By Dean Hamstead
In a sea of non-sense and articles from punters with no technical, no financial and, possibly no life experience – the SMH quietly published perhaps the most sensible article on NBN to date.
“The original vision of the NBN, “FTTP everywhere”, was laudable. Private monopolies are notoriously bad at deploying new technologies and have been in the USA and most other countries. That seems to have been the case in Australia as well. In frustration, the government launched the NBN to fix the problem.
But government monopoly programs are rarely any better than private ones — especially in dynamic sectors like telecom. True to form, it seems that execution of the original NBN did not measure up to the admirable vision. But the new government appears to have kept the flawed execution mechanism (government monopoly) while discarding the admirable all-fibre goal. Seems like the worst of both worlds to us.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There is no need for monopolies of any kind to build state-of-the-art FTTP infrastructure. In fact, contrary to common mythology, economies of scale are small in this sector and need not be a barrier to FTTP development. Profitable companies as small as 1000 customers are being built entirely with private capital in circumstances more difficult than you have in Oz…
“Nor are these networks rocket science. As we look around, we see plenty of people in Australia with the energy and talent to build them. If you are smart and enterprising enough to build and run a farm or small business in rural Australia you are smart enough to build and run a local FTTP network as well.”
My personal view has been near complete regulation and handing powers back to residents to decide what cabling is run in their street. With the pits and poles owned by councils, then access leased to any and sundry to run broadband services, pipe gas or whatever they can dream up.
Sadly, in Australia we have embraced that Canberra knows best. Got an idea that might work in your area? Are you willing to risk your own money or someone willing to back you? Too bad it’s illegal.
By Henry Innis
At some stage, you’ve got to call bullshit on the Bob Katter party. Not only does the ‘Force from the North’ still literally live in the stone age, but they’ve now decided they’d like to send us back to the legislative equivalent.
It all started in September 2015 when “all round good bloke” Rob (not to be confused with Bob) figured he’d introduce a bill to see Uber drivers penalised with demerit points. His logic? “Our taxi drivers are small business owners… who have followed each and every one of the regulations”.
Hang on a minute there, mates.
This bloke is literally justifying proposing a law to further support people who obey the law. Rather than think “gee is our economy changing?” Rob Katter would rather us have literally no progress, ever.
“I will not see another industry slaughtered by deregulation”, he says. Well, we suppose Mr Katter doesn’t want IKEA furniture, lego or any form of imported good ever.
Of course, you’d think that they’d at least be able to get the legislation right. But on April 21 they passed legislation not only upping the fines and broadening the definition of “pre-booked passenger services”, but they accidentally made all pre-booked services illegal.
You really couldn’t make this up if you tried.
The LNP seems to have (quietly) supported this too. QLD opposition Transport guy, Scott Emerson, may win the crown for Most Thoroughly Illiberal Statement Ever Made when his justification for such a bill was “We have issued more than $170,000 in fines to 62 drivers”. C’mon Scott, you can do better, we’re sure. And do something about that hair.
To cap it off, Jim Pearce, supposed “union advocate” is no longer all about listening to his constituents it appears. The Queensland Government not only got flooded with complaints, but they appeared to be deciding that no, we don’t want to listen to our constituents, as they’re wrong. So they found a way to block all the Uber emails.
It’s a sad day when our representatives deem that we’re no longer worth listening to. But then again, we all know what happens when they ignore us for too long, don’t we?
22 April 2016
Media Release: Unprecedented Assault on Democracy and Freedom of Political Communication.
The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance today condemned the Queensland government for an unconstitutional breach of freedom of political communication and an assault on representative democracy. This follows a statement by Queensland Legislative Assembly Speaker The Hon Peter Wellington that the QLD Parliament has blocked all emails in support of ridesharing from being delivered to Queensland MPs.
“The unprecedented decision by the Queensland Legislative Assembly to block Queenslanders from contacting their elected representatives is an assault on the very principles of representative democracy” said Tim Andrews, Executive Director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance.
“To prevent constituents from contacting their MP in support of a policy is an absolute disgrace. These actions demonstrate the hubris of the Queensland government, and the contempt in which they hold the people of Queensland. In addition, this is a flagrant violation of the Constitutional provisions on freedom of political communication and would be successfully challenged in the High Court – at great expense to QLD taxpayers.
