Sydney to the Gold Coast

•November 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

From Sydney to the Gold Coast

•November 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

From Sydney to the Gold Coast, this stretch of real estate is pristine: the lakes, the seas, the beaches, surrounded by mines of copper, coal and iron ore; the whole area is still rather undeveloped, and could take on another hundred million migrants. Alas, my potential as a migration agent! Hence a little bit of my research.

Byron Bay is an interesting place. This small township is a melting pot of surf culture, alternative philosophies and hedonistic indulgence with a rub of Asia in it. Busting with tourists well into the nights the compact malls with tiny outlets resemble much of Asia. Perhaps this might be the only place where trishaws could be found in a European setting. Artists of various kinds of hawkers displayed their goods around.

Years ago, when writing a novel, I asked my critics should I change one of my character from Byron to something else, my critic or mentor said ‘no’. She likes the name Byron as it was name after Lord Byron, the grandfather of poet, lol, but I never wrote a single poetry. So now I am also visiting a place named after such a famous poet.

The history of Europeans in Byron Bay began in 1770, when Captain James Cook found a safe anchorage and named Cape Byron after John Byron. In the 1880s, when Europeans settled more permanently, streets were named for other English writers and philosophers. Well, today, Byron Bay has an annual writers festival, an annual film festival, an annual music festival but how about an annual migration festival?

Stay clear of high ends of certain if you like to stretch your dollars, for some restaurants are often expensive and offer the same cuisine over and over. If you like a little adventure look for some of the tiny streets. Here you will find eateries from all different walks of Asian touches at half the price, but double the amazing taste! My personal favourite is always Thai cuisine and sometimes Indian. You can grab a solid meal for around $10.

The Broadbeach along the Gold Coast is not only broad, but is long, too. Standing somewhere in the middle, I couldn’t see either ends. Amazing place! Amazing soft golden sand, rolling waves and the perfect setting for a sunset stroll along the shores.

It’s not surprising that the place is for retirees and a Surfers Paradise. Well, I was there, thinking of where it might be a good paradise before tragedy strikes: the fall of a 17 year old schoolies. The joys of paradise had turned into sorrows and tears. And that’s often so about life.

Potentials along Coastal NSW

•March 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hotels and resorts chains in Malaysia are no longer the household names of western domains. Many in Malaysia are now own and operated by local nationals, and they are successful and on the rise.

Some Malaysian operators have already invested overseas, first in neighbouring countries, but now even as far as London. It wouldn’t be long before Australia could be seen as a beneficiary for such investments. But we have to make an effort to attract them here.

The big cities in Australia have all benefited from multiculturalism. The first things immigrants brought with them are their cuisines. And so a string of ethnic restaurants are found lying side by side in the inner cities: Pasha Kebab, Tal Mahal, Venice Steak, Kublai Noodles, Kopitiam, Saigon Wok, St George Grill, Kobe Teppanyaki, Hummingbird Bar, Penang Frog.

It is a general observation that the further away from Sydney’s Darling Harbour or Ultimo, the poorer the quality and lack of variety. A couple of good restaurants may be found along the coastal towns, but they are hard to find, expensive and generally unauthentic. Most are blend, many are disappointing.

Most Asians still prefer to tour within the Asian region, partly because of the lower cost and familiarity of the region. But with rising income, many are travelling to Europe, which have its castles, palaces and museums.

Australia has the potential, due to our proximity to the region. Asians tourists coming here normally hop from city to city: from Brisbane to Sydney, to Melbourne and back home. They are not encouraged to explore the countryside. The cuisines there, unfortunately, just don’t connect.

Just like a group of Aussies holidaying in Bali or Phuket would like to gather with other Aussies in a cocktail bar, a BBQ, talking of AFL or Julia Gillard, so likewise Asians coming here holidaying would like to meet fellow countrymen of like minds, eating and drinking similar foods, talking issues that connect. But such ingredients are lacking.

