Digressions – Bob’s top gripes for 2023-2024


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Yes folks, it’s a list, and not just any old list. This one selects (just some) of the things that gave the writer an urge to pen ‘outraged father of one’ letters to newspapers in 2023. All are ongoing issues in 2024.

Cash is King

Kudos to our local Credit Union teller who happily counted bags of coins and deposited them in our respective bank accounts. Some banks are no longer providing such service options, claiming to be ‘ cashless’.

We have encountered (as have you), instances of retail outlets (restaurants and bars) who refuse to take cash. Last time I looked up the legislation, cash was still ‘legal tender’. Did you know that includes one and two-dollar notes, phased out in 1984 and 1988 and replaced with the very same coins we took to the Credit Union. Go figure.

While it may be very old school to secret coins away in a container for use at Christmas, this year She Who Hoards bought a bottle of Mumm and a quality red with the proceeds. It’s called saving.

Help yourself check-outs here to stay

Major Australian supermarket chains will probably persist with their policy of encouraging customers to scan their own groceries at self-service check outs. I am one (and we are many) who refuse to do this.

The major chains will tell you they are employing more people than ever to cope with new shopping options (on-line delivery). But clearly, fewer staff are required when a store has (for example) eight service check outs and eight self-service stations. There is usually at least one employee in the self-service areas, ostensibly to ‘help’ people but more likely to spot opportunistic theft.

Large retailers including Booths (UK), Walmart and Costco (US) are reportedly winding back their self-service options. Booths is removing self-service check outs at 26 of its 28 stores, saying its customers rejected them as ‘unreliable and impersonal’.

News Ltd quoted a Marks and Spencers executive that self-service check outs lead to what he called ‘middle class shoplifting’, that is theft by people who normally would not dream of it but are motivated by an “I’m owed it” attitude.

Shoplifting is up 20% in Australian supermarkets, although there is no break-down as to how much of that is down to self-service customers leaving stores without scanning some items. Supermarkets have always had losses due to staff pilfering, shoplifting and fresh food wastage. The industry calls it ‘shrink’ and it’s factored in to financial operations.

Homeless, diamonds on the soles of their shoes (not)

If anyone’s keeping a list of things various governments promised to do about housing, prioritising the homeless is not one of them.

It’s a weight of numbers thing, true, and homeless people are more likely to gravitate to States where it is possible to live outdoors most of the year. The Census figures are damning enough, but already this snapshot taken every five years is hopelessly out of date.

The Census (2021) revealed that on any given night, 122,494 people in Australia are experiencing homelessness. One in seven are children under 12 and 23% of people experiencing homelessness are aged between 12 and 24. Homelessness Australia has a more pessimistic (or realistic) picture, but it too is dated. In 2021-22, 272,700 people were supported by homelessness services (source Institute of Australian Health and Welfare). In 2021-22, a further 105,000 people (300 per day) sought help but were unable to assisted because of shortages of staff, or accommodation or other services.

Click to access Homelessness-fact-sheet-2023-1.pdf

What’s been done about this? Not much and even if it could be described as ‘better than the last guys’, governments are playing catch up. The stories that make headlines are homeless camps (under bridges and freeway ramps) being broken up by officialdom.

McCrindle Research reports that the average full-time annual earnings in Australia is $97,510 with household gross annual income at $121,108.

The majority of rental accommodation is expensive and in demand. House prices keep rising and interest rates are higher now than when mortgages were negotiated when rates were low. In November, 552,000 people were listed as unemployed. And don’t get me started on the plight of single pensioners who don’t own their own home.

Victorian Councillors surveyed about ‘perceptions of corruption’

In May the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) emailed all 632 Victorian local government Councillors. They were invited to participate in a perceptions of corruption survey. Reminder notices were sent over a three-week period to those who had not completed the survey. In total, 131 Councillors participated in the survey, representing a response rate of 21%. (Councils where Administrators were in place were excluded).

Almost 75% of respondents thought corruption was a problem in Victoria; 59% thought it was a problem among elected officials. Three-quarters agreed that some elected officials behaved inappropriately or unethically, but this did not necessarily extend to corrupt behaviour.

(Victorian MPs were also asked to complete the survey with similar findings and level of engagement).

Readers should be aware that this issue is not just about Victoria and Councils should expect scrutiny in an election year.

What good is the UN?

According to a databank maintained by Sweden’s Uppsala University, there have been 285 armed conflicts since the end of World War II. That doesn’t include the latest war between Israel and Gaza and who is to say there won’t be more before 2024 is out? The United Nations, previously the League of Nations, is supposed to keep the peace. The UN’s latest moves to stop the war between Palestine and Israel have so far been futile. There was a vote for a ceasefire, but it wasn’t a binding resolution. Both sides have since kept exchanging missile fire as the occupying force advanced. A United Nations Security Council bid to enforce a ceasefire was watered down to allow aid to get through to Gaza. Meanwhile, Houthi Rebels from Yemen (reportedly backed by Iran), have stepped up attacks on commercial shipping vessels travelling through the Red Sea. This too is a response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Yes, I mean no

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore was on ABC television yesterday claiming that 70% of Sydney people voted Yes in the October referendum (remember that?). I don’t remember the context but found this statistic in direct contrast to the Federal seats of Maranoa (where we live) and Fisher) where we used to live. In both these electorates the Yes vote was less than 20% and the No vote actively supported and sanctioned by sitting Federal members. Incidentally, Clover Moore defends the $6 million+ cost of Sydney setting off 50,000 fireworks at midnight as great international PR. This comes under the ‘I’m just going to leave this here’ category of social comment.

I could go on (the quality of on-line captions for the hearing-impaired, editors who organise lists into alphabetical order, hypocritical betting ads, the deterioration of ABC News (sliding rapidly into viewer-provided content and infotainment), venues that expect musicians to play for  ‘exposure’, the worrying swing to the populist form of government (in Holland, Brazil and New Zealand…)

Most of all, we wish you all a Trump-free world in 2024.


  1. As an American migrant who’s called Australia home since 1984, I would love to see nothing more in the New Year than a Trump-free world. But the way the Presidential election is shaping up in 2024, it’s not looking good. His outlandish behaviour and 1/6/23 insurrection appears to be accepted and supported. It’s incomprehensible and America’s first dictator looms large.

  2. I enjoyed reading this, Bob. I agree with your point of view on the subjects but also found it thought provoking. I would value continuing conversations. Thanks.

  3. Cash is inconvenient, supports tax evasion and possibly spreads disease, but shouldn’t be eliminated. What would the Tooth Fairy do?

    The UN? It’s failures are obvious: Srebrenica massacre, the West Bank, the Iraq War, numerous Security Council vetoes … However, it’s the best we have for now.

    And Maranoa? It just is. If you don’t know, study the Old Testament with a primary school understanding of theology.

  4. Bob, you may have some minor relief to know that at the Maleny booth on polling day the “Yes” vote was about 49%. And, at the Maleny pre-polling it was about 44%.

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