Research on my father

I am doing some research into my father’s WWII service. I have heard different things and am not sure if they really stack up. Now, I have finished the research available on the web and need to visit the War Memorial to follow through his service in the 1st and 2nd New Guinea Battalions. I was able to trace his participation with the Ballarat raised 8th Battalion and he was rapidly promoted to Sergeant on enlistment. It seems he went straight into Intelligence because he was good with figures and quite literate for the time. He told me that he refused officer training because he did not like the way officers were treated as better than the soldiers. By remaining a sergeant he outranked nearly everyone and being in Intelligence, he knew what was happening and was actively involved. Sgt Guy is mentioned all through the Battalion war diary for his work reconnoitring and mapping. He showed me how to draw maps and interpret them when I was 12 years old and I developed an interest in bush walking from that. Last entry in the 8 Battalion war diary for him was of him “marching out” to 2 Battalion NG Inf. at 0530 27 March 1945 – I felt a kind of sadness as I had developed a feeling that I was allowed into the daily lives of some 1,000 men on the adventure of their lives. They had recently entered dangerous areas and were about to start a very aggressive campaign to remove Japanese forces from a section of Bougainville. I had heard a lot about BougainvilleĀ  and had expected that he would still be with the 8th Battalion through that part of the war. Now I know it is more complex. I also remember Rabaul and a volcano mentioned. That suggests New Britain and the NG Infantry. Three books that I read when I was young were titled “Jungle Warfare”, “Stand Easy” and “Khaki and Green”. These books are now lost when my mother moved several times in the 1980s. They were written by people who had served in the Infantry and dad considered them to be precious mementos. He ended his service in the 1st Battalion NG infantry so there were some things that happened in between. He was also a staff sergeant at the end of the war too. At the same time as he moved into the NG Battalion, several others who were long-time 8th Battalion leaders left to do the same. I suspect there is a story behind that. I had to request that his war service records be scanned so that I can see them. Nobody had requested access before. That is sad in a way but at least it will be there to help me follow through and check things. I keep thinking of how many people exposed themselves to such danger and are largely forgotten. The ones who had young lived stopped at the same age as my son is now. The damage done to their later lives by war experiences. The fact that they were prohibited from talking about things they had seen and done for 30 or more years and what that did to relationships. <h4>Random memories</h4> Fishing with grenades. I was told about fishing with grenades. Apparently this is something “Americans” did and it was illegal in the Australian army. Exploding a grenade in the water near a reef stunned the fish and then all you needed to do was collect the fish. This was one of the perks of going out on a PT boat. Talk about a company being sent to an are that had a Battalion strength of Japanese soldiers defending it …

The worst news you could hear

This morning, I woke up to the 7 AM news and heard something that made me freeze in a moment. “A man died this morning at 4 AM at Campbell High School”. “The man aged 20, died when he fell from the roof “. I immediately thought about where my son was and I knew he was ok.
Then I realised he probably knew whoever it was. Later, I got a call to tell me that it was someone we all know well. He played football with my son for four years and was actually at the same orientation week party last night at ANU. While I am glad my own son is safe, I feel so badly for the parents of this other young man (his name has not been released to the public yet). I can remember the pride they had in their fine young man who was so talented in many ways. At 20 years old the world is just full of possibilities and opportunities to have fun – and to take risks. So many of our young men take risks and feel that they are indestructible. Then something goes wrong.
Every parent knows this is what happens between the ages of 18 and 25 and knowing it is rare but far too common we wait up at night listening for the door handle so we can sleep easily. Fearing a telephone call to go to some hospital or worse. Knowing that our children are independent now and need to do things on their own. No longer needing us to pick them up when they fall and patch up their knees and wounded pride. But wanting to anyway – because they are so precious to us. Farewell Robin and your so short life . To your parents, I can only say that I feel so much for your distress and I know that there is little that can be done to console your grief now.

Case for structural adjustment in Canberra IT business

In mid 2008, Sir Peter Gershon finalised a report into the efficiency and effectiveness of ICT in the Federal Government. That report was delivered to the Minister of Finance and responded to in late 2008. AGIMO was given a large role in the implementation of recommendations.

There is no doubt that the recommendations are good for the Government and promote operational efficiency across Agencies. The issues arise around the unintended consequences of action taken to implement the Gershon review, impacts of the global financial crisis and the required efficiency dividends from Agencies.

From 1997 through to 2007 the message from the Federal Government was clear. If the Private Sector could do the job then let them do it rather than employ Public Servants. Based on that, a large ICT focused industry developed in Canberra, accounting for at least 20% of the Private Sector employment in the ACT. Agencies were discouraged from employing permanent Public Servants. Now Gershon recommends the reverse in many ways.

The report makes no mention of the impact on the ICT services industry. As a result of the recommendation to employ contractors as Public Servants there has already been a noticeable reduction of work for people who were employed under the arrangements encouraged by the previous Government. There is a lot right about having Public Servants performing service delivery and technical roles that are ongoing and clearly defined. Issues arise around how it is implemented rather than the end result.

The amount of change to business related to this decision is in the order of $A300-500 million in the contracting businesses1. AGIMO held two consultation sessions on 30 Jan and 2 Feb with “Industry”. Prior to this the consultation had been with a select group of industry associations. The questions asked and the answers given suggest that there are a lot of unexpected consequences of the way Agencies are reacting to the Gershon Report.

There seem to be significant issues with what appears to be Policy on the run and it is quite unclear what AGIMO and the Government want from the Private Sector and therefore small companies in particular are unsure what they should be doing. On the surface, things look grim. AGIMO says that there will be significant opportunities in the medium term (after September) but it is still unclear what those opportunities are for and who will be best placed to participate.

What is good Public Policy in this area? Are we happy to risk losing a significant talent pool? Why should we look beyond the immediate impacts (that appear to be minor)?

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Solar hot water subsidies

Glenn Pure wrote a letter in The Canberra Times on Saturday that sparked some discussion.

This page did some analysis on the subsidies and effectiveness of Solar Hot water and PV technologies – particularly payback periods and the effect of subsidies.

The bottom line is that you can get a return on investment for solar hot water in 2-5 years in Canberra if you are an average user of hot water. If you use a lot of hot water then you get a pay back quicker. There is almost no need for boosting because we have clear skies and the Evacuated Tube technology is so efficient at converting diffuse sunlight to heat.

Subsidies for solar hot water are low compared to the benefits that Government gets in terms of saving the need for building more generating capacity and from carbon emission reductions.

So the question is whether it is good Public Policy to provide large subsidies (~$A8,000) for PV electricity generation or to provide small subsidies (~$A2,400) for solar hot water where the benefits to Government and the consumer are actually higher for the smaller subsidy. If Procurement guidelines were followed then there is no doubt that the Value for Money requirements would not be met, technically putting the Government in breach of its own guidelines.