my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet

my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet informed

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is there anybody out there?

We cannot do another term of Nationals - we just cannot.

They have been here forever, the last one for 27 years ... somebody ... anybody Save Our Souls!

Here in the electorate of the Upper Hunter we are drowning in a landscape of coal and gas and now that the government has truncated our railway line, we cannot even get out.

We are stuck in the middle of ecocide and injustice, our very own 'Faustian bargain' arranged by democracy.

Save our Souls.

We cannot breathe, we cannot farm, we cannot get to the doctors', we cannot get to the beach, we cannot get educated, we cannot get trained ... why?

... because Mike Baird and the Liberal National coalition are locked in a death spiral as a result of dodgy deals arranged by dodgy developers and dodgy politicians.

Mike Baird has got it seriously wrong.

Starting with the trains and at the risk of being repetitive, it is unseemly for a premier to try and avoid the provisions of the Transport Administration Act which expressly forbid the cutting of a railway line except by Act of Parliament.

The Upper Hunter electorate is not impressed by Mike Baird's attempt to vest ownership of the railway line to the Hunter Development Corporation for railway acquisition purposes and neither are we impressed by their partnership with General Property Trust under the auspices of the government owned Urban Growth NSW.

(Screen capture from NSW Railpage)

Wendy Wales from the Denman Aberdeen Muswellbrook Scone Healthy Environment Group (DAMSHEG) is appalled that yet another vital public asset is being removed from collective use.

"I want to know why the information that Mr Robert Hawes, apparently a member of the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund Board and the Hunter Development Corporation ... I want to know why that piece of information that he donated $60,000,000 to the government to assist with their 'deliberations on the future of the rail line,' ONLY appeared in the very last paragraph of the Newcastle Herald article 'City's future plotted by shadow government.'

"I want to know why this '$60,000,000 donation' mention hasn't been discussed more.

"I couldn't believe I was reading it correctly, you know $60 million donated to get rid of 2km of Newcastle rail so I raised the matter with George Souris.

"He told me via email that he had no knowledge of any of the assertions or content of this article and that he was sorry but he couldn't help me. He also went on to say that he'd had 'no engagement with ICAC on any Newcastle issue, but whatever it is, it ought to be given straight to ICAC,' whatever that means."

The article in question has since been removed from the Herald's site,

... however you can 'read all about it here!'

But back to Wendy's question, why did that $60,000,000 donation only get such a little snippet of reporting in the paper? Why? What is the back story? Cui bono? ... who benefited?

When you read the four documents that also featured in the 'now-removed-Newcastle-Herald' article,

1. Master Planning Group documents Friday 24 May 2013 — 10:00am

2. McCloy letter to Brad Hazzard Feb 2012


4. Brad Hazzard response

... you get a very chummy little picture ... all parties seem very connected and red flags are going off.

Conflicts of interests anyone?

You're not saying anything, Mike, and here in the Upper Hunter, we all want to know.

Simmering away behind Upper Hunter's transport injustice, the mines keep digging for humanity ... and a big gold-star for global pollution.

Is there anybody out there? Coal is ruining my valley

Once famous for its wines, today we are more famous for our mines, and along with inversions & DIDOs (drive-in-drive-outs), 'Keep-Out' and 'For-Sale' signs dot our landscape.

Take a drive on the New England Highway beyond Maitland, and the landscape vandalism caused by coal mines is obvious.

But leave the highway to take a detour, and abandoned houses hint of another vandalism.

Author, grandmother and long time hunter resident before her move to the North Coast hinterland late last year, Sharyn Munro told me that the damage done to communities by runaway coal and the gas extraction industries is heartbreaking.

"Despite all the hype and all the promises that streets would be paved with gold, and progress for all, a very good example of the reality is what happened with the Peabody Wilpinjong mine over at Woolar just over the range from the Hunter Valley.

"They had 96 entries in the phone book when that mine started, and most of the people in the village were all for it but then in five years of that mine opening, there were only 12 entries in the phone book – that village became unliveable."

"We’ve lost so many villages here in the Hunter; Warkworth, Camberwell’s owned by the mines, brave little Bulga’s struggling to survive against illegal encroachments. We’ve got Jerry’s Plains fearing for its life from the Peabody mine and Denman is at great risk from the 4 mines proposed for its community."

