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Compared to Estonia, Australia is so backwards

January 26, 2015

26 January 2015

In May and June last year, I took a round-the-world trip that included Japan, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and the USA. Previously I’ve taken trips that included Canada and much of Europe. The one recurring and resonating theme from these trips and seeing so many countries is that Australia is so, so backwards. It’s really noticeable on the arrival home when all the luxuries of great freedom and amenities experienced on your holiday disappear. Except, they are not luxuries overseas, they are the basics, making Australia’s basics almost primitive. While I could have picked out any country from Norway to Greece, or Japan, or any number of cities in USA or Canada to highlight key differences, it’s the small Baltic nation of Estonia that makes the starkest reality, and provides the most startling headline.

Tallinn, Estonia - from St Olaf's Church

Estonia better than Australia? Beautiful Tallinn from St Olaf’s Church (2014-05-26)

Today is Australia Day in Australia and Australians are a very proud bunch. Not only that, they love to show it. They also present themselves somewhat as rogues, with a fierce streak of independence and an even fiercer streak determination (the “aussie fighting spirit”). They are full of bravado, and love to rub success into the face of the world. Overseas, you’re more likely to experience the “loud mouth Australian” than the “loud mouth American” these days. Australians love to regale in telling everyone about the greatness of their country and even the greater greatness of their achievements, especially on the sporting field. Australians love an opinion, won’t hesitate in delivering it, and believe they have it right, or at least they know it best. That’s even despite global contradictory evidence everywhere else in the world. Being an island nation, that aspect of isolation, especially the distance away from other major Western societies, has given a false sense that “down under” not only works in a geographic sense, it works in a practical and philosophical sense. Except, “down under” is also a metaphor for backwards.

The National Flag

You’d think the last thing a fierce, patriotic and independent country would want on their flag is a flag of another nation. Not down under in the backward country. Over 100 years after federation and nearly 30 years after the “Australia Acts” severed the last legal ties to Great Britain and provided full sovereign status, Australia persists with the British flag on its flag. Other former British colonies like Canada, India, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana changed their flag ages ago. Estonia, despite often centuries of foreign rule, sticks to a basic tricolor in their national colours in a pattern that also symbolises the winter landscape. In fact, when the USSR broke up, all those former republics reverted to, or formed flags, in their national colours.

The thing is, Australia has national colours, and they are very popular, and internationally synonymous with the country. “Green and Gold” are derived from the indigenous golden wattle, the national flower, and after decades of use, especially by sporting teams, the government in 1984 saw fit to ratify them as official. This might also have been done as a prelude to changing the flag, as the government was active in pushing the issue, especially on the back of the famous America’s Cup win by Australia II in 1983. Thirty years later, nothing has changed. Instead, it’s New Zealand that will highlight Australia’s folly as they begin to make moves to change their flag. Australia’s response will no doubt be even more stubborn and think, “Why should we follow New Zealand?”.

The Nanny State

You’d think in a nation that loves its rogue individualism and even boasts about being “young and free” in its national anthem would be against excessive regulation, conformity and impingement on civil liberties. No, not in Australia. This backward country loves laws! If there’s something to be regulated or controlled, it will attempt to do it. That extends from merely riding a bike to riding an escalator and even suppressing free speech. If the law impacts only a minority, Australians are even more fervently behind it, happy to oppress their fellow citizens and even happier to see them caught. Solariums are banned even though laying in the sun – responsible for nearly all skin cancers – is not. Pools must be fenced even if you never have children about, while there’s no law forcing front doors to be closed to prevent children wandering onto the road. I guess nanny state laws are fine when it’s against a minority, like pool owners. There’s strict laws against public consumption of alcohol and nightclubs are subject to strict curfews. Cigarettes are constantly attacked with ever increasing taxes despite existing tax gains being far in excess of costs against the health system. Australians are also a nation of dobbers. Not just happy with laws, they love public shaming and love hurling abuse at anyone not conforming. Although many of the following examples apply nationwide, mostly I will cite my home state as a guide. Victoria also just happens to be the biggest nanny state within the national nanny state.

