Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for August 2010

Firts Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 31 August 2010

Although a hung parliament isn’t the end of the world Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard will find that leading a minority Government comes with costs. Because they will be relying on the support of Independents and, although unlikely in the case of Abbott, the Greens MP, they will need to be more consultative or face the possibility of a fresh election, something that neither would wish to be responsible for.

They wouldn’t want a fresh election because they know voters distrust them and also say there is little to choose between them. This is understandable because much of the media, on which the community relies for information, says there is little difference between them.  

I don’t agree. At the election Labor and the Coalition had clear differences. The Coalition’s broadband policy was different; it thought Julia Gillard’s education revolution and computer program for schools were disasters as were its health and climate change polices. And that’s only a few of the differences.

On that basis alone, it could be argued that democracy would be best served by the Coalition becoming the minority Government because it attracted more first preference votes than Labor. That apart, the hung parliament could also bring the current electoral process into question because it could be said that Australia’s electoral process has failed because it discriminates financially in favour of the big parties? That it discriminates is clear because it decrees that public money can only be given to parties if they received 4% of valid votes at the last election.

Is this fair? I say not. Indeed, in 1984 when Parliament, composed mainly of the two major parties, made this decision, it was not to protect voters interests but their own, because it ensured small parties and Independents (notwithstanding the success of Independents at this election) almost certainly would be frozen out of the democratic process.

As for the Federal election, apart from alleged commonality of policy, what disengaged and disgusted many voters was the blatant political assassination of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib, the Hon Bill Shorten MP and Senator David Feeney, assisted by Labor power brokers Karl Bitar and Paul Howse, an action later endorsed by Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard. Perhaps I’m old fashioned but the behaviour of these politicians leads me to suggest that the appellation Honourable for politicians should be discontinued.

But why assassinate Rudd? With Rudd out of the way the powerbrokers thought Labor’s chances of winning the as yet unscheduled next election would be improved. I suspect they thought that with gifting Julia Gifford the Prime Ministership, so too would their positions.

And so Prime Minister by assassination Julia Gillard, in an effort to establish herself in her new position, called an early election thinking most voters supported the Rudd assassination. The results, so far, seem to indicate they didn’t.

Because of self – interest, no doubt Arbib, Shorten, Feeney (and supporters) hope Gillard becomes Prime Minister in a minority government only because it is likely to keep them safe. But will it? I don’t know if they are interested in history or Shakespeare, but they would be wise to remember, as would Julia, what Tudor King Henry IV, another leader of Welsh descent, said in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, part II: ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’

At the same time, they know also that whether as leader of a minority Government or as Leader of the Opposition, Gillard’s position will be shaky and so will keep their eyes peeled and ears to the ground in case Labor gangs who disagreed with the Rudd assassination are lying in wait, political knives sharpened, ready to assassinate them.

 If only to even things up it is necessary to say that Tony Abbott’s accession to the Liberal Party Leadership was not free of skulduggery either. Indeed many think people with sharpened political knives helped ease him into the job. 

However, if he becomes Prime Minister, I doubt any Liberals would think of deposing him. On the other hand if he doesn’t become Prime Minister he, too, should beware that some Liberals with sharpened political knives will want to ease him out of the leadership.

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

A passion or the power?

 Governments increasingly comprise intelligent ideologists without any real life experience.

Sadly, the job of finding people to enter politics with good ideas, common sense and the passion to put them into practice, is getting harder. Indeed, the only experience many politicians have today has been gained from working either as union officials and/or as political staffers. However, they have one thing in common: a passion for power.

As a result, governments increasingly comprise intelligent ideologists without any real life experience who, with others of the same mind, think their ideas are best. While not questioning their intelligence I wonder, do they have the commonsense that people gain from real life experience that is necessary to be a politician?

That politicians with a passion for power are not noted for their commonsense has been demonstrated by three Labor politicians, Senator the Hon Mark Arbib, the Hon Bill Shorten MP and Senator David Feeney.

