Whatever… Is your patch family friendly?

A minor susurration could be heard across the land in response to the Suncorp Family Friendly [TM] Survey. The Gong was pissed off.

Overall: 21st out of 30

Crime rate per 100,000 – 6323 (9th)

Number of visits to GP services per resident – 5.9 (25th)

Number of children at each school – 494 (8th)

Average cost of a house – $397,000 (19th)

Level of unemployment – 6.9% (25th)

Residents with good long-term health outlook + 65.5per cent (26th)

Median weekly disposable income – $652 (22nd)

Households with access to broadband internet – 66.9per cent (14th)

Children per childcare centre – 42 (2nd)

Residents who volunteer – 16.9per cent (22nd)

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Brighton Beach, Wollongong Harbour

Launceston starred!

LAUNCESTON is the most family-friendly city in Australia with cheap housing and good education outweighing low incomes and high unemployment, a new report has found.

The Suncorp Bank report, titled the "Family Friendly City Index", found that Launceston was the No.1 city with Hobart coming in at seventh spot out of 30 of Australia’s most populous cities.

Former Hobart man Brendan Vince says he is the biggest convert to Launceston.

"I used to bag it out when I lived in Hobart, but now I love the place," he said.

Mr Vince, a teacher, and wife Joanna, a university lecturer, moved from Hobart about eight years ago.

They have a son Zachary.

"It is a great place for kids, everything is so close and housing is much cheaper than Hobart," Mr Vince said.

The index looked at 10 indicators including education, health, crime rates, income, connectivity and unemployment.

Canberra was the top capital city, in second place, with Perth and Adelaide equal fifth.

Of the big three, Melbourne was ranked 14th, ahead of Sydney (23rd) and Brisbane (24th).

Suncorp Bank executive manager Craig Fenwick said the survey found that increasingly the larger, stressful, crowded urban jungles and under-serviced eastern seaboard capitals were being upstaged by regional cities.

"The results reveal for the first time that many regional cities have a better balance of job opportunities, housing affordability, income, school sizes, health services, broadband access and lower crime rates," he said.

I still don’t quite get it. How come number of GP visits per resident (higher in The Gong than in Launceston) is seen as a negative in access to health services? Sure, it might mean Gongers are unhealthy, or fat, or old, or all of the above – but they are clearly accessing a service, aren’t they?

The country press seizes on the obvious:

A GREAT deal is made of Melbourne’s much-vaunted ”liveability” and Sydney’s glam harbourside lifestyle.

But for families who grow weary of the rat race, it seems the sedate Tasmanian city of Launceston is the country’s most family-friendly place.

New research that compares Australia’s most populous 30 cities on indicators such as access to schools, health, childcare, income and housing, found Launceston came out on top.

The lucky children who live there attend the least-crowded schools, with about 320 students per school, compared with places such as Coffs Harbour, which has 1521 per school, according to the report from Suncorp Bank.

It also has a low crime rate, affordable housing and good childcare availability.

Canberra was second – boosted by high disposable incomes and good childcare – but Melbourne ranked 14th and Sydney 23rd, behind the other capitals Adelaide and Perth (equal fifth), Hobart (seventh) and Darwin (equal eighth).

Half of the top 10 family-friendly cities were smaller regional centres – Victoria and New South Wales’ top entry was the twin-cities of Albury-Wodonga, which did well on housing affordability, health and a sense of community.

Regional cities had a better balance of job opportunities, income, school sizes and lower crime rates, said Suncorp Bank head Craig Fenwick…

Here is the list.

