Fish and chips

Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson
Week 9: Accidental illegality

As a kid, my family and I would spend the summer holidays at Aireys Inlet, a small coastal town nestled between Torquay and Lorne, on the Great Ocean Road. We would stay in a cute little beach house right near Split Point Lighthouse. Yep, the lighthouse famous for it’s appearance on the TV show, ‘Round The Twist’! One year my brother and I decided to make a fishing rod from a large stick we found in the backyard. We shaved off the excess bark, and fashioned a fishing line to one end. We spent hours on it, perfecting our masterpiece until we thought it was ready to test out at the local beach. We climbed around to the far side of Eagle Rock, tucked ourselves inside a small hollow to protect us from the harrowing wind, and threw the line in. Immediately my brother felt the line tugging. Reeling it in we found a large fish gasping, speared to the hook. We chucked it in our broken bucket, and threw the line in again. As soon as the line touched the water another fish would bite into the steel hook, and another, and another. Quite quickly we had 5 or so fish twitching and heaving in our small bucket.

Laughing and cheering my brother and I ran home, excited for Dad to cook us a seafood feast. Although as we were sprinting across the sand, weighed down by meaty flesh and our massive fishing rod, we noticed a sign: ‘Eagle Rock Marine Park Sanctuary’, and in small print, ‘Fishing Prohibited’.

We never told our parents where we got the fish as they smiled proudly, tender bodies mashing up between their teeth. Needless to say, I haven’t been fishing since.

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Privacy Paranoia

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 10: Surveillance/ Surveillance Laws 

At my high school it was compulsory for all students in year nine to purchase or rent a Mac-book. I have always had a personal vendetta against Apple (possibly inherited from my PC loving father), so I stubbornly ran the unstable Windows platform. Little did I know that this choice saved me from dozens of lunchtime detentions.

Before our Mac-books were bestowed upon us we were warned of the consequences of visiting blocked internet sites, playing games in class and storing illegally downloaded files on our hard drives. Naturally these rules were broken, and everybody got very good at quickly minimizing windows.

I was in English class when it happened. One of my good friends was playing a flash game next to me. Suddenly the screen dimmed and froze. A word document opened and slowly, across the screen the words “get back to work” materialized. My friend slammed the lid shut. Minutes later the resident IT troll appeared at the door and confiscated his computer. I was amused. He was outraged, and spent the next half hour trying to digest privacy acts on his phone. Nothing he found helped his case. Over the next week, more laptops were pried off students and rumors begun circulating: “The IT guys can search your computer from the staff room…” “They can turn on the webcam and watch you…” Despite the allure of Photobooth many camera lenses were covered with duct tape. Students begun turning off the Bluetooth and WiFi out of fear of being spied on.

One of my other good friends was rather computer literate. He started showing people how to change their IP addresses so they could visit blocked sites without being watched. Sometimes he charged them, sometimes he didn’t. Then one day in assembly we were warned that the punishment for this modification was re-imaging.I ignored these threats and rumors, continuing to browse Myspace and download torrents in every class. I suspected that it had something to do with using Windows. When word got out many kids switched. Windows wasn’t available to the next lot of year nines.

To this day, I still know a lot of people who are very edgy about being spied on through their mobile phones and laptops. Some even believe that all smart phones can be programmed to switch on the camera or voice recorder remotely. They warn that Facebook can track you and Google saves copies of your internet history once a week. I don’t really care whether this is true or not. I sometimes even purposely jeopardize my “cyber footprint” with sarcastically scandalous statuses and revealing blog posts. Surveillance has a sly, unavoidable presence in 21st century life. So, as ill advised as it may be, I choose to take my chances and ignore it.

Hmmm high angle, blue lighting, hidden face and computer code… this guy must be a hacker! 

For further reading have a look at this paranoid cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/article_18532_5-terrifying-ways-your-own-gadgets-can-be-used-to-spy-you.html
And if you’re overly concerned check out these helpful government tips: http://www.privacy.gov.au/topics/technologies

Byron Bay Blues

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 9: Accidental illegality 

I have forged signatures, grown psychedelic plants, drank disguised bottles of tequila on trains, switched price tags in stores, devised fair evading routines, strode through red lights and scribbled on walls. And to this day, the biggest fine I’ve ever had to pay was a six dollar fee for an overdue library book. The fear of being caught keeps a hefty criminal like me sharp. So it makes sense that the closest I’ve ever come to being charged was for something I didn’t even know was illegal.