“In a statement to the Legislative Assembly, Jim Pearce MP, Member for Mirani said he did not want to hear from his constituents because he “was trying to have a bit of relaxation” while in the Chamber. If Mr Pearce wants to “have a bit of relaxation” and not be bothered the residents of his electorate, he should find another line of work – a decision the voters in his electorate will be happy to make for him at the next election.
“This is the latest example this week of policymaking on the run by the QLD government descending into farce. From rejecting the calls of consumers to open up ridesharing to accidentally making hire cars and buses illegal, to now refusing to listen to the concerns of their voters, the QLD government has demonstrated itself unfit to govern.
“Today’s unconstitutional and undemocratic actions have cemented the Queensland’s government as an international laughing stock. They should apologise and remove the ban before any further damage is done”
Tim Andrews Executive Director Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance
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*Former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson
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Tax havens reduce poverty and help average and below income earners, argues Mark Hornshaw:
Tax is the price we pay for failing to build a civilised society. The greater the level of taxation, the greater the degree to which the brute force of confiscation has supplanted voluntary and peaceful interaction. So from that point of view, a tax haven is like a safe house, a Sherwood Forest, so to speak, where honest people can band together to shield themselves from the depredations of the greedy Prince and his cronies (see note below).
If you want to be a bit softer on governments than that, then tax havens can be seen as interjurisdictional tax competition. If governments want to attract businesses to set up headquarters in their territory, some may boast a nice climate, or an educated workforce, or an enclave of high tech suppliers and partners. But the governments of some smaller and poorer nations can offer none of those, and can only ‘compete on price’ in the form of lower taxes. By supporting tax havens, global companies are helping to close the gap between rich countries and developing countries. Meanwhile those who oppose tax havens are attempting to cartelise the tax collecting powers of large nations, by thuggishly forcing out the competition from smaller nations.
But for the average tax payer, that all seems a bit aloof and moralistic. You might be thinking “surely tax havens only serve rich people and big corporations, so why should I be concerned?”
Well I would argue that average or below average income earners benefit a lot more from tax havens than most people realise.
We are delighted to announce that following a lengthy absence caused by some sophisticated hacking attempts on our server, Menzies House is back!
Thank you for your patience, and please once again start submitting articles!
One of the few constants of Australian politics is the left’s bleating over the offshore processing of asylum seekers.
Indeed, the fact that the Coalition’s policies have stopped the deluge of unauthorized boat arrivals experienced under the former Labor government appears to have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of open-border zealots.
That said, the last few years has seen a shift in tone. Now that the bare facts of reality have given the lie to the claim that the number of boats coming to Australia is based on world asylum seeker flows – not our immigration policies – critics have taken to seizing on any minor detail or happenstance as evidence of our moral bankruptcy.
The grand folly of this approach is that while it’s easy to paint offshore processing as callous and cold-hearted, we can’t pretend that this issue exists in a vacuum. That was the mistake of the Rudd Government when it dismantled John Howard’s pacific solution in an attempt to make Australia seem more ‘humane’ and ‘compassionate.’ Even a cynic shouldn’t doubt that most people in the Labor party had the best intentions at heart when they abandoned offshore processing.
Unfortunately, these good intentions did nothing to stop 1200 asylum seekers drowning off the Australian coastline, 50 000 unauthorized asylum seekers arriving on our shores and Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake being overrun with economic migrants. Nor did this desire to do good change the fact that in order to stem this seemingly unending flow of undocumented arrivals, more than 2000 children ended up in detention before people smugglers started taking Australia’s policies seriously (again).
The point is that you can’t fairly criticize Australia’s policy of processing unauthorised arrivals offshore before realistically considering the alternatives.
In other words, we shouldn’t buy into the naïve myth that adopting a kinder, gentler approach comes without costs. Australia has a generous annual humanitarian intake, but it can’t take all of the world’s needy and suffering. If Australia once again decides to grant migrants asylum based on the fact that they’ve managed to reach our territorial waters, we shouldn’t be surprised if our quota is consumed largely by those with the financial means to do just that.
Given Australia’s relative isolation and the enormous expense of paying people smugglers (the cost is known to exceed $50 000 for a family; a fortune for those in war-torn developing nations), we can’t pretend that an open door policy creates the distinct possibility that the most needy candidates miss out.
