Year in Review: 2022

Donald the Silver Laced Wyandotte Rooster, Keswick, 15th December 2022

This year has been so hectic I barely recall what happened. The last time I felt like this was in 1993 after I graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon. It was the same year my first son was born (the day before First Class started in July 1993) and the entire time was a blur. Ending this year with COVID has been a real downer, and instead of celebrating Christmas, I am fighting lethargy as the left-over work builds up yet again to ensure there is no year-end downtime.

I began the year with jury duty which was disturbing due to the nature of the case and annoying because the nature of my employment means that anything that disrupts my work, like leave or jury duty, just means that the weeks of work back up until I return. Beginning and ending the year this way really sucks. But there have been some major highlights that make it a successful year overall.

One thing that was an important driver for an improved life was taking a hearing test. I discovered that I have suffered critical hearing loss in my left ear, and severe hearing loss in my right ear. The suburban shopping mall hearing test centre wanted to charge me some $12,000 for state-of-the-art hearing aids. The hearing aids were so good when I trialled them that I didn't want to take them off. Alas, the price was a rip-off and I found Specsavers Audiology had a similar product that, when combined with my Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) rebate and my Defence Health rebate, the top product was around $1,350 out of pocket. It has been life-changing.

Returning to the defence fold was life-changing, too. I didn't know that there is such a thing as the Australian Defence Veteran's Covenant and the veteran's pension supplement as part of the DVA White Card that all former serving ADF members are now eligible for - this has been around for years. I had walked out of the military when I became an academic, determined to pursue a different life. But the Army has always been a big part of my family. In the New Year, I will continue to put forward claims from the injuries I sustained during my service. As I age, these are becoming more pronounced and will only get worse.

My experience in the last few weeks of my regular army service was pretty sad. Come to think of it, it replicates many of the same events that happened mid-career as an academic. I played the lieutenant too well and after a leadership change, my previous loyalties were detrimental to my future. A combination of ego and pride didn't help. So there's a huge lesson already to reflect upon.

But a major change was returning to the RSL and becoming the representative for the Gunning Chapter of the Yass Sub-Branch. I renewed my membership and helped out with ANZAC Day 2022 where I led the march, read In Flanders Fields, and then did the same again for Remembrance Day 2022. I feel connected to the community of veterans here in Gunning and, along with playing snooker when we weren't in COVID lockdowns or impacted by the flooding, that has been a highlight.

I was assigned jury duty in the first half of the year although this was not a highlight. I ended up being excused after a cock-up by the legal parties, but it took two weeks out of my work that I then had to catch up on. This led to some rather unfair consequences for me and I railed against the injustice. But rather than carry on like a dick, the experience led me to return to politics in a way I had not done since becoming an academic. It has been a rewarding experience and I hope I can make an impactful contribution in that space next year.

I also joined the Royal Automobile Club of Australia, a long-held desire, and I have taken advantage of the Club on numerous occasions to either stay, park the car, or have a drink or coffee before and after events I have attended in Sydney. Regrettably, I missed two of the most desirable events in the last part of the year due to COVID. It really sucked but I have been Stoic about it - I can't control my body or its illness so there is no use carrying on about it.

In the early part of the year, I was appointed to the Australian Research Council's College of Experts. This has been a privilege and I have learnt so much already. It provides the added advantage of enabling me to conduct research using the consulting fees I receive as research funding. On top of this, I was awarded a bonus for my research output in 2021, so I had funding to travel to Korea and Perth for research and a keynote address. Two weeks in Korea was a highlight of the year, and there are so many opportunities there for future visits. It is a lovely place and I cannot wait to explore it in more detail.

By mid-year, we had finished work on our book, COVID-19 and Foreign Aid: Nationalism and Global Development in a New World Order. It was quite the effort but we got there in the end. Along with the book, I wrote one chapter and co-authored two more.

During the winter, we travelled to Cairns and met my partner's mother and two of my three grandchildren. COVID lockdowns were particularly sad times for weddings and welcoming in new family members. And Cairns was unseasonably cool so despite staying in the faded grandeur of the Kewarra Beach Resort, there was no suitable weather for swimming. 

Then we took an actual holiday and went to Singapore as soon as the borders were open. We had a great time at the Regent Hotel and enjoyed some fine dining, some great bars and local food, and generally had a great time. Although I have been to Singapore many times, it was good to explore some of the finer things and not have to be working. Nevertheless, I was contacted by work via Facebook asking if I was teaching the next day - someone forget to mention the changed timetable - this sucked and it set me up for an even greater backlog before returning to work. Leave has often been not a break from work, it is a pause where your work backs up for however long you are away. That will be different next year. Leave will be a time when I do not work and I have a relaxing time and when I return, I begin new work with no backlog.

There have been several sad events this year. My best good little man Pablo died in my arms after a long period of liver failure. He is still in my dreams every night and I miss him terribly. Our buff Sussex rooster also died but we have a new rooster, Donald, who is full of character and will hopefully be big enough soon to not only protect himself but protect the flock. Lenny the cat has hyperthyroidism and needs daily medication and little Frida the mini-foxie is also on her last legs with heart failure imminent. Frankie has her moments with Addison's Disease. Desi the indestructible cat with a case of an incurable cherry eye due to his skin fragility syndrome still has a death wish but is now over five years of age, defying the usual outcome of being euthanised at 12 months of age. Joseph the Vet retiring and moving away was a sad end to a rewarding relationship, but the new vets at Gundaroo are keeping me happy.

Thankfully, our other cats Karl and Valentine remain blissfully healthy. We are down to six chickens plus Donald the rooster. We still have an ongoing supply of eggs despite the girls pushing five years now. While having so many pets around the same age can be quite tragic as they pass, without their little souls around my feet, I doubt life would be quite as enriched as they make it.