Even though an election was due in the near future these three men, on the flimsy excuse that the Government had lost its way, carried out the political assassination of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with the assistance of his deputy The Hon Julia Gillard. (A question: does the appellation Honourable serve any useful purpose in politics today?)

And so it was that Julia Gillard duly became PM. In an effort to establish her legitimacy as Prime Minister, she called an early election for August 21 to try and persuade voters that the government had again found its way.

One of the big promises of her election campaign under the inane slogan “Moving Forward” was a National Broadband Network that she said most Australians wanted. By any measure that statement is questionable. Then speculating that Labor’s previous economic forecasts would come true, she made a string of promises that even a genie would find hard to fulfil.

She promised to spend billions of dollars building new medical facilities and provide doctors and nurses to staff them (perhaps she has a genie who will conjure up the latter?) and made myriad other promises. One can only say that, using promises of previous Prime Ministers as a guide, much of what she promised is unlikely to happen. And much as she says she supports climate change she has not promised an emissions trading scheme (ETS) to help combat climate change – the great moral challenge of our time.

Well the election has taken place without a clear winner emerging. And while early results indicate a hung parliament, because the Coalition has gained more first preference votes than Labor, Tony Abbott would seem to be the logical choice as Prime Minister.

But regardless of the final result, voters have made it clear that whoever becomes Prime Minister, the style of government must change. The government will need to become more consultative because its future will rest on the Greens MP and, at this stage, the three, possibly four, Independent MPs elected.

The hung parliament also raises another question. Apart from a change in the style of government does the voting system need to change and become more democratic? Can Australia really claim to be truly democratic when it discriminates in favour of the big parties against small parties and/or individuals? This discrimination takes the form that small parties and Independents will not receive public funding unless at the last election they managed to get 4 per cent of the valid vote.

This decision was made in parliament in 1984 at which time the major parties suggested the decision would protect the democratic process. In fact what it did was exclude small parties and Independents – notwithstanding their success in this election – from the democratic process.

As for the election itself, the largest number ever of informal votes tells the sad story of many voters increasingly disillusioned with the big parties but not persuaded to vote for the policies of minor parties. In part, this disillusionment arises because parties have ditched real consultation on policy with the community in favour of ideas presented behind the scenes by powerful non-elected officials and/or ideologues.

However, confident of the rightness of their ideas and policies, and although all the political indicators showed that many voters disagreed with them, they continued to treat voters as if like Pavlov’s dogs they would respond on command to vote for particular candidates.

Like many others I suspect that whether a Prime Minister is male or female is of little consequence. It is of little consequence to me because in the coalmining community where I was born about 400 yards from the pithead more years ago than I care to remember, mothers in most families were prime minister, treasurer, as well as minister for health, education, finance, sport and every other ministry. Mine was not industrial relations minister only because of the fact that my father was a trade union leader.

And while my progress from pithead in Scotland to Australia was not the same as Gillard’s progress from Welsh seaside town to Prime Minister, like many others long interested in politics being Prime Minister was never my intention. Nonetheless I wish her well.

  First published The Chronicle, Canberra, 24 August 2010

 When I say ‘It’s all over bar the shouting’ I’m talking about the election because, over the next few months I have no doubt continual Opposition shouts of  ‘I told you so’ will assault our ears about every, or any, perceived fault it thinks they’ve found in Government policy.   

I put these shouts aside last week to look back at the many elections I’ve experienced in Australia. What did I see? I saw the continuing diminution of the political democratic process I lived with as a young man in Scotland, England, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world, that I thought would help make the world a better place.

People supported the democratic process because of what it promised, a world where peace, freedom and opportunity reigned while poverty and its permanent companion, ill health, if not totally eliminated, had been contained. Unfortunately, and to the world’s detriment, the democratic political process is now taken for granted. Indeed it disappears to reappear election time when some candidates, asked a difficult question, mention it to help cover up their lack of knowledge of what democracy means.