Waleed Aly – one of the best known banner carriers for the open doors lobby – provides a prime example of this tendency to lecture about the grave inhumanity of offshore processing while stopping short of offering any kind of realistic alternative.
His latest Fairfax column is a masterclass in sanctimonious verbiage:
“But perhaps the greatest horror is that as a nation, we’ve now become so hopelessly addicted to the fictions that justify it. It’s not just the fiction of Nauru. It’s also the fiction of Australia, which you might recall we’ve declared simply doesn’t exist if you’re coming here by boat. You can dock in Sydney Harbour if you like, and as far as the law is concerned, you simply never arrived here. But there’s also the fiction that Nauru and Papua New Guinea were ever anything more than a dumping ground for us… At some point, the clock runs out. And on that day, maybe the alarm will sound on these mighty fictions that have been sustaining us. Then who will we be?”
As a columnist and TV personality, saying this type of thing has the benefit of giving Waleed an appearance of empathy as opposed to our morally impoverished political class. The difference is that unlike Waleed, the Prime Minister, cabinet and parliament don’t have the luxury of being able to live off the grace of their good intentions: they also have to wear the consequences.
Perhaps a more simple way we can put this is that incentives matter. If you know you have a good shot at permanent resettlement in Australia by travelling through multiple countries and paying a people smuggler take you to Australia, chances are you’ll opt for that over throwing your lot in with the international refugee resettlement bureaucracy.
As we saw just this week, incentives also operate on a much smaller level. A reliable favourite of the open-border activists is that offshore detention centres are so awful that asylum seekers are driven to self-harm. In a move that enraged many, Dutton ordered that if self-harming asylum seekers required medical treatment in Australia, their family would not be allowed to join them.
Was this another example of the kind of gratuitous act of mean-minded malice we’ve come to expect from the government?
Not so fast. As soon as Dutton’s order came into effect, the self-harming on Nauru stopped. Immediately. What changed was that there was no longer any incentive to use self-harm as a way for asylum seekers to bring their families to the Australia.
To be sure, this kind of measure can seem a bit heavy-handed. But lets put it in perspective. No one is being denied medical care. Asylum Seekers on Nauru are given a reasonable allowance and they’re free to roam a peaceful island. Clearly the standard of living in Nauru falls well short of what we enjoy in Australia. Yet for people fleeing the threat of persecution and violence, this must surely count as some improvement.
As Chris Kenny put it following his trip to Nauru late last year
“Nauru has become a vortex of political and personal agendas conspiring to mask the truth. Even simple facts and obvious realities can be difficult to discern or expose. Happiness is disguised, secrets are kept, identities are hidden, allegations are made and politics are played.”
Like any complex area of policy, there’s little doubt Australia’s asylum seeker processing policies and practices can be improved. There isn’t a single politician who doesn’t want to reduce the number of children in detention. That said, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and high-minded pontification without any realistic consideration of the practical alternatives available.
If Waleed Aly, Julian Burnside and Sarah Hansen-Young are genuinely interested in improving how Australia deals with asylum seekers as opposed to burnishing their credentials amongst Australia’s human rights industry, they should spend more time on the the former and less on the latter.
Satyajeet Marar explains why feeding the trolls isn’t such a good idea.
So, there is a dude who plans on holding a ‘neomasculinist” gathering at Hyde park. The same dude who has written articles saying that rape on private property should be legalised and that women are meant to follow the orders of men. I won’t mention his name or alias for reasons that will become clear as you read more of this article.
Let’s consider what actually happened here.
Until yesterday when the story broke, you had probably never heard of this person before. You wouldn’t know his face from a bar of soap with hairs stuck to it. He could’ve been just some other blogger writing random articles no one or few people read.
Anyone can go online and write an inflammatory article that would upset a large group of people. It’s quite easy, I often manage to write things that piss off people without even trying. In his case, the formula was simple. Find a highly touchy topic with 99% of the human race on one side of the fence and write a seemingly sincere defense of the morally indefensible other side. Do it in a way that at least attempts to sound like an attempt at a serious argument.
Step #2, sit back and watch the fireworks. Love and admiration are great, but they don’t generate hits. Hate on the other hand, works wonders. How else do you explain how an article more than a year old has gained international attention?
