Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for February 2012

First posted The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 28 February, 2012

The next ACT Assembly is a chance for Canberra voters to decide if they want a change in how the Territory is governed after asking themselves two simple questions: 1. Are they totally satisfied with the current government? 2. Do they think a change of government would be beneficial?

But before making up their minds, voters will have much to consider. So many promises will be made during the campaign that political oracles could go on strike because the contestants were doing them out of a job.

In serious vein, however, although these promises might affect younger voters, older voters might think long and hard about them. As result I feel in my bones that the ACT election might produce some surprising and unexpected results.

An older voter myself, I have experienced enough ACT elections to be cynical about the sincerity of the promises of which, no doubt, there will be a plethora. The major parties and the Greens no doubt will preach that the ACT will only become Utopia by electing them. Little wonder that so many older voters are cynics.

That said let me draw the attention of voters to the words of Oscar Ameringer, born 1870 in Bavaria, who migrated to America in 1907 and later became America’s most influential socialist. Ameringer said that during an election campaign a jealous party colleague had stabbed him in the back.

Later, when asked later about his colleague’s treachery he replied: “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other. Unfortunately, this seems to becoming practice in Australia.

Some famous examples of this happening in Australia are: Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull being stabbed in the back by party colleagues, as were Paul Keating and Peter Costello. And though apparently it has not yet happened in the ACT, I know many people who think this is what happened to Jon Stanhope. Clearly Ameringer was a man before his time.

But let me return to the ACT election. Government has already started to roll out some promises though cynics tend to think the rollout is more desperation than inspiration. Despite a predicted deficit of $181m in the coming budget, the Treasurer has said that, during the next year, if the government is returned workers need not fear getting a slip saying: “don’t come Monday. In turn this mean will they need to worry about pinchpenny bankers evicting them because they cannot afford to pay their mortgage.

And let’s not forget the homeless and the disabled. Promises will be made to the former about affordable housing while the latter will be promised action on a whole range of issues. The picture being presented: “She’ll be right, mate.” However, they should read the placard on the elephant in the room that says: will it? Their voting choice might also be easier if voters could feel confident of the current opposition’s capacity to run the ACT.

Of more importance to many voters will be the current Labor/Greens arrangement; indeed, some might even devote time to examining Green policies. But a clincher for many will be the recent Assembly performance of the Labor and Greens Coalition that seemingly is determined to show the opposition as incapable of governing by turning a storm in a teacup about Liberal staff members failing to complete timesheets into, and using Shakespeares words: ‘Much Ado about Nothing.’

Sadly during the storm an MLA, and non – contestant at the next election, temporarily turned “The Peoples’ House” – the Assembly – and an area of privileged communication, into a cesspit by making defamatory allegations without substance for which later he had to apologise. What a legacy to be remembered by not a suggestion of what industries could be established in Canberra to reduce its mendicant status, vis -a -vis the Commonwealth.

But let me make it clear, had the Leader of the Opposition been less cavalier and more diligent in ensuring his staff followed the time keeping process laid down by Assembly, not just at his or their convenience, his standing with voters at the next ACT election could be affected and thus his hope of gaining Government.

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First published The Chronicle, Canberra,Tuesday 21 February 2012

Today, sadly, some peoples’ grasp of language is so tenuous they seem to think that unless they use expletives, no one will understand their feelings about particular issues. In support of their position they argue that because expletives are often used in conversation between two men, two women, or between a male and a female, they should be accepted as part of conversational English.

While you might agree with this position I don’t. My view is that the loss of language and the increasing use of bad language is a major contributor to people without a reasonable grasp of words. But let me be even more frank, much as I like technology, I think this loss of language stems from an increasing use of what I call technology’s verbal shorthand.

These days when I get these verbal shorthand messages on my mobile phone, I need time to work out what they mean much as I did back in my intelligence days when trying to make sense of what was being said

Nevertheless when some older people complain about the young’s poor behaviour and language I say RUBBISH! Instead of complaining they should stop looking back at their young days through rose coloured glasses. The fact is: the behaviour and language standards of young people today are based on the standards set by them in their young days.

Listening to some older people talk it would be easy to gain the impression that in their young days society was close to be being a society of saints where, truth, honour, integrity and respect for others prevailed. The unfortunate thing is, the society they talk of is imagined. And as someone who long ago joined the ageing group I confess that, at times, as I listen to the radio, watch television or attend the theatre, I harbour the same imaginings.

Unfortunately reality soon sets in and I see the reality of society in my young days. Rose coloured glasses aside, the fact is that many older people were rebellious like many young people today and of the opinion that older people were nothing but a bunch of old fuddy- duddies who would be happy if society regressed to what they imagined was nothing more than their Utopian vision of the perfect society. I rather suspect that is how every society has progressed since man first trod the earth and how they will continue to progress.

