Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sydney growth problems - Sydney Water's Eastlakes over-kill

From time to time I have written about Sydney's growth problems with a special focus on the area where I have been living. I have another case to report.

The Gardens R Us store that used to exist just down Gardners Road from my place was one of my favourite Sydney spots. I loved the plants and the view over the golf course.

The 1.7ha site was owned by Sydney Water and leased to the Piggins brothers. Given the value of the site in the middle of one of Sydney's rapid growth zones, Sydney Water terminated the lease at the end of 2015 with the aim of re-development. The buildings were cleared away, but the site then just sat.

Sydney water has now sought rezoning approval to allow it to build 744 apartments in five blocks up to 14 storeys high on the Gardens R Us site plus the adjoining block also owned by Sydney Water (in all 2.75ha) and presently used as a maintenance depot. Bayside Council planning officers oppose the proposal on the grounds that it is too big and would result in open space. There are also some potential flood issues. Water passes through lower parts of the site from the higher ground through to the wetlands. You will find the Sydney Water proposal here.

I blinked when I heard the news. It's really just too big for the area. I have commented before at the way higher density development is placing pressure on existing parks, sporting facilities and green spaces. This proposal will add to those pressures.

. .

Monday, February 26, 2018

Brief reflections on children and childhood

"We just love these cool, misty mornings. 
That's my whole world right there."
Lara Flanagan, My Notes from New England
Anybody who has been a parent will sometimes have struggled with what they should or should not say to their kids.

I think that this has become more difficult for us all because there are now so many views (and rules) on what we are meant to say or not say, do or not do.

I mention this now because I have just read Lara Flanagan's post Kindness is so much better than being right on her blog, My Notes from New England. Yes, yes, I said. .

For those who don't know Lara, her web site describes herself in this way:
My name is Lara Flanagan and My Notes from New England is about the journey I travel with my constant companions of my young twins Archie and Larissa, my two mad dogs Kevin & Rosie and the beautiful world of New England that I call home. 
My Notes from New England began with the stories of how a single mum city girl embraced a new life in the country. It documented our travels as we donned backpacks and traipsed around the world for 9 months and now it follows us as we explore and celebrate the beautiful world that is the New England region, Australia and beyond. 
My Notes from New England was inspired by challenges I have faced since embarking on a complete lifestyle change which was sparked by a major health crisis in the form of a diagnosis of MS.
In addition to her blog, Lara has a Facebook Page and a twitter handle.I love her photos and have taken the liberty of reproducing one above.

My girls are older now and seem to have grown up okay. Well, I think that they are pretty bloody special but then I'm their dad. I would think that way!

I know that I'm not alone in that perspective. All parents struggle to some degree, but with love most kids survive the experience and turn out okay.

If I had one piece of advice to offer to new parents, it would be don't worry or agonise too much. Enjoy the ride. They will grow up far too fast anyway!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Morning Musings - Barnaby Joyce and the question of public versus private morality revisited

I hadn't wanted to comment further on Barnaby Joyce beyond those things that I said in Barnaby Joyce and the question of public versus private morality and in the subsequent comment thread. My view was better let the matter rest until we could see all the fall-out. To a degree, that's still true.

On 25 January I wrote Surviving in an age of outrage - the personal space.  I have the second post on the public space almost ready to go, but my thinking there took me in new directions that I'm still working through.

The genesis of the 25 January post was in fact a conversation about Barnaby Joyce in Armidale prior to the by-election. I wasn't thinking, I was relaxed, had forgotten other views. My friend suddenly said I must go. I realised he was going to avoid what might have become a fight. This is a very old friend, someone whom I really value. I know his views, I disagree with him in many cases, but I do not wish to lose his friendship. I really value it. Better to exercise discretion and shut up. I wish I had done so sooner.

A little later, I realised that I was censoring my public views as well. This came as a bit of a shock. I am not a cultural warrior. I always try to be fair. I want to encourage discussion, to untangle issues. There are certain contested areas such as Aboriginal history and policy where I am very cautious indeed. But to realise the extent to which I am now self-censoring made me very uncomfortable indeed.

I will complete the second post. For the moment, I am providing a context for the brief remarks that follow.

In the two weeks that followed my post on Mr Joyce I watched the deluge of publicity as issue after issue was picked up and thrown into the mix without balance or time for analysis.The original issue of morality as it related to sexual conduct and relations was still there all the time even when denied, aided by the PM's response.