The sun was rising in Byron bay and dozens of tourists in pajamas were hauling guitars and gas camping stoves into kombi vans and station wagons. My boyfriend was moving a crate of tinned peaches off the driver’s seat, and I was yelping in outrage across the pavement. Several police offers prowled down the street, rapping on windshields to wake sleeping occupants.
“Get up! You need to move on! It is an offence in Australia to sleep in a vehicle. If we catch you again you won’t be so lucky.” Once we got moving the cops left. There was no way we could afford a caravan park or motel so we decided to Google “free camping grounds” in the area. Nothing came up. We parked in a more secluded spot and went back to bed. Late that night when returning to our car the police were back.
“You aren’t planning on sleeping here are you?” They shone a torch at our makeshift bed in the backseat. With a head full of licit and illicit substances I started to panic. My boyfriend told them he was returning to collect something.
“You better move your car.”
“But I’m drunk.”
“What about her?”
“She can’t drive.”
They watched us walk back down the road from which we came.

After a hearty twenty minute search for anything indicating the illegality of sleeping in cars this morning I came up short.Forum posts from confused backpackers dominated the results. Then there were those “a fifteen minute power nap could save your life” campaigns. I resorted to searching “is it illegal to sleep in your car in Byron Bay?” A few events websites claim it is and will incur a fine.  However not one page cited an amount, nor any mention of state or federal laws. My boyfriend and I are planning another Byron trip this summer. Maybe this time I won’t be so readily compliant to move.

Home sweet  home 

Smuggling Hilarity

Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson
Smuggling / Import laws

When I think of illegal smuggling, I think of the guy at my work that watches ‘Border Security: Australia’s Frontline’ when our supervisor isn’t watching. I think of Schapelle Corby’s tearful face printed on the front page of ‘Women’s Day’ in the waiting room of the dentist. I think of the man I saw a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks that joked he had a bomb in his bag and was taken in for questioning by airport security. When I think of illegal smuggling, I always think of international trafficking incidents. But when I mentioned to my Dad what this week’s blog topic was, he laughed and reminded me of the time my Uncle had tried to sneak weed to his brother in jail.

Curious of whether smuggling illegal goods into prison would be as bizarrely entertaining as those on ‘Border Security’, I did a little bit of research. The stories I read weren’t just your stereotypical crook doing the dirty work, but instead those meant to be enforcing the law. Yep, Henry Marin, an L.A County Deputy, was allocated courthouse security one afternoon. He brought a bean and cheese burrito into the courtroom that had heroin hidden inside, which he intended to smuggle into the courthouse jail. He didn’t get away with it.

As we all know, visitors and employees of a jail are searched thoroughly upon entering and exiting. Of course, this makes smuggling very difficult, leading to drugs shoved up anuses; inside the soles of shoes; or stitched to wigs. Although a few inmates attempted to get around this hump. In Colombia, a trained pigeon was found trying to fly into a nearby prison, but didn’t quite make it as it was weighed down by excess marijuana tied to it’s body.

One woman didn’t seem to get the memo about prison security though, as she tried to sneak her husband out of jail in a suitcase

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♫ You’ve got to know when to hold ’em ♫

Fortnight post by Jordan Fay
Topic: That used to be legal.

There are estimated to be close to 50,000 people classified as illegal immigrants in Australia at any one time (Section: Myth 7). How do you imagine these people, how they entered the country and how they conduct their lives? (If they have any control over how they conduct themselves at all). Immigration in Australia – its complicated laws, numerous reforms and historical controversies – has always been a hot topic. It seems to have its own gravitational pull while having a state of classification more elusive and debated than that of Pluto. It’s bounced around the walls of Parliament House and the idiot box so much so that I’m starting to believe that it’s a subtlety-disguised form of renewable energy. How else can we explain the repetitious narrow-mindedness and excessive fear mongering that surrounds the so-called-debate of who can come to Australia and who can’t? Oh yeah, and who is the face of illegal immigration issues in Australia? Turns out it’s mostly people from the US and UK who are overstaying their visas (Section: Myth 7). Of course people still say:

“But what about… boat people/queue jumpers/those people who aren’t genuine refugees/those potential terrorists? Aren’t they illegal? Aren’t they the real problem?”

