For some the chains grow heavier

A memory from 1 July 2000 – the day the GST was introduced in Australia.

I resigned from IBMGS on 30 June 2000 – if I hadn’t, I would have had a fortnightly increase in my pay packet of around $140 – the tax compensation for the introduction of the GST.  That day I wrote a letter to The Age – the first letter I ever wrote to them.  I hadn’t checked the next day and I was upstairs clearing some of my work files as I had been working from home.  The intercom buzzed and I went downstairs to see what my wife Patricia wanted.  She was with one of the local ladies who came in for a couple of hours each day to give me a break.  Patricia at that stage could not hold the paper herself so the helper (angels in my mind) would fold the paper and read out headlines and then the stories she wanted to hear.  The helper had just read out my letter to Patricia and it was the lead letter of the day and The Age titled it “For some of us, the chains grow heavier “.

To this day I can still see the loving smile on Patricia’s face – she was proud of that letter – I hadn’t told her that I was going to write the letter mainly because I doubted it would get published.

This is the letter and as you will no doubt see – nothing has changed

For some of us, the chains grow heavier

I keep hearing how much better off we all will be once the GST is introduced.  Any increases in prices will apparently be more than compensated for by the reduced tax rates.  But what about those people who are not earning any income?

At the age of 59, I have reluctantly given up a well paid job in order to look after my wife who is seriously ill.  It was either that or put her into a nursing home.

The pension that the government pays to carers is ridiculously low and as a result I am now drawing on my superannuation and savings each month.  Even that pension is at risk because the total I have in my superannuation funds is regarded as an asset and currently exceeds the assets limit allowed by the government.

The biggest fear I had to face when deciding to give up work was the fact that I don’t have as much superannuation as I would like.  In ten years I may well have exhausted all my superannuation and be left with only the age pension.

I say I have given up work.  In fact, I am working more hours now than most people do.  The demands on a carer with a seriously disabled partner are high.  I work much, much more than 40 hours a week for nothing except the carer payment and allowance – a total of just under $400 a fortnight.

If my wife didn’t have me to look after her, it would cost the government at least $1400 a fortnight to look after her in a nursing home.

Two-and-a-half months ago, I wrote on this matter to the Prime Minister (John Howard), with copies to the Treasurer, the Opposition Leader, and my own local MP, Alan Griffin.

I received a letter from one of Mr Howard’s staff members saying my GST comments had been referred to the Assistant Treasurer, Rod Kemp.

That is the only response I have had to date, which is disgraceful.

I am fortunate in that I do have some superannuation and a reasonable home to live in.  I am fairly resourceful and still young enough to do certain things.

But there are thousands of carers in the community who are less fortunate than I am, who are struggling to look after their partners, and who will be a lot worse off from tomorrow.  But I don’t think anyone in government in Canberra gives two hoots about them.



There is only one word to describe this photo – arrogance. Four men supposedly on their smart phones and another walking away with his back to the person speaking. Who just happens to be a woman. Is this un-Australian? That’s debatable.


Anyone can be a pollie

If I wanted to be a doctor, I would need very high marks in order to get into University, and then spend several years studying, and still have to pass in order to be qualified.  If I wanted to be a tradesman, I would probably have to do a TAFE course and an apprenticeship to qualify. Many jobs that I applied for during my career as an IT specialist detailed a minimum education level and a resume of relevant experience.

But if I decided today to either stand for my local council, or to become a State or Federal politician, I don’t need any qualifications or experience at all.  The dumbest, most obnoxious and inappropriate person can nominate themselves and if accepted, can become a politician if he or she gets enough votes.  It has happened and will continue to happen.

The sad thing is it is possible for that person to hold the balance of power as we have seen these past few years.  Surely this has to change.


Disasters and Pandemics

There have always been disasters and if one believes in Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, these disasters will continue.  Disasters such as droughts, floods and bushfires, and also viral pandemics, will continue to happen and to increase in severity.

I get sad when I read that some people blame God for these natural disasters.  I am not a religious person but I can’t bring myself to believe that any God would deliberately cause a disaster, especially where lives are taken.

Nearly all of the planets in our solar system were named after Gods from Greek or Roman mythology which is why I have always had a hypothesis that suggests that perhaps a God made the universe and delegated the creation of planet Earth to Mother Nature, sometimes referred to as a Goddess in Greek mythology.

If that were to be the case, then maybe Mother Nature set out to create planet Earth and chose its position in the universe so that it could be close to the sun and the moon, thereby creating daylight and darkness.  She then set about creating a beautiful planet with an atmosphere for creatures to live in and evolve over time.  She created land masses and oceans, land areas that are very cold and others that are very hot.  Everything was created with a balance, a balance that perhaps she hoped would protect her beautiful planet.

