The wolf in sheep’s clothing

posted in: Life and things | 0

The news is full of commentary on the treasurer Jim Chalmers’ projected changes to superannuation, despite the fact that before the 2022 election, we were promised that no changes would be made. What was that Peter Garrett said in 2007? “Once we get in we will just change it all.” Seems the wolf is stripping off the sheep suit.

I always thought compulsory superannuation was a great idea. I hardly noticed the amount taken from my salary each month and I liked that when I stopped working I’d have money to bolster the pension benefits I’d earned over the years of my working life. But the understanding was always that it was MY money.

It seems several of the major superannuation funds have been persuaded (I suspect via the Government and the Unions) to invest in public housing. It sounds like a nice, altruistic idea but I thought we paid tax to do that sort of thing and that the super funds existed to grow profits for the benefit of their members. I have to wonder what the ROI is going to be on public housing.

It’s interesting that Mr Chalmers is dead set against people drawing down their superannuation savings to buy a house. He says super is supposed to be for when you stop working. But the best asset a retiree can have is their own house. With house prices soaring, anyone should have the right to use their superannuation to go toward a deposit. It’s their money, after all. NOT the Government’s.

Of course, at this stage of my life it doesn’t affect me. But I think it’s the thin edge of the wedge. Negative gearing is on the table. Paul Keating tried throwing it out years ago, resulting in a steep drop in the number of rental properties – just what we need right now. What about a capital gains tax on the family home, a death duty by any other name? And I’m sure they’ll take another look at franking credits, and at including the family home in an assets test for the pension. Any way they can think of to squeeze a bit more money out of the population.

I understand that with an ageing population, there’s going to be increasing pressure to deliver pensions. Here’s an idea. Why don’t we get rid of the vast bureaucracy trying to support our creaking, outmoded system and do what nearly every other country does – pay people a pension when they reach retirement age? No assets test, no endless checking, no rows of people sitting behind desks shuffling virtual pieces of paper. Simple. Sure, a few very wealthy souls will get a fortnightly payment they don’t really need, but we’ll save billions in administration.

Of course, that won’t happen under a Labor Government. They wouldn’t want to lose any votes.

Let’s talk about books.

Just lately I’ve started reading quite a few books and then given up on them. I had various reasons. One Scifi started with a human-alien hybrid character, where the alien part was something like a wolf. Pass. Another started with several pages of gratuitous, bloody violence. Pass. But mostly, they didn’t grab my interest after a couple of chapters.

That doesn’t mean they’re no good. Going by the number of good reviews, quite a few people didn’t agree with me. Hey ho. That’s life.

But Kathryn Casey’s The Fallen Girls was different.

Detective Clara Jefferies has spent years running from her childhood in Alber, Utah. But when she hears that her baby sister Delilah has disappeared, she knows that the peaceful community will be shattered, her family vulnerable, and that that she must face up to her past and go home.

Clara returns to find that her mother, Ardeth, has isolated her family by moving to the edge of town, in the shadow of the mountains. Ardeth refuses to talk to the police and won’t let Clara through the front door, believing she and her sister-wives can protect their own. But Clara knows better than anyone that her mother isn’t always capable of protecting her children.

When Clara finds out that two more girls have disappeared, all last seen around the cornfields near her family’s home, she realizes it’s not just Delilah who’s in danger. And then she gets a call that a body has been found…

Clara will have to dig deep into the town’s secrets if she’s going to find Delilah. But that will mean confronting the reason she left. And as she gets closer to Delilah, she might be putting her more at risk…

Clara is a Dallas detective who escaped many years ago from a Fundamental Latter Day Saints (FLDS) family in (fictional) Alber, Utah. The community clings to the old ways, where polygamy is virtuous and women Obey. Clara’s mother, Ardeth, was the first of her father’s several wives and Clara was one of a multitude of children. Delilah is Clara’s half-sister and she has disappeared. When local cop Max, another Alber outcast who returned, obtains a note saying Delilah was taken he contacts Clara for help. He is the only person in Alber who thinks Delilah’s disappearance should be investigated. But even his belief wavers as the FLDS community closes ranks.

The town has already begun to change since Clara left. Non-FLDS families have moved in. Some polygamous men have been jailed, leaving their vast families to fend for themselves. The town now has a restaurant and a shelter for women and children, unheard of a decade ago. In spite of the problems, some of the FLDS families are determined to hang on to the old ways. So, it’s Detective Clara Jeffries, a despised apostate, trying to find the truth in this close-minded subset of the Mormon religion where nobody talks to strangers. Or the law.

The story has  so much tension, quite apart from the missing girls. Clara has to grapple with her own past and cope with a mother who won’t even talk to her. It’s difficult for someone like me to imagine what it would be like to live in a place like Alber, but they exist. The ending was truly satisfying.

My only quibble with the writing was overuse of people’s names in dialogue. Every second sentence identified the person being addressed. “Fred, we should go there.” “Mary, I don’t think we should.” “Fred, let’s go now.” “Well, Mary, if you’re sure.” People don’t talk like that and after a while it starts to grate.

Apart from that, it was a great read with complex characters and an intriguing setting.

I loved it.

It’s first in a series (of course) and at the moment, it’s free. Here’s the link.

Midjourney is particularly good at landscapes. Here’s a couple it did for me.

Mist in the Welsh mountains
Water colour of an English cathedral village

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