the land the internet forgot

Finally! A computer, internet access and the time to write a post. I’m in Brisbane at the moment, at the ascilite conference. I’ve moaned loud and long, before today, about internet connections in New Zealand. I’m feeling quite guilty about that now. Our hotel – by no means scungy in any other sense – has an internet connection (note: singular as in one) on the fourth floor. A staff member has to set it up for me and then it’s $20/hour. That’s it. I can’t even use dial up from my room. One of the delegates was saying their hotel offers internet at .55 cents per minute.

Edvard Munch's Scream from It’s pretty easy to spot the kiwis here – the newly arrived ones are doing this jaw grip Edvard Munch ‘Scream’ thing. The old hands are the ones either furiously swapping notes about how to get at unsecure wireless, or, those laying in a sort of fetal position quietly weeping with their mouse finger twitching spasmotically in some pathetic attempt at a cargo cult. I noticed most kiwis heading for the airport haven’t turned off their laptops, merely slipped them into sleep mode, so they can start connecting the second they land.

The other angst causing thing in these post 30o temperatures is beer is amazingly difficult to buy. In restaurants and bars, no worries; but I find myself craving 10 minutes in Thorndon New World – and I don’t think I’ve ever bought beer there.

Of more major concern is – and don’t get me wrong – I love Aussie, and have worked here etc etc, I’m appalled at the feeling of closing in-ness. I know that sounds really scientific, but the way the newspapers that get dropped outside the hotel door are written seems to be so moralistic and suppressive – I’m amazed at the change in the atmosphere. This isn’t the Australia I know and love, this really is beginning to feel quite oppressive.

I feel a bit vile about this post – I’ve mocked the internet access, the beer access, and now I’m saying the papers sound like they’re the mouthpiece for some police regime. Perhaps it’s because Australia is more open and people aren’t afraid to say what’s going on. Maybe there is a huge terrorist threat. No-one would want that. It just feels quite strange and different – and it’s not that long ago that I was in Brisbane. The new sedition laws were passed last night. I completely understand how hateful and hideous it would be to have a terrorist attack at the commonwealth games – now less than 100 days away.

I also felt a bit stupid because I didn’t actually know what sedition was. I had to google the meaning. According to

Sedition is a deprecated term of law to refer to non-overt conduct such as speech and organization that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often included subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

I think these are more than a little worrying. This blog posting might be considered ’seditious’. I was talking to a delegate here at the conference today – I’m now too afraid for both him and I to mention his name – and he mentioned that blogging was banned from schools because they (note to self – who was ‘they’?) can’t control what the kids were saying. I nodded at the time, because I understood what he was saying. Now I’m becoming paranoic and wondering how seditious my blog is. What if I wrote something two years ago. It’s got a whispering hint of ‘1984′ meets ‘Brazil’…

I’m sorry, Australia, I can’t get past feeling there’s a worm in the bud. I feel sad about this because I genuinely believe this is one of the best things on the planet. Kiwis – stay calm – I said ‘one of the best things’. If Australia is our cousin, I feel a bit like my cousin has joined the scientologists or the moonies or something. They look the same, but things are not as they were. The medical system seems to be absolutely filled with rot – there are frightening stories about teens dying of head injuries after waiting for hours for medical treatment, and then being given the wrong drugs and then – wonder of wonders – the medical records have vanished. Got lost. If Tui sold here they’re have to have digital billboards, because it seems there’s a ‘Yeah, right’ news flash at least twice a day. Lost, indeed. Except the Tui ads could be construed as seditious.

The other thing that astounds and frightens me here, and I guess it’s as bad in NZ, but kiwis don’t talk about it in such a public fashion – and that is the level of personal debt. In the paper today there’s a story about an average aussie battler (his wife didn’t work), earning between $A30-40,000, with over $10,000 spread over 10 credit and store cards, with an average of over 18% interest. A third of an annual gross income on your credit card? Mate – what if you get sick? Or made redundant? Talk about living in a fool’s paradise – but it seems Aussie as a nation is doing much the same – borrowing from overseas plus importing more than it exports. Sounds a lot like NZ in the 60s-70s-early 80s while Rob Muldoon was in power. A recipe for disaster, both nationally, and as a personal financial approach.

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