Time for truth: how to face the end of a life lived well

Polglase Kylie Polglase with her mother Rosemary and her dog Toby. ”Everybody dies [yet] every time I talk about it, I am treated as if I am being negative.” Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Even as a six-year-old, Kylie Polglase was comfortable talking about her own death from cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung condition.

”If I don’t do all this treatment, I will get sick and die,” she wrote in a picture book more than 20 years ago.

Now a frail 26-year-old, Ms Polglase, of Cherrybrook, is using her limited breath to convince others that talking about death – and creating an advance-care directive on how we want to die – should be a normal part of life.

This week she spoke at the launch of a plan by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to make discussions about the quality of our deaths as common as those about the quality of our lives.

Making an advance-care plan should be like making a will, or deciding to become an organ donor, Ms Skinner said.

It is something we should talk about in healthy midlife or early in an illness with our families, friends, legal advisors, carers and medical practitioners, she said.

Ms Skinner’s mother, a nurse, made her children promise there ”would be no heroic interventions”.

Yet the government’s action plan finds many decisions about end-of-life care are made in a crisis, often resulting in unwanted and often unwarranted life-sustaining measures. It will include an education campaign to encourage doctors, lawyers and aged-care providers to discuss and suggest advanced-care directives, changes to ensure that advanced-care plans are incorporated in all health care records, and the introduction of a standard form to replace the many different ones being used.

Currently, those who do feel comfortable talking about their own deaths, including the chronically ill like Ms Polglase, are often treated as if they are crazy or suicidal.

”Everybody dies. It is not like I am different,” Ms Polglase said. ”Yet it is very weird that every time I talk about it, I am treated as if I am being negative or depressive or people say ‘Have you thought about talking to somebody about it?”’

Although she is an advocate for advance-care plans, she doesn’t yet have one of her own.

”I’ve recently had discussions about the decision I want to make and that’s been met with, ‘Have you thought about seeing a psychiatrist?’ It’s just very odd.”

Doctors tell her that she doesn’t need an advanced-care plan yet, and that she has plenty of options.

Ms Polglase is relatively well now. But the lungs she received in a double lung transplant are failing, she has had a stroke and lost the sight in one eye, and she suffers from conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, conditions that are most commonly associated with advanced age.

She’s outlived most of her friends who received new lungs, and has seen many awful deaths. ”All the losses I have witnessed have influenced my thoughts. It seems very rare that we get what we want at the end.”

When Ms Polglase got her new lungs, she also got asthma. ”My worst fear is that I will end up in intensive care, or in an ambulance, or in an emergency department room, and they’re going to resuscitate me or artificially keep me alive, and it will be against everything I want.”

She is now concentrating on improving the quality of her life, instead of the quantity. Before the transplant, Ms Polglase had never eaten yum cha, owned a dog or caught a bus to the city. Now she has.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 04/12/2018

I know this great little place …

Christina is chef, owner and founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, a bakery in Brooklyn, New York. See milkbarstore上海夜生活m.
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WHERE’S THE BEST TABLE IN NEW YORK?

A seat at Wylie Dufresne’s newest, Alder, in the East Village, for clever small plates such as root beer pudding. If my folks were in town, Prime Meats (of Franks F. & C. fame) in Brooklyn, a farm-to-table place with Germanic style. See aldernyc上海夜生活m; frankspm上海夜生活m.

FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

Yuji Ramen at Smorgasburg at Whole Foods Market in Bowery. It’s a pop-up where Yuji Haraguchi serves takeaway mazemen, noodles without broth, and ramen “ravioli”. He’s opening a permanent spot in Williamsburg later this year. Follow him on Twitter: @yujiramen. See wholefoodsmarket上海夜生活m/stores/bowery.

NEW YORK’S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

Legend Bar & Restaurant in Chelsea, a smart pan-Asian with Sichuanese and Vietnamese menus. Oh, and Sushi Azabu, a small Edo-mae style sushi bar in the basement of Greenwich Grill. See legendrestaurant88上海夜生活m; greenwichgrill上海夜生活m/sushiazabu.

WHERE DO YOU GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?

Del Posto. It’s Italian that’s all class, from 100-layer lasagne to Livorno-style cacciucco (fish stew), the piano player, serious Italian wine list and immaculate service. See delposto上海夜生活m.

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE?

Lunch at Le Bernardin. It’s all about seafood and at $75 for three courses, is nearly half the dinner price. Spend what you save on the $45 supplement for shaved geoduck clam with Osetra caviar. See le-bernardin上海夜生活m.

WHAT’S HOT IN THE CITY RIGHT NOW?

The Pines. It manages to be both a cheerful local hang and serious eating spot. The other big thing is cronuts, a doughnut-croissant hybrid, from Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in SoHo. See thepinesbrooklyn上海夜生活m; dominiqueansel上海夜生活m.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 04/12/2018

Funding crisis hits schools after fall in overseas students

Excess fees: Overseas students may be required to pove they have sufficient funds for tutition fees sometimes up to two years in advance. Photo: Michele MossopEnrolments of international students in NSW high schools have plummeted, falling 22 per cent since 2009 and shaving $320 million off the lucrative industry.
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There are now 4333 international students at the state’s independent and public high schools compared with 5576 in 2009, the NSW Department of Education and the Association of Independent Schools of NSW says. The collapse in the market has hit independent schools hardest, with a 36.6 per cent drop.

Education professionals blame the decline on the global financial crisis, the high Australian dollar in recent years and tougher visa application regulations that apply only to high school students.

The national executive director of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, said that while the industry hoped the recent drop in the dollar would attract more overseas students, it would take time for its effects to be seen because ”enrolment decisions are often made many years in advance”.

Mr Honeywood believes a heavy-handed federal government has been the bigger factor in the falling enrolment numbers. He said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship introduced streamlined visa processing in March last year that reduced the requirements of university students to gain a visa, but the visa regulations excluded school students.

“They haven’t allowed high schools to have this streamlined visa procedure, meaning there’s a lot of paperwork and red tape around who can and can’t be brought in for schools, making it very difficult for them to recruit international students in an efficient manner,” Mr Honeywood said. “Schools are having quite a crisis when it comes to international students.

“The government’s responsibility is to ensure the regulatory framework is made as easy as possible for high schools to recruit international students while maintaining policy assurance … the introduction of streamlined visas means only students recruited through a university will be given a much easier visa pathway. Schools are missing out.”

International student enrolments are a $5.5 billion export market for NSW, second only to coal. Charges range from $13,000 for an average public high school to as much as $120,000 for independent schools such as Sydney Church of England Grammar School.

The director of marketing and enrolments at St Luke’s Grammar School in Dee Why, Danielle Hargrove, said that depending on a student’s assessment, parents may find it difficult to meet Australian immigration laws.

“They may need to prove they have sufficient funds for tuition fees in their bank accounts before a visa is approved,” she said. ”These fees can be for up to two years in advance, which can be in excess of $70,000. Other countries, like the USA and Canada, don’t require this upfront.”

