Tag Archives: Abbott

Spoke, 3RRR FM: 29 September 2015

Today I came into the studio to chat with Ben Eltham on 3RRR’s Spoke program. We examined Malcolm Turnbull’s relatively quiet first week as Prime Minister and the strategy behind his cabinet’s first policy announcements. We also discussed our new Treasurer Scott Morrison and his interesting take on the budget situation – that we, in fact, don’t have a revenue problem.

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Spoke, 3RRR FM: 22 September 2015

I came into the studio to talk federal politics with Ben Eltham on 3RRR’s Spoke program this week. We discussed our newly minted PM Malcolm Turnbull, the direction that the Turnbull government appears to be moving in regard to policy and communication style, as well as where on earth Tony Abbott went wrong.

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‘It’s time Tony Abbott opened up his government’

Open government - is it a contradiction in terms?

Open government – is it a contradiction in terms?

Today I wrote an op-ed for the Guardian Australia, ‘It’s time Tony Abbott opened up his government’. The op-ed talks about the Abbott government’s recent less than helpful responses to media scrutiny and requests for information. Please have a read, share and/or make a comment.

Abbott proclaimed that the election was ‘all about trust’, but in power has thrown up significant obstacles to transparency. This week he has the opportunity to change

In the article, I also call on Tony Abbott to affirm his commitment to Australia becoming a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and join 60 other nations in drawing up actions plans for greater government transparency.

The OGP summit begins this Thursday in London. Australia will be represented by Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan and James Kelly from the High Commission.

You can read the full article here and please join in the discussion!

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It’s all just a load of politics

Whilst the Canberra press gallery and broader Australian media mindlessly waste ink and data postulating who “won” Tuesday’s political tussle, I’d suggest the only winner was politics itself.

What about Julia Gillard’s rousing speech effectively obliterating Tony Abbott in his chair with clear examples of his sexism and potential misogyny? That was no watershed feminist moment in Australian politics. It was an opportune time to score a big political point. No one likes a hypocrite so what better time to speak out than when Abbott cries sexist?

There have been a litany of moments in Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership when she has effectively chosen to ignore Abbott’s overt displays of, and complicity with, sexism towards herself and Australian women in general. By expressing her unquestionably genuine offense now, only when her reputation and minority government is at stake, gives off hints of opportunism and sends the wrong message.

It signals to all Australians that calling out sexist remarks towards women is the last resort and socially unacceptable or god forbid, a bit awkward. “You’ve got to toughen up and move on, that’s just how it is. We’ll respect you more if you don’t complain and just take it on the chin”, right? Wrong. But that social fallacy is what keeps many people silent against gender discrimination.

If the woman who holds the highest office in this country won’t or feels she can’t speak out against the extreme sexism directed at her until nearly 2 years into her tenure and only when it’s related to the credibility of a parliamentary motion against the Speaker, how can other less powerful women do the same and with confidence?

In isolation, Prime Minister Gillard’s speech is a progressive light for Australian women and should be applauded, in reality the message, muddied by context and implicit political associations, changes nothing. It’s all just a load of politics.


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I’m No Tech Head But…

There are a few vital facts missing from the debate over the two broadband policies. In fact, there is some misinformation and scare-mongering going on. Shocking, I know. And it’s only too easy to be persuaded by these inaccuracies and hyperbole when few voters understand the technicalities of the two broadband infrastructure proposals. So let me clear up some mysteries for you and Mr. Abbott (who, we discovered from his 7.30 Report interview with Kerry O’Brien, is “no Bill Gates.”)

First of all, Tony Abbott questioned on the ABC1 Insiders program why Australians should have to pay more than other countries per household for an NBN:

BARRIE CASSIDY: But if we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world why can’t we have the best?

TONY ABBOTT: Well if you look at other countries which have got good broadband systems like Korea for instance, like Singapore for instance, they’ve spent nothing like $5,000 per household to create a government run monopoly which inevitably given the history of this Government is much more likely to be a white elephant than a screaming success.

Well, not to worry Mr Abbott. I can explain why Korea and Singapore have not had to spend $5,000 per household on their broadband network… because Australia’s has the sixth biggest area mass (7,741,220 sq km) in the world. South Korea has the 108th biggest area mass (99,720 sq km) and Singapore has 192nd biggest area mass (697 sq. km) – smaller than Hong Kong, and comparatively the same differences exist in land mass. Not to mention that South Korea has a larger population than Australia, 48,636,068 people to 21,515,754 people. So, if you have to lay cable to each household/dwelling in Australia, a lot more cable is required to connect everyone to the broadband network (reminder: we are the only country which is also a Continent in itself).

