Farewell Holger

At long last Holger Osieck has been relieved of his post as manager of the Socceroos. I, along with many others who follow the game closely, thought the move should have been made some time in 2012, when we looked decidedly unimpressive in several World Cup qualifiers against lowly-ranked opposition. Osieck’s just-good-enough results at the Asian Cup and in World Cup qualifying gave him more breathing room than his poor man management and youth development deserved. The Australian team that played against France yesterday was a three-year-slower version of the team Osieck inherited from Pim Verbeek three years ago, and it’s clear the next Socceroo manager needs to do a lot better.

So, who should be next? Here are a few of my thoughts..

1. It’s all about development

You won’t hear David Gallop saying this, but the next Australian coach should be told to go out and win the Asian Cup. Australia hosts the tournament only six months after the World Cup and it’s a tournament we can win. A developmental side building towards that goal won’t do any worse in Brasil than Holger’s aging plonkers did against France and Brasil, and the experience could help a new generation  of Socceroos kickstart their road to 2018.

2. Go local

Guus Hiddink changed the game in Australia, but there’s only so many Guus Hiddinks, and the simple fact is that Australia can’t afford them. The FFA could look to Hiddink or someone of his ilk to take the side through to Brasil, but after that we’d find ourselves in the same situation as 2006, and much the same situation as we are in right now. We should be hoping our next coach will last all the way through to 2018, and if we can’t afford the wages of a top-class coach we also can’t afford the results and stagnation of another Verbeek or Osieck.

The generational overhaul we need requires someone with a strong knowledge of the local game and our overseas youngsters. A-League fans should no longer have to get up at 3am to watch a Socceroos squad that would struggle to beat Wellington Pheonix, when we know there are better options around. Our most promising overseas talents, Mitch Langerak and Robbie Kruse, came through A-League setups and the next generation is not far behind.

3. Get someone strong

The incoming manager’s main objective will be to lead a massive overhaul of the national team, either working with or clearing out players who still feel entitled to a place despite playing (or not) for some of the more obscure teams of world football. He will have to sack the captain, either straight away (the right option) or straight after the world cup (perhaps the easier option). At some point between now and 2018 he will have to say goodbye to Schwarzer, Cahill, Wilkshire, Bresciano, Carney, Kennedy, Ognenovski, McKay and Jedinak, as well as Neill. The experiences of Arnold, Verbeek and Osieck demonstrate that performing such an overhaul is easier said than done.

The new manager will have to back himself to manage the egos in the squad and shape what will be a new-look Socceroos squad in his own image.

And the winner is…

With the above criteria there are three obvious contenders, each with their own claims to the position. Tony Popovic has experience at the highest levels, is known and respected as a no-nonsense defender, and shaped the unfancied Wanderers into a top-three side. Graham Arnold has a decade of coaching under his belt, has prior Socceroos experience, is known for working with youngsters and has proved at the Mariners that he has learnt from his failed 2007 Asian Cup campaign and improved his methods and understanding of the game.

But for me the best candidate is Ange Postecoglu. Local, strong, a great promoter of youth and the local game and the man responsible for the best and most consistent football team ever seen in Australia.

It’ll be interesting to see what plays out over the next few weeks.

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.