Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for March 2011

First posted in The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday March 29

In this column I talk about the aftermath of death and destruction caused by mine accidents, earthquakes and tsunamis. Sadly however I must accuse some comfortably off citizens of lacking humanity when on the basis of a war long past and/or skin colour, either complain or refuse to help support families who, through no fault of their own, were affected by such calamities.

 All of them should be held in contempt by the community, which is what happened to people who, when as a small boy and living three hundred yards from the pithead, denied help to families of miners from the local community affected by mine accidents. 

Like earthquakes and tsunamis these accidents came without warning. Only after an accident happened did the siren wail a warning that something had gone wrong at the pit. Naturally the wail sparked alarm among the wives and mothers in the community with husbands and sons and relatives working in the mine who rushed to the pithead carrying with them the unspoken hope that neither husband, father nor brother had been killed or injured so badly that, in the months ahead, they would become so depressed as to think that death would have been preferable. Sadly some men did, and in doing so left behind mothers, wives and children who would experience what could only be called a living death.

It is to be hoped the wives, children and family of the men involved in the mine disaster November 19th at the Pike River Coal company mine on the rugged west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, or the families affected by the Christchurch earthquake do not suffer in the same way. Let me add also, I wish the same for the families in the Japanese city of Sendai and surrounding towns that were destroyed by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

Like Japan, New Zealand is a country familiar with earthquakes, something I found out when I lived there in the early fifties and was fortunate to escape being killed or injured in what turned out to be a minor earthquake. Indeed, had I been sitting in the centre stalls of the Majestic Cinema, Wellington at a matinee of the Third Man. instead of the back stalls, the very large chandelier that fell from the ceiling during the quake might have put my lights out for good.

Despite leaving New Zealand many years ago, the recent Christchurch earthquake was also of personal interest because when I lived there I had the feeling of being part of a large family like the large family I came from. I retain that feeling, so that even though I was sitting at home in Canberra when the Pike River disaster occurred I felt the same emotions as I did when a small boy in Scotland as the pit siren wailed in warning and I watched wives and mothers rush to the pithead. And though the results in Scotland were never as severe as Pike River, the fear seemed just as strong.

Because of family connections the Christchurch earthquake was personal also because some members of my extended family have established themselves in Christchurch through a Cousin Margaret Hutcheson, who died in Christchurch some years ago. Not able to contact them, I wondered if they were safe. Fortunately other Hutcheson cousins living in NZ did so and were able to assuage my concerns.

Then came Japan’s mega earthquake and tsunami that turned Sendai and the surrounding area into wasteland.  I immediately telephoned my nephew in Tokyo to see if he, his children and wife were safe. Not able to get through my pithead fear returned.

More in hope than expectation I sent him e-mail not expecting an answer. Instead I received the following reply next morning: “We are all fine. We get earthquakes all the time and don’t worry about them too much, but this one was different; it was a big one, indeed. The earth did not only move, it jumped and swayed as well. Thankfully, the only damage we incurred was that we lost most of our cups, glasses and plates.”

They are fortunate. But for those less fortunate and unlike the pariahs I ask you to indulge your humanity

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

dca@netspeed.com.au

 

On Sunday and Monday morning, supermarkets and pharmacies in New South Wales must have done a roaring as Labor MPs from the last Government and those who wanted to be in a new Labor government, queued for hangover tablets and tissues to dry the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing as they thought about, and relived, their execution at the polls.

 Comments from previous NSW Labor Premiers and Cabinet Minsters who provided the evidence that became the instrument of their execution did not give them any relief.

No doubt the wannabees went over in their minds how they could have avoided execution but the fact is that voters had hard, not just circumstantial, evidence about Labor’s guilt. Even the most cursory research produced eyewitnesses to Labor’s guilt in mismanaging planning, health, education, transport and the myriad other services the community had paid for but couldn’t use because of this mismanagement

And if that wasn’t bad enough, voters didn’t believe that the many Members of the Labor Government who had been sacked from parliament for being involved in corruption and the others who had left perhaps before being sacked was any kind of recommendation to return Labor to office. Sadly, some people who would have made good MPs and served a constituency well, lost out because of this, as did voters.

