Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Serendip Sanctuary.

Today I was on a different† part of the Wathaurong People's land, that of the Neerer balug. I honour them as the traditional owners of that land and respect their Elders, past and present.

I went to visit the Serendip Sanctuary with my friend and fellow photographer, Allan and his lovely wife Judy.

Partner in crime photography.
We might as well get this bit out of the way first, and then we shall never speak of it again. Deal?

Towards the end of our stroll around the park, I called out to Allan to come and see "The world's biggest echidna!" This thing was the size of a porcupine and it was just sitting in the shade in the middle of the day.

Monster echidna!
Well, I waited for it to move for a while, so I could get a clear shot of its head, but to no avail. I took the shot above and then walked on. As I walked, I kept my eye on this beast and something strange seemed to be happening to its shape!

Several steps later, all I could see was this…

It was just a cut-out propped in the leaf litter! Ok, when you've stopped laughing at me, we can move on and never mention it again.


All the regular crowd were there. There was Old Man Emu, who we are told can run the pants off a kangaroo.

Not running.
I'm happy to accept that as a fact since I've never seen a kangaroo wearing pants.

We didn't see any kangaroos (this is the area for the Eastern Grey Kangaroo), but there were wallabies a'plenty.

Running. Well, hopping anyway.
Being a wetlands area, there were plenty of waterfowl. There were natives like this Black Swan.

I suddenly felt like a nice cold Western Australian beer!

As well as introduced species such as this Mallard Duck.

Not the ME from NCIS. Looks nothing like Illya Kuryakin.
There were also other birds that utilise the wetlands. Not sure if these guys were fishing or just snatching a quick drink on the wing.

Houston, we have splashdown of Apoll… No, wait, he's off again.
The highlight for me was finding, albeit in an enclosure, a couple of Tawny Frogmouths. It was the right time of year to catch a glimpse of any chicks that may have hatched recently, but they are notoriously shy and their defensive strategy is to freeze like a rock and not move.

Tawny Frogmouth
Anyway, that was our visit to Serendip Sanctuary. If you would like to see more of my shots, they're over on Flickr.

Thanks for reading. Don't tell anyone about the echidna, ok? If you do, I'll call you a bustard.

With a 'u', if you please.
Good light.

†I live in Bacchus Marsh, which is still part of the Wathaurong People's land, but of the Marpeang balug.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Open Letter to some Australian Federal Politicians

The following is the text of an email sent to Australian federal politicians in my division, Ballarat. The email addresses I used are listed at the end, followed by the replies.

The Honourable Catherine King, Federal Member for Ballarat,
Mr John Fitzgibbon, Liberal Party candidate for Ballarat,
Ms Stephanie Hodgins-May, Greens candidate for Ballarat,
Mr Gerard Murphy, Palmer United Australia candidate for Ballarat,
Ms Anne Foster, Australian Christian Party candidate for Ballarat,
Mr Shane Dunne, Katter's Australian Party candidate for Ballarat,

Dear fellow Australians,

I write to you today to express my dismay at the current state of debate regarding the issue of asylum seekers, and in particular, my sense of shame regarding yesterday's announcement of a new asylum seeker policy.

To echo the words spoken yesterday by The Honourable Peter O'Neill, CMG, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Australia is also a vast land with a small population. Approximately 97% of our population are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. While we do need to do more to acknowledge and respect the original and traditional owners of this land, we are a nation of immigrants, including many who were refugees, and this is something we should be proud of and seek to continue.

Further, Australia is a country which prides itself on fairness, justice, and the spirit of "mateship".

Taking these two points together, why is Australian policy on, and the political discussion of, asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by sea, so unfair, unjust, and totally lacking in mateship? Why are the policies of both major parties so determined to punish, and to be seen to punish, people who are so desperate and in such dire straits that they see no other avenue of escape but to pay exorbitant amounts of money and embark on a treacherous voyage to this country?

Why can we not demonstrate to these unfortunate people, and to the world at large, that we really are a country of decent, civilised, welcoming and friendly people?

I shall give you my thoughts and I would appreciate it if you would each respond so that I may make my decision as to which of you I will vote for in the forthcoming federal election.

