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AE 670 – The Goss: Family Secrets, Trillion-Dollar Companies, & the Pokies in Australia

Learn Australian English in this episode of the Goss where we talk about family secrets, trillion-dollar companies, and the pokies in Australia.

Transcript of AE 670 – The Goss: Family Secrets, Trillion-Dollar Companies, & the Pokies in Australia

What's up, you mob? Welcome to this episode of The Goss, where I sit down with my father, sit down with my old man and talk about this week's Goss. The news, current affairs, what's going on in our lives. Everything like that. So these episodes are all about talking about a wide range of different topics to allow you guys to hear all sorts of different vocabulary, to form your own opinions about these topics as well, and to hear conversations, natural conversations, amongst native speakers of English and how we interact with one another.

Now, if you guys want access to the full videos, the full episodes, the full transcripts, as well as the premium podcast player so that you can listen to the episode and read the text at the same time, don't forget to sign up for the premium podcast at, and you will also get access to all of that and more if you join the academy, which includes hundreds of courses, three times weekly classes with a real English teacher, amongst many other things. So guys, go check that out.

In today's episode, which has been split up into two episodes, so you're probably get one this week and one next week, we talk about a wide, wide range of different topics. We talk about family history and a really interesting story in my family with my father and his parents, how they met... I'll let you listen to that story.

It's a very interesting one. We talk about New Zealand's prime minister and why she is probably the best prime minister in the Western world. We talk about pokies and why they have been shut in Australia and how much money they're saving people every single day at the moment whilst they're closed. We talk about Chernobyl and that there was a massive fire near Chernobyl causing radiation levels to increase like crazy.

We also talk about a mutant enzyme that is being used now to break down plastic bottles and help recycle plastics. We also touch on a few of these covid stories as they're sort of happening in and amongst these other stories we talk about. And then lastly, we talk about a supermarket boss from the supermarket chain called Drakes in South Australia and what he did when a certain hoarder asked for a refund for 5000 rolls of toilet paper. Anyway, guys, without any further ado, let's get into this episode, kick the kookaburra and let her rip.

Hey, guys, welcome to this episode of the Goss. 17... Dad, how are you feeling?

Alright. Alright. It's been a bit of a weird week, really, but just haven't been feeling that good, you know, with the heart and the drugs and things. But, you know, okay. But just, you know, tired, so... Alright now, though, which is good.

And how's lockdown going? You having fun without anyone else around?

Yeah, well, exactly. I've been writing family history. So at some stage in the medium to... Or short to medium term future, you may well get a book with your family history.

How do you go about that? Tell us a little bit about that and, you know, I guess what got you so interested in family history and why are you writing a book about it?

Well, I've been interested in it for a long time because, I mean, my grandfather, my mother's father, lived with us when we were kids for the last 10 or so years of his life and he was always telling stories about his family and so on. And you sort of get sucked into those, you know, old time stories.

And then when he died, that sort of disappeared for a while. And then my parents both died in their 60s and I sort of realised when my mother died, and I was only 40 years old, that I'm now the oldest person in the family.

Directly. You're the oldest of all your siblings.

Other than my half sister, who's twelve years older than me. But she has no knowledge of either branch of the family, really, because my father left her and her mother when she was a baby.

I was going to I was going to say, do you want to tell that story? Are you comfortable talking about that on the podcast?

That's fine...

Well, you mention whatever you're comfortable with but it definitely was a very interesting story. I'll let you tell it.

Yeah. Well, you know, my father was considerably older than my mother. He was seventeen and a half years older than my mother. And he had been married previously. He was married before the Second World War. And then he served in the Air Force during the Second World War for the whole war. And had a baby right at the end of the war. 1945. And then within a year had split up from his wife and then they were ultimately divorced.

And then he came to Australia. And so he really didn't see his wife and child again after she was about two years old. And so all we knew as children growing up was that she existed, that he had been married previously and had a child. We knew nothing else about her and she knew nothing.

But I remember after mum died, getting all of the family papers and bits and pieces together, and finding his divorce papers from his previous wife and a photograph of a young child, a young girl, that he carried around in his wallet. and I sort of put two and two together and assumed that must be her. And then I started tracking her down.

We knew her name, but it was a reasonably common name and searching through the British phone book for people of that name, there were 67 people with her name and I wasn't going to start cold-calling everybody on that list.

And of course, it may well be that she had remarried and so on. And that was all... By the time I got to that I'd already worked that she had been married and I knew her married surname and so I started looking there. But I said that was 67 people with that surname.

So I knew nothing else about her, other than that. But I employed a people-finder in the UK, and it cost me 50 pounds, and he found her within a few weeks. Ended up... We were backwards and forwards with me giving him more information because the first few things that he tried he just struck out but ended up finding her and I ended up calling her and just saying, "Hey, you know, was Ron Smissen, who was my father's name before he got divorced. He changed his name after he came to Australia. And was he your father?" And she said "Yes" and it went on from there.

