My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Tue
18
Sep '12

Lowering the BAC from .05 to .02

This topic brings to light one inherent problem in Australia that I struggle with as an American-Australian. First if I might… Australia claims to be a “free” country but the bureaucratic government here, based solely on the English parliament, leaves little to be desired in the way of “Australians making decisions, and in fact laws for themselves”. There is no medium here for the people, the constituents to vote into law any type of regulation or directive whatsoever. So the question is: “When we vote for a party, be it Liberal or Labour, what are we voting for actually?” Because the actual people of Australia have no say in law as it is made by voting as a public entity – how do issues turn into law. Well it seems that it is up to the parliament members that we vote into office to be responsible for voting on our behalf. Parliament members, just like in America, make lots of empty promises and dodge important issues to the community such as adoption, gay marriage, public job pay increases, or changes to the taxes. Never in the course of the 7-1/2 years I have lived here have I ever seen a referendum come to a vote by the people.

Recently there has been talk of dropping the already low BAC from .05 to a staggering .02 – and basically this means that possibly even one drink could put you over the limit to drive. The task here is to make it so people will not drink and drive at all. This is not something that the people of our state will vote on, we do not get a say, if the parliament wants it to happen, it will pass and it will happen.

Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state, and has a highly centralised population, with almost 75% of Victorians living in Melbourne, the state capital and largest city. In Victoria there are is an annual average of < 42 fatalities of a total 200 relating to a blood alcohol level of .05 or over. In 2011 in the whole of Australia the road toll nationally was 1,291 in total.

Look, it’s not that I don’t support a responsible drink driving limit, but I do find fault in the Australian government for consistently punishing the people that do the right thing and enabling an entire generation of people that don’t.

Binge drinking in Australia has become a very big problem; this is something that the government is fully aware of but continues to do nothing about. Responsible drinking starts at the beginning. And taxing alcohol ‘in general’ really puts a strain on the groups of people that are responsible drinkers. We are constantly hearing on the news about alcohol mixed with energy drinks (Vodka Red Bull) and in Australia we also have what is called pre-mix cans. A 6-pack of cans you can purchase at the bottle shop already pre-mixed with things like Vodka Red Bull or other high alcohol options mixed with high caffeine energy drink products. This is what the kids drink, none of these types of pre-mixes are geared toward or even advertised for adults. They are sweet tasting drinks that keep you drunk and awake for longer and in the end are a majority of reasons why fatal fights break out in the city centres around Australia. These drinks are served in bars, and because the drinking age is 18 here – they are served to 18 year old kids.

So why aren’t we focusing our attention to irresponsible drinkers? Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the drinking age or banning such pre-mix drinks (like the US has done). It seems like every time the government wants to take a stand on drinking in general – they add another tax onto alcohol, rather than looking at the real problem. These taxes don’t discourage kids from drinking but they do cause hardships on working adults that have to pay $80-100 for a case of beer. You can’t get even a 6-pack of the crappiest beer for under $15.00 here. The same ‘taxing mentality’ to cigarettes has driven the cost for a pack of cigarettes up to $25 a pack – and it hasn’t stopped anyone I know from smoking.

I know I’ve said this before but there is just something wrong about turning 18 in this country, the first year you are old enough to drink is the same year you are allowed to start driving. How are our children to learn responsibility when they are giving two of the biggest responsibilities in their lives in the same year… and at 18 for that matter, one of the most immature of ages? If we are able to turn our attention to the real problem of “binge drinking teenagers” and start to teach our children to be responsible drinkers we might actually get somewhere with this.

A culture of pre-mix drinks geared toward a much younger generation

   

At least in America you are learning to drive at an age before you are too confident and ‘know everything’ to the extent of being as reckless as some 18-21 year olds. And although we did drink when we were young, in high school for example, we weren’t able to go to bars and night clubs that stay open all night and drink until we were stupid high on energy drinks and hard alcohol. We had some time between learning the responsibilities of the road and road rules, and starting to drink – 5 years as a matter of fact. Can you imagine taking on all of the responsibilities that go with drinking, and driving in the same year?

And back to the question at hand… really what are the benefits of .02 BAC? Certainly it keeps drinkers off the road – that can only be a good thing. Making this change as Switzerland has done definitely means that the road toll will decline. But for those that are responsible, and want to have a glass of wine with their dinner out, or meet friends for a drink in the city after work, there are no options. Public transport such as trains and trams end at midnight, a cab from the city to my house is over $100. I’d say about 90% of Melbournians do not live walking distance from a bar, pub or restaurant, we are much more rural community. The majority of the restaurant/pub industry is in the city centre. I think that it means that the bar and restaurant business in Melbourne will suffer some great losses. This industry is one of the best in Australia and it means that our culture will change to one that does not include having a drink with your meal and sharing a drink with friends. BAC .02 definitely means no drinking.

