Smorgasboard Again


Just a little over a year ago, after a miserable 2 months, I resigned from my role as a solicitor with the Melbourne Market Authority. I left that organisation at the end of October 06 and began a personal downward slide which lasted a few months. I think the wounds from that episode are still felt every now and then, which made me appreciate all the more, the fact that I am now engaged in a challenging and satisfying role. A few days ago a colleague from an associated department came around to tell us he has just resigned. He’s a really top bloke and our favourite guy in that department. He was going to do a course on primary school teaching after which he planned to get a job much closer to home (it is now a 1-hour drive in to work every day) so that he could spend more time with his 4 children.

This tells me either one of 2 things – that the culture here permits such great flexibility for career change without allowing money to get in the way, or that there has been issues which have caused him unhappiness here. The Asian heritage in me tells me there must be a degree of unhappiness in his relationship at work because the sacrifice in terms of income would be too great. There is no way a primary school teacher can earn anywhere near what his role here would have been paying him. I would not be surprised if the drop is somewhere in the 50% region. In addition, he’d have to fork out a considerable sum to enrol in a primary teaching course and be without income for the duration of that course (7 months). Financially, it represents such a high cost. Like I said, the Asian in me tells me there must therefore be something else, which is a strong push factor, which has contributed significantly to his decision. I hope he continues to be the happy, positive and chirpy person we have come to know.

Work pattern in Australia has surged ahead so that in many organisations, it is now commonplace for employees to be working late into the night. Just over 2 years ago when I was in a suburban legal firm, work is almost always done by 6 at the latest. Maybe that is the way suburban work operates. Stil, I had to brief barristers every now and then and invariably that involved trekking into the city. Even the city lawyers didnt want to stay very much later than say, 6.30. Now however, I find many colleagues still hanging in and plugging away way past 7.

I have been driving in to work since we moved into our new place, as I have had to drop kiddo off at school in the morning (we are now too far away from her school for her to walk). As I have become free from the constraints of public transport, I have worked later than I thought I would when I came to this country. What’s more, I find myself not alone! While the vast majority are well out of the office by 6.30, increasingly unhealthy number of staff work well into the night and it is not uncommon for the odd person on the odd occasion to work close to midnight. Sad, but true.

Like I said, I have been driving in to work recently. Since moving into the new place, our routine has changed somewhat. While I still get into the gym as usual, I now drive back home after that, and pick kiddo up for school. I drop her a bit before 8, which isnt ideal for her but under the circumstances, is the best arrangement available. She probably has to wait around 30 minutes before her mates arrive – I feel sorry for her but like I said, we really have no choice. As it is, by the time I pull into the parking space, it leaves me just enough time for the 10-15 minute walk in to office. A week into this new routine, I have become a little more comfortable with it though if given half a chance, I would revert to the old one in a flash. I really prefer coming in early – gives me a certain comfort to be the in early, making sure there are no surprises for the day!!

Fun at Work

We recently had an Amazing Race style of event for the company. Over 3 separate days, up to 20 teams (for each day) went out for half a day and covered the Mebourne CBD completing various tasks and challenges. My team had someone from Project Management, a couple of guys from IT and well, me. We left Fawkner Park on Commercial Road around 1pm, and tracked around the CBD, solving puzzles and completing tasks and challenges. It was a great way to interact with colleagues we would otherwise never have a chance to even talk to. The appointed finishing time was 5pm when we were supposed to meet at a Beer Cafe just next to the office building. My team was an all-male fit and competitive outfit so we ran right through the entire race and finished just before 4pm, a record time! I must say I struggled to keep up (and I thought my fitness level was alright!) with my team members. A little trophy now sits on a filing cabinet at the Legal Department… It was fun but I was zonked that night – slept like a baby!


Last Saturday, I had lunch with an old friend. He is a family friend. When he first went to uni in Sydney, he stayed with me for a little while. I cannot remember how we hooked up but with a family friend that could have been through any one of our many uncles.

Anyway, the last time I met him was more than 15 years ago. About a week ago he bumped into Theresa in the train while getting in to the city. It was a strange and unlikely coincidence as Theresa didnt normally take the train on that line or at that time. Anyway, Theresa gave him my contact details, he called and we caught up over the weekend.

He had been a partner in one of the big 4 accounting firms, in the KL office. He’s younger than me so you could say he was young. A young professional who has made it as a partner in a big 4 accounting firm has a lot going for him. His wife worked as an corporate deal/transaction analyst a tycoon who used to own a bank. When he sold the bank he continued to retain her on his personal payroll, to work on his personal deals and businesses. So she must have been a pretty good talent too. Yet, they have both decided to come and live in Melbourne. He sounded a little down in having to adjust to work at a more junior level. He’s still with the same big 4 firm, but not at the level he was in KL. He and his wife have both given up comfortable professional lives in exchange for personal struggles in many ways, in a new homeland. I do not envy his journey ahead, for the next say, 12-18 months. It is going to take a lot of adjustments. It is a journey Theresa and I have taken and continue to take. It is, unfortunately (or should it be fortunately) a journey many Malaysians have taken and would continue to take.

