Can An Election Bring Us Together?

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you. I think I need a really big ballad this week (cue violins).

Residents of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), also known as Canberra, voted in their local election last Saturday. It was a different election, a healing election.

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When Am I Too Much For This Place?

This week’s theme for the Lens Artists Photo Challenge is Sanctuary.  I’m not sure what more can be said about this topic that I haven’t said already, so I’ve decided to re-post my earlier discussion/photos on this subject.  At that time, I said that I didn’t feel safe anywhere.  That is not quite true.  I do feel safe with my family.  Thank goodness for that because in these days of Covid and being confined to home (provided you are lucky enough to have one of those), there are many people fearful of the ones they should be able to trust the most.

WordPress (and now the Lens-Artists Challenge) has asked us to explore what it means to find your place in the world.  Where’s your safe space?  Where do you go when you need to feel inspired or cheered up?  Do you prefer the city over a small town?  I have to admit I find this an incredibly difficult challenge because I feel very ambivalent about my place in the world.  I don’t feel safe, or comforted, or any of the things that WordPress has asked us to explore.  I feel that I am possibly too much, that we are too much.  However, I am here.  I live in a wonderful place and I’m grateful for that.  The issue of whether I, and we, can live sustainably is a complex one.

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The Returned

A Short Story

The old man slaps his car keys down on the kitchen table. It’s cold inside the house and he is tired. It’s been a long drive in heavy rain. He has to take a slash. His water works need fixing. That’s why he is here. Back in Canberra.

The mobile rings as he is zipping his fly. “H’lo,” he says loudly. It’s his eldest daughter on the line. The cranky one. Of course, it is not the youngest daughter. She doesn’t ring. She is too busy working in the old folks home. His son doesn’t ring much either. If the old man knew how to text, they might communicate more often.

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Gash in the Fabric

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.

Well scheiße, ladies and gentlemen, what a crappy few weeks it has been downunder. How’s that for an impressive, or pathetic, example of tautology? It has been all about the corona virus (Covid-19) these last couple of weeks. You know the old saying, “Pride goeth …” Hubris, pubis. Australians have been so self-congratulatory about how we got “on top of” the virus. Apparently and allegedly, all the time we thought our borders were closed, our borders weren’t actually closed, if you know what I mean …

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Another Day, Another Indigenous Australian Incarcerated

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.

The problem in believing in the inalienable rights and freedoms of, and equal opportunity for, all people is that some people or groups within society are more free and more equal than others (ie. more cashed up, more able to advocate for their “inalienable” rights, whatever those might be). The problem in also believing in a just and humane society in which the importance of the role of law and justice is maintained, is that one must actually abide by the law and apply it consistently.

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Is Nothing Sacred?

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.

I recall vividly how horrified people were when the Notre Dame went up in flames. It was a tragedy and the world mourned with the French people. It is more than just a sacred place. It is history. If a developer is able to legally destroy sacred historical sites, there should be a huge uproar, don’t you think? Anyway, that’s what international mining company, Rio Tinto, has done this week. It destroyed two Aboriginal rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge. The rock shelters date back 46,000 years and are significant cultural heritage sites.

It was reported that one of the shelters was Australia’s only inland site showing human occupation continuing through the last Ice Age (see The Conversation and The Guardian). I’m completely at a loss as to why such wanton destruction of such a culturally significant site for First Australians, indeed all the people of the world, could have been permitted, and even if legal, how Rio Tinto could have thought it acceptable. I guess Rio Tinto don’t know their place.

As they say in the classics, “You’re welcome.”

Here’s national treasure, Archie Roach.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

The Changing Seasons – April 2020

April 2020 (Autumn in Australia) — Canberra Walks Off The Covid-19 Crisis.

Never have so many Canberrans taken to the streets.  Not to protest, but to walk.

It rained.  The sun shone.  An urban forest revived after drought; too late for some trees.  Spring migrants like the Caper White butterfly feasted on autumn weeds.  Little dumpies (Diplodium truncatum) emerged from leaf litter to greet the day and would-be pollinators.  And the people came in their hundreds to traipse over woodland and reserve, grateful for the reprieve from summer’s hell, as they waited for the virus nightmare to end. Read more

Operatic

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.  I hear that singing is good for the lungs.  You can do it in the privacy of your own home, in a massed choir, or anywhere really.  It is multicultural and multi-generational.

Anonymous Doctor:

“Please don’t give in to fear, don’t amplify hatred or outrage or racism or disgust. Hold the line as a citizen of the moral community. Think of every tiny way that you can help others every day. And do it.”

Facts first.  Act.  Sing/Pray.

