UNSW vs NTEU dispute becomes ugly as students turned into political prawns

Yesterday morning I found out that members of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) would be refusing to release student end of semester course marks as part of their ongoing dispute over pay and conditions with the University of New South Wales. Yesterday afternoon UNSW responded by issuing a refusal to pay any staff member who takes part it the ban on exam results. The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the issue here.

The biggest problem with refusing to release marks is that the main impact of this action will affect students far more than it effects the university. This step has seen students become political prawns in a petty dispute. While I support the right for members of the union to strike, and I certainly believe in their cause I do not see how bringing students into the crossfire is going to get the staff onside with anyone. However, I believe the actions in response by University management will only seek to inflame the situation further. Tit for tat is never a good way to resolve conflict.

If the staff really wanted to force the university’s hand they would place a ban on submitting papers and attending conferences. This would see a far bigger impact on the university’s reputation, standing and income. I do not believe that the NTEU would even consider this course of action because more than any lost income the action would directly affect the standing of its own members within the global academic community. But surely that is what industrial action is about, standing up for what you believe in, putting your reputation and standing on the line? Rather than using students as cheap political ammo the NTEU should focus on where it hurts, research output.

A Relaxing Day Out – Pindar Cave Hike

On Sunday I went with the University Outdoor’s Club on a hike to Pindar Cave in the Brisbane Water National Park just south of Gosford.

There are some good notes about the track here.

Overall the walk was not too challenging, it is 14km and we completed the hike in 5 hours 40 minutes which included three stops for morning tea, an extra long lunch, and me being smacked in the eye by a swinging tree branch. With the exception of a 100 vertical metre climb at the start of the track the route is relatively flat and easy going. The only caveat to this is in places the track is very narrow and almost overgrown which just adds to the fun.

Sydney Biennale

Today I went to the 17th Biennale of Sydney. I had planned to go when it opened but I kept on putting it off when I got to the weekend as I was lazy, or the weather was bad or I was busy with other events. But this morning I woke up and instead of being lazy I forced myself down to Circular Quay and onto the ferry to Cockatoo Island.

Arriving at Cockatoo Island on an overcast day brings with it an even greater feeling of mystery. In the past Cockatoo Island has been used as a prison and as a naval shipyard. It is said to have ghosts on it and that is something you can certainly feel in the air as you step onto the land. The exhibitions of the Biennale have been set up within the hundred or so buildings scattered about the island. There is a map in the guidebook of where each piece of art is but there is no set route around the island you are left to your own devices to explore both the art work and the Island.

A lot of the art is audio/visual consisting of short (and some long) films or a combination of sculpture and projected video. The best installation of this type was a circular room with video projected in 360 degrees. In addition to these installations there was also your more traditional modern art consisting of sculpture and a combination of post-modern objects mixed with everyday life.

In addition to Cockatoo Island there are a number of other galleries around the city with installations as part of the Biennale. I got off the ferry back into the city at Shed 2/3 and after that I walked through to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sometime before the event ends I will need to head through the Opera House and the rest of galleries to see the rest of exhibition.

Replacing Kevin Rudd as Australian PM a bad move for the long term of the ALP

In a little over an hour it is about 95% likely that Australian PM Kevin Rudd will be replaced by deputy Julia Gillard. This will see Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister.

While it is a historic moment for Australia to have its first female Prime Minister it is a terrible move for democracy and for the reputation of the ALP in general.

Firstly, Democracy. Kevin Rudd was elected by the people as the leader of the country. Sure technically he was elected by members of the Labor Party to be their leader and then Labor was elected, but the reality of it is at the election he put his face forward as Kevin 07 and the election became a cult of personality which the voters endorsed. So as much as the election in 2007 was a Labor win it was also a Kevin Rudd win. If anyone should have the ability to vote out Labor and Kevin Rudd it should be the voters not just the caucus MPs.

Second, the reputation of the ALP. For the last few years Kevin Rudd has been the most popular Prime Minister in Australia’s history only in the last few months and weeks has things start to go wrong. All governments experience moments of popularity and moments of dislike by the general population. However, the instant that the gloss has come off Kevin 07 factions within the ALP have moved to get him dumped and this has completely undermined his leadership. The worst thing about Julia Gillard becoming the Prime Minister is time and again she has said that she does not want the role. This is not her saying that for political stability it has been clear that she genuinely meant it, even last night she did not look happy that she was contesting the spill this morning rather that she had been forced into it.

What this all shows is that the internal workings of the ALP have absolute contempt for the general population. They believe that because Kevin Rudd is not pushing their agenda to the letter of what they expect they can replace him with a puppet who will. Furthermore this sets a very bad precedent for the leadership of the ALP, essentially what this move is showing is in order to lead the ALP you must be popular and the instant you begin to hit a storm you will be rolled. This isn’t going to bring stability to the party or seek out the right kind of candidates for the top job.

Finally whatever the outcome of this mornings vote I hope that the Liberal Party moves a vote of confidence against the government and the government loses confidence and election is forced immediately. Julia Gillard needs to face the voters of the general public, not MPs and background lobbyists.

The importance of being correctly prepared for the bush

Two weekends ago I was hiking with two friends in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. The route we had planned to do was Katoomba to Mt Solitary to Wentworth Falls a little over 20km and two days. Unfortunately a member of our party was bitten by a Red Back Spider late on Saturday afternoon and went into anaphylactic shock and had to be helicopter lifted out of the bush on Sunday morning.

