Rates, Rates, Rates

Please don’t mistake this short piece as any kind of excuse for the rates we are currently charged. I can barely keep my lunch down when I see the City of Greater Geraldton using our money to employ staff to put out press releases telling us how wonderful they are for giving some of our own money back to us in the form of services and street art we never asked for.

But before I digress into a libertarian rant, the point of sitting at the keyboard tonight was to discuss the issue that is currently being thrown about on Facebook regarding rates, and specifically as to whether the recent rate rises, which have been relatively low, are justified at all.

If you cast your mind back, the CGG CEO during the time of the 27% rate increase disaster was extremely clear about the rationale behind the hike. At the time, the City explicitly told everyone it was not their fault. Rents had increased dramatically due to the property boom, and you should direct your anger at the valuer general for telling the City we were all so rich now. The ‘rate in the dollar’ hadn’t increased, our property values had just gone up so much.

Ah, wonderful. We’re wealthier, so we pay a little more. Makes sense.

Not everyone bought it, but enough did that there weren’t French Yellow-Jacket style riots in the street. I mean hey, if our incomes go up, we pay more income tax. So it seems fair, right?

Riiiiiight.

Except conveniently the narrative has now changed.

Rents and property values have PLUMMETED. You can pick up a house in virtually any suburb in Geraldton for less than 2005 prices. Not inflation adjusted less. Like ACTUALLY LESS DOLLARS. And the price falls haven’t abated. Even just last month prices kept falling by a lot in both Perth AND the regions.

So by all the logic the City used before, we should be seeing steep decreases in our rates, right?

Of course not. Because conveniently, as always, that was a different CEO and Mayor.

But here’s the catch. By the time boom-time hits again (as it eventually will but who knows when) we will likely have yet another CEO and Mayor. When property prices spike, can we expect the logic to once again reverse, and our new-found wealth being the source of large rate increases? Who will hold our current administration accountable for their rhetoric and the continued increases in the face of our present rapidly declining wealth?

No one.

So what is the current narrative regarding the continued increases in rates?

Well, it’s the fact that actual costs born by the City of Greater Geraldton are in no way connected to the potential rental income of Geraldton’s inhabitants. The costs largely hinge State Government expenses like electricity prices, labour costs, and the legislative requirements as to what services a local government is required to provide.

That is to say, the State Government tells the local governments what they have to do, and what they have to pay, and then leaves them to be the bad guys collecting your rates, so you don’t realise that it’s Mark McGowan who is in charge of what your local government is allowed and not allowed to do, and what they can and cannot do to raise revenue, and how much they actually need to raise.

It gets even worse when you zoom right out. Because it’s Melissa Price and co in Canberra who have the bulk of the nation’s purse strings via income and business tax, and who get to decide where that precious GST revenue gets sent. And while they can freely cut or increase services they run as revenue waxes and wains, they in turn put demands on the States through all sorts of mechanisms to get them to keep certain standards or pass certain laws, as no Premier wants to be the guy who can’t fund the new “whatever project” because he burnt Canberra. The federal government also hands out grants like Santa Claus to local governments, boasting about providing funding to some project for this or that, as if they personally earned all that money and weren’t merely giving us back our own funds.

Before I wrap up, I don’t place the full blame at the feet of the state and federal governments. Surely the local government here, like most bureaucracies, is bloated in some areas. For example, regular businesses can’t compete with them in terms of what they pay staff. The irony that they take rates off us in order to out-compete us for the limited talent pool of staff is not lost on me.

But in this author’s opinion, the crux of the problem is not local. It’s in Perth and Canberra.

One of these two things need to happen to see any long term change:

  1. Local governments need to stop existing altogether and just be rebranded what they really are, which is administrative departments of the state government, with the State responsible for setting and collecting land rates, and dealing with the political fallout from all that follows; or

  2. Local governments need to be legitimate independent bodies with actual power to make decisions over their regions, raise revenue as they choose, and to live without fear that any decision they make can be quickly overridden by a tribunal in Perth completely disconnected from the goings on in the region.

As they currently exist, local governments are the perfect scape-goat and revenue raiser for Mark McGowan and Co. State Labor suffer none of the flak for our rates constantly increasing while our home values plummet, but get to dictate all the services that shall be provided AND they get to sell overpriced electricity etc to those local governments in order to extract more revenue from us. And whenever a local government does something the State Govt disapproves of, they can simply override the decision or make a quick legislative amendment and viola, the democratically elected local government’s decision is null and void. All the while, whenever someone complains that our rates keep going up, Labor politicians point to our Mayor here in Geraldton and his National Party affiliations and tell us all that that is where we should direct the voice of our dissatisfaction. Of course, I’m not saying these issues started with the Labor party. This problem of misaligned incentives wasn’t birthed with the latest incarnation of State Labor. It’s been this way for a long time.

I take my hat off to ANYONE who chooses to serve us in the the capacity of local government, state government, or federal government. Politics aside, Labor, Liberal, whatever, I have a lot of respect for all of them. It’s easy to sit in the peanut gallery and opine as to how much of a better job I could do if I wasn’t so busy watching The Politician on Netflix (great show btw).

My argument is simply that sometimes blame over particular issues we are facing may not lie at the feet of a particular individual, but more so with the way a system has been designed, and the incentives it begets.

A tweet about rape, Darren West, and the Liberal Party of Western Australia

Background

22-year-old Eurydice Dixon was raped and killed sometime between 10:30pm on Tuesday and 3:00am on Wednesday in Melbourne, according to Victorian Police. 

Victorian Police tried to be helpful in warning the general public (cough, women) to take responsibility to avoid being raped. Detective Inspector Stamper told the media: “My message is that people need to be aware of their own personal security. If people should have any concerns at any time about their personal security, call triple-0.” 

The internet lost its $#!✝️

Women were sick of being told it was their job to avoid being raped and murdered, and somehow the onus rested on them to stay safe. The helpful "advice" from the police was tantamount to victim blaming in the minds of many people, men and women alike. 

Stories from around the world flooded our news feeds as women shared exactly what it's like to be ever mindful that one wrong move could result in the worst imaginable thing ever happening to you. 

I spent some time pondering this. I'm a 6 foot 4 male. I never worry about whether someone is going to rape me, and I rarely worry if someone will murder me. Usually when I'm walking along a dark street at night, depending whether I'm wearing a hoodie or a blazer, people are nervous about my presence. I imagined how tiring it must be to constantly make sure you take the long way home, sit in groups, text your friends constantly regarding your safety, etc etc. I felt a genuine empathy towards women and the joke that is society warning them to be the ones to "take precautions" all the time, rather than actually deal with the perpetrators effectively. 

Do you know who else felt empathy towards women following this story?

Darren West, MLC, Labor WA politician, Member for the Agricultural Region.

Darren West

So Mr West tweeted an old list that the women's rights movements circulated back in 2015. It's a great list, sarcastic in nature, that makes a very clear point: It's not the woman's job to avoid being raped, it's the rapist's job to NOT RAPE! It was endorsed by famous feminists like Sarah Silverman and many more. 

Here it is for posterity:

CAmiMhlXIAAqr-l.jpg-large.jpeg

A similar list also circulated around the same time carried a footnote: “Rape culture directs women to police their clothing, beverage, behaviour and sexuality at all times to avoid men. It portrays men as powerless against their violent sexual urges. Rape culture demeans everyone and everyone should speak out against rape culture."

Now, anyone with an IQ above 65 could tell you that Sarah Silverman, widely hailed as a remarkable feminist (link) is not mocking rape victims by sharing this list. Anyone with an iota of understanding of the context in which the western world is operating right now, namely, rape victims being told it is THEIR job to avoid rape, would be able to put 2 and 2 together and get the point of this list. 

Sarah Silverman has around 12 million followers on Twitter and no woman on the planet called for her to apologise for sharing this list. 

Why? Because of brains.

We used our brains, understood what the list meant, and agreed her point was very valid.

Would you like to know what everyone's reactions to Ms Silverman's tweet were? Type "sarah silverman 10 Rape Prevention Tips" into Google. (or click here)

She was roundly praised, and the men who complained about her tweet were widely condemned. 


We know something needs to change. 

We are SICK of having to train our daughters on how to avoid being sexually assaulted or worse. 

And so when Darren West, in solidarity with Sarah Silverman and the millions of others who feel the same way tweeted this list recently, was he praised just like Ms Silverman? 

No. 

Because there's a by-election happening in Darling Range, and the Liberal Party are trying desperately to spin this into a "rape joke" incident.

Today I received a press release from the Liberal candidate for Darling Range, Alyssa Hayden, demanding Mr West be sacked because he published this old viral list. 

“There is no defending his tweet about rape and no excuse he attempts for posting his tweet is acceptable," Mrs Hayden said.

“You don’t joke about such a serious subject and if he believes it was a serious post it shows a lack of judgement – and not for the first time – which warrants his removal from his senior post in the Government.”


Questions

The questions I have for Alyssa Hayden and the Liberal Party are these:

1. Does Alyssa Hayden understand the point of the list?

2. Does Alyssa Hayden agree with the point the list makes?

3. If Alyssa Hayden honestly believes this list is insulting to rape victims and condemns anyone who tweets it, is she also condemning Sarah Silverman and all the feminists who made this list viral in 2015? 


And the media have been in fine form as well. Caitlin Barr from Channel 9 seems to also have completely miss the point of the list, expecting Mr West to apologise for standing with women. (link) I wonder if Ms Barr expects Sarah Silverman to also issue an apology. 


The response to Darren West's tweet from the Liberal Party is beyond "political correctness gone mad", because Darren's tweet is perfectly politically correct. 

What Mrs Hayden and the Liberal Party have done is basically said anyone who tries to make a salient point that rape victims are not to blame will have their words twisted and spun such that THEY will appear to be the ones who are insensitive to rape. 

I have had multiple family members who have been raped, sexually abused, and domestically abused. None of them are offended by this list. They ARE offended when Police tell them it is their job to avoid being abused. 

Not only did Darren West do nothing wrong by posting this list, but he is to be commended for having the courage to stand alongside victims of rape, and encouraging a conversation where we start thinking maybe it's not the woman's job to constantly avoid being raped. Maybe we should be focusing our message on the would-be attackers. 


I highly recommend reading this article "Everyday steps women take that would shock men" that was published recently by news.com.au (link)

Alyssa Hayden did not respond to attempts to contact her prior to publication of this article.  

The Geraldton Mayor and Free Speech

audio-2941753_960_720.jpg

In case you missed today's "here's what we should be outraged about" article from the taxpayer funded ABC, here's a link. 

In a nutshell, Laura Meachim from the ABC has done a piece about a "formal complaint" following Van Styn's comments that someone didn't like on social media. 

The comment in question was in relation to the community outrage the ABC says was occurring over the release of the Boulder man who killed a 14 year old boy. 

Regarding the outraged, Shane Van Styn pointed out that cricket bat killer we all remember well also received about the same amount of jail time, and Van Styn questioned why there wasn't the same level of community outrage then?


Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario 1

Your colleague at work comes up to you and looks you dead in the eye. He's about to insult you. 

His mouth opens. 

"You're an idiot!"

You're instantly offended. How dare this person insult you like that. 

Scenario 2

Your colleague at work comes up to you and looks you dead in the eye. He's about to insult you. 

His mouth opens. 

"You're a cloud!"

You instantly laugh. You know you're not a cloud, and your colleague is clearly misinformed. 


Why do we choose to be offended by scenario 1, but we would simply brush off scenario 2?

Because a little voice inside us thinks that maybe scenario 1 is correct, and then another voice says no it's not, then we have internal conflict, then we direct that turmoil outwards in the form of being offended and retaliation. 

In reality, the conflict lies within us. 

Because when someone calls us a cloud, we don't think it's true in the slightest, and there's no inner dialogue demanding we defend our honour.

If Van Styn had said something that was obviously untrue and absurd, we'd all laugh at him and pay him no mind. 

But instead people have chosen to be offended by what he wrote. News articles are being written. 

And, counter to what the complainer actually wanted, Van Styn's comments are now getting even MORE publicity and attention. 


Rather than argue the merits of Van Styn's arguments, point out why they disagree with him, or make a case for why the cricket bat murderer deserved a lesser sentence than the 56 year old Boulder man, the complainer would prefer Mr Van Styn not be allowed to express an opinion at all. 

From what I can tell, this "formal complaint" is just an email with the words "without prejudice" at the top. 

As a general rule of thumb, one writes "without prejudice" at the top of a letter when they DON'T want what they have written to be held against them in court.

Interestingly, the Maddington based author of the email is Lindsay Councillor, an uncle of the cricket bat killer.


But what Van Styn actually wrote is beside the point.

