21 May 2010

Sport - A Lateral Solution to Faunal Extinction

We love our sport in Australia. We love sport more than we love our mothers. Heck, we love sport even more than we'd love our mothers if they were good at sport; that's how much sport means to us.

We like the environment, too. When I say we like the environment, I mean I'm fairly certain that, by and large, we're not displeased with the fact that it exists. Few of us go around advocating that a world sans environment would be a step forward. For a start, we need somewhere to play sport.

It's not a secret that the sum total of Australian native animal species is plummeting faster than the Australian Dollar. And the way I see it, the solution is simple; if sport and nature become synchronous, then by the decade's end, we'll be eating koalas that have been stuffed with numbats just to thin out their numbers. How? It is herewith proposed that all sporting teams in Australia be re-named after animals whose species is currently on the critical list.

Sorry, Bombers; you're now the Western Desert Quolls. Magpies? Alas, no; it's up the mighty Cassawarries from now on. Think about it; if you were a proud Quolls fan, would you be happy about your namesake becoming extinct? I doubt it. I reckon you and your club would move Heaven and Earth - which ironically translates to leaving Heaven and Earth largely alone - to ensure the survival of your favourite critter.

The only downside I can see it that to accomodate all species on the critical list, we're going to need to move beyond the AFL's current plans, and look to be having a competition with about 13,000 teams by 2020. Given our national obesity crisis, that it looks like we'll all be in pre-season training pretty soon is hardly a problem. Personally, I can't wait for this Friday's game; the Spotted Owls are going to give the Yellow-Eyed Tree Frogs an absolute pasting.

20 May 2010

Richie Benaud

Sad as it is, Richie Benaud will die. We all will. And while his wife and family undoubtedly have plans for him apres life, they are almost certainly not the plans I have for him and not, quite frankly, the plans that the Australian public deserves. I hereby propose that Richie Benaud's final resting place should be the members end of the Sydney Cricket Ground with the wickets as his headstone. There will be ample space for his epitaph which, let's face it, need only read "Richie Benaud"; his, after all, is a story and indeed a legend that writes itself. It will ensure that the great man remains at the centre of Australian cricket for as long as Australian cricket itself continues to exists (yes, Melbourners will argue that the MCG is the centre of Australian cricket but Melbourners think the MCG is the centre of the known universe) and it will also ensure that, at one end at least, the wickets will not be sullied with pointless advertising which, frankly, annoys me (yes, I'm looking at you, CommBank, 3 Mobile, Jane McGrath day).

Richie deserves more than to lie in a hole in the Waverley Cemetery; Christ, he deserves more than to lay in state in Icebergs. To that end, I propose that Cricket Australia and the Australian cricket-loving public get behind the above idea. I'd sign off with "Marvellous" but that would be trite and this is no laughing matter.

Aker-Ball - Putting the "oo!" into footy...

Jason Akermanis made some comments about homosexuality in football recently, suggesting that gay players really ought to stay in the closet if they happen also to be players in the AFL. If only he'd thought to opine that they should "stay in the locker", then at least no one could accuse him of being woefully prosaic.

Aker isn't often right whenever he happens to try and engage with the world using his mouth rather than his feet. In fact, he often manages to get the two confused, with an outcome that is too cliched to mention. But when he suggests that the AFL, with its rampant homoeroticism may not be able to cope with an openly gay man in its ranks, he may very well be right. But Aker's missed the point in his thinking that repression is the solution.

Personally, I find rather alarming that any young man would pull on the boots in the hope of one day being able to give a naked man an affectionate slap on the bum. I'm not saying that's not a dream worth having, but surely it runs concurrently, rather than co-dependently, with a professional sporting career. Acker is right when he suggests that the AFL is comparatively unique as a working environment, with regards to its rampant displays of affectionate, laddish nudity. (It's not as unique as Acker might think, but I don't think he'd like the comparable careers very much.) To that end, I am wondering if it isn't perhaps the AFL that needs to consider just how essential group nudity really is to the playing of football.

I mean, I don't recall Acker's former coach, "lethal" Leigh Matthews attributing the Brisbane Lions' staggering Premiership success in the early noughties to shower high-jinks, nor has Acker himself ever come out (so to speak) and said that it was a half-time grope - from a mate, not a poofy grope - that enabled him to (Matron, forgive me) raise the bar in the last quarter and get his side over the line. Acker's a mouthy bloke; I'm sure he'd have said something if it had happened.

