Friday, November 30, 2012

UK Border Agency attempts 'daylight robbery'

(Photo: BN4 taken by Abby van Balen, Salar de uyuni, Bolivia)

Not needing her full-on winter woollies in South America, BN4 left a small bundle for me to post to the UK in time for her Christmas sojourn there.

Duly despatched at the begining of October, I was amazed to see the parcel returned to Scone this week.

Apparently the UK Border Agency have seen fit to apply custom charges to imports into the EU with a value over £15 for VAT and also to apply import duty to all items valued over £135. Moreover imported gifts valued over £40 sent between private individuals are also to attract VAT...WTF

None of BN4's items were 'new' or 'for sale' or actually 'imports' - none of them! - so they certainly did not warrant the impost of £105.01 ($161.45) that was required to be paid by my English family so that the parcel could be claimed. Unsurprisingly the parcel was not collected, and it has now made its way back to Australia.

Putting BN4 and her lack of winter clothes for Chrissy aside for a minute, what about the actual season of giving itself? Will there be customs charges for the cookbooks that I've sent to the UK family this year? Is the UK government that desperate for cash they've directed the UK Border Agency to ensure they squeeze every available last penny from any poor international sucker who still posts gifts to their family? - international gift giving might have to stop!

Who are the UK Border Agency anyway? - and why do they bother themselves with the minutiae of parcel post? Exactly what have family parcels got to do with border security? Surely their state of the art UK Border Agency scanning equipment could have informed them very quickly that they were dealing with a small bundle of used woolly clothes - certainly a pair of spectacles might have assisted and/or taking their gloves off, and judging from the condition of the box when it arrived in back my kitchen, the UK Border Agency have clearly left no mitten unturned in their quest to discover undisclosed international trade.

...and while I'm musing on this matter, who are Parcel Force Worldwide? - whatever happened to the 'Royal Mail' that we knew and loved?

Sigh - bring back Postman Pat

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Christiania - HERE IN NEWTOWN!!!

First lesson with Peter (PS Bikes):
'Forget everything you've ever learnt about riding a bicycle...because this is like riding a pram...don't fight the extra wheel!'

'Hmmm logistics for drinks in the park have just got a whole lot easier - how convenient!'

In effect, this is my Newtwon 'big-vehicle' and I intend to use it for stuff that other 'peeps' use their cars for:

* airport pick-ups
* mega-shops
* picnics
* weddings???(BN1,2,3&4, maybe? some stage!!!!!)

So after the official handover between Peter and me outside Cheeky Transport, I gave it a burl down King Street and other bits of Newtown on my way home!

Verdict: BRILLIANT - I love it xx

Collapse: Lendlease tumbles down on UTS

Leaving Central and heading down Broadway was only possible for pedestrians this morning - and only up to a certain point.

Unbelievably we were met with this sight - one of Lendlease's cranes working at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) had caught fire, burnt out and severed the cables and then collapsed on the tower where site workers prepare the steel for construction.

Amongst the workers I chatted to, many were concerned about the safety of colleagues as the tower is normally a hive of activity with steel preparation happening alongside construction.

But fortunately no-one was harmed by the Leadlease jib collapse.

Word on the street felt that the fire was burning diesel.

Everyone was there and Broadway looks like it will remain closed for quite a while.

Naturally the media started dribbling in, and 'Channel Hairspray,'

...with gas & tackle tactics,

...assumed my vantage point..

..."news from Broadway, coming to you live, fire in crane, crane on UTS campus" or something like that

Chaos ensued with traffic everywhere but Broadway...

Not so bad for pedestrians...

...and as always, diversions posed very few problems for cyclists!

Collapsed crane and Broadway without traffic - surreal

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Those were the days, my friend..."

(Photos: Waratah Rovers Bicycle Club, outside the Royal Hotel, Picton, NSW, October 1900, NSW State Library collection)

...when we wore hats on bicycles to protect us from the sun.

Today over 100 years later and notwithstanding the call to arms to guard against skin cancer, Australian governments stand in the way of sun-protection whenever we get on our bicycles.

