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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 78, May 2015 — The Lucky Country?

Time sensitive. The documentary, The Kimberley: Land of the Wandjina, is available online only until 2 pm on 8 May. It contains some of the most amazing footage of Kimberley wildlife that I've ever seen.

The TPP will affect you, your children, grandchildren and generations to come. It won't be good. It's not too late to have a say. If you have even the slightest desire to maintain some of Australia's freedoms, make sure you read the Trans Pacific Partnership section below.

Note. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you.

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In this issue

The Lucky Country?

I subscribe to a bi-weekly newsletter called Things that make you go hmmmm. The issue of 15 March was titled "The Lucky Country". When I read it, I thought that this was something that all Australians should think about. I asked for and was given permission to include some of that newsletter in this one.

"In 1964, Donald Horne bemoaned the fact that Australia was a 'Lucky Country' which had reached its place in the world by relying on gifts bestowed upon it by others rather than any great skill on the part of its people or, particularly, its leaders and that events were often likely to take those leaders by surprise."

"That hasn't been a problem for almost 25 years now — as Lefty Gomez famously said, it's better to be lucky than good — BUT, at this point in time, as China's need for what lies beneath her soil cools sharply, the focus is switching from the seemingly endless bounty offered by 'nature's gifts' to the reality of a debt expansion driven by a feeling that Australia's luck would last forever."

The first five pages are a good, somewhat humourous introduction to the situation. Worth reading for anyone. I've summarised the next 17 pages in a three page document without the graphs & charts. If you want to understand some of the economic problems facing this country, it's well worth reading.

The links in my excerpt don't work. One of those links was to the Australian Museum page describing Drop bears. Whatever problems we may have, when an institution like the Australian Museum can put up a page like this, I know that something is still going right in this country.

Property Bubble

The author of the article above suggests that Australia has a property bubble. He's not the only one.

Australia is in one of the worst housing bubbles we have ever seen. "From 1996 to 2014, housing prices and mortgage debt significantly outpaced economic fundamentals like inflation, rents, incomes and GDP. Yet, our central bankers are more concerned about whether we will pay less tomorrow for a can of soda than new home buyers in Sydney borrowing $50,000 more than last year to buy a home. Where is the logic in that?"

Still don't believe we have a property bubble? These 10 French castles are cheaper than Sydney units. Where's the sense in that.

At least partly because of housing prices, Australia is now one of the most expensive countries in the world. Cost of living around the world compares the cost of living in different countries. In the table at the bottom which lists the 15 most expensive countries, Australia is 6th. (New Zealand is 7th). That's not a good place to be.

Do you remember what inflation was like back in the 1970's? Almost every government in the developed world is trying to create it. At some point they may succeed a bit too well. Dr Pippa Malmgren, a former American presidential adviser is someone who saw the last financial crisis coming. "I watched so many people suffer from the last financial crisis, and I saw many signals that got me to sell my house and move my family into rental accommodation during 2007, and I thought, 'Why doesn't everybody else do this?'"

That quote is from an interview, Pippa Malmgren: 'biflation' is coming, and it's going to hurt. I found it well worth the read. It left me thinking that it might make sense to sell my house, move into a shed somewhere down the track and wait.

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Our Trips Are Good For You

Happy people tend to be healthy people.

The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things says "You don't have infinite money. Spend it on stuff that research says makes you happy."

"There's a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong." Read the full article to see why.

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The Kakadu Walking Strategy & Trips

Walking Strategy

Many thanks to all those who put in a submission. I don't know how many there were but I do know that there were far more than they got for the draft plan of management. The Walking Strategy Committee was supposed to have met to discuss the submissions on 21 April but that meeting had to be cancelled at the last minute. I don't think the walking strategy will be finalised before a meeting. I just hope that I'll be able to attend if and when it is held.

To the best of my knowledge, there will be no change to access until the walking strategy is finalised.

Kakadu Trips

We only have four trips beginning before 26 July which are still available. The three below have been in our program since the beginning.

Something new — the first of the $300 specials originally advertised in my December Newsletter.

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Kimberley Specials

Special offers, special trips and a special film.

Kimberley Highlights Nos. 1 & 2

In the relatively cool time of year, we finish with a relaxing paddle down the Ord. In the warmer time, we begin with that same paddle as a way to acclimatise. It's so different and I enjoy it so much that I've done it five times in the past five years. I can't say the same for any other trip or part trip we offer.

The Isdell River

It's been 15 years since I last did a walk along the middle Isdell, one of the largest yet least known rivers in the Kimberley. I want to go back. I dug out some of my old slides and had a look. Now I want to go back even more. (If I had a good slide scanner, I could show you why.)
Special offer 1. Take $500 off the list price, new price $2295. (no other discounts apply with this offer.
Special offer 2. We'll give you a free ride between Darwin and Kununurra in either or both directions. We may even extend the trip by a day at no extra charge.
Special offer 3. We normally need five bookings to run one of our Kimberley trips. I'll guarantee this for four — only one more booking required.

