Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for September 2009

Posted “The Chronicle” Canberra, Tuesday 16 September, 2009 

Apart from showing the age of miracles hasn’t yet passed, people who manage to get senior executive positions in Canberra without being an ex politician, political adviser, senior bureaucrat, or being close to people of influence at the big end of town, without demonstrating their conference attending experience, should count themselves lucky. Indeed, if their CV didn’t show they had this experience, getting the job was surely a miracle. For example: if 24 people apply for an executive position the odds against someone without conference attending qualifications getting the job, would be 25-1.

You might think this unfair but, particularly in Canberra, executives who think a conference is simply an opportunity to get away from either wife or husband or a short holiday are in for a few rude shocks. First they will find that finding that attending a conferences isn’t easy; that it requires hard work and stamina to listen, time after time, to the same speeches being delivered by a variety of speakers even if some speak better than others.

In fact, if the Olympics had a conference -attending event, I know of some people in Canberra who could give the other competitors a start and still easily win the gold medal.

Conference attending is tough as is the training programme.  First, you train to stay awake during dull speeches. Second, when it comes to eating you also need to look as if you’re enjoying the canapés with names that no one recognises (including the chef), or the more usual hors d’oevres made from leftovers. Third, you’ll need enterprise, so that rather than try to look happy with the most expensive lunch of rubber chicken or rare roast beef with Brussels sprouts and carrots you’ll ever be expected to eat, you get a steak.

You’ll also need to learn hand language and punctuation. For example: when emphasising that you know what you’re talking about you make fists of your hands and put them in front of you while curling and uncurling the first finger of both hands.

What sparked this column was my attendance at a tourism conference. There’s no doubt about it: if you’ve been to one tourism conference you’ve been to them all. Within minutes of arrival one gets an overwhelming sense of “déjà vu,” a phrase coined by a bored Frenchman or Frenchwoman after attending his/her second tourism conference.

Not that tourism conferences are on their own; they have lots of competitors such as conferences that deal with important subjects such as: “How to become rich in two days” or, “How to Double Your Investment Income in Five Easy Lessons.” More recently however, many other of conferences with titles such as “How To Make The Internet Work For You” or similar, are trying to muscle in on the conference scene. 

A word of warning to people attending a conference for the first time: it would be wise to take the advice of regular attendees. The reason? They have friends who, after taking lessons from the ‘expert’ speaker at a conference on how to double their investment income, ended up paying for a hundred lessons and, instead of becoming rich, became bankrupt. And as for those who took lessons hoping to learn how to make the internet work for them, many have ended up having weekly sessions on a psychiatrist’s couch. 

Some people might think I am being cynical saying déjà vu? But I’m not. I’m simply using the French saying to help make the point that conferences are good events because they can help extend your vocabulary. This happens because speakers use different words to say what you’ve heard many times before. Unfortunately, what they say usually doesn’t advance your knowledge of the subject.

Politicians are the best examples I can think of to demonstrate this last point. They say they deliver the same speech using different words because they are paid so badly they can’t afford a speech writer.

And now I will be cynical. A politician once told me had ten variations of a speech that lasted him for a parliamentary term. Perhaps so; but let me suggest, even more cynically, that probably ten speeches would last most politicians a lifetime.

dca@netspeed.com.au

Published “The Chronicle” Tuesday, 15 September, 2009   

After long deliberation I’ve decided to come out of the closet to deny those who delight in digging the dirt on people. I’ve decided to speak out about all the hidden things in my life so that people get the real and not some confected story about my secret love life or criminality.

 It seems to me that if people want the real story, what could be better than getting it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak. I have taken the view that if I am to be outed and destroyed I don’t want it to be by media exposure brought on by an innocent picture of me, taken by mobile phone, showing me giving a good looking young lady (my daughter most likely, because I can’t think of anyone else at the moment) a peck on the cheek.  

I confess however, that long before meeting Boadicea I might have welcomed such a picture but in those days, unfortunately, mobile phones didn’t exist. On the other hand, when I recalled those other events, I realised that on some occasions the lack of mobile phonesmight have been fortunate as some pictures would not have been welcomed. 

Today however the innocent picture when splashed across the media could wreak havoc with my reputation and so damage it that it could it could lead to serious problems with the women members in my fan club waiting for me to give them a peck. (Well, we all have our delusions).

