2010: Voting for Liberals

Fibre to the Dunny. For the Win!!1

In a G’day world podcast I appeared on in 2007 I stated I was voting Liberal. It should come as no surprise I am doing the same in 2010

At the beginning of Tony Abbott’s reign as leader of the Federal Liberals, I will admit I was uncertain of his ability to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Through this campaign, Mr. Rabbit has shown a wiser and more mature head. Having met Tony in person, spoken to him one:one and in 2004 manning an election booth – I am certain what we see with Tony is what we are going to get. Whilst I am no longer a member of the Liberal Party, I would consider myself a "small-L" liberal.

On one of the occasions where I met Mr Abbott when he was Minister for Health (2003 I think), we talked about the importance of Information Technology. He was no more a techhead as he was a Doctor; and was not convinced with my ranting on the power of the internet. A senior Liberal advisor stated firstly that all industries lobby about their importance to the future. Information technology is no different. Secondly, that once the politicians care about your industry, it becomes a political football. Increasing control, regulation comes with increased investment. Welcome to where we have been for the last 5 years.

This election Geeks have suffered a cognitive dissonance: vote Labor, get a government funded National Broadband Network (NBN) but with a coupled Filter/Censorship position. Vote Liberal, and you get no Fibre installed into your home but no Filter. Greens supporters will make the observation: "vote Greens". They’re too progressive and socialist for a country boy like me. Or, their attached policies are not to my liking. Larger Government, more public servants and more control of our lives by a nanny state rubs against my grain.

In the 2007 election, Rudd promised $4.7b for Fibre-to-the-Node NBN. This expanded into $43b Fibre-to-the-Home; spanning 93% of Australians as a mechanism for countering the GFC. Whilst there is no pure business plan to spend $5.37b per year over 8 years, Labor has failed to sell a complete social plan for the need for an NBN. There is no vision. Whilst the Minister in charge is shackled by the Filter debate, the geekerati will not help.

To illustrate the importance of internet access, this election Liberals are promising to invest $6.7b (I think) into internet connectivity. Not as generous on funding, and therefore speed – but within their budget constraints. To the Liberals, the largesse of the NBN is a place to grab forward committed funds to reduce debt. They have no vision for the use of the internet and how it has the potential to transform. The Liberals best warrior, Malcolm Turnbull, has been sidelined. I would hope that Malcolm gets re-elected and we find a pragmatic policy that is affordable. A cut down NBN; copper conduits purchased from Telstra with smarter negotiation. And with a vision for its use 30-50 years out.

Fibre, along with wireless, is the future. Both. This is not an either-or.

Oh, and if Labor get back in, the Filter will arise. Games and apps for phones and other like devices will require expensive classification. With or without a wonderful fibre NBN, our creativity will be throttled at the borders. Even if the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, Mr Conroy (if Communications Minister) will find another way to implement his filter.

But the NBN is not the main game as far as I am concerned.

My concerns with Labor is its propensity to plough Australia into more debt. Bad management by both Rudd, but also Garrett et al have resulted in significant wastage of my tax dollars. Less sovereign debt will leave Australia in a better position to deal with the shock of a slowly collapsing US and Europe. The argument that a Government can always tax more to repay debt: this is on the assumption that business is healthy enough to be taxed (and employ staff to be taxed) and there is a healthy world economy that consumes Australia’s exports.

Apart from spending hand over first, Labor has a track record of wastage. Reports on the Building the Education Revolution (BER) state a low wastage %. This is certainly not the case with the Insulation program, another GFC program. Government purchasing should be efficient and not waste taxpayer dollars.

Interestingly, the most progressive policy that taxes the big end of town this election comes from the Liberals: Paid Parental Leave funded by a levy on large business. I think that it is important that women can both have kids if they choose, and continue to work if they choose. Within the economic realities of today, the Liberals have the most attractive policy.

Like all elections, those marginal electorates are receiving the most attention. This is our system working. You have to make your electorate a marginal electorate if you want the same attention. Simple.