What's concerning here is that someone calling for silencing of someone's free speech rights has been given the time of day by the ABC and wasn't abruptly dismissed by Labor politician and Minister for Local Government, David Templeman. 

In Australia we are very capable of having civilised debate of competing ideas without appeal to authority to shut the other side down because they wrote or said something we didn't like. 

It reminds me of my 2 year old coming in to my office complaining that his brother called him a name. 

Without freedom of speech, we wouldn't have been able to make so much progress on women's rights, indigenous rights, gay rights, and more. The entirety of western democracy is built on the reliable fact that we can argue about ideas and opinions freely. 

That said, I wholeheartedly support Lindsay Councillor's freedom of speech and his right to send complaint emails to public servants. 

But we need to call out the obvious efforts by many among us who are attempting to silence anyone they don't agree with. 

Your decision to choose to be offended is on you. You don't have any right to silence people you disagree with or who you decide are offensive. 


The argument for Van Styn not being allowed to have an opinion is that it comes across like he's speaking in his role as Mayor. 

But what politician among us has agreed to no longer voice an opinion?

If Mr Van Styn was using the CGG ratepayer funded media department to spread propaganda and his own personal opinion, then I think he would have something to answer for. 

But calling for local government representatives to not ask questions about double standards in the daily-outrage-virtue-signalling-world-of-social-media is not the direction we want our society to head.  


I don't agree with everything Shane Van Styn says, but I'll defend his right to say it.

When the government brags about creating jobs

Metronet+banner.jpg

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a weird political stunt which ended up backfiring on the Labor party in WA. They set up a fake Twitter account that looked like it was run by state opposition leader Mike Nahan, and linked to a "Meet Mike" url, which was loaded with Labor's own propaganda. 

However, what made me take umbrage was the argument made by Labor that Nahan wanted to destroy 10,000 jobs by cancelling Metronet. The implication here is that the government spending actually creates jobs. 

What gets completely lost on these folks with their misdirected sense of self importance is that in order to create these 10,000 jobs they had to destroy at least that many jobs already. 

How? you ask. 

Taxes.

The government doesn't create wealth except through taking it from me and you. And when they take my money, I can't afford to pay someone to mow my lawns, fix my car, or build me a new computer.

Every time I go shopping, one eleventh of the bill goes straight to the government, (GST), reducing my ability to do as much shopping as I otherwise would like. 

Because I have to pay so much tax I can't afford to employ more people in my business. I can't afford to invest in new projects. I can't afford to go on a holiday in WA with my family. 

The nerve of politicians bragging about "creating jobs" with the very money they just took from me under threat of violence is galling.

If Metronet, or any other public spending project, warrants the investment, then fine... argue the case for its existence. 

But don't pretend you're "creating jobs" when the very people who are funding those jobs, had they not had to pay such high amounts of rates, rego, stamp duty, income tax, GST, and more... would have created the same number of, if not more, jobs in our economy. And we would be creating the jobs that the market actually demanded. 

Building infrastructure just because you think you're "creating jobs" is how we get left with school facilities that aren't needed, roads that no-one uses, and overpasses that are just expensive ornaments. If people had kept their money and spent it on what they personally thought was good value, jobs that were actually wanted might have been created. 

The next time your local parliamentary member starts bragging to you about all the jobs they create, remind them of all the jobs they destroyed in the process by taxing you so heavily. 

Let's celebrate State's environmental diversity

Anyone who lives in WA knows that we have the greatest natural resource in the world, and it’s not iron ore, or gold deposits.

That resource is the Western Australian environment. We have eight of the 15 National Biodiversity hotspots in this country, and my electorate of Durack takes in most of them.

As Assistant Minister for the Environment, I am uniquely placed to see these assets protected for all West Australians. That’s why I am loving my new role and sharing what our State has to offer the world, and the incredible work being done by our scientists, environmental researchers, field officers, and rangers to protect these assets on the ground.

Rarely do we celebrate, or hear about, approvals which are given for significant job-creating projects, which also balance the needs of the environment. We have some brilliant examples of such balance in WA, where there can be harmonious, sustainable development, mixed with real job-creating opportunities.

We are developing new ways of managing threatened species, with a real focus on relocation. At Mt Gibson, the Australian Government is working with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the National Environmental Research Program to establish a sanctuary for threatened species in the Northern Agricultural Region.

Conditional approval has been granted for the first stage of Project Sea Dragon, one of the most ambitious aquaculture projects ever undertaken in Australia. The project involves growing Australian tiger prawns on land-based tanks in the Northern Territory, processing them in Kununurra and exporting them through Wyndham. This provides an opportunity for aquaculture jobs and economic growth in the State’s north.

Out in the Western Desert the Government has partnered with the traditional owners to conserve threatened species like the desert parrot, the bilby, and the desert skink. We’re also reducing the bushfire risk by adopting traditional Aboriginal burning techniques, referred to as “mosaic” burning.

Then there’s the big ticket items like Bremer Canyon. Bremer is quickly becoming a mecca for wildlife watchers and divers, and growing our tourism industry at the same time.

For those who don’t know, this is a group of canyons located some 70km south-east of Bremer Bay off southern WA.

Above the canyons, wildlife gather in huge numbers, including whales, giant squid, and seabirds. Seasonal orca (killer whale) concentrations here are unprecedented in Australia, with more than 100 individuals in the local population, many of which are regularly sighted.

These are all examples of how the Department of Environment and Energy can work to establish industries like tourism, and work with those industries to develop them. Given our beautiful State is also rich in mineral resources there is an obvious intersection between the Department of Environment and Energy and the mining sector.

Often, the Department of Environment is accused of “standing on the hose”; preventing industry from project development. As a resources lawyer in my previous life, I have some sympathy with that view.

Environmental approvals take time, and time is money for mining projects, but to get the balance right due process is necessary.

An excellent example is BHP’s Iron Ore Strategic Assessment Program, an agreement between the Department of Environment and Energy and BHP which allows BHP to essentially bundle their Federal environmental approvals for the next 100 years.

By doing so, we can guarantee BHP and its workers certainty and job security moving forward, and in exchange, BHP will now be held to the strongest environmental standards for all their new iron ore mining operations in the Pilbara.

The agreement requires BHP to report on their environmental performance, invest in threatened species management, while still being subject to regulatory oversight from the Department of Environment and Energy.

Protection of our environment is critically important, however I believe in a resources-rich State like WA, it is imperative that we maintain the project and job pipeline in an environmentally consistent and sustainable way.

I look forward to playing my part.

Cautious Optimism about Geraldton's future

I'm quite positive with respect to the economic stability of Geraldton long term, and can personally attest to Geraldton being one of the best places in the country to live if you're looking for a great balance of lifestyle, affordability, and beauty. 

I'm not bullish because I am sure there are going to me thousands of high paying jobs in 5 years though. I'm positive because Geraldton has a fundamental handful of things that make it great. There's enough jobs if you have the right skill set or are willing to undertake training or education. There's few better places in terms of beaches and a wonderful outdoor lifestyle. And you don't need to be a multi millionaire to live near the beach, like you would in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. 

Yet as a media publication, it's very challenging to publish anything that questions a bullish narrative around Geraldton's economic prospects. 

The bulk of our advertisers are both business and property owners, and they, as you expect, have a natural desire to see a positive story about Geraldton's economic future be the constant narrative. 

But the last decade plus of unquestioned positivity has lead to lots of members of the public being left holding investments that are now worth far less than they paid. I personally know people who owe far more on their homes than what they could reasonable be expected to sell them for today. 

Sure, it's not the first time real estate prices have fallen in Gero, but the fact that many of these purchases were made under an irresponsible narrative painted by those in various levels of Government, and indeed, us in the media, is a problem. Why are there more and more empty shops around Geraldton each month? Why has the population dropped so much in the last 3 years? Why are we still building new shopping centres in the midst of this? Why did the federal government incentivise massive amounts of development and new homes built when landlords struggled to even find tenants for existing properties?

Rewind to 2006. Property prices around WA were booming, in large part due to the insatiable demand for WA's iron ore from China. And of course there was the O word.

Oakajee. Word on the street was that the Oakajee Port, north of Geraldton, was going to go ahead, and when it did, you could expect basically a repeat of what happened in Karratha and Port Hedland, where people were paying over $2000 per week to rent a shack, and they had to hand over the marriage rights to the eldest daughter. 

I earnestly jumped into the property market during this heady time, paying ABOVE asking price for a fibro home in Rangeway. It felt great when I discovered my home had increased in value by at least 50 grand within a few months too. I knew it was in part because of economic fundamentals I had no control over, but I couldn't help patting myself on the back for being so smart and buying when I did. 

During this same period in 2006, way before I ever decided to launch Everything Geraldton, I realised it was super hard to get any local news online. So I built a small website where I posted any news content about Geraldton I could find. Literally no-one but I used it, but it led me to become quite engrossed in what was happening with respect to Oakajee.

Essentially, a Chinese backed mob thought they had the rights to build the port. They planned on actually doing it too. They had money lined up, but right when they were about to press the big green button, McTiernan and Labor in their infinite wisdom, decided the agreement that the original mob had was too old, and now we should open the process up to tender. 

That decision added at least a year of dicking around to the Oakajee process, and in the end, the Japanese backed competitors won the tender. 

Except they never built it. During the time of all the fluffing around, the costs of labour (people working, not the political party) went through the roof, and the effects of the US economic disaster was starting to be felt around the world. I remember there was a week there where you literally couldn't get a bank loan, everyone's super was frozen, and all of a sudden it became super unlikely Oakajee was still viable. 

But the hype around Oakajee didn't die just yet. In fact, there was an "Iron Ore Alliance" that had formed in the Mid West that had produced a publication that prophesied Geraldton's population was going to hit between 75,000 and 100,000. I scratched my head at how a bunch of pencil pushers came up with these numbers. 

I read through everything I could about Oakajee. The entire port was going to ship about 45 million tonnes a year, maaaaybe 60 million in a stretch. 

"60 million?" I exclaimed one day. "That's nothing."

Up north, BHP and Rio would ADD a 300 million tonne port before breakfast. And here we are thinking a 60 million tonne port is going to make us all property millionaires?

Not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the City of Geraldton was hiking rates like they were in the rate raising olympics. Property, all of a sudden, didn't seem like such a great investment. 

Nationally syndicated writers, economists and property "gurus" boldly kept predicting Geraldton was the next "boom town", and that it was a "gateway" to the North West and to the Mid West. 

Oakajee Port was not built. 


Fast forward a few years. 

I remember attending a rates meeting briefing with the CGG a few years ago, where they presented rates predictions over the next decade. I raised my hand with a question. 

"You're predicting in those charts that the Geraldton population is going to hit 75,000. Where are you getting those numbers?"

It seemed to me an important question. Here we are budgeting for the future based on an assumption that Geraldton is going to spike in population within a foreseeable timeline. Based on what I knew about Geraldton's economy, what was coming to town, and the downturn globally in commodities, I couldn't see why 40,000 people were going to decide to move to Gero all of a sudden. 

I was told the numbers were from different "official sources". 

There was no explanation about how those official sources made their predictions, but if reading Nassim Taleb has taught me anything, I was right to be skeptical. 

As you know, the exact opposite happened. Geraldton's population declined in the following few years. 


Now, to Alannah McTiernan's credit, she DID try and calm the mindless hype about Geraldton down a little. "Cautious optimism" was what she publicly called for at an economic forum in Geraldton. She was a little drowned out by others predicting untold riches who thought China had a special money printing machine that never turned off. 

But perhaps her message was the narrative we should have adopted all along. 

"Cautious optimism." 

Invest only after doing your own due diligence.

Don't borrow more than you can afford to repay because you don't know if you'll be able to sell this asset later. 

Maybe Oakajee Port will get built, maybe it won't. But even if it IS built, it will only employ a couple of hundred people when it's finished. 

Maybe the investors who are saying China's economy is grossly overheated are correct, and we're going to see a very, very painful economic collapse from our largest customer. 

Cautious optimism. 


Now I don't write this brief overview to say "I told you so"... because I didn't tell anyone so. If the banks would have given me more money, I'd own 7 units in Rangeway right now wondering why God hated me so much by allowing me to make such a decision. 

At best I was a bit skeptical.

And hey, maybe history could have gone differently. Maybe the US never allows stupid loans to be written to people who couldn't afford them and we don't have the GFC. Maybe Oakajee Port gets built AND the surrounding land gets developed into a thriving industrial precinct.

Maybe that pile of land near the airport sitting dormant the City of Geraldton tried to turn into a technology park gets bought by Amazon and we have a thriving little tech community employing developers and software engineers.

But those things didn't happen. And instead, those "gurus" who made the heady predictions about Geraldton's growth lost no money. They're off doing other things, making money predicting the future somewhere else. They had no skin in the game, but we listened to them because they told us what we wanted to hear. 

