Monday, March 21, 2016


Bob Carr: prophet or scaremonger?

THE MAN from the Australian Bureau of Statistics was shaking with sheer delight and could not hide his glee when he told Sydney morning radio that Australia’s population had just passed the 24 million mark. The bells were ringing all day as the news of the 24 million was repeated throughout the day. Very few, if any, had anything to say about it. Well, except Bob Carr, the former Foreign Minister and once the most respected and admired Labor Premier of NSW.

Carr has been on the immigration case for a few years now. Not so long ago, he was calling for a complete halt of Iranian economic migrants. On the day, February 16, 2016, Australia learnt of its new population mark, Carr was telling anyone who would care to listen that Australia’s “third world-style” population growth rate had made a strong case for cutting Australia’s immigration intake by at least 50%.

He said that Australia could not continue growing at the current rate.

He said: “Our population is growing too fast.  It’s the result of what I would describe as crude, industrial era, force-fed immigration.”

According to Carr, the country’s population was far greater than “what we need and what we can absorb, environmentally and economically”, he told ABC radio.

He moaned an often repeated mantra of the far right: “the country’s rapid population growth was flooding major cities and putting huge pressure on house prices”.

“People wonder why their youngsters can’t get housing in big cities,” he said.

Australia will admit up to 190,000 people in 2016. He blamed Canberra diplomats for not putting enough thought about the pressures on the property markets in Sydney and Melbourne.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures based on the 2011 census “The largest contributor to Australia's migrant population continues to be people born in the United Kingdom (UK). In the 2011 Census, 1.1 million UK-born migrants lived in Australia - around one in every 20 Australian residents.

“Migrants born in New Zealand were the second largest overseas-born population in Australia, at close to half a million people (483,000 people). This was followed by migrants born in China (319,000 people), India (295,000), Italy (185,000) and Vietnam (185,000). Cumulatively, migrants born in these six countries accounted for about half (49%) of all migrants in Australia in 2011.”

I can’t teach the Honourable Bob Carr to suck eggs but his call for a cut in immigration by up to 50% has left me a little perplexed. For one thing, he will have worried sick any potential migrants of special value to Australia. In the past couple of decades our successive governments have not enjoyed a reputation as a kind, caring and welcoming for people in dire need of a new home. In fact, with the help of a few right wing nuts, I would not be surprised if people look at us with the suspicion that the White Australia policy is alive and well.

Australia needs younger migrants to replace its greying population in more ways than one, especially in meeting the vital skills need, new income tax payers to maintain Treasury’s coffers in the manner they have become accustomed to and continue increasing the domestic consumer market. But what is the right number of migrants, what skill-sets, investment potentials, that will be required to boost Australia’s domestic needs? Carr has been crowing about the Federal Government being slow in reading the danger signals flagged by his figures. Question is why didn’t the former Foreign Minister do something about it when he was in government? Mr Carr is beginning to sound likely scratchy broken record. But no one, it seems, is taking any notice.

There may be some truth, however, in what Carr says. For example, in my own little suburb in Western Sydney, it is like living in the back streets of Mumbai or Colombo. Homes in these suburbs were built with the one-car-family in mind. Today, with subdivision rampant, each home has three or four cars. There is one ugly MaCmansion that regularly has six or seven car every day and three times that at weekends.

We moved to our suburb because of its quiet village atmosphere. Forget. These days finding a parking spot means having to go round and round in circles. The quality of life has been shot to pieces.

I am sure that similar grouses have been made over the years every time there has been a large influx of new migrants. There has been an ongoing debate about the appropriate population numbers fluctuating widely between 20-80 million, the conservatives vouching on the unsustainability of the Australian Ecosystem, fragility of its top soil etc and the bold trumpeting American success due to its large population base.  

I don’t mind the growth as long as someone, like NSW Premier Mike Baird, does something about it. Sydney’s Western Suburbs are bursting at the seams. I mean in suburban streets, a trip by car that took 10 minutes at peak times is now taking 30 minutes or more amid increasing frustration. The roads are clogged and traffic is choking the transport arteries and adding to our concerns over pollution. I know there is quite a lot of land further out west and the western suburbs continue growing at a huge rate but unless something is done to mitigate the infrastructure, health, social and educational needs, something’s got to give.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the NSW Premier Mike Baird used his Australia Day address to warn that Australia was at risk of losing its character to anti-immigration politics.

