Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for July 2010

First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday July 27 

This is the first of four, two-part columns in which each candidate will get approximately the same space to air their views as to why we should elect them. Part two will be an opinion piece.

Part 1. Darren Churchill – Senate Candidate for the Australian Democrats

As a Democrat Senator and voice for the ACT and Australia I will negotiate on the cross benches to ensure fair legislation The Democrats are not the “Party of No”. Put simply, I will work to get better policy outcomes for all. Take immigration. Neither Abbott nor Gillard are improving policy in terms of fairness, number of migrants, nor cost efficiency. Instead, to satisfy a narrow interest group they are spending time and dollars showing their toughness on a small number of boat people in expensive offshore prison facilities.

I will to try and continue the thirty years of success the Australian Democrats have had in improving policy. For example: our amendments to the Reith Industrial Relations legislation, Howard’s GST legislation and environmental legislation ranging from the Franklin River to the Great Barrier Reef and World Heritage forests in North Queensland, show why we are needed.

For example, in policies that specifically benefit Canberra: I will support construction of a Very Fast Train system linking Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne; support low carbon energy sources for a clean reliable sustainable energy future; support initiatives that give Australia alternative exports to agriculture and mining; and support increased investment in high tech export products from the ANU, the CSIRO and local manufacturers.

Visit Darren’s website for further details: darrenchurchill.wordpress.com

Part 2. Opinion piece. Not only does Churchill’s name invoke the image of a fighting politician it also brings to mind what the famous Canadian Presbyterian Minister Walter Bryden, father of the famous and later Canadian Social Democrat of the same name, said of his Church: it may be dead but it won’t lie down.

However, it must be said that, as a party, the Australian Democrats faces an uphill battle to regain the political presence it once had among voters. It commanded this presence because in a sense it represented what many Australians like to think about themselves, that they are a people not afraid to speak up against the parties that dominate Australian politics and ambitious to impose a democracy fashioned by ideas created by party leadership groups.                

However, as the Democrats found, trying to give everybody in the party the same opportunity to say their piece proved to be an administrative mountain even more difficult to climb than Everest. Theoretically, the tools existed to conquer the mountain and as technology improved, so too did the range of tools. Unfortunately, and sadly for the Democrats, unlike the major parties, they were short of people capable of using the tools to the greatest advantage.

Increasingly in today’s world, to be able to compete effectively it is becoming essential to make decisions quickly. Indeed the adage “He who hesitates is lost” has become the mantra to be observed, particularly in politics, because competitors will leave you behind if you take too long to get to the policy starting line.

Effectively this is what happened to the Democrats. And it happened because some members of the Democrats wanted a party without flaws, its decision making process became a marathon. Importantly however, people the Democrats hoped would join them who also expected decisions to be made quickly saw the marathon process as a lack of political skills.

At the same time the forces of reason within the Democrats who saw the process as a danger and battled to change it, lost the battle. As a result the Democrats lost their place in the political spectrum. Fortunately the forces of reason within the Democrats decided to fight on,

While my personal preference is that all parliaments need more Independent voices to counter the power driven agendas of the big parties, the fact that the Democrats seem determined to carry on gives me hope that in time other Independents will also be encouraged to carry on and in doing so will help Australia develop a democratic system that better represents “The People.”  On August 21, use your vote wisely.

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With an election due any tick of the clock it would be wise to remember that Australia has some great con men, for example, Peter Foster – “The Human Headline.” Others that come to mind are politicians because many who trusted their promises got disappointment and stress in return. In saying this I am adverting only to politicians post my arrival in Australia in 1969 although I have read about state and federal politicians pre that date.

Not that all politicians are con men or women. It must be said also that, due to lack of opportunity, the former outnumber the latter. Of course, as more women enter politics they might end up leaving their male colleagues trailing in their wake.

Today of course, greater numbers of women have entered parliament, but as yet in the Federal sphere, only one female member of the Labor Party, Julia Gillard, has reached the status of Prime Minister. But let it be known also, that although no Liberal female has become Prime Minister either, Julie Bishop and others are trying hard.

