Category Archives: Society

Australia’s unhealthy obsession with sport.

I won’t beat around the bush: I have no interest in watching sport, whatsoever. Living in Melbourne, that can make one feel somewhat like an alien, as the media here is utterly obsessed by it (although, given that only 1.2 million people here watched the grand final on TV, it occurs to me that there are 67.6%25 of people who, like me, couldn’t have given a bugger about it).

Australia likes to project an image of being a country of sports players. I reject this image completely; we are, instead, a country of sports-obsessed couch-potatoes, with a minority of players who are given far more money and admiration than they deserve.

And like all obsessions, it’s getting rather unhealthy. This week, the federal government launched their
Guide to the Teaching of Australian History in Years 9 and 10
, a course that the government is saying must be taught in schools in order to receive federal funding.

So, what important Australian historical events does this 18-page guide document? The Eureka Stockade, which has been often cited as leading to the birth of democracy in Australia, perhaps? Australia’s shameful involvement in the second Boer War? No, on both counts. Cyclone Tracy? The 1999 republic referendum? Nope and nope.

What do we get instead? Cricket. 1868: First Australian cricket tour of England. 1932–33: ‘Bodyline’ cricket controversy. Listings of no less than three cricket players. Why is any of this even notable?

I was subjected to a documentary on the Bodyline “controversy” by my sports-obsessed school, back in the 80s. It was the most deathly dull thing I’ve ever had inflicted upon me and I distinctly remember being more interested in the carpet on which I was sitting than I was in watching the TV. It is of no more relevance to students today than would be an in-depth look at the history of the Russian republic of Ingushetia, and arguably, far less useful.

This booklet has the cricket-tragic fingerprints of the Prime Minister all over it. It’s highly likely that the election will be finally called, this weekend. Is it too much to ask for us to get a leader who, in the same vein as other notable politicians like Paul Keating, Bob Carr or Barry Jones, has more interest in art, science, music, literature or anything, other than sport?

Too stupid to be allowed to breed.

From the ABC:

A sexual health expert says up to 20 per cent of schoolgirls are not getting vaccinated under the Federal Government’s Gardasil program, which protects against cervical cancer.

Dr Edith Weisberg from the Sydney Centre for Reproductive Health Research says some parents are not giving permission for the vaccination because they are worried it could promote promiscuity.

So, I imagine these people would prefer their daughters died a premature, painful death? That’s as offensive as honour killing.

Why does the Australian Christian Lobby exist?

I guess I should be thanking the Australian Christian Lobby. Not being an avid watcher of commercial television, I completely forgot that Californication was being shown last Monday. Never fear, however, the ACL’s predictable bleating about the show’s “gratuitous sex” generated considerably more media coverage for the show than it otherwise would have received, which prompted me to, err, obtain the first episode – and as far as black-comedies go, it wasn’t too bad.

I’ll leave aside the issue of why these holier-than-thou organisations are forever whining about sex on TV, yet so very rarely make a peep about violence – although I will note that the ACL did bang on about Channel Seven’s “City Homicide” show, also. I don’t recall them ever making any noise about the very excessive violence and torture in 24, but I guess it’s just possible that they were elated that the bad guys were almost always of Middle-Eastern appearance.

What I would like to know, though, is why the Australian Christian Lobby even exists? This is Australia. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion. There’s probably not a better place in the world to be a Christian, because our society tolerates pretty much any belief, provided that you don’t go trying to ram it down their throat. We certainly don’t have the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland put up with for so many years. We give religious organisations tax-breaks. We even put up with the religions that are racist, sexist and aren’t particularly tolerant about non-believers.

I can only conclude that the ACL exists because these people, not content with living their lives as they see fit, feel a need to force the rest of us to live that way too. In a liberal democracy, there is simply no need to argue for stricter laws to match those of your religion; there’s nothing stopping you from adhering them as you wish (with the usual caveat of not hurting anyone else).

Don’t want to work on a Sunday? Well, don’t. But don’t stop me from shopping on the only day I find it convenient because your supreme-being tells you it’s a day of rest. You don’t want your kids given sex education? Fine, have them removed from class – and accept the consequences of an increased risk of teenage pregnancy, because no amount of your god-bothering is going to stop them if they want to. If other parents are happy about it, then there’s no reason for you to oppose it. Don’t like Californication? Well, for Christ’s sake, don’t watch it. Surely the name would have been enough of an indication that it might offend?

Want your kids protected from the evils of teh Interweb? PUT THE DAMNED COMPUTER IN YOUR LIVING ROOM WHERE YOU CAN WATCH WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE DOING! Sheesh, does social conservatism always come with a free frontal lobotomy?

Amateur hour

With all the recent hysteria about the attempted bombings in the UK, The Register has a really good article written by a former armed forces bomb-disposal operator, putting it all in perspective. Well worth a read.