The most notorious regulation that visitors will find in Australia that riding a bicycle without a helmet is a crime. Among the entire world, only Australia and New Zealand demand that all its citizens, even for a slow ride in a park, wear a helmet or be punished. Victoria’s is the most punitive fine at almost $200 – the same as a speeding motorist. How there’s a moral equivalence is a mystery. Introduced in the early 1990s, the law has only seen cycling marginalised, infrastructure stagnate, and both perceived and real danger of cycling increase. It’s created a huge animosity with motorists, as state governments promote cycling with glib slogans like “share the roads” and “show respect”, which begin to squeeze space and cause more cycling injuries and deaths and more frustration for motorists. Seeking sanctuary on footpaths is not an option because that’s also illegal for anyone older than 12. Yep, turn 13, and your kid is tossed onto the road with the insane belief that a flimsy piece of foam will “keep them safe”.

Evolved culture now dictates – even in legislation – that cyclists are “vehicles”, and that they’re supposedly to behave exactly as vehicles. All the while real steps of separate infrastructure and safe routes – as is prevalent in Europe and Japan – lag even further behind. Don’t be fooled by some of the nice bike lanes in the city centres. Their inspiration is to project nice vistas for brochures so tourists see Australia as cycling friendly. Out in the suburbs, it’s deadly roads and ostracism. The fact is, Australians as a whole loathe cycling, loathe cyclists even more, and want even further forms of regulatory oppression, like registration (complete with number plates) to keep the cycling menace in check and to dob in a cyclist to police. Such is the stubbornness of the Australian ego, they’d rather keep leading the world in stupidity than admit to 25 years of errors and begin the corrective process of less laws and more cycling friendly solutions.

More: Australia the arse end of the world for cycling

Update 2016-01-09: NSW has started the path to bicycle registration and massively increased helmet fines from $71 to $319. Read More

Speed limits are another area of excessive attempts at regulation. In Australia, you’ll see speed limits from 20kph to 100kph and every increment of 10kph in between and even guideline speeds in a 5kph increment for some corners. In Estonia, it starts at 30kph and goes in increments of 20 to 110kph. Other than higher limits on some major new freeways, that’s it. This format is largely echoed through Europe and the USA. Quiet residential streets are 30kph for safety reasons for cyclists and pedestrians. Australia can’t even get that right, with Victoria dropping a laughable 10kph off the default limit of 60, down to 50. As if that helps. To compound the problem, local councils add 20kph speed humps to many streets. If it was a uniform statewide 30kph, the culture would change and you’d not need the speed humps.

The other ridiculous idea is variable speed limits through busy areas like shopping districts or schools. The fixed sign will read 40kph with small writing underneath, usually the time of day and specific days that the limit applies. Who the hell can read this when concentrating on the road, and then to check the time to see if the limit applies? To circumvent that problem, an additional flashing sign is added. That will show 60kph during quiet times, 40kph during busy times. Except, the other fixed sign remains, usually within close proximity of the flashing one, confusing everyone. One moment you see 60kph then immediately next is the 40kph with small writing underneath. If you don’t notice the writing, the instinct is to hit the brakes and drop to 40kph, which causes problems for following motorists not expecting the car ahead to suddenly slow. It’s insane. Get rid of this crap. It’s either 40kph all the time or 60kph. It just shows the excessive nature that government wants to control behaviour. Then when it comes to a crunch decision like a 30kph residential limit, they are gutless, preferring to finesse each individual street. If they had any sense, the European model would be adopted.

Update 2016-01-09: The most galling example of variable limits in Melbourne is Warrigal Road near Batesford Road, Chadstone. Despite no reduction in lanes passing through the small shopping strip and local college area, despite a fence on the median strip to discourage pedestrians running across the road, and despite two sets of traffic lights with pedestrian crossings within 100 metres of each other, for some reason traffic must be slowed to 40kph. It’s also a steep downhill approach when heading north so no wonder it’s become the state’s most lucrative speed camera – by almost double – with over 75,000 offences and $17m of fines in the six months ending 2014. Clearly this site doesn’t need such a zone, unlike, say, a school area on a single lane road with cars constantly parking. Despite the community outrage at the blatant revenue raising, and that it and many others of its ilk are under investigation, nothing has been done.

Warrigal Road and Batesford Road, Chadstone, Victoria, Australia

The notorious 40kph zone at Warrigal Road & Batesford Road, Chadstone, Victoria.

