Monday, September 30, 2013

Chris Pyne - the gift that keeps giving

Chris Pyne has followed up his comments about Uni places and fees by talking about curricula and testing.

In a memorable line he says ''I don't believe in handing over responsibility for government policy to third parties." And hence asserts his right to recast the National Syllabus.

It does, however, slightly affect his claim that the existing syllabus is Labor oriented - since he clearly acknowledges it was written by a third party and NOT the previous Minister.

He also said, ''I know that the left will find that rather galling and, while we govern for everyone, there is a new management in town.''  Which raises the somewhat frightening concept that every time the Government changes the curriculum should too.

The actual curriculum for years 1-10 only cover Maths, Science, English, History and Geography.  The curriculum for senior secondary school are for the same subject areas but in greater depth.

But it was the following excerpt from the report that I thought required more digging.

Mr Pyne said the national history curriculum played down ''the non-Labor side of our history'' despite the Coalition governing for two-thirds of the past 60 years.
I thought I'd look at the content of the Year 1 to 10 Syllabus to try to figure this out, looking at the High School Years.  Really Australian history only features in Years 9 and 10 (Year 7 is ancient world, and year 8 is medieval). The last 60 years is exclusively Year 10.

Let's just face a few facts.  The big events that can't be avoided are WWI, Depression and WWII.  The facts are that Labor governed for most of these periods.

Further examination shows that outside these the focus is on things like cultural change, the war in Indo-China and its aftermath (including refugees) and the environmental movement.

But if we understand that history isn't just content for the sake of content, it isn't just learning a list of Prime Ministers, it ultimately is a study of change. That is it will always look like it is focussed on "progressive politics" because that is where the focus of change rests.

Conservative values are an important part of understanding all these progressive causes.  They explain why the causes weren't initially - or in some cases ever - adopted. 

If Pyne wants to make sure students read these he should sponsor a set of monographs on the conservative responses to those issues. In the end all change has developed through a dialectic - the existing thesis, a proposed antithesis which resolve to a synthesis.  Good history will understand that, but the content areas stay the same.

But I must admit I was wondering what other curricula he thought should be adjusted, because the existing lot is all too much biased by progressives.  So, a few thoughts.

In English - lets stick to the classics written before 1900.  If we do have to do with modern things like understanding newspapers anything will do so long as it is from News Corp.

In biology - obviously he should throw in intelligent design because this Darwinian evolution stuff is just a dangerous progressive theory.

In physics - clearly Aristotelean physics hasn't really been disproved yet, and if we can teach Newtonian and quantum mechanics then surely the "classical" mechanics can be taught.

In mathematics - complex numbers are right out, how can we possibly have maths based on an imaginary number i?
Finally we come to geography - and in high school geography you learn about weather and climate.  True to conservative values this will be taught to be unchanging, just as there will be no discussion of erosion because that is another dangerous progressive idea that the world isn't the same today as it has always been.

Ahh - the wonders of being a conservative!  Life is so much simpler - much less to learn and think about.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Student Politics

With Chris Pyne saying he wants to abolish the student activities levy we've had lots of commentary as if this is a repeat of compulsory versus voluntary student "unionism".

Some young Liberal bright spark looked down a camera lens and said that student politics was the "training ground" for Labor politicians (as if that alone was a justifiable reason for not having it).

He perhaps needs to know more about his own party to learn

PM Tony Abbott - President SU SRC 1979
Treasurer Joe Hockey - President SU SRC 1987
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull - Board Member University of Sydney Union

and going back a bit further

Robert Menzies - President of the Melbourne University SRC 1916

Student politics is a good training ground for lots of people who are later engaged in civic life - including politicians, judges, journalists and others.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Myths of competition

Everyone knows prices are lower with competition - right?  Well - actually they aren't. There is absolutely nothing in the theory of competition that says they must be in all circumstances.

But that doesn't stop people from continually asserting it when talking about telecommunications.

The latest horrendous examples occurred on the 7:30 report last night. The short excerpt from a report by Greg Hoy;

IAN MARTIN: Look, I think it's a fantastic opportunity to get more competition going in at least a large part of the market where companies like TPG and Optus will be able to use their own infrastructure to provide services, broadband services, high speed broadband services directly to consumers.

