Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for August 2009

Published “The Chronicle” Canberra, Tuesday 25 August 2009 

 Shady political lobbyists (fixers) and corrupt politicians have always been part of the political scene. While many of them have been caught and jailed, many are still with us as is the perception of many that fewer are in jail than out of it while those in jail are but the tip of a very big iceberg.

But just as fixers and corrupt politicians have long been with us, so too, have many other politicians who keep telling us they have the answers on how fixing and corruption can be eliminated. At every election they swear, hand on heart, that the only way to ensure parliament will be free of fixing and corruption is to elect or re-elect them.

Sadly some fixers are able to pursue corrupting politicians while visiting them in parliament, at other times however the corrupting is done well away from the parliament in places where fixers and corrupt politicians can avoid scrutiny.

Based on evidence adduced at the eighties inquiry into the Queensland Police, conducted by Tony Fitzgerald QC, not only was it shown that police corruption was rampant it also showed that corruption permeated every part of Queensland’s public life. And while it isn’t possible to say that Queensland is at the top of the fixers and corrupt politicians league, the cumulative effect of past and recent events show it is near the top. 

As a result of the Inquiry, many Queensland celebrities were embarrassed while the Premier, Cabinet Ministers, former Cabinet Ministers, business identities, judges, statutory office holders, senior executives of companies, banks, law firms, developers, valuers and estate agents faced the courts with some of them being sent to jail. And while much of the corruption involved developers this is not to say that all developers are corrupt: many are not. It must be said also that without developers the Australia we know would not exist.    

That corruption arises is best described by Edmund Burke, the nineteenth century British politician who said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Sadly In Queensland, many good men did nothing. Even more sadly, as Tony Fitzgerald recently commented, corruption in Queensland seems to be rearing its head again. 

As to why fixers and corrupt politicians are still with us, is because we have become complacent and our complacency has allowed corruption to flourish not only in Queensland but also across all Australian States.  In Western Australia for example a number of cases of alleging corrupt practice by a former Premier, former politicians and senior bureaucrats are before the courts. To this can be added cases currently before the Victorian courts and recent cases in South Australia and Tasmania that alleged corruption.

In NSW events show quite clearly that complacency in Government allowed corruption to grow to a very high level and as politicians, business people and bureaucrats grew more complacent and corrupt, unsuitable development also grew. Having said that, it must also be said I cannot be charitable to politicians who clearly demonstrate their disregard for the qualities of honesty and integrity they demand of others and which they had promised to bring to Government.

Some people might say that such corruption does not exist in Canberra. They might well be right, but in the way rumours of fixing and corruption that once swirled around boxing and wrestling bouts at the Sydney Stadium, rumours keep swirling around Canberra about the influence of lobbyists, business figures and former politicians. Canberra is fortunate in that that the rumours have come to nothing although some Canberrans think the latter fortunate. On the other hand they are less than sure of Canberra’s fortune.

Rumours aside, many people express the view that the ACT Government has become complacent with some of its members believing that, regardless of their rhetoric of being in Government courtesy of the voter, they see themselves as  “ The Untouchables”.

In political terms they think themselves The Untouchables because, as Canberra is said to be a Labor town, they feel sure that, at the next election, voters won’t remove them from Government.

 Would that I could be as sure of being alive in 2012.     

 For the best Canberra Community News get “The Chronicle.” Published every Tuesday

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Published 18 August “The Chronicle “Canberra

At present it seems Australia’s future is being determined by almost weekly opinion polls about which man is the most popular, Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull.

If Rudd polls higher than Turnbull, he gets anointed, at least for the week of that poll.

But as a week can be a lifetime in politics the final poll at election time will decide the outcome.

However, based on poll results the media will interpret the result in more ways than a mangy dog has fleas.

If Rudd polls lower this week than last, but not significantly, the media will call it a blip whereas if Turnbull polls higher, the media will say that while it improves his position as Coalition Leader it won’t improve his chance of becoming Prime Minister.

