Friday, September 17, 2010

There's pink, and then there's PINK!

Okay, so no one should laugh when they’re watching a report about homes being resumed. I get that. But is the Aussie sense of humour really on its last legs?

I was watching Nine News the other night and there’s this item about the Queensland State government’s plan to ‘resume’ - compulsory purchase, the Brits call it - about 60 properties in the Yeerongpilly area of southern Brisbane, to make way for a new railway station.

The camera zoomed in close on a few poor unfortunates who’ll be worst affected (I’ve come to expect that when my heart strings are being tweaked for me), such as the hair-dresser who’s worked hard to build up her clientele in the area, and a property developer with a half-built apartment complex who doesn’t know if he’s Martin or Martha any more. I could feel the emotion.

But I kinda lost it when the mature (for want of a better phrase) lady resident blasted onto my screen. Don’t get me wrong – I feel for her, too. Honestly, I do. She’s just finished refurbishing her home and this announcement couldn’t come at a worse time for her.

But she’s wearing her hair bright pink, almost in a punky ‘what-the-hell-are-you-lookin-at?’ style. It goes with her bright pink top, though, and her bright pink lippy.

‘She likes her pinks bright,’ I say to myself.

And there’s nothing wrong in that – she can wear anything she likes, and adopt any look she wants.

Here’s what killed the interview for me, though. The reporter asked her what she thought of the government’s announcement. And she said...

‘It’s shocking.’

But nobody else laughed. Absolutely no one. Not the cameraman. Not the reporter. Not the couple of anchors back in the news room. Not even the weatherman.

Now, I feel for these poor Yeerongpillyites, I really do. But, come on. There’s more than enough bad stuff going on in this ugly big world that’ll depress us. I reckon we should all take every opportunity God sends us to have a good going belly laugh.

Unless you work for Nine News, of course. Very professional.

Not even a smirk.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

Today, the Down Under Dunder focuses on the cuts to public spending that are about to ravage the UK, in particular the proposed cuts to police funding.

The last reports I read from a my favourite UK news web sites said that 40,000 front-line police jobs (that’s actual cops on the beat) are to be lost in the UK over the next four years.

Forces across the country are faced with having to make cuts of up to 25% of their annual budgets. Inevitably, that will result in cuts to actual numbers of on-patrol police officers, as well as police equipment and civilian staff. In other words, the service that each force area provides to the tax-payer is destined to diminish.

Strathclyde Police already have a recruitment freeze in operation. That means each cop who retires or is killed in the line of duty isn’t replaced, resulting in a net reduction in the number of officers available to do the job we demand of them: protecting our lives and property, preventing crime and, where crime has been committed, detecting offenders. Every other police force in Scotland is already doing likewise, or is about to.

As it stands, pitifully few crimes committed in Scotland are detected; roughly 49% of all reported crimes are solved, according to Scottish government figures released on 7 Sept 2010. Any less and ‘...we may as well just put the lights out and walk away...’ to quote Perth Sheriff Lindsay Foulis, the Scottish equivalent of an Australian magistrate. (In fact, Sheriff Foulis was decrying the automatic early release of prisoners, but automatic early release and poor detection rates are issues which are closely related; both can trace their roots directly to the biggest problem facing the Scottish criminal justice system today: under-funding.)

All manner of police services and initiatives will also suffer.

Community policing, for example. Fewer cops on the beat will mean each ‘bobbie’ has less time to foster good community relations and build the respect that a community must have in its officers.

Requests for information under ‘freedom of information’ legislation will go unanswered, because there won’t be enough civilian staff to attend to those requests.

Crime prevention initiatives will fall by the wayside, abandoned as ‘non-essential’.

Inter-force investigations (of alleged police misconduct or incompetence, for example) will be compromised.

Hey, Amnesty International, are you watching that one?

You name it, it’ll be cut.

Fewer firearms officers, yet more criminals turning to guns, since the deterrent of being caught and convicted is diminished.

Fewer police helicopters, yet more criminals prepared to endanger the public as they careen along our streets at idiotic speeds in the hope of evading justice.

Fewer police dogs, yet more criminals encouraged to violate the sanctity of a stranger’s home and sneak off under cover of darkness.

Bad enough. But the real problem, as I see it, is the dystopia that must surely fester in such a sour melting pot of injustice. I see the UK turning into a nation of vigilantes – victims of crime, their families and friends, who let nothing stop them from exercising their God-given right to justice. Worse, any Tom, Dick or Harry who wants to throw his weight around will jump on the vigilante bandwagon faster than you can say ‘Nice bullets, Mr Kersey’.

Kangaroo courts; no right to a fair trial; punishments that grossly outweigh the severity of the crime committed; no right of appeal.

Defence solicitors should also be concerned by these cuts – where will their bread-and-butter business come from if the detection rate plummets?

It isn’t a pretty picture. In fact, we’re witnessing a disaster in the making.

When the crime rate spirals because our courts can’t cope (surprise, surprise, court funding is also under review), and when violent criminals who should be locked up wander freely among us because there’s no room to incarcerate the fewer and fewer who are convicted (prison to guess?), the public will take only so much before they fight back against those who would steal their freedoms.

I don’t think it’s a question of ‘if’; more a question of ‘when’. And as soon as a community heads down the path to vigilantism, that community is ruined for all time.

These cuts will permanently scar the face of British society. They’ll turn a once-beautiful part of the world ugly.

It doesn’t have to be so, but it’ll take a far stronger government than the one we have now to steer Britain away from the brink of ruin.

One positive will come from these budget cuts, as far as the Tory / Lib. Dem. UK government is concerned: the reported crime rate will fall.

Of course it will; it’s inevitable. The ‘reported’ crime rate (not to be confused with the ‘actual’ crime rate) will fall because, in the not-too-distant future, days or even weeks will pass before some over-worked, under-valued, demoralised and ill-equipped plod turns up to log your crime report; and there’ll be little or no chance of tracing, let alone convicting, the perpetrator of that crime. The public won’t bother calling the cops to report ‘petty’ crime, and the reported crime rate will fall.

[Aside: what is ‘petty’ crime? Is it when some splendid example of adolescence and his trusty screwdriver cause thousands of pounds of damage to the side of my car? Or is it when someone less fortunate than me breaks into my home and shits on every photograph I have of my dear departed mother. I’m curious to know what the government’s spin merchants define as ‘petty’.]

Three years from now, if indeed it takes that long, the UK government will quote this drop in reported crime figures and laud its achievements in delivering tough policies on criminal justice while still reining in the costs of policing the nation. They’ll ask for another term in government and promise us better times ahead.

And the Mad Hatter will be nothing short of delighted, because everything will be what it isn’t. Finally.

He’d be delighted now, in fact, since I’ve come to the end and stopped.