Wrong Lesson Learned

Professional troubleshootermaker and former blogger TNA points me to this story:

Former Telstra CEO David Thodey has shared the story of how he was publicly shamed in front of an arena crowd by world-renowned diversity trainer Jane Elliott in what he calls “one of the most significant moments of my career.”

This ought to be good.  We need more senior executives finally waking up to the sham that is “diversity” in modern corporations and the destructive effect of identity politics.

While working for IBM around 2000, Thodey was invited to an event sponsored by Big Blue at which Jane Elliott would be talking.

Elliott is famous for her then controversial Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment which started in an Iowa classroom in the days after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Elliott, then a primary schoolteacher, segregated the class into the blue eyed and brown eyed. She then gave one group special privileges and chastised the other, before reversing the special treatment the following week.

Thus ramming home the point that people ought not to be divided into groups based on physical characteristics and then treated differently?  I’m fully on board.

She went on to become a leading workplace diversity trainer for the likes of IBM, General Electric, Exxon, and AT&T, notoriety that brought her to Sydney to speak to a 3,500 strong Sydney Entertainment Centre crowd.

Thodey was brought up to stand on one side of the stage and a Torres Strait Islander woman was brought up to stand on the opposite side. Elliott then asked Thodey how tall he was and how he felt about it.

“I said, ‘I don’t really think about it’. She turned to the Torres Strait Islander woman and asked. She said ‘I’m 5 foot one and well it’s really hard actually. I go into rooms and I can’t see people. I tend to be looking up and it’s really hard and I find it really quite difficult.’”

I’m 6’4″ tall, and were I Thodey I’d have had a simple response to that: economy-class travel.  And why does it matter that the woman was a Torres Strait Islander?  Why not just say it was a woman?

Elliott then asked Thodey how he felt about being a man. He said: “I was just born that way and I don’t think about it”. The woman said: “It’s very hard being a Torres Strait Islander woman. People don’t listen to me when I say things.”

This is hardly unique to women who hail from islands in the Torres Strait and people not listening to you is probably not the best example of a life of hardship: that would put every wife on the planet into the category of Mumbai Street-Urchin.

“This went on. I was totally unconscious of the awareness of my perspective and someone else’s. This is in front of thousands of people. And I got smaller and smaller. I was really embarrassed,” Thodey said.

Yeah, I’d be pretty embarrassed at this ludicrous display of virtue signalling, too.  I’m beginning to understand why the penny dropped.

But the humiliation wasn’t over. As Thodey left the stage he remembers touching Elliott on the back.

A kidney punch?

“She turned and said – ‘What gives you the right to touch me!?’ At which point I ran off the stage completely! That was probably one of the most significant moments of my career. It’s always caused me to reflect.”

I can well believe it!  This would cause any half-sensible executive to tear up their Corporate Diversity Policy, cancel all associated training courses, and fire the idiot who booked this Elliott woman to speak in the first place.

Oh wait.

Oh no.

That’s not what he did at all.

During his time as head of Telstra, Thodey enacted a ‘flexible working for all roles’ policy and set-up a diversity council.

Oh dear lord.

He also enforced a ‘50/50 if not why not?’ missive to all levels of the telco and was a founding member of the Male Champions of Change group.

The problem of gender equity had to be tackled on a personal level, he said.

What I thought was an article on a brainwashed fool waking up and smelling the roses has turned out to be one whereby a feeble-minded climber of the greasy pole is bullied into buying a barrow of fresh horseshit before spreading it around a large corporation.

“You can get all carried away with inclusion and gender equity as an ethical or equality or egalitarian perspective.

An issue that has yet to plague me.

But this goes deeper and often we don’t have very honest discussions about it and I think it’s really important we do. This needs to be personal because if it isn’t it won’t change.”

Lots of discussions bring about change?  Have all these people been educated in France?

Success would only come from being bold, Thodey added.

Would examples of such boldness include running off the stage when some harpy levels some ludicrous accusation against you?

“You need to be bold. The problem is it’s easy to get into the status quo and not change. The only way I know how to change is push the boundaries. You’ve got to be willing to be unaccepting of bad behaviour, you’ve got to call it out, and you’ve got to be really strong with it,” Thodey said.

