About timothyrhaslett

After 30 years in academia, with a Ph.D. in non-linear dynamics and systems modelling and a Masters degree in English literature, I'm keen to broaden my writing audience. I am interested in becoming part of an informed community of commentary on matters of public interest. For me this will include politics (mainly Australian), films, books and the general cant, hypocrisy and stupidity that seems to infest public life.

Blak Douglas speaks about his Archibald Prize 2022 portrait “Moby Dickens”.

Blak Douglas’ Winner of the Archibald Prize 2022 portrait prize with his of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens says the painting is a metaphor for the disastrous floods that hit northern NSW in early 2022. Its title references the 1851 novel Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. Douglas says, ‘Karla is Moby – a strong, prized figure pursued by foreign combatants.’

‘The story of Noah’s Ark comes to mind,’ says Douglas. ‘One would think that a devoutly religious prime minister might take significantly more note of the community’s desperate call for assistance.’

He says that the leaking buckets in the portrait serve as a cryptic acknowledgement of the commissions that many commercial galleries take on artworks sold, which range from 10 to 50 percent

This goes to show the dangers of artist talking about their work. The parallels that Douglas draws are confusing.

Moby Dick was a white whale. Unfortunately, there is nothing in this painting to suggest anything white, let alone a white whale. The allusion is simply confusing. It is confusing on two more levels, there is no Captain Ahab and there does not appear to be an ocean.

Even without this description, painting is confusing. The subject, who was holding two leaky buckets of brown water, glares angrily at the viewer. Clearly, there is some betrayal implied by the leaky buckets. The aboriginal design of the woman’s clothing indicates the historical nature of her anger and the futility of redress trying to empty a lake with two leaky buckets.

If this allegorical Interpretation is correct, then this portrait is a distinctly political statement.

But the politics is confused. If it’s about the politics of the delays in bringing help to the victims of the Lismore floods, then it is being confused with messages about Moby Dick, Noah’s Ark and number of other peripheral, but important, issues like commissions on aboriginal art (leaky buckets).

Is it a good portrait? Not in the mind of this critic.

In the Archibald art competition, some artists are given a couple of bites at the cherry

We went to the Archibalds at Bunjil Place Narre Warren. You can recognise the work of some artists to have made the finals before. Here are three of them.

Here is James Powditch’s portrait of Laura Tingle and his 2021 Finalist, a portrait of Kerry O’Brien.

This is Robert Hannaford “Hirsute self-portrait” from this year’s exhibition and his entry in the 2018 exhibition. The second work is more confronting. Hannaford has aged, the scars from those operations show. Closer, you can see how he has aged. The light is falling on his grey hair and lines on his face a more visible. The second is certainly a more compelling portrait.

Richard Lewer: Three portraits of Liz Laverty (2022, 2021, 2022). It’s probably reasonable to say that these portraits do not provided the psychological insight that the Hannaford portraits do.

The question in these three cases is: Does each merit being in the finalists? In the case of the two Hannaford portraits, the answer is probably yes, but two is enough. Likewise, the portrait of Laura Tingle is excellent, but again two portraits of ABC presenters using this technique are probably enough. The 2021 Liz Laverty Portrait was probably the highlight and the 2022 work does not represent a significant development.

An excellent summary of the performance of French referee Mathieu Raynal in the Bledisloe cup.

This summary of the refereeing performance of French referee Mathieu Raynal is taken from the article “Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from Australia v New Zealand as controversial call from Mathieu Raynal dominates headlines” published in Planet Rugby and written by James White

Wallabies player Bernard Foley is seen with referee Mathieu Raynal in the closing stages of the Rugby Championship match between Australia and New Zealand at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Thursday, September 15, 2022. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY ** STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE, NO BOOKS **

His day was abysmal – notwithstanding his allowance of Tyrel Lomax’s bind changing or the Will Jordan jackal in 10th minute that saw him go way beyond the ball, touch ground and pull back, the double yellow card incident against the Wallabies in the 36th minute was comedy central.

Let’s roll back to the moment before this that led up to the cards; Raynal gives a penalty to Quinn Tupaea despite Scott Barrett sealing the ruck off and lying over the ball with such deliberation it was astonishing – it was as clear as daylight and unquestionably, a penalty to Australia.