DAVID KENEDY: The Coalition already envisages that it will allow Telstra and Optus, if it wishes, to continue to operate their cable broadband networks which reach about 25 per cent of the Australian market.

GREG HOY: Competition is a good thing, it can drive down prices. But this is sure to trigger a debate as to whether those who haven't already
been connected to the NBN will be saddled with an inferior technology for the foreseeable future.

So let's look at the theory and reality of competition.

The assertion that prices are lower under competition comes down to a simple conclusion of orthodox economics.  The first conclusion is that a profit maximising firm will set price equal to marginal cost. (see note)  The second conclusion is that where the market output is produced by a number of firms (competition) then firms will enter or leave the market till marginal cost equals average cost - so price equals cost and there is no profit.  (This is economists profit which includes the need to get a return of and for capital in the cost).

The monopoly scenario is built around a market where there is no entry or exit - and as a consequence the firm's profit maximising position is where the mark-up (that is (price-cost)/price) is equal to the inverse of the own price elasticity of demand.

This also highlights another myth - hat monopolists charge whatever price they want.  This is not true.  If costs go up or decline then price will too.  How much by depends upon the shape of the demand curve and hence how elasticity changes from one point to another (elasticity varies the whole length of a linear demand curve).

If the cost doubles because there are competing firms and even assuming this creates the competitive outcome (see note) for prices to be lower under competition the monopoly mark-up would need to have been over 100%.  While that is possible, whether it is in fact the case is an empirical not a theoretical question (that is, what is the actual demand). I am not personally aware of any studies that have indicated this has ever been the mark-up in telecommunications access monopolies.

Which is all good so far.  The question is "why one firm?"  That can be because of regulatory barriers.  But economists recognise it can be because of a thing called "natural monopoly" - which is formally defined as one where the cost function is sub-additive.  That is all possible values of industry output can be generated more cheaply by one firm rather than two.

This condition clearly applies to distribution networks.  I have said it before - no one who promotes competitive access infrastructure in telecommunications advocates duplicating water pipes, electricity wires or gas pipes.

We have had three types of competition in fixed line telecommunications in Australia. The first between HFC and copper pairs.  The second between two HFC networks. The third between competing providers over copper.

The competition between HFC and copper should have been intense because Optus's reason for building HFC  was for telephony competition.  But it didn't work very well, and the price point for accessing Telstra's copper was cranked down by the ACCC to the point where HFC wasn't really effective - unless used in a bundle.  The ability of HFC and copper to co-exist is very similar to the co-existence of gas and electricity.  The latter both deliver energy, but the former is better for application that need heat (household heating, cooking, hot water) while the latter is essential for driving everything else.  Pay TV was built to deliver linear TV, copper to deliver voice, and both were tweaked to provide two-way data.  Both have limitations for data - HFC has poor uploads and shared access capacity, while copper has distance limitations and is severely affected by loop quality.

The issue is that FttH is actually superior to both HFC and copper for all the communications applications.  The rationale for competing platforms expires.

The competition between HFC networks was a disaster.  The two networks wound up competing on content, and once one got a sustainable lead the market fundamentally tipped.  The Optus HFC network still exists but is a poor second cousin to Telstra.  It is also important not to get fooled by the accounting treatment of the Optus asset.  Over a billion dollars in value has already been written off - an accountant will measure profit against the written off base - for an economist the written off cost never truly goes away.

Finally we had competition on DSL over Telstra copper.  Competition cannot be credited with any price declines that came about through the reduction in the ULL price by the ACCC.  Where competition has been effective has been in the upstream component - by taking responsibility for the engineering of the service beyond access firms make decisions about Quality of Service.  Others gain benefits from scale efficiencies on backhaul (from access to network core) and transit (from core to other places on the internet).  Really clever firms understand price elasticity and drop prices in anticipation that lower prices will add scale and reduce average cost to justify the price decline.  All of that happens actually in a world just like NBN Co - there is a monopoly access provider.

So really the idea that the access network should be a monopoly is a no-brainer.  Costs and prices will be lower.

The question then is why a Government owned one.  And there are two simple reasons for that.  The first is that as it is a monopoly it needs to be regulated - and one of the best ways of doing that is Government ownership, rather than tension between interests of shareholders and interests of Government.  And the second is the ability of Government to be a patient investor, which enables it to make the big call to build the whole network relatively quickly.