Employers who treat their staff like children

Why is it that some employers treat their staff like schoolchildren? The following story was all over the news today:

This is the new face of work in Australia’s hotel and hospitality industry, where a template Australian Workplace Agreement is being rolled out that strips all award conditions and replaces them with a starting wage of just $13.47 an hour.

At the same time, workers at one motel restaurant have been given instructions not to wear perfume or aftershave, nor to rub their nose or even “pull at a slipping bra strap”.

A handbook distributed to staff also contains standards for grooming and hygiene, including bans on:

  • HAIR ornaments, necklaces, bracelets and rings (not wedding rings);
  • PERFUME and aftershave; and
  • RUNNING fingers through hair, pushing hair out of eyes, rubbing nose, scratching, adjusting clothing, yawning and “pulling at bra strap”.

From dire warnings about the consequences of not keeping one’s desk tidy, to stories of supervisors timing employees’ trips to the toilet, some employers just seem incapable of recognising that their employees aren’t five year olds. The above story, if true, is just too ridiculous for words. Now, while a number of those directives make sense for food handlers… yawning? Adjusting clothing? I imagine being sacked from an environment like that would be nothing less than liberating. (As an aside, I’m also intrigued by the differentiation between wedding-rings, and non-wedding rings. Another sign that unmarried people are second class citizens in Australia? Surely if it’s unhygenic to wear a ring around food, then a ring with a deity’s blessing is hardly going to make a difference).

And it seems that, time and time again, it is small business that is guilty of some of the worst offences. My apologies to any readers who own or work in a well-run small business, but let’s face it, you’re in a minority. I’ve seen examples of so many that are either run by nutjobs, have constant cash-flow issues and have trouble paying their staff, or simply just have some of the most brain-dead work practices that it’s a wonder they even managed to register a business name for themselves, let alone survive for a couple of years. Perhaps the process for registering business names is just a little too easy.

Anyway, it didn’t surprise me in the least to find that the above Horror-Workplace-Of-The-Week story was about a small business (albeit, a member of a larger chain).

I recall the manager of one (of only two, fortunately) former small-business employer of mine giving a lecture to all staff about how they should say “good morning” to each other, every day … and then at another time, insisting that all staff report to him before they left each day, to make sure that there was no more work to be done; effectively forcing them to request permission to leave. It didn’t do anything for staff morale, although the facetious sounds of “GOOD MORNING” yelled across the room each day for the next week made for more than a few laughs; I suppose the theory was that if we were going to be treated like children, we might as well act like them.

Mobile Phone Etiquette

I don’t like mobile phones. It really hit home last weekend when I went for a long walk up Sydney Rd, and whilst standing at the Glenlyon Rd intersection, I had two people converge on me from different directions, both yammering away with their phones glued to their ears. Even the sound of the traffic was preferable to that of two inane phone conversations at once.

Unless I’m on-call, I generally have my phone on silent … if I even have it with me at all. So, at the risk of turning the weblog into an online version of Grumpy Old Men, here is my guide to Mobile Phone Etiquette.

  1. In a restaurant, your phone should be turned off, or if absolutely necessary, on silent with vibrate on, to alert you of messages. You should not take calls at the table, nor should you conduct SMS conversations with remote parties… it’s really not that entertaining for other guests to be watching someone type on their phone.
  2. Use an inoffensive ringtone, preferably one that actually sounds like a phone ringing. You might find it hard to believe, but that 10 second grab of Avril Levigne on a tinny phone speaker isn’t doing anything for your musical cred.
  3. Don’t walk away from your desk and leave your phone behind. I’ve worked in an office where this, combined with an incredibly annoying ringtone, had one co-worker threatening to flush another’s phone down the toilet.
  4. Enter cinema, phone goes off. No excuses. If you’re on-call, you shouldn’t be in the cinema anyway.
  5. Public transport: keep it quiet, and keep it short. The rest of us already know that you’re on the train and that you’ll be home in twenty minutes. I think the Chaser guys summed it up rather well.
  6. Don’t walk and talk, it results in you being oblivious to what is going on around you, and annoying people who are walking behind you. If your phone rings and you’re on a thoroughfare, duck down a side street.
  7. You don’t have to answer it. I’ve never understood those people who are so desperate for any sort of communication that they’d climb a mountain in twenty seconds to answer a ringing phone. If it’s important, then the caller will leave a message.
  8. Voicemail: If it’s important enough for you to leave a message, then say what you want. “Call me back” isn’t enough information for me to determine whether it’s worth adding to Telstra’s profits.
  9. Mobile phones are not a fashion accessory. You don’t need to buy a new one every year, and the money you spend on them could go towards a deposit for the house that your generation is whinging they can’t afford.
  10. Bluetooth headsets: yes, they do make you look like an idiot.