May 28, 2012

Horse 1330 - Ten Suburbs. No.3 Auburn 2144

If you stand on platform 4 of Auburn Railway Station and look across at the shops on the south side of the street, you will find shop signs in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Urdu, Thai, Cyrillic and Latin scripts. Take a short walk from Auburn Railway Station and you can find various Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon and Independent churches, a Mosque, Sri Mandir Temple, et cetera et cetera et cetera and that's not even a truly representative sample.
Auburn which lies 20km west of the city is noteworthy because of the multicultural expression found in the suburb but increasingly unremarkable precisely because of this same notion.

According to the 2006 census more than 20% of all people living in Australia were born overseas and this figure jumps to more than 50% if you include one or more of peoples' parents. Furthermore if you look at the 2011 census, Australia generally had who were people born in 204 countries. I personally know of people who can claim to have come from the 206th nation of the world, and the one exception is the Vatican City. Australia has people living here from almost every country on Earth bar one.
But something distinctly curious happens in Australia that doesn't really happen elsewhere in the world; within two generations of people finding a home in Australia, they almost always end up speaking like an Australian; with an Australian accent, irrespective of where on earth people's cultural heritage comes from. Auburn in particular is one of the most diverse suburbs in the country; possibly because it happens to have good access to road and rail networks, but even in Auburn which is visibly an ethnically and culturally diverse suburb, something distinctly Australian still shines through.

In the immediate streets surrounding the railway station, there are some rather imposing blocks of flats, up to 9 storeys tall but the further away from the railway station you move, the blocks of flat become smaller and are eventually replaced with free standing houses. Some of the housing dates back to federation, but a great deal of it looks like it was built during the wave of red brick frenzy of the late 1960s.

I'd say that Auburn is a little like taking a snapshot of Australia all by itself. If you wanted to put your finger on the pulse of the nation, it's attitudes, aspirations, hopes, fears, then Auburn is the place to do it, for within 2144, there's a representative of everyone.

May 23, 2012

Horse 1329 - Ten Suburbs. No.2 Parramatta 2150

Parramatta tries desperately in vain to cling to the claim that it is Sydney's second CBD and whilst there are some very big names such as Deloitte who have massive towers there, the claim doesn't quite stack up. Yet Parramatta performs another trick in that it is the suburb that the suburb of Sydney 2000 wants desperately to be.

Parramatta was the second settlement in the fledgling colony of New South Wales and where Governor Phillip decided to put his seat of government. Old Government House which is set within the 260 acres of Parramatta Park and is really Australia's first public building with parts of it dating to 1799 when John Hunter knocked in and build upon Arthur Phillip's house. Parramatta generally was seen as the place where experiment and model farms were set up and from where the colony would start its expansion from.
Modern Parramatta although it is aware of its colonial past is actually probably a more modern thing than Sydney ever was.

On the southern side of the railway line is the incredibly monstrous Westfield Parramatta Shopping Centre. As he largest single shopping centre in the southern hemisphere it has such a tremendous economic pull, that even the shops in the immediately surrounding streets are affected. It is not until you jump the railway line and head a little way north that Parramatta plays its conjuring trick.
Church St heading north has a host of cafes and restaurants, all with awnings and/or umbrella shades right out on the pavement. In the suburb of Sydney proper, it is rare to see outside dining and if you do, it's usually only really a concession with patrons huddled in the spaces that aren't filled up with massive skycrapers. Parramatta's outside dining spaces; particularly on a warm spring night, fill the air with all sorts of exotic smells and the whole thing is reminiscent of Paris or Rome, even Melbourne but certainly not Sydney.
Across the River is the Parramatta Riverside Theatre. Not I'm not suggesting that Sydney doesn't have the theatre but Parramatta's theatre has a patronage that is just as likely to arrive in T-Shirt and jeans than suit and tie. Parramatta's theatre is therefore somehow accessible to the masses. Whilst you're not likely to see Shakespeare or Ibsen being performed there, you will see comedy that is as sharp as what's found elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area.

Of course it would be remiss of me to write of Parramatta without mentioning their Rugby League team, the Eels. The name "Eels" is quite an apt name for any team representing Parramatta, for the word itself in the Darug language means "the place where the eels lie down".
Parramatta has quite a range from which to draw Rugby League players from. There are a number of private schools in the program, boasting a strong tradition in the game and this probably stems from a wave of post-war immigration into the area.
Actually the very existence of Leagues Clubs itself is a uniquely Australian thing, for the idea of Leagues Clubs and RSL Clubs has no direct parallel existence either in the UK (where the sport came from) or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

Parramatta is probably more complete as a thing than the suburb of the City of Sydney and for that reason, I think that it's a better place; that's usually the case with a second attempt.