For me it all comes down to a change in the attitude of our parliament members, in the way that they think and lead this country. We have no say, obviously, but until parliament can put their hand up and take responsibility for what is going wrong – and by that I mean turning our attention to the problems we are now instilling in our younger generation with behaviour toward alcohol, and not creating taxes and new laws to increase the cost of alcohol for the general public – will change finally result in a positive outcome.

Read more…

Move to .02 drink-drive limit inevitable: expert by Danny Rose, Brisbane Times –
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/move-to-02-drinkdrive-limit-inevitable-expert-20100315-q7nk.html

Thu
21
Aug '08

I’m Official!

Today I received my official paperwork in the mail from the Department of Immigration, I’m now a Permanent Resident of Australia. This means that I can come and go as I please, and that in 2-years time I can apply for my Australian citizenship (dual citizenship).  I’m very happy about this because it takes so much work submitting documentation to the Department of Immigration, it’s finally over!

Birdie and I have been so ill since our return, he passed on his Sinus Cold to me the day after we arrived home so I have been suffering with it this week, and even Birdie isn’t quite over his cold just yet.

I’m working now on getting all the photos from the trip posted to the website for everyone to see.

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***

Mental Status: Still sick so recovering, otherwise just tired.  Also staying up late to watch Olympics.
Favourite thing this week: Extra sleep, and cold medication.
Book this week: The dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson
Happy Moment: Receiving my Permanent Residency Visa today!
Looking forward to next week: Hopefully starting work.

Wed
2
Jan '08

Super Tuesday!

The Primary’s are looming – who do you choose?

Can’t say that it’s a tough decision for me, personally.  I know who and why I have chosen.  Actually, I have already voted in the Primary as a citizen overseas.  But even if my candidate doesn’t win – I am sticking with my party!  These party lines are definitely drawn.  The California primary election is on a day when a majority of states claim their candidate and back them with what’s called delegate votes.  This ‘bigggest primary date’ is called “Super Tuesday”.  The system in the United States is very complex and is different across party lines, I hope this outline is help to my fellow Aussie’s in their understanding of how it all works!  It is quite different from the Australian method of voting.  And Americans too are uneducated on the Electorial College and how the system works – I think they vote and just wait for the dust to settle.

I’ve been doing my research the polls, debates, issues, and delegates for each candidate. I’m finding some great information about issues and which side each delegate leans on the CNN.com website – really in general I just LOVE CNN anyway so…. Even just at a glance I can see that a good number of the Rebublican candidates really are continuing to follow in Bush’s footsteps in many areas including the issues that are important to me an my future: stem cell research, same-sex marriage, abortion, tax, Social Security, and Iraq.  Of course, there are some Republicans with more left-wing views and Democrats wtih some right-wing views but these candidates run primarily straight within their party lines. 

The Primary’s work like this

The Voters may vote in a party’s primary only if they are registered members of that party. You may only be registered in one party. Independents may not participate. Note that due to the appropriation of the term “independent” by some political parties, the term “non-partisan” is often used to refer to those who are not affiliated with a political party.  Because President Dubya is out this year there will be a Primary for both the caucuses before the final Election in November.

Iowa held the historical “first” Primary for Democrat and Republican elections.  Following Iowa there are other Primary caucus elections in:

05 Jan ~ Wyoming 
08 Jan ~ New Hampshire
15 Jan ~ Michigan
19 Jan ~ Nevada & South Carolina [R]
26 Jan ~ South Carolina [D]
29 Jan ~ Florida
03 Feb ~ Maine [R]
05 Feb ~ SUPER TUESDAY!  (California and everyone else)
09 Feb ~ Kansas, Lousiana, Nebraska
10 Feb ~ Maine [D]
12 Feb ~ DC, Maryland, Virginia
19 Feb ~ Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin

The Delegates

Each state holds a number of delegates, and this number is based on each individual State’s population (see the map of the U.S. under Electorial College with each state’s delegate number).  To become the Democratic/Rebublican nominee for president, a candidate has to be monimated by a majority of delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, in August 2008 (D) and Minneapolis, Minnesota, in September 2008 (R) respectively.  The candidate has to win a simply majority of 2,025* delegates out of a total of 4,049 to win the democratic nomination in 2008, and for the republican nomination, 1,191* delegates out of a total of 2,380.

delegates.jpg

*Superdelegates in the Democratic Party (similar to unpledged delegates in the Republican Party) are typically members of the Democratic/Republican National Committee, elected officials like senators or governors, or party leaders. They do not have to indicate a candidate preference and do not have to compete for their position. If a superdelegate dies or is unable to participate at the convention, alternates do not replace that delegate, which would reduce the total delegates number and the “magic number” needed to clinch the nomination.

