Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for December 2010

A New Year’s message

I’d like to ask a favour of everyone who logs on to Allan Takes Aim or reads The Chronicle, Canberra’s free community newspaper.

However, before asking, I wish all of them Happy New Year and hope it is a year of good health, prosperity and success.

The favour: I’d like you to pass on the same wishes to those people who because of poverty or homelessness, can’t log on. I’d also like to ask the same of those who don’t log on regularly.

I ask this favour because, a young man, I could have gone on to become permanently poverty stricken and homeless without the help and encouragement given by people I didn’t know.

I have since found that kind words and encouragement given by honest people are among the greatest spurs to a better life than are many other incentives.

A short blog

As a blog beginner I realised quickly that getting people to read ‘Allan Takes Aim’ was more difficult than I had ever imagined. Indeed I started the blog based on nothing more than the words of friends that what I wrote was so good it would soon become essential reading for people interested in politics among other things.

It didn’t take long for me to be quickly brought down to earth; people did not log on or make comments in droves. People have been slow to visit the web site but signs are encouraging.

Some people have suggested that to encourage visitors I try a few marketing gimmicks. I won’t because the opinions contained in the blogs are meant as a serious commentary that I hope will help stimulate people to take a greater interest and comment on how they are governed and other issues that concern them.

My thanks to all who read, comment or even just muse on its content. Let me assure you the blog will continue in the same vein and with your help visitor numbers will continue to grow.


Also published 23 December in 

Julian Assange might be one or all of the above. I don’t know. Although clearly a leaker whether or not he’s louche is yet to be determined by the Swedish courts. It has to be said also that his status as terrorist is questionable. However, clearly he’s not a whistleblower, one of that courageous group of people who exposed corruption at senior levels, usually in government and private sector organisations, at the risk of losing their jobs and making life difficult for their families. Assange does not fit that profile.

Of the fact that there are concerns about the sexual assault accusations Assange faces in Sweden there is no doubt. On the face of it, he wouldn’t face the same charges in Australia. But as Swedish Law and Australian Law are different, Assange no doubt, now realises the truth of the old maxim:  ‘when in Rome do what the Romans do.’  Don’t and you’ll pay a penalty.

However, it is the leaking by WikiLeaks of content in ‘sensitive’ cables between US and Australian diplomats and Government ministers that has made Assange a target. But the fact that he became a target was more because the information in the cables embarrassed prominent politicians and diplomats than did damage to Australia’s reputation. In effect, the leaks called into question the quality and integrity of some diplomats and politicians. 

According to the OED, Diplomacy is: 1 a. the management of international relations; b. expertise in this; or c. adroitness in personal relations. Adroitness is a key word because it bears on diplomacy to the extent that WikiLeaks shows that most, but fortunately not all, diplomats and politicians, are simply professional liars and skilled dissemblers.

Because of their status it is difficult to take action against Diplomats. However, politicians are a different matter. Action can be taken against them through the ballot box by making sure they are never re-elected. This action can also bring a number of benefits: it can lead to making a difference in the quality of people appointed to diplomatic and senior positions in Government while indirectly making business leaders take note.

Turning to the question of Assange being a terrorist, PM Julia Gillard and Attorney General Robert McClelland, both lawyers, seem to think he is as both tried him before their personal Kangaroo Court and found him guilty. And though Gillard now seems less sure of her verdict she has made it clear, nonetheless, that she has not changed her mind. Adroitly, and as befits a former PM, Kevin Rudd in his role as Australia’s Foreign Minister and Chief Diplomat, is having two bob each way.

Of course, In Australia, the cast of the Assange melodrama would not be complete without the usual gallimaufry of Australia’s ego driven, high profile celebrity lawyers, media commentators and human rights activists et al, who can be relied on to surface when human rights allegedly are being infringed. Effectively, the Assange melodrama has provided them with the kind of bandwagon they like to jump on as it helps add to their celebrity profile.

The other cast members in the Assange melodrama are the extras, the writers of letters to the editor and listeners to those radio ‘schlock’ (not ‘shock’) jocks whose programmes seem to attract the politically biased and misinformed. Patriots all, they seem to think Australians who commit offences in other countries should not be judged by the laws of the country where the offences allegedly were committed, but by Australian law, an attitude best summed up by the phrase: ‘my country, right or wrong.’

 And though this kind of thinking is not confined to Australia, in Australia it has resulted in creating an outpouring of jingoism (poorly disguised as anti US sentiment) on behalf of Assange who has gone from being an internet burglar, known as a hacker, who made his living stealing and selling secrets, to being the great Australian hero fighting for freedom of information, human rights, tolerance and democracy.