Many of these variable limits were introduced for no reason other than to do something for the sake of it. While governments boast that no one’s been killed once the lower limit was added, they hide the fact that no one was killed beforehand either. The same situation goes for speed tolerances. Despite all the evidence showing that it’s really excessive speeding like 20kph above the limit that kills, the tolerance is a measly 3kph across all speed limits. Even though Australians won’t tolerate a 30kph (or even 40kph) limit in quiet residential streets, there’s now an embedded culture to drive way under the speed limit – as much as 20kph below – on major roads from a fear of being fined. If being 4 or 5kph over the limit was really killing people, the responsible action would be to actually lower the limit and keep the original tolerance (10% of the limit).

Roads

General traffic flow is blighted either by regulators trying to be too smart for themselves, or not regulating when required. (Note that Australia is left-lane drive.) First, there’s no “keep left unless overtaking” signs anymore. Yup, it’s ok to drive slow in the right lanes and hold-up traffic. Many roads that terminate will often have a lane to turn left or right and the other lane to turn right, especially if after making the right turn it’s common to turn left soon after. The theory is if two cars are turning right, the one in the left lane can cross the intersection and turn straight into the left lane to set up for its next left turn. Except, all the right-then-left traffic sits in the left lane, blocking actual left-turners and leaving the right lane mostly empty! Just have a lane for each turn and those in the right line can easily peel off into their desired lane.

The regulators then go missing on many dual-lane carriageways, the classic examples being North Road and Warrigal Road in Melbourne’s south-east. Huge volumes of traffic must contend with right-hand turners into residential streets. There’s no specific right lane for them, so they block the right lane causing sudden and dangerous lane changes or sudden braking. This should be banned with such traffic forced to use designated right-turn lanes at other points along the road and then reach their house via local streets. Parking should also be banned on these roads. Yes, during certain periods you can park on these major thoroughfares, while at other times a right-turn might be banned. Crazy! It depends on reading those infernal signs again. There’s just no consistency or common sense.

Even new roads suffer from poor foresight and even poorer design. The major connection of freeways to the south-east, the west and the airport is known as Citylink, and after 15 years, it’s already reached capacity. With an ever increasing urban sprawl and population (almost 4.5 million ending 2014), Citylink can’t cope with the extra volume of cars and, because no alternatives like public transport were ever built, it’s constantly full of traffic. Easily the worst part of it is the Bolte Bridge, which splits 3-ways heading south, dedicating one lane each to a separate exit. The exit for the Monash Fwy (middle lane to the south eastern suburbs) is notoriously blocked by traffic for up to 2km because of the convergence with the Westgate Fwy, making transit from the airport or northern suburbs horrendous, while the Kings Way exit is often not much better. Many roads off the exits of the Monash are often single lane because parking is allowed, so leaving the freeway becomes another problem. There’s no escaping the insanity.

Trams

Melbourne has the world’s largest tram network and the poor design of it is the bane of both trams and motorists. Once outside the city centre, there’s too many tram-stops and too few central waiting zones for passengers. Often stops are only 200 metres apart and nearly all tram-stops have their waiting zone on the kerb. That means that when the tram stops, so does the traffic. That creates a situation of cars trying to rush through ahead of the tram and passengers possibly hit if they step onto the road too soon. They are supposed to wait until the tram has stopped completely before stepping onto the road. That they often don’t, and that motorists get frustrated stuck behind trams, it’s a recipe for disaster. There needs to be less stops and waiting zones constructed in the middle of the road, preferably on the exit of an intersection. Tram punctuality greatly suffers by the antiquated system of traffic lights that don’t clear right-hand turning motorists. Let’s also not mention the countless train level crossings that block roads and kill impatient pedestrians. So much of the infrastructure – and thinking – is still 1950s, it’s ridiculous.

Signs

Signs, signs, signs – they’re everywhere. You’ll see them on roads, at beaches, in parks, and they’ll be full of excruciatingly pedantic rules and guidelines on behaviour. One example that really typifies the situation in Australia is warning signs at the entrance of escalators. There’s symbols for prams, trolleys, wheelchairs and delivery people to use lifts; comments advising to hold the rails, stand between the yellow lines, supervise children and don’t lean on the handrail. Who has a chance to absorb this stuff? As if people need this advise anyway? In Japan, other than the basic warnings like prams and high heels, the only other sign I ever saw was a symbol warning women about men behind them on the escalator using phones to take photos up their skirts. Typically, the main sign seen elsewhere in the world, and this is one glaring omission in Australia and one that would actually serve a real purpose, is to stick to one side of the escalator. No, in Australia, people stand anywhere they like for the slow ride, so if you’re in a hurry, it’s an endless exercise of weaving and “excuse me”.