Right, but what’s this got to do with a Torres Strait Islander woman being short?  Will she be offered free sessions on the rack they have down in the local museum of medieval torture?  Or is Longshanks Newman requested to come to the conference room for leg amputation?

“You need to measure you need to be incredibly detailed in terms of the data.

A CEO meticulously collecting data on his employees?  Sounds wonderful.

Then you’ve got to put in good programmes to support it. Then you’ve got to look for the unseen signals. Talk to people and ask them how things are going because people will actually put up with too much.”

I wonder who was doing the CEO’s job when this Thodey clown was playing Social Worker?

UPDATE

Adam has recently written on the Male Champions of Change that Thodey helped found.  Do go and read, but don’t expect him to be any more forgiving than I am.

A Tale of Two Cricket Matches

The first is a match between Australia and South Africa played in Hobart.  South Africa won by an innings and 80 runs having skittled their opponents for 85 in the first innings and then knocking up 326 in reply, Quinton de Kock helping himself to his second century of the series.

The second is a match between India and England played at Rajkot.  England scored a wopping 537 in their first innings with Root, Ali, and Stokes all making centuries.  India replied in kind with 488, Vijay and Pujara making centuries.  A batting surface, then.  England piled on 260 in their second innings with Cook making his fifth century in India – a record for a visiting batsman – and debutant Hameed scoring 82.  England declared leaving India chasing 309 in 49 overs on the final day.  Speculation is ongoing as to whether England could have declared earlier to give them more time to bowl India out, but in any case they took 6 wickets and it took a decent, fighting partnership between Kohli and Jadeja to draw the match.

According to Malcom Knox writing in the Sydney Morning Herald (h/t TNA):

While Australia destroy themselves, England destroy the game

England had the position and the opportunity to force a result. But, in what retired Australian Test cricketers would call batting and leadership of unacceptable selfishness, Cook and Hameed strolled on towards a partnership milestone. Once Hameed did open his shoulders and take a risk, he got out for 82. He looked disappointed with his decision when he should have been proud. (If India had imploded, that would not have made Cook a genius. The indisputable fact is that, with batsmen like Joe Root and Ben Stokes in the sheds, England did not maximise their chances of winning. Even after Hameed and Root were out slogging, Cook made sure he nudged his way to his hundred.)

This is not the Australian way, but it is the Australian way that is under fire. Australia never play for a draw in India (if they could), always seeking to move the game along, and in striving to win they most often lose. Whether in Hobart or on the subcontinent, Australia’s attack-first mode of cricket is what gets them into trouble. Australia lose matches in India, Sri Lanka, the Emirates, England – and now at home – because their cricketers have lost the patience and temperament to weather difficult conditions and play a full five-day game.

Through their aggression, Australians destroy themselves. Through their defensiveness, England and India destroy a game. Which would you have?

So, while Australia are lambasted for playing their own way, a feckless younger generation putting entertainment ahead of survival, Cook cruises like a stately zeppelin towards his fifth Test century in India, more than any other visitor. As he did so, televisions were switched off across the subcontinent, and left on only in places where the only alternative was to look at the rain.

Oh dear.  Things must be getting rather desperate Down Under if they’re trying to paint an Australian drubbing at home as preferable to a hard-fought draw by England chasing a win in India.

What next?  I think the problem is merely a lack of good old Aussie ticker.  The solution is to make more frequent references to the great teams of the ’90s and ’00s and perhaps get one or two of them to come along and give the current lot a pep talk about what it means to pull on the Baggy Green.  That’ll keep Kyle Abbot and Vernon Philander out.

A Stronger Man than I

Further to this post about the mental disintegration of Australians, I see fellow blogger Adam has succumbed to the same weakness.  Having posted a review of this article, we learn from the comments that:

I didn’t make it through. I skimmed and cherry-picked and had everything I needed about a quarter of the way in. I have no idea as to the rest of it.

