AE 644 – The Goss: Australian Currency, Drink Driving, & Offshore Detention of Asylum Seekers

In this episode of the Goss, I chat with my father Ian Smissen about the week’s news where we chat about the Australian currency, drink driving, and offshore detention of asylum seekers.

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G'day you mob, welcome to this episode of The Goss, where I sit down with my old man every single week and chat to him about what's been going on in the news, whether Down Under or elsewhere in the world. We kind of just sit down, have an impromptu conversation. You know, sometimes we've looked up stories online and we try and touch on those, give our opinions and also give you guys that down-low about what's been going on.

But yeah, the whole point is to give you all sorts of different topics that we talk about in English to help you learn the vocab and just how to talk about these topics when they come up in conversation, right. To help you form your own opinion, whether you agree with us or not. The whole point here is to just give you content to absorb, to listen to and to use, to better inform yourselves. Come up with your own opinions, expand your English and allow you to talk about these issues yourself.

Anyway, today is the first part of sort of two episodes that we did on the same day. So the first one here we talk about Australian currency and how it used to be an imperial system like England where we had the pound and shillings and pence and then in 1966, we switched over to the metric system. And we also talk about how the Australian Mint thinks that five and ten cent pieces are going to disappear. Dad talks about the transition period, what it was like back in the 60s and pub games they used to play. We talk about counterfeit money in Australia and then we switch gears and talk about car accidents.

There was a tragic car accident in Australia because of a drunk driver. So we talk about drink-driving, and then we get on to how Corona virus victims who were Australians ended up in Christmas Island being quarantined for a few weeks. And then we also talk about why Christmas Island is set up the way it is and why it's used for illegal immigrants or asylum seekers in Australia. So there's quite a lot in this episode. But anyway, let's dive in, guys. Give that kookaburra a cheeky poke. Let's start it playing and I will see you in the episode.

Dad, what's going on?

Hey, Pete. Yeah, well, we're a few days delayed for your listeners who are not going to know because this will go up in sequence. But yeah, I've been working on Wednesdays and then been sick for a couple of days. But I'm back.

I know you're back. So how are you feeling now? You're feeling better?

All fired up for another session.

So, what's been going on in the news this week? What's the story?

The one from last week that we actually didn't touch on because we had so much other stuff to talk about was the change in currency, potentially.

Well it's not official?

No, but it's not official yet. But the rumours are out now that we're going to drop our five and ten cent pieces from our circulating currency.

So do you want to talk about the history there of Australian currency and then dive into that a little bit?

Yeah, why not? We could do that. Because I've lived through it, through the whole decimal currency thing, because there was the change over in February 14, 1966. We changed from the...

What was the jingle? Are you going to sing it for us?

Oh no. You don't want me to sing, I promise.

But what is it?

In come the dollars, in come cents, out go the pounds, and out go the pence.

Blah, blah, blah. On the 14th of February 1966. Yeah, that was even built into the jingle. So it's just implanted in people who are my age.

So what happened? They had a... We had the British currency.

We had the British currency system. It was Australian notes and coins, but they were completely tied to the British sterling. So one Australian pound equalled one English pound. One shilling was one English shilling.

And so it was a pretty confusing system because it wasn't metric, right?

Yeah. And that was that was one of those weird things where I grew up at primary school with pounds, shillings and pence as our currency and trying to... And that was one of the challenges; when I was in third grade, so eight, nine years old when that happened, but that was just that about the time in your education where you start doing applied arithmetic. So it wasn't just adding up numbers.

It was well, what if we add... The equivalent now would be a dollar ten verse 75 cents? And that's relatively simple because it's obviously decimal. But when they were saying add one pound, two shillings and six pence to seven shillings and nine pence, then you had to know that there were different numbers, the different numbers of pennies to a shilling and different shillings to a pound.

What were they?

A pound was 20 shillings and a shilling was 12 pence... Pennies.

So why was it set up that way?

Who knows?

Who decided, had it just been that way for hundreds of years?

I think, and this is a complete guess, but I think that those original English Stirling came from the value of coins that were being minted out of silver and so a pound, I think was a pound coin of not a pound in weight, it would be worth a lot more than a pound of silver. But I think with those sort of coins, so I think it really just did come down to what does this actually equal in value at the time.

And then it just became a historical sort of anomaly where you ended up with these ridiculous things. And that whole imperial measurement system, which was invented in Britain as well, where you have 12 inches to a foot, three foot to a yard, 22 yards to a chain, eight chains to a mark. Yeah. So all those sort of things don't make sense.

How did that happen with a lot of these units? Lots of different places use different units of measurement. So there's some places would use, you know, a foot to measure distance. Others would use a yard.


And then they came together and tried to unite them.

But they actually did add up. That's the weird thing. It wasn't like. Yeah, yeah. One group of people decided that they were going to use a foot as a linear measure for something that foot was 30 centimetres or 30.48 centimetres. But it wasn't as if somebody did that until the metric system was invented where you had... Like a foot is 30.48 centimetres.

It wasn't random. People had actually decided. So they were building new measures and measures that were useful for the things that they were doing. So, you know, a chain, which was 22 yards or sixty six feet, literally was the length of a chain that was used by surveyors. That was the amount of chain that they actually could physically carry and manage to measure things. So it was chain so that it was metal and it didn't stretch.

Yeah, but was that because links were of a certain size?

