Monday, December 19, 2011

Drongos in charge #auspol

A decade ago one of our likely lads was caught up in the "War on Error" as junior Bush invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq - exporting freedom packaged up and delivered the American way.

It took almost ten years for David Hicks to get back to the relative calm of his homeland and family after the Liberal/National Government abandoned him to Guantanamo Bay - all to please the neocon's in Washington and to enhance little Johnnies' election prospects at home.

Fast forward another decade and Julian Assange awaits a similar fate after using "actual evidence" to expose the skulduggery that is US foreign policy. And another Australian Government has abandoned him to the wolves and charlatans in the US administration. But this time it won't enhance the election prospects of our Prime Minister - quite the reverse.

WTF is going on with our Governments?

Back when David Hicks was incarcerated, The US was an out of control warmonger and our Liberal/National government was obscene with its encouragement. Little Johnny thought of himself as regional deputy to Bush’s global sheriff. As if.

Back then, Mark Latham our Labor Leader of the Opposition called junior Bush the "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory". Not very far from the truth as it turns out.

And two Labor Prime Minister's later we have young Ms. Gillard refusing to support Julian Assange because her friend Obama is now US President and he wants our help to wage war across our region. The last thing he wants is anyone exposing US belligerence and skulduggery via Wikileaks so he wants Assange locked up - preferably in Guantanamo Bay.


"Does it seem to you that we actually have a sovereign government that is looking out for the interests of Australian's - or have we somehow become the 51st US state"?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Evidence and Policy #auspol

I am not normally a big fan of this place - but their paper "Price Drivers: Five Case Studies in How Government is Making Australia Unaffordable" tells the unfortunate story about how Australian's have been ripped off by successive governments. Here is what they propose.

* Bananas - Dismantle the ban on importing fresh hard green bananas from the Philippines into the non-banana growing states of Tasmania, Victoria, ACT and South Australia, if not all
states and territories.

* Books - Repeal the "30 day rule" in the Copyright Act 1968. Allow a three-year adjustment period for the industry before the changes come into effect. Review the changes five years after the repeal.

* Cars - Abolish the remaining import duties to allow commercial importation of new vehicles. Abolish the Luxury Car Tax. Allow the private importation of used vehicles into Australia that are – not older than 10 years and have not been driven more than 120,000 kms – only from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Japan and New Zealand, and – fit to obtain a "pink slip" on arrival.

* Housing - Increase supply by encouraging councils to take on more residents through local government finance reforms that reward councils for accepting more residents. Policy recommendations are available in the CIS report Australia’s Angry Mayors. Abolish both negative gearing and first home buyers grants. Abolish or at least reduce stamp duty on property transactions. Cap infrastructure levies or replace them with funding streams based on income tax. Alternatively, give councils access to a share of the locally generated GST revenue.

* Retail - Support the Productivity Commission’s recommendation to relax planning and zoning regulations to – increase land supply for retail, and prevent these regulations from being used by established retail-space owners as anticompetitive tools. Abolish commercial viability testing for new shopping areas.

All of these things make perfect sense. The only thing that amazes me is how long it has taken for the expose to become public. Everyone of us ought be asking our MP's to demonstrate what action they are personally taking to put pressure on their leaders to fix these things.

And the fulltime focus of our Prime Minister and her Cabinet should be to deal with them. I do accept that they didn't create the problems but they could win lots of kudos by fixing them. It's not exactly rocket science - all you have to do is look to New Zealand to see how the car proposal has worked out.

Perhaps this is how Julia can re-connect with the people? We can only live in hope.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Fix Broken Stuff

This post by Dave Winer got me thinking.

Not so much about Android and the tech industry - I already use Android and have been in the tech industry for nearly 40 years. And by the way I agree with what Dave says.

But more about how our various Governments seem incapable of getting things to work properly. Particularly those things that they have responsibility for. Like Health.

If you have been following the schemozzle that is QLD Health you will know what I mean.

Disaster follows disaster. If it isn't bogus medico's performing unnecessary surgery and maiming patients then it is bogus finance staff who are embezzling millions. What about the things that haven't yet made it into the media? The place is a circus.

It does remind me of similar stuff up's in another state health system where some of their staff were being paid twice - and a few were being paid three times. And apparently that had been going on for years. Bet you didn't hear about that?

And the various QLD Managers and Ministers and their Premier seem completely lost. Yesterday the Premier announced the dismantling of the Health Department - to be replaced by what? Disneyland probably.

Why is it so hard for seemingly smart people to build an organisation and management capability that actually works? That is the $64k question.

And the answer has two main components;

* The nature of state politics means that they are only ever thinking short term - which is between now and 5 minutes after the next election. An average of 2 years.

* And inertia conspires to keep things just as they are. Change involves pain and it doesn't really matter how broken the system is - trying to fix it will make a lot of comfortable people feel very uncomfortable.

I wouldn't even attempt to fix it - it's far too broken for that. What I would do is build a new system from scratch and transfer any good bits across from the old one. Mind you it will take some smart people to design that new system so it doesn't end up like the one they already have. So I probably wouldn't use the same folks who built the current one - Virginia ;-)

And when it was up and running then I would switch the old one off. A bit like what Qantas is doing with Jetstar.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Straight out of Crikey today - Hilarious

The mythical story I most love about the late Kerry Packer concerns the businessman who approached Packer in an airport lounge one day with a simple request. "Kerry, I'm about to have a really important meeting with someone. It would really impress this bloke if you came over and said hello." Packer agreed and a few minutes after the meeting started he sauntered over to help his new friend.

But before he could speak, the man waved him away. "Not now Kerry, can't you see I'm in a very important meeting."

The story has been retold so many times there's probably no chance it's true, but it's a great little fable that underlines how important the backing of men like James and Kerry Packer can be.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Wasted Century #auspol #alpnc

Nearly 12 years into the 21st Century and we still have no coherent rail system within and between the cities of our nation.

Only Sydney has an even partially working metro rail system and that is just creaking along on century old infrastructure. None of the other cities have a system of any real substance or usefulness. But Hong Kong and Singapore have fantastic systems - parts of which have been designed and built by Australian's. Go figure.

And our city to city and interstate services are just woeful. The only regional rail system with any credibility at all is Vline in country Victoria. This is actually quite good - the service is good, the rolling stock almost relevant and the timetable and pricing sensible. The only problem is that it doesn't go anywhere that anyone wants to be. But that is an accident of geography - not a criticism of Vline.

How is it that in 2012 we still haven't managed to build a fast, reliable, environmentally friendly, customer centric and useful rail transport network? And why is no-one in power even thinking seriously about it?

The Europeans have managed it with all their different countries and languages and complexity - but we can't manage it here. What does that tell you about the *dead hand* of Australian state governments? I am afraid that parochial B grade politicians have seriously stifled progress in this nation for many decades.

I am pretty sure that Queenslander's, New South Welshmen, Canberran's, Victorian's, South Australian's and West Australian's would wholeheartedly embrace a quality rail system that operated within and between their cities.

Instead what we have done is spent our state tax revenues bribing voters with hand-outs - all to keep those same B graders entrenched and in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

And we think this is democracy in action.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Bogan Politics #auspol #alpnc

Our Prime Minister has spent the past year in vigorous pursuit of her dream. All because she and her colleagues have discarded the true Labor voter, are behind in the polls and need to find a new base.

But her strategy doesn't appear to be working.

Because the bogan doesn't care about politics and isn't interested in becoming anyone's political base. The bogan only cares about cash hand outs and asset bubbles. While you keep shovelling cash at the bogan he will continue to vote for you. When the money runs out - or his house and other assets start to devalue - then you had better get out of the way.

Little Johnny knew that - which is how he stayed in power by dishing out large amounts of bogan cash disguised as family payments and why he set up a tax system to distort the value of bogan assets. He knew that it wouldn't last forever and that he and his party would be toast when it all went pear shaped. But it served his purpose for a decade.

And Kevin knew it too - which is why he did his best to shovel cash in the leadup to the GFC. The bogan got $900 and a house value boost courtesy of the "First Home Buyers Grant" and was happy for a while.

And then Julia deposed Kevin and thought she could continue with the same old ponzi scheme.