I am not so concerned with the “men in smoky backrooms” or voting by random party members that control the levers behind our Federal politicians. It is the same on all sides of politics. Continuing greater transparency on donations and lobbyists would be nice. But nice never wins.

My wish is for all parties to reduce middleclass welfare, and reduce taxation. Or, at least, funnel money into places where the market will fail. Roads, Hospitals, Education.

And here lies the drum. Both parties are using the flow on tax to wrest constitutionally state-based concerns (Education, Health) into the Federal sphere. If this reduced the management overhead, I would support this. The model that seems to be created to increase bureaucracy. More wasting of money. Both parties need to not waste money on overhead.

Politics is never simple: A vs. B; black or White. It is grey with multiple dimensions. This leaves us all wiggle room to argue and discuss; he said she said style conversations. Promises kept; changes in position. Hypotheticals. Rhetorical constructs. It is great to live in a country where we can openly discuss, argue and most importantly: vote.

As I hold a portion of my wealth in US$ and locally in cash – higher interest rates and a lower exchange rate that a ALP/Greens Government is likely to induce. And Fibre to my home, paid for by you buggers at $5000, sounds good too. But it is not good for the future of Australia. That’s why I am voting Liberal. As I am now in Mr Rabbit’s electorate, he has a safe vote in my hands.

Absolute Power

From Richard Farmer’s “Chunky bits” in today’s crikey.com.au:

I know that Lord Acton had papal infallibility in mind when writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 but given the flaunting of their Christianity by our two alternative political leaders that perhaps just makes his words more appropriate:

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it."

Speed, Quality, Cheap. Pick any Two.

The Hon. Peter Garrett, member of Midnight Oil and member for Kingsford-Smith is presently under-the-gun over the management of the Energy Efficient Homes Package.

It seems out of the old adage: speed, quality, cheap: pick any two that the department chose just speed.

From ABC1’s Q & A last night, members of both sides of the house marked Peter Garrett as an honourable and a decent man. His experience leading environmental lobby groups, and leading a successful band shows he can manage people. But Management in a Ministerial sense is way more complex.

Evidently, his department commissioned a legal risk assessment of the program in February 2009. This document was not seen by Mr. Garrett until early this year.

My speculation is:

  • Mr. Rudd & Mr. Swan design a large program to inject money into the economy in light of the Global Financial Crisis. Getting this cash into the economy quickly is paramount.
  • Based on a program created by the previous Government, it was seen as an easy mechanism to gain green credentials and inject fiscal stimulus.
  • Someone in the Department engages an external party to detail any risks. In large projects, there are always risks. Mitigating risk is a part of sound project management. Not all problems can be solved nor foreseen: but those that are foreseen must be managed.
  • Remember: timing is everything. Speed, speed, speed. The Department cannot wait months to create a viable infrastructure to manage all the risks, and as political pressure is on to spread the money out: nothing gets in the way of speed.
  • Conversations between Ministers is all positive and about the velocity of the program;
  • the Department keeps their risk assessment information to lower levels, in an effort to protect their Minister, the program and potentially their job.
  • The Minister doesn’t want to hear or see bad news: even worse, pass this up the chain to the notorious micro manager Rudd.

The causes for this breakdown potentially are:

  • An environment where negatives and risks are seen as bad PR. Bad messaging for the nightly news
  • An environment where speed is critical. Now, now now rather than considered policy execution
  • An environment where people fear raising bad news

Just “firing” the Minister is not going to solve the problem. Although Mr Rudd will probably reach a point where he jettisons Mr Garrett. That will be sad.

Calling AU Developers in Political Sphere


While our keynote and discussion will be invaluable to anyone interested in democracy and communication in the first half of this century I also wanted the forum to be an opportunity for a look at practical examples of new technology tools.

To that end I’d like to invite any developers, web 2.0 or social networking activists with ideas for, or examples of, on-line tools that can be used in political campaigning and who would like to demonstrate their ideas (as a proof of concept or developed application) to the attendees at the forum to contact me.

Microsoft not interested in how the tools were or are developed, what platform or language the tool was or would be developed with as long as the idea is original, is yours, and you are prepared to demonstrate the concept or tool to the audience. It would be preferable if the idea were capable of wide usage but that is a matter for you.

