Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for June 2011

Published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday,28 June 2011

 Nineteen sixty nine was an important year for the Allan family because that was the year we arrived in Australia. But it was an important year for another reason: it was was also the year in which Dr Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull brought ‘The Peter Principle” to the public’s notice in their new book of the same name.

The book raised the eyebrows of employees, particularly supervisors and people in middle management, in some organisations. What raised their eyebrows was its suggestion that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently, a philosophy with which they were in total agreement, particularly with regard to some of their bosses.

Intially, however, most people thought The Peter Principle only happened in heavy industry but, as time went by, many people in large private sector businesses saw it at work as some of their co- workers whom they thought more sycophant than skilled, became its beneficiaries. And with the passing of time, many employees in public and political organisations saw The Peter Principle become entrenched in their culture.

In publicly owned businesses it was the case that directors promoted family members and personal friends to senior managerial positions even though they knew they had no real management skill. But such promotion came with a price: when called on, the promoted friend/relative would be required to support their benefactor without question.

I hasten to add that not all the people appointed in this way were poor managers: many, indeed, were great successes. For example: in the media, one need go no further than the progeny of Murdoch and Packer and in general entrepreunership, the progeny of Robert Holmes a Court. As for the failures, of the many such appointees, too many managed, or nearly managed, to wreck great companies.              

Although I have never been in the public service, many public service friends, some of whom I have known for nearly forty years, have told me The Peter Principle enjoys a high level of use in the public service. This is not surprising because it is a form of bribery that tends to be found in organisations with extensive hierarchical structures in which thousands of people are related.

Canberra, has such structures: the Commonwealth and ACT Public Service. The role of the Commonweath Public Service is to administer Canberra’s national functions on behalf of the Federal Government whilethe role of the ACT Public Service is to administer ACT functions on behalf of the Territory Government..     

The ACT Service administers a huge range of services: health, education, police, the arts to name but a few, in which I am told The Peter Principle was once rife. However, as the ACT grew more confident at self government and needed of ambitious people with good management skills, I am told it has become less so. That’s a good news story about the bureaucracy; I only wish I could say the same about politics.

Unfortunately I can’t. That I can’t is the fault of voters, not politicians, for allowing The Peter Principle to subvert democracy. This subversion has occurred because we have allowed faction leaders in every political party to act like business magnates of old by mentoring inadequate candidates for parliament on the unspoken, but no less clear understanding, that if successful, they shoud remember the piper who called the tune. 

In politics, such mentoring has elevated The Peter Principle to a very high level, a statement former Federal Labor Minister John Faulkner and two respected and successful Labor State Premiers, Steve Brack and Bob Carr, seem to agree with in their recent report into the ALP that was commissioned by the ALP.

But the Liberal, Greens and other parties should take no pleasure in the revelations made by this  public washing of Labor’s dirty linen. Indeed, it should encourage them to do the same.

Voters too, should be telling all parties that participative democracy in the ACT has all but died but could be resuscitated by getting rid of the factional dictators within their parties who use The Peter Principle to progress their favourites for the purpose of manipulating them to their advantage. 

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

Published The Chronicle Tuesday,21 June as: ‘Know your family lineage.’

Did you miss the interesting TV series, History of Scotland, recently shown on SBS? If you did but are interested in history, politics, religion or all three, and if the series is repeated, don’t miss it. A Scot myself, I say with sadness that many people, even those born and still living in Scotland, plus many of the great Scottish diaspora, have little knowledge of Scottish history.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But even those without Scottish blood in their veins might be interested not only because the series would have helped remedy that lack of knowledge but it would also help show how alike people are and how events help shape nations. For example most people are unaware that, measured in geological time, Scotland as a nation emerged only recently. But let not Scots be dismayed: France, Italy, Germany also emerged recently. 

That apart, it is also a fact that nations are still shaped by the cultures and the social mores of ancient tribes and that religion also played a role. Much as I wish the latter was not the case and no matter how civilised some nations think they have become, in some cases civilisation seems to have come to a halt.

In common with citizens of Middle Eastern Nations, many citizens of France, Italy and Germany still think of themselves in tribal terms. For example France still has people who see themselves as Bretons first and French second; in Italy, some see themselves as Sicilians first and Italians second; and in Germany some identify themselves as Bavarians first and Germans second.