Is the White Australia Act still in place? While those who flee the state of war in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Sri Lanka somewhere in a dusty draw and in the mental library of a knowledgable human rights-activist there sits the Australian Migration Act of 1958 which states that people are legally allowed to seek asylum in Australia with or without visas. And those people that arrive by boat? Well in 2009 less than 2,000 asylum seekers arrived by boat, a number that pales against the 36,000 that arrived in Italy (Italy is 301,230 sq km while Australia is 7,686,830 sq km). And in 2010 Australia only received 2% overall of refugees thats fled to industrialised nations.

Just to clarify, the previous figures don’t include the population of Venice.

Despite all of this the inhumane system of indefinite detention is still classed as legal in Australia. And off-shore processing, reminiscent of the John Howard era, grows ever brighter for the Labor Party as Nauru has become reinstated as an island of exile for refugees (or as we call them in the industry: the people who weren’t there). Isn’t there a contradiction of rights here? I guess it’s hard to say really, I mean, we are talking about politics. Immigration laws in Australia are like a processed meat patty being flipped over and over from legal to illegal while becoming increasingly burnt and inedible (if at all edible in the first place).

“You’ve fled your home and crumbled community, risked your life and taken a rickety boat all the way here just to gain basic human rights? Well, I sure hope you like navigating tesseracts because that’s how we do things down here.”

Amphetamine Assholes and Cocaine Casts

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 7: Smuggling/Import Laws
Fortnightly post 

A few weeks ago I rediscovered a treasured computer game from my childhood. Drug Lord 2.2. It is like the share market, but instead of BHP, CBA, Telstra and Rio Tinto you can invest in Heroin, Cocaine, Ice and LSD. When you are ranked “wannabe” or “small distributor” you must purchase cans of “no scent” to fly your goods overseas. At $1000 a can, no scent is a mythical substance that fools sniffer dogs with a 100% guarantee if you use enough…

As an “area distributer” or “drug lord” shipping is necessary, because hundreds of thousands of cocaine ‘units’ need hundreds of thousands of no scent cans to slip through customs. If you ship with the most expensive company “International Couriers” your goods will arrive without a hitch. Even if it is going to cost a little…


Unfortunately for those idealistic souls who attempt to smuggle illicit substances out of the world of drug lord, such guarantees are scarce.

This week, I was hoping to find a topic other than drugs to write about. However, after punching “weird smuggling stories” into Google, it seemed as though I had no choice. Amidst sites boasting smuggling tips, lay the handcuffed wrists and inflamed assholes of those who had failed.

The most popular techniques appeared to be…
Up the asshole and/or vagina
Swallowed (drugs packed into ‘pellets’, balloons or condoms)
Strapped to the body
Stitched into wigs
Under/ or dissolved into a plaster cast
Stuffed into corpses
In containers of Holy water

Naturally, the successful techniques weren’t discussed.
Anyway, this got me thinking: why do people keep repeatedly risking these methods?
I blame the media. Australians appear to love a good smuggling story. It is like killing two birds (the war on drugs and illegal immigrants) with one stone. News readers flatten shy grins and sparkling eyes as they introduce new airport security tactics. Hit television series “Border Control” is up to its eleventh season, with audiences barracking for regular Aussie blokes to bust nasty foreign criminals.

I once was lucky enough to witness the filming of this program at Sydney airport. I was on my way back from Hawaii and customs officers were putting on an extra tough show for the cameras. I was held up for twenty minutes as an overweight man in a fluorescent vest shook and glared at a wooden ukulele I had purchased. He let me go after confiscating several “suspicious” souvenir necklaces.

In my opinion, all of this exposure works to broadly publicize drug smuggling techniques, with mothers, lawyers and even children privy to the tactics of the ‘mule.’ And I reckon criminals and dealers probably watch television too. For all we know, these reports and programs could be a rich source of research for such types! And there’s always going to be the guy who scoffs and thinks he can do it better…

Playing drug lord this morning, I imagined how much more entertaining it would be if you could chose between stuffing heroin up your ass or under a plaster cast instead of using “no scent.” Then I imagined the potential outrage this could cause. I pictured Anna Coren gravely warning parents about Drug Lord; a game which familiarized kids with the drug trade and smuggling methods. Cue: Today Tonight outro tune. “Coming up next: customs questions suspicious looking Mexican woman at Sydney airport on BORDER CONTROL AUSTRALIA.”