The picture could even destroy all the years of hard work I’ve put into politics and any hope I had of a glittering political career. To start with, the photo could destroy my hope of being number one candidate on the Morality Party ticket at the next election; indeed it could end my candidacy before it started. However, even if it didn’t, it could lead to me falling flat on my face and without a chance when one considers the range of moral and beautiful people who say they intend to re-contest the next election. And I’m only talking about the men.

 I’m not going to name them all but I feel sure you will agree with me that Jon Stanhope, Zed Sejelsa and Shane Rattenbury are a trio who epitomise masculine beauty? Indeed, when I think of them I wonder why thousands of tourists flock to Florence to gaze in awe at Michelangelo’s statue of David. Don’t they realise they could have saved themselves a fortune had they attended the ACT Assembly where the masculine beauty on display, including that of the aforementioned trio, would be equal to, if not better than the masculine beauty of the Florentine statue, even if not in the nude.

Instead, as tourists they preferred to waste thousands of dollars travelling to Florence and on their return rave to friends and relatives about the David statue and show off their new found knowledge of great sculpture. Indeed, if the ACT Government had consulted some of these people about sculpture, I think it more than likely that the pieces recently added to Canberra’s display of public art might have been quite different.

In case you think I’ve forgotten the other male Labor and Liberal MLAs I haven’t. However, I have to say, even if not everyone will agree with me that they were left behind in the beauty race. Let me add that if a place past last existed, one of them would have won it. However, wishing to be fair let me amend that statement and say they would have come in equal last.

Mind you I know that some voters say that although they came last they should have won. On the other hand some voters say they wish they didn’t have to wait until the running of the race again in October 2012. They think that already they should have been stopped racing forever and put to graze out of the public eye.

You might wonder why I haven’t made mention of women? Just let me say I can get into enough trouble with Boadicea as it is without inviting any more, apart from which I would like to be around in 2012.

dca@netspeed.com.au

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

Posted Thursday, 17 September 2009

After reading various reports about the Strategic Indigenous Housing Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) in the Northern Territory , the project designed to build 750 houses for Aboriginal people and refurbish older housing stock. I concluded the program was retreating rather than advancing.

So much in retreat was it, that Ms Alison Anderson, Labor MP and Minster for Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory resigned from the Ministry and the Labor Party when she found that of the $672 mlliion allocated by the Federal Government for the program, not one house had been but $45 million had been spent on administration.

The Federal Minster for Aboriginal Affairs Jenny Macklin accepted that the program was in disarray and Jim Davidson, the SIHIP’s Project Manager, was sacked. Mr Davidson defended the $45 million spent on administration saying it cost a lot to bring bricks and mortar to isolated areas, whil the now Inependent Ms Anderson said spending $45 milion on administration without a house being built was ludicrous.

A debacle best describes the SIHIP program. Indeed the whole monstrous army of incompetents managing it -the politicians, bureaucrats, architects, and consultants alike – deserve the same treatment as Mr Davidson. Alternatively, they should be given tents and sent to live for at least three months in an isolatedAboriginal community that needed houses and given the task of providing a solution as to how best to provide them .

White they could call for help they would not be a allowed to call on architects, builders, bureaucrats, consultants or politicians. I feel certain that if they had any common sense, they would realise that those best equipped to help them would be the Aborigines in the communities No doubt they would hope the community had a Noel Pearson.

Without in any way wishing to diminish the seriousness of the Aboriginal housing situation in the Northern Territory, the same problem exists in every other State and Territory, not only for Aborigines but also for other homeless Australian citizens.

Not holding out any great hope that the incompetents will ever find the answer to the housing problem let me put them out of their misery and tell them the solution has been around for a long time.

I live in a twenty-year-old, comfortable but not luxurious, 12.5-square manufactured home. It was designed and produced in six weeks, transported 100km to the home site and assembled in two days. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, study, lounge, kitchen, laundry . The cost of this home was half that of an equivalent size brick veneer home.

 There are another 87 manufactured homes owned and occupied by doctors, schoolteachers and other professional people, as well as tradespeople, labourers and retired people from the lowest socio economic class in my area. A former Senator lived there, as did an eminent Australian mititary historian who died there.

