Crèche Australia

For a country that prides itself on being rough and ready, and defines itself in contrast to the prim and proper UK, visitors to Australia might find themselves surprised by the hand-wringing and nannying that goes on here.

You cannot set foot in a bar without being assaulted by enormous, conspicuous posters warning you not to drink too much, not to try to purchase alcohol if you are already drunk, and the seriousness with which any attempt to get hammered is taken by the Victorian government.  As far as its stance on alcohol consumption goes, it is an authority which is aptly named.

One of the first things I noticed in Melbourne’s bars was the presence of jugs of tepid water and empty glasses plonked at random places.  I can only assume this is done in compliance with some law enacted to address worries that somebody who wants alcohol might find himself more in need of water, which is presumably hard to come by in Melbourne.

If you thought the bullying, cajoling, nanny-state was bad in the UK – and it is – consider that in Australia wearing a helmet while cycling is compulsory.  This is a country which sends its males of fighting age overseas to stand in bars telling everyone how tough they are back home.

This might be a bit unfair to the average Australian.  If Australia is anything like the UK, the political class is made up of a minority of wankers who are barely representative of any demographic other than their counterparts in other countries, from whom they are virtually indistinguishable.  And voting these wankers in are people who, lacking any discernible talent or skill, like nothing more than to feel the respect and recognition that escaped them in the playground by telling other people what they can and can’t do.  In this regard, Australia has imported the very worst aspect of the UK: the whining jobsworth.

I saw a depressing example of this when I flew back into Melbourne two days ago.  A middle-aged woman, whose job was unclear but sported the all-important ID badge, was berating a passenger in Tullamarine airport for using his mobile phone in the baggage collection hall.  She referred to signs – which were there, but generally lost among the million others telling people what they should and shouldn’t do – which said mobile phone usage was banned and that to do otherwise attracts a fine of several thousand dollars.  For a laugh, I asked her why.  She said that the baggage hall was a “restricted area”, as if from that statement the underlying reason was self-evident.  A Melbourne tram is a “restricted area” too, as is the entrance lobby to my apartment building.  Given neither Amsterdam Schiphol or Paris Charles de Gaulle sees the reason to impose such restrictions, it is hard to determine what threats the management of Melbourne Tullamarine think they’re neutralising by banning people from phoning their friends and family in the half-hour they are standing waiting for their bags with nothing else to do.

Actually, I do know what they’re neutralising: the nagging self-doubt that beyond the cheap nylon jumper, the hi-viz vest, and the ID badge they are nothing but the school loser who had no friends and craved the day they would be in charge so they could make people sorry.  Because really, that’s what this is all about.  A sad fact about western society – particularly the English-speaking countries – is that a solid minority desire nothing more than to tell other people what to do, getting an almost sexual satisfaction by exerting even minuscule authority over others.  No rational risk analysis would proscribe mobile phone usage in a baggage collection hall, but a gaggle of poorly educated, inadequate losers would drool at the idea.  Which is why I got the utterly nonsensical “restricted area” response from the SS private on duty.

I didn’t reply to her directly, but I did loudly remark that although Australia is a very nice country, I do miss the personal freedoms I enjoyed in Russia and Kuwait.


53 thoughts on “Crèche Australia

  1. Other readers please be aware that the example used in this post is the state of Victoria. Renowned for having little to no cultural connection to Australia, Victoria is notable more for its non-Australian characteristics than for anything else.
    Example: It has no outback regions.
    Historically there has been little migration from Victoria to other parts of Australia, thus the place is mostly unknown to the rest of the nation – we know it exists, sort of like we know that (say) the republic of Congo exists, but it has no relevance to our lives, and no human/social/cultural connection to the nation.

    To isolate this post even more from mainstream Australia, it refers mostly to the city of Melbourne. As Victoria is to Australia, so Melbourne is to Victoria. Totally & completely culturally unrelated.

    When finding examples of pansy-ism in Melbourne, should you extraploate that example accross Australia, you will cause distress to any Australian.

    Victoria is to Australia as Wales is to England. Similar in many respects, politically under the same parliament, but nonetheless a separate people, with (as demonstrated above) VERY separate ways.