Yeah. Yeah. Well they made the links but yeah... It was sort of like... Well, you know, a 22 yard chain was about as heavy a thing that one or two people could measure. And they used to literally just flip them around and spin a chain around that's 22 yards, then next one's 44 and the next is 66. And so on. Why it was ever 22 yards, who knows? But it probably made some sense when it was originally made.

It always blows my mind because, you know, obviously, Britain had the imperial system for a long time. The French came up with the metric system. Right. And then I mean, I don't know, my history and the timing of these things isn't very solid, but I imagine that the British colonised America. Yeah, they gave them the imperial system and Canada as well. And they came to Australia, brought the imperial system as well.

Why did America have the dollar, and yet they still use the imperial system for everything else?

Who knows? Well, I think currency and measurement were sort of separate. But yeah, it's weird that the Americans dropped the English currency system and created a dollar.

Well, I can imagine that has to do with their own independence.

Yeah, they wanted to make, you know, when they made their own...

Why not do it with the measurements and everything too?

I know.

To make more sense, right.

The irony is that the only two countries in the world now, though there may well be a few small colonies around that, or ex-colonies around, but the only two major countries in the world now that are still using the imperial measurement is the United States and the United Kingdom.

Well, it's weird too, because the United States publicly uses those numbers, but all of the scientific world over there uses the metric system.

Yeah, including in the United States.

Yeah, well, that's what I mean. Yeah. And in the United States. So there you quite often have to know the two, right. And Fahrenheit is confusing as hell because -30 is zero Celsius. Right.

32 Fahrenheit.

32 Fahrenheit, yeah. So that's the freezing point.

But again, Fahrenheit made no sense. Yeah. I think that was just... And I presume it was Mr Fahrenheit, and this is you know, this is way back in the history of my understanding of science and. Yeah. Mr Fahrenheit who invented the thermometer, clearly just invented a thermometer, put a scale on it, and then measured the freezing and boiling points of water.

Whereas what happened with Celsius they worked out. Okay, we're going to make 100 the boiling point of water and zero the freezing point.

Take that as the common scale that people are familiar with, and we'll make that 100 degrees. So it's a bit weird, but yeah. So, decimal currency. So we went from pounds, shillings and pence to dollars and cents in 1966 and the original currency that came out was a 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent piece, so coins. And what were the ones and twos were copper and the fives up to 50s were notionally silver, although they didn't contain much silver. I think it was mostly nickel.

Well they had that in the first few years. They had too much silver in the 50 cent pieces...

The round 50 cent piece that was originally made, when they when they created it, was just prior to a surge in the silver price. And so it ended up with a lot more than fifty cents worth of silver in it. So people were melting them down to get the silver out and so they... The Mint made a new 50 cent piece fairly quickly. The irony now is that if you've got one of those original 50 cent pieces, the round ones, they're worth a lot more as a collector's item than the silver that's contained in it because they're so rare.

Yeah, they're gone. So why did they make them, what would you call it? 12-sided?

I think they wanted to make it completely different from the original round fifty.

Yeah. So it's like a hexagon times two. Yeah, Dodecahedron, it's got 12 sides...

Not Hedron. Hedron is three dimensional but...

Dodecagon. Yeah. So it's got 12 sides to it.

Yeah it is. It's a weird one but yeah. They wanted to make it different enough from the original 50. It's the same size but it's no longer round. And we had a one, a two, a five, a 10 and a twenty dollar note. The $50 notes were added a long time later and then the hundreds after that. And then we dropped the ones and twos and turned those into coins.

Well there's that story. In fact I think I've got it up here somewhere. There's a dollar note that someone tipped me with in the restaurant and they hadn't been to it in Australia for 30 years or so.

Yeah. And they still had them?

And they still had it in their wallet or whatever. And they were just like, here's a dollar. I think they're legal tender anymore. Now they're probably worth more to the collector than they are to a dollar on the street.

But was it confusing going through that process of changing currencies or was it relatively smooth?

I think it was... I was nine years old, as I said at the time.

Ironically, that's probably the time when I stopped seeing 1's and two cent pieces being used in Australia. Right. They took those out of circulation.

So for us, it was something new to learn. But at that age, you learn new stuff all the time. So it wasn't really confusing.

But did your parents have a hard time?

There were a lot of older people, I think, who just continued to do the conversion in their head, like you could do the conversion because a dollar was half a pound. So $2 was a pound. And we even made the $2 note green like the one pound note so that you could recognise it immediately as well. This is worth a pound. And we used to have a 10 shilling note that was brown like our one dollar note.So again, that was very similar.And the coins were made same sizes. So that sixpence, six pennies, which became five cents were the same size. They were the same. They're basically interchangeable. The ten cent and the shilling were the same. The two shilling and the 20 cents were the same. There was no equivalent of a 50 cent piece in because two shillings was the biggest coin that you had, other than going way back to where we had a crown which was two and a half shillings worth, but we never used that in Australia.

What were guineas?

A guinea was 1 pound, 10 pence.

Was that a coin, though? Or a note?

No, it was... No.

Just a measurement? Just a number?

Yeah. And again, I think that was originally a measure that was related to the non-notes and coins. It probably would have been coming from... So there would have been a guinea piece at some stage, a coin that was made out of a particular value of silver or whatever.

And i assume it's related to New Guinea?


The name at least? I don't know about the country, specifically.

But yeah, I'm not sure where the...

Or a guinea pig?

Or Guinea, the country, and then New Guinea, the next country. I don't know where that origin comes from. We'll have to look that one up. There's a question on notice to look out for next time.