The people who paid the price are those who didn't possess the ability to dig below the surface, and made investment decisions that they now regret. 

I realise that all of us in business want to see positive economic sentiment that will help raise the tide of all our boats. 

But lets make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the last decade. Let's ignore the instinct to only listen to economic predictions that we WANT to be true. 

And let's dispense with the hype. 

I don't need hype. I need facts. 


Update: Correction around who had rights to originally build port. 

Bitcoin, my advice, my experience, and a warning

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 11.36.00 am.png

I'm not writing this article to jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon and get some page views while the topic is hot. 

I'm writing because I see a lot of people wanting to get involved with it, and they don't know what to do, and some are getting sucked into scams. 

I am not here to tell you whether it's a good investment strategy or not. But, if you decide you want to get involved, here's my experience. 

So you're aware, I personally purchased some Bitcoin before the recent price spike, and I also own a couple of other crypto currencies. I love the technology behind it, and I am bullish on the future of the technology being used more and more for transacting, and as a store of wealth. I am not predicting the future price of Bitcoin though. 

The technology the coins are based on is amazing. I am a big believer in it, and love transacting with crypto currencies. I won't bore you with the technical details. If you want to chat about it, give me a call. 

This is written for people who are not technically minded and don't know the difference between a blockchain and a neckchain. If you already have a great understanding of Bitcoin, you won't learn anything new here. 

What not to do.

DO NOT sign up for a company called USITech or USI-Tech. They are a scam. It's a very obvious ponzi scheme. They make claims that they're engaging in bitcoin mining, trading, etc. But no evidence exists of any such activity. One of the founders has already been banned from running businesses in Portugal, and the company is based in Dubai, with a Chinese phone number that doesn't get answered. As long as they keep signing up new people, they'll be able to pay people who signed up sooner. But there are HEAPS of scammers out there taking advantage of people who say "bitcoin" on the news, and want to get in, but don't understand it. Some people will make money, but the ones left holding the bag will suffer. It's very easy just to buy some bitcoin yourself if you want to be exposed to it. 

There are many others that are running around trying to get your money right now too. Be very careful. If you're unsure, you should probably stick to simply buying Bitcoin yourself (see below). 

What TO do. 

So you said to yourself, "I want to buy some bitcoin. Maybe just a few hundred bucks to see what happens."

Sign up for a service called Coinbase. Here's a link that will give you a bonus $10 once you've traded. Here's a link: https://www.coinbase.com/join/5333c19737f789f98a000d71

I will also get $10. 

This company is very reputable. And they are insured. 

You can only buy with a credit card. 

Australians can't sell their Bitcoins on Coinbase. So when you decide you don't want your bitcoins (BTC) any more, you will want to transfer them to another platform. See below. 

Coinbase will set a small limit on how much you can buy each week. This is because it's easy to make a credit card purchase, transfer out your bitcoins, then cancel the transaction, leaving them screwed. They will also charge 4% (or higher for tiny amounts). 4% is well worth it, as their price is substantially cheaper, often, than the Australian exchanges. 

You'll need your ID handy, and they'll also put two tiny charges to your credit card to verify your card is legit. 

NEXT

If you want to buy a lot more than what Coinbase will allow you, you need to sign up for one of these two platforms as well (you still want Coinbase as they're so much cheaper to buy from). I have found them both to be reliable. They are Australian based and owned. 

BTC Markets

Independent Reserve - referral link. 

These services do not sell you bitcoin the way Coinbase does. They are exchanges. Which means you're buying and selling Bitcoin (and other currencies) with other people directly, and just paying these sites a small commission. This means the price may be different on each platform, and certainly different to Coinbase. 

Take a look at their fees, and familiarise yourself with their platforms to make sure you're comfortable with what you're doing. 

Some things to remember. 

You don't have to buy a full bitcoin. You can buy $2 worth if you want. 

Bitcoin is not a company. No-one owns it as such. It is a way of communicating value, with a network that registers each transaction to prevent fraud. You can store your bitcoins in what is called a wallet offline, or if you trust Coinbase, you can leave them there. (Coinbase are insured for what it's worth.) Spend some time on Google, Reddit, and talk to people you trust, if you want more of a technical understanding of what it is. The nightly news is not a great place to learn about it. 

The world is going nuts over Bitcoin right now. Coinbase is absolutely swamped with people signing up. So be patient if you need to contact their customer support. 

 

Why did Everything Geraldton post that question about getting rid of the Mayor?

IMG_0821.JPG

Why did Everything Geraldton post that question about getting rid of the Mayor?

Does Jason from EG hate Shane?

What's going on?

Jason Smith from Everything Geraldton clearly doesn't understand the law!

Ok folks, here's the question that was posted:

Your say: Do you support removing the position of Mayor completely from the City of Greater Geraldton to save money, given the predominately ceremonial nature of the position and the fact that it costs ratepayers more than 3 councillors?

So does the leading nature of that question imply Jason Smith from Everything Geraldton actually wants to get rid of the Mayor?

No. I don't want to get rid of the position of Mayor.

And no, I'm not enemies with Shane Van Styn. I quite like Shane. Shane knows this. But that's irrelevant.  I'm not going to stop questioning his actions because I like him. 

Now, some of you know that Shane Van Styn has recently started posting things online to suggest that council could or should reduce the number of councillors in the near future.

I know most of these people who serve on council. I believe they all work hard to serve the community. I also see them debating each other in the council chamber, and I cannot see how the small cost saving that getting rid of a few of them would give us would make up for their loss.

I mean, technically we could do the job with just a handful of councillors. But would we have more robust debate in the chamber? Would more ideas spring forth from our elected representatives? Would the accountability that they hold each other to be higher or lower?

Technically you could also get rid of the Mayor and save a hundred grand or so each year. Sure, you'd have to get the state government to change a few laws, but essentially one of the councillors could chair the meetings, and the other councillors could all take turns going to all the events the Mayor goes to.

Do I think that's a good idea? No! It's a stupid idea. The position of Mayor serves a lot of purposes. 

And I also think we get value out of all of our councillors. Which was the point of the question. 

So the answer to do I think we should get rid of the Mayor's position is an emphatic no, and the answer to do I think we should cull some of our councillors, who also work hard and provide value to residents, is also no. I don't see them as less valuable than the Mayor. 

And as much as I love Shane, and genuinely think he's doing what he thinks is best for the people of Geraldton, I've watched when councillors have stood up to him and disagreed with him on different matters, and I think they need their numbers to be able to continue that when required.

You don't need to point out that the decision is not up to me. Ultimately the councillors themselves will need to decide on their own future, and that of future councils.

Shane ran on a platform of reducing the council's responsibilities. And I'm sympathetic to that view. I don't understand why some councils try to discover fusion energy with ratepayer funds. But I don't see the concept of "small goverment" as meaning small in physical number of elected representatives. It's meant to mean small in scope of services provided by government. Besides, just a decade ago what is now covered by just the CGG councillors, was previously covered by Geraldton, Greenough, and Mullewa councillors. Plus our population was lower. So we already have drastically reduced the level of representatives, AND we've increased the population. It's hard for me to see why we need further reductions. 

If it's arguable that the position of Mayor is well worth the money we spend, I'd say so are the councillor's positions. Just because you always see Shane's face on all the Facebook posts about things happening in Geraldton, doesn't mean he's the only one working to make the good stuff happen. Not that he claims that to be the case. In the comments of the post in question, the Mayor publicly gave credit to all the councillors, saying that all of them together is what allowed them to achieve great things.

Which is my point.

Together. All of them.

Let's keep the Mayor, and consider keeping all the councillors too. Their small cost is a tiny price to pay for the extra accountability they provide. 

Racism, Geraldton, 18c and Freedom of Speech

Part 1. Childhood. 

1992. Year 6. Waggrakine Primary School. I had moved from Perth to Geraldton for a term to live with my Dad. The pressure on an 11 year old to choose which of his divorced parents he loves more is pretty fucked up. But others had it worse I guess. 

I hated having to make friends every time I moved school... which was a lot. My mother was as nomadic as they come. She loved moving, it seemed. It was more of a "life sucks at the moment and clearly the only way to fix it is to move house and change schools" kind of thing actually. But by 11 I was already crushed by it. 

I was fortunate though. I had found a technique for fitting in each time I moved school, a kind of shortcut for making friends. I was tall, and loved basketball. So I'd head to the school's basketball courts and see what happened. 

Sport has a funny way of levelling everything. No-one gives a crap if you're the new kid, if you're white, black, or some kind of mixture. Can you play ball? That's all that matters. And if you're half decent, by the end of lunch time you've made 8 or more friends and the other boys trust you. 

So it was at Waggrakine Primary. Within a day or two I was playing with the other kids and holding my own on the court. 

And I made a friend.

Alfred Farrell. I'll never forget him. He was a little Aboriginal kid. He was fast and a great basketball player. And he was kind to me. 

Not with a "tolerate the new kid" type of kind. But with a "I want to be your friend" kindness. 

Despite having some Aboriginal blood myself, my skin is Point Moore lighthouse... either very white or very red/sunburnt. So skin colour was not the thing that connected myself with Alfred. What bonded us was his kindness and my loneliness.

His house was directly across the road from mine. We hung out all the time. We played heaps of basketball after school, and caught up on weekends. 

At the end of the school term I was faced with the choice of returning to Perth or staying in Geraldton and living with my Dad and step family. I chose to return to Perth to be with my mother and brothers. 

The day I was to leave, Alfred came across the street and handed me a Hallmark card. 

I'll never forget that card. He was thanking me for my friendship. 

It shocked me so hard I think I cried. He had written how he was going to miss me. It ended with:

love, Alfred.

I hadn't realised he was actually going to miss me, and my friendship had meant something to him. 

I sat in my Dad's carpet shop waiting for my bus to Perth, and decided I would get Alfred a card too. It felt reactionary though, a bit "you got me one so I get you one too" kinda thing. But I was just so blown away by his card I didn't know what else to do. 

I got on the bus. 

And I never spoke to Alfred again. 


About every 6 months or so since that time, I have thought of Alfred. 

To me, he's my symbol of why racism is so stupid. We were just two boys, a very black kid, and a very white kid, hanging out. 

I was going through perhaps the roughest time in my childhood, and he had chosen to care and be my friend when I needed a friend more than anything in the world. To us at the time, there was no "race narrative" running through our minds. In fact, to me he wasn't black. He was Alfred, my friend. I wasn't white. I was just Jason.

It was only later as I would start reading the news, would my conscience become infected with society's need to categorise everyone. 

I'm blessed today to live next to wonderful Aboriginal neighbours. As I watch my boys and their boys play with each other in the street, oblivious to the fact that there's so much racial angst in the world, my heart is encouraged. 


Part 2. Freedom of Speech. 

Chances are you've seen a lot of articles recently about the RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT, and the changes proposed to it. I've noticed rarely do the articles include the wording of the actual law. 

The section of interest is not very long. Please take a moment to read it:


RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ACT 1975 - SECT 18C

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if: 

(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and 

(b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group. 


You read that correctly.  

In our law, simply OFFENDING someone with anything to do with race, colour or ethnicity could be construed as unlawful. According to how this law is written, it doesn't matter what the intent of the offender was... just if someone was offended. 


For example, that controversial Bill Leak cartoon. 

In August 2016, on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day, a Leak cartoon in The Australian depicted an Aboriginal policeman holding a teenage male and telling the youth's father that he needed to teach his son about personal responsibility. The father, with a can of beer in hand, replies "Yeah, righto, What's his name then?". - Wikipedia. 

These laws were used against Leak. It didn't matter that the message he meant was "Aboriginal people need to take accountability for the behaviour of their own children," a sentiment echoed by much of the community and Police. 

Personally, even though I got the point the cartoon was trying to make, I saw how it could have made any Aboriginal person feel degraded. Cartoonists say things with cartoons. I don't have a suggestion for a better one Leak could have done to make the same point. But all the same, I'm not surprised there was offence taken. 

So, after receiving a complaint, the Australian Human Rights Commission pursued Mr Leak and The Australian. 

After much hullabaloo, and receiving another 2 complaints, the complaints were dropped and nothing happened, other than cause a lot of hassle for Leak and his employer. You can read a lot more about the cases online. 


Another case that came about because of 18c, was the QUT (Queensland University of Technology) case. 

What was the case about?

From "The Conversation"

On May 28, 2013, (Alex) Wood and two other students were using a QUT computer lab when (Cindy) Prior asked them whether they were indigenous. They replied they weren’t. Prior then asked them to leave.

Later that day, on the “QUT Stalkerspace” Facebook page, Wood posted:

Just got kicked out of the unsigned Indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation…?