The same thing applies to Britain with the English, Northern Irish, Scots and Welsh seeing themselves in tribal terms as separate nations under the umbrella of Britishness. But even under that umbrella, tribal influences still have a role to play. Indeed I know of no Englishman, Northern Irishman, Scot or Welshman who would want the others accent or culture. And in Scotland, although Highlanders would be outraged at being mistaken for a Lowlander, they would join with the latter to fight anyone who called them anything but Scottish.

But if only to show just how nonsensical tribalism is, and leaving religion out of it, which is easy to do in a newspaper column in Australia but less easy to do in some parts of the world, we might all get a shock if we traced our genetic descent. Indeed, if we could rely on history being accurate, we might regret having wished to discover our genetic descent.

No doubt you will have heard people say when being introduced to each other, ‘that sounds like a good English, Irish, Scots or Welsh name although in many cases they say that simply because of the speaker’s accent. However while an accent might indicate nationality it is not a reliable indicator of genetic descent. As an example of what I mean I will use my family name Allan, a name commonly recognised as a Scottish and perhaps more so in my case because of my first names, Donald Campbell.

But if only to point out the absurdity of tribalism, Allan is the family name of a Sept of Clan Macdonald of Clanranald, clan motto: ’Gainsay Who Dare.’  It is also well – known that the Macdonalds consider the Campbells a bitter enemy. Indeed in days of yore and gore, should one of either clan be caught on the other’s land, death would have been the likely outcome.

That apart just how Scottish is the name Allan?

Not very, according to history. In fact the name came to Scotland when groups of mercenary Normans accepted an invitation from King David, of the tribal kingdom known as Alba in the twelfth century, to come help him fight a tribal war? 

And while that explanation suffices for some people, deeper research into the origin of the name said it was Alin, the name of a Persian (Iranian) tribe that settled in France circa 450 AD. That being the case I now find myself in the situation that if I tested my DNA and it showed my genetic inheritance as Persian, I might need to change my national dress from kilt to Piranha Shalvar and Sarband.

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

Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose best describes the recent changes to the ACT Assembly. Not unhappily, ACT members of the Australian Labor Party occupying seats in the Assembly personally hope the situation does not change for a long time and that their party retains a majority of seats. On the other hand Liberal Members Party hope the situation will change in the future and that they will secure a majority of seats.

Once upon a time the names Labor and Liberal might reasonably have described what was the ethos of each party while today many people find it hard to determine if they have a different ethos.   

And then there are the Greens. What is their ethos? While some members of The Greens seem truly interested in the environment, the issue that spurred its formation, since it became a political party one would hesitate to say today that seems to be its main motivation. Today it seems that some Greens don’t know whether they’re Artha or Martha, while others seem well to the left of left wing Labor but lack the conviction to declare themselves as such, lest they be seen as deep red rather than green.

Naturally, none of the parties agree with any of these propositions.

But apart from the foregoing parties, Canberra has other parties that the local media has relegated to the political sidelines. Indeed in a sense it has even relegated the Liberals to the political sidelines perhaps because of bias or dislike of its national image.

Other relegated parties are, the Community Alliance Party and the ACT Democrats, both of which contested the last election and will, I understand, also contest the next election. And while I don’t know, perhaps other parties that contested the last election will again be throwing their hats in the ring at the next election.

Despite their use of ‘community’ in their names, it seems to me that with regard to these parties, local media act like mushroom growers by keeping the community in the dark about these parties. Is that because they know more about politics than the community? If they do could they please explain how they gained their expertise?

But perhaps it’s not politics but popularity that interests them, which is why they publish and broadcast constantly rumour of internal party squabbling between people who seem more interested in acquiring office, like people who squabble over an estate they think they are entitled to, leaving constituents forgotten until the squabbling is over.

dca@netspeed.com.au

First published The Chronicle, Canberra,  Tuesday14 June, 2011

 The original 99 Club established in New York in the 1890’s was dedicated to alleviating the plight of the city’s poor. Later, more clubs were established in the US and around the world but not all on the same basis as the original.

To the delight of London satirists and critics, a 99 Comedy Club was established in Leicester Square and while Australia has a 99 Club it is for students who achieve an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) of 99 plus who if not already either satirist or critic could later become one or the other. So this week let me paraphrase for you a satire on the 99 Club from the 2010 Roskow Newsletter Archive that I think has relevance for many people in Canberra.         

Once upon a time, Australia had a Prime Minister who, despite her position, never seemed happy or content. One day, as she wandered the corridors of power she heard a man singing happily as he cleaned a corridor.

