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.

Dicken’s Narrative Voice in Great Expectations

Dickens has chosen first-person narrative in Great Expectations. This presents some technical challenges. The first is establishing the credibility of a seven-year-old boy as the narrator. 

Pip is about seven at the beginning of the book. The older Pip, who is narrating the story, is presumably somewhere in his 50s. Not only does he have a far more sophisticated view of the world than the younger Pip, he also has a far more sophisticated command of the language.

In the opening chapter, it is established through the language of the narrative.

“As I never saw my father or my mother, my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.”  

There is a sardonic and humorous detachment in the way Pip’s brothers are described:

“To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.”

This is not the perspective of a seven-year-old child but the mature narrator establishing the triangular relationship between himself, Pip and Pip’s world.

Suddenly, the man starts up from the graves and threatens to cut Pip’s throat. The scene is remarkable because it establishes the seven-year-old boy’s credibility as a narrator. First, there is the urgency of the description of the convict: 

“soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars;”

and the urgency of the dialogue 

“Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!”

“Oh! Don’t cut my throat, sir,” I pleaded in terror. “Pray don’t do it, sir.”

“Tell us your name!” said the man. “Quick!”

“Pip, sir.”

“Once more,” said the man, staring at me. “Give it mouth!”

“Pip. Pip, sir.”

“Show us where you live,” said the man. “Pint out the place!”

What follows is a remarkable good cop/bad cop monologue as the convict described what the young man will do to Pip and with his demands for a file and wittles, which sets up the psychological tension in the next chapter.

Civil disobedience and confusion spread in response to Covid and the vaccination roll out.

This morning The Age reported that “Only a quarter of nearly 38,000 fines handed to Victorians for breaches of coronavirus restrictions have been paid.”

As Julius Sumner Miller always asked “Why is it so?”

Because 75% of the people who are being fired do not believe that the fines were justified. They also suspect that the court system is So bogged down, they will probably never be brought to justice.

And then there is the vexed question of vaccine supply. The Federal government has backed the wrong horse.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has now announced Pfizer will be the preferred vaccine for under-60s and the government would immediately move to open access for 40- to 59-year-olds.

Pretty much the kiss of death for AstraZeneca and its local production facility.

As a result, people over the age of 60 are cancelling their second shot of the AstraZeneca vaccination. Many may be hoping to mix-and-match their second shot with Pfizer although there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest to this is particularly efficacious.

The switch to the Pfizer vaccine for the under 60s is because it is now considered that the risks of AstraZeneca for the under 60s now outweigh the benefits.

Sceptical members of the public, particularly those over 60, may now begin to wonder how long it will be before that advice will soon cover their age cohort.

There is also growing confusion about the supply of the vaccine. When asked about the supply vaccine, this is what Health Minister Greg Hunt said:

““In terms of national cabinet, the PM is focusing on the vaccine rollout. Firstly, to thank the states and territories for the way in which they have been able to pivot – I’ve given a couple of examples – but secondly to make sure that everybody is fully informed and coordinated.”

Inspiring stuff.

Victoria’s QR codes really don’t work very well. Actually not at all.

Yesterday at Coles at Victoria Gardens, I was trying to check-in at the QR code. The code is located somewhere below the height of my belt.

QR codes need to work

Not at eye level where you can focus camera. Now, this is not the government’s fault, this is Coles’ fault .

Once you have managed to get shot in, you have to register to download the app. This is after the fourth lockdown. I have being downloading apps for months. Multiple downloads.

I have also downloaded the federal government app. Fat lot of good that was.

I am then asked to put in my Apple password. Fortunately I can remember my password from amongst the 50 passwords (don’t use the same password more than once) I have.

No keyboard comes up

I am then asked to put in my code for my iPhone. No keyboard comes up

WTF?

How is contact tracing going to work when a government app simply doesn’t work?

The Age reports The Victorian government’s contact-tracing QR code system has processed almost 79 million check-ins, up from 37 million just three weeks ago, but experts say the code is poorly designed and could lead to unnecessarily slow and frustrating user experiences.

When the federal government launched its tracing app, everyone was frightened they were going to use the information to track everyones movements. Now, we find that it’s highly possible that the state government can’t even manage to get their tracing organised.

Perhaps all the paranoia about government is overstated.

I must admit that when I read Orwell’s 1984 in the sixties, even then I was always sceptical that a government could ever be that well-organised.

It is time to pivot our national vaccination strategy?

The graph of national vaccinations tells an interesting picture.

At first glance, this looks pretty good. The reality is not so good.

Nationally, 20% of the population has received the first dose. That means they have about 50% protection. Better than nothing, but not great. But only 2% are fully vaccinated four months after the start of vaccination.

” It is not a race” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was first in line to be vaccinated on 26 Feb. He is now one of the 2% of Australians to be fully vaccinated

The World Health Organisation sets a benchmark of 65% for herd immunity. At our current rate of progress, we will need 30×4 months to get there. That’s 10 years. There are many races that take that long.

The problem is the national uptake of the second vaccine. We should be seeing some pickup in fully vaccinated numbers, but we are not. Whether this is through complacency or through some hesitancy is not known.

The situation in Victoria is equally worrying.

This graph shows two developments.

The first was a huge surge in vaccinations in June in response to Victoria’s fourth lockdown. People realised this was serious.

The second, shown in the black circle, is a falloff when the lockdown restrictions were an immediate and dramatic falloff in vaccinations with the easing of lockdown restrictions. It’s a very worrying development, particularly if it continues.

So what’s the answer?

It depends on how you see the problem.