Because that's the only time you see that weird word, right? "Guinea pigs." Yeah. "New Guinea," "Guinea," and "a guinea," as in the currency...

All the same spelling. But I'm not sure what the origin of the... Yeah. So the one you're talking about, the $1 note that you got that. The $2 note was the one that I missed when that disappeared. Because we used to play this game, a pub game, when I was about 18 or 19.

And the way the $2 note was built back in those days, we were using paper and it was a very particular sort of paper, but to make it a lot more difficult to counterfeit, they put a metal thread through the paper and it wasn't cut in exactly the same location every time as you know, it was obviously put through a cutting machine and the cutting machine would be a few millimetres out onto where the metal thread actually was in the paper when they were cutting them and then they obviously went and printed them and so on.

But the $2 note on one side of the note had John MacArthur, who was one of the original wealthy people in Australia, had effectively created the sheep industry, the wool industry in Australia. So he was commemorated on the $2 note and they used it and they had pictures of sheep on it. And the largest sheep, the nose of the largest sheep, was about aligned with where the metal thread went through. So we used to have this game called sheep races. And because of the inconsistency in where the metal thread was, the sheep would either be short of the line, on the line or past the line.

So you... All week you'd collect your best $2 note to see the one who had the sheep that was the furthest past the line. And then... This is back in the days of ten o'clock closing in pubs, so a bell would ring at quarter to ten in the pub and it was for last drink.So you couldn't order a drink after that time. And so that bell used to be the sheep races thing for our group of friends and we'd all pull our $2 note out and whoever had the sheep the furthest past used to take all of the $2, so you'd win it. But you had to sign, and completely illegal, defacing the Queen's currency, you had to sign your winning note so you couldn't re-use the good one next time and you had to go and collect them again. So when the $2 notes went, that pub game just disappeared.

That's so sad.

A funny one. There was a... And I talk about that to people all the time, particularly in Australia, nobody can remember. Nobody knows. But in the one bar, in the one pub where I grew up, it was just a common thing. So somebody obviously invented it there. But it never got any currency, if you'll excuse the pun, because the $2 notes disappeared.

I wonder if there is anything weird like that happens with the current notes.

Yeah, there may be. I don't know. I haven't... Other than does naming them by colour. The pineapple, the lobster...

Even if you double it, right? I've seen like the green ghost as well as the green tree frog.

Yeah. Yeah. A few of those based on colour. But of course now our notes are no longer paper, they're plastic. So they're made of a particular polymer.

Well it's funny, the $100 notes - you never see them unless you pull them out of the bank, right. I'm sure that's always the case with the highest denomination.

You can't get them is change. So if you go somewhere and you can't give a higher note than $100, to get $100 back in change.

Unless someone's buying something off you, right?

Unless somebody has been paying you for things so that you are really the only place that people typically get them is in high cash transactions or going to a bank to get cash out. So they nearly always mint. That's a weird thing that you never see a crushed up hundred dollar note.

There's some crazy story to where $100 notes, it's something like all have traces of cocaine on them or something because they've gone... They tend to be used much more by people buying illegal, illicit things. In bulk.

Well, that was probably true back in the paper days, I'm not sure now.

Especially in America, in Miami.

Yeah, the plastic ones are not obviously going to absorb as much as they do as paper, but although they were paper in Australia, but the notes in the United States are not made out of paper as if they're not cellulose from wood.

Still hemp?

they are made out of cotton and linen because cotton-linen weave is much tougher than paper. It doesn't rip as easily, but you can still burn it. And so the funny thing about that is Australia was the first place in the world to have plastic notes. And now several other countries, including Canada, for example.

Britain. New Zealand, I assume.

They, as far as I know, certainly Canada, New Zealand, both use the Australian polymer.

Well, that's our invention. Yeah, that was one of our inventions.

And so we sent the polymer overseas. They obviously print their own, their mints print their own, and they use our plastic to do it. And it's that... Obviously it's a unique form of plastic. So it's easy to detect, relatively easy to detect forgeries, but it also is an easy one to create holograms in so that we have little blank spots with holograms and those sort of things in them.

When I was getting the money out recently to buy that car that we went up and bought, and you guys will here this on another episode that's probably already released by the time you hear this episode, but I pulled out $20,000 worth of cash from the bank and the lady was like, "I don't know if we have that much," ended up having that much and I was chatting to her while she was counting it out.

And I was... She was mentioning something about forgeries, and I'm like, "is that's still a problem?" Like, "you guys still get forgeries?" Because I would have thought because of these polymer bank notes, it's just so difficult to try and, you know, forge these that you would never see them. And she's like, "All the time," you know, every...

$50s in particular.

Yeah. And he was saying that what happens is people forge them small, you know, mum and pop groups like do the forgeries at home. And they go into places like McDonalds during rush hour where there's a young kid behind the till and they break a big note, buying something very small like hamburger for two bucks.

Yeah, exactly they get $48 out of the $50.

Get the change, and then bail. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then the kid obviously just puts it through McDonald's cash register till, whatever, they come to the bank with the cash at the end of the night or the end of the week. And then there's all the forged notes that have been broken at the restaurant. And I that's how it's done these days.

I'm not sure...

I was thinking big, big size things like that. You know, there's someone has a briefcase full of a million dollars with forged notes and they go and buy a house with cash or whatever, but it's this sort of stuff.

The... I haven't seen them recently, but I know that the previous... Because we've had two rounds of the plastic notes now, where we've changed the design and changed some of the structure in them, and I believe, and this is hearsay, but I believe that the reason we went for the second round was because they were more difficult to forge, because I remember when the first plastic notes came out, I got a forgery.


