the very first thing you need do is get that "block" out of your head. If you have a passion to write...WRITE! If you have a passion to learn something, dig into it.... but you don't need to be a "journalist" (totally different approach and technique) or have PhD to put your ideas to paper.

    You need do some soul searching to determine what it is you want to do, MOST. Do you want to write as a first priority, or, do you want to become an authority on a particular topic, field of study, or discipline within a field of study? PRIORITY NAILED FIRST.

    Then, if writing is the top dog in your kennel, then start. If you're "enormous passion" is to write about "social injustices" that you see, then write about them... and they don't have to be the roving reporter type. Steinbeck did a brilliant job with his Grapes of Wrath; Upton Sinclair with The Jungle. And I bet not many people realize that one of the greatest novelists of all time was also one of the best at writing about "social injustices" he'd witnessed... I'm speaking about Charles Dickens, ie: his classic, A Christmas Carol, is far more than an uplifting holiday staple... but a story about England's corrupt business society, England's impoverished, and child labor.

    On the flip side, if your goal is to wrtie treatise after treatise, studies, and specific recommendations for government agencies and what not, then perhaps you should focus more on the authoritative slant... learn and write it down later.

    On that note, and along the lines Camelia had dropped in before I returned, is that many who hold PhD's may be whiz-bangs at what they know, but often can't write a lick.

    I've a friend who just launched a publishing house (www.wynwidynpress.com) near Univ of Michigan. She was a professional editor before going out on her own, but once told me some of the absolute worst manuscripts she'd get to edit were from PhD types... who were not only in need of tons of structual editing, but were often the most difficult people to work with because of "superior" attitude syndrom, and had a hard time accepting critique, let alone constructive input from a "topical infidel."

    I'm not sure what you mean by not wanting to write for a "popular audience", but reading between the lines, why even bother with such now. I'd say you want to write. So write. You're going to look back and laugh at your first items with pink cheeks, anyway. So write.

    You're off to a good start by reading. Good writers are almost always voracious readers. Second, let the words flow...for YOURSELF... worry about the audience later. I'd suggest you consider joining a site like www.writing.com where you'll be accepted and be given all sorts of input (some of bs like I'd shared in Chicken Coyote too).

    Pick up: Elements of Writing by Kinneavy Warriner; A Writer's Reference by Diana Hacker; The Elements of Style by Strunk and White... all bibles you'll use a LOT!

    Then start putting that pen to paper, tell a story. A short one, a long one. Weave a solid theme throughout. All the while, you can do your research as and when needed with which to strengthen your pieces. And above all, read, read, and read.

    My guess, that "block" has already begun to dissolve.

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  22. OH, there's one more thing, Madeleine... no, I do not have a PhD, an MFA, or a BA of any kind.... not even a "BS" degree from one of those online print shops. Just a high IQ, drive, and a solid high school education from one of those monastic type institutions where if I'd failed to learn it, they'd knock it into my noggin with those kumquat-sized rosary bead belts I'd mentioned in one of Chicken Coyote's reviews. Have a g'day.

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  23. Thanks, D.R. (I cannot call you Mr Smith forever). That's kind of you... I suppose what I want to do first is convince other people of my convictions!
    Camelia, I love you little story..... I know other people with PHDs is subjects quite irrelevant to their degrees... I suppose a PHD is a very long term goal for me

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  24. I have a question for you. What are you going to do when you run out of people to convince?

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  25. Convincing a University Lecturer and Supervisor is a very very tough thing to do.....
    We have lots of PhD, many of them second rate... (you scrathch my back, I'll scratch yours' goes in Universities
    Once you have a PhD you have the right to supervise others, and many supervisors can be very petty.....

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  26. No, thanks DR... but I have a professional journal here, and the opportunity to sign up for a course in Indigenous Affairs. I really do appreciate all the input you and others have put into my ambitions....

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  27. C'mon Jaywalker - can we have another subject please - its a long time since 28th July

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    1. See, Jaywalker, I told you 'you were missed'.

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  28. Mmm....I'll have to put my thinking cap on. I should think we're all a bit over the asylum seekers solution and gay marriage....what else can we debate?? I'll get back to you but in the meantime any suggestions are welcome.

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  29. "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." ~ Winston Churchill.

    Is this true? What are the pros and cons of democracy? Do we really live in a democracy? Could we live in a different form of government?

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    1. I've read that the most stable form of government is that of a benevolent dictator.......how does a nation keep a dictator benevolent?

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  30. I think the best government is a socialist or communist one - but pure socialism and communism is not practiced anywhere in the world.. as with Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies man has a natural inclination to go for a hierachy.....Facism would be the extreme example of this - autocratic rule
    How to kep a dictator benevolent? Plenty of wives, plenty of good food, and posibly some tranquillisers - strong ones. Keep him happy...

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  31. The Scandinavian countries used to have socialist governments that worked as well as anything in the world ever has and it provided everyone with jobs, a decent standard of living and good social welfare but, as madeleine says, even that fell to the greed and selfishness of those who want to be better than others - a human trait that seems impossible to eradicate. There are still some remains of this type of government to be seen in Sweden, Norway etc - for instance the government has complete control of alcohol. It is only sold in government outlets and all tax goes to the state - a brilliant idea but can you imagine big business allowing that here.

    My father always used to say that capitalism is the very worst form of economics and will always eventually kill itself.

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  32. I wouldn't go to Sweden---- sexual liberation not as obvious as I thought!

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  33. I lived in Sweden on and off for several months at a time over four years in the 90s and have been back twice since - long story - and I love it. There is something quite strikingly different about Scandinavian countries and sexual liberation is definitely not the one that hits you. In fact all I saw of that was a nudist beach which was the quietest, most discreet place you could imagine. I think the sexual liberation thing is a myth created by conservative Brits.

    What does strike you, and I've been to Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark as well, is the elegance of style, the high quality of everything, the quietness in cities and the emphasis they put everywhere on aesthetics and culture. OEDC still rates them as the top countries to live in and Denmark is rated the best in the world for work life balance and the others are all in the top seven.

    Their education, health and economic standards are still the highest in the world even though it's not a patch on what it used to be in the 70s and 80s. Taxes are high but it comes back in welfare. That's my preference for a better democracy. Mind you, it is definitely very cold in winter!

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  34. Perhaps it has the nearest we know to a socialist government - but it sure isn't socialism in its purest form...

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  35. I think pure socialism probably wouldn't survive just as Communism didn't in Russia and is only a sham in China. As you say it's probably the closest to a successful system that has been managed. If only we could educate all humans to grow up understanding that selfishness and greed ultimately make the world worse for everyone including themselves but it's not likely.

    That's another good discussion - the common good!

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  36. PS I am going to hear John Ralston Saul speak here in Hobart on Monday night. I heard him in Sydney in 1999 when I was with the Teachers Union and I was gob smacked by his clear, sensible and logical view of the world and his take on democracy etc. He is Canadian and an esteemed writer, philosopher and lecturer. Website of his lectures here:

    http://www.abc.net.au/specials/saul/default.htm

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  37. I'm still having to prove I'm not a robot; what am I doing wrong as I thought once you became a member it was easier to publish comments?

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    1. Sylvia, I've answered your question on INFO/HELP. Thanks for the feedback (and for continuing to publish). Madeleine, are you able to bypass the robot test, now?

      Delete
  38. On another google blog which I have been on for years I have to do the robot thing every time now but on this one it publishes me straight away. The 'Comment As' box is set as jaywalker(Google) - is yours like that?

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  39. We seem to be running out of comments on the democracy topic. Any ideas for another topic?

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  40. What do you think about this?


    “Israel has recently introduced legislation requiring that any digitally altered image of the human body produced in Israel that is published in print or electronically will now have to carry a statement that the image has been altered. Australia must follow Israel’s lead.”

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  41. I'm not sure that I understand. Does it mean the original image produced in Israel or the digitally altered copy? In either case, how could it be policed, particularly on the net? And who is saying that Australia must follow? I can see the advantage if alterations are declared - advantages to the viewer. Advertisers wouldn't be too pleased.

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  42. Sorry, I should have explained more. This came up while I was doing Hansard. State and federal women MPs here are starting a campaign to make airbrushing and enhancing of photos of human bodies (particularly young and female ones) to try to fight the problem of body image. here is the full story.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/About_the_House_Magazine/Cover_story_-_Overexposed

    Not sure how they enforce it but I guess it's a start.

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  43. The " experts " blame the incidence of eating disorders in teenagers on the false representation of the human form. The fact that the shape represented is enhanced is a bit of a cop out excuse concerning the techno savvy young population of today. I think it is more the lifestyle and clothing being pushed by advertisers than digital enhancement. You ask a 14 year old if she was influenced by false body shape and of course he or she is going to answer
    " Yes " . I admit freely that I am totally p###sed off with the nanny state in most of its' forms.