Many people commented. Powell posted:

I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is….

These kids were shocked that they got kicked off computers because they were white. They made their point via a post, and a snarky joke. And they ended up in court.

The Conversation article goes on to tell how that case went to "Federal Circuit Court against QUT, certain QUT employees, and a number of QUT students including Wood, Thwaites and Powell. Prior’s claim was for A$247,570.52. Prior alleged that the students had breached 18C. She also alleged that QUT and its employees had breached section 9 of the RDA."

That's right. The person who took these kids who complained about the treatment they received on Facebook were asked to pay a quarter of a million dollars to Cindy Prior to compensate her for how "physically sick and abandoned" she felt.  

How we can live in a world where we can't even have a conversation about whether white kids should be kicked off computers because they're white, is absurd. They clearly felt like they were the ones being discriminated against. And for saying it, they faced a hell of a ride. 

Ultimately the case failed in court, but the point is, these people were able to be dragged through the courts, vilified in the media, and had their lives turned upside down because they published their opinion, and someone was "offended".

The kids that took the case all the way to court had to come up with copious legal fees.

And the kids that couldn't afford it, actually SETTLED with Cindy Prior for $5000. 

I know, right. Mind blowing.

This woman getting bulk coin for what everyone now agrees was a ridiculous law suit, only encourages more of these to happen in the future.  


So now, understandably, some people want to change the poorly worded law.

But the proposed changes are drawing a line in the sand once again throughout the nation. It's like Australia Day all over again.

According to one side of the debate, if you support the changes you're a racist. 


Freedom of Speech

I understand the power of words. I use them for a living. So I support robust laws that shut down hate groups. 

And I also support effective measures to improve the welfare of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. I have family in the Kimberly. If you think it's rough in Gero, take a trip up north. Australia still has a lot of progress to make. 

But we can't find real solutions to our problems if we're all silenced in to not offending anyone. 

That's, in part, why I completely support freedom of speech laws also. 

And the way the law reads at the moment, it's scary to do anything online or in print that even mentions specific races. 

The law as it stands is not breeding reconciliation. It's breeding resentment from those who feel silenced. 

They're staying silent, sure. Congratulations, you're shutting them up with a stupid law. 

But I see what they say outside of the public eye. They're not happy.

They're not racist. But many of them carry a certain growing resentment for a system that doesn't want to hear their side of an argument.  

They feel vilified for having an opinion on anything. They've stopped contributing to public debate on how to solve a lot of VERY REAL PROBLEMS. They're closing off and staying in their own communities. They're changing how they vote. And they're leaving the people who need help the most to fend for themselves. 

And the actual racism isn't going away at all. Because it's so easy to stay anonymous online, the true racists can't be prosecuted at all.

I know, because I play whack-a-mole with them on Everything Geraldton. Some people in the community think we allow that type of thing, but you only see the comments we miss. We delete and ban trolls all the time. And I'm pretty sure the accounts we ban are just the same 3 idiots creating new accounts each week. 

Unless you start suing YouTube, Twitter, 4Chan, Reddit and Facebook, you're going to find that we live in a global community now anyway, where 18c doesn't apply.

I hate racism.

I hate it when people won't rent their homes to Aboriginal people. I hate it when a white person is abused at the train station for using an Aboriginal word and has to spend 10 minutes explaining that she's married to an Aboriginal and that's why she speaks that way. I hate it when someone is assaulted for their ethnicity. I hate it when someone is called a white dog while they walk down the street. I know these are real problems. 

But I also know that the vast majority of Australians are not racist in the slightest. 

Most of us love each other, work together, live next to each other... and we get along perfectly. But that never makes the news for some reason. 

Most of us who support changes to section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act abhor racism, we just support freedom of speech and more sensible ways to stop racial discrimination. 

And to be very clear, the proposed changes to the law still make overt racist acts of harassment illegal. All those stories you've read online about people's racist experiences in Australia, supposedly to justify keeping the law the way it is, would actually remain illegal under the proposed changes. 

If you honestly want to engage working class Australians and allow them to contribute to progressing our nation, then they need to know they're not going to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees because someone was "offended" by their opinion. 

Sometimes people are harassed because of their race. The law needs to remain robust enough to protect us ALL from this. 

And sometimes people will have opinions that aren't politically correct. But if you scream "racist" and sue them each time they pipe up with an opinion you don't like, guess what. They'll stop trying to help, and they'll stop voting for people trying to help. 

Regarding 7 day trading and deregulated trading hours in Geraldton

To lighten a Monday morning, I posted a tongue in cheek message on our Facebook page about CGG not being open on Sunday. 

Anyone who's been following Everything Geraldton for more than 5 minutes knows we've been supporters of deregulated trading hours for a long time. But I acknowledge the fact that those who make the laws that will affect the days retailers have to work, are themselves not compelled to work on a Sunday. Hence the post. 

Mayor Van Styn rightly pointed out that the services that make sense for the CGG to open on a Sunday, such as Aquarena, the tip, and the Library, are in fact open. Not to mention others such as the Visitor Centre. 

So while I personally fall on the side of free trading hours for all business owners, I DO understand some of the arguments against 7 day trading, and am sympathetic to them. 

But as always when this topic rears its head, most often the arguments are made by those with the most to gain/lose. 

For example, a few years ago we pointed out the hypocrisy when a certain local supermarket that is open each Sunday, funded a campaign that argued that Sundays were a family and sports day, and thus businesses should not be open. Except them of course. 

During council meeting debates another local business owner stood up and argued that he could not sell Vegemite as cheap as Woolworths or Coles, and that's why the big supermarkets shouldn't be allowed to open on Sunday. 

I nearly choked. Here a man was arguing that council needed to do what was best for HIM, rather than what was best for the 40,000 Geraldton residents. 

Hey, I'm sympathetic to a small business trying to compete. Try launching a small media start-up in a town like Geraldton and see how well treated you are by the likes of SevenWest.  But believe me, the council has never had a mandate to protect the interests of a handful of millionaire businessmen over the needs of the single parent trying to make ends meet. 


So what does deregulated trading hours actually mean?

When you walk around a shopping centre in Perth or Mandurah on a Sunday, you'll notice something very interesting. Many, sometimes most, of the independent retailers are closed. They don't have to open. And they choose not to. Coles / Woolworths / Kmart etc are always open. 

So just because the CGG is trialling deregulated trading hours, doesn't mean retailers will be obligated to open. 

In addition, most small retailers ALREADY have deregulated trading hours. 

This fact is often lost in the debate. 


So why are some business owners opposed to deregulated trading hours?

Competition. Plain and simple. The biggest losers of full deregulated trading will be anyone who owns small supermarket. Their unique selling proposition is (mostly) that they're open more often. 

There is one other reason, and it has to do with the fact that it is best for a community if EVERYONE is closed on Sunday. I can see the logic to this argument, and there are in fact business owners in town that subscribe to this view. These business owners COULD open if they wanted, but they put their money where their mouth is, and you can't call them hypocrites. 


Other businesses also have overlap with places like Target and Coles.

These businesses currently survive without having to open on a Sunday. But, should we all decide that Sunday is our new shopping day, Target would pick up that trade, leaving smaller business with a tough decision... open on Sunday to compete, or lose money, or go broke and close the doors. 


Some small business owners argue that as soon as Coles, Woolworths, Target etc have eliminated enough of their competition, they'll simply go back to trading whenever suits them, and that may or may not include Sunday, thus leaving Geraldton worse off in the long run. 

A case in point is the Woolworths fuel when it moved to Geraldton. 

For a short while, they were super competitive on price. They would always be lower than all the fuel stations in town, and there was just no way any fuel station nearby could compete. Woolworths could sell fuel at a loss for a century without blinking. Sure enough, the other fuel retailers in the centre of town closed down completely. And guess what Woolworths did after that. Yes, they raised their prices. By a lot. The other fuel stations learned the lesson, and didn't try to compete on price with Woolworths any more, making sure their price each day was slightly more than Woolies, and Geraldton went back to having fuel prices substantially higher than Perth, with MLA Ian Blayney having to send letters questioning why our fuel is so dear. (Although it should be noted, right now Geraldton fuel prices are on par with metro prices).


But it's hard to argue that deregulated trading is bad for jobs or tourism. Surely it's quite the opposite. And small businesses around WA seem to be doing just fine everywhere else there's deregulated trading hours. Moreover, it's council's job to make decisions that will be best for ALL of the residents, not just a handful of business people.  


Some of the laws currently make no sense!

There's a few businesses that currently can't open on a Sunday that make no sense at all. For example, BCF, the kind of store you desperately want to visit on a Sunday, cannot trade on Sunday. But Bunnings right next door is ok to open on Sunday. And certain franchises, because of how they are corporately structured, even though they're owned and run locally with just a small staff, are not allowed to open on a Sunday. 

There's also a limit on the amount of staff you can have if you open on a Sunday. So some busy stores that trade on Sunday are forced to NOT HIRE MORE STAFF because they'd lose their ability to trade on Sunday, which they love. 


So what does it come down to?

The decision regarding deregulated trading hours basically comes down to whether you believe the following:

1. All business owners should be allowed to choose when they open and close. 
2. Council should decide when each businesses should be allowed to open and close. And the more successful businesses should be penalised. 


How will this trial work?

It's worth noting that even in this trial, trading hours are not completely deregulated. 

You can click here to read about the CGG deregulated trading hours trial. 

The CGG have said that "At the end of the 12 month trail period a review will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the deregulation of general retail trading hours as a means to stimulate economic activity and meet community needs and preferences."

It would be nice to know the exact parameters the CGG are using to measure the success or lack-thereof with this trial. It's unclear what "a review" will consist of. It could be the Mayor walking around town asking 5 people and getting a rough feel for things. Or it could be based on actual trading figures from dozens of retailers.

If the public is given, up front, a very clear picture of how the review will be carried out, and how the success of the trial will be determined, we could rest easy knowing that if it's clear that the new trading hours are not in the public's interest, it will be scrapped. And if it is in our interest, it will be implemented permanently. 

Please lie to me: Why we're responsible for the mess that is modern politics

When I was 19 I started selling cars. 

Half my job was selling the car people were interested in. And the other half was buying the trade-in from the customer.

I learned that there were two different strategies salespeople used when people had trade ins. 

1. One strategy was 'alway ask what the customer wants' for their vehicle. 

Here's how the conversation would go:

Customer: "I like this new Pajero. How much will you give me for my Datsun 120Y?"

Salesperson: "How much do you want for it?"

Customer: "As much as I can get. What's it worth?"

Salesperson: "What do you think it's worth?"

Customer: "Four grand."

Salesperson: "FOUR GRAND! It's not worth that!"

Customer: "Well you tell me what it's worth."

It's an awkward conversation. The salesperson's head is done in because the car is only worth $250, but what's the customer supposed to say. He's essentially setting them up to lie to him. 

2. The other strategy was to 'never ask how much the person wants', and just tell the customer what the car is worth. 

Here's how the conversation would go:

Customer: "I like this new Pajero. How much will you give me for my Datsun 120Y?"

Salesperson: "Give me the keys and I'll get it valued."

Customer: "Thanks."

Salesperson: "I got it looked at. I can give you $250."

Customer: "Can you make it $350?"

Salesperson: "How about I give you a set of floor mats for your new car instead? They normally cost $150."

Customer: "Deal."

I learned to adopt the second approach. It's far less painful as a salesperson. You're not asking customers to lie to you, and the clients appreciate you just being straight up. 

But most salespeople would essentially ask the clients to lie to them, then complain that their clients were lunatics who thought their bunky cars were worth a million dollars. 


I am of the strong opinion that we do the same thing with politicians. We ask them to lie to us, we vote for the one with the best story, then we complain that politicians never keep their promises. 


Fast forward a decade and a half and I find myself interviewing politicians with a bunch of other journos. Then one day it dawns on me. We're ASKING these guys to lie to us. The entire political-media game is built around this charade where the media asks "What are you going to do about blah blah blah?" And then we publish whatever they tell us, with no financial training to be able to tell if their numbers add up. And we NEVER ask the question "and what services will you cut to be able to fund that?" Truth is, when journos are interviewing politicians, they feel super important, so it's rare to find one that will actually say "You're full of shit mate. Your numbers don't add up..." because he or she wants to be able to interview them the next time. 

Then the public picks which answers they like the most, vote, and some folks in suits form government. The can NEVER achieve their election promises, because it turns out no one has a crystal ball to predict iron ore prices, thus they can't predict tax income, thus they can't predict how much they'll even have to spend. 

And then three or four years later we do the entire thing all over again as if any promise uttered by a politician in the lead up to an election is even worth writing down. 