Just like many before my friend, he too relayed incidents of habitual corrupt practices, economic mismanagement, erosion of law and order and a total lack of leadership or accountability on the part of the Prime Minister. Earlier suggestions that the PM was merely adopting an “elegant silence” were at best, to borrow Alan Greenspan’s famous line, “irrational exuberance” on the part of those who attempted to defend the PM. The PM was, has always been and remains a cause for concern and a major reason for Malaysia’s ills. At the beginning of his watch, Malaysia required urgent attention to cure the ills which Mahathir had inflicted. Instead, he simply made matters worse but creating an envrionment for more of the same, except this updated version of corruption, racism and mismanagement has become an “open source” system of sorts. What I mean is that while Mahathir’s reign heralded big-time corruption by individuals based which created total mismanagement, it was at least confined to a select few. The seriously corrupt and rich were always aligned to some politicians who were in turn aligned to Mahathir or Daim or while it lasted, Anwar. Under Badawi’s watch, no such order remained. It became a free for all, because Mahathir’s successor was asleep for the most part. The system or culture created by Mahathir was at least under control in that Mahathir was a strongman who made sure the order of things remained. With Badawi, the corruption and mismanagement remained but the order was gone. With the strongman gone, it’s the proverbial foot soldiers who have all swarmed in to place their grubby hands on the soiled and shrinking cake. Pretenders like Khairy and the so-called 4th floor boys think they have a good chance to take over but every single person I have spoken to think poorly of him and his mob so things dont look too flash for them.

Meanwhile, i think Malaysia would simply continue to suffer an exodus of the middle class, especially the skilled professionals. Like my old familyi friend said. the very rich would stay because they have too much at stake and they could always buy their way out of trouble should serious trouble come about. The poor or not-so rich and unskilled would have no choice so they would remain and cop whatever comes. All the others who could leave the country, mainly would if they have not already.


It’s been almost 2 weeks since we moved into our new place. I’m at the tale end of a lingering cough, as is kiddo. Theresa is tired, and I’m thinking we could all use a break. On the first Saturday after moving in, after the routine cleaning and the lunch with the friend from the big 4 accounting firm and cooking it was almost 5. The cooking included boiling 80 eggs and dyeing them red (with helpful tips from a cyber friend as well as a church member), to celebrate a church member’s 80th birthday. It was something fun to do – to celebrate an anglo-saxon Aussie’s birthday by a traditional Malaysian Chinese way. I think the birthday boy appreciated it, which was good since we did it because we appreciated everything he has done for the church for so long. Incidentally, his initials are “JC” so he must have thought he has a lot to live up to. Kiddo had a church thing at 5 so after cooking we sent her there, came back and did some cooking (completed the egg dyeing) and by the time we were almost done, it was time to pick her up from church.

On the way home, we picked up a dvd and light and fun as it was, I could barely keep my eyes open as kiddo stayed glue. Theresa of course, was long gone way before me. We hit the sack relatively early, bearing in mind we were to adjust the clock to make room for daylight savings (we lose an hour). I pushed the clocks an hour ahead, went to bed and woke up feeling like I needed more sleep but couldnt get any more.

Aussie Pollies

Mr Rudd was at it again – doing his chameleon thing. For such a long time, he criticised John Howard for not signing the Kyoto Accord on greenhouse emission standards. John Howard’s stance of course, was that Kyoto has a huge gaping hole in the form of the absence of the US and China, 2 of the largest polluters. Kyoto also meant new costs to doing business so the Aussie economy would suffer. Why pay for something when others wont pay their shares and we wont get what we pay for? As unpalatable and unpopular as that sounds, I think John Howard is right not to go with Kyoto without US and China participation. I think it is classic Kevin Rudd playing to the gallery by suggesting he would adopt Kyoto. He has said it all along, including at the televised leaders’ debate.

Perhaps it is because the general public is now seeing the ineffectiveness of Kyoto unless the big 2 came along. Whatever the reason, when Peter Garett (the retired rock star of the Midnight Oil fame) the shadow environment minister said the Labour government would sign Kyoto irrespective of US and China participation, it hit a wrong note. Kevin Rudd then did to Peter Garett what he did to Rob McClelland, ie he gagged his team for saying something he himself has been saying all along. I dont know what this says.

With Rob McClelland it was the same thing. Kevin Rudd has been saying, for a very long time now, that he was against capital punishment wherever it took place. He said he condemns it, even if that meant criticizing other countries. Recently the country remembered of the Bali bombing of 2002. While Australians have generally condemned capital punishment especially when one of our own was at the receiving end, there was only muted objections to the execution of the Bali bombing perpetrators. It is understandable. Over 80 Australians were violently murdered. While inconsistent, the muted objection to the bombers’ execution was totally understandable. So no Aussie pollies voiced objections against capital punishment, certainly not during the anniversary of the murder of 80 Australians. Well one honest polly did – Rob McClelland the shadow foreign minister. Kevin Rudd however, decided the gallery must take priority so he went against his shadow foreign minister and gagged Rob, never mind that Rob was only saying what Kevin has said all along. Add that to the dossier of Kevin Rudd’s hypocritical acts, and you’d get a picture of someone you cant really trust, someone who tells you what you want to hear, not what he actually believes in and would do.

I’m afraid if the polls are accurate and Kevin Rudd becomes PM, we’d have a smooth media presenter with a chaotic and out-of-tune cabinet lead by a smooth but not to be trusted operator. Dont tell me we are going to get a Malaysian-style cabinet, please…