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    1. I do agree with you John, about the 'nanny' states in Australia. We are fast becoming a 'nanny nation', however young girls (and I guess, boys too) need to measure themselves against their peers and also against their favourite celebrities. If,in their eyes, they don't measure up, I don't think airbrushing (or whatever it is called now)figures in their minds. There is far too much emphasis on body image. It would be much better for the young if celebs were shown 'warts and all' or at least a note saying the image to which they aspire is digitally enhanced. But, as I said, how could it be enforced?

      Delete
  44. I wouldn't mind my XRAYS airbrushed either - they make me feel oild, decrepid and showing my age!

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  45. Having read a bit more I tend to believe that airbrushing is part of the problem as young people assume without thinking t hat the image they are seeing is the real thing and our consumer and media driven society pressures them to look like the images they see. Today's skimpy fashions for the young are all about being thin and glamorous. Even for older women all the cosmetic ads are of airbrushed older women such as Jane Fonda, claiming you can look as young as her. While educated and intelligent women may not fall for all this, very many young women do and it's dishonesty in advertising which surely we have always fought.

    I don't believe it's about being a nanny state....after all we think it's right to protect them from smoking and alcohol advertising.....why is this different? It has been suggested that obesity even has a connection as some girls feel so unable to reach the glamour, celebrity, cat walk images that surround them and over react by becoming obese.

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    1. If education was doing it's job the nanny state would be moribund. Where is the demarcation line between protection and loss of choice ? I do not think as already stated that todays' techno and communication savvy teenagers are more vulnerable than those before. The main influence is social sites , facebook and twitter for example.

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  46. I wish people who posted my photos on sites would airbrush first!
    Or perhaps plastic surgery and a facelife would help.
    Why don't we have a discussion on the benefits and mistakes of plastic surgery?
    Leave it to one of you scribes to formulate the question if its acceptable.....

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  47. Having read the report referred to above more thoroughly, perhaps the topic should have more generally been the sexualisation of children through advertising and the media. If you read it, there seems to be plenty of evidence, including the fact that a Sydney children's hospital has reported a 270% increase in children admitted with an eating disorder. The women members of all state and federal parliaments believe that the sexualisation of children is an important issue which they are jointly opposing. Airbrushing of body images is an issue which the president of the AMA believes is part of the same problem.
    It is worth reading the article before making a judgement.

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  48. PS. As for education, and I assume we're referring to school education, not doing its job.....don't get me started on people who believe it is the answer to all society's issues. As a secondary teacher for forty years and a teacher union president for four, I was constantly reminding the general public that there are two choices...if you want teachers to concentrate on all those issues which used to be the domain of parents such as morality, values, drugs, road safety, guns, driving education, alcohol education, nutrition, sex education etc etc that's fine but where should the time be taken from.....literacy, numeracy, history, science? Time is finite but the curriculum seems to expand ad nauseum. It isn't necessarily schools which aren't doing their job, but parents.

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    1. Hi Jaywalker,

      I've yet to read the article you are currently discussing `Overexposed' and hopefully will get around to making a comment on that later.

      However felt some urgency in expressing my support of your last comment. Like you I have also worked (although not as long) in secondary schools and agree with all points made...and forget Gonski.. the biggest issues in education in 2012 are an overcrowded curriculum and student behaviour....which are all directly related to the issue of `Underparenting', and realistically many of the duties traditionally assumed and undertaken as part and parcel of the parental role are now foisted on teachers as an expectation.

      Likewise the student behaviours teachers in many classrooms throughout this country (and possibly the western world generally)are confronting on a daily has to be seen to be believed.....and certainly a major factor in relation to poor literacy and numeracy outcomes for some students and a reason why people leave the job.

      Get the parenting right - and politicians often skirt around the issue because parents are voters too - and we might see some improvement in education.

      No one is doing the parenting anymore.





      Delete
  49. I couldn't agree more. leonie. As is often said - everyone thinks they are an expert on schools because they once went to one. Unless you have been, recently, a teacher in a school for any length of time, it is impossible to fully understand what is currently happening in them and which is very largely caused by either 'helicopter' over-parenting, or neglect and unstable and dysfunctional families. Add to this today's media and technology pressures and you have a recipe for disastrous outcomes for future society which have nothing to do with the quality of schools or teachers. Or to put it another way, schools reflect society, they don't create it.

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  50. My elder granddaughter is 14 years old and obsessed by her sexuality and relationships.
    How does one prevent this happening?
    AND she is under threat from her nasty oldfashioned grandmother - I have told her and her father that sexual intercourse is illegal in Queensland until the age of 16 uyears - and if I find she has had any such experience I will be reporting her to Family Services (DOCs)
    Mandatory reporters in NSW are legally oblidged to report instances of underage sex
    But how does one get a 14 year olds attention focused on sports or srtudy?

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  51. madeleine - I don't know the answer. You can only hope that if the parenting has been good things will sort themselves out in time. My eldest g'daughter is 26 (I was a child bride!) and has just had her first baby and she is the most sensible and delightful young woman. On the other hand my other son has two daughters - one fine and one a disaster. Why? I'm not sure but I definitely think that Facebook and Twitter and women's magazines cover to cover with celebrity stories, internet chat rooms and TV reality programs have all contributed to the problems we're seeing.

    As a very pink socialist I could point the finger at capitalism which as my Dad always said cannot exist without compelling or convincing people to continually purchase what they don't need. The end result of that, coupled with the death of religious beliefs, is a spiritual vacuum, filled up with possessions, tawdry values and false images.

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    1. Our politics are very similar and i totally agree with your last paragraph.

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  52. Dunno about my being a 'child bride' Joywalker.....(24 and 26 when children born); but can confirm these old grey hairs - so carefully attended to by my hairdresser......have all originated (in my opinion) from those dates

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  53. Can I put in a new 'My Opinion' topic?

    When is plastic surgery justified?
    At what age should young people be allowed cosmetic surgery?
    If you lose a lot of weight, is it justified to have your 'tuckshop' flaps removed? (plus tummy fat, pendulous breasts etc)
    Should transgender surgery be available to those who have a XX or XY chromosome makeup(i.e. are genetically normal females or males
    Should plasic/cosmetic surgery be medicare subsidised?

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  54. If we live in a democracy I guess the answer has to be that if you pay private health insurance then you are entitled to what it covers, for any sort of treatment. If you are a public patient, then the question becomes one of supply and demand and whether it takes funding away from other procedures. Of course, no-one would deny cosmetic surgery to accident cases or genetic disfigurements or for sound health (which probably includes after major weight loss) or psychological (transgender) reasons but for simply improving your looks, it might be a matter of having to pay full price for it perhaps.

    Not sure about the age. That's a tricky one.

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  55. I would love some - a massive some.... I'd like to look young and forty again.... but if I have my face done my neck will have to be done also.... liposection to my arms (might remove lymphatic nodes and cause lympodema though) would be wonderful... but again show up other deterioratingf parts.....it would take a massive amount of money to 'do me over' and I don't have it
    I think its fine for facial features that God botched up (noses, chins etc.)
    Breast reductions where weight is pulling on the muscles causing back pain, when fire or accident has marred the features... but in my lifetime I have seen so many man botched jobs - infections following tummy tucks, breast surgery etc.
    And cosmetic surgeons have no required training other than medicine - plastic surgery is of a recognised college which does high quality work
    Sometimes its wisest not to have lots of money so that one isn't tempted to repeat and repeat the perfecting process

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    1. I remember seeing an episode of The Twilight Zone (I think it was) where everyone chose a body image from a limited selection. Hence, everyone was a clone of Elvis, Barbie or whoever. (It didn't go into the difficulties this would cause.) Those who refused the makeover were considered mentally unstable and locked up until they changed their mind. The thrust was the loss of individuality and society's obsession with appearance, obviously taken to the nth degree.
      Whenever I see before and after photos of celebrities or the wealthy who have had procedures, I think of this story. Even if the surgery is not botched it makes their faces look as if they have been ironed. I don't want surgery, I need a magic wand!

      Delete
  56. And it's also another example of how women are pressured to look perfect while men are not. For example wealthy celebrities like Joan Collins and Donatello Versace who obviously think they need to stay young looking to attract a man, despite their money, while someone like Aristotle Onassis could be as ugly as possible and still attract women.

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  57. Yes, I think its unfair us women are pressured into looking 'great' whilst the men are able to look as they please. But even some men are now joining in the 'beauty recreation' This mornings paper has an article on 'male sculpturing' six packs, biceps, small hips etc.
    Perhaps its time we banned all mirrors so only others can criticise our looks and not ourselves? I am sure we are our own worst critics.
    Anyone like to donate to the Madeleinea Beautification Fund?

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  58. So far no donations - a desperate cause PLEASE every penny you can squeeze out of your purse desperately needed (Fountain of Youth doesn't work anymore)

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    1. No donations Madeleinea? Maybe it's because you don't look as if you need it.