The federal government made changes to visa fees on July 1, which a spokesman for the NSW Deputy Premier fears could “effectively price Australia out of the highly competitive global market for skilled migrants and students”.

“The additional applicant charges will have the most significant impact, adding a surcharge of 50 per cent for a family member aged 18 or over and a surcharge of 25 per cent for family members aged under 18,” he said.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools in NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said that before 2009 a steady increase in numbers reflected a significant growth of middle classes in major student markets in Asia.

“This is where families view study at high quality educational institutions in English-speaking countries as a valuable foundation for employment and business success,” he said.

While most NSW schools have experienced dropping numbers, some north Sydney schools remain popular for international students.

Bucking the trend with a 261.9 per cent enrolment increase in three years is Chatswood Intensive English Centre.

School principal Julie Ross said this was because the north Sydney region reputation was unique and attractive for mainland Chinese parents.

The NSW Department of Education last year reported seven countries provided for 91 per cent of enrolments, with 52 per cent from China, followed by 15 per cent from Vietnam, 14 per cent from South Korea, 3 per cent from Germany and Hong Kong and 2 per cent from Thailand and Japan.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 04/12/2018

Holiday departure lounge is anything but a cruise

Passengers with luggage walk out of the White Bay terminal. Photo: Peter RaeIt’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Ethirajan Ramakrishnan lost his faith in Sydney’s public transport solutions.
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It could have been the moment – almost two hours after he set out for the White Bay Cruise Terminal via a bus from Seven Hills – that his bag finally broke. Or when it started raining.

Or it could be when he was forced to stop his three-year-old son walking into Balmain’s traffic after the Robert Street footpath abruptly disappeared.

It was at this point that his wife Lakshmi suggested they try to reach the Pacific Jewel by taxi instead. Their two-week holiday was on the horizon, but the family still had a kilometre’s walk to get to it.

”It’s hard for us,” said Mr Ramakrishnan, who explained the cruise’s central appeal was that everything – once they got on the boat, at least – was self-contained and organised.

”Maybe in the future we will have friends who can drop us.”

The $57 million White Bay Cruise Terminal began operating only in April, but already tourism message boards and P&O’s Facebook page are littered with negative feedback about its access problems.

”What about the people who can only get there by [public] transport like me? I don’t know how I am going to get there and back,” said one on TripAdvisor. ”I won’t be booking with P&O again.”

Bus is the only public transport option for the luggage-laden seeking to get to White Bay, and ”it is a long walk” to the terminal, concedes a Sydney Ports spokesman. The ”overwhelming majority” of passengers travelled there by car, taxi or coach instead, he said.

A $12 shuttle to Central and the airport is provided by P&O Cruises for its passengers. Parent company Carnival Australia had been a consistent past critic of the area’s ”sub-optimal” location and public transport issues, but has since pledged to help make the terminal a success.

”People have adjusted to the new arrangements,” a spokesman said.

But Tourism & Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said cruise holidays were the fastest-growing area of the tourism industry and passengers should have a range of transport options to get to the terminal.

”We urge the NSW government to explore public transport options, including a possible ferry service, especially in the countdown to the start of the next cruise season in October,” he said.

Passenger Jun Feng was headed home by bus after discovering the costs of the taxi to the ship for her large group.

”It’s so expensive,” she said.

A government committee is preparing a two-year working plan that will consider ways to improve public access to the area.

In the meantime, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the irregularity of cruise ship arrivals meant ”increasing public transport would not be an efficient use of taxpayer funds”.

”Taxis and charter bus services which link to public transport hubs are a more effective option,” she said.

But Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne said the problems would only be compounded when the temporary exhibition space opens next year at nearby Glebe Island, which will include a ferry connection for events only.

”With so much vital economic infrastructure getting off the ground in White Bay it is short-sighted not to provide any public transport into the precinct,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/05/2019

Time for truth: how to face the end of a life lived well

Polglase Kylie Polglase with her mother Rosemary and her dog Toby. ”Everybody dies [yet] every time I talk about it, I am treated as if I am being negative.” Photo: Wolter Peeters
Shanghai night field

Even as a six-year-old, Kylie Polglase was comfortable talking about her own death from cystic fibrosis, a terminal lung condition.

”If I don’t do all this treatment, I will get sick and die,” she wrote in a picture book more than 20 years ago.

Now a frail 26-year-old, Ms Polglase, of Cherrybrook, is using her limited breath to convince others that talking about death – and creating an advance-care directive on how we want to die – should be a normal part of life.

This week she spoke at the launch of a plan by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to make discussions about the quality of our deaths as common as those about the quality of our lives.

Making an advance-care plan should be like making a will, or deciding to become an organ donor, Ms Skinner said.

It is something we should talk about in healthy midlife or early in an illness with our families, friends, legal advisors, carers and medical practitioners, she said.

Ms Skinner’s mother, a nurse, made her children promise there ”would be no heroic interventions”.

Yet the government’s action plan finds many decisions about end-of-life care are made in a crisis, often resulting in unwanted and often unwarranted life-sustaining measures. It will include an education campaign to encourage doctors, lawyers and aged-care providers to discuss and suggest advanced-care directives, changes to ensure that advanced-care plans are incorporated in all health care records, and the introduction of a standard form to replace the many different ones being used.

Currently, those who do feel comfortable talking about their own deaths, including the chronically ill like Ms Polglase, are often treated as if they are crazy or suicidal.

”Everybody dies. It is not like I am different,” Ms Polglase said. ”Yet it is very weird that every time I talk about it, I am treated as if I am being negative or depressive or people say ‘Have you thought about talking to somebody about it?”’

Although she is an advocate for advance-care plans, she doesn’t yet have one of her own.

”I’ve recently had discussions about the decision I want to make and that’s been met with, ‘Have you thought about seeing a psychiatrist?’ It’s just very odd.”

Doctors tell her that she doesn’t need an advanced-care plan yet, and that she has plenty of options.

Ms Polglase is relatively well now. But the lungs she received in a double lung transplant are failing, she has had a stroke and lost the sight in one eye, and she suffers from conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, conditions that are most commonly associated with advanced age.

She’s outlived most of her friends who received new lungs, and has seen many awful deaths. ”All the losses I have witnessed have influenced my thoughts. It seems very rare that we get what we want at the end.”

When Ms Polglase got her new lungs, she also got asthma. ”My worst fear is that I will end up in intensive care, or in an ambulance, or in an emergency department room, and they’re going to resuscitate me or artificially keep me alive, and it will be against everything I want.”

She is now concentrating on improving the quality of her life, instead of the quantity. Before the transplant, Ms Polglase had never eaten yum cha, owned a dog or caught a bus to the city. Now she has.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/05/2019

Magpies beaming as star returns

Adelaide’s Nathan Van Berlo tackles Collingwood’s Dayne Beams. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoThe come-from-behind win against Adelaide would certainly have put a smile on Nathan Buckley’s face on Friday night, but the return of Dayne Beams would have had him positively beaming.
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The importance of Beams’ long-awaited return from a quadriceps injury to the Pies’ flag chances can’t be overstated.

