What the world looks like

Something that really annoys me is when people who have rarely or ever left their own country, city or suburb try to compare themselves to the rest of the world. Here I’m going to provide some graphic evidence of what the rest of the world looks like, in the hope that a few people see it and realise that maybe they don’t actually know all there is to know about the world, and that they should get out more.

What a refugee camp looks like

What child labour looks like

What inequality looks like

The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.


What modern trains look like

What everyday tasks in the world’s largest democracy look like

What the Australian economy looks like


What climate change looks like

What electricity in developing countries looks like

What high-tech bicycle parking looks like

What recycling in developing countries looks like

What a must-see film looks like

Some more American things


Technology in the US is a strange mix of ahead-of-the-rest-of-the-world, behind-the-rest-of-the-world and on-another-planet entirely.

Internet: ahead of the world if you can pay for it, a long way behind if you can’t. That’s why companies who sell fast broadband still compare their speeds to dial-up.

Phones: all of the above. The US is on another planet with its strange collection of CDMA networks and small GSM providers that operate on different frequencies to the rest of the world. Phone plans are expensive, dumb phones remain in the ascendancy and mobile data is priced as a luxury add-on and not an essential part of a 21st century phone plan. But at the same time LTE is becoming more available every day.

Internet shopping: not a thing. I’m struggling to get my head around this, but being a long way from Asia, having lots of cheap land and fuel and labor at $7.25/hr means that bricks-and-mortar retail stores are actually cheaper than their online equivalents.

I already wrote about cheques being used for everything, and the not-yet-existence of internet banking. There’s also this.

The environment

What environment?

Recycling is opt-in, biweekly and who knows how much actually gets recycled. People use air conditioners all the time, including the 18 or so hours of each day when it’s actually not hot outside. People dry all their laundry in driers, which provide pretty damning and instant evidence of the existence of anthropogenic climate change (I know this because the drier for our apartment block is right outside our door, in a little sauna).

People drive big cars big distances, burn lots of cheap and nasty fuel, and eat industrially produced foods that travel all around the country in big refrigerated trucks.

Not everyone lives like this, of course, but those that do make me wonder how Australia could possibly emit even more CO2 per capita than the USA. That’s a bit embarrassing.

Also, bizarrely, dual flush toilets don’t exist.

Drive thrus

In most of the world running a morning’s errands means driving or taking public transport to some kind of central location, like a mall or a town square or a main street or a business district, and walking around it. In the US it’s kind of the same but the central location is spread out over several miles and instead of your feet you have a car.

You can drive thru at the bank, the drug store, the coffee shop, the bread shop, the post office, the restaurant, the liquor store, and the supermarket (though I believe you have to order ahead for that one). When you’re not driving thru you drive right up to the store, swap your car for a trolley (called a cart, so it still feels like you’re driving a car), and then proceed to drive it around collecting consumables. It’s like the Game of Life.

Thrift stores, antique malls and yard sales

Cheap retail means even cheaper second-hand retail, and on this point America definitely wins. Which reminds me, I need to buy some coffee for that nice little espresso maker I bought!

Life goes on

Well, there goes the NBN, the carbon price, etc. etc.

A more selfish Australia? Pretty close to the mark. Maybe a government more in line with the (hopefully momentary) selfishness of its voters and backers.

It will be fun watching the great negotiator in action with the likes of the Liberal Democrats, the First Nations Party, Clive Palmer’s PAP and The Greens. And the Nationals, and his own party for that matter. If Labor starts to look united a double dissolution might not turn out the way Tony plans.

As for that part of the population that believes in social justice, progressive politics, sustainability and a fair go?

Over the past few years it shrunk. Over the past few months it strengthened.

And for the next few it may take solace in the fact that Australia might be the only place on earth where it’s just about acceptable to call the sitting Prime Minister a cunt.

Forget Labor, this is Abbott’s victory

It’s time to be clear about something: if the coalition is elected to govern on Saturday, it’s not just because they’re not Labor.

That’s the story we’ve been hearing for months, if not years. The story many of us have wound up believing. The Labor party is so bad, and have governed so poorly over the last six years, that all Tony Abbott had to do was show up – and often not show up – and he’d walk into power almost unopposed.

But to paint Abbott as a passive beneficiary ignores his vital, unique contribution. For Abbott has done a lot more than wait idly for the crown to fall on his head.

To start with he led the most prolonged, most negative, most distasteful series of attacks on a sitting Prime Minister that most of us can remember. For three years he refused to address PM Gillard by any more than her first name, repeatedly turned his back on her in parliament (when he was there at all), repeatedly attacked her character, her personality, her ability and, yes, her gender.

He chased her for months and months over allegations of improper conduct in some kind of union thing. He told us every day that she “still had questions to answer”, while unable to tell us just what those questions were.

He sank to the level of Alan Jones, and then even lower, suggesting that her government should’ve “died of shame”. As low a blow as the House has heard.

Few of us could carry out an attack so completely devoid of compassion. Julia Gillard certainly couldn’t have done it.

Then he had to lie. Constantly.

He lied to us each time he said the government was “paralysed”, couldn’t get anything through its parliament, and had lost the confidence of parliament. The Gillard minority government passed hundreds of pieces of legislation; Abbott’s coalition supported 87% of them.

He lied daily about the perilous state of the economy – Joe Hockey’s belated policy costings show us once and for all that the Liberal Party have no real concern about Labor’s levels of spending. Not that we needed them to confirm what economists have been telling us all along.