There is no doubt that if Labor wishes to recover any kind of reputation that would help it climb out of the political chasm in which it finds itself, and wants to become acceptable to voters, it will have to get rid of the people who not only brought about this state of affairs to begin with but also allowed it to continue. It should also get rid of what seemingly has become the unofficial motto of too many Labor politicians: “Whatever it takes.”

While the next four years will be a trying time for Labor it will also be a trying time for Barry O’Farrell as he will have to make sure he doesn’t make the same mistakes as Labor which will be only too easy if he allows his Coalition Government  to becomes complacent.

The next four years should prove interesting.

dca@netspeed.com.au

First published The Chronicle, Tuesday 22 March, 2011

 Much as I believe the Greens when they claim it is in the interests of democracy that they want the ACT to have the same law making powers as the States (don’t we all?), I believe their agenda is much narrower. I believe their agenda is to make euthanasia and same sex ‘marriage’ legal.

With power over the minority Federal and ACT Labor Governments they believe the time is opportune to realise their goals. However, I believe that Australian voters, Labor, Liberal, Democrat, Independent, Anarchist, Agnostic, Atheist et al, are starting to think the Greens agenda is bad for Australia and so at the next Federal or ACT Election the Green vote will be less successful. 

That said, in my opinion they are now manipulating the Assembly by supporting ACT Labor as a minority Government in expectation that Labor will support their agenda for same sex marriage, which the Chief Minister supports, in preference to euthanasia, which he opposes. It would be wrong of me not to state my position: I support neither. But let me make it clear that my opposition is not founded on religious belief, of which I have none. And, being apolitical also, agreeing with the Chief Minister about euthanasia is not politically based.

Indeed I have never discussed with the Chief Minister why he opposes euthanasia, although I have discussed the subject with many supporters and understand why they support it. However, their reasons are not for me.

My opposition to euthanasia is based on the philosophy expressed by Dylan Thomas in his famous poem about death, titled: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ which is said to express his thoughts as he watched his father grow weak and frail in his old age. For me the poem seems to say that no matter how they lived their lives or their pain, they should die fighting. Indeed for me the words imply that one should not die without fighting for one’s life.

As for same sex marriage the words themselves seem to indicate that it is something out of the norm. It is. And nor has it ever been the norm since man travelled out of Africa to the various parts of the world they occupy today.

During their travels groups of them decided to settle down in various places and in doing so not only did they create new cultures they also changed physically. However, history shows that in all of the new cultures and regardless of physical change or change in their political environments, marriage between a man and a woman held its special place as a social priority. Indeed marriage became a special rite that even Prime Minister Julia Gillard supports even if, like me, she does not think it sacred. 

But what is happening today is that would be social engineers are trying to change marriage from being a special rite which, even in the millenniums before the Sumerian civilisation of 5,000 years ago and the Indus Valley civilisations of 3,000 years ago, their ancestors practiced in the interests of social engineering, into a ‘right’ that has no social engineering value except the one they have created for it which is that it apply to people of the same sex.  

Over time marriage has been seen to confer special social values, particularly to children because it is through marriage that they learn they are the result of a unique physical relationship between a man and woman that cannot be replicated by any other two humans.

For various reasons, not all children will be able to enjoy that special relationship because it is beyond the skill of social engineers. And though not all children will go on and be able to enjoy this particular unique and special relationship nonetheless they should be able to enjoy and celebrate a special and unique relationship.

Having thought long about this problem it seems to me ‘Betrothed’ conveys the love and constancy of a same sex special relationship that can be celebrated with joy.

I believe also that, not only does it give equality to such a relationship it also creates a relationship that will be found acceptable in most countries around the world.