"I believe strongly we are now at a fork in the road," Mr Baird said in the address at Luna Park. "We are potentially at risk of losing what makes Australia the best place in the world to live because some want to shut our door and avert our eyes.”

What he did not say was how his government was going to provide the required infrastructure and relevant services.

Back to Bob Carr. What he did not provide was the science behind his assumptions. Had this been discussed in the Labor Party?  What do the proper experts (alright not the Canberra bureaucrats) and urban scientists and engineers have to say. It is always very well for Bob Carr to do a sophisticated take on Pauline Hanson, but effects are just as in the negative. He might as well have been loud-hailing for anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, racist protesters who are growing in number.

Surely this subject should have been discussed behind closed doors, fine-tuned and then foisted on the Australian public, preferably with bi-partisan support instead of seemingly awakening the ghost of White Australia past.

If there is a genuine case for cutting immigration, continued restriction on refugees, revamping of the much abused 457 visas and the like, let us discuss it as mature and sincere adults (oxymoron that?) and not sound like an educated moron just cutting his teeth on being a yob. Bob Carr certainly knows better than that.

Or is Bob’s fear that immigration will mean that White Australians will one day be in the minority?

In an effort to provide balance to the above, I emailed Bob Carr with a series of questions and I got this reply from him: Cyprian, It’s the numbers. I have made it clear when it’s come up.” 

With that he referred me to ‘A Current Affair’ where he told Tracey Grimshaw that Australia today was a different country from early post war years when Australia needed large number of migrants for motor, steel, mining and other large scale industries. “We are still stuck in mass immigration and the Government has been slow to catch up. I want a much gentle pace.”

He said he would like to go back to the 1990s level but he is proud of the fact 28% of the Australian population was born overseas.

He said: “It is the numbers, and if a slogan was required it would be: It’s the numbers stupid. I want a generous immigration program but not the hugely ambitious, force fed (one) by the Liberals we have at the moment.”

I would like to think past history is witness to immigration being positive for economic growth. The large number of immigrant success stories in the highest strata of business is proof of this. Immigrants begin in small business and relatively quickly move into big business. I know of at least one instance where immigration has actually saved a decaying suburb: Harris Park in Sydney’s West. Until relatively large numbers of Indians moved in a breathed new life into the suburb it looked as it was on its last legs. Today it is one of the busiest curry strips anywhere. Indians flock all over Sydney to taste “a little bit of home” every night of the week. It does tend look a little like an Indian ghetto, after all it is “Little Punjab” in the West and growing by the minute.

As I said Bob Carr has been pouting off on “boat people” and immigration in general for many years now. There may be something in what he says but pursuing it further, in the first instance, would require a balance of rational rather than emotive politicking. There is plenty of science to clear the air of supposition, ignorance, cheap headlines, and exploitation of a group of humans whose misery is unending.  Immigrants will continue to be kicked around like a football until government steps in.

And there is prejudice about refugees and asylum seekers. I get the impression that fly-in refugees and asylum seekers have it lot easier than the boat variety. Even the over-stayers have a much easier chance of being allowed to stay

The dangerous thing about it is that loose talk on immigration feeds the rhetoric of the far right groups and young Australians are now mouthing the vitriol of White Australians of the past. This new cauldron of hate is bubbling away at speed and the danger is that Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Sudanese, Middle Eastern people and others will wear the brunt of it. Without being too alarmist, it would not be stretching the imagination to think that the sins of Britain’s National Front will surface in Australia.

On the one hand it is hate mail on the internet, talk back radio and where more than two like-minded people meet. On the other hand, they point to the fact that many suburbs are losing their multiracial identities with one particular immigrant group dominating a particular suburb.  In Sydney’s West, suburbs like Westmead, Wentworthville, Pendle Hill, Girraween, Toongabbie and others have large concentrations of either Indians, Sri Lankans, Sudanese, Pakistanis and other minority groups. The whites are moving out in large numbers.

