Allan Takes Aim Blog

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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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 Ideas constipation is a political ailment

One thing’s become clear to me during the current election campaign: the side that will win Saturday’s election is the one giving voters a sense of confidence that the future will be better than the past.

One would think political parties would have learned this lesson by this time. Labor however, has chosen to continue in the same vein by producing ideas they say are innovative and the basis of new and constructive policies for the future but which, when examined seem like echoes of past ideas and policies that were tried and found wanting, which is why I say  ideas constipation is a political ailment.

More to the point, Labor tried to cure its constipation when its Treasurer increased its dosage of financial debt medication and changing Prime Ministers. But the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd instead of suffering from constipation, seemed to suffer from verbal diarrhoea with words tumbling from him in torrents.

And did voters understand him? Unfortunately, he was the only one who seemed to understand them with opinion polls not only suggesting they did not understand him but wished him gone. Unfortunately for him, many ministers in his government felt the same.

His opponent Tony Abbott started off with the same level of popularity as Kevin Rudd is now enjoying though I doubt based on his narcissistic persona, he’s finding it enjoyable. Clearly too, Mr Abbott read the electorate better than Mr Rudd. Indeed in some respects the race to the finishing line in the election could be likened to that fabled race between the tortoise and the hare because despite Abbott’s slow speed it looks as if he will get there before Rudd.

Of the other parties none, except the Palmer United Party, expect to win. But not does its constant optimism lighten the political arena it is one of the best examples of political bravado I’ve seen for a long time, even that of the Greens.

The Greens are an odd party. Apart from members with a strong left wing socialist bias it attracts the odds and sods of politics. How any sane person can think the adoption of its policies will keep the world of the future in its current environmental state is beyond belief. And its fanciful ideas on how to cure global warming are in the same category. A world powered by windmills is symptomatic of its delusional fancies and total disregard of Mother Nature’s role in guiding the world since it began which includes the attraction of opposites and the creation of children, which brings me to its push for gay marriage.

I am sick to death of hearing that unless “LOVE” between members of the LGBTI can be translated into marriage they do not have equality in society. Nor do I have time for religious zealots who think marriage a religious sacrament.

Not being of any religious persuasion myself, I do not believe love is necessary for marriage and if LGBTI people cannot understand that, then they really don’t understand marriage and alsoy clearly have little understanding of what equality means.

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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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The unknown candidates in Saturday’s election

Not high profile and also unlikely winners of seats in Saturday’s election, l must apologise to the following candidates for omitting them from yesterday’s blog; they deserved better. They deserved better because they are the people who, without hope of reward put their daily lives on line to put forward ideas they believe can solve problems affecting voters.

And though some of their ideas might possibly solve voters’ problems, sadly they get little opportunity to put them to voters because the media tends to concentrate on candidates from the major parties although it will select a few of the unknowns to avoid being labelled biased.

Unfortunately in yesterday’s blog I contributed to their being disadvantaged further by not recognising them in yesterday’s’ blog. And though this blog may not be of any great help I getting them votes, let me remedy that lack of recognition today.

By the way I am only giving the names of the number on candidates on the ballot paper because they are the candidates the parties hope will be elected. To add to the names in yesterday’s blog you should add the following candidates to your senate list: Palmer United Candidate – Wayne Slattery; Katter Australia Party – Steven Baily; Sex Party – Deborah Avery; Socialist Peoples’ Party – Mark O’Connor; Australian Justice Party – Marcus Filinger; Aust Inds – Anthony Fernie; Rise Up Australia Party – Irwin Ross; Euthanasia Party- Philip Nitschke; Bullet Train for Australia, Chris Bucknell; Drug Law Reform – Paul Cubitt; Ungrouped – Emmanuel Ezekial- Hart.

Inexplicably, I omitted Darren Churchill as a candidate for the house of Representative seat of Fraser. In a sense Darren deserves a seat for trying. Despite his lack of success in many previous campaigns and when many others would have given up, Darren has not only maintained his commitment to Canberra but also maintained his commitment to the Democrats when many previously high profile representatives on the national scene such as Kernot and Bartlett who didn’t fit the profile of when the going gets tough the tough get going, quit the party by decamping to parties in which they hoped to prosper. Unfortunately we have too many soldiers of fortune in today’s ranks of politicians.