Actually the Australian Government has a good record here.  The copper telecommunications network was built by Government.  When Telecom Australia came to be in 1975 only 62% of households had a phone.  The Post Office had been entirely funded through revenues and commonwealth borrowings since at least 1959.  When Telecom was created it assumed all $4.5 billion of that debt.  Between then and 1989 Telecom paid interest on that debt and repaid $1.5 billion of the principal.  When it was corporatized in 1989 the remaining $3 billion was converted to equity.  The Government received dividends from Telstra in return.  Immediately prior to the first tranche of Telstra being sold it paid a $3 billion "special dividend" to the Government. I can't recall how much the Government got over the three floats - but it was over $50 billion - for an asset with a carrying value of zero!

And an interesting story dredged up from the archives:

Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson says the federal government should consider spending part of the AU$34 billion it will reap from Telstra's sale to build a national fibre-optic network.

Treasurer Peter Costello has said he wants to see all of the money from the Telstra sale tipped into the government's new Future Fund set up to cover public servants' superannuation payouts.

Anderson said a plan by the Nationals think-tank The Page Research Centre, for the government to build an AU$7 billion fibre optic network across Australia, deserved serious investigation.

He also called on the government to have a close look at the true state of Telstra's existing copper wire phone network, its maintenance cost and how much it would cost to replace it if necessary.

Anderson said the issue of how a shortfall of telecommunications services, particularly in the bush, might be met in the future must be addressed.

"It is my view that if it emerges that there are circumstances where the normal commercial forces are not going to drive critical investment in infrastructure and if it becomes apparent that government intervention is needed...the logical first option to fund it would be from the sale proceeds," Anderson told a telecommunications conference in Canberra.

"It's hard not to observe...(that if the technology) was optical fibre rather than copper a lot of the concerns of regional Australians about Internet speed simply would not have arisen."

Later, Anderson told reporters he thought it would be unlikely the government would have to dip into the Telstra sale proceeds to build telecommunications infrastructure.

But he said such a move would be logical if needed.

Note: The orthodox view has been challenged.  Steve Keen has demonstrated that the orthodox approach underestimates the actual price in real markets.  Also if the market is not fully competitive the mark-up doesn't drop to zero even in theory - the mark-up becomes the HHI divided by elasticity where the HHI (or Herfindahl–Hirschman Index) is the sum of the squares of market shares of firms. The lowest that can be under duopoly is merely half - that is the mark-up is reduced by 50%. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Tony Abbott we all really know

Tony Abbott started his political career, like so many others, in student politics.

He shot to fame as the first Right President of the Sydney University SRC for quite sometime, and also through taking the fight up to the extreme left at the Australian Union of Students.

It was his career at Sydney that I knew best.  A campaign to become President of the SRC on the key theme that he opposed compulsory student unionism.  And his main gripe with compulsory student unionism was that funds went to support minority causes like feminism and gays, and particularly Left causes like Palestine.

But that was the sum total of his policy.  He didn't control the whole SRC or even the Executive, so he didn't actually achieve much.  The University administration had no interest in voluntary student unionism. They appreciated the services provided and the contribution to campus life from the three funded bodies - the SRC, the Union and the Sports Union.

SRC fees went to many more things than the fringe issues so disliked by Mr Abbott.  They funded Honi Soit, an often outrageous newspaper that has still spawned the talents of many Australian writers.  They funded many clubs and societies on campus, including faulty societies which brought students together. 

The only issue of substance I can recall was a petition Mr Abbott prepared that received enough signatures to require a constitutional amendment for the SRC be put to a vote.  The Executive was concerned that the amendments as drafted would make the constitution internally inconsistent and proposed a slightly different amendment be put.

Mr Abbott launched legal action - listed as Abbott v Havyatt et al.  The matter never went to hearing as the executive relented.  The proposed amendments were put to referendum and defeated.

The purpose of this long tale from over 30 years ago is that the same appears to be Mr Abbott's approach to the much bigger job he won by being clear what he was opposed to, but never what he was in favour of.

Today we read about Mr Abbott's second round (after Climate Change Commission) of agencies to be cut.  The common theme is that they are agencies that do things that Mr Abbott just philosophically (note that word) does not support.