So most Asians tours are organised hopping from city to city only. Unexplored, yet the potentials are there, all along the coastal strip of New South Wales, from Tweed Heads to Eden, because this is the most attractive for country tourism.

Backed by the Great Dividing Range, this long and scenic coast has stunning bays, riverways and harbours, green natural parks and great sceneries. These sleepy towns have numerous beaches in idyllic settings, with kangaroos in the grasslands and Koala up in the trees. But alas, the Midas touch isn’t there.

Moving Toward Multiculturalism

•March 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As Australia moves toward multiculturalism, under a new curriculum, all primary school students are entitled to learn a language other than English. Although the language that a person speaks is not always the defining mode for his or her culture, it often is. Other mode could be religion, but it is of far less importance.

A population of just 22 millions, Australia should take a closer look at what lies just beyond our shores. So let’s us see the languages spoken in the world today. The following list is taken from George Weber: number of speakers, native and foreign, in parentheses, which I believe, is the most accurate estimates.

  1.     Mandarin (1.12 billion) 
  2.     English (480 million)
  3.     Spanish (320 million)
  4.     Russian (285 million)
  5.     French (265 million)
  6.     Hindi/Urdu (250 million)
  7.     Arabic (221 million)
  8.     Portuguese (188 million)
  9.     Bengali (185 million)
  10.     Japanese (133 million)
  11.     German (109 million)

Mandarin comes on top and, in the Asian region, Hindi is second. In the years ahead, India and China, each having a population of over 60 times Australian population, would have a great impact on global issues.

It’s not surprising to note that the Australian assessment authority in the school system is working to develop curriculums for several languages, including Hindi and Mandarin.

These are languages that should be open to a lot of, or even all, Australians, because these countries are evolving into giants at our door steps. If we’re going to invest in India or China, or to encourage them to invest in Australia, we’ve to know how to communicate with these people.

Of course, English would be paramount in our communication, but as Australia globalises, having a second language from members of our community would be an added asset. A quarter of our workforce, or around six millions of Australians were born overseas; many of whom already have a second language: Mandarin Spanish, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, etc.

In fact, we should have already tapped into these existing talents. In a sense, these foreign-born Australians are little ambassadors for our country. They have been there; they know the culture, the nuance, their body language. They click and understand each other far quicker than a locally born would.

Most students aspiring to become migration agents were disappointed when they realised they have to sit for an international English Language test. Of course having a high level of communication skill is important, but what MARA, the regulating body, didn’t realize is that having a second language is part of that communication skill. English, though important, isn’t the sole skill.

In the extreme case and as an example if we were to talk AFL to foreigners, it is just like an unintelligent language to them.

“What’s AFL?” the foreigner would ask, and it would be a hell of a kind to explain what it is.

But if we shift our conversation to cricket or football, we’ll just click. The fact that communication skill is just measured by the level of English isn’t conducive to Australia’s path to multiculturalism. It would well serve Australia to tap into these hidden talents that our existing community have already process.

A lost talent, a lost cause, it would be much better to have recognized the usefulness of a second language as communication skill for aspiring migrant agents.

The Lynas Toxics in Malaysia

•March 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Between 1952 and 1957, the British conjured the Australian government to cooperate in a nuclear weapons test program at the MontebelloI slands, off Western Australia, and at Emu and Maralinga in the south central desert area of Australia. As nuclear guinea pigs, military servicemen and civilians were used in these tests.

Servicemen based at Maralinga were ordered to assemble 7.2 km from Ground Zero. They would listen, with their hands over their eyes, for five minutes while a countdown played through a loudspeaker. Officers would order them to wait for two seconds after the countdown finished before turning around to look at the explosion.

Within 24 hours of each test, these guinea pigs were ordered to drive towing vehicles into the radioactive site where they would retrieve vehicles parked to test the effects of the explosions.