More recently, India’s Hindu and Muslim Punjabis are most visible in Westmead and Wentworthville while Lankans, Tamils dominate in Pendle Hill, Toongabbie and Girraween. The once quite village of Pendle Hill has been overrun by Sri Lankans. They have taken over the whole of the tiny shopping centre with more Sri Lankan/Indian takeaway food shops than any other suburbs. The Sudanese are more visible in Blacktown. The cultural mix of these suburbs has changed forever as it did in the UK with the arrival of the Asian migrants from East Africa. Today, many of the UK’s districts, provincial centres and the suburbs of London are dominated by immigrants from country or another, especially South Hall which is now Britain’s version of “Little Punjab” with a profusion of Sikhs. Seems like it didn’t do them any harm.  Immigrant communities from the past 60 years from many parts of the world have found a permanent niche in a comparatively small (in terms of area) country like the UK. The children of Asian immigrants understood what it is to be British and have grabbed the opportunity as naturally as they are Born British. Yet, many still nurse (however slightly) the scars of “Paki bashing” by White supremacist thugs.  The UK’s more recent immigration concerns have been the free-for-all migration from Europe, the price of being part of the European Union. It has become so chronic that the UK has had to negotiate a new deal which will be put to a referendum soon.

If Bob Carr is right, why has there not been thunderous support from any side of politics.




Friday, March 18, 2016



Cyprian Fernandes: Don’t blush, baby, this is cricket!
Like many before me who smashed many a television set with the onset of pyjama cricket, aka limited overs one day cricket with coloured outfits replacing the time honoured traditional creams or whites and many were lost to cricket forever, I must confess that I watch the bazaar goings-on of T20 cricket under depressive sufferance. I don’t actually mind the quick-fix for cricket addicts or the fast food style delivery of the game or the wholesale departure in many ways from the traditional five day game, but there is a prostituting in many ways which I can’t stand.
For example, it is no longer a game for the people by the people. It has been high-jacked by corrupters, big business and broadcasters. The new gods are the media and TV is the biggest god, it seems. Even radio does not often get a look in. How quickly we forget that before television it was the sublime broadcasters on radio who brought the game to life for listeners many, many thousands of miles away. The commentators painted living, action pictures with their words and transported their avid following to Lords, the Oval, Nottingham, Leeds, Karachi, Lahore, Sydney, Melbourne, the WACA, Brisbane, Jamaica, Barbados, and a thousand other magical places wherever Test cricket was played. The craftiest or the cleverest amongst us listened until the early hours of the morning, undisturbed and undetected under bed sheets, on little crystal sets, an inexpensive radio receive contraption which brought us cricket heaven via the earphone, often rescued from World War II surplus scrap.
Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, the humble crystal set was my transporter to live cricket or whatever else I could glean from the BBC World Service broadcasts. One lesson came banging into my brain every time I listened to the set: the English are a very genteel, calm, considered, sometimes even charming lot as well as having a tiny bit of humour. Cricket was devoid of ridiculous loud music, there was no clashing of the symbols, or the horrific banging of drums, or idiotic ground announcers making idiotic announcements or unnecessarily urging the crowds to “make some noise” as if noise was a pre-requisite of a good game of cricket. I have nothing against applause and appreciation of a good stroke or a wicket brilliantly earned but going to ridiculous lengths is just that ridiculous.
Look, I know the five-day cricket I have loved for 65 years will be dead one of these days. It the time, it is the era. People don’t go and watch five days cricket anymore. These days, you are lucky if life allows you to watch or two days. What is the point anyway? Television Test Cricket is generally good even though sometimes the antics of some commentators leave a lot to be desired. In fact, these days I am more prone to watch Test cricket on mute after recording an hour or so to fast forward the adverts out of my viewing life. Then I can watch my beloved game with the quiet solitude I have enjoyed at so many grounds.
India is always a brilliantly coloured country in all its spheres. More often than not you can find much of Indian life in any of the wonderful bazaars. There is the loud sound of joyous people, the billion colours of the women’s saris, salwar khameezes, the dresses and the more modern attire. There is the clatter, the clutter and cacophony of life, entertainment and commerce fusing in celebration of human enterprise. For many Indians it is a way of life, for visitors it is a spectacle.
The Indian IPL T20 competition which took this aspect of the noble game of cricket by the jugular and to placate the gods of television and marketing transported the Indian bazaar into the cricket arena. Now it is noise, noise, bizarre, bizarre all the time and in between there is also some brilliant cricket. There is no arguing T20 cricket has changed the game forever. These days Test cricketers often resort to the style of T20 cricket scoring to achieve big wins in very short spaces of time. Before T20 it would have been unthinkable. I can live with that. There is no Indian bazaar in Test cricket … yet.