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

First posted to Online Opinion on Tuesday 22 March, 2011 

Looking at the coming New South Wales election with an unjaundiced eye, I came to the conclusion that the result could have the same effect on Australia as the American and French revolutions had on their respective polities and no less than the effect of the various revolutions that have taken place in countries under the hegemony of the former USSR.

I recall the Hungarian, Polish and Balkans revolutions in which the people took control of their countries and permanently despatched members of the royal or political regimes to meet their maker. Fortunately, if NSW voters revolt and inflict the humiliating defeat that even their staunchest supporters think likely, their despatch will be conducted in a more orderly fashion although many people will think their punishment light.

And if the defeat is as humiliating as is being suggested and Labor is left with minimal political representation the effect might not be confined to NSW; there is every chance it will affect Labor nationally. In fact it could well lead to the delaboring of Australia.

However, the Liberal – National Coalition has an important question to answer if they win: will they attract young people as members? The question needs to be asked because the young people attending university today in increasing numbers will not be put off with party hacks or people who treat them like children in kindergarten.

They will be attracted to people with both vision and talent who also have a green view that many younger people now think necessary for a politician. However, having a green view does not mean them becoming hair shirt martyrs, or Green evangelists who say the best way to salvation is to halt progress yet, like many other well-known green evangelists, accept the benefits conferred on them by progress.

In political terms the Greens are Luddites who despite high-flown rhetoric to the contrary, have stayed firmly anchored in the past. As to whether or not they have the staying power necessary in politics remains to be seen. I suspect not, because, over time the more sensible of their beliefs will be adopted by other parties as a matter of political necessity.

However, perhaps a huge success will be the biggest problem facing a new Liberal – National Coalition government in NSW. The problem: keeping a unified Coalition. This will not be easy because new members will, like many first termers at school face a difficult time. Some will rise to the occasion some won’t, while others will fail, not from want of trying, but because they tried too hard or lacked the necessary ability. Nevertheless, all will feel when the next election comes that they deserve a second bite of the parliamentary cherry.

This desire will put Barry O’Farrell’s leadership of the Liberal-National Coalition to the test. Will he recognise the failures and if so what will he do about it? Will he try to bluff it out like Labor’s Kristina Keneally and her two failed predecessors Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees, or will he stick to his promise of delivering honest and competent government? If he does the former, he will risk the wrath of voters who believed his promises and also risk being a one-term Premier.

The risk of being a one-term Premier is real. And Barry O’Farrell knows it. He also knows that, in part, his success is due to the long list of Members in the last Labor Government whom Premier Keneally forced to resign for breaching the code of parliamentary conduct that MP’s are expected to observe, or resigned before she could force their resignation. The fact also, is that many of the offences committed by MPs were in the serious category: corruption, fraud, sexual, paedophilia et al. Indeed a cynic remarked to me that on a per capita basis the NSW Labor had more criminals than even the criminal profession.

Indeed had Kristina Keneally and the woeful parade of Premiers before her the guts to take action when needed instead of allowing Labor Party factions and the party executive to dictate which of these criminals should stay or go, the slim possibility (very slim) existed that Labor would have been returned to Government for another four years.

By following the orders of the party executive, Premiers Iemma, Rees and Keneally reigned over a succession of motley Governments and Cabinets that voters came to believe made decisions for the benefit of mates and ultimately their own benefit. (Unsurprisingly many of them found good jobs in both the public and private sector after leaving Government). Little wonder then that NSW voters seem decided that Labor lacked the integrity needed for good governance.

But it wasn’t only the blatantly corrupt behaviour of colleagues that put the final nail in the coffin for Labor. Another word that begins with ‘C’ played a large part. That word is Complacency. When corruption and complacency go hand in had disaster follows.