A fully fit Beams will be a key factor as the Pies look to build momentum into the finals, or even snare a top-four berth, and he showed exactly what the side had been missing during his long injury layoff with 25 possessions in the hard-fought, 27-point win against the Crows at the MCG.

The 23-year-old suffered the frustrating quad injury on the eve of the home-and-away season, but was initially thought set to miss two to four weeks.

But he re-injured the muscle at training in the lead-in to the round-four clash against Richmond and was put in cotton wool until finally proving his fitness with a best-on-ground, 26-disposal effort in the VFL last week.

Beams started on the bench – he would do so at the start of every term – and came on to the cheers of Collingwood fans at the four-minute mark, but looked understandably rusty early in his first AFL game of the season.

He didn’t get his first touch until the 13th minute, but then he was away. The reigning Copeland Trophy winner displayed his trademark run and carry and was soon trading handballs with running teammates and providing the linking run that has been missing as Buckley’s side struggled to recapture its early season form.

He had seven touches for the first quarter and even showed his delight at being back among the cut and thrust of the contest by being a willing participant in a bit of argy bargy after the first-quarter siren.

As the Pies worked into the game, so did Beams who looked increasingly assured with the ball in hand.

His class on his return to the fray was underscored by his disposal efficiency of 84 per cent, while he also had four clearances and laid four tackles.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/05/2019

Bumper harvest as producers celebrate best crop in a decade

The good oil: Gerard Healy, farm manager at Boundary Bend’s Boort estate in north-west Victoria, examines his trees. Photo: Luis Enrique AscuiPlenty of summer sun and hardly any autumn rain left the limbs of Margi Kirkby’s trees in Moree sagging with plump olives by harvest time in March.
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Now, with each of her 95,000 trees cleaned of olives, Ms Kirkby, of Gwydir Grove in the state’s north-west, can safely proclaim 2013 a bumper year. Her groves yielded 170,000 litres of extra virgin olive oil, up 70 per cent on last year’s figure.

”This year was definitely good and last year was no doubt bad,” she said. ”The olives don’t like a wet harvest because the rain washes the flavour out. It was dry this time around.”

Stories of bountiful crops are being echoed by olive farmers across Australia, with NSW producers on track to hit 1.1 million litres of olive oil this month.

An unprecedented 19 million litres of olive oil is expected to be squeezed from this year’s national harvest, which ends this month, nearly double last year’s effort of 10.5 million litres, the Australian Olive Association said.

Rob McGavin, co-founder of Cobram Estate, Victoria’s leading olive oil producer, is celebrating bumper crops after two disastrous years of heavy rain and flooding, which at one point forced him to navigate groves spread across 6500 hectares in the Murray Valley in a rowboat.

This year’s crop is the best he has seen in a decade, both in size and quality, he said. ”We have enjoyed perfect sunny days and cool nights during the season, and amazing growing conditions for our olives.”

Mr McGavin, who is also a director of the Australian Olive Association, expects Victoria to lift its production from 5.5 million litres last year to 14 million litres, after seeing his trees bear twice as much fruit.

NSW is Cobram Estate’s biggest market, he said. ”Our olive oil is simply just from squeezing the fruit, just like a freshly squeezed orange juice,” he said.

”Olive oil should smell fresh, like cut grass. If it’s anything old like oil, like cheese, that’s bad. It should leave your mouth clean, not leave your mouth oily,” he said.

Steve Goodchild, owner of Pukara Estate in the Hunter Valley, labelled his harvest of 380 tonnes as ”average”. He began machine harvesting in mid to late April when the fruit became just over 20 per cent oil.

”Our fruit ripened early and there was no rain over harvest – it was great,” he said. ”Olives are quite prone to having an off and on year and this year the cycle is on the better side.

”The Hunter produces milder … less pungent oils. So, again, timing is crucial when managing the harvesting window.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/05/2019

What to drink … with braises

Lamb shanks.UP TO $20
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Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir 2012, $20While pinot noir is often the drink of choice with duck, it’s also incredibly versatile – brilliant with slow-cooked lamb shanks with Middle Eastern spices. The 2012 Hoddles Creek pinot noir will gain complexity over the next five years or so, while its acidity and restraint make for excellent drinking now. Subtle, with a pretty nose, fragrant with forest-floor, cherries and earthy notes that follow through on the palate. It’s medium-weighted, tangy, with fine tannins but plenty of depth. Let it breathe for a few hours and it will unfurl more detail. From Randall the Wine Merchants, Newtown.

UP TO $30

Lo Stesso Fiano 2012, $30Winemakers Georgia Roberts (wine rep by day) and Emily McNally (of Occam’s Razor and Jasper Hill) have collaborated for their second vintage, making fiano with fruit sourced from a well-known Heathcote vineyard, and it’s a beauty. This smells of creamed honey, stone fruit and ginger spice with Mediterranean herbs. While it’s quite a luscious full-bodied white, it’s not overripe or heavy as there’s fine acidity driving it. The palate is fantastic: creamy, slick, with loads of texture, incredibly moreish, with just the right savoury appeal. Drink with the Turkish braised eggplant dish, imam bayildi. From Rathdowne Cellars.

UNDER $40

Comando G La Bruja Averia 2011, $38Love the name of this from three young producers who love garnacha, calling themselves Comando G, after a Japanese cartoon. Under that label they just make garnacha, with the top, rare and expensive Rumbo al Norte an astonishingly beautiful wine. Yet the ”village” La Bruja Averia is delicious, too. The fruit is sourced from vines aged for 30 to 50 years in the Caldalso do los Vidrios region of Madrid. It’s perfumed, floral, with cola and liquorice notes; savoury despite bright juicy fruit. Medium-bodied with fine tannins, it’s spot-on with braised oxtail. From City Wine Shop.

SPLURGE

Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2011, $60Kiss is one of Andrew Thomas’ individual vineyard wines and its flagship shiraz. It’s the Hunter Valley at its very best. There’s nothing heavy, overextracted or harsh about this shiraz, with its core of beautiful sweet fruit, and it smells of crushed red berries and rosemary. There’s spice and tangy good acidity melding with the plump, ripe tannins. Still tight, with an attractive herbal edge, but a poised shiraz with power underneath. Will age for another decade or enjoy now with braised beef cheeks. From thomaswines上海夜生活m.au

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/05/2019

Legal drug hardest of all to kick, study finds

The synthetic drug ”bath salts” is more addictive than any other drug, including methamphetamine, a landmark study has found.
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Use of the so-called legal high has skyrocketed in NSW in recent years, causing at least one death and prompting a state government inquiry and a raft of retail bans. But information on bath salts, which mimics the high of cocaine, is limited and much of the public and political focus has been on synthetic cannabis.

Results from a laboratory study by the Scripps Research Institute in California revealed that the drug can be up to 10 times more addictive than methamphetamine.

In the study, rats were capable of dosing themselves intravenously with either MDPV, often called bath salts, or methamphetamine simply by pressing a lever. Overall, the rats averaged about 60 lever presses for a dose of methamphetamine compared with an average 600 presses for a dose of MDPV.

