Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for August 2012

An ACT Opinion

Before publishing my first column as an INDEPENDENT write rafter 19 years as a weekly columnist with The Chronicle, Canberra, let me say thank you to the many people who e-mailed me saying how much they will miss their weekly dose of Don Allan even if, often, they disagreed with what I wrote. But perhaps the nicest compliment paid was that the column often provoked them to think. It is my hope that the new online venture, An ACT Opinion, will do the same.

The aim of An ACT Opinion is to be a vehicle for the expression of free speech where articles contributed by people with a different opinion about politics or any other issue that plays a role in the community will be published. Hopefully, these articles will also help provoke people to think – and keep on thinking.

My hope is that An ACT Opinion will be an interesting but small Online daily newsletter that allows greater diversity of opinion than at present.

Importantly, however, I hope humorous articles will form part of that diversity of opinion because it is the medicine that provides a community a welcome relief to the trials and tribulations that too often beset us.

Let me also say a big thank you also to those people in the community who, like me, believe in free speech and democracy to the extent that they have donated $50 towards the $5,000 needed to keep the wider community informed by An ACT Opinion.

For people interested, donations are still needed and details of how they can be made can be found by clicking on ‘ACT Opinions’ in the Category menu at and reading Wednesday’s posts.

In the coming ACT election, the quality of a party’s leader will play a large role. Unfortunately, some wannabe politicians deluded enough to think themselves leaders tend to support their delusion with the thought that they carry a leader’s baton in their bag of political tools. Unfortunately, many of them become leaders. More unfortunately as leaders they make decisions that often have consequences harmful to an entire community.

That apart most voters won’t know the policies of the small parties and independent candidates as the mainstream media have decided already that the only policies you should hear and read about are those of Labor, Liberal and the Greens. Such a position can only be described as political censorship. No doubt this position is based on the argument that this keeps people away whom they think will not be elected. Such an argument sits ill in an alleged egalitarian society where freedom of speech is considered one of a citizen’s inalienable rights. By denying some candidates that right they may be preventing a fellow citizen with real leadership qualities from putting them to use on behalf of the community.

But what is leadership? With more expert opinions on leadership than you can poke a stick at, let me ask: is leadership like greatness? Are great leaders born? Is it an acquired quality? Or is it that leadership is thrust upon people?

Unfortunately Australia has many people in politics (too many) think themselves born leaders even when their performance suggests otherwise. If anything, not only do they lack the common sense required by leaders but, as walking egos withe vanity both unhealthy and overweening, are more narcissist than leader.

Long a subject that has exercised the minds of psychiatrists and psychologists their books on the subject line kilometre after kilometre of library shelves. On the bookshelves with them are books that ex- politicians think subtle expressions of their leadership qualities much of whose content is less than objective analysis of other politicians’ leadership qualities.

Politicians aside some narcissistic business people think of themselves as great leaders. in my view however, Jack Welch, who as CEO of General Electric made it one of the world’s leading business organisations, is a great but non narcissist business leader. How Welch thought of leadership is contained in his words: “Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Take the words of Welch’s and compare them with the theoretical approach of Genentech scientist Andrew Keith who has described leadership as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” This is much like the approach many politicians take because, unlike Welch, their views are based on theory rather than practice.

And that’s only one definition. Definitions given by Dr. Ken “SKC” Ogbonnia Executive Vice-President of First Texas Energy Corporation, who coordinates the company’s local and international business says: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen” or “effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organisational or societal goals.”

In Australia, unfortunately, the word ’leader’ is attached usually to politicians. Increasingly and even more unfortunately, it is attached to sportspeople and ’celebrities.’ In truth, there are more leaders in the community looking after local affairs than in the world of politics and business. But perhaps, education is the field with most leaders because when people are asked in surveys who most affected their lives for the better, more often than not, teachers come top of the class.