This also became clear at a dinner Wednesday night where the only real issue was the response to to the morality of the affair. The PM's ban was also supported on the grounds that this was no more than the private sector was already doing.

Thursday morning my attention was drawn to this piece of sleaze misreporting from the Canberra Times repeated in the Age. As you might expect given my background, it left me somewhat unhappy.

On Friday morning came the allegations of sexual misconduct. Apparently the lady in question is unhappy that her complaint was made public. I would have thought that inevitable in the circumstances. That morning, the front page of our new guardian of public morality, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, carried Barnaby Joyce on one side of the front page, a story on sexting between two NSW state Liberal MPS, a story later repeated in the Australian.I can't give links. They are now behind the paywall. I looked at the story and thought here it comes.

Later that morning, Mr Joyce resigned as party leader. Then the Northern Daily Leader ran an editorial: This hasn’t been about the affair for a while. I really flipped, tweeting  "As an exercise in cant, hypocrisy and back covering this editorial takes the cake. The Joyce matter was everything about sex and what was appropriate to report. Other things were then thrown in. We will all be the poorer for this". Over the top perhaps, but I leave it to you to judge.

Clearly, all the issues that have been ventilated over recent weeks will require some clarification. For that reason, the whole thing is likely to roll on for a while yet. I won't comment on these or the political ramifications at this point because I have no idea how all this will unfold.

I finished my 9 February post on Barnaby Joyce and the question of public versus private morality with these words:
While reporting might not have affected the election result at the time, I do think that the current controversy will have some adverse political effects on Mr Joyce and the National Party. Of more importance, however, is what the case might mean for the dividing line between public and private morality. Are the Daily Telegraph and  the other newscorp outlets in their role as "defenders" of public morality taking us down the path previously followed by the British tabloids with their sometimes salacious coverage of moral, generally sexual lapses, by British public figures? Alternatively, will Australia follow the route that the US seems to be going of outright bans on  sexual relations between elected officials and their staff? Or maybe both, since the second is likely to lead to the first anyway? 
I don't know. I can't answer these questions. The current sometimes febrile debate around relationships suggests a continuing shift in attitudes towards morality, the emergence of new views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour, new views increasingly enforced by various forms of social and legal sanctions. The effect appears to be a progressive widening of the scope of public morality at the cost of private morality.
I think that the two weeks since I wrote have largely answered these questions. I may not like it, but we do seem to have entered the domain that what the public are interested in constitutes the public interest, that this now determines the shifting line between public and private morality in a way that we haven't seen before in this country.


The Australian provides more information on the sexual harassment claims against Mr Joyce.


Discussion in comments referred to the selection process for APVMA HQ in Armidale. While it's peripheral to this post, this is my response: Canberra Times sleazes over Armidale and APVMA

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Train Reading - preliminary musings on Furtado's Histories of Nations

One of my Christmas presents was Peter Furtado (ed) Histories of Nations: how their identities were forged (Thames & Hudson, compact edition 2017). In the book, 28 historians and writers provide their own short perspectives (around 3,000 words) of the history of their own nations with a short introduction by Furtdado. The contributors were asked  “to step outside their usual frames of reference and write about how history is understood in the culture of their homelands at large,”

Jerry Brotton's 2012 review on the BBC's Historyextra provides a good overview of the book, concluding
Overall this is a collection that goes too far (why so many European nations?) and yet not far enough (why so few east Asian or African ones, why not every single nation?). The writing is not consistently good enough to make it more than an intriguing curiosity.
I can see why he reached that conclusion, the standard of writing does vary, but its also a little unfair. Even as an intriguing curiosity it's worth reading, but there is more to the book than that.

To begin with, the book reminds us of just how much the frames within which we think and write are determined by culture and history. As analysts or historians we do try to break out of this, but it's remarkably difficult because we cannot always see are own blinkers. It reminds us, too, about the fragility of national identities, about the way that history is put to the service of creating or preserving identity.

Some of the writers are very frank. On India, writer and journalist Mihir Bose suggests that India's problem is that it has never existed in an historical sense! It is "the civilization with no home-grown history". As I read this piece, I thought that it was a pity the Indian Empire broke up rather than transforming as it might have into a new nation. That, I thought, was one price of the Second World war.

As I read, I found that the multiple stories were causing subtle shifts in my own perceptions. I am reasonably well read, but there was material and perceptions that were new to me.

I could wish the book had more African material. Outside Egypt, Ghana is the only country covered on that continent, and Egypt's history is not African. I think that a similar book focused on the national history and historiography of African countries might provide some real insights - and correctives.

