Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

The compulsion to vote or the freedom not to?

July 21, 2020

Civic Culture Coalition: Entertainment Industry-Backed ...

On my morning’s coffee, tête-à-têtes (some with masks) with friends at Bowral Cricket Stumps cafe I was surprised to hear that many thought the law on compulsory voting was normal and mainly world-wide. I pointed out that the list of countries with compulsory voting on punishment made Australia mixed with some strange company.

Here a list of countries with compulsory voting enforceable by punishment.

Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Nauru, NORTH KOREA, Samoa, Singapore, Uruguay.

The rest of he world is free to vote or not. Some have compulsory voting but not enforced s a Egypt, Albania, Turkey, Thailand, Mexico.

While one of the freedoms of democracy is that we can eat and drink what we like, including copious Cokes, and kilos of sugar, fat, apples and much more. We have total freedom to take or leave it. We also have freedom of speech, press and so much more again. We are loaded with freedoms. Yet it strikes me as odd that we do not have that freedom when it comes to voting. We are not free not to vote.  Most of the world’s democratic countries leave voting to, hopefully a well informed population. America does not have compulsory voting , they have a ‘right’ to vote but also the freedom not to vote. They also have a ‘right’ to bear arms but no one is forced to use those arms. ( sometimes it seem like it with 40 000 killed annually by this ‘right’.)

Disgruntled Voter (@jasondulak) | Twitter

An argument against voluntary voting is that it makes people politically lazy and uninterested. That does not bear out either.

Here copied from ‘The Advocate’. During the (second) last federal election.

“New polling by Essential absolutely belled the cat on this phenomenon.

It asked respondents if they knew who the federal treasurer was, without looking it up.

More than one third (36 per cent) did not know it was Scott Morrison.

Thirteen per cent thought it was ex-treasurer Joe Hockey, 3 per cent thought it was Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen and 20 per cent said they did not know.

With no disrespect to the 36 per cent, why should they be forced to the polling booth if they don’t  take enough interest to know who holds the second most important role in the government?”

I was surprised that at my café group most thought that compulsory voting was normal and all over the world, and fiercely opposed the idea that it perhaps ought to be choice. Patriotic feathers were ruffled. When asked if I thought it essential to have compulsory voting I said I did not believe it. My backgrounds and that of my dearest late Helvi, ( The Netherlands and Finland) are from very staunch democratic and liberal countries. We grew up with the freedom to vote or not.

To punish people for not voting strikes me as odd.

Of course, a disclaimer; I vote with passion at every possible election. Gerard.


Can the pumpkin save the world?

June 7, 2018




The world is holding its breath. Soon, Kim Jong Un and  Donald Trump will meet and hopefully come to an agreement on their weaponry. I wonder who is more of a dictator now? With Trump seemingly able to pardon himself for any wrongdoing, I reckon they are both neck on neck with claiming the winner of the race to an ultimate dictatorship.

Helvi and I often end up discussing politics. She is getting more and more despondent about the situation in Australia. ‘So little is decided and so little is being done’ , she said last night. ‘There is so much of nothingness in Australia now.’ We are still living of the success of SSM but for how long will that continue to nurture us? The same old stuff seems to get regurgitated over and over. I was a young and ambitious man when the second Sydney  airport was discussed. Has anyone heard anything about that lately? The same with education. All sorts of rapports and tests but nothing improves. The only time we read about it, it talks about a student getting a haircut or how the school bullying has resulted in misery and suicide. Anything about the fast trains or how the hydro electricity in the Snowy mountains is progressing?  Plastic shopping bags and non deposit glass was dealt with and banned in Holland in the seventies.

The only positive that has happened is that pumpkins are now for sale at 99c a kilo. We do not need to just live of the glory of SSM!  We rushed out and stocked up for the rest of the winter. Nothing can be more positive than a nice pumpkin and what can be made of it. A warning though!. There are hidden dangers. Pumpkins, sharp knives and over- enthusiastic cooks have often come to grief.

We snapped up four pumpkins for starters, with a large bag of potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic, lots of garlic. We noticed many doing the same. It seems that the message of good diets might be getting through. Some shoppers still try to sneak in a carton of Coke or lemonade but you can tell by their furtive eye movements that they are battling with their conscience. I used to give them stern looks but in my dotage have mellowed, and now manage a generous smile of understanding. I too used to sip a Coke!

Going back to my pumpkins. A good friend said that she never peels the pumpkin. It is even possible to bake an entire pumpkin without even cutting it in half. This is the wonder of having friends that share cooking and politics. I never knew one could bake an entire pumpkin. There I was sharpening my chopper and large knife including, a filleting knife (from Finland) trying to cut my pumpkin in sizeable portions to be baked in the oven. I never just boil pumpkin without first baking it together with the leeks, garlic and onions drizzled with a nice olive oil. There used to be a bar near central Sydney railway where you could actually sit on a stool and sample different oils and vinegars.