The researchers concluded that MDPV posed a ”substantial threat for compulsive use that is potentially greater than that for methamphetamine”.

MDPV showed ”greater potency and efficacy than methamphetamine”, the study said. Despite the alarming findings, just four synthetic cocaine products are on the Department of Fair Trading’s list of 19 banned synthetic drugs. The rest are synthetic cannabis products.

A recent state government inquiry recommended outlawing eight ”families” of synthetic drugs but all were cannabinoids.

Makers of bath salts tweak their recipes to circumvent illegal drug classifications so the drug remains legal. However, Eros, the adult shop association that has campaigned in support of synthetic cannabis, will not touch bath salts.

An industry ”code of practice” drafted by Eros last month proposed allowing synthetic cannabis to be sold to adults with proper warnings but forbade selling bath salts.

”We are really down about those substances. They can be really dangerous,” Eros co-ordinator Robbie Swan said.

Last year, Central Coast truck driver Glenn Punch, 44, and his partner, Rachael Hickel, 42, went into a psychotic and paranoid fit after injecting bath salts, which Ms Hickel claims was sold as a herbal high in an adult shop. Mr Punch went into cardiac arrest and died.

Ms Hickel has since launched a campaign to ban the products.

Drug and Alcohol Research Training director Paul Dillon said little was known about bath salts or MDPV.

”We’re getting so many new substances coming onto the market and we just can’t respond fast enough,” he said. ”We are so 10 steps behind and simply banning things is ludicrous.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/04/2019

Lunch with Mark Armstrong

It was while he was working on an automotive production line making car brakes that Mark Armstrong realised there was somewhere else he ought to be, other things he could be making. He was a young man – it was the 1970s – and he’d taken the factory job after withdrawing from a surveying degree at RMIT. ”I didn’t have the aptitude,” he says of that degree. ”I couldn’t ‘see’ it.”
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He is grateful for his six months in the auto factory. ”That was a fantastic time. I saw how things got put together and started to question my whole agenda. Was this all there is? I couldn’t see any way out.” He returned to RMIT to look through various departments and, in the design faculty, he had an epiphany when he met a senior lecturer by chance.

”I had a chat to him and as soon as I looked around the studios and the sketches and models, I was gobsmacked. I was like a kid in a toy shop. Everything he said made perfect sense to me.” The lecturer invited him to join an evening drawing class without having to enrol, and the next year he started a degree in industrial design.

Here he is today talking about his latest project, the bionic eye. In concert with scientists, technicians, engineers and medicos, Armstrong’s part in the ambitious project is to oversee the design of the eyewear component, via his role as Practice Professor at Monash Art, Design and Architecture (MADA). There, with a small team, he is focusing on the end-user of a technology that incorporates the eyewear with a small camera, which connects to a coil under a skin flap at the back of the head. That coil transfers the camera imagery to a set of tiny ceramic tiles implanted in the visual cortex of the brain, the processor distilling what was live, full-colour imagery into a matrix of dots the blind recipient’s brain will ”see”. The initial test subjects will be people who have lost their sight; it is expected to later extend to those who are congenitally blind.

As he describes this inspirational design project and all the careful work that goes into it, it is fitting that Armstrong sits in one of Melbourne’s most beautifully designed restaurant makeovers: David’s, long known as a plush, dimly lit Shanghainese parlour tucked away in Cecil Place off Chapel Street, has been redesigned with spiffy whitewashed walls, cute school chairs and soft greenery. As we talk about design, I can’t help but admire the perfectly pitched interiors – and the amusing ”Chop!! Chop!!” cards we are presented with, in which we can tick off selections with wooden pencils.

Dumplings are a given – the place is renowned for them – so Armstrong chooses the chilli pork ones, along with a selection of bao offerings (shredded Peking duck, spicy lamb and chicken). All are small dishes, perfect introductions to something more substantial – Gong Bo chicken stir-fry with radishes, peanuts, cucumber, chilli and garlic. It is all meant to be reminiscent of old-country Shanghai – if anyone can truly recall such a place.

Armstrong has spent much time visiting China throughout the years, his industrial design work taking him to many places and exposing him to many gifted, interesting people. His view of globalism, technology and the internet is one that is enthusiastic about the opportunities for Australian design graduates with the nous to grasp a cultural shift that will celebrate designers and their ability to customise for the client.

In 1984 he was a founder of design consultancy Blue Sky – still his mainstay – and the range of design work he has done through it is extraordinary, from the Sydney Olympic torch and the Cochlear Nucleus 5 hearing implant, to the new trains on Sydney’s commuter rail network, and from incarnations of Ryobi drills to Qantas’ ”Next Generation Check-In”.

Now, with his ”other” job at Monash – he flies down from his Sydney home every fortnight – Armstrong is hoping to do even more to embed Australia, and particularly Monash University, as a global design leader. ”My aspirations are high,” he says. ”One of the things about design is that it synergises everything. The synthesis of great medical thinking, clever IT and engineering – and industrial design is the glue that pulls it all together into something that can be commercialised. That is why we [designers] are often at the focus point of community attention, because we bring new technology together and humanise it.”

These days, he says, community awareness of the importance of design is greater than ever, which is why work on the bionic eye – expected to be ready for human test subjects next year – is so satisfying.

”Most of the time I just get caught up in what I am doing; you stay focused on what your role is,” he says. ”But now and again I pinch myself and think what a privilege it is to work on a project like this. There are many other projects I have worked on in my career that are much less rewarding and take just as much time and equal amounts of energy. This has a great deal of potential to change people’s lives. That said, I do recognise that my role is small compared to the scientists who have developed the technology and pushed these boundaries as far as they have.”

Apart from the bionic eye project, Armstrong’s role at Monash means engaging the university with international research projects and companies. ”It is a very big challenge; it is not easy to draw US and European companies to Australia in the big league for design. They don’t think of Australia as the epicentre. But we have the view: why shouldn’t Monash be a design hot spot like MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] in the northern hemisphere?”

So Armstrong is launching three PhD-based projects in which the graduates engage with Electrolux, Cochlear and a big US organisation (yet to be announced) on research that aims to have significant repercussions for the industries involved. ”It is about a designed outcome, not a massive book that is going to collect dust on a professor’s shelf. Impactful design… that is about new knowledge. The costs are relatively low, but the gains are great.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/04/2019

Liberals launch prime-time ad blitz to peg back Rudd

The Liberals have moved to peg back Kevin Rudd’s runaway lead over Tony Abbott as favoured prime minister, launching a new advertising blitz in print and television, beginning Sunday evening.
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The ads highlight the Labor leader’s role in a series of high-profile program and policy failures – from the carbon and mining taxes to wastage in the school halls program, and Labor’s internal leadership tensions.

Liberal sources, who insist the move is not a panicked response to Mr Rudd’s success in catapulting Labor back into contention, described the advertising buy as “substantial”.

They said the prime-time offensive had been informed by focus group testing, which found voters were initially happy Mr Rudd had replaced Julia Gillard but that many harboured doubts about his capacity to deliver, and some regarded him as a “fake”.