Would that this were true The fact is, had it not been for the emotionally mixed up young American soldier, Lance Corporal Bradley Manning, currently enjoying the hospitality of the United States military prison system, the Assange melodrama would not have been written because Assange would not have had access to the soi – disant, sensitive diplomatic cables.

Let me add also that you might find it worthwhile to check Assange’s background on the net before rushing to accept stories about this hero of democracy. If you do, and if you had already made up your mind about him, you might be inclined to change it.

At the same time it might also help you form an opinion about whether or not Assange is leaker, louche, terrorist or whistleblower. Indeed you might form the view that he is not so much a hero but a hacker who could end up causing you damage.      





First published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 21 December, 2010

Most people, including young people wishing they were older, middle-aged people wishing they were younger and older people like me for whom age is but an indication on a calendar, look forward to Christmas Day as we wait for our Christmas gifts.

Although Christmas Day carries special excitement I have always found life exciting and have no good reason to think that in the future it will be any less exciting; indeed, unknown as it is, it might be even more exciting. With that in mind, I look forward to new excitements just as I look forward to the sun rising, the moon waning, watching the stars and enjoying Nature’s cornucopia of delight.

Nature, of course, bestows her gifts without any guarantee they will last forever and so, unlike some ‘experts’ I am never surprised when something disappears. At the same time and not able to read the mind of Nature, I cannot hazard a guess as to what might disappear. Christmas Day, not being a gift of Nature is not a day I expect to disappear although I won’t take bets about its long- term future.

The fact is, Christmas Day is a human creation that takes its name from a Jewish prophet of 2000 years ago called Jesus Christ whose philosophy has been followed by people now known as Christians who also believed Him to be the Son of God, creator of the world – not that Jesus ever wrote anything to that effect.

To be frank, I find this puzzling. One would think the creator of the world would have made sure his Son could write so that He would write the authoritative story of why His Father created the world. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Indeed we still know nothing of God and but for four ancient biographers Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and ancient but prolific letter writer Paul, many would know little of Jesus.

That said however, there is one indisputable fact about Jesus: 2,000 years ago many people found the philosophy He preached believable; many people still do. I don’t find this surprising because His philosophy of peace, tolerance and good will is attractive.

Why is it attractive? It is attractive because in today’s world not only are the vices of hate, violence, greed, intolerance and others too numerous to mention still writ large they also thrive just as they did in the Roman world of 2,000 years ago when zealous followers of some philosophies wanted to eliminate the philosophy of peace and good will to all men, because it threatened their power.

To their credit, and despite constant persecution, the Christians did not give up on their beliefs. Indeed as their numbers grew, their beliefs gave birth to the religion called Christianity. To mark their dedication to their beliefs they decided to adopt the date of the Roman Winter Solstice, now known as Christmas Day, as his birthday. As time went by and Christianity expanded beyond the boundaries of Rome, Christmas Day became a major celebration in many countries around the world, not all of them Christian.

In ancient Rome the most popular pagan festivals were celebrated in winter and so as Christianity became more popular, for good reason, it isn’t surprising its special day also became popular. The good reason for the popularity of winter festivals was that less agricultural work needed to be done, while people also expected the weather would be better in Spring. Two millennia later, things are still the same.

Winter festivals in particular were noted for merrymaking (thus Merry Christmas) while Roman New Year was the time for greenery, lights and charity. It was customary also during these pagan festivals to give children gifts a custom that is still in vogue, though expanded somewhat.

For these reasons and more, Christmas has become a loved tradition that, if carried out with peace and goodwill to all men, will make a difference in the world. We should all try and make the most of it.

Much as I am agnostic, nevertheless Christian Boadicea and myself wish everyone, regardless of their beliefs, a Merry Christmas and also wish them a Happy New Year with a traditional Celtic toast: Slànte mhath (Good Health).

First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday14 December 2010 

I understand the new world wide Church of Planet Earth (COPE) will soon make an application to build its new international headquarters and first Climate Change Temple in Canberra. However, before ACT developers start salivating, I understand that, in keeping with COPE’s environmental principles, architects and planner members of the church will design and build the Temple using materials produced without causing any COemissions.

While COPE HQ and the Temple will be built in Canberra the official launch of COPE will take place on a Pacific Island, allegedly sinking because of climate change. COPE believes that using the island will highlight the fact that saving planet earth will be a race against time unless Governments world wide take its advice.

And even though it is said it is more blessed to give than receive, COPE should realise also there’s more to religion than meets the eye. Not only will the Climate Change faithful need saints to pray to, they will also need to be advised about dangerous non believers.

