James Cridland

Notes from Brisbane, volume three

Application for a Tax File Number (the Australian equivalent of a National Insurance number, kind of, required to get paid and show you’re not here illegally working) took less than a week. You apply online, too: no paper forms. Simple.

When applying for a driving licence, there’s no messing about with getting passport-style photographs or getting them signed on the back by a judge or a chief of police or the Queen. You just bring your ID documents in to the driving licence place, and they take a photo of you there and then. Simple.

The State government’s website lets me log in using a Google account. Simple.

The national government’s website is quick and simple to log in and to link various services with your online account. Simple.

Our daughter’s hyphenated surname, in combination with her first name, is too long for one of the official databases to cope with. Oops.

There is a thing called an “external house cleaner”. I was hoping it was someone who looked after the garden and ensured it was clean, weeded and presentable. But, since the Australians say what they mean, it isn’t: it’s someone who comes and cleans the outside of your house, including the roof and the guttering, once every 12–18 months apparently.

In London, the public transport closes entirely on Christmas Day. In Brisbane, the public transport operates near-normal timetables. Buses I’ve taken have been quick, clean, and air-conditioned.

Restaurants charge a 15% surcharge on a public holiday (to pay for currently-mandated additional wages for staff). Fair enough.

Local council libraries are well-staffed, well-maintained, and super-friendly. The State library is also excellently appointed, with an entire floor given out to desks with power and internet, and a children’s play area.

Local parks have working equipment and are well maintained. One has a hideously dangerous whirly thing with pedals on it (which is great fun for 7–8 year-olds); a sign and fence makes the danger clear, rather than the thing being carted away by joyless council officials.

Every single radio presenter takes a six week holiday in December and January. Every single one. I don’t recognise anyone on the air at the moment. Most of it comes from cities hundreds of miles away in different timezones. Bizarre. Disappointing.

Kinderling Kids Radio is brilliantly good, should be funded by the government here and a UK version run by the BBC.

Staff in government offices and shops are, without exception, friendly people who smile and genuinely want to help. I have yet to find a useless jobsworth or bored button-presser anywhere.

There is a local “transfer station”: a rare exception for Australia to not say “rubbish tip”, but being fair its called a “transfer station (rubbish tip)” on the website. It is massive, and well-staffed. It doesn’t charge to take sorted recyclables; it does charge to take household waste, but the council gives you enough vouchers for a typical user.

When leaving a message to ask the sign company to remove the “sold” sign outside your new house, they actually do so within twenty-four hours and don’t require a follow-up.

But if it makes you any better, the Telstra Air Android app — supposed to automatically log on to FON hotspots here — is useless garbage; and I’m a bit sad that the best internet connection I can get only gives me a 1MB upload speed. (Download is around 40MB though).