Allan Takes Aim Blog

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Australia readies for new political pantomime

Australians elect 150 people to represent them in the House of Representatives, one of its two Houses of Parliament. The other house, the Senate, has 76 Members. But today it’s the former that’s of interest because on Saturday 14th September, voters will be called on to elect these 150 representatives.

Failure to vote can lead to a fine. However despite being called compulsory voters don’t have to vote, the only thing that‘s compulsory is their need to get their name ticked off the electoral roll as having received ballot papers. If they then don’t vote they still have complied with the rules

That said, in the case of the next election if every voter gets their name ticked off the electoral roll then decide not to vote there, would be no House of Representatives, an unlikely outcome I admit, but because it is theoretically possible, it’s not an outcome that can be dismissed.

If the latter happened what a finale that would be to the pantomime called parliament which, if the voice of the voters over the past three years is to be believed, is what they think of the performance of the House of Representatives over the past three years.

The panto opened following the last election with a significant political event, the first time a female, Labor MP Julia Gillard, became Prime Minister of Australia. Unfortunately, the significant political event became the start of the worst political pantomime in the history of Australian Governments to which, sad to say a great many politicians contributed.

Because the number of seats held by the major parties, Labor and Liberal, couldn’t govern in their own right, the script for the pantomime was written when pragmatism came before principle on the question of who would become Prime Minister. The Greens a minor party anxious for power and Independent MPs cast in their lot with Julia Gillard so that she could form a minority Government as opposed to supporting the Liberal/National Coalition led by Liberal MP Tony Abbott., whom they disliked intensely.

However, as the months slipped past the Greens and Independents delighted in exercising their power over Julia Gillard to whom they had given support. They had forgotten the saying ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ applies equally to Prime Ministers who gain status by what most people consider foul means, which was the case with Julia Gillard and in doing so virtually sealed their own political fate.

Indeed the whole term of this Government has been mired in controversy with broken promises, reversal of policy, new taxes and much more, leading to voters to no longer trust her or Labor. That they don’t trust her isn’t surprising when one considers how she first became PM. This was achieved when Labor power brokers, as if replaying an act of regicide in mediaeval times proverbially stabbed Labor PM Kevin Rudd in the back and replaced him with Julia.

In reviewing the Panto, for a brief period of time, two performers, M&M – Misandry and Misogyny – the identical malicious twins, became stars. Hopefully their time has passed, never to be revived. Unfortunately, Julia’s poor performance has led to a clamour from some MPs for her replacement with Rudd, who initially was thought to be politically dead but has stayed very much politically alive and able to talk, much to the daily discomfiture of Julia Gillard and Labor.

Continuing the review, while many people think the Gonski Plan for education is good, only a minority of State and Territory Governments which have responsibility for their own education programs have, as yet, signed on to implement it. On the other hand the new Disability Care policy has been accepted though many in the disabled community remain sceptical about its likely success while many people also have doubts about the Government’s NBN policy.

At the same time, many voters are still bitter about the introduction of the Carbon Tax that Julia Gillard said would never be introduced. But credit where it’s due. Over five hundred pieces of legislation were passed by the Government although over ninety per cent was passed with the support of the Opposition.

Finally, however, it seems to me Kevin Rudd’s protestations that he does not want to become PM is given the lie – ‘accidentally,’ – no doubt,  by his protestations general opinion of all the political ‘experts,’ is that Labor will lose the election in September. That being the case I think voters would rather have a majority Government than again sit through a poor the political panto for another three years.

Comment welcome.

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Paranoia is directing the course of the Federal election

From the behaviour of a good many of its Federal MPs clearly the Australian Labor Party now leads in the paranoia stakes because every day a new reason for getting rid of PM Julia Gillard breaks out in party ranks. In fact the only person on the surface, who seems unaffected by paranoia, is Julia Gillard herself.

Indeed suggestion after suggestion has been floated about how to cure the ills dogging Labor that even if Gillard was removed who would take her place? Bill Shorten? Not that he will admit it, but Shorten has actively stoked the fires of paranoia with his statement that if Labor doesn’t change leaders it could experience a landslide at the next election.