This fascinated the PM and made her wonder why he was so happy? To assuage her curiosity she asked him why he was so happy, hoping his answer would provide an insight into how she could produce some great new policy that would so please voters it would ensure her party a majority at the next election.

The man answered that although only a cleaner, he enjoyed a happy family life and except for a house and food didn’t need much to live on. Wondering how the cleaner’s answer could be turned into a great new ‘happiness’ policy the PM sought the advice of her most trusted advisor. After the adviser heard the story, he told the Prime Minister she should create the 99 Club promising her that it would be the greatest policy initiative she’d ever take.

He then told her how to start the club. Find out where this cleaner lives and one night put 99 dollars in a brown paper bag and leave it on his doorstep at home. Mystified but like many other politicians, ministers in particular, afraid to question advisers, the PM put the scheme into action and that night a brown paper bag containing 99 dollars with short note saying the dollars were a reward for his wise words when he met her in the corridor, was put on the cleaner’s doorstep.

Next morning as the cleaner went out to pick up the milk he saw the brown paper bag but like a good citizen and thinking it was garbage decided to put it in the garbage bin. However, as he was putting it in the bin he heard the jingle of money and on opening it he found the dollars and the note.

Scarcely able to believe his luck he counted the 99 dollars. Thinking he had miscounted he counted them again but could still only tally 99. He then convinced himself that giving him only 99 dollars was a test and that the PM would give him the hundredth dollar, if he became more cheerful.  He also told everyone about his reward. However, from that day on, his life changed.

All day long he sang non-stop. He even sang between his chores, although he began to sound less happy. The PM noticing this dramatic change of mood was puzzled and again sought her adviser’s help. After listening, her adviser told her the change had occurred because the cleaner had joined the 99 Club.

He then went on to explain at length that people who became members of the 99 Club were people who, although they had enough to be happy are never content to be only 99% happy. Only 100% happy will satisfy them and so they always yearn for that extra 1%.

The moral of this story is that most people can have a happy life even when they have less than others, but as soon as they’re given more the more they become convinced they should be given more again. However, in trying to acquire more again they pay the price of losing their happiness.

Talking to Canberrans I say with sadness, that too many of seem to be trying to join the 99 Club.

dca@netspeed.com.au

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community News. Published every Tuesday

First published, The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 7 June

Is the science of global warming settled as alleged by the scientists of the IPCCC, or are the sceptics who challenge the science right? Many people who know nothing of the science say the IPCC is right when they experience summer in winter and spring in autumn. Me: I’ve always thought the weather unreliable!

As a sceptic often I am accused of being uninformed by global warmers, who, like religious fanatics, warn me that planet earth is doomed because of global warming. That said let me now ask: are IPCC members and members of various green groups and Australia’s Commission on Climate Change who are neither global warming experts nor climate change scientists, also uninformed?

Expert or not, members of all the groups allege the earth is doomed unless use fossil fuels that produce both energy and (greenhouse gas) ceases. Another question: how will the world manage without the energy produced by fossil fuels?

My accusers answer with the ‘fantastic’ suggestion that a combination of wind power, giant solar panels and wave barrages can supply all the energy the world needs. This is science fiction not fact.

Let me now give an answer that is not science fiction. Some expert climate change scientists and sceptics think all the world’s energy needs can be met by nuclear power without producing the CO2 that allegedly causes global warming.

Unfortunately at this point science is replaced by politics because the IPCC and its support army of left leaning camp followers, anti-growth green groups and some academics, dismiss the nuclear energy. While entitled to their opinion they should be asked why they avoid the question of nuclear fusion and do not rebut claims that global warming caused the recent typhoons, twisters, tsunamis and tornados? Is it because such statements have propaganda value or they don’t want the facts get in the way of a good story!

Despite statements from climate change scientists and sceptics who say global warming and cooling and climate change have been constants for millenniums, the impression gained by many fossil fuel industry groups is that left wing politicians (and some from the right) plus global warming groups, are engaged in a war of propaganda against them.

Recruits enlisted in their propaganda army are celebrities Kate Blanchett and Michael Caton, plus John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser and Dick Smith who seem affected by the Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

But propaganda aside, it seems to me that if global warming is as dangerous as that prophesied by the propagandists, instead of regarding nuclear energy as even more dangerous,it’s about time common sense prevailed. Instead of the fossil fuel and environmental industries fighting each other in the mediathey should sit sat down together and discuss the issue in a spirit of co-operation.

