Modest Expectation – Luis Quisquinay

I once knew a bloke who played “chicken” with his fuel supply. He would not fill up until the tank was nearly empty. It was his defining quirk. It was how he played destiny. On one occasion when he was completely out of fuel, he had to roll down a hill where fortunately at the foot was a service station. However, he was always proud when he had less than five kilometres worth in the tank, before he filled it.

I only remember apparently running out of fuel in a vehicle which we were lent over the weekend. We were somewhere between Cloncurry and Normanton, and the engine just died. We flagged down a couple of blokes.  They had a quick look, reached under the dashboard and turned the switch so that the second tank came on line. They looked at us and laughed good naturally. We felt like chumps, but nobody had told us about the second tank. “Come on, we thought you knew about such things; you’ve worked in the country.” Rejoinder was pointless.

York, WA

The places mentioned in this following anecdote are all in Western Australia, for those trying to put the names into a British Isles context. This other time involved being in a hired car somewhere in the bush about 100 kilometres from Perth. It was a Sunday evening and we were hoping to make York. Suddenly the fuel gauge plummeted to zero, and the nearest township – a speck on the map was Beverley. It was about 20 kilometres away by our calculation. Never has 20 kilometres caused so much angst. Then, when we reached Beverley, the place was closed. The service station was closed; and we knocked on a nearby door to find out where the owner was and whether we could get him out to open up the station. The people were bemused by these two strangers looking for petrol on a Sunday evening, Nevertheless, they were able to direct us to a place round the corner where the owner of the service station was tinkering with a car. And that was that. He was obliging; went and unlocked his garage /service station. Nevertheless, it was one of those regions of Australia, where the expectation of having a service station available at all hours just did not exist. After we reached York and booked into the motel, we had first trusted the fuel gauge and believed there was a convenient place to fill up. Negative, on both accounts.

Welcome to the new world of the EV and the charging point. At least once the petrol started flowing, it did not take much time to fill up. Thus the fact that the weather was freezing, only made the thought of waiting an hour to charge, another hurdle to overcome in the introduction of convenient EV charging – and being caught in a similar situation as then.

The enigmatic Ardern

Over this period, politicians have lost the confidence of the public. Camelot never existed, and the raft of exposés have portrayed Kennedy as less than the Camelot myth.  But the important point is missed – in those years from his inauguration in 1961 to his death in 1963 – to me and many others he could be summed up in one word – a paragon.

Jacinda Ardern

Now I am an old man, and seeing this woman, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, she is the first politician since Kennedy to cause me to believe, perhaps that to me she is an exemplar against the fear and loathing that has characterised so much of what passes for political debate. I, like many, am just frustrated by the low level of debate. There is no longer any consideration in this Me All The Time rent-seeking political crop for policy discussion.

Yet Jacinda Ardern gives me hope. Her words – her demeanour of grace, compassion, resolve, her ability to call out the bully – the courage of making herself a target for all the “unspeakables”. She is indeed a paragon.

Kathleen Ferrier

As I write, bursting forth from somewhere at the back of the house is the glorious contralto voice of Kathleen Ferrier singing Edward Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, the evocative study of the beauty that is the blue waters of the planet set to music. Her voice soaring perfection – contralto being a difficult female singing voice to weave such an intricate vocal artistry, for I am tone deaf and yet this voice I can convert to visual interpretations of what she is communicating. Her voice is the water – so deep that the colour is caught between indigo and blue.

Jacqueline du Pré

Hearing Elgar prompted me to turn to Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and the marvellous interpretation by Jacqueline du Pré. Her command of the cello; her embrace of it; her facial expressions; the interaction with the woodwinds; her bow work; her finger work; even being able to brush an errant hair away from her face. This woman had that ethereal air, so in keeping with the mood of the Concerto – the powerful entry of the cello urging the orchestra to engage, being an index of Elgar’s genius and du Pré’s interpretation

Then I played the most popular of the Elgar Enigma variations – Nimrod. It is often associated with majesty and death, but as one correspondent wrote, this piece is music coded to life. The slow majesty of birth, rising to a crescendo in life’s prime and gradually, but descending to a farewell of a life well lived. But there are many ways of saying farewell.

