Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for October 2012

Dear Commentators,

I do not wish to sound ungrateful but, regretfully, I have to say that without your co-operation I may need to add many of you to my list of “spammers.”

Unfortunately many comments are unrelated to the contents of the blog. Many, indeed, are poorly disguised advertorial blogs. So let me spell it out clearly: advertising is a no! no! on this site.

That this site exists at all is due to the generosity of Canberrans who contributed $50 each to ensure that the costs attached to keeping this column going, which ran in The Chronicle, Canberra for 19 years, would be met.

Importantly this is a free speech column and I am apolitical and so from time to time columns will appear espousing differing views on various subjects. Comments bearing on these subjects will be welcomed in reply.

I should add that contributors to keeping the column going also receive the opportunity of contributing a blog of their own. One such blog was received earlier and one comes at then end of this blog. .
There is still room for twenty contributors so, if you think a free speech blog worth supporting and think you have something worthwhile to say l would be pleased to hear from you. Contact details: (02) 6239 7919 mob: 0409 308 410; and

Let me stress as clearly as possible that ACT opinions welcomes free speech comments. This is best done by responding directly to the blog in the comment section at the end of the blog.

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Guest blog

Time for Change in the ACT

The current debate about which party has the ‘moral right to govern’ following the ACT Election raises an important question.

No party ever has the ‘moral right’ to govern. The right to govern can only be conferred by will of the people. The question the election raises is simply this – did the result tell us which party the people want to govern them?

My view is it didn’t because our electoral system is broken and needs fixing.

Based on the current count, there will be 8 Labor MLAs, 8 Liberal MLAs and 1 Green MLA.

This means we are likely to have a Labor Government supported by the single Green on the cross bench.

But we can only say that because we know that generally the Greens, for a variety of reasons, are more likely to support the Labor Party rather than the Liberal Party.

Both major parties lay claim to government and both claims have some validity.

However, what will decide who ends up being Chief Minister and forming government has little to do with the election result and more to do with the internal machinations of the relationships within the Legislative Assembly.

To illustrate, if Labor had only won five seats, the Liberals eight and the Greens four, more likely than not Labor would still hold office with the support of the Greens.

Is such a result, Labor holding office with nearly 40% fewer seats than the Liberal Party, reflective of the will of the electorate? Or in the case of Saturday’s election, does the result give a clear indication, or any indication at all, who the people of the ACT want as their Chief Minister or government?

Both Katy Gallagher and Zed Seselja received very strong personal votes in their electorates (Zed 29% and Katy 26%) and both can claim the voters have endorsed them as the next Chief Minister.

But again, the will of the voters won’t dictate who is Chief Minister and who forms government.

That will be done via a vote on the floor of the Legislative Assembly where the votes cast by the public will mean much less than who likes who in the chamber.

While more than 230,000 ballots were cast last Saturday, only the vote of one person will truly matter.

This isn’t fair and it certainly isn’t democratic.

Why should one solitary Member of the Legislative Assembly decide who the Chief Minister will be and who governs Canberra for the next four years?
Our electoral system is far too complex for a jurisdiction the size of the ACT. Moreover, the will of the people does not translate directly into who governs them.

It is time to change our electoral and governmental system.
We need simplification and we need to ensure the people get a chance to express who they prefer as Chief Minister.

The simplest and best solution is to move to a direct election of the Chief Minister with a separate vote to determine the composition of the Assembly.

The major parties already campaign on a presidential basis, ‘Team Katy’ etc, so let’s allow the people to vote on a presidential basis. Once a Chief Minister is elected, there is the question of what system of government should we have.

There are a couple of different options here.

The first option is for the Chief Minister to appoint Ministers from their own party MLAs as is current practice.

One of the great down sides of this approach is that there simply aren’t enough members of the Assembly to share the workload and do justice to the functions of the chamber. Once you take out four or five members of one party to form a cabinet, plus another to be Speaker, there are simply too few left to manage the substantial and important committee work.
Another option is to allow the Chief Minister, with their direct mandate from the people, to appoint a Cabinet comprised of people from outside of the Assembly.