Overall, I thought that while the book is flawed, it is actually a very interesting work and well worth a read.


Monday, February 19, 2018

First reflections on the opening of NERAM's permanent exhibition of the Hinton collection

Opening of the permanent exhibition of the Hinton Collection at the New England Regional Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Paul Barratt.  

Part of the reason why I have been so quiet here is that I have been busy preparing a public lecture I gave Saturday as part of the opening ceremonies of the permanent exhibition of the Hinton collection at the New England Regional Art Museum.  

Starting in 1929 and continuing until his death in 1948, Howard Hinton gave over 1,000 artworks plus 700 art books to the Armidale Teachers' College. The result is one of the greatest art collections in Australia seen through the eyes of a single collector.

The concentration of such a large number of artworks in a small space is quite sumptuous. This is an exhibition you need to savour. Photo courtesy of Paul Barratt. . 

The sheer size of the collection makes it impossible to exhibit all pieces. So the gallery has chosen 230 or so pieces that can be rotated from time to time.  This number of paintings makes for a concentrated hanging in a small space. The impact is overwhelming. If visiting, you need time to enjoy the works,

In mt talk, I focused on the early days of the Armidale Teachers' College, while art historian Micheal Mignard focused on Hinton. This was a fascinating talk, telling me much I did not know.  As summarised by Paul Barratt:
Mike observed that the Hinton Collection is the best collection in the country of the Heidelberg School when they moved from Heidelberg to Sydney. It is also an important insight into what was going on in the Sydney art world in the 1920s and 1930s. Hinton knew the artists, and his standing as a collector was such that he would be granted early access to new exhibitions and would have first chop at buying the ones that caught his eye. The majority of these ended up at Armidale Teachers College, which also received the paintings in his personal collection when he died.

The New England Conservatorium of Music's Dixie Six at the exhibition opening.  Fabulous jazz. 

It will take me a little while to write up my notes from the trip and do the necessary follow-up. Each time I go to Armidale I end up with more action items than when I began! 

Friday, February 09, 2018

Barnaby Joyce and the question of public versus private morality

In my 16 December 2017 round-up, A chaotic three weeks in Australian politics!, I wrote in part:
Saturday 2 December saw the New England by-election. This had been a nasty campaign. 
From the social media feeds, I learned far more of Mr Joyce's personal life than I ever wanted to know. I kept wanting to say stop. Mr Joyce is a public figure, but what you are doing is not fair on anybody else.
I deliberately did not provide details. However, over the course of the campaign the twitter feeds provided accumulating material and detail. Not all this material was correct. An apparent example is the story that one of Mr Joyce's daughters drove down Tamworth's Peel St in a car with “Barnaby Joyce” branding, yelling at people not to vote for him through a megaphone. However, core details were fleshed out at interminable length. As the campaign proceeded, the tone became increasingly angry with anger directed in part at the mainstream media for not reporting. To drive this point home, many of the tweets were copied to journalists. If you just scroll back through the #NewEnglandVotes twitter feed you will get a feel.

Following the by-election, the matter rested until the newscorp media decided to run the story. Mrs Joyce confirmed basic details but asked for privacy. Fat chance. Now the barrier has been breached, the story has run and run. I don't know what the Joyce family is going to do, although their Tamworth home is reportedly for sale. It's hard enough managing a deeply personal thing like a marriage breakdown, harder still in the withering glare of national publicity.

The local media in particular were placed in a difficult position, something covered in part by Jamieson Murphy's piece in the Northern Daily Leader. They had to balance questions of proof, the right to privacy. the question of public interest in a frenetic campaign. I'm not sure how I would have handled it had I been an editor. I would have been conflicted.

Some of those who oppose Mr Joyce are arguing that the failure to report affected the election outcome. That's possible, although I'm doubtful. The matter was widely covered on social media and was the subject of considerable local gossip. Press coverage might have cost him some votes, but might equally have gained him some from those believing that this was part of an already perceived campaign against Mr Joyce.

While reporting might not have affected the election result at the time, I do think that the current controversy will have some adverse political effects on Mr Joyce and the National Party. Of more importance, however, is what the case might mean for the dividing line between public and private morality. Are the Daily Telegraph and  the other newscorp outlets in their role as "defenders" of public morality taking us down the path previously followed by the British tabloids with their sometimes salacious coverage of moral, generally sexual lapses, by British public figures? Alternatively, will Australia follow the route that the US seems to be going of outright bans on  sexual relations between elected officials and their staff? Or maybe both, since the second is likely to lead to the first anyway?