  • Up to three ideas will be selected for demonstration.
  • Financial support will be provided to get to Canberra.

For more information, please visit the Australian Government Affairs blog or contact me.

Understanding Thailand Politics

Mis-named Korat on old Thailand Poster

(ps: the Siamese Cat in the above poster is in fact a Korat)

A watcher of byzantine and machiavellian politics, the situation in Thailand is providing an interesting demonstration of power wielded by history, tradition and might vs money, corruption and popular politics. Neither side is clean, and neither side is completely right. Thanks to Stigherrian and ‘Pong for taking time out to explain the contemporary situation; and in a clearer fashion than I have seen/heard/read elsewhere.

First Australian PM at Hiroshima? For Shame.

Atomic Dome, Hiroshima, Japan

From the ABC: “Rudd lays wreath for Hiroshima victims”

Mr Rudd is the first Australian prime minister to visit Hiroshima’s Peace Park and Memorial.

How embarrassing for Australia. Why has no other Prime Minister visited Hiroshima? Incredulous.

On the other hand, I wonder if a Japanese Prime Minister will visit the Thailand-Burma Railway and apologize.

One day, maybe.

Matt Bai, US Political Blogger in Australia


Join Government, business leaders and political bloggers for Australia’s inaugural Politics & Technology Forum, brought to you by Microsoft Australia.

Quick details: Date: 25th June 2008, Time: morning, Location: Hyatt, Canberra

For the first Forum, Microsoft is hosting keynote speaker Matt Bai, author and political writer for New York Times magazine. Matt will address the rise of political movements in the internet age, with a focus on new forms of Information Technology and how they fashion or replicate the political debate and trends.

In the midst of the neverending US Presidential Primary Season, and just prior to the Party Conventions: Matt visits Australia and provides a vision of the future of politics in the age of Hyperconnection.

Seats are complimentary and strictly limited. To reserve your place, RSVP by 11 June 2008 and quote event ticket code‘BAI’.

Australia is going to be stupider in 2008

Mandatory censorship is bad. Strange day for an announcement: a day when the powers-that-be deliver our deserved bread and circuses.

Who decides what is good or bad? We each have our own definitions of good and bad. I saw the Coen brothers film a few days ago, No Country for Old Men: it was absolute shite. Others, including film critics, love the movie. I see very few redeeming qualities in a movie about a psychopathic serial killer-for-hire. But I am thankful I could choose to see the movie and make up my own mind.

Do you trust the government or faceless bureaucrats to decide what books, newspapers or movies you shouldn’t see? Who black-lists an IP address? How do you get off the black-list?

Maybe internet black-lists are not enough. Next we should have black-listed countries. Cannot go to Brunei, sorry. Oh, and if you get there by a circuitous route, we’re going to jail you. Cars are dangerous too. People die in cars. Cars are bad, and should be banned.

Come on, people. Education. Teach people. Spread out knowledge. Using the internet is like reading and writing: online literacy is absolutely vital.

Stop being a nervous nanny and “just blocking” sites. It will not work in 100% of cases, so why do it? How will the unitiated know if a part of the internet is black-listed and they cannot see it?

I am with Uncle Mike. Educate, not Censor.

Australian Politics on G’day World 299.

Debating with Cameron Reilly is like fighting an intellectual tornado. Thankfully I was being grilled after a bottle of merlot.

In the instance of this podcast, I am speaking for myself not my employer (which I make clear in the podcast)

In retrospect, the discussion could go on for another 30 minutes: the concept of Geeks for Good is a concept that is rattling around in my head.

Fibre to the Dunny


(original image)

With Australian Politicians using “Fibre to the Node” and “Fibre to the Home” as election ploys, I think It’s Time to raise the issue to a new level:

Fibre to the Dunny.

We should not rest until every Dunny in Australia has Fibre. Face it, that’s where the best browsing occurs.

Also, with Australia’s rising colorectal cancer, an increase in our fibre diet would also help future generations.