Tag Archives: Australia

Before and after the Fall of the Wall (Memories)

23 Jul


Sunday, the 16th of September, 2012.

On that day we were travelling by public transport to Borgsdorf visiting Ingrid and Erhard at their summer place. Ingrid is related to Peter’s family. Over the years we were always happy to visit Ingrid and Erhard whenever we happened to be in Berlin. On the phone Ingrid wanted to make sure we would come on Sunday. When I mentioned I still had a bit of a cold she said, not to worry, it was going to be a lovely, sunny day. I could just sit outside in the sun and this would do me good. I didn’t have to do anything. She was going to cook lunch for us, she said.

She did serve us a wonderful lunch. She loves to cook with healthy ingredients and lots of herbs and vegetables from her garden. I really felt all right sitting in the autumn sun for hours and hours, being served a lovely meal and later on coffee and cakes. Before the coffee break we all went for a walk to the close by river. Borgsdorf is a very secluded little village. In people’s gardens we could see fruit trees with hundreds of red apples on them.

This is an extract from a blog I wrote after our visit to Berlin in 2012:



My brother Peter Uwe had dropped us off at Berlin Tegel Airport. It was already afternoon, so he wanted to drive back straight away to his place in Mecklenburg/Vorpommern, where we had stayed with him and Astrid for the last few days of our holiday.

We checked in and then had plenty of time to have a drink with the six family members  who had come to see us off:
Peter’s cousin Ingrid, Peter’s nephew Daniel, Peter’s sister Ilse, and all their partners, all had come to farewell us.

It turned out, the flight to Amsterdam was delayed. Because of this,  we got into trouble with our connecting flight in Amsterdam. We had in Amsterdam actually less than one hour to get to our connecting flight. When I pointed this out to a cabin crew member he inquired about my age and whether I could walk all right. I told him I couldn’t walk as fast as younger people. Voila, a drive on a buggy was arranged for Peter and me.

Being driven through the immense airport with passengers roaming about and making way for the buggy, we felt like in a movie. It was a long, long drive to the departure point for our connecting flight. I doubt I could have made it in time by walking. We were extremely grateful for the lift and were able to board on time on the long stretch to Kuala Lumpur.

At Kuala Lumpur Airport we had a seven hour rest. From there we took off  on a seven hour flight to Sydney.  The longest non-stop stretch was from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, namely eleven hours! During this long flight Peter got sick. After that he had hardly anything to eat anymore.

I got distracted again. Searching for some pictures of Ingrid and Erhard,  I finally found the departure pictures that Peter took at Berlin Tegel Airport. You can look at them here:



All the above happened in 2012. The wall had come down already in 1989. We were still thinking about it and all the changes it had brought. Berlin was an undivided city again, East- and West-Germany were one country. But we could still remember what it was like before the Fall of the Wall.


I wrote the following on the 19th of November 2012:

Peter and I  landed safely back in Australia. Yesterday morning our daughter Caroline picked us up from Sydney airport and drove us to our home (100 km south of Sydney). So we’ve been back home now for nearly thirty hours and are gradually getting rid of our jet legs. Everything is fine at our place. Our lovely daughter is going to stay with us till tomorrow (Tuesday).

Six people had come to Berlin Tegel airport on Friday to see us off. We found the perfect place to have a drink with them. This was very relaxing for us. We knew already that our plane to Amsterdam was going to leave somewhat later than originally planned. My brother had driven us to the airport from his place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He had only dropped us off,  for he wanted to  be  back home before it got too dark.

In Amsterdam we had scarce time to catch the connecting flight to Kuala Lumpur. We made sure we’d get some help by the airport people. Just as well! It turned out we had to go  right to the other end of the airport. This would have meant a tremendous walk for us. We were very grateful for being driven to our departure point. I doubt that we could have made it on time by walking.

In Kuala Lumpur we had close to seven hours to catch our Malaysian connecting flight to Sydney. This meant we had no problem with being on time for boarding at the departure gate. It also gave us the opportunity to stretch our legs a bit and then take a break in a beautifully furnished cafe with French songs playing in the background. The toilet facilities were also very welcome. We couldn’t take a walk through the airport’s beautiful open air jungle walk since it was closed for renovations. What a pity!

Near our departure gate we found some stretch-out chairs.  To be able to stretch out on these chairs we welcomed very much.

