Poverty as described by Australian students

This article on the appalling poverty suffered by Australian students found its way into my Twitter timeline:

Molly Willmott, 19, has been going to job interviews fruitlessly for a year and a half now.

Retail. Hospitality. Spends her time trawling employment websites. She went for one job as a telemarketer. Another as a warehouse assistant.

She’s in Melbourne. Most of these jobs are held by people whose names are hard to pronounce, brought in under policies favoured by Australian progressives.

“It’s rough,” says the politics and sociology major at the University of Melbourne.

Progressives like those studying politics and sociology, for example. But at least, in trawling employment websites for menial jobs, Molly is getting valuable experience on what she’ll be doing once she graduates.

“There’s that stereotype of a student surviving on two-minute noodles and it’s very true. I know a lot of people who’ve had to sacrifice food to be able to pay rent and bills. It’s more common than you think.

Property prices and rents in Melbourne are absolutely extortionate, mainly thanks to government policies favoured by the middle classes whose sons and daughters go to university.

Willmott, who lives with her mother and two siblings in a rented house in Melbourne’s south-east, acknowledges she is one of the lucky ones.

“I am in a very privileged position to be able to go home and have my family there just in case. I don’t like asking them for money but if push came to shove I can do that.”

The UK is somewhat unusual in that it is normal for people to go to another city to study; in a lot of countries people simply go to the university in their town. Because of this, there is usually plenty of cheap(ish) student accommodation in British university towns. I don’t know how things work in Australia, but it seems to me there is a scarcity of student accommodation in Melbourne.

But the luxury of living at home in the suburbs means it’s more than a three-hour round trip to trek to campus in inner-city Parkville, via three different modes of public transport.

“I take bus, train, tram and something’s always late. Travel alone takes a third of what money I have. It just drains away throughout the week.”

Rents are cheaper the further you go from a city centre, but you spend more on transport. This is not a trade-off unique to students.

She’s looking to move out within the next six months, partly because jobs have proven hard to come by where she lives, but she’s not sure how she’ll afford to move.

Jobs are hard to come by in a city where the minimum wage is around $15 per hour for a 19 year old part-timer with no experience. I can’t think why.

Her fortnightly budget has a lot of holes. There’s nothing allocated for clothing, and Centrelink loans for textbooks have been used to buy warm clothes for winter.

“Centrelink has an optional $1,300 loan to buy textbooks every semester. I’ve used that to buy clothes so I can be warm through winter and given rest to my mum. There’ve been times I haven’t been able to buy textbooks and readers.

Hang on. I’ve lived through a Melbourne winter and it’s not that bad. And she’s from Melbourne: it’s not like she’s moved down from Brisbane and had to buy a raincoat for the first time in her life. What was she wearing before she went to university? Do you really need to spend $1,300 on winter clothes in your hometown?

I’ve got so much anger about the treatment of students by the Government at the moment. The welfare system is incredibly underfunded and understaffed. When I got my Youth Allowance I needed to get it urgently. I needed to start uni and buy textbooks and it took four months for that to go through.

A 19 year old is living in one of the world’s most expensive cities and having to borrow money to buy politics and sociology textbooks. Somebody is being fleeced here all right, but unless she’s angry at the government over job-destroying labour laws, insane housing policies, and unnecessary credentialism I think she might have picked the wrong target. Go and ask your tutors why, in the age of electronic publishing and the internet, you need to spend a grand on politics textbooks.

The Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, says waiting times will be cut by the 250 additional Centrelink call centre staff announced in the federal budget. He says massive investment in technology has halved wait times for Youth Allowance and Abstudy claims.

Government creates an unsatisfactory solution to address a problem largely of said government’s own making; affected persons nevertheless demand more government.

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham, said his message to students was clear: “Taxpayers, including those who have never been to university, will continue to pay the majority of your fees for going to university.”

“And taxpayers will pay all of the cost of your student loan up front and not expect you to repay it until you’re actually firmly in the workforce, on track hopefully in your career. If we’re to preserve all of those opportunities for the future we need to ensure the higher education system is financially sustainable.”

Blimey! I didn’t expect that: well said, sir!

Three or four hours’ work a week at the local McDonald’s doesn’t help much.

“It really is borderline impossible to find a decent job. Most places want younger people. McDonald’s — even cafes and stuff — they want to pay junior wages. Or they hire lots of people but then they only give you one shift a week.