I confess, I couldn’t even make it past the first five paragraphs.  I’d rather open the batting against Dale Steyn than wade through that.  Adam’s scored the equivalent of a half-century under trying conditions.

David Warner: not as tough as he thought he was

I confess, I’ve never liked David Warner.  He’s not a bad batsman, but he’ll never be a great.  He’s just scored 97 against South Africa at the WACA and he had a good knock against them in Adelaide a few years back, but he is useless against sideways movement.

But that’s not why I don’t like him.  It wasn’t even the Joe Root incident that saw him kicked off the 2013 Ashes tour to England, you could pass that off as youthful idiocy and it didn’t seem to bother Root much.  What made me dislike him was his “scared eyes” speech during the first test of the 2013/4 Ashes Series at the ‘Gabba.  What he said may have been true, but his saying it was utterly graceless and classless in a team and series which was in desperately short supply of anything approaching either.  Jonathan Trott had just pulled out of the tour having been mentally shot to pieces by the ferocity of Mitchell Johnson’s pace attack, and he never recovered.  Any opponent with grace or class would have wished him well and not mentioned it again, particularly when at the time of Warner’s speech Australia were in a commanding position in the test.  At the time the Australian team, media, and a good portion of the public thought it was all fair and above board, and the episode demonstrated how these thick-skinned Australians are so much tougher than the cowardly Poms.

Only we were then supposed to buy into the bullshit which occurred not long afterwards when Australia had its “Diana moment” with the death of Philip Hughes.  The nation grieved in harmony with “best mate Davey Warner” as he shed tears over what was a tragic accident.  Crying over the loss of a mate is fine, fella.  But not after you’ve strutted around like the schoolyard bully gobbing off about how tough you are while mocking fellow batsmen whose mind obviously isn’t quite right.

So I don’t like him as a person, despite his efforts to grow up a bit since.  But the bravado of his ‘Gabba speech looks very much like the pride that comes before a fall.  I remarked after that series that Australia is incapable of batting under pressure:

Despite Australia’s success in each match, they found themselves 100/5, 257/5, 143/5, 202/5, and 97/5 in successive first innings.  However, they were fortunate enough to have a remarkably in-form Brad Haddin come to the crease each time, and another middle/late-order batsman – Johnson in Brisbane, Clarke in Adelaide, Smith in Perth and Sydney, and nobody at all in Melbourne – to stick with him to post relatively modest scores (Adelaide excepted) which proved to be far beyond England’s reach.

Despite their success, this team has yet to demonstrate it can follow even a modest first innings total or bat a second innings from behind, and their bowlers have not had to bowl sixth and seventh spells.

And then when they went to South Africa afterwards:

However, crucially they were under no scoreboard pressure at any point, and finally – in the second test at Port Elizabeth – Australia lost the toss, were told to bowl, and subsequently were required to walk out to bat 423 runs behind after bowling 150 overs and watching two South Africans score centuries.  As I expected, Australia lurched to 246 as their top order largely failed – although Warner’s capability surprised me, scoring 70.  Brad Haddin, the batting hero of the Ashes, was bowled for 9.  South Africa piled on another 270 and with an eye on the fifth day weather forecast declared with a lead of 448.  Once again Warner lasted longer than I expected against Steyn with the new ball, although an aggressive 66 was not really what was required under the circumstances.  Rogers, who I always quite liked, went on to score 107 while the rest of the team amassed a whopping 24 runs between the whole lot of them, losing 9 wickets in the final session of the day.  South Africa won by 231 runs.

After our drubbing in 2013/4 I said this:

For Australia, it’s all about whether they can carry this success into the next series against South Africa and beyond.  For that to happen, they need to avoid falling into the same trap that did for England by interpretting resounding victories over weakened and demoralised opposition as evidence of perfection, and dismissing setbacks (i.e. the defeats by Pakistan and South Africa) as mere blips.

Why do I bring all this up now?  Because as I said at the beginning, Australia are playing South Africa at the WACA and bowled out their opponents for 242 before racing to 150 for 0 in reply.  Warner batted well and was on 97 when he threw his wicket away.  But from there Australia collapsed to 244 all out.  And here he is talking to the media again:

David Warner admits that Australia’s batsmen have fallen into a debilitating pattern of middle-order batting collapses that are wasting decent starts, and also says he does not know how the problem will be rectified.