"Yes the money is huge but you know, at what cost, at what cost?"

Sharyn Munro's view on coal-induced community vandalism is shared by John Krey, member of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association.

"We’ve been fighting a proposal which is an open cut mine expansion which would see the centre of Bulga be unliveable because of noise and dust.

"This has a massive effect on people’s psyche, on people’s view of the future, their view of where they are currently, and an open cut mine actually moving in such that they can no longer live in this area and their family and already families are splitting up."

John Krey says the DIDO miners work their shifts and leave as soon as they’re done.

"They don’t add anything to the social fabric of the village … the whole social approach or the whole social cohesiveness of the village is gone, and they do not contribute. It’s not the miners’ fault because they’re here to make the big money – but that does destroy the village."

No-one can argue that Bulga has not been destroyed.

Despite the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association's earlier victory against Rio Tinto, 'government-lobbying' for 'Big Mine' has seen the massive mine expansion finally approved followed by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) suggesting that the village of Bulga could be relocated.

This is classic community vandalism perpetuated by the lunacy of coal with only our community elders prepared to take up the baton of defence ... sigh

We should be screaming from the rooftops ...


Meanwhile bubbling away over the Barrington Tops in the east of the Upper Hunter electorate is Gloucester, fighting for their future, fighting for our future.

Right now there has been a suspension of AGL's coal seam gas activities as a consequence of chemicals used in their drilling processes appearing in the water.

Despite fierce opposition to the drilling and desecration of people's lives, the fossil fuel group has dominated the area of the local council's management side making it difficult for the actually elected councillors to take a position.

Ken Johnson (OAM), a former Principal in the NSW Department of Education, currently part-time university lecturer and representative on various government working parties, and the president of the Gloucester Project, says Gloucester can either choose a fossil fuel economy or a food future economy, the latter of which has already attracted a lot of positive attention from many different agencies.

"At last year's Australian Regional Development Conference in Albury, I gave a presentation on socio-economic, sustainable, regional development, showing the relationship between Gloucester approaching climate change difficulties and potentially being one of the areas to be favoured by climate change.

"As a gateway to the North Coast, this whole region could become an important food bowl for Australia, but to date the concept has been thoroughly blocked by Gloucester's council management which refuses to give it proper consideration.

"The purpose of the Gloucester Project is to increase the significance of sacrificed zones in relation to agencies with responsiblitiy to prepare areas for anticipated difficulties from climate change.

"Gloucester council management are not prepared to consider the emerging pattern that agencies promoting the fracking process are likely to be liable for adverse community outcomes because they have responsibilities regarding land use and the people who live in there.

"The process of fracking has a greater impact than previous methods of gas extraction because 'fracking' the strata increases the amount of chemicals escaping into the environment. We are looking at clear evidence concerning migrating methane and migrating mining impurities having a dire impact on people and communities.

"Mothers and babies living in close proximity to CSG wells have an increase risk of significant health difficulties."

The outlook is grim for the Upper Hunter.

Yet despite the countless studies available concerning the impact of fracking on humans, animals and vegetation, pointing to a chain of evidence against coal seam gas extraction, the Liberal National Government is determined to continue with their policy of CSG business as usual if re-elected.

Ken Johnson feels it will not be long before all agencies from governments and industries will have to accept their responsibilities towards maternal and infant health because the evidence is already showing that inadequate advice leads to litigation.

"We need to look at today's playgrounds, and think about the little girls playing in them who will be Australia's future mothers, and remember that in reality those little girls are playing a deadly lottery that will see a proportion of them who live within 30km of a well suffer from significant health problems - we are potentially sacrificing children.

"It is an inescapable issue and government and industry are complicit in the creation of maternal and infant disability - the research is there."

Back in Scone and 30km to the west of me and my family, we have just found out that AJ Lucas has just bought a licence to frack for CSG in Bunnan.

(Screen capture: Jeremy Buckingham, NSW Greens MP)

When will this madness stop?

We know that the National Party candidate plans to carry on as per the will of the current NSW government which really means as per the will of Big Corpa; you know 'Big Gas' and 'Big Mine' and 'Big Developa.'