That's so crazy that you effectively had no idea you had a half sister for your entire life until after your mother died, right.

Well, I knew that she had existed, but for all I know... I didn't know anything about it because dad knew nothing about it since she was 2. So I knew she had been born and that was all I knew. And she knew nothing about us.


Because obviously she'd had nothing to do with it. So I think it was more of a shock to her because I'd obviously known at least about her, conceptually. But she had always assumed that he had left and probably had another family but didn't actually know anything. And she said, "All the sudden, I've got a brother, two sisters, nieces and nephews."

Wow. It just seems so crazy, so tragic, too, because obviously with your father, I don't know how much... I mean, so with my grandfather. I don't know how much my grandmother knew, but everything died with him, right, effectively. Like the reasons why he did that. What happened with his ex-wife back in Britain. Because there was an interesting aspect to that story, too, right, where you think that you've... First learned about the story. Okay, he abandoned his family, he came out to Australia, he got remarried. Never talked about them. Never once saw them ever again.

Never communicated with them in any way.

And that blows my mind, having obviously Noah as a 10-month old, just to think about what would it take for me to uproot and, say, go to England and never, ever, ever talk to Kel or Noah or about them, or want to come back and see them again, what would have to happen, right? You never get to know.

No, exactly. It's scary. And the fact that he carried her... A picture of her around with him for the rest of his life.

Because that's making your life harder, right, because you're obviously reminding yourself of her.

There was something there. But he, you know, he obviously abandoned them. A bit weird.

But that was the story, because there was another interesting aspect to it, right, where she pretty quickly after the divorce ended up marrying... Was that a friend of his or something?

Well, yeah, the whole divorce saga is another one. And that's probably what I've been writing about in the chapter on dad in the book that I'm writing is... Because I've got his divorce papers and I've got his... The easiest way to put it is his wife sued for divorce on the grounds that he was having an affair with another woman.

Which was the only way for her to get a divorce in the time, right. You couldn't just say, "We're not getting along. We're getting a divorce."

Exactly. Yeah. There was no such thing as no-fault-divorce. And that woman's husband was suing for divorce on the grounds that his wife was having an affair with my father. Well, it was this dual thing. The interesting part of it is that those two divorce papers were submitted to the court two days apart.

And so you've got to assume there was a bit of collusion going on here. And that my father's ex-wife, and the ex-husband of the woman my father was accused of having an affair with, got married less than a year later. So you never know. And we will never know. It's something I'm not even going to talk to my sister about because she might never know.

What would you put money on, though? If you were to say, "I reckon this is what happened." what do you think would have happened?

Well, you can never discount anybody having affairs with somebody else. But it just seems far too convenient, for me, that the outcome was that the two people who are suing for divorce ended up together, but it may well have been that, you know, who knows..? I don't know whether they knew each other, whether they were friends or whatever. It may well have been the case. So the two options... Well the three options are that it happened exactly like the paper say it happened.

The second one is that it was a complete set up in a sense that the four of them just agreed, "Well, this is going to happen. You two want to stay together, we're out of it." But the easiest thing to do, particularly if dad was already, you know, he was on his way out, he was already planning to leave the country by then. He probably would have said, "Well just blame me. I'm out." Or the third one is that it happened just the way they said it happened and these two just got together afterwards. So we'll never know. But it's an interesting part of your family history as well as mine.

And because he changed his name, right, because he hated his mother.

Well, I don't know whether it was because he hated his mother. He certainly never got along with his mother. And he didn't see here from the time he was about, I think from the time he would have been in his 20s or early 30s. But he did change his name. But ironically, he didn't change his surname. And with such an unusual surname that we have, not like he was untraceable.

And in the end, it was is... Not downfall, but it was, in the end, it came back to haunt him because his sister, who moved to Australia years after he did with her second family, just looked up the Melbourne phone book. She didn't live in Melbourne, but she was looking up somebody's name in the Melbourne phone book back in the days when we had phone books and found a name, 'Smissen.'.

It was the only one in the Melbourne phone book, but it wasn't... It was C.J. Smissen, whereas his initials were originally R.E. Smissen. And she just rang and he answered the phone. And they immediately knew each other. So, you know, if he changed his surname to Smith, nobody would ever have found him.

So do you think a big thing about family history and the reason so many people get sucked into it later in life is because people want to know where they've come from, but also that families, once you go back generations, end up being so big that you're almost always likely to find something interesting, right?

Oh, yeah. You'll always find either the skeletons in the cupboard or the... You know, on your mother's side, your mother's doing her family history a lot at the moment and she's found royalty. You are descendant from William the Conqueror.

Drop some names, because mum keeps doing it every other day.

And, yeah, the first king of Scotland.

Rollo the Viking, apparently, too.