  1. There are votes in it. I am not naive, I understand that everything a politician does is firstly, primarily, and always to get elected or re-elected. I find this a shame, but I understand it.

    I am sure that you each have your polls, your surveys, your feedback showing that there are Australian voters who feel that there is a need to "protect" Australia from asylum seekers. I would suggest that most of them feel that way, at least in part, because of the political posturing and maneuvering by you and your colleagues. Repeated use of slogans like "Stop the Boats" and the nonsensical and self-serving use of descriptions like "illegal" only pander to and inflame such sentiments.

    I would like to assure you that there are many, many other voters in the federal division of Ballarat who feel that this is not the answer. There are many who do not even feel that this is very much of a "problem" which requires an "answer". The total number of asylum seekers who arrive by sea are truly trivial and do not require the amount of effort and hot air being spent on them.

    Receive them, rescue them if necessary, and process their applications in a timely and non-discriminatory manner. Allow and assist them to settle in Australia and let them get on with their lives; coincidentally growing and contributing to this great country as refugees and immigrants have always done. I assure you, there are votes in this too.
  2. There is no second point. It is all about the votes, nothing else.
I am most eager to receive your responses on both of these points.

In closing, may I remind you of some words in the second verse of the Australian National Anthem;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
I thank you for your time in reading this letter and look forward to your reply.

Jim Campbell
Voter in the federal division of Ballarat.

Email addresses;
Catherine King (replied 2/8)
John Fitzgibbon
Stephanie Hodgins-May (replied 21/7)
Gerard Murphy
Australian Christian Party
Katter's Australian Party
All of the above

First response - received Sunday July 21 at 7:31 pm

Dear Jim,

Thank you so much for taking a stand and writing to all the candidates. As you would probably expect, I share your concerns and I'm equally appalled at the depths to which both the Liberal-National Coalition and Labor Party have sunk to in this debate. Kevin Rudd's latest announcement is shameful and unsurprisingly it has the support of Tony Abbott.

Refugees deserve our care and should be treated with compassion and dignity as all people should. The Greens have a plan to save lives now and provide security to those who need it. Only the Greens plan is legal, effective and compassionate and is supported by a long list of groups such as Amnesty International, the Refugee Council of Australia, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Human Rights Law Centre, Labor for Refugees, Law Council of Australia and Chilout (Children out of Detention).

Further information including our full plan can be found here:

Many Australians, including people in the Ballarat electorate, are outraged as you and I are. If you'd like to join the Greens or assist in any way, you can do so here:

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss further. My phone number is below.

Warm regards,

Steph Hodgins-May
Ballarat Candidate | The Greens

Second response - received Friday August 2 at 10:35 am

Dear Mr Campbell,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me regarding asylum seekers, and the Federal Government’s response to this issue.

The issue of the movement of people across the world is a difficult one and is constantly changing. That’s why we have been working with our neighbours across the region to find solutions.

Australia is a compassionate nation. It has always had a generous resettlement program for refugees from around the world. This approach is reflected in the Australian Government’s decision last year to lift Australia’s humanitarian intake to 20,000 a year. Our humanitarian program works with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and resettles refugees in need of protection.

At the same time, the Government must respond to the many instances of asylum seekers drowning at sea and the people smugglers that set out to abuse our system and exploit desperate people.

These issues cannot not be addressed by the cheap three word slogans and the unilateral action proposed by Tony Abbott and the Coalition. Regional co-operation is required.

Under a new arrangement reached by the Prime Minister with Papua New Guinea (PNG), asylum seekers who now arrive by boat will have their claims for asylum processed in PNG and if they are found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG.

Asylum seekers will be transferred to PNG following a short health, security and identity check in Australia, and will be housed in regional processing centres that are managed and administered by PNG under PNG law with support from Australia.

Under this arrangement, if an asylum seeker is found to be a genuine refugee they will be permanently settled in PNG. Persons not found to be refugees may be returned to their home country or a country where they had a right of residence.

There is no cap on the numbers that may be transferred or settled.

The Australian Government is working with PNG to ensure settlement occurs where appropriate housing and services are identified. 

People who are sent to be settled in Papua New Guinea will still be cared for. They will not be returned to their place of persecution, and the obligations of the United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention will be adhered to. PNG has agreed to take immediate steps to withdraw its reservations to the Refugees Convention, with respect to persons transferred by Australia to PNG under this new arrangement.