Governments only pay lip service to the notion of sun protection otherwise they would eschew the madness of bicycle helmet law and encourage us to don big brimmed sun hats the minute we unpadlocked our bikes.

In reality bicycle helmet law has relegated sensible sun protection to second place. Unsurprisingly the risk of skin cancer when riding a bicycle 'Down Under' is extreme at any time during the day other than night-time.


"Those were (also) the days, my friend," when we had a transport system in Sydney we can only dream about today and are desparately trying to recapture.

Given the current beleagured transport system was an issue the government went to an election on, declaring fervently that they were going to it sort out, the big puzzle now is why the Transport Department's proposal to reintroduce trams into George Street has been so catergorically rejected by the private sector infrastructure lobby group, Infrastructure NSW, who keep interjecting with their own multi-billion dollar tollway plans...

$$$ Why does Infrastructure NSW have so much caché with the NSW Premier?

$$$ Why did he ever appoint them?

$$$ Why are their musings so favoured by him?

$$$ Why are all they so stuck on 'Paradigm Car'?

$$$ What about what Sydney people actually want?

Obviously not everything about the 'Good Old Days' was good, but they sure had sun hats, bicycles & public tranpsort covered

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Occupy Bicycle

Somewhere along the line in Australia we lost the meaning of 'using a bicycle,' and the pursuit of lycra meant more than the pursuit of getting from A to B on a bike.

But if we're to be serious about tackling urban congestion and climate change we must take back the bicycle from cowardy custards and politicians, and occupy the present moment.

Now that Sydney is mortally wounded in terms of access to transport and transiting capabilities, the moment of truth has arrived:- Sydney is 'toast'...

...and if we don't roll up our sleeves and throw out the old-school lycra practicalities of power, we won't stay as 'toast' but we'll be 'crumbs' soon.

So our ever-growing eclectic bicycle collective needs to not only fine tune all of our 'bullshit' detectors but cause all of us to rise up and challenge the helmet regime's monologue.

On our bikes, everyone, there's an occupation waiting for us!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sharing the 'frog & toad'!!!

(Images: 'Frog & Toad')

I love it that so many different 'peeps' a round the world share this 'frog & toad' with me too!!! - makes me smile every time!!

Ta me old china plates xx

Monday, November 19, 2012

Deny people freedom; expect repercussions

Images: Netanyahu profiting, Carlos Latuff)

10th largest army in the world forgets its obligations under international law and brutally deals with stateless, defenceless civilian refugee population - Diana Buttu explains

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sydney poorly prepared for Age of Urban

Age of suburbia = over
Age of cheap fuel = over
Age of cheap cars = over
Age of cheap roads = over

So why WestConnex ???

Seriously, who cares what an unelected ex-politician thinks?

...and who'd have thought way back in March 2011 when 'ElectionDay-love' was being showered upon our newbie Transport Minister (god love her!) that she'd end up getting passed-over like Kezza was that night? By fatuously stating that his government's approval of WestConnex is 'shutting the door on the state's poor record on infrastructure', Bazza has completely shut the door on Gladys' expertise.

But back to the drawing board: before we lay our bodies down on Parrammatta Road to save it from an ex-pollie and his band of merry capitalists, perhaps one of our other elected reps could please kick the ball back into touch and repeal regulation 256?

It would be...

* cheap & cheerful
* encourage oodles of women back to cycling

...and that's just for starters!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Off your bike, curly!'

(Police bicycle - Justice & Police Museum)

Late this afternoon; Park Street, CBD, Sydney...

Motor bike police doing a 'Tour of Duty' consequently booking hapless young male mo-ped rider for 'motabikey' things, simultaneously spotting young male cyclist sans helmet; hauls him over too and then sees me right behind...

'No helmet? - get off your bike, curly'


'That mop of hair's not going to protect you - you need a helmet'

'They're bad for my health'

'What? your bike and walk'

'How long do I have to walk for?'