But by then the political dynamics had changed. Tony had a firm grasp of the bogan and everyone believed that he would continue with the grand old Liberal tradition of shovelling cash if ever he got back into the big seats. And he probably will - because how else could Tony acquire a base - except with his carefully crafted intellectual argument and personal charisma ;-)

Tony's impossible polling numbers are all in expectation that he will have oodles of cash to distribute when next he gets to pull the levers. I hate to disappoint anyone but that is looking unlikely.

And the rest of us don't want two political parties jousting over the same bogan base - and neglecting everyone else. It might be that capturing a 30% slice of the voting population seems like a grand prize - but is it? And what if the other 70% detest you for doing it?

What if you became the political equivalent of Kyle Sandilands because of it?

There is an opportunity for a smart leader to woo the rest of the nation with a compelling story about their commitment to the national interest.

But we don't seem to have one of those.

Wilful and Blind #auspol

It's a good thing that our high quality media commenteers are not easily distracted - because otherwise they would get sidetracked by irrelevant issues that are being put about by charlatans and politicians and the like.

You know what I mean. Low value things Like the killing of 256 children, when is the European Community going to explode or the fun and games of the Republican Party could be wastefully using up column inches and distracting Australian's from the real and important stories of the day.

Real important stories like - "What the Labor Party thinks about gay marriage".


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Grumpy Old Man #auspol

My distaste for our political class may simply be because I am a grumpy old man. Or because I haven't slurped down enough of the kool aid. Who knows?

But the more I see and hear of our Prime Minister - the less impressed I am. She started out a year ago as a novice but has quickly adopted those quirky characteristics of the political bovver boys. Some might use that as evidence of a fast learner. I would suggest that it's more likely evidence of a slow thinker.

During her reign she has vigorously pursued the bogan - as though this cultural icon will be her political saviour. When all it has done is further alienate thinking Australians.

She has sucked up to the American president and congress and military industrial complex - so now we are part of the US too whether we want to be or not. No debate, no discussion and no consideration of alternatives - all very democratic.

She has even made speeches to the corporate class about how those Australians on welfare need to get off their bums and get back to work. Presumably to fill all those imaginary jobs that are only visible from Canberra.

And she and her Treasurer are pursuing neo-liberal policies that are more aligned with her political foes than a compassionate Labor Government. The economy is slowing, unemployment is growing and yet they are madly in pursuit of a budget surplus. Clever politics. Not.

But the most distressing thing is how she has responded to our citizens who are in trouble abroad.

Julian Assange has been under house arrest in the UK for a year and is about to be sent to Sweden to answer imaginary charges. And once there he will be despatched to the US where a grand jury is waiting to lock him away forever - or worse. For what? Because he dared to tell the truth and expose the hypocrisy of US foreign policy.

All the while our Prime Minister says and does nothing to support him. She is being puppeted by her new best friend Obama.

But closer to home we have a 14 year old boy in jail in Bali - who was caught buying drugs.

And she is all over him like a rash. Calling him on the phone, sending our Ambassador out to negotiate, speaking to the Indonesian President about him and generally lobbying to get the dope back home again.

This pantomime might appeal to her new bogan constituents who will be comforted that she will go into bat for them when they get caught with drugs in Bali - but it doesn't do anything for the rest of us.

Assange is a national hero - and the boy is a bogan dope. And who does our Prime Minister support?

PS An update here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Australian

It's not very often that I agree with the position taken by an editorial writer at "The Australian".

Too many of their opinion pieces have been incoherent, just plain wrong or self serving. But today is different.

I am in almost complete agreement with this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Border Protection #auspol

When our politicians eventually get over themselves and realise that they have been taken for a ride by Obama then Australia will need to put in place some real border protection.

Abbott keeps on waffling about how Gillard has lost control of our borders. That is true - but not in the way he thinks.

A few unarmed asylum seekers are no threat at all - but 2,500 heavily armed marines are a huge threat. Again not in the way that people may think. The real issue is how this little enclave will be perceived across our region - and if PM Gillard had any understanding - she would already know the answer.

How is it that our politicians will rant and rave about boat people and the shock jock and tabloid press crowd will spend years demonising them - but a US military invasion of our homeland wins their almighty praise? Answer me that Virginia?

Apparently, dark skinned people in boats who have been displaced by US warmongering in the Middle East are very bad - while US forces in uniform coming here to wage war across our region are very good.

I am just gobsmacked by the hypocrisy. It's pathetic. And not only that but it shows our political actors up as the lightweights they are.

It is obvious to even the most disinterested observer that our political leadership has no real clue. They appear to have no ability to consider the national interest and seem to be dazzled by a US military that creates a bloody mess wherever it goes.

Clearly our politicians don't trust the people enough to engage with them - so why would the people trust our politicians? It looks like becoming a Mexican standoff.

We don't just need to change the political party that gets to exercise power every three years - we need to change the system that gives them unfettered power and allows them to abuse it.

A US military base on Australian soil? That should require a referendum - if not a general election.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How the World Works #auspol

Imagine for a moment that you are the President of a nation that has created the world's largest and most belligerent military force. And you regularly use it to get your own way.

You have found a new best friend - who is the "Bogan in Chief" of a piddling little nation half a world a way - but geographically close to your only real rival in the global power game.

And your Generals and their puppeteers are looking for the next little adventure to keep your Military Industrial Complex on track - while building missiles and bombs and employing quite a few of your people.

So you hatch an ingenious plan.

Both you and your friend are in a bit of trouble domestically and need a "good news" story to improve your prospects of getting through the next election cycle. What to do?

Well the first thing you do is create a new Pacific Regional Trade Organisation and try to involve as many small and insignificant nations as possible - all to obfuscate around your real intent. You hold press conferences and announce the news that this new organisation will make the world great again - and other blah blah blah.

Which brings me back to your new best friend?

You were clever enough some months ago to let her think that the *idea* of the regional trade thingy was hers alone. And then over time in her earnest way, she has managed to *convince* you of its merit. But you never give in easily and need an *incentive* to sway your people and get them behind the deal.

So the trade off was that you would get ready access to a military base in your new best friend's homeland - as a condition of your support.

And as they say - the rest is history.

I suppose we should be used to it by now - it's been going on for around 60 years.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reality bites Politician and Friend #auspol

These are dangerous times for our political class and their hangers on. Especially those who treat their constituents like mushrooms. But most of them haven't worked it out yet. They will soon enough.

Greece has a new Prime Minister - because the old one wanted to hold a referendum on the "austerity measures" that are being imposed on his country by the European Union. The power elite didn't like that idea.

And now Italy's Berlusconi has gone. One minute he is top of his game - hosting bunga bunga parties with Italian starlets - and the next he is toast. Just shows how important it is to keep one's eye on the ball - Silvio.

And James Murdoch gets arrested - someone really is paying attention.

The Arab spring was just the beginning. Now we are seeing a new wave of semi democratic leaders stumble. My guess is that many of the nations that have been pretending democracy will end up in similar crisis. Because when it comes to the crunch they aren't.

Pretty soon a whole raft of pseudo regimes will start to crumble. Why? Because the people are sick of being lied to and ridden roughshod over. The young in particular have become politically active because they feel downtrodden with many being jobless and living in poverty. Pseudo democracy hasn't done much for them.

The rise in social networking - along with Wikileaks - has opened the kimono and exposed the big lie that is democracy. It isn't about the people - it's all about protecting the capitalist elite. In the eyes of the 1% *capitalism* equals *democracy* - end of story.

That's why the US, UK and AU governments are working so hard to neutralise Julian Assange and take down Wikileaks. Because you can often buy a bit more time by shooting the messenger.

So if I were in power in one of these pseudo democracies - I would be rushing to do a couple of things.

* I would be engaging furiously with the people to demonstrate my democratic credentials - all to buy some time.

* While I was working overtime to transition my propaganda machine into one that embraces and exploits social media.

Because it is only then that things will start to look a little less dangerous for our political class.

You think I am joking - don't you Virginia ;-)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hang On a Minute #auspol

Everything that is proposed by the Gillard government gets a *no*, *non*, *nein* shout down from the Abbott opposition. Except for one thing - the nasty little war in Afghanistan. Amazingly this gets a resounding *yes*, *oui*, *ja*.

Isn't that one of the dumbest things about Australian politics? I am sure that many Australian's are shaking their heads and thinking - WTF?

Most Australian's don't want us to continue with this shitty little war. We are unhappy that 32 of our young men have been killed fighting there - because we believe that it is a sham with no real purpose. Or no purpose that benefits Australia anyway.