That's... You've just got everything in there. But that's inevitable once you... Not necessarily that you have a direct line to William the Conqueror, but you're going to be related to a whole lot of royalty and aristocracy as soon as you have one person you're related to in the medieval aristocracy, because they were so incestuous, not necessarily directly incestuous as in marrying their cousins, but in a sense that they only ever married into other wealthy aristocratic families, and there are only so many of them to go around.

It is pretty weird to think that I'm related to them, but at the same time I remember looking up online, you know, "How many generations do I have to go back before I'm effectively equally related to every single person in that population at the time," right. And it's, I think, like only 25, 30 generations.

Well it's... I think, from the top... Off the top of my head, you are the 27th cousin to Prince William, who is the second in line for the king.

And so what does that make me, like, billionth in line for the throne?

So, you know, that's... Yeah, you're right. Yeah. And there will be millions of other people around the world who have had the same relationship. But that's it, is what it is. But the other thing about being interested in family history was there's the personal interest of, you know, what I'm interested in and what I like and what I think about it. But it's also, now, looking at it, saying, "Well, I wish that my grandparents had written down more about what they knew."

So this is an opportunity for me to write for my grandchildren, for Noah and Isabel and others as they will come. But... And so I'm writing it in the form of a letter to my grandchildren as in, you know, this is what I know about the family and they may or may not ever be interested, but at least it's documented for them. Whereas if they are interested and it's not documented, then they've got a whole lot of digging and they can only dig for what has been documented. You can't dig for old family stories.

Yeah. It is interesting. I don't know ever... I've only recently felt the urge, felt the pull towards learning more about family history. But I think that's coupled with wanting to learn more about Australian history. And once you get into it, you start learning about the stories of people's lives and you realise just how many... How many billions of people have lived interesting lives in the past, right. And it's just... Yeah, it's funny how it takes you probably past your 30s, right, before you start really caring about your family's history or about history in general. You don't find many young people who are like, "Yeah, I just love early Australian history."

"I just want to know about what my great grandparents were doing."

I wanted to talk about this today before we get into the news. Do you think... When I was interviewing Adam Courtney about his book, 'The Ghost...


... And the Bounty Hunter,' which I think is up over here somewhere. Somewhere anyway. But he was saying he was... He would always fight with his father, Bryce Courtney, who's a famous Australian author who wrote a lot of historical fiction about whether or not fiction is better than reality. About the non-fiction. And I want to know your two cents on this, because mine is that I think now I'm much more interested in real stories and non-fiction and history than fiction itself because they tend to be much more fascinating, much more complicated, mostly grey, not black and white.

And, you know, I think that's probably something where you have those two kinds of people, those who can sort of reconcile and deal with that complexity and that difficulty of digestion of those sorts of stories, and then those who are like, "I want everything tied up in a nice little pink bow. I don't want to be left at the end of a story thinking, 'what did I just read? Who's bad? Who's good?' Questioning myself. I want to know that's the villain. That's the good guy." So, yeah... Long question. But do you think fiction is better than non-fiction or vice versa?

Yeah, I think there's a place for both. Some of my favourite Australian stories have come from what I would call fact-tion, and that is people who are writing fiction, but they are incorporating actual events and real people into it. And then... So they're interpreting what was going on at those times, but they're doing it in a fictional mode, as in the primary characters are fictional.

I guess it gets difficult, too, with that, because it's a kind of continuum, right?

Yes, it is.

Everything from where... Okay, we have the dot points of what happened in this story, but we don't have conversations, we don't have exact, you know, interactions, but we'll insert those. All the way to something like Game of Thrones where it's kind of like, "This is 99% fiction, but you can see..."

It's inspired by real events, but they don't reference those real events.

But you can tell, "Okay. So this guy is obviously a massive history buff in Britain...


... And he's just based all of these stories and interactions on characters or events in real life."

Yeah. There's one series of books which... I'm always reluctant to start a sentence with 'you should,' but you should read by Vivian Stewart. It's a 12 book historical saga on basically one family who came to Australia in the First Fleet, or one of them came to Australia in the First Fleet. It's fictional, but all of the events in it are based around actual things that happened.

And Vivian Stewart, the author, is a military historian. And so she's got a history background and she obviously has studied the times and the events very well. And so you get a pretty good idea of what was going on at that time. But she describes them in a way using fictional characters as the main protagonists in the story, so that's good. The other thing is, and I haven't read Adam Courtney yet. And I'll get a hold of them from you and read at some stage but...

Well, you won't have to because he asked me if he could send a book to anyone that I knew and it should be arriving in the next day or two in your letterbox.

Thank you. Oh, thank you, Pete. And thank you, Adam. But that style of writing, which is more fact based, but interpreting, which I'm assuming is the way he writes, and another person's name I'll give you when I've got a few of her books is Carol Baxter, who is an Australian author, and she writes mostly Australian stories that are...