You don’t say?

Having made 97 in an opening stand of 158 with Shaun Marsh, Warner said he was demoralised by watching the loss of all Australia’s 10 wickets for 86, surrendering prime position in the WACA Test to South Africa despite the visiting team’s loss of Dale Steyn to a serious shoulder injury.

Demoralised?  What happened to the legendary Aussie ticker, maaaaate?  Isn’t such mental softness reserved for us Poms?

The passage of play mirrored numerous innings on the recent tour of Sri Lanka despite vastly different conditions, and Warner said he could see the pattern stretching even further back, to the 2015 Ashes tour.

“I feel there has been a trend as well in the last 12 and maybe 18 months that also follows on to when we were in England and we were playing there,” Warner said. “It’s tough to see as an opening batter sometimes when you get off to those starts as a top four and then you sort of fall away that easily.

No, chum.  It goes back a lot further than that.  Had you been paying attention in the 2013/4 Ashes test instead of strutting about in bully-boy mode you’d have seen your top order was bailed out by Brad Haddin and A.N. Other in every match.  For all your disparaging of Trott’s mental strength, where is yours now?  And that of your team mates?

If cliches were runs, Australia – who have allowed South Africa to go from 45 for 2 to 390 for 6 in the second innings by close of Day 3 – would be miles ahead.  Take it away, Davey Boy:

“knuckle down…batting unit…build partnerships…put their hand up…move forward…you have to back yourself as a player…mixed messages…at this level for a reason…gain a bit of momentum…him as an individual.”

Let’s see how he and his pals go in the final innings staring down the barrel of a 400+ run deficit.  With Steyn out injured they might be in with a shot, but if history is any guide they’ll be skittled well short of that.

UPDATE

A decent second innings effort by Australia, underpinned by Khawaja’s 97 and Neville’s 60, but they’ve still lost by 177 runs to a South Africa which was a bowler short through most of the match and also missing Morne Morkel.  And this is at home, too.  The most worrying thing for Australia will be that SA managed to declare their second innings on 540 for 8 even though all their bowlers are fit.  For several years now Australia have relied on very good bowling to make up for poor batting.

Poppies

Apparently FIFA is telling the English and Scottish FAs that the two sides cannot wear poppies when they play each other on 11th November.  Both FAs intend to defy the ban and FIFA is warning sanctions will follow.  For me it is a mystery as to why anybody thought to consult with FIFA in the first place: it is usually better to ask for forgiveness than permission or, even better, not even bother doing that.

Personally, I’d rather football and other sports teams didn’t wear the poppy.  I have nothing against people buying and wearing poppies, nor contributing to the Royal British Legion, nor do I think members of the public who wear one are making political statements.  But what I do find a bit annoying is its creeping ubiquity: every newsreader on British television starts wearing one from around 1st November, which is almost certainly something they are told to do.  In fact, pretty much everyone who appears on TV from celebrity chefs to football managers in that period is expected to wear a poppy, and it has got to the point they probably fear they’d be criticised if they don’t.  I’d prefer to see fewer poppies on television and be comforted by the fact that wearing one hasn’t become de facto compulsory, for if that is the case then it will have lost most of its meaning.  Do the English footballers even get a choice?

For example, when you look through the House of Commons you see almost every MP wearing one, even the backbenchers.  Do I believe these self-serving parasites give a stuff about war veterans?  No, I don’t.  For a lot of them wearing a poppy is about virtue-signalling and trying to fit in.

Take a look at what ANZAC day in Australia has become.  The New Australian (now retired) used to write about this, and somebody popped up in the comments to explain that it was slowly losing its significance as the original veterans died off, but then a politician sometime in the 1990s saw an opportunity to bash the patriotic drum by reviving it.  TNA’s personal take on it, and mine is the same, is that as non-Australians it is not really our place to disparage something that obviously means a lot to Aussies and Kiwis…but is turning up to a cenotaph at 7am in rugby kit and getting absolutely shitfaced really the best way to remember the dead?  Woe betide anyone in Australia who asks this question out loud, or frowns upon the crass commercialisation of the whole thing.