One would think that in Canberra, the political headquarters of Australia, the democratic political process would thrive. Unfortunately it does not.  It has to be said that, in Canberra, many elections arr viewed as inconveniences to avoid, if possible. What makes them inconvenient is that they disturb people’s leisure. Not that people don’t attend polling booths at election time: some do, but only to get their names marked off the electoral roll and so avoid being fined.

Sadly, too, for some Canberrans, elections are a means to an end, which is not that of using the political process to make the world a better place, but an opportunity to advance personal status and wealth. Unfortunately, Canberra has too many of these people. Some even try to become politicians. More unfortunately, some succeed.

But perhaps Canberra’s greatest misfortune is that at the last election, some in the community who sincerely wanted to try and make the world a better place were prevented from doing so by people who, even if not interested in doing so, arrogated to themselves the right to determine if people could see, hear or read of those who thought it could be done.

I make this comment because I am disturbed by how Darren Churchill, the Australian Democrats lead Senate candidate for Canberra, was denied the opportunity of putting his views to the community by the taxpayer funded ABC, which claims to be the community’s broadcaster. I can understand commercial media denying him that opportunity (not that it did), but what I cannot understand is his censoring by the ABC.

It could not have been because he was unknown to the ABC because he had been sending out press releases to the media, myself included, long before the election. As a result, I gave space to his views in the column on Tuesday, 27th July. On the following three weeks I gave other candidates the same space to air their views. 

While watching ABC Stateline on Friday 13th August I noted with some surprise, that only the Labor, Liberal and Greens senate candidates were interviewed but not Mr Churchill. When I telephoned him next day to ask why he replied that he had not been interviewed because Jeremy Thompson, the acting producer of the programme told him, that because the Australian Democrats obtained only 2% of the vote at the last election he didn’t think it worthwhile including him.

I wasn’t aware the Corporation’s Charter gave staff the right to deny broadcast time to candidates approved by the electoral commission because, at the last election the party they represented had not received a particular percentage of votes. I say this not only as interested observer of ACT politics but as a former President of the Friends of the ABC. 

If such a right exists not only is it nonsense, it is undemocratic. And with a week being a long time in politics the result of three years ago is irrelevant. As many politicians know to their cost, voters have a habit of changing their minds when they know what candidates think.

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

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 17 August

This is the last of the four election columns.

Giulia Jones – Candidate for Canberra: www.canberraliberals.org.au

As a working mother of two active boys and an active member of the community I know the following issues need urgent attention: childcare and family services.

If elected, and because of Canberra’s huge number of working mothers, I will treat these issues as priorities. I will also seek to remove the isolation felt by many older citizens and improve transportation systems while at the same time try to ensure that Canberra’s health and education systems are the best in Australia.

I will work hard on the issue of housing affordability to make sure a method can be found to help those hard working Canberrans who, currently, struggling to afford a home, are able to buy one. I will also push for the National Capital Authority to be given the funding necessary for it to do its job properly and ensure the community is kept better informed of proposed planning and development.

James Milligan – Candidate for Fraser: www.canberraliberals.org.au

Canberra small business is a major employer group. As one of those small business owners and married with a family, I know the problems my peers, customers, neighbours and other Canberrans face and seek election to do the best for them.

Like them I want Canberra to remain the city envied for having the best health system, best education system, best sporting facilities and the best cultural facilities which have helped create the environment that encourages everyone to do their best.

Elect me and you will elect someone imbued with doing the best for our aged citizens and people with mental health problems who, due to lack of services and infrastructure, have become isolated in society. You will also be electing someone who will do his best to develop a system of affordable housing and a program of infrastructure that will help our homeless regain entry to society in a meaningful manner.

As a small businessman, father and family man, I will fight for small business support and for improved childcare and family services. And to ensure the built infrastructure will be available I will push for skills training particularly in the construction industry.