Sometimes they wore white radiation-protection suits, with breathing apparatus. On other occasions they were ordered just to wear khakis. They then washed the vehicles with high-pressure hoses, removing large quantities of contaminated soil. They gave blood samples each time they entered and left the hot zone, or finished washing and dismantling the vehicles. Their bodies and clothing were also swept with Geiger counters to measure their radiation level.

More than 8,000 servicemen and 8,000 civilians were assigned to the program, and reports also mentioned stillborn babies were used in these nuclear experiments. This was an area where both governments knew Aborigines lived, where later, these natives were to suffer serious health consequences as a result of the “Black Mist” from the radiation. Even now successive governments have refused to knowledge their faults or to compensate these victims in general.

Today, an Australian company thought they could do similar venture in other’s backyard, to conjure another country to process toxic materials, but with a profit motive this time. Now, in a far away land, in the remote region along the sparely populated coast of Kuantan, sits a newly built chemical plant.

The state of Terengganu, which was Lynas’s first choice, had rejected the Australian company’s proposal in 2007. But another state seems like an easy target for the world’s companies to walk over. The Kuantan and the federal governments need money and the company needs a remote place to dump its toxic waste.

Lynas Corporation, a new mining, refining, and recycling of rare earths would soon have serious environmental consequences in Malaysia. The particular hazard is a mildly radioactive slurry tailings which is produced from the processing of thorium and uranium in rare earth element ores.

The fallout from such ore refinery means the end results are particularly prone to releasing toxic wastes into the environment, the grassland and eventually into the general water supply system.

But Malaysia had been victimised some years earlier. The Bukit Merah mine in Perak earlier had been the focus of a huge cleanup in the years leading up to 2011. Residents blamed a rare earth refinery for birth defects and eight leukemia cases within five years in a community of 11,000 — after many years with no leukemia cases. Seven of the leukemia victims died, and cows that ate the grass around the area had all died.

Victims of radioactive waste

The Bukit Merah case is little known even elsewhere in Malaysia, and virtually unknown in the West, because Mitsubishi Chemical, the main operating concern, quietly agreed to fix the problem even without a legal order to do so. Local protesters had contacted Japanese environmentalists and politicians, who in turn helped persuade the image-conscious company to close the refinery in 1992 and subsequently spend an estimated $100 million to clean up the site.

One of Mitsubishi’s contractors for the cleanup is GeoSyntec, an Atlanta-based firm. That cleanup process by GeoSyntec involved a hilltop entombment of 11,000 truckloads of radioactively contaminated material, the removal of “more than 80,000 steel barrels of radioactive waste to the hilltop repository.” But with heavy rainfall in this equatorial region, these radioactive wastes are bound to ultimately spread underground and, finally, contaminate Perak’s drinking water.

In May 2011, after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, widespread protests took place in Kuantan over the Lynas refinery and radioactive waste from it. “The ore to be processed has very low levels of thorium,” Lynas’ chief executive, Nicholas Curtis, said, “There is absolutely no risk to public health.”

If Nicholas Curtis didn’t lie through his teeth, he would surely have built the refinery somewhere near Mount Weld in Western Australia, where their main mining fields for rare earth elements and other concentrates are located. The high cost of transporting the raw materials to Malaysia would be cut and the price of polished products would be far higher.

T. Jayabalan, a doctor who says he has been monitoring and treating patients affected by the Mitsubishi plant, “is wary of Lynas’s assurances. The argument that low levels of thorium in the ore make it safer doesn’t make sense,” he says, “because radiation exposure is cumulative.”

Lynas is on budget and on schedule to start producing 2012, but Malaysians are protesting this toxic issue before a soon-coming election. The topic is heating up inMalaysiabut Lynas, motivated by greed, just haven’t has any conscience nor moral.

Cross-Cultural Conflicts

•March 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Sorry if I might veer a little off-topic from my normal themes, but I have a personal experience to relate. About ten years ago, I asked a carpenter to do a bookshelf for me.

