Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for April 2011

An edited version of this article was published in The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday, 26 April, 2011 

According to the report “Stanhope labels public art critics ‘rednecks’ as new work unveiled” (Pg 3 The Canberra Times, Saturday April 11) the Chief Minister clearly thinks many people in Canberra deserve the soubriquet Rednecks. But if he thought rednecks not clear enough just to make sure he also labelled them ‘philistines.’

The Chief Minister, and others in the social, political and cultural group to which he belongs, should be careful about calling people ‘rednecks and/or philistines. And the reason they need to be careful is to avoid the word philistine coming back to bite them – which it has in this case.

Indeed, according Goethe, “The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own.” From this comment it seems clear that Goethe would consider the Chief Minister a philistine.

And in the case of rednecks too, the Chief Minister might be seen as having a case to answer. It seems he is a one -size fits all man. No doubt he was pleased his statement that critics of public art are rednecks made good headline in The Times, but whether or not it is true is a different matter.

It is also a statement that could alienate a great many voters who dislike being called rednecks. With many other people in Canberra I appreciate some public art but not a lot of what the Chief Minister calls public art. Indeed, as someone remarked to me some time ago in respect of another piece of public art that was raising the ire of many in the community, the only thing public about it is that the public paid for it.

In this case however I am happy to be called a redneck because I think it better being a redneck than a stiff neck, a person who is of the opinion that their opinion is the only one that counts. But for those who might like a more genteel or polite way of saying it, they are people with a condition common to many politicians: ‘tunnel vision.’ 

Some people the Chief Minister calls rednecks are people whose conventional values have served Canberra well. They are not cultural snobs. For them, cheap art without beauty, intellectual content and spiritual value is anathema. Society could do with more of them.

That said, some experts are of the opinion that Philistines are the answer to the Bohemians, people who display what is called artistic temperament when it is simply a tantrum and also claim to have a broad cultural horizon open to the avant-garde, a picture that suits the Chief Minister to a “ T.”

With this in mind and with the Chief Minister’s encouragement, perhaps the Philistines should start a political party in the ACT; a party that thinks conventional social values plus some surrealist and cubist works and also some graffiti are good for the community?

Indeed with public art being so much in the Chief Minister’s mind at the moment I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested that the next ACT election be decided through a public art competition in Civic Square, or whatever its new shape is called. Seventeen artists who, in the opinion of voters, create the best works will form the Assembly with the artist adjudged to have created the best work becoming Chief Minister.

Now if he wants to be Chief Minster again I can see Mr Stanhope dressed in his artist’s gear of bright red beret casually draped over his left ear, paint bedaubed smock, an equally disreputable pair of what once were green cords and a pair of suede shoes that had seen better days, sitting before his easel in Civic Square creating a masterpiece that he hopes will not only restore him to the Chief Minster’s position but also will be adopted as the face of Canberra on a Canberra Centenary Card of which in 2013, every Canberran will get two free ones for sending send to their friends and relatives throughout the world.  (By the way that’s a free idea for Canberra’s Centenary.)

 NB. According to history, the Philistines were sophisticated and cultured.

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First published The Chronicle, Tuesday,  April 19,  2011

I view the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as pessimists. I incline to that view because their theories say oceans will rise, islands will disappear and much of earth will become uninhabitable due to anthropogenic warming and a view that runs contrary to a commonly held view that science will solve the difficult problems with which humanity is faced.  That apart, why did oceans rise and islands disappear when man wasn’t around?

Indeed it seems to me the IPCC has lost the positive attitude most scientists have of give us time and we’ll solve even the most difficult problem without the need to alarm people.

Alas the attitude of the IPCC is negative. Like religious zealots they say their gospels on global warming and climate change cannot be questioned and like zealots when sceptics raise doubts they try to frighten them into believing by scaring them witless. In the case of the IPCC this is by saying that unless they believe, their children and their children’s children will not be able to live on Planet Earth adding the words: ‘the science is settled.’