'Until you get a helmet'

'Well that's never going to happen'

'What? - walk'

...sigh! I did...well briefly...until the pedestrian lights when I hopped back on to finish 'Park,' quickly do 'College' and 'Oxford' streets to arrive at the Chauvel (bestest of cinemas), just in time for 'Les géants'!

Such a shame we're so wanton with our resources Down-Under

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stand against 'helmet hubris' - a no-brainer

I object to privatisation of risk, and intend to continue with my stand against the Australian stupidity and bullying that currently dictates Australian bicycle helmet law.

As far as I can make out from the literature put out there for all of us to read, and not just for the self appointed bicycle helmet academics who possess a default position that automatically disregards the views of people like me, my brain is loosely positioned inside my bony skull at all times and therefore can hardly be protected by some polystyrene container perched on the outside of my entire head ensemble.

Given that my brain is technically travelling around my skull without a figurative seatbelt or airbag, arguably protection needs to come from within because really whether I'm wearing a helmet or not is purely academic, wouldn't you say?

Moreover when we unpack the much discussed hypothesis of my 'entire head' in a collision, I understand from all that riveting helmet literature reading that perhaps a helmet is unlikely to prevent my blamangey-brain from careering into the solid wall of my skull and therefore unlikely to prevent exposure to catastrophic disintergration as my aforementioned blamangey-brain rapidly decelerates against hard surface of my aforementioned bony headcase.

Now whilst my skull may remain intact during the wearing of plastic mandated commodity, the likelihood of a 'closed head injury' is probable, and I am not prepared to risk such a probablity when the behaviour of wearing a helmet is acutely cultural rather than categorically proven - surely such a position cannot be considered an unreasonable one to entertain (?)

Thus, my elected Australian representatives, I mention yet again that you have no right to compel me to wear a helmet when I ride a bicycle just like you have no right to compel me to commence breast cancer screening or bowel cancer screening. You might suggest that I consider wearing a helmet, just like you did when you suggested the cancer screening procedures, but similarly with those optional health options, the decision to wear a 'helmet or not' is a matter for me. You can provide me with appropriate information in order to assist me make an informed consent or an informed refusal but you cannot force me to wear one - period.

After all if you recall there is still no test that proves helmets don't exacerbate brain injury, and inter alia the 'scientific expert jury' is still out.

So I shall continue to ride my bicycle without a helmet armed with knowledge that has informed my refusal.

'Painted ponies go up & down'

(Cycling Inner West way, Glebe Point Road)

We consult and talk and chat and discuss and narrate and berate and scold and urge upon all manner of things especially when coupled with willing consultants.

For example...

* food security this week

* urban transport next week

...and still we continue to talk to the converted, and still there is very little concrete political leadership, and still these issues loom threateningly on our horizon...

... and still I have questions about helmets and medical devices, and still they are ignored by the NSW Health Minister, and still they are flicked to the Minister for Roads

And pointlessly, still we have bicycle helmet laws, still protecting us from fines!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Perfect Day - Newtown Festival 2012

(Camperdown Memorial Rest Park, Newtown)



(Poy dancer)

(De rigeur - Newtown Pork pie hats)

(Also de rigeur - Newtown favourite)

(Settled in)

(Free water supplied)

(Head & shoulders above the crowd)

(Having our 'cake' and drinking it)

(Rainbow tutus - aaah...if only!)

(Now for the 'After parties')


('After party' at The Carlisle Castle Hotel)

('After festival' clean up)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Newtown Festival 2012 - hooray!!!!...almost here

(Images: Invitation! from the Newtown Festival Committee)

(Newtown Festival 2010)

(Everyone's welcome in Newtown especially if you have four-feet!!!)

(Locals always friendly)

2 more days to the best communtiy-run festival in Sydney (or shall we say the whole of Australia!!!!!)

No kidding - you've got to come and check it out yourselves...

Impressively, the Newtown Festival is completely community run and all monies raised go directly to the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre for essential services operated from there. The Festival is the Neighbourhood Centre's big fundraiser, and is clearly one of the most loved events ever!!!

