October 24, 2005

Tasmanian Timber

Tasmania is a place where people take the time to enjoy the passing of time. Wew spent a breif weekend enjoying the food, the views, and the trail of lovely old wooden boats.

The great surprise of travelling around Tasmania is the ease and speed you can travel from one place to another. Having stepped off a flight to Hobart i took little over an hour to collect a hire-car and arrive in the small town of Triabunna. I felt like I had left my world beind entirely, finding myself immersed in this small village and it's little fleet of fishing boats.

With the help of a local boat builder I learned a few things about cray fishing and some of the reasons a man chooses to spend days at sea alone. In the same way I flew to Tasmania to escape the city, these fishermen motor out to sea and enjoy some quality time alone. Driving further north you can quickly find yourself along the Great Oyster Bay and the magnificent Freyicnet National Park. It's all too easy.

The next day I collected my other half in Hobart. Breakfast was a definite highlight when we ventured down to Elizabeth St Pier and enjoyed a little cafe indulgence. The view of the warfes and coves was almost matched by the cosmopolitan cuisine - some brilliant winter sunshine giving the scenery top marks on the day.

With little fuss we managed to navigate south to the town of Franklin, a town on the shores of the Huon River where the community celebrates the tradition of timber boats. Franklin is home to the Wooden Boat School. The foreshore is a serene environment to promote the education of things wooden, and travellers to the Huon Valley are encouraged learn a little about the heritage and skill of the timber boat builders craft.

One of the students who currently attends the school was indeed himself a traveller on holiday, just passing through. Kelvin Aldred was so impressed with the centre that he decided on a career change, coming back a year later to begin work on a a yacht. When she launches this December he will be 57. It seems that time moves gently in Tasmania, and age is no barrier to acheivement.

We time the journey onwards in minutes not hours. Heading back across the other side of the Huon River we journey to Kettering. The picturesque nature of this village preceeds itself but I was still taken with silence when I saw for myself what charm she holds. The hillsides ease gently down towards the shore and embrace the village and the various little bays with their yachts in the water.

Several places of exceptional note offer views of the area and neighbouring Bruny island. High quality food and some of Australia's best wines are on offer here too. If there's one thing Tasmania does well it's combine sights and delights.

As the day drew near we knew we had to head closer to Hobart and our awaiting flight home, but there are some places you visit that you know you will return to. Tasmania is special that way.

Wooden Boat Centre

Kettering in The Age Travel Guide

Wine Glass Bay at Freyicnet National Park

October 13, 2005

Friends and Money

The division between business and friendship is one of modern times and represents the very worst of our western cravings for wealth. The notion that market forces can generate the best outcome for everyone is an old and tired dogma that overlooks the humanity of our societies and will ultimately divide nations into rich and poor.

There is one concept that pops it's head up in my life again and again and again. western cultures have adopted in recent decades the notion that business life and personal life are separate entities and require different moral codes. This has resulted in the notion that you shouldnt do business with friends, and conversely that anything goes so long as you make a profit - "It's just good business", or "It's not personal, it's just business".

This is a great fallacy that leads to a dangerous undermining of social standards. If economic goals are the only determining factor in government policy then you reap community dysfunction on a grand scale. Rational economics and 'market forces' do not deliver good health care, quality education, or equality of employment. They merely serve to concentrate wealth into the hands of those who already have it. Conversely, the notion that factoring-in a social dimension into government policy is 'socialistic' and flawed is misguided and harmful. There are countries that have perservered with social equality, welfare assistance and employment protection policies. These are typically wealthy countries from northern europe who enjoy higher standards of living, healthier lifestyles and extremly good education.

Morality, ethics and social responsiblity should never be divorced from capitalism. It's a gross error that has been perpetrated on the unwitting masses. Removing social conscience from capitalism is like removing compassion from Buddhism. Making a dollar isn't wrong, but making profit unfairly and PURELY FOR THE SAKE OF IT is shallow, corrupting and soul destroying. We have become so fixated on financial success in western cultures that we have forgotten our heritage and hearth. There was a time when success was owning a home to live in - now it's about owning lots of homes to add to our portfolio.

Let's think about that. If everyone could own their own home then no one would need to own lots of homes would they? It's not easy to utilise more than one home, except for a holiday beach house or cottage in the mountains. But if one person owns ten homes, that means nine other families who rent those homes are in a less fortunate
situation. It turns out that investment properties also raise the overall value of homes, making it a little harder for those same nine families to buy their way out of renting. This is the thin edge of the wedge. The continuing divide between the haves and have nots is like an ugly scar that cuts deep into the body of the nation.

So if you want to be a Zen property developer i might suggest you find a way to make money while helping lower income earners enter the housing market - and make sure you like them because it's better to have a friend than just a client.