  2. Steve at the Pub: that’s a good point! I guess I’ll learn this sort of stuff as I go along.

  3. Actually it’s typical: remember that seat belts became compulsory in Oz long before any other comparable place. It struck us, both in S Australia and in Queensland, how readily the Aussies accept government bullying.

  4. Come to think of it, they accept bullying in set scrums too. Heh, heh.

    P.S. What on earth is a “restricted area”?

  5. Oh, another one: when we lived in S Australia it was illegal to rest your elbow on the open window of your car.

  6. Steve is kidding, it is very typical.

    It’s illegal to change an electrical plug here without a sparky’s qualification. The same legislation may ban changing light bulbs, it’s not been tested by case law.

    Paramatta council recently made it illegal to smoke within 5m of a bus stop. How many ciggies get stubbed out at the start of that exclusion zone as people walk along the pavement do you think? Yeah, exactly.

  7. Actually I’m not kidding about Victoria (Melbourne actually) being totally & completely unlike Australia.

    For stupid regulations Queensland has its fair share. We’ve been subject to some pretty 1st class dickheadsmanship by an infantile (& nanny) state government for quite some time.
    It’ll take our new state govt a fair while to undo it all.

    Though UK does take some beating, I’ll grant that. Australia is trying quite hard to catch up though.

  8. Pingback: Mea non culpa – Australia has changed | The New Australian

  9. I can think of two reasons for banning mobiles in arrival areas. They would be to cut communication links between parties that may be involved in either smuggling contraband or attempting to commit visa irregularities.

  10. That’s a good point. In fact, why only limit the ban to arrival areas, why not the whole country? It would cut communication links between parties that may be involved in criminal enterprises. If it saves just one child…

  11. Not really as that would be a one size fits all approach. The risk analysis would show that the likelihood of a customs or immigration, terrorist event being coordinated between two parties and the associated consequence of a local event would be of a higher risk level in an international gateway node than say the car park of the Innamincka pub.

    All calls are recorded anyway, the problems is that unless you are directly being targeted they may not get to your call until after the event.

  12. And at least the blogs down under don’t require you to enter all of your details each time and two different “prove you are not a monster” control points before you post a comment, just in case that you are one.

  13. Not really as that would be a one size fits all approach.

    As if banning mobile phones in a baggage hall is a carefully targetted and measured approach.

    The risk analysis would show that the likelihood of a customs or immigration, terrorist event being coordinated between two parties and the associated consequence of a local event would be of a higher risk level in an international gateway node than say the car park of the Innamincka pub.

    Maybe, but this is irrelevant. A sensible risk analysis would not return banning mobile phones in a baggage hall as a measure to reduce risk of criminal activities to an acceptable level. Which is probably why very few other airports do it.

  14. Steve, yes to both. I have been there a few times when we used to do contract to Santos in the Cooper Basin. It is also the central geographical point in Australia that is located furthest away from the sea in any direction.

  15. Steve, you try tell that to anyone in the Imaninka Pub and see what happens. Also get a compass and swing and arc and you will see that Eromanaga doesn’t have the honour.

  16. Innamincka certainly doesn’t have the honour either. Use of a compass (or dividers) on a school atlas (or any other map) will reveal that the distance from Innamincka to the nearest coast is twice as far in one direction as the other.
    Somewhere in the western MacDonnells is where my dividers reveal the fartherst distance from the coast.
    Eromanga is merely the town that is furtherest from the coast.

    The Innamincka locals will just have to deal with that. They well know that SW Qld is closer to Adelaide than to Brisbane, this is a clue that the most inland point is NOT is South Australia.

  17. I’m not sure I’ll make the effort to go to Eromanga (or Innamincka) on this basis alone. I think the furthest I’ve ever been from the sea was Irkutsk in Siberia, which is probably as far as it’s possible to get (maybe a bit further south in the Altai region or north-western China).