But I fear that she probably knew that because of the need to balance everything on the planet, that creatures might pose a problem.  Some creatures would be bold and destructive and others would be timid and complaisant. And as these creatures have evolved into what exists today, our refusal to acknowledge the necessity of balancing our lives has led to the awful disasters that we are seeing all too often today.

I sometimes wonder when it is raining very heavily if it is Mother Nature crying as she looks down on what was once her beautiful planet.  She can’t interfere as it would upset the balance.  Only we can restore the balance.


Contrary to what many of my family and friends think, I do not always vote Labor.

I find it hard to understand and to accept why so many people always vote for the same party, election after election.  I mean if we all did that, then there would never be a change of government and many people wiser than me think that it is in a country’s interest to have a change of government every now and again.  Fortunately there are enough people who are not 100% committed to either of the two main parties – people we refer to as swinging voters.  I am one of those swinging voters and at my near octogenarian status, that’s about all that swings these days.

I started off life on an inauspicious footing being born in a Public Assistance Institution which had previously been a Workhouse.  I have a record of my mother’s admission to the Institution which referred to her as an inmate, not a patient.  From there I was brought up in a part of the town that was commonly referred to as a slum.  All the workers in the street were blue collar workers and lived on very poor wages.  Nobody had a car and very few had a house phone or television.  But mostly they were all very friendly and looked after each other.  I wouldn’t change it if I was given the option to as I learned lessons in the first twelve or so years of my life that I could not learn anywhere else.

Whenever there was an election, virtually every house in the street would have a red Labour sticker on a window.  Labour was the only party that cared for the working class in post war Britain.

In time we were fortunate in that we were moved into a council house in a council housing estate where the mix of people was quite different.  I was very lucky to go to a good school where I discovered what I was good at to shape my career.  At the age of 20, I joined the Intelligence Corps where I became a translator (Chinese and Indonesian).  By this stage, I had progressed from being a Labour fan to being a Conservative believer.  And by the time I came to Australia to live permanently in 1966, I would describe myself as a middle to right wing Liberal believer.  The first election I was able to vote in was in 1968 and I helped to vote Sir John Gorton into power.

I wanted to be successful, to achieve.  At one stage I even considered a career in politics and I am glad that never happened.  I was however fortunate in that my first wife Patricia enjoyed discussing almost any topic other than sport whereas my second wife Margaret loves talking about any form of sport but won’t discuss politics, religion et al.  C’est la vie! Over the years, Patricia and I had countless discussions on all sorts of topics and I can honestly say that we never argued, or at least Patricia didn’t.  I always struggled to win a point in our debates – but she was far more intelligent than I was.  She was a committed Labor supporter although not a party member.  I found it hard to defeat her political reasoning and in time I found myself thinking with a different perspective.  I think that I gradually came to understand that I was not the sort of person who was destined to be a captain of industry or even a politician.  I recall the day I asked her if she would vote for me if stood for Parliament as a Liberal candidate.  Her response was that she would cook my meals, wash my clothes, sleep with me, but she would never vote for me – even if I was the Prime Minister.  Ouch!

I realise now that I was gradually returning to my roots, to where I belonged.  And I started to believe that come election time, I should not be voting for what was the best outcome for me personally, but for what was the best outcome for all Australians.  By the time I lost Patricia to MSA, I was a committed middle of the road socialist and I still am.  But that doesn’t mean I will always vote Labor.  At this stage of my life, it actually doesn’t matter who I vote for because neither party is going to affect me as a ‘not very well off’ self-funded retiree who can’t get the age pension because of a stupid CentreLink ruling.

I was a fan of Malcolm Turnbull.  It seemed to me that a man who had been brought up by a single parent father who wasn’t wealthy, could eventually achieve for Australia what he had achieved for himself.  He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law, before attending Brasenose College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a Bachelor of Civil Law.

He established his own law firm, Turnbull McWilliam and in 1986, he defended Peter Wright,, a former MI5 official who wrote the book Spycatcher, successfully stopping the British government’s attempts to suppress the book’s publication in Australia. The case was widely reported, making Turnbull a public figure in Australia and the UK.