While the mini-campaign will consist of both positive and negative political messaging, insiders said the real “bite” of the campaign would come from reminding voters of Labor’s record.

“You don’t win elections just on positive advertising, it’s a simple fact that tough negative advertising is more effective,” one senior Liberal said.

It is understood the lion’s share of the new advertising spend will go to television ads aimed at Mr Rudd’s tendency to make big announcements as prime minister up to mid-2010 when his colleagues replaced him with Ms Gillard.

Fairfax Media understands the first anti-Rudd television ad features a picture of the Prime Minister’s face with a positive expression, which then sours as the viewer is told of 46,000 irregular maritime arrivals under Labor, the fatal home insulation debacle, long-promised budget surpluses that became deficits, and an overall atmosphere of “chaos and dysfunction”.

It concludes with the tagline: “Kevin Rudd is all talk – imagine three more years of Labor failure.”

Signs of the opposition’s market testing are already evident in comments of frontbenchers from Mr Abbott down.

The morning after Mr Rudd made a generally well-received economic speech to the National Press Club, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey depicted Mr Rudd as a fake, declaring that anyone who knew him personally was aware he was “full of it”.

Previous attack ads featuring Mr Rudd’s former colleagues complaining about his management style were criticised by some advertising experts as “amateurish and juvenile” and do not appear to have dented Mr Rudd’s popularity. The most recent national polls suggest he enjoys a substantial and growing lead over Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister – a factor which has many Liberals worried, while others say it will evaporate once the election campaign begins.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/04/2019

Tide turns on school reforms as Queensland softens stance

The federal government has been buoyed by ”positive” discussions with Victoria and Queensland over its school funding reforms on Friday as it extended its July 14 deadline for states and territories to sign up to a deal.
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Talks with Victoria and the Catholic school sector have long been moving towards resolution but the surprise on Friday was the stance of Queensland, which had previously dismissed the reforms outright.

Now Queensland appears to be edging closer to a deal, with its conservative Premier, Campbell Newman, praising Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for listening to the state’s concerns at a meeting in Brisbane on Friday afternoon. Mr Newman said the change of approach from the federal government was ”refreshing” and Queensland would work to get the best deal for the state.

”It was a very productive discussion. It was a discussion that was not afforded to us by the previous prime minister [Julia Gillard] and the previous minister [Peter Garrett],” he said.

”It was very productive and we know now what we have to do to try to reach an agreement.”

Mr Newman went into the meeting with Education Minister Bill Shorten and Mr Rudd calling for the federal government to increase its offer by $650 million next financial year.

Mr Newman said the Prime Minister agreed to consider Queensland’s concerns, including the ”red tape and bureaucracy” that would be imposed on schools under the reforms, the potential for some schools to be left worse off, and the associated slashing of university funding and uncertainty over kindergarten funding.

”We want to achieve a deal for Queensland; it’s got to be a deal that is right for Queensland … and Queensland kids,” he said. ”I’d say there’s been progress on all these issues because there’s been dialogue.”

Emerging from the Brisbane meeting, Mr Shorten said both sides should know whether they would be able to reach an agreement within the next week or two.

He said the meeting was constructive but had been unable to resolve all differences and federal Labor would leave no stone unturned to strike a deal. ”For me it’s not about the blame game; it’s a question of are we smart enough, state and federal, to secure better schools for our children,” Mr Shorten said.

NSW, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania have signed up to the reforms but the federal government is yet to reach agreement with Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott reaffirmed his intention to unpick the reforms if the government fails to reach agreement with every single state and territory.

It came after his education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, repeated his own position that the system would be kept if the ”overwhelming majority” of jurisdictions signed up.

At a visit to a school in Brisbane on Friday, Mr Abbott insisted a national scheme required ”national agreement” and that meant ”all states and territories”. But he hardened his stance against the reforms by questioning what the reforms actually involved and denouncing ”secret” deals with different states and school sectors.

The federal government’s reforms, formerly known as ”Gonski” but now rebadged as the Better Schools Plan, involve setting an ideal base level of funding for each student, to be topped up with ”loadings” targeting disadvantage.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/04/2019

NEWSMAKER LISA CLUTTERHAM

Among the abuse showered on Julia Gillard during her prime ministership many avoided the cheap shot that her electorate, Lalor, was home to Melbourne’s little boys’ and girls’ room, the Werribee Sewerage Farm. Now the ALP appears content to cover itself in effluent over Gillard’s successor in the seat.
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Amid Kevin Rudd’s self-serving calls to reform the ALP comes a political wannabe who effortlessly personified all that has gone wrong with Labor.

Lisa Clutterham, 29, an Australian diplomat to Papua New Guinea, has emerged as a likely pretender in the increasingly crowded contest for Lalor. She has the backing of Victorian ALP powerbrokers to succeed Gillard. But in the context of the late Speaker of the US House Tip O’Neill’s maxim ”all politics is local”, Clutterham is the ultimate blow-in. She’s a South Australian. She joined the ALP only on June 20. She neither has any Melbourne connection nor a relationship with Lalor.

Scratch that: she told ABC radio host Jon Faine that her partner when he was a child ”visited Werribee on many Christmas holidays”.

Most Melburnians would not touch Werribee with a barge pole. The nearby sewerage farm makes the suburb so redolent that motorists driving past on their way to Geelong habitually negotiate the journey with closed windows.

But Clutterham seemed incapable of smelling a rat or anything else as she presented her credentials. ”I don’t have a connection with Melbourne and that’s not something I’m shying away from. I’m in the camp of a majority of Australians, 99 per cent of whom are not members of political parties,” she told Faine.

Such a gormless sense of entitlement has either outraged or bemused many in Melbourne. But will it be enough for her to join Mal Meninga in the lexicon of the world’s shortest political careers? More than his on-field achievements, the Queensland coach will be forever remembered for his 2001 decision to quit politics during a radio interview to announce his candidacy for the ACT Assembly.

Clutterham’s arrival on the political stage has made a nonsense of Rudd’s quixotic call to lessen the power of factions in preselection ballots. Lalor is already shaping up as a free-for-all. Apart from Clutterham’s late arrival, three other candidates have emerged to show that factionalism and nepotism is still alive and well in the ALP.

Joanne Ryan, a primary school principal, has the backing of Gillard and her predecessor in Lalor, former science minister Barry Jones; Kimberley Kitching, who runs the Health Services Union Victoria No.1 branch, has the support of Education and Employment and Workplace Minister Bill Shorten; Sandra Willis, general manager of Oz Opera and daughter of former federal treasurer Ralph Willis, is favoured by Lalor local and former Victorian premier Joan Kirner.

For that matter, behind Clutterham are the powerful Right players such as David Feeney who had Gillard’s backing and prevailed over a female candidate in the preselection for Batman. Clutterham entered the fray at the behest of Rudd acolyte Richard Marles, who was named the Trade Minister after the change of prime minister.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州桑拿 22/03/2019

Uphill battle

Top model … the 1969 Monaro GTS. Photo: National Archives of Australia A1200, L81537 Holden Royale … Queen Elizabeth II at the Holden plant in 1963. Photo: GM Holden Ltd
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It’s moving. You know it’s meant to, but the line in the general assembly area at General Motors Holden in Elizabeth, South Australia, still looks faintly disorienting. Today’s “takt time” – the period it takes a car body length to pass a set point – is 57 seconds. You wonder how anyone could keep up, but they do.