So he abolishes the Major Cities Unit in infrastructure, because it will tell him the importance of public transport investment.  And Mr Abbott's opposition to public transport investment in entirely illogical since he believes these are "over-manned, union-dominated, government-run train and bus systems''.
He is also unwinding what are tagged "nanny state" agencies.  The Australian National Preventative Health Agency - which leads the fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use - is listed as one of these.  And it performed the sin of spending money researching the effects of a fat tax despite the fact that neither party was proposing one.

And here we come to the first problem of the world according to the Conservatives.  They believe the public service exists only to implement policies decided by politicians.  They do not want the public service to provide advice on the economic, social and technological changes that might require a policy response.

So where are the politicians in this conservative world meant to get that advice?  The first answer is you don't need such advice because the principle approach is to change nothing.

The longer answer, of course, is you get that information from the private sector. The pharmaceutical companies can tell you all you need to know about obesity - can't they?  The distillers, brewers and fermenters can tell you all you need to know about the health effects of alcohol, can't they?  And didn't the tobacco companies do all the research on tobacco?

And is this really "nanny state" - or is it prudent management of the burgeoning health budget.

Then we get told the Australian Institute of Criminology could be reviewed and possibly merged with a University.  Which is possibly fine till you then read about the intention to rip $100 million dollars from Australian Research Council grants. 

The Coalition has always run a line of finding some obscure piece of research funding and making out it represents waste.  In the article today the example of a costly academic indulgences the Coalition plans to wipe out is "a $443,000 study into the "God of Hegel's Post-Kantian idealism''".

It is quite interesting if you Google that phrase.  You find that it is the title of an ARC grant to Professor Paul Redding from the Philosophy Department of the University of Sydney. Professor Redding has edited a volume on "Religion After Kant: God and Culture in the Idealist Era."

Dig further and you realise that Professor Redding's research is part of a bigger Program in the History of Philosophy.  I don't really know where we have got to if an ordinary analytic philosophy program is under attack.  Maybe we really should stop referring to Abbott's own "philosophy" since his Government has such apparent disregard for it.

Much fun has already been made of this line - "Other key Rudd reforms - including the expensive bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council - are being wound back with a planned new Australian embassy in Senegal to be abandoned." - in the twitterverse.  Memo, we have the seat now.  But do we really want to start by reneging on agreements with Africa?  Does Julie Bishop have no appreciation that after the Pacific Rim, Australia's next strategic focus is the Indian Ocean Rim?

To add to all this let's just remember how impressive Tony Abbott has always seemed on indigenous affairs - he really does get in touch with his Catholic sense of the need to do "good works" here.  But there is now an issue about a plan to spend his first week in office "on country."     While it is tempting to suggest the excuse he could use is that it wasn't written down, the more prosaic reality is that the new PM has discovered (a) that there is more to being PM than he thought and (b) that his security detail simply wouldn't countenance it - yet.

But in reality, what you see is the Government that reflects its leader.  A leader who knows what he doesn't like - and at the top of the list is any independent research or advice on the policy challenges for the government.

After all, you become Prime Minister or President of the SRC by talking about what you don't like - not what you might actually plan to do.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Albo's campaign launch in Sydney

Both Albo and Bill Shorten have three word slogans for their leadership campaigns.

Albo's is Vision. Unity. Strength.
Bill's is Party. Policy. People.

I will attempt to deconstruct their messages in a later post.

But here is Albo at his Sydney Launch

Income inequality

On Monday's QandA David Williamson got away with this statement;

But I think all the naval gazing about the ins and outs of factions and that ignores the fact that the Labor Party has to find a direction to go in, to stand for something and they didn't at this election. I think the obvious thing that they need to stand for is the fact that Australia is becoming one of the more unequal countries in the world in terms of the Gini Index, which measures inequality. They are way out. Australia, US and UK are very unfair societies and Labor is supposed to be standing up for fairness but they run a mile.

This concerned me greatly - especially when Father Bob tweeted it as a fact that Australia was as unequal as the US and UK.

The Wikipedia article on this is very useful because it includes the measurement of the Gini Coefficient from the World Bank, the CIA World Fact Book and the OECD (the first two report as a percentage, the third as a ratio).  The OECD reports both before and after taxes and transfers.  The closer to 100% (or 1) the more unequal a society is. 