Generally on the side of the IPCC the media dismisses the sceptics without questioning the science is settled statement. Even when it is clear that there are many mistakes in the IPCC’s published data the media endlessly supports it, particularly when it comments about the ignorance of sceptics because an argument on the future of life between leading groups of scientists is sure to capture the headlines.

In Australia, the Federal Government’s rhetoric identifies with the science is settled argument and so it says, never believe the opposition: only Government knows what is right. As for me, the IPCC has become a body of scientific Jeremiahs. Indeed if I believed in the IPCC’s bleak view of the future, my faith in science as a discipline that says there is no such a thing as an unsolvable problem would be destroyed.

Apart from media, some economists also have jumped on the IPCC bandwagon. This does not surprise Sceptics who know that economists even famous ones such as Britain’s Lord Stern and Professor Garnaut are, like Nostradamus, accurate predictors of the future.

That the IPCC and its supporters think of sceptics as being ignorant shows just how little they know about them. Their view that sceptics don’t believe in global warming and climate is wrong. To a limited extent sceptics believe in global warming and climate change but what they do not believe are the IPCC’s extremist forecasts.

The fact is that not only are sceptics not negative but unlike IPCC fundamentalists, some economists and politicians, they are optimists more interested in developing clean power than political power and corresponding agendas. 

Let me end by quoting Matt Ridley, B.A. Hons., D.Phil. (Oxon.), Hon.D.Sc., F.R.S.L., F.Med.Sci., (web: www.rationaloptimist.com ) who in talking about the future quotes what historian Macaulay said in 1830 : ‘ We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days but so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason.

‘The eternal, enduring pessimism of human beings about the future does real harm by persuading people, especially the young, to retreat from adventure and enterprise into anomie. Sure, the world has problems: Aids, Islamofascism, carbon dioxide. But I bet we can solve them as we have solved others.’

And to complement Ridley’s words let me now quote Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chair the Defense Science Board, Chair Technology panel; Chair DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards and President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety.

On October 8, 2010 after 67 years as a member of the American Physics Society and twice its President, this eminent Professor resigned. His letter of resignation sent shockwaves through the scientific community coming as it did from such a distinguished source. Lewis wrote: ‘Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life’ (web. GLOBAL WARMING: GREATEST PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC FRAUD – HAROLD LEWIS)

For Canberra’s best community news get The Chronicle, published every Tuesday

dca@netspeed.com.au

The brief blog:  Sunday, 17 April, 2011

On Radio National this morning I heard the story of a young intellectually disabled lady called Melissa Avery who has appeared before the courts times without number following her arrest for minor shoplifting offences and as result been sent to jail.

That Melissa doesn’t know she is doing wrong has not prevented this happening nevertheless she will be sent to jail and be incarcerated with dangerous people who do know the difference between right and wrong who have taken advantage of her inability to know the difference. But politicians who do know the difference seem reluctant to acknowledge the situation and do anything about perhaps because as one astute carer said: there are no votes in disability. 

In a sense it wasn’t only Melissa’s story that was being told it was also the story of thousands of Australians, young and old who suffer from intellectual disability. At the same time it was also the story of thousands of mums and dad, brothers, sisters, other relatives and others who care for people with an intellectual disability. 

However, when it is said that a country should be known by how it treats its disabled and disadvantaged should worry all Australians. Why should it worry them? It should worry them that they will never know if by accident they too, will become like Melissa or if the situation arises and they have a child or children like Melissa.

It is a situation I am very conscious of because of my intellectually disabled nephew John, aged 44 who fortunately is not in the same position as Melissa but whose parents worry constantly about what will become of him when they die. I have never asked them and never will but I suspect that at times they hope he will die before them.

This places an enormous burden on the shoulders of all parents who have a child with an intellectual disability because the law makes no provision for their condition with the result that effectively many become habitual criminals in the eyes of the law and are consigned to being locked up in prison.

I can but add that if as a society we devoted as much time and money keeping our intellectually disabled people out of prison as we do on people who deserve to be in prison, the world would be a be a better place and the carers of the people with an intellectual disability would live a better and less stressful life.

dca@netspeed.com.au

A Take Aim blog

 ‘Idle’ talk

Politicians of all shades in the political spectrum who rabbit on about idlers give me the pip when they talk about Australia’s low unemployment rate.

