Monday, April 21, 2008

Summarily summarising the Summit

Amusing: ABC2's live ongoing coverage of the 2020 Summit, interspersed with 'expert commentary', as though it were the Olympics ('well we might leave governance there for the moment and cross to the arts now, where local hope Claudia Karvan is in with a real chance of winning the gold ... en opportunity to speak about acting in schools' etc).

Tragical: That I actually watched ABC2's coverage to know this was the case.

Thoughts: The gist of the Summit as I saw it was, 'blah blah blah, lots of ideas from diverse range of people, blah blah blah, condense into one or two key messages to report back to wider gathering of delegates, blah blah blah aren't we wonderful and isn't Hugh Jackman just delightful with his roaming mike and witty impros, blah blah blah'.

So here are my three takeaways:

1. Pad see ew with steamed rice K-Rudd's a bit damned either way. The critics were already lining up to label the Summit a useless lefty gabfest before the first gabber had even opened their gab. It strikes me when I think about it for a bit that of course conservatives would be opposed to a brainstorming of ideas for the future, since by definition they're mostly about preserving the status quo - living in the present but desperately wishing they could reconstruct and live in the past. It's almost like the future is anathema to them.

Having said that, I did hear a truckload of wank emanating from the many lefty-oriented folk speaking that the Summit. Buzzwords and tokenism abounded and the initial report does somewhat conjur up Monty Python's solution to the Meaning of Life:

M-hmm. Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.

And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, is the only way, these days, to get the jaded, video-sated public off their fucking arses and back in the sodding cinema. Family entertainment? Bollocks. What they want is filth: people doing things to each other with chainsaws during tupperware parties, babysitters being stabbed with knitting needles by gay presidential candidates, vigilante groups strangling chickens, armed bands of theatre critics exterminating mutant goats. Where's the fun in pictures? Oh, well, there we are. Here's the theme music. Goodnight.

(The second paragraph is not really relevant - I've just always found it piss funny.)

All very nice and cuddly, just not sure how this will translate into reality. Then again, I think that's the problem inherent within such a forum - it's meant to be lofty, dreamy ideas, not pragmatic, short-term funded solutions, bouncing off each other. Maybe we should give the Rudd government a few months to see how it actually translates all this feedback into proposed legislation and policy. We may yet be pleasantly surprised. Or not.

And it is nice to see a PM making at least a pretence of long-term vision for the nation instead of focusing solely on personal short-term survival. After a decade of Howard and a couple of years of Iemma, this is ... distinctive, to say the least.

2. Becoming a republic, abolishing the third level of government (most likely the middle one, goodbye states) and enshrining a bill of rights are all admirable goals, and will probably all eventually happen, even in Australia. I'm just not sure the impetus for all these reforms will arise from a talkfest. If anything, it kinda gives neocons further ammo with which to argue that such concerns are the terrain of the Deadly Elite ('only Rudd-loving lefty summit gabbers support elitist ideas like a bill of rights' etc).

Such reforms must germinate at the grass-roots level, and then be adopted and driven by both a federal government and PM showing true leadership and enthusiasm, ideally with bipartisan support. Convincing Victorians that in a two-tier federation, they'll be for all intents and purposes Tasmanian, will be no easy task - or indeed, convincing all non-Queenslanders that they'll be Queenslanders (shudder). Doing away with a monarchical constitution that has generally served the country well for over a hundred years won't happen just because a bunch of luvvies say at a summit that it's a nice thing to do. All these reforms will require overwhelming 'yes' votes at referenda to have any mandate. I'm not sure the Summit much assisted this long-term goal.

3. Look, I love Cate Blanchett, I do. I mean, what's not to love? She's gorgeous, articulate, insanely talented and essentially personifies Sydney on the international stage in a classy, glamorous and highly marketable manner.

But FFS Australian media, when it comes to Cate Blanchett do you reckon you could just get your hand off it for five minutes?! The Summit and media coverage thereof focused WAY too much on La Blanchett and her recently expunged spawn, to the point where the sulky critics whinging that it was too much of a Rudd/A-list love-in have some cred.

I know she was one of its head-honchos, and an attractive face of the thing to present, but I'm pretty sure you couldn't trawl through all the 2008 issues of every major Oz newspaper without finding one report somewhere on what Cate's up to. The Smuh's Stay In Touch column could easily be re-tuned to 'Stay In Cate'. She's lovely. WE GET IT.