Glycosmis Bay

King George Area: Faraway to Glycosmis Bay: 13-20 June
Fly in with a normal plane, fly out with an amphibian. In between you visit some great art sites and enjoy some spectacular Kimberley Coast scenery.
Special offer. Take $500 off the list price, new price $2950.
Only three places left.

The Mitchell Plateau, The Prince Regent Nature Reserve or ....

We have the bookings to run our Mitchell Plateau No. 2: 5-18 July
We could probably even run a second trip in the opposite direction.
Talk about frustration! After a promising start some months ago, access negotiations with the Wunumbal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation have not yet been finalised. If it has not been finalised by Monday, 11 May, the trip will be replaced (same dates) by a trip to the Roe-Garimbu area in the Prince Regent Nature Reserve and/or a trip to the Cockburn Range and Keep River National Park.

If you think you might be interested in any of these, please keep an eye on our Availability and Specials page.

The Kimberley: Land of the Wandjina

The Kimberley: Land of the Wandjina was a one hour documentary on the SBS Indigenous channel. It's available on SBS On Demand until 2 pm on 8 May. It contains some of the best Kimberley photography I've ever seen. In some cases, the footage may be the first ever for some of the animals shown. Catch it while you can.

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Your Health


You've got to sweat if you want to live longer. "Hot, sweaty exercise is the key to living longer, according to a massive study of Australians' exercise habits that could change health advice the world over."


People in healthy relationships tend to live longer than those who are not. Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits. Pretty simple, can you guess what they are? Have a read and see how you rate.

Sweet Things

New Scientist had an article Artificial sweeteners linked to glucose intolerance. It begins, "Aspartame, saccharin and sucralose made mice glucose intolerant — a risk for diabetes — probably by altering their gut flora. Is it happening in humans too?" Artificial sweeteners may be contributing to the rise in diabetes and obesity. Well worth a read.

Chocolate's dark secrets. The chocolate you eat would be inedible if it weren't for a variety of bacteria.

Chemicals and Us

Catalyst recently ran a special called Our Chemical Lives. "Thousands of chemicals are used in everyday products — in our water, our food and in the air we breathe. It's the chemical soup of modern life and it's virtually impossible to escape them. In this special edition of Catalyst, Dr Maryanne Demasi investigates the safety of these chemicals, and compares the level of chemicals in her own body with clean living convert and media personality Sarah Wilson. Is there adequate regulation and testing, or are we in the midst of an uncontrolled, human experiment?"

The link above includes a transcript as well as a link to the video of the program. I'm not sure how long it will be available. If you want more information, there are some good links near the bottom of the page.

New Scientist ran an article on similar vein back in late November. Toxic shockers: Key chemicals to look out for. "From BPA to burnt toast, pretty much everything in the modern world comes with a hidden cocktail of chemical extras. Get the facts on what to worry about."

Gaining Weight

New Scientist had an article Are some people doomed to be fat? which goes into some of the reasons why some people put weight on more easily than others.

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Overseas trips

We have some great trips on offer, but for some reason bookings are the weakest they've been for several years. The Aussie dollar still goes a long way in some of these places.



Two trips need special mention.

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CSIRO Kakadu Survey

The CSIRO is surveying visitors to Kakadu National Park. They aim to get a better understanding of visitor perceptions towards climate change and preferences for protecting characteristic features of Kakadu National Park.

For the survey to be meaningful, it is important for them to get as many responses as possible. When I did the survey, it took me about ten minutes. If you have ever visited Kakadu, please log on and do the survey.

CSIRO Kakadu Survey

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Trans Pacific Partnership

Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address finished with the hope "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Sadly such governments are disappearing throughout the world. Any country, including America, which signs up to the Trans Pacific Partnership will have accepted a "government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations."

It's not just the left saying this.

Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan blasts Trade Minister over secret TPP talks gives one view of the disaster we are facing.

"The Public Health Association, Electronic Frontiers Australia, and consumer advocacy group Choice are among many interest groups who have long protested against the secrecy. They claim leaked draft chapters from Wikileaks show the TPP could push up the price of medicines, make it harder to restrict tobacco and alcohol sales, and force internet service providers to aggressively enforce copyright rules."

Those pushing for the TPP are counting on public apathy and ignorance to get it accepted. For what little it's worth, I've written to both my senators and my MP expressing my concerns. I'm one small voice. If thousands did the the same, we might yet stop it. Or, if we can't do that, we might manage to get it modified to make it less objectionable.

Thousands doing the same

GetUp is running a campaign Let's get loud: will you help slam the brakes on the TPP?

Scroll down the page. Click the link and watch the short video. Find out why so many Americans are opposed. Find out:

I feel so strongly about the issue, that I've given GetUp a donation to help them publicise why the TPP is a bad deal for all of us.

Still not convinced?

Have a look at the TPP page on the Australian Fair Trade and Investment website. Click any of the links for more details.

The best politicians money can buy

The best politicians money can buy here in Australia?. Australia hasn't gone to the extreme position of America where money is the major ruler of politics, but as the article shows, we may be getting there. At least we have some idea of who is trying to buy influence.