However perhaps more important, who will be the first Supreme Leader of the new church? It is said discussions are already under way as to who that should be. Names already being bandied about are Gore, Stern, Rudd, Wong and Brown. Apparently the names of many others are being considered but because their credentials have not yet been verified by the COPE Council their names are being kept a closely guarded secret.

Naturally as a serious church, COPE will need Gods and Goddesses although it will need to be careful with its selections because to meet gender equity standards there will neeed to be an equal number of Gods and Goddesses. At the same time it will need to satisfy the demands of believers from various countries in the global village.

This will not be easy but willing to lend a hand to help COPE get started, I take the liberty of offering for their consideration a range of Gods and Goddesses from well known past civilisations that should enable them to get started quickly. The range I offer is, of course, only a guide; COPE might need to extend its search for Gods and Godesses it thinks better suited to its purpose. 

Let me start by suggesting COPE might think of adopting the following Celtic Gods and Goddesses from ancient Britain: Eostre – Goddess off Spring. Rebirth, Fertility and New Beginnings; Amaethon –  God of Agriculture, Master of Magic (I think magic will be in great demand in the COPE Church); Caillech – Goddess of Weather, Earth, Sky, Seasons, Moon and Sun (I feel sure this Goddess will be prayed to a lot ); and Latis – Goddess of Water and Beer, a Goddess I feel sure who will be popular, particularly with people who seek to find consolation by imbibing the latter beverage.

COPE might also take a look at Gods and Goddesses from ancient China: Kuan Ti – The Great Judge ( I think he might get called on a lot); Kwan Yin – Goddess of Mercy and Compassion; T’shai – shen- God of Wealth (Cope members who are developers will like this God); Tsao Wang – God of Hearth and Family ( might not be accepted because there’s little left of either hearth and family today).

From India I suggest: Kali – Goddess of Destruction (Canberra name: ‘the Developer God’); Sarasvati –  Goddess of Speech, Wisdom and Learning ( Andrew Barr will probably adopt her as his personal Goddea); Shiva – God of Living and Happiness (Jon Stanhope please note.) 

Returning to European deities I suggest COPE might adopt: Athena  – Goddess of Wisdom and the Arts ( she will be snowed under with requests from Canberra); Dionysos – God of Wine (he will be a popular god in Civic pubs); Mars – God of War ( a god for drfnrcr forces worl wide); Venus- Goddess of Love, Protector of Gardens (specially suited to COPE believers in the Garden City ).

There are more Gods and Goddesses to choose from some of whom you might feel would be more suitable and as I’m open to suggestions,either send a letter to the editor or post them on this website.

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

A small addition to the published column. Any reader or friend of a reader going to the UK on holiday let me give you a website you might find useful for booking acommodation. This site is operated by a schoolfriend of mine from many years ago and a man of the highest integrity. Write the details down as they won’t be repeated:

First published  The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 7 December 2010

As I understand it – correct me if I’m wrong – Law is the system of rules society agrees to live by and Justice the penalty imposed when people breach these rules. Often, when the breach is very serious, a group of people from society – known as a jury – is asked to decide on the guilt or innocence of the accused but not the penalty imposed by a judge.

Due to changes in society, many now think some penalties imposed by judges no longer reflect the wishes of society. They think this happens because, when a jury finds someone guilty it does so with a particular penalty in mind yet cannot advise a judge of its wishes, leading many jurors to say inappropriate penalties have been imposed and that the system should be changed.

Should it? I ask because during recent discussions on a variety of issues with people from a wide range of professions, when the subject of law and justice was discussed, a lawyer remarked that today the law is for lawyers and that justice is often a matter of luck. In light of what some people often think are inappropriate penalties was this lawyer right?

Whether right or wrong the lawyer added, was that the law was now beyond the understanding of nearly everyone except lawyers (and even some of them); that it had developed a class structure with a law for the rich and a law for the poor; while for the poorer than poor there was little or no law and consequently little or no justice.

In a general discussion of this issue, someone remarked that media interest seemed focused on cases involving celebrities, public figures and other high profile people accused of serious felonies but that lower class offences heard in one of the Civil and Administrative Tribunals, usually merit only a brief, if any, mention. 

Take cases in the Residential Tenancies Tribunal as an example. When was the last time you heard or read of a case involving residential tenancies? If you haven’t it isn’t surprising because such cases rarely, if ever, receive publicity.

I can only guess at the reason for the media’s lack of interest. Could it be because they lack the sensationalism the media seems to want despite the fact that decisions made in the Tribunal are likely to have a more serious effect society than decisions made in cases that involve celebrities etc? Is this what the lawyer in the discussion meant?