That's probably about it for a while, kidlets. Heading to Euro on Thursday and not sure I'll have the time and/or enthusiasm to blog on it as comprehensively as i did in '05. Fark, has it really been nearly 3 years already? Who'd've thunk.

Anyways, there'll be Facebook shots, no doubt. Toodles.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 07, 2008

Happy snap

Unfortunately, I was one of the three Sydney residents who weren't invited to Clarkey and Bingey's engagement bash at Luna Park.

Thankfully however, an insider emailed me this rather sweet image of Lara's family assembling on the lawn just by the harbour shore:


The tall grey one is Nanna Bingle. She's quite a character, as you can see.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In which QP brings his inner stone-hearted bastard

Did anybody else catch Four Corners last night? If not, the feature story, 'Debtland', was on the out-of-control household debt crisis - the greedy lenders who dole out loans to, among others, barely-arrived Sudanese migrants who can scarcely speak English, and the Poor Ozzie BattlersTM getting foreclosed on left, right and centre. In many ways, it was Aunty's glossier, classier take on a Today Tonight/ACA standard (with a much more comprehensive analysis of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis).

Did I sympathise with certain subjects, such as the family above or the disabled pensioner who was somehow granted a $200,000 loan based on her walfare cheque and tiny part-time wage alone, who is now (d'uh) in penury? Of course. But did I sympathise with Dianne, teary with child in arm as her Kellyville McMansion was repossessed and passed in at almost half of what they originally paid for it? Hell no.

Dianne's explanation for why she allowed herself to take out not one, but two mortgages, at 10% and 20% respectively? 'Because they kept giving them to us.'


Sorry, but the heart gets stony around those who choose to mortgage themselves up to their eyeballs, way beyond their means, then whinge when - gasp - they discover repayments are unsustainable. It is their choice to opt for a Kellyville palatial nightmare - and of course, the full Buy Now, Pay Later Freedom/Harvey Norman furnishings that must necessarily accompany - instead of finding a long-term financially sustainable alternative. If they're too stupid not to sit down beforehand and do some elementary budgeting - if they're so uselessly passive they cannot say no to a cheery lender throwing lots of money at them, believing there's no catch - they deserve whatever they get.

I say this as someone who managed to get himself into around 10k of CC debt, so I'm hardly Captain Sensible Budgeter myself. But even I could recognise at that point the best option was to deny myself any further credit cards or limit increases on the existing ones. It's a debt into which I shouldn't have fallen so deeply but at least I'm not allowing it to get any worse.

I also say this as someone who recently entered the Sydney rental bear pit and knows the plight of the renter is every bit as treacherous as the buyer's. My partner and I were forced to leave a lovely place we'd occupied for nearly two years, and whose rental value in that time alone increased by about 35%. With a Dianne mentality, we could've chosen to commit ourselves to paying a few extra hundred dollars a month so we could stay in the apartment block of the neighbourhood to which we had become accustomed. Instead, we found a place within our current, feasible level of rent payment - and bang went the good neighbourhood and harbour views, hello major traffic noise and a couple of extra kilometres for daily commuting.

Not that the place we found is bad - it's just not exactly what we wanted or as good as what we've been used to and able to afford in the past. That's the point - at some periods in some markets you can't just expect to have everything you want. If you can't afford the Kellyville Mansion boulevards, opt instead for the significantly cheaper suburbs literally on the other side of the main road. That way you don't get repossessed, and the rest of us don't have to suffer the inevitably increased interest rates to curb your profligate spending. Everybody wins.

It's not that the story didn't raise valid points about the avarice of major banks and credit lenders. It seems to me a simple reform the Rudd government could undertake to address this poisonous baiting is to compel all lenders to specify in monthly/quarterly statements not just the amount a borrower must pay to cover the interest, but how much they must pay to complete the amount within the interest-free period. Of course it's not in the lenders' interests to do this so let's legally enforce them to instead.

But living beyond your means is a lifestyle choice, and a poor one at that. If you're genuinely too dim not to realise that nice shiny houses, furniture, cars etc don't just magically appear without some significant pain later down the track in the absence of some basic forward planning, you have absolutely no right to seek sympathy once the pain invariably kicks in. Take some personal responsibility, peeps.

Labels: , , ,