It could be that you might think my applying the term conman to politicians is harsh. You might be right. However, I have heard many voters describe them in terms less printable. This occurs when they remember the politicians’ promises that electing them would be the easiest way to reach the promised land of prosperity. Not until later did voters became aware of the get out phrases in the promises that said some tough economic hills stood in the way of the road to the promised land that for many turned into never-never land.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (nickname Super Kev) was a past master at making promises. He had also mastered the art of handing out dollops of “free” cash to help make the tough economic hills seem easier to climb. Unfortunately, the free cash was an illusion.

But Super Kev is not the only politician to have performed such an illusion; Chief Ministers and State Premiers also practice the art. Indeed one of the ACT Chief Minister’s illusions is the provision of allegedly “free” entertainment.  

But credit where it’s due. Super Kev must be complimented because his cons were better than those of his predecessors. He had learned also that, if your first con didn’t look like working out, try a second one that’s twice as big and likely to take twice as long, or even longer, to come to fruition, if at all.

Think of them. Take his promise that high speed broadband would be rolled out to 99% of the nation by the end of 2008. Did you believe him and sign up to a broadband service expecting you would soon be downloading movies at near the speed of light? I hope not.

However, as soon as Super Kev realised this wouldn’t happen, at a speed even faster than the speed of light he immediately promised a better high-speed broadband system, costing $43 billion, a system that, if lucky, you might get by 2016.  While this would have seemed something the Opposition could get their teeth into, unfortunately, it failed to come up with a more realistic proposal. Indeed its carping about Super Kev’s proposal seemed more like sour grapes than constructive criticism.

Another of Super Kev’s cons was his $1 billion fund that would give every senior secondary school student in years 9 to 12 access to a computer at school. Like the later broadband, it some pupils might still be waiting in 2016.  At the same time with new technology being introduced every day, apart from being late, some of the computers that will be supplied will be on the scrap heap by 2o16. Indeed in 206, rather than desk-tops or laptops, pupils, even at primary school level, are likely to be using hand devices.

Since then of course, Kevin has become a victim of his cons and been replaced by his loyal deputy Julia Gillard, who supported his proposals. While one would like to be confident that as Prime Minister, Julia won’t do the same as Kev, based on early performances it could be argued that nothing has changed and that she continues to pursue Kev’s cons

From time to time people send me blogs that, with their permission, I think worthwhile republishing on my website. This is one such blog.

Posted: July 17, 2010 by Marilyn Kay Dennis in Blots, Politics, Smudges Tags: Australia, Prime Minister, Labor, Coalition, Elections, Senate, House of Representativeshttp://mkdennis.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/tony-or-julia/

After all the “will she, or won’t she?”,”she” finally did.  Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has called a Federal election.  House of Representatives and half of the Senate. She wants to be Australia’s first elected female Prime Minister.  For now, she’s Australia’s first female Prime Minister by usurpation.  She grew fangs, attacked Prime Minister Rudd, and chucked him on the garbage heap.  Finished.  A blot.

Should we trust her?  Can we trust her? Asked about Mental Health, she didn’t answer.  A smudge

She mentioned Health, but not a syllable about Mental Health.  That could be a good thing.  She’s messed up everything she’s tried since her coup of 24 June.  More smudges.

Leader of the Opposition Coalition, Tony Abbott, leaped into action.  Fully clothed.  For a change.  (Those Speedos!  Yuck!  A definite blot.)

He refused to say he’d kill Work Choices.  Only committed to forgetting them for the next three years.  Wouldn’t say any more.  Smudge.

Should we  trust him?  Can we trust him? He hasn’t said anything constructive since he’s been Leader of the Opposition.  He just shoots at everything the Government tries to do.  Smudges.