Now at the World T20 you have the idiotic situation where irritatingly loud ground announcers provide score updates almost after every over. Every ground has great electronic scoreboards and for TV viewers with the luxury of electronic gadgetry at the finger tips and on screen the on-ground announcers are not doing anyone any favours. Idiotic to say the least me thinks.
Then of course there is the constant panning by the TV cameras of the crowds. There are several planets between the behaviour of crowds in the sub-continents and those with gentle smiles and sometimes soft embarrassment in the UK or other countries. What makes grown men and women become instant loony exhibitionists the moment they realise they are on camera?
I also don’t have a problem with one-day cricket per se. I watch the Australian one-day comp when it is on in Sydney. I enjoy it because it suits me. Sadly not enough people watch the one-day mid-week game and I am sickened by the waste. It deserves better respect from Aussies. I sit alone in the stands at these games. I watch as intently as I did as a child. Next year I will have to get a pair of binoculars, my eyes are catching up with my age. In Sydney, you can take your own lunch even though there is vendor selling fast food. You can also take a beer or two. As young man, it was a really pleasure down a couple of medicinals at cricket grounds in Australia or the UK. There were very few idiots and the large majority were pretty good.
The other thing about watching cricket live at the ground is that you made many friends, some became life-long friends, others you remember for the Ashes debates, fundamentalist beliefs in your own point of view defended with gentlemanly fashioned and when a draw was imminent you shook on it and moved on to the next point. By the end of the day, you and your new found friends had mostly solved most of cricket’s ills, agreed on a winning team and relaxed in the thought that you had done better job selectors of the definitive Australian or English team which would never see the light of day but you would forever be comforted by the thought that “if only the selectors seen it like we did.” When a draw in the argument was not forthcoming, it was easier to agree to disagree. You knew that the stalemate would be resurrected the next time you met at another Test.
And then, of course, there was that natural peacemaker. A glass of beer. At a centenary test in Sydney I got to watch very little actual cricket because I was with a gang of guys who came to the ground not for the cricket by the beer at the bar in the old Noble Stand. The next day I swore I would not be involved with any school. So I watched the morning’s play on my lonesome. Just after teams had come in for lunch, a chap approached me if I was on my own. Ummmmmm? Huh? Yes, I said. “We thought you were. “My friends and I wondered if you would like to join us?” Why not? And so I got into another session which I duly retired from at tea and went and sat in the stands and gave cricket its due attention.
Australia, which seems to be taking a lead from the Indian IPL in all things and attempts to set new boundaries in other aspects of the game, brought the game into somewhat disrepute during last year’s T20 Big Bash League. For one thing, I am sure sent many people reaching for the remote controls when in a moment of madness they foisted teams of three commentators on their innocent victims: the public. They could not see the sense in the traditional combination of commentator/analyst and foisted a third talking head. Worse, the trio involved themselves in their own private needle and niggle matches in the public eye and tried to take the proverbial “piss” and belittle each other. No everyone wanted to take part and looks on some faces and the body language magnified their embarrassment in being put in that disrespected position.
These attempts at spicing up the commentary were juvenile to say the least if not utterly embarrassing to a knowledgeable cricket community. It is a downright shame that quality knowledge and analysis from former Aussie skipper Ricky Pointing (he really does have a lot to offer the viewer or listener), Adam Gillespie, Mark Waugh and one or two others was forced to play second fiddle to television hoonery! Is it any wonder that “good fun” created the ugliest cricketing moment in recent memory when the cricketing superstar Chris Gayle appeared to proposition an on-ground interviewer with the line: Don’t blush, baby. Australians were divided almost equally between supporting Gayle’s “innocent comment” and those braying for his blood for being a hot-blooded idiot. I think the TV channel that presented the ingredients for such an outcome must take the blame: the interviews are ridiculous and do nothing except for the sight of a pretty girl not quite polished as other male interviewers and who was cutting her teeth in the game and should have been treated in “innocent” manner or the butt of a “joke”. However, I think Gayle is still chuckling at the silliness of it all, including his own part.
