Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for November 2010

 First: an apology to people who have read this article in The Chronicle,Canberra, published Tuesday 23 November, for minor differences in text.

The published article which, due to unfortunate circumstances had to be completed quickly, had some slight errors which have been amended

 If the article pleases or displeases you please say so.


 What is equality I ask? Some readers might think this an easy question to answer. If so, no doubt I’ll be e-mailed with many answers one of which will assure me that if I accept it when I go to bed, instead of pondering the question, I will slumber peacefully. While I live in hope I realise the probability is that the answers will add to my insomnia. 

What prompted me to write on equality are the great number of pro and anti opinion pieces on the subject of whether or not, in a sense of equality, homosexuals should be allowed to have ‘marriage’ ceremonies. The pro opinion is based on the notion that marriage for same sex couples is a right, while the anti opinion is usually based on the notion that marriage as right can only be between a male and a female. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, and long may they keep expressing it, so let me express mine. But before doing so, let me say that, ensuring the rights of billions of people to housing, food, clean water, education, good health and other rights too numerous to mention, makes the arguments about this ‘right’ pale into insignificance.

The fact is marriage is not a right but a convention that has been accepted for millennia by society.  As for myself, until Mother Nature decides to create a race of humans who, regardless of gender, can engage in the procreation process with another of the same gender I am firmly of the opinion the existing convention continue to be accepted as the status quo.

It seems to me also that Mother Nature in her wisdom thought marriage between a man and a women as the system best suited to society.  And who am I to argue with Mother Nature? Also, unlike many others, on the issue of marriage, it seems to me that religion not only muddies the waters but that those religious leaders who constantly bombard the community with the fact that they approve of homosexual marriage do so in the hope that it will lead to the supremacy of their religion over other religions. I wonder what the God they say they believe in thinks? 

Same sex couples also claim they suffer discrimination: but the tenor of their arguments suggests it is not discrimination they suffer from but jealousy of heterosexuals who have been given a gift that, sadly, they will never get no matter how much they wish for it. They are also given to calling heterosexuals who do not agree with them homophobic yet it seems to me that their disagreement could be called heterophobic.  

But let me say to religious believers (I am not a believer) that if they believe marriage a God given right they should be praying to prevent homosexuality, not just today but forever. They should also tell God to make sure that, in the future, no new born child should carry genes that will cause discrimination, sexual or otherwise. I doubt they’ll have any luck.

Mother Nature who, as far as I know gives no guarantee about sexuality or emotions when a child is born, will continue as usual. It might also be fair to say that as the making of a baby is a very involved process it is impossible for her to guarantee that just as in any manufacturing process even if the finished products look OK some might be imperfect. Unfortunately, no amount of legalese or wishful thinking will alter things and so for the foreseeable future no two people of the same gender will be able to engage in sex for the purpose of creating a baby.                  

 Let me end by saying that one day I hope we become sane and civilised enough to disregard to politicians and social engineers who value theories and utopian dreams more than they value the truth and that they absorb the wisdom of Rheinhold Niehbur’s serenity prayer: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

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


First published The Chronicle,Tuesday 16 November

I receive many e-mail messages from readers about what they think are major problems in Canberra. What are these problems? Unsurprisingly, planning tops the list, something that newcomers to, allegedly, the world’s best-planned city (is it?) might wonder about. As the world’s best planned city it was also designed to accommodate the future. But because politicians lacked vision, Canberra became an afterthought. The same applies to planners.

And so unfortunately when the future came, it came with a rush that found our visionless politicians unprepared. Panic became the order of the day as they hurried to get things built quickly. What they did not realise is, that great cities are not built overnight but grow slowly.

And so it continues. Today, Andrew Barr the ACT’s visionless Planning Minister and his army of equally visionless planning warriors, now think that rushing Canberra into the future, even if it means destroying some of the city’s human heritage is OK. It isn’t! Which is why citizens from Dickson in the North to Narrabundah in the South and in many other suburbs, are up in arms.    

Unfortunately the fifties building rush has also helped create today’s problem of homelessness in Canberra. In the rush to build, both politicians and planners forgot that even well planned cities needed a supply of ‘Affordable Housing.’ Imagine it! They managed to turn the world’s best-planned city into one with little or no affordable housing thus making it a city of haves and have nots. A the same they also made it a city where people are distant from each other unlike the city envisioned by its original planners, Walter Burley-Griffin and wife Marion Mahoney.