The machinery provides the initial spectacle, such as the IP robot that slips bulky dashboard assemblies through windscreen spaces with the sleight of a sinuous arm. But it’s the people who are transfixing – their concentration, dexterity and agility, physical and mental. General assembly puts together no fewer than 45 different models, and no two consecutive vehicles on the production line are alike. As each gleaming shell looms the operator must identify it – yellow Cruze notchback, red Commodore VF sedan, black Calais, white wagon, blue ute, long wheelbase, short wheelbase, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive – and have the requisite bits of metal, plastic, wiring or harness ready for installation inside a minute.

Watch a while and it becomes exciting. Will they get it done? They never fail. It’s even beautiful, in the physical precision and kinaesthetic awareness on display. “On production you learn skills you never thought you had,” says Lucinda Gregory, a petite 33-year-old mother of two with 15 years at Holden, of her intricate choreography. “Using two hands at once; doing this while you’re doing something else over here … Each job has a flow. You start one job, and you flow to the next. There’s no point zig-zagging all over the car, so you have to get a nice flow going.”

“You can go into a blind spot underneath the dash and put a nut on a stud just by feel,” says quality checker Tony Poole. “Your arm automatically goes there. It’s just … incredible.” He still gets a thrill from observing skilled colleagues. “I was watching an operator putting in side-rail airbags and he wasn’t even looking!” he says. “Y’know, in – click-click-click.” He laughs gustily: “Lad’s been doing that job for a while!” Poole, a father of three, has been at Holden 26 years; he would like, he says, to stay another 26.

Until 2039? For the automotive industry’s detractors, Poole, Gregory and more than 2000 others at Holden’s remaining vehicle assembly plant in Australia cannot be gone quickly enough. To them, the industry, despite still employing almost 50,000 people and turning over almost $50 billion, embodies an old Australia and has become a luxury that a country with a small population can no longer afford.

Locally produced passenger motor vehicles now represent a fraction of a market they dominated before the phased reduction of tariffs began in the 1980s. To continue, American-owned Holden and Ford, and Japan’s Toyota, have needed billions of dollars of state support, through a $5.4 billion Automotive Transformation Scheme from 2008 to 2020, plus a range of project-specific grants – what critics call “handouts” and defenders call “co-investment”.

The car makers argue that for that outlay, they create many times as much economic activity: sales, wages, taxes, expenditure on materials, research and development. Nonetheless, when Ford in May foreshadowed closure three years hence, it reopened a debate about an industry through which money can appear to flow like water through a bucket with a big hole. Pressured to respond, Julia Gillard, the prime minister at that time, was hesitant. “I think supporting the car industry is important for our nation’s future,” said Gillard, the “I think” diluting it from confident assertion to bland opinion. It was hardly a resounding riposte to shadow treasurer Joe Hockey’s lambasting of the “waste of taxpayers’ money” involved in industry assistance.

Strangely, nobody seems bothered by the stupendous subsidies our giant mining companies, domestic banking oligopoly and private healthcare industry enjoy; nor by the fact that high levels of state support for local car industries are often uncontroversial overseas.

Not long ago, ironically, the industry was regarded as a shining light. While imports’ share of the market grew from 15 per cent in 1985 to 60 per cent in 2000 as tariffs were wound back, vehicle and component exports grew tenfold in the same period. Optimism abounded. Greg Combet, then secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, gushed in the Canberra Times that the car industry “should rightly be regarded as Australia’s biggest manufacturing success story”. Quite. Forced to compete, Australian cars have never been of higher quality. The problem has been quantity.

In the first half of the noughties, local vehicle production surged. In 2005, when Holden was employing 5600 people in Elizabeth and making 900 cars a day across three shifts, it exported more than 60,000 sedans, utes and coupes in right- or left-hand-drive configurations to five continents. But despite growing local car sales, Australian production began trending in the opposite direction. Last year, Holden, Toyota and Ford sold just 224,000 vehicles, and only 139,000 domestically – 12.6 per cent of the total number of vehicles sold in Australia. They have survived this downturn with the help of government support and by self-administered austerities. Holden at Elizabeth, down to a single shift in general assembly and now making only 400 cars a day, is in the process of finalising 400 voluntary redundancies, and next month will ask workers to vote to cut their own wages.

What happened? Traditionally, the Australian vehicle market has been dominated by powerful, rear-wheel-drive “family cars”, particularly the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, the type of vehicle that offers slightly better profit margins and longer production runs.

Over the last decade, however, the market has not so much shifted as fissured, moving in several directions simultaneously, with the growth markets being smaller cars with lower fuel consumption, luxury European marques, and sports utility vehicles. Australian consumers are demanding cars that are bigger, smaller, fancier, simpler, thirstier and more abstemious than local manufacturers provide. Why? Because they can. The lowering of tariffs has, as prophesised, been a boon for buyers, especially since the managed plunges of the greenback and yen slashed prices.

As a result, Australians now buy as many cars imported from South Korea as they do cars made here; they buy twice as many from Thailand, four times as many from Japan. More than 60 car brands and 360 models are on sale here – more than in Japan and China; more, even, than in the US, a market nearly 15 times the size of Australia’s.

What this means is that nobody sells much of anything: no SUV sold more than 20,000 last year, while 2012’s highest-selling car enjoyed half the sales of 2002’s highest-selling car. Those numbers are fine for importers, but local manufacturers have been stretched every which way, producing ever more varieties in ever diminishing volumes at ever falling prices. Worse, the strength of the Australian dollar has largely excluded them from the export markets they cultivated: Holden sold just 14,100 cars abroad last year, and Elizabeth has felt the pinch.

It might now be fraying at the edges, but Elizabeth was Australia’s first “new town”, built in the 1950s with implicit support from the state government to perpetuate South Australia’s lower living costs and provide the state with an industrial bedrock. Finding that the residents of Adelaide were reluctant to travel 30 kilometres north to work in Elizabeth, premier Thomas Playford laid out a welcome mat for Holden, offering cheap land and infrastructure support in the town’s south.

New British arrivals came in the tens of thousands (Elizabeth’s most famous son, Glasgow-born singer Jimmy Barnes, claims that he did not hear an Australian accent until he was 11 years old). Perhaps the biggest day in the town’s history was the 1963 visit of the Queen, who came to the Holden plant and waved to employees from a specially built verandah.

The area’s vestigial Britishness has faded; so has the industry. Today, unemployment in the City of Playford, of which Elizabeth is part, is 14 per cent, youth unemployment 44 per cent, and localities such as Davoren Park bear the blights associated with joblessness: derelict shopping marts, shuttered community facilities, drive-through bottle-ohs with security guards, and graffiti tags, of which the council removed a record 180,000 last financial year.

