Recently, a friend of mine with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), told me about the aspersions many people were casting upon her character due to her being on a Disability Support Pension (DSP).

 A number of different individuals who had come into contact with her had suggested, either directly or obliquely, that since her condition was not apparent (hence the description invisible disability), she should be looking for paid employment.

I was incensed!  

This young woman has a number of neurological and neuro-psychological impairments as a result of complications from a stroke some years ago.

Let me make this very clear to those of you who are unfamiliar with Centrelink’s (social security) process of assessment: one is not granted a DSP on flimsy, unsubstantiated medical grounds. Even a person with a documented long-term illness cannot necessarily receive a disability pension. The impairment needs to meet a large number of criteria which impact on the capacity to find work and hold a job. The disability is usually permanent with little or no chance of recovery, therefore preventing the person from being employed.

  In my previous article on the subject (, 30-07-13), I pointed out that the psychological and/or physical conditions of certain disabilities can deem a person an “unreliable” employee, and I was at pains to explain that “unreliable” is NOT synonymous with “irresponsible”.

Of course, many of us know of someone with a disability who does have employment, so this example only exacerbates the plight of those with invisible disabilities. Herein lies part of the sick mind-set of our society.

Large “L” Liberal philosophy (as opposed to small “l” liberalism) was born out of the murkiness of the Industrial Age when the rising class of the bourgeoisie industrialists stripped the autonomy from the family-run cottage industries of yore. Part of the large “L” philosophy espoused the rights of the individual to succeed in business without hindrance from others, including governments. The sociopathology of Liberalism promulgated that such an individual could rise to the great heights of monetary success by harnessing the usefulness of others, i.e. the working masses. People were assessed from the point of view of: how can I make use of this person? By the same token, the barons of industry claimed to be providing their workers with a sense of worth by making them useful citizens. The lack of humanity in this attitude reduced the individual to a commodity. It stripped the employee of his or her individuality as they ended up as nothing more than a cog in the machinery propping up the wealthy industrialists.

This philosophy still survives today by brain-washing citizens into thinking that unless they are gainfully employed, they have no worth and no usefulness in our society. It is this twisted extension of Liberal thought which causes people to make sweeping judgements on those with invisible disabilities.

The finger pointing levelled at my friend is not really about her, but rather about the ignorance of her accusers. A more humanitarian philosophy which emerged during the Great Depression of 1930’s led to the provision of social welfare for the sick, elderly and unemployed where there was a genuine need. My friend does not need to hang her head in shame. She can, rather, be thankful that in spite of the sociopathic Liberal underpinnings of her brain-washed accusers, there are enough citizens out there who want to have the safety net of social security in place for people like her who fall through the cracks of societal expectations. 

The Inca Trail Trek to machu Picchu

Dramatically dripping over the precipice of a ridge at the edge of the Andes, the World Heritage site of Machu Picchu is a stunning vision to behold as you descend into it. Ever since its accidental re-discovery by the Yale University professor, Hiram Bingham lll in 1911, this mysterious ancient wonder has continued to capture the imaginations of people around the world.

Constructed around 1450AD under instructions by Inca Emperor, Pachacuti, it is believed to have been a royal retreat and ceremonial centre. The priesthood, using their astronomical knowledge, conducted farming experiments, as evidenced by the terraced hillsides. The site was also chosen as a military outpost to keep an eye on enemy tribes. To support the city, an infrastructure of roads, storehouses, buildings, drainage systems, etc. was built. The occupants deserted Machu Picchu around 1572, believing the Spanish would attack them as had occurred in other parts of the Inca Empire.

The three day trek I joined was with the socially and environmentally conscious Australian company, Geckos Adventure Travel. It was led by two excellent local guides and twenty hard-working Quechua porters, descendants of the Inca. Tents and all meals were included with special dietary requirements well catered for. The Trail we followed was the middle path, constructed for priests, VIPs and nobility.

We left the beautiful city of Cuzco before dawn to commence trekking from Piscacucho passport control, near Ollantaytambo on the Urabamba River. Following the Camino Inca, “Classic” route, we ascended through cloud forest and past the ruins of Llactapata, probably built to service travellers long ago. Our first night’s campsite at Ayapata was nestled beneath breath-taking views of the snow-capped Andes. At an altitude exceeding 3000m, the effects of oxygen deficiency struck different trekkers in diverse ways, regardless of fitness, age or medical conditions.

Our beautifully prepared gourmet breakfasts usually consisted of fresh fruit, a cereal such as quinua (pronounced: kee-NU-a) or oatmeal, eggs, bread, jam, tea and coffee. Both lunch and dinner started with soup followed by a main course with large platters of vegetables, a meat dish and a carbohydrate of either rice or bread. Dessert varied from fruit to a delicious cooked or cold dish.

