One cheeky rabbit has missed the curtain call.
Today is a pretty special day in Australia. No it is not because Le Tour de France 2016 starts later tonight (that is a special day for the whole world, not just Australia). Today the whole of Australia voted in our national election to decide on the next government. Some people see this as a hassle, but I reckon it is pretty awesome. When I said the whole of Australia voted, I meant it. Australia is one of the few countries in the world where voting in the national election is compulsory. It means everybody has a say, and everyone’s vote matters. Obviously some votes matter more than others because people are located in seats that are considered “swing” seats.
But the reason why I think it is special is that there are so many things about the Australian democracy that we can be thankful for. Firstly, the elections are run professionally by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in exactly the same way across every State and seat in the country. They are a totally independent body from the government of the day and run things pretty smoothly. If they get things wrong it is a national scandal, but they don’t really do that. The AEC do a very good job in making it easy to vote and removing any blockers for Australians to cast their vote. Probably the most important function of the AEC is that they are the ones who call the election – not some invariably biased news media company.
Second, our election day is always held on a Saturday so that nobody has to sacrifice their work time (unless they work weekends) to vote. Even if they do have work commitments on the day, they can vote early via postal or pre-polling booths. For this election over 2 million people have voted before election day, and it looks like that number will keep getting higher.
Third, our polling booths are safe. There is no heavy police presence at any of the booths, and for the most part the local community primary schools are the venues. There is no risk of people being attacked at the booth, no risk of a terrorist incident, and no need for an independent United Nations force to help ensure that the election is fair and free of corruption. More importantly there is no chance of me getting attacked because I vote for one party over another (a lesson that Mr Trump could learn).
Fourth, because the polling stations are held in central locations within our communities it is an opportunity to bump into local friends. While I voted this morning I bumped into three people I knew and had a good old chat. This community atmosphere is prevalent everywhere, where everybody acknowledges what we have come together to do. And people are patient too, as I found out this morning – my queue was longer than I have previously experienced, but there was no impatience as everybody understood that we were all “in the same boat”.
Fifth, many polling stations have a sausage sizzle! There is even a website that tells you which ones will have a sausage sizzle. Volunteers quite often man the grill, and the funds raised go to the local community facilities. I went early this morning so skipped the sausage sizzle, I will have to make up for it tomorrow at Bunnings Warehouse.
Sixth, we have more than just two parties putting their hand up to represent the people. While practically only one of two parties will be able to form government (Labor [left] or Liberal [right]), there are many viable alternatives that can represent the many walks of life within the electorate. There are some properly “bat shit” crazy parties on one policy platform positions but because everybody has to vote the well tuned Australian BS detector does its job. For the independents that do get up, they typically punch well above their weight and represent well their electorates.
Lastly, in the round up we know that whoever wins the election we will not wake up tomorrow with our country drifting towards a dictatorship or police state.
All up we are pretty lucky as Australians, in a free and liberal democracy with well established institutions of state that protect us all. This guy below is favoured to win as I write this post. Let’s hope for him that his fortunes change and the political comment in this photo does not ring true for the next term of government.
P.S. election out of the way, bring on Le Tour!
Sydney Harbour is without a doubt beautiful. Us Sydneysiders are quite lucky to have at the heart of our city this maritime masterpiece. Multiple levels of government have been making quite a bit of effort over the last few years to make the harbour foreshore accessible to people. I think that there is also a master plan to connect a continuous stretch of foreshore from Woolloomooloo (East of the Opera House – and yes I spelt that suburb correctly) all the way through to Balmain. So when the plans to redevelop the Western maritime shoreline of the Sydney CBD began, the opportunity to redefine the shoreline and reconnect a previously inaccessible strip of land arose. This part of my city is named Barangaroo.
Barangaroo was the name of the wife of one of Australia’s most famous indigenous Australians – Bennelong. She was a powerful woman from the Aboriginal clan of Cammeraygal, being a key figure in the local community.
After decades of construction and harbour reclamation, the original shape of the shoreline had been lost to the square shape of concrete docks. The plan to introduce a public park on the Barangoo shoreline was opened up to a design competition, and the winning design was a beautiful landscape proposal that returns the shape of the original shoreline. The driving force for the introduction of this park was Australia’s greatest Prime Minister from the few decades – Paul Keating. And we can now enjoy the fruits of the labour of the architects, landscapers, and builders who gave us this new park – and cycleway too 🙂
C’mon, you knew that I would throw my two wheel endeavours into this.
