Saturday, 29 August 2015

Reading with comprehension

appears to be a dying art. 
 I would have thought a writer with several published novels would have been able to read and understand a press release.  It seems not.
I admit the press release was not particularly well written. Many press releases are not well written. They are designed to get maximum (mis)information out in a minimum number of words. Sometimes they are designed to stir up public opinion.
Yesterday there was an outcry because a poorly worded press release from the "Australian Border Force" appeared, to some, to suggest that migrants/refugees/people-from-different-backgrounds were going to be targetted in an operation in the CBD of Melbourne. People were going to be "asked for their papers" and they would have to produce them!
I read the press release carefully. It says no such thing. It would never have said anything like that.
Let's be quite clear about something. Australians are not required to carry any form of identity with them. They do not have "identity cards". If someone is driving a motor vehicle they must have a licence - with a photo but if they are walking down the street they don't need that. 
If the police (and this includes the ABF) stop someone then they can ask for their name and address - and nothing more until they make an arrest. Even if they make an arrest people have the right to refuse to answer questions. (That may have implications later but the right is there.) Police can only search someone if they have "reasonable cause".
So, what was the outcry about? The police were going to "target anti-social behaviour and outstanding warrants".  Nothing was said about anything else apart from the fact that if someone was committing visa fraud then it would only be a matter of time before they were caught. That is a perfectly reasonable statement but it doesn't mean the police are going to stop someone in the street and ask them to prove they have the right to be there. They cannot do that. All they can ask for is a name and address - and no law abiding citizen should be concerned about providing that.
Personally I would not have a problem with that providing police were not deliberately targetting law abiding citizens of a particular social group or ethnicity. And why should they? 
If the ABF or the police wanted to conduct an operation of the nature being suggested they would not have announced it. It simply would not have worked. People who believed themselves liable to be stopped  or in the country illegally would simply have avoided the areas announced.
The outcry in the media that "refugees" were being targetted was nonsense. There was no such intention. 
Many refugees come from countries where the police are viewed with suspicion, great suspicion. Many refugees are genuinely afraid of the police. The outcry in the media and social media over this operation was simply wrong because it will just have caused people who view the police in this way to believe that the situation is the same here. They will believe they are targets for brutality and corruption and more. There will be instances of it in any police force but it is not the norm. 
I wonder  if those who went charging in making unfounded accusations about what was about to happen gave any thought to trying to understand what might really be the purpose of the operation and how much damage they have done to the people they believed they were "protecting"?

Friday, 28 August 2015

"She doesn't think this is good enough

to put in," the middle aged man told me with a questioning look. He also looked rather anxious. 
We were collecting the entries for the knitting, crochet and lace work for the state's annual show. There were the usual, "This is the first time I've done this" and "I've forgotten my form but I did put the card on" and "is this the right place" and... well, I am sure you can imagine the rest.
But the middle aged man produced four pieces of knitting carefully wrapped and sealed in plastic bags.
I took one look and, even without unfolding them, told him,
"They will be good enough."
"It's my wife's mother. The kids didn't want anything so she tried something new. We thought it was okay."
Okay? 
A little later I unfolded them carefully for judging. I am not allowed to photograph them or I might even try putting a picture up. The closest examination could find no obvious faults. I left them ready for the official judge to see. Everyone else who was there to help came to have a look as word spread.
What had been entered were four pieces of exquisitely fine lace knitting in the Estonian style. There were two shawls and two scarves. They were made of very, very fine single ply yarn. They had been "blocked" (stretched to "iron" them without actually using an iron) and they had been blocked to perfection.
The judge came in and we worked through the first classes. There were some nice things but nothing outstanding and then we reached the little pile of shawls. I  had, as I always do, piled them in order of arrival. The pieces were near the bottom.
There was silence and then I heard the judge breathe out,
"Oh...."
She spread the first piece out and then the second and then shook her head slowly in disbelief.
"Well, they are no-brainers," she said, "The only problem is which is first and which is second."
We made a decision between us - by agreeing that one pattern was slightly more complex than another. 
We went on to the scarves and the judge repeated the process.
But it did not end there. There is also a prize for the best piece of knitting in the show. The judge has all the first prize pieces left in a line. We had several really interesting and very well done pieces this year but she barely glanced at them again. Her hand went out to the pale, pale creamy-golden coloured shawl with tiny nupps no bigger than a grain of wheat. 
"It has to be this one," she told us. 
One elderly, housebound woman who thought her work would "not be good enough" will have two first prizes, two second prizes and "best in show". 
I hope she uses her prize money for more yarn. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I still have mixed feelings

