Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for February 2011

As  with budgets  the figures given in many reports produced by experts pushing their own barrow are designed more to confuse than  inform. Take the National Broadband Network for example. Depending on which media is the source of their information – newspaper, television or radio- little wonder voters are confused as to its cost:  will it cost $35 or $44 billion or, will it cost less than the former but greater than the latter?

If evidence was ever needed to show the duplicity of barrow pushers, the Climate Change Institute’s report, Clean Energy Jobs in Regional Australia. Launched today by Tony Windsor MP, the report gilds the lily by saying that almost 34,000 jobs could be generated in regional Australia by 2030 if the Government introduced ‘strong and decisive pollution and climate change policies, including a price-tag on pollution.’ 

34,00 jobs sounds great (and that is the number that will be pushed continually in the media by the Institute and The Greens). But what can be extrapolated from this jobs figure is, that up to 2030, 1798 jobs will be created annually and shared by every State and Territory.

This is not something to crow about when Australia’s population will grow by multiple thousands between now and 2030. To extrapolate further, it means that, annually, every State and Territory will get 223 new jobs. Isn’t that wonderful.

I must say however, that because of the large concentration of mining and associated industries in regional Australia I find it strange that unions have jumped to support the Institute of Climate Change when the opinion of people in regional Australia seems set against the measures proposed by the Institute because, in their opinion, the extra expense caused by the Institute’s proposals will lead to job losses. 

And so relentlessly the Green bandwagon moves on. But as opportunists short of political principle jump on the bandwagon, as sure as night follows day, their weight will help cause a breakdown leaving both Greens and the unprincipled stranded in the political desert. One can only hope that that no one throws them a political lifeline.

dca@netspeed.com.au

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First posted The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 22 February, 2011 

Over Christmas and New Year some state age pensioners in Canberra told me they were finding it impossible to live on their pension. I know also that state age pensioners elsewhere and people in low paying jobs face the same problem. Indeed, that some state age pensioners in Canberra survive is due only to the help given them by charity organisations.

This is a sorry state of affairs in the Capital of a country that takes pride in calling itself a caring society yet has pensioners whose social life is nil because they cannot afford a trip to the theatre or cinema, new clothes or even a small gift for a grandchild’s birthday. It is no less a sorry state of affairs that people in low paying jobs must also rely on charity.

It is also easier said than done for pensioners to follow the urging of Government to get a job, because, according to some pensioners, finding an employer willing to give them one is the hardest job of all.

Some people might disagree with me that Canberra’s state age pensioners are badly off, but they are, and for the following reasons. Many cannot afford the prices being asked for the range of staple foods they are told are essential for a good diet. Although too proud to admit it, sadly in some cases, they exist on starvation rations.  

But why are Canberra’s prices so high as to make them unaffordable to pensioners? This is due to the fact that because Canberrans enjoy the highest average wage levels in Australia, suppliers of food and services charge higher prices, a situation that also applies to housing.

Additionally, because pre-retirement, the wages of people in receipt of state pensions were low, they found amassing a retirement nest egg impossible. Nonetheless, low as their wages were, the drop in income after retirement put them into the same category as the person who tumbles off a cliff top and ends hanging by their fingertips to a ledge on the cliff face. 

Unfortunately for pensioners, the price of goods and utilities such as gas, electricity and petrol remains at cliff top level. Some people might argue that buses are an alternative form of transport for those without a car, but in a city where the car is almost an essential, buses are a poor alternative for Canberra pensioners who once had a car.

And buses too, have limitations. Service frequency is poor, except for people going to and from work, not to mention that some areas have no weekend services. And while pensioners who have attained seventy-five years can apply for a free bus pass, useful as that might be, the period in which most pensioners are likely to be active comes long before they reach the age of seventy-five. 

Taxis, of course, are also an alternative. Unfortunately they are also expensive except in the case of pensioners who qualify for the government issued taxi vouchers that gives a fare discount of fifty per cent. Although this reduces the cost of taking a taxi because the number of vouchers issued to a person is limited in many cases their use is limited to reducing the cost of their weekly shopping trip.

And thankful though they may be for the vouchers there’s more to life than a weekly shopping trip. Taxis are needed to take and bring them back from the hairdresser them and many will need a taxi to go and get medicine.