  18. Eromanga is a much larger town (20 or more ppl) than Innamincka, and has consequently much more services. Your tourist experience in either would be fantastic. Eromanga is a fully fledged town and district. Innamincka is an informal locality. Two *very* different sub-cultures.
    Eromanga is in a much more densely populated area, thus within a radius of a hundred km or so there would likely be enough able bodied males to form a cricket team.

  19. Steve, so its neither and its in the territory, I wont dispute that, but it doesn’t matter where it really is, when you are having a craic in the bar, does it?

    When you are in Innamincka its Innamicka and when you are in Eromanga its Eromanga and back on topic I wouldn’t advocate restricting mobile usage in either of these towns.

  20. Tim, I wouldn’t be too sure that you would never go there. Your an Oil and Gas guy and you are working in Australia. The Cooper Basin is a huge conventional oil and gas production resource and will most likely be the first location that Shale Gas will be commercially exploited in Australia.

  21. Oh and its actually in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, or at least that’s what the locals in the opium den claim.

  22. Ah, I didn’t know this area is around the Cooper Basin. Other than the rough location of the major cities, my Australian geography is a bit sketchy.

    It’s not likely I’ll end up there on this assignment, though. The project I’m on is actually a Nigerian project, but the engineering is being handled by an Australian company (easy to guess who it is, but I’d rather not say on here). Which might make my visa application interesting, because if we get any sh*t from the authorities I’ll be tempted to say “Hmmm, okay, maybe we shouldn’t have awarded this multi-billion dollar contract to an Australian company after all. In fact, it would be a lot better run out of somewhere else.” In this case, the presence of foreigners coming into Melbourne means 100+ highly skilled Australians get employed for a year or so. And it’s no odds to us if the work gets done in KL.

    But I’m not really involved in the Australian oil and gas industry proper.

  23. You wouldn’t believe it, just finsihed talking with my MD today and he wants to set up a base in Innamincka, talk about coincidence!

  24. Bardon and Steve, I’ve not checked but the size of Australia might make drawing straight lines on a Mercator projection too inaccurate to compare the two distances.

    Just sayin’.

  25. Aww Poor Melbourne and Victoria. I look at home with rose tinted glasses, having lived in Ireland for the past 6 years and about to return to Australia (this time Sydney) I can totally understand how you feel about the level of Nannying going on in Australia.

    If you grow up there it can be hard to understand it until you’ve left the country and experienced life outside of it. I find the United States just as bad to be honest.

    Coming to the UK I have to go through 100 checkpoints at Airports in London, my photo is scanned several times, I’m asked questions on where I’m going etc..

    So yes in the Western Culture I think we have a problem with too many rules and it can be a liberating experience to travel to other places. In particular I loved South Africa and Botswana / Zimbabwe because these are places where you can still experience a level of freedom that I guess places like Australia had before the 1980’s.

    The problem is Australian’s will tend to conform to rules and discipline if they think it’s somehow making them safer. There is much fear-mongering induced by the media 1 only has to watch it for several days programs like A Current Afair or Today Tonight etc..

    Thankfully there is some common sense with programs like Chaser’s War on Everything and The Checkout to point out some of the stupidity going on in Australia and also blogs like the (which is how I found this post) that seem to be helping people to wake up just a little bit.

    I just hope when I return home I keep my broader perspective in tact and don’t become just another puppet in Australian society.

    Always challenge authority I say..

  26. I think that the ban on mobile phones in baggage handling areas is actually a matter of federal law. The constitution states that the federal government has jurisdiction over “ports”, and this has been later stretched to include airports, even in situations when you are flying domestically. I suspect the justification of the law is the whole visas and contraband thing mentioned above, but applying it to domestic flights as well is the sort of thing they do.

    A smoking ban in restaurants and pubs was brought in in NSW just before the Olympics in 2000. The argument at the time was something like “If we don’t do this now, all the foreigners who come here for the games will see how backwards we are, so we must do it now”. Thus NSW got one of the first smoking bans in the world. The “We must do this or foreigners will laugh at us” argument – combined with little knowledge of what foreigners do or do not do, but lots of knowledge about what foreign bureaucracies and think tanks and nanny state organisations talk about – is a pretty effective one, and often helps Australia to in fact lead the world. Sometimes the world doesn’t follow, and Australia ends up on its own – the cycle helmet compulsion for instance.