And yet both major political parties are falling over themselves to demonstrate their support for it. Clearly both our government and opposition have been captured by the US war mongers. How did that happen - Virginia?

The real reason the US is still conducting this ugly war in Afghanistan is because they have a "military/industrial complex" to support. If it wasn't Afghanistan then it would be somewhere else. When the troops leave that conflict then the wingnuts in congress will find a way to start another war with Iran or North Korea or maybe even Mexico.

All so their military hardware manufacturers can keep their deadly production going while their hands are buried deep inside the US taxpayer's pocket.

It's a disgrace that the US now relies on war mongering to keep their economy alive. And it's an even bigger disgrace that our government - and opposition - are cheering them on while putting young Australian lives at risk.

And this morning I hear that US marines are going to have a base in Darwin. Is it coincidence that this was announced on Remembrance Day? WTF is that about?

Australia is supposed to be a sovereign nation. We shouldn't be kowtowing to the US or anyone else. If our government and opposition want to suck up to the US military then let them explain that to the people and then let’s have a vote on whether we want to do it. Or not.

Or that's what we would do if we had a real democracy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

#Qantas - Their Mad Ideology

The biggest cost of the Qantas "own goal" last Saturday will be in attempting to retain their customer base - which is turning away in droves.

And as usual Qantas are doing it the only way that works - with bribes. It looks like their customer retention activities are going to cost $20 million over the near term. The spinners will be ecstatic - what about the shareholders?

So if you are a traveller who was inconvenienced last week - you can look forward to a *free* ticket. And if you are a Qantas frequent flyer then you can look forward to some *free* points.

The only thing is that Qantas *free* stuff needs to be paid for somehow. My guess is that the rest of the Qantas customer base and the staff will be funding this largesse. It probably won't be coming out of the CEO's pay packet - Virginia.

But the bigger issue is this;

According to his own testimony, the CEO took this decision on his own. He decided to ground the fleet alone and then informed the board - who cheered him on. So the cost of this action is due to his exceptionally high quality "business judgement".

I wonder if his "business judgement" will be viewed so exceptionally when the next profit results are released? And when the share price tanks and the customer and staff satisfaction metrics are next revealed.

That's the thing about ideology - it makes people stupid.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why I Support GetUp #auspol

Dear Roger,

I wasn’t planning on emailing you today, but you should know what Senator Ian McDonald just said about you during the Senate debate on climate legislation.

Twice, in our Parliament, he called you and other GetUp members “the Hitler Youth wing of the Greens' political movement.”

GetUp member Andrew's response says it all:

I am a 47 year old Australian citizen, retired Police Officer and a member of GetUp. Your comments in Parliament were not only offensive to me personally but offend the office of Senator. Organisations like Getup exist only because political parties, including the Greens, do not adequately represent our interests. We are many and we will be heard.
- Proud GetUp Member, Andrew

Let's clarify something for Senator MacDonald: movements like GetUp are how ordinary Australians respond to out-of-touch politicians like him.

And then this, from Senator MacDonald's colleague Bronwyn Bishop scorning GetUp donors in a committee hearing. When told the average donation to GetUp is just $27, she scoffed: “$27 doesn’t add up to much.”

But we know what it adds up to: a movement of over half a million Australians trying to make our nation a better place. Of 69,087 people so far this year who have donated to make it all possible. Of progress on the issues we care about and bind us together.

Well Senator MacDonald, I'm proud to be a part of that. Those small donations, each week, create the change politicians like this never will.

It's easy to just laugh at Senator McDonald's comments -- until we remember that he could very well be running the country soon.

Come Tuesday, Australia will finally have a bill to start tackling dangerous climate change… but people like Senator McDonald are hell-bent on derailing climate action and overturning the progress we've made.

I joined GetUp because alone, my voice could never be heard. Alone, my spare change could never match the wealth of those Ms Bishop prefers to have influence. But together, we have something extraordinary.

Senator MacDonald can feel free to attack me personally if he disagrees with me, but it is of no place for any elected official to attack everyday Australians who take part in GetUp for daring to play a part in our democracy. Whatever he calls our movement, I'm so proud to be a part of it.

Thanks Andrew, for saying it better than I could, and thanks Senator MacDonald for reminding us why this movement exists in the first place.

Simon Sheikh,
National Director,

#Qantas - Another Thing

Qantas is so dominant across Australia that I am having difficulty organising trips without using them. I know that the Australian way is to foster and encourage monopoly businesses and to throw in a few minnows as window dressing - but this mob has become too big, too powerful and far too arrogant.

I suppose that is why the far right have manoeuvred to stack the board and management with industrial relations ideologues. As our governments pretend not to have noticed.

And the rest of the airline industry has not been agile enough to exploit the opportunity that now exists. OK they've only had a week to do some strategic thinking - but are they up to it?

I will give them a bit more time to get their act together. But in the meantime I am delaying travel and scheduling trips using "anyone but Qantas".

Intercity bus and train travel and video conferencing is even starting to look attractive. I really do miss the fast, comfortable and convenient Eurostar - but that is half a world away. Nearly 40 years of dithering means that we still don't have a high speed train service between our major cities.

And there is a bit of predatory pricing happening with the current alternatives - but if they were clever then they will use this period to acquire market share and change the intercity travel dynamic - permanently.

If they were clever.

There is a huge opportunity for a travel entrepreneur to acquire a high value customer base using a convenient schedule, quality service and reasonable pricing.

All they have to do is discard the dingbat ideology.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Joyce is a Fool

Like many Qantas frequent flyers I received a letter from Alan Joyce last night.

Two things pissed me off about it.

* The complete bullshit that is masquerading as content. Clearly Joyce thinks that Qantas customers are morons who will lap up his feeble attempt at re-writing history. His is a one sided and belligerent letter. Here is a piece of it.

Our focus now is on our customers. We want to restore your faith by returning our on-time performance to its normal high levels, continuing to invest in new aircraft and lounges and ensuring the best possible in-flight experience.

* No ability to respond. So confident is Joyce of his position that there is no mechanism to respond or reply to his letter. He won't publish his email address and contacting Qantas by any electronic means is impossible.

He is a dinosaur - and he thinks that we are too stupid to notice. I think that he and his Board are going to learn a very painful lesson.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weird Conservative Ideology #qantas

Why we insist on bringing these "whiz-kids" to Australia to manage our icon businesses is just beyond me.

Does anyone remember the debacle that was the AMP under George Turnbull Trumbull - whose "red indian" reign led to a massive $5.5 billion write down at the insurer? He was rewarded with a $13 million termination payment.

What about Telstra and Sol Trujillo and the mess he created? Telstra’s share price dropped by 40 percent while the "hairy chested" little amigo collected $30 million.

Lets see what happens to the Qantas share price and the customer and staff satisfaction metrics as a result of the performance of this latest "whiz-kid".

Part of the Qantas corporate spin is about how their workforce is trying to bargain for some *unreasonable* and *unachievable* job security in their negotiations with the company.

Of course they are. Because for years Qantas managers have been doing their best to remove their workers' job security by outsourcing and offshoring their jobs to Asia, NZ and elsewhere. All in the pursuit of a "cheap and nasty" corporate culture that is so dear to the hearts of our managerial class.

Why is it so unreasonable for staff to attempt to re-gain some "job security"?

The Qantas spinmeisters and media commenteers are busy explaining that the concept of "job security" doesn't exist anymore. They point out that we no longer have jobs for life. And that is probably true.

Except that it doesn't matter so much when you are a Qantas Chief Executive on a AU$5 million salary - because you can afford to spend some down time catching up with your mates for lunch or golf or even a bit of hurling.

It does matter when you are a baggage handler on a AU$40k salary - struggling to feed your family and pay the mortgage.

But then I suppose baggage handlers and their families never catch planes - or at least they never catch Qantas ones so there is no need to treat them properly and pay them a real income.

What we have here is a failure to communicate and a dingbat ideology gone terribly wrong.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

32 Young Dead Australians #auspol

Following the deaths of another 3 young Australians and the wounding of 7 others in Afghanistan - we have seen both the Minister and the Head of Defence standing up and presenting the details on national television. As you would hope and expect.

This time Minister Smith took the time to explain - in simple and thoughtful words why we are there and what the longer term plan is likely to be. And his explanation makes perfect sense - I don't think that is in dispute.

It's just a real pity that neither he nor the Prime Minister has been able to articulate that previously.

What is in dispute is how we got here with 32 young dead Australians.