But I don't think we can blame the politicians. Nor can we really blame the media. Blaming those two groups is such a useless trope and it gets us nowhere. We click on the articles with the politician's promises. We ask the pollies how they're going to solve the world's problems and bring us inner happiness. And that needs to stop. 

Since when did it become the politician's and tax payer's job to fix everything in the world? Why is it even the government's job to decide who gets to marry who? Why do people in Canberra decide what we're allowed to smoke? Why are taxpayers responsible for funding everything from stadiums to home buyer incentives? How did it get like this?

It got like this because the only factors we consider when deciding who to vote for is "Who's going to promise ME the most stuff!"

But ask the average person on the street what the philosophical differences are between Liberal, Labor, and the Nats, and they couldn't tell you. 

Heck, even I could hardly tell you. 

"Well it's simple, Labor are more progressive, to the left, and Liberals are right wing. And the Nats are the same as the Liberals except in the country," I hear you explain. 

Oh really? If that were the case, you'd expect the Liberal party to be fiscally conservative, aiming to have a smaller government that does less "stuff", and believe in allowing private individuals to set their own destiny. Yet most of their members WANT to interfere in everyone's private life, have a say in who they should marry, they blow money like they just won lotto, and they've left WA in more debt that I can reasonably comprehend. That's at the end of a MINING BOOM! I'm not saying Labor could have done any better. I'm just saying "what the hell does the Liberal party actually stand for other than 'we're not Labor'?"

And don't get me started on the Labor party. What do they stand for exactly? Unions? Gay marriage? Are unions even a thing in 2017? More and more people are working for themselves and it seems Labor does more to hush their association with the unions than boast about it. They held power in Canberra for two terms and didn't say boo about gay marriage. And as soon as the right wing party comes in to power, anyone who doesn't support gay marriage is a homophobe. Give me strength. Heck, even Kevin oh seven got elected originally under the pretence that he was "fiscally conservative", and pundits more or less agreed that people voted for him because he was bassically a younger version of John Howard. Kevin oh seven's "fiscal conservatism" went flying out the window the moment the world's economy collapsed, and every school in Australia ended up with an overpriced building they didn't really need, and plasma TV sales went through the roof as anyone with a kid got $900 checks almost on a monthly basis. 

But like I said, we can only blame ourselves. 

We keep asking these guys to tell us stories. Tell us about the amazing hospital you're going to build. Tell us about how you're going to magically solve the meth problem. Tell us how you're going to somehow lower taxes, increase social welfare, create jobs, increase wages, grow businesses, fix the roads, stimulate new technology, cure cancer, reduce suicide, increase our life expectancy, improve our bank balance, reduce inflation, increase farmers' profits, reduce our grocery bill, support charities, keep us safe from all harm, make us fitter, happier, more productive...

What choice do they have? Would you vote for the candidate who tells you the truth?

Imaginary candidate: "Listen. Here's the truth. No one has any idea how to fix the meth problem. We're going to try 10 different things, measure the results, and replicate what works. But we can't promise anything. It's a worldwide epidemic, and smarter people than us are failing at it. Also, we have no idea what the world economy will look like in 12 months, or 2 years, or 3 years... so we can't promise to build anything. Here's a list of our priorities, but we don't know how far down the list we'll be able to get. And I've got some bad news. You're actually pretty wealthy with your $300,000 household income. I know you like to think you're an Aussie Battler, but you're really not. You're actually going to have to pay MORE tax than you are now if you want that new stadium. It's called maths. And why is it my job to decide who marries who? The Australian Government didn't invent marriage, so I'm not sure why we manage it. Talk to your priest or something, I don't care what you do with your life. I can't promise exactly what will happen in the future, but I can tell you what my guiding philosophy is, what my values are, and how I make decisions."

Well actually, I would vote for that candidate. 

A chat with our Mayor after one year in the job

IMG_0666.JPG

It's now been over 12 months since the people of Geraldton elected Shane Van Styn to the position of Mayor.

I had a chat with Mr Van Styn about the past year, the state of the union, as it were, and how he's finding the role of Mayor.

"One surprising thing for me has been the high regard that people hold for the office of the Mayor. It's extremely difficult to turn down attending an event or an opening."

"A casual thing that's changed is now having to get better dressed to go to Bunnings. Everyone likes to stop and have a chat about what's important to them in their city. Bunnings has gone from a 10 minute walk-in-walk-out to an hour or two job. Same as the supermarket. It's a small thing, but it's something that impacts you nearly every day."

So you shop online now?

"No! Shop local, buy local!" Shane bellowed cheerfully.

I was curious about the Mayor's background, and how he came to live in Geraldton and become Mayor. And I found the story rather surprising.

Shane is from the suburb of Gosnells in Perth's south east. He had just finished uni, and was heading north, past Geraldton, to visit some friends when his car broke down in Geraldton.

"I couldn't afford the tow truck at the time," said Shane. "So I swapped them for my car. I was forced to stay the night in Geraldton."

"In my last exam there was a guy from Geraldton, Christopher Quelch. And for some reason I wrote his phone number down on a pencil case. I had decided I was moving to Albany. I was moving to the country and had chosen Albany. And for whatever reason I took that pencil case with me (on the trip up north). So I had a phone number to ring. So he did a ring around for me. 'He's a good bloke, big fella, plays footy, does security, is an accountant, looking to move to the country.'"

"A couple of footy teams approached me and offered to sign me up. I got offered a job doing security work, and I got offered an accounting position in town. By the morning the real estate agent had come around to show me houses."

"I met some security guards that I knew, and got an accountant job in the now Town Towers."

So you have great memories of that place then?

"I remember very well getting stuck in the lift. It was the thing to do in Town Towers,"  Shane recalled, smiling.

"I was also there the day the toy store caught on fire. I came downstairs and they were surprised to see I was still there. They had forgotten to evacuate everyone upstairs."

Whoops.

"I said 'That's alright.'"

"As part of that trip to Geraldton, and this is why I'm so passionate about the verge pick up skip bins, I fitted out most of my utensils, furniture and appliances in my house by landing in Geraldton during the time of verge pickup. I went and scavenged. Got a chair, got a bed, toaster, vacuum, wok."

So you started at the bottom.

"On the bones of my ...."

"I originally said to Mum 'I'll be back in a year'. About a year after that I decided I'd hang around for a while. I don't think I ever made a conscious decision I'm staying here for good, it's just the way it's evolved. I certainly have no desire to leave, at all."

"Geraldton chose me, not the other way around."

From that humble beginning, albeit with an accounting degree in his pocket, Mr Van Styn became involved in a number of companies over the years, including Yamaji Mining and Civil, Westwood Accountants, Camel Bar, a night club, and has had roles in the community including president of the basketball association, Councillor, and of course now Mayor.

And for those paying attention, you'd know Mr Van Styn has tried entering state and federal politics also, as a candidate for the National Party.

Had politics always been an aspiration for Van Styn? In short, yes.

"Even as a young kid my Gran would tell me I should always be a politician the way I would debate issues. Her Father was a Labor upper house member in the Western Australian parliament."

So she had exposed you to the political world?

"Yeah. But she couldn't stand it. Ha."

But she still suggested you should be a politician?

"I don't think she was meaning it all positively," Shane says, smiling.

I laughed at the thought of an old lady sarcastically telling an argumentative little Shane he should be a politician, meant as a gentle criticism, but becoming a prophesy.

"Even in primary school and in early high school I used to go and visit the local member and have a chat."

Shane also spoke of being involved with 'guild tickets' at Curtin Uni, student clubs, and other activities that would lay the foundation for aspirations in the political world.

Once Shane was settled in Geraldton, he became one of the regular letter writers into the paper.

"So you had people like me vs Olly Wrenstead, Jack Simpson, Jim Du Boulay... they were some of the regular letter writer inners, and I became one of them. I started going to council meetings and challenging the status quo, as a member of the public."

Shane reflected on how he was similar to the folk who regularly appear now at Council meetings, challenging himself and Council.

"John Sewell, who was on council at the time, one day said to me 'Look Shane, you're showing up here all the time, giving us a hassle. Put your money where your mouth is, put up or shut up.' I can't remember the exact phrase, but something like that. 'A couple of us aren't standing, there's a couple of spots.' And I thought 'He's right there. He's extremely right. If you think you can do a better job, then stand.'"

"So I did."

Thus Shane Van Styn became a councillor.

So how did Shane Van Styn end up with the National Party and running for state and federal parliament?

"So I was sitting there in my offices at Yamaji Mining and Civil and Grant Woodhams came and knocked on the door, with my mate Gerry Gould from Geraldton Hydraulics. They asked to have a word, and said 'Would you mind running for the National Party in the upcoming state election?' They put forward their case. I thought about it. Brendan Grylls rang me. Few other people rang us. At the time I rang Ian Blayney to say "I'm actually thinking about this."

Previously Shane had been a member of the Liberal party. He says he had tried to engage them, but hadn't had any success getting to a conference or making it into the inner circle. "But the National Party was the exact opposite," says Shane. "They couldn't do enough for you. They invited me to all their conferences, gave me a chance to meet people and speak. So that was that. Had a run, obviously didn't make it. Then the Federal election came up. They said 'Would you run against Barry Haase? Shane, your posters are still up. You've just run an election. We've got no money. Haase is going to win. We just want a name on the ticket.'"

"Just a name on a ticket. Political parties do it all the time. They just want a name on the ticket, it helps them get electoral funding."

Shane said it was also close to the upcoming local government elections, thus he was able to quit his position at council without triggering a by-election.

I can remember at ABC on a Friday, Glenn asking me, 'Shane, really what would it take for you to win?' And I said 'Barry Haase would have to retire.'"

"Then Saturday morning, phone rang about 7:30 in the morning, it was Barnaby Joyce, and he says 'Shane, Barnaby! Have you heard Barry Haase has retired?' I went 'What?' I thought he was joking. But then why would Barnaby be ringing me at 7:30 in the morning? But if he's ringing my personal phone it's serious. Then Alex McKinnon from the Guardian rang, and then it was on."

"It was quite late in the election cycle, so at that point I was the only profile candidate announced in Durack."

There was a big swing toward the National Party at that election, but Van Styn would ultimately come up short, after Labor gave their preferences to the Liberals instead of the Nats.

Shane was pragmatic in reflecting on the two losses. "In terms of losing, I came second. If Palmer United hadn't spent so much money I would have won. If Labor hadn't given their preferences to Liberal, I would have won. But not with the State election. Ian Blayney won that fair and square."

Is Ian Blayney going to win the next State Election?

"The next state election is going to be incredibly tight. I honestly can't pick it. But I acknowledge that it will be harder for Paul (Brown, Nationals) to win it than it would be for Ian to lose it."

Shane was pretty dismissive of Labor's chances of winning however. "When you look at the last election, Liberal and Nationals primary vote was 70%. Labor can't win. Unless the National party decides to do a preference deal with Labor, and Labor getting ahead of the Nats. That's the only way I see Labor being with any reasonable prospect of winning."

Following the Federal election, Van Styn put his hat back in the ring for Councillor with the City of Greater Geraldton. This was the year 'City of Greater Geraldton Ratepayers Demand Change' endorsed a number of candidates, Shane being one of them.

"Not officially," said Shane, when questioned about the endorsement. "But I was one of three people that voted against it (the massive rate increase of 2012 that birthed CGG Ratepayers Demand Change). 

The other two councillors to vote against that now infamous rate hike were Jerry Clune and Bob Ramage.

Are you proud now that you voted against that 27% rate rise?

"It was more than just voting against 27% rate rise per se. The principle of what we were arguing about, particularly me and Bob, was the need for expenditure restraint. If we were running an incredibly lean and mean operation, skin and bones, it could be put forward that we needed a 27% rate rise to build infrastructure that everybody wants; if rates were at record lows (compared) to everybody else, you could make the argument. So it wasn't the 27% rate rise per se. The context of us having a woefully bloated administration, and THEN a 27% rate rise, was way too much. So we had two arguments. We thought we were too big and bloated ALREADY, even without the 27% rate rise. The two combined was utter madness. And rate payers... well, unfortunately Bob Ramage got chucked out in the election. That was the election where I was the only one that was returned."

Becoming Mayor

From talking to you, you seem to have a lot of regard for Mr Carpenter, (the former Mayor), even though you disagree on several things. How did you feel running against him?

"I used to discuss this occasionally with Neil (McIlwaine, Deputy Mayor at CGG). At the time I wasn't comfortable running against Ian. I have a lot of regard and respect for Ian. That being said, there were some significant disagreements... the size of the city operation, and the rate rise for one... and look, that was by and large all we ever really disagreed on."