  27. On the other hand, when I fly domestically in Australia with only carry-on luggage, I don’t have to show ID at any point in the process, and I can carry all the liquids I want. So different places are annoying in different way.

  28. “Sailing to Point Nemo and back would be a good challenge.”

    I only realised there as to what Nemo really meant. Looking forward to the forthcoming Ye Olde Blog post of Cap’n Wes and his able bodied copper bottomed missus putting TNA to the lash on this epic voyage.

  29. I don’t think I’ll be taking bottles of whisky on any flight within Australia, not now I’ve seen the price of it. A 1L bottle of Wild Turkey (hardly premium stuff!) is about $50-$60 here, even from Dan Murphy’s online. It was about $15-$20 in Lagos.

    But it’s the price of wine I can’t fathom: Australia wants to promote itself as a main wine producer, then taxes the shit out of its product so it’s cheaper to buy in London than Melbourne. At least the French, for all their faults, make sure you can pick up decent wine for €5 a bottle in a Paris supermarket.

    Interesting what you say about Australia wanting to be first in implementing stupidity. That certainly explains the carbon tax.

  30. Thanks Michael for the update on domestic hand carry of fluids, that means I can now take my large size Brut 33 on board and freshen up just before landing. I honestly didn’t know that you could.

  31. As for the price of booze I think they should establish one of those global cost of Big Mac indices for booze. The benchmark will be a 40 oz bottle of 18 yo Glenlivet and I can tell you now that nothing will beat the asking price at Abu Dhabi duty free.

    As for Aussie wine and specifically our Sth Australian Shiraz it cannot ever be judged as overpriced as it has no competition to compare with.

  32. I don’t know about the top wines – I’m the completely wrong person to be judging those – but I know that a bottle of $20 wine I pull from a shelf in Australia is hit-and-miss (ranging from okay to tasting like boiled gooseberries) whereas in France a 5-8 Euro bottle is much more often hit than miss. Also, in France you can usually find somebody to recommend a decent wine; try asking an Aussie waiter to do the same.

    I’d be more convinced of the merits of French vs Australian wine if the French didn’t insist theirs was by far the best whilst the Australians do exactly the same about theirs. It’s a bit like listening to a Brit going on about how great British television is. Me, I prefer the French wine in terms of taste and cost, but I’m no connoisseur of anything, let alone wine.

  33. Yes well your comment on Wild Turkey was quite indicative of your mastery in wine tasting, even though its American Whiskey I didn’t want to say at the time but have now since you’ve broached it.

    So I am impartial and I have taken the Pepsi challenge and I undertook this in a wine tasting parlour in Place Vendome, Paris, late last year. So I tasted and paid for the worlds best reds including French and hands down it was the Sth Australian Shiraz that won the contest handsomely. But yes French table service is absolutely far superior

  34. Yeah, the Wild Turkey thing…an Australian introduced me to it, and it quickly became my favourite drink (mixed with Coke). Gentleman Jack Daniel’s comes close, but is twice the price. I was pretty pleased to come to Oz and find Wild Turkey available everywhere and probably the cheapest drink in any bar. I’ve been given 25 year old single malt Scotch whiskys, and they’ve been utterly wasted on me. “You can taste the peat”, they say. My point exactly. I learned to drink in Russia, one bucket of vodka at a time, and I don’t pretend I’m sophisticated in this area.

    As for the wine, I wouldn’t know a red from a jug of Vimto. I prefer whites.

  35. Yes I used to drink Wild Turkey she might be a rough old bird but she goes down real smooth. I used to have a penchant for those four pack pre-mixed Turkey & Coke bottles when I had a sweet tooth. A four pack of them drunk quickly is enjoyable. You do though need to try the wines whilst you are here and have a serious guided taste of some reds, you never know you might like them, the Shiraz is world renowned and arguably the best in its class.