* How did we get into such a shitty and dangerous little war?
* Why did we follow the US along like lap dogs into this quagmire?
* What changes have we made inside our government to ensure that we don't fall into a similar trap again?
* Why didn't the parliament get to vote on this crappy little adventure and what have we done to fix that?

And so on. These are the real questions that our Government should be dealing with.

And the Government's answer to them all is - "we don't want to discuss that".

Go Virgin #auspol #qantas

The Qantas CEO and Board have been suckered into starting a war with their staff. For what? So Peter Reith can brag to the Melbourne Club about taking the nation back to the 1950's - again?

Qantas have shot themselves in the foot - big time. The Board and Management of this once great Australian icon should resign.

Regardless of what the Board and the Management and the shareholders may want, the people will not tolerate this sort of treatment of their Australian workers.

If Qantas want to cut costs using Irish management and Asian crew and maintenance staff then let them move overseas and call themselves Jetstar. Oh wait - they've already done that.

"Cut costs using Irish management" - that is a joke Virginia ;-)

The truth is that Jetstar was created for this very purpose. What we are seeing now is the final nail in the coffin of the Qantas brand as the Board and Management pick over the remains and give the finger to their Australian staff.

Basically what they are trying to do is to swipe the name, the safety record and the brand recognition - all for cheap.

The real reason why this has happened now is because the *dingbat right* want to use industrial relations as a weapon to destroy our government. If they succeed then we can all look forward to WorkChoices mark 2.

So I am going to move my support to Virgin.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation

The Australian government has established an “Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation” and published an “Issues Paper” on 14th September 2011.

This is my submission to that Inquiry.

It is not my intent to comment on the full gamut of Australian media because I don’t have the time or the knowledge or the inclination. There are however two elements that I am keenly interested in;

* Media Standards and;
* Media Regulation

But before that, let me explain where I am coming from. I am a mere citizen - an Australian consumer of media and an observer of the effect of our media on our democracy. And I am unimpressed by what has been happening over the past several years.

In my opinion, our democracy has been degraded - in part because our media standards have declined. And our media standards have declined in part because of ineffective regulation.

Media Standards

I am truly appalled by how truth and facts have become a casualty in the rush to remain relevant and competitive in a changing media market.

The News of The World fiasco shows just how bad things have become elsewhere.

There was a time when I used to read “The Australian” every day. From about 1980 until 2004 I was a loyal reader. I seldom agreed with the Murdoch world view but I did recognise and appreciate the quality of that newspaper.

These days “The Australian” has gone feral. At least in terms of the quality of its campaigns and with it’s reporting of truth and facts. It usually presents a US centric and rabid right wing viewpoint that is often biased and untrue.

For example, I have been deeply disappointed by its campaign against climate change. Clearly it has not been interested in serving the national interest.

I choose not to read the Murdoch popular press. And I seldom read the Fairfax newspapers. Because while they are not as bad as the Murdoch version, they are not sufficiently better that I need to go out of my way to consume or endorse them.

Similarly I no longer listen to commercial radio - which seems to have cornered the market in right wing blather and opinionated pap. Some of the stuff they dream up is just horrible. It is difficult to believe that Alan Jones and his ilk would appeal to anyone with an IQ above single digits. Perhaps that’s the idea.

I used to make similar comments about commercial television - but I am probably out of date there as I haven’t watched it for some years.

And I used to rely on the ABC to be fair and balanced with its reporting of events in the nation and across the world. But like its commercial cousins those standards have seriously declined in recent times.

I suspect that the ABC is chasing the same audiences - and using the same source material as its cousins (why?) and that has caused their lack of focus on truth and facts.

Is it my imagination or has the quality of the ABC declined during the reign of the current Chairman and Managing Director? Is this declining quality a part of their KPI’s? Is the ABC Board bothered?

SBS has clearly become the stand-out public broadcaster in Australia.

My view of public broadcasting is simple. If they can’t or won’t present the facts and the truth - then why do we need them?

Media Regulation

It is obvious to me that our media regulation is ineffective. How else did we end up with such low value and poor quality?

Now I am vaguely aware that our media regulation is via the Press Council which has been set-up by the industry itself. It looks like window dressing to me - a “claytons” regulator.

Clearly an effective regulator is needed to counter the excesses of a rabid mogul, a newspaper that has wandered off the reservation and a public broadcaster that is running an agenda.

I don’t know what such a regulator would look like or how they would act - but it is clear that they are needed and that they should have wide ranging powers - probably a bit like the ACCC.

Let’s test a few concepts and ideas before we lock anything in and give the people a say via referendum when next we have an election.

In summary, I would like to see a high quality media that operates in an innovative manner and which adds value to our democracy by focussing on things that are in the national interest. This will require enhanced regulation and supervision and a re-focus on truth and facts.

Can we manage any of that?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple vs Google

I am not an Apple fanboy - more of a Googlesta. I have been using Android for a while now - am currently on my 4th phone - a neat little Huawei IDEOS, running Android 2.2. I just seem to wear them out - must be my fat fingers ;-)

The reason why I am wedded to Android is that I am a Google apps user - have been using this software in my day job for over 6 years now and it just keeps getting better.

Gmail is fantastic - easily the best email client on the planet. And while the other software tools are not yet as advanced they are getting close. The Google team are working hard to improve them and new releases occur regularly. If you get lots of email then you need Gmail with "conversation view on".

I just can't live without Chrome, Gmail, Calendar, Reader and the rest of the Google software. If Larry or Sergey ever get to read this then I really need you to build a *proper* Project Management tool. Please?

Which brings me back to Apple - recently I spent a few days with an iPhone. It looks great, the performance is very good, the screen is big and it feels like a quality product - if a little heavy. But it is seriously let down by its apps.

Now don't get me wrong they do work and some are even capable - but they just don't give me the level of control that I need in my day job. The email client in particular is weak.

And this got me thinking - clearly the iPhone is a mass market product. It is not built for the *road warrior* it is a *retail consumer* type product. And it has obviously been successful in that market. I only know that by looking at the number of people who are peering at them on the train during my morning commute.

But I need software with a lot more *oomph* and right now Android is the only thing that allows me to harness the power of Google apps while I am on the move. So I had to give the iPhone back - sorry fanboys.

I have huge respect for what Steve Jobs achieved at Apple. Clearly he understood his market and the success of the Apple products reflect that - but I just need something else.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inertia or Innovation - you choose Virginia #auspol

It’s not very often that I subject myself to an "encounter" with one of our government agencies - because the process is just so painful. It is also a bit embarrassing - because as I keep explaining to my international friends - Australia thinks of itself as an advanced nation.

Last week was a bit special because I had three such encounters.

Firstly, I received a bill from one of our public hospitals for some work that they did to me about a month ago. No complaint with the work though. Of course there is no ability to make payment over the internet or via BPAY or anything else even vaguely convenient. They do take Visa and MasterCard over the phone. And curiously they still accept Bankcard - which closed in 2007.

And the calling number that they published was continually engaged. It took me nearly three days on-and-off to get through before they managed to take my payment.

Got me thinking that perhaps we should upgrade our public health payment processes - before we spend money on shiny new hospitals.

Secondly, I am trying to track down the detail of my Army Service. I was a National Serviceman or "Nasho" during the early 1970's and recently discovered that I have lost my record of service. I want to get it re-issued so I can trot it out as "evidence" of my gung-ho nationalism. Not. The dog also ate my slouch hat and my GP's but that is another story.

So I Googled the Central Army Records Office and sent them an email with my request. Nope - can't do it they said, we must have a "real" letter for our "records", one that is "signed" before the request can be processed.

So I wrote my letter, headed into my office to print it on A4, signed it, went to the Post Office for an envelope and a stamp, queued for 20 minutes, grumbled a bit, sealed it and then sent it off. About two hours effort versus 5 minutes.

Made me wonder if we shouldn't fix our military records management systems - before we acquire a dozen new submarines.

Thirdly, I received a letter from the South Australian Motor Vehicle Registry. Everyone fears this agency because of the arbitrary nature of the revenue chasing schemes that they cook up and the penalties they impose. And this one is a cracker.

I have let the registration of one of my classic Citroen's lapse - because I am not there often enough to use it and the registration fee is way too much. Anyway the letter wants me to return the plates or suffer an "Expiation Fee" because the car has been unregistered for 90 days?

The reason they gave for wanting the plates back is: "to stop them falling into the wrong hands". Say what?