 As for myself, I once ran three businesses, held a number of official posts and started a political party (the party secretary an ANU Academic who taught economics) that stood five candidates at the 1992 ACT election. One of these candidates, now a well known lawyer, has been awarded an Australian honour for her work with refugees.

Despite my background, I had to pay cash for the house because on trying to obtain a mortgage, banks and other financial organisations refused me on the basis that people who live in what they snobbishly call “mobile homes” are not reliable financial risks.

In the 20 years since buying my home, manufactured homes are now being made of new materials developed to withstand fire, which makes them the ideal housing unit in some areas of Australia. That said what seems silly to me is that anyone one would want to build brick veneer houses in these areas when manufactured, or prefabricated homes, which would be safe and sit lightly on the environment, are available.

Indeed in a tropical or semi tropical climate nothing could be more incongruous than brick veneer houses more suited to cold or temperate climates. Therefore I would suggest to the SIHIP’s program managers that the answer to the housing problem could be manufactured and/or prefabricated homes.

Additionally, as the Territory’s industrial base develops, manufacturing such homes could become an industry providing long-term employment opportunities and houses for Aborigines and also be expanded to provide housing for families on mining sites and as remote accommodation for environmental tourism projects. More than that, a manufactured homes industry could quickly supply new housing to areas where houses have been lost to fire, earthquake and flood not only in Australia but also in neighbouring countries.

Manufactured/prefabricated homes could become the affordable housing that would help a great many Australian families realise the great Australian dream.

Unfortunately they won’t, because developers and construction industry aided and abetted by governments, banks and finance companies only want to build standard brick veneer homes which they sell in house and land packages at prices unaffordable to many Australians.

This brings me to the Federal Government’s various revolutions in Education and the work place. Welcome as these may be a more urgent revolution is needed to end the discrimination by banks and other lending institutions against people who want to buy and live in manufactured/prefabricated homes.

UnfortunateJy, the promises of politicians and developers on affordable housing have, so far, been pie in the sky.

Don Allan, Retd ATRIA Fellow, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at: http:donallan.wordpress.com.

 http:/ /www .onlineopinion.com.au/print.asp?article=943 8

 17/09/2009

Published “The Chronicle” Canberra, Tuesday 2 September, 2009

Since the ACT’s Self Government Act was passed 21 years ago and the election a year later of the 17 Member Legislative Assembly (we now need 21) some people are still suggesting the ACT would be better off with a Council and a Mayor.

Annoyingly many of these people know little about Canberra pre self- government and many did not vote in the 1978 referendum that said NO to self-government (I voted yes). Some indeed, did not come to Canberra until long after the election of the first Government and in many cases their knowledge of Canberra is based on anecdotal and inaccurate accounts of fellow whingers.

That said, the pre and post first election groups have something in common: a lack of understanding that knowledge of the past is essential to creating the future and the antithesis of the independent spirit that allegedly sets Australians apart from people elsewhere. From their words it seems they prefer being nannied to being independent and looking after themselves which is why they whinge about the Legislative Assembly. Clearly too, they are unaware of the saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Well neither is a system of government; a government system is always a work in progress.

I venture to suggest also, that most of these anti self–government people have never visited the Assembly on sitting days and have no idea of how it works and that at election time they vote for party names not on any knowledge of the policies being put forward by various candidates. They also seem to have forgotten that the MLAs whose Lilliputian minds they say belittle and reduce major issues to unimportance, are the ones they elected in the first place, a situation that leaves them little room to whinge.

This not to say that some of the current MLAs are not small minded. A minority are. Unfortunately this minority also seem to have a political agenda that even a Government dedicated to creating Utopia would accede to. That said, it is also my contention that this minority of MLAs would serve Canberra better by occupying seats in other parliaments.

 However, despite giving a tick of approval to the Assembly, some recent Government decisions are hard to fathom, a good example the stripping the ACT’s main annual cultural event of the Fringe Festival. With his in mind and regardless of the Government’s claim that Canberra is Australia’s Culture Capital, clearly it also has some cultural vandals of its own one of whom would seem to be a Minister.