In short, I’d rather see the wearing of poppies remain the private decision of individuals rather than be co-opted by politicians, the media, and organisations such as the FA.  Wearing black armbands and the minute’s silence have lost all their former meaning now they have become official policy and barely a weekend goes by without a team mourning the loss of somebody or other.  I hope the poppy doesn’t go the same way.

Who let her speak?

You see this so often on these sort of political talk shows.  They fill the panel with people who broadly share the same views and throw each other soft, leading questions which allow each person to make some oh-so pithy remark about a right-wing politician generating raucous laughter from the audience.

But very occasionally it all goes wrong and somebody who is not on-message slips through the net and is invited to speak, and by the time the rest realise a mistake has been made it’s too late.

This is worth watching.  Look at the faces.  They look as though this is the first contrary opinion they’ve heard in their lives.

 

(Via Adam in the comments.)

The Decline of Australian Sport

Michael Jennings isn’t going to like me pointing this out, but Australian sport appears to be going through a rough patch at the moment.

In 2012 Australia was so confident of whipping Britain in the London Olympics that their sports minister made a wager with ours, which she went on to lose.  But the decline had started earlier, as the following tables show:

Athens 2004

 Overall PositionGoldSilverBronzeTotal
Australia4th17161750
Great Britain10th991230

Beijing 2008

 Overall PositionGoldSilverBronzeTotal
Australia6th14151746
Great Britain4th19131547

London 2012

 Overall PositionGoldSilverBronzeTotal
Australia8th8151235
Great Britain3rd29171965

Rio de Janeiro 2016

 Overall PositionGoldSilverBronzeTotal
Australia10th8111029
Great Britain2nd27231767

As Britain’s success grew, Australia disappeared into the ranks of the also-rans.  My guess would be that Australia pioneered a lot of professional sporting techniques – particularly in swimming where they used to do extremely well – and had world-class coaches who were ahead of their time, plus generous funding for their Olympic sports programmes.  Now that other countries have matched or exceeded the funding and adopted professional training regimes, as well as hire a lot of Australian swimming coaches, the Australians don’t have the edge and their small population isn’t producing enough talent to dominate like they used to.

Australia is also going through a low point in Rugby Union, which I don’t think is a mere blip.  Following a strong showing in the 2015 RWC (where they avoided South Africa and rarely worried the Kiwis in the final), their Super XV franchises did spectacularly badly the following season:

Were it not for the wildcard system that ensures the playoffs are not dominated by the Kiwis, the Brumbies – Australia’s best side – would have finished joint 7th on points and miles adrift of 5 of the 6 New Zealand sides.  The Brumbies got dumped out of the knockout stages in the first round, and that was the Australian effort over for 2016.

But what made it far worse was that halfway through the season England toured Australia for a 3-test series and went back home having whitewashed their hosts.  For Australia to be beaten 3-0 by a Northern Hemisphere touring side was unprecedented, and it was especially perplexing because Australia had comprehensively beaten an England team made up of much the same players on their home ground in the Rugby World Cup the previous year.  Only in the intervening period the English Rugby Union had snaffled the wily Australian coach Eddie Jones who had made few personnel changes but utterly altered the mindset and gameplay to a degree Australia did not appreciate until it was too late.  And it that weren’t bad enough, the next time the Australian national team pulled on their jerseys they received a 42-8 thrashing on their home turf at the hands of an All Black side which seems to only get better with each passing year.