Opinion

Last week I opined that Julia Gillard’s slogan “Moving Forward” was inane; that it suggested Australia had come to a stop and only she could move it forward. This week I opine that Tony Abbott’s slogan “ Stand Up for Australia. Stand up for Real Action” is equally inane and could imply that Australian‘s are sitting down on the job. I also said Gillard’s policies were Rudd’s policies with minor alterations. This week I suggest Abbot has done the same with Howard’s. In a sense, however, the slogans are complementary because when one’s rights are obtained one should move on.

We have many rights with one of the most important the right of free speech, a right I exercise by saying that Abbott has to be clearer about why people need to stand up for Australia. Is it because he feels has Australia lost influence particularly in Asia and that under Gillard’s leadership, could start to slide into third world status?

On policy Abbott emphasises his strong anti tax policies (reference the mining industry and carbon tax). He has also announced a policy on training to help employment and a policy on caring for the aged.

He is determined to make border security stronger and while saying the BER revolution was more a wasteful building programme than an education programme he said, sensibly, that he has buried Work Choices forever and accepted Labor’s Fair Work policy.

As it isn’t possible for me to comment on more recent policy announcements from other parties it would not be fair to give space to recent Labor or Liberal policy announcements. However I hope the information in the four election columns has been useful in helping you decide your voting intentions. Of course if happy with the local candidates seeking re-election perhaps you’ll re-elect them. But no matter how you vote remember you’re voting for a local member not a Prime Minister as recent history shows that’s in the hands of other people.

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

Published The Chronicle Tuesday 10 August, 2010

This the third of the four pre election columns

 Gai Brodtmann. Labor Candidate For Canberra. E-mail: brodtmann@netspeed.com.au

 I love Canberra. I’ve studied and taught at our universities, worked in the public service, run my own small business and volunteered with community organisations to improve local services. I want it to continue prospering.

 Canberrans want a stable public service, growing and thriving businesses and strong local economy. For me, this election is all about public and private sector jobs, economic stability and continuing to build better health and education services. Like many public servants I experienced first hand the Howard Government’s public service cuts. Now, as a small business owner, I appreciate how public service cuts cause pain for Canberra businesses. I’ll stand up for Canberra.

As a volunteer with community organisations, I’ve delivered real results with a commitment to lifting organ donation rates, raising funds to improve health services and increasing access to services for people with disabilities. Federal Labor has put health and education at the core of its reform and investment agenda. These are essential services and I will work to ensure we get our fair share of Federal funding. Canberra is a beautiful city that needs local members who know how to build on its assets while balancing the needs of our environment and lifestyle. I will be a strong voice for Canberra.

Andrew Leigh, Labor Candidate for Fraser. http://www.andrewleigh.com.

 I believe in an Australia where equality of opportunity is not only the foundation of our society but also a guiding principle for how we live. It is also a place whose wealth should be shared by everyone. I believe in an Australia where a fair go is extended to all, including society’s most vulnerable, where every citizen should be able to contribute to making their country a better place for everyone to live in.

I believe in an Australia where, as we celebrate the golden threads of our history we also work together to meet the challenges of today and strive as one nation and one people to reaffirm our conviction that the best is yet to come. We know there is more to do. For example Labor will continue to improve the health system; ensure our education system can still transform lives; ensure Australians get a fairer deal for the resources they own; and, by working hard ensure the environment we leave our children is better than the one we inherited. Labor’s history has always been one of bold vision and reform. Canberra is a great example of these values so, by returning a Labor Government you will help continue this tradition. 

 Opinion

Basic research would have alerted Labor that voters thought the ‘Moving Forward’ slogan inane, a view that gained even more credibility when Prime MInister Gillard announced her Citizens’ Assembly policy. Voters thought this even more inane because it sounded like a Focus Group, apart from which, how could such an Assembly be established? 