May 21, 2012

Horse 1328 - Ten Suburbs. No.1 Mosman 2088

Located just 8km from Sydney and on the north side of the harbour, Mosman is a prized suburb on the property ladder, but scratch the surface even just a tiny bit and you find that gilt finish is ever so painfully thin.

Mosman purports to be a one suburb, one postcode council*; however if you send a letter within 2088, you soon realise just how much of an outright lie this is. Contained within the boundaries are the localities of Balmoral, Clifton Gardens, The Spit, Georges Heights, Spit Junction as well as Mosman. There are even two Post Offices, namely Mosman Junction and Spit Junction.

*From council records, 29th Nov 2005.

A quick scan of the area reveals that there are no McDonald's, no KFC's, no Hungry Jacks', no Subways and only a single take-away only Pizza Hut which is so far removed from the centre of Mosman it may as well be in another suburb. There are two pubs but neither of them are close to the heart of Mosman (if it ever had one), and if you were to make a quick run from the incorrectly named Spit Junction to Mosman Junction, you'd notice that apart from the almost empty boutiques selling clothing with three and four figure price tags, every other shop is vacant.
Mosman is a suburb whose residents for the most part do not work, shop or play within its environs. Being so close to the city, they're more than likely to be employed, find entertainment and go shopping in the city proper across the harbour. In fact it you were to walk from Spit Junction to Mosman Junction, roughly a third or all shops are boarded up. If this is a suburb supposedly where the money of the wider metropolitan Sydney lives, the evidence on the ground is in short supply.
Yet parked on the sides of the roads are a never ending column of Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volvo battle tanks, used to cart around kiddywinks. Certainly there are plenty of places to buy coffee in Mosman, and it is in these sorts of places where we find the driver's of the over-represented SUVs taking a rest.

Of the boutiques which do exist in Mosman, most of them will have flagship stores in the city proper, and so it  would appear that the reason for their presence in the suburb is mainly as a window display for those other stores.

I wonder if Mosman does represent something of the character of wider Sydney. Mosman appears to be rather concerned with property prices, position and making that vital impression. Underneath the vizage and we find a largely soulless suburb. Perhaps like the spirit of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Mosman is about making the statement that the people of Sydney know little of style, taste or culture, but isn't the harbour pretty?

May 14, 2012

Horse 1327 - Two Dollar Yelling$2-to-promote-your-facebook-status/
Pay $2 to promote your Facebook status?
Foxconn confirms there is an Apple television in the works, the makers of Angry Birds have a new game franchise, and you may be able to pay Facebook to promote your status update. Would you pay $2 to get your Facebook status message seen by more people? It's something Facebook is testing in New Zealand. 
- From C/Net, Bridget Carey  May 11, 2012 

In a word where Twitbook, FaceSpace and MyBebo are ubiquitous, it seems that everyone shouting into the void has created something of a problem. It would appear that we've created a cacophony of dunces, all yelling simultaneously; so much so that Facebook has thought it worthwhile to "monetise" people's need to be heard and decided to charge idiots $2 for the prvilege of yelling louder.
I think it is a top idea, and will do its bit to take money from people who are obviously to dumb to have it in the first place.

Over the past 15 years I've seen firstly people's homepages change, then people started blogging, and when that fell out of favour, microblogging on so called social media. It was suggested on ABC 702 Sydney's "Drive" program hosted by Richard Glover, that Facebook's move is both reflective and vanguard that people online are becoming more and more narcissistic but I really wonder if that's even true.

George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay "Why I Write" that there were four reasons why people write, and they are:
1. Sheer Egoism
2. Aesthetic Enthusiasm
3. Historical Impulse
4. Political Purpose

I think that it's fairly obvious that Facebook's latest maneuver is an attempt to make money off of people's drive to fulfill the first purpose on Orwell's list. If you prefer to believe that people are selfish from either a religious or secular perspective is entirely your business, but the fact remains that every writer wants to be heard. Selfish people which we all are, have a need for validation that doesn't go away very easily and paying to have your statuses promoted seems like a logical step.
The thing is though, that in order for people to actually take note of your promoted status update, people need to be logged on to Facebook at the time. If you happen to be like me and think that Facebook is largely a waste of time, then paying to have a status update promoted is a colossal waste of money and I wouldn't do it, likewise other people as far as I'm concerned are also wasting their money.
I find Twitter on the other hand most useful but not because have to know about what people had for lunch, but rather, Twitter lends itself to reposting and linking to actual news stories better.
Obviously I'd be lying if I said that I write with no desire to fulfil my ego at all (that's largely impossible) but the point remains, that I hardly ever use Facebook and even on this blog itself, I scarcely write about what actually goes on in my life because that is quite boring.