Anything else is inhumanity.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

An Abundance Of Caution

Covid-19 — a personal view on the Australian response.

It seems I am incredibly naive, I heard several statements relating to the Covid-19 response last night that deeply troubled me.

The first was that there were only 2,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Australia (ABC Q&A, 16 March 2020).  Hold that thought.

The Australian Government has its Chief Medical Officer stand beside the PM or the Health Minister as if to provide a veil of professionalism and competency regarding its response. And yet, the response has been at best mediocre and at worst …..  Beyond the ban on flights from China into this country, the federal government doesn’t appear to have done anything that was timely or ‘ahead of the curve’ to reduce the infection rate.  The federal government spokespeople are quick to tout that one particular measure as decisive government action when questioned.

However, current social distancing measures appear insufficient and impractical.  The ludicrous suggestion for those needing to take public transport was to use hand sanitiser.  Who has hand sanitiser?  Schools will stay open (up to a point) and the risk of infection will be managed through good hand-washing.  Some schools don’t even have soap.  Have you seen some of the kids toilets?  Closing schools before kids have chance to spread the virus around just seems sensible.

Australia is still waiting for practical, preemptive (life-saving) social distancing measures that will make a significant difference in flattening the infection curve.  In this respect, we are far behind the curve with the Government unable to plan even 24 hours ahead.  Schools and universities are still open.  Some temporary closures have been made after the virus has already made its way into those institutions.  Unlike the private sector, there does not appear to be a policy to actively promote working from home within federal government agencies, perhaps because government IT systems are not up to the challenge.  A certificate from a doctor is often required to access special work from home arrangements.  My mother/my partner might die if I give her a virus that I don’t yet have, really doesn’t cut it with the universities, and maybe not with some employers either.  To their credit, some government agencies are being flexible.

I must declare a conflict of interest at this point.  I have a tiny house and two adult children living at home.  We only have one bathroom.  I also have a number of chronic health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes.  I use an insulin pump that my family don’t know how to operate.  Also, I’m no spring chicken.  The death rate for diabetics is high.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because those with diabetes are statistically more likely to have a range of serious health issues like kidney damage, heart disease, etc.  Or maybe it is because when push comes to shove and decisions are being made in the hospital system about who should receive life-saving intensive care, having diabetes is a threshold test?  I don’t know.

Self-isolation at home, particularly if I am unable to manage my diabetes myself, would be hugely challenging for my family.  The alternative, going to hospital, could be deadly.

Personally it would help me immensely if universities suspended classes right now.  In six weeks, my son will finish his university course.  He is keen to do whatever it takes to finish his degree.  So, in the meantime, he is stuck in lecture rooms with two hundred other students and in science laboratories working in small groups.  That can’t be good.  Who is responsible for making the decision as to when universities should close?  If it is a decision by the federal government, they need to explain why this decision has been delayed.

Perhaps it just too big a hit to the economy if schools and universities close down?  If we fail to act now, then we are on a trajectory to a major infection crisis cannot be avoided.  The countries that have done best at flattening the infection curve are those that have engaged in widespread testing and introduced extensive social distancing measures.  So far it has been a paltry effort in Australia, and with only 2000 ICU beds nationwide and the government unable to confirm the paltry number of test kits available, it will only be a matter of weeks before our health system succumbs.

John Daley, Chief Executive Officer of the Grattan Institute was interviewed for The Business last night (ABC, 17 March 2020),  He said that all the economic modelling of similar novel infection outbreaks showed that the more countervailing measures put in place to deal with public health emergencies, the more these public health measures adversely impacted the economy.  In his words,

The largest part of economic impact will be a consequence of what governments decide to do, essentially from public health measures to try and slow the diseases, the more economic damage they will do on the way through.  That is the horrible trade-off they face and that we as a community face.”

Money or life?  For those with strong constitutions that can survive the virus, it may be the economic impacts that harm them most.  Am I getting to the nub of the Federal Government’s response here?  This is a deeply conservative government that has managed to convince many in the electorate that it is a better economic manager than its opponent.  Yet many of the elderly who are most likely to vote for them, will be the ones most affected by the virus.  Awkward.  Of course, the really wealthy can bunker down in their huge mansions with multiple bathrooms and have their groceries, sanitisers and toilet paper catered.  If no sanitiser, there is always the drinks cupboard.

Several state and territory governments have declared public health emergencies.  Shouldn’t that make the public health response the number one priority?  So far our national government hasn’t stepped up, nor has it levelled with the Australian public about where it sees the balance of priority.   Like this government’s other catchphrases, will the oft-used phrase “an abundance of caution” go down in history as more marketing spin.