That said I wonder also why politicians are called ‘leaders’ when that is not the title most voters apply to them. Indeed voters say the absence of leadership is the reason why the quality of Australian politics has been in decline over the past decade.

Bearing in mind the words of Jack Welch and Professor Dr Ken Ogbonnia, let me opine what I think voters look for in political leaders today? They want politicians, male or female, who they think have identified the issues that will be as important to the community in the future as they are today. They are not interested in politicians whose main occupation seems to be in playing political one- upmanship games and poking political opponents in the eye.

Many Canberra voters are disillusioned with the quality of the Assembly’s political leadership because much of the Assembly’s time is squandered the promotion of pet agendas. Indeed if Canberra is the intelligent capital, I hope that by Saturday 20th October, not only will voters have been exposed to the policies of the big parties but also that of the small parties and Independents.

If they are perhaps they might see someone among the latter whom they think might be a better leader than Katy, Zed or Meredith. Whether they do or they don’t, on Saturday 20th October, hopefully they will elect more people of common sense than they do narcissists.

N.B. If submitting a contribution for publication, please head it An ACT Opinion with the title of the contribution above the text. And please provide an address and telephone number.


Don Allan OAM, ATRI (Fellow) Rtd.,
17 The Pines Avenue, Sundown Village, Narrabundah, ACT 2604
Telephone: (612) 02 6239 7919 Mob: 0409 308 410
e-mail:; web:

A belief that has helped sustain me through life is: you’re never too old to accept new challenges. My new column An ACT Opinion on, starting Wednesday 29th August, is one such challenge that, hopefully, will be as successful as my nineteen years of columns in The Chronicle. However, taking up new challenges, even minor ones, can be costly, which is why many challengers, like myself, are forced to seek donations.

Let me say immediately that An ACT Opinion is not some quixotic fantasy or the seeking of fame or fortune, but a serious effort to help keep the flame of free speech and democracy alight in Canberra.

Sadly, trying to meet the expenses involved in producing the column on an age pension will not be possible unless I can recoup the loss of the small payment I received for my Chronicle columns.

So it is my hope that 100 Canberrans who, like me, believe free speech is necessary to keep a community informed so that the values, ethics and morals we live by in our democracy will not gradually deteriorate, will support me with a modest donation of $50 (96 cents per week).

I am heartened by the fact that many of the small number of people already contacted have made donations. I hope you can too.

A plus for donors is that they can contribute columns of approximately 500 – 1000 words to An ACT Opinion on a wide variety of subjects, for example, Art, science, education et al, with the option of non-attribution. Short contributions of not more than two hundred words will be welcomed from non – donors. On some occasions, contributions might be edited to avoid legal problems

Thank you.
Yours sincerely,
Don Allan OAM

Donation can be made by any of the following methods
1 Cash or cheque to the above address:
2 Electronic funds transfer (telephone for details)
All donations will be acknowledged.

The first An ACT Opinion column will be published Friday, August 31st.

The Last post has been published as Farewell to readers and frinds alike. Wednesday, August 29th

The last post has been played for the Don Allan column not because of my death and burial, but because this is my last column for The Chronicle.
However, after nineteen years and a thousand columns it would be remiss of me to leave without saying thanks to present and former Chronicle editors and journalists I worked with. Many of the latter have moved on to new jobs in journalism and other fields. That they have been successful in their new jobs is due in no small measure to the experience they gained at the Chronicle.

Though never meeting them, many readers, including some who already have passed life’s last post, became friends whether they complimented or condemned me about a column; indeed some did both. And thanks also, to readers who suggested ideas for the column. Even if I didn’t use their suggestions rest assured it was never a reflection on the quality of their ideas.

And just as editors and journalists benefitted from working at The Chronicle, so did I. Often indeed, while searching for issues to write about, I became aware of how many disadvantaged and disabled people in Canberra needed help. This experience changed my life because it brought me into contact with a number of individuals who also wanted to help.

These individuals became a small group that has since raised and given close to half a million dollars to the former. It continues to help.