If Julia wins the election, she wants to forget the past, in the interest of “moving forward”.  She said the two words over thirty times in her speech.  “Working families” has now been replaced by “hard-working Australians”.  I didn’t count those.  Around ten?  Fifteen?  Fewer than our “moves forward”. If Tony wins, the Government will be “his” Government.  It sounded frightening.

So, Tony or Julia?  Do I really have to choose?  Isn’t there anyone else?

We urgently need to bring back the Australian Democrats.  As referees.  Someone needs to stand up and talk a bit of sense when the others get out of hand.

Meanwhile, we’re in Election mode for the next thirty-three days.  Elections on 21 August.  And may God have mercy on our souls.

First Published, The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday, July 13   

I don’t think there’s a better example of the above proverb than the new Resource Rent Tax (RRT) that replaced Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Super Profits Tax.

Julia Gillard who became Prime Minster following the successful coup against Rudd as Prime hopes her RRT, which replaces SPT she and Wayne Swan helped Rudd introduce, and which they vigorously supported, will keep BIG miners BHPBilliton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata off her back. She also hopes it will help counteract fears held by some true believers that the SPT would have sunk the good ship Labor at the next election and left some of them scrabbling for a lifebelt in the Sea of Political Uncertainty.

O ye of little faith. With Captain Julia on the bridge, assisted by senior coup members, Wayne Swan and Martin Anderson, all is now well. Although formerly committed to the SPT this trio now believes that “needs must when the devil drives” because, even though they wanted the SPT, they now believe that dumping some of it and renaming the remainder as the RRT, will be enough to keep the good ship Labor afloat and on course for victory at the next election.

But what did they dump? They dumped ten percent of the SPT thus reducing the SPT’s original tax impost from forty percent tax to thirty percent and also reduced company tax by one percent, not two percent. But wait: there’s more. They increased the benchmark six percent rate, above which the SPT would be payable, to twelve percent. And there’s still more: following these changes, it seems likely that Captain Julie will call an early election  

Modesty forbids me suggesting that my Chronicle column Tuesday 25 May titled “Will the tax be good or bad?” played a role in the changes. I mention the column because in it I asked the following: if six percent was an “appropriate benchmark” base for the SPT; and if the community really knew how the SPT worked, would they see it as a benefiting the community or would they see it as deterring investment in mining, causing job losses, reducing superannuation investment returns and affecting retirement incomes? Considering the changes that have since been made, I suggest these questions were the right ones to ask.

It comes as no surprise either that the BIG miners expressed a degree of satisfaction with the RRT. However many small miners and small business operators were, and still are, less than happy. The small miners say they have been treated less generously than the big miners while small business is unhappy at company tax being cut by only one percent, when a cut of two percent was promised.

Small miners also say that while the Government wants them to work their butts off expanding operations and creating jobs, it does not seem prepared to treat them in the same way as the big miners. They make the not unreasonable claim that, like the big miners, they too, are explorers and make a major contribution to the Australian economy by providing infrastructure in isolated areas not only for the men and women who work for them but also for those who have families.

In a sense however, and perhaps even more legitimately, they could claim also that they are being discriminated against on the basis of size. They could further claim the changes are a denial of the claim made by Governments of all persuasions that Australia is the land of opportunities where the sky’s the limit for those willing to work and take advantage of those opportunities.

As for Prime Minister Gillard: she hopes the RRT, and new policies on climate change and refugees will sway voters to the ALP at the next election.  Will they? They might, but perhaps not in the way she hopes.

Cynical voters might see the RRT as a cosy arrangement between the Big miners and Government to prevent a war from which neither would benefit and also think new climate change and refugee policies as less about principle than about capturing Green votes and votes of people whose principal interest is human rights, at the next election.

But the big question is: will they capture them? That remains to be seen.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday

 First posted The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday, July 6 

Australia, apparently, has experienced a big surge in demand for poster size pictures of its new Prime Minister Julia Gillard. No doubt people want them to replace the Kevin Rudd picture they were using either as a dartboard or as a cover for a hole in the roof of their garden shed.

