Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for January 2011

 First published The Chronicle, Tuesday 25 January, 2011  

 What of Canberra’s future? Will it be a city with industries that add to its economic health, a city full of hope and promise, a city in which culture thrives, or will it be like the German city of Hamelin post the legendary Pied Piper, a city of geriatrics, absent of youth? But whatever its future I hope it will avoid the terrifying fate of becoming a city of monuments built by politicians as legacies of their own self perceived brilliance and that of other self-important wannabes. 

Let me put Hamelin in context. In the 13th century, Hamelin was so infested by rats that its Burghers, desperate to get rid of them offered a travelling Piper, known as the Pied Piper – who was said to have a magic pipe on which he could play tunes that made animals follow him – a contract to lure the rats away from the town. And so began the legend: the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The Piper agreed, hypnotised the rats and lured them over a cliff into the sea where they drowned. Unfortunately, not knowing the Piper could also hypnotise children, the Burghers did not pay the Piper his contract fee. Furious, the Piper took his revenge by piping a tune that drew the children away from the town, leaving behind the old, disabled and grieving parents.

In a loose sense, Canberra could be compared to Hamelin. Substitute politicians for Burghers and take note that its young people are following the sound of pipes from other places and leaving Canberra because some politicians and other self-important people don’t seem to care about keeping their promises.

For example: the Chief Minister promised to cure Canberra’s affordable housing problem a promise that had some developers rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of more land being made available to them.

Ostensibly to show that he was keeping his promise, the Chief Minister approved the re-organising of Canberra’s planning whose officers he said had caused the shortage of building land. Now anyone who knows how Government works won’t need a crystal ball to know that re-organisation means more bureaucrats would be appointed but that there would be little improvement in the affordable housing situation. Both things occurred.

At the same time many people in the Canberra community who know more about planning than the Chief Minister and his planning Minister, also said the planning system was a mess but that it had been caused by the Government. Not one to lie down to accusations such as this, the Chief Minister in reply exonerated himself and his Ministers from blame by reiterating that the planners not his Government were responsible for the planning mess and thus were responsible for the lack of affordable housing. 

As income from land sales is a major source of the money the Government uses to pay for some of its promises, if land is not available for sale the Government will find itself facing not a GFC but a CFC (Canberra Financial Crisis) and in the same position as those who can’t afford to buy a house.

The effect of a CFC could be catastrophic. Not only would it hasten Canberra towards becoming the geriatric capital of the southern hemisphere it could keep it ‘going forward ‘(I seem to have heard that phrase before) to holding the title, the ‘Necropolis Capital.’          

Reading between the lines of what the Chief Minister had to say I got the feeling that although he thinks he is not responsible for the situation that does not necessarily mean he thinks the same about his Ministers. Not to make excuses for him, in part he may be right because often to counter bad publicity, it seems he found it necessary to intervene in their portfolios.

As a result, the oftener he intervened the more it appeared the Government was a one – man band (is it?). And though one – man bands can be entertaining at times, they will never replace orchestras of talented musicians just as a one-man government will never replace a government band of talented politicians, even with the best conductor in the world.

Perhaps we should start thinking of changing the Government band?   

dca@netspeed.com.au

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

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First posted to The Chronicle, Tuesday 18 January,2011 

For the last seven years many in the community have opined that the leadership necessary to secure the future of Canberra and its citizens, old and young, has been absent from the Legislative Assembly. That was made clear at the 2008 election when they gave neither of the major parties permission to govern the ACT in their own right. However, come October 2012 if they decide the current arrangement – a minority Labor Government subservient to the Greens – is less than satisfactory, no doubt they will change it

Voting for the next Assembly could test the nerve of voters. Will they elect more Independents and minor parties to the Assembly thus making it necessary to have an Assembly that better represents the ACT’s wide variety of political opinion? That’s the $64,000 question

If they do, this would represent a significant political change but where better for it to happen than in the electorate not only claimed as the home of cultural diversity but also the cleverest in the nation.

That the average weekly wage in Canberra is also the highest in the nation is not due to it being the cleverest city in Australia but more to the fact that it is home to the National Parliament and many National institutions that need large numbers of well-paid bureaucrats to service them. Unlike other cities in Australia, the Capital did not develop its own wealth creation industries employing thousands of people.

 That said, let me say also that as the Independent Candidates and minor party candidates other than The Greens, attempt to gain representation, they should be prepared for a long, and perhaps a nasty fight because, if successful, the major parties will have to accept a wider range of ideas, such as has happened federally, albeit the minority Labor government accepted those with ill grace.

To be successful, however, the Independents and minor parties must make the wider community aware that their interests are low on the priority scale of some current MLAs and other prospective candidates from the major parties. They might think (they would be mistaken if they do) that just because the election is still some way away, they needn’t start their election campaign until later.

Regardless of what parties currently represented in the Assembly say, their campaigns for 2012 election have been under way since the 2008 election. They have also ramped them up since the 2010 federal election.

So let me say to those Independents and minor parties who intend contesting the next election: copy them. Do not delay the start of you campaigns any longer. You had better start now if you hope to be elected and contribute to making the changes necessary for the good governance of the ACT. 