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Super Whale!

Week 5: Whaling laws

By Jordan Fay

Two years ago I was taking anthropology class at Melbourne University, a weekly, two hour adventure into the beautiful and sometimes sad world of cultural identity and religious conflict taught by smoke-break enthusiast Andrew Dawson. Like cement pouring over a sponge my brain bathed thickly in the idea of cultural relativism. Webs of meaning, regardless of which specific ones you believe in, are applied to everything and that’s how people deal with the weight of existence. When whaling laws came up I was eager to have my views broadened. I was a year into veganism and was yet to engage with the immensely political aspects of the issue.

I learnt of the Western phenomenon of the Super Whale: a mythical homogenisation of anthropomorphism and classic whale characteristics (the massive size of a Blue Whale, the friendliness of a Gray Whale, the large brain of a Sperm Whale, the beautiful singing of the Humpbuck, etc) created under the campaign of whale-activists and anti-whaling laws (Kalland, 20-21). Serving as a water-dwelling-Jesus-poster-child for anti-whaling crusades, organisations like Greenpeace and WWF have turned the issue into a profitable commodity that is fuelled by the crisis discourse of global warming (Kalland, 21, 24). Now, I don’t agree with whaling or any practice of animal slaughter (especially commercial kinds), but I find it hard to tolerate the ignorance of those who boast about the “I’m a whale adopter” sticker fading on their Jeep’s rear windscreen on the way to a restaurant to dine on veal. No offence Andrew, I mean, you painted your brother in the same light to prove your point during the lecture.

Main reference article (I just so happened to find the same article I read for my anthropology class):
– ‘Whose whale is that? Diverting the commodity path’ by Arne Kalland.

That’s right. You are getting very sleepy “person with obvious first world guilt, impulsive tendencies and a love for specific animals (preferably mythical types and ones that you would never ever eat)”

Cocaine is a hell of a drug

Written by Sally Naylor-Hampson
Things that were once legal…

Blow, dream, candy, mighty white, pop.

Addiction, depression, heart attacks, nosebleeds, cerebral atrophy.

In the 19th century, these words and effects were yet to be associated with cocaine. Instead the drug was said to “supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and… tender the sufferer insensitive to pain.” And it’s medical benefits were so astounding that the drug was exclaimed to have a “benefit of which to humanity will be incalculable”. Such paybacks included use as an anesthetic; protection against the head cold; treatment for stomach pain, toothaches, digestive disorders, hysteria, melancholia, fatigue, hunger, seasickness, and alcohol and morphine addiction.

And buying the drug wasn’t hard either.

It was available over the counter.

You could get your hit from a bottle of coca cola. You could stick it in the mouths of your teething children to stop their pain. Or sip it from a bottle of wine after a hard days work. It was even recommended to give your nervous adolescents the white stuff.

Yet around the 1930s, the adverse effects of cocaine were discovered, and just as quickly as the drug was put on the market it was stripped of it’s legality.

These days, almost entirely worldwide, the drug continues to hold it’s illegal status. I doubt the days of buying stardust from your local store will return, but current research suggests it may serve further medical advantages previously unknown. So who knows what cocaine will be used for 20 years down the track!

HEROIN HORROR

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 6: Things that were once legal…

HEROIN: NEEDLES. AIDS. ADDICTION. OVERDOSE. INFECTION. DEATH. I would definitely have a much harder time defending heroin than marijuana, and its companion class A drug LSD. This week’s post is rather a journey down prohibition lane, marveling at the western world’s somewhat hilarious attempts to combat opiate addiction.

Opium, derived from poppy seeds, has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. These days, it is usually associated with seedy oriental drug dens and evil middle eastern money making regimes. However, in 1805, German pharmacist Friedrich W. Serturner isolated opium’s prime psychoactive alkaloid morphine. As opium was proving to be a problem child in the western world (due to escalating addiction rates), morphine was marketed as a non addictive alternative.

