Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aversion Therapy

Baby boomers either take to social media or avoid it, much like dentist appointments and doing those necessary checks on your bits that force you to finally admit you're getting older.  So if you're afraid of something, you just have to de-sensitise.  Cognitive therapy.

This blog is the equivalent of pinning on a spider brooch and repeatedly looking down at it over a few weeks to finally sort out the screaming panic that a small harmless arachnid can cause (or in my case, being unable to get past the case of stuffed and mounted tarantulas our beloved TMAG (in an earlier iteration, not the truncated space it is now) placed right at the entrance to the natural history room.  And dammit, they were the dead ones - not those blasted white-tailed or black house spiders that would decide to hitch a ride on your clothing or scuttle into the darker spaces of your bedroom at night.

And what better way to get started blogging by acknowledging the loss of a grand old lady of Hobart, ex-Lord Mayor Alderman Doone Kennedy.  Some of you may remember that priceless bit of graffiti on Collegiate's Macquarie Street wall.  Once painted white, it invited spraycan comments on the state of Tasmania's  politics.  Remember "The Man, The Plan, The Scam" - political slogan turned into scathing comment on the Premier of the day, Robin Gray?  At the same time, heritage buildings in Hobart were under threat, and some urban activist tagged the wall "Hobart is Dooned".  Sadly the wall was painted over and much as we all appreciated Max Angus' collaboration with the students, and today's rather architectural-historical mural, that wall spoke for dissent.

I didn't always agree with some of Doone's opinions.  When you went to her for a chat, she was forthright to the point of scathing about some of the things Hobart City Council Aldermen were doing (or in a number of case, not doing) after she left.  At the same time, her sense of humour was applied to commenting on the media antics of various of the sitting Aldermen.  You always left her feeling better because she had the gift to make you laugh.  It's been difficult to not repeat some of her pithier observations.  With the passing of Doone, there was also the passing of an era of service and a time in local government when political parties were anathema and a gentleman's word was bond.  Her politics were essentially conservative yet she also tried (and succeeded) in getting on with others, and putting people at ease.  If you asked her for confidential advice on some political or local government matter, you knew she wouldn't be gossiping it about and it went to the grave with her.  When I served a few terms as Deputy Lord Mayor (a position I was initially ill-prepared for as not having expected to be elected), she offered very sound advice on how to get the best out of it for both Hobart and myself.  I'll miss her, both for her local government capacities, and because overall she was an essentially good person.

Which brings me to another ex-Alderman, Pru Bonham.  She served as Deputy to three Lord Mayors of Hobart.  And she continues to mentor people into and in local government.  And social media too - thanks to Pru I'm now on Facebook having been guided through the intricacies of friending, defriending, friends of friends, etc.  Who knows, I may yet even Twitter one day, although it seems that 140 characters is simply inviting a dumbing down of carefully reasoned argument and comment, and maybe that says a lot about the body politic today.   And haven't we had some howlers and hasty comment from elected people that truncated many a promising political career?! I've had a page on Linked-In for a year or so, but I've been very careful in what is posted - identity theft on a global scale is a phenomenon that has put me off social media for a  while.  So you can understand the aversion.

It's a measure of how writing has changed, that this is effectively a public diary, that as this blog progresses through the period of local government elections in Tasmania, I'll have to adhere to all sorts of rules that censor.  So if I hold back on commenting on some issues, there are reasons including electoral rules, libel and defamation, let alone sections of the Local Government Act that make Aldermen adhere to confidentiality. 

I write this with a background in public policy study at UTAS, with a First Class Honours looking at why two sets of southern councils chose to co-operate rather than amalgamate, and a struggling PhD on why reform of local government in Tasmania is so difficult.   I hope you enjoy and get some insight from my insights into Tasmania's form of local government.

Authorised by Eva Ruzicka, 10 Congress Street, South Hobart

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