I venture to suggest that if either Burley-Griffin or Mahoney could come back to Canberra they would be outraged at the disappearance of the City Beautiful they planned together and also outraged that the once affordable housing that existed in their Canberra had gone and been replaced by housing built to satisfy the vanity of status seekers and greedy developers. Indeed I think they would cry immediately to be returned from whence they came.       

In an attempt to demonstrate that Walter and Marion’s dream city has not vanished, the National Planning Authority developed a spurious Griffin Legacy Plan to try and validate previous planning decisions, in which they have been ably helped by the ACT Planning Authority.  Speaking posthumously for the Griffins, it is fortunate for both planning authorities that the Griffins cannot sue them.

Griffin’s original plan also allowed for easy access to every part of the city so making it a city that would become familiar to residents. Little chance of that in Canberra today: the easy access has gone with Canberra becoming a city of discrete suburbs which, because of poor transport options, makes it difficult for people to travel between them except by car and so get to know their neighbours. Effectively: each suburb is a mini state.

For years now plan after plan has been rolled out to solve the easy access problem; it remains unsolved and will remain so until Canberra becomes a more compact city, not a city sprawled across the landscape. And while urban infill will make it a more compact city and also make an efficient public transport system economically sensible, it must not alienate one group of citizens by favouring another.     

Other e-mails received were about the health system, education, the arts and a subject that now seems to have as many experts as there are grains of sand in the Simpson Desert.  And so today I will give you a true story of something that happened a few weeks ago and comment on the other problems later.

A few weeks ago a scared elderly friend asked my advice about a domestic abuse situation occasioned by someone with mental problems. I contacted the appropriate agency and was most impressed with how it handled matters.

The agency called the police who attended quickly and took the offender to hospital. After waiting for hours the ‘alleged’ abuser was sent back to the abuse scene in a taxi because lack of staff meant no examination could take place.

I ask you: should lack of staff be a problem in this situation?

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

First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 9 November

Some people drink alcohol to suppress pain while some people take heroin or cocaine. Sadly, users of either drug who become addicted to them can go on to destroy themselves, families, friends and associates. A different category of drugs and particularly dangerous to young people are ‘party drugs,’ manufactured by unscrupulous people not for pain suppression but to cultivate addiction and make money from users.  

Many films and television programme have been made about addiction in which addicts have been shown in a drug – induced stupor. Fortunately however, some addicts even when in drug induced state of stupor show signs of realising that drugs not only destroys their lives they also destroys the lives of wives, children, family members and friends. Fortunately, some of them manage to develop the strength to combat their addiction successfully. Would there were more successes because, unfortunate as it is, the loss of social life can, and often does, lead to loss of life.

Hopefully, and unlike me, your only experience of this comes from these films and television programmes in which addicts are shown in scenes that leave little to the imagination, consuming either excessive quantities of alcohol or one of the many other drugs of addiction. While this might be considered great entertainment addiction to either alcohol or other drugs is not; it is a sad and serious problem if only because the entire range of drugs are being used by people formally educated, and in some cases educated by family experience, about the damage that drugs can cause.

It must be said also that while pointing the finger of blame for someone’s addiction is an exercise in futility, one question must still be asked: just how effective are the programmes aimed at preventing people from taking drugs or helping them overcome their addiction? While the question is easy to ask, unfortunately it has no easy answer. Had there been an answer (indeed, will there ever be an answer?) then it might have been possible to prevent three members of my family dying from their addiction.

While drug addiction is a sad problem perhaps the real sadness is that people on both sides of the argument about how to solve the problem are not only dogmatic about how it should be tackled but equally dogmatic that the solution each devised is the solution that should prevail. 

That said let me shift my focus to what I think is the most powerful and seductive drug in the world and the problems it causes. Neither pill nor liquid, it is nonetheless a drug whose effect can be even more terrifying and destructive than the manufactured variety. ‘Power’ is the name of this powerful and seductive drug from which few addicts are ever freed.