I have no problem believing that the AFL isn't anywhere near as enlightened on issues pertaining to sexual tolerance at it would like to claim; so nor am I surprised that they have leapt so quickly to distance themselves from Acker's sincere, if misguided comments. I mean, at least give the man his due; he's spent more time in a footy locker-room than most, and as qualified as any to gauge its mood of acceptance.

Perhaps its time football grew up. I think as a species, we're a way off being able to de-sexualise nudity between genders, so it's no surprise, once sexual orientation is considered, that we're a comparable distance from it within a gender. Well, within the male gender at least. If anything is going to alter this culture, it's a need for tolerance.

To that end, all AFL clubs must list - and out - a minimum of four gay players. This equates to roughly ten percent of one's list, which sound about right. Either the players will grow up, or they'll bond with each other fully clothed. They say it takes maturity to win a flag these days. If you tell me that a side with openly gay players can't integrate their differences into a cohesive whole and succeed, then I'll tell you you're a bigot. Why? Because in years gone by, it was skin colour, not sexual preference. Acker is to be admired for worrying for the first, brave man who outs himself in the AFL, but he's wrong to think that the players, nor the code, isn't ready to embrace it. And, after the Eagles, I'll happily barrack for the side who possesses the player who first takes that step.

Unless, of course, they play for Collingwood. With regards to the Pies, I am unabashedly prejudiced.

07 May 2010

A Lateralist Solution to Housing Affordability

Recently, much has been made of the affordability of housing in Australia and the corollary that there at present exists a group of society who have been or will be priced out of home ownership and will be required to rent for, presumably, time immemorial. That group of society it is often pointed out are generally called Arts students but that they exist at all, the group, not Arts students, should be of some concern to anyone with a sense of fairness. That the situation doesn't bode well for the country is surely a given. It also doesn't bode well for those of us who fear nothing more than an evening out ruined by someone banging on about house prices (yes, I'm looking at you pre-2000 Sydney, 2002 to 2008 Perth and present-day Melbourne).

To my mind, and I should say from the outset that politically I sit a little to the left of Karl Marx, houses are for living in and impressing cab drivers but are not and should not be seen as an investment opportunity; as much for the peril of conversations about house prices as any socio-politico-psychological stand point. Don't get me wrong, a person should be allowed to own as many houses as they like, but their ability to pay for those additional houses off the back of rental returns should be severely curtailed.

To that end I propose a single-rule-and-single-exception system whereby the rent chargeable on any residential dwelling is frozen from the time a tenant moves in until such time as they leave. Significantly, and crucially, if the house is sold, the tenant remains and the new purchaser is bound by the existing rental. The single exception is that if that purchaser moves into the (now "their") new place, the tenant is out.

To my mind, a mind not without its own flaws I readily accept, the system creates value for purchasers who want to live in the place and places a burden, sometimes an almost delightfully onerous one, on so-called investors. It also provides some comfort for tenants who feel home ownership is beyond their grasp. It is not, however, sufficiently rigid, nor does is provide sufficient security to completely set aside the risk that one day the house you are renting for a bag of Chicos a day (I don't care for peanuts) will be sold and purchased by someone who wants to live in it. In that respect, I agree, it probably doesn't go far enough, but it's a starting point.

By way of example, while initially $500/week for a [insert type of dwelling in a location you choose] will seem a normal rent, in a few/five/10 years' time, it will be a positive steal. And let's face it, if a landlord can afford to rent a place to you for $500/week today, they can afford it in 2020 or 2050. It follows that an owner-occupiers' home will fetch more on the open market than an identical house that is being rented (where the purchaser is an investor), that below-market renters will be able to save money to purchase their own homes and that, if there is a God, the number of real estate agents will be severly reduced.

The naysayers will (nay)say that people will simply never leave a place, but they will. Singles become couples, couples become families and families grow and, eventually, shrink. The system will provide a foundation and financial incentive for purchasers of homes rather than houses. As it becomes entrenched, with any luck having an investment property will be so on the nose that the owners of them will be shunned from groups they would otherwise like to number amongst.

The system will undoubtedly be open to abuse but, frankly, what system isn't?

And before you scream, "You wouldn't be saying this if you owned a place/put your money where your mouth is/aren't you the guy that can't even get a scooter license?"; I already do and I already have (and yes, I am). I currently rent an apartment to a friend and, as God is my witness, will not raise that rent for as long as she wishes to remain there. So Brooke, if you're reading, there you have it.