In saying goodbye I make no apologies for occasionally being critical of some ACT politicians in my thousand columns. However, my criticism was not based on a personal dislike of the politicians but because they exhibited signs of believing they had a divine right to political office in the same way as James I of England believed he had a divine right to be king. As a last parting shot it seems to me that some ACT politicians still exhibit these signs.

In any case a goodbye column is not the place to expand on this issue. On the other hand, in keeping with the sentiment of my divine right analogy, perhaps some of our current MLAs would be wise to remember the words: uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

That apart, in case you wonder if my departure from The Chronicle will drive me to catch the next scheduled departure from the station whence people depart this mortal coil, you can stop wondering. For me, my departure from The Chronicle is but one more challenge in the challenging race of life and a challenge I welcome.

The Chronicle too, is facing a challenge. The challenge: to maintain viability in a rapidly changing newspaper environment. And while inevitable that contributors like me will go I am in no doubt The Chronicle and its staff will meet that challenge.

As to how I will meet my new challenge? I will meet my challenge with AN ACT OPINION, a new online column on my website, and your help. If interested in helping, details of how you can help can be found at: Bookmark it!

If you want to keep in touch, please do but let my last words go to readers: carry on reading The Chronicle!

New post now online at wordpress

First my apologies for an accidental deletion. The above article, published The Chronicle, August 14, was deleted accidentally today

Will some of them be led like lambs led to the slaughter at the ACT Election on Saturday 20 October or will some of them turn out to be lions who will roar in the political den known as the ACT Legislative Assembly? No prizes for guessing that I’m talking about new candidates for the next ACT election even though I subscribe to the view that history supports the former rather than the latter proposition.

Some people I’ve spoken to also think ‘gluttons for punishment’ better describes them but, be they lambs, lions or gluttons, these Small Party (I prefer small party to minor party because, relatively speaking, membership of the so called major parties is small) are the face of democracy at its best. This can be seen during the campaign as they canvass voters, hoping to impress a sufficient number of them with their ideas and the thought that that they are people of honesty, integrity and common sense and so worthy of their vote.

Sadly, and more likely than not, that most Canberrans will never get to know the ideas of the small parties and Independents. This is not surprising because as I know to my own cost, trying to disseminate political information is a very expensive exercise. Unfortunately, as small parties and Independents usually have little money and unlike the major parties, no public funding base, they must use their own resources.

If only to show the difference major party candidates say voting for Small Party candidates or Independents is a vote wasted. They laugh at the suggestion and laugh even louder that the latter have the gall to suggest otherwise. Let me add that, over the many years I’ve been involved in politics, I have met many wannabe politicians who laughed at the thought but now wish they hadn’t. (A brief digression and a question: How many current members of the various Australian parliaments used their own resources to get elected?)

The fact is that the cost of election campaigning has become so expensive that the only ideas voters are likely to hear or read will not necessarily be the best ideas. Indeed the only ideas they are likely to hear will get will be those of the major parties or wealthy individuals of influence not directly involved in politics, who use political parties to pursue their interests. This is not to suggest that the interests of the latter are necessarily inimical to the interests of Canberra.

Nevertheless many people think the current funding process less than democratic. Indeed it could be argued that not only is it the antithesis of democracy but, to some degree, similar in respect to the system used by totalitarian regimes – say something often enough and people will eventually come to believe it. Sadly, we know to our cost that freedom of speech became a victim of this system.

To some degree this is what is happening today in election campaigns, because only parties with money or access to people or businesses with money get the same the same message delivered time and time again. And just to make sure, the parties then set out the message in a plethora of pamphlets and booklets that are then delivered to voters. As a further backup newspaper and TV adverts carry the message as do Facebook and Twitter, both of which are vehicles for mass messaging.