In any case Labor’s complacency was misplaced based as it was on the premise that it would always have enough rusted on followers to ensure electoral victory. Unfortunately for Labor, it had forgotten the aphorism attributed to Lincoln about fooling the people all of the time something it tried to do when it should have been trying to persuade voters it represented the quality represented by a word that also begins ‘C,’ Competency.

 It would be easy to feel sympathy for Keneally as a Premier who tried hard but didn’t have the support of a good team. That sympathy would be misplaced and though compared to O’Farrell she is a pretty pollie what people want is a practical pollie.

Unfortunately for Keneally, on becoming Premier she inherited the blunders committed by some of her departed colleagues and colleagues who remained in Parliament. The blunders existed in many areas, for example: planning, health, roads and transport to name but a few. These blunders caused severe financial problems for voters not only in the Sydney Metropolitan area but also in suburban and rural areas and also helped give the lie to Government claims that it was a good economic manager.

  • Planning.

The common perception is that planners are in thrall to developers and while that might not be totally true, the call for affordable housing has becoming the shibboleth of every group looking to buy or rent a house. And they have every reason to cry out when they see developers continuing to develop large luxury housing estates but little affordable housing. It also raised the question in their minds as to whether the stories of corruption in planning were true. That aside Labor made a big mistake by not listening intently enough to what, arguably, represents the largest group of voters.

  • Health

For months both the press and electronic media almost daily carried horrendous stories of mismanagement in hospitals and hospital services. Stories of pregnant women who couldn’t get attended to and people who attended at casualty but were sent home due to shortage of staff or misdiagnosis of their problem who then died a short time later. And this happened in both rural and urban electorates. When Labor then used spin-doctors to try and sugar coat its bad management, both metropolitan and rural voters said enough is enough.

  • Roads

Researching this subject in the rural Eden Monaro area of NSW, I found total dis-satisfaction with Labor because of its failure over many years to improve the arterial Monaro Highway on which the areas rural industry relies, as does its tourism industry. And in rural Northern and SE NSW I found a similar situation not to mention that even Sydneysiders had major complaints about poor road planning and maintenance. These complaints are too many to detail.

While O’Farrell must avoid repeating these blunders, what other dangers will he face? One need not look far to find them. Not only could the Liberal-National Coalition get so swept up in their success that they become arrogant they could also be seduced by the idea that they can do no wrong.

They would be naive to think so. While Politics can be a seductive mistress, many a politician has found to their cost, that it can also be a destructive mistress. Importantly, however, a humiliating defeat of Labor could transform Australia’s political landscape.

 And should an O’Farrell Government demonstrate good political and economic skills the effect could resonate in every State and lead to successful Liberal – National Coalition results in Queensland, The Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and, if the age of miracles has not passed, perhaps even in the ACT, unlikely as that might be. At the same time the West Australian and Victorian Governments might also enjoy greater success and more important still, it could also affect elections to Federal Parliament.

If only to bolster their belief that things are not changing Federal politicians will still claim that people vote differently in State and Territory elections. This is codswallop. Things have changed whether or not they like it. If a policy implemented in one State is unsuccessful, in other states it could influence voters’ perception of the party that introduced it and also affect politics at Federal level.

 What has caused the change? In a word the internet. It has made voters more aware. Effectively it has become the soap-box of the smarter politicians with Facebook and Twitter serving as the hecklers in the crowd. It is also becoming the voice, particularly of young people, who use these social networks to talk to each other and exchange views on a whole range of subjects including politics.

The result is that these days, young people less and less slavishly tread the same political path as their parents. Indeed as they talk to each other, those interested in politics will discuss and absorb some of policies being discussed. Politicians who fail to keep up with this changing world, or don’t want to, should consider looking for another job.

If the NSW Liberal-National Coalition wins a landslide victory they will become the flag bearers of a rejuvenated Liberal – National Coalition. Whether or not they become successful flag bearers remains to be seen because a landslide victory will also deprive voters of an Opposition and, unless they manage Government well, possibly lead to an unintended consequence.