Let's just record the values for each of the US, UK and Australia using these four measures in order

US - 45, 45.0 and 0.486, 0.378
UK - 34.0, 40 and 0.456, 0.345
Aust- 30.5, 30.3 and 0.468, 0.336

So on the World Bank and CIA data Australia is much less unequal than the US and UK.

The OECD data is more interesting - before transfers Australia falls between the US and UK, but after transfers is more equal than both (which means our taxes and transfers do a better job of  addressing inequality).

Using the OECD data it is correct to say that after transfers Australia is now more unequal than it was in the nineties, and this is cause for concern.

It is also an interesting fact that while before transfers Australia is more equal than France and Germany, that situation reverses after transfers. 

On the basis of the data it is wrong to assert that Australia is becoming one of the more unequal countries in the world.  It is even wrong to say it of the developed world.

It is fair to say that the trend after transfers has been heading in the direction of more inequality, but one could add that currently by GDP per capita (in $US) Australians are the 5th best well off people on the planet.

Robb - again

No sooner had I written about Andrew Robb's claim on Insiders that the mining boom would be rebooted than confirmation came that Robb was moving from Finance to Trade.

Someone at the SMH wrote this comment.

So while Robb has said the mining boom will be rebooted, his job as Trade Minister is to attract foreign investment to help Australia adjust to the end of the mining boom.

Ahhh - if only all politicians could be so "flexible."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coalition in disarray on economy

The Coalition's two leading economic Ministers appear to be at odds on what needs to happen in economic management.

The AFR reported this morning (behind paywall) that Joe Hockey has realised the economy continues to need Government expenditure as stimulus.  He is therefore planning to bring forward road building to cover the drop off in construction activity as mining softens.

But Finance Minister Andrew Robb told ABC Insiders last Sunday that the mining boom isn't over  - it is merely resting due to the mining tax.  He said;

As of today the mining boom will be rebooted, right. Under Labor it was finished because of the cost uncompetitiveness that we now have. We will change that. There's $150 billion worth of projects there to be grabbed. We can do so much. We can get Australia open for business. We'll restore an appetite for risk and investment, people's jobs will grow massively. Small business will come out from under the huge shadow that they've had for the last two years.

I tend to agree with Joe.

Mind you if he is really concerned he should make sure the Coalition doesn't change the design of the NBN.  It takes a long time to ramp up road projects, but NBN Co is now ready to continue the ramp up of its construction activity.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Economy and Abbott

As an update on yesterday's post The Australian today reported "Economy rides Abbott Victory." The evidence offered was an increase in share price and in consumer confidence.

It is a bit of a worry that this paper equates the economy to the share market.  It is about as bad as the way the retailers equate the economy with the sales in their stores.

The reality is the economy is much more than all these. 

But the value of shares on the stock market is a measure of expectation, not reality.  It is how much people expect the shares to be worth either because of what the companies will earn or (in a bubble) what they will sell for in the future.

If, as noted yesterday, the public has an assumption that the party of the bosses is better at managing the economy, then one would also expect the election of the party of the bosses to create a shift in the stock market.  The news that would justify a page one splash would be if this hadn't occurred.

Meanwhile, in commentary on Monday the chair of the BCA was arguing that a double dissolution should be avoided because it would be bad for business and consumer confidence.  This follows the business community's comments about the 'minority' government.

One really gets the feeling that the business community and its cheer squad at the Oz just regard democracy as a nasty little impediment to the capitalist state!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Better economic managers?

Excellent article by Ross Gittins today

He makes the point that voters react to the question of who are the better economic managers - Labor or Liberal - instinctively rather than rationally.

He writes in part;

I believe something similar operates in our unconscious attitudes towards the two main political parties. We see the Liberals - the party of the bosses - as the party best suited to run the country.
And that's it - the assumption surely the business people can run the economy better.  It matches up with reasons why not all citizens supported replacing autocracy with democracy - surely the lords and kings know better.

In the election Bob Hawke had a stump speech he used at launches and fundraisers where he made the claim for Labor as being the better economic managers - citing the reforms he and Keating made and the way the Rudd Government responded to the GFC.

To that I always add the Whitlam Government for the 25% tariff cut and the Trade Practices Act.

Both parties can screw up on anything.  Rational voters would think about what was being said.

There is no way that Abbott-Robb-Hockey are a strong economic management team.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Just a simple aide memoire for people who might need to write articles about Ziggy Switkowski.

