Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 11, 2011

Monday, 11th April, 2011 – a quieter start to the week

Yesterday, the second of this year’s Formula I Grand Prix races took place – the Malaysian Grand Prix  –  not a great start for our Mark Webber, however, he gradually made up various positions as the race progressed, but in the end, failed narrowly to get a podium position, finishing 4th in the race. His team mate Sebastian Vettell won his second race of the year, after taking out the Australian Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago. Mark has a bit of work to do over coming weeks of the F1 championship if he is to be a genuine contender for the title.

As the blog title indicates, a bit of a quieter Monday, although despite the start of a two weeks of school holidays, the traffic was again rather frustrating this morning! Pleased to reach the office, and ‘relax’ with a cappuccinio!!  And then it was onto my next major project which is likely to occupy your writer for a few days, or longer – preparation of the estimates for the next financial year, most of which won’t concern me, as I won’t be here, beyond October!!

On the home front, James brought Shirley home [to Goonawarra] from the Sunshine Hospital, and later in the afternoon, Jodie drove Val Bennett to the airport, for her return flight to Queensland. If she was thinking of returning later in the year, I’d suggested a few days ago, that perhaps she should plan a visit for December, at which time Shirley would be celebrating her 60th birthday!

I’ve just heard that the Australian cricket team, currently having a short tour of Bangladesh for three one day matches, has wrapped up the series after just the second match – with Shane Watson belting 185 runs, in an innings that included a record 15 sixes!! It must have been a relatively small ground for that to happen, and he obviously also completely dominated the hapless Bangladeshi bowlers! This was the first tour under new captain, Michael Clarke.

I was pleased to see that a story on the front page of this morning’s Age newspaper was highlighting the percentage of cyclists who ignore red lights at road intersections, as though they have the right to disobey the law above other road users, and then claim murder, if an unfortunate motorist happens to be in their way!  As the journalist noted ‘Riding through red lights is frequently cited as the cyclist behaviour that most annoys drivers and is perceived as typical behaviour’. I will agree completely with that, and whenever I see a cyclist abuse the road rules in that manner, my blood boils! That and the uncertainty quite often as to what a cyclist is going to do.  Again, to quote: ‘Unpredictability is a key concern of drivers when interacting with cyclists on the road and cyclist red light non-compliance is likely to increase driver perceptions of unpredictability’. Quite so, and I must say, that when cyclists are around on the roads where I am driving, one always feels apprehensive as to just what they are going to do – as the car driver, I do everything possible to avoid any contact with a cyclist, but the worry is always unnecessarily there, as to what ‘they’ are going to do. To my mind, while it is difficult to argue against the reality that they also do have a right to use our roads, they really are a pest and a danger to safe driving at times. Even a spokesman for the riders admits that ‘It is really important that bike riders are predictable in their behaviour. We rely for our safety on drivers understanding how and where we ride on the road. Running red lights upsets the patterns of expectancy’.  I wish he could get the message through to the estimated 10% of cyclists who ignore red lights at every opportunity!!

Now for a change, I’m home this Monday night, and can have a look at my favourite TV program – Q & A. As usual, an interesting panel to face the questions of a live audience – we have on the panel: Penny Wong, Finance Minister; Greg Hunt, Shadow Environment Minister; Bess Price, central Australian Aboriginal leader; Graeme Innes, Federal Disability and Race Discrimination Commissioner; and Chris Kenny, political commentator. With the help of the show’s online promotional websites, we have a brief bio, just a few facts, I’ve decided are relevant, on each of these panelists.

Penny Wong is the Finance Minister and as such is at the centre of preparations for next month’s Federal Budget. Penny was born in 1968 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, to a Malaysian-Chinese father and an Australian mother. She was eight years old when she, her mother and brother moved to Australia when her parents separated. They settled in Adelaide and Penny ultimately graduated with an Arts/Law degree from the University of Adelaide, where she became politically active and joined the ALP. In  December 2009, she was at the Copenhagen climate change summit where the international community spectacularly failed to reach agreement on a world-wide carbon reduction scheme.As well as being regarded as one of the most capable younger members of the Labor government, Penny is the first Asian-born member of an Australian Cabinet and the first to be openly in a same-gender relationship. She is also a committed Christian, attending the Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide.

