Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Schwarto and Queensland police indifference to car theft

Rob Schwarten is a long-standing Labor party member of the Queensland parliament who has served in various ministries. He has a reputation for being aggressive -- even physically intimidating. So I was amused to receive from him a letter that was typically Schwarto -- a sort of verbal punch. Before I show you the letter, however, I need to tell you what led up to it:

In a nutshell: My car was stolen and the Queensland police showed not the slightest interest in apprehending the thief or thieves, despite the ID of one of them being handed to them on a plate.

More detail: Someone reported my abandoned car to the Redcliffe police about a week after it was stolen; the Redcliffe police checked their reports of stolen cars and notified me accordingly.

When I got the car back, most of the contents that I had in it were missing. This bothered me greatly as some of the contents were of considerable value to me. On checking through what remained, however, I found a library card belonging to someone I had never heard of. It was for a library in the Redcliffe area. It seemed clear to me that one of the thieves had inadvertently dropped it while they were in the car. Eureka! Just trace the person and I might get my stuff back!

So I took the card to my nearest cop-shop -- at Dutton Park. I was greeted at the counter by a dickless Tracy by the name of Turgeon. I told her my story, she listened and said she would look into it. I had no sooner stepped outside the building before I realized however that she had not taken a single note or asked for any details, let alone fill out a proper report.

I went back in and urged details upon her -- registration number, dates etc. She grabbed a torn-off scrap of paper and jotted a few things down. That was it. I left in great doubt about whether I had been taken seriously.

So I followed the matter up in the following weeks and months. In the course of that I was told two things by various police persons:

1). The card could have been dropped by anyone so was no proof of anything. Police logic, I presume. They seemed to think that I might have been driving around with people unknown to me in my car.

2). The person on the card had been checked and found to have no "form" (no criminal record) so there was no point in pursuing them. More police logic. How one ever gets form in the first place under those circumstances was never expained.

I was of course not remotely impressed by those pearls of wisdom but they came from more than one police officer, including a rather senior one. It stood out like dog's balls that the Queensland police were not remotely interested in catching car thieves -- unless of course you could catch them at the end of an exciting high-speed chase. No wonder Queensland has the highest rate of car theft in Australia. If you don't catch the baddies they will continue doing it.

So I started writing to the politicians in order to get some action. I got some very ill-considered replies from them too but it emerged that by that time the ID card had been "lost" and they could not therefore investigate the matter even if they wanted to.

That was quite appalling. There are of course strict police rules about the recording and preservation of material evidence and those regulations had obviously been ignored. It's not much of a guess to conclude that the Virgin Turgeon threw it straight into the bin, in fact.

I asked for disciplinary measures to be taken and Inspector Volk of Dutton Pk. station assured me that they had. For all I know that was just hot air, however. Clearly, Constable Turgeon had simply been following informal police rules.

I was rather stumped at that point but eventually made what was probably the only move left to me: Sue for compensation for my loss of car contents. I accordingly wrote to the Minister in charge of police with a claim for $500 in compensation for the loss of car contents that police negligence had prevented me from recovering. I got the usual ill-considered reply -- presumably written by a junior ministerial assistant. So I wrote again to point that out.

It was then that I got my amusing letter from Schwarto:
Judy Spence MP
Member for Mount Gravatt

Office of the
Minister for Police and
Corrective Services

Ref: 5627 F6 GM

23 May, 2008

Dear Dr Ray

Thank you for your further letter of 19 March 2008 concerning your dealings with police regarding the theft of your motor vehicle and property stolen from the vehicle.

I note you have received several replies from the Honourable Judy Spence MP since 2006 regarding associated issues.

While I have noted your further comments, as the Acting Minister for Police I am unable to intervene in any particular police investigation or operational decision, or interfere in the Police Service's handling of any particular complaint against its officers.

In the circumstances, your correspondence has been forwarded to the Police Service for consideration and you should take up direct with the Service on any further issues of concern.

Neither Ms Spence nor I am can assist you further in this matter and therefore do not intend corresponding with you in future on this issue.

Yours sincerely
Robert Schwarten MP
Acting Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport

He appears to think he can shut me up!