Of course there is no way to send them an email or a TXT or a tweet - or even a fax to get them off my back. Nope I must write a letter, print it out on A4, sign it and then hunt down an envelope and a stamp and finally send it off. And if all that takes too long then I will get another letter informing me of the size of the "Expiation Fee".

It occurred to me that if we were to fix our motor vehicle registry processes - they probably wouldn't need to go off in search of more revenue.

If they still want the plates back then I will put my two remaining stamps on them and post them in the red box.

Isn't *Inertia* a fantastic word - much better than that other one - *Innovation*?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Window Dressing #auspol

A tweet from Paul Barratt this week reminded me about the shortcomings of some of our government agencies. Especially those that have a watchdog role and the ability to expose corrupt and unethical behaviour.

Some of these agencies are intended to be window dressing. Ombudsman offices, Child Support agencies, Equal Opportunity commissions, Anti Corruption agencies and a raft of others exist to create the impression that governments are actually concerned about these things. When often they are not.

Many of these agencies and their services were created with great reluctance and much fanfare - and sometimes every opportunity is taken to remove or reduce funding and to make it difficult for their staff to do a top quality job.

They should be celebrated when they do succeed despite the best efforts of their political masters.

A few have had spectacular successes. I can't identify them here but their people know who they are.

There are probably a couple of books in it - but until we get an electorate that is awake and alert it will be a waste of time.

And it has been amusing to follow the ducking and weaving of our state governments - some of whom are resisting the creation of anti corruption agencies. Eventually they will give in and the agencies will be created - but probably not ever funded properly.

Investigation and exposure of these tactics is the real work of our mainstream media - but they don't do it. Perhaps that will change when Rupert leaves the building.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's Their Real Game? #auspol

Bill Mitchell nails it with this article on "Debt, Deficits, and Modern Monetary Theory" in Harvard International Review.

And if you read it carefully and understand what he is saying then it becomes very clear that our Governments are not actually interested in looking out for their citizens. They are doing something else altogether - something that is built upon a nasty and destructive right wing *ideology*.

Which is why the UK, the USA and to a lesser extent the AU economies are all heading downhill - with their focus on *austerity* and reducing government debt and implementing budget surpluses.

Of course the politics are different in each country but the effect will be the same. A giant friggin mess.

In the UK the Tories are misguided - probably due to their extended period in opposition. Their Chancellor seems to believe that cutting government expenditure will help their economy grow ;-) In the meantime millions of their citizens will have to accept serious pain. The Tories will be lucky to see a second term if they keep this up.

In the USA many more millions will be subjected to even worse pain as the GOP attempts to shaft their President - and the Democrats just look on in awe. Unfortunately the American people have become the victims in a blatant attempt by the Republicans to stop a black man from being re-elected to the white house. It's not even subtle anymore.

And here in AU we have an opposition leader who is trying hard to intimidate our government into adopting a neo-liberal ideology. And it seems to be working a treat - which is why we have a promise by the actual Treasurer to bring the budget back to surplus "as soon as possible". Meanwhile job creation has stalled and the economy seems to be flatlining.

Three so-called developed nations - all with governments playing the *austerity* game and shafting their citizens - because they have been captured by a dingbat right wing ideology - or because they are too dumb to know what such a thing actually is.

I will leave it up to you Virginia to work out who is in which camp.

And now they are all cacking themselves that the Occupy Wall Street protest movement might actually get some legs and turf them out.

Bring it on baby.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Going to a party - A Political Party #auspol

You only need 500 verifiable members to form a political party. Anyone can create one.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission:

All federally registered political parties must meet the eligibility requirements for political party registration on an ongoing basis. These include:

* Being an organisation (constitution, structure and membership) with an aim of endorsing candidates for election to the House of Representatives and/or Senate; and

* Having:

– at least one Commonwealth Parliamentarian who is a member of the party but not a member of another party; or

– at least 500 members who are eligible to enrol on the Commonwealth electoral roll and who are not also relied upon by another party for registration purposes.

Plainly these requirements have been orchestrated by and for the political parties that have gained control of our parliament.

And our actual members of parliament seem to have gone right along with it.

Was there a fight before they handed over control or was it done in the usual way - bribery and corruption - charm and suasion?

Having a political party as the interface to our politics is like having a corporation as the interface to our wallets - without the protection of the ACCC.

I am curious to know how and why it is "a good thing" for the people of the nation to have a political party determining policy for them and for their hand picked representatives in the parliament?

Have we inadvertently outsourced our representation?

And if political parties are such a good idea then why is the Australian Constitution silent about them?

OK I do understand that the duds in the parliament do benefit - because they don't have to do much thinking or say very much as they follow the leader - but how is that of benefit to the dud's constituents?

It seems to me that political parties mainly provide a thick layer of insulation between the people and their parliamentary members - and I would argue that is not a good thing because it tends to muffle both the actions of the member and the voices of the people.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Australia and Asia #auspol

Alison Broinowski has a brilliant article about Australia's engagement with Asia or rather lack of it - over at "The Conversation".

For me at least our ham fisted approach to engagement with Asia and our genuflection to the United States is what has helped "distort" our domestic politics. Apparently Mark Arbib spends his days leaking our secrets to the US embassy - when he should be on his bike across Asia.

Why is it that neither our Prime Minister nor Opposition Leader has a history of engagement with Asia? How does either of them expect to be an effective leader of a nation whose future is so intertwined with the region - when neither of them can be bothered to engage with it?

Their only serious regional engagement is by cheering on the decade old war in Afghanistan - where the US is spending $10 billion per month invading a country with a total annual GDP approaching 4/5ths of 5/8ths of SFA. I don't get it.

Our domestic politics are so badly broken because our current political leaders and their parties have no frame of reference across our region. They take their cues from a sick and broken US ideology. But as Andrew Bacevic has pointed out :
employing ideology as the basis for policy is a recipe for disaster.

They actually don't know how poorly we are viewed across Asia because they don't have any long term experience or relationships with the people who live there. They view it as a place to stop over and do some shopping on their way to somewhere else.

Or they view it as a never ending source of fodder for our imaginary "world class" universities where we spend years training Asian students - so they can end up driving our cabs and serving in our convenience stores.

And anyway how is it that insular and opportunistic local politicians can actually get to be Australian political leaders when they have so little international experience?

Beats me too. But it doesn't seem to bother anyone else.

Perhaps that is why Lee Kuan Yew so famously called us "The poor white trash of Asia".

One Brave Politician #auspol

All it would take is one brave politician to show how it is done.

I was reminded of this again the other day when I was reading Crikey about how Alan Jones is *so influential* in Sydney.

Apparently despite The Parrot's weekly audience of nearly half-a-million listeners, five out of six people in Sydney never listen to him. I am sometimes in an office with five other people - and often wonder who the odd person out is ;-)

And former NSW premier Kristina Keneally said :
There's not a politician in Australia who wouldn't take his call.

Really. Don't her comments just show what Australian politicians are made of?

Everyone knows that Alan Jones is a right wing blatherer and a bully and a bore. Some also think he is a shrill little shill.

All it would take is for one principled politician to stand up for themselves and their constituents and to refuse to be drawn into his orbit - for his power to start to evaporate.

Does such a person exist amongst our political class?

And if one of them had the guts to do that with Alan Jones then others might find some courage in response to the other radio shock jocks and the television make-believe merchants and the Murdoch infestation that has taken over our media.

And then we could start to develop a modern political movement that actually serves the place. One where we could respect our politicians and celebrate those amongst them who would take a stand for the people and for the nation - instead of for the vested interests.

Could it ever happen - or am I just day dreaming again?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trade Me #NZ

One of the great technology and business successes in our region is "across the ditch" in New Zealand. It's called Trade Me.

This place really knows how to *do* a modern technology based enterprise. It has been hugely successful in New Zealand and I am forever amazed that they haven't migrated their business and technology model to Australia.

Because we need it here. The local players are all very weak and even the industry giant could learn a lot from our NZ cousins. Plus a little bit of competition from someone who knows what they are doing would smarten the locals up a lot.

But since 2006 it's been owned by Fairfax - which probably explains why it isn't represented on this side of the Tasman ;-)

Five things that make Trade Me so successful are;

* It's simple and clean User Interface and category Navigation.

* Huge User base - approaching 2/3rds of the NZ population.

* An enormous Category List with lots of Products.