Yeah. And I got it out of an ATM, so clearly the...

Even the banks are being tricked!

Well ATMS, and even though they're branded banks, they're actually managed by a third-party company.

So they're putting the cash, not the bank.

Yeah. And the irony was this is back in the days before it was easy to transfer money backwards and forwards. Before internet banking you couldn't transfer money backwards and forwards between different banks very easily. And so I was paying off a credit card bill and so I walked to the ATM in one bank, took out $500, that came out as 10 fifties, walked across the road to the other bank, handed over my 10 fifties to pay off $500 off my credit card. And the teller looked at one and I said, "this is a forgery. How did you get this?" And I said, "I just got it out of the ATM across the road." And I still had my ATM receipt, and he said, "I can't take it.

Go back over the road to the other bank." So I went back over the road to the other bank and said, "look, I have no way of proving that this actually came out of your machine. But it did." And so they looked at my account, went, "yes, we can see that you've just taken almost out of our machine." And so they honoured it. They actually took it back and changed it over. But that was how common they were that they're even appearing in ATMs back in those days.

So note to self, if you find yourself with a with a dodgy looking note that's a fifty or something, take out $500, put a good fifty in your pocket, put that fifty back in the $500, and go into the bank to ask him to change it over and honour it. Yeah. And so what's happening. They're getting rid of the five and ten cent pieces? You know, 20 minutes later we'll get to the actual story!

Get to the news story! Yeah. Well, you know, the reason we got rid of ones and twos is because they were no longer of any value. You can't... Now it's the same with 5s and 10s. There's almost nothing that you would walk into a store and pay five cents for and walk out.

Or one cent or two cent...

Like ones and twos twenty years ago.

You don't want to be carrying around a fistful of copper one cent coins to get yourself a ten cent candy.

Catch up America! That's one of the... I used to travel in North America a lot with work and that was one of the things that just drove me nuts. In fact it drove everybody nuts because almost every cash store, particularly, you know, small stores where you're handling cash.

So if you walk into a 7-Eleven or, you know, some convenience store to buy a drink or something, you're very rarely going to go, then anyway, few years ago, you wouldn't use your credit card, so you'd use cash. And apart from the fact that Americans put the tax on after the price, so a $2 item will cost you $2.21.

That always irritated me. On the holiday when we did it, when you get your money right, you get your money ready to go to Maccas or whatever...

It's a$2 a drink.

Yeah, "here's $2," and they'll be like it's "$2.10, or whatever." Yeah.

And so you end up with these just random amounts of money everywhere and then for random amounts of change. Yeah. But because they have no 2 cent coin then you end up with... If you've got something in it that ends in a 1 or 6, you end up with 4 1-cent pieces for pennies. Ironically, the Americans, it's a one cent coin, but they call them a penny. Work that out.

The imperial system.

And so you end up with just piles of crap. Yeah. A whole lot of shrapnel, one cent pieces and but most of those places now just have a little jar or a little tray at the front saying "Give a penny. Take a penny," So if people would just get their 4 pennies in their change, toss them in there and get it, then something came out that is going to cost you $2 and 1 cent, you'd take the one cent out of the tray and give it to them rather than having to carry your own around and get more crappy change.

My sort of memory of the 1 pennies from the U.S. is watching... I think it was Home Alone 2, when they're in New York and Marv is walking around with the other guy, Joe Pesci, the small guy with a beanie that's at the top. Marv's the big lanky guy. And I remember him putting tape on his hands, like double sided tape, and then walks past a Santa who is like busking and just shoves his hand in the pot of coins and pulls out a fist and it's just covered in 1 cent... Or pennies, and being like, "wow." And the other guy's like, "good job Marv. You got yourself about a dollar."

So where... The potential now is the drop fives and tens. Look I know when Singapore updated their currency a few years ago, and the lowest scoring they have there I think is a ten now. New Zealand updated their currency a few years ago. I think the lowest they have now is a 10. So 5s and 10s are almost useless.

The challenge is going to be, and another sort of random story about Ian's belligerence when he goes shopping, is when we first dropped the one cent pieces, our postage was still 49 cents and I walked into a post office and I was just posting one letter and said, "I want a forty nine cents stamp." And they said, "That'll be 50 cents." And I said, "No, you have to give me a one cent stamp in change because stamps are the equivalent of legal tender." You have to use them as cash and so you can't... Yeah, because we went the over-and-undering, we were rounding up and down. And so that 49 became 50 and... I was just being a dickhead, basically.

Wouldn't you just buy a 49 cent stamp and a 1 cent stamp?

But they said, "we don't have any one cent stamps so we can't give you anything." And I said, "well on that basis I'll have three 49s," which course comes at a dollar 47 which I could then only pay $1.45 for. And I said, "I could be a real dick and just stand here all day buying $3.49 cent stamps and getting two cents for free all the time," because the post office... Now obviously I wasn't being too much of a pain because the person behind the counter, it's not their fault.

It was that Australia Post just hadn't thought this through of making one cent... Because we used to have one cent stamps all the time just to make up, because often we were... When the currency of the postal costs went up, it would go up by one or two cents. So there will always be one cent stamps to add on. So people who'd bought a whole lot of 49 cent stamps, but then when postage went up to 50, you had to, you know, use the 49s.But they didn't have them. So there was one of those weird things that every now and then when you start dropping coins out, you get these anomalies of... Something costs $1.95, because everything is $1.95 or $1.99, it's never rounding up to $2. But now we're going to round up to $2. So, and the reality is that people get used to it. After a while, you don't notice. When it first happens you go, "hang on. where's my five cents?"