(Image: with permission from Knitting Nannas)

The Gloucester Knitting Nannas are right when they advise us all in the Upper Hunter electorate to the put the National candidate last, and basically vote for someone else, anyone else.

The National Party has not served our interests in the electorate, only their own, and they are not entitled to this seat. Why, I have not even touched upon the planned annihilation of the glorious Liverpool Plains ... weep.

The beautiful Hunter Valley and the Upper Hunter electorate are being systematically destroyed and no-one, nothing is safe.

We can no longer listen to National party policies heavily weighted towards Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas imaginings - our reality ought not to have to entail National Party representation - they have failed us.

"Dear mythological creature in whom I don't believe,
Please don't let the National Party win in my electorate."


(also cross-posted to Scone Blog)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Frackman: 'no Australian should miss this'

Paid for, downloaded ... and temporarily put on hold until I find a better internet connection! But watch it I will within the next 72 hours!

Why don't you do the same too ... either get to a cinema nearby (if you have one, lucky ducks) or find it, like I did, online.







(cross-posted to Scone Blog)

Monday, March 16, 2015

An Apple a day ... I don't think so

(Apple store, Bondi Junction, NSW, Australia)

Apple do not like giving refunds - who knew?

I didn't ... but I was determined to get mine.

Notwithstanding being a complete ignoramus with all things Apple, I took on board all the Mac recommendations I'd been given from lecturers, fellow students and family members during my final year of a master in media studies, and as a result of all that happy Apple-trilling, I ended up buying myself a Mac-Book Pro for editing and filming purposes.

I couldn't wait to explore all the 'Apple-luv' I'd been hearing about.

Unsurprisingly when I entered the store to start my Apple shopping I was plied with happy friendly bubbly blue t-shirted apple luvvies and I bought everything - bells, whistles, kitchen sinks, and in amongst it all it turns out I bought a 'one-to'one' service where all I had to do was just go onto the website and book an appointment ...


Do you think I could ever book an appointment? ... and just turning up to Apple stores unannounced was never going to work either.

So nine months down the Apple buying track and no further on in my Apple education apart from turning the computer on, I decided enough was enough and I wanted my money back for the 'one-to-one' thingameejiggy.

Once again when I walked into the Bondi Junction store it was all happy blue t-shirty smiles and lots of how-de-doo-dees, but the shutters came down pretty quickly when I briefly explained my mission.

I was informed that it wasn't possible because this particular scenario had never happened before ... you know when someone just rocks up requesting their money back on a particular element of the bundled package. I explained I wouldn't be leaving the store until I had a refund and that I would like to speak to someone who might be more familiar with the refund process.

Another blue t-shirty luvvy was found and she informed me it was highly unlikely that I would be given my money back, and then somewhat randomly she asked me if I had used the computer. Yes, I replied, I've managed to turn it on. Well then, she said, you've used it and you can't get your money back.

Oh the obstinacy!

As I pointed out to her I wasn't trying to get my money back on the computer only on the 'one-to-one' product so whether I had used the laptop or not was irrelevant.

She then mentioned that I would have known about the appointment arrangement process when I made the purchase, but as I pointed out to her the Apple-spiel at time-of-purchase only stated (merrily admittedly) that:

'All you have to do is go on-line and make an appointment whenever you want, at an Apple Store most convenient for you!'

At no point was the subject ever broached that it was nigh on impossible to get an appointment because Apple stores hardly ever have scheduled appointment spaces available at any given store.

'Somewhat misleading and deceptive,' I said to her, 'and certainly an unusual business approach leaving me in no position to make an informed choice!'

Her next line of stalling was that the 'one-to-one' wasn't a product, it was a service and as such Apple never gives refunds on services. I pointed out to her that I was in the service industry and knew very well that as a service provider you have to keep the channels open with your clients so that they can chat to you about their experiences of your services.

Finally she conceded it might be possible to be granted a refund but only if I had my receipt to which I replied I did not.