      Delete
  59. oh... Sanmac - you are SO nice!

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  60. I am sure I will shocvk you all with the comment repeated from our paper that young women are having their labia redesigned so as to look better in a bikini...

    There is a hell of a lot of my flesh to plough thru before I'd be able to wear a bikini.......
    Is this healthy for our young people? Is it 'akin' to femnaler circumcision? Do any of our other contributers have the courage to comment on it? Think it is unhealthy myself!

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    1. I read about this, too. I think it is very sad. Society places so much emphasis on appearance and the pressure to conform to the 'norm' adds stress, particularly on young girls. I don't know the solution.

      Delete
  61. When I was a youngster my mother made all my dresses - and designed them to hide (some of) my presentation flaws. It seems to me very sad that now we have 'off the peg' clothing our bodies are being redesigned to fit the clothes... sometimes I am glad I won't be around in 50 years time to see what future changes there will be....

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    1. How true Madeleine! - redesigning bodies to fit the clothes (and cleverly put). In the future, women will look mass-produced, like clones or Barbie dolls!

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  62. Although a lot of young women don't seem to mind at all how they look in very skimpy fashions and "let it all hang out". Even the most obese seem to be quite comfortable being seen in tiny bits of material. Maybe that's a good thing or maybe not. There seems to be quite a dichotomy between girls who want to look like stick insects and others who don't care how fat they are. There certainly isn't the issue with "modesty" that our mothers insisted on.

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    1. I can agree with that jaywalker. Stoke is well known for its obese population and many do not seem to care what they look like! And I do not understand women (overwieght or not and of all ages) who insist on wearing these tight leggings with short tops that do not cover their bottoms!! I don't know whether the fashion has hit the Australias? It's like going out with thick tights on and no dress or skirt!

      Delete
    2. Yes, it has hit here and I agree - it is so ugly. We must see it through different lenses because they obviously believe it is fine. I hate the ankle length tights and short top look., especially with tottering high heels.

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  63. Ooh YES! I can remember my mother, when I finally started buying dresses 'off the rack' judging them on whether they were suitable to wear to go to Communion - I had always looked upon priests as Eunuchs - didn't occur to me that a low cut (not very) dress might be a 'temptation' to them... mother must have been wiser than me

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  64. We need something else - I don't seem to stimulate discussion.....please Jaywalker

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  65. On another site there is a heated discussion about the pros and cons of self-funded retirees versus those on a full pension and whether we should all get a basic pension like the British system. Don't know if that interests you, madeleine.

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    1. Oh don't senior citizens get a basic pension over there in Oz?
      I was lucky and just qualified for getting mine at 60 before the government started making changes!

      Delete
    2. NZ - my home town.... does the same. Everybody gets Universal Super, but they pay it back via the Taxation System.... I know pensioners (suprennuates) over there are as poor as pensioners here...
      Can you name the site? Jaywalker?

      Delete
    3. It's called yourlifechoices.com It has some good discussions but there are one or two fairly nasty posters who deliberately stir others - not uncommon on those sorts of sites and nearly always men - sorry, but I think that's true!

      Delete
  66. No, the pension here is means tested. So if someone like me retires, and has a superannuation pension from my teaching career, that is offset against the pension so I get a part Govt pension plus my teaching pension. The argument here tends to be that if someone spends their life "voluntarily unemployed" and makes no tax contribution, they get a full pension while those who have "done the right thing" and paid super or saved all their lives get less Govt pension the more they have saved.

    The argument then continues - if you haven't been able to find a job or have been on very low wages, surely you deserve a full pension, while those who have worked in well paid jobs say, well, why shouldn't I get a full pension when I have paid high taxes and saved as well. It's an interesting debate about who deserves what from the Govt.

    LIke you, I was lucky and have the "old" style defined super which for public servants such as teachers etc the life pension is an equation based on your last three years' salary and is cost of living indexed for life. Now, young teachers have their super invested like any other private super company and what they get is based on investment return and is not CPI indexed. I also come under past laws which were quite generous about how much of your super is not assessable against the Govt pension. Like the UK our govt is tightening up now because of the economic downturn.

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  67. That's interesting to hear jaywalker and I can understand how unfair the means tested pension scheme must seem to people who have worked.
    In my day though, young married women were expected to give up their paid jobs and become full-time housewives and mothers which is what I did. Some I know would go back to work part-time perhaps once their children were older. But it was their choice not a necessity as it is now. In those days too, we were able to buy a house and live fairly comfortably on one person's (the breadwinner and usually the husband) salary so in that respect we were lucky in comparison to young couple these days.

    The rising cost of property plus higher expectations of "comfortable living", highly educated women wanting to pursue their careers all contributed to the way people lead their lives nowadays which is very different to how we used to live. For example we would never have considered going out for a meal with a baby or very young children or buy take-aways but people do it all the time now.

    Personally I would have loved to have gone back to work part-time but having a son with a learning disability and no extended family help put a stop to that notion! Still, I am grateful to have been born when I was!

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  68. Thirty years ago I can remember extremely highly paid publicv servants balancing their super so as to get the pension...
    Deeming and counting of Debentures and other investments came in early 1990s. Assets tests, I think about the same time (I never did like Paul Keating). And now, because
    a/. The Labour Gov has made so many promises for funding and spent so much
    b/. Our Treasurer (Federal) has rather silly ideas about keeping Welfare only for the VERY POOR
    c/. The Baby Boomers are retiring and according to Stats are going to make increasing demands on the Welfare State (if they can) our present Treasurer is focused on cutting back the means tests and closing loopholes for the Aged
    Plus perhaps other reasons,it is becoming harder and harder to access the pension

    Do you remember Bob Hawke saying 'by 19?? n o child will live in poverty?'
    I think they must have robbed Peter to pay Paul... becuse now a lot of Aged people are living in poverty

    Just not fair

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  69. We are on the aged pension which is our ONLY income not because of lack of foresight but because of past circumstance and super was not an option prior to it being made compulsory for employers to contribute to their employees retirement. People who were able to earn enough to have private super and indulged in the rorts mentioned above as well as the well heeled and some high level public servants also cheating the system which after all was and is intended for those with no other source of income caused the return of means testing. Rightly or wrongly the full pension should go only to those with no other source of income.

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  70. Re the last sentence, I quite agree. Not sure how anyone would be able to get a full pension when they had other income unless they lied as Centrelink is able to poke their nose into everyone's affairs. We have been called in for a random check over a part pension and then were accused of misleading them, which was totally untrue and we appealed and won our case but they certainly keep a close eye on everyone.

    The UK/NZ method seems much better where everyone gets a basic pension based on the taxes they have paid and then whatever they have saved after that is no one's business.

    If people were unable to have super, that's one thing but I do know people who have cashed in their super at various stages and lived well and didn't make an effort to save who get a full pension when others scraped to pay super to ensure their retirement. I guess that can't happen now with the new rules.


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  71. Now just a minute, JohnN there was no 'rorting the system' for those very honest and upright public servants who were my then husband's bosses. The means test was not stringent in those days and what they did was within legislative guidelines - like retiring in July so as to get a level of lower taxation for the coming year on their benefits.
    Other welfare benefits also applied to the more well heeled - I received Benefits for my two kids right up into the 80s. It is only in recent years (last 30) that stringent guidelines and tests applied.
    The point I am making is that it is only recently the pension has not been amost 'universal'

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  72. And - Today Centrelink employs Financial Information Officers to inform clients how they can invest their savings in such a way they are eligible for maximum pension.... unfortunately in the last four to five years there have been so many changes their jobs are not as 'rewarding' as they used to be

    Sorry JohnN - if you think I 'put you down'

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  73. I wasn't sure what John meant by "because of past circumstances super was not an option" but like madeleine I don't think you can describe all public servants or well-paid people of rorting the system. As a married teacher, super was not compulsory for the first part of my career but I chose to pay it to protect my old age and I also chose to pay a higher rate in the last decade or so to improve it. I could have easily spent that extra money but I didn't. Other people chose not to pay super when they could really have afforded it but have the belief that things will work out or they won't need it or old age is a long way off etc. Yet the govt gives those people more money in retirement than they give me because I was careful and thrifty and they were not. I'm not pointing to anyone who couldn't work or were on low salaries through no fault of their own but I do get a bit peeved about those people who had the choice and opportunity and didn't take it.

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    1. I'd be peeved too in your shoes jaywalker; doesn't sound at all a fair system.

