Monthly Archives: June 2008

Sydney Petrol Prices

Soaring petrol prices have led to all sorts of calls for action to help reduce prices. The Opposition called for a 5 cents per litre reduction in the excise on petrol, which currently stands at 38.1 cents per litre. (See note below for an explanation of the strike-throughs). the abolition of the double taxation of petrol by eliminating Goods and Services Tax (GST) on petrol excise. Since the excise is currently 38.1 cents per litre, this would save 3.8 cents per litre. One Victorian Liberal MP, Chris Pearce, went further and called for a 10 cent reduction in petrol excise. The Rudd Government initially claimed that there was nothing more that they could do, but then buckled to the pressure and has proposed the introduction of a national FuelWatch scheme aimed at promoting price transparency at the bowser. The Minister for Competition Policy & Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen, has indicated that this scheme is expected to save around 2 cents per litre. So, what is going on with petrol prices and what are the merits of these proposals?

Continue reading

CityRail’s 14 Day RailPass

On my way into the station this morning, I was handed a brochure about CityRail’s new 14 Day RailPass. A bargain at exactly twice the price of a weekly pass, I suspect that it is, in fact, a cunning plan to prise more fare evasion fines from me. Thanks to public holidays, interstate trips and the like, my weekly ticket buying cycle tends to wander through the week and, since there are no ticket barriers at Newtown station, it’s all too easy for me to breeze straight down onto the platform only to be trapped at Wynyard without a valid ticket. The station attendants will always let me through to buy a ticket, but the railway police (if that’s what they are called) are another matter. Take it from me, no amount of waving expired weekly tickets will get you out of the $200 fine. Even writing pitiful letters doesn’t help. Now I’m sure that CityRail is wise to my forgetfulness and realise that if I can forget that I’m supposed to buy a new ticket on Tuesday morning, how much more likely will I be to forget to buy one every second Tuesday?

Continue reading


Parliament FlagLast Monday the public beta of was launched. The site, closely modelled on the UK’s, aims to make the workings of Australia’s democracy more transparent.

Transcripts of parliamentary proceedings (Hansard) have been available on line for some time, but OpenAustralia takes the same content and gives it a Web 2.0 work-over. Searching is far easier than on the parliamentary website. You can enter your postcode, find your local member and then search for particular words or phrases in her speech (in my case Tanya Plibersek) and you can even subscribe to an email alert which lets you know whenever she says something in parliament. You are also able to post comments on individual speeches. This feature provides a intriguing forum for community debate of political issues without the filter of media decisions as to what is or is not newsworthy. I will be very interested to see how these discussions evolve.

Continue reading

PubCamp Vox-Pop

As promised in my PubCamp Sydney post, I am now able to provide a brief glimpse of the Stubborn Mule on camera. Sticky Media’s Craig Wilson asked the probing questions while Gordon Whitehead rolled tape…or at least operated the video camera. Gavin Heaton (aka servantofchaos) was up first, followed by yours truly and finally Markus Hafner (aka eskimo_sparky) of Happener. That was all there was time for as the conference was about to begin.

PubCamp Sydney

I took an early mark today to attend some of the PubCamp Web 2.0 Media (un)conference in Sydney. Unfortunately I had to leave early and so missed the later unconference sessions, but I have a spy who promised to provide a detailed report. Still, there was enough in what I did see to make me glad to have made the (short) trip.

Continue reading

A Krautrock Sampler

Countdown LogoFor many years, Countdown¬†was an institution on Australian television and I was a dedicated fan, never missing an episode. I even made it into the studio audience once in 1980 (I can pinpoint the year as Ghengis Khan’s Olympics theme song, Moscow, was number one on the charts). It was through Countdown that I had my first exposure to Krautrock when “The Model” was released by Kraftwerk in 1978. Of course, purists would argue that by then Kraftwerk had moved beyond their krautrock roots into electro-pop, but it would be another 30 years before I understood that.

Continue reading

Retail Sales in New South Wales

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the latest retail sales numbers for New South Wales that contrasted the sales growth in take-away food and pubs and clubs with the decline in business for cafes, restaurants and fresh food retailers. This is put in the context of with rising mortgage rates and fuel prices, to suggest that consumer behaviour is starting to shift. The data is published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Prompted by a comment over on the Junk Charts blog, I’ve used a table enriched with spark-lines rather than the heatmap I used in the inflation post.

Continue reading


I had lunch with friends today (Yum-Cha at Sky Phoenix) and mentioned that I’d started this blog. I was astonished to hear that two of them claimed never to have read a blog! Now I know I spend a lot of time dabbling in all things Web 2.0 and I certainly didn’t expect anyone around the table to be plurking, but surely everyone reads blogs, don’t they? Apparently not. Since I gave strict instructions to everyone around the table to visit the blog (and leave comments, nudge, nudge), it seems like a good opportunity to share my blog-reading habits with these blog novices (and everyone else who may drop by).

Continue reading

Sonny Plays Sydney

When I started this blog, I expected to focus on my personal interests, such as Sonny Rollinsmusic, technology and science. As it turns out, most of the posts so far have emerged from my work-life, dealing with finance and economics. Seeing Sonny Rollins perform last night at the Sydney Opera House makes for a good excuse to change this with a post with a musical theme.

When I first started a serious exploration of jazz a few years ago, Saxophone Colossus was one of the first classics I added to my collection. Recorded in 1956, it features perhaps the most famous Rollins track, St Thomas which rapidly became a standard and is likely to be familiar even to those with but a passing acquaintance with jazz. But just in case you are not familiar with it, St Thomas is the first track on my Jazz Sampler over on mixwit [Update: with the demise of mixwit, these links no longer work].

Continue reading