And again, she's a historian, and she writes them from the perspective of saying, "I'm going to tell this person all these events story in an historical way," but she writes them like they are fiction because her opinion is that if you just write history and you really, you know, you're writing effectively a non-fiction book about history, it's less readable to a general audience than if you write the story and you have conversation. And so the conversation, and the stuff that you include, is made up, but it's interpreted from real events. And the personalities are not just invented, they're based on documentary evidence and so on.

Well another really interesting examples, this guy, right. Peter FitzSimons, who writes books about Australian history and he gets the diaries and the letters and everything... This is the book behind me that you gave me for Christmas, I think.


And he... The interesting thing he does is he'll change everything into the present tense as if it's being spoken in the moment and you're on that journey.

And that's what Carole Baxter does. She writes... It reads like fiction, but it's all factual.

So where do you sort of sit on that continue and then? Okay, if it's not black and white and it's a continuum?

I like all of it. I must say that I'm more... Being a historian a bit as well, and having studied history, I'm more in line with the fact-tional towards factual. Fiction's fine and I don't mind fiction, but what I don't... What I find irritating is where fiction is effectively grabbing bits of history but not paying any attention to whether the history is correct or not.


Yeah. They drop into events and they refer to things, but they get them wrong or they misinterpret those sort of things. It's a bit like my opposition to science fiction where the science is wrong. I don't mind you making up science if you're going to write science fiction, but don't get real science wrong.

Well you want to be fooled, right. The whole point of especially fiction is to trick you into believing, to being caught in the story where it's kind of like the inverse of meditating, where the voice goes quiet in your head, right. You want to be so absorbed in the thing that ideas is reality and you don't realise that you're yourself in that moment.

And then when they impose a reality that conflicts with it...


... It gets a bit... For me, it just gets irritating. So yeah, I don't mind pure fiction and I don't mind that fact-tion through to factual history. And so I lean on the factual.

I get so irritated these days with Hollywood because it seems like they have to pander to the simple majority and make everything easy. And so all the good guys are 100% good. All the bad guys are 100%. And I think this is why Game of Thrones is probably so successful, because it was Fifty Shades of Grey. Yeah, it was... It's like, "Oh, my God, this is so complex." And I think it showed people how you don't have to be afraid of complexity. You can actually really enjoy the fact that you can't decide if someone is good or bad or if they are liable to change, right. And I watch recently... I just did an episode, a Walking with Pete episode, on Tiger King. Have you seen that yet on Netflix?

I haven't. I've seen it keeps popping up as 'you must watch,' but I haven't seen it.

Anyway, I won't give you any spoilers, but it's one of those reality-is-stranger-than-fiction examples of just... You couldn't write this. The characters are so complex. They're so crazy. The weirdest shit happens that you could just... If someone wrote this and said it was just a fiction story, you'd be like, "This is ridiculous." But the fact that it's real allows it to be ridiculous. And you're just like, "Hang onto your hats."

Yeah, well, in fact, I've just finished writing the chapter on my father in this book and that's the closing line in the chapter, is that if I had written this as a fiction script for television, they'd send it back to me and say, "This is not believable. Nobody would believe it." But it is where you just... This shit happens. And in fact, there's a whole lot of stuff that I've left out, not deliberately, but because it's related to nieces and nephews and so on, that you just let it go, "No, that's even more weird."


Anyway. So, yeah, getting back to that sort of history and... Oh sorry, the television part of it. One of the things that, as you say, I like about television is if... Even for TV like soap opera type TV, and you know I'm hooked on Heartland, the Canadian TV series set in the foothills in Alberta. And it's nicely written and even the characters say it's good, wholesome television. You know, there's no violence, there's no sex, there's no murder or whatever. There's a lot of...


Yeah, but all of the characters are flawed. And so there is constant conflict because they screw up. And so... Even you can write that sort of middle-of-the-road family stories, but write them in an interesting way. It doesn't have to be, "But everything is over-dramatic or violent or R-rated." And I had no opposition to writing like that, or watching TV or movies like that either but you can do interesting stuff without making them...

You know, I was going to say Disney, but Disney is good at that, too. Disney will do programs made for kids, but there are usual twists and a little bit of evil thrown in because in any story, if you're writing any story, you've got to have twists and tension, even if you're writing them for a three year old. The three year old is going to get pretty bored if everything goes the right way all the time.

Well, I mean like the Lion King, right?


You watch that and you watch Scar and you're just like... Especially as an adult, you're like, "Dude, this is fucked up. Why are we showing this to our kids?"

And The Little Mermaid, which is about, you know... It's about as nice and plain a fairy tale as you can imagine, but it's got Ursula the witch in it.

Who effectively cripples a girl, right. Like, takes her legs away and makes her a mermaid. Or vice versa.

Anyway, onto the news!

Yeah. Did you get any new interesting stories this week? I got a bunch.

Yeah, there's a few consequential C word things, but I'm trying to avoid...

We can leave that to the end. I've got a bunch as well.