      Delete
  74. People on salaries in the private sector have bought investment units and have relied on 'negative gearing' for many years, to decrease their tax and to provide a private income for retirement
    The Aged Pension has NEVER been generous, but combined with other income in the past (e.g. such as annunities (I think)) managed quite comfortably.
    If I threw in my savings I might have more to play with now, but in the future nothing extra for haircuts, music lessons - even a book at $8.99 would have to be considered a luxury
    I HATE POVERTY. Its destructive

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  75. The other thing that annoys is the the pension is a standard federal payment and people live in very different parts of Australia where the climate and cost of living varies enormously. My son lives on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and will never need any heating and not much air conditioning and food and cars are considerably cheaper than here because of the population and Tasmania being an island. We are held to ransom here as we on;y have either Coles or Woolworths and that stretch of water puts the price up of almost everything.

    Sylvia - What is the pension in Britain now? I guess there are quite a lot of people who have nothing but the pension but there must be quite a proportion who have private super/investments and the pension as we;;.

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  76. The basic state pension here is £107.45 a week but this is usually increased by about £2 a week each year as appropriate to cost of living etc. I get a little more as the government decided a few years ago to take into consideration the fact that some carers had to forfeit going out to work.
    Women born before 1950 got their pension at 60 but those born after 1950 have to wait another year or so. Not sure how this is worked out but I know a friend who is 61 has just started getting hers. Men born before 1950 have to wait until they are 65 and so on. However, men (and women) are entitled to free prescriptions and the winter fuel allowance at age 60.
    I should imagine most people of our age have paid into privae pensions schemes etc. or have investments or have invested in property which is becoming popular now due to the very low interest on savings. It does make you wonder whether we should be saving our money in Building Societies etc. but we are of a generation who did save money, however little, for a rainy day!

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  77. Thanks, that's interesting. We come back to England every year now so I know that amount wouldn't be anywhere near enough to live on comfortably without some other income. Our full pension here is $356 (£230) a week for a single and $536 (£345) for a couple a week. So I guess the difference is that here you can scrape by on a full pension which perhaps is a disincentive for people to invest in any other income stream. Pensioners here pay $6 for prescriptions. However, we don't get free bus passes although I think some states have cheaper travel for seniors.

    The pension then reduces on a sliding scale according to how much other income you earn so at $1697 a fortnight the pension cuts out completely. Mind you there are various dubious ways of getting round this which some people manage to do. Recently the govt has introduced a law that says you can earn up to $250 a week without it affecting your pension. However, all this complexity means that our pensions office (Centrelink) is a nightmare to deal with and has got much worse recently as they have decided that everyone can do it online, or on the phone which can take forever. Talking to someone seems to be no longer an option!

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  78. you are absolutely right about the work bonus.... two paydays out of 3 I earn well above that $1697 the third I earn about $300 less. (Shift hours -every 3rd weekend I work. Its tempting to tell Centrelink (politely) where they can put their pittance every third payday (less than $200...) but if I do that I have to pay full price for my scripts...and yes, you are right - the onus is on you to keep that pension going . latest letter says if I don't contact them and comply with what they want me to do......they will cut my pension off.. they have once and then they sent me bills saying I had overpaid.
    My work contract finishes early December and I don't know if it will be renewed... so can't afford to lose it.
    I am fed up...

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  79. Don't get me on to Centreline again! I am on the Board of COTATas (Council on the Ageing) and the other day the CEO told me that she'd been at a national pensioners association meeting and they said the biggest complaint their members have is Centrelink. I had written earlier to Andrew Wilkie about my own ongoing problems with them and he said he had so many complaints from his constituents that he took it up as a bit of a cause to the federal minister. A few days ago he sent me a copy of the letter he finally received in which the said minister just did another longwinded spin on how they were trying hard to serve everyone. Andrew added that he was highly disappointed with the response as none of it matched what he had been told by his correspondents. What can you do? Nothing!

    My reporting day is always two days before my fortnightly pay and every fortnight I have to guess the amount (because the hours vary every time) and then readjust it the following fortnight and it cannot be altered!!

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  80. My empathy, Jaywalker - my circumstances are the same..... its damned awful, and I was going to write a leter of complaint (our member is Wayne Swan), but frankly if so many complaints have already been registered without effect why bother to make the effort to do so?

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  81. An update - having received a letter from some charming member of the Centrelink staff (Chris) saying she had been trying to contact me and if I didn't contact her or go into a Centrelink Office, she'd cut my benefits off. off (and that b has before) I got put on their phone line to the lady.
    'Oh' she said sweetly - in a voice reminescent of cream cheese - 'I knew you must be out a lot working. You are on such a high salary'. I am dumfounded.I don't think so' said me. 'Its high by our standards' she said. I hurridly explain it is inflated by working every third weekend.
    Then just routine questions.Do I know how to enter my salary online? Am I multiplying amount by hours by number of hours?
    Ever felt Big Brother is watching your every move?
    And I can tell you from having worked at Centrelink, Centrelink have access to your bank accounts and other places to check that you are telling the truth.
    Is it worth it?

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  82. The whole process of awarding/issueing pensions has to change. I have just spent an hour trying to log on to report earnings and I resent it. Current legislation as to how the process is to be enacted does not allow for most computer software. If anything earning a little money becomes an incentive to earn even more and come off the pension entirely. I suppose that is what the Gov wants....

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  83. I'll type you some of what was in Minister Kim Carr's letter:

    I recognise the wait times can be longer than expected and that people are understandably frustrated by delays but I can assure you the Department is focused on improving the way it conducts business to deliver shorter waiting times. Demand for the department's services has grown in direct response to changing economic conditions, changes to the social security system and the growing complexities of enquiries. In addition to the recruitment of 720 staff since March2012 to deal with peak times...the Dept is redeploying staff to call centres to meet increased demand.....I recognise that some people are not computer literate and one way to reduce wait time is to register for telephone self-service. This allows people to conduct their business quickly and easily at their convenience....

    Need I go on!!!

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  84. I think I will look for a rich man. Are there any left in Australia

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  85. You know, some years ago I was working with the Aged and an elderly man living in the same block of units as myself was admitted to hospital. As part of my duties I had to assess his assetts in order to advise him on Nursing Home Care - which he needed.
    I said to him -'--- you are a millionaire'
    'It was bloody hard work' he retoprted.
    I never forgot that - but nor did I forget that he was given no more in his Nursing Home Care than a full pensioner, even though he got no subsidies for his care from the Government. He shared a four bedded cubicle in a rather run down Nursing Home where it was convenient for his sons to visit.
    Sure he could have afforded better - an exempt Nursing Home or paid an Accommodation Bond for a single room, better meals, computer access, diversional therapy, wine with meals etc. but there were no Nursing Homes offering this type of care in the locality (Lower NSW Coastal area). Makes you wonder of getting off your arse and trying to be self sufficient is worthwhile.. doesn't it? Oh well, nice to share.. but I would like a single room and bathroom in my old age....

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  86. Me again. Anyone know much about Dept Vet's Affairs Pensions? I have only worked on the periphery of the needs of recipients - who get their info and support via RSL and their Welfare Officers.
    If you have one of their Gold Cards you are much to be envied. These are issued to men who have served in 'theatres of war' (so Darwin when bombed is one theatre, otherwise overseas) and have war related disabilities. I think the criteria for women is slightly softer......widows are usually entitled to a Gold Card after their Gold Card Carrier husband dies.
    The social supports these people are entitled to are great - designed so they can stay in their homes. Taxis fully paid to all medical appointments, home help, personal assistance such as showering 7 days a week, assistance in the afternoon to return to bed, shopping, maintenance of house - wheelchairs - including electric wheelchairs if they can be justified, and other equipment. All supports by far exceed those available to the ordinary pensioner, and all cease if admitted to a Nursing Home - unless you were a prisoner of war and a defence man, not a civilian - then you get free nursing home care (but few of these men left)

    The ordinary pensioner pays around $7 for home cleaning - the Government picks up the rest. Similarly for showering and dressing, shopping etc - a small sum, as care is heavily subsidised and nowhere near as frequent.Unless eligible for a taxi subsidy, they have to find their own transport around.

    And what does the self funded retiree get? Nothing unless he pays for it. So if a man has a wife and needs a carer for four hours whilst he goes to a medical appointment - he pays $40 an hour for that. Full price for cleaners, and for personal assistants. Makes you wonder if saving your money worthwhile, doesn't it?

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  87. Exactly the same arguments have been expressed on the yourlifechoices site and I agree. I have friends who are self funded..husband was chief engineer of our local TV channel and had bought some shares in it right from being a cadet engineer. His brother in law has contrived to get some govt pension and the pension card despite everyone knowing he is a millionaire....no one knows how but it is apparently quite legal as far as Centrelink is concerned.

    My mother is in a nursing home as you know and because they were extremely thrifty and careful and also only had me, she now is paying the highest daily fee, $50 a day, and had to pay $250,000 bond for a single room. My dad was just a railway fitter and she cleaned houses but they were savers by nature and consequently now getting very little in return for 50 yrs of paying taxes. She won't even get all the bond back as they keep about $18000 for "expenses".

