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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Canberra goes up in smoke

We're back from our trip to Canberra!

I was almost physically sick seeing all that waste of money in our capital city.

New office buildings everywhere to house the masses of euphemistically-named "Public SERVANTS", many of whom seem to spend much of the day standing at the entrances of those same buildings lighting a fag.

While I sat in the car, waiting for Padma to renew her passport, I watched and counted several DOZEN public servants huddled in small groups in doorways and at street corners. They stood there, for as much as half an hour at a time, while they smoked one, and sometimes several, cigarettes before ever so slowly and ever so reluctantly melting back into their respective office buildings.

On the short stretch of road I observed, I counted seven groups with, on average, four people indulging in their chosen addiction AND BEING PAID FOR IT as these were not regular meal breaks (which they take too!) but random smoke breaks at any odd time during the day.

Assuming only a moderate smoking habit and thefore no more than perhaps THREE such smoke breaks at a MINIMUM of 20 minutes each, there is a whole hour's worktime gone, all paid for by the generous taxpayers! This being repeated all over Canberra and indeed the whole country, I could well imagine several million working hours being lost each working day - at what? $20 - $25 - $30 an hour?

Let me try and get my head around this: on the basis of 'just' 1,000,000 hours being lost each day x $25 an hour = $25,000,000 x 250 working days in a year = $6,250,000,000 in wasted productivity every year (and my assumptions of a mere million addicts wasting just one hour each day at an hourly rate of $25 are very low!)

[Over six BILLIONS in annual waste! Not millions - BILLIONS! To help you visualise the sheer magnitude of this number, try to guess how long a MILLION seconds it. Now try to guess the same for a BILLION seconds. Ready? A MILLION seconds is less than twelve DAYS; a BILLION is almost thirty-two YEARS! ]

Of course, all this presupposes that all those nicotine addicts are employed in something useful and gainful to begin with! Drawing on my experience of six months' contract work with a government department - mainly because the permanent workers were not doing their work -, I am quite convinced that a vast number of public SERVANTS could be sacked without having any impact on their departments' work output.

In any case, pandering to these nicotine addicts without also providing time off for alcoholics to visit pubs and bars to engage in their own socially accepted and freely chosen addiction, or offering free needle exchange in each building for heroine addicts, or "rest rooms' for sex maniacs, smacks of discrimination and should be reported to the Human Rights Commissioner!

P.S. By the way, what's this fetish with identification cards, on the end of expensive-looking colour-coded straps, dangling from each addict's neck? It makes them look like a bunch of freemasons standing there with their IDs hanging down in front of them, sometimes as low as their pelvic region, suggestive of some sort of electronic-age penis gourd.