I don't know. I can't answer these questions. The current sometimes febrile debate around relationships suggests a continuing shift in attitudes towards morality, the emergence of new views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour, new views increasingly enforced by various forms of social and legal sanctions. The effect appears to be a progressive widening of the scope of public morality at the cost of private morality.  

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Sidetracked by Armidale families past and present

I have been trying to focus on moving main writing projects forward. I like some of the coverage I have been getting, Madeline Link's  Take a trip down memory lane, here's what Armidale once looked like is an example, but it has narrowed my focus.

That's not helped by my discovery of new sites, Armidale Families Past and Present is an example, that constantly distract me: I know her, I went out with her, is that what happened?, I remember him, I remember that corner store, we did that and so it goes on.

For every one person who lives in Armidale now, there are 3+ who used to live there. The site has suddenly exploded in membership as those living elsewhere like me return to share memories of times' past. It's like a drug, the sudden discovery of people who share memories and experiences. Often our memories are wrong or partial, but that is corrected.

This you tube newsreel is of the 1960-61 Scout jamboree at Lansdowne. I was there! Comments follow the video.

In the discussion thread I wrote for Zivan Milanovic who was a mate and there with me.
Memories of the 1960-61 Jamboree follow. This is part one.  
We were young compared with some of the other troops, with a few of us just going into Senior Scouts, Those were the red shoulder flashes on the scout uniform Zivan put up. I say this because I was just so impressed with the marching and discipline of the New Zealand scouts who just seemed so organised and sophisticated, able to do things we could not. That may have been the opening ceremony, but there was also some form of combined concert or display.  
I can see our camp in my minds eye. We had a central campfire surrounded by tents. I think that we were given rations to cook or eat, including tins of jam. They blew up if popped into the fire to create an explosion. In our case, this left jam fairly widely spread over the tents! I know that I had a small portable aluminium camping set with a fry pan on the bottom, a small billy and mug that sat in the middle and a plate that clipped over the top.  
There was some central area where we could buy drinks and ices. There were banks as well trying to encourage thrift. I remember opening multi accounts with small sums of money just for the hell of it. I don’t know where we washed. I suspect we got a bit smelly. I do remember putting hot coals into an enamel mug to try to iron some creases out of my uniform! 
This is part two. 
At least once we were allowed to go into town via train. 15,000 scouts on the streets of Sydney make quite an impact.
We went to Luna Park, the first time I think I had been there. This was fabulous. We had some form of multiple pass allowing us to go on many things like the rotor many time. Girls and uniforms! Somehow we managed to collect a girl in, I think, the ghost train! 
As part of the Jamboree there were various walks available. Some longer ones struck me as hard work, but I did go on one overnight down into the Grose valley. On the way down a scout fell and was hurt. Some of the bigger seniors or rovers were sent back running to stretcher the wounded warrior to the top.  
We camped in Blue Gum forest, a beautiful spot. That night we all gathered around the camp fire and sang and played various games. Next day back up the side of the cliff on a different path. It was hot, I was out of water, so flung myself down and lapped up some water from a shallow pool. The more experienced scout leaders lit a small fire and made themselves a cup of tea, a lesson for me. 
Overall, it was fun, fun, fun.
Zeke, Zivan, posted some memorabilia from the jamboree. The scarf on the right, the NSW scouts received this, I still have.

As an historian, I am fascinated by this stuff.

Armidale is not a big city but is divided by the creek, by where people went to school,  by religion, by our parents' interests and roles.

I did not go to the pool room although I walked by it; I did not play hooky to go to the Blue Hole, although I do have some of my own stories there in a different context; I was Methodist while others were Catholic;  I went to TAS, an all boys school, and was too shy to sometimes talk to let alone chase girls.

So there were divides.But as an historian, the detail of local life is fascinating. As a person, it's even more so.  I am sucked in, waiting for the next installment.

This will ease. But for the moment, it's totally sidetracked me from my main writing themes. I'm not complaining, mind you. It really is fun.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Monday Forum 5 February 2018 - as you will

The first Monday Forum for 2018 and indeed the first one for a while. With lower posting, both traffic and comments are down, but the Forums do provide an opportunity to raise and discuss things that I have ignored.

This Forum is again an open one. But first, a few brief comments, reports.

