Mad Teddy's website: 2^3x251+1=7^2x41

Mad Teddy's web-pages

23×251 + 1  =  72×41

(or, to put it another way, 2008 + 1 = 2009)

This page added on Saturday, 17th January 2009

That's right - in typical, nerdy Mad Teddy fashion, I'm celebrating the change from 2008 to 2009, just two and a half weeks ago, using a bit of "prime factor" notation.

Is there, in fact, anything to celebrate, really?

Well, yes - quite possibly. I began this website in early 2005, when it seemed that the world (the "developed" world, at least) might be set to continue in an indefinite state of catalepsy, pretty much oblivious to the threat of disaster on many fronts. Those threats remain - but at least, it seems that many are becoming aware of the fact and actively trying to do whatever may help to address these burning issues.

The biggest issue in recent times has been the global economy, about which I've already had plenty to say in these pages (in particular - and in chronological order - here, here, and here). Note that I'm not cheering about the very real hardship the meltdown will cause on a grand scale for some time; but I am relieved, now that the inevitable has happened, that the world has begun to wake up at last and address the matter, along with other more-or-less related issues.

I may say that, while going back over these pages in preparation for this one, I've been somewhat taken aback by the vehemence with which I expressed myself in some (several!) of them. However, to me, that in itself is a warning sign. When things begin to change in a positive way, there's a tendency to "take the pressure off" a little and relax - even to wonder at one's former passion. But, as I've mentioned before, that's specifically the time to stay focused and determined to see things through to their conclusion, exactly as the generation in which I grew up failed to do some thirty or forty years ago, at great cost (as has become painfully evident in recent times).

So this page is an attempt to take stock of where we are now, and to try to see a way forward. I've mentioned earlier that I was considering producing an "e-report card" for Australia's federal Labor government, which has now been in power for a bit over a year; and this seems like the ideal place to do so.

Not, I imagine, that politicians particularly like having to put up with this sort of scrutiny. Indeed, only two or three weeks ago, a former Tasmanian State parliamentarian had a letter published in Launceston's newspaper, "The Examiner", complaining bitterly about journalists giving "report cards" to politicians, saying that the only judgment that matters is the result at an election.

Well, I don't consider myself to be a journalist, exactly - more a commentator, I suppose. Whatever! As far as I'm concerned, in a properly-functioning democracy, the political process is a day-to-day affair; and any citizen has the right to express an opinion, at any time, about any political issue - including, if necessary, the performance of individual members of parliament - whether there's an election coming up or not; and that's exactly what I intend to do right here, without apology.

So there!  

It's been a bit over a year since we've had a change of federal government in Australia. In fact, it was Saturday 24th November, 2007 - a day which many (myself included) hoped marked the beginning of a major change of direction for Australia. I've already posted a web-page discussing some of the issues of that time; click here to see it.

It's not too hard to see, with hindsight, why the Aussie people threw the Howard government out. It has to do with one very simple but vitally important concept:


When a democratically-elected government loses respect for its constituents, they will eventually lose respect for their government. That's exactly what happened in Australia in 1996, and again in 2007. When the "powers that be" think that they can get away with treating the citizenry with contempt, they will pay a heavy price.

You may have noticed that I've developed a penchant for including, in some of my most recent web-pages, "mood" photographs depicting weather conditions in my local area. True to form, the rainbow picture above was taken looking eastwards, in the general direction of Mount Barrow. I took this one after a very welcome rain-shower on Monday, 1st December 2008 (just a few weeks ago). Not quite as dramatic as the one which heads my new millenium page, perhaps; but quite appropriate as an introduction to my thoughts on the events of the last year or so.

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“My name's Kevin, I'm from Queensland, I'm here to help”

So spake Kevin Rudd, new leader of the federal Labor opposition, in his keynote address to the Australian Labor Party conference in Sydney, on 27th April 2007.

So, with not quite eight months before the election would be called, the Aussie public settled down to see how the new oppostion leader would fare.

It must be said that it's a tough ask. We'd had a succession of Labor leaders during the Howard years, none of whom had succeeded in pulling off the big result at a federal election. How would the "new boy" stack up? What approach would he take?