Such a task is not impossible but as Mr Rudd is keeper of the financial cookie jar and, due to a set of world wide financial occurrences that started in the US rather than on policies he announced at the last election, he has handed out cookies to help boost his popularity.

The result: he has consistently led the polls.

While that may be so the question is: will such polls show him retaining popularity when the global financial crisis is resolved and good government policy becomes the determining facto?

I wonder also how objective some polls are when questions often seem designed to give the desired answers.

 That having been said, the frequency of these polls also seems to have usurped the politicians’ job of speaking with voters face to face. Indeed with economics rapidly becoming the most important issue for every politician perhaps every PM will need to be an economist and be elected by popular vote.

Perhaps too, the process of electing the PM will be similar to that used by talent programmes with potential PM’s being invited to spruik their party piece on TV after which, viewers will be asked to ring the station and answer yes or no to which of them should become PM.

 That’s the future, but what of today?

In some ways the talent show process has started. Rudd and Turnbull regularly perform on TV – fortunately, as yet, neither has sung nor danced (give them time) and are asked questions by a host presenter with some questions focussed on personal likes and dislikes in food, sport, music and entertainment.

Silly as it sounds some viewers might vote for someone because he/she liked baked beans, followed soccer, preferred pop to classical music or film to theatre, looked good, had red hair, green eyes, a good body and voice or vote against them because they didn’t like their looks or personal tastes.

Cynical yes, but in my view, a good reason as to why opinion polls are leading to the devaluation of democracy.

Personally I prefer newspaper polls despite the efforts of some politically biased, influential, pompous, snobbish journalists and commentators on politics who try to influence the polls by conditioning voters, most of whom they regard as intellectual inferiors – if not dimwits- to vote for the party they, the commentators, want as Government.

Australia should count itself fortunate that some of the dimwits won’t allow themselves to be conditioned by these commentators.

Unfortunately as I wrote some time ago, dimwits would find it easier to level Mt Everest using pick, shovel and barrow, than make their views known.

And while web sites are potential avenues for making views known, more unfortunately unless a dimwit has sufficient money to set up, maintain and run one, it is an avenue only a few would be able to afford without the support of a benevolent sponsor.

 This leaves only letters to the editor or talk back radio as avenues for dissent.

And therein lies another problem. If the politics of the letters’ editor are opposite to that of the dimwits their hopes of getting a letter published might rate 4 on a scale of one to ten. The same applies to talk back radio programmes if the dimwits’ views are contrary to those of the producer or presenter.

Although some people won’t believe this I’m sure an opinion poll would say I’m right!

For Canberra’s best community news get “The Chronicle.” Published Every Tuesday

First Published 11 August “The Chronicle” Canberra.  

Some politicians and other influential people played down the seriousness of the recent violent incidents in Sydney and Melbourne that involved Indian students, claiming the incidents were not racially motivated.

As exercises in self-deception, their claims are hard to beat.

Sadly and too often, many Australians indulge in such self deception as much to protect their own image as to protect the mental image they have created for themselves of Australia as the world’s only tolerant, non racist country, where good sportsmanship reigns supreme, a Utopia, where everyone, regardless of colour, religion, race or ethnicity, is treated equally.

Unfortunately Utopia the dream does not exist – no country in the world treats everyone equally. Indeed, to a degree, every country is tainted with racism particularly countries like Australia whose Aborigines were treated as inferior by large numbers of British arrivals who brought with them habits, customs and languages its native Aborigines found strange and difficult to accept.

Physical friction arose between the groups particularly when the British found it difficult to accept that the Aborigines did not welcome them with open arms.

The result: a discriminatory pattern of behaviour that is still with us. And when non British with different habits, customs and language arrived, they too, were caught up in the friction.

However, with the passing of time and without Australia ever becoming a homogenous society (nor should it), all of the groups managed to live with each other if not in total peace then in mainly peaceful agreement from which all benefited.

Unfortunately while most people in the groups managed to live and work together, some didn’t, sadly, an ongoing situation. Put simply, those who didn’t are racists.