The current Government also boasts about how it kept unemployment low despite the Global Financial Crisis. And that’s another thing: how will we know when the GFC has ended and perhaps more importantly when will we know the real state of unemployment in Australia?

Well I think we’ve all heard that famous phrase there’s lies, damned lies and statistics. Well that’s what’s at work when Governments – this applies to all Governments – talk about employment statistics. Statistically if someone works for four hours week the raw number of unemployed drops by one and the employment rate goes up by one.

 Now I don’t know about you but in that four hours one would need to earn at an hourly rate equivalent to an hourly rate based on salaries earned by politicians, some millionaire developers and business executives not to mention some very well paid sporting if you didn’t want to be close to the poverty line.  

Why can’t people know the true state of affairs?

Worse still, many of those who work fours a week to try and keep the wolf from the door and a roof over their own heads and that of their children still need welfare assistance. This seems odd when politicians are still patting themselves on the back for a low rate of unemployment.

So at the next election, if by definition I fell into the ‘idler’ group, I’d be taking a very close look at the policies the various candidates support before deciding on who to vote for.

dca@netspeed.com.au

First published The Chronicle Tuesday 12 April 2011

The recent elections in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, shows that the Australian Labor Party is under siege from both the Coalition and to a lesser extent The Greens. That said the ALP now needs to ask itself if it can it raise the siege and return to its previous position in Australia’s duopolistic two party system. With an election looming in Queensland and facing a rejuvenated Opposition it is a question that needs answering sooner rather than later.

According to former PMs Bob Hawke and Paul Keating plus many prominent Labor luminaries, the omens look less than favourable. Indeed they seemed to think that, unless corruption was removed and union influence reduced, its condition could become terminal.

 Many rank and file members and once rusted on supporters said it had become a party that did not listen, Research following the NSW election showed that voters in general supported this view with the result that they deserted the party in droves because Labor was no longer a party they could trust to govern on their behalf with the integrity, honesty and transparency.

In general NSW voters did not want to be governed by arrogant people who thought themselves gifted with a level of intelligence equating to genius who saw election to Parliament as a means of climbing aboard the political gravy train. History shows that many of the elected were geniuses, not at carrying out the wishes of voters but in looking after themselves and preventing intelligent candidates who would do so from becoming MPs.

Such thoughts are not particular to NSW voters. Unfortunately for the ALP faces the view that on a nationally voters think such arrogance is rife within the party. That being said, can Labor raise the siege and produce policies that will prevent supporters from deserting the Party at the next State and Federal elections?

Having been involved in politics for a long time in Scotland, England, New Zealand and Australia, it seems to me that too many in the Labor Party are stuck in the past. I suspect that John Robertson, the new Labor Leader in NSW and some members of the Federal Parliament, is a man in that mould.

Labor that once thought itself the party of radical thought is now a party of conservatives with too many of its elected politicians afraid to risk putting out new ideas and getting offside with the party. They are conditioned to view that getting elected and re-elected as the most important issue they face and so measure ideas only by how they fit within parameters of party policy.

Gone are the days when many Labo(u)r politicians, many of them without the benefit of higher education came equipped with a level of common sense that can not be obtained even with the highest level of education. They were politicians who took risks; politicians who looked into the future and studied how to use technology not only to imagine what the future should be but also went on to create that future; they did not have tunnel vision nor move as if on tramlines.

Unfortunately we have too few people like that today in politics. Now we have parliaments with too many lawyers, PhDs, political scientists, economists et al, with little real experience of life outside the cocoon of safety enjoyed by politicians. This also applies to the Coalition parties.

It is interesting to note that these early visionaries lived in troubled times and much of the future they envisioned was driven by both economic and social issues and often by war, with the latter causing death on a scale even greater than the plagues.

For these reasons they encouraged sensible economic development, development of education and development of the Arts. More broadly, they encouraged the development of science, new machinery, new sources of power and new methods of transport etc that would help reduce disease, lighten mankind’s workload and help create an awareness that the wonders of the world should be available for everyone to enjoy, not just a few.

