Sunday, February 9, 2014

how did crabs first come to Australia?

The answer, of course, is on crutches.


It is only by sheer co-incidence that TO brought these critters inside after I had looked at Andrew's Sunday Selections where I learned that Prince Henry's Hospital closed in 1991.

There was some point to the application of WD40 to rusty nuts and subsequent adjustment of crutch height – TO wished to demonstrate what is required for the proper use of crutches. There was even some point to the demonstration but, yawn, let's move on to something far more interesting [as if it were possible].

No, your first impression is not correct. TO is not a compulsive hoarder – she simply likes reminders of momentous events in her life. These crutches were used by her good self shortly after the great car crash of 1964. She assures me that she did not keep this particular pair of crutches as souvenirs, nor did she keep them because she believed they might come in handy one day; sometimes she just "forgets" to return things.

In any case, I must admit that of all the crap in all the sheds in all the backyards in Australia, this little pair of crutches has been useful. They've been loaned and returned many times over in the ten years I have been sharing my life with TO and her crap.

Australia was, until quite recently in its post-colonial history, a country made financially strong by primary industry. Melbourne, however, has long been rightly proud of its aptitude for secondary industry. 
How much of that manufacturing output, I wonder, has consisted of wooden crutches? I do believe demand might have been very high from, say, the beginning of the 20th Century and for quite some decades after.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

enough to give you the pip

What we now know as the Euopean Union has been formed and re-formed for decades. One of its predecessor organisations was the European Economic Community, born in 1957.  

After much hand wringing, the UK finally signed up to the European Union in 1973.
[The EU's history is not only a complicated history, but a boring one. Forgive me if I don't check facts/say more and thereby increase the chances of making some glaringly obvious mistake.]

Originally, dumping [before true globalisation happened] was the means whereby European states [e.g. Germany, amongst others]
  • made sure they still had an agricultural community to rely on
  • prevented millions of suddenly redundant farmers walking off their land and heading straight to cities in search of non-existent work
by subsidising agriculture i.e. paying farming families to stay put.

Surplus agricultural product was sent to a range of third-world countries and territories, allowing dumper countries to provide millions of dollars of "aid" to dumpee countries. How very white of them.

But, the EU has had an anti-dumping policy for yonks now.
After all, how can an industry be efficient when it is competing with dumped produce from all over Asia?

People were commenting a few years ago about cheap banananananas from the Philippines wreaking havoc with Australia's banana industry. My general thoughts on the matter have long been that even Asians have to eat, surely we could channel our "smarts" into an industry where poorer people/nations can't compete?

Sigh. Pity there is always a difference between what should be and what is.

When it comes to the question of subsidising SPC – a major employer in the heart of Victoria's fruit bowl, I'm torn.
a) like electricity, water supply and shipping/rail/transport infrastructure [stop laughing Andrew, this is serious] Australians must share responsibility for the maintenance of essential industries and services. Agriculture is part of this.
b) why the heck should Australians subsidise private corporations like Coca-Cola?

Let's start with the human side of the story:

As those lying one eyed Un-Australian pinkos at the ABC put it,
In recent years a wave of refugees from Sudan, the Republic of the Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan has diversified Goulburn Valley's vibrant community.

A study sponsored by the Dept of Immig in 2012 says:

About 11 per cent of the population were born in a country other than Australia, with almost 8 per cent coming from countries where English is not their first language. Many of the refugees who came to Shepparton have settled in the area, enjoying the rural lifestyle and the opportunities for seasonal and permanent work.

The major employment opportunities in Shepparton and the region are in agriculture, food manufacturing, retail, health care and social assistance.

The region is a major producer of fruit and vegetables and refugees are often employed in this industry. Peak time is in the warmer months between November and April, and the work usually involves fruit picking. It is accessible to women and men from all backgrounds, regardless of their English language ability. A high number of people come to Shepparton during these summer months to work in this industry. Transport may be provided for workers between Shepparton and the orchards.

Those with higher levels of English-speaking skills will have opportunities to apply for work in the manufacturing industry. This work is usually preserving and packaging fresh fruit.

Figures I've been able to dredge up tell me Shepparton's resident population is about 63 000. If 10% are not Australian born, it's not hard to believe the number of 4,000 Iraqis resettled in the Shepp/ Kyabram area between 2001-2003.

Now there's the irrigation side

Some people call it "trickle down economics". The rich get richer, spend a dollar here and there, and the poor get not so quite poorer.
Some people talk about flow on effects: People employed [whether in subsidised industries or not] pay taxes, and they spend money in shops and on services etc and the money goes round and round.

Orchardists in the fruit bowl area have been ripping up thousands of trees a year for years. [a significant loss of capital.]

The corporate [i.e. artificial person] side of the story

There is a basic conflict between state accounts and federal accounts. States have a vested interest in competing with other states for funds. Federal governments have a vested interest in sucking up to this or that corporation.

Mining is subsidised to the tune of billions. Okay, it's an essential industry, but is there a limit to how much mining we need. Is nobody going to acknowledge the damage the mining boom has done to other Australian industries? We've gone beyond a pig-iron Bob mentality to a pigs at the trough mentality.

Some organisations in the past, such as Bonds or Kodak have taken enormous bonuses from government and then a year or two later shut shop and cashed up all their onshore assets. All I can say to that is that a bank does not lend money without a mortgage on assets, what the heck is wrong with some governments?

Some industries – vehicle manufacturing amongst them – generate greater income through wage taxation than they cost in subsidies. Many such industries are essential, because we need to maintain capacity and skills.

Tony Abbott, may his government soon rest in peace, made the valid point at wherever it was a few weeks ago that, in a global economy, nations should get their acts together and do something about companies that avoid paying tax in the country where they generate their profits.

That aside, instead of privatising essential services, governments should be buying into essential services.

Perhaps you are sick of the word Myki… I know I'm sick of whingeing about it. But it's a prime example of something stupid at work here. Employing people to sell tickets, if we fine tuned the wages end, would be a really really good work-for-the dole scheme. Ditto buying SPC from Coca Cola.