The subject of those discussions should be the accelerated development of nuclear fusion – not fission- acknowledged by scientists from relevant disciplines as a source of safe, clean and limitless power. It is good that some money (not enough unfortunately) is being devoted to making fusion power viable. And while it will take time to achieve that objective, I feel sure the cost of doing so would be less than that of trying to save or restore the earth.

Another thing I’m sure about sure about: proponents of fusion energy would agree, as would most people with common sense, that clean, safe and limitless amounts of fusion energy will do more for the world than all the various trade pacts and treaties ever signed; ever the optimist, I hope all countries will soon co-operate in its development. But soon is not quick enough: co-operation should start immediately.

The benefit of fusion energy will be enormous, and not just for the West. It will help Africa, China, India, developing nations in the Middle East and South America, to grow their economies and improve the standard of living for the poorest in their society without any need of aid from the West.

At the same time, Western countries will be able to grow and sustain their own economies without the need to fight over what it takes to save the earth not only for their children and grandchildren, but for children and grandchildren in the aforementioned countries.

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

First published The Chronicle Canberra ,Tuesday, 31 May, 2011

Is the science of global warming settled as alleged by the scientists of the IPCCC, or are the sceptics who challenge the science right? Many people who know nothing of the science say the IPCC is right when they experience summer in winter and spring in autumn. Me: I’ve always thought the weather unreliable!      

As s sceptic often I am accused of being uninformed by global warmers, who, like religious fanatics, warn me that planet earth is doomed because of global warming. That said let me now ask: are IPCC members and members of various green groups and Australia’s Commission on Climate Change who are neither global warming experts nor climate change scientists, also uninformed?

Expert or not, members of all the groups allege the earth is doomed unless use fossil fuels that produce both energy and (greenhouse gas) ceases. Another question: how will the world manage without the energy produced by fossil fuels?

My accusers answer with the ‘fantastic’ suggestion that a combination of wind power, giant solar panels and wave barrages can supply all the energy the world needs. This is science fiction not fact.

Let me now give an answer that is not science fiction. Some expert climate change scientists and sceptics think all the world’s energy needs can by nuclear power without producing the CO2 that allegedly causes global warming.

Unfortunately at this point science is replaced by politics because the IPCC and its support army of left leaning camp followers, anti-growth green groups and some academics, dismiss the nuclear energy. While entitled to their opinion they should be asked why they avoid the question of nuclear fusion and do not rebut claims that global warming caused the recent typhoons, twisters, tsunamis and tornados? Is it because such statements have propaganda value or they don’t want the facts get in the way of a good story!

Despite statements from climate change scientists and sceptics who say global warming and cooling and climate change, have been constants for millenniums, the impression gained by many fossil fuel industry groups is that left wing politicians (and some from the right) plus global warming groups, are engaged in a war of propaganda against them.

Recruits enlisted in their propaganda army are celebrities Kate Blanchett and Michael Caton, plus John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser and Dick Smith who seem affected by the Relevance Deprivation Syndrome.

But propaganda aside, it seems to me that if global warming is as dangerous as that prophesied by the propagandists, instead of regarding nuclear energy as even more dangerous, it’s about time common sense prevailed. Instead of the fossil fuel and environmental industries fighting each other in the media they should sit sat down together and discuss the issue in a spirit of co-operation.

The subject of those discussions should be the accelerated development of nuclear fusion – not fission- acknowledged by scientists from relevant disciplines as a source of safe, clean and limitless power. It is good that some money (not enough unfortunately) is being devoted to making fusion power viable. And while it will take time to achieve that objective, I feel sure the cost of doing so would be less than that of trying to save or restore the earth.

Another thing I’m sure about sure about: proponents of fusion energy would agree, as would most people with common sense, that clean, safe and limitless amounts of fusion energy will do more for the world than all the various trade pacts and treaties ever signed; ever the optimist, I hope all countries will soon co-operate in its development. But soon is not quick enough: co-operation should start immediately.

The benefit of fusion energy will be enormous, and not just for the West. It will help Africa, China, India, developing nations in the Middle East and South America, to grow their economies and improve the standard of living for the poorest in their society without any need of aid from the West.

At the same time, Western countries will be able to grow and sustain their own economies without the need to fight over what it takes to save the earth not only for their children and grandchildren, but for children and grandchildren in the aforementioned countries.

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



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