In common with some manufactured drugs, the power drug when used wisely can help create a better society; used badly however, it can destroy society. Of Canberra’s power drug addicts, some are politicians who manage to hide their addiction. Indeed some of these politicians are so wedded to the drug that only death can cure their addiction.  

To some extent the economic, health and social policies that politicians are responsible for, also create the problems of desolation, despair and inadequacy felt by people who resort to the use of alcohol or other drugs in an effort to combat them and often end up as addicts. At the same time, the legal policies politicians create make criminals of the addicts because they suffer from the disease of addiction. And while some people will say everyone faces these same problems. Not everyone has the capacity to combat them: even politicians have been known to succumb. 

Apart from politicians, some bureaucrats, not necessarily senior in rank, in both the public and private sectors are also addicted to power. These are the addicts to whom the adage ‘a little power is a dangerous thing’ is particularly applicable. And if an addict is at the top of the status tree their addiction is even more dangerous. Metaphorically speaking, wearing a hat that designates leadership means nothing if the wearer is addicted to power.

That said let me say also, that Canberra has too many power addicts.   

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

 First published The Chronicle, Canberra Tuesday 1 November, 2010 

 Not withstanding the damage conmen (the term is not gender specific) do, apart from the self – aggrandising politicians among them, they attract a sneaking admiration. However, when politicians themselves get conned, the admiration becomes schadenfreude among voters.

People have suggested to me that successful politicians need to be conmen. Although partly agreeing with this suggestion, over the years, some politicians I have known, and still know, have built successful political careers without being conmen. 

While believing that the majority of politicians are not conmen I believe some are narcissistic, inept and inadequate. Truthfully and with their best interests at heart, not only would they be better off in another job so, too, would the community.

This brings me to the ACT Legislative Assembly, often called a three – ring circus (unfortunately without a Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Joanne Dru and Zsa Zsa Gabor) a comparison that wouldn’t please the circus I once worked for as promotions and public relations manager.

The fact is, most people who work in the circus, unlike some in the Assembly, are positive and aware people. For example in Sole Bros, the circus I worked for, people were more aware of the environment than many so called environmentalists and politicians. Unlike many politicians this awareness did not come from reading reports by experts but from real environmentalists they met while travelling the country.

This awareness was their reason for supporting my suggestion of working with the IIllawarra Education Department to develop a programme that would encourage school students to take an interest in both the natural environment and the political environment that affected it.

As I mused on this I wondered what circus people would think if they looked at the Assembly’s political environment. Would they think the Liberals were performing well as an Opposition and showing signs of being a credible alternative government or would they agree with some commentators that although the Liberals seemed to have cured the internecine warfare that once bedevilled them, their ability to govern was still doubtful? It appears this doubt is based on a perception that the Liberals spend too much time simply opposing the Government and because Zed Seselja hasn’t announced future policies.

The commentators could be right but I doubt it. Could it be the Liberals are so occupied with constituents’ problems caused by the policies of the current government that they spend most of their time opposing these policies? And could it be that the commentators who don’t think the Liberals an alternative Government do so because they are miffed at not being made aware of the Liberals future policies? A question: what would these commentators say of an army commander in a war (isn’t politics a form of civil war?) who made his strategies public?

And would circus people think the Greens, given their self -appointed major party status, ready to govern? Perhaps they would think that if the Greens wanted to govern they should forget pacts and stand enough candidates at the next election who, if elected, would be able to form government. On the other hand they might think one Green is ready: Caroline Le Couteur the candidate the Greens forgot at the last election who has turned out to be the smartest Green and one of the cleverest politicians in the Assembly.

And what would they say about the Government? They might conclude that Labor’s pact with The Greens was less a new style of Government than a strategy that gave Labor time quell the kind of internal strife that once bedevilled the Liberals and had the potential to threaten its hold on Government. In other words, Labor agreed to the pact to try and ensure that what it lost on the roundabouts they gained on the swings.

 As for the internal strife, would they recognise it as a factional battle of succession between Andrew Barr and Simon Corbell for the post of Deputy Chief Minister if Jon Stanhope quits before 2012?

The big question is: will he or won’t he? For what it’s worth, let me say I cannot imagine the Ringmaster of Canberra’s three-ring circus throwing away his chance to lead the 2013 centenary celebrations.

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


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