At the previous election, in late 2004, Mark Latham was the leader. He started out quite strongly, and definitely gave John Howard some uncomfortable moments - but he seemed to lose both his focus and his temper toward the end of the election campaign, thus playing right into the very cunning hands of the conservative government.

Prior to that, since the mid-to-late 1990's, Labor leaders had always come across as absolute gentlemen - which is probably why they didn't succeed. Politics is not, essentially, a gentlemanly business. By its very nature, it's adversarial; and "nice guys" rarely win - and if they do, they generally don't last long, because there is always someone within their own ranks with a much more nasty attitude who will stop at nothing to get the top job. (We've had plenty of that in Australia down the years, in both federal and state politics.)

So - what would Kevin Rudd do? What theme would characterize his leadership?


In all fairness, I don't think that Mr. Rudd ever put it quite so bluntly - but that simple (and ungrammatical) two-word expression was what the media latched onto, to describe his approach. The basic idea was that a Rudd government would leave most of what the conservatives had done pretty much alone, concentrating only on what were seen as fundamental differences in policy as targets for change.

By typing "Kevin Rudd" "me too" into Google, I found that there are lots of journalistic web-pages out there with some commentary on the matter. Here's a more-or-less random sampling of links to three of them:

The Daily Telegraph

Green Left Online

Ninemsn (an interview with journalist Laurie Oakes)

Of course, as you'd expect, each such news outlet places its own "spin" on the subject matter. (Wouldn't it be boring if they all agreed with each other?!)

From my own perspective, I had an initial "uh-oh!"-type reaction to the "me too" phenomenon. (I still had bad memories of the Hawke/Keating era.) But, in short order, I'd figured that in this case, the devil we didn't know couldn't really be any worse than the devil we did know; and that anyway, events in the period immediately following the election would be unpredictable, and who knew how things might develop - so it wasn't going to dissuade me from voting Labor on this occasion!

- And, of course, I was right in that regard. Who could have foreseen how the looming economic disaster would develop, and how that would affect the new government's actions? But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

I can understand why Mr. Rudd might have chosen to use the "me too" approach. The fact is that John Howard, being a classically wily politician, had had eleven years to hone to perfection his talent for turning just about anything uttered by opposition members into some kind of negative for them. So by taking this line, Mr. Rudd became a hard-to-hit target, thus able to keep the initiative, focusing on the very real issues which were turning the electorate away from the government in droves - finally. So I could admire it as a clever move from that perspective. I just hoped, though, that once they got in...

Once they got in, things began to happen very fast (as I've already mentioned in my "new millenium" page). The Kyoto protocol on climate change was ratified; an official apology was given to the Aboriginal community for the "stolen generations"; and the issues of industrial relations and immigration began to be addressed. Health and education were on the agenda. All of these were primary issues which had led to the eventual downfall of the Howard government. The new government, it seemed, was living up to the expectations of the electorate very well.

All of this was happening against the backdrop of rumblings about possibly very serious financial troubles orginating in the US. It was impossible to push to one side the thought that it could all have dire ramifications for the whole world, including Australia. However, in the euphoria of significant political change here, it was still possible not to be over-concerned about it - yet.

By the middle of the year, the momentum appeared to have slowed. It seemed that the new government had lost some of its focus. Very noticeably, Mr. Rudd was zooming off around the world to various international meetings - and of course, the opposition (i.e. the remnants of the former Howard government) starting carping about that. "Why isn't the Prime Minister home, addressing local issues?" was the sentiment being expressed. However, it didn't seem to be registering on the public radar; after eleven and a half years, the Aussie people had become pretty bored with that sort of thing.

Of course, leading political figures need to be active on the international stage - especially new leaders, who need to get up to speed with what's going on around the world. I don't think most people saw anything wrong with it; quite clearly, Mr. Rudd wasn't "joyriding" - he was very publicly engaged with his work as Australian PM wherever he went. By whingeing about it, the Liberals didn't do themselves any good at all!

- And then, the credit crunch hit - and everything else paled into insignificance.

A major part of Kevin Rudd's "me too-ism" had been his assertion that he was an "economic conservative". In the Green Left Online link above, Mr. Rudd is quoted as having said, in May 2007:

People have described me as an economic conservative. When it comes to public finance, it’s a badge I wear with pride.