Racists in Australia  are easy to recognise.

They are the people who, head in sand, will never own up to the fact that not only are all people regardless of colour equal, but that they are beneficiaries of the skills and talents of all everyone living in Australia.  And while one might hope otherwise, it is also unlikely that these people, who see themselves as superior members of the human race, will ever own up to being racist.

Unfortunately, too, unless they recognise their condition, there is little chance that it will ever be cured. However if Australia is ever to reach that stage the language used to describe people will have to change; not doing so will help keep racism alive.

Media in particular has an important role to play in bringing about that change.

 Journalists should establish the status of the people involved when reporting incidents.

By this I mean establishing if the people involved are Australian.

Inconvenient as this might be establishing such facts may go a long way towards preventing further violence. A need for status to be established is important because when reports describe people as Lebanese, Asian, people of middle-eastern appearance, et al, the impression created is that not only are they not Australian, they reinforce the opinion of racists that to be an Australian one must be white.

In effect such reporting gives comfort and confidence to those Australians who hold the view that the White Australia policy should never have been abandoned.

In a nation where nationality can not be attributed to skin colour, such attribution can lead, disturbingly, to creating animosities about religion, dress, education, morality, ethics, and personal relationships that, in turn, create animosities which encourage racists, not necessarily white, to assert that some people will never be Australian.

To prevent any escalation of these animosities it seems to me it’s about time that those Australians wearing rose coloured glasses changed them for new pair and started to live up to the egalitarianism of which Australia boasts, a view they think shared by the rest of the world.

Unfortunate as it is, many people in other countries do not share that view.

Putting it bluntly, many people in many countries see Australia through dark glasses.

But perhaps more unfortunately for Australia many people of status who hold positions that allows them the opportunity to sway public opinion, express support for egalitarianism simply to protect their status and hide their own racial prejudices.

Australia would benefit greatly if they could be rooted out.

For the best of Canberra’s comunity news get The Chronicle. Published every Tuesday.

Published in The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 4 August

Recently watching parliamentary debates on TV a deep sense of déjà vu overcame me so I turned off the TV and started to read the film and book reviews in Panorama, the Canberra Times Saturday Magazine.

 Interesting as they were, the reviews didn’t manage to stifle the sense of déjà vu. Why? I  asking myself. Was it because they brought back deep -seated memories of famous parliamentary debates I had heard or read about – they didn’t – or school debates? As I mused on, I realised it couldn’t have been the school debates either: they had been sensible.

 And though there was a connection but because school debates did not quite fit the bill, I googled parliamentary debates and thought I was onto something when one section said: “ … the quality and depth of a debate improves with knowledge and skill of its participants as debaters. Deliberative bodies such as parliaments, legislative assemblies, and meetings of all sorts engage in debates the outcome ofwhich may be decided by audience vote, by judges, or by some combination of the two.Formal debates between candidates for elected office, such as the leaders debates and the U.S. presidential election debates, are common in democracies.”

When I read these words I wondered had I been really been watching parliamentary debates or an amateur dramatic society rehearsing a series of badly written and farcical political dramas. If the latter, what I saw would have been excusable, but when I looked up the TV Guide and found they really were parliamentary debates, I was tempted to write to the Speakers of both Houses saying that if what I saw on television was the best politicians could do, the broadcasts should be stopped. I then thought of adding, that with the Government seemingly having an unlimited amount of cash to give away, perhaps consideration should be given to refunding taxpayers their eight cents a day.

Then the school connection clicked in. The debates were like school fights where combatants yelled at each other although, in parliament, expletives were implied but not voiced.

Later, while watching “Corner Gas,” a Canadian comedy show on SBS my sense of déjà vu was stirred again. Not that Corner Gas was anything like the parliamentary debates; like the school debates, it was too intelligent. No, what Corner Gas brought to mind were the “Carry On” films, which took my mind off in another direction, the local film industry.