Without casting aspersions on the Tribunal because evidence on oath is not mandatory but discretionary, I have heard, anecdotally, from people familiar with its workings, that truth often goes abegging. If true, in this Tribunal, then neither the cause of justice nor the interests of society are served. So, does this also require change?

Indeed, in recent case I know of where a lawyer represented the landlord the Tribunal made a decision in favour of the landlord that mystified the tenant and spectator lawyers. It should come as no surprise therefore, that outside the Tribunal, the unrepresented and outraged tenant was alleged to have quoted Mr Bumble, the Beadle in Oliver Twist, when describing the decision: “If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot! If that’s the eye of the law, then the law is a bachelor. And the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience.”

It is unfortunate that tenants not wealthy enough to afford a lawyer are forced to plead their own case. The result is that their pleadings, truthful though they might be, are usually less persuasive than the pleadings of the skilled lawyer presenting a landlord’s case, resulting in decisions that lead to comments of the Mr Bumble kind.

Fortunately the Law Society understands the problem faced by people without the means to engage a lawyer or obtain legal aid. Equally fortunately among its members there are lawyers who, though it might be to their financial disadvantage, are more interested in justice than self-promotion and so are willing to provide pro bono legal assistance. I can but say that these lawyers deserve the community’s thanks.

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

 First published The Chronicle, Tuesday 30 November, 2010 

I only bet on sure things such as, some time today Boadicea will fall out with me. It’s also a sure thing that in Parliament a number of Government and Opposition MPs will spend a great deal of time trying to malign each other while a handful of MPs called Independents will try to make up their minds about which of the latter to believe while a Green MP will work hard at trying to make Green the voters favourite colour. 

On the other hand in ACT Assembly what seems likely to take place is another episode in the long running saga that not only are poker machines bad for your financial, mental and physical health, they might also lead you to falling into the pit reserved for the debauched and dissolute.

To show the importance of this subject, both commercial and ABC talk back radio have interviewed the CEO of the Registered Clubs Association (members clubs have scores of poker machines) whose job it is to protect members’ interests, the CEO of Lifeline which tries to stop people gambling and falling into the pit, not to mention some worthy MLAs.

It should come as no surprise that State and Territory Governments are addicted to gambling revenues. They are addicted because while they know voters might hate politicians they like to gamble which makes gambling an easier way to raise money than by taxing voters directly. Let me add that I am not without experience of gambling and am aware of the problems gambling addiction can cause having spent a number of years in the UK casino business and also having visited the illegal casinos that operated some years ago in Canberra.

Although I am not a gambler neither am I anti gambling and nor do I understand why the anti gambling lobby is focussed on poker machines. The fact is gambling on poker machines is now as much an Australian tradition as horse racing, cricket, rugby league, Australia Rules, two – up, or betting on flies climbing up a wall. 

I would also hazard a guess (is that gambling?) that poker machines are not the only cause of problems associated with gambling. In fact it seems to me that lotteries are as big a problem. Indeed I know people who never play poker machines but have become addicted to lotteries because of their big jackpots. But what makes lotteries a bigger attraction for gamblers than poker machines is that even the biggest poker machine’s jackpot rarely compares with a lottery’s smallest jackpot. And what makes them more addictive is their easy accessibility. Addicts don’t need to visit a pub, club or casino to access and play them; they can access them in a wide variety of outlets take them home and play them.

Although anti gamblers want all gambling activities curtailed, poker machines are the focus of their anti gambling propaganda. Much of this propaganda, or so it seems to me, has been developed by addicts suffering from compensatory neurosis which means, that if they can’t play the pokies because of their addiction, they compensate by trying to stop other people playing them.    

I’d also like to make the point that contrary to much anti gambling advertising, not only women become gambling addicts: men do too. Yet much anti gambling propaganda comprises horror stories of them spending the housekeeping money and ending up unable to feed or clothe their children This, in turn, leads to children not going to school and joining in school trips, or enjoying themselves with their peer group. 

Experience has taught me that when men spend their wages gambling, the problems become worse. Rent and/or mortgages don’t get paid and families get evicted, which often leads to them becoming part of society’s burgeoning army of homeless and hopeless.

The real question is: can gambling be cured? For centuries, many programmes have been tried but only abstinence has proved successful. On the other hand perhaps successful programmes could be developed if instead of the poker machine monies being given to government by clubs, they were added to the money made available by government to current programmes?

While this might not be a sure thing, I think it’s an idea worth betting on. 

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


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