Traditionally Australia can turn to cricket to feel good about themselves sports-wise, but unfortunately they’ve just been beaten 3-0 in a test series in Sri Lanka: up until this tour, Sri Lanka had managed to beat Australia just once in test matches, back in 1999.  What must worry the Australian selectors and fans is not that this record has been broken, but that the players looked utterly clueless against a Sri Lankan side who had been all but written off with the recent retirement of three of their greatest ever players.  Today the news is that Australia’s captain Steven Smith is going home to “rest” with the ODI series sitting at 1-1 with 3 more to play, which is drawing a lot of criticism from fans who have been brought up on stories of Border, Taylor, and Waugh eating barbed wire for breakfast.  There is much discussion in Australian cricket regarding their apparent practice of using fast and bouncy drop-in pitches at home to guarantee success against visiting sides, which is leaving them hopelessly unprepared for swinging conditions in England or the spin of the sub-continent.  By contrast, England’s humiliating exit from the 2015 ICC World Cup resulted in the wholesale firing of the coaching staff and the appointment of the experienced and canny Trevor Bayliss – an Australian – who immediately turned the team’s fortunes around by winning the ODI series against the more fancied New Zealand.

I daresay Australian sport will pull itself out of this hole and start winning things again, but they might find they are going to have to work a lot harder than previously to do so: the rest of the world, particularly England/Great Britain, has caught up by adopting their methods and hiring their coaches.

The Bali Nine Seven

This post is an expansion of a comment I left over at TNA’s gaff, and is on the subject of the recent execution of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the Bali Nine group who were arrested for smuggling a shitload of heroin out of Bali in 2005.

Firstly, Australia as a nation was entitled to, and would have been correct IMO, to oppose the execution of these two men on grounds of principle.  Such a principle could have been that the death penalty should never apply in any case for a variety of reasons, for example:

1) the fallibility of any justice system;

2) the irreversibility of the sentence in the event the conviction was wrong;

3) the propensity of individuals working within justice systems worldwide to fuck over defendants in order to further their own careers (examples here).

I would have agreed with Australia formally making Indonesia aware of their opposition to the death penalty in principle, for the above reasons, before the Bali Nine were even arrested.  I would have considered it perfectly reasonable for Australia to reiterate its opposition in this manner before, during, and after the sentencing.  And I would have been quite okay with Australia repeating this point right up the execution and to continue to do so afterwards.  Raising such objections would have been entirely possible while still recognising Indonesia’s right to manage their own affairs.  Had they done so, there is a chance the Indonesians might have listened.

Instead, we got an attempt by the Australian and international media – seemingly supported by Australia’s politicians and intellectual elite – to downplay the fact that the two condemned men were unrepentant criminals who had been tried and convicted of a serious crime which would result in the harshest of sentences in any jurisdiction you care to mention.  Rarely, if ever, was it noted by those supporting Chan and Sukumaran that:

Four of the seven mules were arrested at Denpasar airport with heroin strapped to their bodies, while Sukumaran and three others were detained at a Kuta hotel in possession of heroin. Chan, arrested at the airport, was not carrying drugs.

Convicting them in February 2006, the court said the pair were guilty of “illegally exporting first-class narcotics in an organised way”.

It said Chan and Sukumaran had provided money, airline tickets and hotels to the seven mules.

“There are no mitigating factors. His statements throughout the trial were convoluted and he did not own up to his actions,” Judge Arief Supratman said of Chan. Another judge, Gusti Lanang Dauh, said Sukumaran “showed no remorse”.

These two were not duped into carrying drugs, or desperate men who turned to desperate measures.  The Indonesian court recognised that the other 7 were not as culpable and handed down hefty prison sentences instead of the death penalty.  The court, quite rightly, recognised that these two were the head of an organised criminal enterprise without whom the smuggling would never have taken place.  This distinction was barely mentioned by all those campaigning for clemency, mainly because the main message being peddled by Australian politicians and the media was that actually the two are pretty good eggs after all:

Multiple advocates for the pair said they became very different in jail to the young men sentenced to death by the court.

Chan, 31, ran Bible study classes in Bali’s Kerobokan jail, while Sukumaran, 33, became a keen artist.

The son of restaurant owners, and a former part-time cook, Chan also ran a cooking school in Kerobokan prison.

Sukumaran’s mother told News Limited that her son was also “rehabilitating” and had set up several courses in prison, including those in philosophy and art.

