Cold comfort …

… What a pleasant life could be had in this world by a handsome, sensible old lady of good fortune, blessed with a sound constitution and a firm will

Wrote Stella Gibbons in Cold Comfort Farm (published 1932). The heroine of the story is sponging off the welfare of others  and I learn from Wikipedia that …

each of the farm’s inhabitants has some long-festering emotional problem caused by ignorance, hatred, or fear, and the farm is badly run.

Sounds remarkably like the Australian Federal Parliament.

When I last wrote about our little constitutional difficulty the damage was largely confined to the Green Party. I happened to read one of the alt right web pages that I frequent to help reinforce my prejudices, I think it was The Australian. In the comments the overwhelming response was serve the bastards right. Lack of due diligence on the part of Green Senators, was of course no surprise, Watermelons are by definition stupid or they wouldn’t be Watermelons. No one seemed to notice that the Australia Constitution holds the contradictory provision that the Head of State will be a foreigner whilst no Australian parliamentarian can be even remotely tainted by otherness.

Since then the disease has spread a little wider and the only party not yet infected is the Australian Labor Party. Perhaps they have been more diligent in going through the motions of shedding alt citizenships.

Since my very erudite post on the issue there has been very little in the way of enlightening discussion of the underlying problem. However today at one of the ultra left wing sites I visit to counter my right wing bias, I have a chip on each shoulder, I found a good article by Michael Collet. You can read the whole article at Your ABC.

Mr Collett has gone to the trouble of visiting the debate that led to the wording in Section 44. (Or at least he has read an unspecified  “expert paper” which makes an appearance part way through the article). From him we learn that Sir John Hannah Gordon, a South Australian delegate to the Australasian Federal Convention that drafted the constitution, wanted to make a provision for naturalised British subjects but was shouted down. Significant responses being …

You cannot have two allegiances.  Patrick McMahon Glynn.

He may be minister of defence.  Sir George Turner.

It is worth remembering that this debate occurred in the latter half of the 1890’s, about a constitution that would determine the future for British subjects in Australia, between people who were in the main recent migrants to Australia and which led to the election of a parliament that contained a good proportion of people who would today fail the Section 44 provisions. Australian citizenship did not come into existence until 1949.

Notions of citizenship have changed significantly since the debate. In the 1890’s the sun never set on the British Empire, you might be a British Subject born far from Britain itself but you shared in that wonderful fellowship of belonging to the Empire. We might now think of citizenship as a commodity that is useful to us, our ticket to live somewhere, in the 1890’s British Subjects were a commodity useful to the Empire. It owned us.

There was no contradiction in disallowing the naturalised subjects a place in parliament because it didn’t rule out any of us, only the French and other foreigners.

And what of allegiance? If it’s that significant then sending a couple of your friends to the Iranian Embassy with a piece of paper saying “I renounce thee, I renounce thee, I renounce thee.” doesn’t cut it but does satisfy the High Court. Even if a second citizenship is surrendered it might still be the case that we have more of an issue with a foreign power, China for example, buying influence from our politicians.

Is it true that you cannot have two allegiances or even more? A patriotic Australian, a good catholic, a feminist and a Collingwood supporter. What if your committment to a particular religion or political ideology outranks your commitment to your country? What if the sign by the roadside says “You are in Wadawurrung country” when you thought you were in Australia? Ah, the imponderables.

As much as I enjoy anything that causes our execrable politicians discomfort I think our constitution is flawed. It seems that the bunch of migrants that put it together couldn’t envision a future when our migrants might not be British Subjects like themselves. It is an insult to those citizens by choice, like me.

I am proud of my British Heritage and I think that Australia has benefited enormously by adopting much of that heritage. We can’t blame Britain for the constitution though … they don’t have one. Well not a written one. Smart that.







“I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the albatross!” – Robert Cushman Murphy, 1912.

Murphy, ornithologist, ecologist, conservationist, was writing to his wife from the whaling brig Daisy in the vicinity of South Georgia. He describes the Albatrosses “Lying on the invisible currents of the breeze” which beautifully portrays their flight in light airs but it’s when the wind rises to a gale that I find them most impressive. When your hands are clasped tightly on the ship’s rail and you hope your pyloric sphincter will maintain an equally strong grip on your gastric contents, the Albatross passes elegantly by demonstrating a complete mastery of its elements. I saw my first Wandering Albatross just outside Sydney Heads and I remember it well.

The Albatross family is one of the four (extant) families making up the order Procellariiformes. When you go to the seaside you encounter numerous seabirds, gulls, cormorants, and gannets for instance, but most of them don’t venture too far out to sea. The procellariiiforms are true ocean goers, they may spend years at a time without coming ashore something that they usually do only to mate.

To get amongst them you have to go to sea. This weekend I did exactly that sailing about 30 nautical miles south of Port Fairy to the edge of the continental shelf.