The fact is that in Australia young people today are the successors of bodgies and widgies of earlier years and now our aged fuddy – duddies. Of course, some of today’s older people will never admit to it but obdurately they continue living in their personal Utopian time warps.

The same thing is happening in the UK. Many older men don’t want their grandchildren to see them as once reputedly degenerate Teddy boys. Some hope their days as Teddy boys with drainpipe trousers, full drape jackets with narrow lapels and velvet collars, thick crepe-soled shoes called brothel creepers and DA hairstyles with a quiff have been buried six feet deep.

As for older women I suspect some would rather forget their days as Teddy Girls, or Judies as sometimes they were called, who styled themselves to match. Indeed look- alikes were as much in fashion then as they are today.

And if only to show that no matter how things change they remain the same, further back, in what are known today as the Roaring Twenties, rebellious youth outraged a socially conservative society. They danced to the Charleston, Black Bottom, listened to jazz and ragtime, endorsed art deco, cars, cinema and took drugs, not to mention they frequented Illegal clubs which, in their time, were the equivalent of today’s Rave centres.

At the same time, the young should remember that many benefits they enjoy today, were initiated by these old fuddy- duddies. That said however, I do have a beef with those rude and crude young people who think using bad language is smart. It isn’t. In fact their bad language does a dis-service to themselves and their peers. Speaking personally, they would find politeness beneficial as it goes a long way towards getting what you have to say listened to.

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On opening my e-mail box this morning I was faced with fourteen messages saying they liked my website theme so much they would like to use something similar. To those people who asked previously if I designed it myself the answer is no.

However, should you want to establish a website in the same style all you need do is google the following then make a choice.


Thank you all for your compliments and your enquiry.

Don Allan.

Web:; e-mail:

A message to all commentators

On opening my e-mail this morning I was faced with fourteen messages saying they liked my website theme so much they would like to use something similar. To those people who asked previously if I designed it myself the answer is no.

However should you want to establish a website in the same style all you need do is google the following then make a choice.

Thank you all for your compliments and your enquiry.

Don Allan.

Web:; e-mail:

First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 14 February, 2012

Could someone please define “old” for me? I’m interested in the subject because many people seem to think “old age” is a category to be used exclusively by age pensioners.

This assumption is egregiously wrong. Many people will attest to (myself included) that age is a relative state which is why as a boy of fifteen and on a rung near the bottom of life’s ladder, I wanted to be seen old enough to be thought in the age bracket that would help enhance my standing among the girls. And although I never asked them, I think most girls thought the same in reverse.

That apart, having cogitated about old age for many years and although old ag has given rise to some famous aphorisms that some of us know to be true, eg. “Old sins cast long shadows” I think age is simply a state of mind. Unfortunately however, many ageing men and women who having nearly reached the top of life’s ladder and now need help to climb the last few rungs because they require more care and attention than those still at the bottom and those only halfway up, seem to be regarded as pests that need exterminating.

This seems strange to me when the Federal Government is exhorting older people who haven’t retired to keep on working and those who have retired to look for a job. While such exhortations sound good in a thirty second TV grab, I wish I could cast my cynicism aside to say this shows how the Federal Government appreciates older people.

Sadly I have to say it seems more than likely these exhortations are due to the fact that the working old will mean the Government not having to pay out as much for pensions while paying tax and so helping to fill up the treasury’s coffers.

Also, despite such exhortations, many older people still face prejudice. Many, healthy, fit, alert highly skilled people in the 60 and 70 years age bracket who apply for jobs they could do standing on their head get turned down with remarks that they are over qualified. And I’m not only talking about men, many women are in the same boat.

And as I cogitate I recall it is not eons ago that these same people were looked upon, not with jaundiced and prejudiced eyes but with respect for having climbed life’s ladder despite a great many difficulties. Today, unfortunately, instead of being respected, many of them – too many – now feel valueless and without dignity. Many also hope that as they put their foot on the topmost rung of life’s ladder, it will break and they will suffer a fatal fall.

But as life is not meant to be sad, on a more cheerful note let say that one of my life’s greatest pleasures has been meeting and talking to people older than me who have gained much wisdom and experience that has passed me by. Some of these people live in Canberra and though I do not know them personally their names are familiar to me, and likely familiar to you as writers of letters to the editor or writers of opinion features. Nevertheless, and regardless of whether or not I agree with them, many times I wish I had written such pieces myself.