The new substance spread through Europe like an euphorically charged wildfire, with embers quickly alighting America and Australia. It was a wonder drug; the most effective painkiller the western world had ever seen. Soon, mothers were rejoicing; marveling at its astounding ability to suppress the coughs and headaches of their children. In nineteenth century America, the substance was even marketed as a highly effective cure for alcoholism, which was seen to be a much larger social issue.

However, each silver cloud has a dark underbelly. Addiction rates were rising, with doctors even prescribing themselves huge quantities of the stuff. So, Seventy years of frolicking through the poppy fields later, German pharmaceutical company Bayer synthesized a cure…

Heroin.

Whilst marketed as a cure for Morphine addiction, Heroin was also a superior cough suppressant. (Perhaps because Heroin is two to three times more potent that its predecessor.) Its popularity quickly escalated, and once again, history repeated itself. Except this time, European chemists gave up, and Heroin was proclaimed illegal in all Western countries by 1930.

Today, in the twenty first century, as the war on drugs rages on in America, its neighbors have been quietly decriminalizing Heroin use and possession. In Canada, a number of ‘supervised injection sites’ have sprung up in major cities; aiming to minimalise harm. Just this month, Mexico decriminalized the possession of small quantities of Heroin, along with a number of other formally illegal substances.

Perhaps you’d be surprised to hear that Morphine is merely a controlled substance, with hospitals worldwide still favouring it as a painkiller. Furthermore, Codeine, which is another psychoactive opium alkaloid is still a popular ingredient in cough medicines today. It’s use has also extended to encompass anti-diarrheal, antihypertensive, anti-anxiety and sedative medications.

So where is the future of opiate prohibition headed? I personally have no idea, but am happy to sit back, relax, and enjoy the political show.

Whaling Woes

Written by Zoe Blain
Week 5: Whaling Laws 

I recall a summer afternoon five or six years ago; throwing foam ‘noodles’ at my father’s friends’ children. They swam and shrieked and kicked through the deep, commanding me to “act more Japanese.” Then the ‘whales’ morphed into activists and tackled me into the water. We ate sausages for dinner, and the boys showed me letters they had received from Greenpeace, thanking them for their support.

My best friend has a phobia of whales. Once I asked her what she thought of whaling…
“You don’t want to know.” Then we hiked to the lighthouse from ‘Round the Twist’ and scaled its spiral stairwell. A guide directed our eyes to the ocean. “If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale!” My friend shuddered. “It’s their tales. I hate their tales, and how mould grows on their backs.”

When I think about whaling, these images flood through first. Followed by a backwash of bloody carcasses dragged across my television screen. SBS world news. I sit on the couch, eating dinner, watching black dingeys wave fists at rusted metal monsters.
I am not vegetarian, so I don’t believe I can fairly condemn whaling. The government retorts, but they don’t hold a strong moral position either. It smells like politics. The Australian border control don’t tolerate any unauthorized vessels in our waters, regardless of who is on them and what their intentions are.

In a sense, the Japanese have a stronger argument than we do.“‘You eat cows and pigs, so why can’t we eat whales?” One whale feeds a lot more people than one cow, so really, isn’t this more humane? Whaling takes less lives than slaughter houses. Plus, the Japanese do claim that whale meat has been a part of their diet since 800 AD… Is our sensitivity towards whaling a disguised attempt to westernize Asia? How would we react if Hindu activists begun protesting at slaughterhouses to protect ‘holy’ cows?

What this debate really comes down to is the disparity between whales and other animals consumed by humans. In Australia, as in most western countries, cows are bred in copious numbers for food. Most whale species are endangered, with some, such as the Bluewhale declining into three digits. Minke whales, which are highly sought by the Japanese also make the list.

I don’t believe that whaling is an issue of ethics. Hundreds of thousands of animals are slaughtered each day for food, and the loss of one life shouldn’t be seen as less tragic than another. In fact, last week as a non-vegetarian I made a pledge. I proclaimed  that I would eat human meat if it was served up, because the animal world shouldn’t be hierarchised in terms of ‘worthiness.’ Whaling therefore comes down to respecting and preserving the diversity of the earth’s ecosystem. Ensuring a rich, balanced variety for years to come.

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My friend and I as Humpack whales