Ridiculous nanny-state nonsense at base of escalator - Melbourne, Australia

Ridiculous nanny-state nonsense at entrance of an escalator – Melbourne, Australia

The Drone Culture

All these regulations and rules have created a “drone” culture in Australia, especially in Melbourne. Already content to dawdle obliviously below the speed limit in the right lanes, motorists love to remain stopped at traffic lights long after they’ve changed green. Roundabouts? Yes, so incapable to think that often you’ll see a stand-off of cars stopped in several directions. There’s even a culture of “traffic tourism”, whereby a car slowing down to park, turning off or doing anything slightly unusual, will see cars in adjacent lanes slow too, and gawk. If it’s a single lane road, cars will slow or stop behind a car rather than go around it. This ridiculous culture prompted a formula one driver to state that motorists in Melbourne were maniacs. Yep, maniacs in the form of being so slow and idiotic!

This drone culture repeats when entering a shop, where it will be usual to see a group of people standing 2 metres back from the counter. This is actually “the queue”, and these people, unable to think for themselves, wait to be called forward. Even one person that enters the store, that person will stand way back from the counter. It would be too risky to make a secondary decision of moving closer! In a supermarket with multiple checkouts, again, people won’t go right up and stand in the shortest queue. Instead it’s a gaggle of mindless automatons standing back waiting to be called. To fix this, many busy stores now corral shoppers into a narrow entry point to a group of checkouts, just so other shoppers won’t be inconvenienced from the snaking gaggles that otherwise would form.

More: Queuing for dim sims is not like it used to be

Free Speech

For a country of such big-mouths and opinions, Australians hate free speech! They’ll latch onto any hint of politically incorrectness, lambasting and embarrassing the poor soul as a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, a sexist or a misogynist, even to the point that, if part of a major organisation or media outlet, that person will be forced to undergo “mediation”. Free speech is one area that causes the greatest conflict between Australia’s rogue nature and their love of oppressive conformity.

Only this week at the Australian Open Tennis, the on-court interviewer asked Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard to do a twirl. While feigning embarrassment, she thought it was more funny than anything. This twirl was asked in the context that Serena Williams voluntarily did a twirl earlier in the week and Bouchard had commented about the dress on twitter. Even accepting that the request was old fashioned and perhaps inappropriate for a sporting event, and that Bouchard was not offended, for the nation to erupt in a state of hysterics just typified the Australian mentality to run their mouth and inflict their standards onto others, no exception.

Then comes the hypocrisy. Back in the self-righteous haven of their living room, all the feigned outrage would disappear as that fun-loving larrikin would emerge and demand Bouchard go topless. Even more ridiculous, if this incident happened overseas, the response from Australians would be to lighten up! It’s just a harmless twirl! Australians would also have no problems if a woman said she’d like to be Rafael Nadal’s personal aid to de-wedge the underwear from his backside. It all reinforces that conflict of rogue and self-righteous puritan that can get Australians into trouble – particularly with each other.

Update 2016-01-09: It happened again! This time roles were reversed. Jamaican cricketer Chris Gayle jovially hit on Melanie McLaughlin during an interview, suggesting to have a drink after the match and also saying “don’t blush, baby” as she snubbed him. After the public and general media erupted with their shrill claims of rampant sexism and inappropriate behaviour, Gayle was fined $10,000 and is likely to be banned from the competition in future seasons. When fans at subsequent matches voiced their disapproval at the harsh reaction with innocuous signs like “#StandWithGayle”, the signs were confiscated! Are you serious? Remember, in a private situation, even in a work environment, Gayle did nothing unusual. How many office romances start with “let’s have a drink”? The transgression was that he did it publicly, so a warning was surely sufficient.