So we took off on our bikes as a family, me riding alongside the Pok on his bike and my wife riding her bike with our Chariot trailer in tow shuttling Kiki. The distance from our place to the Barangaroo headland is just shy of 6km, a big distance for my little guy. But the reward was this:
The shoreline has been recreated with large hewn sandstone blocks. The stone that submerges with the tide has already taken to the green aquatic colours. There are two tracks the follow the shoreline. One which is composed of compacted earth for walkers, and a second asphalted path for two wheel steeds and runners. The views out over the harbour are great, and uninterrupted out to the inner West and the ANZAC Bridge.
The sandstone blocks are quite large, but not off-limits to walk on. Though the blocks do make you feel kinda small, but at the same time Balmain seems strangely within arms reach.
At the Northern most point of the headline was the opportune time for a refuelling pit-stop.
This gave me a chance to explore the park a bit more while the kids snacked. I rode up the hill to get a better view of the landscape of the park. The trees that have been planted have not matured yet, so hopefully in a few more years the shade will be more prominent.
My little Kiki was asleep the whole way to the park until we stopped. She was pleasantly surprised when we she woke up.
The view from the headland to the Sydney Harbour Bridge is pretty spectacular too, and the elevation provides a unique perspective. The short climb is fun to ride up.
The old maritime control tower which directed shipping is still in place and presides over the entire park.
Some of the sculpture pieces are pretty cool. This mini “stonehenge” from sandstone blocks was the site of a little game of hide and seek between The Pok, Kiki, and myself.
And I can never get enough of taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it is the colours in the stone that are a highlight to me.
We took the opportunity to have a few race sprints between The Pok and myself. My little man is turning into a bit of a speed demon on the wheels, hitting over 20kph in a burst of speed. Not bad for a five year old. But all that energy output lead to more refueling for the boy – a hot chocolate did the trick.
All up a great family ride and what turned out to be the longest ride that my little man has done – 13km! He loved it as did my wife and little girl. And we are lucky to have a new addition to our harbour front.
Summer is in it’s final month here in Sydney. But being Summer it also means water and outdoors at night. One of our favourite things to try and do each year is to attend the Open Air Cinema between the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. It is not cheap, but seeing at least one movie during the season has become a tradition of ours. The first time we went was to see the movie “Saving Grace” which turned out to be quite hilarious for two reasons. Firstly good movie, and secondly we watched the entire movie in a torrential downpour with ponchos on. I suppose a big part of what you pay for is the stunning location to watch the movie – here was our movie theatre for the evening.
For the uninitiated, you can get caught out with the way the whole thing works. There are no reserved seats, and one of the first things you have to do is lay claim to yours for the evening (not before grabbing a Lindor ball though – though no black or blue ones were on offer).
For the evening I was ‘Bill Collins’ of “Golden Years of Hollywood” fame (it’s an Aussie thing).
Once the seats are secured, then it is off to get fed and watered. This is the best way to catch dinner and a movie with a great view. Again, reserving your seats for the dining is essential to.
We went with friends this year, and managed to get tickets to the Christopher Nolan film – “Interstellar”. I was quite chuffed! It was the first time our mates had been to this Open Air Cinema – which for me was a real shock because they are proper movie buffs. Every year we try and go see anything, so long as we go. But it was a bonus to get tickets (and they sell out real fast!) to a movie that we both wanted to see. [side note – last year we saw “Anna Karenina”… nuff said about those two hours of my life lost forever]
So as the sun set on our meal which was watered with a couple of bottles of New Zealand’s finest, the pre-show experience begun. Lift the screen!
Yes, the screen is firmly planted within Sydney Harbour. Now the only gripe that I had about this year was that I missed out on the latest Peroni beer advert which is usually screened before the film. Apparently there was a minor firework display which was more important. [second side note – unless the fireworks display is great and loud, us Sydneysiders will be very critical. New Year’s Eve anyone?]