Australia will bear the full cost of implementing this arrangement in PNG for the life of the arrangement. There is no limit on the number of people who can be transferred to PNG under this arrangement. This arrangement is reviewable after the first 12 months.

This approach provides a durable outcome for genuine refugees where they will be properly settled in PNG consistent with Australia’s international obligations. It also means that people smugglers can no longer sell asylum seekers quick settlement in Australia.

As a compassionate nation, we will continue to deliver a strong humanitarian program. This Government has increased Australia’s humanitarian program to 20,000 places a year, the largest increase to Australia’s humanitarian intake in 30 years.

The Australian Government has also indicated the desirability of international forums being convened to consider a review of the UN Refugee Convention. 

If the new arrangement with PNG and the international meeting on the Refugee Convention that has been flagged lead to a significant change in the number of people arriving by boat, then the Government stands ready to consider progressively increasing our humanitarian intake towards 27,000.

On the basis that this arrangement operates in the way that we intend then we will avoid the tragic consequences of people drowning in the Indian Ocean. Our humanitarian program will be decided by Australia and the United Nations and more refugees will be helped.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to me on this important issue.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine King
Office of the Hon Catherine King MP

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Myki comes to V/Line - a user's response.

A scenic view of Bacchus Marsh
A Scenic View of Bacchus Marsh by Jim Campbell

Public Transport Victoria announced today that Melbourne's hugely overpriced, hugely over deadline, and hugely unpopular ticketing system, myki* will be introduced to some of the state's regional rail networks later this month.

Below is the full text of PTV's† announcement, as linked above, and my responses. First of all though, let me tell you what dogs I've got in the fight.

I live in the lovely town of Bacchus Marsh, west of Melbourne and about halfway between Melbourne and Ballarat. I travel regularly by train to Melbourne (about an hour) for work, and to Ballarat (about 40 minutes) to visit family. In the past, when work was more frequent, I have used monthly and weekly tickets for travel to Melbourne. These days I usually just buy a day return ticket whether I'm travelling to Melbourne or to Ballarat.

myki to start on V/Line commuter services
11 June 2013

The myki ticketing system will begin a phased introduction to V/Line commuter services, starting with the Seymour Line on 24 June 2013.

Public Transport Victoria Director of Customer Services Alan Fedda said myki is replacing most single use and all periodical V/Line tickets on commuter lines.

“The V/Line tickets migrating to myki are the Single, Return, Weekly, Monthly, Date-to-Date and Off-peak tickets, all of which can be accessed using myki fare products,” he said.

“Passengers currently purchasing Single, Daily and Off-Peak tickets should switch to myki money, while those using Weekly, Monthly or Date-to-Date tickets should switch to myki pass.
“From the first day of myki on each V/Line commuter corridor, passengers have the choice of switching to myki or can continue to use V/Line paper tickets until they are phased out over the coming months.

“Weekly, Monthly and Date-to-Date tickets will no longer be available to purchase after the last service on 22 September 2013, but all other single use tickets will still be available for some time.”

myki will be introduced to other V/Line commuter lines on the following dates:

Traralgon Line   8 July 2013
Bendigo Line     17 July 2013
Ballarat Line      24 July 2013
Geelong Line     29 July 2013
The introduction of myki to V/Line commuter services has many benefits for passengers.

Mr Fedda said V/Line customers will have more ways to purchase their ticket to travel.