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  88. $250.000.00 at 5% interest is $12500 per year.... and it all goes to the Nursing Home plus the $18000 approx they keep at the end....aged care is o very expensive.....

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  89. And the food is poor and they are understaffed and constantly in chaos. Breakfast is sometimes late, as is showering. Toast is "wet" and cold and eggs either rock hard or runny- and if you take into account the interest which you mention and the $18,000 they keep it costs the equivalent of $135 a day. Or nearly $50,000 a year. Yet if you have absolutely nothing you will get exactly the same care.

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  90. Sooner Euthanasia Clinics open (for me anyway) the better

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  91. My mother says the same thing! If we have to go into a retirement place I will be making sure I try them all before deciding because they do vary a lot but my mother refused to that and now regrets it but too late as she would forfeit even more money if she moved.

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  92. Anyone with relatives in a retirement village? Can they enlighten us on how happy people are with the environment.

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  93. Re nursing homes, I've learnt since my mother went in that there is one in Launceston that is much better than the rest but found out too late and I don't know whether she would have got in. As for retirement villages, I've heard you have to be very careful about the financial aspects as they differ hugely. Someone told me the Catholic one here is a real rip-off. I have friends who have bought into very nice and quite large and expensive units in retirement villages here in Hobart and they are happy with them but the one I took my mother to before the nursing home was one of those with very small adjoining units - one bedroom, open plan living/kitchen and no garden and a common dining/activities room. They were to rent but at that stage she wasn't as bad as later and felt it was much too small after her big house and garden. However, she had no choice in the end but to go into a nursing home.

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  94. We did have rental retirement homes in Brisbane - but I don't think they worked very well. Because of the charges involved people had very little money left out of their pension on which to live... and the food I heard was very much basic - no fruit for example, and people with no money to buy it for themselves.
    Gee I hope I am successful in keeping a job until prices of housing rise..... I would be very unhappy with no income but the pension. How do people manage? And no Australian should be forced to beg for food because rates and other utilities bills are so very high

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  95. You probably know that the federal rules say that no aged care facility can take more than 80% of your pension but even that wouldn't leave much. My mother has fairly large savings invested and the interest on that means she has plenty to live on (although she spends nothing) but the interest is deemed and is used to calculate her daily fee which is at the top level.

    We have a lot of these rental villages - it's a company and they are called Gardens eg Kingston Gardens, Claremont Gardens - according to the suburb they are in. Here's the website. My mother's facility is owned by a huge mainland aged care company and their main aim is to increase their annual profit for their shareholders, hence the food is poor and the place under resourced. Privatisation has had no benefit in this area.

    http://www.gardenvillages.com.au/VillageLocations/Tasmania-202/ClaremontGardens,Claremont-217/

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  96. And now - comes the news that children of Aged Parents earning over $100.000.00 per year may be expected to pay part of their parents pension per fortnight. Unfair - and I can imagine what my sons will say - supporting Mum has never been one of their ambitions...

    I can see us going the same way as NZ though----- use up a persons assets to pay their Nursing Home Board until it is all gone -apart from your Burial Money......Again - roll on Euthanasia

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  97. Very unfair. I certainly don't expect any of my sons to pay for my old age care.

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  98. Can I ask for another topic, Jaywalker? PLEASE

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  99. Don't seem to be able to come up with anything at the moment. Brain is very tired from doing double duty while Colin is out of action and working part time at Hansard and Christmas coming. Any suggestions welcome.

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  100. Well, back on our old hunting ground of Centrelink -here is my latest experience....
    I went into Centrelink and waited over an hour for service which took two minutes
    Got into conversation with two other clients
    First had been asked to bring in some ID - it took a two minute session at the front desk to accept that. Her waiting time - over an hour
    Second had been asked to present his lease for Rent Assistance.... another one hour plus wait for something that took two minutes
    Me? My contract ended on Sunday and when I put in my earnings for the past week and added 'termination' pay up came a refusal to accept on 'Online Services' and a command to go in to Centrelink. Over an hour later I was seen - two minutes at front counter like everyone else 'Oh we treat termination pay differently' she said
    Did some research whilst in there.... eat your heart out COTA REP - none of us were happy to wait despite what the Federal Minister says...
    If only they would not treat us all as Crooks....
    Oh well, I'm hoping to be nearly completely pension free within 12 months - just can't take this pennsioner business
    Come on Jaywal;ker - raise the matter of waiting again again and again through COTA

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  101. madeleine - I have done and they are taking it up at national level but these things seem to take forever to get anything done. Our State President here put it on the national agenda at my request but they only meet nationally every three months so I will ask her what is happening. The Tas CEO told me she went to a national Australian Seniors conference earlier this year and they said Centrelink was the single biggest complaint they received from their members. They also put in complaints but nothing resulted.

    I guess the main problem is that it s a federal department and getting anything but complete denial from their PR man and spin doctor, Hank Jongen, is almost impossible. All complaints are shunted to him and he simply denies there are any problems - where do you go from there? As you know I have written letters to the paper, I have contacted him on his FB page and written to him personally and all you get back is spin and rhetoric about how everyone wants to be online and how the waiting hours are better than they were and the extra people they have employed. It's all total BS, but brilliant tactics so what do you do next? Will pensioners march in the streets? I don't know.

    I know exactly what you're talking about as I've experienced it myself. Thank goodness I can now, after years of arguing, report my earnings online and it works but I still am not allowed to change my reporting date even though every single time it falls two days before I am paid so I always have to guess the amount (because the hours are different every day) and alter it the next fortnight. What sort of business practice is that? I'm also wondering what will happen now as this was my last fortnight till next March. I bet I have to report NIL earnings every fortnight till then!!

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  102. You'll probably be called up to sit and slumber in a Centrelink office for hours on end - no free coffee or biscuits offered, and if you do happen to near the TV - programs you don't want to watch

    I am thinking of taking my knitting, a flask of coffee and a box of TimTams next time to see if they take a hint... bet they don't!

    And as for Fraud - why is Hank and everyone else in the Agency regarding everyone as Fraudsters......

    Gee I'd like to come off that pension...though still like the benefits of cheaper pharmaceuticals etc

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  103. Me too! One of these days, as an only child, I will inherit my mother's money which will put us well over the pension threshold but by then I'll probably be too old to either work or care!!

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  104. Right.. when we are both off that pension....we'll have to celebrate....
    By the way, how did you get to be on COTA? Is it by invitation or application?

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  105. The COTA Board is elected and I was asked to stand for election by the woman who is our State President who is a retired school principal. I'm just starting my second term of two years. I guess she knew I was familiar with boards and directorships from my job before I retired.

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  106. PS I suppose American gun laws could be a topical subject for debate. How about this for a comment cut and pasted from another site today:

    Some states of America have legislated to allow registered citizens to carry firearms in public under their law of ......" Concealed carry "....
    The incidences of armed violence commited by a felon in cases such as this have reduced in number and have dropped so significantly and the record of this is so low as to be almos unrecordable...........Robbery......random shootings .......murders etc The crook is frightened of getting shot back at.

    The American public under the second amendment law have justified the outcome of this and more states will follow.
    I need to add that if a couple of teachers at the school in question were licensed under this law then the outcome would have been decidedly different

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  107. Should Piers Morgan be deported from the US for calling for gun laws and criticising the gun lobby?

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  108. Some people need guns... women who live in high density housing and need protection against rape and murder; lone farmers wives who have to protect themselves whilst family are away, pig shooters, mango tree growers to shoot the bats (I wish). A blanket rule won't work.. somehow the focus must go to who who has the guns.. a 20 year old with a mental or intellectual disability, anyone with a history of mental illness, or a criminal conviction in certain areas...NO! Its the type of person who gets a gun, rather than needs one that kills. And schools need a lot more protection. Centrelink and other Welfare offices hire security guards for days on end... I rather agree that a security guard in every school is a good idea
    No don't deport the man - negotiate, mediate and work out a proper solution..
    Maybe deporting all the autistic or distubed people would be a better idea than a man who protects his belief. Perhaps Mental Institutions need to be reopened to protect people from thae acts of the Mad might be more appropriate.
    Guns are inanimate objects.. people vary, and what silly mother taight her Autistic son how not only to use a gun but carry more than one?
    I have lived ,many years alone and I would love a ghun to protect myself, I'd just feel safer with one in the hpouse. But I'd expect to be taught how and when to shoot by proper auithorities.......
    And I think Violence portrayed o0n the screen - like Batman (which I enjoyed) does promore Violence

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  109. I'm currently reading the book Colin's son and family gave me for Christmas - Philosophy and the Garden - not that I'm a mad keen gardener but it is really interesting. Each chapter discusses a famous writer and his/her relationship to gardens and gardening. It also has a lot about their works and ideas.

    I just came across this from the chapter on George Orwell and it immediately rang true. I've always had a feeling there is something very wrong with the modern obsession with measuring everything - it's so true that doing so assumes that the person setting the measurement or goals knows what perfection is.