Yet range farther afield, for Playford spreads its 80,000 inhabitants over 346 square kilometres, and the picture changes. An affordable housing project, Playford Alive, has attractively regenerated Smithfield Plains. A Lend Lease development, Blakes Crossing, offers “stylish village living”. Far from shrinking, Playford is officially “the fastest-growing council in South Australia”, its population forecast to grow 70 per cent by 2026. Which causes you to wonder: where will these new arrivals work?

Probably not at Holden. Because it has recently been contracting rather than expanding, it has taken only eight of the 500 apprentices placed by the impressive local technical college, St Patrick’s, in the last five years. “We certainly get the sense that there’s no point engaging with Holden,” says principal Rod Thomas, “because there’s no guarantee that a young person will be able to finish an apprenticeship there.” Nonetheless, Thomas feels, the company’s leaving would devastate the city: “Holden is the glue of this community.”

That feeling envelopes new arrivals as they circle the “Holden Bulldogs roundabout” on entering town. Holden has sponsored the dearly loved Central District Bulldogs Australian rules club since 1989, and the club’s veteran chief executive Kris Grant supports them right back: “I’ve never driven anything else my whole life. I don’t think there is a better car for Australia.” He’d rather not contemplate their closure: “We have a membership of 2500, and I’d venture to say that 50 per cent work at Holden, with another high percentage in associated industries. So it all filters down, because people’s spend here is relative to how things are going there. If Holden disappeared, it would be pretty difficult for us to carry on.” Among the jokey fines the players levy among themselves is a $5 penalty for being seen in proximity to a Ford.

Above all, perhaps, Holden has traditionally defined “work” in Elizabeth. Economists like talking about Australia’s “inevitable transition to a services-based economy”. Tourism. Hospitality. Education. Health. Aged care. At his triumphalist best, Paul Keating once dismissed the employment cost of restructuring secondary industries: “People have found better jobs. I mean, did we ever hurt anybody liberating them from the car assembly line?”

But nobody here craves such “liberation”. When Holden offered redundancy packages in April, senior technical officer Steve Brecht did consider ending his 25-year career: “I went through moments of sheer clarity. ‘Yes, I’m going to go, and take control of my future.’ But five minutes later it would be, ‘Why would I want to leave this place?’ Because despite everything that’s going on, I love it. Outside of the people here, none of my friends have worked in the same place for more than 25 years. Most of them have been through multiple jobs, some of them dozens.”

Brecht wonders aloud what could ever replace his existing job satisfaction: “I read a local report about an aged-care facility saying: ‘Oh, we’d be looking to take on Holden workers.’ Really? Because I can’t see myself wiping some 90-year-old dude’s butt in the middle of the night for a job. No disrespect to him, or the person who might do that job, but I don’t want to be that person; I don’t look on that as a great way to earn a living.”

Brecht says this advisedly: his own grandfather is 96. But the thing is, his grandfather also worked at Holden, as did his father and his brother. Between them, they have invested almost 100 years in the company. And they’re not unusual. Critics who deem automotive manufacturing an “industry of the past” are in one respect correct: institutional loyalty and identification run deep.

The average Holden career lasts 16.8 years; the average Toyota career lasts 12.8. Employees commonly wear Holden shirts and jumpers casually, even after retirement, and Lucinda Gregory describes “the nod” that workers exchange at the sight of one another, which in her case is especially meaningful, as she married another general assembly worker, a so-called line chaser, who supplies operators with the components they need.

It can be tough work – confronting, wearying. “Toyota are putting people on at the moment, and they’re lasting half a day, maybe a few hours,” says Dave Smith, national secretary of the vehicles division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. “Most people think you just sit there and bolt things on. You have to understand the production systems, the quality regime. People come and either leave very quickly, or stay a long, long time. Because it’s difficult.”

But difficult is also challenging and energising, and critics, most of whom will seldom do other with their hands than scuffle keyboards, also reveal something of their metropolitan alienation from the sheer joy of planning, making and fixing stuff. Because in conversation with Holden workers, this theme recurs. “A lot of people probably look at us and think, ‘There they are walking into that same plant, every day, same thing again’, ” notes dimensional engineer Dan Hayward. “I’ve been here 15 years and I’ve never had a dull day.”

The joy is real; nor does it fade. Bubbly human resources manager Jody Williams recalls the general assembly job she began 31 years ago as a first glimpse of accomplishment. “We were making the Gemini at the time. There were two lines, a slower line and a faster line, making door trims, and once you got proficient at it, you went over to ‘the rocket line’. And I got there. So I was pretty proud of myself … I thought I’d be here two years while I figured out what to do with my life. Then I realised I could make it my life. I cry at ‘Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars’. Holden grabs you like that.”

So it would seem. “This industry attracts problem solvers,” says Joel Buchanese, a serious young electrician who joined Holden in 2002 by obtaining one of 10 apprenticeships from 1000 applications. “Some people prefer a cruisier job, mowing lawns or whatever. I’m in my element when I’ve got a puzzle in front of me, and this place sometimes fires them at you like a machine gun. In metals stamping, we’ve got huge machines worth hundreds of millions of dollars with complex control systems. When they stop throwing panels out the back end and you have guys standing around doing nothing, you’ve really got to switch on your A-game.”

Because what’s worst understood about Australia’s automotive industry is how exacting it has needed to become in order to meet a low-volume, high-competition market. Holden is a prime specimen of technology honed by a century of improvements: 300,000 square metres of floor space turning half a million parts a day from 650 different suppliers, worth $3 billion annually, into tens of thousands of cars in six body styles, nine variants and 45 different models. General assembly is only the culmination of a 22-hour, seven-kilometre process beginning in the stamping plant with the pressing of body sides, floor pans and roofs from steel, and ending with a complete car.

Automotive is the industry that trailblazed techniques of “lean production”, in which inventory is anathema, supply lines are taut and mutual dependence acute. In adjacent Edinburgh Park, connected to Elizabeth by a private bridge, are 10 key components suppliers, such as Futuris, which manufactures seats and door trims, and Tenneco, provider of exhausts. A few others are located elsewhere in Elizabeth, like Exide, maker of batteries, and Hirotec, stamper of doors, bonnets and boot lids. “Trucks leave here every 21 minutes,” says Hirotec’s assistant manager, Brett Heaven – note, not “every 20 minutes or so”.

Some components are sourced from as far away as Mexico and South Korea; the bulk from Victoria. For example, three semi-trailer loads of 50 different parts arrive daily from a former sauce-bottling factory in Reservoir, Melbourne, owned by Diver Consolidated Industries, a third-generation, family-owned metal fabricator with 100 employees. Founded in 1937, DCI still has on display its original hand-operated metal stamp. Having provided components for the first Holden in 1948, it now exports to Holden’s parent company, General Motors, in China, Thailand and Brazil.

Jim Griffin, the Holden alumnus who runs DCI, is a manufacturing man through and through. “We can’t all be baristas on the Gold Coast,” he says sardonically. Examining one of his beams, his expression grows almost beatific, like that of a new father overlooking a cradle.