* The Buying and Selling processes are much easier than elsewhere.

* NZ bricks and mortar businesses use it extensively - because it adds value.

Some amazing stats here. Nearly 700k people visit each day and there are more than 2.8 million members. All in a country that has a population of about 4.4 million.

New Zealand does many things better than we do - but the performance of Trade Me is just outstanding. We all should be agitating for the Fairfax board to open their eyes and ears and bring it here. Or sell it to someone who will.

#NewsCorp Makes List of 10 Riskiest Companies for Investors

GMI identified a "Risk List" of 10 companies whose weak governance, poor environmental or social records or misaligned compensation structures present hazards to investors that aren’t adequately reflected in their current valuations.

Here's what they had to say about News Corp:

Although there have been some high-profile management resignations and a few name changes at the board level since the recent scandal, there is little indication that the quality of the company’s governance is improving — particularly in the crucial area of the relationship between the board and Murdoch. As an example, the company’s investigation into the phone-hacking scandal is being led by directors with strong ties to the company and the Murdoch family.

Plus the guardian reported this and Paul Krugman has added this.

Is anyone else paying attention to what these guys are up to?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thinking @adelaidethinker

I am a bit of a fan of the "Thinker in Residence" programme that is run by the South Australian Government. Well I am when it exposes the state bureaucrats and politicians to some world class "thinking" - as it sometimes does.

And that is what has happened after someone in power finally agreed to invite a road safety expert into the "thinker" programme.

Professor Fred Wegman has investigated the issues and done the homework and has published his interim report here.

And it is good. Well worth a read and with any luck it will set the scene for a much more sophisticated approach to road safety in South Australia. Time will tell if professor Wegman's effort has been worthwhile.

One amusing element of his report is the following paragraph on page 3:

Professor Wegman notes that many South Australians believe that the road safety problem is related to extreme behaviours — high levels of speeding or drink driving. While he acknowledges that such behaviours are a problem requiring continued action, he says in fact, the majority of crashes occur to ordinary people making ordinary mistakes on the road network.

Amusing because the reason that South Australian's believe this is because the main characteristics of the state's approach to road safety has been a "fear and penalty" programme that targets those twin evils - "speeding" and "drink driving".

The propaganda seems to work quite well but the impact on road safety is probably marginal. It's taken about 40 years for this particular myth to be busted.

It will be interesting to see how and if the bureaucrats and police change tack to a more subtle and sophisticated approach and how many of them get shuffled off into retirement during the process.


If you spend 10 or so minutes going through this slide pack (it's 41 images) then you will be much better informed about what the #OccupyWallStreet protest is all about.

Here is a summary:

* Unemployment - The unemployment rate is at the highest level since the Great Depression.

* Jobs - This is the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s.

* Corporations - Profits just hit another all-time high.

* Bosses - CEO pay is now 350 times the average worker's.

* Workers - After adjusting for inflation, average hourly earnings haven't increased in 50 years.

* Wage Share - Wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

* Wealth - The top 1% of Americans own 42% of the financial wealth. The top 5% own nearly 70%.

* Taxes - Taxes on the nation's highest-earners are close to the lowest they've ever been.

* Bank Margins - The "net interest margin" made by US banks in the first six months of this year was $211 Billion.

* Bank Profits - And that has helped produce $58 billion of profit in the first six months of the year.

* Bank Salaries - The average banker in New York City made $361,330 in 2010.

And who wouldn't be protesting about all that?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rudd was Right

I don't know what our government is up to with asylum seekers. Back in 2006, when in opposition the current Minister Chris Bowen said this about "Coalition attempts to excise Australian mainland from migration zone".

And now he has been caught out trying to do exactly the same thing. What a major "stuff-up" the Malaysian solution has become.

There are three possibilities.

Perhaps he thinks we are all fools and won't notice his volte face. Or this is his feeble little attempt to "wedge" the Opposition. Or the Department is actually running Immigration Policy and the Minister is quite superfluous.

In either case it’s no way to run our nation. There are quite a few disturbing questions about this little debacle - here are three.

Firstly, what about the quality of the Cabinet processes that would allow this to happen?

Secondly, what about the individual Ministers - do they not see a problem? Are there no wise old heads in Cabinet?

Thirdly, what about the big and important issues facing the nation? Are we dealing with them in a similar way?

The reason it's turned out like this is because they are just doing what politicians always do - chase votes and tell lies.

If this is indicative of the way the Cabinet behaves then I can understand why Rudd kept them in the dark and fed them BS when he was Prime Minister.

Because they simply aren't capable of anything else.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bad Management

Over at Core Economics, Kwanghui Lim has an article about his experience with on-line shopping. As far as I can tell this is a common theme in Australia.

And then over at Peter Martin's place we have a story about how we are working now - showing where the jobs are.

These two pieces show a major disconnect - on the one hand we have poor on-line shopping experiences and on the other - we are losing jobs in the Media and IT sector.

Maybe I am the only person who can see the connection - but this is a very clear example of what is wrong with the nation.

Bad Friggin Management.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Left Right Out

Do you remember the kerfuffle in the Victorian ALP that stopped Julia from gaining pre-selection for a federal seat in 1993 and 1996? Neither do I but according to Crikey - “There was just no compelling internal factional logic why Gillard deserved a federal seat”. It was 1998 when Gillard finally got the nod in Lalor after doing a deal with the right.

During her political career our PM has been cosy with the left and more recently she has sucked up to the right.

But if you listen to the extreme conservative commentariat then you will know that she is really a full bore lefty who is just biding her time and will eventually unleash a wave of socialist left policy - all of which will decimate the nation and its people.

But that is BS. Because the one thing that Australian's have already worked out is that she is just another opportunistic politician who doesn't believe in anything of substance - either from the left or the right. This is why her personal polling is so bad.

She may have started out as a lefty and she might have naively thought that she could carry that into the parliament and then into government and onto the executive. But the truth is that our political and media institutions are so dominated by the far right - that it could never happen. She would be pushing excrement uphill - forever.

I suppose you could fight them or you could join them. And she has joined them. She has even enlisted Rupert's help.

The problem with that is she has now trashed her credibility. How can you grow up as a lefty and a social democrat and then when you actually get to pull the levers become just another right winger with all its associated harshness.

Particularly the harshness of mandatory detention and offshore processing with asylum seekers. And warmongering - is it really 29 young dead Australian boys? I am surprised that she actually manages to sleep each evening. Must be the effects of the Prime Ministerial wine cellar.

The simple truth is that her personal polling is a demonstration of the power that is wielded by the folks who really control the place. And a little bit of a warning to anyone else from the left who thinks they can challenge the might of the right.

This is why they have gone all apoplectic about the Greens - because unlike Julia they won't roll over.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We Love Youse All

One very obvious observation about the decline of the power and influence of the USA over the past decade has been the increasingly ratty nature of their politics. Both major parties are now so consumed by greed and power that they have lost much of their relevance.

But one party, the Republicans are so out of touch with reality that they seem to have relocated to another planet. In part this is due to the rise of the Tea party but it’s also about the massive rise of ideology and religion. And a poorly informed populace that has been captured by an old fox. As Andrew Bacevich says - "Ideology makes people stupid".

The Republicans appear determined to push the American people into joblessness and poverty - all on the back of their weird ideology. I mean who in their right mind would think that their economy could be jump started by cutting expenditure? Only dingbats.

Clearly their Democracy is broken. Perhaps they exported too much of it?

Something similar happened in Australian politics about a decade ago with the rise of One Nation and the attempts of the Liberal party to corral them. Actually what happened was that the Liberals adopted the One Nation ideology and now we have our very own version of the Republican Party. All without anyone noticing or even a mild murmur among the commentariat. It’s all in a days work for an old fox.

And where goes the US government so follow their corporations.

Recently Wikileaks exposed the true function of the US State Department - which is to ride shotgun for Corporate America. One of their roles is to lobby, coerce and bully other nations to ensure that US corporations get favoured treatment around the world. It's been going on for decades and has resulted in the export of a particularly nasty corporate culture.

If you have the misfortune to deal with any of them then you will find yourself in a warzone - minus the gunfire. Its now shock and awe corporate style when you deal with these masters of the universe.

And we seem to have acquired a Prime Minister who has overdosed on their kool-aid. Because apparently "we still love youse all".

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Free Speech and Democracy

Free speech is the most important thing in our Democracy. So say the political commentariat and most others who abuse it.