I will also suggest that if you are the sort of person who thinks that paying to have your Facebookiness promoted is worthwhile, then the chances are that you probably are driven by a bigger ego, in which case I am going to judge what you want promoted is more likely to be worthless and uninteresting.

May 11, 2012

Horse 1326 - Swanny's One Percenter

A "One Percenter" in Australian Rules Football are those little actions which a player undertakes which by themselves have only a marginal effect on a player's game, but add up all of the One Percenters and instead of them being only marginal, together they start to make a difference.
Treasurer Wayne Swan has suggested as early as the 2010 election campaign that the Company Tax Rate for small business should be lowered from 30% to 29% but as we shall see, that 1% does add up very quickly.

Firstly there is something special about small businesses' Profit & Loss Statements which large businesses do not have the luxury of dealing with. Most small businesses employ their directors directly and this has some rather important ramifications.
Company Tax is a tax which is assessed on a company's profits. Profits are directly affected by the level of input costs. The question therefore needs to be asked whether or not to pay a director either a wage which will reduce the level of Company Tax which is finally assessed, or whether to pay a director a dividend which can either be franked or unfranked. A Franked Dividend is only on which Company Tax has already been paid, and thus those Franking Credits can then be used to offset tax payable on the director's Individual Income Tax Return.

Owing to the fact that individual's have a tax-free threshold but companies do not, and that individual income tax rates extend higher than 30%, the break even point in which the total tax payable either through the company or the director's personal income is for the Financial Year 2012/13, $152,000. At that point anything higher which is paid as a wage is more expensive because the marginal tax rate of 37% applies from every dollar in the individual's hands from $80,001 onwards.
Had Mr Swan been able to convince the parliament that small businesses should have their rates  Company Tax Lowered to 29% then although tax payable in the hands of the company would be less, those franking credits available would also be less. The break even point for the Financial Year 2012/13 would have been only $126,474 because of that very fact.

A lower rate of Company Tax also would have had effects on people earning dividends paid by the company. At 29% instead of 30% a person receiving a dividend would not have as many franking credits available to them; the net effect in the hands of the recipient is either a loss of 1% in tax benefits or in the case of anyone earning more than $37,001 a 1% increase in effective tax on those dividends.
The thing is that although 1% reduction in Company Tax does result in less overall tax taken by the government, there is a sting in the tail because that shortfall has had to have been made up for by a 2.5% increase in the marginal tax rate from $37,001-$80,000 which is where a lot of people lie.

When we do people's Tax Returns at work, we often play with several results at the same time; using re-iterative calculations. If a business was straddling the line between being a small business and a large business (which again I don't really know where that would be because no official papers have been published), would a company have to keep two sets of franking accounts? I can tell you that in the years when the Company Tax rate was reduced from 36% to 33% and finally 30%, keeping several sets of  franking accounts was annoying for accountants and probably resulted in marginally higher accountancy fees.

What I want to know is, is the intent of lowering small business Company Tax rates to 29% purely about providing relief to small business, or is it about surreptitiously shifting the burden of taxation to individuals to collect more tax overall? I already think that Swanny is easily the best person for the job of Treasurer; I also happen to think that he's probably a lot more wiley and cunning than he lets on... and that's a One Percenter just there.

May 10, 2012

Horse 1325 - With A Few Words, Obama Lost The Presidency
"I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,"- US President Barack Obama, in an interview on ABC's Good Morning America, 9th May 2012

Game Over, Obama.

At one fell swoop, Obama has killed his campaign for the 2012 Presidential Elections before it has even began.

Political dialogue in the United States is unlike in Australia where there is a pretence of a left-right split (apart from the ABC we have an almost entirely centre-right to right media landscape); because the whole political spectrum is so far right-shifted, instead of economic discussion, the loudest voices yelling into the void are the so called "religious-right" and the "liberal-left".