    'George Orwell’s…distinctive approach is still relevant today: a familiarity with palpable reality, sceptically treated.

    Much of contemporary life has an atmosphere of taken-for-granted certainty to it – the conceit of flawless knowledge in key performance indicators, economic cycles, political polling, intelligence tests. What philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called ‘the fallacy of misplaced concreteness’ – abstractions dressed up as robust facts – is common.

    And this facade of perfection is regularly chased in public and private life: political slogans, psychological profiles, religious texts. It comforts us, by making life seem less uncertain and unsettling.'

    A discussion perhaps??

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  110. Have to think about it... its really hot in Queensland and I am having difficulty concentrating......SO could you be a little more factual about what you are suggesting we discuss....
    In this weather I regress and abstract thinking becomes more difficult!
    Hope its no encroaching dementia

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  111. No, madeleine, I'm sure it's just the heat!

    The quote was about something I'm sure you're familiar with in the health/social area - the obsession with measuring and reviewing and assessing everything - strategic plans, key intended outcomes, mission statements, goals, assessments etc etc.. Motherhood statements that mean very little. What's it all about?

    The writer says: It comforts us, by making life seem less uncertain and unsettling.

    Is it all worth the effort? And doesn't it assume that whoever sets the outcomes and goals, knows what perfection is?

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  112. This is going to bring back torturous memories related to making us 'accountable' in the workforce.
    But I must admit when 'performance indicators' were intoduced it was easier (for me anyway) to work Unfortunately they took emphasis fdrom quality to quantity....
    Fire away Jaywalker

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  113. I remember working on a committee once to write outcomes for a new DoE Curriculum. The other members of the Committee were all DoE bureaucrats and brown-nosers. They wanted to put in things like: By 2012, 80% of Year 8 students will have achieved Level 3 literacy. I pointed out that all it did was set teachers up to fail and what was going to happen when it wasn't achieved and what if teachers cheated and whose fault was it going to be? No one seemed to see my point of view and it went ahead to be replaced by something else eventually.

    I hate with a vengeance the language of all this stuff - Strategic Plans, Vision Statements, Mission Statements, Key Intended Outcomes etc etc

    I just had to read a draft policy from Hobart City Council on housing for the aged and two 'goal' read: 1. In 2025 Hobart will be a city that offers opportunities for all ages and a city for life".
    2. In 2025 Hobart will be a city that is dynamic, vibrant and culturally expressive" - who is going to be the judge of that, pray tell???

    It's all mad.

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  114. Brisbane is now a much faster, dynamic and expressive state than it was in 1980! I am NOT saying it is for the better.

    Draft policy has echos of Bob Hawke's statement - by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty.
    Ho Ho Ho

    I too loathed Strategic plans, Mission Statements etc. and I am ashamed to say never remembered them anyone. As for SWOT analysis...Strengths Weaknesses
    Opportunities and Threats.... they wasted a lot of timne for employees and acheived absolutely nothing.
    Still like Performance Indicators though - they give the worker a clear idea of what is expected of him/her!

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  115. PI's can be OK, I agree, as long as they are clearly achievable and measurable. I think what the original quote I gave, was getting at was that setting ultimate goals and outcomes assumes that those setting them know what perfection is and that's patently stupid.

    I guess we live in such a complex world now that as frail humans, we feel safer and more in control if things are classified, measured, reviewed etc.

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  116. My only goal was to meet PI.
    I went to sleep when Dept or Agency goal were set as they were usually unrealistic, unachievable and out of touch

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  117. New Opinion Poll?
    Should rapists and paedophiles assessed as likely to reoffend be castrated - either surgically or medically before being released into the community

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  118. I'm not sure that castration is the solution. I've read that, with rapists in particular, it's a power thing more than libido excess. Paedophiles are possibly motivated by something similar. I agree that society should be protected against those deemed likely to reoffend but should they continue to be confined? It's a conviction for crimes not yet committed.

    To be flippant, I now have visions of eunuchs lazing around like old tomcats. Perhaps they could form a choir like the Italian castrati?

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  119. Chemical castration apparently lowers sexual desire and fantasies and capacity for arousal so perhaps better than physical castration because it can be reversed. But it's very controversial - perhaps more so among women than men!
    Interesting article here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_castration

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    1. Interesting article, thanks Jaywalker. It appears there's no evidence of it's effectiveness.

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  120. looking at the literature Jaywalker, there seems to be a 'luke warm' approach to treatment of sex offenders. At the moment whether surgical or chemical the offender has to agree to the treatment. In the case of mentally ill patients an involuntary order is made and sufferers have no option but to have the treatment as recommended. (including ECT)

    Keeping sex offenders in gaol - or giving them long sentences is to my mind as inhumane as is castration. I am surprised more of the public have not advocated for this treatment in Australia.....

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  121. all in all - dear Readers..... I am in favour of the procedure.....
    I'm a real spoilsport... and sexoffenders have 'fun' I'd like to stop

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  122. I wonder if things would be different if women were in the majority in parliaments. I think some of it stems from men protecting other men. There seems to be a theory that many men recognise a similar but controlled impulse in themselves and therefore have some sympathy for offenders.

    I guess the same sort of thing applies to the way prostitution is dealt with.

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  123. that's a good Feminist Theory, Jaywalker. But even agencies against child abuse aren't pushing castration yet. I notice other countries are introducing it though.... if it takes castration to allow men dangerous to women adlescents and children to live safely in the community I see it as a reasonable alternative to long incarceration
    I have met a fair number of sexual offenders (especially paedophiliacs) in my work over the past 20-22 years, and the horrid thing about them is that they honestly do not seem to grasp the fact what they have done is wrong.....
    Unbelievable, isn't it? Some - but by no means all - are intellectually handicapped of course...... but a heck of a lot are not...
    Re politicans - a top Queensland Politician and Church Leader was jailed for this offence not so very long ago...
    Clergy, Teachers, Child Protection Workers, Prison staff - all seem top attract people with such inclinations...
    Not so sure about prostitution... I remember one elderly man bailing me up and talking about lining up for the brothels in Crete during WW1
    And often prostitutes in giving a service assist mental health the disabled and brain injured clients with an outlet for their sexual aggressions.
    Pretty sure though, they couldn't do much for paedophiles and rapists where power comes into play...
    I've always agreed with the theory that if conjugal visits are allowed in prisons, and the use of prostitudes made available, there would be far less rapes and homosexual activities amongsrt the men
    Oh - castrate the lot - all men including politicans...

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  124. I agree with you about conjugal visits and sex workers for the disabled - no problem with that if it's properly run. But, yes, the male sex drive can be a very dangerous thing when uncontrolled. I've met men in "normal" relationships who defend prostitution to the hilt, believing that most of them are in it because they want to be , and totally blinkered to the thousands of sex slaves and forced prostitution because it doesn't fit their mind set. In Sweden the client is the one who can be prosecuted - interesting article here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Sweden

    Same applies to paedophiles I suppose. Humans are very good at justifying their actions even when they appear unjustifiable! I guess we have Mother Nature and evolution to thank for the fact that men, generally speaking, have a much greater sex drive and greater obsession with sex than most women but it does lead them into strife in a "civilised" world.

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  125. New One:
    Is it so important to fund the findings of the Glonski report by depriving Tertiary Students of benefits?
    And who do the changes in primary schools benefit? Special needs students who are autistic? Or have mental health problems, come from dysfunctional family backgrounds, and have other difficulties; (their behaviour in special units can make it very difficult for deaf students and others who have a single disability).
    People from non English speaking backgrounds?
    Refugee children who often show a higher degree of intelligence than our own?
    Or all children? Disabled, high potential, behaviour unacceptable etc

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    1. This is slightly off topic but there was an article in Saturday's Courier Mail stating that the Vice-chancellor of QUT earned $937,145.00 last year. Unbelievable! And it is estimated that the Vice-chancellor of UQ will receive $980,000.00 after bonuses this year, yet the universities still 'cry poor' and students lose benefits.

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  126. Hey - just a minute Sanmac. Those poor restless souls called vice-chancellors are the ones who get grey hairs thru trying to manage the Budget.......
    AND won't they be sorry when they retire -easily with two million. Tax will have to be paid after they receive $100.000.00 in income after a year. Poor biuggers----- probably have to go to Switzerland in their old age!

    Now, Jaywalker - can we have the lowdown on the Gonski Report.....please

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  127. I just wrote a long answer and lost it. Back later. But in the meantime check this out:

    http://igiveagonski.com.au/what-s-gonski/

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  128. Checked it out, Jaywalker - but explanations of project a bit difficult to understand
    Is money going into a general fund for schoold?
    Being divided into bits to meet needs of different students?
    Employ Teacher's Aides?