And if that wasn’t enough, to denude city shops of their shopfront display racks also shows that those who made the decision are unaware that not only have shop front display racks been sales aids for millenniums but also that they are common in the world’s greatest cities because they help give the cities an ambience that makes them attractive to tourists. Could it be that the responsible (or should that be irresponsible?) Minister is suffering from a new strain of Germaphobia and obsessed with keeping the city’s streets in pristine condition.

And why the ACT Tourism Minister is not decrying this silliness I don’t know. But perhaps he agrees with his Cabinet colleague and will help make the streets safer by helping remove displays when the right photo opportunity presents itself.

As for the banning of fireworks, according to the CEO of the RSPCA, even the noise of fireworks coming from miles away frightens animals. If so, and speaking as a cat owner, this CEO should also have called for the banning of Skyfire and fireworks at other major events.

A final piece of silliness was the re-introduction of a Civil Unions Bill because it was known that, even if passed by the Assembly, the Federal Government would quash it. An agnostic, let me make my position on this issue clear. As contracts come in many forms, I support civil union contracts that give same sex partners the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

dca@netspeed.com.au

Posted “On Line Opinion” Tuesday 8 September 2009  

Recorded history shows power grabbers always claimed they worked in the interests of society and employed witch doctors to persuade society as to the truth of their claim. Fortunately, some people distrusted what the power grabbers and witch doctors said.

While congratulating ourselves that democracy has contained power grabbers and witch doctors, an analysis of the situation would show things haven’t changed much. Power grabbers – now called politicians – still make the same claim and still employ witch doctors – now called spin-doctors – to persuade society as to the truth of their claim. About the only thing that has changed, so I am told, is that the spin-doctors persuasion technique is now more sophisticated than casting the runes or reading the entrails of chickens. I wonder?

Not a power grabber or spin doctor myself, I predict, nevertheless, that if politicians don’t start doing what they are supposed to, work for the community rather than themselves, sometime in the future, society will demand changes that will make our current democratic system more meaningful.

One change in this more meaningful democracy will be that a Chief Economic Officer (CEO) not a Prime Minister, will lead a non-party government. Why a CEO you ask? Well, as economics will be the basis for all Government decisions, it would seem sensible to have an economist running the country. And just in case you think electing a CEO might be difficult, worry not; courtesy of TV, a more sophisticated form of an already well- tested system will do the job with ease.

The system I’m talking about is that currently used in TV competitions where viewers ring the station at competition’s end and say which of a number of contestants has won the competition? If you don’t know anything about these competitions I can only say you’ve led a very sheltered life.

A good reason for using such a system is that because more people pay more attention to contestants in TV competitions than they do to politicians it seems to me this type of type competition would be the ideal way to pick a CEO. Ratings for this competition (Win the Big Gig) would go through the roof because what competition could be more important than picking Australia’s next CEO of Australia?

To ensure the competition was fair to everyone in Australia heats would be held in every State and Territory with the winners competing nationally on BIG GIG Day. I can see the scene now as the Electoral Commission’s Master of Ceremonies introduces the BIG GIG finalists (Advance Australia Fair playing in the background), and gives them a performance number chosen at random in the studio.

The programme host would ask each finalist a series of questions and also give them the opportunity to sing, dance, play an instrument and spruik their party piece about how they would govern if they won. At programme’s end, voters would ring free telephone numbers and using their secret voting number say which contestant should get the job. (The programme would be repeated twice the following day.) Following his/her selection the CEO would then pick the people he/she wanted to help run the business of government.

But that’s the future: what about today? In some ways the above process has started already. For example, Rudd and Turnbull are now regularly asked questions on TV, although neither, as yet, and perhaps fortunately, has sung, danced or played an instrument (give them time).

On almost a regular weekly basis what they say then becomes the basis of myriad telephone opinion polls – Newspoll, Galaxy, Neilson, and Roy Morgan et al – which ask people who they think will make the best Prime Minister. A fair system you say?

Well it would be if all the questions were fair otherwise voters might as well have been asked would Turnbull make a better Prime Minister because he liked baked beans and Rudd didn’t?

Silly as it sounds, some voters might decide along these lines while some might choose Turnbull because he looked better than Rudd, spoke well and, unlike Rudd, didn’t keep pursing his lips like a prim aunt. Fortunately for Rudd and Turnbull most voters won’t base their vote on this criteria. If they did, both Rudd and Turnbull should give up now.

