Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fundamental institutions are cast aside in the pursuit of raw power

"THE presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a foundation of our democracy. There are investigations underway that need to be allowed to take place and resolved, and those resolutions will determine whether Parliament has a role to play in this matter.

It is a very dangerous precedent for Parliament to call a member to explain allegations made against them, before proper process and natural justice have reached their conclusions, as this would blur the line between our parliamentary and judicial systems."

Rob Oakeshott, MP (Ind)

The Craig Thompson scandal that has engulfed parliament this week has once again shown that the Liberals are prepared to do anything, including breaking political convention and undermining our system of justice, to gain power. It has been a raw and grubby affair, particularly since the scandal itself is so salacious.

The quote above from independent MP, Rob Oakeshott highlights the issues that seem to have been forgotten in the Opposition's headlong grab for power; that everyone, regardless of what they are alleged to have done, is entitled to a presumption of innocence and that it is the courts and not the parliament or the media that are the ultimate arbiters of innocence or guilt. However, the opposition is happy to cast aside all those principles in its relentless drive for power.

It is ironic that convention and tradition have been cast aside by the so-called conservatives, now fully re-casting themselves not as a conservative or even liberal party but a radical neo-con machine focused purely on the obtaining and holding of power at whatever cost.

And they say the ALP has lost its values.....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recipe: Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer
2 Large bunches of spinach (or 2 pkts frozen)
2 cm Piece of fresh ginger
1 Clove garlic
4 Red chilies
1 pkt (250gr) Paneer
3 TB Plain Yogurt
1 TB Low fat cream
1/4 Cup Vegetable stock
Ghee for frying

Spice Mix
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Garam Marsala

If using fresh spinach, blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes and refresh the cooked spinach in cold water.
If using frozen spinach, defrost the spinach.
Put the cooked/defrosted spinach into a food processor and blend to a paste.
De-seed the chilies and chop finely. Finely chop the ginger and garlic.
Fry the chilies, garlic and ginger in ghee. Add the spice mix and fry for a few minutes to cook the spices.
Add the spinach and fry for a few minutes.
Add the yogurt and cream and the stock and reduce to a slow simmer.

In a fry pan, fry the paneer in ghee until golden and add it to the curry. Simmer the curry for a few minutes more to allow the flavours to blend.

Serve the curry over rice.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Demands for flexibility hide a failure to adapt

Recently there has been a call from members of the Liberal Party and their supporters to repeal certain parts of Labor's Fair Work Act to enhance what they like to call "flexibility". One of the major points that has been raised is that penalty rates are a major imposition on the labour flexibility of the flagging retail sector.

The retail sector has complained that inflexibility in the Fair Work Act means that they are often unable to open at the times that they desire because penalty rates make it unfeasible.

However, it is obvious that the retail sector, with the encouragement of the Liberal Party's Work Choices champions,  is merely engaging in a campaign to lobby government to allow them to cut wages because if  penalty rates actually were the problem, then the retail sector would make more use of means already at its disposal to alter penalty rates and hours of work.

Section 144 of the Fair Work Act requires that any modern award must contain a flexibility term which allows employers and employees to agree to changing certain terms of employment under the award.

In the General Retail Industry Award 2010 [PDF] (an instrument that is likely to cover a large number of retail employees) the flexibility clause states:

"7.1 Notwithstanding any other provision of this award, an employer and an individual employee may agree to vary the application of certain terms of this award to meet the genuine individual needs of the employer and the individual employee. The terms the employer and the individual employee may agree to vary the application of are those concerning:
(a) arrangements for when work is performed;
(b) overtime rates;
(c) penalty rates;
(d) allowances; and
(e) leave loading
As long as the employee is "better off overall" (s7.3(b)), for example by including a higher base rate of pay, an employer can enter into an individual flexibility arrangement with that employee.

So it is untrue that the Fair Work regime is inflexible with regard to penalty rates and, like their complaints about the GST payable on overseas purchases, it appears that the retail industry is once again failing to understand the conditions under which their own industry works.

The retail sector is busily trying to blame everything but its own inability to adapt to a changing environment. It consistently fails to recognise that its main advantage against online shopping is that of the "shopping experience" of which customer service is a major part.

However, the industry's response is that paying their staff less is the best way for the retail sector to regain their lost competitive edge. Undoubtedly, reducing pay will encourage their already low-paid staff to provide customers with the sort of service that stops them running off to online stores.