Unfortunately, commercial electronic media also seem to favour the message of one party and, more often than not, so do their executives and journalists to the extent they become propagandists for a party or particular interests. And if only to make sure the message gets through many executives and journalists in publicly owned television and radio outlets also seem to do the same.

Most readers will know the phrase ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware in this case the buyers bring voters who, to avoid buying possible pigs in pokes from major parties and business interests should be made aware of the policies developed by Small Parties and Independents because, after voting, it is too late to become aware. When, and if this happens we can then lay claim to being a truly participatory democracy.

Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday August 21. Online publication Wednesday, August 22 at :

The Australian society I first experienced early in 1951 does not exist today. I admit I was only here for a week and as I worked during the day and could only see Melbourne at night my impression of Australia, based on Melbourne, was less that accurate.
Unfortunately I was constrained from staying any longer by the fact that, if I didn’t return to the British Progress, the oil tanker on which I was serving as a deck boy, the possibility existed, that if I wasn’t on board when it left Melbourne I might end up in jail which possibly would result in me being deported at a later date.
Had this scenario eventuated this would have cruelled any chance of my coming to live in Australia, an eventuality that, in retrospect some people today might wish had happened. However, as I was to find out many years later, the latter would have been unlikely unless I had been a regular visitor to the courts in Britain.
As it turned out, in 1969 my family came to Australia as migrants on the Achille Lauro, On disembarking at Sydney l fully expected to see a city not much different to my Melbourne of memory. It was an expectation quickly dashed. S
Sydney’s ambience was more American, a country I had visited in the interim, rather than the European feel of Melbourne I remembered, or even New Zealand where I lived for two and a half years in the early fifties. But when my family moved Melbourne I was shocked also. Although in no way could it be likened to Sydney since my visit eighteen years previously it, too, had changed although I have to say the change was less noticeable because the city’s elegant building infrastructure still presented that European look and feel.
My experience on return to Canberra in 1970 was much the same. The Canberra I first came to with my family in 1970 and where we lived for a year is not the same Canberra we returned to late in in 1975 after living in Townsville, Darwin, Brisbane and the three coasts: Gold, Sunshine and NSW South Coast.
With the exception of Darwin I have visited all these places again. Noticeably they had changed. With can do civic leaders committed to progress, they had grown up, developed new industries and attracted many new residents. Canberra must do the same.
Not that Canberra hasn’t changed, it has! Indeed since 1975 it has changed many times, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Not that I am alone in thinking that but being a realist I know change does not always give you what you want. But that’s life.
In some ways Canberra’s greatest misfortune is that people want a Canberra of pre self-government days when Canberra was tied to the Commonwealth Government’s apron strings, a want that can be seen in many letters to the editor and calls to talk back radio. Illogically, they also want to retain the benefits of changes since self-government. .
Many of the people who write these letters to the editor and engage talk back radio are part of a loose grouping of group think anti- development cohorts who more often than not are pro conservation and rightists of various kinds. In case you think I’m being unfair and picking on these groups there are also group think cohorts of developers and other business people who totally oppose them.
But the trouble with the majority of group think cohorts, whether the former or that latter, is that they cannot abide anyone disagreeing with them. Should someone in a cohort dare disagree with them, their fate is to be sent to Coventry.
I also think the most prominent group think cohorts are political parties, though cohorts of squabblers might be a better description, whose squabbling often seems more about their place in the world rather than how to make Australia and the world a better place. As for Canberra many of them treat it more like a refreshment stop on an ancient caravan route rather than the National Capital.
The Chronicle for Canberra’s bset Community News. Published every Tuesday

Measurement of sporting greatness

Are Olympic medals the true measure of sporting greatness? It could be argued they aren’t because the four years between the games negates the results produced by many athletes during those four years are better than the results achieved by Olympic medal winners. That apart, they are also deprived of the glory, status and financial rewards an Olympic medal can bring.

It could be argued also that the Olympics has helped to widen, rather than close, the gap between peoples and societies where sport is not a war but an activity whose aim is to encourage good health. Western nations make such claims but practice it more in the breech than the observance.