As for ‘free’ events effectively such events are used by governments of all persuasions as a means of showing them in a favourable light. Many of these celebrations also are staged in places that pensioners can’t get to because of cost, not something that affects those on high average wages who attend even if they don’t change their voting intentions. But who can blame them for not looking a gift horse in the mouth

Perhaps a radical scheme is the only way to redress the inequity faced by age pensioners in Canberra. Why not give Canberra’s age pensioners a National Capital cost of living grant, adjusted quarterly, to help them enjoy a healthier, better and stress free life?

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

First published The Chronicle Canberra , Tuesday 15 February 2011

That Australia is a land of free speech is rapidly losing credibility with many people; not without reason they think free speech is being extinguished. Christopher Pearson’s Commentary piece ‘OVERSENSITIVITY CAN ONLY COMPROMISE OPEN DEBATE’, (pg 14 The Australian, Saturday, 5 February) His piece about what happened to electronic journal On Line Opinion (OLO), 25th November 2010, following its publication of an anti gay marriage article by pro family activist Bill Muehlenberg, gives substance to this view.

Pearson reported that in an interview, Graham Young, editor of OLO, had told him two major advertisers a bank and IT company had withdrawn with their support because, according to company spokespersons, OLO – read the content of Muehlenberg’s article – did not meet their company’s social value criteria. And so OLO, regarded by Australian policy makers as an icon of free speech and valuable contributor to the political process is now at risk of ceasing publication.

Young also told Pearson that OLO had previously published articles on gay marriage and that an article by gay marriage activist Rodney Croome, had been published on 1 November, 2010. Check what Croome and Muehlenberg wrote at: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au

That OLO published both pieces plus others on the subject, serves to emphasise the reason for its existence: to present opinions from a wide range of writers on a wide range of subjects. In keeping with this policy OLO also allows readers to comment and make their views known about the opinions expressed by its contributors. OLO must not be allowed to fail.

(At this point I must declare a personal interest because OLO (which does not pay fees) has published a number of my Chronicle articles and some non-Chronicle articles. In both cases the articles have been subject to positive and negative comment.)

That advertisers withdrew support from OLO is bad enough, but that they did because they did not agree with Muehlenberg is cause for worry because it might herald a future when comment will be published only if it meets the values set by companies. In a sense their withdrawing the support reflects the growing social terrorism affecting many people in many counties who, to avoid penalties sometimes physical, sometimes financial and sometimes both, must heed the dictates of government and/or powerful organisations.

Some people might also think that in making the following suggestion I draw a very long bow: that the action of these two advertisers smacks of a return to the days when at job interviews, people were asked what were their political and religious beliefs. And yes it happened in Australia, as I found out at my first job interview after arriving in Australia in 1969. 

In Muehlenberg’s case however, it is not only his opinion these advertisers are censoring.  OLO is being censored also, as is the opinion of all contributors. So what next? Will opinion writers who can’t get published because of censorship, need to become pamphleteers like Tom Paine to make their views known? Sad as I am that such censorship has occurred it will be sadder still l if we do not rescue OLO’s strong voice for free speech.

 As for the subject that occasioned the censorship, being agnostic, my personal views about gay marriage will satisfy neither Muehlenberg nor Croome. As far as I am concerned marriage is neither a sacrament as averred by Muehlenberg nor a right as averred by Croome. For me, marriage is simply the word that, over millenniums, came to be used by humans to recognise the union of a man and a woman, that not only became a convention but also as a contract they considered essential for human survival. In all of my research on this issue I can find no trace of any other union of humans being recognised as marriage. 

The fact is, the word marriage describes the world’s oldest form of contract, a contract entered into by a man and a woman that existed long before religion and churches were established and a contract my wife and I entered into and have adhered to for more than fifty years.

To try and end on a humorous note, marriage is probably the contract that helped create the world’s oldest profession.

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

NB. Space limitations prevented this addendum being published in The Chronicle

 Why help save On Line Opinion?

 Let me answer straightaway. Free speech is essential to the practice of real democracy and any attempt to curb people’s opportunity to publish opinion must be resisted if democracy is to survive. The curbing effect is the reason for the foregoing article “Gay Marriage causes loss of free speech’ which some people might think simply another attack on homosexuality. It isn’t.  See Chronicle column.

You might not agree with the article but like On Line Opinion (OLO) this website gives you the liberty to say what you think. And even if you disagree with me you are welcome to express your opinion as strongly and politely as possible.

And let me say further that the intent of the article was not to argue that a contract between two people of the same sex should not be called a marriage but that it should be given a title that clearly defined it as not being between a man and women but between two people of the same sex. And nor is it an argument that a contract of this kind should contain different provisions to the contract between a man and a woman. IT SHOULD’NT !