Greg Hunt is the shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage. A tenacious parliamentary performer with considerable experience in foreign affairs and environmental issues, Greg is a key part of the Opposition’s attack on the
Government and is expected to play a major role in shaping the coalition’s fortunes in the years ahead. Subsequently Greg worked at the UN Centre for Human Rights, as the associate to the Chief Justice of the Federal Court and as an adviser to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. In 1998 he was Australia’s chief observer for elections in Cambodia.

Bess Nungarrayi Price is a central Australian Aboriginal leader.She was born at Yuendumu in Central Australia. Her first language is Warlpiri.  Bess has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Aboriginal Community Management and Development from Curtin University. She has worked in a variety of fields including education and training, public administration, media, community development, interpreting, translating and language teaching and also has experience in small business management. Bess has served on numerous management committees and boards.  Currently, she sits on the National body Violence against Women’s Advisory Council and chair’s the Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council for the Northern Territory.  Bess and her husband Dave are partners at Jajirdi Consultants, working in cross cultural awareness training, community liaison and Warlpiri language services.

Graeme Innes, who is blind,  was appointed Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner in July 2009. Graeme is a lawyer, mediator and Company Director. He’s been a Human Rights Practitioner for almost 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally. As a Human Rights Commissioner , Graeme has led or contributed to initiatives including the Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry, achieving removal of discrimination across federal law; drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and ratification by Australia; three inspections of Australia’s Immigration Detention facilities; and development of a National Disability Strategy. As a boy Graeme went to the North Rocks School for the Blind, where he learnt braille and other skills.  By his mid-40s he had travelled the world several times with a white cane, but has since taken to using a guide dog. His first guide dog, Jordie, travelled with him six times to New York to work on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Graeme has been a consultant to organisations such as Westpac, Qantas, and Sydney Water, on disability issues. He has also been a Councillor on Ku-ring-gai local Council.

Chris Kenny is a journalist, author and former political staffer. He served as Chief of Staff to the former Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, and was also Chief of Staff to Alexander Downer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the former Howard Government. In the South Australian Government he was Director of Strategic Communications for Premier John Olsen and Chief of Staff to Premier Rob Kerin. He is now a columnist for The Australian.

It will be interesting to discover just how great a part of the program tonight will be dominated by the climate change debate, which seems to come up every week.  I also expect the subject of same sex marriages to be raised again, in view of Penny Wong’s personal status in that area. I shall return. [Meantime, disturbing news from Japan of yet another 7.1 magnitude earthquake – with reports that a  large earthquake has rocked Japan’s east and northeast coast exactly a month after the country was struck by a double natural disaster. Is there no rest for the people in that country?  My brother [the cyclist] had planned a bike tour with his wife in May, but they have, perhaps wisely, decided to forego those plan for the time being!].

Whilst Q & A was progressing tonight, I ended up in a long running ‘conversation’ per messages with two local Facebook friends, and while aim was to try and take a serious approach to what was happening on the TV screen, they obviously had other intentions, so the conversation as such drifted all over the place. As for the program, we did have the usual topics raise their head – climate change, argument against funding of the national broadband network versus other more important needs, the current ‘crisis in the defence forces in relation to a number of recent sex scandals and other discrimatory practices against women in the Services, and so on. I became a little annoyed again, when host Tony Jones continued with his practice of dominating the questions posed [particularly when it involved the politicians present] – Q & A is advertised as the opportunity for the public to ask questions of the panel members, but Jones frequently jumps in with his own probing questions, and certainly in the early part of the program, if you were not one of the politicians on the panel, you were often given little opportunity to contribute to the matter under discussion. Thankfully, there was later, some considerable talk about the intervention of the government in the life of the Northern Territories’ Indigenous communities [begun with the Howard Government in 2007, and continued on] and this gave Bess, the Indigenous panelist, the opportunity to be more involved.  While others have criticised the Intervention in various ways, it was intyeresting to hear Bess support what had taken place, and suggesting that the communities concerned were better off, and happier for it  – the children, for eg, where now getting fed properly. She stated that our governments were not racial in their policies – if the Indigenous communities where in any other country, they would probably not even be there any more! One view was that the process should have been undertaken bottom up, instead of top down  – by allowing the community leaders to undertake the process rather than bureaucrats from the cities moving in to run things!! Incidentally, as far as I’m aware, the question of same sex marriages did not come into the debate tonight!  It’s a pity the politics can’t stay out of it a bit more too – perhaps a program in future without any politicians on the panel might avoid some of the potential verbal confrontations that were bubbling on the surface tonight. Nevertheless, an interesting hour of television.

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