His Wikipedia bio only mentions his Kodak and Optus careers in passing.  The CWU division of the CEPU provides a bit more.  In particular, that he was chairman and MD of Kodak (Australia) and was credited with the rescue of Kodak. Kodak was almost a basket case but the Labor Federal Government offered incentives. 

On 30 April 1996 he was announced as the new CEO of Optus, and resigned just over a year later on 13 June 1997.  My recollection - though journalists should check their newspaper archives - was that he fell out with the Board over his inability to develop a strategy.

After eighteen months as GMD of Telstra's Group Managing Director, Business & International Switkowski was appointed CEO of Telstra on 1 March 1999.  When his departure was announced in December 2004 the 7:30 Report noted that every time his departure had been rumoured the share price had picked up.

Despite reports - the latest being by Terry McCrann today - that Dr Switkowski has been "tapped" by Malcolom Turnbull to be Executive Chairman of NBN Co, Mr Turnbull has reminded everyone this is a Cabinet appointment.

It would, however, be an extraordinary appointment.  Mr Turnbull has repeatedly said the NBN Co Board needs experienced telco people, especially those who can roll out a network.

This just doesn't seem to be a description of John Howard's former nuclear power adviser.  His record as a CEO is;

  • Turned Kodak around - temporarily - only after a large subsidy from the (Labor) Government.
  • Could not deliver a strategy for Opyus.
  • Had a disastrous record of $5 billion in acquisitions at Telstra and ended by contemplating - while still majority owned by the Government - buying the Nine Network.
One just wonders what he could do for NBN Co.

Monday, September 09, 2013

A nice description of the dilemma

There wasn't a lot to distinguish Rudd and Gillard. But this Canberra Times story neatly covers one part of it.

It said in part

The great project, first begun by Gough Whitlam and later rebuilt by Bob Hawke, is threatened as never before. In the long, barren decades of defeat after Labor lost office in 1948, Whitlam's critical insight was the party needed to reach out.
It could no longer simply rely on the workers' votes. It needed a broader base: cultural workers, environmentalists, and the middle class.
On Saturday, that alliance fell apart. Gillard had defined the fault line by identifying herself with the workers, rather than the progressive elements of the party. That was a desperate attempt to bolster her own internal support. But Kevin Rudd has also proved unable to reach out. Voters decided that he - and Labor - have been unable to present a plausible narrative for Australia's future.

This is a clear distinction. For Gillard the ALP is a labor party, for Rudd the ALP is a progressive party.

But those constituencies don't perfectly overlap.  The classic problem area is the battle between development and conservation - a Labor party wants jobs for loggers, a progressive party wants to save the environment.

The distinction spills over into the conceptions for the organisation of the party.

The distinction between Shorten and Albanese is a bit the same, though the evidence suggests each has a more nuanced view.  

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Dog Ate My Homework

The full glory of the Coalition filter "clusterf__k" is shown here.

Still begs the question of how it happened.  ZDnet and The Age are reporting that Malcolm Turnbull is effectively blaming party headquarters. 

But let's really look at the Coalition spokesman on Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.  What has he done in three years?

OK - he released a broadband policy - but it doesn't actually have a detailed business plan as he claims.  Nothing like it.  And it leaves as many questions left unanswered - the cost of the copper, the placement of nodes, the digital divide.

The "digital economy" policy he released really only talked about Government IT.  The only comment on real digital economies was to name Sweden, Denmark, Korea and Singapore as leading digital economies - all leaders in deploying fibre to the home.

He has criticised the Government for not completing anti-siphoning legislation - but not said what he will do.

His only comment on ABC and SBS fuinding is that their budgets will be cut if savings need to be made (Labor even exempted them from the efficiency dividend).

Cyber-safety he outsourced to a backbench committee and didn't read their policy.

It isn't an impressive record over three years.  Maybe he was just too busy appearing on QandA to do the real job of a shadow minister.

Coalition NBN fantasy land

The Coalition's commentary on broadband in this election campaign has been one giant fantasy land.
It has been led by the following false claims about Labor’s policy:

Claim: Labor’s NBN will cost taxpayers upwards of a $100 billion.[1]
Fact: Government equity for Labor’s NBN is $30.4 billion.  This is an investment that will generate a 7% return.[2] The Coalition plans to invest just 3% less for a network that can only guarantee one fourtieth the speed.
A full analysis of how the Coalition concocted this number and why it is wrong can be found here.

