Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for June 2012

From The Chronicle, Canberra. Published every Tuesday
Two years ago I wrote a column rebutting doomsayers who predicted the end of print newspapers. Indeed I think history will show these predictions are silly being of the opinion myself that newspapers like The Chronicle and Times, whether online or hard copy will be read for many years to come.

Before going on let me go back to a couple of millenniums ago when the kings of ancient kingdoms in the Middle East inscribed the equivalent of the modern press release on the shells of scarab beetles. As time passed, the kings started using scribing their message on papyrus. Doomsayers no doubt predicted that this heralded the end of the press releases. If only.

As the process of disseminating information changed over millenniums, what didn’t change was the making of prediction. In fact making predictions became such a bonanza for doomsayers that some of them turned it into a full time occupation. This practice is still practiced particularly by politicians and business tycoons: all you need do is read the papers

Whether or not one believes the predictions of either, their importance tends to be gauged by the rung they have reached on their respective ladders of ambition. But of one thing you can be sure, rarely, if ever, does the politician think the predictions of the business tycoon is right, or vice versa.

This brings me to the predictions about the death of newspapers currently filling newspaper pages. The fact is, over the centuries, newspapers have been born and died and though today prominent newspapers like the Fairfax Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age might not last in hard copy, I believe community newspapers like The Chronicle (a Fairfax paper) have a long life ahead of them. Some people might say: well he would say that wouldn’t he. But they are wrong because the job losses forecast at Fairfax might mean that I, too, will become a job loss statistic.

But being an optimist that I won’t become a job loss statistic does not change my views about newspapers shown here in a edited reprise of my column “Newspapers have a bright future” (14 Sept, 2010): “instead of being a newspaper of say 40 pages that combines news, sport, science and business etc with supplements, the Canberra Times will have a number of online papers dedicated to particular subjects: Politics, Business, Environment, Science, Sports etc. People will pay a subscription for whichever sections they want with each paper supported by advertisers keen to target the paper’s particular market.”

For example the subscriber Canberra Political Times 24, online would continually update political news and events, a format, I believe, that would lead to more work for journalists. I believe too, that this format would lead to greater competition, better journalism, happier advertisers and happier readers. There could even be a Disability Times 24 that would help everyone in the disability field keep up to date with disability news.

While the dailies will cater for particular markets they won’t cater for local communities. However by cherry picking the dailies and adding local interest pieces, The Chronicle and other free community newspapers could not only remain free and online, but also be more influential than they are today. When this happens, as I am sure it will, the complaint often levelled at The Chronicle and other free newspapers that they carry too much advertising will disappear.

You might not agree but I think the complaint of too much advertising is a bit like complaining about the weather. Many readers complain when experiencing an extended period of high temperatures then complain when an extended period of wet weather occurs. Like most of us, they would be happy if the weather could be switched on and off like an air conditioner. Well advertising is a much the same, it’s either too much or too little.

However, without advertising, how would people be made aware of special events and special prices at the local supermarket? The fact is, local community newspapers such as The Chronicle are integral to informing people about their local community. And that’s the reason, as I said earlier, that newspapers like The Chronicle will be around for a long time yet.
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Although Friday, June 1, the first day of winter in Canberra was very chilly, it became a day of warmth for me when I met six people with a disability, brought together at the Brassey Hotel to be presented with $1,500 each by ACTAADS Inc, aided by a generous donation from ACTTAB Ltd.

The warmth was generated by the feeling of humanity spread not only by the people with a disability but also by their mentors who daily help them participate in life. Hubris was noticeable by its absence. The only emotion on display was joy that the money would help the recipients acquire and/or develop skills that would help them participate more fully in the community. More than that, it would help make them role models and encourage other people with a disability to set new goals.

Of the many words spoken by Mahatma Ghandi none resonate more for me than: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” I doubt many people would argue that people with a disability are not Australia’s weakest members. With Ghandi’s words in mind, it saddens me to say that for too long many people with a disability have been forced to live on the edge of Australian society looking at people behind the plate glass window of life enjoying activities that they, too, would like to participate in and enjoy

In my opinion the more Australian industries and people become aware of this situation the likelier it is that the number of disadvantaged and disabled people living on the edge of society would decrease. No doubt many of them say that if times weren’t so difficult they would do more for them if they could. But think for a moment: if they are finding things difficult, how much more difficult are they for the disadvantaged and disabled?

Despite this, society at large owes much to people with a disability. While some people will disagree with me they would lose the argument that people with a disability have not made outstanding contributions to society as painters, writers and scientists as have many more in other areas of life.

Think of the following. Stephen Hawkings, world famous physicist/mathematician and author of ‘A Brief History of Time,’ who, despite being disabled by motor neurone disease is considered the greatest scientist of the twentieth century after Einstein. Some people think him even greater. And even though paralyzed, Hawkings still contributes using a computer supported by a machine that compiles his words.