    • 1st Launceston (TAS)
    • 2nd Canberra (ACT)
    • 3rd Toowoomba (QLD)
    • 4th Albury/Wodonga (VIC/NSW)
    • Equal 5th Adelaide (SA)
    • Equal 5th Perth (WA)
    • 7th Hobart (TAS)
    • Equal 8th Darwin (NT)
    • Equal 8th Bunbury (WA)
    • 10th Bundaberg (QLD)
    • Equal 11th Mackay (QLD)
    • Equal 11th Burnie (TAS)
    • 13th Mandurah (WA)
    • Equal 14th Melbourne (VIC)
    • Equal 14th Wagga Wagga (NSW)
    • Equal 16th Bendigo (VIC)
    • Equal 16th Townsville (QLD)
    • 18th Newcastle (NSW)
    • 19th Rockhampton (QLD)
    • 20th Sunshine Coast (QLD)
    • 21st Wollongong (NSW)
    • 22nd Ballarat (VIC)
    • 23rd Sydney (NSW)
    • 24th Brisbane (QLD)
    • 25th Geelong (VIC)
    • 26th Hervey Bay (QLD)
    • 27th Cairns (QLD)
    • Equal 28th Gold Coast (QLD)
    • Equal 28th LaTrobe Valley (VIC)
    • 30th Coffs Harbour (NSW)

Canberra? Second? That says it all, really. Winking smile

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mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

Last night I confessed on Facebook:

Instead of watching what I intended on ABC2 I have found myself deep in memories thanks to Bruce Part’s photos of The Albury Hotel. This is a rendition of one of those photos.

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed! I was saddened when I finally moved to Syd and it was gone. I met a lovely guy there on my first visit around 1996 and didn’t leave empty handed….a big deal for a country boy!!!

“Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed!” indeed. I hope Bruce finds a few more to share in that “boot box full of photo memories.”

I have cropped a couple and given them the art makeover treatment.

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And see these searches of my blogs:

Yum Cha this morning was myself, The Empress, Clive, James, and eventually M, absolutely exhausted and needing the food. It was a good Yum Cha (The Emperor’s Garden service was friendly and excellent). After that M went home to sleep — he starts again tonight at 6 pm, and I went with James and The Empress to the Albury — yes, I was there this Sunday — where we surprised the bar staff by eating barbecued quail that Ian had purchased, and added a Chinese tonic to our beer (it said it could be used in beer) which caused the beer to look like some Jekyll-and-Hyde potion, but actually improved the taste!  — March 4 2001

Monday salmagundi

“Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand, usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil, and spiced with anything available.” – Wikipedia.

Oh yes!

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Memories of the Albury Hotel, my one time alternative lounge room where I met M and Sirdan, among others — based on a photo by Bruce Part who worked there:

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Why I won’t be watching QandA tonight, aside from the fact Janet Albrechtsen is on it:

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Today Paul Sheehan wrote a total puff piece about Gina Rinehart. If he isn’t already on her PR team he should be soon after this. Talk about fawning! In contrast, please consider More myths from the mining oligarchs.

Australia is in the grip of a group of mining oligarchs, who are spending enormous amounts of monety to shape the economic debate to suit their own very narrow interests. They are opposed to the mining tax (a resource rent tax) and have in the past denied the state (on behalf of all of us) owns the resources that they plunder for private profit. They have also sponsored national tours of leading climate-change deniers (such as Lord Monckton) who are known to trade on distortions of the truth. Overall, there personal resources guarantee them access to the daily media and they use it relentlessly. They also write books which get national coverage and have a record of suing peope who criticise their views. The result is that there is very little critical scrutiny of the propositions they advance to justify their claims. Some of the propositions are pure fantasy yet they have gained traction with the public who have been too easily duped by the promotional onslaught. Here is a little sojourn into the fantasy world on one such oligarch.
The most recent example of this oligarchic-intervention is launch of a new book last week by the richest person in Australia, Ms Gina Rinehart.

I last wrote about Ms Rinehart in this blog – A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster.

At that time, the richest person in Australia – mining heiress – who has been fighting it out in the courts with her own children over their grandfather’s inheritance – echoed the Ann Raynd line that the “billionaires and millionaires” create all the jobs and help the poor but the latter are too lazy to do their bit.