Now, click here to read an article in "The Age" newspaper's website, published on 15th November 2007, which reports how, the previous day, Kevin Rudd had claimed the tag "fiscal conservative" for himself.

Now - just what the !@#$% does "fiscal" mean?

It's not the sort of word I use in everyday speech. I'm far more comfortable with concepts like Klein bottles, free abelian groups, pi-orbitals, and zero-point energy than I am with funny terms like that. So what does it mean?

Out with the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990 edition), and let's have a look:

fiscal adj. & n. -adj. of public revenue. ...

Well, that's clearly the bit we want, so let's not bother with the n. definition. (Just by the way - I tried to look up "abelian" in the Concise Oxford, but it's not there! You'd probably have to look in an Abstract Algebra textbook for that. Or, you can click here if you're interested... there's even a bit about "free abelian groups" there, too! Good value, n'est-ce pas? )

Okay - so it's about governments using taxpayers' money. (Now we know what it means, in plain English.) Over eleven and a half years, John Howard's government, one of the highest taxing governments in our country's history, had built up a colossal "surplus", courtesy of the hapless Aussie taxpayer (I've addressed this matter previously in my Why is Mad Teddy mad? page, written in early 2006 and part of the original content of this website). So being a "fiscal conservative" means that you're going to careful how you spend it, if at all. Right?

Clearly, both John Howard and Kevin Rudd would have liked to be seen as more of a fiscal conservative than each other, that being the prevailing fashion.

I've had a bit to say about how the financial meltdown (thus far) has affected Australia in my Strange days indeed page. I posted that page in October 2008 (just about three months ago); and since then, of course, a lot has happened.

Almost unnoticed, and without any real fanfare, the Australian federal government has committed to spending $4.7 billion dollars of John Howard and Peter Costello's precious surplus to help fix up our badly damaged economy, largely by investing in infrastructure in order to create jobs. (Click here and/or here to read some press-releases about it.) So - is Kevin Rudd still a "fiscal conservative"?

Who cares?!! It's just a phrase, after all. The important thing is, the government is effectively giving back the money to the long-suffering Australian people, in a way that - hopefully - will benefit the entire country.

And that gets a big tick from me!

Contrast this with the "bailout" or "corporate welfare" approach of pouring taxpayers' money into those very businesses that have actually given rise to the problem, by their unbridled greed. All the government is doing by taking the "nation-building" approach is giving back to the people what was always rightfully theirs anyway, in what is almost certainly the most effective way possible.

Of course, those opposed to this approach will say that the government needs a surplus, for a "rainy day" - suggesting that the "rainy day" is right now, with the economy in disarray. Of course, what they won't admit is that the approach, in recent times, of running absolutely everything as a business - including the very country itself - has led to the mind-set which caused that "rainy day" to occur in the first place!

Businesses need to run at a profit - fair enough. Workers have to be paid; everyone needs to eat and have a roof over their head; and private companies have a legitimate right to grow. But governments, if they are doing what they should be doing, are not businesses or private companies; so there is no reason why they should run at a profit - or "surplus" - at all! Surely, governments - if they are representing their citizens properly - should attempt to break even, rather than to have either a substantial surplus or a substantial deficit. Perhaps this is finally beginning to be understood by our leaders, at long last.

It reminds me of a situation which occurred when I was at university in the mid-1970s. The university cafeteria (known as the "refectory", or "ref" for short) was operated by the Students' Representative Council (SRC). At one point, when the ref's management proudly announced that they had made a fairly substantial profit over the preceding financial period, all hell broke loose. As far as the students were concerned, this quite simply meant that they were being ripped off - and they said so, in loud and angry tones. Now, what's the essential difference between a situation like that and a democratically-elected government profiteering at the taxpayers' expense? I put it to you!

On 20th January 2008 (just under a year ago), the new federal government announced that it would be holding "Community Cabinet" meetings around the country. The idea is that the Prime Minister and members of Cabinet would hold meetings at which members of the public would have the chance to ask questions and possibly have a one-to-one meeting with a Cabinet member. Click here to read more; also here.

As soon as I heard that one of these was to be held at Launceston's Newstead College on Wednesday, 5th November 2008, I made a point of putting my name down as a member of the audience. I also requested an interview with the PM, hoping to have a few minutes to talk to him on the subject of "Energy for the Future".

