Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cable to slash broadband speed, cost

A new undersea internet cable would break open Australia's broadband market, bringing faster download times and lower prices, Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said today. The $200 million Pipe Networks PPC-1 cable will rival Telstra and Optus pipelines, linking Sydney to the Pacific island of Guam to provide a third international broadband link to Australia's east coast. It is due to open in June next year and Pipe Network executive director Lloyd Ernst today said PPC-1 was undercutting its competitors' prices by 50 per cent. "One of our potential customers has already made the comment that PPC-1 prices are 50 per cent lower,'' Mr Ernst said..

At today's launch in Melbourne, Senator Conroy said the new cable "fit very neatly'' with government plans for a super fast fibre optic broadband network, by increasing the broadband carrying capacity from overseas. He hoped to make announcements setting out the pathway for the fibre to the node competitive bid process in the "next couple of weeks''.

Senator Conroy said PPC-1 would open up broadband competition, driving down prices and increasing speeds. "This $200 million project has the potential to improve Australia's international communications transmission capacity and increase competition in the Australian telecommunications marketplace,'' Senator Conroy said. "This is great news for Australia's internet users because the result will be faster and cheaper broadband.''

Mr Ernst likened his company to budget airline Tiger Airways, saying he hoped to "disrupt'' the broadband market and drive more competition. "It's a little bit like the discount airline model, the idea behind it is that by bringing competition in and really starting to get people to compete with other, we hope that our competitors will come through and start to be aggressive with their pricing,'' Mr Ernst tosaid. "We've really tried to be disruptive with our prices.''

He said he hoped competitors would start cutting their prices now the new pipeline was set to go ahead. "I would hope so, if I was in their position I definitely think that that's what they would try to do,'' Mr Ernst said. "This is Qantas discounting their airfares with talk of Tiger starting up.''

Internet service providers Primus, Internode, iiNet, Telikom PNG and VSNL are among those already signed up on PPC-1 contracts, making the project viable, despite any price wars which may ensue. The 6900 kilometre pipe will run through government protected zones, sometimes up to nine kilometres under the sea surface and will connect to existing infrastructure in Guam, a US territory in the western Pacific Ocean which connects to the US and Asia.


British medical education bungle good for Australia

A BLUNDER in a jobs recruitment program in the UK will result in relief 19,000km away with hundreds of doctors set to migrate to Australia to help fill staff shortages in our ailing public hospitals system. More than 5000 British medics have found themselves unemployed after failing to get a training post at hospitals in the UK. Two years ago, with critical shortfalls in the number of doctors, the British government lifted the number of places available at training schools and centralised the recruitment system. But it failed to take into account how many places there were available in hospitals to provide internships or hands-on training for the medicos to complete their training.

The British Medical Association said yesterday the only winner would be Australia, with hundreds of young doctors applying to complete their training and fill critical staff shortages. Most of the doctors have applied to work in NSW and Queensland hospitals but a BMA spokesman said hospitals across all states could expect British applicants in the next few months when the true number of training posts available became clear. "It's just a ridiculous situation," a spokesman said. "They increased the medical school places but gave us a situation now where there are only between 8000 and 9000 places (in the UK) but about three times as many applicants. "Not being able to complete their training means they have to put their careers on hold, take a non-training job or practice abroad. The loss to the UK is a gain for countries like Australia and we know a number who are planning to head there."

Dr Robert Thomas spent a year at a NSW Central Coast hospital but was one of the few to find a place in the UK to complete his training. "I was lucky but a lot of my friends are still planning to travel to Australia to work in hospital accident and emergency wards," he said. "I think you will find most will go there for training but will stay there for good. The life is so much better."

An official inquiry into how thousands of doctors missed out on UK places last week concluded the government and Department of Health should be stripped of responsibility for the recruitment system.


Department of Child Safety fails again

Staff shortages and poor record keeping compromised the Department of Child Safety's case management of a three-year-old Gold Coast girl who died within months of being reunited with her mother. A spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the review on the September 18, 2006, death of the little girl had been completed. The child - the youngest of four children - had been reunited three months earlier with her mother who had overcome her heroin addiction after being jailed in March 2004. Police alleged the little girl had more than 90 bruises and injuries on her face and body.

Her mother, 36, was charged with manslaughter after allegedly asking a neighbour for cigarettes and advice as her daughter's body turned to "jelly" inside a Nerang half-way house. Key issues identified as affecting the department's capacity to properly manage the case included:

* High staff turnover at all levels and ongoing shortages, which impacted on decision-making.

* A lack of advice about responses to the needs of high-risk infants.

* A lack of support agencies and referral services in the geographic location.

* A lack of adequate recordkeeping, which affected decision-making.

The spokeswoman said the department was aiming to attract and retain appropriately qualified staff and was reviewing the methods used to improve case management. The implementation of a fully computerised, Integrated Client Management System was improving record keeping, she said.

Opposition Child Safety spokeswoman, Jann Stuckey, said it was concerning the Government was continuing to praise itself for reforming the state's child protection system.