Well I think, yeah, it's not going to make any difference at all. I can't even remember the last thing I bought for five cents.


In fact, I know what it would be. When I was a kid I used to go to the milk bar nearby, which is like a corner store.


You know, all the news agency stuff, your bread, your... Maybe a fish and chip shop in there as well, and there's lollies and candies. And we would buy things called ghost drops. Yeah, you remember those? And so they were like these little candies that they would have in a big job you get for five cents each and you'd suck on them. And I think they just had food dye in them and so they would change the colour of your tongue...


... And your mouth, so it would be blue or red or green, but they were five cents each.

So probably 25 now.

Exactly. Yeah. I don't think it'll make much of a difference.


I'm wondering what's going to happen with money in the future, anyway, because... Well especially cash money because I can't remember the last time I actually withdrew, except for this time that I went to the bank teller to get cash out to buy the car, I don't know the last time I went to an ATM to pull money out because I just... You can pay with the card now for such small transactions with no extra fee.

And that's going to be something where, because that was obviously you buying the car privately, from a person, not from a dealer. And so a dealer, you can do an electronic transaction, or mostly they still don't allow that. Mostly they still ask for a bank check. But you know the price, you negotiate the price in advance. You come around. Whereas from a private person, you're negotiating up until the time you hand over the money.

Yeah. And so you can't go out and get a bank check and then ask them to give you change and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, where you've got those transactions where cash is the easiest way to do it. But look, I think credit cards and just instantaneous bank transfers. Somebody just gives you a bank account number and you go, "Right. I'm going to transfer from mine into yours." The challenge we have with that is that there is still a delay in that.

But there's restrictions, too. You have to go out of your way to actually level up the amount that you can transfer, because I think I have a limit of like $2,500 on a daily pay...

And if there's something that you've got to pay $20000 for something, you can't do it. You can pay... Yeah, I could pay you over a seven day period if I give you $2,500 every day. But look, that's a security thing. Clearly, the banks don't want to have somebody break into your account and suddenly transfer, you know, the entire value of your account to their own.

Even just paying the rent, yesterday I had to transfer the $1,600 to pay the month's rent and I get a double opt in thing, and now I get a code sent to my phone that I have to then enter to do the transfer on my computer, that's double checking... Which is good, I don't have a problem with that, but it's interesting to see how much of, you know, they're at least taking security to a higher and higher level. Shame on me for not turning the alarm off.

Yeah, didn't turn your phone down.

It's the alarm, I set it the other day.

What are we now missing? Oh, the alarm was for yesterday?

It was for two days ago. I just keep turning...

Then not actually turning it off.

Yeah. So what else has been going on? The news? We had a tragic drunk driving accident. Yeah. Was that Queensland?

I can't remember where. I've just read the headline.

Or might have been NSW.

That's one of those headlines that you read and go, "No, I'm not going to click on that. I don't need to know the details."

Well, effectively four children were killed getting ice cream at something like 8 or 9pm at night by a 29 year old drink driver. So he was a guy driving his SUV or whatever it was, and he was obviously drunk or under the influence. And he killed all four children. There was six of them, I think. Three of them were siblings and one was a cousin. So one, the family... And the crazy thing is, from the family of three, I was like, "Oh, my God, they've just, you know, lost all their kids," they had six children, and half of them in one night just gone.

It's horrible.

Yeah. Why do you think Australia has this sort of problem with drink driving? Because I'm sure people coming to Australia will see everywhere, you know, that the classic one being, "if you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot." Yeah. From the Victoria Police or whatever it is, the signs would be up everywhere. I mean, I'm sure it's not unique to us. But why do you think it's still such a big problem in Australia? And has it always been a big problem since you were young?

Well, it's a lot less of a problem now than it has been in the past. I think those advertising campaigns seem to have worked in a sense that it's reduced and the detection: there's been a lot more effort by police forces around Australia to be actively breath testing.

How many times a year do you think you get breath tested?

Two or three?


Not now because I'm not travelling as much. But when I was driving down to Melbourne every day, two or three times at least a year, and not always just on... Obviously you're not going to do it on freeways very often.

Because that would block the traffic down.

Occasionally they do. I've been breath tested twice on Westgate Bridge, which is probably the busiest road in Melbourne.

And there's no way to escape.

There's no way to go. Yeah. Once you're on the bridge, you're done.

Now, there are some countries in the world where it's illegal.

To breath breathalyse? Really?

Yeah. Good old America. Thank you. And it's supposedly...


... Freedom, civil rights, blah, blah, blah. But as far as I can see, it's one of those... What... I see the libertarian sort of view of that.

If you get caught and you've crashed your car, they're going to breathalyse you or a blood test you or something anyway. Right.

Exactly, so... But it's the... I think that if you're going to get caught, you're going to get punished and you're going to get tested a lot. It's not that you have to have a crash in order to get tested, that there are just these random breath tests, now random drug testing as well. And I don't have a problem with it, you know, for that point of view. I look at it and say, "Well, I would much rather..." It's like going through security in airports.

You shit yourself every time?

I probably did when I was in my 20s and 30s.

I always do, even if I haven't drunk!

You just see a blue flashing light behind you and you panic, "Oh shit. It's an ambulance," you know, and you pull off to the side the road, you go, "Oh, after me."