To me the wide smiling face encased by long dark hair – a face that has for five years been that of New Zealand still exists– not a Māori warrior nor an All Black forward replete with scars and cauliflower ears, but a compassionate women who can inspire a generation and yet, being the object of their infection, she has flushed out the purulent elements, the shameful abscessed underbelly of New Zealand in need of complete excision. Jacinda has exposed it, but she has called time out and it is up to others to complete the surgery. Otherwise, a diseased body exists no matter how much neoliberal balm you apply, there will be no cure. Except for the ongoing Enigma which is Jacinda Ardern to return.

In my first blog in March 2019, I wrote about Prime Minister Ardern. I was surprised by the toxic response from some quarters as if I was beatifying her. At a time when role models are scarce, especially in politics, I took the positive route which by and large has been verified given the difficult period through which she governed. After all, when I made the initial assessment, it was when the COVID-19 epidemic was just an oddity growing up in a Chinese city wet market.

Where have all the Horse Troughs Gone?

One of the questions that has arisen is when to replace our car with an Electric Vehicle (EV). Up until a few years ago, we ran two cars, both diesel. Then we sold one. We like Citroens, and have owned various combinations of C3, C4 and C5. The size of the car we have bought depends on not only the cost of the vehicle and the cost to run but also the dimensions of our garage given that in both Melbourne and Sydney we are lucky to have single car garages; but let us say that the Sydney one is compact. There is no way we could get one of those off-road tanks into it – or, for that matter any of the big cars. Only having a dextrous driver were we able to park the C5 in the Sydney garage. We currently own a C4.

From reports, the Sydney to Melbourne drive is still a nightmare for EV drivers, takes longer and the anxiety levels of those driving fearing that they will run out of charge, is frankly not worth it. For those who want to puddle around the suburbs, then probably the EV is the horseless carriage of choice.

Re-fuel here

When the horseless carriage arrived in the late nineteenth century, there was no organised distribution of petrol and there was a need to crank the engine to generate the ignition spark. The Stanley Steamers as the rival, were expensive. They took a good amount of time to come up to temperature, needed condensers – devices that took the steam after it did its work, cooled and condensed it back into water, and recycled it for further use in the steam engine. Without a condenser, a Stanley Steamer consumed about a gallon of water per mile, so the car could travel no more than 30 to 50 miles before the car’s operator had to stop and refill the water tank from the local horse trough. Once the ignition problem was sorted so starting the internal combustion engine became reliable and swift, then the demise of the Steamer was sealed.

What car owners are used to is the convenience of being able to refuel. This ease of refuelling developed side by side with growth of the number of cars. Initially, petrol was available from the general store, filling from a barrel, and then the pump was introduced with an attendant to pump the fuel into a reservoir and then release it into the car’s petrol tank. I remember these solitary pumps outside the country town general store. It was not until 1913 in the USA, that the first dedicated “gas station” was opened; by the mid 1920’s there were 90,000 of them, and ten years later 200,000.

In Australia, development was slower. The same level of data as held In USA seems not to exist. In Victoria, for instance, by 1923 pumps were permitted at those city motor businesses concentrated in Elizabeth Street, though barred from many other central streets. Traditional selling of petrol in four-gallon tins at hardware outlets, cycle shops, grocers and blacksmiths was effectively ended in 1925. Growing municipal concern over the safety of kerbside pumps was a factor in the development of drive-in service stations, the first of which were constructed in suburban Malvern and Prahran in 1926. There was thus a lag, as is occurring in providing the appropriate environment for EVs to have the same certainty for access to an ultra-fast charging outlet as we currently have to a petrol and diesel outlet.

An interesting piece appeared a few weeks ago in the Boston Globe and I have taken the liberty of editing it, but hopefully retain the useful observations, which may be germane to future Australian experience describing the trip through New England. The various destinations seem to be doughnut outlets somewhat irrelevant in Australia to the efficacy of EV travel itself – because leaf-peeper season was over, we made round confections the driving force behind our drive.