Many people in Canberra know of my interest in the film industry because, over the years, I have written a number of columns suggesting that Canberra had everything needed to become Australia’s film making capital. Indeed at one time during the days of Pauline Hanson, I suggested that the political events of the day could be the theme of a science fiction film set in Canberra, a suggestion, unfortunately, that came to nought. Had it been adopted, it’s possible that the “Utegate” and the “OzCar” sagas played out before the nation in the National Parliament before it rose for the winter break might not have occurred.

Although my suggestion was not taken up, I am not easily put off. So in light of Utegate and OzCar, let me suggest another political film that could easily be made in Canberra. Not a political science fiction film this time but a farce, tentatively titled ” Carry On Politically” sub titled: a true view of the Canberra political scene.

 The great thing  about this film  is that it could be made when Parliament was sitting so avoiding the need to build scenery, write a script, or pay actors – taxpayers would already be paying them. Indeed the only thing needed would be a musical score with a dramatic overture, some music in the style of a Gilbert and Sullivan; some dull symphonic music to accompany major announcements; and some chamber music.

Putting Parliament on the big screen perhaps might also bring to light some Australian equivalents of Carry On stars Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Frankie Howerd, Sid James and Hattie Jacques, et al. Indeed, I would put forward some names but for the law of defamation so Instead I’ll let you Carry On doing that for yourself.

For Canberra local news get “The Chronicle.” Published every Tuesday

The more pictures of Prime Minister’s Kevin Rudd’s face I see the more I am reminded of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme: ”Little Jack Horner sat in the corner eating his Christmas pie, he put in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said “oh, what a good boy am I.” And that’s only one of Rudd’s faces: he has many.

Parliament is often perceived as a theatre and on the basis of the farce (farce like a sitcom demands little from its audience other than a willingness to laugh) that has been playing there for the past few weeks, this perception seems to have firmed. And while some people might argue that what happens in Parliament is melodrama I’ll stick to calling it farce for no other reason than farce is a form of theatre that gives actors an opportunity to display the full range of their thespian ability. For example, it has given the PM an opportunity to demonstrate his new-found knowledge of Australian language, which, like much of his language leaves many Australians baffled, while some say it shows he’s a smart arse.

To help him in his job he also has a wardrobe of masks that covers every facial expression from grim to grin so enabling him to don a mask suitable for a particular occasion. For example when talking about the bad behaviour of others he can don a prim smile mask to help him deliver his moral message disapproving of their behaviour. Then an hour later at a barbecue he can don a mask that he thinks shows him as one of the boys.

It would seem that funeral masks comprise a large part of the PM’s wardrobe so that when attending the funeral of someone in the military he can don an appropriate mask. He can also do the same if attending the funeral of a celebrity, a former politician or someone described as ordinary. Personally on such occasions, I would rather hear the sincere words of family, friends and colleagues rather than the unctuous, obsequious and insincere platitudes that politicians, no matter their position in the political hierarchy, often deliver.

Funerals aside, the reason I think farce a better description of Parliamentary theatre is the fake e-mail affair of Godwin G-rech (a senior Treasury officer of whom it might be said that he had a mistaken sense of obligation and his own importance) that has been, and still is, playing daily to TV, Radio and newspaper audiences.

In particular this farce allowed the PM to try his dramatic thespian skills (it’s no fable that every comedian wants to play Hamlet), which he did, much to the discomfiture of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull because of his part in the fake e-mail affair (OzCar), now known to have been written by the said Godwin G-rech.

Oh lordy, lordy. Like a sinless and purer than pure preacher at a revivalist meeting, when the subject came up in Parliament the PM heaped scorn and obloquy on the hapless Turnbull for his trying to use the fake e-mail to try and discredit him and have him removed from office. Indeed the only thing missing were Hamlet’s words: “Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes ”(I.2.257-258). Instead, he called on Turnbull to resign because, he said, he had demeaned democracy and parliament through his part in OzCar. Indeed listening to him one might have thought the effect of the fake e-mail was worse than global warming, global financial crisis and global terrorism combined.