This guy doesn’t seem like an idiot – malicious sexist perhaps. But idiot? nope. He’d be a fool to think that he could make a public announcement about a meeting at a public place given all the heat on him. He insists that he’ll be Sydney in a few days, yet Peter Dutton clarifies that he has made no attempt to apply for a visa. What gives? Something smells strongly of shenanigans.
Because the people feeding this guy’s machine and helping him attract followers aren’t the dudes in fedoras with an ax to grind with women. They are actually the feminists, male allies, newspaper journalists and anyone else who has, with perfectly good intentions (except for some of the journalists), made this dude a target. I’m sorry to say ladies and gents, but you’ve been royally duped and you’ve given an internet troll exactly what he wants – helping him sell more books and website views in the process to jaded, disenchanted and bitter men on the fringe of society. Men who until now, did not know this guy existed and who were predisposed to endorse his misguided, bigoted views assuming they did not already.
Making things even more complicated, are the lines being rather unsubtly toe’d by his legions of detractors. Many have quite literally come out to say that him and his followers should be banned by police force from meeting publicly or privately to socialise or discuss their views in order to protect those to whom these views are offensive i.e. society as a whole. Though the views are offensive and I don’t have much sympathy for these sycophants, this again plays into their narrative of oppressed individuals threatened with a denial of their ‘freedoms’. This not only places an even greater focus on their views, but ironically affords them a degree of legitimacy they would not have gained on their own.
One single article and an announcement about a meeting – a total cost of a few cents, are all it took to give this man international press coverage with even the Immigration minister of our country adding to the mix following demands from (ironically) the same people who want to shut him down. The public outrage machine, though perfectly justified, has given him something private companies pay millions for.
So let these dudes have their little boys club. Treat them as you would the drunken guy yelling obscenities about Zionist conspiracies outside the kebab shop. Once the trolls are no longer being fed, they will return back to their homes – under bridges and in the basements of disappointed parents.
Jack Wilkie-Jans writes on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II
In Australia there is much social political discussion (or a resurgence of) around the topics of Australia becoming a republic and of changing its national flag, as well as the growing movements of Aboriginal sovereignty versus the proposed changes to the Australian constitution to officially include First Peoples of Australia. Such topics seem mostly- if not only- prevalent on or near January 26th. While such discussions continue to take place and precedence in the mainstream, populist press there also remains a great deal of war and famine around the globe and we are seeing a continuing and growing humanitarian crisis stemming from the Middle East.
Over decades we’ve seen historic paradigm changes in regards to numerous social conventions, such as race relations and most recently positive challenges around the issue of sexuality and marriage equality, taboos which have otherwise stood for centuries. We’ve also been witness to the resistance- some of it savage- such change often meets. The world has also seen in recent years the passing of so many great international leaders and great personalities who have helped shape the 20th and 21st Centuries. Through all of this and through all of the upheavals and positive changes over the past 89 years, 63 years and 11 months, there is one person representing an institution who and which remains a steadfast icon of stability, trust, diplomacy as well as tradition & progressiveness alike: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
While several Commonwealth nations no longer have the Queen as their Head of State, she still remains the Head of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, of course, is perhaps one of the Queen’s most magnificent jewels in her long career. A diplomatic feat unheard of in a world where monarchies are overthrown and republicanism has swept into the populist nationalistic discourse; transitioning the British Crown’s kingdom (upon which the sun never set- a remarkable feat of the Queen’s Great-Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria) peacefully and sustainably into the Commonwealth would have seemed impossible under any other reigning monarch.
Her Majesty’s altruism, insight and unmatched experience in world affairs has ensured the successful maintenance, albeit morphed, of not only the “empire” but more significantly her own House. Like in Australia, calls for a republic and independence have been heard loudly from the United Kingdom. The Queen weathered the storm of both Scottish and Irish secession, made it through the other side in one piece while also being able to not simply survive as the Head of State but also thrive due to her ability to heal and ‘make better’ as opposed to merely ‘making do’, ensuring her subjects gained more out of having her maintain. Arguably the two main benefits of maintaining the Queen as the Head of State ensures a nation’s stability and strategic ally in Great Britain amidst a world of turbulence; the other main benefit is the income generated by tourism to estates and also the general interest level there is in such a withstanding institution. Removing the Queen as the Head of State doesn’t so much gain something as it loses something never attainable again and the fact that places like Australia are reluctant to try out a new structure of governance/rule adds to the confidence in the understandable and manageable role of the Queen. Unlike a President of a republic, Vice Regals or the Queen, while assenting to legislative changes, do not sign executive orders. Unlike presidents, Monarchs and their Vice Regals are bound by conventions and preside above politics. The comfort in this security and unknowing of potential abuses of executive power by possibly elected figure heads is what keeps a minimally drafted republic at bay here in Australia.