Come and see for yourselves how the Festival committee have captured the unique essence that's Newtown; come and listen for yourselves to the fabulous bands that are lining to play for you, and just remember that whatever you donate in the entrance buckets at this free festival ALL goes back to the Neighbourhood Centre - no promoter costs, no event management company costs - all profits going to the community.

Seriously unlike many highly priced festivals that are struggling both nationally and internationally to attract crowds , Newtown Festival still continues to draw crowds of well over 80,000!!!...and it's still free and has been for more than 30 years!!

Keep it weird, Newtown!!!!

And when you wonder why Newtown continues to grow whilst some of the major festivals were having a hard time (even Glastonbury is struggling and having 2012 off!), it becomes pretty obvious that it's no mere event but in fact a great big Newtown celebration of everything that's 'Newtown' and authentic. The Newtown freedom of expression and sense of community give it top billing with the entire community as it revels in a delightful mix of unique, non formulaic entertainment (think ukulele orchestras, high profile headline acts, literary icons, hundreds of market stalls, art installations, giant worm farms, laughing club, upcycling lessons, quirky theatre experiences, slam poets, gypsy chai caravan & performance space, chalkboard sessions, cycling games)...oh and in case you think you’ve seen it all, Newtown Festival always dishes out surprises!

And it's a fearless festival too!!

There will be no bottled-water for sale this year anywhere on the festival grounds!!!

Not for the festival committee the fast and easy profits of bottled-water - no, they have bravely eschewed this opportunity in order to 'show us a responsible way' in water sustainability practice - yes, we'll still have access to water because there'll water stations strategically dotted around the grounds - we just need to bring our water bottles!

Keep it weird, Newtown!!!!

There's no doubt that 'being run by the community for the community makes a big difference to the life and sustainability of a festival' (wise words of Sue Andersen, Festival Coordinator)... so come and join the whole of Newtown on Sunday 11 November to see this amazing Inner West community set a new benchmark for festivals with their community run and bottled-water free!' festival!

Go, Newtown!!!! - we know you'll keep it weird!!!!


For full festival entertainment programme check out the Newtown Festival website for: Main Stage, Essentials Stage, Vocal Local Village & Stage, Writer’s Tent, Cycle Games Arena, Eco Zone, Kids Zone and Dog Show.

Don't forget: Newtown Festival is making a stand against commercialisation of water – no on site sales of bottled water will be available – so join us as we all take one for Team Environment, and bring your refill bottle and fill up at the water stations!

Don’t forget either: your Gold Coin and note donations at the entrance gates go directly to support the vital community services of the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

See you Sunday 11th November, Camperdown Memorial Rest Park, Newtown – 9.30am to 6pm.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

...and after the party's over?

Images: Carlos Latuff, 'Barack Obama wins & Netanyahu waits')

...what's next?

Monday, November 5, 2012

You do not have my vote if you do not ban this...

(Images: Animals Australia)

An open email to:

The Hon.Joel Fitzgibbons (Federal Member for Hunter, Chief Government Whip - and,

The Hon. George Souris (State Member for Upper Hunter, Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts -

Dear Joel & George,

Both of you represent me in the Federal and State Parliaments where I need representation.

If you both do not commence representations to ban live animal export effective as of immediately I will actively campaign against you from here on in until I find suitable candidates who are prepared to support and fight for the welfare of all animals at all times.

I am ashamed and shocked beyond belief that this appalling trade is done in my name, and no political platitudes concerning regulators and regulations will fob me off - ever.

Not one single politician can ever guarantee that this gruesome act of animal cruelty will never happen again for the simple reason that once animals leave our shores they are out of our jurisdiction and control - it's only arrogance that peddles the view the regulator is a champion of animals - clearly it is not.

What will it take for us to ban live animal export? What are we waiting for?

Ban Live Animal Export NOW.

Yours sincerely,
Sue Abbott
(Federal Voter for Hunter & State Voter for Upper Hunter)

We have helmets laws - the world has cycling

(Photos: Pip Abbott's travels, India & Nepal)

When you look at the web created by Australian bicycle helmet legislation you begin to appreciate that helmets were introduced to make cycling unpleasant & to make us give up... worked; we stopped and no matter what governments et al declare, cycling as we knew it was nipped in the bud.