As the writer wrote: To test the current state of EV infrastructure, we took off on a 400-mile road trip across New England in two typical — but quite different — electric cars. One of us (Aaron) drove a Kia Niro EV purchased a year ago while the other (Sabrina) rented the flashy Tesla Model 3 Performance.

The Niro costs about $40,000, has an EPA-rated range of 240 miles, and looks and drives like an ordinary car. The Tesla Model 3 Performance costs nearly $60,000, has an EPA range of more than 300 miles, goes zero to 60 miles per hour, which is comparable to the conventional sports car.

At a time when EV purchases are on the rise, our question was simple: Are there enough chargers around to make this a realistic choice for long-distance rides?

All this for a pile of potato donuts

This journey started in Portland Maine. We started the day bright and early in Portland in Maine, at Holy Donut on Commercial Street, home of the gourmet potato doughnut. The dark chocolate sea salt did not disappoint: moist, rich, and just the right touch of salt.

There’s one big adjustment to owning an electric car: EV drivers cannot rely on the century-old ecosystem of a gas station around every corner. Instead, they need to plan their trips based on the availability of a growing but still spotty network of charging stations. Tesla has built its own network of widespread and speedy chargers but, at least for now, they’re only accessible to Tesla EVs.

A reliable and accessible charging infrastructure is critical if the region wants to successfully entice millions of car owners to make the switch to electric and slash climate-warming emissions. After all, drivers aren’t likely to ditch their gas vehicle if they’re going to have to worry constantly about running out of charge.

Given Tesla’s charging network advantage, we expected the Kia would have more issues on the road — and we were right. But neither one of us ever came close to running out of power as we enjoyed a perfect day and some nearly perfect doughnuts.

Unlike road-tripping in a regular car, we knew we needed to do some advance planning to make sure we were near chargers when our EVs’ batteries ran down. We used an EV-specific app called A Better Route Planner, or ABRP, to map our journey. After a few seconds, the app spat out recommended routes, complete with charging stops along the way.

For the Tesla, using the app wasn’t strictly necessary, as the car’s built-in navigation app can plan routes with stops at the company’s Supercharger stations.

On the other hand, even using ABRP doesn’t solve all challenges for non-Tesla drivers, because some areas lack adequate charging. On Cape Cod, for example, there is only a single fast-charging station with two connections, located in Hyannis. Tesla has four stations spread over the Cape, with a total of 42 connections. In Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, Tesla accounts for two-thirds of all fast chargers, while half in Vermont, according to federal data.

Thankfully, there were ample options to make an unplanned stop at one of Tesla’s Superchargers along that stretch of highway in New Hampshire. One 10-minute top-off later, the car was back on the road.

A key variable for EV road trips is a vehicle’s maximum rate of charging, which can mean the difference between waiting 15 minutes or closer to an hour.

But reaching the maximum requires an equally speedy charging station. For Teslas, that’s no problem, as the Supercharger network is composed entirely of very fast chargers. The Model 3 can add 175 miles of range in 15 minutes. For the rest of the world, it’s hit or miss. Adding 175 miles to the Kia’s range takes three or four times as long. Cold weather, underperforming equipment, and other variables can also affect charging speeds.

Things did not go smoothly outside Walmart for the Kia. There were four chargers, but one was offline and another was in use. At the first charger, the rate was abysmally slow — less than one-third the Niro’s max, meaning it would take an hour and a half to charge. And because of New Hampshire utility regulations, the cost is based on the time it’s used, not by the amount of electricity consumed, so slow also meant more expensive.

There was another charger available. It was better but still slower than expected, taking just over an hour to get the battery from 18 percent to 80 percent. The bill came to about $11.

Meanwhile, at the Price Chopper, with a gleaming row of 17 chargers, the Tesla charged in under 30 minutes. The cost? $15.64.

After charging, we headed south, skirting the Green Mountains along Interstate 91 through Vermont.

The Kia driver also got a nice surprise when he pulled into a nearby mall parking lot in Chicopee that houses the very first Electrify America location. On previous visits this year, some chargers were not working and there was sometimes a 30-minute (or longer) wait for an open space.