She claimed that “billionaires and millionaires are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs”.

Even though the current mining boom has seen her wealth (derived from an inheritance from her father who was a mining magnate) increase by more than $A20 billion in a few year claims that “anti-business and socialist policies for hurting the poor”.

She also claimed that socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects” and called for the minimum wage to be cut…

In A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster:

… Apparently, socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects”.

She wants the minimum wage cut and attacked the poor by saying that:

If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.

This sounds like it is coming from someone who is “self-made”. The reality is different. She inherited her wealth and didn’t have to do any work to be at the top of the wealth distribution. And then came the socialist state we call China who launched its development phase at just about the right time for Gina – she has made a fortune from companies that dig our resources up, put it into trucks, take it to a ship and send it to China.

Of-course, the empirical evidence is the opposite. The lower income groups in Australia spend less of their budget on alcohol than the higher income earners.

In this 2010 study – Drinking patterns in Australia, 2001–2007 – from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (an Australian Government research body) we learn that (Table 2.6):

… people that are currently employed are most likely to be recent consumers of alcohol.

A lower proportion of the unemployed consume alcohol (within the previous 12 months of the survey) relative in work.

Digging deeper, we find that in terms of the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (based on the SEIFA Indexes), which measure how well off a person is across a range of indicators, that the first quintile (“the most disadvantaged 20% of people in Australia”) have the lowest proportion of alcohol consumers and between 2001 and 2007, the proportion dropped.

Conversely, the highest quintile (the most advantaged Australians) are way out there in terms of proportions of that cohort that use alcohol. The AIHW Report concluded that:

… as the socioeconomic status goes up, the proportion of people consuming alcohol also increases.

Later, the Report analyses alcohol use and income and concluded that:

When personal income by alcohol drinking status was analysed, the data show that as personal income increases, so does the prevalence and frequency of drinking … For example, the prevalence of any alcohol consumption is 95% among the highest income group, compared with around 80% among the lowest income group, and there is a fairly constant gradient across these groups. This applies for both sexes.

The March 2012 edition of the ABS Australian Social Trends – carried a feature on “low economic resource households” – which is a cute way of say those who are poor.

The article presented data (for 2009-10) on expenditure on goods and services by the poor relative to the rest of the population.

We learn that:

In 2009-10, the average weekly equivalised expenditure (adjusted to include imputed rent) on goods and services of people in low economic resource households ($500) was 57% of the average expenditure of other households ($872) … Housing, food and transport were the broad expenditure items that accounted for the largest proportion of expenditure on goods and services across both low economic resource households and other households. Among those in low economic resource households, these items accounted for 57% of total expenditure, while for those in other households they accounted for 45%.

In terms of weekly equivalised expenditure, the Low economic resource households spent $A10 a week on alcoholic beverages (1.9 per cent of their total spending) whereas the rest of the population spent $A21 a week on alcoholic beverages (2.4 per cent of their budget).

Spending on other items relating to “socialising” were also much lower in absolute and proportional terms for the poorest Australians…

Inconvenient facts from an economist, eh! Still, I am sure Paul will love her as much as ever.

I considered going up to South Sydney Uniting Church, but didn’t – partly because my neighbour down here asked me to a barbecue at The Bates Motel and I though being neighbourly was important. Had I gone though:

Homily
Reign of Christ, Year B
“Celebrating Community”
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 25, 2012

Psalm 93; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; John 18:33-37

‘Trust

“Is the brutalisation of the weak by the strong just what happens behind closed doors, when families, orders, tribes and forces self-police? Is it, in short, inevitable?” asks Elizabeth Farrelly. “Because it’s not just sex, or violence, or corruption, though those are bad enough. To my mind, this kind of abuse is theft. The child abused by a priest isn’t just sexualised, degraded and humiliated. As surely as Roberto Curti was robbed of his life by spontaneous official torture, the abused child is robbed of his or her budding trust in authority and, by extension, the world. Children are very moral animals, with an intense and intuitive feel for justice. To be betrayed and defiled by the supposed source of truth and goodness leaves a child truly broken hearted. In the case of grubby planning decisions, politicians are the slimy adults and we the broken hearted children, but the destruction is similar. We are the victims of systematic environmental theft” (Elizabeth Farrelly, “Developing a tale of comeuppance”, SMH, 21/11/12).

