Allan Takes Aim Blog

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Australia a brave new world: or is it?

Although the campaign for electing a new Australian Parliament has only just started, I’m already fed up listening to candidates who make promises to voters clothed in fake sincerity, such as on the day they elect them and their party to government and on every day thereafter, as they wake up they will find themselves beneficiaries of policies that will bring them never ending joy. And the band played, believe it if you like.

But cynicism aside what are we to believe? As the disturbed world in which we live gets even more disturbed, the choice we make when electing the next government becomes even more important.

Should we elect a government led by Tony Abbott, who believes in a strong work ethic and people doing things for themselves and promises to help them live happily in this land of opportunity because of policies introduced by what he says will be his just and socially aware government or a government led by the current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who seems to believe that popularity equates to ability.

Clearly Mr Rudd is not a fan of Wilkins Micawber in Charles Dickens novel, David Copperfield who said : “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness; annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery” And because Mr Rudd seems bent on continuing to spend more money than the government has in its coffers let me resume my cynicism and suggest Mr Rudd should consider establishing a Department of Misery. Indeed, he seems to want to remodel Australia as old world.

Over the next five weeks voters will get a chance to make their own decision as to who they would rather have at the helm of government. Advert after advert In support of and extend the messages in the adverts, Abbott and Rudd will make personal appearance after personal appearance in the hope they impress enough voters to think of them as trustworthy and in doing so gain their vote at the ballot box come election day.

It is important however, that voters analyse Abbott and Rudd’s policy promises in detail and sort out those that will benefit Australians long into the future and despatch the expedient promises designed to paper over policy deficiencies to cyber space. This is important if they want to ensure Australia will continue to benefit because, as time goes by, nations we foolishly think inferior, will catch us up and perhaps as the evidence of history has sown with other countries shows, make us pay for our foolish idea.

And while important that we listen to media reports on the policies of the major parties, it is also important to remember the only reports that voters should pay attention to are the factual statement of candidates. Anything else is merely opinion and there’s lot of that. Examples: ABC’s The Insiders and Q&A; Ten’s The Bolt Report (though Bolt doesn’t hide his political affiliations). In radio media, Radio National and various other ABC programs do the same as do many commercial radio programmes. While in the press I doubt if voters would be confused as to the political sympathies of Fairfax and News Limited.

And much as the Federal election is important, many ACT voters think the election of. ACT candidates such as Greens, Liberals, Labor, or small party candidates and Independents to Federal Parliament more important. And why shouldn’t they?

Small polity it might be but sadly the campaigns of the two major parties in the ACT, Labor and Liberals, as well as the Greens are copying the campaigns of their national brethren, more slanging match than explanation of policies.

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The future Canberra: dream city or nightmare?

In recent blogs I focused on Federal Politics and Federal Politicians; ACT Politics and ACT Politicians were overlooked.  If nothing else, these words show just how easy it is to be distracted from really important issues by flashy and meretricious arguments from self-appointed and selfish federal politicians engaged in vote catching exercises.

Allowing ourselves to be distracted is wrong because in many ways, the ACT Legislative Assembly and its MLAs play a greater role in my life and that of Canberrans in general, than what politicians say in Federal parliament. Not that all federal politicians’ arguments are meretricious, but even serious ones tend to be overwhelmed by the flood of rhetoric from self-appointed important politicians, who treat voters as chooks waiting to be fed. Have they forgotten the fate of the last Queensland politician who did that regularly?

To bring me up to date on what has been happening in Canberra, I turned to the letters page of the Canberra Times only to find the same names gracing the letters page with the same opinions about the same issues and opinions of other regular letter writers and reports by the newspaper’s’ journalists.

The newspaper cannot be blamed for publishing them: it lies squarely with Canberra’s citizens. Curiously in an allegedly literate and articulate city where politics is a major business, the wider community seems apathetic about events in their city. The result the letters’ page has become a propaganda medium for narrowly based political views probably totally unrepresentative of the wider community.