Mr Abbott is also concerned about putting money into just one technology, fibre optic cable:

TONY ABBOTT: Of course I do Barrie. Of course I appreciate the importance of these things. But let’s not assume that we should put all our eggs in the high fibre basket either.

and on the 7.30 Report he said,

TONY ABBOTT: Well, as I said, I think we can do something that will be good for a lot less price. Our system will give Australians national broadband, but it won’t be nationalised broadband and it won’t depend on just one fibre technology.

So, why should we put all of our eggs in the fibre basket? Because the signals that shoot down fibre cable travel at the speed of light. Last time I checked, you can’t get any faster than that. This is cutting-edge, top of the range broadband technology and the fibre cable itself can’t actually be improved upon in terms of speed, it is only the fibre optic (data) receivers that receive the signals from the cable that can be upgraded in the future. Thus, investing in fibre technology is a long-term, value-for-money solution.

But Mr Abbott asks, what about wireless?

TONY ABBOTT: …I mean all of the people who are making daily use of telecommunications services, increasingly they’re using wireless technology.

All those people who are sending messages from their iPhones and BlackBerries, all those people sitting in airport lounges using their computers, I mean they do not rely on fixed line services.

So why should the Government be so obsessive about fixed line services?

Well, that is also easily explained. Those who use wireless internet on their laptop computers (at home or in a public place like an airport or a café) nearly always rely on a fixed line service (a modem or a router) in the immediate vicinity to interact with, which then sends a signal (through the air or down a cable) to a local exchange point which then continues the signal on to its destination (local, Australia, international) which is usually a server or an end user. If a person is using wireless through their USB modem or their mobile phone, although the initial signal travels through the air to a tower, it is still reliant upon cable technology under the ground to send the data information to its destination and then back to the user. So basically, a strong cable network makes wireless much faster and that is how it will be a reliable technology for the future. And it is important to note that fibre optic cable (which transmits flashes of light) is faster than copper (which transmits electrical pulses) as there is lower signal degredation over long distances.

Later in his interview with Barrie Cassidy, Abbott professed his hope for wireless to greatly improve:

TONY ABBOTT: Well look there are a lot of claims around. I mean there are a lot of people claiming that wireless technology is going to give us very high speeds in the not too distant future.

Once again, wireless will never be the primary technology to deliver broadband because the more users at any one time, the slower the electromagnetic waves are sent and received. Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith, basically affirmed this point in his vague and non-specific reply to Tony Jones on Lateline, 18th August, 2010:

TONY JONES: OK, well that covers your answer to the spectrum thing. Let me ask you this though: isn’t it true that the more people using wireless technology that use it, the slower the speeds. Isn’t that a simple mathematical equation?

TONY SMITH: Well, wireless is contended, but the speeds and the technology is getting better all the time, and we are not only promising wireless, Tony.

The potential problem with the Coalition’s broadband policy is that it relies heavily on private sector investment in fixed wireless broadband and a fibre optic broadband “backbone.” To lay any cable, fibre usually being the most expensive per metre, is a substantial investment risk, with a likelihood of it being unable to deliver fast enough returns. Will the private sector be enticed by this reality? It is a very expensive exercise which makes one think that perhaps it is better for the Federal Government to provide a strong and unified investment in quality infrastructure which will deliver significant outcomes for levels of productivity and quality of living in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, there are uncertainties with Labor’s National Broadband Network (NBN), such as the lack of a cost-benefit analysis of the NBN, a large expected cost of $43 billion, the potential for cost blow-outs and a characteristic inability of the government to spruik and sell the real, more vital and appealing benefits of the NBN. Instead we are being fed the e-health line (online medical consultations via video, subsidised by Medicare), an important outcome but not the central benefit of the NBN.

Ultimately there is a very simple decision to be made when comparing the two policies:

Do you believe that the government should primarily fund vital infrastructure like the NBN (with the risk of slow returns), which looks beyond our current needs and attempts to keep us in line with the rest of the world on broadband?
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy: It’s not an argument about can we afford to build the National Broadband Network…; it’s whether or not we can afford not to build it. Our competitors are building fibre networks; we are falling further and further behind.

Or do you believe that the private sector (with incentives from the government) should (and will) build broadband infrastructure which will be more varied in its use of technologies, but will not provide a unified network/plan?
Abbott: I would rather rely on a comparative market than depend upon a monopolistic government to provide us with decent services here.