Allowing the Chief Minister to appoint Ministers from the community, means the pool of talent from which to select experienced and competent people to act as Ministers becomes a veritable ocean.

It also means the Legislative Assembly can fulfil its greater role of being a genuine and effective parliament with the invaluable committee work at its core.

Ministers will of course be subject to appropriate and ongoing oversight and scrutiny, principally through the committee system. Ministers can attend any and every meeting of the relevant Assembly Standing Committees for example. This would be a much more effective and productive form of oversight than the banal charade of question time.

Canberra is sometimes derided as being the ‘petrie dish of Australia’ – doing weird and wonderful things the rest of the country avoids.

Maybe the way we choose to govern ourselves should be one of those things?
At the very least, with the election result still unknown and the will of the people perpetually unclear, it is time to have the discussion.
Jeff House. Rank and file member of the Labor Party.


A first week post election analysis

A week of political fairy tales

The week following the results of a parliamentary election is when one hears policies that, had candidates put them to voters before voting day, would have swept them to victory – or so they think.

The week after the election is also the week during which journalists get enough tall tales from unsuccessful candidates about why they didn’t get elected.

Indeed some of these tales are so good they would stand comparison with the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm brothers and Aesop, the only difference, if an enterprising journalist ever decided to collate and publish them they might have to publish them with the warning of not being suitable reading for children.

Unfortunately in The Australian Capital Territory, home of Canberra, Australia’s National Capital, the polling system used –The Hare Clarke system with Robson Rotation – is a system that lends itself to it taking at least a week to determine which party and which candidates won.

Of course this also lends itself to becoming a week of depression not only for party bosses whose position can rise or fall on the election result but also for candidates. On the other hand it could be a bumper week for pharmacists who had stocked up with anti nail-biting lotion.

Then again It might also be a depressing week for voters as: a) they wait to see if their candidate has won; b) that it is likely they might have to accept policies they consider the antithesis of good politics; and c) that they will have to accept as their parliamentary representative, a candidate they think as useful as a teapot made of ice.

As you can imagine the media has a field day during this week as journalists who are as familiar with the Hare Clarke voting system as are many voters, give a running commentary on the state of the poll and whether or not a party or candidate has been elected. The result: if voters were depressed in the immediate aftermath of polling day they became even more depressed as the week progressed.

On the other hand I know of ACT parties and candidates in the past who had been pilloried in the media at previous elections because their name suggested they didn’t take elections seriously. The media was wrong. Indeed, these parties, even if it looked as if they were making fun of the system like the Pirate Party at the last election, were serious about politics.

But the people who got really depressed were the major parties, who between them think they own parliament, when these political upstarts got more votes than either the media or they themselves expected.

I have to say I think new parties are here to stay, that the current major parties will disappear in the forseeable future and that future parliaments will be formed from the new parties.

I only wish I could be around to see it happen

Politics and death

Feeling equally deserving of a break from politics as candidates involved in the recent ACT election, I thought I’d also give readers a break. Much as I have a great interest in politics, as no doubt do many readers, with the election having ended I felt both readers and myself deserved a break just as much as the candidates, whether winners or losers.

During this break I will take the opportunity to catch up on events. Unfortunately, and much as I would like to divorce myself completely from politics during this short break and much as I try, I find it impossible to escape politics.

I am not alone in thinking this, because even if you say you don’t get involved in politics and don’t think about them, politics is the prison in which everyone is incarcerated and from which the only escape is death. The fact that politics may be the instrument of death means nothing as they will find out. The prison of death has an implacable governor who allows no release.

Nevertheless, politics can make the road to death pleasant or unpleasant and occasionally a mixture of both. However, some societies more than others give people the opportunity to maximise the pleasant and minimise the unpleasant through what is known as an electoral system. In brief an electoral system allows people to select and elect people who say they can make life pleasant.

Unfortunately, people often make mistakes when choosing the people who say they will make life pleasant by turning it into something very unpleasant in which state it remains until the peoples’ opportunity to make a change crops up again.