With all that harbour and skyline behind the screen you would think it would be a major distraction to watching the movie. Except, the sound is awesome! No chance of a directionally challenged fruit bat ruining the evening by crashing into the screen, its sonar is overpowered by the fantastic audio setup.
So we settled in to watch the movie, and had a good time interrupting our fellow movie patrons by discerning whether there were flaws in Hollywood science. The robots were cool, the spaceships were cool (not Rebel Alliance cool, but cool), and the story was cool.
[third and final side note – sorry ladies but I don’t know what the fuss about McConaughey is, he looked a bit ragged in this movie 😉 ]
While it is hard to get tickets, if you are in Sydney over the January / February period this is quite an experience. Our friends loved it and I think they will be return patrons. I definitely recommend it, and look forward to going again hopefully next year. Just be prepared with a poncho…
It has taken me a bit of time to work out what I would write in this post. By now the majority of people who will read this post know what happened in Sydney just over 24 hours ago. And I would be lying if I did not say that the incident has shook me up.
I was never in any danger, Sydney is a big city after all with over 4.5 million residents. But I think the siege hit home because at one time I was close to the cafe where the tragedy occurred. I worked directly opposite the Lindt cafe for over three years. Out of all the surrounding cafes, this was my favourite. After all, the Lindt cafe does the best hot chocolate in Sydney. That’s my pick me up – not coffee. Of course, it is stocked with all sorts of chocolate goodness as well. I would love meeting up with co-workers for a sneaky chocolate snack in the afternoon, in the guaranteed knowledge that the Lindt cafe would have a dark chocolate goodie. And a workers in the cafe would always hand me the snack with a smile.
On the day when the criminal assailant walked in, we received an email informing us that something was going on with our office across from the cafe, and the physical lock down procedures were put in place. I sensed something was wrong. Then the TV in the kitchen started to show our NSW Police Officers deploying around the cafe. I have worked very closely with the Police in the past, and I knew immediately that I was watching the Tactical Response Group in action – things were serious. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the NSW Police and the job they do. They deal with bad and the ugly on a daily basis, and very seldom the good. What was unfolding before my eyes was bad. I rang my wife to tell her to stay at home and not meet me for lunch. My wife was confused, until she saw the TV coverage. My son was upset that he would not see me for lunch, but my wife lovingly shielded him from the real reason. At the time no one knew whether this was a coordinated and planned attack – or the act of a lone deranged criminal with a completely shattered moral compass.
Most people now know how the events tragically unfolded…
It all came to an end while most of Sydney slept. We woke up to the awful news. As I kitted up to go cycling training, I could not clear my head. To say this totally clouded my thoughts is an understatement. As I pushed the pedals I could not think of anything else, and my session clearly reflected that. I was not the only one, we were all collectively flat. I was sad, angry, empty, all at once. I waited for any news of who the hostages were, and whether any of them were my old work colleagues. As the reports and the names came in, thankfully none of them were.
Putting it in perspective, this is not about me. Two people lost their lives to a criminal who should have been locked up – not out on bail. He likely planned the murder of his ex-wife and was up on 40 counts of sexual and indecent assault. He took the p!ss when he applied for asylum into Australia under false pretenses, and should never have been let into the country. Then when he got here, he actively fought against the fabric and foundations of our society – flaunting our faces incredulously in our own tolerance. Even when he got here he should have been extradited back to Iran because he was a criminal fraud over there. And all the while our NSW Police knew exactly his character and pleaded with our Legal system who failed to lock him away. He even smeared his own religion with his unconscionable actions, trying to tarnish thousands of Australians of the same faith.
It would be too easy to call this terrorism, the fact is that is was an evil crime.
While I read today about over 140 children who were killed by extremists in Pakistan, the tragedy of my own city is what is occupying my thoughts. I know enough about the world to know that this can happen in my home city. I am not that naive. But I can’t help but feel an indescribable loss. My city was attacked by one person who wanted to take down my fellow Sydneysiders, for no reason other than his own evil motives. My city fought back, and did not allow him the vehicle or platform, and people were hurt as a result.
For Sydney and all those who were dragged into this horrible ordeal, I say a quiet prayer. No photos, no hashtags, just a quiet prayer. And maybe one day I will be able to explain to my son and daughter the real reason why they could not meet me for lunch that day.