To some extent the newspaper encourages this apathy by focusing on some issues it seems to hold dear but are little discussed in the wider community. Two examples: gay marriage and climate change. However, I have to say that as local branch of the National broadcaster also seems to focus on these issues it too, grants them an importance they do not deserve.

These issues aside, the caption above contributors’ letters page, Saturday 13th July, said:” Rudd fiddling with Facebook while the rest of us burn.”  However, not being a Facebook user I learned little about what was happening in Canberra other than a letter of complaint from Victoria no less, about the culling of Kangaroos which the writer said was shameful; another letter about what is an important issue “Abuse of law; a letter about the price of electricity and a letter about American Edward Snowden and his self-imposed imprisonment in Moscow’s airport and of the US being a terrorism nation and the writer’s view that Daniel Ellsberg was the last true (US) patriot.

Much as I found the letters’ page uninteresting, the article ‘Vision of our second century’ on page 3 of Forum, stirred my interest because author David Ellery wrote, that in 2113 Canberra would be a very different place.

He wrote petrol stations will have gone and electricity will come from renewable resources without saying what the renewable resources. Nuclear energy did not rate a mention. Effectively what he described as second century Canberra’s was first century Canberra re-incarnated, with a few alterations.

Aon the question of renewable resources I am surprised that Ellery made no mention of the fact that by 2113 on the basis of ITER (‘the way” in Latin) project at Cadarache, France, in which 34 nations representing over half of the world’s population are co-operating, ‘nuclear fusion’ reactors will likely be producing limitless supplies of cheap, clean and safe energy.

However, he may well be right that the population will live in smaller houses and still live in comfort because of advanced technology. Indeed the artefacts we use today will be obsolete as will many building materials. We will also live closer together because we will want more space for our new recreational needs. Indeed I am doubtful if Rugby, Rugby League or Cricket will still be in vogue because our physiognomy will have changed.

However, I do not agree with Professor Shirley Gregor, Director of the National Centre for Information Research who is quoted in the article as saying that Parliament House will continue to exist as place for politicians to congregate.

In fact I suggest that by 2113 Parliament House might no longer be necessary. Indeed my view is as technology advances that if a Parliament House is still needed it will be necessary to move it to a more central spot and use technology to service it. The current Parliament House could become a tourist attraction, accommodation and hospitality centre.

But when talking about a vision for a future Canberra let’s go out on limb and show some vision rather than continue to imitate the past. If we continue on our current course I feel sure the future will not just catch us up but will overtake us and leave us behind so that in the future Canberra will join the ranks of once great cities because the politicians that governed it had restricted vision.

Having said that it perhaps Members of the current Assembly will really start to look at the future so that instead of Canberra‘s history being the story of a failed experiment in social engineering, it will be a continuous story of grasping every opportunity.

Comment welcome.

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The Battle of B Day

Every year a day is set aside in the ACT Legislative Assembly for B Day. If you haven’t already guessed, B Day is the non- lethal budget battle even if, on occasion, some of the combatants might wish otherwise. The Treasurer in his wisdom has called this a budget for a rainy day and as an alternative a visionary budget.  I find this surprising given most voters want budgets of sunshine.

However, in this set piece battle the Opposition tries to upset the Government on the matter of how much money it needs to run and expand ACT services and facilities now and in the future. In a sense it tries to rain on the Treasurer’s budget.

As to the budget itself, unfortunately for householders some budget announcements look as if they are going to experience many rainy days, caused by the Government’s increases in fees and taxes. As he tries to put a good face on it the Treasurer’s in his most sympathetic manner will plead, that without the rises Canberra could go to hell in a hand basket.

Indeed, voters worried about the future could find the Treasurer’s face so sorrowful they might be inclined to say the rises should be greater. On the other hand the first impressions of the mass of voters suggest they have no particular love for his rainy day proposition. Whether his visionary propositions will receive a better hearing is yet to be seen.

Of the budget battle itself I am in no doubt the Opposition will argue with the Government about: a.) The amount of money the Government says it needs to run the ACT properly, and b.) How the Government intends to raise the money.

