Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

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Politics breeds prejudice

The idea for this article has long been circulating in my mind but I decided to write it because I’ve now come to the conclusion that the best examples of prejudice I can find are political parties. Political parties are great accommodators of people with prejudices. Strangely however political parties cover up their prejudices by saying they are a broad church.

Conveniently this claim to being a broad church allows them at times to be indistinguishable from the political opponents which is why, come election time, one of the almost constant claims it is difficult to decide which party to vote for because it is hard to tell one party from another.

However, when voters level this accusation at a party in answer, they get a glib explanation that, taken at face value, sounds logical. Unfortunately, because the average voter, the real determiner of which party will gain government, usually accepts these glib explanations, a party’s facade as different from its opponents and a broad church is maintained.

As I write this very scenario is being played out in Australia where, tomorrow, voters will determine which of the two major parties will be the voters’ choice. Let me stress it is a party that will be elected, not an individual, even if the leaders are recipients of all the publicity. Perhaps this is a pre-emptive push to change Australia from Constitutional Monarchy to a Republic.

But the broad church concept is important. This concept has been adopted by major parties because it disguises the fact that within the party there are people who group together in factions of common interest. Although these common interests are often abstract they can radiate to people outside society’s sphere of influence the joy of being part of what they see as a powerful group and as we all know power can be addictive. Indeed, some people within factions become addicted to the acquisition of power and move to what they think a more powerful faction

One shouldn’t be surprised that factions often grow within factions. This, in turn can lead to favouritism, possible party destabilisation and fights for power between men and women ambitious for power. Not to put too fine a point on it, even in Australia, a stable democracy internal power struggles led by factions have taken place recently.

The Labor Party with more factions and thus a greater spread of policy interests lays claim to be the best arbiter of what is good for the people.  This is not a view with universal appeal as the Liberals also with factional interests claim their views are more widely held. While this can make for interesting politics it does not necessarily make for good policy or good government. And let’s not forget all of the other parties that think the interests they hold dear are the most important in the world.

The other thing about factions of course, is not just the separation of interests.  Factions also represent the division of power within a political party. Make no mistake; despite the rhetoric from politicians, politics is no longer about making the world a better place but about power.

And because politics today is about power it is a dangerous profession. Indeed in the more democratic of the worlds’ democratic countries, the danger might be an assault on the eardrums but in countries where democracy is still growing, physical violence is often the norm.

While for some people politics is simply a means of acquiring power if you want politics to play a role in creating a fairer and more peaceful world you need to be perpetually on guard and avoid electing people with ambitions for power.

Comment welcome.

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 Has verballing become the political norm?

While candidates in the Australian Federal Election have another three days to chew anxiously on their fingernails voters are breathing a sigh of relief that the winner of this competition in lying and political verballing will soon be known. Will it be the Liberals Tony Abbott or Labor’s Kevin Rudd who will have the honour of carrying on Machiavelli’s political legacy, loosely called Democracy, on Capital Hill, Canberra?

I say loosely because it seems clear to me that after speaking on the phone to many voters, a good many of them have no clear idea of the policies of the various parties. Indeed, in some respects they will cast their votes for Labor or Liberal based on two things: verballed policies and dislike of the Rudd or Abbott, with the latter playing a large part in their choice.

Without a doubt the election has a presidential focus that is American in style but whether or not it is a system that fits Australia’s political culture is another matter? It may well come to pass that Australia will adopt a presidential system but I think a lot of water will flow under the bridge and a couple of new generations be born before that occurs.

It seems funny also that Australians condemn verballing when done not only by police but by people in various other professions such as media, the law and welfare, to mention but a few. However, during this election campaign verballing has run riot.

It is not unusual for politicians being interviewed to attribute false statements to opponents without verifying their accuracy which, in many cases, had already been shown to be false. Worse still, when the politician is making the false statement, they will, figuratively, hand on heart declare their honesty and integrity.

Over the past hours I have seen television adverts made by allegedly non-political groups supporting a particular party, based mostly on verballed statements. This is not to blame the person speaking the composer of the words and the apparatchiks behind the scene.

A good example of verballing are the words used by the Prime Minister, cut, cut, cut, to describe what he says will see 30,000 jobs disappear in the Public Service, Canberra’s biggest employer, if his opponent in the Prime Ministerial stakes won the election. Well I have heard his opponent say 12, 000 jobs would go by attrition but nowhere have I read or heard him say 30,000.