But after a September overhaul, all four chargers were working and unoccupied. Forty minutes and $7.41 later, the Kia was ready to go.

Electrifying America …

As Chicopee’s charger improvements hint, both reliability and availability problems are being addressed. Electrify America, which has more than 800 charging stations and 3,500 chargers in North America, is in the process of replacing 300 of its oldest chargers this year.

For the Tesla, using the app wasn’t strictly necessary, as the car’s built-in navigation app can plan routes with stops at the company’s Supercharger stations. The Tesla taught us some EV lessons right away: Parking outside in the cold overnight before our road trip had drained some of its battery. And cruising along at 80 miles per hour drains the battery much faster than if you stick to the speed limit.

The Biden administration, which is touting EVs as a big part of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, set aside $5 billion over five years in the infrastructure bill for more charging improvements. And in Massachusetts, the Department of Public Utilities recently approved utility plans to spend nearly $400 million on EV charging and market development over the next four years, including investments in public fast chargers.

All in all, the charging experiences were better than we expected. It was definitely easier to fill the Tesla. But the disparity wasn’t quite as pronounced as one of us (Aaron) experienced over the past year, or as is often reported by other drivers. And the Kia never came close to running out of charge.

But not everyone wants to plan every trip on a specialized app. And to some degree, the Kia was lucky that fast chargers were available along the day’s route. For people who can’t afford a Tesla or drive through areas with fewer good charging options, the infrastructure bill’s improvements can’t come fast enough.

For Australia, the answer to one of the questions that has arisen is “when to replace our car with an Electric Vehicle (EV) question”? This I posed in the first line. The answer? Not until there is a national standard for the charging stations I suspect is the safe but not particularly useful answer.

A New Meaning to Walter Mitty Disclosed in Long Island & Nassau County

Below combines comments not only from the media, but also from the Lincoln Project, suggestive that there are Republicans who still have a moral compass.  Santos, the Republican representative from the 3rd district of New York State is such a warped figure, that one can even wonder whether his real name is George Santos, but it is clear the First Amendment is worded such that anybody can say anything, despite there being a bar on sedition.

This outrage of the press and the Democrats over Mr Santos is so poignant. Since he ran again, and won, they have not just torn away his veil of autobiographical humbug but turned his deceit into a national scandal. Yet given Mr Trump’s enduring success at warping reality, this blow for justice seems even less satisfying than catching Al Capone for tax evasion. It is more like hounding one of Capone’s accountants for jaywalking.

George Anthony Devolder Santos

None of this excuses Mr Santos. His lies do matter, but not really for what they reveal about him. That such a person should represent Americans in Congress is a national disgrace. But it is also fitting, because he represents something true and awful, particularly about the Republican Party, yet also about America, a nation lousy with misinformation, also known as deceit.

Ultra-MAGA Republicans don’t believe in democracy. They don’t believe in the truth. They don’t believe in integrity. And as long as they are in power, they will continue to allow candidates like Santos to flood through their recruitment pipeline and muddy our democratic institutions. 

It won’t stop at the House. What type of people do you think Steve Bannon has lined up in his “shock troops” to take over our executive agencies, should the GOP take the Presidency in 2024? 

George Santos is not an outlier. 

In the politics of ultra-MAGA, he is the new norm. And until we defeat the entire movement, morally-bankrupt Russian-tied frauds just like him will continue to walk the halls of the House.

And by the way if you were wondering about the exact words of the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Mouse Whisper

Out for my morning scamper, I saw this cable stretched across the footpath. Its purpose was to charge the family EV. There are way more cars than garages in the inner Sydney suburbs in particular and, as can always be predicted, regulation lags behind innovation, even if this innovation derives its inspiration from Heath Robinson. As one source has said, “I think when you’ve got cables going across metal fences, through trees and out to a vehicle, coming off household power, it’s not ideal, it’s not good practice.” Some people are just too polite.