That said and regardless of what the Government says it needs, its first and most important priority is to get a majority vote of approval for the proposed budget from the 17 Assembly Members. A few days later following the Opposition’s budget reply that important vote is taken. Should the Government not get the majority it needs the possibility exists of it being replaced by the Opposition.

Should this happen the former Government will bewail that giving Government to the former Opposition will ring Canberra’s death knell. Parliaments are not called theatres of the absurd for nothing. That being the case I wonder what Shakespeare might have called this performance? ‘Battle of the Hams’ perhaps?

Not that there is any indication that such an event will occur, so during the budget speech in reply what will be the Opposition’s budget targets? The Opposition will say the Government has failed and continues to fail Canberra; that it has been a government of austerity not a government dedicated to prosperity; that it is a government of misery with its failure to give voters a sense of being a government that cares.

However, some Property Developers will say the Government cares and who’s to blame them, with the budget having treated them well. And so will many in the Arts world which has been the beneficiary of large dollar sums dedicated to the centenary that thousands of homeless Canberrans would have found useful.

And what will the growing numbers of Canberra’s aged feel, many of whom, through no fault of their own become prisoners of poverty standing behind the curtains in houses that speak of affluence staring in grim despair at the world outside.

I couldn’t depart the blog without mentioning our ‘poor ‘sporting Brumbies and Raiders. Had the ACT government not poured thousands of dollars into keeping them in the pink they might have been in danger of dying from hunger or thirst.

Comment welcome.

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 ‘Worker’ is now a word of convenience

Who are the working men and women politicians keep talking about? And do they know any?

I ask these questions because between now and the polls closing on Federal election day, Saturday, 14 September, it’s almost certain that members of the current government from the Prime Minister to the lowliest back bencher seeking re-election or new candidates seeking  election , will use ‘Workers’  so often that voters will be sick of hearing it.

They will use Worker in a plethora of speeches to groups of people that could be accommodated comfortably in a small to medium size garden shed.  In fact garden sheds might be appropriate places for candidates to deliver election speeches because some people might have had to invest in a garden shed to hold the tools they’ve had to invest in to grow vegetables to keep the wolf from the door because they cannot afford supermarket prices.

At these meetings candidates will make promises to workers that even God might blink at. Indeed speakers will try and transport workers to dreamland. Little wonder that ‘Worker’ has become a word convenience. A warning: dreams are ephemeral.

Not that my opinion applies only to the current Federal government. Should the government change after 14 September, it is more probable than not that I will be writing in the same vein before the 2016 Federal election. On the other hand if a new government is elected perhaps they hope the old saying ‘A change is as good as a rest,’ isn’t true.

Sadly too, in much the same way as during the war troops were called cannon fodder, some political parties’ hierarchy think of working voters as political fodder. Once upon a time that might have been true, but no longer. Today with politics more a business than a vocation, workers are more savvy and cynical about the people who put themselves forward as possible parliamentarians.

Indeed many workers today now wealthier than their bosses are driven by the same ambition of keeping and growing their wealth that drives their bosses. Thus it ill behoves candidates to mouth obsolete shibboleths of animosity against people of wealth, many of whom were their supporters in earlier days.

The truth is that the days of current political parties are numbered. Not only are ideas of new parties lying nascent in the minds of Australia’s future voters but also in the minds of young voters in similar liberal democracies.

I doubt the change will take a long time. Today, people move in even larger numbers from one place to another on the basis that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This, in turn, quickly changes a country’s social environment.

Already this can be seen in Australia, the US and the UK. That said, it is inevitable there will be resistance to change a resistance that is likely to provoke trouble. And while it will never go away, volcanic like it will subside until something stirs it up.

Such has been the case since man first evolved and such will continue to happen until earth itself disappears although I am of the opinion that by the time this occurs man will already be living elsewhere in the universe.

As this change takes place and old societies disappear, new societies that better fit the new environment will emerge. New Ages will also occur with greater regularity; Politics will remain extant but with new parties whose philosophies better fit the new environment.

In effect what is happening is that man is following the same process of change that he has followed since his evolution. Work will change work as will politics while it is the destiny of politicians who continue in the same style to become the new age dinosaurs

It seems to me that on Saturday 14 September, Australia will have the chance to replace the current dinosaurs of politics.

