This week’s capitulation – that’s what it is – by communications minister Paul Fletcher sets us on a course that hopefully will see Australia start moving in the right direction again as we head further into a digitally-enabled future. It’s a welcomed move, but we’d be wise to take a close look at the detail in his National Press Club address before getting too excited.
Today we have finally reached the much-vaunted date on which the Government said it would have completed the rollout of the trouble-plagued National Broadband Network. Despite widespread industry expectations a media blitz by communications minister Paul Fletcher has so far not materialised. No ribbon cuttings and no skywriter plane spelling out “Mission Accomplished” as some jokingly predicted (see postscript).
A rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases being reported in Victoria and New South Wales. China re-instating restrictions as it sees infections return. Our chief medical officer says his greatest fear is a second wave, and there’s the likelihood the coronavirus will linger around forever like the flu.
Yet another IT debacle from the federal government. But this one is different. In this case we could see people die.
The blunt reality is the COVIDSafe app is a dud. Poorly designed and incapabale of doing what it is intended to do. We need a contact tracing app that actually works.
Australia’s Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is right. In his latest vision speech he pointed to the benefits of decentralisation. It’s time we stopped cramming more and more people into already overcrowded cities. It’s predicted that pretty soon 90 percent of all Australians will live in our sprawling capitals. But does that really make sense?
The current health crisis has seen people forced to work from home. We’ve discovered that with modern technology we don’t all need to gather in CBD offices. It’s likely home working will continue when we emerge from the threat of the coronavirus.
In the same week that Labor front-benchers Kristina Keneally and Tim Watts released a discussion paper examining Australia’s cyber resilience the Government was battling to convince us to download an app that IT experts and lawyers warn has basic design flaws.
So, the Attorney General Christian Porter will ban law enforcement agencies from accessing metadata from the proposed Coronavirus contact tracing app. What, just like he stopped them obtaining people’s web browsing history without a warrant under the data detention scheme?
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.