I was prepared to vote for Turnbull in the 2019 Federal Election but couldn’t because he was ruthlessly deposed as the Liberal Party leader by Scott Morrison.  There was no way I was going to vote for Morrison after that. I am still a middle of the road socialist and I think I will be until I reach my use by date.  I do believe that what we need is a strong leader who is middle of the road or near enough who can listen to both sides of the party and manage to make the right decisions.  In my mind, the last Prime Minister who could that was Bob Hawke


A Fortunate Life

If I live to next March, I will be joining the Octogenarian Club.  I was born in 1941 when WW2 was in full swing which means I am one of the Silent Generation.  I missed the Great Depression of the 1930s, the pre-war antics of Adolph Hitler and the start of World War 2.  I have no memories of the bombings, the air raid sirens, the blackouts, the gas masks, the air raid shelters.  My first memory of the War was when I went out of the front door of my Grandmother’s house in England and saw a row of tables down the middle of the road covered in food and drink.  It was VE Day – Victory in Europe.

I won the most important lottery in the world when I was born because I was born Caucasian in a first world developed country.  And as I look back over my life, I think I may just have won another very important lottery.

War time surveys in England showed public opinion wanting wide social reform and the first General Election, after the war was over, saw the voters kick Winston Churchill and his party out of office which was a great surprise to many people.  The introduction of the National Health Service under Clement Atlee, the Labour Prime Minister, promised to give cradle to the grave free hospital and medical care for everyone regardless of income.  While I lived in England, I never had to pay for a visit to the doctor or dentist.  There was no charge when I had my appendix removed in 1951.

I hate to think what might have been had Churchill beaten Attlee in 1945.

I passed the annual Eleven Plus exam and was offered a place at the local grammar school.  There were no school fees and the books were provided.  All we had to pay for were the uniforms.  But even that meant that I almost didn’t go because my step-father said he couldn’t afford to buy the uniforms.  We were very poor.  But my dear grandmother stepped in and bought the school uniforms for me and demanded that I go to the grammar school.

Over the years, the quality of life improved all the time.  Shops became more interesting, coffee shops and cafes grew in number.  Businesses were making good profits.  And the big improver, of course, was technology leading to what we enjoy today.  Travel became more popular and cheaper.  Man walked on the moon. Now they are talking of putting a man (or woman) on Mars.  Social media controls our lives and our mobile phones are more powerful than yesterday’s large computer systems.  For quite a number of years we have mostly enjoyed a much better life than we imagined when we were young children.

But I do believe that we have reached the top of the arc and are now heading downwards.  For many years now, the world has experienced severe bushfires, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, the melting of the ice caps and so on.  And now we have this dreadful pandemic Covid 19.  Everyone is rushing to get a vaccine and they are cutting corners.  Remember Thalidomide?  But even if we do manage to control Covid 19, very few people will accept the fact that they are going to earn a lot less money than they did pre Covid 19.

The world was in a mess long before the Covid-19 virus reared its ugly head.  We were all greedy and demanded more.  Because it was unprecedented, no-one knew how to manage this virus.  It soon became clear, all around the world, that severe measures would be needed to combat Covid-19 and as a result, many businesses were doomed to fail, many employees were going to lose their jobs, and many people were going to die.  Here in Australia, the Federal government has had to introduce several measures in an attempt to help businesses survive and for ordinary Australian employees to put food on the table for their families and to pay mortgages and the necessary utility bills, some of which are quietly increasing.  And as a result, we are incurring a massive debt that we may never be able to repay.

If everyone had been paid a fair wage and if big businesses hadn’t been so greedy, the task facing the Prime Minister would not be so difficult.  But I keep hearing comments like – when life returns to normal.  Life isn’t going to return to normal, and in my mind mustn’t, return to normal.  Just one example:

The average Australian earns about $48, 360 a year before tax. The Prime Minister of Australia gets paid about $550,000 a year. The Premier of Victoria gets paid about $441,500 a year. The average annual wage for a surgeon is about $400,000 a year. Dustin Martin is believed to be earning about $1.25 million a year. Buddy Franklin earns more than $1m a year. Many AFL coaches are paid close to $1m a year. Nick Kyrgios, the bad boy of tennis, earns approximately $4 million a year from his game and endorsements. In 2019 Roger Federer earned US$106 million in pre-tax earnings. As of 2019, world number 1 golfer Justin Thomas was worth more than US$30 million. Tiger Woods career earnings total is around US$1.5 billion. Serena Williams has earned more than US$93 million in prize money. Lionel Messi is reputed to have earned more than US $560 million dollars in his career.  He is averaging about US$35 million a year or $US646,000 a week. The highest paid American basketballer for 2019-2020 was LeBron James at about US$100 million with a net worth of about US$480 million.