No it isn't.

When you understand what is happening to our Democracy as a result of our hands-off approach to free speech then you will understand why things need to change.

Tim Dunlop highlights the current fantasy that is "free speech" at one newspaper here. All based on Robert Manne's expose of the antics of "The Australian" in his Quarterly Essay here and here.

The simple truth is that "information" is readily manipulated by unscrupulous and powerful individuals and organisations in their quest to influence your thinking. And their primary method is by exploiting the concept of "free speech".

As Goebbels said "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it". And they do - here and here.

In the case of our media these "big lies" originate with the rabid anti-intellectual drivel that so consumes the far right and the US Republican Party - and is delivered to your thinking organ courtesy of our newspapers and radio and television. See here for an update on current Republican Party thinking. And here for an alternative view.

Low information voters are just not sufficiently "in the loop" in a one sided argument that is pushed at them via our media. There is no "truth news site" - where the real news resides. The charlatans and editors can say whatever they like - all under the guise of "free speech".

This idea used to be called "propaganda" and "brainwashing" - now it's just accepted as a fact of life.

So what is to be done? Well I don't really know but one thing that will help is to undertake an independent and far reaching enquiry into the effect and influence of our media. With the objective being to put in place some effective regulation and reduce the reach of the dominant players.

What we may end up discovering is that our current concept of "free speech" is not quite as important as a properly informed "Democracy".

But whatever the result it will surely become a mammoth battle between truth and lies - which will probably be won by whoever has the deepest pockets.

PS: Big lies - one of the links above points to these "facts".
In summary, Australians believe that the mining sector:
* Employs nine times more workers than it actually does.
* Accounts for three times as much economic activity as it actually does.
* Is 30 per cent more Australian-owned than it actually is.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Couple of Things

At least two things bother me about our Federal Government. And judging by opinion polls I am not the only one.

Firstly, despite the message they received from the high court last week, they still seem to be hell-bent on playing politics with asylum seekers.

They seem pre-occupied and perhaps even obsessed with the concept of "stopping the boats".

In case they haven't noticed - this is the nasty little agenda set by the opposition and exploited by its populist leader in his relentless pursuit of the bogan.

The Labor party of old wouldn't respond to his dog-whistle and certainly wouldn't be blowing on it in unison. They would be calmly and competently dealing with the issue.

What is actually wrong with taking the moral high ground, recognising our international obligations and "doing the right thing" by the boat people?

Why would our government do it's utmost to chase after and appeal to the uninformed bogan and racist elements in our society - who have been geed up by an unprincipled opposition, a fugly talk back radio crowd and Rupert's editors?

Answer me that Virginia?

Because the only possible outcome will be a further decline in their popularity. And if they had any thinkers' on the case they would already know that.

Secondly, the national accounts for the June Qtr will be published this week. Now I don't have any inside knowledge - but I believe that the numbers will show negative growth. And after the March Qtr this will be the second consecutive quarter of negative growth - resulting in a technical recession.

And who do you think will get the blame for that?

Now I don't want to be a party pooper but don't you think it would be more productive for our government to be "talking about" and "doing stuff" around the big issue known as "The Economy" rather than appearing to be pre-occupied with the relatively minor issue of "asylum seekers"?

Just asking.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Spice Girls

What is the role of our Federal Government? Is it to deliver some quality governance or is it to be another player in a grubby game of politics with the agenda set by others? Serious question Virginia.

Some of us think that our team of ministers and officials and advisers and the various bureaucracies overseen by the Prime Minister ought to be engaged in a process of understanding big issues and making important decisions for and on behalf of the people of the nation.

Paul Keating did it - and many Australian's expect our Labor governments to at least aspire to his standard.

They ought to be in the business of understanding the risks to the nation and taking action to minimise them - of identifying future opportunities and working out how to maximise them - while protecting our quality of life and keeping us safe and employed.

But they seem to have given up on that. Apparently now it’s everyone for themselves.

There is nothing in the official script of government or even the constitution about playing silly games with unprincipled opposition leaders.

Or attempting to implement stupid policy like the "Malaysian Solution". Or even berating the high court judges who decided that it was illegal.

An illegal policy to deal with illegal boat arrivals - is that clever or dumb?

There used to be an important rule of government - "think" before "acting". But like much Labor history that rule seems to have been forgotten in the populist rush. Or in this case unpopular.

Just because no-one in the opposition is capable of doing any thinking doesn't mean that the actual government can get away with it too.

The real problem for the Prime Minister is that she obviously doesn’t have the nous to deal with these issues - and seems to have surrounded herself with a bunch of sycophants. They should form a band - it could rival the "Spice Girls".

That's the other important rule of being in government - if you don't "know" then find some "people" who do - and listen to them.

But why would anyone offer advice - when no-one in this government seems to listen.

Instead this PM and her crew continue to follow the opposition down every nasty little rat hole they can find.

Good luck with that then.

Friday, August 19, 2011

World in Crisis

It's when the world is in crisis that a capable mainstream media (MSM) is something that we wish we had.

Because it's only when things are going pear shaped at the speed of sound that being properly informed can mean the difference between "losing your shirt" and "making a killing".

Those Australians who get their news and information from our MSM are being poorly served. There are two reasons for that.

Firstly, the vast majority of the people who work in and around the MSM are simply not up to it. Many have been playing at the journalism game all their working lives and they simply don't recognise or understand facts anymore. Or perhaps it's the truth they don't recognise. Often they are driven by *ratings* or *eyeballs* or *revenue* because that is what their employer demands. And the ones who sit in front of a lens looking pretty have little understanding of what it takes to hunt down a story and explain it to you. Their job now is to be *dumb and blonde and pretty*.

And secondly their employers have all adopted a business model that is built around *obfuscation*. This is the game they play when they want to gain your eyeballs but they don't want to invest in the quality journalism or the effort and resources that are needed to seek out the real stories and expose the facts. So they make stuff up and embellish and manufacture things and basically create a parallel universe which they then write about each day. And this charade is often helped out by presenting nubile young flesh on page 3 or at 7:30pm.

And they do it Virginia, because they think that we won't notice. Or care.

Murdoch may be the most odious practitioner but all Australian media are doing the same thing. Even your ABC. Speaking of which what has happened to the place? ABC evening television is now so bad that it is unwatchable. The only things worth a look are 5 year old re-runs from the BBC and even those are becoming less frequent. Looks like ABC News/24 has sucked all the blood from Aunty. Perhaps they should just point a lens at Mark Scott's desk and play that from 7:30pm?

The big crises in Europe and the USA are either going unreported or are being misrepresented with lightweight commentary. So if you want to be informed - then you will need to find another source.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Newspapers

As clever as it might seem for News Limited editors to run a political agenda and to fight the good fight for and on behalf of conservative politicians, it isn't doing their actual business much good.

Well not if you look at the decline in their readership and the lack of trust in their newspapers it isn't.

Could newspaper editors have a death wish - they seem quite happy to trash the credibility of their mastheads and the reputations of their staff with their one-eyed commentary all designed to get the conservatives into government?

It's almost as if they think that Mr Abbott and friends will be able to defy gravity - when and if they manage to get back into the big seats - and magically resurrect News Limited's credibility.

I suppose if you don't have a good understanding of science or reality then it might seem as though you could do it by waving a magic wand. Wasn't it Bush and Cheney who said "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality"? That turned out well didn't it?

So why do you think that News Limited editor's are doing their best to make their newspaper's irrelevant? Could it have anything to do with Rupert's desire to create a conservative political empire spanning the west before he heads off to mogul heaven?

Probably - but what amazes me is the sheeplike behaviour of his staff. Why would they be going out of their way to destroy their livelihoods? Because the way they are going there won't be much left of the empire when the king goes.

I mean who was upset when the "News of the World" passed away? Who will be distressed when "The Australian" goes to newspaper heaven?

But there is an alternative.

Why wouldn't News Limited take on the role of the people's advocate? Why wouldn't they realign their newspapers in support of the ordinary folks who are being done over by unscrupulous business interests and right wing politicians’ and other charlatans?

There is a huge opportunity for a modern media organisation to build a big readership base and associated revenue stream by gaining the trust and respect of the little people. All by telling them the *truth* with a business model based on *facts*.

The reason they don't tells you something about their agenda.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Career in Technology

We need some more people at CRMNow.

There is an exciting opportunity for thinking people to build a new career as a project based technology consultant.

