In the film classic Casablanca, whenever a crime is committed the local police captain orders his officers to round up the usual suspects.
Political commentary, in fact public commentary in general in Australia suffers from the Casablanca effect. The same bunch of over-opinionated fringe players who see themselves as instant experts on anything and everything. Never slow to pop their heads up with a controversial quote for the media. The usual suspects!
Last week submissions closed for a parliamentary inquiry into the National Broadband Network. TelSoc, of which I recently became vice-president, lodged a submission prepared by a working group of highly qualified industry experts. Unless the federal Government takes notice of two key recommendations millions of consumers are destined to continue suffering second rate broadband for years to come.
This massive infrastructure project is scheduled to be completed by mid-year, although as I have previously pointed out that’s at best a theoretical deadline given that replacing about a third of the fixed-line network will arguably need to begin almost immediately.
A report released by communications minister Paul Fletcher has confirmed that so-called ‘Internet piracy’ declined dramatically following the arrival of Netflix and other online streaming services – debunking the need for ‘site-blocking’ laws controversially introduced following a well-funded lobbying effort by local representatives of the Hollywood studios. In the same week NBN Co announced it is cutting in half its pricing for new connections to encourage reluctant consumers to sign up to its troubled broadband service.
What these two incidents suggest is we need politicians to engage more with industry experts when making technology-related policy decisions. We also need IT / telecommunications groups to do more to ensure the government of the day is well advised. And we need more mainstream media focus on keeping everyone better informed.
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 helped dump huge amounts of confidential material secured illegally from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If it had been leaked 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!
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.