I hope many uncommitted voters try and read what these candidates have to say.  Perhaps there’s a Socrates – the man who gave democracy to the world- or two among them.  And could I discourage them from giving preferences to any party other than Labor or Liberal if only because it’s better preferring the devil you know to the devil you don’t.

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 The Election Show – Saturday 7 September

Roll Up! Roll Up! Is the cry the electoral office should be using to encourage voters to turn up at polling booths a week from now because during the past three years the behaviour of some Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives seemed better fitted to the circus than parliament. So will this election improve things?

The ACT is the electorate of particular interest to me so a few brief comments on Senate Candidates. Senator Kate Lundy – Labor is a sitting member and unless she makes some catastrophic mistakes during the next week (unlikely) she can start planning her future senatorial programme.

Canberra’s home grown Zed Seselja – Liberal, will, I think claim the vacant second senate seat. He has the necessary political experience gained from a decade in the ACT Legislative Assembly and has practical knowledge of a how a Federal department works having been a lawyer with Transport and Regional services. With five children he want a government that will give them opportunity.

The only other candidate with a chance is Simon Sheik – Australian Greens. Apart from disliking Tony Abbott, the CV I’ve seen shows little by way of motivation. Says he’s passionate about climate change, social justice and closing the gap between the rich and the poor. How will he do it?

ACT candidates for the House of Representatives are more interesting. In Fraser, sitting member Andrew Leigh – Labor, is also likely to win without getting up a sweat which says more about the voters who consistently vote Labor than about Andrew Leigh’s talents. Before politics he was a Professor of Economics at the ANU and briefly a Parliamentary Secretary in the Gillard Government.

Then we have Elizabeth Lee- Liberal. Clearly talented, she is currently a lecturer in law at the Australian National University and University of Canberra and has led both the ACT and Young Lawyers committees and served as an ACT Law Society councillor. Originally from South Korea, I think of her as a model for how a Non- European migrant can succeed in Australia and given the chance, also succeed in Federal Parliament.

As the remaining candidates, Freddy Alejandro Alcazar, – Palmer United Party; Jill Elizabeth Ross – Rise Up Australia Party; and Adam Verwey – Australian Greens seem unlikely to get anywhere in this election, I shall save time by not writing about them.

The ACT’s other electorate Canberra, has more interesting candidates. Gai Brodtmann – Labor. On the basis of Canberra’s political history unless some of the following candidates show outstanding political skills and flair, Ms Brodtmann seems sure of re- election.

Of the other candidates her min challenger will be Tom Sefton – Liberal. A commando officer during two tours of Afghanistan, a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and Law from the ANU and a job as a strategic analyst in Defence Intelligence in his kit bag he clearly has knowledge and skills he can bring to the political battlefield.

Next Julie Melrose – Australian Greens. Because like other Greens her main reason for standing seems hatred of Tony Abbott and as hate is not a policy I can’t see having any chance of success.

Now for Tony Hanley – Palmer United Party. Because he says he has ideas makes him different from many other candidates who effectively iterate policies created by others. But even if you think his ideas wacky at least he has been prepared to put them to the test.

Damien Maher – Bullet Train for Australia, is a small business man who might garner some votes even although unlikely to be successful. He says he says he sees a high speed rail link between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne as part of the future and because many people in Canberra agree with him, the number of votes he secures will be interesting.

Last but not least, Nicolle Burt – Secular Party of Australia. Nicolle is dissatisfied with both the Labor and Liberal Parties, saying Labor takes voters for granted while the Liberals distrust the ACT. I offer no opinion on her views but they scarcely amount to policy. Nevertheless, she is to be congratulated on standing up and putting them forward.

Comment welcome.

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If you would like to receive these Articles automatically you can RSS it or become a follower by using the ‘follow’ connection at bottom right of the published page.

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.

Comment welcome.
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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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