CRMNow is a technology company - with emphasis on people and projects as well as the more traditional technical aspects. If you are curious and capable, know what a project is and have people and team skills then we want to speak with you.

The technology that you will work with is the Oracle CRM On Demand products and associated web services. All running in the cloud.

The customer base comprises many of the top 200 companies that are situated across Australia and Asia.

Projects range from smaller configurations to large implementations with major customisation and complex integration. Twitter and blogs and other social media are often part of the integration. As are Apple and Android tablets.

The software tools you will use are mostly in the cloud. Gmail and Google docs and project management tools and other document creation and handling tools are used extensively. You will need to learn and become expert in these as well as web technologies generally.

This is a great opportunity to build a career at the leading edge of the technology industry. So if you are interested or know someone who is - then contact me by email.

roger.wegener at crmnow dot com dot au

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stealing your Future

So in the US the Republicans and the Murdoch media are insisting on an immediate reduction in government expenditure and no new taxes ever as a solution to the so-called "debt ceiling" problem.

And here in AU the Coalition and the Murdoch press are telling us that a "carbon price" will devastate the place and destroy our future.

It's clear that the conservatives and their puppeteers in both nations are just wreckers. Worse, their wrecking will result in long term damage and cause untold pain for many people.

They are completely out of control both in the US and here in AU. In the US they can't handle the fact that a black man is President. Here they can't handle the fact that a red headed female is Prime Minister. And so they have set out to destroy the fabric of the place. They are behaving like petulant children.

None of this would matter much if we had a majority of voters who could sort wheat from chaff. But we don't and the charlatans in the tea party and the coalition know it. Their strategy relies on it. They have spent decades ensuring it is so.

It's not that the conservatives and the Murdoch punditry are stupid - they aren't. They just behave like wreckers because they know that a large part of their "base" don't understand the consequences and probably don't care. And few others are even paying attention.

And that is the problem. Democracy only works when you are paying attention and you are alert to the wrecking games of the charlatans.

Ignore them and they will steal your future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Do you have a Plan B?

It is plainly true that the instinct and strategy of our Opposition leader is to lie, mislead and create fear amongst our people. He's clearly Prime Minister material, Virginia.

And the bulk of the daily output of our media is designed to misinform and deceive. They lie to us and we read and watch more of it - what does that tell you about the thinking capability of our people? Clearly few of us can reliably sort wheat from chaff.

Some want to make voting optional. I want to tighten the test. How can an ignorant, scared and uninformed populace know anything about what is in the national interest?

And our Government is so weak and timid that they won't stand up and be counted and deal with these things. They simply don't have a clue about what to do. Truth is they are gone for all money - surely they know that? This creates a great opportunity to do some good for the nation. But they won't because they wouldn't know where to start. What does that tell you about the quality of the MP's in the big seats? Abbott has a destructive strategy - but apparently Gillard has divine hope and a wish list.

Thinking Australians are horrified by it all.

To the Australian media - lie and cheat and connive and mislead all you like. Do your best to distort the truth. Do what you can to confuse and create fear among the people. Let the Murdoch press and Fairfax radio run riot. Even the ABC should keep trying to deceive the people. Go for it moguls and Mark Scott!

Because eventually your house of cards will collapse. Eventually even the most disinterested and uneducated and uninformed bogan will start to pay attention and they will see through your cunning stunts and they will revolt.

And then your days will be numbered. So I hope you have a Plan B.

Friday, July 15, 2011

We will not tolerate wrongdoing

Here is Rupert speaking about his hero and his business.

"Our new world is one of modern mass communication, phone and text, without limit. Democracy will be from the bottom up, not from the top down. Even so, a free society requires an independent press: turbulent …enquiring…bustling…and free.

That's why our journalism is hard-driving and questioning of authority. And so are our journalists. Often, I have cause to celebrate editorial endeavour. Occasionally, I have had cause for regret.

Let me be clear: We will vigorously pursue the truth – and we will not tolerate wrongdoing".

I wrote about this earlier - but worth another post given recent events.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What really happened?

What really happened on Sunday is that our Federal government moved the goalposts.

They have initiated a process to move government away from a focus on taxing income to a focus on taxing carbon.

So all those low tax obsessed conservative capitalists can decide for themselves how much tax they want to pay. If they really want to then they can work to decarbonise their businesses as soon as possible - and the benefit to them is that their tax bill will reduce.

Now that really is a perfect reverse wedge.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


A major opportunity has been created by the Murdoch "News of the World" phone hacking scandal and we shouldn't waste it.

That is the opportunity to do something seriously good for the nation by fixing our media.

After tomorrow, Julia and Co. will have dealt with the carbon problem and will have some time to focus on "other things" of substance.

My nomination for one of those "other things" is to take a serious look at Australian media including a detailed review and enquiry into the effect of the ownership by Rupert Murdoch of 70% of our print media. But don't stop there - we need to inquire fully into the operation of radio and television as well.

The review and associated enquiry should be short and sweet with the guiding principle being to look after the "National Interest" as opposed to the "Mogul Interest".

Lets not waste this opportunity - we may not get another.

PS - And if you doubt the need to include television in all this then you haven't been watching the "dingbat" performance on ABC Insiders.

Building the Education Revolution

There is one key thing that I would say about the "Building the Education Revolution Implementation Taskforce: Final Report" that was released yesterday - and it is this.

"The Murdoch press is continuing its grubby campaign against truth and facts and is doing its best to misinform you. If you want the real story around the Building the Education Revolution - then you will need to go here for the final report - and here for the media release".

I have just finished reading the final report and it is very illuminating. I have reproduced recommendation 4 below - in an attempt to highlight a few of the significant findings.

"Twenty years ago, the Productivity Commission published a major report into the construction industry. At that time, the four major issues limiting productivity improvement were: industrial relations, planning consents, Australian participation and project management.

The Taskforce believes the major issues confronting the construction industry today are different. The BER program has been notable for negligible industrial disruption, and we have observed the benefit of the BER streamlined planning approval process.

We have however witnessed deficiencies in the quality of workmanship, in project management, in public works capacity and in the framework of private certification.

Australia confronts a significant infrastructure and maintenance spend over the coming 20 years. The Taskforce recommends that the Productivity Commission update its work on the construction industry".

These are big issues - if our construction industry and our state governments haven't managed to deal with them over the past 20 years then perhaps we need to find others who will.

And perhaps we also need to find a media that will identify and report on the real issues - instead of their usual fluff and bubble.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fully Informed

It's pretty impressive stuff when the average "man in the street" can explain in great detail what is wrong with the nation and with our politics. And has advice on how to fix them both.

This was my experience earlier today.

An acquaintance bailed me up and proceeded to tell me how bad the economy is doing and how the place is right royally stuffed. Apparently all because our government has no idea how to run things and because those communist Greens are now running the place and trying to impose a world government.

He said that the carbon tax will decimate small business and turn the place into an economic wasteland - probably by the end of next week. The solution is that we need to install a coalition government as soon as possible - to stop the rot - and help our small business he said.

Interesting I said and risking another tirade, I asked him how he knew all this.

Well its obvious isn't it - and not only that but it's in all the newspapers, on talk back radio and on all the television news channels. And the chamber of commerce told me he said.

Well there you have it - our people are fully informed. Thanks for that Australian media.

There are just two small niggling issues - and I hate to mention them here.

Firstly, might there be "vested interests" who have captured our media and who are playing games with the "man in the street" all so they can push their dingbat agenda onto him? Surely not.

And secondly, might there be other viewpoints that are based on facts and real economic analysis - and which might be articulated by actual economists here and here?

Just asking.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Democracy and Greece

This is why "The Conversation" rules. "Greece debt crisis threatens democracy" is an amazing piece of work - well worth the time to read.

It's thought provoking stuff. A few extracts below.

"Unemployment officially stands at 16 percent; the figure is expected to jump sharply in coming months. Over 40 percent of the under-25s can’t find work; little wonder that some of them have joined the ranks of the so-called “known unknowns”, street fighters prepared to take on the widely-hated police."

"Syntagma Square is thus a lighthouse, an early warning station, a reminder of how easily democracy is destroyed whenever power is exercised invisibly, helped along by flat earth news, bribes in brown envelopes, backroom deals and government agreements fixed over long distances with powerful global organisations."

"Big media outlets are accused of being “part of the system”. Bankers and creditors are described as crooks; there are more than a few shouts to turn their guts into garters."