Vincent Van Gogh’s reputation of being one of the greatest painters the world has never been doubted even though throughout his life he was disabled by depression, a disease receiving more recognition today than it did in his lifetime. However, despite his many years of treatment time, at the young age of 37 he committed suicide.

Christy Brown was talented in a different way. Few who have read the book My Left Foot and seen the film of the same name, will have forgotten this Irish author, painter and poet who combatted his severe cerebral palsy, by writing and painting with his feet. One of 22 children born in Crumlin, Dublin, to parents Bridget and Paddy, his doctors once considered Christy to be intellectually disabled.

As for athletes with a disability, they are many. Suffice to say Canberra has many autistic, blind, intellectually disabled and amputee athletes some of whom are famous and well known. Some are less well known while for some their time of fame is yet to come.

While I make no claim that any of the six recipients of the $1,500 grants will become well known it is more likely than not, that in Canberra at the moment, there is a person with a disability and a very high level of intelligence who, given the chance, could contribute much to society in the same way as either Hawkings, Van Gogh or Brown. However, their talents will go undiscovered unless programs for people with a disability are taken seriously.

That said, if other businesses and the Canberra community decide to follow ACTTAB’s lead the time will come when these people will be given the opportunity to use their talent.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community News. Hard copy published every Tuesday. Published online every Wednesday

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 12 June 2012

Much as it might look like it, the title heading this column is not a crossword puzzle question although it refers to a puzzle that ACT voters need to solve over the next few months. The puzzle: is the recent budget brought down by ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr a Robin Hood budget or Shylock budget?

As they attempt to solve it I wonder what they will think: will they think the Treasurer has taken on the role of a latter day Robin Hood intent on robbing Canberra’s allegedly rich people then, in concert with Labor’s merry government band, he gives this money to the poor? Or is he a Shylock because even if the poor can’t afford to pay for many current services and facilities, if they want to get them in the future he says they will also have to pay more.

And while the Treasurer insists his budget is fair it is not a view universally accepted by the community. Indeed many budgets today (Andrew Barr’s included) have a Nostradamus feel about them. (Nostradamus is a famous 16th Century French Apothecary and seer noted for his predictions about the future: for example, the French Revolution, Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, the atomic bomb, 9-11 atrocity, JFK and RFK Assassinations and other events still to come.)

However, as happened with Nostradamus in France, and apart from social, political and business commentators in Canberra a number of other people will have a different set of predictions. Naturally the Liberal Opposition will produce different predictions from the details presented in the budget and will also present alternative predictions in their budget right of reply in the Assembly. As to what the Greens will do is open to question particularly as they support the budget.

There is also a plethora of people and organisations that either praise or criticise the budget. While every budget has things that could be criticised or praised one item about this budget I will criticise is, it is anything but certain that the Government’s 5, 10 and 20 years plan of taxation reform will eventuate as it wishes. Indeed, as time passes not only will Canberra’s society change, so too will Government and the structure of the Assembly.

During the above 5,10 and 20 years periods, many new ideas from many different minds will come to bear on the future of the ACT and if only to satisfy one’s curiosity about that, one need only read the comments about the budget from the different players in ACT politics for that to become clear.

That’s as much as I’m going to say about the ACT budget per se but I have a few comments to make about budgets in general. For a start I now have doubts if having a dedicated budget day today isn’t just a waste of time that would be better used working on projects to make life better for voters. My reason for saying this is because, with each passing year, details of Federal State and Territory budgets are broadcast by the electronic media and appear in the press so that everyone knows what the budget is before its official release.

Once upon a time, government outrage about budget leaks was genuine but today such announcements are shams. Gone are the days of genuine budget leak such as the one that will live long in the annals of Australian political journalism. This happened in 1980 when Laurie Oakes, then working for Network Ten in the Canberra Press Gallery, published details of the Federal budget before the budget’s release. In time honoured fashion Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser declared the leak outrageous despite the rumour that the leak was political payback.

In the ensuing years, however, budget leaks have become fashionable. Indeed despite volumes of rhetoric to the contrary, Governments today make only weak attempts to stop budget leaks for the very good reason that such leaks have become strategic weapons in a Government’s political arsenal. They have become good news missiles used by governments to pre-emptively launch policies they hope voters will like and as a result cause panic in the ranks of the opposition.

Today, the launch pads for these missiles are Facebook and Twittter.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community news.posted online Wednesday .

So that people aren’t needlessly logging on every day in the hope that I will have a new blog, for various reasons that is not an agenda I can follow. But what I can tell you is that you can rely on me posting a blog every Wednesday.

On occasion I will post other short blogs that I think will interest readers. If some don’t like the content they can make their feelings known by commenting in one of the boxes at the end of Allan Takes Aim.
Access to the box can be made at: http://

And could I press on readers that by logging on to that website you can make use of the RSS function plus the capacity to send an e-mail directly to me. You can be assured that your e-mail will be answered.

Generally speaking messages addressed under ‘Above ‘ will not be answered as I have no way of knowing what in the blog you found so interesting that it caused you to reply.