It’s marching in step with Holden that entrepreneur Andrew Downs says has helped him build a $70 million business in Adelaide’s Melrose Park. Downs founded SAGE Automation in his mother’s backyard 20 years ago. His breakthrough was obtaining a contract to supply Holden, he says, because their demands were so relentless: SAGE control boxes with touch screens now festoon Holden’s general assembly and body shop areas.

“If a water plant stops, usually they’ve got some backup, and it’s pretty slow to move,” says Downs. “When automotive lines stop, every man and his dog is affected: that’s irrecoverable costs of many thousands of dollars a minute. I’ve witnessed it, unfortunately. As the minutes go by, the number of suits pouring out of the offices grows exponentially. I’m telling you, it is the worst feeling.”

While economists conduct angels-on-a-pinhead debates about the degree of innovation “spillover” that the automotive industry offers the wider economy, DCI and SAGE are the phenomenon’s living embodiments. DCI has applied its fabrication expertise to heat shields for fire engines, foldaway steps for trucks, and the popular Triton Work Bench. SAGE cites a host of intellectual properties originated at Holden: a fault-alert system for a Beringer Vineyards bottling line; a smart control network connecting pump stations and tank sites for SA Water; a railcar-dumping system adopted for ore in Perth.

Interestingly, each shows the slipperiness of industrial definitions. Data collectors might deem them, respectively, investments in food and beverages, utilities and mining. But, observes SAGE’s CEO Adrian Fahey, they’re all manufacturing processes. “If you’ve got a 12-kilometre train of trucks and want to dump from them in a hurry, you must have processes that are best-in-class, high-speed, super-reliable – which we can achieve because of the knowledge we’ve gained from automotive about stripping out cycle time.”

Manufacturing is usually presented in Australia as a discrete sector – one which, in fact, we can comfortably dispense with, on grounds that labour will almost invariably be cheaper elsewhere. Yet the manufacturing that has endured here with little encouragement, in often adverse market conditions and with few natural advantages, is often extremely good. And business knows it. The bosses of Australia’s top two resources giants, BHP Billiton’s Jac Nasser and Rio Tinto’s Sam Walsh, are veterans of which industry? Automotive. Why? Because after a decade of effortless growth, mining is suddenly about cost.

Rio Tinto’s revolutionary iron-ore operations centre at Perth Airport is inspired, Walsh says, by the model of a “vehicle assembly plant”, as he saw first at Holden, later at Nissan. “In the car industry, you measure things in cents,” he explains. “That cost focus, that cash focus, is awfully important. That’s what I brought over to mining, a focus on every part of the business – productivity improvement, efficiency – the things the car industry has had to focus on to survive …

“The mining industry obviously focuses on its exploration and finding world-class deposits, on mine planning, mine design and plant design. Once you’ve got those in place, you’re probably 80 per cent of the journey. But the last 20 per cent is where the car industry excels.”

At mention of Elizabeth, Walsh lights up with his own memories. “You would have seen an enormous amount of effort going into ensuring that the right component is there at the right time, in the right cycle, in the right quality and with the right skills. There are jobs there I swear you could never do in the time cycle those people have. People putting a roof lining in a car inside a minute? There’s no way you could do it! But streamline, streamline, streamline, train the operators, and they do.”

Though Ford was their company’s perennial rival, nobody at Holden took pleasure at the demise of its Australian manufacturing operation. It hurt in the aftermath, moreover, to see the whole industry dismissed as a kind of corporate dole bludger. “Those things are extremely difficult to swallow,” says engineer Nick Baloglou, another 25-year veteran. “We’ve got a very nice factory, very nice, with a well-trained, engaged workforce which you’re probably getting a sense of. We are not ‘unproductive’. We are not ‘inefficient’. ” He sighs. “How do we demonstrate to people what we do here, without bringing every single Australian through one by one, so that they can go, ‘Holy moly, look at these guys!’?”

Solace has been drawn since from the release of the VF Commodore, probably the best car Holden has ever produced. “Every time you see one on the grass here, you just want to smile,” says engineer Paul Sakowits. “We’ve done it: what a great car.”

Morale, as a result, fluctuates. “To be honest, we’re on a fine edge, and it could go either way,” says Anthony Roder, who runs general assembly. “We’re obviously going through a restructure. That brings uncertainty. It’s a topic of conversation, as you can imagine. But now people can see the VF, there’s excitement around it.” Andrew Shaw, Roder’s maintenance chief, still buzzes with the memory of the seamless changeover. “That was my job – to make sure it dropped on the line,” he recalls. “The last VE, then the first VF after a 10-car gap. It was a big day. Our maintenance crew pulled it off. It was an unbelievable experience. I will sell this car until I’m blue in the face.”

So, thanks to an additional $40 million assigned to the marketing budget, will Holden. In February, the VF was unveiled in its American alias as the Chevrolet SS when it won its debut NASCAR race, the Daytona 500. Next year it will become the first passenger car Holden has exported to the US since its parent unexpectedly terminated the Pontiac G8, based on Holden’s Monaro, after the global financial crisis hit. To Elizabeth personnel, that will feel good. “There is a lot of pride at seeing things you’ve been involved with in the manufacturing process,” says Nick Baloglou. “I’ve been able to travel extensively with Holden, and when I see our cars on the road in America and Korea and China, I think: ‘Yes! We made that!’ ”

The VF affords quiet satisfaction to Elizabethans generally. Not withstanding negatives about the entwinement of the City of Playford and an industry in regular turmoil, mayor Glenn Docherty wouldn’t change it. “Elizabeth has gained a lot from having a focal point,” he says. “There’s nothing better, I think, than looking at cars in the port of Adelaide waiting to be shipped abroad, knowing that families somewhere will be taking their kids to school or driving to a sporting event in a car we made here.”

Does that mean he disagrees with Joe Hockey that industry grants are a “waste of taxpayers’ money”? This is a potentially awkward question for Docherty, who will be Liberal candidate for Newland in next March’s South Australian state election, but he replies without hesitation: “I do disagree with him. Yes, I do. That money has helped continue the next version of the Commodore and investment around that … That is a good thing to do. Because we have no other plan from either side of politics.”

Quite. The federal Labor government abruptly scrapped a key element of its New Car plan, the Green Car Innovation Fund, in June 2011, although it had already enabled production of the Camry Hybrid at Toyota’s Altona works as well as many of the VF’s weight-reduction and aerodynamic improvements. The Coalition, meanwhile, feigns rigour by promising a token cut to funds allocated under the existing Automotive Transformation Scheme and to refer the industry to the desiccated calculating machines of the Productivity Commission.

And yet … and yet … there remains strong support for the automotive industry, and even for its special assistance, among that curiously neglected group, the Australian public, who when polled never fail to value the proposition that their country should “make things”. It could be argued that in their buying preferences they express different views, but perhaps they also subtly sense – as their increasingly detached political, economic and media betters do not – what would be lost in the way of skilful, dignified and fulfilling work if Elizabeth’s assembly line ever stopped permanently.

Lead-in photograph: An FJ Holden outside General Motor-Holden’s Fishermans Bend plant in Melbourne in 1953. GM Holden Ltd.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.