There was no problem with attending the forum (i.e. the main meeting), but I was unsuccessful at gaining an interview with Mr. Rudd. Nevertheless, ever the optimist, I prepared myself as well as I could on the off-chance that fortune would smile on me and I might get my opportunity after all.

Just a few days before, I had successfully constructed the following gadget:

It's an odd little motor whose rotating element is one wheel from somebody's old skateboard. (I found the pair of wheels in my favourite Launceston junk-shop; I'm a regular customer in there, and I'm sure they must think I'm quite loopy. )

Without going into a lot of detail, it runs at a very impressive 3,000 rpm on a single nine-volt battery, which lasts for quite a long time - and it continues to run (albeit a bit more slowly) even when the battery starts to wear out.

It's my first attempt to construct a machine which draws at least some of its motive power from zero-point energy. If you'd like to know where it derives its inspiration, click here.

So what, you might ask?

Well, I took it with me, carefully concealed in a shoe-box, when I went to the Community Cabinet meeting. I left it in the car; I didn't dare to try to take it in with me in case some security person thought it might be some kind of WMD, which might possibly have landed me in a spot of bother.

I thought that if my path and Mr. Rudd's should happen to cross at some point, I might find a way to bring it in and demonstrate it - and it might thus provide a means of getting my point across after all.

The federal Labor parliamentarians know about me. Ever since the disastrous 2004 federal election, I've been mass-emailing them, on and off, about various issues, hoping to be a "voice in the wilderness" of which they might just take some notice. As part of the process, I've made a particular point of drawing their attention to this website. So I did give myself an outside chance of placing a word in the appropriate ear at the Community Cabinet meeting.

In fact, I made a special point of wearing my "" T-shirt, under my pullover. I managed to get a seat in the meeting on the centre aisle, quite near to the front of the hall (about a quarter of the way back), and waited until things were under way before removing the pullover. So they knew I was there, all right.

It didn't do me any good, though; I didn't get my chance to demonstrate my little gizmo and thus raise the subject of zero-point energy as a serious topic of conversation. Perhaps if Mr. Rudd and his colleagues see this page, they'll realize what they were missing out on.

Just before moving on - I've since built another motor of this same basic type. This time, the rotor is an old CD-case with four powerful magnets inside; it spins very happily at 5,000 rpm on a 20-volt DC supply, taking about about half an amp - which means that it's running at about 10 watts. Here it is:

The sound it makes, as it gets up to speed over a minute or two, is reminiscent of a light plane warming up ready for take-off.

I'll be having a lot more to say about these and related matters in this website fairly soon; so do keep coming back to see how things are progressing...

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Even though I didn't get the chance to have any real individual input, I found the Community Cabinet meeting to be a worthwhile experience.

I formed the distinct impression that most people there were basically on-side with the government, but concerned about specific issues. When I arrived outside the venue, there were at least two protests happening: one about Aboriginal rights, and the other about the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.

When the new Labor government took power in November 2007, they inherited a certain amount of "baggage" from the former Howard government. Part of this had to do with a very vexed issue concerning Aboriginal rights in Australia's Northern Territory. It's a complex matter which I don't feel qualified to address here; if you'd like to read more about it, you may find the following links helpful:

Wikipedia article on "Northern Territory National Emergency Response"

A "New Statesman" article by Aboriginal lawyer Noel Pearson

A point of view from

The other protest was organised by "Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill" (TAP). I've taken part in their rallies before, and may do so again (for example, see my It's still not easy being green page, beginning just over halfway down; also, have a look at my page specifically about the issue here, and perhaps check this out). On this occasion, however, I had my own agenda (as detailed above), so I decided not to join in the TAP protest. One can only do so much...

The pulp mill issue was very much in evidence at the Community Cabinet meeting. Some people put their hands up and were given a chance to say a few choice words about it, basically requiring the government to explain why they hadn't taken the opportunity to put this matter to bed once and for all.

I'd heard in various media reports over the months that the Rudd government's approach was to proceed with "environmental studies" initiated by the Howard government. The Environment Minister at the time was Malcolm Turnbull; the studies had been in process when the election was held in November 2007.