The latest public opinion poll shows a marginal improvement in the Turnbull Government's position. Is it too early to suggest that the Government's position is stabilising?

Lyle Shelton, previously managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, has stepped down to join Senator Bernardi's Australian Conservatives. ranks.

The Australian Conservatives are quite well resourced. Accepting this and that they are really only targeting a niche vote, I cannot see them having much impact. Is this view right?

My Canadian cousins have now left for New Zealand. At drinks, they expressed some incredulity at the Australian citizenship row in Federal Parliament. Cousin Diana, a Canadian citizen, was born in London while father Cyril was doing his PhD. This makes her eligible for UK citizenship plus New Zealand because both parents were born there. Daughter Eleanor has the same mix plus I think Austrian (or is it Swiss or both?) through her father.

The citizenship row continues with the resignation of Labor's David Feeney. The ABC's Matthew Doran has quite a useful summary of the present position, including the down stream effects.Youngest continues to argue that in most cases the problem is due to sloppy housekeeping, but also thinks that Section 44 of the Australian constitution should be changed to better reflect modern Australia.That is my view too. But what form might the amendment take? And could we get it through?

Unlike marcellous, I am not an especially musical person. I am not a good singer, and there wasn't a lot of music around. Now marcellous is  Pissed orff at changes to ABC classical radio. These are, I think, part of a broader set of ABC changes that do imperil Australia's cultural history.

Finally, and this is an opening shot, how do we reconcile the conflict between models of representative government and corporate government in areas such local government, universities and medical colleges?

These are just some rough topics. Over to you.

Update 6 February on the continuing citizenship imbroglio

Over on The Converation, Professor Hal Colebatch provides a useful summary ( How the Australian Constitution, and its custodians, ended up so wrong on dual citizenship) of  the history of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution. In an earlier piece that I missed, .Joshua Gans reports in Opinions on High that the High: Court may no longer expedite MP eligibility referrals.

In a related matter, the High Court will today consider whether the Jacquie Lambie Network's number two candidate in Tasmania, Steve Martin, should be allowed to take Ms Lambie's former Senate seat despite holding a position as a local mayor. The SBS report notes that case will test part of Section 44 that forbids those who hold an "office of profit under the Crown" from being elected to the federal parliament.

In a comment, Neil also pointed me to this piece by James Boyce.  

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Saturday Morning Musings - The Beetoota Advocate

"Local Restaurant Now Successful Enough To Have To Worry About Rich People Allergies"  The Beetoota Advocate
When  I first came across The Betoota Advocate I was almost fooled. The story in question was just so plausible. Then I thought, hang on. This can't be right. It cannot be the oldest newspaper in Australia as claimed. Further, I know Queensland well, and if  Beetoota was an inland centre with that population then I would know it.

When I looked up Beetoota, I found that it was a ghost town with then zero population in Queensland's Channel Country. Digging into the Advocate itself, I found that it was an Australian satirical news website actually based in inner Sydney started in 2014 by former journalists Archer Hamilton and Charles Single and publisher Piers Grove. The site puts a comedic spin on current news topics and broader social observations.

I came across The Betoota Advocate very early an knew enough to check. In 2015, Brisbane radio station 4BC was not so lucky, taken in by an outlandish moral tale about three junkies, a home invasion, and a plucky 78-year-old retired boxer!
Report: Sunday Roast Easiest Way To Get Adult Children To Visit Home. A year-long study into the most effective way to make adult children revisit the nest has concluded this afternoon and the results are quite telling. 
I think that one of the reasons that The Beetoota Advocate has become Australia's most popular satirical site is that it pokes fun at many current social and cultural tropes in a straight faced way preserving a news format instantly familiar to readers of the Australian press and especially the regional media.

Many of the popular satirical shows play to particular slices, mainly progressive, of social and political views. The Gruen Transfer's Will Anderson is a case in point: he often achieves laughs by savaging a slice of views that he and his audience already consider wrong or silly. It is very one-dimensional.

Of course this happens in the Beetoota Advocate too, but the scope is broader and less savage. I think that most Australian parents would smile at the thought of a report that tells them that roast dinners are a way of bringing children home to dinner. We know that.

Not all the Beetoota stuff is really funny. This is partly a matter of output, but also reflects the difficulty in maintaining a light touch to avoid spinning over into too heavy handed parody.

On a final note, I think at first the good folk at The Beetoota Advocate though that someone was taking the mickey out of them, but the Beetoota pub is re-opening, restoring the town's population to one.