Modest Expectations – Joasaph 1

Writing a blog over the Easter weekend, I realised this year has brought together three religions – Easter, Passover and Ramadan.  Once, Good Friday was a closed holiday for Christians. You vaguely knew the Jews had a festival about that time. Ramadan? Who had heard of Ramadan!

I was born into a Christian country. No multiculturalism in this Australia – and that went for the Aboriginal people as well.

In my mind, from when I was a child, it was a day of mourning. You ate fish, which was generally South African cod, that orange smoked hake which, when poached, provided a ritual assault on your taste buds. You stayed at home after church. It was a day bereft of any jollification.

I remember I once went to a vigil at midnight at St Peter’s Eastern Hill, which is the nearest Anglican Church in Melbourne to liturgically resemble the Roman Catholic Church. It is a beautiful church tucked away on the fringes of East Melbourne and Fitzroy. I went there on impulse near midnight on Maundy Thursday, on my way home when I was living in East Melbourne. I was walking alone and feeling somewhat hollow.

The church was dark with guttering candles. In the indigo darkness, I could make out a number of shadows praying and in the poor light I could distinguish one young woman, who was deeply bowed and obviously upset. I kneeled some way from her in the row of pews behind, but she maintained the expression. She did not sob, nor utter a sound. It seemed that she had been consumed by the moment of a figure with a crown of thorns weighed under the Cross he bore. In the darkness it was the only time I felt I was a bystander, watching somebody consumed, almost living the event in her mind. I stood up and left. The hollowness had not left me; I did not sleep well for the remainder of the night.

Now, years on, Good Friday is the first day of a holiday with hot cross buns and very little religion. The Crucifixion story is too grim, and any media coverage is minimal amid the flush of sporting events and other recreational activities around some Easter leporine vermin encased in chocolate.

This Easter, the airlines certainly injected a bit of pain on the road to the airline seat, maybe invoking the need to have the crowning thorn of too few staff to handle the crowd. How beautifully the airlines converted the departure lounges to a road trudging towards a new Golgotha.

Maundy Money

Maundy is the Thursday before Easter and celebrates the day of the Last Supper; “maundy” refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.” Maundy is a corruption of the Latin for command – “mando” – which incidentally also means “chew” – hence the lower jaw – mandible – and thus another association with the Last Supper. Jesus was actually celebrating the Seder, the ritual meal in which the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt is celebrated by Jews marking the start of Passover.

Maundy Thursday follows a giving of alms to the poor, a practice commenced by King John. The nature of the alms has changed, settling for these coins given by the British sovereign to the “deserving poor” in a number of sets equivalent to the age of the monarch in each year. In 1902 Edward had just succeeded his mother and was 60 years old, and while that number was distributed at the Royal Maundy service, a great many more sets were minted – and therefore the value of a set, in good order has varied, but currently it is around AUS$250 for a 1902 set.

Although the coins are ensconced in an impressive case, mine is probably one of the surplus issue. As far as I can ascertain, it was given to my mother by a well-heeled lady called Mrs Wynne, for whom my mother was companion for several years. All very lavender scented and chintz.

My mother acquired some of the woman’s memorabilia, but the Maundy money seems to be the only remaining legacy. I vaguely remember my mother talking about her retiring finally to Bribie Island in Queensland, but my mother never visited her, although they may have corresponded.

The Member for Grayndler

Edward Grayndler

Edward Grayndler seemed to have been a reasonably competent if conservative union bureaucrat within the AWU, as it emerged from the Shearers strike of 1890. He opposed World War 1 conscription, but this opposition to Billy Hughes did not seem to harm his relationship with successive conservative governments. For most of his later life he was a member of the NSW Upper House, and the only impression he seems to have left was on the cushioned seat of the legislature. 

His legacy – an electorate named after himself. But for how long, given there is a whole conga-line of present prime ministers from NSW who, as part of their requiem, will have electorates named after each of them in NSW. In the offing, once interred, are Keating, Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. NSW will have at least five newly-named electorates over the next 30 years or so – if the planet lasts that long.

And Anthony Albanese, the current member for Grayndler?