Much as he is promoted in the media as a straight shooter, this statement is a piece of political ambiguity which shows Shorten is still a political assassin prepared to do to Julia Gillard, whom he professes to support, what he and his cohort of assassins did to Kevin Rudd. However, to try and keep his image squeaky clean, he has, as yet, not said it would be in the interests of the Party to remove the PM. However, if her removal ever came to pass, I doubt he would choke over the words.

Another aspect the forced removal of a second PM in a very short period of time does not seem to have been considered in an allegedly stable Democracy like Australia. Could it affect the view of leaders in other Democracies? Some of these leaders might view Australia as being less stable than it seems and the words of its political leaders not to be trusted.

In any case, regardless of Shorten being an ALP Powerbroker, what seems to me is that with the exception of a few, most politicians seem more concerned with their own welfare than that of the people who elected them. And with reference to the current brou ha ha about Labor’s leadership, how many of those seeking election as Labor MPs ever mention in their campaigning who they think should be Leader? If the party observed true democratic principles this would make electing a leader a more open process.

Of course the same could be said about the Opposition except for the fact that Tony Abbot won in democratically controlled ballot, albeit by one vote. On reflection however, and considering the negativity expressed towards him by Government Members and at times members of his own team perhaps he regrets winning.

However, it must be said in his favour that like Julia Gillard he, too, has steadfastly stared his enemies in the face while his own facial expression says do your worst but I’m staying where I am. Indeed, outrageous as the suggestion might be, perhaps Julia Gillard has copied him.

The truth of the matter is that both sets of MPs are paranoid, Labor MPs at the prospect of them being washed out in the forecast landslide and Coalition MPs at the thought that with the holy grail of Government within their grasp, Mr Abbott’s unpopularity might save the Government and the PM.

There’s no use asking MPs to cease their conspiracies. By this time voters know that most of them don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what people think. Being of ‘superior’ mind they expect voters to take their word that will face a bleak future if their party doesn’t get elected.

Voters of course will have their own views on the matter. Will they think the Gonski education plan makes education better; will the NBN make their experience of computers better; and will Disability Care, a subject of great personal interest to me, make people with a disability jump for joy? As yet there no clear answers.

And so the questions remain. Do voters think that Labor has handled these policies so badly that, regardless of what might be seen as possible benefits, they will become financial nightmares that will haunt the community for many years to come.

On the other hand the Coalition must be able to persuade them that they have the answer and that a vote for the Coalition will prevent financial nightmares.

As time goes by we’ll see which of the two possibilities gain favour with the voters. I can’t wait to see the result.

Comment welcome.

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Colosseums and gladiators still exist

Sport stadia, indoor ones included, are merely old Colosseums under a new name. While you might only know Colosseums from history they were arenas where gladiators satisfied their need to show themselves as strong, ruthless men with the killer instinct and tried to satisfy the blood lust of the thousands of spectators who had come to witness the killing.

Although the killing today is not physical but mental, the underlying motivation is a case of plus ça change plus c’est la même chose, with one significant difference: it is more common today for women to become gladiatrices (mow more commonly called battleaxes) as recorded by Roman writers Tacitus and Petronius in the reign of Emperor Nero and Suetonius in the reign of Emperor Domitian.

In some respects however, today’s gladiatrices of tennis have at least one characteristic in common with the gladiators of Rome. As they fire their serves at their opponents their accompanying screams and shouts probably sound more terrifying than anything a gladiator served up to his opponent. And probably the screams and shouts of spectators also match those of the spectators at the Colosseum.

When the tribal war system which maintained gladiatorial killing throughout the ages collapsed, it was replaced with sport, a gladiatorial system that did not involve killing. This spurred all kinds of organised sporting contests such as rugby union, rugby league and soccer that were played in stadiums.

It was only to be expected the man’s world of that time it would be men only sports that were supported. This is why soccer became the number one sport in Britain and then around the world where it is now growing stronger in countries where previously it struggled. I suspect the reason for its growing popularity is that it has being taken up and supported by women who stopped being spectators in favour of participation.

Some sport such as tennis and hockey that had been played for a long time by women continued to be played but without ever reaching the popularity levels of the gladiatorial sports. Nonetheless, women eventually started asking why they couldn’t play the gladiatorial sports and finding no good reason why, began their own organised contests.

