Category Archives: Personal

Confirmed

No, I haven’t suddenly become a Christian or anything – but I found out today that my PhD was confirmed. It’s been a bit of a nerve-wracking week. I had to give a 25 minute presentation to the department on my topic. Somehow giving a talk to friends and colleagues is a very scary prospect, probably because I really do care what they think – if it was a bunch of strangers, I don’t think I’d care so much. But amazingly enough, it all went fine. Then today, I had to face a committee to talk about my progress to date (I’m about half way through). It was actually tremendously useful to get some different points of view about approaches I could take. Whew! Now I can actually sit back and relax for five seconds – the last three weeks have been crazy.

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Blergh

Sorry to all who have been wondering where I have been. Unfortunately, the baby got gastro last week, and then I came down with it on the weekend. We are both better now. Normal posts will resume this week.

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Reflection on good fortune

Last night, I went to a friend’s hen’s night, and after dinner, we went out dancing. I am not sure how many years it is since I have done something like that…a long time, to be sure. Anyway, I caught a taxi home, and my driver was a Somalian man of about my age. He had three children, and the two youngest were either side of my daughter in age. So we had a good laugh about the funny things little kids do, the temper tantrums they throw, their affection and all of that kind of thing. Then he was telling me about how he came to leave Somalia, how he goes back to help kids with medical problems, and the advantages and disadvantages of living so far from home in Australia. “The peace in Australia, it is beautiful,” he said. “If I was at home, I would have all my extended family. I miss that. But the peace here is so good.” We were then talking about the terrible things happening in Kenya, and hoping that civil war doesn’t break out there.

And as I type, I think about the terrible things happening in Pakistan. If I was a lawyer in Pakistan, I wouldn’t be able to speak my mind on a blog. I’d be in gaol, probably.

This is where I am a passionate believer in human rights; unfortunately, the kind of situations where they are most needed are exactly the kind of situations where they are unlikely to be respected. Mob violence, corrupt governments, anarchy, civil war…

How lucky most of us are in Australia. Most of us have clean drinking water, enough food, and do not have to worry about epidemic diseases for which immunisation and treatment is available. Since settlement, we’ve never had a civil war, never had a military coup, and never had a dictator.

The exception to this is of course, indigenous people, some of whom still do not have clean drinking water and suffer from treatable diseases. And the various phases of European settlement have had a devastating impact on indigenous communities and people. But otherwise, we are incredibly lucky. Sometimes it’s worth sitting back and thinking about that. Thank you to that taxi driver for making me reflect on how good my life is. And I wish he and his family all the best here in Australia.

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Filed under Australia, human rights, immigration, Personal, refugees, society, war

Astro Girl triumphs

I’ve got a job for next year. Phew! It’s still just a contract job, but it’s great to have some security!

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A mutual agenda

Well, this post is probably a bit late given the stunning victory by Labor in the Federal election. But maybe it’s good to have time to mull over things. I feel nervous dipping my toe into the political quagmire surrounding unions: but here goes nothing!

On the way home from work, I drove past a billboard which for the last month or so has a poster which said “70% of Labor’s front bench are anti-business unionists.” Or some such slogan. That got me thinking. Are unions necessarily anti-business? And are businesses necessarily anti-union? Certainly, in practice, sometimes the two seem to go head-to-head in a stubborn fashion which leaves both sides looking pig-headed and short-sighted, but I think there are ways in which they can work together.

I have never been able to understand why workplaces would want to treat their employees badly. Many of my posts regarding law firms marvel at the way in which firms treat their staff. It seems quite amazingly short-sighted for firms to put money into training staff and then treat them so badly that they have left 18 months later. On the other hand, I have never been able to understand why unions would demand so many concessions from a workplace that it becomes unprofitable or inefficient. That seems like biting the hand that feeds you, from my point of view.

So it seems to me that many of the interests of unions and businesses should overlap. Both should want the particular business to be profitable and competitive. If the business fails because the company can’t afford to pay the high wages demanded of it, or can’t dismiss incompetent staff, the union members no longer have any jobs, so it is in their interests to ensure that the business stays alive and well.