So happy reading
Don Allan

Even if this message doesn’t apply directly to people living outside Canberra, nonetheless it has relevance for people anywhere in the world when the time comes for them to decide who they want to elect as their parliamentary representatives.

Too often we let other people decide for us. Sometimes that person might be Grandad, who has been dead for years, or perhaps it’s Dad or Uncle. Often too, we vote as we did at previous elections because we are too lazy to find out what are the policies of parties or Independent.

Many people also accept the words of party apparatchiks that the people they are suggesting are people who care, believe in the sanctity of their oath of service, are loyal and honest, who will use their authority wisely and in line with their commitment to liberty, freedom, and truth. Too often, unfortunately, we find out the values of people we have elected are not the epitome of the foregoing but the epitome of venality.

In this increasingly global world of politics many of the leaders we elect are also proponents of a global government in which they would hope to take part. But as I look around today’s world of global politics I become disillusioned when I ask myself which leaders of current governments would I endorse as members of a world government, never mind as leader?

This concerns me because in the not too distant future, if global government comes to pass Australia will have a role to play.
However, if due to our laziness we have given leadership to someone more interested in personal status that in trying to maintain peace and, subject to the making of common sense decisions, an environment that all people can enjoy, there will be no hope of establishing a successful world government.

Indeed I am of the view that ambitious politicians will set out to dominate and in doing so will divide the world again and as they pursue their ambition they will repeat the cycles of war that have beset the world since mans took his first tentative steps.

A special note:

A subscription to is free. I am adding this note because I have had a number of requests in answer to the blog asking if they can take out a subscription. They can and all they need is to follow the instructions on the blog site.

I would welcome subscriptions and hope also that if new subscribers feel the blogs provide a benefit they will also encourage their friends to become subscribers.

Remember too, my blog also encourages comment, favourable or otherwise so if you make a comment be prepared for a comment in return.

Happy subscribing and blogging
Don Allan

Published online The Chronicle Canberra, Wednesdsay June Wenesday 6, 2012

Because this column is being written a week before delivery of the ACT budget, like t and see if it matches the Federal Labor Government’s recent budget that some people have described as like a curate’s egg: good in parts. But in a sense all budgets are like a curate’s egg. And while the ACT budget no doubt will follow that pattern it will also try to prevent a winter of discontent among voters that might cause an upset at the next ACT election by electing an Assembly in which the balance of power will be a moveable feast. That said in an attempt to gauge the result of the next ACT election I sought the opinion of politically aligned and non- aligned ACT voters.

This first opinion came from a middle aged Labor voter who said the ALP’s drift to the right worried him. In some respects Labor was now indistinguishable from the Liberals but depending on the budget he was prepared to give it one more go.

The second opinion was from a Liberal voter who said she thought the view that Canberra was a Labor town was changing. She also thought planning, health, transport and housing were in disarray and that opportunity in Canberra was being stifled by the minority Labor Government and its Green associates.

In a third opinion a man said he had thought about voting Green but was now undecided because, despite allegedly different beliefs, all parties seemed to believe pragmatism was better than principle. He added also, that he had come to think of politicians as a necessary evil.

Older residents who were long- time Labor and Liberal voters said it was unlikely they would change their vote at the next election unless the issues of greatest interest to them, health, housing and municipal services did not receive fair treatment in the budget. The one thing that did give them concern was Canberra’s loss of its Bush Capital image.

Younger non- aligned voters had different views. Most said that while their elders thought -self-government an unwanted imposition they believed that all Canberra residents should be totally involved in determining how the city should work. In effect, they endorsed self-government. As for the budget, they hoped it provided more help for technology and modern arts.

Additional comments were that unless Canberra kept abreast of the technological change taking place in Australia it would become a backwater and that Parliament House would simply become an historical monument as the business of the House and Senate was carried using technology. They also thought it would be a good idea to start calling Canberra the Technology Capital.

From the multitude of issues that came up during my canvass of opinions I formed the impression that Canberra was becoming two cities, a pre self -government city and a post self- government city. While pre self- government city residents had a continuing attachment to Canberra’s political and social past most post self-government residents were futurists. And while generally the Assembly was praised there was also a thought that, too many of the MLAs elected to govern Canberra on our behalf in the past had not proved worthy of their hire.

But what also seemed abundantly clear to me was that while older pre self- government residents were happy to live without change, post self-government residents were happy to adopt new planning, education systems, architectural and perhaps more importantly, the use of the new technologies that were rapidly changing their workplaces, homes, how they played and how they lived. Some also thought too many MLAs self- important and stuck in a time warp.

For me this raises a bigger question. Come the next ACT election on October 20, will Canberra voters elect candidates who seem prepared to make changes and think it more important to develop policy that will ensure Canberra’s future or candidates who seek a sinecure and only feel safe behind their party’s political fire wall?

Fortunately you still have a few months in which to take a good look at the candidates and their approach before making up your mind as to which of them you feel you could entrust Canberra’s future.

My opinion: the choice seems clear.
The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community News. Published every Tuesday and at every Wednesday


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