One of the consequences is Virgin Australia, the airline, has suspended its shares on the stock market because they think they're going to go broke. So they've put a seven day suspension on trading on their shares, pending an announcement. And there's a whole lot of chatter around the sort of news and social media about, you know, should the government bail them out? And if they do, bail them out, under what circumstances? And about... Interestingly, now, about 50% of the discussion is the sort of line that I sit on and say, "I don't mind the Australian government buying them out, but then the Australian government should own the airline."


And if they... They might not own it forever, but if they can own it, sit on it for however long it takes to get it back up and running and then resell it, then we make money out of it. Whereas if we just say, "Here's your half a billion dollars just to keep you going for the next couple of years," and we see nothing out of it, then all the government has done is propped up a private enterprise to keep running, which is not a bad thing.

But, you know, it's more interesting that I think now people are getting on board saying, yeah, "We don't mind if the government has to bail out, you know, we're already down the toilet for about a quarter of a trillion dollars in Australia in terms of government spending to bail people out." But when you're looking at really big companies and, you know, Virgin Australia, yes, it's an independent company, but it is owned by Virgin. It's a huge multi-hundred billion dollar company worldwide. And so why should Australia be bailing them out when the parent company is not going to do the same?

Well, and if you start doing that, isn't that the beginning? Because Qantas is going to be like, "Okay, we want the same." And, you know, you're going to have all these other businesses. Like at what point? Because the government can do that, but ultimately it's us paying, right. And if we're not going to get anything out of it because the government gets nothing out of it, you're just screwing us over even further at the moment.

And I guess their only incentive to do it would be to maintain the jobs at that business, right. Okay, so Virgin hires thousands of people if we give them half a billion dollars or whatever, it keeps those people in jobs. But at what cost, right? If you've put those people into debt at the same time, or the whole of Australia...

Yeah. Exactly.

The thing with Virgin's weird.

Another one's come up. Well, two quickies. Amazon, hardly a surprise given the way the world looks today, Amazon has just become the world's first trillion dollar company.

Really? What pushed them over? How did they make money in this climate?

Their profit has gone up about 40% in the last month because everybody's buying things online.

Should've put some money in those shares, Dad.

Yeah, well, you know, the other one... And speaking of which, the other one... The other regret I have is... And at the time it was... It's a regret without a solution because at the time it was impossible to buy Apple shares when they got floated on the New York Stock Exchange because you couldn't buy foreign shares.

You still can't, but you can now buy into shareholdings that are holding those shares, but you couldn't do easily at the time. But Apple have just launched a second generation iPhone SE, which is going in at the bottom of the market. Still the bottom of the market that will turn out to be about $800 Australian. But it's better than $2,000.

Is that to target other countries like India?

No, I think it's... The way it's being announced, and this was from The Guardian which is a UK based paper, but it's the Guardian Australia. The way it's been announced is that they are trying to grab some of the bottom end of the market again because they cost themselves why out of the ordinary person's hands. I mean, a new iPhone 11 S Pro or 11 X Pro is $2,500 Australian.

This was $1,800 when I got it. I couldn't believe it.

I was the same and I've got the smaller version of it. This is the same as yours except you've got... Yours is the 10 Pro, isn't it?

I can't even remember.

It doesn't matter. Yeah. And so it's a ridiculous amount of money for a phone.

It's the same as my laptop kind of thing.

Exactly. Well, you can buy a laptop cheaper than you can buy a phone. And so, yeah, it's interesting that they've decided that they can come in at the bottom of the market. And what they've done is that they've modelled it on the old iPhone 5 but with the new technology in it. So yeah, it's smaller phone. It won't have as many functions in it, but smaller phone that fits in your pocket easily and so on.

I still have an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 6 I use the audio recording and flying a drone when I'm out filming. I carry three iPhones with me. One I film on and use four apps. One I use for the drone and one I use for audio recordings because I can't find an audio recording device smaller than an iPhone 5.

I had a question. I was watching recently videos about what life was like in the VOC, so in the Dutch East India Company and also the English, or the British India Company. Why were those companies worth so much? Because when I was watching this breakdown of the value of VOC, in particular, the Dutch East India Company, it was worth, in today's money, 7.8, 7.9 trillion dollars. So you could take the world's 50 biggest companies, including Apple and Amazon and the VOC, at the time, proportionately, was way bigger. Why was the VOC at the time so huge, so successful?

Spices. That was it.

Where was the money? Like, I don't understand. Was the average person just consuming spices like water, or..?

No, no. Spices were so valuable in comparison. Pepper... In the 16th century, pepper was more valuable than gold by mass.

Why? Is it just because there was so little of it and people wanted..?

It was very hard to get because you couldn't... It's a tropical plant and it grew in the East Indies and... Now what we call Indonesia. At the time, they were called the Spice Islands for obvious reasons. And it was not just pepper. They were 20 or 30 spices that were being used and they were being used in a few ways. And the... Curry comes from that South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. And mostly these spices, they were being used to preserve meat because you couldn't... There's no freezers and no refrigeration.