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  129. As far as I understand it, the money will come through the federal govt funding to the states and then to individual schools based on a new formula for students which is designed to give greater equity. The formula takes into account disability and disadvantage but I'm guessing each school could use it as they see fit under certain guidelines. It's very complex and the best info I could find is here:


    http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-a-gonski-anyway-13599

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  130. I am fed up with extra money going to a general fund... it needs to be spelt out what the money is for... as suggested on the radio this morning there will always be some children who will never be able to read... should the money be spent on designing picture books which allow them to communicate better? Communication devices for those who cannot speak (but will have to learn basic literacy skills to use them)
    Or will most of it go to upskill the literacy skills of people from Non English Speaking Backgrounds? Whilst I am not against the latter it would be shameful if the majority of the funds were spent in this way....Why not ration out give the money to support groupsnd ensure it goes to the more deprived students in the community i.e have literacy classes run by Refugee Groups, Asperges Syndraom (and other groups) so that small individual classes or small groups can be taught in the community rather than hold back more promising students?

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  131. You're right of course but actually getting anyone in power to listen to such common sense is well nigh impossible. In my time as AEU president I did my best to make Ministers and pollies spend money more effectively in these areas but the machine of bureaucracy and politics is too big to make any real inroads. Those who control special education are almost always in the pockets of the pollies. They have to be to keep their highly paid jobs. And they stick to the latest politically correct line to ensure their own promotion. The same applies in schools - you won't get promoted unless you toe the party line and principals are at the mercy of the department if they want to retain their positions or improve on it.

    And there are always conflicting views even from the general public on what they think is best and in many cases you need to be in a school to really understand what is needed. Every school is different and has different needs and different ways of doing things - what suits one school doesn't suit another. It's very much more complex than the general public believes.

    i
    It's sad and I hate having to admit it, but even unions are fairly powerless in this area let alone the public. If ever I dared to mention that we shouldn't be mainstreaming the most severely disabled students I was publicly castigated (front page) for being anti-inclusion and blind to the needs of disabled students when what I was doing was pointing out the detriment to teachers and other students which it caused because it was done so badly.

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  132. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  133. I might publish here an article I had printed in The Mercury, our state newspaper and the responses I received. It might better explain what I mean. It might have to be in instalments due to size.


    The More Things Change
    Jean Walker The Mercury 28/3/09

    If ever the French needed confirmation of that internationally known epigram, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”, they would have it if they followed the sad history of Tasmanian education in recent times. Yesterday’s cartoon in the Mercury, depicting Premier Bartlett in the corner wearing the dunce’s hat for not learning the lessons of history is particularly apt.

    There was a distant time when the Tasmanian education system had a very different worldwide reputation. During and after the second world war, a broad reforms of the system was led by respected educators such as Hobart’s Professor Bill Oats and the founders of the World Education Fellowship, which resulted in this tiny island being lauded as a place of true educational excellence along with other funny little places such as West Yorkshire (my county of birth) and the cantons of Switzerland.

    Perhaps that early success went to the heads of our educational bureaucrats who from the 70s onwards seem to have been hell bent on a series of top-down driven initiatives ostensibly intended to keep us in the forefront of educational achievement, but which have proved to be a series of failed experiments with our children as the laboratory mice.

    Experimentation and innovation are the lifeblood of progress, in education as much as in science and medicine, but it is the way we have gone about these innovations in Tasmania that I believe has put us where we are today – still recovering from the negative impact of Essential Learnings and now in the quicksands of the college reforms.

    There are lessons to be learned from history. When I started teaching in the 60s schools had already evolved from the regimented rows of desks, the grade reading book and the weekly test. By that time, Dewey, Piaget, Montessori and Whitehead had all had an effect on the way we taught children. As student teachers we learnt about these people and their theories in a subject called Philosophy of Education and we went out into schools which had leaders and teachers who had the time and educational background to debate these ideas, and the resources to implement them within their own school if they were seen to be an improvement on past practice.

    Change came slowly and although it met some resistance, it was more often than not, instigated by teachers rather than bureaucrats. I can remember listening to a consultant’s recommendation and then going to a staff meeting where we all said to each other, “That sounds wonderful but it wouldn’t suit our clientele” and so we ignored it. Principals were much more the independent educational leader of their school and acknowledged as the person who knew most about what their particular school needed and there was far less bureaucratic interference. That is something which I believe has changed dramatically and to the detriment of education over the past few decades.

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  134. In the 70s, innovation started coming fast and furious. Perhaps educational bureaucrats were travelling more or reading more but there seemed to be a rash of initiatives which have now passed into history. Who now believes that every school should consist of only open–plan classrooms? Yet, that was the mantra of the late 70s when Northern Superintendent Peter Brooker brought back his ideas from overseas and Ravenswood High School was built with no closed classrooms in an area where many teachers knew that the clientele were most in need of structure and order.

    Can anyone now remember ITA – the Pitman Initial Teaching Alphabet reading method, which consisted of printing only the top half of letters. How many mothers, like me, vacuumed up many of the small elusive Cuisenaire blocks which were supposed to be the cure-all for mathematics? Are there still locked store rooms in schools which contain piles of unused esoteric manuals on how to teach everything from handwriting to woodwork which were the compulsory output from the droves of consultants who, then as now, received grants to study interstate or overseas. I distinctly remember one such hefty tome in which the only real contention was that once children had learnt something they didn’t need to learn it again. I also remember classroom teachers smiling nicely at the launch, then stowing it way on their shelves never to be used again.

    Debate still continues on whether streaming into ability groups damages children for life or inhibits their potential and whether ongoing assessment is preferable to tests and exams.

    However, these failed experiments seem like small fry compared with what has happened in our schools in the last three decades. What seems to me to have happened is that a mixture of a rise in hands-on interference for the purpose of furthering political ambitions, combined with a restructured bureaucracy which has to be seen to earn its keep, and a consequent move away from allowing the people who really know what is good for schools – ie the teachers – plus a huge rise in costs which are not adequately met by resources, has led to a new type of system.

    It is, generally speaking, one in which people are told what to do with the barest nod to consultation, but are expected to do it with insufficient time and funds. Often it is reform that has very good intentions and is philosophically sound but it is imposed with no apparent awareness of the limitations of human capacity or understanding of practical realities.

    The best example of this, and the one which has had most impact on our schools, is the policy of including severely disabled students in our classrooms without adequate support. No one denies that these children should have as equal an educational opportunity as any other but it is sheer madness to suppose that it can be done on the cheap or that it should not take into account the needs of those who are not disabled.

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  135. The “next great thing” was, of course, Essential Learnings and having led the Union through that period, I could write a book. Why did we get it and why did it fail? In a nutshell – because an inexperienced but ambitious Minister believed the hype of senior bureaucrats that this was the brave new world for education and would put not only her, but Tasmania, back on the world stage, educationally speaking and did not believe that ordinary teachers might know better. The skills and problem-solving versus knowledge debate had been raging for some time but other countries managed to include these new approaches into their curricula without the need for wholesale revolution and consequent demoralisation of staff.

    And it might very well have achieved great things, if it had not been imposed as a whole system, highly complex, workload-heavy, jargon ridden maze that defied all efforts of well intentioned teachers to tame it into something manageable. The battle to bring back a more balanced and achievable curriculum and assessment method was long, bitter and divisive. One educational consultant told me that I, personally, had set back Tasmanian education by a decade. I was castigated in the media and shouted at by the Minister but, ultimately, it was the 65% of teachers who voted against it that saw the beginning of its demise. It might also have had something to do with the fact that the new Minister was aware of the writing on the wall in terms of the federal push towards a nationwide, more consistent and conventional curriculum.

    Then came loud ministerial cries of, “I will listen to teachers. I will put students and teachers at the centre. I will get rid of excess bureaucracy.” Which, to his credit, he seemed to start to do, but the listening suddenly stopped somewhere outside of the door of the Secretary for Education when the plan to restructure our senior secondary colleges into Academies and Polytechnics was hatched. This plan was announced as almost a fait accompli right from the start. There were various meetings and “discussions” but we all knew that we were merely being allowed to fiddle round the edges with a reform that was about to be bulldozed into place, again with an inadequate timeframe and inadequate resources and perhaps even an inappropriate system. It is my belief that the message was: ignore the union, deflect the flack, ignore the criticism from anywhere, it will eventually die down and we will have our reforms in place and people will get over it.

    Well, if that is how you choose to work, and I do understand that is how revolutions are achieved, then at least be honest about it and don’t pretend to consult. If we live in a dictatorship then so be it, but don’t be surprised if people don’t take it lying down.

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  136. What is the lesson from all this? I’m no longer sure. Perhaps that humans are essentially imperfect beings and will always stumble their way through life and disagree with each other. Perhaps that some people have bigger egos than others and will do whatever it takes to get their way, including ignoring the lessons of history. Perhaps that Tasmania is a very small island with unique problems and insufficient resources to cope with them. But perhaps most of all, that even if we continue to get it wrong, we should always keep on caring, criticising and hoping for better.