Mt Solitary we were camped on ridge in right of this photo

In the past I have at times been criticised for carrying too much first aid and related emergency gear into the bush making my pack often a few kilograms heaver than others. This was the first time I have ever been in serious strife and I am so thankful for having that extra gear with me.

Going into the bush on Saturday had been the same routine as almost every other hike I have done. We started a little later than I had hoped and this cut into the amount of time we had to stop for food and photos. By late Saturday afternoon we had about 1.5 hours of track to cover in a little over an hour before we lost the light unfortunately as we made our final push towards the top of Mt Solitary we began to rapidly lose light and it was looking touch and go if we would make the camp site before sunset. At around this time one of my mates rapidly had all the colour drop from their face and became very fatigued. Unaware of any spider bite and thinking that they had exhaustion setting in we decided to turn back from the summit and go back to a camp site back up the track.

Once we arrived at the camp site we set up camp and cooked dinner as my friend had their condition worsen – they went freezing cold and at this stage we were thinking they had someone contracted a mild dose of hypothermia – nothing more than some hot food and a little bit of sleep could cure. Things worsened around 5am when I was awoken by my ill friend who was shaking and had begun vomiting – hardly a nice situation to be woken to in the dark of a tent in the middle of nowhere. Once daylight hit they also realised that they could hardly see (everything was spinning), couldn’t walk and was going downhill very fast.

It was a very tough decision deciding to call 000 and request a helicopter but I am so thankful in hindsight that I did (at the time we were still thinking that it was hypothermia). I walked a few meters up the side of the hill to get signal and called. Having to explain where you are exactly in the bush is a very hard task. First the operator kept asking me where the nearest suburb and road was so they could send an ambulance. Finally I managed to get the message across that we were in the bush over 6km as the crow flies from the nearest road and there was no way my mate could be walked or carried out.

From there it was a case of explaining exactly where in a mountain range of over 1 million square kilometers we were. I was thankful that I had a map of the track we were on and was able to explain that we were at the eastern end of the ridge between ruined castle and the knife edge (around 1km square area). At this point another group of hikers passed by with a gps and was able to give the exact location (within 200m). From there the helicopter took under an hour to find us and saw us on their second pass thanks to a genius idea from the passing hikers to use our emergency blanket as a very large flag to wave at the passing helicopter. From there my friend was airlifted to hospital and the remaining party had to carry out their gear in addition to our own. We were in such a hurry that we managed to cover 4 hours of track in a little over 1.5 hours.

The good news two weeks on is my friend has recovered well, it has taken some time for them to come completely right but in hindsight I am so glad that they are alive. In addition to this I am so glad that I had an emergency blanket with me to signal the helicopter with, maps to narrow down exactly where we were, the gps of the passing group of hikers, warm clothes to wrap around my friend to lift their core body temperature. For me I feel vindicated in carrying the extra kilo or so of weight and it also is a timely reminder of even experienced people can rapidly find themselves in trouble when things out of your control take over the situation. It is a situation I hope to never find myself in again, but has not halted my love of the bush for one second.

Katoomba Falls – early on in the hike
The Three Sisters - early on in the hike
Three Sisters – early on in the hike

We were located on this ridge line here, zoom out to see how far from civilization we were:

View Larger Map

Five years of brad.net.nz

Today marks five years to the day since I launched this site. A year ago I blogged some stats and pictures from prior versions of the site.

Below are the updated versions of the graphs from that post with data collected in the last year, the large drop off in visits in the middle of last year was due to a change in servers and the stats reporting software which filter out bots and other non human source of traffic from the stats.

During the last five years this site has served as an outlet of fun, anger, opinion and pure geekness.

In total over the last 1,826 days of operation there have been 203,869 visitors accessing 670,871 pages. Sure that may not be earth shattering stats compared to many other blogs or websites but as a website I set up as an experiment in my spare time while at university it is stats that are far beyond anything I expected. So today I say thank you to my readers of my random rants.

A Draw – All Whites Best Ever World Cup Result

I have to confess I am not much of a sports nut (except for motorsport), for the most part I am very much a fair weather supporter and only care or watch a particular sport if NZ is doing particularly well.

The current NZ team that is doing very well is the Football/Soccer team, The All Whites. This is the first time in 28 years they are playing at a World Cup, and last night they earned their first ever point at a tournament with a draw against Slovakia.

To watch the match I went down to the office FIFA Fan Fest site at Darling Harbour, to join with ~2,500 fellow supporters to watch the match. The balance of NZ Supporters to Slovak supporters was probably 10:1, however, the Slovaks know how to chant and cheer on their team while the NZ supporters are passionately quiet.

That was until the 93rd minute of the game when NZ scored and leveled the game 1-1. Personally I have never screamed so hard in my life and my ears are still ringing even now from the amount of noise that was generated as a result of celebrations of the goal. The last few seconds of the game following the goal were not heard as the NZ supporters continued to scream, yell and dance while the Slovak supporters who had been so vocal all game when quiet.

It was a lot of fun to be around people so passionate and it is a pitty that NZ never seems to put on public gatherings like this to support its teams, instead people are confined to their couches at home watching Sky, or at the local pub.

Vivid Sydney

Last night on the way to watch the All Whites game at Darling Harbour I detoured through the Opera House to see the sails of the building be lit up as part of the Vivid Sydney festival of light.

The different patterns and shapes projected onto the opera house are awesome and poor photos from my cellphone simply don’t do it justice. If you are in Sydney go and check it out.