Frankly, I hadn't put too much store on these studies. It was no secret that the Howard government would always support "business" over absolutely everything else. Would the results of any "studies" convince them to stop the pulp mill going ahead? Pull the other one!

So when the new government effectively continued with this policy, there were plenty of very unamused people down here, let me tell you - myself among them.

Somebody raised the issue at the meeting. Mr. Rudd took the podium and reiterated, in our hearing, the point that Environment Minister Peter Garrett was committed to complete these environmental studies before making a decision as to whether the pulp mill was to go ahead.

It was a polite, restrained audience; but you could have cut the prevailing mood with a knife. The undercurrent of barely suppressed rage was palpable. There were a few growled interjections; I think I may have uttered a teddy-bear-like growl or two in that vein myself. Most people simply sat there in stunned silence; but their facial expressions were eloquent.

The politicians just didn't get it. This blasted issue has been dragging on for so long; every poll taken shows that the vast majority of Tasmanians do not want this pulp mill - but still, on it goes.

We are not ignorant peasants down here. We are fully cognizant of all the issues. The scientific aspects have been repeatedly aired, and well understood, for years.

The group originally charged with an environmental impact study was Tasmania's Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC). When this organization - doing its job thoroughly and meticulously, a few years ago - "failed" to give a green light to the mill's proponents, they (the proponents, not the RPDC) withdrew from the process; and the Tasmanian government introduced legislation to "fast track" the required approvals. But we, the people, were not fooled; we knew that this was all about trying to draw attention away from the scientific findings to date which were certainly not favourable to the mill's approval.

We, the people, know all the relevant facts; and we also know that the mill's proponents have constantly tried to twist the evidence around to suit their own purposes, and will continue to do so. "Spin" is alive and well in Tassie - we all know that.

I do not understand how or why Kevin Rudd's government feels that it is in any way beholden to what Malcolm Turnbull may or may not have already done with regard to this matter. The Australian public threw out the government of which Mr. Turnbull was a part, very resoundingly, just over a year ago - thus sending a message which couldn't possibly have been any clearer: "We want CHANGE, big change, and we want it NOW".

With my first grandchild on the way, this is a very personal issue for me. I don't want our beautiful island to lose the very things that make it so special. I'm sick of all the smoke and mirrors. I just want this place to continue to be what it has been since I first came here as a child: home.

I'm fed up with successive governments, both federal and state, whether (ostensibly) on the "left" or the "right" side of politics, paying no attention to what the people think and want - the very principles that are supposed to define a democracy.

I'm nauseated by the arrogance of the mill's proponents who seem to think that elected politicians owe them their allegiance. Launceston's newspaper, "The Examiner", reported on Wednesday, 7th January 2009, that a senior spokesperson for the company which wants to build the mill

... expected Mr. Garrett to play politics to appease environmentalists but he expected support from the local member.

Oh, he did, did he?!! Well, that's a sad reflection on the condition of what is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy in our part of the world, isn't it?

I've had a gutful of what can only be described as corporate government. I couldn't give a damn about what further long-drawn-out "studies" by Mr. Turnbull, Mr. Garrett, or anybody else, come up with, seemingly in the hope thar we "greenies" will just give up and quietly fade away. It's gone beyond all that, now. We know what we want - and we won't settle for anything less. We want this pulp mill killed stone dead, right now.

Only a few days ago, on 5th January, Mr. Garrett released his report. We had been led to believe that it would finally give us an indication of whether the federal government would support the mill, or reject it at long last. Instead, it turns out that we're going to have to wait for about another two years, while further studies are done! Click here to read a gleeful Liberal Party "take" on the matter, and here to see a Green perspective from a member of the Tasmanian state parliament. Also, click here to read a recent media release by Senator Christine Milne, one of Tasmania's strongest campaigners on environmental issues over many years.

On and on and on and on and on it goes...

The mill will be knocked on the head eventually, believe me - come what may. We Tasmanians will see to that. We are determined. It would just be so much better if the new federal government, which seems to have so much potential in so many ways, could be a part of that process (and sooner, rather than later), instead of undermining it.