Some might say “only in Australia” You might not, but can you think of a better use? And some people might think also that changing a prime minister on the basis of bad opinion polls also deserves the tag “Only in Australia.”  Nonetheless it is true: Julia Gillard is now Prime Minister while Kevin Rudd has become the proverbial feather duster.

On taking the job, however, Julia Gillard adopted the role as a reluctant taker of the position and could have attempted to prove her reluctance by offering Rudd a post in her cabinet. The fact that she hasn’t not only suggests something else to me it also serves to confirm my view that she was never reluctant.

Indeed I am sceptical of reluctant takers, male or female, particularly when they are politicians as it has long been my understanding that when people stood for parliament did so because they thought they knew what was wrong with the country and, given the chance, would like to be Prime Minister so that they could make things right. As an observer of Australian politics for the past forty years, I can say honestly I’ve never seen this happen.

Occasionally during those years however, aspiring politicians have asked me how they should behave if elected. My answer: if and when you try to make things right, be strong of voice but not strident.

Today however, my advice would be, that if ever they climbed to the summit of the Political Mount and became Prime Minister, they should be careful of ambitious party backroom boys who want to exercise prime ministerial power without the responsibility of holding the post. If they didn’t, particularly because getting rid of a PM without an election is now deemed acceptable, they would face the strong possibility that if the backroom boys didn’t like what the opinion polls were saying about them, it is likely that they, too, would become a feather duster.

That said, and much as Prime Minister Gillard has a good line in rhetoric denying she is beholden to no one (not even voters?), whether she likes it or not, she owes the back room ‘Bovver Boys’ of the NSW Labor right faction a very big debt. And she owes it because, had they not set in motion the actions that led to the destruction of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, she would not be Prime Minister today. 

Now I don’t care what you think of Rudd. Let me be frank: although I didn’t much care for him,  I respected him and his position as Prime Minister of an alleged democratic country. But what kind of democracy is it that allows political thugs like the ‘bovver boys’ to remove a prime minister and pass it off as being in the interests of the nation.

History shows that political thugs, whatever their country, have never been known to care about anyone’s interests but their own. But isn’t it strange that when their contemporaries in other countries do what they do, in a classic case of pots calling kettles black, the ‘bovver boys’ have the gall to call them thugs.

That apart what makes their act of political thuggery more heinous is that it was carried out on the basis of bad opinion polls. When results of the polls were published they were capped with headlines that pandered to the cynical view most people have of politicians. And because people are too lazy to make an effort to understand politics, these headlines become their political stance. Of course, after the next poll that stance could change.

Although a Celt I make no claim to being gifted with a sixth sense, but in my column “Government by opinion polls” published in The Chronicle, Tuesday 18 August last year, I predicted opinion polls were on the way to becoming the method of electing Governments.

Sadly, it seems I was right.

The Chronicle, Canberra, for the best community news. Published every Tuesday

First posted The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 29  June 

I wonder why, in our fair go society, Whistle-Blowers attract opprobrium? That they do says many things about our society most of which aren’t nice. In fact the more I think about how some people in our community react to whistleblowers the more it seems to me that in castigating them for exposing the dishonesty of those held up as model citizens, shows lack of moral courage. In my opinion instead of being castigated and vilified as dobbers, whistleblowers should be praised for having the courage to do the right thing.

 It is true also, that while many people secretly support whistleblowers they abandon them when asked to support them publicly. I suspect they abandon them fearing they might experience the same repercussions that history shows has been the experience of more than one whistleblower.

These repercussions cause many whistleblowers serious problems. A major problem is loss jobs because this leads to a chain reaction of problems including depression, financial ruin, loss of home, loss of marriage, loss of children, loss of friends, loss of hope and, even more seriously, loss of faith in the community to which they belong.

Disillusioned at becoming victims of their own honesty some take their own life because it had become meaningless. Sadly, some become the human carapaces one can see wandering the streets in daytime. At night one can also see them covered in newspapers in an effort to keep warm trying to sleep on park benches or in accessible sheltered spaces.