"It wasn't an easy decision, but then I saw Rob Jefferies nominate, and start to get traction, you know, a bit of utilisation of social media and the like. Rob was also one of the former CEO's of the city, and we're still paying off those investments from back then. The administration grew under that as well, the financial structure deficits that we have... Everyone was telling me they want change, someone new. We saw Shane Hill stand. Again, he'd been elected as a Labor member, wasn't new, and Gavin Hirschhausen, who at the time I had no knowledge of. So as time went on people told me 'You should run, you should run.' In the end it wasn't easy. I chatted to Neil McIlwain about it, I asked if he was going to run, he elected not to, so, after enough people asking me to run, and that was a big part of it, I elected to run for Mayor."

Would you have run if Neil had run?

"Can't answer that. I don't know."

Shane spoke highly of Neil McIlwaine, the deputy Mayor. Neil is someone a lot of the Councillors go to for advice, and everyone holds in high regard.

So you won the Mayorship. There would have been a lot of sad faces as the person who was their boss for the last eight years was suddenly gone.

"I think there was a lot of sad faces in there, I think it's fair to say that we're fairly different characters. So there was probably an element of 'What have we got ourselves into?' when I came here, and I actually take great comfort that people would tell me that to my face. And not in any way derogatorily... I mean, I'm a pretty open guy and people seem to feel pretty comfortable telling me what they think, one way or the other."

"So I think the most important thing you can do after winning an election is winning over the naysayers, those who didn't vote for you... and look, we went straight to work into what ratepayers wanted. Within weeks we got rid of tip fees. That was the number one thing people spoke to me about."

Shane talked about what he wants as far as the City's fiscal position goes.

"I want to be breaking even as quickly as we can. I want to see the city in surplus, and currently our long term financial plan has that set for four years time. I think that quite comfortably we can beat that."

Does that fiscal conservatism come from your time in business or is that a philosophy you held prior to that?

"The initial part of my fiscal conservatism is probably that I grew up in a low income household. So we didn't have much, but yet we had plenty. Never went hungry, got to go on a holiday once a year. Lived in a small house, in the wrong suburb, in the wrong part of town, yet we had a great upbringing. So you learn to appreciate what you've got."

Shane reflected on how his upbringing trained him to live within his financial means, and how that translates into his role in local government.

"I think too often local government, because it's not your money, you don't apply the same level of rigour in the decision making process. So I treat every ratepayer dollar as if it was a dollar I paid, and if I didn't spend it, it's a dollar I don't have to pay."

Your differentiation when you were running for Mayor was 'We're the city, we shouldn't try to be everything. We shouldn't be trying to put a man on the moon, we're just the city of Geraldton.'

Do you feel like you've been able to execute some of that?

"That's a great analogy, because that's exactly how it was. Getting back to basics. Get back to the business of being government. We were putting a man on the moon, trying to do this and that... they're great aspirations to have, but how do you intend on attracting record tourist levels if your own residents don't think it's a nice place to go for a walk on the weekend?"

"If you can't keep the residents entertained from time to time, how do you intend on attracting people from other regions to come and spend time here? So you've got to get your house in order. The 'roads, rates and rubbish' argument for local government, and there's a couple of other r's these days; recreation, we're responsible for entertaining everyone these days, and of course regulation. We bust you for smoking and lock up your dog."

"The election result was so strong that it sent a message that this is actually what the community wanted."

"When you have a ward system, there's actually only one person who gets voted on by the whole of the city, and that's the Mayor."

"So, I reluctantly use the word 'mandate', Ken (Diehm, CGG CEO) hates me using that word, but if there was any mandate to be drawn it's just to get back to basics. People are tired of rate rises, for what they saw as frivolous things, stuff that we shouldn't be involved in, so I've been able to bring other councillors along, and collectively we've been able to achieve that."

Van Styn put the emphasis on collectively, as though to remind everyone he's not railroading changes through, but decisions are being made by the whole of council.

Let's talk about tourism.

"Tourism is incredibly important. We spent a little bit of money on the dump point at Francis St Jetty, and see how rampant that got overnight, RV's and caravans are everywhere."

"Now we've had to put Rangers down there so it's not full of people camping."

"Just that little investment showed us how fruitful it can be. A cruise ship was here today. Those little investments we've made with some shelters and some shade around the place is bringing them ashore. It's been phenomenal. What it will do is it will drive us to improve accommodation, Town Towers and the like."

"Tourism is also about your family members that might live in Perth coming to visit. Tourism is about people who might be 4 or 5 hundred kilometres away, might be in the Wheatbelt, coming here. We associate tourism with inbound foreign tourists, and that's good, but the overwhelming majority, over 80% of our tourists, are actually from Perth."

"So focusing on tourism will mean more cafes, more accommodation. One of the things about being a tourist town is you actually create more stuff for locals. As you beautify your town to attract tourists... you actually have a beautiful town to live in. Win-win."

Shane spoke a little of the branding issues we still have in Geraldton. "We don't know if we're the Batavia Coast, Coral Coast, Turquoise Coast, Sun City, Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough, Greater Geraldton, Geraldton-Greenough-Mullewa, who knows? Golden Outback, Mid West, Mid West with two words, Midwest as one word. We can't even agree how to spell Midwest! This is how diabolical it is."

It's definately two words.

"One word," argued Shane, which only served to prove his point.

"As we've tried to work out how we're going to handle the branding we've engaged consultants, looked at reports, looked at migration reports, looked at visitor perception surveys, put some science behind it, how we're perceived in the market, and benchmark that against other places we either want to be like or consider ourselves on par with. It's all great to say 'We don't know what we call ourselves,' or 'we can't find crayfish,' or 'It's great because we've got some wind and sand.' Let's actually put some data behind it. Then you look at what that tells you and you relay that to the businesses and say 'How would you fix these issues?' They come up with the ideas, and only then do we start. And I see radical change coming in that space as we get tourists together under the banner of Progress Mid West, a soon-to-be-in-existence economic development unit, a stand alone enterprise that's not a lobbying or representative group per se, it's an economic development agency outside of council so it can move at the speed of business rather than the speed of government."

And tourism will be in its portfolio.

"We've spent a lot of time singing kumbaya at council, it's time to get down to implementation."

What else has happened in the Mayor's first year?

One Night Stand

One Night Stand was a massive coup for Geraldton. Thousands of visitors descended on our city for Triple J's annual massive regional concert event, the One Night Stand. 15,000 people were at the event. Apart from being a fantastic night out with performances from Boy and Bear, Urthboy, Alison Wonderland, Bernard Fanning, and locals Alex the Kid... plenty of money was raised for local charities and community groups.

"That came from the Mayor talking to a bloke on Facebook! Through my Mayor page."

Geraldton was originally nominated by a local resident who then reached out to the Mayor. "Never met the guy. Brad Gundlach. He contacted me through my Mayor page. So I'm the first Mayor on Facebook. And we communicated that way. And we got in touch with Triple J that way, and then had Ken and our city team get together and they went and put together the proposal and got it across the line. So that was social media working for good."

"We had to move fast. Decisions had to be made. Budgets had to be "interpreted". And you had to keep it all secret. But we got it done."

Shane spoke of the economic benefits in the community too. "Within an hour of the announcement from Triple J about One Night Stand, every hotel room was booked. The economic benefits of all of that were huge. Little Athletics had about 400 campsites. I think they raised about 40 or 50 thousand dollars for the night. Probably more money than they'd raised in three or four years. Towns football club made $6000 selling cans of drink. $20,000 for headspace. And it flows through (the local economy) massively."

Sport

"We've had the Wildcats playing a pre season game. And we're pitching for an AFL preseason game early next year."

Shane also mentioned the Stand Up Paddle Boarding event, Open Water Swimming Challenge, BMX state rounds, and polocrosse.

Improving people's opinion of Geraldton

"The best form of marketing is not TV ads. It's about getting them here and them taking a look around. 'Cause everyone's sort of been here once. 'I drove through once. Yeah I pulled in there for fuel and it was crap.' You know? You've got to get people here. And the way to get people here is to run events that drag people here. So attracting people with large concerts, large sporting events... all these events that bring people up and they see it. And that is how you boost tourism. You get the word on the street. 'Yeah I've been there for myself. I've seen it. I've tasted the food. I've walked down the street. I've been to the foreshore. I've been to the memorial. I've looked at the wildflowers.' That is how you improve the state's perception of the city. What Geraldton people need to do is lift their positive outlook of the City. Part of that is getting back to basics. And providing the footpaths and the trees, parks, and all the stuff that they need. Including putting playground equipment back."

Shane started recalling a conversation he had. "'GO AND FIND THE BUDGET AND PUT THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT BACK!'"

He was referring to the large number of parks that had their play equipment removed without being replaced, prior to him being Mayor.

"I think it's fair to say we're a lot more engaged with the community now than we have been. I think we're held in a lot higher regard. We've listened to the community and become community led, which is how we should be."

Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Mayor Van Styn flanked by CGG CEO Ken Diehm.  

Council and the future

What's your relationship like with the other councillors?

"Really good, I get along with all the councillors."

Even the Mullewa ones? There was bit of a thing earlier in the year.

"Look, Mullewa councillors are passionate about their community. I think when councillors are in disagreement with each other are often at their best."

If you were to ask anyone on the street what ward they're in they couldn't tell you. Except the Mullewa people. Do you support the Ward System broadly, or would you support changing that?

"I think we have too many councillors."

Why?

"Because we could save the city some money. If we halved the number of councillors we'd probably save a quarter million a year. But that's an issue for council to debate, the public to comment on. Part of that is 'Do we have wards, do we not have wards, do we have more wards, less wards?' I know that when people used to contact me they'd look up the phone number on the website and then they'd go to the ward that was relevant and go 'You're my ward councillor, etc.' Happens all the time. I think there's an appetite to review whether the ward system should happen or not."

"The complication is Mullewa. Under the current implementation, Mullewa ward councillors exist at the discretion of the Minister. It expires in 2019. Because wards are supposed to be 'one vote - one value'. But they get two councilllors for 500 electors. Tarcoola has two councillors for 5800 electors. It's not even close to 'one vote - one value'. So in 2019, applying the principles as it stands in the local government act, there will be no more Mullewa Councillors. So let's start getting our heads around what that looks like, what's going to happen."

"And this is why I want to have these conversations. As council we should be talking about what we're going to be doing next year, in two years, in five years. And not sitting there having round tables, you know, about old mate's driveway or old mate's shed. I mean issues will come up. But what we should be doing as council is working on policies or local laws that prevent these things from happening ever again. How do we set a policy strategy, how do we set a direction that will guide us into the future, so that whenever there's a lime sand mine again, it's dealt with here? We don't have to keep having public unrest, marches, petitions. Generally petitions and marches only ever happen when you haven't set your policy framework correct."

Do you think in the future in will make sense for Chapman Valley to join the City of Greater Geraldton?

Shane paused and chuckled. There's a bit of history over this now delicate topic.

"There are no plans at the moment..." Shane began to respond in a predictable, politically sensitive manner.

"I don't think there's an appetite for Geraldton residents to consume any of Chapman Valley, and vice versa."

I pressed him a little more.

But as a business man, on paper, do you think it make sense?

"On paper as a business man I would suggest west of the Moresby Ranges, particularly places like Park Falls and the like, would be better suited to being in Geraldton. I mean they're essentially an urban suburb. They live and work in Geraldton. They consume the City of Geraldton's resources. Is the rural part of Chapman Valley suitable for being in the City of Greater Geraldton? ... You'd view how successful the integration of Mullewa was with Geraldton. On paper there'd be an argument. But you'd need to look at what financial impact it had on the Shire if you took out the residential rate payers; would it make them unsustainable? So look, there's got to be discussions in that space going forward, but there's no timeframe at the moment. My focus at the moment is financial sustainability of our own city. Let's get our own house in order first, before we can even entertain the idea of taking on more."

What do you say to local businesses out there that are doing it tough?

"It's not a Geraldton thing. This is what happens too often, be it crime, economic downturn. Too many of the overly public social media types think we just live in this little silo, and the problems that we face in Geraldton are unique to us, and no one else has this."

"Nothing could be further from the truth. If you go to other towns, cities, around the state, they all claim to have the worst ice problem. They'll claim to have the worst crime. They'll have their own Facebook group that reckons it's hell on earth. Every suburb. Every town, has those."

FullSizeRender.jpg

"So what I tell business people is... My job as Mayor is to try and be positive, a confident message and a confident vision, for our city... to never talk the place down. And I wouldn't talk it down because I love the place. Hence I'm the Mayor. But the way I talk about things is in practical examples. If Woolworths is building a Supermarket in Wandina, they don't invest that sort of money unless their demographers and their economists who do this nation wide, the best people in the land, say 'this is a good place to do it.'"

"And what is the key factor to determine where a good place is? Population growth. That's what they're looking for."