I’ve been thinking on Farrelly’s words for a few days. Power corrupts, she laments. Without an alternative to abusive power we are doomed to fear and hopelessness. One way out is by way of the victims of abuse – by way of their courage and by way of their critique of the systems of abuse. Michael Mullins, editor of Eureka Street, made a decision last week not to publish an essay on media bias against the Catholic Church. He wrote: “Any hope that the Church has of being a credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends upon its ability to accept its current humiliation and give glory instead to the sexual abuse victims whom it has humiliated.” God be with you

Mad pollies: cut, cut and cut again, and hang the consequences…

Let’s hope they have more brains than that, but I am not holding my breath.

From The Illawarra Mercury.

Illawarra’s multicultural services will be forced to take up the slack if multicultural program staff are lost in a Department of Education and Communities restructure.

NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Nicole Calnan said the multicultural support positions were not included in a draft proposal of the restructure sent to department offices this month.

Under the restructure – part of the NSW government’s plan to save $1.7 billion in education spending – Illawarra schools will be absorbed into a super region and support jobs will be cut.

"There is no provision for ensuring that the current level of multicultural program support for schools will continue," Ms Calnan said.

"Under this realignment, the positions of multicultural/ESL [English as a second language] consultant, community information officer, regional multicultural support officer and ESL/refugee- teacher mentors won’t even exist."

Ms Calnan said the multicultural program staff performed several roles, from providing professional learning and support for ESL teachers to running multicultural and anti-racism programs in schools.

Earlier this week, the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) convened a meeting of all CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities) representatives from the region.

MCCI general manager Terrie Leoleos said the loss of these valuable school roles would adversely affect the region’s already disadvantaged communities.

"The Education Department’s multicultural support program has played an intricate and important role across the state in supporting migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants and settlements into this country, particularly in regional areas," Ms Leoleos said.

"Cutting positions like these … will be detrimental not only to those communities but it will put a lot of pressure on multicultural services, which are already stretched and will have to take up the shortfall."

The MCCI this week sent a letter to the Education Department asking that they do a comprehensive review and engage multicultural services and communities in the process.

A department spokesman said a revised model of the restructure would be available on Monday, with a final model to be released on December 21.

Having been an ESL teacher in the not too distant past, I know just how much I valued, indeed needed, the services that it appears may be about to become victims of small government ideology/bean counting. They operated on a shoestring even back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I can’t begin to tell you how good they are! Consider, for example:

Refugee support programs

A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group.

In recent years, increasing numbers of young refugees, in particular refugees from Africa and the Middle East, have enrolled in government schools in both metropolitan and country areas of NSW. About 1,600 enrol each year. At any time approximately 12,000 refugee students are enrolled in NSW government schools.

These students come from a number of countries in Africa, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ivory Coast and Burundi, as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East, in particular Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many refugee families have lived in protracted refugee situations before coming to Australia. Some students were born and have lived all their lives in refugee camps. All have experienced disrupted schooling. Some may have had very limited schooling and, as a result, have few or no first language literacy skills.

Many of the recently arrived refugees have high resettlement and educational needs and may need high levels of support. However, it is important to avoid over-generalisation as this is not the case with all refugees. Conclusions about a refugee student’s capabilities and needs should be reached through careful assessment over a period of time.

Traumatic experiences that refugee students encounter before they start school in Australia may impact considerably on their learning and behaviour at school. In some cases, post traumatic stress and poor health due to refugee experiences can lead to absences from school, or manifest in poor behaviour in the classroom.