At the beginning of January, my fiancé and I travelled down to beautiful New Caledonia—a French haven in the Pacific Ocean. While there are similarities with Australia and it reminds me of Queensland in some ways, I observed that New Caledonia’s standards of living are similar to, but markedly lower than our own. Once I arrived back home, I started looking into why and the reason became clear: exorbitant tariffs that raise the price of foreign goods, as well as a government monopoly on telecommunications.
Prices for basic consumer goods, groceries and other essentials, as well as café food, are all about 50% more expensive, if not twice as expensive as our own depending on the good or service in question. This is no coincidence: New Caledonia imposes a range of tariffs on imported food and goods. There is a minimum 5% tariff on the value of all goods, a further “general tariff” on other goods which is usually about 21%, a port and airfreight tax of 1-3%, customs duties of 0% to 20% and a further “locally manufactured products tax” (TCPPL) designed to make imported pasta, yoghurts, chocolate and ice cream unaffordable. There are also consumption taxes levied on imported products and agricultural tax. It is not hard to see how taxes could raise the price of overseas goods by a third or more once compliance costs are added on top. Indeed, the Australian government openly points out that New Caledonia’s “high cost of living [is] partly owing to heavy market protection.”
Luckily, Australia’s tariffs are low compared to the rest of the world and our living standards are correspondingly high. Yet unions, the Greens and to a lesser extent both the ALP and the Liberals have refused to embrace free trade. We saw this for example with the CMFEU’s media campaign against freer trade with China.
New Caledonia’s monopolised telecommunications industry is a sterling example of poor government service provision. Equipping ourselves with a SIM card complete with mobile phone and data usage would have made getting around, contacting relatives overseas and seeing the sights a lot easier. But the island’s Post Office has a legal monopoly over the provision of internet, mobile phone and telecom services and its offices were literally the only places on the island where SIM cards were available. Its opening hours were restricted to office hours, it closed entirely for an hour’s lunch, and closed for the day at 4pm. Moreover, prepaid SIM cards in New Caledonia were remarkably expensive at $81 per card (6195 XPF), which is more than ten times the price of a prepaid SIM card in Australia. International calling cards, which would have reduced charges further, were entirely unavailable in Noumea thanks to the monopoly. The Office seems more interested in ensuring that its employees receive extraordinary benefits than in delivering services to New Caledonians, let alone tourists.
In Australia, by contrast, any tourist can arrive at the airport and buy a basic prepaid SIM card for $20 to $30 with a range of carriers, many of them with airport shops catering to new arrivals. They are sold in a range of shops, milk bars and other stores, meaning that it is possible to buy one and call a relative or friend 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The contrast with New Caledonia’s monopoly provider could not be greater.
In these circumstances it is a wonder that in Australia the ALP and the Liberals have looked at New Caledonia as a something of a model to espouse. Back in 2007, Kevin Rudd established a monopoly on fibre cable internet in this country via the NBN, which has proven a waste of time and money. While the Liberals initially campaigned against the introduction of the NBN, they refused to privatise it while in office, promising instead to deliver fewer services at a lower cost. Promises aside, under both parties the NBN rollout has been accompanied by years of ongoing delays, price controls that ban the NBN from raising prices to meet demand, and bans on competition from private sector high speed fibre cable providers. And as is typical of government projects, the NBN is likely to blow its original whopping $41 billion taxpayer-paid budget under both parties. It is projected to cost $73bn under Labor and between $46bn to $56bn under the Liberals. It is strange that the Australian government is is so committed to preventing Australian from accessing affordable, privately provided high-speed cable internet simply because it cannot abide the very thought that their pet project may suffer for it. At least the NBN’s monopoly is limited to high speed cable internet and did not extend to other telecom providers. Otherwise we would be left as badly off as the New Caledonians.
As for the holiday itself, it was quite enjoyable. My fiancé and I relaxed on the beach for a week, reading literature and generally lazing about like satisfied cats. It was a wonderful experience, but we may go somewhere a little less expensive and a little less quiet in future.