"You've got Aldi and Dan Murphy's trying to come to Geraldton... I know they're multi nationals, and I know it's about buying local. I get that, I do. But what you need to do is look at these enterprises using significant resources doing demographic studies before they decide to invest, and they're looking at coming here. The development approvals at the City are at I think the second highest on record for the last financial year. That's not building applications, that's dollar value. These are big numbers, these are big times. This year we're going to see Beresford Foreshore, Olive Street, Town Towers..."

In conclusion

So a year has now passed with Shane Van Styn in the chair. There are policy changes evident at the City of Greater Geraldton, which City staff and Geraldton residents have mixed feelings about. It will certainly be interesting to see how the next few years play out, and if CGG can balance the books while improving tourism and providing the services we all want.

Shane Van Styn sees the big outcome of his first year as Mayor as the delivery of the Growth Plan for the City of Greater Geraldton.

But we've all seen plans before. The next challenge will be executing said plan.

Watch this space.

A sad day: Geraldton's favourite bin man is retiring

As a little kid, there's nothing more exciting than the noise of the rubbish bin truck approaching your home. You rush to the front door, and go outside to watch a huge machine with its claw arm grab your wheelie bin and pour out the contents. It then lowers the bin, and you look at the driver thinking he must be the happiest person in the world. 

Then that driver smiles at you, and waves. This makes the moment even more special, and you look forward to repeating the ritual next week. 

This was my routine as a child, and it became all three of my sons' routine each week. And we were super fortunate to have one of the best drivers ever service our homes in Geraldton. 

You've probably seen him around too. 

Zatie. 

Perhaps you remember a very popular post on Everything Geraldton a year or so ago, thanking him for going the extra mile. 


Zatie's employers spotted all the comments, and made sure he had a small thank you. 

Everything Geraldton has just been informed that Zatie is retiring this week from ToxFree, who currently handle the waste management in Geraldton. 

On behalf of myself and my sons, and the Geraldton community, thank you for your years of service and being a great ambassador for our community. 

The Intellectual Yet Idiot

Written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taken from Skin in the Game (link)

Editor's note: I've long been a fan of Taleb, the philosopher, author and trader. His commentary on risk analysis, journalists, scientism, tail risk, anti-fragility, probability, and many other things has helped me develop a more critical eye when consuming media, dealing with politicians, and interacting with bureaucrats. Perhaps his most well known book is Black Swan. 

He was one of the very few people who consistently criticised those in the media and political scene who confidently predicted Hillary Clinton would win the US presidential election. Not because he necessarily betted on Trump, but because of sound mathematical reasoning when predicting a binary outcome. 

While the following piece was originally published well before the aforementioned election, it's points speak well to the collective freakout that has occurred since the Trump victory. 


The Intellectual Yet Idiot

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats who feel entitled to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. They cant tell science from scientism — in fact in their eyes scientism looks more scientific than real science. (For instance it is trivial to show the following: much of what the Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types — those who want to “nudge” us into some behavior — much of what they would classify as “rational” or “irrational” (or some such categories indicating deviation from a desired or prescribed protocol) comes from their misunderstanding of probability theory and cosmetic use of first-order models.) They are also prone to mistake the ensemble for the linear aggregation of its components as we saw in the chapter extending the minority rule.

The Intellectual Yet Idiot is a production of modernity hence has been accelerating since the mid twentieth century, to reach its local supremum today, along with the broad category of people without skin-in-the-game who have been invading many walks of life. Why? Simply, in most countries, the government’s role is between five and ten times what it was a century ago (expressed in percentage of GDP). The IYI seems ubiquitous in our lives but is still a small minority and is rarely seen outside specialized outlets, think tanks, the media, and universities — most people have proper jobs and there are not many openings for the IYI.

Beware the semi-erudite who thinks he is an erudite. He fails to naturally detect sophistry.

The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”. What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences. While rich people believe in one tax dollar one vote, more humanistic ones in one man one vote, Monsanto in one lobbyist one vote, the IYI believes in one Ivy League degree one-vote, with some equivalence for foreign elite schools and PhDs as these are needed in the club.

More socially, the IYI subscribes to The New Yorker. He never curses on twitter. He speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver (again, no real skin in the game as the concept is foreign to the IYI). Those in the U.K. have been taken for a ride by Tony Blair. The modern IYI has attended more than one TEDx talks in person or watched more than two TED talks on Youtube. Not only will he vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable and some such circular reasoning, but holds that anyone who doesn’t do so is mentally ill.

The IYI has a copy of the first hardback edition of The Black Swan on his shelves, but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence. He believes that GMOs are “science”, that the “technology” is not different from conventional breeding as a result of his readiness to confuse science with scientism.

Typically, the IYI get the first order logic right, but not second-order (or higher) effects making him totally incompetent in complex domains. In the comfort of his suburban home with 2-car garage, he advocated the “removal” of Gadhafi because he was “a dictator”, not realizing that removals have consequences (recall that he has no skin in the game and doesn’t pay for results).

The IYI has been wrong, historically, on Stalinism, Maoism, GMOs, Iraq, Libya, Syria, lobotomies, urban planning, low carbohydrate diets, gym machines, behaviorism, transfats, freudianism, portfolio theory, linear regression, Gaussianism, Salafism, dynamic stochastic equilibrium modeling, housing projects, selfish gene, Bernie Madoff (pre-blowup) and p-values. But he is convinced that his current position is right.

The IYI is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist he uses statistics without knowing how they are derived (like Steven Pinker and psycholophasters in general); when in the UK, he goes to literary festivals; he drinks red wine with steak (never white); he used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; he takes statins because his doctor told him to do so; he fails to understand ergodicity and when explained to him, he forgets about it soon later; he doesn’t use Yiddish words even when talking business; he studies grammar before speaking a language; he has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; he has never read Frederic Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, Amianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadiah Gaon, or Joseph De Maistre; he has never gotten drunk with Russians; he never drank to the point when one starts breaking glasses (or, preferably, chairs); he doesn’t even know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba (which in Brooklynese is “can’t tell sh**t from shinola”); he doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual” in the absence of skin in the game; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past five years in conversations that had nothing to do with physics.

He knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: he doesn’t even deadlift.

Not a IYI

Not a IYI


Postscript

From the reactions to this piece, I discovered that the IYI has difficulty, when reading, in differentiating between the satirical and the literal.

PostPostcript

The IYI thinks this criticism of IYIs means “everybody is an idiot”, not realizing that their group represents, as we said, a tiny minority — but they don’t like their sense of entitlement to be challenged and although they treat the rest of humans as inferiors, they don’t like it when the waterhose is turned to the opposite direction (what the French call arroseur arrosé). (For instance, Richard Thaler, partner of the dangerous GMO advocate Übernudger Cass Sunstein, interpreted this piece as saying that “there are not many non-idiots not called Taleb”, not realizing that people like him are < 1% or even .1% of the population.)


Reproduced with permission. 

Please stop abusing staff who ask you for ID

IMG_1494.JPG

Everything Geraldton received a letter this week from a concerned parent. It essentially stated that a local deli has been selling cigarettes to minors, including their own daughter. The author allegedly sent her daughter in to buy cigarettes to test the deli out, and they them to her. It's been reported to the authorities, who hopefully are investigating. 

But the letter reminded me of my own experience working at a servo in Geraldton several years ago. I had the unenviable task of guessing people's age who wanted to purchase tobacco products. 

Almost every time someone who looked quite young was asked by myself for their ID, they would get abusive. I have no idea why, but it was almost always women. The guys seemed quite chill about it.  

On several occasions, the abusive female would reluctantly show her ID, flabbergasted that anyone could think she was potentially 17, only to show she was barely 18. I would point out how close to 18 she was, nevertheless she would remain offended that I didn't think she looked 25.  

One time the woman was 18 by 2 days. 2 DAYS! And STILL she was abusive towards me for daring to ask for her ID.  

Fortunately, I had a wonderful boss at the time, who basically said if anyone treats you that way, don't serve them at all. It gave me no end of pleasure to kick them out of the store empty handed. I just wasn't paid enough to deal with their crap. 

Another time a young woman who couldn't present her ID and left angry hurling insults at me came back with a man claiming to be her husband. He in turn started abusing me for not selling his wife cigarettes, presented his own ID, and demanded cigarettes. Of course, I kicked them both out. 

But I realised then what a difficult job selling tobacco products is. I'll be honest, many people I see selling cigarettes are young, and may not have the strength of character to want to square up with abusive teenagers and young adults all day long, who act incensed that you don't think they look like a retiree.

If ya'll could chill out and just take it as a compliment that you look young or something, that would be great.  

Regarding the "clowns" in Geraldton

IMG_0551.JPG

Everything Geraldton has received a number of questions from community members somewhat concerned as to whether or not the media hyped "clowns" are in Geraldton. Is there a group of people in Geraldton wandering around trying to scare the daylights out of people dressed as clowns? 

First, I agree clowns are quite creepy. Whoever thought they were an appropriate way to entertain children was on some decent acid.  

But, Geraldton folk predominantly aren't like our metro counterparts. We go fishing, camping... and hunting. 

Can you imagine what a Hilux full of Gero lads would do if they spotted someone lurking around in a clown costume trying to scare people? They certainly wouldn't run away scared. Let me tell you, I'd be more concerned for the wellbeing of the clown. They're more likely to hog tie them and leave them at the cop shop than run away scared (that's if the clown is lucky). 

In my opinion, there's very little chance anyone would be willing to risk their life at the moment by going outside in anything resembling a clown costume. Heck, if Maccas had Ronald McDonald visit for the day I'd suggest he get body guards. 

Some numbskull thought it would be funny to start a Geraldton clown page, and from this a few people have actually become concerned for their safety.  

But if the people who started the page had any idea about how the law actually works, they'd realise their anonymity is far from assured.

If you make a threat to break the law, or do something to cause people to fear for their well being, the Police are within their rights to get a court order for Facebook and your ISP to hand over identifying information. And Facebook are only all too willing to comply.  

Some people are treating this like a joke, some think it's a marketing stunt for the new Stephen King "IT" movie coming soon, some think it's serious and they need to hide their kids. 

But seriously, if you think you're being funny walking around in a scary clown costume now, you clearly have a death wish.   

 

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg
There are two types of people. Guess which one Gero people are.  

There are two types of people. Guess which one Gero people are.  

Update. Geraldton Police say they've received reports of people driving around dressed as clowns intimidating other drivers. 

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

A sad day for Geraldton - Senses sign gone as it's too offensive

Yesterday, Senses Cafe announced their much beloved sign is saying goodbye, as it is considered "offensive". The hashtags in the post tell us how they feel about it. 


Everything Geraldton receives some stupid complaints. Believe me. 

We usually just shake our heads and hit 'archive'.

But I'll never forget the day we received our first complaint about the Senses cafe sign. It was in May of this year, and Senses, as is their custom, had a little joke for people to enjoy while sipping their coffee. It was a joke about how people say they hate Crocs (the sandals), but seeing the company was worth $2billion, some of you "sonsabitches" must be lying. 

I shook my head when I saw the complaint. This is what it read:

"I wanted to have breakfast at Senses this morning but was too taken aback by their kerbside sign displaying profanity! I spoke to the Manager who was patronising and dismissive and told me there was nothing wrong with it and 'each to their own'.
I love a laugh as much as anyone but my kids deserve better than to be over inundated with profanity when the English language is so rich with other more eloquent and expressive options.
I had to make a formal complaint to Centre Management and yet I still doubt it will change anything.
Since when did it become ok to do that? If I went I the shop and said "I would like to order breakfast, b!tches" it wouldn't be acceptable now would it!
Work on your Customer Service Geraldton, it's downright disgraceful"

That's right folks. This person felt the need to go to centre management to complain about a joke about crocs because it had the word "sonsabitches", and then request that EG share the complaint to our tens of thousands of readers. 

I get that you probably don't call your daughter a bitch. 

But fun fact: Lots of millennials call each other "bitch" in much the same way that a 70 year old man would slap his mate on the back and say "how's it goin' you ol' bastard?!" Does he literally mean "how are you, you who are aged and conceived out of wedlock"? No. Is he using the term "bastard" to convey an insult or slur? No. It's the English language. It evolves. Words have multiple meanings in different contexts. 

If you're offended by that, you're the one with the problem, not the 70 year old Vietnam vet talking to his mate. 

I often use my wife as a barometer to see if things are over the line, so I showed her the photo with the Crocs joke. She laughed and nodded muttering "so true, so true". Then I read the complaint to her. She was as shocked as I was that someone was so petty that they felt the need to complain about this joke.

I put off responding to the complainer for a few weeks as I knew if I shared her thoughts she'd probably be crucified by our readers anyway. 


What's so bad about swearing anyway?

A few weeks ago I was walking along with my eight year old, and we overheard someone swearing. My son pointed it out to me, knowing it's not behaviour we normally encourage. 