By now a colleague had joined her and he took up the Apple campaigning line of defence (attack) and said that without a receipt there was no way they could prove that I had bought my computer from them. To which I rejoined what a load of nonsense; I'd bought an Apple product for heaven's sake meaning that I was not only in their system but no doubt the NSA's, GCHQ's and ASIO's too, not that latter would be able to do much with the information.

So, I continued, possessing a receipt was totally unnecessary.

They just stared at me ... and then gave me my money back ... all $129.


It defies belief that this ill-informed project could ever have been considered let alone so fervently upheld by the Liberal/National Party.

Not only is WestConnex wrong, but it has not been approved ... and as such it is ridiculously planless.

Everywhere else in the world cities are improving and upgrading their public transport, but oh no, not here in Australia, not here in New South Wales. Oh no, we're prepared to waste billions of taxpayers' dollars as we splash around oodles of tarmac and hard hats with no public gain in the long run whatsoever.

Oh no, we're open for business and as such we will remain loyal to Big Oil and Big Tarmac and all the vested interests which will end up giving our politicians jobs for their after-pollie lives.

It sucks, WestConnex sucks, and so does Duncan Gay.



(With lots of apologies to Roberta Flak & decent ukele players)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Niceness of Nagano

For a brief moment in February I left Australia and found myself in Japan.

Everyone seems to have a bicycle,

... and everyone is unencumbered by bicycle helmet law,

... and everyone seems to use a bicycle.

And because motorists are often on bicycles,

... and cyclists are often in cars

... and pedestrians are often pushing bicycles,

... it all sort of works,

... and people get on with all their daily comings & goings,

... with a spot of sensible parking thrown in for good measure.

Sigh ... such a far cry from Australia's non-existant bicycle culture which our ignorant, portly, elderly politicians are wedded to.

Move over, Duncan Gay, a better person than you has to be waiting in our transport wings ...

... don't they?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Humiliation Heap

In what ought to be his final year, our son has retreated from the medical school frontline back to our home in the bush, and as his parents, we hope that the nation’s medical schools take heed of Dr Kimberley Ivory’s call to arms.

Along with a sense of worthlessness acquired from ward rounds, his angst was compounded by a lack of cohesive administration from the Joint Medical Program, the much touted medical project undertaken by the University of New England (UNE) and the University of Newcastle to train students to become doctors in conjunction with a rural campus.

He spent the first three years of his medical degree at UNE in Armidale, and then commenced his 4th year (1st year clinical) at the University of Newcastle.

But he was unprepared for the rural / urban divide which manifested itself once he got to Newcastle with reminders from the University of Newcastle medical school that he was not a Newcastle student despite the fact that he had been issued with a University of Newcastle student number and a University of Newcastle student email address.

He was also unprepared for the suspension meted out to him at the beginning of the Semester as a result of issues with ClinConnect, essentially the ‘Police Check’ for health workers.

Notwithstanding that the two universities are part of the same joint medical program and the same health authority (Hunter New England Health), ClinConnect compliance proved to be ‘a mountain too high’ for the JMP, and whilst UNE medical school permitted hospital visits by virtue of his police check clearance, the University of Newcastle medical school did not.

Barred from ward rounds and struggling with the administrative chaos over email addresses and student numbers, he quickly fell behind, and the gulf between ‘actual’ student welfare and medical school spin widened in a most Kafkaesque way.

Upon his dismissal, an offer of counselling was proffered and then immediately retracted when it dawned on the interviewing professor that as a result of suspension, our son was no longer a medical student and therefore not eligible for counselling (you can’t make this stuff up).

Despite being reinstated on the course, our son was shaken by this episode and failed semester 1, necessitating a continuation of studies throughout the mid-year break to catch up with missed clinical rotations from the ClinConnect calamity.

He came back to semester 2 exhausted and worried that he didn’t know anything, even though we tried to reassure him that as a medical student he didn’t need to know anything.

But as ward rounds continued to be punctuated by fear of humiliation in front of his peers, his belief in himself was reduced to a whisper and we were not surprised when he subsequently failed Semester 2 as well.

However we were surprised that the JMP’s bureaucratic Catch-22 approach only got worse.

Whilst our son attended the requisite post-fail interview and submitted the requisite ‘show-cause’ form in the requisite time-frame, the JMP failed to contact him before the start of the new medical school academic year (January 19, 2015).