The safety, security and support provided by schools are critical factors in ensuring the adjustment of refugee children and adolescents to life and schooling in Australia. Officers at Multicultural Programs Unit can assist regions in planning and delivering successful refugee support programs.

I am not directly familiar with what is happening in schools down here in the Illawarra, where I now live, but one may get an idea from school sites such as Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts.

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Images from a Wollongong High Powerpoint presentation.

Recent developments in our asylum seeker policy continue to depress me. Some consolation may be found in seeing fellow feeling among the Herald cartoonists lately.

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Croker Island Exodus

Croker Island Exodus is a documentary to be screened on ABC1 next Tuesday. I think I had heard of the story and in an odd way it intersects with some things in my life – with a place at least – and Jim Belshaw will be pleased to see there is an Armidale connection.

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1941, all white women and children are evacuated from Darwin. Japanese invasion is imminent. On a tiny Methodist mission on Croker Island in the Arafura Sea, the Superintendent and three Cottage mothers are responsible for 95 stolen generation Aboriginal children allocated to their care by the government. The missionaries are given the option of evacuating but how could they leave these children? However food supplies are running dangerously low and no help comes through the long Wet. February 1942, a message by pedal radio, Darwin has been bombed, the missionaries will now have to move the children off the island themselves. So they begin their perilous journey.

Their first destination requires a trek over many miles of open savannah and the harsh beautiful stone country of Arnhem Land. When the old truck becomes bogged, the children help push it to harder ground. They gather armfuls of water lily stalks and climb for berries in the bush plum trees. At night they make camp, using their dwindling supply of flour and yeast to make damper. It will still be many miles walking.

At Oenpelli they expect to stay 3 days but it is weeks before word that they will have to walk another 60 miles to meet government trucks. With help from the traditional Aboriginal men they cross the flooded East Alligator River by dug out canoe. The river is home to saltwater crocodiles but despite falling into the river they make it across safely.

After many days, they meet up with the trucks. But arriving in Pine Creek they find an American army base, no beds just the Butcher’s Paddock on the outskirts of town.

They finally board a cattle train en route to Alice Springs and their destination a Methodist Farm on the outskirts of Sydney. In 44 days these brave women and their young charges travel from Arnhem Land across the continent, a truly heroic and untold journey.

But this is also an epic story of human endurance and resilience.

In 1946 Margaret returned to Croker with the children including Alice, Netta and Jessie who are now in their 80s. They have endured so much in their lives but their friendships forged on Croker remain strong and feisty. These Aboriginal women still call Margaret, now 99 years, ‘sister’. It is their shared stories of love, humour and compassion that are central to this film.

They ended up at Otford, arriving no doubt in a train like this – as I also did in 1959 to attend a camp in the very house where these children stayed!

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The Armidale connection is through this book, which I have just reserved from Wollongong Library.

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a Reflection of Childhood Memories, 1942- 1946: Children from Otford, New South Wales and Croker Island, Northern Territory.

This wonderful first told tale of a unique childhood spent at Otford Public School with Aboriginal children evacuated from Croker Island during World War II.

Set in a rural setting outside Sydney, the author shares personal memories of an important time in Australian history, and reflects her own sense of cultural awareness at an early age.

Kardoorair Press was established in 1979, primarily as an outlet for poets based on the Northern Tablelands, New England Region of New South Wales or writers with an affiliation with the region.

An online history of Helensburgh, next station on the Illawarra Line towards Sydney, recalls the time of these events.