Winning Delegates

In the graph below we can see how the Democratic Party win’s delegates, the Democratic Party uses proportional representation to decide how many pledged delegates are awarded to each candidate.  For instance, a candidate who wins 40% of the vote in a state’s primary would essentially win 40% of that state’s pledged delegates and so on and so forth. However, a candidate has to receive at least 15% of the vote to get any pledged delegates, if a candidate gets 14%, tough luck — they aren’t awarded any delegates. 

popular-vote.jpg

In the Republican Party however State parties decide how pledged delegates are awarded to each candidate during the Republican nomination process.  Many states use a “winner take all” system, some states use a proportional representation system in which candidate’s share of the popular vote is the percentage of pledged delegates and they are awarded.

winner-take-all.jpg

The Republican National Committee does not require a 15% threshold, but individual state parties may have a threshold. The “unpledged” (similar to the Democratic Superdelegates) Republican National Committee delegates are free to vote for any candidate, similarly, are not bound by the electorial results of their state. The unpledge delegates who are elected or chose — though they are technically free to vote for any candidate — are likely to be committeed to a specific candidate. 

The United States Electorial College

The Electoral College is a term used to describe the 538 Presidential Electors who meet every 4 years to cast the electoral votes for President and VP of the United States. The Presidential Electors are elected by the popular vote on the day traditionally called election day. Presidential Electors meet in their respective state capitol buildings (or in the District of Columbia) on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, never as a national body. At the 51 meetings, held on the same day, the Electors cast the electoral votes. As such, the collectivity of the 51 groups is the technical definition of the college, despite never convening together. The electoral college system, like the national convention, is an indirect element in the process of electing the president.

Electors are chosen in a series of state elections held on the same day (election day). The number of electoral votes of each state is the sum of its number of U.S. Senators (always two) and its U.S. Representatives; the District of Columbia has three electoral votes. In each state, voters vote for a slate of pre-selected candidates for Presidential Elector, representing the various candidates for President. State ballots, however, are designed to suggest that the voters are voting for actual candidates for President. Most states use what is termed the short ballot, in which a vote for one party (such as Democratic or Republican) is interpreted as a vote for the entire slate of Presidential Electors. In these states, with rare exceptions, one party wins the entire electoral vote of the state (by either plurality or majority).

electorial-college.jpg

The Presidential Electors of each state (and DC) meet 41 days following the popular vote (the citizens vote) to cast the electoral votes. The Electors ballot first for President, then for Vice President. One month following the casting of the electoral votes, the U.S. Congress meets in joint session to declare the winner of the election.

The nature of the process and its complication have been critiqued, with its detractors raising several alternative means of electing the president. This issue was revisited following the Presidential Election of 2000 when Democratic candidate Al Gore won the plurality of the popular, or national vote, but failed to win the majority of the Electoral College.

The size of the electoral college has been set at 538 with 535 from congress and 3 that represent D.C. since the election of 1964. Each state is allocated as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress. Since the most populous states have the most seats in congress, they also have the most electors. The states with the most are California (55), followed by Texas (34) and New York (31). The smallest states by population, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, have three electors each. Because the number of representatives for each state is determined decennially by the United States Census, the electoral votes for each state are also determined by the Census every ten years. The number of electors is equal to the total membership of both Houses of Congress (100 Senators and 435 Representatives) plus the 3 electors allocated to the District of Columbia, totaling 538 electors. A candidate must receive a majority of votes from the electoral college (currently 270) to win the Presidency. If a candidate for President receives the vote of 270 or more Presidential Electors, the presiding officer (usually the sitting Vice President) declares that candidate to be the President-elect, and a candidate for vice president receiving 270 or more electoral votes is similarly declared to be the Vice President-elect.

Well, by 19 February we will have our Primary winners (well, we’ll probably know before 19 Feb – but it will be official by then).  Then the presidential election begins. 

I’m looking forward to Super Tuesday from Australia’s point of view.  I will report back.

Tue
13
Nov '07

Liberal v. Labour

As I am not yet a citizen of Australia, I cannot vote in the upcoming election for Prime Minister including government seats federal and local.  Although, I am concerned about the future of Australia and – since I like to voice my opinion – and because I pay for this website to do so – I am going to share some of the key points of interest that my Gen-X’ers are facing in this election.

Of course, my generation are faced with buying a first home, rising interest rates, increased baby bonus, raising young children, higher education (for themselves), health care and health services, and let’s not forget the war on terrorism.

howard.jpgThe War on Terrorism

The Liberal Party in Australia is the equivalent to Republican in America.  The current Prime Minister, Mr John Howard is a supporter of President Bush and his “war on terrorism”.  We too have lost Australian soldiers lives in the Middle East supporting Mr Bush’s “war”. Most recently I remember John Howard making a statement to the Australian people saying that we will continue to fight abroad and will be sending over more troops to support the U.S. in this fight.  Not even a day later Tony Blair, United Kingdom’s then Prime Minister, announced that he would be pulling out all UK troops. I really think that Tony Blair was brave to pull troops out, going against the U.S. recommendation to stay.  As I see it, John Howard does not have the courage to make his own decisions – instead he finds importance in staying on the “good side” of ole Bushy.