Without instructions from either of the JMP medical schools and not knowing what he should do, he emailed both medical schools on that first day of semester 1 to see whether they were able to instruct him on how to proceed.

He received an immediate automated reply from UNE to the effect that they were addressing his matter.

By noon the University of Newcastle Medical School had despatched an email advising him to re-enrol and continue with his studies. And then the University of Newcastle Medical School being the University of Newcastle Medical School, could not miss the opportunity to remind him that he was not a Newcastle student even though he had a University of Newcastle student number and a University of Newcastle student email address.

Finally at the end of the first day of Semester 1 he heard back from UNE that he was suspended for one semester.

In a strange way that final email brought peace at last and a chance to plan. Now the next six months ahead would not be dictated by the JMP or their muddle of email addresses and student numbers or their reminders that he was not a Newcastle student or even the unsettling high turn-over of UNE deans of medicine.

He is enjoying his ‘gardening leave’ and is gradually joining us again in conversation and thoughts, and most importantly his opinion; with regard to returning to the JMP, he is reserving judgment.

But as his mother I want to know where was the mentoring, where was the respect, where was the ability to empathise with a student whose confidence was so clearly eroded?

We all have a vested interest in the education of our future doctors, and as significant players in this community enterprise, we need our medical schools to play their part in a responsible and caring way … whether they are ‘Joint’ or not.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Oz police book Oz woman without Oz helmet on Oz bicycle

(Rose red highway patrol car, snow white bike, Scone)

Lights, camera, action!!!

Lights, camera, in-car tape recorder!!!

Lights, camera, siren!!!!

Very quiet sunny day in Scone today so what's a policeman to do?

"We did but see her cycling by ... BOOK her!"

And so the rather Australian saga of booking people using bicycles to buy raspberries and blueberries when they're not wearing helmets starts all over again.

I had actually waited for their car to go past before I crossed the road, and as they did it did half cross my mind that they might to a u-turn at the roundabout and come back for me.

However so engrossed was I in my 'Infinite Monkey Cage' podcast...

... I got quite a surprise when I realised the siren and lights coming up beside were ... well, for me!

So I hopped off my bike, took out my ear-phones, asked the policeman to wait a minute while I turned off Professor Brian Cox, and then tuned in for the 'Do you know it's against the law to ride a bicycle without a helmet?' spiel.

And so I proceeded to educate the young law enforcer why the law was flawed, and that the benefit claims of helmets and helmet law were dubious, and that scientists across the globe were in dispute on this matter and that therefore it had been highly irresponsible of our politicians to make helmet wearing compulsory on the flimsy advice they had received.

I delved into it a little further for him saying there were no laws to stop us overeating or overdrinking or oversmoking which was a good thing, and that people really ought to be able to run their own lives if they didn't cause harm to others.

I mentioned that I felt I was imperilled by the government and that self-defence was provided to me under section 418 of the NSW Crimes Act. I lost him here a little bit and he wanted to know if I was 'self-defending' myself from him, to which I replied a categorical no, that it was the government's daft law that had put me at risk, not him.

He asked me why I thought such a regulation had been put in place if not for a good sensible reason and I told him that it was the result of good marketing and hysterical doctors - he was very surprised by the 'hysterical doctors' bit.

I also mentioned that when I was booked in Adelaide last year the police ended up not proceeding with the prosecution of me to which he commented that they were probably too busy, to which I added 'doing real police work,' immediately seguing into why I though it was such a shame that regulation 256 wasted his time as well given that they clearly had better things to do than book a middle-aged lady on a bicycle cycling on her way home from the shops listening to a science show podcast.

I can't really remember what else we chatted about but by now he was well and truly leaning on the bonnet of his car whilst his partner-in-police-work, still sitting in the patrol car, was probably wondering what the hell we were talking about for so long.

Anyway with my licence in hand he got back in the car and goodness knows what came up after they punched all my details into the in-car computerised data-bank gizmo but it was clearly cause for much mirth.

Finally he reappeared with my penalty notice (and licence), and we bade our farewells and parted company with me saying as per usual:

'See you in court.'

(cross posted on Scone blog)