Sunday 29 May 2016


I was recently asked by a builder doing some work for me in London why I chose to live in the UK, rather than in Australia, the land of my birth. "I'd move to Australia in a flash if I could," he enthused. "I'm sick of all the crime and other stuff in Britain, and the weather is so much better in Australia."

Tourism Australia is not going to thank me for my response, but much as I enjoy going back to Australia for visits to see family and friends, I don't expect to live there again.

There are many enjoyable aspects of life in Australia, not least the sense of space and the easygoing nature of much of the population. And there are the spectacular and varied landscapes. But don't kid yourself that it is Paradise. For starters, the weather is often terrible. Too hot in summer and too cold in winter, too wet or too dry. Where I grew up in the bush in the State of Victoria, we often had extended periods of drought, usually accompanied by wildfires and sometimes followed by devastating floods.

I vividly remember the summers where the temperatures frequently reached more than 40 degrees celsuis (100 Farenheit) and the many winter mornings that began with severe frosts. Severe and spectacular storms are also common across much of the country. A relative who lives in Queensland reported her house having been struck by lightning twice in as many weeks. A friend in Brisbane spent several days stranded on the roof of his house during a flood.

But let's leave the weather and move onto my builder's assertion that there was less crime and social disruption in Australia. If anything, it is worse in Australia than in Britain. Out of curiosity I scanned the website pages of the Melbourne Herald-Sun, the Melbourne Age and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Here is a selection of the headline stories I found in a 24-hour period:

  • A WEB of closed-circuit television cameras will be spread across Melbourne to crack down on the violent Apex gang, which has been terrorising the city.
  • THE week-long homeless camp in Melbourne’s CBD is degenerating, as street beggars and protesters clash.
  • EMBATTLED Labor MP is facing questions over a multimillion-dollar property portfolio, amid revelations he charges taxpayers $271 a night while living in an apartment owned by his wife’s trust.
  • METRO and V/Line trains could simultaneously grind to a halt causing transport chaos in Melbourne as a pay-and-conditions fight escalates.
  • A BENDIGO man fought off at least six crocodiles with nothing but spanners, spark plugs and his fists as he desperately tried to save his mate’s life.
  • MOTHER of four may have stabbed herself to death in front of dozens of oblivious witnesses, her killer has claimed.
  • A GROUP of students have been kicked out of Deakin University for cheating after paying people to write assignments for them.
  • YOUTH gangs competing to steal the most cars are helping power an unprecedented surge in Victoria’s car theft rate.
  • VICTORIAN prisons are bursting as taxpayers are forced to fork out tens of million of dollars more for security, almost a year after remand centre riots — blamed on overcrowding.
  • A HABITUAL pedophile who has abused children most of his life has had just four months added to an existing jail sentence for an offence he committed at the beginning of his adult life.
  • A VIOLENT sexual predator who preyed on small orphan boys then beat them when they complained will spend 12 years and nine months behind bars.
  • EXCLUSIVE: Border security officials allegedly working for organised criminals.
  • Teenager scoped out government buildings but was moving towards one likely target when police intervened.
  • Five men who allegedly planned to travel by boat to Indonesia so they could join Islamic State in Syria are due to be extradited under tight security from Cairns to Victoria this morning.
  • Sworn statements show senior staff at Sydney's high-profile Northside Clinic were warned about the "inappropriate" and "dangerous" behaviour of its star psychiatrist years before he was stood aside.
  • A SOUTH Australian woman has been charged over the bludgeoning death of a pensioner in his Kew East, Melbourne, home more than a decade ago.
  • TEENAGE criminals in a tense standoff with police at the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre were promised KFC to come down from the roof, a court has heard.
  • A Victorian man who paid an overseas surrogate to give birth to twin daughters, brought the girls to Australia where he filmed himself sexually abusing them and shared the footage with other paedophiles, a court hears.
  •  A LIGHT plane, almost 300kg of drugs and $3.6 million in cash have been seized from members of Australia’s outlaw bikie gangs in just one year.
  •  KITTENS strip club in South Melbourne has been sprayed with bullets for the third time in six months – this time in broad daylight.
  • A CAR smash racket is running rampant, leaving thousands of Victorians with huge repair bills and without their cars. This is how they do it.
  •  THIEVES used sledgehammers to smash into Collins Street Gucci and Prada stores and steal thousands of dollars worth of handbags.
  •  CLUMSY cyclists are crashing into each other, stationary objects, and even a train, with thousands also playing red-light roulette, not wearing helmets, and ignoring fines.
All seems rather familiar, eh!

If you are, justifiably, fed up with politics in the UK, it will seem to be a model of propriety and maturity when compared with the turmoil of the infantile, bigoted and often corrupt Australian political community. Oh, and I haven't mentioned the flies, mosquitoes, spiders and occasional snakes. Or that there is no National Health Service. Or that public transport is often non-existent. Or that the mainstream media is terrible. And I nearly forgot to mention that you won't enjoy driving on Australian roads because there is zero tolerance with speeding (a couple of kilometres an hour over the limit can get you booked). Speed limits keep changing and most speed cameras are hidden. On top of this, there is random breath and drug testing.

So, if you still fancy moving to The Lucky Country, I wish you the best. But first a further reality check with this sobering item from BBC News.

Saturday 21 May 2016


A free media guide recommended for charities and community groups wishing to promote their work, written by Ian D. Richardson...

Building up a rapport with the news media can take time.  This is especially so if you have been getting what is considered “a bad press” in the past.

I will not attempt to defend the less reputable activities of some journalists or newspaper proprietors, but on the whole, most wish to produce accurate, perceptive accounts of events.  That they fail sometimes should not be seized upon as an excuse for refusing to talk to the media. It may even be that the fault lies with you for not explaining yourself properly.

In my 40 years or so as a professional journalist, I would go so far as to say that at least 80% of cases in which individuals or organisations have unproductive relations with the news media, the prime cause rests with those individuals or organisations.  Sometimes the situation arises from the simple fact that someone is attempting to hide information of legitimate public interest, but more likely the problem lies with the inability of the individual to understand the motivations and limitations of a free press.

Even the best newspaper and broadcasting stations have their faults, and while you may wish to rectify these, your immediate concern ought to be the understanding of their limitations.  Indeed, if you understand what these limitations are, you may be able to turn some of them to your advantage.

What I am saying, in short, is that your best approach is to learn to live with what you have in the way of news opportunities.

Read the full article here.