I sat him down, and bought him a juice. "Ezra, there's something I need to tell you about swearing," I said. 

He looked at me, as though he already knew that swearing was bad, and he didn't need to have it explained further. 

"There's nothing technically wrong with swearing. I've taught you not to say certain words, because there are some people who live among us who are upset when they hear those words. But lots of people aren't offended by those words at all, and they don't have a problem using them. And there's nothing wrong with people who swear. You're not better than them if you don't swear. What's more important than whether you swear or not is what's in your heart, and how you treat people."

I gave him an example. 

"If you said to your little brother, 'Israel, I think you are a horrible person, you are not smart, you're ugly, and I will be happy when you die,' you haven't technically sworn have you?" 

"No," said Ezra. 

"But you were horrible to your brother, and you made him feel really bad about himself, didn't you?"

Ezra nodded. He could see where I was going with it. 

"But if you walked in and said 'Israel you effing legend, that was effing brilliant!' you've just sworn, haven't you?" He nodded, eyes narrowing. "But you've actually been really nice to him!"

He asked a couple of questions, then explained it back to me. He understood.

I don't care if my son "swears" or not to be honest, I care that he's kind to people. I explained a little about our culture, how you still need to watch the words you choose depending on the company you're in, and he seemed to get it. 

And now my eight year old understands the point of not swearing. He hasn't started swearing or anything. But he's not going to grow up with some narrow minded binary idea that specific words are intrinsically bad or good. I'd rather he understood we all have the power to make others feel good or bad with our words. Some words were perhaps originally created to hurt people. But words often get co-opted for a different purpose. And if they're making people happy, who cares?

And that's why I can't understand why someone felt the need to complain about the Senses sign. Clearly, these staff members are going above and beyond the call of duty to make people smile while they sip their lattes. They're putting a little bit of happiness into Geraldton each day through that sign. It's become something people look for. It should probably be heritage listed. That sign added value to the entire Northgate shopping complex. 

For Senses to then be attacked by self righteous zealots who are so insulated from the real world that they lack the common decency just to shrug and keep walking if they don't like the joke, is crazy.

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 11.01.23 PM.png

I'm sure the person who lodged the complaint with centre management thought that's what Jesus would want them to do.

After complaining about that sign, did they make sure the news agency stopped selling pornography? Then did they make sure centre management stopped Coles from selling the local paper with prostitute ads next to kindergarten enrolment notices? Then did they complain to the fashion stores for all the sexually suggestive posters? Of course not. They knew the most pressing matter they needed to deal with that day was a joke with the word 'bitches' in it.

The problem with this brand of religious zealotry is its inconsistency and hypocrisy. 

If the standard for removing something is "I'm offended", then society will never try anything new.

Life would be boring if we only created art and products that were guaranteed never to offend.

Having grown up in churches I know these "offended" people well. They are professionally offended, all the time. If the pastor hasn't offended them by saying something they disagree with, then they're offended that Janice didn't give them enough eye contact on Sunday. They're offended that the new guy sat in their seat at church. They're offended that kids don't play in the street any more. Then they're offended that there are too many kids in their street playing Pokemon Go.  They're offended that the local coffee shop didn't have their exact same sense of humour. These people usually need to go and get a job, stop being busy bodies, stop getting their thrills off of killing other people's fun, learn how people in the real world actually live, and stop being shocked that some people see the world differently to them. 

If people changed the question they asked themselves from "does that offend me?" to "is that hurting anyone?" maybe we wouldn't be wasting so much time banning signs, debating marriage equality and fighting to remove criminal conviction records for people who were gay in the 70's. 

But to Senses Cafe, for all the wonderful signs over the years, thank you. 

And here's some funny street art we spotted the other day in town. Please don't be offended.

This intersection is deadly

image.jpg

To be clear, if drivers never made mistakes there'd be no accidents here.  

But they don't. Humans make mistakes. Our brains make our bodies do dumb things. Whatever. There's no point trying to make 10,000 drivers magically get better at driving. This intersection needs fixing.

I'm talking about the North West Coastal Highway and Hosken St intersection in Bluff Point.   

As I cruised North along NWCH last night, a truck next to me in the left lane turned left into Hosken. A black commodore turning right out of Hosken St decided to pull onto the NWCH despite not having superpowers that allowed them to see through trucks. 

I nearly T boned them.  

The worst thing is this isn't the first time this has happened to me there.  

I probably avoided the accident because I was wary that some idiot would pull out.

And running Everything Geraldton for the last 4 years I've reported way too many car accidents at this intersection for my liking. 

To Ian Blayney and Dean Nalder - Please get this intersection improved ASAP. 

In the mean time, if you can't see if the road is clear, for the love of God don't pull out.  

image.jpg

5 reasons you should keep getting the Geraldton Guardian

Newspaper sales have fallen dramatically around Australia in recent years, and our local Guardian has not been immune to the changes in how we all consume content. 

Even though Everything Geraldton may compete in some ways with the Geraldton Guardian, I honestly believe Geraldton is better served if said newspaper continues does well. 

Here are some of the reasons I believe you will benefit from buying our local paper.  


1. Public notices

They may be the most boring part of the paper, but I think they're the most important.

Why?

When a local government WANTS to get the word out about something, they will send a press release or public notice to all media, usually including Everything Geraldton. 

I'm grateful for this. EG wants to help locals stay informed about what's happening in their community. Many people who never read the paper, including young people, are now far more connected and informed.

Sometimes the City will even pay Everything Geraldton to promote or publish something. This too is very helpful for us in terms of paying our staff and continuing operating. We think we're pretty good at getting information out to the Geraldton public. And we're super grateful for support from the CGG. 

But when the council HAS to put something out to the public, but doesn't necessarily WANT a lot of feedback, I've noticed they just purchase an ad in the public notices section of a paper. 

They are legally obligated to do this much of the time.

While I'm sure there's nothing malicious happening behind the scenes, I do believe that for much of the general public, only putting a public notice in a newspaper essentially makes it invisible. I don't think I know anyone under the age of 35 who even buys the paper with any regularity. 

Here's a recent example. I've seen no hoo-ha or press release about it, despite it potentially having a massive impact on our city. 

There were a number of complaints when the Jaffle Shack opened on the foreshore, saying that others weren't given the opportunity to put a business on the most prime piece of real estate in Geraldton. Now the city can technically say they have given everyone the opportunity. All you had to do was be one of the few people that buy the Guardian twice a week and always checked the public notices section. 

In fact, each time there's a public outcry about a decision the city makes, I have heard: "We published a public notice in a newspaper and very few people responded."

So until the laws change to better reflect how people actually get information in 2016, it's incumbent upon us, the general public, to keep an eye on the public notices in our local papers. 


2. Journalists.

The Geraldton Guardian employs a small team of journalists who put effort into chasing up stories. 

It's no secret that journalism isn't exactly a growing industry, but it will probably survive for the foreseeable future. Even though it's not the highest paying career, it can lead to other fulfilling professions. 

The Geraldton Guardian has a good track record of giving young journalists a start and helping them get their uni degree. I personally know a couple of people who are doing well in other careers now, who started off at the Guardian. Had they not had the support of the local paper in their youth, they may have struggled somewhat more. 


3. Geraldton needs multiple media voices

I admit I'm extremely inconsistent when it comes to reading the paper. Or rather, I'm consistently terrible at it. 

I will try harder after writing this article.

Three years ago I knew I wanted local content in a digital format, but no-one was going to do it in Geraldton. So instead of complaining, I started a business doing just that. But The goal of Everything Geraldton was not to replace other the media completely, but to be another voice.

I don't think a community is well served if there is only one media voice. If you piss off the wrong person, you can essentially be cut off from having your say. 

Fortunately, this isn't the case in Geraldton.

We have Everything Geraldton, which is independant and I'm obviously an advocate for. There's the Geraldton Guardian/Mid West Times, who have been around for 100+ years and are backed by Seven West. There's a talented and creative team over at the ABC, who publish great stuff. And there's a few radio stations. 

Having more media publications means a more diverse voice, and fewer newsworthy items are likely to slip through the cracks. It also gives advertisers more choices and opportunities to promote their products and services. 


4. Responsible people at the helm

I know a couple of people who work at the Geraldton Guardian in the editorial team, and from what I know of them, I do believe that they care about the people of Geraldton. 

It's not very common to have people who care so much about the community in charge of local media. Often the agenda to simply sell more papers at the cost of sensationalising everything wins out over the mandate to serve the community by printing the facts. 

Anita Kirkbright is the current editor, and I've dealt with her in other capacities in the past. I've read several of her articles over the last year or two, and she certainly seems to have a desire to surface encouraging stories from the Mid West. It's a refreshing change from the usual negativity that seems to fill our Twitter and Facebook feeds. 

That's not to say I agree with every publishing decision the Guardian makes, but for the time being I think it's well above par. 


5. It's not too big

I'm pressed for time. I don't sit down and read the paper to alleviate boredom. I know reading the paper was a favourite pastime for our Granddads. But I have a million things to occupy me that are more interesting than a newspaper. And when something big happens I will probably hear about it well before the paper comes out anyway. 

So when I do read the local paper, I want to get through it as quickly as possible. 

I have listened to complaints for about 8 years now about how thin the Guardian is. But looking at it as someone who mostly reads content online, I consider thinness a positive. 

When someone "reads" the paper, they don't actually read very much. You scan through the headlines until something stands out, and you end up reading about 1 and a half articles. 

What you leave with is the knowledge that you haven't missed anything important that may affect you, your business, or your family.

And with a world of information now accessible through our smartphones, we don't need our local papers to try and be all things to all people, publishing all manner of lifestyle articles that we may or may not be interested in. They can just give us important local content, and we can follow our particular interests through apps, social media, websites, podcasts, YouTube etc. 


In conclusion, my vision of the future of media in Geraldton doesn't involve a winner take all outcome as was the case in the past, but a diverse range of voices, each serving the community and playing a part in our daily lives. I hope the Geraldton Guardian is a part of that future. 


Note: No one from the Geraldton Guardian had any involvement with this article.

 

 

Opinion - The Skippy Paradox: On eating kangaroos.

I have been thinking about kangaroos – eating them, to be precise. The whole industry is tanking across WA and Macro Meats from South Australia are the company selling us human grade roo meat in the supermarkets. 

Recently Macro Meats upped the marketing from their Gourmet Game site to include a very sexy I Love Roo campaign; so while was I going on and on like a drain about the nutritionally dense qualities of this fabulous meat and its value as food-is-medicine, my argument was trumped instantly by a picture of a muscled chick wearing a sports-bra plastered with the legend ‘lean meat, lean body’.

I concede that Macro Meats have the marketing chops - but not the whole story. CLAs, or Conjugated Linoleic Acids, are the good fats that are found in the meat of a ruminant when omega 3, the green in all growing things, undertakes its complex transformative journey through the digestive processes of a rangeland grazed animal. Lamb from station country is high in CLAs and considered good tucker, but kangaroo meat registers 5 times richer in these good fats and makes excellent health sense as an anti-inflammatory food. It is anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic and brought to you only by ruminants grazed on biodiverse pasture – stock that are grain-fed or grazed on paddocks with limited plant variety register way lower on the CLA count. 

Kangaroos, naturally, also score highly on all measurements made to register environmental sustainability. They live here, they are adapted to the arid lands and they have been a favourite protein choice of Australians for over 40,000 years. 

It is only in the last 150 years or so that people have chosen to take kangaroos off the menu to both revere them as a National Symbol or shoot them for dog food or as Rangelands vermin. This is the Skippy Paradox; it makes no sense from a bio-security food or environmental sustainability angle and for anti-meat crusaders this muddled sentimentality doesn’t help kangaroos because wherever you stand in this thinking kangaroos carry on dying in enormous numbers. They die as a result of poor seasons and at the hands of farmers, pastoralists and Government conservation agencies as they safeguard their core business; growing (introduced) stock whilst attempting to minimise the total grazing pressure that leads to eroded land.

The raw pet food industry is diminishing with the only signs of growth being in the wild dog bait business; South Australia has an effective monopoly on selling us their roo meat; the roo leather industry is severely reduced despite its incredible qualities as leather and kangaroos are being shot and left to rot across agricultural and pastoral zones. 

My desire is that we start to treat kangaroos with more respect. Rather than push roo corpses into holes in the ground, let us do the research to see if it is possible to manage numbers and benefit economically, socially and culturally from the situation in our severely depleted rangeland communities. 

There are many anomalies surrounding the kangaroo industry and a lot of unexamined emotional issues that need to be dealt with before the kangaroo can take its rightful place as one of the most abundant and profound gifts the WA Rangelands has to offer to its own people and the world.