The first part of the problem is that we have a two jab vaccination strategy. One of those vaccines is being manufactured overseas and supply of both vaccines appears problematic.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vaccination centres are standing empty and walk-up clients are being turned away. It’s ironic that eligible age cohorts are staying away in droves, while younger people are being turned away.

So it might be a good idea to switch suppliers to include a one jab vaccine: the Johnson & Johnson and to seek to manufacture it in Australia. But, until we can do that, we should import as much as we can to vaccinate everyone who wishes to be vaccinated.

Significant proportions of the population appear reticent to have a first jab and it would appear that an even larger proportion are reticent to have a second.

The government needs to start considering incentives for vaccination. The easing of travel restrictions for those who have had two vaccinations. 

Tax cuts? We hand out tax cuts to everybody. Why not make them dependent on some form of behavioural change? One-off incentive payments?

Until Australia can get vaccination coverage well in advance of its current rates, it will remain at risk of widespread outbreaks and/or lockdowns.

The political, social and economic consequences of this will be devastating.

Amanda Vanstone continues to crystallise public opinion.

Her article Walk a mile in their shoes, but don’t be a sucker in The Age today, was, as usual, her predictable defence of the LNP government. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to get some critical thinking from Amanda?

The article was about the plight of the Murugappan family, also known as the Biloela family after the town where they lived in Australia before being incarcerated on Christmas Island.

There were 61 comments on Vanstone’s article. Two agreed with her. Sometimes there were as many as 200 people agreeing with the dissenters.

There are certainly two sides to the argument. There is the one put by Vanstone and Michaela Cash: “We mustn’t blink now.”

Then there is the argument put by almost everybody else: “Come on, be reasonable, the compassionate, be human, be Australian. Let them go back to live in Biloela.”

The government knows it’s on the wrong side of public opinion because now there’s a little girl in hospital in Perth suffering from the life-threatening disease, pneumonia.

Thoughts and prayers.

The mask wearing message is not getting through at the South Melbourne market.

This picture was taken at the South Melbourne market. Of the seven people that can be seen in the photograph, four of them have not covered their noses.

Shoppers with masks at South Melbourne Market yesterday as Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions continued. CREDIT:WAYNE TAYLOR

Presumably the four circled only breathe through their mouths.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Brie, France


I wake up every morning and see this wonderful photograph.
It is one of Cartier-Bresson’s compositional masterpieces. It is dominated by the trees that stand on the road that spreads out to the bottom of the picture. It’s a masterful asymmetrical balance. The long line of trees stretching out towards the distant line of buildings balances the wide sweep of grasslands that dominates lower right-hand side of the picture. Then, the straight tracks on the road provide an anchor for the picture going back to the horizon. Brilliant!


It’s time for Michaelia Cash to blink and let the Murugappan family into Australia.

The family of four, mother and father, Priya and Nadesalingam and their daughters — Kopika, five, and Tharnicaa, three have been on Christmas Island since August 2019 while the federal government tries to deport them from Australia.

The reasons for this deportation seemed to be lost in the mists of time.

The children were born in Australia after the couple established themselves in the Queensland town of Biloela.

On Monday, three-year-old Tharnicaa was evacuated from Christmas Island to Perth for urgent medical treatment after two weeks of illness. She was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Tharnicaa and her sister Kopika in hospital on Christmas Island on June 6.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said “personally, it is the right stance because of the consequences of blinking.” 

Binking and turning a blind eye seem to be much the same thing.

Because it amounts to ignoring the consequences of two small children growing up in complete isolation.

This means denying them opportunities that every child has of growing up, making friends, going to kindergarten, playing in the park, going to the swimming pool, going to the library, playing sport, all the things of childhood.

These things are being denied these children, because Michaelia Cash doesn’t want to blink.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said, “This family are valued members of the Biloela community. These two girls are not a threat to Australia’s national sovereignty,” 

That pretty much sums up the situation.

Is anyone thinking about the chances of the Victorian population becoming fully vaccinated?

It is becoming clear that the way out of the pandemic is for a significant proportion of the population to become vaccinated with two shots of Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

The World Health Organisation believes that herd immunity is achieved when 65% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Six months into the vaccination rollout just under 18% of Australians have received a first shot and 1% has received a second shot. Vaccination rates have accelerated as result of a fourth lockdown in Victoria.

If current progress is maintainedIn Victoria, 2.7 million people will be vaccinated by the end of the year. That’s just under half of the adult population of 5.6 million.

This will require 6.8 million doses of vaccine.

Achieving the WHO standard of 65% for herd immunity by mid-2023 will require around 7.6 million doses.

Achieving 90% will require slightly under 10 million.

All of this assumes that current rates of vaccinations can be maintained, which will almost certainly be problematic.

If we start looking at vaccinating children under 15, supply numbers begin to rose dramatically.

While public discussion remains focused on the numbers of new Covid cases and lockdown, the discussion of the long-term issue of vaccine supply has been lost.

Are any of our public policy decision makers thinking about this?

Christian Porter should be given a chance to clear his name. Only an independent inquiry can do that.

Now that the dust has settled on Porter’s attempt to sue the ABC, it’s time to take a step back and consider whether this man should receive the justice he deserves.

 Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

He has steadfastly maintained his innocence but he lost his job as Attorney General.

The publicity generated by the allegations against him have done his reputation immense harm and he would no doubt wish to have that undone.

The only way for him to do this is to call on the Prime Minister for an independent inquiry into the allegations. This will mean that Porter will not have to rely solely on his own assertions of innocence to maintain his credibility as a parliamentarian and as a minister.

Scott Morrison should not deny Christian Porter the opportunity to put his case in public and set up an inquiry immediately.