Sadly it has to be said, people often make the same mistake twice in a row and end up enduring more than one period of unpleasantness.
By the way, not until after Saturday this week will the people of the ACT know whether the people they have selected will make life more pleasant.

How democratic are elections?

Is winning a seat in parliament a success and not winning a failure? Some incumbent politicians I know subscribe to the former but as someone who has tasted defeat as a political candidate I have never thought of my defeat as a failure. I have never taken that view because an election is but one battle in a political war. So I say to those Independent and small party candidates who have been defeated in the ACT election, if you think your ideas better than the ideas of those elected, continue to fight for them.

Of the 17 candidates elected in the Australian Capital Territory some will continue taking another four year walk along the political success road with some taking the first step on that road. Sadly, however, the electoral process will make many of the defeated wonder if their effort to get on the road had been worthwhile.

While I understand their feeling of disappointment my answer is: yes! Even if they only attracted one vote, that one vote says that in the battle of ideas they had had a small win. And while my answer might be of little consolation to them let me add that if they keep fighting their ideas might eventually help inspire a hundred, a thousand or even thousands of voters to support them. History stands testament to that statement.

Although this election is over, the political war continues and during the next four years voters will discover if the winners of the battle live up to their election promises. Voters will also have time to think about why, when it came to voting, did they allow themselves to be influenced by organisations to vote for particular candidates.

As the days and weeks pass, they might also wonder if the candidates they voted for had the qualities necessary to govern on behalf of the community or were they merely puppets acting on the behalf of those organisations. This is why in an increasingly complex world all voters should find out more about the qualities and talents of the less well known candidates before voting.

ACT voters should also start thinking about our voting system. Does it serve democracy well or does it favour the big political parties and people of influence?

It is also easy to be persuaded to the view that the Hare-Clarke system with Robson Rotation is democracy at its best. While I do not question that it is a good system nevertheless it does seem a system only suitable for an ideal world where ideology does not exist.

Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world; it is also unlikely that we ever will. The fact is, we live in a world where the war of politics is a war of ideas in which society is permanently engaged. And though due the advance of technology weapons in the war will change, it will still be a war of opposing ideas that each of its proponents want to win.

Let me say that political wars are not wars of peace which is why coalitions are never satisfactory. Coalitions are never satisfactory because junior partners in coalitions who always think their ideas the best, often prevent the best ideas from being put into practice.

In a slightly different context politics is a different version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and World War I, the war to end all wars and all the wars which promise peace. And just as military wars have never delivered peace, neither have political wars; wars alaways have been and always will be never ending.

And so will it be in the ACT. Parties and protagonists in the warsw will change and in the intervals between them we will be overjoyed by what passes for political peace until a new battle in a political war is joined.

Everything changes but everything remains the same

A phrase often used by football supporters after reading and hearing reports in the media by sporting ‘experts’ before the season has started: “it’s all over bar the shouting” could be applied to describe the media’s view of the ACT Election. As with football the shouting also seems to have been done before the first vote has been cast physically at a polling booth. In the case of this ACT election the “experts’ write for the Canberra Times or host radio programmes on radio stations ABC 666 and 2CC.

Readers of this blog will know that I have written a lot about the small parties and their lack of recognition by the media at election time the result of which means that they, and their policies, have remained virtually unknown. In this the last week of the election they’ve been given a few minutes of radio time and/or a few column centimetres of newspaper space to in which to try and advert voters about their policies which they say, if implemented, would make Canberra a better place to live. Their chances of doing so are none and Buckley’s.

The editorial in today’s Canberra Times took me back to 26 March 1992 (some current candidates were still at school and many years would pass before other candidates, some in the media were still to arrive) when I adverted publicly to this latter issue at a luncheon where the guest speakers were Crispin Hull of the Canberra Times and Matt Abraham of 2CN (now ABC 666) who hosted the breakfast programme.

In his speech, Mr Hull said that, pre the election The Times promoted major party government in the interests of stability, a point of view that would sit well with the major parties and big business. To me this smacked of manipulation of the news because voters were denied the opportunity of making a choice from all the policy options available.

