One of the fundamental principles of the democratic system enjoyed in Australia for more than 200 years is the right to make representations to your local MP, or in the case of local government to your elected councillors. Changes made last year to NSW planning laws have denied ratepayers this avenue and effectively handed unbridled power to unelected council bureaucrats.
By LAURIE PATTON | 13 June 2019 (Updated 26 November 2019)
It’s time for more humane treatment of Julian Assange. Guilt or innocence aside nobody should be treated the way he is allegedly being treated. More than 60 doctors have now written an open letter to the UK authorities saying he suffers from psychological problems including depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment. They want him transferred to a hospital. Clearly they have a point.
However, while I accept that Assange is not in good health and deserves better treatment let’s not applaud what was a dangerous practice and a dubious precedent – publicly exposing unverified data that could potentially risk peoples’ lives and create unforeseen collateral damage. How would you feel if it had included sensitive and confidential information about you?
In my opinion Assange is a whistle-blower not a journalist. He dumped huge amounts of confidential material secured illegally from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If he had leaked it directly to the media outlets that subsequently, but very selectively, published reports based on some of his WikiLeaks files he probably would not be in gaol in the UK facing extradition to the United States.
In the 20th Century each successive generation fared better than their parents, both socially and financially. The likelihood is that trend will continue this century – if we all work together finding solutions to the very serious problems facing the environment and we leverage the benefits accruing from the emerging digitally-enabled global economy. There has always been a ‘generation gap’ and probably always will be but when it comes to existential matters solidarity forever I say!
On the ABC’s Insiders program host Fran Kelly asked health minister Greg Hunt why the Government didn’t have an immediate response ready on the aged care royal commission report just released. “It wasn’t a surprise to anyone, was it”, Ms Kelly observed with obvious frustration.
No, it wasn’t. Not to anyone whose parents or friends have ended up in an aged care facility. Not to any politicians who have had their eyes open. And most certainly not to the highly paid bureaucrats in our federal and state health departments.
So why do we need to keep having formal inquiries before anything is done about known problems in government administration and abject market failures? Problems that so dramatically impact on the lives of the most disadvantaged among us.
We pay politicians and public servants to do a
job not fob off their responsibilities to royal commissions and the like.
I think there are three things we can learn from Frank Walker’s life and legacy. First, his willingness to make personal sacrifices for fairness and justice. Second, his pragmatism – to know the best possible outcome when you see it, and to not let it go. Third, to be able to provide a calm and sensible voice in the midst of emotion and hysteria. These lessons are no more relevant than to the current national discussion about the Uluru Statement, constitutional recognition and an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
To quote veteran IT journalist Sam Varghese,“NBN Co’s latest attempt to put lipstick on a pig – the animal in this case being the network it is building and the make-up in question being speed – goes one step further than the ‘alternative facts’ which its former chief executive, Bill Morrow, used to dish out”.
The spin doctors at NBN Co are understandably annoyed at media reports reminding people that Australia has dropped from 30th to around 60th in global broadband speed rankings. So they came up with a novel solution. They made up their own numbers. The trouble is nobody in the IT world seems to believe them.
Earlier in the week Telstra chair, John Mullen, conceded the company must accept some of the blame for our flawed National Broadband Network due to its ‘recalcitrance’ back in 2007/2008 when it submitted a petulant bid that didn’t meet the requirements of the government tender to build a nationwide network. However, he then went on to attack the project, in particular drawing attention to NBN Co’s decision to compete more activley in the so-called ‘enterprise’ market – the provision of wholesale rather than retail products.
It’s all very well, if not ironic, for Mr Mullen to complain about a company offering a competitive service but let’s not forget that one of the biggest impediments to NBN Co’s financial performance, and thus its overall success, is the extremely generous terms of the deal the Coalition did with Telstra when Malcolm Turnbull followed Tony Abbott’s instruction to ‘destroy’ the NBN and opted to buy access to Telstra’s old copper wire network and its ageing Pay-TV cables.
In my view, NBN Co ought to consider renegotiating the deal with Telstra over access to their ‘pits and pipes’ and in return agree not to compete in the enterprise market. And Telstra should repair the damage it caused by negotiating in good faith – for Australia’s sake.
Communications minister Paul Fletcher today spoke at an industry conference and outdid his Coalition predecessors in an extraordinary attempt to defend the beleaguered National Broadband Network. These are just some of the comments he made to an incredulous audience of IT professionals who know so much more than he does.
For the foreseeable future Australia will rely to some extent on mining for economic growth and to maintain our standard of living. Yet unresolved debates over a number of proposed coal mines have exposed a politcial rift that may well determine the outcome of the next federal election, just as the issue had a major impact on this year’s poll.
While the risk is arguably greater on Labor’s side the turning tide of public opinion spurred by concerns about Global Warming suggests both the major parties would be well-advised to start thinking about their future responses to the demands of the mining lobby.
One solution is to create jobs in other sectors for the people displaced when mines close or new mining licences are rejected.
Internet access is now the most complained about telco service in Australia according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s latest report. The state of our trouble-plagued NBN continues to see consumers heading to the authorities in the faint hope their broadband problems can be fixed. Alas, the future remains bleak for millions of NBN Co customers until the Government abandons a flawed set of technologies simply incapable of delivering 21st Century speeds.
Back in December 2016 I attended a fancy black tie dinner at which then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was one of the guest speakers. Toward the end of the evening, having spotted me at a nearby table, Mr Turnbull beckoned me to join him in conversation. We’ve known each other for many years.
Not missing an opportunity I told him that his NBN was in big trouble. Actually, I used far more colourful language to describe this fetid project. However, I also said that there was a solution that should be adopted ASAP. “I need to know about this. Come and see me”, was the PM’s response.