That’s what I miss here in Bowral. It is all so Anglo and nice! We have a lot of different salvias growing. The gardeners were here today, and I just said (in jest) in the presence of a neighbour peering at our salvias. ‘You know, this salvia is very good for rolling and smoking! In some US states it is forbidden to grow it because it can give you the smile of an angel and mildly hallucinates.’ The neighbour looked wry. Helvi kicked me in the shin.

Anyway, from now on I will not peel pumpkin. It will just be part of the soup. I add a little chilli with a good spoonful of turmeric. After baking it for 30 minutes I whisk the lot to a fine harmonious and mellow yellow soup. It is truly a magic dish.

My suggestion is to Singapore and the meeting between those giants of atomic might, to be given the best chance of peace resolution and give them this pumpkin soup lavishly, with dollops of sour cream and crusty sour-dough bread .

A food worthy of peace.


A normal day.

October 27, 2016

DSCN2899 - Copy

When the forecast was for rain, it was decided to quickly put in some more plants. Two star Jasmines and a couple of Hebes had been bought the day before. Retirees often have time on their hands and planting things and gardening helps time pass. Helvi suggested a few times I go and visit a men’s club and pass time talking to men. I am not sure if she is not a bit fed up with me hanging around. I remind her I am retired and free to pass time as I see fit. ‘Yes, but you often take naps,’ she tells me. But I told her straight out that I always thought napping was a very proper and well known past-time for elderly, especially men.’

Anyway, I did try and join a Men’s shed. It was last year. I walked into a local Men’s shed and noticed a lot of carpenter and building equipment. Lots of different electric tools, bench- saws, drills, planers, even a welder with eye goggles. A few men were busy making things. My idea of a men’s club was a bit more Singapore-Raffles like. A kind of establishment with easy chairs and a raconteur holding forth on the benefits of retirement in Venice or Thailand. Anyway, this Men’s shed wasn’t talk friendly, with all the machinery whirring around. I noticed a large nervous rabbit in a small birdcage. His master was making a hutch.

I would not really know what to make. I remembered a good friend of mine who spent a fortune on all sorts of tools. He proudly showed me a small wooden box with a hinged lid for putting in and allowing sheets of Kleenex tissues to protrude. I advised that the obvious next home made thing could be a wooden toilet roll holder? Perhaps one could varnish it or even make it look a bit antique? Some years ago making things look antique was popular. The art of making antique has since been surpassed by ripping into brand-new furniture. The side-board or dining table with chairs is now deliberately hoed into, roughed-up, and smeared and wiped white. For good measure sometimes copper nails are banged into the furniture as well. It is to get this much desired French-colonial-farm-country-side look. Some combine this with huge hanging clocks also given the same genuine faux French treatment.

I did not end up joining a men’s club. Just now I dug some holes for the plants. They will be growing against the paling fence. I gave them some extra chicken manure. Today was just a normal day. It is raining now. But that’s alright too.

The Club

August 23, 2013

The Club

Most clubs are now gambling dens. Forget Raffles of Singapore or the Kurhaus of the Dutch Scheveningen, they played Baccarat and Écarté then.
Mischa Elman en Wladimir Horowitz, Richard Tauber, Lucienne Boyer, Greta Keller, Marie Dubas, Maurice Chevalier, Herbertvon Karajan, La Argentina, Duke Ellington, Ray Ventura,
Bela Bartok,Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, George Brassens, Maria Callas, Marlène Dietrich with last but not least the Rolling Stones, are some that performed in The Kurhaus till about 1965.

Clubs are all populated by spinning wheels and flashing lights now and we play the poker-machine. Participants sit grim faced behind those flashing electronic machines. They feed money in them as if there is no tomorrow. For many there is no tomorrow. The tomorrow has been fed into the machines. The plastic shopping bag with food is all that some of them will (hopefully) come home with.

Lately clubs are advertising that they, more than anyone else, are encouraging ‘problem gamblers’ to seek counseling. What the clubs are less enthusiastic about is minimizing the number of poker machines and/or limit players money withdrawals from their ATM’s…Poker machines are worth their weight in gold and pubs and clubs know it.

Anyway, it was on a stormy day. The temperature was 8c and the day loomed long and overcast. We decided to visit a local ‘workers’ club.

Click to access sub197.pdf

The origins of Australian Workers Clubs seem to have got lost in the bowels of history. I can’t find much in that area on the internet. It is interesting that in one of the largest, The Revesby Workers Club they have a large insignia at the front of it depicting a crossed plumber’s wrench and hammer. This seems to hint at a communist influence in earlier days. One can just imagine the board of directors compromising after a heated debate to allow a hammer and sickle design. They replaced the sickle with a very large plumber’s wrench, Ha, ha.

The general advertised aim of clubs is to provide good amenities for families to meet and spend enjoyable social times together. The clubs are non-profit where all income (from gambling) is ploughed back in many areas for the welfare of communities. Sports, leisure, care for the aged are just a few social items that most clubs are involved with.

We arrive and after entering were met by a very nice warm blast of air conditioning. At the desk we complied with a very odd and much questioned ritual of filling in a form requesting our full name, address and driver’s license. We are not a member of the club but even so are always very welcome as long as we comply with this ritual. Whenever we ask; why this strange procedure?