…what we need is something which is affordable and deliverable and I think that’s what the Coalition is offering.

NBN Co Ltd Home Page – NOTE: further information on the NBN can be found on the Publications page of this site
Liberal Party website ‘The Coalition’s plan for real action on Broadband and Telecommunications’ – NOTE: this link will open a PDF document detailing the Coalition’s policy
Labor Blog – ‘Help Spread the Facts – National Broadband Network’, 14/8/2010
‘Abbott quizzed on broadband and economy’, The 7.30 Report, 10/8/2010
‘Conroy, Smith debate NBN’, Lateline, 18/8/2010
‘Abbott defends Coalition’s broadband plan’, Insiders, 15/8/2010
‘Gillard promises video doctors with NBN’, IT News, Liz Tay, 17/8/2010
Statistics from The CIA World Factbook

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It’s official, personality in politics is a thing of the past

Love him or loathe him, Bob Hawke has personality in spades. Sunday night’s screening of ‘Hawke’ on Channel Ten and the subsequent Hawke interview was a thought-provoking reminder of this fact. Why so? Well, how many politicians can you think of today that are all of these things: genuine, a visionary, over-qualified and love (and I mean really love) this nation wholeheartedly? (thinking time… … time’s up!) Anyone? No, I didn’t think so. And if you did come up with a name, I’m guessing their credentials are but a shadow of Hawke’s.

Of course, all politicians (and people) have their flaws but Hawke certainly made up for this with his sparkling “man of the people” qualities and charm. Yes, it was a different time, but has Australia and Australian politics changed so much that politicians cannot have a personality? If they do have one, their genuine one, it’s certainly not on display in “campaign mode” at the moment. And this is quite surprising because prior to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott’s rise to the leadership of their respective political parties, it was their straight-talking and self-deprecating humour that set both of them apart from the rest and was a positive quality admired by many.

Now all that features in political speech is a rehearsed and pre-programmed language which, unfortunately, is on constant loop. Julia Gillard’s interview with Karen Middleton on the day the election was called is a prime example of this. “I believe”, “the Australian people”, “moving forward”, “move Australia forward”, “sustainable population”, “budget into surplus”, and so on. Then there’s Abbott with “dead, buried and cremated”, “stop the boats” “stand up for Australia”, “real action” and an oldie but a goodie “great big new tax.” At least in past campaigns there used to be a little spontaneity in interviews, a capacity for vision (NOTE: you don’t need to spend money to have vision), and a quite a lot of substance in policy proposals. I am yet to see any of this as yet in the Gillard vs. Abbott stoush.

This election campaign has begun as a battle of slogans, baby-kissing, hand-shaking, fear-mongering and hyperbolic slugfests and there’s no evidence to suggest that anything will change. Why? I’m putting it down to the rise and rise of political correctness and hypersensitivity, and hence the permeation of political “surface-speak.” The Australian people (groan…sorry) deserve honesty (as much as is possible in politics anyway), policies laid bare for public scrutiny (not 12 point plans or endless generalisations) and a lot more genuineness from the people that govern and seek to govern this country. Have the times changed so much that the values we still boast to have are now extinct? Or is it just in the nation’s leaders that the values of directness, loyalty and passion are not promoted enough? I hope only the latter is the case, which in itself is a shame.

On a positive note, if you don’t like what you are hearing from your representatives… if slogans, repetitive answers and skeletal policies are an insult to your intelligence and your vote, then make your voice heard (as is already the case on Twitter). Make the media hold politicians to account, instead of asking inane questions and accepting dull, substanceless and scripted answers. We are moving backwards, and it is time to “move forward” to substance, directness, genuineness and PERSONALITY. Australian’s can see right through the crap and in most cases, reward those who are genuine, so Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott… Show us more of the real “you” (because you were impressive and engaging to begin with) and then maybe this campaign won’t be so boring, disenchanting and lifeless for us after all.

Transcript of Julia Gillard’s opening statement at her first election press conference, Parliament House, Canberra, Saturday 17 July

Transcript of Tony Abbott’s statement at his first election press conference, Brisbane, Saturday 17 July

‘Our Action Contract’ Liberal Party Australia’s 12 Point Plan, NOTE: this link will open a PDF file from the Liberal Party’s website

Julia Gillard and the ALP’s Agenda, NOTE: this link will go the the ALP’s policy page on their website

Watch the ‘Hawke’ telemovie on Channel 10’s website

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