He lied daily about those costings – a day out from voting we are yet to see the properly detailed costings that we were promised “in good time” before the election.

He lied about Australia’s debt, again and again and again, not just about its size but its relevance, which is close to zero.

He lied about the coalition’s policy on climate change, “direct action”. He told us that he was committed to action on climate change, only to admit that he doesn’t care whether or not the scheme actually meets its targets.

He lied about his alternative to the government’s NBN. He lied by telling us his FTTN plan would offer anything near the level of improvement that the NBN promises. He lied by telling us that his plan was billions of dollars cheaper than the NBN, while ignoring the ongoing costs of maintaining badly deteriorating copper and the revenue that Labor expects to be generated by its completed network.

He lied about asylum seekers, repeatedly talking of “illegal arrivals” and “illegal boats”. He kept up this language despite being reminded on numerous occasions of its inaccuracy.

He lied about the carbon tax, so consistently, so boldly and so infuriatingly that a proper rebuttal would probably constitute a PhD. To start with, it wasn’t really a tax. It didn’t wreck the economy. It wasn’t a wrecking ball, a python, or any other bizarre metaphor. Neither Whyalla nor any town like it was wiped off the map. It wasn’t responsible for massive hikes in the price of power, water, rent, petrol or lamb roasts. Carbon emissions fell.

He lied each time he said the government was illegitimate. If being elected doesn’t make a government legitimate nothing does.

He was happy to use his daughters as ornaments to make himself look a little better in the final weeks of the campaign. He was willing to spruik their bodies – not their brains, not their nature, not anything relevant, just their looks – to a national TV audience in the hope of a few more votes. He did the same with his female candidates. 

He was frequently willing to say one thing to one audience and the opposite to another. It took a breathtaking display of arrogance to give us “direct action” on one hand, “complete crap” on the other. To talk fiscal conservativism and cuts while promising billions upon billions of dollars of new spending. To cut the tax rate by 1.5% and replace it immediately with a 1.5% levy. To sell low-taxing government one day; speak of slashing the tax-free threshold and refusing to rule out GST hikes the next. To have his ministers deny and downplay his promises to people who might have been put out by them. His hatred of Gillard was accompanied by calls for kinder, more positive politics. His only consistent stance has been his hardline hatred of asylum seekers, contradicted only by his claimed love of Jesus.

Time and again he ran from questions, even at press conferences he’d called. He refused to be interviewed on the ABC after he was correctly called out for commenting on documents he hadn’t read. He refused to appear on Q and A and face the audience’s questions. And at the same time he had the temerity to put himself forward as a serious candidate to lead the nation.

To pull off such a campaign took a whole lot more than just being there. It took more than Labor shooting itself in the foot, time and again. It took more than a complicit and uncritical media. It took more than the apathy of the public to a band of politicians they were sick of.

It required, on Abbott’s part, a level of meanness, of arrogance, of gall, of disdain that few in the community could even imagine possessing. And perhaps that’s why it took so long for us to see it for what it was.

Some random adventures on Youtube

Kevin Rudd went on Q and A on Monday night, ostensibly to debate Tony Abbott, who wasn’t there. No-one really expected him to be there, because Tony Abbott realised a few years ago that he looks more stupid when he’s talking than when he’s on his bike or in his budgie smugglers. Which is saying something.

Anyway, Kevin Rudd’s response to one of the questions on Q and A has “gone viral”, according to the ABC. It wasn’t Obama in full flight but it was a good response to an increasingly outdated view, and you can watch it here. It’s the most watched Kevin Rudd video on Youtube.

Last year, of course, Julia Gillard’s attack on the “misogynist” Abbott also went viral. It was praised around the world and pilloried in Australia, which should hardly be surprising. It has far more views and likes and comments on Youtube than any other piece of Australian political anything. It’s right from the heart, mostly off the cuff, and very impressive.

So, I wondered, just how many Youtube results do you have to trawl through before you find Tony saying something impressive.

You have to go down a long way.

Past Tony being called out by Leigh Sales.

Past the bloke who called Tony a dickhead in a shop one day.

Past the time Tony stared weirdly and threateningly at a reporter who asked him a question. For ages.

Past the time Craig Reucassel pointed out that Tony didn’t understand the first thing about debt.

Past a whole series of GetUp ads that do nothing more than put Tony’s words into the mouths of ordinary Australians.

Past Paul Keating’s views on Tony.

Past Kerry O’Brien trying to work out when Tony is to be listened to and when he isn’t.

Past the time he hit on the apprentice at the factory he was visiting.

Past Keating again.

At this point – towards the end of the second page of results at just over 70 000 views – I thought there might finally have been a video of Abbott saying something intelligent, as I came across something titled “Tony Abbott Grand Slam”.

But it turned out to be former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser’s turn to put the boot in.

So we continue, past Tony walking away from questions at his own press conferences.

Past Tony being kicked out of parliament.

Past Independent MP Tony Windsor’s views on Tony.

Past Tony trying to run out of parliament.

And so on, until eventually, at the bottom of the third page of Youtube hits, with just over 30 000 views, we get something promising to be “a classy, fiery display of modern political oratory.” Watch it and weep, Australia.

(By the way, I’m following Tony’s precedent here, and as far as I’m concerned he has neither a title nor a surname.)

(And also, if you’d rather not click on all those links you can sit back and relax with Tony Abbott the Movie instead.)