But no, I get it when we're just going through the thing, because I'm always like, "oh my God, when was the last time I drank?" You know, and even I'll have a glass of wine and be driving home six hours after the fact and I'll still be shitting myself because I'm like, "oh my God, what if there is for some reason residual alcohol in my breath or something?"

There will be residual alcohol, but it's got to be .05 in Victoria.

It's always so funny. There's a Facebook page called like "Things bogans say in Australia," or something like that, or "Bogan memes," and one of them is like, one of their status updates, was asking the policeman how his day's been when he's getting rated a breathalyse you. You know, doing that, "Oh hey, how's it going?" Making small talk or whatever. And you're just like, "oooh!"

Yeah, yeah. Well, I don't think that has ever worked as a bluff.

But no, you always just have that awkward talk.

You do.

Whether or not you're actually drunk, you just have this like, "oooh!"

Or at least when you pull into a breath-testing thing, you know what you you're being tested for. You know, if you haven't been, you know, you get pulled over by the police on a road you think, and they always ask the, "So what were you doing wrong?", "I wasn't doing anything wrong!"

"I plead the fifth!" We're in Australia. We don't have that.

We don't have that. We sort of have it. But it's not an amendment to our Constitution.

I'd be like, "you tell me, you've pulled me over."

Yeah, I know. It's the smart alecy one where they...

"How fast were you driving?" "The speed limit."

Yeah, exactly. "I was driving exactly 102.9 kilometres an hour, which is less than the 3 kilometre an hour leniency." But yeah. So getting back to alcohol and driving. It used to be a much bigger problem. When I was a kid, and it's it's a combination of things. It's hard to distinguish between. Is it alcohol? Is it speeding? Is it faulty cars? Is it whatever it is? But I remember the road tolls, when I was a kid, and the front page of the newspapers every day would give you the road toll on the roads.

For the day?

No, for the year, that sort of accumulative road toll.

Watch it go up!

Yeah. And it went to over a thousand when there's only two million people in Melbourne, it was more than a thousand people a year being killed in Victoria. Now it's around 300, low 300s I think. And we've got two and a half times the population in Melbourne so.

Yeah that's insane. Yeah it's about a few thousand a year by the looks of it, and it's been 189,000 fatalities since 1925, so...

So a lot of that is speeding, but a lot of the reduction is simply safety in cars. Yeah. The fact that you know, Australia was the first country in the world to introduce compulsory wearing seatbelts. Yeah, that is going to save people's lives. Cars are now much safer, not just inherently safer, but they have more safety devices built into them, with airbags and all those sort of things and crumple zones in the front of cars and things.

And but it means used to be much more lax, didn't it, with drink driving where you would go down the pub, have a beer and you just drive home, whatever, like if you got pulled out by the cops they're not going to care. Is that too because there are fewer people?

I don't think it was they weren't going to care so much, but certainly there was a time before they had the ability to test when they did those sobriety tests of get out of the car and walk a straight line. Yeah, yeah. Touch your nose, do all that sort of stuff... Because that was the only way they had to test. Yeah. They could suspect that you're slurring your speech or whatever.

What if you're just uncoordinated?

"I'm never able to touch my nose! What are you talking about?"

"I can't do it now because I'm pissed!"

Yeah exactly! It's that old gag about, "Excuse me sir, but you're intoxicated. Why are you driving?" "Because I'm too drunk to walk home." Yeah, I don't think that one's ever worked. So yeah, look there's been a whole lot of strategies to try and reduce it. It's way less common now than it used to be. Yeah, but there'll always be idiots. And the trouble is that a person who is naturally stupid is going to not get less stupid by drinking alcohol. They're going to get more stupid.

It's one of those things too where the people that I've known to do it from... When I was in high school, I had a few friends who just did it repeatedly and it was that they didn't give a shit. It wasn't that they were, "I didn't realise," or, you know, "I was in a bind. I had to get home because my wife was giving birth," or something like that. It was, "I just don't give a shit."

And it's ageist and sexist, but it's absolutely accurate that it's young men that are the biggest problem.

a hundred percent.

Firstly because they probably drink more. Secondly, because they are in that risk phase of their life.

They're under the influence of testosterone.

Yeah, exactly. And testosterone and alcohol is a bad mix. So, yeah, there's all of those sort of things and it's a every death on the road is a tragedy. But when you effectively killing innocent children that are not even... They're just sort of gone out for an ice cream.

It's so messed up, especially... I mean I'm only just recently a father, but every time you hear these stories now you're just instantly like, "What would I do if that were me?"

And I'm obviously not recently a father. 32 years. But I... That's one of those news stories where I legitimately shiver.


And, you know, I'm not going to read the details. I don't want to know. There's nothing I can do about it. It's not going to inform me and change my behaviour anymore.

And it's one of those things, though, it's kind of like a nuclear bomb that's just gone off in the lives of those people. You know, I mean, a murder or a sudden death in a family is effectively that. But imagine having a large portion of your family wiped out. Just gone. It's like Holocaust levels. You think, "Oh my God, three people!"

You can't put yourself in that person's position and understand what the parents and siblings of those children are feeling.

How do you grow up after that? You know, there's three of you children growing up and you're always going to have half of your siblings but they wiped out at the age of 13 and under. In the same place. In the street, in the place we live where we walk past on a daily basis. It's just mind blowing.

Alright next.