During a committal hearing last year, the woman's legal team foreshadowed a defence, saying the girl received a fatal laceration to her head when she slipped in the bathroom. The woman will go to trial on January 28 in the Brisbane Supreme Court. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.


The wowsers will run out of things to ban

Crisis looms. Corporate empires could be laid waste, countless jobs lost and millions of dollars in public funding disappear unless something is done now to open up new markets. No, we're not talking about the Australian car industry or the rural sector but that great growth industry of recent years, the do-gooder lobby group. Judging by the news reports of the past few weeks, very shortly the wowsers [killjoys] and the self-righteous of this country will soon run out of things to ban and areas of our lives to control and intrude upon.

Think about it. What a flying start to the new year for the nanny state. We ended 2007 with calls to ban smoking in outdoor areas such as the Queen Street Mall, because some people apparently get upset at a whiff of tobacco smoke mixed in with the miasma of car exhaust fumes. Not to be outdone, the ever sanctimonious Australian Drug Foundation then suggested a ban on alcohol on planes because a small minority of passengers get squiffy to the point of being obstreperous. Then we welcomed 2008 with federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's harebrained commitment to force all internet service providers to provide a "clean feed" to Australian homes which will censor all the naughty bits that the Government doesn't think fit for working families.

This is because some parents apparently don't supervise their children's internet usage, or fail to install their own filtering software. Who knows what vile filth their delicate progeny might see - possibly images of sweating semi-naked young men kissing and hugging in an orgy of homo-erotic excitement. If that's the case, then don't let them watch the soccer. Easy.

Anyway, news then emerged that various state governments are testing speed-limiters for cars because a small minority of drivers act like bloody idiots on the road. Anyone picking up a theme here? Something to do with imposing a blanket restriction or ban on everyone because of the behaviour or wishes of a vocal minority? Or maybe society forgetting the concept of people taking responsibility for their own actions?

That said, the professional campaigners - from the rabid anti-smokers to the Citizens Against Neighbours Who Have Cats That Once Killed a Bird (it was a noisy miner and we're better off without it, so get over it) have just about had their way. Short of the Temperance League making a comeback, there's not much alleged good for many of the do-gooders left to do. So to protect the sinecure of countless professional crusaders, new fronts of attack on our personal freedoms need to be opened up. Here's a few helpful campaign suggestions:

* Road Safety: Ban caravans. In one move you will remove the single greatest cause of road rage in Australia by removing this poison from our nation's automotive arteries. Countless lives will be saved, greenhouse emissions will be reduced and any selfish bastard caught venturing on to our roads towing a Viscount or Millard can spend the rest of their miserable life making a useful contribution to society by making number plates at the nearest correctional facility. While we're at it, let's also campaign to ban all smoking in cars because it could be distracting, and make it illegal to sell vehicles with a radio for the same reason. In fact, in terms of dangerous driver distractions, let's ban young children in cars as well.

* Food: Food kills. To reduce the obesity epidemic in Australia, we need to introduce patron care to supermarkets, in the same way that all the fun of getting absolutely rat-arsed at the pub has been taken away from us. Next time a plumper pushes a trolley laden with potato crisps, frozen pies, ice cream and soft drink up to the checkout, they should be firmly told they've already had too much and can't be served . . . just expand the "No more. It's the Law", campaign.

* Gambling: This one's red hot and ripe for milking a bit of funding for a smart campaigner. There's probably years of sound bites and donations to be extracted from a campaign to rid our society of a scourge that first appeared when the convicts off the First Fleet saw their first two flies on a wall. Who knows, there might even be a Senate seat and federal sinecure in it for a slick operator.

Someone's already done pokies, though, so maybe a crafty campaigner could shift their holier-than-thou indignation to horse racing, bringing you into opposition with big government and big business - a sure fire attention grabber and donation attracter.

* Booze: Alcohol has to be the next big one on the radar. The smoking battle is just about won, so let's demonise anyone who likes a tipple because a minority act like galahs when they've had a few too many. Warning labels would be a good start, followed by rationing. "Sorry sir, you've had your three standard drinks. I can't serve you any more." There's a decade or two of lucrative righteous self-aggrandisement in that one.

Actually, I'm wrong in my original premise about the do-gooders running out of nanny state campaigns. There's a wealth of untapped opportunity. We could have shower-cams to monitor our water usage - a bit like speed cameras but potentially more profitable depending on how you use the footage. What about installing noise meters in all homes to monitor barking dogs, power tools and loud stereo abusers?

Or perhaps we should consider banning columns like this because they take the piss out of the narrow-minded and sanctimonious and, judging by the fan mail I receive, offend a minority of people who wouldn't have enough functioning brain cells to look up "satire" in the dictionary let alone understand the definition. Get a life people. Then live and let live as you see fit. And leave the rest of us alone.


1 comment:

AmberCat said...

Please tell me that some country some where has politicians as incompetent as our UK Politicians.