The world thinks we're stupid because we are stupid - period.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

An ode to science - not hope, not magic

(Images: Tim Minchin - Storm , YouTube)

"Throughout history every mystery ever solved has turned out to be NOT MAGIC!"

Awesome Tim Minchin!!! - and when he rants that 'alternative medicine has either not been proved to work or been proved not to work' my mind conjures up a parallel with crappy bicycle-protection spin pedalled by helmet rent-seekers; as yet unproven and still very much in scientific dispute.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Open Letter to NSW Health Minister, the Hon. Jillian Skinner

Dear Minister Skinner,

Instead of being compulsorily required to wear a bicycle helmet, I do believe that my informed consent ought to be sought for the wearing of one which in and of itself fits the parameters of a medical device set out in Section 41BD(1)(a)(iii) in that a bicycle helmet contributes to modification of the anatomy.

However somewhat expediently, subsection 3 and section 7 mentioned within section 41BD grant special powers to the relevant minister who need not have any medical and/or biomechanical expertise but may declare in a specially devised political publication that certain medical devices are not medical devices.

I have included the relevant sections of the Thereapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth) notwithstanding that they are easily available to you.


Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth)

41BD What is a medical device

(1) A medical device is:

(a) any instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article (whether used alone or in combination, and including the software necessary for its proper application) intended, by the person under whose name it is or is to be supplied, to be used for human beings for the purpose of one or more of the following:

(i) diagnosis, prevention, monitoring, treatment or alleviation of disease;

(ii) diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, alleviation of or compensation for an injury or disability;

(iii) investigation, replacement or modification of the anatomy or of a physiological process;

(iv) control of conception;

and that does not achieve its principal intended action in or on the human body by pharmacological, immunological or metabolic means, but that may be assisted in its function by such means; or

(aa) any instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article specified under subsection (2A); or

(ab) any instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article that is included in a class of instruments, apparatus, appliances, materials or other articles specified under subsection (2B); or

(b) an accessory to an instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article covered by paragraph (a), (aa) or (ab).

Note: Declarations under subsection (3) exclude articles from the scope of this definition. Declarations under section 7 can also have this effect: see subsection 7(4).


see below for subsection (3) and section (7)

subsection(3) The Secretary may, by order published in the Gazette, declare that a particular instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article, or that a particular class of instruments, apparatus, appliances, materials or other articles, are not, for the purposes of this Act, medical devices.

Note: A declaration under this section does not stop articles from being therapeutic goods.

section (7) Declaration that goods are/are not therapeutic goods

(1) Where the Secretary is satisfied that particular goods or classes of goods:

(a) are or are not therapeutic goods; or

(b) when used, advertised, or presented for supply in a particular way, are or are not therapeutic goods;

the Secretary may, by order published in the Gazette, declare that the goods, or the goods when used, advertised, or presented for supply in that way, are or are not, for the purposes of this Act, therapeutic goods.

(1A) In deciding whether particular goods or classes of goods:

(a) are therapeutic goods; or

(b) when used, advertised, or presented for supply in a particular way, are therapeutic goods;

the Secretary must disregard paragraphs (e) and (f) of the definition of therapeutic goods in subsection 3(1).

(2) The Secretary may exercise his or her powers under this section of his or her own motion or following an application made in writing to the Secretary.

(3) A declaration under this section takes effect on the day on which the declaration is published in the Gazette or on such later day as is specified in the order.

(4) If a declaration under this section:

(a) is a declaration that particular goods or classes of goods are not therapeutic goods; and

(b) applies wholly or partly to goods that, apart from this section, would be medical devices;

the goods are not medical devices, or are not medical devices when used, advertised, or presented for supply in the way specified in the declaration.


How can an ordinary individual, albeit an elected politician, have powers bestowed upon him or her to declare that a medical device is not a medical device without the necessary knowledge to be considered an expert in this field?

I would like your thoughts on this question please because it is an area I intend to explore.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Abbott
Freedom Cyclist