But it was Baron de Coubertin’s Olympic Games and sporting philosophy that he sold successfully to many countries that became the catalyst that advanced women’s contests making it inevitable that contests between women became part of the sporting gladiatorial scene. But that’s not the only reason it advanced, it also advanced because sport became part of school curriculums.

And as more and more women took up sport, more and more sporting opportunities were opened up to them so that today women participate in the myriad athletic events that are part of today’s Olympic Games. Indeed women’s sport is now featuring prominently on the sporting calendar of many nations and perhaps more importantly sport now has a major role to play in the life of people with a disability through the Paralympic Games.

Sadly however, some men playing at the top level of football in Australia seem to have succumbed to using violence like gladiators in the old Colosseum claiming that violence such as king hitting, biting your opponent or felling them to prevent goals being scored is only to be expected.

Perhaps they might remember that the Colosseum in Rome and the many Colosseums built elsewhere in the old Roman world, are either now nothing but ruins or have vanished completely. And they might care to note also that the almost continuous stream of violence that bedevil the world today does not produce winners.

That said let’s keep the violence of the old Colosseums out of the new ones.

Comment welcome.

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The National Disability Scheme (NDIS) is now Disability Care: I hope you never need it

I received the following article by e-mail from a person – not its author, whom I do not know. The article’s title is mine not the author’s, so that in the words “I hope you never need it” I am expressing a personal hope that no reader of the article nor any member of their family ever becomes so disabled that they need care to help them live life to the fullest.

Disabled myself and having been involved in the disability field for many years I am publishing the article to help raise awareness of the need for governments to take a long term view of the problem of disability. Disability Care is a step in the right direction.

“The National Disability Insurance Scheme which we are all paying for is going before Parliament at present. I was listening to a panel discussion last Friday and was curious as to why the CEO of Disability Services Australia was less than enthusiastic about the Scheme in its present form. It was pointed out that anyone 65 years or older would not be covered by the scheme, the reason being it would make the scheme cost prohibitive (given an aging population, etc.).

If you have a disability at the time you reach 65 years of age you will be covered for the benefits of the scheme when you pass age 65. If you become disabled at age 65 or over you will not be covered and there is no other safety net scheme to provide support and services other than present State and private Health Insurance products/services.

The Disability Services representative on the panel pointed out that a large number of disability cases in the community affect elderly people who by misfortune have a stroke leading to partial or greater permanent disability, folk with bone degenerative disease, osteoporosis etc, other degenerative disease- Dementia, Parkinson’s and the like, plus serious accidental- broken hips, etc. From age 65 and older none of these people are covered and as was pointed out the impact of this exclusion would include large numbers of baby boomers, parents and grandparents of the current 25-40 year olds. I have not heard one mention of this exclusion from any of the Politicians from both sides. What was mentioned from a legal participant in last Friday’s panel discussion was that the Federal Government tinkered carefully with the title of NDIS, so as to have a loop hole against future litigation for discriminating against a section of the Australian population with a Nationally funded program. Apparently the trick is in the use of the word “Insurance” in the scheme.

From a Western Australian perspective, I can also understand Colin Barnett’s reticence to sign up to the scheme. Our current state run disability scheme offers more comprehensive and superior services to that of the services proposed by the NDIS and there are no age exclusions. It was pointed out that with the present proposal if we are part of the NDIS our level of services will decrease.

My own view is that while the concept of an NDIS is laudable, I question why in main younger 30-40 year olds are paying an increased Medicare levy to fund a scheme that would not cover their parents and elderly dear ones, in the event of disability. In the age 30 to 40 group young people are career focussed, have a lot of cost in their lives, getting established with a house, raising young children etc, so the scheme should be funded from consolidated revenue and not yet another levy.

They also mentioned in the panel discussion that around 1000 Commonwealth Public Service FTE’s would be required to administer the Scheme from Canberra. Again I have great concern about the efficiency of this, given the Federal Government’s track record with the Home Insulation Program, Better Schools Program, management of Australian border protection and the like.

If you feel inclined please forward this email on so at least there will be a better awareness of the pitfalls and oversights in the hurried put together of the NDIS- in that way we can get it changed to cover all the Australian population. Thank you.”