But if you cooked meat with these spices, it would effectively preserve it. And so you could cook meat up and then it would last for a week or more without having to be refrigerated. And it tasted good as well. And that's the other thing. Salt was easy. Everybody had always had salt because it literally grows in the sea.

All you had to do was just pick up a bit and let it evaporate or dig it up off the bottom of the pan. Whereas these other spices to change the flavour of food. And so they were the biggest commodity in the world. It was worth... Particularly the Dutch and the British, but the Portuguese and the Spanish and the French, they were all trying to get in on the act of sending ships out to get holds full of spices.

Yeah, because it just blew my mind when I heard those numbers, you know, the equivalent of 7.- trillion dollars in today's money because there is no company except maybe Amazon, now, that's worth more than 1 trillion dollars. And you can imagine the amount of trade that Amazon does worldwide currently. To think that there was a company back then doing the equivalent of seven to eight times that, in value at least, is just like "What?" And that was 400 years ago.

Yeah, exactly.

Insane. I wanted to ask you... So I saw that that Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, has taken a 20% pay cut due to the Corona virus pandemic. Why is Jacinda Ardern seen as such a good prime minister?

She is.

And what's the relationship between her and, you know, how Australians view our own prime minister?

Yeah, well, that's a loaded question, obviously. But I Jacinda Ardern is one of the great leaders in the world. It is such a shame, and look, you know, the 4.5 Million New Zealanders would obviously disagree with me, but it is such a shame that she is a New Zealander.

Do you mean that they would disagree with you?

They would disagree with me.

A good prime minister, or that..?

Not that she's a good prime minister, but that she grew up in New Zealand. I think she is the world's great leader at the moment in this part of the 21st century. And it's just she reacts to everything in a way that, you know, it's that pub test that we talked about a few episodes ago. Most people would sit in the pub and go... It doesn't matter which side of politics you sit on. You just sit there and go, "Yeah, we like her. Yeah."

Is it easy for her to do the right thing because New Zealand is so small?

No, I think it's actually harder because they're... New Zealand's economy is so sensitive to the rest of the world that, you know, New Zealand really has two things. It's got sheep and it's got tourism. And, you know, at the moment, tourism is down the toilet. Nobody is flying into New Zealand or flying within New Zealand. They've locked down as hard, if not harder than Australia has with the Covid-19.

Well, they announced the ban on Chinese flight at the same time we did. So they were on it, even before they had any problems.

And she just seems to get it. It's one of those things where every decision she makes, you just sit there and, "Yeah. That passes the pub test. Yep. That makes sense." And, look, her taking a 20% pay cut is insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time the Australian parliament had a bill in front of it to increase the parliamentary salaries, which I actually don't mind. Increasing parliamentary salaries is fine. I think we underplay our politicians which is why we get shitty ones.

You reckon? You think we'd get better ones with more money?

I think we would.

I guess I could go either way.

It could. I don't think anybody goes into politics for the money.

The evil people in the world get out of bed just as motivated as the good ones, dad.

I know. I know.

But look, that aside... And look, you know, at the moment, parliament isn't sitting. So nothing's happening with those bills. But our current prime minister, and I say current because I can't imagine he's going to survive this.

Do you think he's going to get axed or do you think he'll get voted out? Like, do you think his own political party are going to say, "Yeah, you're losing us. The ship's sinking." So they're going to put someone else in his place.

Obviously, we've held both sides of the political spectrum. We've had a circus of that happening for the last 20 years.

Put that in a nutshell, because it's been, quite simply, fucked up in terms of how many switches...

This is completely random, I'm not a political scientist, so I don't remember these data are off the top of my head. But I think there have been two prime ministers in the last 20 years who have been re-elected. Every other one of them is either lost an election or been dumped before the next election. And so we have this sort of constant changing of leadership.

We had Kevin Rudd was the one that was voted in in 2007 as Labour prime minister. He was axed. Julia Gillard. She lost to Tony Abbott?

No. Julia Gillard was one of those people that won an election, but she wasn't elected previously. So she had been sort of nominated by her party because we have... Just to explain to your, or our, listeners, we have this system, the system of politics... The parliamentary politics that we have is that we do not vote for a prime minister. We vote for a local representative.

And the government is made up of the team that gets the most local representatives elected. And so if you get more than 50%, you can govern in your own right, and that party then votes for the person that they want to lead. So clearly they have already voted for that. The leader of the party is either the prime minister or the leader of the opposition or the leader of a minor party. And they become the prime minister by their party getting the most votes.

Do you think that's a good system in comparison to the American system where you vote on the president?