Claim: Labor’s NBN is going to result in a dramatic increase in broadband prices.[3]
Fact: Broadband plans available on the NBN are already available at comparable prices to existing plans for a better service. Wholesale prices will decrease in real and nominal terms. Average Revenue Per User will grow as consumers choose higher speed plans and use more data, but will not increase as a percentage of household wallets.

Claim: That if NBN Co was a listed company and hadn’t released its Corporate Plan the ASX would suspend it.
Fact: There is no requirement for companies to publish their corporate plan, there isn’t even a requirement for Government Business Enterprises to publish their Corporate Plans. The release of the annual Corporate Plan of NBN Co is part of the unprecedented level of transparency on this project. 

Claim: That NBN Co claim to have passed premises which they cannot connect.[4]
Fact: As NBN Co states the premises referred to can connect but require different processes. Specifically that includes the need to agree with a Body Corporate on the way to cable the specific building.

They have also made the following false claims about their own policy.

Claim: The Coalition will acquire ownership of the last mile copper, for no additional payment.[5]
Fact: In May 2011 Mr Turnbull berated the Government’s deal with Telstra saying “the inability of future governments to make use of parts of the copper network was a disastrous oversight that could potentially deliver billions of additional dollars to Telstra at the expense of taxpayers.”[6] Telstra has not backed this assertion. 

Claim: That the Coalition has built the cost of remediating copper and quite a bit of contingency into determining a $900 cost per premise for fibre to the node.[7]
Fact: Mr Turnbull invented a $3600 cost per premise for fibre to the premise and then claimed that on the basis of overseas examples his fibre to the node would cost 25% of that. There is no analysis of actual costs and not even a specification of how many nodes and what the actual fibre lop lengths will be.

Claim:  All contracts will be honoured.[8]
Fact: The Coalition policy says “The Coalition reserves the right to review and seek to vary any of those contracts in the light of the Coalition’s broadband policy.”[9]  There are 200,000 premises already passed and a further 1 million for which contractors are already at work; but Mr Turnbull’s policy only provides for completing 565,000 premises under Labor’s structure.[10] This is not consistent with the claim that contracts will be honoured.

Claim: More people will get fixed line broadband, and at higher speeds and less cost under the Coalition policy.[11]
Fact: The Coalition policy specifies that the same approach to fixed wireless and satellite will be taken as Labor.  There is no difference in the forecast premises to be addressed by fixed lines in either policy.

Claim: That the Coalition policy contained a detailed business plan.[12]
Fact: The Coalition policy document contained two pages of data on how their policy was costed - most of which didn't reconcile with other statements.  For example, ARPU grew at 9% not the 6% claimed. The CapEx and OpEx numbers were only provided to 2019 and did not reconcile with totals claimed to 2021.

[1] Sky News 23 August 2013
[2] NBN Co Corporate Plan 2012-15, and reconfirmed at Joint Committee on the NBN 19 April 2013
[3] Sky News 23 August 2013
[4] Malcolm Turnbull interviewed by Alan Jones 28 August 2013
[5] Sky News 23 August 2013
[7] Malcolm Turnbull interviewed by Tom Tilley on Triple-Js’ Hack 22 August 2013
[8] Malcolm Turnbull interviewed by Tom Tilley on Triple-Js’ Hack 22 August 2013
[9] Coalition policy page 12. 
[10] Coalition policy – background paper Page 31.
[11] Malcolm Turnbull interviewed on ABC South East NSW Mornings 5 August 2013
[12] Malcolm Turnbull interviewed by Tom Tilley on Triple-Js’ Hack 5 September2013

Thursday, September 05, 2013

When is free speech not free speech?

In the last policy to be announced for the election - less than 40 hours from polling - the Coalition propose a new restriction on what people can say on-line.

It seems like these fine gentlemen propose an e-Safety Commissioner to be charged with the power to direct that content be taken down from social media websites. No court, no process, just a single content censor.

Go figure. Meanwhile their leader wants to roll back Racial Discrimination laws in the name of "free speech"

Mr Abbott said

"Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn't hurt people's feelings is ridiculous. If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we've got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company."