Minimum wage laws allow firms to pay 19 year olds less than 21 year olds, thus pricing 21 year olds out of the market. If only there were a branch of academia that could explain all this.

Or they hire lots of people but then they only give you one shift a week.

“It’s that whole underemployment figure. If you earn under a certain amount they don’t have to put in for your super.”

Employers look at the total cost of employing somebody and set shift patterns accordingly? Whoever would have thought?

Colee once had savings from a $9-an-hour traineeship at her local council during a gap year, but that’s gone.

She had a gap year? Why didn’t she get a full-time job?

Right now there is $23 in the bank. Her pay won’t deposit for another couple of days. Rent is due in three.

Here is a picture of her stood in her kitchen. Tell me, does this look like a student hovel to you?

Okay, I’ll not pretend I didn’t live in a very nice flat when I was a student, thanks to a generous father (cheers Dad!) and a flatmate who came from money. But that kitchen above is bigger and smarter than any I’ve seen in Paris and looks as though it belongs to a detached 2 or 3 bedroom house. There looks to be a stainless steel dishwasher in there, FFS! My guess is the “student” accommodation in Australian cities has been snapped up by people from China and the Indian sub-continent who are working full-time, and Australian students don’t even know such lodgings exist. I’m thinking back to the student kitchens I saw at university, and they didn’t look much like the one above. There are no slug trails across the surfaces, to start with.

There is no allowance in Colee’s budget for social activities.

“If I want to go to the pub, I’ll buy a pint of cider which is $9 and drink that all night.

So there’s no money for social activities except for drinking cider at $9 per pint. Back in 1996 I used to buy beer for a quid a pint; I know that was a long time ago and it was in Manchester, but where are all the cheapo student bars in Australia? Or has the nanny state banned them?

“It’s meant to be the best time of your life. You’re constantly told you should go to university while you’re young. You’re told at school it’s everything, that you can do this if you study hard. Then you get there and realise you have to basically buy your way into university because you can’t afford to live without help.

“It’s really hard to struggle in this sort of way and then be told by the Government that I chose this because I wanted to get an education.”

An education in International Studies.

[Welfare advisor Stuart Martin] says government policy on the issue was too often “hollow rhetoric from politicians who are not held accountable for their statements”.

“We have far too many people in Parliament who have sucked for free at the teat of the state and still trot out this mantra about self reliance.

Quite. When do the hangings take place, and do I bring my own knitting or will it be handed out free?

“Things are even harder if you happen to come from a disadvantaged background or have other struggles in your life.

“If you have a mental health condition or family obligations that make it difficult to keep a part-time job, then your grip on study is extremely shaky.

If you have mental health problems that prevent you holding down a part-time job, should you really be going to university?

“Education is seen as the thing that breaks the poverty barrier,” says the 21-year-old, who is studying history and sociology at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus.

Another useful subject.

“You have parents making sacrifices to give their children an education, only for students to find once they enter the system it’s just gradual entrenchment of poverty.”

One would have thought there would be a lot more attention paid to what was being studied under such circumstances, but apparently not.

He makes sure to shop at a low budget supermarket, spending $10–20 once or twice a week.

Surplice is lucky enough to have a car. A second-hand Mazda he bought from his aunt. “It gets me from point A to B,” he says. “It’s got fuel in the tank.”

A poverty-stricken student with a car.

However, he’s sometimes had to go without insurance or rely on the charity of family to pay his registration.

Oh marvellous! So if he maims somebody or deprives them of their only vehicle when he’s driving about uninsured, that’s their tough shit!

“It’s everyday student culture for people to be saying, you know, ‘I’m so broke this week’. You’ll hear it from 10 different people in one walk through the student union.”

Have any of them been t-boned by an uninsured driver?

There’s a lot of time spent in his bedroom at home, or between different volunteer positions on and off campus. Active in the labour and union movements, every Monday is set aside for campaigning. There are also volunteer shifts as a tour guide at a Buddhist temple. The odd bit of cash-in-hand work.

A labour and union activist who engages in cash-in-hand work to supplement his own income. Principled.

“You have to put extra effort into extracurricular stuff to get noticed by employers. I’m the president of two university clubs, which means my ability to look for work is restricted to non-existent.”