Some pictures of these stretch out chairs you can actually find in this blog:


I wrote in this blog further on:

We were grateful for the long break at Kuala Lumpur Airport. It gave us ample time to recover a bit from the previous eleven hour non-stop flight. In Kuala Lumpur Peter even enjoyed the coffee and cake we had at one of the airport’s coffee-shops. At some other establishment we had a large glass of iced Chi tea. This tasted very good and was very refreshing. On the next seven hour stretch  to Sydney Peter refused food again. However he had lots of drinks all the time: Mainly water, but also some juice and coffee. He just didn’t feel like eating.


My main purpose of looking up all these posts was actually that I wanted to be reminded what experiences we had on previous visits to Berlin when the city was divided by that Wall. There was a lot of confusion going on about currencies in East and West, lifestyle changes dividing East and West, crippling shortages in the East. a lot of spying going on in the East, West-Berliners making nasty remarks about the “poor” East-Berliners and so on.

And after the Fall of the Wall? To this day these parts of Germany that had previously been GDR territory are still a bit less prosperous than their cousins in the other parts of Germany. Yes, it is one country again, but you do find differences. People in the East seem to be somewhat different from people in the West. The unemployment rate is much higher in the eastern parts of Germany. West-German companies seem to prefer to go to a neighbouring Eastern country where they can pay lower wages.

For some time low cost housing was available in East-Germany. In areas where there is work or tourism, housing prices are on the up. In some remote areas, where there is no work, low cost housing is of no use to the people. It is unbelievable, but people who cannot afford any more to pay for housing and live on the streets for most of the year, these people are on the increase, while other people gentrify their places, and they invest in places they can let for more and more rent. How about this attitude that “the Market” regulates all?






Uta’s Diary, July 2015

3 Jul


I took this picture this morning. It is the first picture I have taken in a long time. I think all through June I never took a picture because my camera did not work anymore. Then I started using an older, smaller camera. This must have been in May. I loved walking around with this smaller camera taking pictures. All of a sudden this did not work any more either. It just would not open up, even though the battery was still full. So I gave up and just did not take any more pictures.

This morning Peter checked the little camera. Surprise, surprise, it opened up for him! Peter said, it was all right, I could used it for taking picture. When I took the above trial picture, it actually worked all right. So wish me luck, that my next pictures are going to be all right too.

There is a heatwave all over Europe right now, while we have very cold winter weather. At least it is not windy, and the humidity seems to have gone too. Right now it is beautiful sunny. The outside temperature has climbed to 13 Degrees Celsius. I should go for a walk. All morning I’ve had the heater on in the computer-room. So the temperature here has gone up to 19 C. (In the morning it was only 13 C inside and 8 C outside!)

For morning tea we had green tea with ginger, Vietnamese bread-rolls, Berliner Fleischwurst and lovely fresh radishes. For dinner we’re going to have fried fish, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potato. From two o’clock on I am going to be at Marion’s place. Irene and Barbara are going to be there too. We are all neighbours. Every Friday afternoon we women have a games afternoon. We usually play one game of Scrabble, then we have a coffee/tea break, after which we play seven games of Rummy-Cub (A Rummy game with tiles instead of cards.)

Yesterday I found out something about the ‘anti-monopolist’ Landlord’s Game by BY LIZZIE J MAGIE. I did publish some of the rules. I would be interested in finding out exactly how it works. As I understand it, it is kind of based on a single tax system which Henry George had been writing about. In this Landlord’s Game with some anti-monopolist rules apparently no player ends up as a monopolist, also all players can play right to the end, only that the players end up with different amounts of money and this determines who the winner is. Maybe the players are allowed to cooperate with each other and no player is allowed to fall below subsistence level.

We are all familiar with Parker Brothers MONOPOLY Game. This works out quite differently, doesn’t it?

I better get ready now for my morning walk.

Q & A, 22 June 2015

23 Jun


Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

23 Mar

“Malcolm Fraser cites the Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre as providing the kind of support that should be coming from the government. The ASRC, through a small permanent staff and about 900 volunteers, gives asylum seekers help with legal issues, medical care, training, accommodation, food and more.”

You find the above comment here;


“Watch Michael Short’s full interview with former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.”

This interview took place two years ago and was published in THE AGE.


I find it significant that Fraser voiced an opinion that this kind of support like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre should come from the government!

Remembering Apollo Bay

18 Dec




A Columnist’s analysing the peddling of Fear

24 Oct

Are we peddling fear just for the sake of it?