This rubbish is insulting to read, yet it was wheeled out again and again.  Bible classes, learning to paint, and cooking – the three things which were mentioned most often – does not constitute a single shred of evidence that the two were reformed.  I suspect a cursory glance at death row and lifer inmates worldwide would show most are engaged in some sort of artistic or instructional endeavour, mainly to stave off boredom.  And any regret they may have is an utter irrelevance: few criminals do not have regrets when receiving a harsh sentence, particularly those on death row for drug smuggling.  What might have convinced the Indonesians that the two had reformed was an admission of their guilt, a full and detailed description as to the extent of their operation and methods employed, and a request that their supporters in Australia desist from insulting the Indonesians any further by refusing to respect the court which convicted them.

Because if I was an Indonesian, hell I’d have been spitting feathers.  By all means, make the principled stand I described earlier but whipping up a media frenzy which overlooks the pair’s incontrovertible guilt and their leadership role, complete with accusations of corruption, threats of boycotts, withdrawal of ambassadors, and the casual dismissal of the sovereign right of Indonesia to try and sentence criminals apprehended on their own turf in accordance with their own laws.  There were times when the Australians might as well have said “Listen brown folk, we know you’re all corrupt and we are your superior neighbours, so let our citizens go free and we’ll allow you to sit with us at the next regional summit.”  Would Australia have dared to behave like this had the two ended up on death row in California?  Would they hell.  Would Australia have been happy about the Indonesian government protesting an Australian court ruling in such a manner?  No they would not.

Whatever chance the condemned men had of being spared before they were shot on 29th April, this was surely extinguished by the frankly disgraceful behaviour of Australia’s politicians and media.  No doubt the Indonesians will be blamed for years for the death of a “young, shy Australian man” and his mate who is “funny, articulate… charismatic and has a very caring personality”.  But Australia ought to shoulder the blame for ensuring their sentence would be carried out by insulting the Indonesians to such an extent that they had little choice but to do otherwise.

They were a nasty pair of criminals who chose to break the laws of another country and persuade others to do the same.  The Indonesians should not have sentenced them to death or carried out the executions, but even after doing so they come away from this sordid affair looking better than the Australians.  For the latter, having not actually shot anybody, that’s quite some achievement.

Tickled Pink

When I read stories like this, I can’t help but get the impression that Australia is going to disappear up its own arse before too long:

The pink jersey worn by Australian rugby league referees is being scrapped as there is a feeling among officials that it undermines their authority.

So far, so meh.

But the move has come in for criticism for alienating certain groups.

Dr Tom Heenan, of the National Centre for Australian Studies, said: “I don’t think this move away from pink really supports social inclusion.”

Heenan told the BBC World Service that the change risks alienating the gay community and breast cancer awareness groups.

Leave aside for a moment the laughable idea that Australia is a tough, frontier nation and the even more laughable fact that certain of its menfolk go on holiday in Japan, aged 40, wearing a t-shirt saying “Harden the f*ck up!” on the front.

Really, people are going to become alienated by rugby league referees changing their shirt colour?  What a load of bollocks!  But it’s yet another example of the most patronising language deployed against any given group of people coming from those who profess to speak on their behalf.

I assume there are a lot of gays in Australia who like watching rugby league, and I doubt there is a single one who genuinely gives a shit that the referees are not going to wear pink any more.  Probably because, unlike the crude stereotype Dr Heenan is peddling, most gay men don’t go all giddy over the colour pink any more than they have limp wrists and wear bottomless chaps.

Then again, Dr Heenan is an academic.  Here’s what his profile at Monash University’s website says:

Tom believes that learning should be informative.

Just think: that is only the second most stupid Tom Heenan line I have posted today.

He likes nothing more than taking students on the road. His students sample life in Outback New South Wales. He introduces them to the mining community around Broken Hill, and the endless expanses of Eldee Station and the Mundi Mundi Plain.

They ride camels, visit the ghost town of Silverton and meet the indigenous custodians at Lake Mungo National Park. Students explore this and other Australian places and issues as part of Tom’s Australian Idols: Exploring Contemporary Australia unit.

I have no idea what Dr Heenan teaches, but his students would be forgiven for thinking they’d joined a rambler’s association by mistake.  I wonder what they get charged for this?