about zoos. I have been pondering my response to our visit on Monday.
It was interesting. The local zoo has changed greatly since I last saw it but I think I would  be just as happy not to go again. 
The kittens enjoyed themselves. Even the twelve months and two weeks old kitten was interested. She would have patted everything in sight. She had a long "conversation" with a frilly feathered hen in the children's section and, after staring intently at the meerkats eating their lunchtime chicken wings asked, "More?" We assumed she wanted to know if one raw chicken wing was all they got. 
We watched the hippopotami eating their lunch and the otters cleaning themselves after having had their lunch.
But the two giraffes worried me. They are big animals and they need a LOT of space. The same could be said of the two lions. One of those was pacing restlessly. We made brief eye contact. I suspect she was considering whether I was friend or food.
I wish one of the local vets was still alive. She had a small collection of native animals which could not, for one reason or another, be returned to the wild. She also had space for them. They roamed. They knew her of course because they were hand fed. For years we took visitors up to see her and she would patiently answer endless questions from the children. She would encourage them to be hands on, to help with the feeding and more. We grew masses of greens to help her feed them. The local shops gave her bread and vegetables they could not sell. What she couldn't use she would pass on to others who also kept injured animals. 
The Kittens won't get the experience of "going to see P's animals" so the zoo was the alternative.
I know that zoos have breeding programmes and that this may be the only way there will be a preservation of a diversity of species but it still bothers me to see animals, particularly large animals, in confined spaces they are not naturally intended to inhabit.
But, the meerkats and I got along very well together. They are intelligent and funny and Middle Cat was very naughty and gave them a teaspoon size piece of apple each. I really must find out why they roll all their food in the dirt before they eat it though!
 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Should someone stand trial

three times for the same murder?
There is a long running legal saga in this state which has recently been under review - yet again.
It has been a case of interest to my family. My mother knew the father of the alleged victim. I have to say alleged here because, although she died, there is some doubt about how she died. My mother did not know the father well but she liked what she saw.
The man who is alleged to have murdered his daughter was put on trial in 1995. The first trial resulted in a hung jury. The second one found him guilty and he was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years. He served almost the entire twenty years before being released - on bail. He had appealed his conviction under new legislation - something which would not previously been possible.
The DPP now wants a third trial.
I know more than I might about this case because my nephew was the one who had to read the transcripts and the evidence and provide the material which the barrister used to get  this man released on bail. And yes, there is much more to the case than the media ever reported. I can't say more than that.
What I can say is that I wonder why the DPP is so keen to have a third trial. What is it they want from it? If this man is found guilty again then there will be the question of whether he is returned to prison to serve yet more time but it seems unlikely. If he is found not guilty then there will be other and even more complex issues raised. 
Murder trials are expensive, very expensive. There will be particular difficulties in this one. There were evidentiary issues right from the start. 
In all the media coverage of the case something else went unnoticed. There is another man in prison in this state. He could have been released some years ago - if he admits his guilt. He has apparently steadfastly refused to admit his guilt. I don't know who he is or what the circumstances of his case are but I wonder why anyone would remain in prison if they could leave. I am aware there are people who return there again and again. I am aware that there are people who feel "more secure" there. They get fed and housed and other people tell them what to do and, for sad and tiny minority of people life "inside" is better than life "outside". 
But if someone really was innocent and could leave only by saying "Yes, I am guilty" then what would the choice be? Lie and lose any chance of being found innocent - or risk never getting parole?
"There's a book in all that," a friend told me.
Yes, the plot has been used before - more than once. Real life is another story.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The media is trying hard

to be even more anti-the-present-g0vernment. The Prime Minister is now behind the Opposition Leader in the polls - hardly surprising given the careful undermining which has been going on.
I have my arguments with the present PM  but I also have them with the present OL. He does not come over as a "nice" person at all. He would have condoned the recent vile machinations.
There is a to be a by-election in another state. It follows the sudden death of a well respected and popular member of parliament. Immediately following his death nice things were said on both sides of politics - and rightly so  because he was serving his electorate well.
Now the gloves are off. The choice is between a union oriented young lawyer or a former soldier, also young, who has served  his country with particular courage and distinction. The former soldier is getting a hard time of it. He is everything the electorate should want, committed, courageous, able to lead, loyal and principled. He has put his life on the line more than once. I wish we didn't need armed services but, if we do, then let them be filled with people like him.
And then the media comes along. They came along with a "story" which was not a story at all. In the soldier's absence part of the unit he led was "investigated" for "cutting off the hands" of enemy combatants. As I understand it this is standard and accepted as a means of taking the hands so that finger prints can identify those involved so that they can, where possible, be returned for a decent burial. It is done for the best of reasons rather than for the purpose of deliberate mutilation. I still think it is a vile thing to do but when you know that the "story" takes on a different meaning.
It was however written and repeated in such a way as to deliberately give a completely different impression. 
First impressions count. People often go no further. They will not listen to explanations. The media knows that. It was a deliberate and partisan attempt by the media to destroy someone's reputation. It was done in such a way that there was no chance of bringing a libel action. 
It was wrong. I hope there are enough fair-minded people out there who will recognise what has happened and replace a committed man with a courageous man. The other candidate's team is just cowardly.