Australia even has laws against free speech. As much as the world – including most Australians (media and government included) – rallied for the rights of Charlie Hebdo, that publication would be banned here thanks to the 18C Racial Discrimination Act that makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity. Utter hypocrites! A journalist was successfully sued under the act for writing columns that asked “fair skinned aborigines” why they identify with their limited aboriginal ancestry rather than their far greater and dominant European ancestry. That qualified as “reasonably likely” to offend those people highlighted in the columns, as probably did the conclusion that their motives might be for federal grants only applying to aborigines. With this possible overreach of the Act, the recent small attempt to remove the ultra subjective “offend” and “insult” was scuppered before legislation ever written. Technically, anyone can be offended about anything, and if that topic is racial or ethnic in the slightest sense, then the onus is on the offender to prove their was no malice in their intent. As ludicrous as that notion of “guilty before innocent” sounds, Australians love denying speech that they don’t like. Because they love regulation, they’ll enact it as law if they can.

Transport

The most confronting difference travellers will find between Australia and much of the world will be experienced right at the airport. While nearly every major city in the world has a train service to whisk you into town, most of Australia’s don’t. Sydney and Brisbane being the current exceptions. Given the size of city and its persistent traffic problems, the omission of one in Melbourne is the most vexing. Attempts at a rail link have been blocked for decades by short-sighted governments concerned at cost. Ironically, the most recent government that planned one was voted out last year. The new government has no intention. Even the old one had a flawed plan, preferring a heavy rail extension of an existing suburban line rather than a new, direct monorail at a third the cost and completed in half the time. The avenue to town remains an expensive Sky Bus via ugly roads and heavy traffic. Car culture thrives throughout Australia, and it influences nearly all transport decisions.

Even once in town, the public transport is a sprawling mess with poor connections and an unwieldy smartcard ticketing system known as Myki. While Victoria could have bought any number of existing smartcard ticket systems off the shelf, it chose to construct its own, all at triple the expense, triple the development time and deliver only a fraction of the efficiency. Sensing a theme here? Even to travel one or two stops on tram or train, Myki requires a visitor to buy a smartcard, then top it up, for a cost of about $11. Yes, for one trip that you might only need for a few kilometres, it’s $11. That presumes there’s anywhere nearby to buy a card, as only major stations or convenience stores sell them an no trams or buses do.

Update 2016-01-09: Sydney is finally about to fully implement its smartcard system, known as Opal, and do away with paper tickets altogether. The big delay for Opal has been – wait for it – the inability to recharge cards at train stations! Travellers need to visit retailers to add funds or do it online. Before Myki, Melbourne also had a similar problem, forcing travellers to buy from shops, before taking the leap and adding self-serve machines at train stations. In Sydney’s advantage, their system being newer means they can adapt much cheaper to the latest technology of tap-and-go bankcards and smartphones, so may avoid the need for many recharge machines. For Melbourne to follow, it would be easier and more cost effective to replace the entire system.

Estonia’s capital Tallinn also works on a smartcard. While they don’t offer short-term tickets for their trams and buses, cash is accepted. Drop 1.60 euros on the tray near the driver and you’re done. Cities with train systems and electronic gates all do offer single-use tickets. Tokyo and Osaka dispense tickets (and change) at vending machines at every single station. You pay by distance, and if you do short-pay, there’s a fare adjustment machine before each exit that will dispense the right ticket. Washington DC is similar, except the machines dispense the smartcards too – remarkable for an old subway system. Even older is New York’s, also retrofitted with card reading gates and vending machines. New York’s swipecard costs only $1; DC’s smartcard is $2. Tokyo’s “Suica” is about $5, and Japan Railways will buy it back from you once you leave! Except for New York’s swiping system, all smartcard readers at station gates will read the card without even breaking strike. In Melbourne, you must stop for a pause that could be a few seconds, which causes massive bottlenecks at busy stations.

Just as important as the ticketing is the transport itself. There’s endless trams, buses and trolley buses in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, as there is in Riga, Latvia. Sometimes in Riga I sensed there were more buses and trolley buses than cars. Tokyo’s trains run to the minute, every few minutes, and they never late. In contrast, Melbourne regards 5 minutes late as “punctual” and boasts about achieving that 90% of the time. New York obviously runs like clockwork for such a large city, as does DC’s 1970s futuristic inspired subway. Being underground is critical as road traffic need never be blocked. Melbourne’s train system can’t run any more frequent than 10 minutes for the primary reason the city is still full of level crossings. Even Sydney managed to remove most of theirs years ago. Melbourne is so backwards, and only now attempting to remove them. This still could take 10 years just for the major ones.