The chilly second morning started with a pre-dawn wake-up call at our tents with hot mate-de-coca tea, a local remedy for altitude sickness and cash crop for more nefarious purposes. Even in January, the nights can reach below freezing, so it is recommended to take a good quality down sleeping bag, or hire one with synthetic fill before the trek.

This was our most brutal day trekking to 4215m under the pitiless silhouette of the naked breast of “Dead Woman’s Pass”. Head down, weaving in a tactical zigzag motion up the steps, each of us withdrew into our own headspace. Nothing existed beyond the next breath, the next step onwards and upwards towards that heartless breast looming high above.  Finally summiting the pass, we were cheered on by other trekkers who had made it earlier.

After a significant rest, photos and much swilling of water, we descended into the next valley in the direction of lunch. The new challenge was the steep descent due the incline of Inca steps ranging from 15 to 40cm in height. I would thoroughly recommend hiring trekking poles before you go.

The porters, who carried all our supplies and camping gear, etc., of a legal weight up to 25kg, would speed past us on a deadline to reach the next rest stop. While we struggled with only light daypacks, we marvelled at the porters’ strength and agility. Fit they might be but many of us were worried about the long-term effects the gruelling conditions had on their health. Work-related problems include damage to knees and kidneys, for example. Most of these men are farmers from mountain villages but make a very meagre living. A porter’s job allows them to earn extra money to support themselves and their families.

After the trek, I was introduced to the Second Secretary of the Porters’ Union in Urabamba. They are campaigning tour companies to include an extra $USD1 contribution by trekkers into a fund to provide for porters’ welfare. This simple donation will go a long way towards providing these hard working men with a health insurance scheme.

Upon reaching the second day’s lunch site at Pacaymayo under the snowy Andean pinnacles, we dipped our aching feet into icy pools fed by a waterfall some distance above. Painful as it was, the freezing water definitely helped.

Lunch finished, there were more downward steps before ascending the second pass of Qochapata at 3950m. On the way up, we took a break at the ancient military fort of Runkuracay. From here on, the stone steps and pathways were original, barely touched, except for maintenance, since the days of the Inca Empire. Not far from the second night’s camp at Chaquinqocha, we stopped to marvel at the remains of the town, Sayaqmarka, hanging off the edge of a cliff.

Day 3 was greeted with our welcome mug of coca tea and more brilliant views of snow-capped crags. From this point, the old Inca road was not so arduous in terms of terrain but psychologically challenging by its narrow gauge and precipitous drop. The rolling trail descended through several tunnels carved out of solid rock, as well as climbing to the last pass, at 3670m before lunch at Winay Wayna. After exploring its terraced hillside, we set off through lush rainforest, abundant in exotic butterflies and flowers, to the passport control barrier.

Due to safety concerns, trekking groups until recently, used to rise very early and queue here in the dark before ascending the steep steps to the Sun Gate. At dawn, the first glimpse of Machu Picchu could be spotted as the sun rose. Our first sight of the famous lost city of the Incas was in the afternoon light. It was only a short walk down, arriving after the day trippers had left. And what a magical spectacle it was to behold!

We caught the bus down to Machu Picchu Pueblo, also known as Agua Calientes (hot spring) to spend the night in the comparative luxury of a hostel with en suites and a real bed. Early next morning, we returned to Machu Picchu by bus for a half day tour by our guides with free time to explore. A must-see is the engineering wonder of the Inca Bridge.

The train ride back followed the gushing torrent of the Urabamba River. We alighted at Piscacucho and returned to Cuzco by mini bus, although the train also runs all the way to Cuzco, as well.

As there is a strict limit on the number of trekkers allowed, the trip needs to be booked at least 6 months in advance to ensure adequate time for the issue of the permit. The trail is closed during February for maintenance.

If you go:

  • Tour companies: Geckos Adventure Tours, 6 days for $1075, including 3 day trek to Machu Picchu.
  • Flights: Multiple airlines with at least 2 stopovers fly from Sydney to Cuzco via Buenos Aires and Lima from $2651.
  • Accommodation: Hotels, hostels, tents.

Visas: Required. Your travel agent will arrange these for Peru and the Inca Trail Permit. The visa for Argentina can be applied for online.

Gerowyn Hanson

Gerowyn is Infinitive’s health and travel contributor. 



Julie Bishop Weighs into Japan-China Islands Dispute
The Facts

Following the United States’ affirmation of support for Japan’s sovereignty over the disputed Senkaku Islands with China, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop has also warned China to back off or there will be consequences.