Caleb Clarke’s subsequent run then causes the ruck where Tom Wright and Darcy Swain are both carded, with Swain lucky not to see red for his lower limb hit. The key point here is that Raynal’s poor decision at the ruck cost the Wallabies two yellow cards and also saw Tupaea looking at a long lay-off due to the Swain challenge.

It was an incident that could well have been avoided had Raynal made the correct decision at ruck time, and to compound his errors, there’s a very strong argument that, judged on the ruck clear-out alone, Swain should have left the pitch for good.

There were many more strange calls – the decision not to card for a clear shoulder drop tackle, a palpable forward pass for the Andrew Kellaway try, the Jake Gordon yellow card and many more. In short, it was an atrocious performance from Raynal that had a huge impact on an otherwise fantastic match.

Kurtley Beale believes the Wallabies can win the Bledisloe cup

Beale is as qualified as anyone in the Australia set-up to speak about Bledisloe Cup campaigns, having been involved in eight series losses since his first outing against the All Blacks in Melbourne in 2010.

Having played in losing teams for nearly a decade, it looks as if the Australian selectors may bring him back into the team. What happened to look to the future?

One of the advantages is that many of the players who remember him, not fondly, have now retired.

Pumas star Pablo Matera blots his copybook big time

Rugby Championship: Pumas star Pablo Matera refuses to shake All Blacks veteran Danes Coles’ hand after defeat at Hamilton

It’s a long-standing tradition, shaking hands after a game. Particularly if you’ve lost. Matera will have won himself no friends as he gave Coles a shove instead of a handshake and was caught on television. Not a good look from international footballer who will be playing in New Zealand next season.

It appears that Coles offered to shake Matera’s hand.

But that Matera rejected the gesture and appears to have shoved Coles.

Coles is an immensely popular figure in New Zealand and Matera will presumably return to play with the Crusaders next season. He can expect a very difficult time.

Teachers shortages in Victoria will worsen in 2022. There are no short-term fixes.

The Age reports: Almost nine in 10 state school principals say Victoria’s teacher shortage is so bad they fear they might not be able to put a qualified teacher in every classroom next year

Of surveyed principals, 16.7 per cent said teachers had left the profession this year due to stress or burnout, 12.7 per cent said staff had left due to excessive workload and 8.7 per cent had lost teachers to early retirement.

Compounding the problem was decision in 2018 by the Andrews government to raise the minimum tertiary admission rank for year 12 students entering teaching to 65, progressing to 70 in 2019. It also introduced a new character test for aspiring teaching students, called CASPer. in 2018. Raising standard is no bad thing but it was going to lead to a decline in demand unless there was some incentive for better students to roll which there clearly wasn’t.

There is a lag before these numbers take effect. These numbers were students entering teaching training in 2019 and graduating in 2022. The impact of these declines continues after that. It is then combined with the effect of Covid and the increasing effects of burnout from increasing administrative workload and stress.

These systemic factors are not easily solved as the bureaucrats who endeavour to rectify them have no classroom experience and whose efforts are often completely counterintuitive.

Unfortunately, this is part of the national trend and Victorian plans to import teachers by offering more money to teach in rural areas will have two counter-productive effects. First, a bidding war between the states, second a possible exodus from Victorian urban schools..

The national pattern is similar to that in Victoria

Like most entrenched systemic problems, this one will probably take as long to solve as it did to create.

All Blacks lose to Argentina at home for the first time, losing six of eight matches this year.

We don’t have the calibre of team that once had a 90% winning record at an international level. Now, the once mighty all Blacks are losing to every International they play. So far, they have not lost to Scotland to whom they have never lost nor to Italy but those humiliations may be in store.

Usually, All Black losses are greeted by howls for the coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane to resign. But after the victory over South Africa, Foster’s job was guaranteed through to after the World Cup in 2023. So he’s not going unless of his own accord and that’s pretty unlikely.

Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that in the scoreline 18 of the 25 points that the Argentinians amassed, 18 came from six penalty goals from the laser-like accuracy of the goal kicker, Emiliano Boffelli, who also converted their only try.