In my ... Love this river... ? page, down toward the end, I've presented information which originated with the TAP people to the effect that each one of the five Tasmanian federal parliamentary seats is held by a member of the Labor party only with support from Green preferences. This means that every one of those electorates - even Denison (the greater Hobart area), formerly a safe Labor seat - is now marginal. (Please, do visit that page and read the details.)

What this means, in practical terms, is that the Rudd government potentially has a big problem down here. The electorate of Bass, which comprises Launceston and the north-east of Tasmania, has a reputation for being marginal, and is often used as an indicator of the country's political mood. (There have been occasions when Bass has had a very important - even pivotal - rôle to play in federal politics.)

Now, with all five electorates effectively "up for grabs", the Rudd government would be extremely unwise to get us Tasmanians offside - because there is every chance, if it does, that it could lose the next election, a little less than two years from now. That would mean a return to a right-wing conservative federal government à la John Howard - and I, for one, don't want that to happen any more than Kevin Rudd and his colleagues do!

How much simpler can it be?

As I've said before (again, in my ... Love this river... ? page):


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Don't get me wrong. Of course, the scientific aspects of this are important. Hard facts are essential to a meaningful decision-making process. But the science has been going on for so long, and in so much less than a sincere, transparent way, that we Tasmanians no longer believe in the legitimacy of the process. We no longer have any faith in it at all.

There are other aspects to consider, other than the purely scientific. Tasmania is famous world-wide for its "clean green" image. We have a tourist industry which is largely about precisely that. We have a thriving primary industry sector (including vineyards which produce fine wines), which also relies heavily on that vitally important reputation. (Some of these vineyards are close to the site of the proposed pulp mill.) These, and other matters, are at high risk if we get a chlorine dioxide-based pulp mill on the island. Perception is incredibly important. The federal government knows that.

While this dreadful matter grinds on, harm is being done all the time. Apart from Tasmania's worldwide reputation being sullied, we who live here are getting angrier every day. It's not a way we like to be. We like to think of ourselves as a pretty cool bunch.

There are half a million of us living here. You tell me - why should a handful of rude, arrogant, greedy businessmen have any right to steal our way of life, and our joy in living here, away from us? How does that have anything at all to do with democracy?

When all is said and done, it comes down - as always - to one single, simple, all-important concept, already mentioned near the top of this page:

>>>  RESPECT  <<<

This page has already grown quite long; however, there are still a few more things I'd like to mention. I'll try to be as brief as possible.

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Over the last few months, the federal government has been making noises about internet censorship. It's an old chestnut which pops up every so often; the reason usually given is that firm measures need to be taken against child-abuse. Click here to read a well-thought-out (if somewhat cantankerous) article about it.

Let's be clear. Nobody in their right mind approves of child-abuse, or "child-abuse products" being available on the internet. That can be taken as a given.

However, the internet (including the World Wide Web) has been with us now for quite a long time. Over the years, there have been many calls to control what is available on it - but they rarely seem to last long.

Why would that be? Is it that people just don't really care, after a while? Or is there likely to be a more logical reason?

If it could be done effectively, no doubt it would have been done long ago. (I'm quite sure that the previous Australian federal government would have just loved to get things off the net that showed it in a poor light.) Similarly, who wouldn't want to prevent terrorists from depicting their "executions" of hostages on the web?

The simple fact is that it can't be done. Any attempt to censor the internet is doomed to failure. In the end, the only way to locate and prosecute perpetrators of atrocities on-line is by good old-fashioned policing.

Why won't internet censorship work?

There are several reasons, all of which are now well-known: no filter can be made which can be guaranteed to remove all the specified undesirable content; any filter will remove innocent content as well as (some of) the target content; there are ways to get around any attempt to filter if the user is a "hacker" and knows how to go about it (and such people will always be one jump ahead of everybody else) - etcetera, etcetera.

Perhaps the most telling practical reason is that such filtering, ineffective though it is doomed to be, will simply slow the internet down to an unacceptably low speed.

One of the policy platforms on which the present government stood during the run-up to the 2007 election was internet speed - in particular, fast broadband access for remote areas. Very laudable; but slapping a country-wide filtering system on it will simply cancel out any benefits of such high-speed technology!