Monday, 24 August 2015

"We're all going to the zoo

today - I think the song actually says "tomorrow" but it will be today.
I haven't been to a zoo of any sort for a very long time. I don't like zoos. I would much prefer that animals remained in their natural environment even while I recognise that zoos actually help to preserve  different species.
But, the smallest kittens are here for a "long weekend" - the sort of thing they have to do before school takes over and holidays are only possible in school holidays. Only one of the smallest kittens goes to school and she was given "special days" to come and see her great-grandfather, the Senior Cat. 
So yesterday we headed off for "fish and chips at the beach". There is a very good playground at that particular section of beach. The Senior Cat watched in alarm as Kitten Two, aged four, raced up a rope like climbing frame and waved from around ten metres up. I tried to point out that, if she fell, the thing was designed to trap her at the next level. He was not convinced.
They went on the ancient carousel that has been there since the Senior Cat was a child - a first for all of them. Four adults had to go with them because they are not yet old enough or tall enough to go on it alone. There was another young girl looking longingly at those brightly coloured horses too. Given the money for a ticket she looked shyly at the Brother Cat's partner and then, with a huge smile of relief, at the "Yes of course you can sit on the horse next to  us", she handed over her ticket and climbed on. The music started again and they were off into that magical world of make-believe. 
"It was like a real horse!" Kitten Three, aged three, informed me as he went off to hug his great-grandfather for the umpteenth time that day.
They ate more fish and chips than the adults and then consumed ice cream in cones on top of that. I am sure the owner of the stall added extra large scoops to each cone. There were more "please" and "thank you" words at that! Even Kitten Five, just a  year old, helped herself to a large  quantity of fish and chips and topped it off with a smaller amount of ice cream and an approximation of "thank you".
And, despite all that and all the energy they had already expended, we went back to the cabin park where they are staying and they raced into the enclosure which has a "bouncy pillow" - an inflatable mounded mat you can actually bounce on. It was getting cold by then. The wind was icy but they didn't seem to notice - until they stopped.
We left them to eat the pasties I had made (with prodigious amounts of tomato sauce of course) and Brother Cat yawned as he drove us back.
What, I inquired, did the Senior Cat want for his tea? He settled for a mug of soup. Adrenalin has kept him going. It should keep him going for the zoo today. They leave tomorrow morning. 
I have "knitting at the bookshop" tomorrow afternoon. I suspect that all the Senior Cat will have on the agenda is an extended cat-nap! 
 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Commissioner Dyson Heydon

has gone off for the weekend to consider his situation. (For those of you in Upover there is a furore at present over whether there is "bias" or "an apprehension of bias" over his conduct in respect of accepting an invitation to give a lecture allegedly affiliated with a political party when he is conducting a Royal Commission into the conduct of the union movement.)
The Commissioner is in a no-win situation on this one. If he recuses himself then people won't say there was an apprehension of bias. They will claim "see, we told you he was biased. We knew the Royal Commission was a witch hunt.) If he does not recuse himself then they will continue to scream "bias".
If  he does not recuse himself then the union movement will take the matter further. It will eventually go to the High Court. The judges there will have to sit in judgment on a former member of their own ranks. If they find against him then his career will be in tatters. If they find for him the unions will still claim "bias". They will have to accept the umpire's decision but they will criticise it. It will, they claim, damage the High Court.
And of course this is precisely what the union movement is hoping for. They are hoping that, in all the legal wrangling people will forget why the Royal Commission was established and what it has already uncovered. They are hoping the criminal investigations will be forgotten. They are hoping that the media will side with them and that nobody will ask the question, "What have you got to hide that it is so important to feel a need to close the Commission down?"
There have also been demands for the Prime Minister to sack the Commissioner. He can't. The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor-General (in his role as the Queen's representative) and only he can sack the Commissioner. He would go to the Prime Minister (and perhaps the High Court) for advice. If he went against that advice then there would be a constitutional crisis in line with the one in 1975.
Equally it is not a simple matter to appoint another Commissioner in his stead. I do not know if it is possible to appoint a second Commissioner to work with him at this late stage. If it is that may be a solution - but not one the union movement would be happy with. 
A staunch unionist told me a couple of days ago, "We've got him. There's no way he can continue now."
If they succeed then it will be a serious blow to the rule of law. It will immeasurably strengthen the hand of the trade union movement. There are some people who believe this would be a good thing. 
My own personal belief is that there is no bias and no "reasonable person" - that "man on the Clapham omnibus" - would believe that accepting an invitation to speak at a lecture given annually which anyone is free to attend (and many from all sides of politics do) should be seen as bias. The Commissioner may, of course, decide otherwise.
I will admit to my own bias here. I think I once mentioned elsewhere on this blog that one sunny Sunday morning there was a knock at our front door. Two men wearing stood there and "advised" me that my letters to the editor in respect of a certain union related matter were "unacceptable". I was not even a member of the union movement. Perhaps I should have felt flattered that they apparently believed my letters would have so much influence that they felt the need to offer the "advice".
But if they feel the need to do that to someone who merely writes a mildly critical letter or two on an irregular basis,  they must be desperate to shut the Commission down.
I hope they don't succeed but they will certainly keep on trying.