Yeah, well, the American system has the president that sits above the equivalent of ours. They have two houses of parliament as well. But they have a president that sits above that. We have no equivalent to that. Our head of state is the queen and the queen has a representative in Australia; the Governor-General. But we don't vote for them. The queen is the queen. That's by... It's by royal descent that you become king or queen.

And the only way for us is to get a president would be to become our own republic through referendum or something, right?

Exactly. And then... And that was why the referendum on whether we become a republic or not failed the last time it propped up about 20 years ago, now...

I think it was around 2000, wasn't it?

Hard to remember that. Probably before that. But, you know, regardless, it failed because John Howard, who was the prime minister at the time, and a staunch monarchist and anti-republican, he was smart enough to split the vote of the republicans by offering more than one option for how we set up a republic and how we vote for a president or how we elect a president.

And so you can't... If you've got one opposition and two or three alternatives, and the majority were voting on them as a first past the post, then... And in fact, nobody won. And that was the point. The referendum failed. Nobody got a majority because you need a two thirds majority in Australia to change the constitution. And that's the only way we can change the constitution is by having a referendum. So you need two thirds majority in the majority of states.

And as we only have six states, then you effectively need two thirds of two thirds, which becomes very difficult to achieve, which is why we've got so few changes to our constitution in history. Whereas in America, they've got changes all over the place, because if you've got 50 states that all have equal rights, then it's much easier to get something through than when you've only got six, as we do in Australia. But that's an aside. So, yes, so that whole republican debate failed because you split the yes vote and, you know, there's no way one of those was going to get up.

But yes, getting back to our current prime minister and his capacity to handle the situation, he just seems to be fluffing around. We're fortunate, as I think we've mentioned last time or the time before, we're fortunate that at least we have a premier who is the leader of the parliament in the states.

The premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, and the premier of New South Wales who are the two biggest states, they've got more than half the population of the country in those two states, who seem to be leading the way and saying... And they are proposing and have set much tighter and more stringent things than the prime minister is wanting to do. And in fact, it came out yesterday where Daniel...

Yesterday was the first day back at school for, and it was one of my other big news items; first day back at school in Victoria since the school holidays when they had the lock-down was occurring, and Daniel Andrew's position was, "We need to keep everybody at home. If you can study at home, stay at home." And the same day we have the prime minister and the federal minister for education coming out saying, "If you can go to school, go to school."

And you just sit there and go, "Seriously?" The federal government actually has nothing to do with that because schools, state schools, are run by states, funnily enough, federal government are funding them. But the state schools make their, or the state systems make their own decisions on these things.

And yet we've got a prime minister and the federal education minister coming out saying, "No, go back to school, you're better off there." At the same time as the prime minister declaring that they are not going to sit in parliament because it's too dangerous. So having a thousand kids in a small space, all locked in rooms of 25, apparently isn't dangerous, but having a couple of hundred adults spaced around the Parliament House is too dangerous.

Maybe based on age, right? There haven't been many deaths in the under 18 levels.

Yeah, but none in Australia. I think the youngest person in Australia who died was 60.

So the other story I had here was 'Keep the Pokies Shut.' Australians are saving 38 million dollars a day because the pokies are currently shut indefinitely.

There was a gag going around Facebook last week that said, "With the with the pokies shut off, we've got 700..." I think at the time they said a 780 million dollar contribution to social welfare in that state. And that was just in Victoria.

Yeah. Yeah. Community stimulus of $800 million.


0.8 Billion dollars because the pokies are shut. It's just crazy, I had no idea. I was reading this article and the pokies are estimated to bring in 14 billion dollars this year, which may have now been cut down to 10 billion, only, across Aussie pubs, clubs, casinos. Do you want to talk a bit about the pokies, what they are and why they're so prevalent across Australia? Because they do seem to be a dodgy side, right? I didn't realise the NRL are owned wholly as a subsidiary of the pokies industry.


Like, what?

That's a consequence of a bit of history that... Remind me if I get distracted and don't get back to that one, but yeah, look, poker machines, which we didn't invent in Australia. They're an American invention.

What are they called there? Slot machines?

Yeah, slot machines and so on. You're effectively... It used to be coins. Now, you don't even do that. Now you just prepay. And, you know...

How would you describe what they are? You put money into a machine and then something spins..?

You used to pull a lever. Now you just press a button and the machine spins around a bunch of wheels in them and you've got to line up the particular tokens or icons in the thing. They used to be... Often they were called fruit machines because the little rotating wheels would have different sorts of fruit. And if you've got all five of them lined up, you won a jackpot. And so you'd win... Used to be you'd win whatever money was in the machine, but now there is no money in the machine. So it's just a standard...

Gives you a ticket.

Yeah. Yeah. "Hey you win a thousand dollars, go to the cashier and get a cheque."

But there's screwed up because they're programmed intentionally to only give out 87% of what they take in.

I think it's between 87 and 92, depending on what regulations there are in different states and different territories.