He is a Filipino while I’m fromMalaysia, but we’re both Australians at least in citizenship and living inSydney. I showed him a rough design of what I want and he said ‘yes.’

‘Yes,’ and ‘yes’ were all he agreed with. But on the day I collected the bookshelf, the design was different. The smaller compartments were on the left instead of on the right.

I became annoyedblack eye as said his design was better than mine. I put my case and he apologized profusely. Yes, profusely. He offered to redo the whole thing at his expense. I knew it would be such an unprofitable venture for him so I declined. He offered to do a stool for me as compensation. I reluctantly agreed as he could use loose woods to do one for me at no great expense.

Looking back, I can say that he is more Asian (I mean more of the Eastern Asian) than me. At a look of the bookshelf, he actually went to great length to do a great job. His material was superb. His finishing was second to none. His price means I probably pay only 30 percent of a market equivalent. His motive, I conclude, was terrific.

In Asian culture, it’s pretty offensive to say ‘no’ blushespecially where they have much respect for you, more so a foreign visitor.

InAustralia, we can always say “Sorry, I can’t do this for you,” and it’s normal, the end of an issue, but to a traditional Eastern Asian, it sounds rude.

Not only rude, but it’s a rejection of a person, a rejection of something of your inner self, your integrity, a rejection of something very tangible, something personal, something unspoken.

It’s like a man asking a girl if he can walk her home after dinner together. And she replied him, “No, I can walk home by myself.”

“Are you sure,sad it’s dark, you know?”

“Sure, I am okay.”

“Are you sure, it’s getting dark.”

“It’s okay.”

“Let me walk with you, please.”

“No, don’t follow me, please.”

“No? I fear for your safety.”

“Please, please, don’t follow me,angry or else I’ll call the police.”

If a ‘no’ were to be expressed in the Asian context, maybe we have express ourselves and said, “I’m really sorry, sorry,” my head keeps bowing low, “I really wish I can do for you. I’m terrible sorry. I wish . . .” This way, an Asian will understand what we mean in a non-offensive way, but it’s very artificial for an Australian, myself included, to express such thought in these terms.

Or, if I were to continue with the couple’s incident, she could have said:

“Sorry, you look awesome today. I’ve enjoyed your terrific company tonight, and maybe we could meet again sometimes later, but for the meantime can we say goodbye?”mixed

Reading Legislation!

•February 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Anyone on this site If reading legislation is like reading a map or a reference book, than it is a simple task, not to compare to reading a novel. In fact reading legislation is more like digging into the various tombs in Egypt and trying to figure out which skeleton belong to which dynasty . How does each mummy match? How was it wrapped? Which tomb was it from? And so on . . .

From the view of a reader or one who need to understand, say the law governing migration issues in Australia, all the relevant pieces of legislation are extremely overwhelming, scattered everywhere and chaotic. Unreadable! From the viewpoint of a novelist, such anarchy is like his or her first drafts. Indeed, it is. First drafts ideas are everywhere, too. A novelist will put in all the scattered points and thread them all through the storyline, with distinctive characterization that makes it memorable after the story was read.

Of course in any legislation or even the Constitution, a stream of lawyers must have read and reread the bill, with various amendments incorporated before it could pass through Parliament. Still, it’s like first drafts. It haven’t been scrutinised by the court system. After been scrutinised, Parliament couldn’t go back and redo all the legislations relating to migration, especially as some are inside the almost unalterable Constitution.

A novelist, on the other hand, has the advantage to have her work critiqued. She can rewrite and rewrite to her satisfaction before passing to a publisher. There, the publishing will go through more rounds of critiques and amendments before it’s seen as perfect!

Look at Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, for example. Her first line, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” is not just a perfect statement but a universal truth . It’s timeless: it was first published in 1813 but it’s still true today!

Series of televisions and movies were made from the same novel, and the universal theme is always there. So whenever I am reading the legislation, I often wonder, if we have the privilege of having Jane Austen, how she would had written and finalise a piece of legislation for immigration !