The thrust of the article was to raise the awareness of people to the fact that when governments and people of power arbitrarily curtail free speech, slowly but surely we are starting down the road to repeating some of the most horrific periods in world history.

Lord Acton said: All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly Acton’s statement accurately describes what has led to the state of turmoil currently existing in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, The Sudan, Jordan, Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and that’s only a few examples; there are many more.

Unfortunately, Australians and people in other soi -disant Western democracies, sit back contentedly, give themselves a verbal pat on the back and say: it couldn’t happen here. Couldn’t it? Well I beg to differ. As the article shows, it has happened to OLO and if it has happened to OLO, which organ of free speech will be next to feel the power of the powerful.

While the internet should be a valuable source of encouragement to free speech, OLO is an example of things which put that proposition in doubt.  Will the same thing happen to other online journals that rely on the support of advertising to keep democracy functioning? And will governments do the same?

If you are prepared to let OLO sink simply because you think you are not affected, think again. One only has to take a look at history to find the reason that dictatorship thrives in various countries was because citizens didn’t think it could happen in their country. Some are now paying the penalty for their complacency.

So take a look at OLO at: www.onlineopinion.com.au and then take action. In doing so you will be helping boost free speech and democracy

 First posted in The Chronicle, Canberra, 1 February, 2011 

 Are some of our politicians in a permanent state of delusion? I ask because it seems to me most of them not only think of themselves as celebrities but as people anointed with the qualities of greatness and integrity and so deserving of praise.

I can understand politicians being ambitious, but so ambitious are some their desire morphs into the narcissism that leads them to drown in the pool of their ambition as they gaze at their own reflection. 

 In some respects politicians are like ambitious soldiers for whom war is more important than peace, or developers whose ambition is not to build attractive affordable housing for people to live in but monolithic structures that will build their bank balance. Unfortunately, we now seem to live in an age where profit seems more important than people.

It is also an age where human rights activists seem to spend their time conjuring up what, in their view, are ‘new’ human rights, one of which is outlawing gender difference. Human rights, of course, are essential in a just society but, if the catalogue of rights grows too long to be easily remembered, it is likely the value of many rights will diminish.

Human rights should be as natural as breathing and living so that when rights are violated the violations can be discerned immediately. Unfortunately, human rights are now being enshrined in legal tomes that can only be deciphered by lawyers leaving the majority of people at risk of never ever knowing their human rights.   

Nor will it come as a surprise to me if the politically correct messiahs of human rights suggest, sooner rather than later, that the titles Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Uncle or Aunt should be discontinued even though the titles were created by society for good reasons. Indeed, it has to be said that due to voter apathy, these messiahs with their special agenda have already achieved a degree of success by having bureaucracy arbitrarily replace husband and wife with ‘partner.’

For many years I have held the opinion that these activist messiahs of human rights are people who believe the only way to run the world is to put into practice their agenda of political correctness. On the other hand, I believe and hope, that sensible people who believe in human rights will bring their common sense to bear on these issues and defeat the politically correct. 

Unfortunately, Australia is fertile soil for the platoons of politically correct activists. These platoons thrive because, as a people, Australians have been spoiled by the excess of the good things given us by nature that we didn’t have to fight for. The result: it has become a nation apathetic about how society should operate. Unlike its early day as a nation it has become a nation complacent about ideas and, speaking figuratively, mentally obese.

Sadly, Australia has become a nation of the self-satisfied, many of whom believe they are a superior people and that they know what is good for the rest of the world. As a consequence, unfortunately, many also have also become so sure of their superiority that they take umbrage when their images of superiority and feeling of self – satisfaction are dented.   

As an example of maintaining that veneer of superiority and self satisfaction despite its alleged egalitarian ethos, Australia bribes athletes from poorer countries who have enjoyed lives denied their countrymen, to come to Australia and become citizens so that Australia will reap the benefits, not the country of the athlete.

And Australia also does the same in the health field by its poaching of many health professionals for example, doctors and nurses, from countries which themselves are badly in need of such skills. As with the athletes, the training of the health professionals was paid for by the country of their birth in the hope they could help improve its health – not Australia’s.    

Let me end by saying that in the second decade of the 21st century, I hope Australia will regain its initial innovative ethos and go back to the future to find leaders capable of restoring Australia’s reputation as a country of leaders with ideas.

For Canberra’s best Community News get The Chronicle: published every Tuesday.



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