Creating opportunities for internships has been a highlight, with two successful interns this year, one leading to a journal article in the closing weeks of December. I was elected as the Vice President of TelSoc after spending the previous year as a board member, and I was re-elected to the Vice Chair position with the ACT & Southern NSW Chapter of CILTA. I was also granted full membership to the Australian Nuclear Association and my aim to conduct research work in the three main areas of networked infrastructure policy, telecommunications, transport, and energy, now has a practical element and an industry focus as I learn from my various networks and the events that have been inspiring this year.

I have tried to focus on politics as a contest of ideas and, rather than sit on the sidelines as Le Flaneur Politique, I changed my focus from being non-partisan to "remaining aloof from the groupthink of the contemporary academy". With the change in government, the "wokerati" have taken every advantage and are hell-bent on destroying the way we live. It has become increasingly obvious that free speech and academic freedom are being curtailed. I am a big believer in "use it or lose it", so I took a few opportunities, and made a few mistakes, but managed to get there in the end.

I also participated in numerous events, conferences, technical site visits, webinars, seminars, and so on. Here is a comprehensive list of events I attended or participated in: Recent Events Roundup: August to December 2022

But my change of heart really began when I read an article in the Lowy Institute's The Interpreter, where someone was arguing that our energy security depended on even more renewables. I have watched the Cullerin Wind Farm nearby with its 15 turbines sitting idle for weeks now. One thing that is becoming clear is that these turbines require maintenance, and their lifespan is not as long as originally thought. How these "renewable" infrastructure items provide energy "security" is beyond me. So I penned an article with a colleague on the need for nuclear energy to be on the table. Let's just say that there was an issue with academic freedom.

Those who not only celebrated Labor's election win but who then celebrated the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and went on a tirade about decolonising everything and "acknowledging country" as a performative measure of morality are plain wrong. Our economic situation and Labor's over-the-top socialism will prove that in due course.

Then there was the focus on "toxic masculinity" in my professional body. If you are woke, you can say whatever you like no matter how wrong and this leads to accolades and celebrations. If you do not celebrate the stupidity that is leading us down the garden path to economic ruin and social fracturing which is a security threat in itself, then you run the risk of being ostracised or labelled with a number of woke insults that stick like mud to the proverbial blanket. These situations led me to delete my Twitter account and not renew my membership in this professional body gone woke. Leaving Twitter had nothing to do with Elon Musk, but rather that it had become a cesspool of wokeness that was driving me to despair. Leaving my professional association means I no longer write to an audience that hates what I write and actively aims to destroy the way I live, but it also means I can focus on things that are important to me. 

After watching the news media go after the Coalition, especially The Guardian and the ABC, and watching what my woke friends on Facebook were debating, and then seeing what the Albanese Government has already done to threaten our freedoms, way of life, and the rule of law, I decided to take sides. The jobs and skills summit set me off. I'd been writing a few articles and submitting these to a variety of places but to no avail. There was nowhere for my ideas. I had experienced this with a journal the year before where I wrote a controversies piece. The article was rejected with the two reviewers writing responses longer than my piece to debate what I had said before rejecting it. Obviously, the article had the desired effect but the wokerati have taken over the academy in strength.

I looked at how The Guardian had infiltrated Australia, and I remembered writing an article for The Punch when it appeared briefly in Australia many years ago. I miss The Bulletin, that Australian weekly magazine, and The Monthly and The New Statesman and a bunch of other old-school mastheads were so woke I couldn't bear it - the left-wing orthodoxy has infiltrated everywhere. Except for The Spectator

For the last few weeks of the year, I decided to write my ideas in a space where they would not be shut down by the wokerati. Even The Conversation went so woke as to censor people's comments for things the editors did not agree with - this is completely against the liberal ideal and I will not contribute to it. To date, I have written ten articles for The Spectator and it has been a highlight. As I found my own voice and I am learning not to self-censor (as opposed to completely removing my filter!), I have found other outlets.

I wrote a submission into the Morrison's Multiple Ministries saga that was cited but rejected by the Inquiry. My article on Rewiring the Nation versus nuclear led to a television interview with Fred Pawle. I had some success began quoted in the media on transport-related topics, and I was a keynote speaker on three occasions at the CILT World Congress (hydrogen), the Goulburn Soldiers Club (nuclear), and the 8th Bienniel ACSPRI Methodology Conference (using historical constitutionalism as method). I missed two great events in late December due to illness, but hopefully, the opportunities will be there next year.

What to do next year? I will continue to write as my research and ideas dictate, but I will focus on an audience that is interested in my ideas. Writing for woke audiences would be easy - I could write on woke topics and be published, but it would be a form of manipulation that smacks of intellectual laziness and I cannot be so untrue to myself.

I want to get my podcast happening regularly and start writing books (I have two editors waiting on proposals). I have a pipeline of journal articles now but I will not focus on A* nonsense journals that do not engage with industry or reflect the importance of research for Australia. I also hope to make inroads into public policy in NSW and Australia more generally and will continue to contribute submissions to public inquiries when I can. I hope to continue to develop internships for the best and brightest of my students and I hope to continue to contribute to The Spectator. To have one of my articles in the print edition would be great.

These are scary times for Australia. After years of living in Canberra and being part of the academic bubble, I am so glad I moved to Gunning and became part of the federation again. Listening to the opinions of the forgotten people has been refreshing. Writing for The Spectator has given me a taste for free speech like I have never had before. I will use it and not lose it.

It has been a long, hard road this year. But like all years, I have lived up to my credo - my guiding principles are Love, Liberty, and Learning. On reflection, I have been successful on these three fronts this year.