An exaggeration of course, but you get what I mean as there is nothing like listening to a politician in self righteous mode lecturing other politicians on ethics and integrity, particularly when politicians discard both whenever it suits their purpose. Indeed on many occasions both sides of politics have compromised public servants when it suited them. In this case, the only difference is the Opposition was found out. Sadly, until the next election the Government will continue to demand Turnbull’s resignation. And regular as clockwork, its publicity machine will grind out messages that while Turnbull lacks ethics and integrity and is inadequate as a political leader the PM has the highest level of ethics and integrity. I can think of no better example of the pot calling the kettle black. It seems to me that the seriousness of the fake e-mail has been exaggerated to a nonsensical degree and no doubt you will draw your own conclusion as to whether or not Turnbull should resign. Personally I think he should stay, because I have a feeling the real reason the Prime Minister wants to humble him and get him to resign from parliament is that he fears Turnbull’s intelligence. But of one thing I am sure. In the run up to the next election we will see the Prime Minister wearing many more masks and hear many more unctuous utterances, which leads me back to where I started: “Little Jack Horner.”

Published The Chronicle: Tuesday, July 28

I’ve long held the opinion that the secret to long life is play harder and work less, a regime I’ve tried to stick to. Unfortunately, like some who might share this philosophy, I failed, sometimes spectacularly, although I confess that, in failing, I enjoyed myself immensely.

Recently, however, I concluded statements made by policy makers that baby boomers are likely to find life difficult financially when retirement comes if they haven’t saved any money, are doing more harm than good. And while only a sneaking feeling I think their statements are preludes to later statements announcing that retirement age will move beyond the mooted age of 67 years.

No doubt they thought their statements would start boomers saving, but all they seem to have done is succeed in making worried boomers more worried and non worried boomers start worrying. But perhaps in making the statements the policy makers were trying to get boomers used to the idea that, with certain exceptions, State age pensions eventually will disappear and if people haven’t made provisions for retirement then “hard cheese.” A more cynical observation: perhaps policy makers hope that by creating worry among boomers the number of people needing an age pension will decrease.

As is usual people in policy areas have their own language. They talk about a demographic time bomb not that because people are living longer the Government will not be able to afford paying age pensions. And to add emphasis they say that in the future old people without the necessary savings will have to carry on working. If this happens, many old people will fall apart bit by bit and end up dying on the job. Not that the government will say so, but this will help it avoid having to pay to keep them repaired and alive.

Indeed, Government might see it also as a means of getting those currently worrying about the retirement age moving to 67 years, to start getting them used to thinking about voluntary euthanasia if they think they will never save enough to keep themselves in retirement. Perhaps too, it is to introduce people to think about mandatory euthanasia and also provoke them into considering making Eugenics legal?

When I discussed the latter with older people some said they weren’t worried because, even if it happened, they wouldn’t be around. Some, however, already accepting of their fate, had retreated into their shells and become empty carapaces on the shore of the sea of life waiting for a wave to wash them into the sea’s deepest parts as if they had never existed.

By way of contrast some thought age was simply a life calendar that every day offered challenges which, even when young, they had taken up not only because they made life enjoyable but that they opened the gateway to further challenges some of which, after tackling, they sometimes wish they hadn’t. However, as one remarked, it is the not knowing if you will win a challenge that makes life exciting.

These are the people who have observed the adjuration of Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that goodnight”/Old age should burn and rave at close of day/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” They are also the people who fight death all the way, who work and play hard and even if not famous when death comes not only will they will make the people they left behind remember so too will people in the future.

Now, a few more words of Dylan that would make a marvellous epitaph: “Though wise men at their end know dark is right/ Because their words had forked no lightning they /Do not go gentle into that good night. / Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright/ Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, / Rage, rage against the dying of the light./ Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,/ And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,/ Do not go gentle into that good night./ Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight/ Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

For Canberra Comunity News get The Chronicle. Published every Tuesday



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