Anyone who spends more than about a week in the United States and gets a chance to read through the newspapers or watch the news on television, quickly realises how myopic and narrow-minded political discussion is. It's more akin to watching the two sets of supporters of Rangers and Celtic yelling abuse at each other, except that after 90 minutes, Rangers and Celtic fans go home. American media for whatever reason almost refuses to report on what goes on in the rest of the world except when it happens to aid the political fight at home.

Thrown into this, the "religious-right" who choose to label themselves as "conservative" will rail against issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage with such venom and bile, that they are able to shape the rest of political dialogue. This is really quite strange considering that the same group of people also generally support the use of torture, using the military to bomb any country which disagrees with them back to the stone age, and enact policies which actively ensure that poorer people are unable to attain basic medical care, afford a decent education or pull themselves out of poverty.
Basically whilst the "religious-right" in the US bandstand on issues which are both deliberately provocative and marketable, they represent one half of a very very toxic mix.

The "liberal-left" on the other hand, represents a very vocal set of disjointed interest groups which appear to be in stark opposition to the "religious-right". Standing under the banner of "choice" they hold out freedom of choice with regards to issues like abortion, same-sex marriage as though if you do not happen to agree with them, then you should by rights be either ridiculed mercilessly or preferably kicked to death in the town square.

Unfortunately, such viewpoints because media travels so easily, spills over into other countries like Australia, Canada, the UK etc, and any chance of actual discussion is drowned out.

Numerically speaking there are more people who are "religious-right" wing-nuts than there are "liberal-left" wing-nuts and because voting is not compulsory in the United States, the voting turnout is made up of more wing-nuts and fundies on both sides of the political divide than in Australia. Apathetic people don't make their voice heard in the United States whereas in Australia, at very least they're required to show up at a polling place on voting day.
Simply by sheer weight of numbers, I think Obama will lose the job of President in November and it won't be because of a political track record or even any real shift in policy but rather a couple of dozen words which might not even have any relevance to the campaign at all...
...which was a pity because Obama probably is/was/will be the most sensible candidate for the job of President.

PS: For the record, I still don't see the actual utility in allowing Same-Sex Marriages at law. (Horse 1096)

May 05, 2012

Horse 1324 - FA Cup Final Preview

As far as league seasons go, neither Chelsea or Liverpool have been particularly fruitful. Chelsea sits forlorn in 6th with only an outside shot of playing in next year's Champion's League provided and only provided that both Tottenham and Newcastle lose both their remaining matches and Chelsea win both of theirs. Liverpool have no hope of even qualifying for the Europa League based on league position but will do so anyway because of their Carling Cup win.
This FA Cup Final is therefore a chance for both sides to redeem their seasons and curiously both of them are still chasing their own doubles. Chelsea will be looking to beat both Liverpool for an FA Cup and Champions' League double, whilst Liverpool will be hoping to claim both domestic cups.

On paper you'd assume that Chelsea would have the wood over Liverpool by virtue of having a Russian Billionaire Oil Sugar Daddy to outspend everyone bar Man United and Man City, FA Cups aren't played on paper though but by 22 players, green grass and a football.

Liverpool I think will be going into this fixture more desperate than Chelsea because for them, this really is the last throw of the dice this season. After this match, apart from a league fixture also against Chelsea and another against Swansea, which are both pretty well much irrelevant now as they are fixed in mid-table mediocrity, there is nothing else to play for.
Chelsea on the other hand still have a Champions' League Final against Bayern Munich to look forward to and whilst that isn't for another fortnight (May 19), I bet that the bean counters upstairs will still tell the management to be a bit more circumspect about selecting players.
Curiously both Roberto Di Matteo and Kenny Dalglish are former played for the clubs they now manage. Neither of them need any reminder of the history of the shirts out on the pitch.

Ultimately this match will come down to whether or not the respective clubs' "Wizards of Wembley" can pull something magic from their hats. Didier Drogba and Luis Suarez will be the gamebreakers if this match isn't going to end in a disappointingly dour nil-all which this match has the potential to do.
I think that this match is too close to call, but as always I'd like to see a Liverpool win. So I'd like to see a 2-0 win with goals to Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

José Enrique's defending mistake on Chelsea's Ramires cost a goal 11 minutes in; Didier Drogba put the ball through Martin Skrtel's legs to get Chelsea's second and despite a fightback and a goal by Andy Carroll, Chelsea did enough to hold out Liverpool and win 2-1.
Liverpool did play more desperate football towards the end of the match but two critical and frankly dumb mistakes at the beginning, gifted Chelsea a well deserved win.