And in case you think I’m going to let Mr Abbott off, I’m not. He, too, is guilty of verballing but not on the same grand scale as Mr Rudd perhaps because voters already seem to think he is more trustworthy than Mr Rudd and who they would prefer as Prime Minister.

In Canberra itself however, the main battle is for a senate seat between Mr Seselja, Liberal and Mr Sheikh of the Greens, the party that sees itself as politically virtuous. Unfortunately, because Mr Sheikh’s exaggeration and verballing sinks to an even lower level than that of Labor I find my belief in the honesty and integrity of politicians weakening daily along with my belief in democracy.

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What is a politician’s first interest?
I always thought I knew the answer to this question but as this federal election drags on to Saturday, 7th September, when our vote will determine which party will govern Australia for the next three years and who will be Prime Minister my original view is changing.

I’ve always thought that, in a federal election, the interest of all candidates, regardless of their personal philosophy or political ideology, would be the country itself. Indeed, from what I hear and read that no longer seems to be the case.

Elections today have become stages where many would be politicians without talent strut while spouting bad rhetoric that lacks sincerity and thus does not stir the emotion of voters. Indeed at times their speeches sound like the inane ramblings of people who have escaped the tower of babel. On the other hand, the same rhetoric delivered by good orators could stir the emotions of listeners and make bad rhetoric sound good.

In days gone by party leaders were chosen because they could deliver stimulating speeches because such speeches were the bread and butter of election campaigns. But the art of making speeches is being lost.

Fewer and fewer politicians are good orators. Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming their stages because their limited capacity for word use makes these allegedly social communication channels the ideal vehicles for politicians many of whose word skill are limited.

Indeed one of the silliest defences an inadequate politician used to defend Twitter and Face-book that I’ve heard was that everyone knows what E= mc2 means but when he was asked to explain he couldn’t. I did say it was a silly defence.

Another thing that has changed is that once upon a time politicians could explain when asked to explain to voters how they would benefit from a policy. Today, unfortunately, many politicians today cannot explain the benefit of policies and why a particular policy will be more beneficial than the equivalent policy of their opponents.

The reason for this is that they have had little or no hand in developing policy. Policy is being created by backroom boys. This becomes evident to such an extent that the phrase the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing springs to mind.

But let me answer the question posed by the blog’s caption. Today, it seems to me the first interest of politicians, particularly those seeking re-election, is self – interest. In speech after speech the interests of the party and their place in I but not in the country take precedence as if the country wouldn’t exist without the party.

At the same time, they try to secure their personal future by asking voters to mortgage their future voting intentions to the party they represent on behalf of their children. They use the iron hand in the velvet club technique with voters by preaching fear that if they don’t elect them, the future of their children will be bleak.

In the process the Australian Government which is seeking re-election today made mistake on mistake because in its haste to make the opposition look dishonest and incompetent they were unprepared when its promises were exposed as worse. They faced the difficulty that faces all political parties when they make policy on the run as they would have know had they been familiar with the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám that says:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

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Elections are now devils’ choices

The least shamed devils In Australia must surely be the devils assigned to the candidates engaged in Australia’s current election campaign.

No doubt you’ve heard the saying “Tell the truth and shame the devil.” This phrase has a number of alleged sources of origin starting with its biblical one in Matthew: 5:33-37. Its second alleged source is English preacher Hugh Latimer who used it in his Twenty Seven Sermons of 1555 and last but not least, in 1597
Shakespeare has Hotspur using it in Henry 1V.Part 1. You can take your pick but I’ll settle for its biblical origin.

On the basis of speeches and promise made by the two principal protagonists Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbot, both of whom hope the parties they represent, Labor and Liberal respectively, will have enough candidates elected to enable them to form government with one or the other of them as Prime Minister.

Even if all minor party candidates were elected, collectively their number would be insufficient to form government so leaving the field open for Labor or Liberal to form Government by default. Though I can’t swear to it, I feel sure that what we have today is not exactly what Socrates had in mind when enunciating his fledgling ideas of a Democratic system to Plato.

Nor do I think Matthew, Socrates or Shakespeare would be supporters of today’s democratic process in which election candidates who tell the truth seem to be regarded as political liabilities. Worse still not only do voters seem to expect it, they seem suspicious of candidates who tell the truth. And much as voters might deny it the fact is that the list of candidates who have been prosecuted for misusing the privileges of office and lying about it when questioned is lengthening.

