Malcolm Turnbull’s Budget Speech

Just when I had given up on the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull made a surprisingly good speech to parliament in response to Wayne Swan’s budget speech.

To put it mildly, Turnbull has been quite disappointing as a Leader of the Opposition. He was terrible at commenting on government policies and was sadly lacking in sensible suggestions as to what the Opposition has to offer instead.

Last night, however, we witnessed a barrister at work. He spoke well and he had some excellent suggestions about small business. He is correct in claiming that the recovery depends on small business having more confidence to invest. That is where the government’s budget failed. There was hardly any mention of this most important part of the economy in Swan’s budget speech and that was a lapse in judgement on Labor’s part.

Everything that Labor talked about had to do with the future and yet the financial crisis is happening right now. Increasing the pension is good but it won’t increase spending to a great extent. Helping small business would gain immediate results and that’s why Turnbull’s ideas were impressive.

As for the increased tax on cigarettes, that was a good idea too and it would have demonstrated that the Government was willing to attack an industry that is killing thousands of people each year. It’s what the Health Minister should have suggested if she cared for the well-being of Australians.

So full marks to Turnbull for his speech last night and the one he made at lunchtime today as well. We needed to know what the Opposition would suggest in response instead of just hearing criticism about the Government. That sort of whining is very annoying and gets the Opposition nowhere. Concrete alternatives are what we want to hear.

Kevin Rudd’s ambition to be Secretary-General of the UN

Ever since I met Prime Minister Rudd in Brisbane, I have suspected that he doesn’t really want to remain a big fish in a small pond, the small pond, being Australia. I have often alluded to his ambition post- Prime Ministership and on March 9 of this year I expressed my views on this topic.

So it was pleasing to read in this morning’s “The Australian” newspaper that Greg Sheridan, whom I admire greatly, also holds that view . What prompts me to comment on this is Greg’s claim at the end of his opinion piece “You heard it here first.” That’s not quite true.

Swan brings down the budget. Big Yawn…

The past two weeks we have been fed morsels about the coming Federal Budget. The Government leaked the information it wanted to leak and then refused to speculate about what was in it. Very strange terminology indeed when there was no need for speculation since the the details of the budget were already known to the Labor politicians who had been involved in forming it.

We, the ordinary public, could speculate to our heart’s content but it would make not a skerrick of difference to the fait accompli which Treasurer Wayne Swan and his fellow teasers held in their hot little hands.

Came the night of the budget announcement and we were served spin. Slogan after slogan about stimulus and infrastructure sounded just like Rudd’s election droning. This went on for about twenty boring minutes and then a few general comments were made about Education, Hospitals and an increase in pensions but what I remember most was something that sounded like an announcement from the Department of Main Roads.

Everything is shovel-ready, Mr Swan told us. All we need are some people to be prepared to dig. They will come from the ranks of the unemployed, apparently. Can you really see Generation Y getting out of bed before noon to go build hundreds of roads across our vast continent? This is the generation that refuses to mix its own alcoholic drinks. Too much like hard work.

We sat through the whole thing waiting to hear if self-funded retirees were going to be thrashed again after having their Private Health Care rebate reduced. And how about the Health Card? Well, it wasn’t until the next day that some details came out in the newspaper about that.

I guess we are typical of the WIIFM population of Australia, no better, no worse. We wanted to know how all this would impact on our lives. What’s in it for me is what it’s all about. What will happen in the year 2050 will not impact on us personally and besides, I don’t believe that anyone has a clue about how the world will look in forty years’ time. They couldn’t predict this recession even weeks before it happened. So what makes the government and all those experts think they can do any better now?

To Autumn and all that rot

I did something yesterday that I haven’t done for a long time and no, I’m not referring to housework. That one is still on my agenda.

Yesterday, I picked up Keats in search of that ode about Autumn. Retirees will recognise the one about a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Younger folk will not, because they don’t study poetry anymore. Why, they wouldn’t even know what a Keat is. I believe it’s been replaced by SMS and twittering styles.

Anyhow, I found that poem about Autumn because I felt like waxing lyrical about this most perfect of seasons in Melbourne. We are fortunate in this glorious city to have four seasons which makes me and Vivaldi very happy indeed. My previous home was in Queensland which had only two seasons, hot and humid and less so.

In Melbourne, however, there are four seasons and although I don’t think so much of Summer and Winter, I know they won’t last forever. And then we will have Spring and my favourite, which is Autumn. It’s been a long time since I saw what the Americans aptly describe as Fall, because the trees around here are shedding their golden and burnished leaves.

When I gaze out of my large picture window and see those magnificent trees giving up their leaves so that they can be reborn in Spring (Good Grief, did I just write that?). You see, it has me in a thrall.

The days are cool but not too cool for strolling in the streets. The nights are brisk and make a doona so comforting. I prepare osso bucco in my slow cooker. T’is the season for thick soups. We enjoy hot chocolate in the evenings. The sun rises later and so do we.

Of course, I could have kept with the times and said Autumn is GR8 but somehow it doesn’t do it for me.

Lack of sleep makes people fat

Ever since we heard about the hormone, Leptin, and its importance in appetite control, I have been watching out for more news about it. Apparently, it’s produced in the body during sleep, so if a person does not get enough sleep, then Leptin will be lacking and it will be difficult to control appetite.

The reason that I am mentioning this today is because there has been an article published in “The Australian” newspaper which points out that the French are sleeping longer than other nations. They sleep on average 530 minutes daily compared with 518 minutes for Americans. They eat for two hours per day, compared with a little over one hour for Americans. Now we know that the French eat cream and butter and love their pastries and yet, they are slimmer than other nations.

A book came out a while ago explaining why French women don’t get fat, but I actually suspect that it has more to do with the French having more sleep. I think that this is crucial for weight control.

In fact it seems to be more crucial than being active, which is surprising. According to The Wall Street Journal, the nation which spends more time watching TV is Japan and the Japanese are slim, so watching TV in your leisure time does not seem to be the culprit.

All this information came from a study done by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development in Paris. Its purpose was to show that French workers sleep too long and are wasting time sleeping when they should be working. This is what Nicolas Sarkozy urged the French to do when he won the presidential election two years ago.

It will be interesting to see if the French become more obese if they follow the advice of their President. They haven’t so far and perhaps they shouldn’t for the sake of their health.

In Bruges–if only I could understand the Irish dialect

In my cable TV plan I’m entitled to watch two Box Office movies per month for free. I usually have a glance at what’s available and dismiss it, but this time I remembered that “In Bruges” which came out last year, was quite a hit, so we watched it. We could only watch because, quite honestly, we did not understand what the two main characters were saying most of the time. Colin Farrell apparently won a Golden Globe for his performance as the tormented hitman. His acting was good but it was like watching a silent movie without the subtitles. Continue reading