The boys from across the way caught me on the way back from the local pool to ask if their nanna (aussie for 'grandma') had really nearly killed me with the walk yesterday. "Nah, I was just giving her a hard time by teasing you guys." I don't think they all bought it.
The girls came wandering back, and their mother came up with a girlfriend. I'd borrowed some coffee from her the night before. She just said to keep it and she'd borrow some from me when she needed it.
About half the kids around the neighborhood know me. The rest wonder about this big yank down the road.
Their nanna, MF, is one of the most requested corporate trainers in Melbourne and across Victoria. She's one of my expert advisors on this project. Her enthusiasm for my AEmeritus has been a pleasant surprise. We couldn't find time to just sit down and talk, so .. I let her drag me out for a walk.
Besides, she got me my first gig as a corporate trainer.
MF set a quick pace. It's been over a year since two titanium chunks were installed in place of my hip. I've made the pretense many times that I was fine, but the reality was that exercise or any extended time on my feet just exhausted me. It's good to be able to keep up and still have a conversation.
I've been here over 5 years now; MF more than 30. There's a lot about MF I like. She's gone through the rough times and is still smiling. She married once while young, and has stayed marriage through thick and thin. Her family knows she is always there for them. Yet she's independent. She works strictly on contract. Must be something in that Irish upbringing.
The conversation turned to our fascination at the aussie national character. Aussies can be the sweetest people. You can't imagine.
There are a lot of barely hidden influences in the Australian social fabric.
If you're Irish in Australia, you're treated like family. Everyone seems to have had Irish in their ancestry.
MF had asked a couple of friends why the aussies hate Americans. Turns out it had something to do with WWII. It seems aussie men were either in infamous prison camps or conscripted to fight away from home, while the Americans set up bases in New Zealand, the Torres Straits islands, and Australia. The aussie women loved the yanks.
The influence is exposed in the rhyming slang, "septic tank yank." It's just a slang, but the phrase is pervasive and enduring. Now, you'd think after 60-odd years, that sort of influence would wear away. Aussies are slow to change.
The influence remains as an undercurrent. I don't think most aussies know where it comes from any more. Yet every aussie wants to go to America; and many have visited there and stayed.
Aussies are still stuck in the trade union model.
The trade unions in Australia have gone too far. With a legislated 4-weeks annual leave, 4-weeks carers' or maternity leave, a 36-hour work week, and all the national (and local holidays) guaranteed Australians barely work 10 months out of the year.
Trade unions in Australia were controlled by the pommies (aussie for the English) and the Dutch. Trade unions had their place in history. There was a time when small children were used for dangerous jobs or just worked until they dropped. Workhouses were considered better than jail. The reality is that they may have been worse. No one ever seemed to finish their sentences.
Free trade agreements have been a shock to Australians. Even TAFEs
and Telstra see the economic value of outsourcing technical work.
Telstra has taken a lot of bad press for importing Indian programmers.
The fact is that India trains superb programmers, and they work for much lower salaries!
The TAFE example above is in Flash. A Flash programmer in Australia charges $35-$50 an hour. The same work can be done in India for $10 an hour, and there isn't even a language barrier.
John Howard's new IR legislation is going to be a rude awakening to Australians.
It reads a lot like the "right to work" laws in the western US. Outwardly, the law seems fair. The Howard governement has spent $55 million to try to tell Australia that their annual leave and other legislated time off will be protected -- all they have to do is negotiate it into their employment contracts.
This is the same sort of thing that happened in Nevada, almost to the letter. Real wages were cut in half. Holidays were gone. And with the incomes lowered, the social support programs disappeared quickly for lack of funding.
The first social programs to go will be for the elderly and disabled. They're already under attack.
And aussies seem to define their rights in terms of their generous social support programs. From my own personal experience, getting in the way of an aussie and some sort of dole payment can be dangerous. Australians are heavily taxed and retaxed to support those payments. And then every service you want from government comes with a fee.
I wouldn't be surprised to see some bloody riots. Like I said, aussies don't accept change quickly.
Add in the Anti-Terrorism legislation in a country that has no constitutional guarantees of human and civil rights; an established record of police and judicial corruption; and this place is looking interesting quickly.
Somewhere in here I want to remind the aussies about that ancient Chinese curse about interesting times.