Unfortunately the lying starts at the launch of election campaigns as candidates with the subconscious help of their attendant lying devils, shamelessly make false promises and accusations about their opponents and lie also about what their opponents have promised. More unfortunately nary a word is published about these lies that get told so often that as Goebbels said (long before recognition of the Stockholm Syndrome), if you keep telling people the same thing for a long time, they will come to believe it.

Adding to this is that elections have become popularity contests judged by newspaper, TV Polls, and a plethora of political fact checking organisations all of whom claim to be independent. But what do they mean by Independent? At the same time we have sociology, education, science and health experts, et al, queuing up to get on radio and TV who are only too eager to give their opinion on which party is offering the best policies. What is missing with this approach is, do they support a particular party?

With our elections taking on an American flavour and trivia taking the place of serious political discussion perhaps we will soon see female cheer squads, batons twirling, leading cavalcades of candidates to the stage in televised debates as they seek your votes. After the debate viewers will then be asked to vote on who they thought the best candidates.

I can see a new industry blossoming from this suggestion as entrepreneurs set up acting schools for the training of people with political aspirations. On the basis that many people think they can do better than the elected politicians, business should be brisk.

Comment welcome.

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Does Australia want a showground spruiker as PM?

Although I am as yet undecided as to how I will vote on Saturday 7 September, I find myself thinking of putting the Liberals, Labor and the Greens last on the voting paper and giving my vote to one a minor party candidate or an Independent. I’m thinking of doing so because I’ve come to the conclusion that Labor, Liberal and the Greens all think they have the answers to the country’s problems and each think that giving your vote to a candidate for a party other than theirs is tantamount to wasting it.

The logic of this argument is beyond me which isn’t surprising because I think democracy itself is anything but a logical process.

In fact it seems to me that military warfare differs little from political warfare except in one way. Military battles are won by the best fighters whereas the verbal political fights are won by the party whose ranks are filled with the greatest number of political troops.

Sadly, in such battles, logic takes a back seat to sanity leaving the enlightened troops distraught while the unthinking and unenlightened troops march in celebration of a nonsensical victory.

Over the years I have witnessed also, the deterioration of quality in politics. Once upon although politicians told a few lies, in general one could rely on the truth of their statements. Today however, that situation has changed. Lies now seem to be the order of the day. Regularly, too, opposition statements are quoted out of context in an effort to portray the leader as the equal of history’s legendary and monstrous dictators.

By accepting these statements as true, voters send good candidates to the political gallows from whence they will be cut down, drawn and quartered, never to arise again. Others escape the gallows but do not escape their honesty and integrity being so impugned they become political lepers. The fact is that in many cases, the people who should become political lepers are senior members of the political hierarchy.

As an example of what I mean the Liberals have been accused of having a $70 billion black hole they will need to fill and that they will fill it with money saved by cutting public service jobs. Senior non-aligned economists have already said this statement is false as have some of the politifact groups that have now been established.

In a world awash with violence that perhaps could be described in terms of the biblical Armageddon our politicians should take a calm and serious approach to solving the problem. Unfortunately many of our politicians – and politicians elsewhere, seem anxious to escalate the problem in a display of the militancy that democracy was supposed to overcome.

Let me now focus briefly on party leaders in this election. It is clear that the next Prime Minister will be either Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott. At the moment I am watching Mr Rudd being interviewed on TV and I must say that, on the basis of what I see and hear, I have serious reservations about his genuineness.

He seems to think himself some kind of political genius and has not been slow to cast Mr Abbott in the role of political dolt, not the kind of behaviour I expect from a man who wants to be Prime Minister. As this probably is one of the reasons he was deposed by his party during his first incarnation in the post it also raises the question do they really want him now?

As for Mr Abbott, I watched him the other night on television when he launched his campaign for the Liberal/National Coalition to become Government and him to become Prime Minister. Clearly he does not see himself as a political genius but equally clearly he is not a fool or as glib as Mr Rudd. But then: does Australia want a glib Prime Minister?

Unfortunately Australia has watched as glib politician after glib has feathered their nest even as they protested they were working hard on behalf of constituents. That said I am left with the uneasy feeling that it would be wrong to make Mr Rudd who is as glib as a showground spruiker, to again become Prime Minister.

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Today’s Byzantine Politics are killing democracy

During my recent incarceration in hospital a friend brought me “A short History of Byzantium” a book by John Julius Norwich to read.

The book is a condensed view of three books by the same author that cover the history of the Byzantine Empire, founded by Constantine the Great, on Monday, May 11th 330 that lasted until Tuesday 29th May, 1453, a total of 1,123 years and 18 days. This led me to wonder how many of us will leave a mark of our presence that will still be written about 100 years later, never mind 1,123 years late. I suggest that unless we make some claim to notoriety our names are unlikely to be remembered for more than two or three generations.