The industry's simple knee-jerk response to the changes bought about by online retail has been to demand government concessions and extra "flexibility" to cut workers' wages and conditions to fix the retail dilemma. These demands show just how incapable the retail industry is of seeing that its own failure to understand and adapt to the changing market are the real reasons for its problems.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The good and ill of social media: a parable

In the wake of the London riots, UK Prime Minster David Cameron has proposed to ban social media to prevent the organisation of social unrest via platforms such as Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook.

Many have pointed out the hypocrisy when comparing Cameron's approach to that of Arab dictators during their own uprisings.

This reminded me of a parable (originally from the middle-east, I think) that I was told when I was a child that those that would ban social media should pay heed to, before considering taking such a drastic step.

(I'm doing this from memory, so to those who know this story, sorry if the rendition is not the best)

The Best and the Worst Meal in the World.

There once was a young man who was known for his  many skills and his wisdom despite his tender years and because he was so wise the King had bestowed upon him great rank and privilege.

This caused a great deal of jealousy in the court and many of the courtiers openly questioned the King's judgement in promoting this young man. The King's advisors told the King that he ought to set the young man a task to prove his wisdom the quell the rumours and innuendo in the court.

The King pondered what task would properly test his young protege's wisdom and prove to his courtiers that his judgement was sound in his promotion of his young charge.

After much deliberation the King decided upon a task that would prove his protege's skill and wisdom. He summoned his young protege and told him that to prove his wisdom and skill, he wanted him to cook the best meal in the world for the King and his courtiers.

The young man went away and pondered what would prove both his wisdom and skill and decided upon a dish of ox tongue. He delicately seasoned the tongue and cooked it to perfection and presented the dish to the King and his courtiers. All agreed that indeed it was a delicious dish and asked the young man why he considered it the best dish in the world.

The young man answered: "Well Sirs, the tongue can create things of great beauty: poetry, stories, it can be use to inspire men and to bring them to tears, its by the work of our tongue that Man creates his dominion over the beasts."

The courtiers decided that this was indeed a wise answer but were still not convinced and so they set him a further task: to make the worst meal in the world.

The young man went away and pondered what would prove both his wisdom and skill and decided, once again, upon a dish of ox tongue. He delicately seasoned the tongue and cooked it to perfection and presented the dish to the King and his courtiers.

The King was surprised: "you have served us the same dish! How can this be both the best and the worst dish in the world?"

The young man answered: "Well, just as the tongue can produce things of great beauty, it can also create things of great evil. It can destroy men's reputations, inspire men to great evil, be used to invoke jealousy and rage, be used to slander and undermine and that its why it is also the worst dish in the world."

The King and his courtiers were surprised by the young man's wisdom and no-one in the court questioned the young man's elevation to such high station again.


In the same way Social Media can be used for great good or ill, so before cutting out his citizen's digital tongues to prevent further ill, Cameron and his ilk should also realise the great good that they will also be extinguishing.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recipe: Prawn Vindaloo

300g Uncooked Prawns
1 Can chopped Tomatoes
1 Brown Onion
2 Cl Garlic
2 Hot Red Chili
1 TB chopped Fresh Ginger
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Garam marsala
1 tsp Yellow Mustard Seeds
2 TB White Vinegar
Ghee for frying

Spice Mix
1 TB ground Corriander
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Tumeric
1/4 tsp Ground Red Chilli

Melt the Ghee over a hot pan
Add the Mustard Seeds and fry until they begin to "pop"
Add the Garlic, Chilli and Ginger and quickly fry
Add the Onion and fry until just translucent.
Add the Spice Mix and fry until the spices are cooked
Add the Tomatoes and the Cinnamon stick and turn the heat to a low simmer with the lid on.
Simmer for around 20 mins and add the Vinegar.
Simmer for another 10 mins or so without the lid.

Let the sauce cool a little, remove the Cinnamon stick and then blend.

In a frypan, fry the prawns in some Ghee until just before cooked. Add the Garam Marsala and fry until the prawns have completed cooking.

Return the sauce to the pot and add the prawn/marsala mix. Combine the ingredients and stir through over a very low heat.
Cook for a further 1-2 mins to allow the flavours to blend (be careful not to overcook the prawns).

Serve over rice.
<sorry, no photos. I ate it before I could be bothered finding batteries for the camera>