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Understanding American Politics

It's difficult for an outsider to understand American politics. Even as someone who grew up in America, I find it difficult to comprehend what's happened to a system that used to work reasonably well.

The Paradox of America's Electoral Reform explains how a well intentioned reform produced the dysfunctional system that exists in the US today.

Anyone who wants to understand America really ought to read this.

The American Empire

To some extent, Americans don't understand themselves. Whether most Americans recognise it or not, there is an American Empire. Coming to Terms With the American Empire is another thoughtful article from Stratfor.

"'Empire' is a dirty word. Considering the behaviour of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power."

And now a quote which everyone who deals with America should take to heart. "The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford."

The full article (link above) is well worth a read.

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Our Society

In no particular order, here are some stories I found interesting. I hope that most of you will find something here to make you think.

Social Media and You

ThinkUp Helps the Social Network User See the Online Self *
This article describes a service that lets you monitor your Facebook or Twitter account, for more awareness of your online image. Sometimes the image you project is not the one you think you do.

Hacking Our Humanity *
Conversations aren't confidential. Spontaneity is ill-advised. This is bigger than Sony. We're all exposed and diminished.

Evidence vs Emotion

A lot of our tax dollars go on programs designed to help people. In America, "rigorous evaluations typically find that around 75 percent of programs or practices that are intended to help people do better at school or at work have little or no effect." I suspect that the situation is much the same here in Australia. It doesn't have to be.

Social Programs That Work * says that "Rigorous evidence should inform spending. Until lately, it hasn't." It then goes on to show how it can.

Easy Targets

We are bombarded with so many things that it's sometimes hard to tell what's true and what's not. Curses, Fooled Again! * explains how the new "Candid Camera" reveals that today's pervasive technology makes people easy targets.

Artificial Intelligence

Our Machine Masters *
The age of artificial intelligence is finally at hand. Will we master it, or will it master us?

Study to Examine Effects of Artificial Intelligence *
A study hosted by Stanford University study will examine impacts on society, including on the economy, war and crime.
This study has been funded for 100 years — no government would dream of anything like that. It's now nearly impossible to get funding for a five year study, let alone anything longer. Some questions can't be answered in less time. Ignoring questions like these now will mean we (or perhaps our children) pay later.

Mums in Society

Our 'Mommy' Problem *
"The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time." This story is American. I'm not sure that it's quite as bad in Australia, but I fear we are going in that direction. Why don't we let our kids be kids?


The Virtue of Redeeming Vice *
At a Berlin hotel, relief from the relentless sameness of our times.
"Somewhere along the winding road to today the freedom to be different has been curtailed as technology extracts its last measure of cost-effective efficiency from every aspect of life and social media hands a real-time megaphone to the humourless global thought police. The importance of Oscar Wilde's "redeeming vice" has been lost."

Don't Homogenize Health Care *
Too much conformity in health care doesn't lead to better health. "Guidelines presume we doctors always know the best treatment. We don't."

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China and the West

The Australian economy depends to a large extent on China. That makes trying to understand China important if you want to know where we are heading.

The 100 year marathon gives a very different take to the relationship between China and the West. "We believed that American aid to a fragile China whose leaders thought like us would help China become a democratic and peaceful power without ambitions of regional or even global dominance. Every one of the assumptions behind that belief was wrong — dangerously so."

Stratfor offers a somewhat different take on what they call China's Fragile Evolution. "Major economic overhauls are messy affairs, and China has decades of dead wood to trim from its economy due to the lingering effects of Mao's intentional drive to ensure massive industrial redundancy, as well as to mismanagement and frequent unprofitability among state companies."

There is a lot more in the Stratfor article. If you want to understand what's happening with Australia's largest trading partner, articles like the two above are well worth reading.

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Photos & Videos

The Osprey
The photography is just as amazing as the bird. There are 3 sequences in this one video:
1st sequence - catches half a dozen fish in one strike.
2nd sequence - plunges talons into deep water to grab the prey.
3rd sequence - captures a big old fish that looks as if it weighs more than he does.

From John Chapple, here are some beautiful panoramic photos of little known parts of the world. A fair number of those places are in Australia.

I would like to think of the world like this. Things like this are there if you want to see them.

On the other hand, the photos here are just as much a part of the world we live in. We still have a choice as to which way we go. For how much longer we'll have that choice is a matter of debate.

For another perspective, consider Our Place in the Universe. It's hard to really get your mind around the information presented here.

Finally, if you managed to miss it in the first section, have a look at the Australian Museum page describing Drop bears. That might be a good link to send to your friends overseas.

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News About This Newsletter


Before I finish one newsletter, I'm already working on the next. I often find that I've got too many interesting things for a single newsletter. I'm also always looking for other interesting items I can add. I'm particularly interested in environmental issues, especially those which might affect bushwalking and in the technology which is shaping our lives. As I said in the last newsletter, Suggestions welcome.

Sending the newsletter

While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. In both cases, the newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be sure that you are removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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