I am happy to see that in the current T20 World Cup the traditional commentator/analyst roles have been maintained. For the moment at least the commentators have improved. I am often reminded of the advice given by that legendary British editor, David English, when talking about the art of writing captions for photographs said the pre-requisite of writing a good caption was to tell the reader “what was not in the picture.” I think the same should be said for TV commentary. “Great shot. Four,” Why are you tell me this? I can see that for myself. Why aren’t you point out the deft skills in the precise, inch-perfect placement of the ball to beat the mid-wicket cordon of fielders and why it was such a difficult stroke. There is a lot that TV does not cover and it is incumbent upon commentators and analysts to enrich the view rather smash him with meaningless clichés and diatribe. Tell us about what we are not seeing. And do it with the decorum of David Gower, Michael Atherton, Richie Benaud, Allan McGillvray, the truly great Jim Laker, John Arlott or the punchiness of Michael Holding or the humour of Harsha Bhogle or the precision of Jonathan Agnew.
I have loved watching the game in the UK and Australia in the days when gentle men were gentlemen and the game was sometimes interrupted by the hi-jinx of the much hated streaker. Otherwise it was a celebration of batsmen, bowlers or the fielders and only if they deserved our appreciation. Otherwise, of course, we booed like hell and made sure that everyone appreciated that poor form does not ever provide value for the hard-earned money needed to pay for the price of a ticket. We drank the cup of national pride when our teams won or drowned our sorrows in a pint of ale while joining your mates in solving the problems which only the gathered “experts” could see so clearly and you went home thinking you might have salvaged something from the humiliation of defeat.
In those days manual scoreboards told the whole story and allowed your imagination to fill in the blanks. The game required your undivided attention and you kicked yourself if you missed something or the bloke next to you missed it too. There were instant replays or the radio in your year that is so commonplace these days (I would not be seen dead without one in my waning years).
Oh, BTW, I don’t mind the entre of women in the commentary box especially if they are of the calibre of the experienced Mel Jones or the budding Lis Sthalekar. I know that the argument for others to join their ranks is that “they have to start somewhere”. However, L-plates foisted on an unsuspecting public is never a great idea.
My four greatest all time commentators are: John Arlott, Jim Laker (English off-spinner who took 19 for 90 against Australia in 1956), Aussie icons the late Richie Benaud and Allan Mcgillvray and my first reserve is David Gower because his TV persona is as elegant as the rest of him and the manner in which he played the game.
In a piece entitled “The pride of a diffident hero: Jim Laker” By Allan Hill, Richie Benaud said of Laker's expertise as a commentator: "Jim was outstanding in the actual commentaries where the economy of words and the ability to fit the story into a space are so important. Jim had a wonderful knowledge of the game which he was able to impart in an interesting way, whether in conversation, or on the box." The disarming raconteur was, considered another broadcasting colleague Peter West, under-used. West remembered a "remarkably detailed memory" of the games in which Laker had played. "Jim, with his mentally wry and nimble humour, could produce an anecdote at the drop of a hat." Laker's friendship with John Arlott blossomed in their twin commentary duties on BBC 1 and 2, covering Test and one-day cricket. Arlott was coolly exact in his observations on Laker as a fellow broadcaster. "Jim has a deceptively fast reaction to any movement or action on the field," wrote Arlott. "Among long-distance  observers of a rapid incident, he is more likely than anyone to read it accurately."
 I spent many an afternoon in England watching and listening to the two masters of cricket commentary decorate an afternoon’s viewing with such bliss so that each time they were on the game and the match was better for it. Sublime. They were two men who painted with their words all that the radio listener or the TV viewer could not see or comprehend. The transported their audience to every ground they broadcast from. They did not need histrionics, the badgering to death of dying or limp clichés or the noise or hullabaloo of an Indian bazaar to be England’s commentary team, loved, appreciated and admired all over the world. RIP guys, gone but not forgotten. The same for Richie and Allan.



  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...