Comment welcome.

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Will Australia’s Opposition be a good alternative Government?

Haven’t blogged for a few days due to illness. That I am recovering is due partly to the good news I had helped an old friend, who has been unemployed for some time, to get a job.

Self – praise ended, my last blog was about the budget brought down last Tuesday by Wayne Swan, Treasurer in Australia’s Labor Government. While perhaps not of great interest to all my overseas followers, it could, nonetheless, be of interest to some of them for comparison purposes with the budgets of their own country.

I described the budget as being like a curate’s egg (good in parts) which I also suggested had more than a whiff of robbing Peter to pay Paul, an opinion that did not go down particularly well with long standing Labor voters and  members of the Labor autocracy.

However, as custom dictates, at least to this blogger, just as I commented on Wayne Swan’s budget speech, the reply of Tony Abbott, Liberal, and Leader of the Liberal/National coalition Opposition, is also worthy of comment.

Before offering my opinion about Mr Abbott’ reply let me preface it with the comment that it was the opinion of most of Australia’s prominent political commentators that he would not provide details of what his budget would be if he became PM after the election in September, an election that most of them have assumed he will win. However, if their prediction about the election is as good as their prediction about the likely content of his speech, could they have counted their chickens before they were hatched.

The fact is, in his speech. Mr Abbott confounded them by doing the opposite of what they had predicted by providing details they didn’t’ expect. At the start of his speech, it was clear that Mr Abbott was nervous. Was this due to the fact that some of what he was about to say might make some of his supporters nervous, such as announcing that he would accept some of the Government’s proposals albeit that in some cases he reserved the right to change his mind when, if elected, he found the economy worse than expected.

At the same time however, he was unequivocal in his intention to repeal the carbon tax, a tax that the government had said on many occasions that it would never introduce and also unequivocal that he would support Disability Care (NDIS) introduced by the Labor. He was also unequivocal that pensioners would not lose anything by any measures he might have to introduce if he became Prime Minister.

After a few minutes his early nervousness disappeared and a confident Mr Abbott appeared. As he spoke his usual negativity had disappeared and even the bad news items such as a reduction of 12,000 federal public servant jobs by attrition were delivered with a conviction that suggested most voters would understand the necessity of making such decisions.

But perhaps the best sentiment expressed in his speech was his words that if elected he would be a Prime Minister of Australia not one who governed to meet the wishes of some party members and he would do that because he would listen to what voters, regardless of their politics, told him.  Does this herald a return to truth in politics and will voters be able to cast aside their cynicism and just vote for the best ideas? One would hope so.

However, I would be more pleased if the constitution could be altered to say that no MP or Senator could hold their position for more than two parliaments. Yes I’ve heard the arguments about people doing a good job should be retained to which I reply that, if they sincerely wish to do a good job for Australia, like millions of other Australians, they can do it even after they leave Parliament.

Comment welcome.

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Posted on: 15 May 2013

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Budget day observations and other matters

For some households Budget Day is every day of the week while for other households it falls on one day of the week. Most countries on the other have a Budget Day at least once a year.

Budgets also fall into two categories.  Category 1  budgets often spell doom to the hopes and aspirations of many voters while Category 2  budgets are like the curate’s egg, good in parts though which part is good and which is bad is good will keep Government and Opposition at each other’s throats every day until the next budget is due.

Yesterday was national budget day in Australia and after voters heard what the Australian treasurer said in his budget speech, many Australians will know what doom feels like, not that the Treasurer will agree with them. Nonetheless as his pre-budget flow of leaks had done much to prepare most Australians for disappointment, they were not surprised.

However, when the Treasurer reiterated the bad news in his budget speech, in his best a politician to his bootstraps role he laid the blame on others. He blamed the Opposition and suggested that had it been in Government, its budget would have been worse. Of course in places other than parliament this would be called lying but because in politics ‘All’s fair in love and war’ if the Opposition were the Government it would be doing the same.

As for the budget, items the Government was relying on to persuade voters that it was responsible were: ‘Disability Care’ (formerly the National Disability Insurance Scheme), its Education Plan and Income support for pensioners. However, a close examination of budget details revealed these positives were being achieved by robbing Peter to pay Paul through the imposition of swingeing cuts on current programmes.