No further correspondence from the Police Service has arrived in the two months since Schwarto wrote so I suppose that an action against the Constable in the Small Claims tribunal will have to be my next step.

I have put this post and most of the letters I wrote on the matter up on a special blog called "Queensland Police Negligence". You will see there that I even wrote to the body that is supposed to act on complaints against the police but that they simply referred the complaint back to the police -- as they usually do.

What I would most like to see at this stage is a public enquiry resulting in visible disciplinary action against the police officers primarily responsible for the unofficial policy of not investigating car stealing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

An interesting night -- with cheesesteak

I have always been impressed by what I hear about the way Philadelphians are devoted to Cheesesteak sandwiches. Being pretty cheesy myself, I have always thought that they sound yummy. Sadly, however, they are unknown in Australia (to my knowledge) and a trip to Philadelphia is not on my horizon so I had to find another way of getting to try one.

So I gathered together various screeds about them and a couple of videos about how to make them and did my best to get Anne to create one from those sources. I bought the Provolone cheese for starters. Provolone too is little known in Brisbane but fortunately there is a large Italian deli only a few minutes drive from my place so that was easy.

Last night Anne got inspired enough to have a go at making some -- and they were deLISH! In principle they are pretty basic -- good steak sliced or diced, provolone plus onions in a bread roll. But the cook still needs to have talent to get it right -- and Anne did. You would be hard put to get a better meal in a good restaurant.

Later Anne and I were talking about religion and she made some derisive reference to it but I pointed out that she was herself a good Calvinist. As with me, her background is Presbyterian and Presbyterians are the representatives of Calvinsm (predestination) in the English-speaking world. I tried to get her to see that there was some alternative to predestinarian thinking -- such as Lutheran salvation by faith -- but it was uphill. She informed me that she never has got on well with Lutherans anyhow. She definitely has a Presbyterian brain. Fortunately, I am very much at home with that. My mother and aunties were the same.

Anne reminded me of something that had rather passed me by. The Governor of Queensland, Quentin Bryce, who is soon to become Governor General of Australia (both largely ceremonial posts but very prestigious nonetheless), is an active member of Ann St Presbyterian church -- which for both Anne and me is our old church -- and one which we still like to go to occasionally.

Quentin Bryce is a feminist lady in various ways so I had always been pretty dubious about her. Feminists can be pretty nasty. So my opinion of Her Excellency rose enormously when I realized her church affiliation. Ann St is a pretty old-fashioned gospel-oriented church so it is not the church you go to for social show. She would have gone to the Cathedral if that had been her aim. She may have a Presbyterian brain too.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Some fun times

The weekend started out early on Thursday. In an event somewhat reminiscent of a potlatch, Anne and I gave one-another blankets that day. I gave her a cotton blanket and she gave me a woollen blanket. As astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington once said: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine"! That applies to life on earth too.

We dined at home on some very good fish 'n chips from a nearby fish-shop that night, accompanied by some J.P. Chenet sauvignon blanc -- our favourite fish wine.

And Saturday went well with Anne cooking us some roast pork -- one of my favourites

And Sunday was the 21st for my son Joe. We had the celebration as a dinner at our usual Indian restaurant at Stone's Corner. There were 22 people present, partly Joe's friends but mostly family. Paul was full of beans as usual and livened everybody up. The rest of us are a pretty quiet lot so Paul is a great help.

The cake was a rich chocolate cake with profiteroles on top. Ken's slice did not come with any profiteroles, however, so he protested and got a special plate of them. Paul thought his curry was not hot (as in spicy) enough so he got another one which really burned him up! Joe seemed to enjoy it all, which was of course the main idea.

Joe did not know the old "21 today" song so I sang it for him and presented him with a huge antique brass key during it.

The 21 year old with Sam and empty champagne glass:

Cake topped with profiteroles:

Jill and Lewis were there:

That fat guy paid the bill:

Joe and Paul with Nanna:

Paul with the photographer:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An eventful day

Eventful by the standards of my quiet life anyway.

Not long ago I had a flagpole installed at the front of my house and since then I have bought various flags to fly from it to suit various occasions. The fact that my morning drive takes me past one of Brisbane's two chief flag suppliers has something to do with that.