Comment welcome.

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Politics and public art

Yesterday’s blog posed the question “What is Public Art?” It also said it was being claimed that the multi mammaried Skywhale balloon, launched in Canberra a week or so ago as part of Canberra’s Centenary, was being claimed as a piece of public art.

Unfortunately, calling something a piece of public art is a device commonly used by Government politicians as a means of covering up how they had been deluded into thinking the artwork they originally commissioned that would be part of their legacy that would to remind communities in the future about their time in office would, in the case of Skywhale something they might regret. Instead it might make the community perceive them as art philistines.

Contrary to any impression you might have gained yesterday that while Canberra has some public art, the arts lobby thinks it doesn’t have enough. Indeed the arts lobby constantly lobbies the ACT Government to provide more public art and because the government is always looking for of methods to capture votes it is susceptible to the pleas of the arts community. The result: Government Ministers see commissioning more public art as a means of garnering votes. A secondary result, the art community is kept in a state of permanent anticipation, the community in a permanent state of apprehension and tourists something new to look and laugh at.

But let me leave such whimsical thoughts behind and get down to brass tacks about public art. I think the ACT Government should ask the public at large what pieces of art they would like to see commissioned. And when I say the public at large I mean the public at large not just the views of a handful of members of the ACT’s political parties and art groups. In my opinion the Government might get a shock at some of the artworks the community at large might like to see commissioned.

The Government’s answer to the public’s suggestions would probably be that twenty years later the public might not like what was chosen while the public’s argument that the same could be said about the Government’s choices would be met with a blank stare, which brings me back to Skywhale.

I fact when I first heard about Skywhale I thought the Government had decided that in addition to being the Australia’s political Capital it should also be the country’s avant garde Capital. With that in mind and as a member of the public, let me put forward a suggestion for a piece of public art that will pay tribute to the Capital not only on this centenary but on centenaries ever after.

I’d like government to commission a work called “Parliament in Action” comprising a revolving metal base on which stands one male figure and one female figure representing the bureaucracy. The male figure would have its left arm outstretched and one finger pointing and the female figure would be posed with right arm outstretched and finger pointing. Surrounding the base, concrete Members of Parliament sit in static pose looking up at the two figures as if trying to give them directions.

As this is a free speech site don’t be afraid to voice your opinion about the blog but at the same time give your suggestions about what would be great public art in Canberra.

Comment welcome.

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Forget marriage: introduce wedding contracts

Although I do not believe in God but because I am an opponent of what is described as same sex marriage not only am I described as agnostic but homophobic. Not only do I object to the latter description, so do many other people in Canberra of the same disposition.

What gets lost in the arguments about same sex marriage is the claim by its proponents that it is a human right. The fact is, since time immemorial, marriage has been seen as a contract between a man and a woman and nor can I find any reference to it as human right. That religious groups decided to make marriage a rite does not validate it as a human right.

Supporters of same sex marriage also talk of it as an issue of equality. Indeed the idea of same sex marriage could be likened to some kind of Utopian philosophy which, like every Utopian philosophy in history will end up a successful failure. That is not to say that no good comes of trying to get these philosophies accepted.

In any case, what is equality?  For me equality is an abstract quality that cannot be defined because what is equality for one person will be seen as inequality by another. Equality, in fact, is like a colour spectrum with infinite stages and a spectrum on which hetero sexual unions and same sex unions occupy different places.

Much of the debate about same sex marriage has centred on religion, particularly the various brands of Christianity with many Christians citing the bible as the defining authority on marriage. The bible, unfortunately, is a collection of stories that, although I do not believe in God, nevertheless have valuable lessons to teach us. However when marriage pre-Christianity is mentioned, it is described as being between a man and a woman. I suspect too, that even in the days of the Neanderthals when a man and a woman got together as a family their union also was called marriage.

That said, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. I find the absence of sex in the same sex marriage debate more than passing strange. I have no qualifications in psychology but I feel safe in saying that sex is the underlying attraction of a man for a woman; in many, if not most, cases love comes in second and union with the possibility of children, even if not in every case, comes third. Yet the mantra of the same sex lobby is that love is the attraction.