Aside from that, we had the Chinese Australians... Well, probably quite a few Australians who aren't Chinese, but a significant number who are Chinese getting evacuated from Hubei Province, Wuhan to Christmas Island. So they're using Christmas Island for everything...

Thanks Liberal National Party.

Do you want to talk about what...

Billions and billions of dollars being spent over the last 20 or 30 years building an offshore detention centre. Christmas Island is part of Australia, but it's actually closer to Indonesia than it is to most of Australia. It's an island out in the Indian Ocean, but it was originally built as a detention centre for what most right wing politicians keep accusing of being illegal immigrants. They're actually not. It's not illegal to come to Australia and to claim that, you know, you want to...

Well, It's illegal for you to stay here without a visa...

To overstay a visa but it's not illegal...

But you should be processed.

Exaclty. It's not illegal to arrive here and say, "I'm a refugee, I'm leaving my country because I fear for my life," and yet so that's how we have been dealing with those people, is just sticking them on Christmas Island. Then it got even more political because it was originally on Christmas Island, because the... It was supposed to be a deterrent that you had not actually arrived on Australian mainland, you were stuck on this offshore island.

Because what was the... The issue was that they... We had a lot of boats coming from Indonesia of people, often from countries like Sri Lanka.

They weren't from Indonesia. They were coming from particularly war zones in other parts of the Middle East and Asia.

Africa, Asia, the Middle East, they'd come to Indonesia. Then they were hiring captains of pretty shoddy boats.

Shoddy old fishing boats.

To come across, that often could only make the journey a few times or one way.

a lot of these fishing boats were, you know, were coastal fishing boats. They were falling apart. The reason they were used to come here is because they knew there was a pretty significant chance of them being detected, detained and the boats destroyed. Yeah. So they didn't want to send their brand new fishing boats that they're actually making money out of. They sent these dodgy old tin cans.

But the Australian government was worried that if the boats arrived on shore they had to treat them differently than if they had caught them in the water.

Yeah. So they stuck them on Christmas Island. And then because Christmas Island is a protectorate of Australia, then it was considered that the they were actually still arriving in Australia.

So we then did deals with Nauru and New Guinea to build detention centres there, which meant that they were not... They hadn't actually officially arrived in Australia, which was interesting, where you kept somebody offshore, you detain them on the basis that you are assuming they are going to illegally, which isn't even illegal, arrive in Australia and then you put them in another country and then you just delay the processing of them. There's been people who've been in them for years...

Well I think the process... The reason was that they're trying to get them to accept going home, right? Yeah, because they could leave. They could go home at any time or they could stay indefinitely in the detention centre.

That's right.

So they're trying to do...

It's the non-processing processing centre.

And it's such a difficult thing to because I think they, and again, I'm not up to date with this sort of stuff, but I think they did show when they really did crack down on the number of boats coming across and what happened to these asylum seekers, refugees putting them on these islands, the word did get back pretty quickly and the boats stopped.

At least significantly reduced a large portion of them. And so you end up with that thing, where you're kind of like, if you do this, fewer people are going to try and come. The human smugglers, human traffickers aren't going to make money off them. They're not going to manipulate them because quite often they're the ones advertising to these people and telling them "we can get you there, blah, blah.Just give us your life savings." You know, and you wouldn't have any people drowning in the ocean through these shoddy boats. But yeah, you're stuck between this hard place, right...

We have hundreds and hundreds of people being detected and detained every year for doing that...

On a daily basis, probably for staying on...

Yeah, hundred of people... These sort of so-called illegal immigrants who are trying to get on dodgy boats in Indonesia or Malaysia and come here. But we have more than 100000 people who have overstayed their visas illegally in Australia and we don't seem to worry too much about them.

So it's okay if you can pay a few hundred to a few thousand dollars and get on a plane and arrive here with a 90 day tourist visa. But it's not okay if you have to pay somebody your entire life savings and go and sit on a boat for 30 days in horrendous conditions and then get taken offshore and then stuck on Nauru.

I guess this is one of those things where it's what the government thinks they can control.

So Christmas Island, we've had sitting there for a long time doing nothing other than the one Sri Lankan family who came here, had already been effectively processed. But we still hadn't made a decision about whether or not they were going to stay here long term or not. They were active members of a community in a country town in Queensland, and then they were arrested for staying here illegally.

And that was such a difficult situation.

Get stuck on Christmas Island. And it was costing us millions of dollars a week to maintain this system. To make is open, to make a point. But now we have a few planeloads of people there as a quarantine station now, for coming out of Wuhan.

It is such a difficult thing. Yeah. With it... In terms of immigration, because obviously a lot of my listeners, if not, you know, that the vast, vast majority of them are trying, they're working their arses off to get to Australia legitimately come here...

To work, study, live.

.And so quite often the ironic thing is that although Australians have staunch opinions on both sides, some people say open the borders and let everyone in, some people say don't let anyone in. Quite often the immigrants and the people that have come to Australia to study etc are the most vociferous that I've found saying, you know, "screw these people, you know, I've worked my ass off to come here. I've done everything I can. I've had to study. I've had to get a PhD. I've had to pay through the nose to stay in Australia. I'm integrating. I'm trying to get to know the culture. And these people get you know, they just shop on the on the shore and then they get a shoe in."

So it's so hard to work out what's fair and what's not fair and what's right and what's not. But I think just try and get here legally. Especially if you're running from a country where you've obviously got problems, but you've gone through several countries that are safe and then you get to... You want to come to Australia because it's a slightly better place than the places you've gone through, that's another issue that's difficult to talk about as well, where you just say, yeah, "You've got to safety."