You might wonder however, why Allan Takes Aim, a political blog, is interested in Byzantium. Well, I’m interested because Australia’s current political scene is also Byzantine the main difference being that power today is gained through a democratic process that theoretically gives citizens the right to vote. But one thing remains constant: today’s rivals for power share the same common slogan as\ Byzantine rivals: might is right – plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.

It is alleged that the advent of democracy eliminated the idea that might is right. Unfortunately, history shows that, despite democracy, many politicians today achieve power using the might is right principle and/or by being as devious as many of the characters whose names are stamped indelibly on the 1.123 years of history in the Byzantine Empire.

That might is right is not confined to wars on the political battlefield; it is also practised by wannabe leaders in the political armies as they fight on behalf of their personal favourites. This happened recently in Australia when one group of wannabes successfully removed the Prime Minister and replaced her with their favourite.

The similarities with Byzantium are many. As they pursued power, Byzantine leaders formed alliances with junior army officers by promising both them and the civilian population better times in return for their allegiance. These promises, which they had they had no intention of keeping were really barefaced lies told as a matter of expedience to soothe people’s minds

Politicians today in their quest for power do the same. Leaders of political parties make promises to people that party candidates re-iterate to voters. If it is then up to voters to analyse the promises of each leader and decide which of them they think is telling the truth.

This will prove difficult during these last two weeks of the current campaign as promises flow like a river in spate and armies of advisers, sycophants, and political carpetbaggers try to bolster support for their chosen leader hoping they will be successful in the hope that some of that success will flow to them. This makes a voter’s task of analysing what they hear or read difficult as they try to sift the truth from the lies.

Sadly today democracy, the progenitor of votes for citizens, is practiced more in the breach than the observance. Indeed some politicians only mention democracy when they need to bolster their image as people of integrity.

I suppose we should count ourselves fortunate that more by accident than design, some politicians of real integrity still manage to get elected.

Comment welcome.

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Don’t listen to the songs of the Fat Ladies

You’ll all be familiar with the phrase it ain’t over ‘til the Fat Lady sings which means that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. And while normally it is used in a sporting contest I think it has particular application to the political contest between Kevin Rudd Labor and Tony Abbott Liberal to become Prime Minister of Australia. However, any attempt to describe it as a sporting contest is to diminish all real sporting contests. .

More precisely, it describes the situation the phrase when it appears to be nearing its conclusion although it cautions against making the assumption that the current state of an event is irreversible and determines how it will end. However, as the contest to be Prime Minister is between two men shouldn’t there be an alternative phrase.

That apart, most of the Fat Ladies singing today are male political columnists and journalists who have already decided the winner. Even most letters to the editor are from males. Not that this will come as a surprise because most MPs and Senators are men.  However, the situation changes in the electronic media where women hold their own although again it must be said the chief commentators on the electronic are mostly men.

This raises the question: how did this male – female imbalance occur; it seems contrary to Mother Nature. Indeed, it has always struck me as odd that women, who influence every man, have, over time, been sidelined for the benefit of men. Just think of it: they are the mother of men and the wives of men, notwithstanding that some men wish to be seen in the same light. But that’s another argument.

More to the point, at his stage in the race to be Prime Minister, I think even the most biased voter will concede that Abbott and the Liberals are ahead of Rudd and Labor. On the other hand there are still two long laps to go in the race and who knows if during these laps Abbott will stumble and allow Rudd to catch up or will Rudd stumble oftener than Abbott and so fall further behind.

While one expects outlandish ideas and outrageous promises from wannabe members of parliament in every election, voters have no one to blame but themselves if any of them get elected. Sadly because our record on this matter is not something to shout about, I suspect the status quo will be maintained at this election.

Of course, as to who will become Prime Minister is not a matter of which we have charge. We can but hope Australian voters will not give political chancers, populists, sycophants and candidates of questionable capacity the opportunity to display their venality or lack of talent to occupy that position but elect people of honesty and integrity.

And let me plead with voters to judge candidates because they feel they can trust them and not elect people who seem to think parliament is a permanent theatre of the absurd where they can act out their absurdities but a theatre of the serious that sometimes is funny.

A final comment: of one thing you can be sure many of the fat ladies who have started singing early will suffer from laryngitis after the election result is known.

Comment welcome.

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