And because of the role perception plays in politics today people are judged by how they look and sound what of the Prime Minster? She looks not bad but her inflectionless voice and repetition of the slogan is more likely to send voters into a trance than woo them to her cause. And though she uses the word passion often, her speeches, which seem to have been determined by political expediency, lack passion. And though the slogan was intended to show her interest in progressing Australia, it could also be seen as suggesting that Australians had stopped working.

That said, to where does she want to move Australia? She cannot afford another failed revolution like the BER, nor have people wondering if her policies will lead to more pink batts disasters. And although appearing to contradict my earlier statement that she lacks passion, I think she has a cold passion but it is for power rather than people.

And so she should be careful. While Australians admire people with ambition they condemn, rather than congratulate, them if they destroy people to realise it. On that basis I suspect that like Lady Macbeth, Prime Minister Gillard will forever be tainted by the notoriety attaching to her role in the execution of ex Prime Minister  Rudd

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

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, 3 August, 2010 

This is the second of four columns I mentioned last week about new candidates prepared to offer themselves on the altar of politics in the hope of governing on our behalf.

Part 1. Lin Hatfield Dodds Greens:  Candidate for Senate seat in Canberra. A mother of two boys, Lin’s name will be familiar to many in Canberra because of her work on social issues and delivery of social services. It should come as no surprise that these are issues of major importance in her election campaign. 

Pensions are high on her list. She says that but for the Greens the last upward movement in pension rates would not have occurred and if elected, she will continue to work to better them. At the same time she will keep campaigning to right what the Greens see as wrongs in the social justice field.

With her colleagues she will keep campaigning that sense be applied to water and climate change policies. She will also seek to promote better transport systems and accelerate the introduction of alternative clean energy sources, wind power, solar power et al. A strong conservationist, she also wants sustainability to become ingrained as a state of mind, convinced that sustainability built into life today will ensure the world of the future will continue to get better for her own and all other children.

Sue Ellerman – Greens: Candidate for Canberra – House of Representatives.  As I spoke to Sue, it became clear during our conversation that her commitment to Green politics was as strong as that of those Green politicians who had jumped what had long been a difficult barrier: being elected to parliament.

It also became clear, that for this mother of three sons, an issue of particular interest was affordable housing. Not cheap housing but well designed housing but not necessarily what is seen as ‘traditional’ that also was energy saving. Her long interest in affordable housing was further fuelled by her experience as a Community Counsellor where she experienced people suffering from of mortgage stress, a condition she also encountered among voters she had met while on the campaign trail.

As a former small business operator, she also wanted programmes that would help small business, one of Australia’s largest employer groups, to grow and prosper, consistent with good conservation, sustainable energy and environmental practices.

Indra Esguerra – Greens: Candidate for Fraser –House of Representatives. Long time Canberra resident and also a partner in a small retail business, Indra thinks current representation and governance is poor and that as much for her as every other Canberran, if Canberra is to continue as a growing, prosperous city and if residents are to continue enjoying a healthy and prosperous life style, the former good governance and good planning it enjoyed must be restored.

Another two issues which area also high on Indra’s list of priorities are combating climate change and ensuring sustainability, things she says will come about not only by immediately expanding the use of clean energy resources such as solar power and wind turbines but also by the introduction of better transport systems. In her view the speedy Implementation of such policies would result in reducing humanity’s carbon footprint on planet earth.  And importantly, as the mother of two growing boys, she says she wants to create green jobs for them and for the thousands of other children still to be born in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia.

She is confident that this election will prove to be a political watershed for the Greens. That no longer will it be seen as a hippy party but as a serious political party able to affect Government policies, such as Australia’s disastrous refugee policy

Part 2. Opinion. Whether or not the ideas of these candidates carry enough appeal for you to decide you want them as your parliamentary representatives is a matter for you to decide: I offer no opinion. Remember: if elected they will determine Australia’s future and yours. So before making your choice consider carefully the ideas of every other candidate without reference to gender, religion or any other ism.

To help you further consider the above candidates perhaps a visit to the Greens website might be useful. Website: http://act.greens.org.au

 The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published Tuesdays



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