Shy Albatross

The largest albatrosses are the Wanderers and the Royals but they didn’t put in an appearance this time out. The largest on this occasion were the Shy Albatross. They were present in good numbers and not at all shy. Slightly smaller and rather more numerous were the Black-browed Albatross …

Black-browed Albatross

The black margin on the underwing is broader, the bill a different colour. They come in two subspecies (full species according to some) which can be distinguished by the colour of the iris, yes you do need to get reasonably close. One has a dark eye, the other is honey coloured, both were present.

Smaller still is the Yellow-nosed Albatross …

Yellow-nosed Albatross

Sea birds tend to be black, white, gray or combinations of black, white and grey! Diagnosis has its challenges. Albatrosses are actually the easy ones.

All the procellariforms have tubes leading to their external nose. If you look at the top close up of a Shy Albatross you can see that there is a small nostril on the side of its beak. The Albatrosses all have two quite small nostrils, in all the other families that make up the order the tubes merge into a single opening on top of the beak.

The four families are :-

  • Family Procellariidae (shearwaters, fulmarine petrels, gadfly petrels, and prions)
  • Family Diomedeidae (albatrosses)
  • Family Hydrobatidae (storm petrels)
  • Family Pelecanoididae (diving petrels)

and at least one member of each family turned up. Here are a few of them …

Grey-faced Petrel
Southern Giant Petrel
Fairy Prion

Volcano Envy …

Australian landscapes are ancient, the heady days when rift valleys tore Gondwana apart, and sea floor spreading propelled its fragments around the globe are long gone. It’s hard to imagine a Mt Nyrigongo popping up and obliterating Adelaide. And I do so miss her warmth, the twinkle in her magma and her sweet sulphurous perfume.

But the reality is that western Victoria is littered with volcanoes. It’s just the timing that’s out of kilter.

Ken Grimes, of the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club has written a very nice paper on the subject which you can find <HERE>.

In the Western District there are mainly three types of volcano, though combinations of these also occur. About half of the volcanoes are small steep-sided scoria cones built from frothy lava fragments thrown up by lava fountains. Most of the remainder are broader but flatter lava volcanoes formed from relatively gentle flows of lava welling out of a central crater. A group of about 40 maar craters
near the coast formed from shallow steam-driven explosions which produced broad craters with low rims. These now often contain lakes.
These are the New Volcanics, they started about 5 million years ago. The most recent eruptions occurred about 5000 years ago. They seem to have occurred about every 5000 years so we may be due. According to Ken they erupt for a few weeks or months and never again, the next eruption being at a new site.
Melbourne University’s Professor Joyce anticipates that the next eruption would be “the sort of thing that would be interesting for tourists”. I’m sure it would, and Dr Lin Sutherland of the Australian Museum reassures us that
… no panic is needed. It probably would be a small discharge and a temporary nuisance, rather than the large eruptions we see in the Pacific ‘Rim of Fire’.
This assumes that it isn’t a Phreatic (15 points, more if you can get it on a double or triple word square) eruption. Boil one cubic meter of water and you have 1,600 cubic meters of steam. If magma comes into contact with ground water the result is an explosion. Such
explosions crush the overlying rocks and launch them into the air along with steam, water, ash and magmatic material. The materials usually travel straight up into the air and fall back to Earth to form the tephra deposits that surround the crater.
Thus producing a maar, these are usually a few hundred to a thousand meters in diameter and less than one hundred meters deep. Nothing to panic about.
Tourists do enjoy them but not until they’ve settled down a bit! My favorite is at Tower Hill near Port Fairy, incidentally this vicinity is high on the list for the next eruption.
It’s probably about 25,000 years since it went bang. It is now a very attractive game reserve, home to koalas, emus and kangaroos. Interestingly, you can’t take your dog there but during duck season you can take your gun.
Koala – Tower Hill
Emu – Tower Hill
Eastern Grey Kangaroo – Tower Hill

So there you have it … photographic evidence of life on maars.

Stranded …

A story that was recently in the news is worth a review.

You can read it at PerthNow where you can also watch a film clip. To summarise, a couple travelling on the Canning Stock Route, one of Australia’s more demanding 4WD tracks in remote Western Australia got bogged and weren’t able to get their vehicle out.

So they reached for their satellite phone, well no they didn’t, no mention of a satellite phone. So they separated and set off walking. Worked well enough for the girlfriend, she walked into a campsite where she was able to raise the alarm. The search started on Friday morning, the boyfriend was found on Sunday …

The Perth man who almost perished in the WA outback has credited skills he learnt on Bear Grylls TV shows for his survival.

Anthony Collis says he ate flowers and bugs during the three days he spent lost in the Pilbara.

The press run this sort of story every chance they get, if I’m ever rescued from the bush I am going to say I survived by eating spiders. It raises the game to a whole new level. He didn’t survive by eating bugs and flowers, he survived despite eating bugs and flowers. Going without food is very uncomfortable but it would take him three or four weeks to die from starvation. He was intending to travel quite a distance up the track, there are no McDonalds on the route so surely there was food in the ute.

How long you can last without water is another issue. It could be just a few hours of heavy exercise in the hot sun, probably three days in shade rigged by the ute, a week at room temperature in comfortable surroundings. And, surely there was more water in the ute than he could carry.