Try studying a proper subject. And note there is enough time to be a labour and union activist, but not enough time to look for a job.

It’s not just the financial cost, Surplice says, but the psychological effect.

“I cannot envision my future. Don’t get me wrong — I’d like to one day be settled down in a house with a partner, but the actual practicality of even a simple existence like that? I have nothing but anxiety.”

I once worked with a guy who was sent to fight in Vietnam when he was 18. A lot of his friends didn’t come back. This chap is 21.

National Union of Students president Sophie Johnston says it’s time to “acknowledge the failures from successive governments that have left today’s young people far worse off than generations before us”.

“This generation will be the first priced out of the housing market, our penalty rates are being cut, underemployment is rife and we’ve seen drastically low wage growth for decades.

She is complaining that penalty rates – legally mandated pay levels – are being cut while complaining of unemployment in the same sentence. Hurray for university education!

“Today’s young people are not asking for a free ride, we are merely asking to be afforded the same opportunities as generations before us.”

Ask Grandad which university he went to, what his weekly wage was, and what his house was like.

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I’d rather watch Neighbours

The cringeworthiness of this recruitment video pushed out by the Australian Department of Finance is surpassed only by the hilarity of this blog post ripping it apart. My favourite line:

“I wouldn’t miss it. The last one was great,” she informs him with a level of sincerity usually reserved for hostage videos.

Whoever signed off on the original video needs to be taken outside and shot.

(H/T Adam)

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How Not To Teach Infants

The following was sent to me by a pal, who might be vying for the post of Secondary Research Assistant on this esteemed blog. It is a letter sent out to the parents of children in an infant school in Australia.

Hello Families

As part of our diversity programme at [School Name] we would love to celebrate the up-coming Mardi Gras. This comes at a perfect time following on from this week’s Valentines celebrations where we talked about “who we love”

We are planning to talk about some of the different types of families that people can belong to. Some people might have two Mum’s or just one parent. Others might be fostered or adopted for example.

In the Peeping Possums room, we will touch on this topic by looking at some stories and learning about the meaning behind the rainbow flag that children may be seeing in the community.

In the Jumping Jacks room we will challenge the children to think about some stereotypical gender assumptions such as “boys can’t wear skirts” or “Girls can’t play with cars”

As we know that this can be a sensitive topic for some families so if you do not wish for your child to participate in this topic, we respect it and are happy to cater for your child. However, we as educators believe that it is important for children to simply be exposed to different concepts like this so as they grow and meet other children, they are open-minded to where others may come from.

If you have any questions about this topic please don’t hesitate to talk to our educators.

Happy Mardi Gras

EARLY YEARS LEARNING FRAMEWORK (EXTENDED)
2.2: EYLF – Children respond to diversity with respect

I’m no prude, but what the fuck are these people doing talking about sexuality (of any kind) and gender issues with kids who can’t even read or write yet? They call themselves educators, but this is more like indoctrination.

I don’t have a problem with schools teaching teenagers about homosexuality and all the others in the alphabet soup once they reach the appropriate age to understand it. If I recall correctly, my generation started sex education classes around age 11 when we were just about mature enough to understand what it was all about (or at least, some of the class was). Kids younger than this won’t understand a damned thing about sexual preferences because they will have no concept of what it means: when kids see a naked person they start giggling. When they see a pornographic photo they look puzzled and then lose interest. This is why I think the panic over children watching porn on the internet is overblown (kids would rather play Minecraft) and why sexual crimes against children are so abhorrent: they have no capacity to understand what is being done to them and why.

But ramming gender politics down the throats of infants is fine, apparently. God forbid they should be allowed to be innocent kids and “educators” teach them to read, write, and count, something they seem to fail at miserably in Australia and the rest of the English-speaking world. I note that they give parents the option of removing their kid from these indoctrination sessions, but I wonder if there are any hidden consequences of that? I bet the decision “goes on file” and remains their permanently, to be wheeled out at some star chamber later on in the kid’s school life.

I also speculated to my pal that a good half of these “educators”will be overweight women with not a single chance of having a husband of kids of their own, hence their determination to wreck the lives of others’. My guess was “spot on”.

Parents, over to you.

UPDATE

As JuliaM points out in the comments, prompting me to look more closely, the letter is strewn with grammatical errors. Priorities, eh?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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