To some extent the Olympics have become political wars in which bragging rights describe the status of participating countries with athletes the ammunition used in their non-lethal fighting but as in lethal wars get decorated as heroes.

As with wars, the generals directing the athletes can be found giving advice from the rear along with politicians who like nothing more than grab the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of the winning athletes in hope that it will help them win their political race.
It seems inequitable also that more riches attach to some events than to others despite every athlete facing similar regimes of discipline and arduous training, many of which are managed by parents and siblings, that are considered necessary to win medals.

I feel sure also that every competitor is full of admiration for every other competitor whether they win or lose because they know what it takes to compete. With that in mind I’d like to suggest that every competitor get an Olympic ribbon to show they have competed, so that they too can show it to their children and grandchildren. Such an award could well help restore the lustre the Games seem to be losing.

Published hard copy of The Chronicle, Canberra, 7 August 2012.
I think it’s about time the media stopped describing Canberra as a Labor town. Indeed when I first came to Canberra in 1970 I wondered why it was given that title as most Canberrans I met would not have been recognised as labouring for a living in the town I came from in the UK. I am also hard pressed to think of many Canberrans as Liberals no doubt due to the fact that I found it difficult to think of Canberra as an egalitarian society as claimed by many Canberrans (and Australians).

Now for a more serious and soon to be pressing problem: the next ACT election. While you might not think it either a serious or pressing problem I think it’s time Canberra voters started to give serious thought about the people they should elect to the ACT Assembly on Saturday 20th October.

Indeed, what could be more serious than Canberra voters casting aside the apathy about politics that current and past Members of the Assembly have induced in us then asking: do we want these same seventeen people as Members of the Assembly for another four years or do we only want some of them plus a healthy dose of new blood? From where I sit, it seems to me that only by following the latter path will Canberra voters achieve a truly democratic and representative government.

As the situation stands at the moment, both locally and federally, elections have now become battles for political supremacy between one of two competing business organisations called Labor and Liberal and the non-business Green Party. The strange thing is that each party says that only their policies can deliver the Utopian society in which everyone can live happily ever even though their leaders know that such a society is undeliverable.

Perhaps what politics really needs is a Realist Party which says it will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and in doing so make itself a unique political party. Sadly, one has to say, that based on available evidence the life of such a party would be of short duration. Indeed too often, and sadly, truth has caused the (political) death of many politicians who dared speak it.

You would think also the weight of historical evidence about politics would be enough to deter small parties and Independents from what has become modern political practice at election time of politicians knowingly traducing the reputation of these parties with what often proves false allegations of misbehaviour. In bygone days the members of such parties and independents, despite a shortage of resources, continued to keep their reputations intact as they tried to bring their ideas to voters.

Let it not be forgotten that once upon a time today’s major parties were minor parties that could well have disappeared but for the faith of followers with tunnel vision who had hung on to the belief that their ideas were best. Today, sadly, many followers of these parties – often referred to as rusted on – still hold on to those ideas as do some of their elected members despite dramatic political changes and changes in societies across the world.

But one thing Canberra should be proud of is that is that since being granted self-governing status it has thrown up individuals and small parties comprised of people with the courage to put their ideas on the line for judging by voters.

Unfortunately, it is at this point that egalitarianism disappears. The major parties have sewn up the electoral system to prevent any of the latter from progressing. Even sadder is that the former are supported by media which, despite its rhetoric about reporting without fear or favour, does the opposite. Sadly, they treat the small parties and Independents as if they are dogs looking for a bone by occasionally giving them a scrap of air time or press space.

Lest you think I am anti Labor, Green and Liberal, I am not. Each party has people I respect as politicians because for me they are politicians for whom the community they seek to serve is the most important. These are the people I hope will be elected or re-elected.
For Canberra’s best Community News The Chronicle. Published on line every Wednesday at:


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