And look, that whole refugee immigration has clearly got out of control in Europe and Australia is...

When you're coming from Vietnam to get to Britain as a refugee and you're going through...

You've gone though 20 other countries!

And then the group of them die, 40 of them die in the back of a truck because they wanted to get to Britain instead of the 20 other countries...

Instead of not stopping in France.

But it just blows your mind. You're just like, "Guys, what a waste of life, like because you were hedging your bets that you would get to Britain."

And look, the irony is that with the way... Well, up until a week ago, you could have landed in Greece or Turkey. And then if you get accepted there, you can just go and live in Britain. You can't now. But until a week ago you could! And so you didn't need to illegally try to enter Britain. Anyway, yeah. So it's a bit bizarre. So, yeah, that whole immigration thing is obviously not news at the moment. Yeah, but yeah, we are using Christmas Island for something finally worthwhile; As a quarantine station.

Yeah. What else are we up to? There's been travel bans on Chinese students coming back to uni in both Australia and New Zealand.

I think your mum was saying, because she works at Deakin University, she was saying that 40 per cent of the overseas students are blocked from coming. And so the 40% of the overseas students at Deakin I think were Chinese that were in China and can't get back to Australia either to start the next semester or to finish the current one.

And it's even worse than that because a lot of overseas students are living in China, studying at Deakin University, but they're doing it online, but they have to sit exams in China and the examination centres are being shut down because you don't want a thousand people sitting in a room. And so they can't yet they can't come to Australia and they can't stay at home. They just have effectively sitting in limbo from a study point of view.

I'm sure they'll work something out.

They will. But it will just be a delay. It will mean that, you know, they'll have to... But I mean, you're a student a lot more recently than I was. Can you imagine as an undergraduate student who, English is not your first language, you're studying either online or in a classroom, and then they say, well, you can do the exam for this subject in six months time.

What I'm going to do in the meantime?

In the meantime, you're probably studying another subject. So you're going to end up A) doing more exams, but having to retain all of that capability to be able to be examined on something that you're already stressed about...

And you wanted to cram, get it done, slash it out and then bail.

And all of a sudden you can't.

And I think cases of coronavirus up to 25000 and there have been almost 500 deaths. Yeah.

And it's 16 in Australia detected now.

detected cases. Yeah. We've had a bunch in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia. But the fatality rate is still only 2 per cent.. Yeah, which is crazy.

It's way less than SARS and MERS. So clearly it is one of these viruses that we talked about last time. Last time or the time before. It's one of these viruses that is highly contagious. Yeah, but our immune system seems to cope with it, which is not surprising in a sense that because the way viruses evolve, there are going to be some that by random mutation accident are going to be very difficult for our immune systems to cope with.

Others that our immune systems, because it is a version of the common cold, the same group of viruses that our immune systems are very good at dealing with, except if you're probably in some way immune suppressed or you've got a cardiovascular respiratory problems and so on, the people who are more susceptible are likely to be the ones that are going to suffer from it.

So it's just trimming the herd. The weak. It's the lions on the Serengeti plain. Yeah, just taking out the taking out the weak ones.

The ones that can't stay in the middle of the pack.

Do you think it's going to turn into something horrible or do you think it's just one of those things that it's like a flash in the pan, the media gets hold of it.

But it is... Like you can look at it as we're talking about with the Chinese students. You know, we got students who are living thousands of kilometres away in China from the centre of this problem. Yeah. But because it's China they had to... Somebody wants to come from Korea. Not a problem. Yeah. Yeah.

And that's closer to Wuhan than some places in China!

Somebody wants to come from Japan. Not a problem. Well Japan is isolated by, you know, a few hundred kilometres of sea. But you've got to look at and say this is overkill. But at the same time you have to be conservative if you're trying to control epidemics. You don't want to turn an epidemic into a pandemic because you went, "Ah, it's not really a problem. Only 2% of people die." 2% of people is quite a lot still! If suddenly you've got a million people getting it, then 20,000 deaths.

So I understand why people get concerned and I understand that we have to be conservative, but if we look through historically at these sort of big epidemics, then they are not quite flash in the pan. But they come and they go and we handle them and they disappear. We have a flu problem every year, more people around the world every year die of flu than are ever going to die of this coronavirus.

We've had twice as many thereabouts of the deaths from the flu in the last month and a bit than there have been from the coronavirus. About 50000.

Because the flu is going to... everybody gets infected with the flu.

And it's everywhere already, right, it's not spreading. I think we would be shitting ourselves if the flu was confined to a single location and was starting to spread throughout the world. Right. It's kind of one of those things where it's like, "Oh well, it's everywhere."

That's why we have these you know, you get a vaccination for the flu and it contains vaccines for three or four different strains. Yeah. But by the end of the flu season, the flu viruses in your local area will have mutated so that you may not be immune to it. So even having a vaccination isn't going to make you completely immune, but it's certainly going to help you out.

And it also means that your body is going to kill those viruses more quickly and therefore, you're not spreading it. So the vaccinations for flu are, I think, one of those classic ones of, yes, you're doing it to help yourself. But that herd immunity of saying, "Well, if I'm not spreading the virus, then I'm helping the whole community as well."

I think we should probably finish up there for now, dad, I've got a few more stories, so maybe we can do a part two in.

A bit.

We'll have a break and come back. Cool. All right. Awesome. Thanks again for joining us guys and we'll see you in the next one.

Thanks guys, stay tuned for part two!

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