It may lead to voters hoping for hung parliaments because they think four years too long for one group of politicians to make all the decisions that affect their lives. Indeed they may end up demanding a parliamentary system that includes a very wide range of political ideas.

I know many people who would like to see this happen because they feel it might eventually lead to the situation of getting the democracy that politicians keep talking about.

This not a Chronicle, Canberra,  item

Whatever else they might boast about the UN, the 22 Member Arab League, the US and its European allies should hold their heads in shame that because their woefully slow speed – which would put giant sloths to blame- in responding to the cries of Libyans who instead of standing and vigorously welcoming democracy to their country, not only caused their death but allowed the megalomaniac dictator and his henchmen to continue in their role?

The death of the Libyans were not as important as the deals they hoped to negotiate that would extend their own power in return for their willingness to co-operate. This of course, is really unadulterated ambition in the guise diplomacy and far removed from the practice of real democracy.

It is obvious that despite their alleged training they have not learned one of life’s most important lessons.  They have not learned that pandering to dictators is a recipe for disaster?

One must ask also, do they lack the moral courage to do what they know is right? They have many examples to learn from. Perhaps it’s because they prefer dictators to those upstarts of democracy who constantly complain about their treatment and promote revolution to get the changes they think necessary to achieve a just society?

Do I do them an injustice? No doubt they think I do, but the more I think about it the more I think not. I fact liken them to people who wouldn’t give CPR to a dying man because they didn’t know whether or not he had a contagious disease.

But also, because of their slowness they have given the megalomaniac a bonus of which I’m sure he will quickly take advantage. The bonus: he will be able to place his well-armed supporters among the ordinary citizenry and make them hostage his delusions of grandeur that he seeks to perpetuate and extend.

And one only need examine recent history to see how people behave when held hostage. One need only think of Hitler, Stalin and his various Satraps and the gamut of megalomaniacs some of who are still riding rough shod over millions of people in countries around the world because people are afraid to speak out.

However, as recent events in Egypt and Tunisia have proved there comes a time when the thought of living as an amusement for a tyrant carries more fear than the thought of dying, if necessary, to escape him.

One can but hope that the allegedly responsible people who should have helped stop that situation developing keep acting quickly to prevent more death as the Libyans pursue democracy and the establishment of a just and humane society.

First Posted The Chronicle, Tuesday, March 15

 Reports by experts often confuse rather than inform. For example: reports of various experts say the National Broadband Network (NBN) will cost either $36 or $44 billion while some say the cost could be $100 billion. I can only say that if the experts can’t agree and because Government seems loath to publish details, lttle wonder voters are confused as to the real cost of the NBN.

Another example is the recent report from the Climate Change Institute, ‘Clean Energy Jobs in Regional Australia’ which says 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.’

The 34,00 jobs are hailed as a green miracle. But are they? Not according to Bjorn Lomborg, Danish academic, environmental writer, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School, former director of the Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, who wrote recently: ‘the purported economic payoffs, above all the promise of so-called “green jobs,” does not measure up to economic reality.’

Lomborg’s words are supported by Gurcan Gulen, senior energy economist at the Centre for Energy Economics, Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin, who, when asked to assess  ‘state of the science” in defining, measuring and predicting the creation of green jobs, concluded that ‘job creation cannot be defended as another benefit of well-meaning green policies.’ In his view, the number of jobs these policies create is likely to be offset – or worse – by the number of jobs they destroy.

Gulen’s analysis also raises the question: are the alleged 34,000 jobs really new jobs or simply replacements of jobs that were lost of jobs because of the Green ‘revolution.’ In any case 34,000 new jobs is nothing to crow about when one takes into consideration the 19 years between 2011 and 2030.

Take a look. Divide 34,000÷19 means that 1789 jobs would be created annually. And if one treats the States and Territories as equals, another equally simple calculation 1789 ÷ 8, means that every State and Territory will get 225 jobs. As I said 34,000 jobs over 19 years is not something to crow about when one thinks that by 2030 Australia’s population will have grown by millions.