So most of points against the All Black came from mistakes they made. Not really the coach’s fault.

The New Zealand rugby public and in particular the critics of the coach need to face up to the fact that this team is not as good as the teams of the past and the opposition is getting better.

Even the mighty Sam Whitelock is getting old and is carrying more than his share of the load. Aaron Smith is a good ball distributor but that’s about it. He is no longer an attacking force to be reckoned with.

There is no one in the forward pack that has the running skills of hooker Dane Coles.

The inside back backs lack the power and menace of Umuga, Nonu and Williams

It appears that the current team is trying to play rugby as if it had players of the calibre of the last decade and the opposition is still playing the same kind of rugby. Neither of which is true.

And the team is not being led by a man of this calibre.

It is probably time for a mass rethink and restructure and look forward for 2023 World Cup as Rebuilding period. The hard heads must surely be realising that winning the Bledisloe Cup this year must only be even money and the World Cup is beyond our reach.

Manly Sea Eagles NRL club tried to promote Gay Pride. They could learn a lot from the Richmond Union Bowling Club (RUBC) Gay Pride Cup

This is the Manly Sea Eagles jersey the club proposed to wear for match against the Roosters to celebrate Gay Pride. 

You could be forgiven for thinking it celebrated gambling on rugby league. 

The net result of this change of jersey was a huge controversy involving seven players who refuse to wear the jersey because it was against their religious beliefs ie homosexuality. 

No qualms about gambling, however.  

They also refused to play in the match against the Roosters. There were clearly some discussions behind the scenes with the owner of the club and they have given an assurance there will be no repeat of this behaviour next year.

It’s the four little rainbow stripes they objected to. Nonetheless, the Christian lobby and Lyle Sheldon in particular, came out with all homophobic guns blazing. all in the interests of freedom of religion of course.

As a consequence, they refused to play and the consequent media attention detracted almost completely from the fact that the Sea Eagles were trying to promote inclusiveness and a celebration of diversity.

The upshot is that the NRL is considering a Gay Pride round next year. If this little exercise is any indication, next year should be a lot of fun! 

For the last two years, the Richmond Union Bowling Club in Victoria has held the Gay Pride Cup. It’s a celebration of the LGBTQI community. It’s a joyous event not marred by controversy or homophobia.

Now, in fairness it is probably easier to enjoy a bowls match than it is to enjoy a first grade rugby league match.

It’s a competition between any clubs that choose to enter and RUBC has special top for the day. Many opposition players choose to wear it.

Here are some pictures from the RUBC Gay Pride Cup.

The Victorian government plans to recruit 1000 frontline healthcare workers from overseas. They will all be returning Australian workers.

9 News reports reports “In order to be eligible, healthcare workers need to have an existing employment contract with a Victorian healthcare service, an active professional registration in place, and be ready to travel. The group will largely be made up of returning Australians who want to come back to the healthcare workforce, bolstered by a large number of international recruits.

That means the Victorian government is not doing anything underhand like poaching critical workers from other hospital systems simply encouraging otherwise unemployed Australian frontline health workers to come back to Australia and work in Victoria (rather than anywhere else).

The government will also be paying to help them relocate back to Australia.

The difficulty with this kind of recruitment drive is that it allocates resources to one part of the system at the expense of another. In this case, it may be other parts of Australia where workers came from or it may be the parts of Europe where they may be working on the frontline during the Covid pandemic. Whichever way you look at it, resources will be taken away from some part of the system that needs them and reallocated to another another part of the system that also needs them.

It’s a zero-sum game. Eventually, someone is going to start poaching Victoria’s frontline health workers.

Both systems are trying to establish a balance but create an escalating problem.

Staff start shopping around for the best deal. The total pool staff does not increase but the costs of attracting them backwards and forwards does. Staff numbers simply oscillate, they don’t increase for very long.

Staff numbers rise and fall as people move around
The costs of participating in this zero-sum game escalates.

It is a short-term strategy that does not work.

The longer term strategy is to train and retain more staff but this takes years of resource and educational planning. Once a pandemic is upon us everything is crisis planning.