Campaign Promises

Just like the U.S. we are bombarded with ad’s for each party, trying to outdo one another. There has been this recent accusation of “me-too-ism” in this election. John Howard says I want to improve “health care” and the next day the Labour Party candidate Kevin Rudd comes out with is own plan to improve “health care”.  Then the accusations fly about  “Kevin Rudd’s me tooattitude” in the campaign.  Honestly, I would think that each candidate would have their own plans for everything from health care and education to tax breaks and rising interest rates.  If someone is running for Prime Minister and they don’t already have a plan for these things, I would be terribly worried.

If the Liberal Party is the equivalent to Republican, than the Labour Party which is equivalent to the Democrats. Unions are a concern when voting Labour, and most of the opposition ad’s threaten how Unions will take over the government.  Hooey!  Unions provide many industries with fair wages and even now with the Liberal Party in office there were still Nursing strikes only a few weeks ago. Why aren’t we supporting our Teachers and Nurses with fair wages – these are some of the lowest paying higher education jobs available today? Where is the “fair-go” for Australian’s carers and educators? 

You just have to wonder too – with all these great new ideas and promises of billion dollar remedy’s for education, tax reduction and and health care reform, where are these billions coming from?  Why does it take an election for the Prime Minister to do something worthwhile for the Australian people, why NOW are we getting proposals for education rebates and lower taxes?  Yes it is “too little too late Mr. Howard”.

The Environment

Al Gore visited Australia with good intentions a little over 2 years ago, when I first moved to Melbourne, to meet with the Australian government regarding the Kyoto Treaty, and thoughts for saving the environment of our planet Earth. As most of us know there are only a few countries left to sign the Kyoto Treaty and Australia (in the company of China and the U.S.), are one of those.  Not only did Prime Minister John Howard not meet with Mr. Gore, but the Treasurer Peter Costello disgraced himself by publicly refuting the validity of the looming environment crisis. The PM not only refused to say whether he thought Al Gore deserved his Nobel Prize, he pretty much implied that Fat Al was a fraud.

“It is very important when you are dealing with something like the environment not to get carried away with any one individual,” Howard said. “Everyone makes mistakes, and there is a danger that we create an aura around individuals that is not deserved.” (Jeff Sparrow)

In my mind the Liberal government is not taking our environment seriously enough.

Why not John Howard?

First off, a vote for Mr. Howard is not a vote for Mr. Howard – it’s a vote for Treasurer Peter Costello.  John Howard has flip-flopped on this issue.  The Prime Minister has been in office for several terms and has not made a secret of his wanting to retire, however, he will not step down from the election scheduled for the 24th of November. He is still planning to retire during his term and the party would then turn over to Peter Costello.  Down in the polls it seems that John Howard and his large ego just can’t seem to let go in order for his party to stay in office.  Peter Costello is not a a good candidate, though he has maintained a decent economy for Australia, his personality and likableness does not suit the Australian public. 

What’s the difference in Labour

rudd.jpgThere are times in government when a new fresh outlook is needed, after 10-years in office I feel that there are some changes that need to be made. The environment is very important to me, and I want a government that cares about the future of the country where I live. Kevin Rudd has shown great promise for change and it’s about time some changes are made.  I certainly don’t want to vote for someone whose only thoughts are on when they are going to retire and not on the needs of the country.  I look forward to better education benefits and a safe environment for our childrens future, opening land for the building of new homes which will put a stop to the the increased houseing market, these things and many more do not seem to be supported by the Liberal agenda. 

The biggest problems for us

Australia doesn’t have the same problems, as I can see, with such things as same sex marriage or abortion.  This is a country that is fairly open to sociatial changes. The things that are effecting us in our day-to-day struggle are things like regulating industry within Australia such as Supermarket fleecing and out of control petrol pricing, releasing more land for homes to be built which will in turn bring the cost of housing down, give tax breaks for low income families (not low and high alike) to afford private education for their children, dealing with the water restrictions in a way that will eliminate future problems rather than interim solutions, and finally it is important that the governmnet we choose will take the environment problems with ozone and reduction of emissions seriously. 

Compulsory

Land of the free?  Afraid not.  Australia has compulsory voting.  Some argue that compulsory voting means that everyone get’s a say, but not everyone want’s a say.  I know people that go in to vote and write “f*** you” on the ballot.  And those that don’t understand the vote or don’t care may end up putting their vote for an incombent to only keep the same loser in office for 10+ years.

Make your vote count Australia!

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