As for Mr Abraham, he justified not interviewing minor parties or Independents- excepting Michael Moore – because, he said, their policies lacked quality. And while he quoted statistics showing them getting the same time on air as the major parties, he omitted to mention that most of it was when audiences were at their lowest level.

Mr Abraham’s reason for saying the policies of the minor parties and independents lacked quality was because they came on no more than two sheets of A4 compared with the thicker policy documents of the major parties.

We should be thankful that Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, one of the most important political documents of modem times (its 272 words would fit on a sheet of A4 with room to spare), was not measured on the Abraham scale otherwise it would have been tossed out as valueless.

The evidence for saying everything changes but everything remains the same can be seen by reading today’s editorial and paying particular attention to the last sentences in its final paragraph.

‘Tarnished Labor still more reliable’ is the editorial caption. A few people have telephoned me to say they find the editorial caption strange. And though I don’t agree with them doesn’t mean to say I am in total agreement with the rest of the editorial.

The final paragraph, ‘Yes, tomorrow’s election is about roads, rates and rubbish, but so much more besides. It’s about who will shape our future. Ms Gallagher has shown she has a more inspired vision for Canberra than her opponent. We support the re-election of her government.’

I’m sure the Canberra Times will forgive me for pointing out that Ms Gallagher had more than one opponent. However, with The Times adopting the imperious royal ‘we’ suggests that every other non Labor candidate, Greens included, should forget getting elected. Let me ask also: who makes up the ‘we’? As for election coverage, it’s just a repeat of 1992 which just goes to show that: everything changes but everything remains the same.

The Paterson poll: I’ll suspend my disbelief

I think an opinion poll ought to be conducted about whether or not people think opinion polls serve any useful purpose. What brought this thought to mind was the telephone poll about Saturday’s ACT election, conducted between 11th and 14th October by the Patterson Research Group on behalf of The Canberra Times and whose predictions were splashed across The Times’ front page today Thursday 18th October and constantly broadcast.

I have no doubt the poll was conducted properly although I did find it odd that of the 1204 voters polled the number polled in Canberra’s biggest electorate, Molonglo, was smaller than the number of polled in the two samller electorates. I also found it odd, that in these days of high tech and almost instant publishing, that the poll results weren’t published until a few days before the election.

This means that people over the four days of the poll many people polled were unaware of the policies that came out after the 14th.
This also raises the question: would the answers from responder to the poll have been the same had they known what these policies were as the account around the published result was almost an invitation to jump on a particular political bandwagon? Don’t believe me? Read the reports then make up your own mind.

And another thing: why weren’t the leaders of the Australian Motorist Party, the Marion Lé Social Justice Party and the Liberal Democratic Party also invited to the leaders’ discussion on the ABC this morning? Is the media now becoming the arbiter of who should be heard?

And another question.: are the major parties, once small parties themselves, so afraid that an idea from one of the new small parties contesting this election, so grab the community’s attention that quickly it would become a threat to them?

In essence, Democracy, once touted as the panacea for all the world’s ills has taken, and is still, taking, a battering from the major political groups, whether in Australia, The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and nations that evolved from multi, ethnic, social, lingual, and religious roots. The effect: some of these groups became dominant and as we know now that dominance has led to major social problems.

I mention this if only to say that when people are voting on Saturday they should be able to vote on the basis of the ideas from all parties. In my view what should be avoided at all costs is to allow one group to become dominant in Canberra else, instead of leaving our children and grandchildren a good future, we might be leaving them a social battlefield.

Let’s do our best to avoid that.

A note for correspondents to the website

I am pleased that so many people take the trouble to write a comment. Unfortunately, however, many of your nor comments that arrive have no connection with my blog so if thinking of making a comment let me say:
I dislike having to use the delete or trash button on comments contained in e-mails directed through WordPress.

Unfortunately I am forced to do so on many occasions because comments bear no
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For example:

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7. As all my blogs have a title , all comments should relate to
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Thank you,
Don Allan


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