Having been married for 54 years and having the joy of one living daughter from a family of three, I think qualifies me to say the life of a male and female couple is infinitely different to that of the lives of two men and two women. Strangely too, I hear LGBT couples talk of ensuring the future of their children as if through their sexual coupling they had procreated. Sad it may be, but no matter what law of equality is introduced, that will never be the case.

And yes I know they can have children as individuals but if they have children they came because of third party intervention. This does not apply to couples who having married and become fathers or mothers clearly thought that being in love with a reflection of themselves was better than the opposite.

Is there a solution to this complex question? I believe there is and also believe it a better solution than merely covering LGBT unions under the Marriage Act. Not to offend anyone but doing so is like trying to mix oil and water or trying to put square pegs into round holes.

My solution: scrap the current Marriage Act and create two separate acts covered by contract law: The Hetero Union Act and the LGBT Union Act will create contracts of union that couples will have to sign. Both contracts will spell out the differences between hetero and same sex union based on how each can be affected by host of societal issues.

The contracts will grant each couple the same legal rights with the latter group having to accept that nature has never seen their union as equating to hetero unions nor will it ever do so. Churches can, if they wish, bless the contract as has been done in days gone by.

As a last paragraph, the words same sex marriage has become a marketing slogan iterated by many people who know nothing about it or the people involved. Indeed I think many of them say they support same sex marriage because they think it makes them radical and up to date.

Comments welcome.

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The Assembly’s lucky number – ?

Choosing the number of MLAs the ACT should have is becoming more and more like a lucky dip every day. What will the winning number be?  Will the number of MLAs stay at 17 or will it increase to 21, 25, 27, 33 or 35. Get your crystal ball out because the answer it will give you is as likely to be right one as the number finally agreed on, not that agreement will be unanimous. As a result the lack of agreement could undermine the workings of the Assembly for years ahead.

Permeating many of the arguments about how many members the ACT needs comes from current ACT Ministers who claim that because their workload is too heavy, the Government doesn’t work as effectively as it should.

They base their workload argument on the fact that ACT Ministers are responsible for functions that in the States would be administered by local councils. That being the case, it is argued, makes an increase in MLAs necessary.

Speaking personally, I would not be unhappy at the number of MLAs increasing to 21, albeit that many people think the best governments seem to be those with fewer parliamentarians. That said, the obvious question is: would the workload of ACT Ministers decrease if their efficiency increased?

The number of MLAs has been a source of contention since the Assembly first sat 24 years ago. Right at the start people not only argued for more politicians but a change in the system used to elect them. Please don’t be confused that this argument meant that Canberrans in general were interested in government. The people interested in changing the system did so because they  wanted as system that would make it easier for their favourite candidates to be elected.

Fortunately however, most of the people elected were serious about the ACT having good government but it must be said also that some of the people elected were more carpetbagger than politician something that quickly showed. In retrospect 17 MLAs was the right number and while some changes to the system ocurred at the nect election the number of MLA was not changed.

So are the arguments of those in favour of change of the number of MLAs now so clear that people will bow to their logic. While I don’t doubt the intellectual capacity of the reference group members appointed by the ACT Government, who I’m sure would give completely unbiased advice, I am convinced nevertheless, that the best reference group would be the ACT Electorate.

This, of course, would necessitate a referendum that could be done by post. The referendum question would also be simple. Do you think Assembly numbers should remain as is 17 or should there be an increase to: 21, 25, 27, 33 or 35 until 2020

The referendum form could be sent out with stamped return envelope so that  the completed form could be returened to the electoral office.

With the electors deciding how many MLAs they think the ACT needs to provide efficient and effective management of the Territory, arrangements could then be put in hand for the next election.

Another advantage of a referendum is that party politics would play no part in the selection process.

Finally, if it’s of any interest, in 1994 former Chief Minister Rosemary Follett also thought that only the electorate should decide on any increase in MLAs.

Comments welcome.


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