Washington DC's Metro Station - 1970s futuristic inspired

Washington DC Metro station – 1970s futuristic inspired, and it works (2014-06-06)

Surprisingly in a city of cars, Melbourne’s roads are substandard and traffic is deplorable. As the population continues to increase, nothing’s been done to cater to move everyone around. The “East West Link” was to provide another connection across the city and unbelievably had only barely majority support. The current state government even campaigned to tear up the contract, which it is attempting to do now, without actually fixing the problem. What other country’s people would say no to a new road? It’s mind boggling. Mostly the rejections were from the vociferous minority in inner city swing seats, which the new government lost anyway. Again we have Australians exhibiting their selfish ideals at the expense of others irrelevant to them. Worse, pathetic governments keep listening to them, and all the response is likely to be is more fiddling of speed limits and probably a new slogan like “be patient, you’ll get their eventually”. Speaking of slogans, one of the early Victorian election issues was about changing the slogan on car registration plates. Priorities, please.

Update 2016-01-09: Despite an election promise that the contract was invalid and the project could be cancelled without cost, the Victorian state government cancelled the East West Link at a burden of $1.1 billion to the taxpayer. $645b of that is compensation for breaking the contract, and the rest are planning costs. Building the road would have cost Victorians only $1.5b. Most of the road was being funded by the Federal government and tolls.

Technology

Estonia boasts as being the “most wired country” in the world. Skype was invented there, and as far back as 2008, the first of my three visits, I was stunned by the offering of wireless internet just about everywhere. In fact, right throughout Europe on the many trains I used, barely any did not have wifi. Even on the “budget” bus between Tallinn and Riga last year, wifi. The Greyhound buses in USA, all had wifi. In contrast, Melbourne just recently boasted about converting old phone boxes to wifi hot spots in the city centre, and hotels are finally starting to offer wifi as a free service. Yes, it’s 2015, and basic communications is finally dawning. Most Australian cities are also talking about wifi on public transport. Yes, talking. That’s about all they can do.

In Estonia, everything is done online including taxes and voting. They are also starting “e-citizenship”, which enables foreigners to set up online companies in Estonia to take advantage of low company tax rates. Australia can’t even get the tax system simplified. While it’s finally online, it was as convoluted as the paper option until last year. That’s still not good enough. For basic salary earners, it really should be a 5 minute verification process with a standard amount of deductions, and that’s it. There’s no hint of voting online in Australia. In fact, there’s no hint of even having the choice to vote.

Democracy

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that forces its citizens to vote. It shares this honour with the likes of Argentina, Singapore and North Korea. Because Australia has a mandatory preferential voting system, like in North Korea, it also demands you vote for parties that you may not necessarily like, else your entire ballot paper is declared invalid. That overwhelmingly favours the two major parties and leads to a system of constant bribing of the electorate, pandering to specific groups in swing seats (memo: the East West Link!), endless sloganeering, lazy policy and vapid candidates. Politics has become very elitist, full of preachers backed by their partisan whingers that are energised by spewing bile on political opponents rather than providing solutions. Such is their political bigotry that they’ll even sell out core principles if it means to make a political attack. Of course, if there was a “solution”, it would be more ridiculous regulation, or just arguing their irrational point until everyone is exhausted. It’s always two steps back for one step ahead. No wonder Australia is so backward.

Australian Rules Football

To the uninitiated, Australian Rules Football is a case of “what rules”. In reality, it’s heavily regulated, with the primary laws of the game of subverted and confused by endless sub-laws and interpretations, causing endless despair, even for the three (yes, three) umpires controlling the game. Particular interpretations not only vary each year, they seem to vary as often as week by week. Compared to Association Football that has barely changed in 100 years, Australian Rules is constantly changing, with an active rules committee and a massive, fanatical supporter base always whinging about something.

Most of the problem actually lies with that fierce, independent Australian spirit as mentioned earlier, so the Australian Football League is loathe to upset the unruly mob and make sweeping changes to fix a problem, preferring to do it incrementally. Hands in the back, prior opportunity (re: holding the ball) and contact to the head, are the recent changes that took years and countless revisions of law and interpretations to settle to their obvious conclusion. It’s been over a decade since “prior opportunity” was introduced, and it’s still being tweaked, eking back to its original intent. How about remove it altogether? The game survived fine for 100 years without it.