Anyway, I decided yesterday that I would like to fly the English flag in honour of my English ancestors so I dropped in at the flag place and asked for one. A printed flag there retails for $44 so price is no big deal. They only had a sewn St George flag in stock, however, which is much dearer. So they sold me the sewn one at the wholesale price of $80. There are benefits in being a regular customer -- but being a regular customer at a flag factory is undoubtedly eccentric.

Note that I said the English flag and not the Union Jack. The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom. The St George flag is the flag of England. Since devolution, flying the English flag has become popular in England, even though the lower echelons of British officialdom sometimes describe that as "racist"! Thank goodness British officialdom does not speak for all Englishmen (or even the majority of Englishmen in this case). I suppose some blighted souls would also describe the historic toast "To St George and merrie England" as racist too. Schoolkids in England have even been punished by teachers for flying the English flag!

The English flag is also often flown by Englishmen who object to the non-solution of the "West Lothian question" and I am entirely in sympathy with that protest, so I was glad to have the proud and historic red cross of St George flying over my house yesterday.

And in the afternoon, Paul came over to deliver my new UPS (uninterruptible power supply). We do have momentary interruptions of power supply here at night fairly often and there is talk of strikes from electricity unionists so I definitely need a UPS.

While he was here Paul also installed a DVD burner in my computer and installed the AVG viruschecker -- which he recommends. I have always found viruscheckers more trouble than they are worth so I hope this one turns out better.

Then in the evening Jenny had Anne and me over for a paella. There are very few restaurants in Brisbane where you can get a paella and Jenny's home-cooked paellas are as good as they come so it was much enjoyed. I took over a bottle of Veuve Cliquot to aid the deliberations and we had an excellent pavlova for dessert.

And today I have just had the termite man over. The house is under fairly heavy attack from termites at the moment so we have to do what we can to kill them. We are using Termidor this time. You never get rid of them entirely, however, so you just have to put occasional repairs down to maintenance.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sunday lunch

14 July, 2008

Jill gave a small party of us lunch yesterday. Present at her place were: Jill, Lewis, myself, Anne, Henningham, Helen, Jenny, Joe and Sam. Jenny, Joe, myself, Anne and Sam Humbered out to River Hills. Jill likes my verb "Humbered". But when you have a 1963 Humber Super Snipe Series IV, you do such things.

A snipe is a waterbird and it always amuses me the way the English name lots of things after waterbirds: boats, cars, locomotives. Who has not heard of the Mallard and Bittern steam trains? How can a steam locomotive be like a duck? Search me!

The lunch was on Jill's large patio, surrounded by garden. Jill's garden has grown up tall and lush so it was a very pleasant setting. Jill made us some tagliatelle with seafood, which everybody liked. And pavlova for dessert -- one of Australia's few notable contributions to cuisine.

Henningham was in his best jovial form so it was a very relaxed occasion.

As part of the festivities we did a small play that I wrote especially for the occasion. Henningham is an amateur thespian so he got the part of the old man. I got a round of applause for writing it and it does seem to have amused those present. It was rightly noted that the play was very cynical, however. You can read it here or here

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vin ordinaire report

After the fuss that the do-gooders kicked up about it, I thought I should try some of Dan Murphy's $2 wine. I bought a couple of bottles yesterday -- a shiraz and a chardonnay. Anne made us quite a nice moussaka for dinner (recipe here) so I opened the shiraz first. I am afraid that it was tres ordinaire -- with a definite barnyard taste. I tipped most of it down the sink.

So then I opened the chardonnay and was surprised to find it perfectly passable, with quite a pleasant fresh taste. I would not be embarrassed to serve it to guests. I don't plan to buy any more of it as I am rather fixated at the moment on Tyrrells verdelho and Taylors Promised Land unwooded chardonnay but if anybody is a bit short of the shekels these days, stocking up on the chardonnay would not be a bad decision -- though tastes do differ so try it for yourself first. Maybe I just got a rare good bottle.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


My sister Jack (Jacqueline Margaret Ray aka Ward) died this morning of the family illness -- breast cancer. Her death was expected and her female companion was with her until the end.

She was only 2 years younger than me but we were not close. I had seen her only once in the last quarter century -- at my brother's wedding.

She leaves no children.