On the question of polls personally I prefer print media polls to telephone polls despite some politically influential but biased, pompous, snobbish journalists and commentators, including some from the electronic media, who try to condition voters, most of whom they regard as intellectual inferiors – if not dimwits- to vote for the person they want as Prime Minister.

It seems to me that such attempts merely encourage voters to buy pigs in pokes. Not that Rudd and Turnbull are pigs in pokes. The former seems more like a Conservative Bishop: illiberal and authoritarian, while Turnbull seems more liberal and less authoritarian.

 Australia also should count itself fortunate the dimwits won’t allow themselves to be conditioned but unfortunate in that they have limited opportunities to put their dissenting views forward. Indeed, in a newspaper article I published some time ago, I wrote that dimwits would find it easier to level move Mount Everest using a pick, shovel and barrow, than make their views known. Of course, they could use web sites, but unless they have a benevolent sponsor a web site would be beyond their reach.

This leaves them only letters to the editor or calls to talk back radio as avenues of dissent. And therein lies another problem. If the letters’ editor doesn’t like their views 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 their views are contrary to those of the producer or presenter.

Don’t believe me? Well I’m sure a poll would say I’m right!

Published The Chronicle, 1 September 2009

I’ve often thought the absence of humour made politics less than appealing. That said, this column is a weak attempt to take what I hope voters think a more humorous approach to the subject.   

Let me start by saying that because Prime Ministers are known for not keeping promises you would be wise not to put a large bet on the Prime Minister keeping his promise not to force a double dissolution and an early election. It might be said also that the rumour being peddled by Government members that, a decade ago, Turnbull had been fishing for a safe Labor seat might lead one to think an election campaign had started already.

A decade ago, as I recall, Turnbull played a major role in the Republic debate. However, conflating his republican leanings into seeking a safe Labor seat looks like the product of an overactive imagination and of the same substance as me being nominated for sainthood. In fact, the latter seems more likely.

No doubt some present Labor Members, already thought unsuitable, will milk the Turnbull rumour for all it’s worth as they try to distract voters attention from their own less than adequate performance. With this in mind I put my mind to solving the problem of ensuring that only suitable people would be chosen as candidates

These days, when people can get a certificate of qualification for just about anything, I suggest that a course in political representation should become part of the education curriculum and that only people who passed the political representation course could be candidates.

The course would be structured to develop a range of skills. For example, Lesson 1 would be how to open brown paper envelopes correctly. Lesson 2 would explain why a grasp of English was important. Lesson 3 would be a lesson on speechmaking with emphasis on making sure the first words of speech needed to capture the attention of the audience/press: “Good to see you ” is not enough.

For example they would be told to say: eg. “I am delighted to be here tonight to welcome youse (sic).”  In later lessons, they would learn how to say sincerely of their care for the aged, especially their rich aunties, and why they are prepared to accept the burden of travelling to New York, Paris, Tokyo, London or even Rio de Janeiro to study the problem of urban decay.

 So that their words will have substance they would be taught how to convince voters they undertook these onerous journeys to ensure that, at the very least, a half dozen promised affordable houses would be built and that urban decay would not grow in their electorate or Aboriginal settlements. (Isn’t it funny, even if unintentional, that Aborigines, Australia’s first nation peoples, now live in settlements, not the settlers?)

They would also be taught to use the fact that their journeys had also helped them gain expertise in foreign currency changing, a skill they could then pass on to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed. They would also be able to use this information to help the thousands of tourists they say will be attracted to Australia because of the tourism policies they intend to put in place when elected.

In the second term, they would get lessons in “Charm” which covers three very important but basic needs of wannabe politicians: Sartorial Style, Tonsorial Style and Deportment. If they want to be elected, skill in these areas is a must if only to avoid being lampooned by the media for lack of skill in these areas.

The fact is, only wannabes who realise the importance of perceptions and do their homework will stand a chance of being elected because they know that perceptions rather than policies are what put people in Parliament.

The last federal election is good example of how perceptions play a part. Had John Howard not been seen as less tolerant, less gracious and more dictatorial than Kevin Rudd, the Coalition might have won. Instead, Rudd won because he was seen as the opposite of all things Howard.

But in any case, why worry about who gets elected when the country is really run by non-elected politicians called bureaucrats.

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