I live in the electorate and have just received a technicolour brochure spruiking the life of the Honourable Albanese. I have never seen him, but as somebody said about being polled by Gallup, the man himself replied that you would be more likely to be hit by a bolt of lightning. To which the other said that she had been struck by lightning.  Well, it may happen – I may meet my local member, but I’m probably more likely to be struck by a bolt of lightning.

The problem with Albanese is that he, as he proclaims in his brochure, has been in Federal Parliament for 26 years, and yet one may ask what has he done, what is his legacy? Turn to the brochure. He has provided an effective voice – bit of nonsense, worthy of Morrison. So, we read on … the tear-jerked deprived background is wearing a bit thin, as is the fact that he went to university before entering the political web to perfect the spin which seems to be Albanese – the Brochure.

When people say they do not know him, are they really saying that he has never done anything, never had an original thought in his life and moved round the web because he did not offend anybody, married another member of the web, procreated, divorced? Just an ordinary bloke from the suburbs.

But no, he wants the electorate to think of him as exceptional – deputy to Rudd – he, the first Minister for Infrastructure.  “In the depth of the Global Financial Crisis, Labor knew that Australia needed to build its way to recovery.” Pause. And so?

Then the drumroll – the achievement – supporting our craft brewers, no less.  Set out in his brochure, he points out that he actually introduced a Private Members Bill to reform excise tax, and in his own words “end discrimination”. Reducing excise on grog is somewhat at odds with his first week of campaigning which concentrated on health matters.

The first health thought bubble – the idea of having a registered nurse 24/7 in all nursing homes. This would require six registered nurses as a practical minimum for each nursing home; and in the current environment such a number is just not feasible – at least not immediately, despite the announcement that he, Albanese, will create thousands of university and TAFE places (although this was an afterthought to the GP emergency clinic idea). Where is the work experience for such a huge number, even if training could be rapidly expanded to cope?

Then this revival of the community health clinic, the variation of a general practitioner clinic attached to the emergency department. There is an underlying fallacy in this approach, which I shall expand on separately, but the Labor Party has received poor advice. The policy then only suggests 50 such clinics across Australia, hardly a generalisable policy in any event. This area, to those without experience in the field, may pass muster, but only in the nature of “Penguin Book Policy” that I mentioned in an earlier blog as the moniker for uninformed policy announcements.

What really put Albanese at a disadvantage with people who were looking for a viable alternative to Morrison was, on the first day of the campaign, the gigantic stumble in not knowing either the unemployment rate and, more disastrously in my view the cash rate, which has not changed for 17 months from 0.1 per cent. It did not get any better from there and makes one wonder, given the history from Beazley onwards, where does the Labor Party go for its models of leadership?

As I write this blog on Easter Sunday, maybe Albanese will start to rise to the task; and the proposal for an Integrity Commission is a very good place for him to start.

One thing he should remember is to pick on the topic where the Government is vulnerable and then hammer it. Add a pinch of climate change and the country being held to ransom by the very wealthy “oligarchs”, whose wealth has been tied up in fossil fuels, and the formula becomes stronger. However, whether Albanese can dispense this prescription will unfold over the next little while.

A Fraying Health Policy

The Labor policy to set up a stream of 50 general practitioner clinics to “treat patients needing urgent care including for broken bones, minor burns and stitches for cuts” is the same old policy under a different name – remember the investment in such community health clinics – the one stop shop. The pilot for general practice under the reign of Nicola Roxon was in Cootamundra, where the local general practitioner convinced the government to invest in a one stop shop clinic, next to the hospital. It has not been mentioned in the new Labor party policy and when I looked at the practice today, they still had six doctors and a general practice registrar. It seemed a conventional general practice and the waiting time to see the doctor seems to be currently two weeks – and no weekend work. So much for the pilot program.

When I devised the “Murray to the Mountains” intern training program in North-East Victoria early in the last decade, I planned that each intern would spend 20 weeks in general practice in their first year, and the practices were linked to the local hospital, where they would be confronted with emergencies as well as consolidating their medical, surgical and emergency terms at the local regional hospital. As many of the regional specialists visited these general practice health services, this model enabled the interns to gain even more experience. There were none of these extravagant waiting times to see a doctor and weekends were covered.