    The other thing that is mandatory for your cultural awareness induction is Rum, Bundaberg Rum, I used to live on that in my younger days. It’s made from Queensland Sugar Cane. On the subject of Queensland I take it that you know that the final of the State of Origin Rugby League series kicks off shortly. It should be a good game and will once again confirm QLD dominance over the cockroaches (thats what people form NSW are called). The cockroaches haven’t won in living memory and they hate it, they also hate it that QLD dominates in most sporting contests out here, sore losers that they are. I just knocked the top of a Penfold Bin 28 2004 Shiraz, quite nice so it should be a good beat up tonight.

  36. My parents live on the Gold Coast. My sister lives near Sydney. My sister occasionally enjoys a glass of Scotch. Whenever I visit Australia, I usually fly into Brisbane to see my parents and then fly down to Sydney to see my sister. By long standing custom, I use my duty-free allowance (in Australia, bizarrely, 2.25 litres of any alcoholic drink) to buy her Scotch. Being able to buy it on the international leg when I arrive and then carry it in my hand luggage on the domestic leg is quite helpful. I have also been known to carry perfume for her.

  37. As for wine, it is taxed peculiarly in Australia. Other alcoholic beverages are taxed the same way they are in Britain – there is an excise duty on the amount of alcohol, and then there is also VAT (called GST in Australia) – ie a tax on the monetary value of the drink – on top of that.

    Australia’s winemakers did not want to be taxed this way, and instead lobbied the government for a tax solely on value. The government agreed, and for wine there is no excise duty and a GST rate of 39% rather than the 10% GST rate that applies to most other things. (Actually, there is a GST of 10% and a Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) of 29%. Because the government has promised there will only be a single rate of GST, they had to call it something else). This means that cheap wine is taxed lower than would be the case if they used the excise duty + GST system that is used for other drinks, but decent wine is taxed more highly than would be the case. This does mean that cheap wine is the alcoholic’s drink of choice in Australia, but makes wine more expensive for someone who wants to drink something decent. Lord only knows why the wine industry asked for this.

    More than this, though, I think that Australian wine is another thing that has been made woefully uncompetitive by the high dollar that has come from the resources boom, really.

  38. Very interesting Michel. Do you know if Cask Wine ie sold in foil bladders and boxed, originated in Australia?

    That used to be real cheap I seem to recall.

  39. Tim, excuse me if someone has already commented along these lines, 45 comments was too much to go through.

    I’m not going to argue about the normal alleged nanny state that rears its head more times than I can count, I agree (need for) with a lot of it, but some of what you mentioned is altogether a different issue, I believe. This is the bullshit security issues that you pointed to, not a nanny state issue!

    I spent 2 yrs in the M.E. with lots of travel, then spent 5 yrs in HK, same there as well. Through the US and also the EU. Not sure of exact mth/yr, but the change would have been around 2005. I found it easier going through customs (arr/exit) elswhere than coming back here. Australia’s politicians and media have this need for international relevance, we must have an impact on the international stage, we must punch above our weight, we are important god dammit! Therefore we have the present security “precautions,” meaning we are important, so therefore a target like the US/EU etc. The hoohaa at our airports was greater than any including the US until they started body scanning. The restrictions were greater on flts here than elsewhere, media and pollies can’t admit the fact that we are a backwater, you hardly hear a mention of Australia in international media, that we are a pimple on the backside of an elephant. It’s a need to be believe we are relevant and it pisses me off mightily!

  40. Nice one Michael, another of our unsung achievements that nearly slipped by the observers. I used to share a house with a Taffy lad and he loved the “Goonie”, I used to partake in a chilled rose but haven’t now for some years.

  41. dh, I was disappointed that there was some element of cheer in Oz about the latest hatchling addition to the parasitical royal family, that irks me about Aussies.

    I can understand that the majority of dumb fuck British subjects might turn up and wave plastic flags at their murderous rulers, as that is what empire means to them, but I cant fathom why we do similar.

  42. @Bardon,

    It’s not just the Australians, it’s the whole world. I was somewhat surprised when Will married Kate to find the French taking a keen interest, more so than my British colleagues. The thing which confounds those who oppose the British monarchy more than anything else is their undeniable popularity at home and abroad.

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