The issue seems to have faded away in recent times, perhaps because it's been forced off centre-stage by the economic crisis. Hopefully, it will stay that way; with a bit of luck, the government will realize that there is no point in backing an inherently unworkable idea.

Finally, of course, there is at least the perception that the motivation for any censorship by government is highly suspect, and can only ultimately serve to drive a wedge of mistrust between the government and the citizens. In the final analysis, that may well be the best reason for the government to simply drop the idea.

I certainly hope so.

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Another issue that has arisen in recent times is that of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

In the lead-up to the 2007 election, with the issue of the Kyoto protocol firmly on the table as an election issue, many Aussies hoped for great things from a Rudd Labor government on environmental issues.

Well, I'm very much afraid that we've been somewhat disappointed, thus far at least! The Government has come up with a target of a five to fifteen percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

It's not anywhere near enough. Click here to read an SBS World News article about it.

Now click here to read a transcript of an ABC interview with the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong.

About a third of the way down, you'll find the following statement from Ms. Wong:

Well unlike some of the people who are criticising us, the Government understands you don't achieve a target just by setting it. You have to have a plan to get there. We have a plan to get there - a comprehensive emissions trading scheme in the carbon pollution reduction scheme - the most comprehensive in the world, covering 75 per cent of the Australian economy.

I understand that it's a difficult, complex issue. I'd hate to be in Penny Wong's position; her very important portfolio can only be seen as a poisoned chalice. No matter what you decide to do, you'll never please everybody.

But the statement above does sound like a capitulation. Saying "you don't achieve a target just by setting it" misses the point, in my view.

You have to start somewhere. The question is where. When I was in my first year at high school in the mid-1960s, the principal - a short, pugnacious-looking man with a twinkle in his eye - had a saying that he used to trot out at every opportunity: school assemblies, speech nights, whatever. If my memory serves me correctly, it went like this:

“...If you aim for the stars, you might just hit the treetops.
If you aim for the treetops, you'll never get off the ground.”

I heard this enough times for it to stick in my mind - and, of course, he was absolutely right! It is important to set lofty goals, even if ultimately we rarely - if ever - succeed in reaching them.

But I do believe we can both set high targets and actually reach them, on this matter of climate change. If you've visited this website before, I'm sure you must have picked up on my firm belief that the answer is within our grasp. It has to do with zero-point energy, which pervades the whole universe in vast quantities and can be accessed for every energy need we could ever have, if we just get on and develop the technology.

If you're sick of hearing me say it, I'm not sorry. I'm committed to adopting the same approach that old Lou Amos, Principal of Launceston High School, used to implant his message about stars and treetops in my mind. If I keep on throwing it out there long enough, perhaps the penny will eventually drop, and some people in high-enough places will get involved at last, and things will start to happen.

I'm just one member of an internet-based community of people who are doing what we can to help bring this about, as soon as possible, hopefully before it's too late. I'll be posting a lot more about it in this website very soon. In the meantime, may I encourage you to get involved: read other pages in this site which address the issue, and do some hunting on the web yourself, to see what you can find out about it. The matter is urgent.

UPDATE, Saturday, 24th October 2009: On Friday, 10th July 2009, I included a new menu entitled "Mad Teddy's researches into zero-point energy" within this website. There are (so far) five links to new pages within that menu, three of which are of an introductory/speculative nature and two of which provide details of two working models of monopole motors - my first attempts to get involved with what I hope will soon be adopted as the ultimate technological solution to the world's current enormous environmental problem. Please, do click here to see this new material.

Nearly there - just a few more bits'n'pieces to add.

On Tuesday, 7th October 2008, I noticed a weird-looking weather phenomenon over toward the east (as usual). You could be forgiven for thinking that it was an enormous tornado swirling around not very far away. Fortunately, it wasn't; but whatever it was, it looked disctinctly murky. Of course, being me, I just had to grab my old Sony Mavica camera and take a few snaps of it.

I suppose in some ways it mirrors my mood regarding much of what I've had to say in this page, which I haven't found easy to write. It's far easier to produce a straightforward rant, like several earlier pages in this site - when an issue is very clear-cut and one can simply yell in the hope of drawing attention to something which is just dead wrong, in the hope of motivating enough other people to get on-side and help sort it out ASAP.