After all, an intern should be able to resuscitate and stabilise a patient with a medical or surgical emergency until they patient can be transferred to the appropriate medical service. The visiting geriatrician was able to take them around the nursing home to teach them how to treat the chronically ill.

Internship is a time for developing the experience and skills in how to deal with emergencies and incorporate the skills learned early into the doctor’s practice. Needless to say, being able to work with other health professionals, as distinct from just telling everyone what to do, is a skill which the interns learn in such a program. Many of the overseas trained male doctors had problems with women being considered equal and that was an issue confronted. On the other hand, after one of the specialists asked an intern why he was not eating, this led to a regionwide program to understand Ramadan among the non-Muslim health professionals to avoid such a question in the future.

A policy which assumes that a form of community health centre can relieve the hospitals of the burden of small surgical procedures is naïve in the extreme, given what has failed in the past. The more realistic demand is to ensure that all general practitioners have a basic set of skills to deal with emergencies (hence the program to ensure the interns have equal exposure to all basic skills).

The “Murray to the Mountains” Intern Training Program is ongoing, with checks and balances regularly set which eliminate that I-will-scratch-your-back-if you-scratch-mine mindset, which needs weeding out periodically from general practice. In other words, if you have an organised practice, as many do have, you can roster any of the doctors to cope with any emergency that arises, and be assured of a similar basic skill set. In the unlikely case of needing more, you will have a second on call. In the end, there will always be the unpredictable disaster, when you need everybody to help, but be assured that each person is able to be the frontline response in such a situation. It is a matter of priority in such situations.

Whatever you call it, community practice is medicine practised by a group with a patient catchment that the doctors themselves accept as reasonable. The service must be assured for 24/7. The problem is that these days one person practices are just non-viable, because in addition to struggling to provide essential locum cover when required, they fail to deal with the basic challenges of practice which I enunciated years ago – social dislocation, professional isolation, community tolerance and succession planning.

In most areas, professional succession planning is completely ignored or done badly. The thought of retirement in many cases is always a situation which doctors hate to confront until too late.

Community tolerance is the ability to integrate with the local community while maintaining professional integrity. When everybody knows everybody else, privacy is very difficult to maintain, but a medical record is not something for the parish noticeboard. Professional isolation is one area which has been addressed, but social dislocation (as I defined it, where the spouse or partner refuses to come with you or where you need to send the offspring off to school) is a matter of the family choice, which may not accord with the practice objectives. And do not underestimate the fear of rural life for those who had not had the opportunity to be socialised by stints with country relatives as a child.

I have experienced medical care in a remote part of Tasmania. I needed the visit from a paramedic, not a doctor, at four in the morning. The paramedic had to come from a neighbouring town. He was quicker in responding than was the case with a similar call in Sydney, where the paramedic came from another suburb. What would a community health service along the ephemeral good-feel media announcement done for me – in a word nothing – at least not at 4.00 am as the paramedic did.

Albanese’s follow up thought that there be 20,000 new university places and extra TAFE places does nothing to reassure … at best it would take around 4-5 years for non-medical graduates and 6-7 years for medical graduates to be available for such clinics. Yet another workforce issue.

The problem with these announcements is that they are ill thought out, and the money ends up in some entrepreneur’s pocket – close to the political party promoting the policy bubble.  Sound familiar, mate?

Tell me where I can charge the electric car

I want somebody to tell me when electric cars will be available. In the doggerel; this year, next year, sometime, never. “Never” seems to be the winner. Everybody says that, according to the populace at large, climate change is of overwhelming importance.

As somebody for whom a car has been a utilitarian means of going from one point to other, the rise of the electric car has been of interest.

Electric car sales in Australia only represent 0.78% of new cars, compared to Norway at 75% and the world average of 4.2%.