… During the ‘40s Australia was mainly absorbed with the War effort and post-war reconstruction. Stanwell Park beach was littered with concrete tank traps and coils of barbed wire. The old rail tunnel to Otford was blasted. Some installations were constructed and a small RAAF force settled in to await the attack. Naturally a number of the local men joined the services and the ladies auxiliaries set to for the war effort. Knitting, collecting old aluminium pots and pans became the order of the day. Otford served host to a group of Aboriginal evacuees from Crocker Island north of Australia. The school was enlarged to handle the influx of children. The Helensburgh branch of the Red Cross was reinstituted and set up shop in the Anglican Church Hall. Soon homes and public buildings alike had their windows covered with "black out" paper. Wartime want, rationing and the like, was thrown aside on 19th August 1945. It was "Victory Sunday". Services of thanksgiving were held in all the local churches to celebrate the end of the War.

During the post-war reconstruction a clothing factory was built in Walker Street providing some local employment to the women of the town. The old rail tunnels were used for mushroom production, another useful local employer. On the political scene the Bulli Shire amalgamated with Wollongong in 1947 to form the Greater Wollongong region. It was a controversial move and can still start a good debate…

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That appears to be the whole school…

In one neat package, this terrific doco explores our World War II history, the process of Aboriginal assimilation, the work of 20th-century missionaries, and the extraordinary personal stories of individuals involved. In the early 1940s, a mob of indigenous kids from the Top End were rounded up and sent to a new Methodist mission on Croker Island – off the coast from Darwin – and into the care of a young woman, Margaret Somerville. Not long afterwards, they were ordered to evacuate when the Japanese started bombing Australia’s northernmost city. Unfortunately, no one in authority bothered to do anything more than issue the order, leaving it up to Sister Somerville to almost single-handedly get 95 kids from Croker – via Arnhem Land and the Red Centre – to, eventually, Sydney. It was an incredible journey by boat, canoe, truck, train and foot, and it’s brought to life beautifully by clever re-enactments, as well as archival footage and interviews with survivors. The old aunties who feature are great characters, as is Somerville, whose memoir forms the basis of the program. It’s also a beautifully structured and balanced story that, among other things, gives one of the most nuanced and compelling insights into being ”taken away” we’ve seen on the small screen.

SMH

Nambawan Pikinini bilong Misis Kwin na Namba Two Misis Bilong Charles

…and other matters.

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Yes, we now have The Prince of Wales plus Duchess of Cornwall in the house… Believe they go to a horse race today.

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The first picture comes from and is linked to The Sydney Morning Herald, the second I ripped off the Prince’s own site. Hope I don’t get sent to the Tower of London for that. He is here as part of a Diamond Jubilee Commonwealth tour – his Mum having been more than a touch venturesome herself this year but deputing her Nambawan Pikinini to come to this part of the world on her behalf. A shame as I was rather looking forward to her arrival:

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Before arriving here the Royals were in Papua New Guinea – hence the Tok Pisin heading today. (The Duke of Edinburgh is apparently oldfella Pili-Pili him bilong Misis Kwin.” Love it!)

You may read a first-hand account from PNG: Having Dinner with Nambawan Pikinini bilong Misis Kwin na Namba Two Misis Bilong Charles. That blog leads to others from PNG – itself well worth the visit.

I like having C and C here. The older I get the fonder I am of the rather dotty monarchy we in Australia inhabit and the less likely to vote for a republic any time soon; I did vote for one at the turn of the century. It will seem very rude of me but I really do like NOT being American and our head of state NOT being a politician. I also don’t mind the best of the tradition and the world links history has given us. Keep it that way as long as possible, though it is hard to see the system lasting all the way to 2112…. Apparently the young and cool rather agree. No, you won’t find me joining Professor Flint’s mob though – not that desperate.

And as for Charles: he’s not as dim or useless as many think.

And while I am on eccentrics and conservatism – not that Charles is a textbook conservative – I did rather enjoy the (rerun) of Kitchen Cabinet with Barnaby Joyce last night. In fact Kitchen Cabinet is proving quite a treasure.

Last night too QandA went to Perth. An excellent episode, and a reminder that we really are locked too much into the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra axis.