“As well as buying and topping up a myki at the ticket window at staffed stations, passengers can also buy and top up their card online at, by calling 1800 800 007, from close to 60 retail outlets and myki machines at stations,” he said.
None of those retail outlets will be closer to me than my railway station. Online and call centre top ups take 24 hours to go into effect.
“Passengers boarding at unstaffed stations can top up their myki before travelling, instead of having to buy a ticket from the conductor.
My station is (currently) manned. Buying a ticket from a conductor is not onerous, it is a convenience. Just having a conductor is wonderful; I bet they don't last now.
“People using myki money can use auto top up so they will never again have to wait in line to purchase their ticket.
That's fine for those who work regularly and know that they will have the money in their account at the right time!
“Passengers need to ensure they have a valid myki pass or enough myki money on their card to pay for the journey they are taking and this is made much easier by the purchase and top up options which are now available.”
I need to ensure I have enough money to buy a ticket before I, you know, buy a ticket. How is this different or better?
The switch to myki means V/Line commuter services operate in zones, replacing point-to-point fares with time and zone based travel.
So what?
V/Line Chief Executive Officer Theo Taifalos said myki delivers a truly integrated ticketing system which can be used across multiple modes and geographical locations.
So can my current V/Line ticket. When I go to Melbourne it includes all zone 1 & 2 trains, trams and buses. When I go to Ballarat, it includes all Ballarat City buses. Want to bet this is going to be more expensive now?
“V/Line customers can now enjoy the benefits of an automated ticketing system, benefits metropolitan public transport users have enjoyed for many, many years,” he said.
But did he manage to say it with a straight face?
“Our customers can now use one card to travel seamlessly across much of Victoria, from taking a journey on a regional town bus to connect with a V/Line train to Melbourne, and then onward to suburban areas using a train, tram or bus.
No change. If I need to do a suburban school visit (a lot of my contracts are with the Department of Education), my V/Line ticket to Melbourne will cover it. If I want to travel to, say, Port Fairy (I love that place), I just purchase a ticket from Bacchus Marsh to Port Fairy and travel.
“While the new zone and time based fares may take a little getting used to, our customers will soon see the benefits of this model.
You haven't shown me ANY benefits yet.
“Seniors in Bacchus Marsh, for instance, will now be able to travel to Melbourne for free on weekends with their seniors myki, while all passengers will automatically be charged off-peak fares as appropriate,” said Mr Taifalos.
If I'm going to be travelling off-peak, I buy an off-peak ticket. Not that it saves very much money.
A second, temporary PTV Hub is now open on the ground floor of Southern Cross Station near the myki barriers to assist V/Line customers with any questions they have about making the switch to myki on V/Line commuter services.

Please note: Customers on V/Line long distance trains and V/Line coaches will continue to use V/Line paper tickets.
If you use V/Line either regularly or occasionally, whether it's from Bacchus Marsh or elsewhere, what do you think of the introduction of myki? Leave a comment with your thoughts or experiences.

*The poor old thing is so unloved and unlovable that it doesn't even get an initial capital letter.
†Of course, PTV is all in capital letters!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Photo aggregators on Twitter - Dodgy or not?

If you follow a lot of photographers on Twitter*, sooner or later (probably sooner) you're going to see an RT of a very good photograph tweeted by an account like @Fascinatingpic or @Fascinatingpics or similar.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps not all of these photographs are taken by the actual account holders.

Take, for example, this wonderful image tweeted recently by @EarthPix...

If you drag this into Google image search, you get three pages of results, including five "Visually similar images" which are obviously the same, as well as one "ring-in". This particular one resonates with me as it is reputed to be over Corio Bay, which isn't a million miles from where I live.

Is this your shot? I'd love to credit you with it, I really would. In fact, if I knew whose shot it was, I would have emailed and asked for permission to use it in this blog.

Does that make it an "orphan" image? I believe that the UK has passed Acts of Parliament and is in the process of passing enabling regulations that change the copyright law such that anyone could use an image like this. Not just a small version used under "fair usage" to illustrate a point as I hope that I have done, but to print them as large as the pixels will bear and sell them for all the market will bear! It doesn't seem right to me.

The strange thing about these photo aggregator Twitter accounts is that they don't seem to be trying to take any advantage. Their links just link to the images; they don't try to send you to other, perhaps dangerous, websites. Some of them are very specialised in the types of images that they aggregate.

So what are your thoughts? Here are some of the accounts that I've noticed over the past few weeks.

@ vppluse

Note the similarity of some of the names.

Do you follow any of these Twitter accounts? Do you follow any other accounts that are like these ones? Do you see these accounts RTd into your timeline? Do you RT these accounts when you see them?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about these Twitter accounts, because I'm really not sure what to think about them. I'd very much appreciate your input.

And if you ARE one of these accounts, I'd really, really like to hear from you!

Good Light.

*As I do. I've filled one list to the max (500) and started on another!