However, a word of warning! Although I hold no brief for any party or candidate let me say it makes no sense simply to target current individual Members of the current Assembly and try to get rid of them because you do not agree with a particular policy. If their performance in the current Assembly has been to the benefit of the community, it is never wise to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

From the start of your campaign(s) you should make plain your views not only as to which of the current MLAs you would like to see replaced in the Assembly but why you would like them replaced. (I will identify the ones I think worth keeping in a later column.) When quizzed by the media, you should then be prepared to stand by what you say while containing your delight that they have seen fit to quiz you.

I wish I could say otherwise, but on occasion, the intentions of the media doing the quizzing is not so much about finding out what you think but designed to make you seem inadequate.         

So, unless you have something sensible to say, a constant presence in the media is unlikely to make voters think this a sign of your political ability. More than likely it will to bring to mind the old adage: ‘empty vessels make the most sound’ and also make them vote on that basis at the next election.

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Blog of 17 January, 2011

I try to keep abreast of friends and enemies by taking a squiz at Facebook from time to time. Once upon a time I used to take a look at Twitter to check on them but because Facebook seems slightly better I decided to become Twitter free.  

For me also, being able to say anything really meaningful about politics and politicians in 140 characters (with spaces) on twitter was beyond my capacity. And while the words “they are frauds and charlatans” is meaningful, because constant repetition would make it less so, the decision to become Twitter free was made for me.   

Although Twitter and Facebook were lauded as social networks I confess I have always thought of them as anti- social. Indeed it is my contention their real effect will not be seen for some time, that time being when they have been consigned to the technology graveyard in cyber space although I suspect they will hang around for a time in the same way as hula- hoops, Rubik’s cube and skateboards.

I expect also that at some time in the not too distant future, a baby currently engrossed in crawling around the floor in search of something it knows not what, will announce, even before it reaches its first two digit number birthday, another new type of social network.

As to what kind future networks to expect I haven’t a clue although it seems to me that like Facebook and Twitter they, too, will be new versions of drum language and the morse code. And, speaking of the latter, it seems to me also that there is good reason to keep drum language and morse alive because, in the future, if there is a total breakdown of technology we may need to turn to drumbeats and dots and dashes in sound to maintain contact over a distance.

A further good reason: in future people might have given up the power of speech and become totally reliant on technology for communication.

With technology and speech gone, drums and morse would also bring a substantial bonus to politics and business. Not only would spin doctors disappear but politicians, diplomats, spies, business operators and developers would no longer be able to deal secretly and silently, as everything they wanted to say to each other would be exposed and become part of the public domain. Another bonus: there would be lean pickings for any would be Julian Assanges.

Now if only I could be sure this would happen I could write a book: I rather fancy 2184 as a title.

This is the first Chronicle column of 2011, published Tuesday 11 January.   Unfortunately,The Chronicle is not on line as yet, but I live in hope it soon will be and further hope you will continue to read the column and the other blogs posted on this site.  

 First. On behalf of Boadicea and myself, thank you to readers who us sent either an e-mail or card with best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. They were much appreciated.

Let me start the 2011 column year by saying that for me the words “Happy New Year” not only herald new life they also suggest that the next 365 days will be the most exciting I have ever experienced.

At the same time these words also tell me it is time to fill up my personal pool of optimism from which, I hope, will emerge new ideas that will help wash away the woe and despair I experienced during the past year.

So what do I hope for in 2011? I could say I hope to win the big lottery prize but with life itself the biggest lottery of all, every day I wake means I’m already a winner because life itself is a bigger and better prize than any amount of lottery prize money. This is but one of the reasons I don’t believe in giving life away because while money given away can be recovered, no one can recover a life given away.

My hope for 2011 was added to at Christmas by a brief message in a card from a reader who wrote: ‘keep to the left and “right” each week. We need you.’  Why these words added to my hope was not only because they reminded me of my very first Chronicle column in which I said:  ‘sometimes I will be left sometimes right but I will always be honest’ but also because they reminded me it was time to make some New Year Resolutions.  

This has not been as easy as you think. For example, in later years of the column, I resolved to be kinder to Members of the Assembly? Now, much as I think I have kept that resolution, some MLAs might have a different view while some readers think I’ve been too soft on them.

In other years I also made resolutions to become more generous, more caring, less selfish, less greedy, less venal and, if that wasn’t enough, a strong resolution to always tell the truth. I was given to make the last resolution by the strong stance taken on lying by ACT MLAs who, as everyone knows, are so honest that if they told a lie in the Assembly, the building would fall down around their ears.

I also accepted the reason given by Federal politicians that their promises to eliminate poverty, end homelessness, and ensure everyone regardless of race and status would get a good education, good access to a health service, and live in a just society, did not come true, was due to other people not keeping their promises. How could I have thought otherwise?

 Although occasionally I did not keep my resolutions, nonetheless from my pool of refreshed optimism I have drawn a bucketful of resolutions that this year I intend to stick to, come hell or high water. 

Although they come in no order of priority here are my resolutions. I will stop thinking that many people in Canberra, politicians in particular but also some people in business, are so enamoured of themselves they think they must be consulted about every problem because they are the only people who can solve them.