It is winter and it was difficult to keep warm. So Mr Collis buried himself in the sand just like Bear Grylls did in his show. An unexpected side effect of that was to make him invisible to the heat seeking device the police, in their helicopter, were using to locate him.

As always the starting point for the search was the car. Had he been there it would have been a very short search. He wasn’t there. He was three kilometres away. What is the point of being three kilometres away?

You can bury yourself just as well at the car, we know the sand was soft, the car was bogged in it. Three days, three kilometres. It defies logical explanation.

Good preparation for a 4WD trip includes a means of communication, some self rescue equipment, water and food. Both of these people are lucky to have escaped with little damage. Caroline Grossmueller wasn’t so lucky.

It’s a pity that Bear Grylls didn’t tell them to stay with the vehicle, I guess that doesn’t make for spectacular TV.

McGee  … not bogged

Rakali …

After Africa it’s harder to keep the dopamine flowing. No lions, no leopards, the only primates are wearing clothes and driving cars. But still life has its little surprises. Like this guy …

Hydromys chrysogaster

The latin name translates as water mouse with a golden belly. Lots of species are blessed with the name chrysogaster, it fits the Orange-bellied Parrot much better than this rat.

Its name was changed from Water Rat to Rakali to improve its image.

It is a rodent and it is native to Australia and New Guinea. It lives in rivers, lakes and sheltered marine bays. They’re quite omnivorous but prefer animal food when they can get it. They’re nocturnal when it’s warm enough for them but in Victoria in winter they feed during the day.

Which is how I came to find this one in Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree, yes this is the rat from Ballarat. It is quite widespread as you can see from the distribution map which I have shamelessly filched from Wikipedia …


Citizens …

The three Australians returned from Africa to find their country having a mini constitutional crisis.

Although all three of us are Australian citizens it just so happens that we were all born in another country, not all that amazing, more than a quarter of Australians are. I don’t know if the other two also retain citizenship of the countries of their birth. I do.

Some of our senators, much to their amazement, and my amusement,  had just discovered that they were citizens of another country.

Section 44 of our revered constitution has this provision …

44. Any person who –

(i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: or

… (4 more ways to disqualify yourself) …

shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.


Occasionally some one with a good ear will pick me as a pom and since it is an old Australian custom to rubbish poms a disparaging remark often follows. If I’m in a good mood I’m likely to say that I’m a citizen by choice, they’re just a citizen by accident, if I’m in a bad mood I smack them in the mouth.

So can I stand for parliament? Yes, I can but I must first renounce my British citizenship.

But let’s return to accidents and intentions. I am British by accident of birth, in other words a subject of her majesty. How odd that to become Australian I had to swear or affirm my allegiance to the Queen. She has been discretely dropped from the pledge in the meanwhile but she is still the head of state.

That’s right you can’t be an Australian politician if you also hold citizenship of another country but the head of state is a foreign national. How crazy.

Queensland senator-elect, Heather Hill, was ruled ineligible in 1999 because she held dual citizenship and had not taken adequate steps to relinquish it. The other citizenship was of New Zealand. Head of state of New Zealand? Too right, the same head of state as Australia.

One of our politicians was born in Iran …

Senator Dastyari said he applied three times to renounce his Iranian citizenship and every attempt failed. He eventually employed two Iranians to go into the embassy with his renunciation papers and photograph themselves, just to be sure. “There’s like a selfie with these two bearded Iranian guys and my forms,” he said.

<The Australian>

Did that enable him to serve Australia better … ask the Chinese (or The Courier Mail).

The High Court will have the task of sorting out a couple more citizenship issues in the near future. Will they be taking the framers of the constitutions intentions into consideration?

Difficult to do that. The Australian Constitution was written in the 1890’s, we were all just British Subjects back then. The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 created the concept of Australian citizenship, which came into force on 26 January 1949. In the first parliament, 1901, there were  26 parliamentarians from England, 17 from Scotland, seven from Ireland, two from Canada, one from New Zealand and one from Chile. All British subjects then, subject to suspicion now.

I guess what the constitution requires is something akin to …

“Loyalty, absolute loyalty to your courageous and wise leadership and we pledge to continue to be faithful soldiers behind your victorious leadership.”

Except that’s from a letter written by  Senator Eideh (Victorian State legislature) to President Assad of Syria.

Gee, it’s complicated.


Mount Mitta Mitta …

AKA Mt Mittamatite is a little over 1000 metres and has its very own web page. Dogs are welcome on a lead and fires are permitted in the fireplaces provided. Camping is possible at the summit and at Emberys Lookout. There are no bookings and no fees. There is an aircraft navigation facility on top.

The view from Emberys (above) is impressive, it is a popular launching site for the hang gliding fraternity. You have to work a bit harder for a view at the summit.

I was hoping for more mist and less cloud. I’ll have to go back.

The weather was closing in with a vengeance. Yesterday’s snow was the start of a southerly outbreak which was only going to get worse. Time to head for home.