So you literally can't win. You could win on a short-term basis on a short basis, but on a long term, you're going to lose 8% to 13%

So yes, I used to gag about it with my cousin who used to work in the industry. He worked for a company that made them. And I used to gag with him that I'd be better off, walking into a pub with one hundred dollars, buying a drink, leaving a $9 tip on the counter and walking out. At least I would have had a drink and I'd go out with $85 in my hand. But yes, so it is gambling machines, and they used to be banned in every state in Australia except for New South Wales, which is why the NRL is so in bed with them.

Because all of the major... Even non... The National Rugby League is now out of New South Wales, but used to be the New South Wales Rugby League. Even non-league teams would have poker machines in their club rooms. It was a way of the clubs making money. So the Big Leagues clubs, as they were called and still are, which came from rugby league clubs, sporting clubs. But they made their money out of having members who would just go and play machines. And so they're like big pubs. And so you could walk in...

And the pubs then jumped up and down and said, "Well, if the clubs can have them, why can't we?" And they did the same thing. And then Victoria and Queensland and other states went, "Well in New South Wales can have it, we should be able to have it." And the state governments folded and said, "Alright, you can." And so now every pub, every club, you walk into the local bowling club, and they'll have a bar with, you know, one beer tap and they'll have a room full of pokies.

So they're making their money not on selling food or alcohol. They're making it out of people gambling because obviously the people... The companies that own the machines are taking a cut. But the premises that they are on is taking a significant cut from the losses that the people are suffering as well. So it really is just a donation scheme to private enterprise and clubs.

Well, it's a tax on the poor, right?

Yeah. And then they're paying an enormous amount of tax as well, so... Sorry, because both the clubs and the proprietors play pay an enormous amount of tax to have them there. And so there's a... It's a really difficult thing to break down now because the proprietors of the locations in which these things are sitting really want to continue it, because that's...

That they're making almost their entire profit from those machines. The people who are going to them clearly enjoy them, even if they're losing money. The government doesn't want to turn them over because it's one of the single biggest tax revenues in every state. And so it's a sort of a no-win situation in the sense that the punters don't win and, you know, we're never going to get rid of them because everybody else wants to keep them there.

Nobody agrees that they are a good thing. I don't think anybody, even the proprietors, apart of the people who manufacture them, but they only think they're a good thing because they make money. I don't think many governments want them in, but they can't afford not to now because there's a huge tax revenue.

Why is it that I can play the pokies, I can bet on horse racing and dog racing, I can bet on any sports, really, and I can also buy Tattslotto tickets, but I can't play Russian roulette unless I go to a casino?

Russian roulette? You don't want to be playing that.

Russian roulette, or is it 'roulette,' rather?

Russian roulette is with the single bullet where you put one in and you spin it. That's actually illegal too, but...


Well... But you can't even play cards with your friends and have money on the table. That's illegal.

What's the deal there?

Well it's because of this... It came out of the late 19th century and early 20th century where gambling was associated with organised crime. And so all of that gambling... Because gambling was always seen as evil. And it went with alcohol and prostitution and everything else. So it came down to being...

It was just part of organised crime. And so the only way that you could gamble legally was to do it with an organisation that was registered. So horse racing, you know, you could go and bet with bookmakers on... Yeah, that was the other bizarre thing, is that back in the old days with horse racing, and they still exist; the off course bookmakers.

You always had people in pubs taking bets on horse races, which was illegal. But the same person could walk onto, and if they were registered bookmaker, you could walk onto a racetrack and you could make the same bet with the same person and it was legal. Even if they are a registered bookmaker, they weren't allowed to be off track to do it. And then we had things like the TAB that came in, which was effectively a licensed bookmaker, where you could just walk into a shopfront and make a bet. And now, of course, almost entirely that sort of betting is just online through apps on your phone. And so... But it's...

It came from that idea that in order to remove organised crime, or at least to remove gambling from organised crime, the governments around the world, and it wasn't just Australia, set up legal and registered gambling organisations. And then they just banned every other form of gambling. And so the whole, you know... Your friends sitting around a table playing blackjack and poker with a few 10 and 20 cent pieces on the table... Yeah, you're effectively breaking the law, which is just a bit bizarre.

So it is sort of like the war on drugs with cannabis that we were talking about in a previous episode and how that was outlawed initially because of racist reasons, trying to crack down on, you know, interracial relations and that it was a Mexican or African-American thing in the jazz clubs and everything. But that got turned over. Is this just a... It's just been left because no one cares enough to try and make..?

Well, I don't know. I think... I mean, I don't mind the fact that that gambling is regulated. And again, it's one of those things now that it was never set up as a tax haven or way of governments making tax. But now that they are, they're not going to overturn it. They're not going to suddenly go, "Oh, well, all of these, you know, poker machines and registered gambling companies that are operating through apps on your phone and stuff. We're not going to shut them down, even though we think that they're a cost to our society because they make so much money out of them."

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