Answers vary depending on the level of club expertise, ranging from ‘getting a win on the pokies and not paying taxation’ or; most common, ‘well, that is the law!’ Some vaguely mention liquor laws and the distance of the venue and the non-members home. Others mention that the law allowing people to drink a beer on Sunday (after church) was only passed (1962) if clubs would comply with this compulsory form filling by non-members. This, as so many other typical Anglo oddities remains a mysterious puzzle for us pragmatic Europhiles.

The Workers clubs in Australia are very popular with well designed pleasant architecture combining nice affordable food with range of beverages of coffees, wines and everything in between. The services are excellent and the gambling part well away from the family or diners. There are open fires, comfortable seating with lounges and soft furnishings. I could easily spend my days there, reading up, sipping a short black and observe its clientele, including the non-members. When we were there many just enjoyed the warmth away from the hostile bitter cold blasts swirling the tree branches around outside.

I had a lovely rump steak (rare) with a vegetable mix of cream sautéed potatoes, beet root, baked pumpkin with fresh coriander. With this steak& chips came a real silver boat of pepper sauce, my favourite! My lovely H decided on a Beef burger which was so huge, she took half of it home and even then it needed several tissues to wrap it up. Milo looked hopefully up to H when the other half was eaten in the evening. No luck though. He had just been given his chicken neck. This is Milo’s favourite as well.

So, in summing up; clubs do provide enjoyable venues and do much good in the communities, but… all on the back of those gaming machines which causes immense miseries for many.

Would a higher taxation on all income be a better option, still have clubs but without all those poker machines?
It is all so difficult.

Calm down and look back.

February 27, 2012

The recent ballot taken as a result of a challenge to the leadership by the previous PM has turned out exactly as predicted. There was not a single opinion by anyone that was dissenting anywhere. Yet, the media went, just as predictable berserk. Headlines in Newspapers were screaming to the extent, that many elderly pedestrians fainted, some called for ambulances.

On TV, even the dulling powder puffs on the journo- cum- shock –jock’s faces were foregone adding greatly to the excitement not seen since the days of Princess Mary and Kylie Minogue. The sheen on their brilliantly lit faces was unequalled except perhaps during the interviews of those large mining magnates in Western Australia. The sheen on opulent faces is always in direct proportion to the billions in bulbous bullion ingots they have stashed away in secret Perth Bunkers. Come to think of it, so are their bodies, in size I mean, perhaps in sheen as well. I haven’t studied Palmer’s or Gina’s sheen below their collars.

We seem to have entered an era of instant politics that in the same vein respond to instant polls. We have just about got over that vile drink ‘euphemistically’ named Instant COFFEE. Instant, perhaps, but coffee, no way? There is now Instant cheese and it comes in a tube. Polls now come as regular as errant shopping trolleys discarded along nature strips. What do you think ‘nature strips’ are for, you old fogey fools? This is our world now, it’s our time, they are our nature strips, piss off, move over you pathetic grump.

Just fifty metres from our Woolies store in Bowral someone, very gifted, had lifted a trolley high up and managed, through herculean efforts, to impale it on one of those no-parking signs with the open ended flap of the trolley being used allowing the sign to enter it and the trolley to be dragged down the bottom on the nature strip with the traffic sign triumphantly sticking up in the middle of the trolley. Now, there is a creative boy about somewhere. I can’t imagine a lady pensioner doing that.

What goes on in the mind of someone walking past a trolley, abandoned in a nature strip? What mind would come up with the idea of going through the effort of wrestling it over and onto a traffic sign? In Singapore or Malaysia they would give him 120 lashes, his bum stripped bloody raw, but never a shopping trolley in danger again from him. Here, probably a reward for community services rendered. A Freudian trained psychiatrist would probably see a serial rapist in the making, ramming things all the way somewhere. He seems destined to become a rugby player instead.

Serves the trolley right. Why is it that the Aldi and European methods of an ordered trolley regime with small deposits on trolleys has not been made nationwide compulsory? It works well. Here though, there are rewards offered and helicopters are hovering above, trying to trace lost trolleys. It seems a strange and costly way to check up on trolleys.

Anyway, it’s not any stranger than the panic driven hysteria over the latest political stoush. Where was the calm and considerate looking back by the challenger? How could an experienced and ex PM not see, that the challenge would end in defeat. Did he not count those in caucus that would not support him?

Are they all driven by face-book emotions? Is the media ramping up politicians into a frenzy of self adoring that hides all logic and reason, a kind of endless tweeting ‘ The Emperor’s new clothes’ beautification? Are all politicians in the grip of a Stockholm syndrome whereby the enslavement to the captive image has become an insurmountable reality? Do they all look in the mirror and see a beautiful and glorious Tiberius Claudius Caesar with an admiring media all hooked on an intravenously administered Instant News hook up? It’s all now panic, hyped up internet face-book twittering raging media and political turmoil maelstrom.

Where has the calm gone, the looking back and taking time?