Strangely, or so it seems to me, some unions support the Institute’s views despite the majority of people and most businesses in regional Australia diasgreeing with the report’s proposals because the extra expenses they will have to bear will cause the loss of business and jobs.

 These extra expenses, dearer fuel, dearer electricity, will make running a business and ordinary living more expensive. And though they will affect productivity, reduce employment and cut people’s disposable income, how these problems are to be overcome has scarcely been addressed.

This confirms both Lomborg’s and Gulen’s views that to make a sustainable shift to fossil fuels will require low carbon energy to be cheaper and more efficient. But other than solar panels and wind farms is there a reliable method of producing clean energy? There is, but unfortunately despite Green calls for clean, cheap energy, they seem afraid to use the word nuclear in case they get struck down by a stray radiation source.

And while comparisons may be odious, in promoting their environmental agenda, the Greens and their supporters have become the Luddites of the late 20th and now 21st century. And just as the original Luddites fought against the introduction of new technology, the Greens and their disciples will do their utmost to prevent nuclear technology being employed to produce the clean energy that would curb the global warming they say is destroying planet earth.    

In my view, the efforts of organisations such as the Institute of Climate Change and Green movements would be better directed at trying to persuade Governments to invest in the rapid development of clean fusion energy rather than assist in the development of technological dinosaurs whose effect on global warming will, at best, be minimal or nil.

Come the next elections, if voters adopt the Irish solution by electing fewer Greens, they will have shown that they think their energy policies are of little value. 

dca@netspeeed.com.au

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

No new statute needed for statue removal

I am delighted when people respond to my Chronicle column by e-mails, rude and otherwise. And while I don’t want readers to stop sending them if they want to tell the community that what I wrote was wrong a letter to the editor would serve their purpose better. Indeed I believe they have a responsibility to send one.  

 The rude letters often come when I present the truth rather than opinion, although I confess that if my speculation seems to touch a nerve particularly among politicians it adds an enjoyable dimension and an experience of the kind of ecstasy a gold prospector might feel on discovering a rich gold seam. 

And if you believe in the old adage, there’s no smoke without a fire, the following might touch political nerves.

Apparently some Canberra residents are so disenchanted with a particular piece of Public Art they are taking a leaf from Senator Gary Humphries book and intend to present a petition to the Legislative Assembly asking that the statue of former Federal Minister, the Hon A.J. Grassby MP, be removed from the Theo Notaras Centre.

I am given to understand that because of Mr Grassby’s history they view his statue as a blot on the face of Canberra. Fortunately its removal will not require any amendment to ACT Law or the permission of Federal Parliament. Indeed if removal of the statue will enhance the environment of a prominent public building, the petition should have Greens’ support. 

 Apparently however, some people think that apart from removing the statue, the Assembly should also consider removing the Member who commissioned it.

  About Equality

For a few weeks now there has been much in the media about lack of female representation in the nation’s boardrooms. There is no question that such representation is necessary and I have no hesitation is supporting any proposition that will address that situation. However, I think trying to come up with an equitable solution might be beyond the wit, wisdom and selfishness of many male board members.

I also think of classrooms as the boardrooms of the future. I am in no doubt that as an area of contribution to a successful society, classrooms are as important and perhaps even more important than boardrooms, thus making the absence of male teaches an equally serious  situation that will continue to be replicated if a solution is not found. 

 According to a report “Male teachers a rare breed’ – Julieanne Strachan and Phillip Thompson, the Sunday Canberra Times (13 March pg 13), Canberra’s classrooms face a drought of male teachers. Like the absence of women in boardroom this, too, would seem to be a national problem.

 That being the case, one would think this important issue would have been at the forefront of the BER. If it was, it seems to have had little press or electronic airtime. And it is an important issue; not just an issue for Ministers to use when addressing children at school gatherings or when addressing groups of parents with children at school.



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