Saturday, October 21, 2006

And now, a note from... the Treasurer.

Notes from an interview by Tony Jones on 'Lateline' on the 23 August 2005;

"...this is a country, which is founded on a democracy. According to our Constitution, we have a secular state. Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you. This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don't feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they'd feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs..."

"...But there are some clerics who have been quoted as saying they recognise two laws. They recognise Australian law and Sharia law. There's only one law in Australia, it's the Australian law. For those coming to Australia, I think we ought to be very clear about that. We expect them to recognise only one law and to observe it.

Now, for those who are born in Australia, I'd make the same point. This is a country which has a Constitution. Under its Constitution, the state is secular. Under its constitution, the law is made by the parliament. Under its Constitution, it's enforced by the judiciary. These are Australian values and they're not going to change and we would expect people, when they come to Australia or if they are born in Australia, to respect those values...."

"...we can't be ambivalent about this point. Australia has one law, Australia has a secular state and anybody who teaches to the contrary doesn't know Australia and anybody who can't accept that, can't accept something that is fundamental to the nature of our society...."

"...where a person has dual citizenship, Tony, it might be possible to ask them to exercise that other citizenship where they could just as easily exercise a citizenship of another country..."
And from what I see and hear the vast majority of Australians (native-born or immigrant) support what the Treasurer has said. (We do see what is happening in europe - particularly France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden).

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Man from Snowy River

Those who think poetry is 'for sissys', may like to reflect on the images this one conjures up when being narrated around campfires and cattle stations in the outback;

The Man From Snowy River

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up -
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand -
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast;
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his quick and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away,
These hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited, sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend -
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.

"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough;
Where a horse's hooves strike firelight from the flintstones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy river riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

So he went: they found the horses by the big mimosa clump,
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."

So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black,
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
NO man can hold them down the other side."

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull -
It well might make the boldest hold their breath;
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat -
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther hill,
And the watchers on the mountain, standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges - but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam;
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted, cowed and beaten; then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reed-beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The Man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

- A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

Friday, October 13, 2006

Climate change, global warming. Time to panic?

Climate change, global warming is a hot topic these days. It seems to be at least an article of faith, a 'cause celebre' for the left side of politics. If you talk to some people, they believe it is the single most important issue in the world today, and failure to act immediately in the way those who believe that to be the case will have dire consequences for the planet, and soon. They speak in terms of coastal cities flooded, mass extinctions, environmental catastrophe.To them the debate is decided, and only the worst of people would dare disagree.

Greenpeace talks in terms of a couple of degrees change, and a possible doomsday scenario. The World Wildlife Fund talks in terms of "a wave of extinctions".

The latest vehicle for debate is Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'. (Al still apparently flies a lot by private plane, and has 3 large houses though).

If you have a look at this article, and this one, then the story is not so cut and dried.

In 'Gorey Truths', 25 inconvenient truths for Al Gore, Iain Murray (NationalReviewOnline 22June06), the following, a selection of 25 points are made in response to Al Gore's book;

1. Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Temperature. The relationship between global temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2), on which the entire scare is founded, is not linear...."

"...3. Glaciers. Glaciers around the world have been receding at around the same pace for over 100 years..."

"...4. The Medieval Warm Period... ... a team of leading paleoclimatologists said, “When matching existing temperature reconstructions…the timeseries display a reasonably coherent picture of major climatic episodes: ‘Medieval Warm Period,’ ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Recent Warming.’”..."

"...20. Sea Level Rise. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not forecast sea-level rises of “18 to 20 feet.” Rather, it says, “We project a sea level rise of 0.09 to 0.88 m for 1990 to 2100, with a central value of 0.48 m..."

Of considerable interest is the way the debate is conducted. This article quotes Margo Kingston as saying on WebDiary; "...David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial. Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence - it is a crime against humanity after all....". As the article (' Global warming: the chilling effect on free speech') says;

Whatever the truth about our warming planet, it is clear there is a tidal wave of intolerance in the debate about climate change which is eroding free speech and melting rational debate....".

This reminds me of the 'Limits to Growth' 'debate' (which predicted the world would start running out of strategic materials like chrome, oil, etc in the 1990s - that didn't happen).

Michael Crichton has an interesting commentary on the style of thinking evident in 'the Limits to Growth', Global Warming', and many other issues (like gun control perhaps?) here.

So what are we to do, and what are we to make of the debate? For both the 'Limits to Growth', and 'Global Warming' issues, I'd argue that the central issue is not what 20 million Australians do, or even what 300 million Americans do, but rather what 1.3 billion Chinese, and a billion Indians do (since it is their growing economies and consumption which will drive the statistics increasingly). What we do most certainly need is full, open and objective debate (not scare-mongering).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Women, in Islam and the West.

The world's latest space tourist is back on earth. Not the first , not the last, the second woman, and the first of Iranian descent.

Anousheh Ansari (view her space blog here) is the 4th private spacer, and her story is inspirational;

"...A living example of the American dream, Anousheh immigrated to the United States as a teenager who did not speak English. She immersed herself in education, earning a bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, followed by a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in astronomy from Swinburne University...".

Could she have achieved what she has for business, herself and her country or community in Iran. No way. One of the great weaknesses of the Islamic world is that they effectively cross off half the prospective talent (ie women) from having a truly meaningful input into the various aspects of society, be that business, politics, or science. Oh I know there have been women PMs in Pakistan, and women attend college in Saudi Arabia, but that cannot compare to the full involvement they have in western society. Such cases are the exception rather than the rule.
(1st 2 images courtesy )

Just as 'Rosie the Riveter' had a profound effect on the allies ability to wage WW2, so demographics work in the west's favour. The Islamic world is younger, ill-educated, and their treatment of women reduces their effective ranks by about half. One society looks back to a mediaeval model, one forward to an optimistic future.

I'm a father. I want a future where my daughter is not limited in what she can achieve, or contribute. We can view the future through somewhat different and optimistic eyes (as this Feb 1988 National Geographic image of an outback farmer and his daughter symbolize), and not cross off half of the human resources of a society.