The latest fad is video review for scoring. Australian Rules is about the only sport that if the ball contacts the post when passing through, the score is invalid. Rather than do the obvious and allow contact, the AFL prefer video to determine if the ball has grazed the post. Often the camera can’t tell, or the video umpire gets it wrong, so surely the best approach is join the rest of the world and disregard contact with the post? That would remove 90% of score reviews and make the scoring situation simple and clear for everyone. When the idea was merely suggested by a media commentator, the sport nearly imploded, such was the violent criticism against it. Like the rest of the country, they’d prefer laws upon laws to govern the game, not strip it back to its basics and let it be free.

Is there anything good about Australia?

The weather. Melbourne’s changeable and more temperate weather is wrongly criticised, even by Melburnians. The bad reputation is almost a local legend when in reality it’s a myth. While it has the accolade of being the cloudiest capital in Australia, rainfall is low (half that of Sydney and rains on fewer days), summer average is 26 and winter is 15. You want proof that it’s actually relatively quite stable and dry, note major sporting events like the Australian Open Tennis, Melbourne Cup and Formula 1 Grand Prix. Rarely do you see them affected by bad weather. While Melbourne can have very hot days above 40C, it is dry heat and the heat spells rarely last beyond a few days.

Most of all, my life is set-up here, I’m comfortable and content, it’s that simple. Despite all your horrible flaws, Australia, you are still a great place to live.

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17 Comments
  1. AmyBBuzz permalink

    You’re overlooking another good aspect of Australia: three tennis courts with retractable roofs (the most at any Slam) to keep the play going. At least for two weeks out of the year.

    Something that confounded me as a child watching international sporting events was the Australian flag and team colors. Why are the athletes out-fitted in green and gold yet carry a blue, red, and white flag? All of the other countries utilized a matching color scheme even to my very non-fashion awareness eye. After learning a little bit of history about Great Britain’s reign the reason for the discrepancy became clearer, but not entirely understandable.

    • Melbourne needs to keep the title of “sporting capital of the world” going. Not only do we like to strut ourselves on the world, we’re superficial about it too.

      Britain gave us the flag. While there was a design competition in 1901, the result had to meet British approval. Even then, the current flag was never officially approved by the Australian government until 1953. Before that, Australians flew the British flag or the Red Ensign (current flag with red field). The red was ditched for blue so not to be associated with communism.

      There’s been many moves to change the over the decades, with nothing gaining much traction because the designs have largely been awful. Ausflag is the main lobbyist, and their approach has been to appeal to loyalists, so stuck with red, white and blue. Strong sentiment for aboriginal affairs and rights has seen their flag and colours misappropriated into designs, also producing awful designs (often too many colours) or too divisive. Right now, both sides of politics use the flag issue to make politic attacks, so it’s looking less likely to change. The biggest stumbling remains actually from lobbyists, to settle on a design, or at least get the basic colours right (should be green and gold) and to de-politicise the issue.

      Check here for the top 20 at Ausflag. Note the chaos of themes:
      http://www.ausflag.com.au/top_20_designs.asp

  2. crank permalink

    Great rant. After four years, I’m still wondering why I moved back, and continually reminded of why I left in the first place.

    Some interesting perspectives on rail link to the airport:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/theurbanist/2011/04/19/is-the-proposed-airport-train-off-the-rails/
    http://www.railpage.com.au/news/s/melbourne-airport-skybus-might-be-better-than-a-rail-link-says-transport-expert

    I’m also under the impression that the gov’s contractual obligations to Skybus would be an impediment for years to come (I may be wrong).

    On that note, do you think EWLink was worth spending tens of billions and incurring decades of debt, or do you think those funds could be better utilized to improve general transport across the city?

    Oh yeah, and I saw an ‘NBN Co’ van today. Had to stop myself chasing down the van like a excited dog.

    • If the Skybus is the best method, it should be explained. Cost is the reason the monorail is better than train. Most of the issue is perception. It is nice to go underground within an airport and step onto a train. That’s the standard of an ultra modern city. When Melbourne wants to keep proclaiming that it is, then it needs a better option than the ugly Skybus on the ugly freeway into the ugly traffic (up to an hour, according to your second link).

      Interestingly, I chose to use the bus from Stockholm’s airport rather than the train. It was so much cheaper. Whatever the outcome in Melbourne, there does need improvement. While Melbourne may not really need a rail link right now, it needs a solution now, whether that’s a permanent bus lane, I don’t know. Given the rapid pace of population increase and tourism from Asia, and Australia’s slow pace to get any infrastructure up, a higher capacity option off the roads is the best option, and the time is about now to lay the foundations.