As one would expect, exposure of corruption among the famous, powerful and rich makes headlines. But making headlines is not the objective of whistleblowers; they do it because they think corruption wrong. Nor do they seek recognition, reward or glory. They do it because they want to remove corruption from all levels of public, political and religious life to help improve the social and moral life of their community. Unfortunately people such as this seem to be growing grow fewer in the upper hierarchies of commerce, public service, politics or religious life.

Take the public service as an example. I have heard from public servants of corruption within the service with some and that some people improve their position through corruption rather than ability. This corruption takes many forms with minor bribery often playing a role. This minor bribery is often as simple as a person contending for promotion, passing on to those responsible for deciding the winners in the promotion race, information about another competitor that would cause them to be removed from the race. 

Unfortunately because corruption is like a weed that is hard to contain, this first corrupt act could be the first of many on the path to even greater corruption with the briber in this case becoming the bribed at a later stage. And if the briber is successful in climbing the promotion ladder through bribery, the bribes they pay and the bribes they expect others to pay later, also become greater. 

I may be wrong but when colleagues of both the briber and the bribed say, that despite rhetoric to the contrary, raises the question: does our society really value honesty and integrity, and if so, how can these values be passed on to succeeding generations. 

Sadly some of those on my list as role models turn out to have feet of clay. High on my list would have been police officers. A former police officer myself I find it sad that many officers – but fortunately not all – have contributed to what seems a diminishing respect for honesty and integrity. And as someone who was taught at home and during my seminary days – although more sinner and saint – to respect honesty and integrity – I would have difficulty in recommending some religious as teachers of these values.      

Last but not least come politicians. The history of Australian politics is littered with the names of politicians from all parts of the political spectrum who have hijacked Government for their own benefit. Thus we should be thankful the media keeps an eye on politicians they suspect of dishonesty and if they can prove dishonesty, they can then blow the whistle on them before they benefit further. 

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday.

The following is an edited version of an e-mail I received a few days ago. I publish it because it conveys in a few words the sentiments many Labor, Liberal and supporters of other parties expressed to me since Mr Rudd was pushed from office.

“IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST”

On Friday, 25 June, I part heard an interview between Mr Ross Solly, breakfast announcer with ABC Radio 666 and the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly. I was stunned when on three occasions Dr Kelly referred to the ousting of then Prime Minister, Rudd as being in the “National Interest.”

In Australia, we goal terrorists, mass murderers and criminals in the “National Interest.”  An example. Last weekend the Government deported a Muslim Cleric to Iran in the National Interest saying he was a threat to national security.

As for Dr Kelly, I could not understand how a man with a Doctorate in Law and, one assumes, conversant with the letter of the law, could ever refer to Mr Rudd’s deposing as being in the “National Interest.” The inference is both derogatory and unwarranted. And I was I was even more taken-a-back when Prime Minister Gillard was reported to have used the same expression “In the National Interest;” obviously, the official line.

That said, in their scurrilous character assassination of Mr Rudd, Government spin-doctors debased the Office of Prime Minister of this country. Why could they not say exactly what everybody knew, that Mr. Rudd had to go because he was out of favour with the electorate? 

That he was ousted in the “National Interest” is a joke: he was ousted in the interests of the Australian Labor Party. He did his best. He is not a criminal.

Regardless of what position Mr. Rudd is accorded in the Parliament now, or after the election, his credibility has been destroyed because whatever he does he will be seen to be “Not to be in the National Interest.”

In addition, if the spin-doctors consider the Australian Labor Party as being synonymous with the “National Interest” then it displays a level of arrogance above and beyond the ordinary concepts of humanity.

In the national interest, Madame Guillotine and Dr Doolittle should say “Sorry” to Mr. Rudd and set about restoring the dignity of the Office of Prime Minister.

Carwoola Bob



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