Thankfully for us today, their horizon of thought changed every day, which is why the time has come at both the local and federal level to elect people like them again.

dca@netspeed.com.au

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

NB. Signed letters to the editor of commendation or complaint should be sent to: news@chronicle.com.au

Thanks to those people who e-mailed me that the column posted in Word Press was different from that in The Chronicle. There’s nothing sinister about it. 

Producing a newspaper is not an easy job and sometimes it simply runs out of space to print eveything it wants to. However in the case of  The Chronicle judicious editing makes sure that a letter or a column still manages to get its message out.

And it happens only occasionally. So keep reading the paper and sending your letters.

Have a good weekend

Don Allan

First published The  Chronicle Tuesday, April 5 2001 

 What makes an interesting week in politics? Silly sods like me think an interesting week is when some politicians manage to put out new ideas or new policies they think will help benefit the people they represent rather than ideas and policies they think will help improve the image they have of themselves as innovative and intelligent.

But silly sod or not, like most people, I think I can sort the political wheat from the political chaff and so the only thing I’m likely to think when I read what some politicians put out is that they are even bigger dills than I thought.

Nevertheless, two weeks ago as I contemplated the political program of the week ahead, it gave promise of being interesting. The first item on the program showed that on the Wednesday, an anti carbon tax protest would take place on the hill outside parliament house while on the Saturday, a mass execution of New South Wales Labor politicians would take place.

I was in no doubt the carbon tax protest would attract a large crowd and also generate heat in parliament. It did both. The former from the pro carbon tax lobby, the latter to the extent that, if Australia had a pollution policy that fined people for creating unnecessary volumes of (CO2) the politicians would still be paying off the fine even after the next election.

A fact not generally known is that expiration of breath produces more nitrous oxide (N20) – known as laughing gas – than CO2, although in this case the volume must have been lower than usual because laughter was noticeable by its absence.

Indeed neither the words on the placards of the protestors that some pro carbon tax supporters alleged maligned the Prime Minister, nor the later verbal sparring in Parliament, inclined one to laughter. If anything, the poverty of expression in the exchanges from both sides displayed a poverty of intelligence that did little to aid the cause of either.

But of the two, the verbal sparring in Parliament was the most serious because it will be enshrined in Hansard and become a model for future generations of parliamentarians to follow.

Of course, watchful of votes, Cabinet Ministers in the minority Labor Government aided and abetted by Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Greens Party which is helping keep the minority Government in power, called on the anti carbon Placard People – many of them older citizens – and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, to apologise for maligning the Prime Minister.

However, if anyone needed to apologise it seems to me Senator Brown is the one who should be apologising, at least to the older Placard People (Tony Abbott can look after himself) for the words of James Higgins, a Greens candidate at the 2008 ACT election who, it was alleged on a local radio station had twittered in relation to the protest of the Placard People, that this was a world for young people and that the Placards People, should GTF away. And there was I thinking that Twitter was a social network. So what about it Senator Brown? 

And then on Saturday came the political show of the week, the mass execution of NSW Labor politicians predicted by various political oracles. Like the curate’s egg their predictions were only good in parts.

You might say the NSW elections have nothing to do with the ACT. Well, yes and no. It is important for the ACT as part of the larger regional area that includes Queanbeyan, maintains good cross border relationships with the NSW government particularly with reference to the areas where we serve each other.

These areas are many. With so much of Canberra’s needs being serviced by road, it is important that roads within the region that connect to, and are used to service Canberra, are well maintained. These roads are also important to Canberra’s tourism industry, as they carry the bulk of domestic tourists, the mainstay of Canberra’s tourism industry.

But Canberra is connected in many other ways: hospital, education services, sport, fitness and many cultural activities. Last, but certainly not least, Queanbeyan and surrounding areas house thousands of people who help keep the wheels of industry turning in Canberra.

dca@netspeed.com.au           

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

And if you’ve got something to say email  a Letter to the editor news@chronicle.com.au



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