Last week, The Peoples’ Republic of China laid down an airspace defence zone over the islands which effectively bans commercial and military flights. In defiance to this prohibition, the U.S. flew two unarmed B52 bombers over the area on Tuesday without notifying Beijing.

The contested islands lie between Japan’s Okinawan territories and Taiwan. The uninhabited volcanic archipelago which is abundant in marine life has been a traditional fishing ground for both the Taiwanese and Japanese for centuries. It was claimed by a Chinese envoy in 1534 but acceded to Japan after the First Sino-Japanese War under the conditions of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, 1895. Under terra nullius, Japan took possession of the archipelago as they were uninhabited.

Following the surrender of Japan at the end of World War ll, conditions under the Potsdam Declaration in 1945 and San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, stipulated that the archipelago became part of the U.S. occupied territories. The edicts deemed that Japan could only retain sovereignty of the four main islands and such minor islands as “contemplated”. A clear decision on and the administration of the Senkaku Islands was never specified. Subsequently, in 1972, they were handed over to Japan by the US after the two countries signed the Okiniwan Reversion Treaty in 1971, restoring full administration of the islands to Tokyo.

Mineral exploration in the region by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East in 1969, revealed that the area showed potential for oil and gas reserves.

Despite originally acknowledging the 1895 Shimonoseki Treaty, in 1970, The Peoples’ Republic of China declared that it rejected the decisions of both the Potsdam Declaration and San Francisco Peace Treaty. China claims that the Potsdam Declaration annulled Japan’s possession in 1895 and asserts that the Senkaku Islands should have been returned to them.

According to Reuters, while the U.S. does not hold an official stance regarding the sovereignty of the islands, it recognizes the Japanese Government’s administration of the territory. As an ally, therefore, the United States has a responsibility to defend Japan in the event of any military threats.

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop asserts that Australia has the right to take a position on international affairs and it is appropriate to show support for the standpoint of the U.S. and Japan. The Minister summoned the Chinese Ambassador to inform him that Australia would not stand for China’s intimidation in the Asian Region. According to Reuters, the Ambassador has expressed “strong dissatisfaction” to Ms Bishop’s reprimand, claiming her objections to China’s installation of the no-fly zone over the Senkaku Islands are “mistaken”. He declared that the Foreign Minister’s statements would damage Australian-Chinese relations.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Hagel

Gerowyn is Infinitive’s health and travel contributor.

Save the NBN Petition delivered to Clive Palmer’s Faifax Office



Today, a group of Sunshine Coast constituents from Clive Palmer’s electorate of Fairfax, delivered a petition regarding the NBN to the Member’s office in Maroochydore.  Voters, acting under the banner of “Save The NBN Day Of Action”, lead by Host and this writer, Gerowyn Hanson, presented the petition to staff member, Leslie Grace. About a dozen concerned citizens for saving the NBN were able to make it and present the Petition to Leslie, despite traffic delays in the area. Participants have asked the Member for Fairfax to advocate on their behalf for the NBN to be delivered to all Australian homes and businesses, not just the fortunate few already connected. The Honourable Member was not present.

With the Abbott Government revoking the previous Labor Administration’s programme to have all homes and businesses be connected directly to the NBN, the vast majority of locations will miss out. Labor’s nation-building plan was to use fibre optics to deliver the internet to individual premises.

Optic fibre to the premises (FTTP), is a more technologically advanced means of delivering a much greater load of information at a fast efficient speed over the internet. The current copper connection installed by providers such as Telstra, has been in use for decades. To date, copper wire has been a cheap, effective means of conveying a certain percentage of data. Fibre, however, is a medium which conducts light and therefore visual images such as print, graphics and large files can be delivered at a faster rate.

While using the existing network is a more inexpensive way of delivering ADSL broadband, the Government’s plan to install fibre to the node (FTTN) instead, will be inefficient. A node is a neighbourhood hub where the main telephone cable separates into the individual premises’ copper wire telephone line. Unlike fibre, copper is prone to deterioration from moisture and loses its effectiveness over distance.  The farther away from the node a house or business is, the longer it takes and the more inefficient it becomes to deliver data. Moreover, as many of these copper cables have disintegrated over the years it has further exacerbated the service’s short-comings.

In Clive Palmer’s electorate of Fairfax, many homes and businesses find themselves in “black spots” where the existing copper network is stretched to the limit. Often, there is little or no wireless mobile service provided as an alternative. The Coolum Industrial Estate is a case in point where the current network is incapable of serving the needs of the local business community. Last year, Malcolm Turnbull MP, the current Minister for Communications and Broadband, visited the industrial estate to discuss these problems with local business owners.