Our car is diesel. It is a Citroen C4, been reliable and for somebody who is disabled, surprisingly friendly. Nevertheless, it runs on diesel fuel and, at some time in the near future, we shall have to change to an electric car. When we enquire from the car dealers, they say there is no incentive for the car manufacturers to import cars into Australia. In fact, there were plans to dump fossil fuel driven cars in Australia because of the Government’s reluctant climate policy. Given Australia has no car industry, a casualty of globalisation, we are prisoners of fortune.

My interest was stimulated by an article in the Boston Globe, which canvassed the effect of the electric car in Massachusetts with its population of 7 million people. In America, they are still expensive in relation to the fossil fuelled cars; and importantly they estimate that they have only a quarter of the approximately 20,000 charging sites that are needed – for a population concentrated and about a quarter of our own population.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that fast charging cannot be done domestically, the required voltage is too great. Then there is a need to ensure that the electric car one buys is equipped with a plug for fast charging. There are about 300 fast charging stations in Australia, but some can only be used for Tesla cars at present. Given that it takes half an hour to charge a car, even using a fast charger, there is just no incentive for Australians to buy electric cars. It will need a massive investment, and nobody is prepared to invest in such a venture.

In Massachusetts, there are several legislative proposals designed to ease the financial stress of buying an EV for Massachusetts residents. One bill would expand the current state rebates for electric cars and extend them to used cars. Another would create more incentives for low- and moderate-income households, authorise more funding for the state’s rebate program, and expand the public charging infrastructure.

Tell me I’m wrong, but here we go again throwing money away on a Commonwealth Games and an Olympic Games – our politicians can’t get out of the “bread and circuses” routine; for them the end point is being able to view the circus from the emperor’s box sipping champagne and munching canapés.

It really is a bit pathetic; building one sporting venue after another when Australia needs to seriously address climate change – and the electrification of our cars, trucks and buses is just one of the priorities to accommodate this need. This is a nation with a trillion-dollar debt, financing an indulgent yet flimsy infrastructure so a few of one’s mates can own expensive jets, buy huge boats to cruise The Mediterranean and when the day is done, après-ski at Aspen.

Reminds me of the late Peter Sarstedt song “Where do you go to my Lovely” … could be the anthem of this country as it flounces towards oblivion.

God what were they thinking – Shock Horror

Who would have thought? There is the photo taken of me peering through the sunflowers outside florista just before tucking into a lunch of passatelli – a form of ragú – washed down with a Piedmontese red. Drinking such a wine reminded us that we had come into one of the smallest self-governing republics in the world and reputedly the oldest, being founded in 301 AD. This was San Marino, wedged between the regions of Emilio Romagna and Marche, a leisurely drive from our favourite city in Italy, Ravenna. After Nauru, it is the smallest Republic on Earth.

San Marino

Like many of these tiny European countries it exists on rocky outcrop and has survived all the vicissitudes over the centuries of a city-state weathering the ambitions of the Borgias, the imperial dreams of Napoleon and a brief occupation by the German army during World War II. One of the souvenirs is to have a San Marino euro, even although it is not part of the EU.

The republic has just appointed as one of its two Captain Regents, Paolo Rondelli.  A true Sammarinese, he is the first openly gay Head of State. There are openly gay heads of government in Ireland, Luxembourg, Serbia, and Iceland, but no Head of State.

Australia has a way to go – Morrison and Hurley do not exactly fill the bill of the first openly gay Prime Minister and Governor General in the Southern Hemisphere.

Nevertheless, as a head of government, Don Dunstan, as South Australian Premier from the late 1960s, was way ahead of the field of legislators in the Gay Stakes. Pity the Labor Party do not have anyone of that calibre now.

Mouse Whisper

I read this exchange as I trawled through the eek-mail to find this exchange: 

Well J 

Indeed surströmming has a very special stink, most portraits of consumers include a clothes peg on their nostrils. 

The fermented stench is reserved for closed groups and needs booze in quantity as well as a special mood.  Not possible to serve in restaurants if you want to keep your other customers 





“To the Swedes, there are few odours more delectable than the scent of surströmming…to most non-Swedes there are probably few odours more repulsive.”

This was in April 9 copy of The Economist page 64. I can’t remember this on any Swedish menu – I associate this with Iceland.


Dressed for dinner …