Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love and hate

Having recently got back to Sydney for another six month stint, it is a good time to report on what I love about Australia, but also what I find annoying. I feel well qualified to make these judgements having just spent the previous half year in England. These are my personal views and inevitably are comparisons with England.

What I love about Australia (it makes me keep coming back) is the fantastic weather combined with the natural beauty of the country. Even in the city (Sydney) it is a great place to live with impressive harbour views and always that cooling breeze coming off that large stretch of water that is Port Jackson. The beaches, harbour, ferries and an iconic Sydney city are a perfect combination.

It was a sudden break in the spring weather that made me stop and concentrate on some of the negative aspects of the Australian way of life. Apparently yesterday was the coldest October day in Sydney for seven years. It was a dull and damp day with frequent showers where the temperatures struggled to rise to 17C from a start of 15C. Time to write a post for my blog.

So here is my list of hates in no particular order (as they say on some uk tv shows) :-

The Australian TV is truly dreadful. Why pay for Foxtel and then be bombarded every few minutes with adverts where the sound volume is increased by design. The Australian broadcasters are so under the thumb of big company advertising that it is almost impossible to enjoy watching anything on tv. Even with cricket there are adverts between overs. If you are diligent with the remote control and can record the program, then you can replay the program and fast forward through the ad breaks. Even the ABC (the Australian equivalent of the BBC has frequent breaks within programs). The Australian version of the Tivo has been made useless by Australian advertisers.
As an electronics engineer by training, I am designing a device that automatically detects the advert breaks and mutes the volume while they are running. It is almost complete. Does anybody want one ?

Whilst talking about the overwhelming influence of large businesses, it is worth mentioning Australian politicians. The lobbying groups here seem to have so much power that most politicians just seem to be their mouthpieces. Yesterday, Tony Abbot was saying at a venue arranged by the gambling industry and with a large audience of gambling industry participants, that his party did not support the idea of problem gamblers having a limit set of the maximum amount that they could lose. He even went on to say that if a law was put into place to provide this limit on losses, that his party would rescind the law if they became the ruling party. His comments (not actual promises) were greeted with loud applause by the audience. What a surprise.
How did Australians ever choose Julia Gillard as their prime minister. She is awful. Maybe the public were hardly involved and this was organised by powerful lobbyists.
Julia Gillard is currently lecturing the European countries and demanding that they sort out their debt problems. Her oratory style really grates and her body movements are as if she has the limbs of a puppet being jerked on strings. I am not her biggest fan.
It does seem hard to get any change in policy into place in Australia where there is both a parliamentary system and a senate.

Incidentally, vested interests have won the right to start building a monstrously large and ugly financial centre at Barangaroo. This is just 500 metres from the centre of Sydney and the tall buildings seem likely to destroy the character of Sydney. It is akin to building Canary Wharf just a quarter of a mile away from Big Ben. It is not going to work is it ?.

I wanted a broadband connection in my rented apartment (to upload pictures taken out of my window to ) and thought that I could avoid delays by ordering it whilst in England. I had the choice of ringing my chosen ISP (Internode) or completing an on-line form. With the then nine hour time difference and the high cost of the call, I decided to use the on-line application. Big mistake. Although I filled in my new address correctly on the application form it subsequently turned out that Internode’s software jumbled the address and used an incomplete address for the application. This started a nightmare scenario, where it proved almost impossible to recover from their initial error. Everything went wrong and I spent lots of time and expensive phone calls trying to sort it out. The net result was that the broadband went live about 10 days after I arrived in Australia. My website is now live at last.
Currently I am house and pet sitting for a relative who is on a well earned holiday. Guess what, the internet went down yesterday. After speaking to tech support and getting the account holder to speak to Telstra, they then promised that an engineer would investigate and get back to me within 48 hours. I am still waiting for that call but have managed to re-establish the connection myself.

Why is the cost of everything in Sydney twice the price of anywhere else in the world ?. This not only covers white goods, gadgets, etc. but food too. Somebody is making a lot of money here. There seems to be genuine surprise by retailers that people are using the internet to purchase items from abroad. Even paying the shipping costs, it is far cheaper to do this than buy in a store. Retailers seem hurt that this is happening and are lobbying the politicians to introduce levies.
Why is it that I can buy an Australian brand bottle of Shiraz red wine at an English supermarket for much less than I have to pay for the same wine in its country of origin ?
With food there is no choice but to suffer the high cost. I guess it is the price that you have to pay for living in one of the most desirable places in the world.

Well that’s it. Moan over. The weather is improving and the sun is coming back out. Time to spend my days exploring beaches and countryside in a perfect climate. Having spent idyllic days in beautiful surroundings, Sydney is one of the best places in the world to go out for a well prepared and enjoyable meal. The standard of catering is consistently high, just as long as you can afford to pay the bill at the end of the evening.