Posted about 4 hours agoFri 24 Oct 2014, 6:46am

As disturbing as the events in Ottawa were we are entitled to ask whether the political response here in Australia, on the other side of the world, was helpful or merely exploitative, writes Barrie Cassidy.

The threat of terrorism is real, but is it exaggerated?

The need to be vigilant is obvious, but do we have to live in fear?

Every time someone goes berserk overseas, do we have to behave as if it happened around the corner?

Why in 2014 is every act by a crazed gunman immediately interpreted as an act of terrorism?

And when does the rhetoric of politicians cross the boundaries from sensible public safety and security warnings to fear for the sake of it?

As disturbing as the events in Ottawa were, they could have been the actions of a “lone wolf” with a criminal history. Even if it turns out he was part of some sort of organised global terror attack – what the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, described in the Parliament as part of Islamic State’s “war on the world” – we are still entitled to ask whether the response here in Australia, on the other side of the world, was helpful or merely exploitative.

The politicians rushed to the microphones to draw the links with Australia, to underline the similarities between the two countries, and to emphasise how the same thing could so easily happen here.

The presiding officers of almost every parliament in the country put out statements on security. Tony Abbott gave an interview and followed up with a statement to the Parliament. The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten fell in behind. There was a minute’s silence. How often does that happen when a soldier in another country dies at the hands of a gunman?

Of course Australian authorities charged with the safety of the public should be impacted and instructed by the shootings in Ottawa. Of course everybody is disturbed and alarmed when these shootings happen.

But even so, why did the politicians on both sides of the aisle feel the need to see to it that every Australian shared the fear that they were so ready to express? What are we supposed to do?

Why did the politicians tell us that threats of a 17-year-old Year 10 student should leave us “chilled?” The Courier Mail, by contrast, ran a headline: “ISIS Aussie terror threat backfires. He’s just a very naughty boy.” A “naughty boy” that one senator – David Leyonhjelm – dismissed as “an absolute dickhead.”

Eminent social researcher Hugh Mackay in a 2007 speech entitled “Be Afraid” said:

Fear is a complex emotion but it comes in two main forms. There’s anticipatory fear where we perceive a threat, know what to do about it, and take the necessary evasive action.

That happens when you see a dangerous situation looming on the road, or someone threatens you with violence.

Then there’s inhibitory fear, where the threat is too great, too amorphous or too appalling for us to know how to deal with it. Because there’s no way to discharge the fear through action, we are inhibited rather than energised. The term ‘paralysed by fear’ is a good description of inhibitory fear at work.

Terrorism is an inhibitory fear, and yet that never seems to guide the rhetoric of the politicians.

Mackay went on:

It’s no wonder we are afraid and unfocused in our fear. We’re jumpy about everything because we can’t quite get a handle on what is going on, what will happen next, or even what should happen next.

And that’s the point. The politicians ram this home to the public at every opportunity, and yet the safety mechanisms, the essential responses, are not a matter for them. Indeed, quite often after they’ve been told how serious is the risk, they are then told to go about their lives as normal.

Fear sells, and certainly anxiety wins support for anti-terrorism laws no matter how much they infringe on civil liberties.

Fear is the currency of both sides of politics, and not just fear of terrorism.

Labor for years exploited the fear of WorkChoices. They still do. Tony Abbott was elected off the back of a fear campaign over the carbon tax.

One day though – who knows when – terrorism and the fear of it won’t be the central issue. The Abbott Government needs to be better prepared for when that day arrives.

For example, just this week the ABS announced what the Environment Minister Greg Hunt described as “the largest quarterly fall in electricity prices in Australian history”.

“It’s likely,” he said, “that it stretches back to the Second World War, maybe stretches back further.”

In fact, prices dropped by 5 per cent between July and September. That’s a fact. And yet the perception in an Essential Poll coincidentally released this week showed that just 7 per cent of Australians believe electricity is getting cheaper.

Perhaps worse than that, only 6 per cent believe the cost of living is improving and just 6 per cent believe their jobs are more secure than they were 12 months ago.

There is a gulf between reality and perception that at some stage the government will have to tackle.

In opposition Tony Abbott skilfully stoked anxiety about power prices. He’ll find it much harder to persuade the electorate that their bills are coming down – and by extension – their cost of living is improving.

Australians might fear terrorism, but worryingly for the government, they are at the same time – in the words of Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter Hartcher – stuck in a “pessimism trap”.