      The EWL is an example of Australians with their selfish, narcissistic attitudes: “Since it doesn’t benefit me, I don’t want it”. Rather than argue over this or that, do it all! Much of the EWL was funded by the Feds and tolls anyway, and it’s stunning that we have a large proportion of the population against a new road. Worse, we have a govt that is seduced by it and in fear of losing one or two inner seats. Labor would have won government regardless and without their promise to “tear up the contract”. If it were me, I’d lobby to have a bicycle highway to be part of the road. Note the NBN is a massive debt too, except: “Since it does benefit me, I want it”. Likewise with the EWL, it will eventually pay for itself.

      My blog on the East-West Link:
      https://warriorfactor.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/ridiculous-stink-over-the-east-west-link/

  3. Amelia permalink

    The powers that be have obviously realised their mistake with the slow Myki readers, as new ones, which are a fair lot faster, have been installed in the past few months at major train stations. Apparently they’re also being tested on trams, though I have yet to see one of the new readers on a tram. Seems like a waste though to install slow ones and then overhaul them a few short years later…

  4. you have to vote or you get a fine no joke lol

  5. Bloke permalink

    Lived in Sydney for 9 years. It sucked. I loved the weather and the beaches, but the people are ‘drones’ for sure, can’t think for themselves – there is such a group think going on. And nothing is logical, it’s all just “the way we’ve always done it.” Great place to visit for a short trip, but get out before it messes with your head!

  6. Gee permalink

    I would interested in knowing the statistics about the alcohol consumption ; drugs and rape statistics here in Australia , that gets sweepers under the carpet,

    • John permalink

      In Wagga Wagga NSW we have
      280 Sexual or Indecent assaults each year
      30 rapes
      980 domestic assaults
      1,300 violent assaults (non domestic)
      900 break & enters annually
      400 car thefts annually

  7. I have lived in Australia all my life. I will concur that this is a backwards country, but even if I won the lotto, where else would I go? At least I know where I am safe in this shithole.

    • Even if there were “open borders” all over the world, it’s not so easy to pack up and go. Family, job, local interests and friends – it’s all left behind. If I finally had enough and could leave for anywhere, it would be USA, probably Boston, New York (Manhattan only, if I could afford it), Miami or San Diego. In Europe it would be Denmark or Portugal, and in Japan it would be Osaka or Hiroshima.

  8. Australia is and always has been a backward dumping ground Ideal for those who wish to rape the country for it’s resources the people are very much programed and believe the rubbish told to them, it is a country who hates older generations and want them out the way because those older generations are a threat to the Orwellian system. It is a bastard horrible country the climate id foul just like the mindless races people the country is the hell hole of thee planet and if you have the money then save yourself and leave the place for a better life.

  9. The country has nothing no real culture and a very ignorant and stupid place, it is a sole destroying country to exist in. Ideal as a dumping ground. No jobs, incapable of creating jobs which could benefit people instead the government finds ways to take what little the poor have, as it is their agenda to pull down the country, Asia is taking over the country and undermining the place from all directions may be the new Australians will know how to build the country. The country will become a 4th world country as was for told It is hell on earth, and if you have money get to hell out of the backward brainwashed place.

  10. It was said that Australia will become a 4th world country, and it is n surprising, when you allow your country to e taken over by the greedy China who has the wealth, to undermine the country, but when everything crash their millions will also go, then you have the trash that has invaded the country, which is dragging it into the gutter, people are oppressed and pushed under.

  11. Yes very backward and stupid, living in Australia is a living hell, you can’t get a job so that you can free yourself and leave the place, because they don’t want you and recruitment companies hate older workers. The country is being exploited for it’s resources leaving many aussies in poverty, but China and India are laughing at them political Orwellian correctness is designed to gag your voice and if you speak out some dumb stupid Aussie will give you a stupid look. The country has nothing going for it, there are no jobs thanks to the parasitic governments, who have destroyed the country, allowing it to be sold up, any forward thinking is crushed, to it is a society dependent on hand outs, because there is no intelligence to create anything, so they have China and other Asian countries making all their goods, intelligent people are leaving the place finding a better life over seas the country is only fit as a dumping ground and to take the resources, no good to live in.

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