    What a mighty fine article in the Mercury....you are great!!!...
    We miss you and the void of original
    thought here now you are gone......Mal


    Hello Jean

    Great to hear someone putting on opinion out there and the response in today’s paper showed this.
    Terry

    Hi Jean

    BRAVO. An excellent article in today’s paper – well put and argued – who could not agree with everything that you said.

    My experiences with Education bureaucracy in the past month have left me staggered/amazed/concerned/sad etc etc. I suspect that our kids have been reasonably well educated over the years in spite of the Education Dept not because of it!

    The level of contact between the bureaucracy and teachers at the coalface is also a worry – it’s a wonder that they find time to teach at all with all the other crap that they have to contend with.

    Anyway – that’s my rant – again well done and well said.

    Cheers


    Phil Butler


    This Premier has spent tens of millions on a huge disaster. In the end, he sails through with that fixed smile, and his empty rhetoric. Unless he listens to the truth, he is going to cause the worst education disaster in Australian history, and our kids are his victims. Congratulations Jean Walker - the final part of your article is spot on. It's a pity you aren't still in charge of the AEU Tas! Posted by: Deceit of Hobart 10:38am Thursday



    FANTASTIC article-well said. Pity you are not president……
    Sat up in bed @ 5.30 & woke Steve up to read it to him.
    Can you email me a copy please so I can forwards it for general consumption, esp. up north?
Regards
    ELizabeth

    A response from a friend- & lots of very posiitve ones also to tune of "We need Jean NOW".

    Hi Liz,
    thanks for forwarding Jean's letter. I actually copied it off, will talk to you about it. She is very professional, and brought that level to the union - well read and researched. Do you think this is still the case?



    A lot of talk inside education and outside about your article. Complete agreement and bemoaning the lack of this type of ongoing commentary. I thought Malcolm Salier's was a beauty today also. The next disaster could be the Glenorchy school closures. I doubt (architects also) that the $$ are there and there will be issues of many teachers / aides moving to new situations. Will they be up to it and will principals have the type of energy / team capability and full commitment that schools in our times had? Already a little impatience amongst principals as to how the jobs will be 'rearranged' or decided. It ought to be done now and some will therefore be doing two roles - new & current. Others won't have a position.

    Federations are also on J Smyth's agenda. This will lead to further disconnection.

    Cheers
    Terry

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  137. Wow, Jaywalker - after those opinions are you still welcome in Educatonal Systems.
    I don't live in Tassie so can't really comment - but can say if I had young kids today I would be inclined toward Home Schooling - for Primary School anyway; even if I had to study at Uni to supply it well.provided I had the money to stay at home.I agree with you mainstreaming of disabled students with different needs does nothing to enrich the learning of the students or environment of the schools.

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  138. I'm retired now so it's all in the past for me but at the time the vast majority of classroom teachers agreed with me - it was the bureaucrats and pollies who hated me but that was what I was there for. The previous president said to me as he retired - always remember that while the Minister is annoyed with you, you 're doing your job.

    What I have described is true of most of the other states, particularly WA and Qld and they all work the same way when it comes to reform being imposed from above with little or no consultation and chiefly for political gain. It's just that the general public don't know or understand how it works.

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  139. isn't retirement the most beautiful thing ever created?
    No worries re education; few about economics (apart from our own)... plenty of leisure and recreation?
    Perhaps a few about health, but like everyone else we either live or die through policies and treatment in the health systm...

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  140. A suggestion, Jaywalker - can we discuss the Federal Budget...and our opinions on it...

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  141. Well lets start! For me is a 'what's in it for me' focus
    Frankly very little - but nothing has been taken from the Aged which is a big plus in this budget.
    I do not see any real benefit from allowing people downsizing residences being ab;le to keep $200.000.00 from the sale of the principal place of residence......after all we are all allowed just under that amount in our accounts which doesn't interfere with Centrelink Benefits.
    But there is nothing to say that that extra $200.000.00 will not be expected to earn income - deemed at 4% thats $8000 per year and will affect the pension quite substantially..
    With this measure I think the Federal Government has taken us for a ride.....

    Secondly - Home Help/Assist..... no provision for making Servoice Provider a little more accountable for their services...For example no definite time is scheduled for your cleaner to come in - the day is, But that is subject to cxancellation without notice if your cleaner calls in sic k

    (I no longer use Home Help - my energy levels are better since my heart op, and my broken arm no longer interferes with puishing the vacuum cleaner or cleaning floors .... I canceled a long time ago, but was very grateful for the help when incapacitated ---- nevertheless I feel for my Aged Comrades who are stuck at home one day a fortnight awaiting a cleaner who may not come!)

    Changes in superannuation don't affect me - I do not have an income of $100.000.00 per year (wish I did) and I do not have $35000.00 to invest in super each year.

    Thank goodness my Private Health Benefit has not been touched.

    Altogether a VERY DISAPPOINTING BUDGET

    One change I would like to see is that implemented in China.... unless offspring are willing to call in to see their aging parent(s) every week that be financially punished. A once a week call from my two offsprings (boys) would definitely mean I could stay in my home longer

    Now I will have to study other parts of the budget in porder to pontificate.... what does everybody else think?

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  142. Yes, nothing much for pensioners but nothing much taken away either.

    'm very supportive of the disabilities insurance scheme and more money for schools. I know we can argue about HOW the money is spent but that would be the case under any govt - at least it's a move in the right direction back to their basic Labor roots. And I'm happy about the fairer funding of wealthy private schools.

    I'm not too bothered about the removal of the baby bonus - and it's a good idea to pay it as part of the support payments rather than a lump sum - too many young single mums spending it on TVs and cars.

    As our paper said today, things will almost certainly get worse under a Lib govt. And Labor did inherit a lot of problems from Howard's over generous super laws. I have him to thank for my own financial situation even though I vote Labor!

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  143. I do so wish others were brave enough (or interested enough) to give their opinions. What about JohnN? You must have some views on the budget.... you do sound as if you have an interest in politics. What about others? Please don't let Jaywalker and myself be the main bloggers on this page

    I do feel; very sorry for people with young families. The Baby Bonus for example was never well administered and was available to those who lost their babies so long as the births were after 20 weeks gestation. I saw one teenager pick up triple the bonus when she miscarried triplets at 21 weeks. Did she waste it? I don't know - her partner's mother had been supporting her and immediately said 'I'll look after that'.

    Similarly with the extra money to young families that was promised and then the promise withdrawn. I do not think the Federal Gov has been at all responsible in its declarations, promises and estimates.

    All I can say to these changes is 'OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES AND INTO THE BOTTOMLESS PIT CALLED "EDUCATION"

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  144. Disabilty Insurance? Had to come - but did such a great big new tax have to be applied? And I thought efforts were being made to distance disabled from Health. Not with this tax!

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  145. Roads? I know nothing about. But I will comment Brisbane reminds me of an apple to which n apple peeler has been used to design/place roads. We need more planning.....

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  146. Health? I can think of much more acceptable invites than to a mammogram....

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  147. New Opinions please
    Neighbours have a dashhound dog. It barks uncontollably just as the sun comes up for a considerable amount of time.
    It barks similarly as the sun goes down.
    It barks periodically and frequently during the day.
    Should I complain to the Council - or buy earplugs!

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    1. How annoying! We once received a complaint from the Council about our blue heeler who we didn't think was a barker. A man had to sit in his car all day to record the barks. Turned out it was not our dog at all but we were really surprised that the neighbour, with whom we had a nodding acquaintance, preferred to go to the Council rather than talk to us. Perhaps your neighbours are similarly unaware? Are they not home at sunrise? If I was in your position, I'd talk (or write) to the owners and if there was no improvement, contact the Council.

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  148. I'm thinking of more drastic measures... perhaps a Neighbourhood Street BBQ with Sausage Dog on the menu!

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    1. Haha! didn't we call a sausage on a stick, a 'dog' as kids? You'd need lots of sauce.....and I thought you were serious :D

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  149. Dog has been remarkedly silent in last two weeks - my guess is that someone else complained... so glad it didn't have to be me
    Now---- neighbours have got a rooster.... and its noisy. Suppose earplugs best way to go...

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  150. Anyone prepared to voice an opinion on Rudd's new policy for Asylum Seekers? My own...
    Harsh. Expensive. Inhumaritaian.
    But perhaps Necessary?

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  151. Who is this Coach Factory? NOT a booklover I'm sure!!!

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  152. Round of applause to our friend in the wings who spent the weekend dressed as The Flick Man. Our brother-in-arms spent the weekend exterminating the invaders from the site. A big thankyou.....
    particularly, from the * Librocubicularists ( pronounced lib-ro-kyoo-bi-kyoo-la-rists), amongst us.


    * a person who reads in bed

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  153. Say a great big thank you to him from me!

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