Despite these comments as someone with a severe disability I welcome the Disability Care initiative. However, while welcoming the initiative with open arms I long ago found out that when dealing with Government initiatives one must keep ones’ eyes open for possible faults. That said, it would thus seem churlish to complain about the time it will take to roll out Disability Care on a national basis because some people will die before the scheme becomes available to them.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the PR surrounding Disability Care which suggests that every person under 65 with a disability will receive money to cover every aspect of their care. This isn’t true but unless this issue is addressed promptly and before the preliminary rollouts take place, there’s no doubt some at the tail end of the rollout queue who harbour this false expectation could be even more seriously disadvantaged.

One might also question the new education initiative. Indeed, can education progress be measured?  I subscribe to the view that people receive the best education in the University of Life and so would hate to see schools and universities churning out robotic students with little life experience just to satisfy the ambition of certain politicians and academics. Should this happen, Australia will develop a culture of regression not progression.

This can happen when ideas are locked into long time frames without any idea of what will happen as time progresses. The advent of technology, not only in IT but in medicine and other aspects of life as new materials and new methods of doing things are created, requires constant monitoring of those ideas so that they can be adapted to the new technology.

Unfortunately, it seems me that too many politicians, academics, and social scientists plus others are attempting to create a womb to the tomb community that they and their successors can control. This has been tried in the past. The history of these failures make interesting reading.

Comment welcome.

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Dementia: a personal article

Often people writing about dementia conjure up images of a woman (or women) having to be treated as children or in some cases, as people beset by madness. Such images are better consigned to the fantasy genre because it is as far from the truth about people with dementia as the earth is from the sun. It must be said also that dementia is not a disease particular to women, men, too, are affected by this dreaded disease.

In some cases but fortunately not all, it is clear the writers are not speaking from experience although at times the writing could cause some impressionable people to get the idea that dementia is a contagious disease. Such writing does nothing to advance the cause of research into the disease although it may cause un-necessary distress to members of some families.

It is unfortunate that loss of memory often comes with the onset of age. Unfortunately and too often, family members adopt the role of psychologist and start treating the person exhibiting forgetfulness as having dementia. It is even more unfortunate if they miss the fact that a young member of the family is exhibiting signs which although they might indicate the onset of dementia in an older person they ascribe them to playground accidents or stress.

Of the more obvious signs of dementia are an almost permanent state of confusion, a change in personality, an apathetic attitude to life and the withdrawal and loss of ability to do everyday tasks. In a sense although these signs are not necessarily definitive of dementia but when they are the probability is that they are but the tip of the iceberg.

The internet has a list of signs common to dementia. Unfortunately it is enormous and if used by unqualified people to make their own diagnosis it is likely to do more harm than good. It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing which is a truism in the case of dementia because it can make unqualified people feel equipped to make a diagnosis and prescribe what they think the correct treatment. This is the pathway to danger particularly in such a sensitive area.

However a clearly defined pathway exists which helps people avoid that danger. For example, spouses who think husband or wife or children who think a parent is exhibiting the foregoing symptoms should make arrangements for their GP to see them as soon as possible.

If their GP thinks it necessary, they will refer them to a Clinical Specialist in the dementia field to make a diagnosis. If the Specialist’s diagnosis says dementia, a course of treatment can then be given. Although it won’t cure the condition it will help mitigate it and make life better for the affected person. It will also help reduce any stress being felt by the family referee.

I must stress that I not an expert in dementia and that this blog merely reflects my opinion based on family experience. Probably many others could write of their experiences in language more eloquent and elegant than mine. I wish they would.

No doubt many of them, like me, have experienced seeing a woman and mother still loved after fifty three years (or more)  of marriage, decline slowly to become but a pale shadow of the woman they once knew.

In this case, fortunately, due to early diagnosis and treatment the decline has as not been as rapid as that of others although it still causes pain within the circle of her family and friends. If you are in the same boat I can but recommend you treat yourself to the great memories of your life and hopefully that the recounting will still stir memories in the other’s mind.
Comments welcome.


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