That's not quite the case here. Having been a teacher, I know from experience how difficult it is to write a report on a student whom one knows has great potential, and whom one really wants to motivate - but who simply doesn't get it.

It's like walking a tightrope. On the one hand, you want to encourage - rather than discourage - the student; but on the other, you don't want to give the impression that they're doing enough, when they quite clearly aren't. Getting the balance of "carrot" (praise) and "stick" (constructive criticism) just right is a very tricky business.

So - has it been a waste of time writing an "e-report card" on the first year of the Rudd Labor government?

Hopefully not. Looking on the bright side, at least we now have a government which we know is capable of having some worthwhile ideas, rather than the useless outfit it replaced. So there's always hope.

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There are some other issues which look like clouds on the horizon for the Rudd government.

For example, there are people in the Aboriginal community who are unhappy with the government's position that the apology for the stolen generations is not to be followed by compensation. Click here to read an article about this, published on 28th January 2008. The issue is still alive; there was something about it the news just a few days ago. Why can't the government find a way to deal with this in a creative way which would put some real meat on the bones of the apology?

Then again, a day or two ago I heard complaints that the "nation building" program - mentioned earlier - is not proceeding fast enough.

A third and final example: the union movement is saying that the reforms to John Howard's "Work Choices" don't go nearly far enough (Mr. Rudd had promised that his government would demolish this iniquitous piece of legislation "lock, stock, and barrel" - see his keynote speech, whose link appears earlier in this page). Clearly, industrial relations is still a vexed issue (as it always seems to be, for Labor governments).

So it seems that the government is very much on a learning curve - which is only to be expected, after only a year in the job! As long as they actually are learning, of course...

So I'm not giving them a "mark out of ten", as it were - or even a "pass" or a "fail". I think it's too early for any of that, just yet. They still have a little under two years to go before they have to take their first real exam - in the form of the next federal election. For now, I'm content to just give them a "progress report" instead, with a few pointers which might hopefully prompt them to lift their game in specific areas.

I'll conclude this page with another photo taken on the same day as the one above. This was taken when the sky was starting to brighten a bit, and that odd-looking object could be seen as quite simply a shower of rain in the middle distance. Much more like what we'd prefer to see - in both the political world, and the physical one we all inhabit!

I'm glad to have finished this difficult page at last. (It's been bothering me for weeks - certainly since before Christmas - and it's taken a lot longer to prepare than I'd hoped it would.)

So now I feel free to go ahead and concentrate on what I view as the biggest issue of all - climate change. As mentioned above, I'm hoping to add more pages to this website soon, detailing my own researches and deliberations about zero-point energy (that process now having begun, as also mentioned above, 24-10-2009) - the only way, in my opinion, that we are ever going to have a chance to fix our badly damaged world. Please, keep revisiting the site, and spread the word.

- And join us, in aiming for the stars.

UPDATE, Tuesday 20th January 2009

Someone whom I've known for a long time has pointed out to me that I've made the classic error of pining for the "good old days" (forgetting that Tasmania in the 1960's, when I first came here as a boy, was not perfectly idyllic) - by reminding me that there were indeed polluting factories here even back then, plus sundry other environmentally disgraceful practices (some of which have, thankfully, been rectified since).

In fact, now I come to think about it, in the late 1970's I once actually applied for a job with one of those polluting industries! Even then, I had a vague sense of unease about it; now, with the benefit of thirty-odd years of hindsight to clarify my thinking about such matters, I'm rather glad I didn't get that job.

The point about the "good old days" is well taken. However, it in no way detracts from the thrust of my argument about the proposed pulp mill - quite the reverse, in fact. If that goes ahead, it will dwarf any of the prior offenders; I've read that it will be the biggest pulp mill of its kind in Australia, and may well be one of the biggest in the world.

So I'm glad that the public (of which I am a member) is now far more aware of threats of this type than they were decades ago. But that fact can't be allowed to make us complacent. The battles continue; and if we relax our guard, we're done for - and, as I've mentioned in other contexts within this website, that will never change.

(Click here for another video about the proposed pulp mill.)

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Just one other thing: originally, I wasn't going to include this in the site - but I've changed my mind. Here's the placard I held at a rally about the pulp mill in August last year (2008):

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