And despite new means of accessing information and because I think the day will come when The Chronicle will be the main voice of the community, in the meantime I resolve to do my utmost to encourage the community at large to use it as their voice to complain or compliment the Legislative Assembly and/or other organisations and individuals through letters to the editor about their actions.

I resolve also to carry on campaigning for Independent voices not only in politics but also in community organisations if only to avoid the latter becoming quasi branches of political parties. Lest you think I have a problem with members of political parties being part of community organisations I don’t. My objection is that if they only speak in their party voice, what one is really hearing is a verse of the dirge for democracy.

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

 dca@netspeed.com.au

Do you think Julian Assange a seeker after truth, a great moralist whose sole purpose in life is to expose the dishonesty that lies at the heart of our political and diplomatic systems, or do you think he’s nothing but a super fraud and technological thug?

For me he’s the latter, a man who has persuaded people who should know better that by by making government and diplomatic information (mainly American) public by hacking (stealing) it from Government websites, he is doing the world a favour.

As for the stolen information, the media which bleats sanctimoniously about its dedication to the privacy of communication, can’t wait to get their cheque books out to pay for it.

You may not agree with me but, technically, the media are Fagins, receivers of Assange’s stolen information and no diferent from those who receive property stolen as the resut of what people usually see as crime. Indeed, despite the rhetoric the media now uses to justify its actions, such payment really encourages Assange to continue stealing.

I have no doubt that Assange started hacking with good intentions but unfortunately, seduced by the power his technological cleverness gave him, he became a technological thug who gathered gangs of hackers around him and continued stealing.

In effect he became overlord of a gang of computer thugs dedicated to stealing information private to the people who wrote and sent it, information which, if it became public, could put peoples’ life at risk.

And to show that thuggery and receiving pays, Canongate, a major publisher in Scotland, has signed him up for a book deal. No doubt Assange will share the proceeeds with his gang.

 

 I doubt I need to spell it out but just to save any confusion I am neither particle physicist nor any other kind of scientist although I might make claim to being both reasonably intelligent and observer of my fellow man (man being non gender specific).

To those people who live outside Canberra and only recently become readers of the blog you might wonder about the blog’s caption. Wonder no more. On 7 September, 2010 in http://www.On Line Opinion and slightly earlier in The Chronicle. I had piece ‘The future is fusion’ published.  On 3 March 2010 I also wrote a piece about fusion for the Chronicle ‘There’s none so blind.’

In the latter I made the following statements: “Such safe nuclear power is fusion, although in Australia, vested interests and politicians with big ambitions but limited vision and ability, do little to help accelerate the nuclear fusion program, a program that will provide the world with a limitless supply of clean energy.

Indeed it seems strange that trillions of dollars are not being spent in hastening the development of a product fusion energy that will help replace fossil fuels and curb CO2 emissions. Even stranger however, is the fact trillions of dollars were spent developing nuclear fission to build bombs that allegedly would save the world from being destroyed by warring excesses. (The Manhattan project.) Have the bombs succeeded? No they haven’t which for me, puts the IPCC’s and Green theories about global warming and climate change in the same category.” 

In “The future is fusion” I made these statements. “Strangely, IPCC scientists (and Lord Nicolas Stern) all of whom say that planet earth is doomed unless CO2 emissions are cut never seem to mention nuclear fusion. Perhaps they’re shy? If so, I’ll say it for them. 

“The fact is, energy produced by nuclear fusion is not only limitless and waste free, it will also cut the use of fossil fuels to nil and make redundant the wave energy barrages, solar panels and power windmills currently polluting the landscape. Geo-thermal power will still be used.

 “So why aren’t the doomsayers calling for development of fusion energy as a priority? ….

“Because demand for their products would be reduced, I can understand coal and oil companies not wishing fusion to become reality. And governments too, would view it with reluctance unless it became politically expedient to do otherwise, because they would lose the tax that the coal and oil industries provide.

At the same time, if coal and oil companies as well as governments really mean what they say when they talk about curbing CO2 they could demonstrate their sincerity by actively and publicly encouraging the accelerated development of fusion. Will they? Well that’s the $64,000 question.”(Perhaps I should have said the $64 billion question)

In both cases some people commented that I didn’t know what I was talking about; that what I was suggesting was pie in the sky.

 That said, I now wonder what they would say to Professor Brian Cox (acknowledged as one of the world’s leading thinkers), when being interviewed for a contribution to the “Times 2” pull out in the Canberra Times 7 January 2011 said in answer to the question: “Can we make a scientific way of thinking pervasive” answered? “This would be the greatest achievement for science over the coming centuries. I say this because I do not believe we run our world according to evidence based principles. If we did we would be investing in an energy Manhattan project to quickly develop and deploy clean energy technologies.”  Professor Cox, a physicist at Manchester University is also at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva.

I wonder how many people think Professor Cox wrong? If interested in curing the CO2 problem of perhaps you might send this blog off to your friends and ask them to comment.

 But perhaps more important, let’s start a debate in Australia on:

 The Australian Fusion Project   



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