In addition to the Federal Government’s concern over budget blowouts from the NBN, some people claim that the present copper network is adequate and there is no need for a faster broadband service. For an individual who requires nothing more than to check their emails, this is possibly true for the moment. Other cynics assert that the only advantage of fibre optics is to download and view pornography quicker.

For many ordinary Australian households, however, neither ADSL nor mobile broadband modems are adequate enough to download movies and music, or view YouTube or ABCTV’s iView, for instance. Businesses are handicapped by the present system when it comes to uploading or downloading photographic advertising, product designs or large documents, to name a few. This is especially true for many residents in the Fairfax communities of Coolum and Peregian.

Residents from the Fairfax Electorate and other Sunshine Coast communities shared personal experiences with the current inadequacies of the copper network. Participants from all walks of life who are seriously worried about missing out on FTTP discussed the advantages of having a fast, efficient internet service provided to their businesses, education institutions and households. 

Asian neighbours, such as Korea and Japan already use FTTP.  Continuing the use of a copper network could further hamper business and development for Australia in one of the fastest growing regions in the world. In a first world country like Australia, a copper based supply network is becoming obsolete for delivering the information needed in the modern era.Image

National day of action on climate change – Infinitive

National day of action on climate change – Infinitive.


Today, Sunday 17th November, 2013, I spoke at one of only two of Get Up’s Climate Action Rallies held on the Sunshine Coast. Organized by local, “Scoffy”, about 150 people from the Coast, and as far away as Northern NSW and even Sydney, attended. People brought chairs, picnic lunches, dogs, and children, and enjoyed the day by opening the discussion around climate change.
As a Founding Friend of the newly established Climate Council, administered by Dr Tim Flannery, it was essential to focus on educating people. Firstly, it was important to use correct labels when referring to those who are ‘for’ and ‘against’ the research on global warming. I asked the people assembled if they knew the difference between a scientific “sceptic” and a scientific “denier”. Being sceptical is part of the process of scientific inquiry. We still refer to Einstein’s Theory of Gravity as a theory, indicating the investigation is ongoing. No one these days, however, would deny gravity exists; it indicates that researchers are keeping the debate going until there is absolute proof. There is therefore, nothing wrong with being a climate sceptic but a climate denier says, “NO!” I wonder where we have heard “no” before. Perhaps it used to be uttered by a certain “Mr No”?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for warming the planet. The earth, however, needs a greenhouse effect in order to sustain life, so it is not necessarily a maligned chemical. The question is: what is the optimum amount of CO2 the atmosphere needs to maintain a healthy balance? Apparently, of all the other elements found in the air, it is only 0.003%. Recent measurements found it is now around 0.004% but this can vary, rising to as much as 0.007%. Now while this might not sound like a huge amount, it is the final straw that has broken the camel’s back.
We now have more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any other time in the earth’s history. Scientists can measure these amounts by examining ice cores which contains tens of thousands of years’ worth of information held in solution when rain or snow fell. Researchers can state there the carbon levels in the atmosphere are at the highest amount ever seen in the last 800,000 years.
Of course, the carbon cycle involving the transpiration of plants into the air, converting to form vapour (clouds), falling to earth as rain or snow and being held in solution in the sea or soil, has contributed to the natural balance. Volcanoes, bushfires, etc. have also been part of that cycle. What happens, though, when the balance is upset? The reflective nature of carbon particles in the atmosphere contribute to warming the planet. So too, the heating up of the sea surface results in evaporation at the interface, releasing those carbon particles held in solution into the air, exacerbating the effect.
The outcome of global warming can be seen by rising temperatures causing droughts and wildfires. The consequence is more plant and animal extinctions of some of the sensitive species, as well as the crop failure of our food sources. Warming seas appear to cause more frequent and destructive cyclones and storms as well, adding to the predicament.
Even if the human production of carbon were ceased and reduced today, it would still take more than 1000 years for the levels to return to what they were at the time of the Industrial Revolution. That is how much human activity has upset the natural balance of the carbon cycle.
Next week, I will be going to the Federal Office of Fairfax, held by Clive Palmer, to submit a petition advocating for the NBN to be supplied to all Australian homes. At the same time, I will make an appointment for a future date to present another petition to the Member asking him to support the constituents’ desire to take action on climate change.
By all means remain sceptical about climate change but be responsible for your own part in reducing CO2 emissions. Do your own research by keeping up-to-date on the latest scientific research and be informed. As a final thought, even if the science can be disproven in the future, the effort we make now will at least result in a cleaner, healthier planet than the one we have now.