On the other hand, both sides should want the workers to be happy and secure, and feel like they have a say in how the business is run. If workers are unhappy and feel like they do not have a voice, they will be unproductive, resentful, and may leave the workplace. In the short term there may be other poor sods who will replace them, but in the long term, this is a massive drain on the intellectual and monetary resources of the business. And if employees feel like they are not remunerated appropriately (while directors and shareholders line their pockets) – well, it’s times like these that I feel Marxism has a point…never forget that there would be no profit and no business without the labour of the worker. It just doesn’t make sense to treat your staff badly or underpay them.

Therefore, a scare campaign about unions did not resonate with me at all, because if they both work properly, unions and businesses are not incompatible…as long as they remember the big picture and do not enter into oppositional game playing. And I hate the politics of fear, as I’ve said before: decisions made out of fear are not good ones.

I think the Howard government failed to understand the job insecurity which faces many ordinary Australians, myself among them. I still don’t know whether I’ll have a job next year. As a consequence, funnily enough, I joined the NTEU about two months ago. It feels better to have collective might behind you. And as a member of the union, I can agitate for collective bargaining for sessional lecturers. I know unions aren’t perfect, but otherwise I’m one little lone lecturer with very little pull or bargaining power. It feels like me versus the Giant Machine. I have a vision of a little manga me facing a giant mechanical robot, like those ones Astro Boy was always battling. Wish me luck! Like Astro, I think I’ll be okay in the end…

Astro boy

(Taken from anime.com)

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Filed under academia, election, jobs, Personal, politics, unions, universities

Earliest memory meme

Lad Litter has tagged me for the earliest memory meme.

My earliest memory is of a man with crinkly brown skin and sparkly brown eyes sitting on a giant tortoise. Seriously.

I was two and a half years old, and my family had just been seconded to the UK for a few years (for the first time). We had a stop over in Mauritius for some reason (I think planes had to stop more frequently in those days). That’s where I saw the man sitting on the tortoise.

The other week I saw a photo of the aforesaid tortoise and man, taken by my Dad. The perspective is totally different to my memory. In my memory, the man looms hugely over me, and the tortoise was as big as a car. But in the photo, they appear quite small, and the enclosure looks smaller and drabber than I remember. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Other early memories: my Dad skiing down our street in England, my third birthday party (balloons with butterflies on them, no less), walking in the park and seeing bluebells with my Mum, seeing my sister for the first time and naughtily touching her eyelid (even though the nurse said not to touch her) and being the sheep in the Advent play at Kinder. I turned down the role of Mary to be a sheep. Who wants to just sit there and hold a doll when you can walk around on all fours baa-ing loudly, with your sister’s old sheepskin tied to you, and pretending to eat the carpet? It’s a no brainer.

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You can tell I’m busy when…

I can’t even find the time to write blog posts! I have received a number of queries asking where I am, whether I’m OK and indeed, whether I’m still alive. Yes, I’m OK and still living and breathing.

Shortly, I am buried under marking. I’m 40% of the way there. I hope to be at least 50% of the way there by the end of the weekend. I really hate marking.

Apart from that, I have also just started assisting law students whose second language is English (a girl has to find some source of income over the summer break) and doing research assistant work. Sigh! No rest for the wicked. And I’m still supposed to be doing PhD… Hopefully things will slow down after Xmas.

I assure you that I am percolating a number of posts. Just to remind myself for when I get around to it:

1. Transit lanes on the freeway (mutter, mutter)

2. Putting the baby in creche for the first time (traumatic for both myself and the bubba)

3. Are the interests of unions and of businesses really so different? (yes, inspired by that Union = Anti-Business campaign) I know both like to see themselves as antithetically opposed, but I’m not so sure.

4. Can you believe the Christmas decos are out again?

Oh yeah, in breaking legal news, Pants Man’s contract as a Judge has not been renewed. Who woulda thunk it?

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