Australia’s commercial television networks are in trouble. Not simply because of the Coronavirus but because they failed to develop effective strategies to counter the arrival of Netflix and other ‘streaming’ platforms – something anticipated long before it happened.
Last week the federal government threw the struggling networks a financial lifeline. It includes subsidies and deferred or waived fees and it reflects savage advertising revenue declines. Sadly for the viewing public however, local drama, children’s and documentary content quotas have been suspended.
Since publication, an inquiry into the the Victorian Government’s handling of its COVID-19 hotel quarantine program has heard that nobody could say where a decision to hire private security guards originated. In a rare move the responsible minister, Jenny Mikakos, actually resigned.
Earlier in the year federal Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy took ‘full responsibility‘ for a $60 billion over-estimation of the JobKeeper wage subsidy program.Yet he did not resign. Nor did anyone else.
Where does the buck stop these days? What should taking responsibility actually mean?
As nearly everybody now understands, the changes that have occurred in public policy in the last few weeks are without precedent, at least since the Second World War. They tell us in the most straightforward possible way that only government finance and organisation can support the people in a national emergency.
They tell us that the extreme free market, small government model propounded by a ‘think tank’ like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) doesn’t work when it matters most.
They show us that independent institutions with a public purpose like the ABC and CSIRO truly are part of the bedrock of Australian society. And they remind us, as we endlessly discuss issues of public health, that good government policy just cannot be based on the perverse denial of scientific understanding.
As most of us are holed-up in our homes working or studying online as a response to the Coronavirus a bunch of politicians ignored medical advice and gathered together in Canberra. Perhaps it’s time for a virtual parliament?
Of course this would require that we first fix the NBN so that all our elected representatives and their advisors have decent broadband at home and in their electorate offices.
The reality is many families will struggle with inadequate telecommunications, especially those NBN customers with the FTTN (fibre-to-the node) service delivered over old copper wires.
To be fair to Mr Fletcher, the culprits who destroyed a nascent 21st Century broadband network – Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield – have all gone offline, so to speak. They’ve left parliament and they left behind something smelling like what comes out of the wrong end of the elephant in the room.
The creation of the Commission can be viewed in one of two ways. Either he’s put together a group of highly accomplished individuals who are “doing their bit for the country”, to quote Mr Morrison, and they’ll deliver great ideas and practical plans. Or, it’s a classic example of ‘pass the parcel’ and henceforth the government will be able to say they just did what they were advised to do.
Telstra’s decision to only offer a maximum 50Mbps plan to more than half its NBN customers is another setback in the quest for #BetterBroadband and further vindication of Labor’s plan to make Australia what Malcolm Turnbull subsequently dubbed an “innovation nation”. It’s the latest fulfilment of a highly political decision by Tony Abbott to instruct Turnbull to demolish NBN Co.
If anyone knows about good and bad broadband it’s Telstra. And they know that anything other than fibre is second best.
The buck has to stop somewhere. Despite the prime minister’s best efforts when it comes to the so-called ‘sport rorts’ affair it’s unlikely to stop with a temporarily sacked minister. Now the work of his highly politicised department head is firmly under scrutiny.
The OTIS group of disgruntled federal Labor politicians has helped Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in a number of ways they probably didn’t intend.
For starters, forewarned is forearmed. His supporters – which is a majority of the caucus and overwhelmingly the grass roots party membership – want ‘Albo’ to become our next PM and nothing else comes close to being second prize.
You know the tune, so let’s all sing along: Oh dear, what can the matter be?
Or, if you prefer AC/DC, “Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap”. As we approach the NBN’s nominal completion date of June this year the decision to dump 21st Century fibre and cobble something together using old copper wires and run-down Pay TV cables has left too many Australians humming a very sad tune.
The release this week of the latest financial report from NBN Co underscores what a debacle we have on our hands.