Should have seen it coming…

When he’s not abusing Sydney’s nouvelles riches ladies of leisure and snapping photos of Sydney’s sartorial disasters, The New Australian is fond of pointing out two things:

1. Like Brits, Australians have bought into the idea that property is a guaranteed, one-way bet to wealth; and

2. Australia has not experienced a recession in the last two generations, and is therefore going to get a colossal shock when the reality of the current downturn starts to bite.

In support of these positions is a telling article from the BBC:

After 23 years of growth, including one of the biggest mining booms in the nation’s history, tumbling iron ore and coal prices have put a brake on Australia’s economy – and mining towns are paying the price.

Peter Windle is a casualty of the mining slowdown. The New South Wales mining employee has lost a well-paid job, a company car and an annual bonus that in some years was as high as A$60,000 ($48,800; £31,300).

A termination package from the mining company he used to work for has helped soften the blow. But Mr Windle still had to sell his investment property to keep his head above water.

It’s not difficult to see what’s happened here.  Mr Windle failed to recognise that the recent period of high salaries and plenty of work was an anomaly and would not last forever, and so leveraged himself to the hilt buying a property which, in ordinary times, he couldn’t afford.  You can, well, put your house on the “investment property” that he bought was wildly overpriced and unlikely to break even unless the resource boom continued for another decade.  A quote from the article hints at this:

“It’s the worst I’ve seen it in 28 years in the mining industry,” says Mr Windle. “Everyone is getting out. Three hundred houses are for sale in my town, three in my street, and rental prices have collapsed on older weatherboard houses from A$1,000 a week to A$200,” he says.

Ah.  So what’s the betting Mr Windle has bought an “older weatherboard house” for a staggering sum of money and was relying on A$1,000 per week in rent for the next 10 years in order to pay if off?

If he’s been 28 years in the mining industry, he should have known better.  I am incredibly fortunate to have hit mid-career in the oil and gas industry in a period of unprecedented oil prices and salaries.  Several of the industry’s old hands have told me of the lean periods in the 1990s when there was no work, and one of them told me he worked a job for a year which paid less than he was spending: but at least it slowed the debt accumulation.  I remember in Sakhalin some of these same old hands telling us young pups that we should count our lucky stars and invest the money wisely, and know that this might not continue forever.  Few of my generation (and younger) missed this lesson.

Most of us knew that the good times would come to an end, which they did in 2008-9 but thankfully picked up again fairly quickly.  Everyone used the cash to buy property, which makes a sound investment if geographically diverse, a future permanent home, and/or is part of a portfolio of other investments.  But other than perhaps a few weeks after the initial purchase, few were daft enough to mortgage themselves to the point they’d be forced to sell if the prevailing boom came to an end.  For a short time I was a day-rate contractor, and the lesson dinned into me then was always have 6-12 months of salary stashed away in cash.  So if you lose your job, you have a cushion.  It’s a habit I still haven’t gotten out of even as a staff employee, keeping at least one, preferably two, year’s mortgage payments and living expenses in cash should the worst happen.

Obviously this isn’t feasible for most people working PAYE in civilisation in normal jobs, but for those of us who rode the oil and gas wave over the last 5 years or so, we were making hay while the sun shone.  I considered myself (and still do) extraordinarily lucky and privileged to have been able to benefit from it, but not a day goes by without having an eye on the oil price and the appreciation that in 3 months time I could be out of a job with a mortgage to pay, a wife to feed, and no home back in the UK.  I am grateful to those old hands I met in Sakhalin and Nigeria who told me not to squander the money made in the good times and be very aware that someday it will end: I learned to treat it as a bonus, not business as usual.

It appears there were not so many wise heads in the Australian mining sector:

It is poor consolation for Mr Windle, who is now contemplating looking for a job in another state.

“I’m 54 now, and I’ve had a hip replacement. I might get a job at an outback mine in the far north of Queensland but I’d hate to spend another year working away from home. And suppose they lay off workers too?” he asks.

It’s a shame for Mr Windle and others like him, but he should have factored all of this in when he bought his “investment property” and worked out his monthly cashflow.  Tough times, and it’s going to get worse.