Saturday, September 05, 2009

Saturday Morning Musings - just another meander

This morning I spent some time just catching up on what others have written. I have been so time squeezed recently that my ordinary blog reading has really dropped away. I thought in this post that I might simply point to a few of the blogs that I do follow.

Free Range International is a war blog written by contractors working in Afghanistan. It presents a particular view of the conflict that I find interesting if sometimes depression.

As it happened, we had a farewell lunch for a colleague yesterday who was born in Afghanistan and came to Australia as a child. A. has been working on a particular demographic project modelling projected changes in the Aboriginal population across NSW through to 2021. This is an important project because it provides a better base for planning service delivery.

A. speaks fluent Dari, Eastern Persian, since this is still the language spoken at home among his extended family. I am reminded from time to time just how British my early history was. My knowledge of the history of this region stops with Alexander and then really starts again with the arrival of the English in India. The vast expanse in the middle is quite fragmentary.

Mind you, I am still better off than most Australians in that I did get to study broader history. Like or dislike the old Empire, its broad history and spread means that those of us who did get doses of British and Empire history were inevitably exposed to a fair slab of the world.

Another colleague at lunch was from Nigeria, so we had passing conversation all linked in some way to differing reactions to empire - the partition of Africa, the Great Game and so on.

The international/empire theme continued since the day ended with a trivia evening to raise money for a new children's hospital in Sierra Leone. One of the questions that we got right was the origin of Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital. It was founded in 1792 as a home for newly freed African American slaves.         

Helen Webberley's Art and Architecture, mainly is always interesting because of its historical flavour. Art Deco and the American Diner provides a fascinating insight into this uniquely US phenomenon. Her Federation Edwardian domestic architecture is also interesting - our present house is very much Federation style.

1 October marks the sixtieth anniversary celebrations of the birth of the People's Republic of China. At the last census, 669,890 people claimed Chinese ancestry. This is quite a large number and is growing very rapidly. Of those claiming Chinese ancestry, no less than 594,962 had both parents born overseas. The number of those in Australia of Chinese ancestry will comfortably cruise past a million within a few years.

The scale of change in the Australian population is quite remarkable just at present. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2008-2009  there were 662,300 permanent and long term arrivals in Australia. In that year there were also 326,200 permanent and long-term departures. Remember, the Australian population is a bit over 21 million, so these are very big shifts.

Given the growing importance of the Chinese community in Australia, the PRC anniversary is not insignificant in local terms.

Given the importance of China and the Chinese to Australia, I follow very few Chinese blogs. One I do follow is  Michael Pettis's China Financial Markets. This has been a v25hipw5ery useful blog from my perspective because it provides information and balance to some of my own assessments. I may not always agree with Michael's assessments ( I think that he is too US centric), but he has pointed very accurately to the reasons why we should be cautious about some of the previous euphoria about China's growth.

Just because I like planes, I follow Ben Sandilands' Plane Talking. Any web search on me will pick up the fact that I used to do consulting in the aerospace area. Events have taken me in different directions, but the interest remains.

One of Ben's latest posts, What is really remarkable about this airliner?, was a blast from my past combining personal memories with professional interests.

Today an aeroplane is a bit like a bus. I know that this has to be so, but I remember when plane travel was an exciting adventure.

Ben's post with links (you must click through) brings this out so well. It also brings out in a very interesting way the culture and fashion of the time. To my 2009 eyes some of the fashions are just over the top, oh so corporate America, but they are a real reflection of the time.  

The next photo from cousin Jamie's collection shows mum and me at Sydney airport. My parents were, I think, flying to Bangkok where dad had a twelve month posting with the International Labour Organisation.

This, I hate to admit, waSydney airports at just the same time as some of the photos that Ben refers to. Aren't we dressed up?

I have always wished that I could have flown to London in the very old days, days even older than me, when planes stopped overnight and passengers were expected to have formal dinner gear to wear at the stop. 

Perhaps enough nostalgia!

In At least Cockburn has a shack … Pt. 5, Thomas has returned to his Western NSW trip. Now, and Thomas will correct me if I am wrong, I think of him as a very Sydney lad. His discovery of the wilds of Australia outside that small blob called Sydney came as a bit of a shock.

Still, and this is important, I do hope that Thomas's discovery of the country takes him to teach there.

Paul Barratt's Australian Observer continues to offer informed advice on the Australian official system. In his latest post, Iraq war: advice should have been proffered, he provides important insight official thinking.

I don't want to sound too much like a broken reed here, but in the days when Australian really did run under the Westminster rather than the modern corporate system,the role of public servants was really to offer frank and fearless advice. If Government decided for political reasons to ignore that advice, then those offering that advice tried to implement what the Government had decided in the best way possible.

The use of the term "political reasons" should not be construed as a criticism. Government is about politics. Our political leaders must take this into account. But they need fearless public servants to temper their thinking.

There is little room today for this. But that's another story!   


Thomas said...

"a very Sydney lad" -- Not wrong there. I too hope that I end up teaching 'bush' for some time.

Jim Belshaw said...

I hope that you do, Thomas. There might be a few culture shocks, but if you look at what you do at the golf club, you meet the one key rule of sucess in country life, get involved!