But perhaps one of the greatest ironies about age prejudice is that it doesn’t only apply to older people. It applies also to many young people who educated themselves to help make climbing the ladder of life easier. Sadly, as many have found out, their education counted for naught because, at job after job interview, interviewers said they did not have enough experience. The result: in common with some older people, some young people start to feel valueless and wonder if life is worth living.

But whether old or young I think it wise to be careful about what you wish for. For example: the old shouldn’t wish to be young again because they can’t take their experience with them while the young shouldn’t wish to be old because they don’t have enough life experience to take with them. As you can see, young or old, age really is a problem.

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

First published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Let me make a radical suggestion. Have a member of the public serve on all Standing Committees of the Assembly. Apart from being participatory democracy in action I believe the member’s presence would also help improve a Committee’s performance.

How to pick the public members? The positions would be advertised as being available to registered voters. To avoid conflict of interest and /or political manipulation, successful applicants would be given a number that would be drawn from a barrel by the Clerk of the Assembly. Clearly, applicants should not be members of political parties, officers of ACT unions, executives of trade and business organisations, lobbyists and nor members of the political commentariat.

And I’d put them on Standing Committees because their presence on these Committees, allegedly the protectors of the Assembly’s democratic process, might stop the Committee’s elected members thinking of democracy in phrases like Humpty Dumpty in ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’: ‘’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Regardless of their chosen political philosophy, it is likely that all MLAs would argue against such appointments. However, in the course of a year, and because new problems arise will have arisen, it seems a not unreasonable assumption to make that some of the problems voters thought important on election day are no longer thought important. With that in mind, where better than a committee to make both Government Ministers and bureaucrats aware of the changes and also tell them why current policies are either working or not working.

I am in no doubt Ministers would say that voters have ample opportunities to meet them even though anecdotal evidence might suggest otherwise. Indeed, I have heard people say that trying to arrange a meeting with a Minister to complain about a problem that might possibly reflect badly on the Minister, is like trying to make a bare foot attempt to climb Everest. Some say this also applies to meetings with senior bureaucrats. Indeed some go as far as to say that by trying to arrange a meeting with either Minister or bureaucrat hey get branded as whingers.

In my conception of democracy all elected members of parliament are supposed to represent all the people all the time. Ask yourself: do you think they do? And you also need ask the question: does democracy mean the same for all politicians?

I think not. Indeed in the case of the ACT Assembly I suggest that neither Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, Leader of the Opposition Zed Sejelsa, Leader of the Greens Meredith Hunter or any other MLA think of democracy in the same terms? If they did, there would be no factions of any kind.

The MLAs would argue also that at election time voters have the chance to decide between the competing political philosophies on offer. Unfortunately at election time this doesn’t happen. Popularity reigns and so during the election campaign the money parties use to publicize policies of surface popularity that they hope will give them government is far in excess of that given to policies that wouldn’t give them government but put into practice would be better for the community.

It could be argued it is the responsibility of voters to ask about the latter policies. Some do, but, unfortunately, because the media focus is on the popular, reporting of the latter is limited. Indeed it seems to me that Federal, State and Territory Elections are now reported on as if they were television talent quests where viewers telephone to pick the winners. (Could this system be worth a try?)

But talent quests aside, more and more it seems to me and many others, that politicians have forgotten that voters are their paymasters and so deserve to be fully informed about how and if they are solving the problems they were elected to solve.

And while co-opting public members to Standing Committees won’t change politicians’ thinking overnight it could be a step in the right direction.

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

My disability being physical not mental, prevents me from jumping excitedly out of bed in the morning anticipating with eagerness that during the day I will enjoy the privilege of reading the newspapers and writing thoughts and ideas on my website hoping that people will find them interesting. I also hope to hear commentators on the radio make interesting comment.

And so it was that after making it out of bed this morning the thought crossed my mind that if it wasn’t so serious it would laughable that people who live in alleged democracies elect governments on the basis that they will do their utmost to keep peace in the world even in countries where democracy is practiced more in the breach than the observance.

That view is reinforced as one reads the papers and listens to radio news reports that talk about countries torn apart by what amounts to civil war, except that the dictatorships governing those countries deny these claims. According to them such reports are travesties of the truth; that the people responsible for this internal strife are revolutionary terrorists and supporters who have no interest in living in a democratic society.

Most of the international community say otherwise and point out the same situation has occurred in other countries.

I have written this short polemic in the hope that it will induce many readers to express their views of what is needed to bring peace to the world. You need not be shy in expressing your views but you need to be honest. No one will take exception to what you say.

Indeed if you are a young person you might provide new insights into what should be done to bring peace to the world and make sure that as soon as possible life can be enjoyable for all people.
I feel sure that if young you will want to live in a future world where that is the norm.


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