Hartcher drew on Ipsos research based on 12 discussion groups to observe that the electorate acknowledges the Abbott Government is trying to address a serious problem with debt and deficit.

But he then quotes the research director of the forthcoming Mind and Mood Report, Laura Demasi:

The government’s rhetoric that we’re living beyond our means, that we have to make cuts … doesn’t inspire confidence.

Coupled with that, we have the government saying “we have to make young people pay tens and tens of thousands of dollars for a degree, and to wait for unemployment benefits, and we need you to work until you’re 70. It’s that bad that we have to hit young people and old people.”

That doesn’t make people feel confident about the future.

Clearly, behind the clouds of terrorism, the government has some work to do.

Hugh Mackay’s 2007 speech ended with this advice to voters:

Above all, be afraid of the corrosive and paralysing effect of fear itself. If we allow it to dull the clarity of our focus on the local issues facing us in this election campaign, that will be a huge victory for terrorism.

John Howard lost that election. Perhaps Mackay’s words should be heeded by both the electorate – and Tony Abbott.

Barrie Cassidy is the presenter of the ABC program Insiders. View his full profile here.

Sea Level Rises

17 Sep

Sea level rises due to climate change could cost Australia $200b, Climate Council report finds

Updated 25 minutes agoWed 17 Sep 2014, 6:18am

Future sea level rises could put more than $200 billion of Australian infrastructure at risk, a report by the Climate Council has found.

The report, Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, showed sea levels were likely to rise by between 40 centimetres and one metre over the next century.

The Climate Council succeeded the Australian Climate Commission, which was axed after the Federal Government took office last year.

The report’s lead author, Professor Will Steffen, warned national income would suffer huge losses if action was not taken to protect against rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

“You’re looking at anywhere from three tenths of a per cent of loss of GDP per year, all the way up to 9 per cent loss of GDP per year,” Professor Steffen said.

Coastal flooding report:

At least $226 billion of infrastructure exposed to flooding and erosion (with a 1.1m sea level rise), including:

  • $81b – commercial buildings
  • $72b – residential
  • $67b – road and rail
  • $6b – light industrial buildings

Source: Climate Council

“That upper scenario is higher than the growth rate of GDP per year, so you’re looking basically at staggering economic costs if we don’t get this under control.”

The Victorian coast, the south-east corner of Queensland and Sydney would be the hardest hit by rising sea levels, the report found.

With more than 75 per cent of Australians living near the coast, Professor Steffen said large swathes of infrastructure were at risk.

“Much of our road, rail, port facilities, airports and so on are on the coast,” he said.

“If you look at a 1.1 metre sea level rise – which is the high-end scenario for 2100 but that’s what we’re tracking towards – you’re looking at more than $200 billion worth of infrastructure that’s at risk.”

Professor Steffen said so-called once-in-a-lifetime natural events could become regular occurrences.

“If you look at some of our most vulnerable areas, and the Sydney region is one of those, you would say toward the end of this century that a one-in-100-year flood is going to be happening every few days,” he said.

“That’s an impossible situation to cope with.”

Professor Steffen said infrastructure projects, like the new runway planned for Brisbane’s airport, needed to factor in future sea rises.

“The people who are investing actually went to the best scientists here in Australia, experts of sea level rises, and took the best science into account and decided they were going to build that third runway higher than previously planned,” he said.

If sea level rises were ignored, by 2050 the report predicted the global the impact of coastal flooding would cost $US1 trillion per year – the same size as the Australian economy.

Climate change impacting insurance premiums

The Climate Council warned sea level rises would put pressure on home insurance premiums, as rising sea levels fed coastal erosion.

Australian Local Government Association president Felicity-Ann Lewis said erosion was already causing problems for home owners.

National infrastructure within 200 metres of the coastline:

  • 120 ports
  • five power stations/substations
  • three water treatment plants
  • 258 police, fire and ambulance stations
  • 75 hospitals and health services
  • 11 emergency services facilities
  • 41 waste disposal facilities

“The insurance industry is very interested in this because some of the insurance premiums are becoming such that people can’t afford to take out insurance on their properties,” Dr Lewis said.

“This is a very big issue.”

Dr Lewis said a lack of coordination across all levels of government was impeding action.

“It’s a very mixed bag; there is no consistent view or approach for local government to try to deal with this,” she said.

“Each state and territory association is trying to deal with different guidelines; there is no consensus around that, so for us it’s a very big challenge.”


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