Elon Musk’s net worth is US$70.7 billion, Bill Gates’ net worth is US$112.7 billion and Jeff Bezos’ net worth is a staggering US$192 billion and growing by the day.  Even Donald Trump is worth US$2 billion.

The list is endless.

I find it hard to accept that anyone, especially sportspeople, are paid more than the President of the United States, the German Chancellor, the Prime Minister of England, the President of France, the Secretary General of the United Nations.  Again – the list is endless.  And to think that Lionel Messi earns more in a week than all of the above earn in a year.

Those earning these obscene amounts of money are not going to give it up.

And then there is another factor.  All around the world, many countries are experiencing hard right politics in control.  Even here in Australia, the hard right has had too much influence for too long.  The only person who tried to halt that was brutally knifed in the back by our present marketing wonder-man of a Prime Minister, a man who professes a serious belief in God yet he keeps refugees stranded on Manus Island and Nauru for years, including children who only know life in captivity.

For a long time now, the President of the United States of America has been the most powerful person in the world.  One would think that such a person would be a person of high calibre and strong moral values.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Added to that, too many countries now have dictatorial Heads of State.  At the top we have President Xi Jinping who is President for life, a tenure that is totally unacceptable in a democratic world.  And he is hell bent on becoming the most powerful person in the world.  Then we have President Putin – although he isn’t President for life, he isn’t far from it and will probably achieve it.  He also wants to be the most powerful person in the world.  Then there is President Trump who is hoping to be elected for another four years but is also hankering to be President for life.  Surely he is not the most suitable person to be considered as the most powerful person in the world.

Then we have people like Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad, Recep Erdogan, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte and many others who crave power.  A combination of these dictatorial people, unbending right wing politicians in democratic countries and Covid 19 – they won’t care if people die, if disadvantaged people suffer, if the working class gets paid less and less – as long as they are in control, can exert their power and make their fortunes.

Here in Australia we live in a representative democracy.  We elect people to deliberate and decide on legislation.  By doing so, we expect that they will be legislating for the good of the country.  It’s irrelevant as to which party an elected representative belongs – Liberal, Labor or any of the minor parties or independents.  They all have one goal in common – what is best for them in order to get re-elected at the next election.  I am convinced that they all go to night school to learn how to avoid answering direct questions and how to tell lies without being caught out.

To me – living in a so called democracy, we should accept the results of an election and let the government get on with it.  The majority of people have made their decision so we should accept it.  But sadly that is rarely the case.  Even today with this wretched Covid-19, many politicians are playing political games and point scoring and many people on the streets are reluctant to accept many of the decisions that have been taken during this pandemic.

I don’t think we are living in a real democracy.

So what is the other lottery I may have won?  It surely is the fact that as a member of the Silent Generation, I have enjoyed unparalleled quality of life through my almost eighty years and will be bowing out and meeting my Maker at a time when the future is looking grim.


Point Scoring

This week’s article in The Age by Amanda Vanstone is typical of her Liberal point scoring game playing.  It’s easy for her to pontificate from the comfort of her South Australian home and attack a Labor government and the Premier in Victoria.  I wonder what she would have written if we had a Liberal government today led by Michael O’Brien and the situation was the same?  I am, of course, assuming that she did write the article herself rather than has been inferred in the past that some of her articles are written for her.  For political point scoring.  Whatever – I doubt she would have criticised Michael O’Brien.

What amuses me though is I know many people who regard The Age as being too left wing and Labor biased.  The Age allows biased comment every week by Amanda Vanstone but as far as I can see, no former Labor pollie gets the same coverage.  Que?


Returning to Normal?

Many people are eagerly awaiting ‘a return to normal’ after Covid-19 is brought under control.  The trouble is that ‘life as normal’ as we knew it played a huge part in the tragic consequences of the pandemic.  Too many people earning obscene amounts of money while the majority of workers weren’t fairly recompensed, so many people had to have multiple jobs.  Also a reluctance worldwide to seriously accept the consequences of climate change.  This has to change but the high earners are not going to accept it.  Climate change in this country appears not to be a vote winner for our federal politicians and that is another problem.  We are stuck with a system where the vast majority of our politicians are only interested in one thing and that is getting re-elected.  They only have to serve a ridiculously small time in Parliament to get a more than decent pension.  Let’s face it –  Tony Abbott  was thrown out by his own electorate and yet he has a $300,00 a year pension for life plus many other benefits.

We need politicians who will put the people of Australia first even if it means losing their job.  But that means our current government will need to legislate for that and that will never happen.  So we are stuck with a broken and irreparable system of government.