New Year’s Linkfest ’08 v.1.0: words and pictures, pictures and words

” “‘Fatal’ gas pumped into Qantas jet “

Qantas has been pumping nitrogen from a nitrogen cart (typically used to refill aircraft tyres) into emergency oxygen tanks (used for crew in an emergency). Nitrogen and oxygen tanks have different fittings for exactly this reason – so that the gases can’t be muddled even if there is a labelling error. Instead of noting that the attachments were wrong and considering that there may have been a labelling error, Qantas staff removed the correct nitrogen fittings and replaced them with oxygen-cart fittings from the old cart. This went unnoticed for ten months until the goof was spotted by an engineer.

No harm done, but that’s by pure luck, not good management. Failsafes are there for a reason, people.



Pukurlpatulatju Palyara Pirrtja by Anna Porter

Thriving in the Desert is a blog about the Warakurna Community Art Centre, part of the Western Desert Mob of aboriginal owned and governed art centres. This post, “What makes a good Aboriginal artwork?” touched me.

What makes a good Aboriginal artwork? It is a question that raises more complex questions than easy answers.

Perhaps we need to approach the question in a different way?


The man I already knew asked me “can this man paint here too”. It struck me as a kind of funny question as we had made it clear that the Art Centre was for everybody. “Sure” I said and got the old man a smallish canvas and paint to get him started. I noticed the old man had a rather severe speech impediment and spoke little English. I was later to find out that he had suffered a few minor strokes. He was a shy man but he had asked me if he was allowed to take the canvas home. It wasn’t the usual practice but I said OK. When the old man had left the studio some of the women started giggling. “Mad one, rama rama, that one” they said. “Oh” I said, I really wasn’t sure what to say or think.

About four days later the man returned with his canvas, he was pretty shy about showing it.


The man started coming to the art centre everyday, even showing up at my house very early in the morning and demanding I open the art centre before 7am. “Lazy one” he used to call me if I wasn’t open by 7.30 on hot summer mornings. After a while it became very obvious that this very fragile man who suffers from some serious mental health and physical problems was a huge talent.

The man is now a regular at the Art Centre and is usually the first artist to show up in the morning and is often the last one to leave at close up time. He and I have occasional tiffs about him taking a rest and going home for lunch breaks. Sometimes he teases me and says, “You’re working me too hard”.

One day the community Doctor came to visit the Art Centre. He said, “You know that old man? This Art Centre saved his life”. He said the old man had been deeply depressed and because of his health problems had been excluded from cultural events such as men’s business. Painting had given the man a renewed purpose.

After a while the old man was able to afford to fix his car and buy a rifle from his painting money. Most evenings and weekends he visits his country to check rockholes and to go hunting. He also regularly visits family living in other communities and once again he attends men’s business. He is once again respected in the community.


The man tells me that Warakurna Artists is his place, his Art Centre. This is the way it should be.


via _allecto_, Judy Horacek’s Feminism topic-of-the-month cartoons. My favourites:





Lastly, via Australian Policy Online: “2007 federal election – provisional voting rejection rates”, authored by Peter Brent of ANU, who is a PhD candidate studying the history of electoral administration and working with the Democratic Audit of Australia. The direct PDF download for the provisional votes paper is here. Excerpt:

A funny thing happened to provisional votes at the 24 November election. It may have cost the ALP several seats. Or it may have prevented them from taking several seats they shouldn’t have. Or perhaps 70—100 000 people who couldn’t be bothered keeping their enrolment details up to date simply got what they deserved. It’s in the eye of the beholder.


That is, the acceptance rate of provisional votes fell from 50 per cent in 2004 to 14 per cent in 2007. Why? The Howard government made several changes to the electoral law in the last few years, two of which would largely account for this huge drop.


Does all of this matter? From the point of view of the disenfranchised elector it does, although some argue that if you can’t be bothered keeping your AEC details up to date you have no-one to blame but yourself. There is also the fact that provisional voters are disproportionately left of centre. For example, the total national vote at the 2004 election split, after preferences, about 53 to 47 in the Coalition’s favour. But provisional votes split about 53 to 47 to the ALP. Last month, the nation voted about 53 to 47 in Labor’s favour. Can we assume the “missing” provisional votes would have swung by the same amount, and so gone 59 to 41 in Labor’s favour? If we do assume that, then they would have added about 0.1 per cent to Labor’s national vote, and given them a few more seats. Or maybe they wouldn’t have swung by that much, and probably at least some of the “missing” provisionals should not have been counted anyway. But even a conservative treatment of them delivers Labor the ultra-marginal McEwen and Bowman. Electoral law is not black and white. The tension is between integrity of the roll and people’s right to vote. Throw in partisan considerations—from both sides—and it’s a heady mix.

Categories: gender & feminism, indigenous, Politics, social justice, technology

Tags: , ,

6 replies

  1. Happy new year over there! Still waiting over here!
    And is it terrible that my first thought about the Qantas story was, “Well, they wouldn’t need the emergency oxygen anyway, ’cause Qantas never crashes.”* Which I learned, of course, from Rain Man. Other things I know about Australia come from the following sources: Crocodile Dundee; that one Simpsons episode; a waiter I worked with when I was 14; Foster’s commercials.
    I really need to visit you guys someday.
    *Yes, that would be terrible if I were serious, but of course I’m not.
    Kate Harding’s last blog post..Oh, Mackereally?

  2. That’s ok Kate, what we know about America comes from Bewitched, Friends, all the other episodes of The Simpsons, and Buffy.
    It’s because of the Simpsons that I know about Gerald Ford, and it won me a round of pub trivia once, much to the excitement of my family team.

  3. Oh, and The West Wing. I know a lot about the American electoral system from The West Wing. Bring Back President Bartlett I say!

  4. Kate H: come visit, come visit! A coast-to-coast Hoyden-tour of Australia could be way fun.
    I confess to learning about America partly from the West Wing and Buffy, and partly from living there, once as a kid and once as an adult. I ended up working in the South during the 1990-91 Gulf War. That was certainly … another universe.

  5. Well, my life is exactly like Buffy, so you guys know everything you need to know.
    Lauredhel, I would LOVE to visit, and you’ll be the first to know if I ever do. Unfortunately, there’s the whole time/money/psyching myself up to get on an airplane for like 9 days straight thing. So perhaps not in 2008. But someday.
    Kate Harding’s last blog post..Oh, Mackereally?

  6. I hear you Kate, though the trip from the States is not much of a big deal – Europe is a longer haul. But what would I know? I live in the most isolated capital city in the world.
    If you do come, whatever you do, don’t come in summer.
    Lauredhel’s last blog post..?Civil liberties advocates = paedophiles?: Internet culture wars from the ALP.

%d bloggers like this: