Saturday, June 25, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says Gillard's anniversary has been so sullied by her subservience to the Greens that there is nothing worth celebrating

Non-compete clause exposes flaws of fibre network

Consumers must not be told that a wireless connection could give them a better deal

THE entire basis of the National Broadband Network has been exposed as fundamentally unsound by the "wireless non-compete" clause in the deal between NBN Co and Telstra. At its simplest, it's a clause that is completely unacceptable and arguably illegal. What would be, what was, objectionable with cardboard boxes should also be so with broadband services.

Broadly, but simply and accurately, NBN Co and Telstra agree not to compete. Worse, NBN Co is actually paying Telstra for that agreement. Indeed the Communications Minister himself no less, Stephen Conroy, all but put it in exactly those terms on Melbourne's MTR radio yesterday.

He explained, indeed justified, the non-compete clause as being a "perfectly sensible corporate decision". "A commercial arrangement." That Telstra agreed not to "take NBN Co's money and sledge (the) NBN". Conroy was all but saying that NBN Co was paying Telstra not to compete with it.

Indeed. Where was Conroy when the late Dick Pratt needed him to explain that his Vizy group had a "perfectly sensible commercial arrangement" with Amcor for each not to "promote" their boxes as a "substitute" for the other's?

The relevant clause in the deal is that Telstra can't promote "wireless services as a substitute for fibre-based services for 20 years". But it otherwise remained free to compete in the market for the supply of wireless services.

Telstra explains this clause by saying that it can't put flyers in letterboxes saying buy our wireless broadband instead of NBN Co's fixed broadband. But we're perfectly free to put flyers in letterboxes saying buy our wonderful wireless broadband that can do all these wonderful things. And that further, it didn't see the clause -- insisted on by NBN Co -- as limiting in the slightest its ability to sell wireless. Except and absolutely crucially, that's wireless against wireless. Not against fixed.

Two points. Except of course it does limit its ability to sell wireless. And does so for 20 years. An awful lot of technology can be invented and developed in that timeframe. Right now Telstra might not want to sell wireless broadband instead of fixed fibre. But in 10 years?

The second point is exactly that. Telstra doesn't want to sell wireless instead of fixed broadband in the new world of the NBN. It wants to sell wireless and fixed together, in a package.

Why? Because it sees the NBN as finally freeing it to use its market dominance across the telco space in a way that it has been limited in doing under the existing competitive regulation. Given that the NBN is coming at it whether it likes it or not, it's perfectly happy to share monopolies, so to speak, with it. Rather than competing head to head with the NBN -- my wireless network against your fixed fibre network.

The combination of the fact that Telstra already has a pervasive national wireless network that really could compete head to head with the NBN in its slow 10-year build-out phase, and our increasing desire for mobile broadband, makes this anti-compete clause vital to NBN Co.

The promoters of the NBN keep saying that wireless just can't compete with fixed fibre, because of the immutable laws of physics and the way they play out with spectrum. That only fibre can give the sustained guaranteed speed; that wireless degrades quickly depending how far you move from the base station and how many are hooked up and what they are downloading.

That's all true. At least it is, right now. But in 10 or even five years' time? The science of physics might be "settled". But the technology of data compression might not be. But in any event, it's not the science of physics which is in play here. But the science of arithmetic and the social science of choice. Both go to the fundamental unsoundness of the fixed NBN.

What NBN Co and its CEO Mike Quigley are afraid of is what might be termed the Inverted (Kevin) Costner Effect. Build it, the NBN (at a cost of $40 billion going on $50bn and then they don't come. That huge spend requires NBN Co to set a certain minimum figure for wholesale access to the NBN. You then have to add the retail margin and costs.

It does not want the other elephant in the telco space, and the one with not only a huge existing cashflow but up to $11bn of its money, offering a pervasive and cheaper wireless alternative. Yes, it might not be a sustained warp-speed 100Mbps. But it might be a 4-20Mbps that is all most of the people want most of the time. Quigley doesn't want to spend $50bn and then find out. He doesn't want you to find out.

The fact that Telstra itself seems perfectly happy not to go down that path is hardly a cause for endorsement of the non-compete clause. It suggests that Telstra sees more upside in building a packaged mobile-fixed dominance.

That's to stress, more upside for Telstra profit. Which means one or both of: Telstra being able to migrate its market power to the 21st century world of the NBN, or the consumers of broadband services in the future collectively paying more than they would with real infrastructure-based competition as well as simply retail. As Henry Ergas pointed out yesterday, this is central to the deal and the whole NBN concept. Agreeing non-compete with wireless and shutting down Telstra's and Optus's HFC cables.

At core it highlights the two great flaws of the NBN. That we have a government (and an enthusiast in Quigley) mandating a technology and a service -- fixed fibre to a fixed location -- as the broadband for Australia for the next 20 to 40 years.

I wish I could be as confident as Conroy and Quigley, and in a different context Ross Garnaut, about knowing that far into the future.

Secondly, the $50bn has to be serviced. By definition that means paying more for broadband in the future, than if you didn't spend it.

By further definition, alternatives could deliver broadband cheaper. So you have to ban them.

So consumers will pay more than they would otherwise. It is entirely rational for Telstra to aim at its biggest possible slice of that.


Why rational optimism beats ephemeral happiness

Janet Albrechtsen

FASHIONABLE academics, activists and politicians presume to tell us how miserable we are to justify their notions about the sunny path to human happiness.

The British Office for National Statistics now asks people whether they are happy. British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to draw up a happiness index to govern policy, while a group called the Action for Happiness, launched in April by the Dalai Lama, has set down its own rules for riding the road to happiness. Bhutan, we are told, is the happiest place on earth, which is curious given that hordes of refugees are not crossing the borders into the small landlocked kingdom. These clever chaps promise to make us happy if only we would follow their clever ideas

Here's a better idea. Rational optimism beats ephemeral happiness. While there is something familiarly depressing about a grand leader promising to make us happy - Stalin did it, so did Hitler - the best form of contentment comes from learning some history.

Enter Matt Ridley. On a grey, wintry Sydney morning last week, the author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves delivered a fast-paced, fact-laden history lesson about the extraordinary trajectory of mankind.

Speaking at the Centre for Independent Studies, Ridley quoted British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who once asked: "On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?" That was in 1830, even before the industrial revolution delivered vast improvements to the way we live. Two centuries later, after even greater innovation and progress, it is passing strange that rational optimism remains such a rarity.

Asked about this conundrum, Ridley points to the intelligentsia. Calamitous predictions about the future, not calm reasoning about the past, sell books and sustain careers. And "there's more of the intelligentsia around now so you hear more from them". The "apocaholics" predict doom and gloom from Malthusian population explosions, AIDS epidemics, bird flu pandemics, peak oil problems, depleting ozone layers, acid rains, deforestation, urbanisation, and over-consumption. The list is long.

By contrast, Ridley, a lanky, dry-witted Brit, an Oxford-educated scientist, former editor at The Economist, author of a string of books about evolution and all-round polymath, takes the rational road. Looking at the past to predict the future, he finds a rising line of glorious human triumph.

Start with one simple measurement. Appropriately fitted out with a CIS tie covered in small light bulbs, Ridley asks how long you have to work today to earn an hour of reading light. On an average wage today, half a second of work will pay for an hour of light. In 1950, the average wage earner worked eight seconds to run a conventional filament lamp; in 1880, 15 seconds of work was needed for a kerosene lamp; and more than six hours of work for an hour of light by tallow candle in the 1800s. In 1750BC, your average ancient Babylonian needed to work more than 50 hours to get an hour of light from a sesame oil lamp. That 43,200-fold improvement, says Ridley, signifies "the currency that counts, your time".

By any other measure, too, we are also better off. The world population has multiplied six times since 1800, yet on average we live twice as long and, in real terms, earn nine times more money.

Even in the space of 50 years, from 1955 to 2005, as Ridley writes in his book, "the average human being on Planet Earth earned nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), ate one-third more calories and could expect to live one-third longer. She was less likely to die as a result of war, murder, childbirth, accidents, tornadoes, flooding, famine, whooping cough, tuberculosis, malaria, diphtheria, typhus, typhoid, measles, smallpox, scurvy or polio. She was less likely, at any given age, to get cancer, heart disease or a stroke. "She was more likely to be literate . . . to have finished school . . . own a telephone, a flush toilet, a refrigerator" and so on and so forth.

All this when the world population more than doubled. As Ridley notes, the UN estimates that poverty was reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous five centuries.

Anyone can recount the facts of human progress, even the doomsayers were they more curious. What marks out Ridley is his explanation of our success. After looking back at thousands of years of evolution, natural selection and culture, he finds that we started to prosper not when our individual brains grew in size - Neanderthals had bigger brains that we do - but when our collective brain grew. Ridley traces the start of our extraordinary cultural revolution to a time, about 100,000 years ago, when, unlike other species, we started to exchange goods and ideas with people beyond our own communities.

"At some point in human history, ideas began to meet and mate, and to have sex with each other." Culture quickly became cumulative. "Exchange is to cultural evolution as sex is to biological evolution," writes Ridley.

By a process similar to natural selection, sound ideas triumphed and will continue to triumph so long as we enable them to "meet and mate". Looking back on history, Ridley rediscovers the ideas of Adam Smith and Friedrich von Hayek, and adds evolutionary biology to explain why homo sapiens progresses at a much faster rate than any other species. Constant innovation comes from a free market for ideas - not to mention goods and services.

Look at your computer mouse, says Ridley. No single person knows how to make one. The factory worker who assembled it didn't drill for oil to make the plastic. "At some point, human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other species."

That's Ridley's reason for being a rational optimist. At every juncture, humans have adapted, innovated and changed in the face of dire predictions. Prosperity depends on a bottom-up process from people learning from and sharing with others.

No wonder the happiness gurus, eager to impose their idea of happiness upon us, eschew history. As Ridley explores in his 400-page plus race through history from the Stone Age to the 21st century, government departments and bureaucracies, whether we're talking Egyptian pharaohs or British Rail, didn't drive innovation. People do.

And consider how technology has ramped up the pace at which people can share with and learn from others. Ridley, the rational optimist, predicts innovation will accelerate at a much faster pace than ever. Which is happy news if only we can steer clear of the Scylla and Charybdis of modernity, the imposers of happiness who favour top-down diktats about happiness and the apocaholics who shudder at technology, scoff at globalisation and regard free trade in anything - even ideas - as an abomination.



Three current articles below

Meltdown imminent, solar industry warns

The solar industry has warned it will cease to exist in New South Wales within eight weeks without action from the State Government.

Lobbying by the industry, along with disquiet on the Coalition's own backbench, contributed to the Government's backdown earlier this month on changes to the Solar Bonus Scheme.

The Government had announced it would retrospectively cut the tariff paid to households with solar from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 cents. That plan was abandoned but the industry is still crying foul after the Government closed the scheme to new applicants.

Energy Minister Chris Hartcher says alternative proposals for keeping the industry afloat will be considered at a second solar summit in a week. He says one option would be for electricity retailers to pay for the solar energy they receive.

But John Grimes from the Australian Solar Energy Society says by then it may already be too late. "We've seen companies that have gone from 19 employees to two. They're holding on to see what's going to happen," Mr Grimes said. "If we don't get a one-for-one feed-in tariff in place in NSW immediately those companies will close altogether and that would be a huge tragedy."


World Government: Not a conspiracy it’s actually Greens policy

Like Germany but unlike most other countries, Australia has a "Green" party that is politically influential. Their policies (below) are therefore instructive

To the people who say that those pushing the global warming agenda are using it and carbon taxes for “World Government” is a conspiracy theory, I think should take a look a “The Greens” policy titled: Global Governance. (see here)

I want to basically abolish the UN or at least remove any legal powers it has. I want to ensure the sovreignty of Australia and want Australians to be governed by a democratically elected Australian government. The Greens want to strengthen the UN and want a world government. Here are some points their policy covers:

* The system of global governance must be reinvigorated.

* A stronger UN capable of dealing with threats to international peace and security.

* Support the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and ensure that all nations are subject to its decisions.

* Major structural reform is needed to provide stronger, more effective and more representative multilateral institutions.

* The leading role of the United Nations (UN) in the maintenance of International peace and security must be recognised and respected by all countries.

* The international financial institutions that govern aid, development, trade, and transnational financial movements require extensive reform to enable them to provide global economic justice
A stronger UN capable of dealing with threats to international peace and security.

* Support the establishment of an international environmental court and an environmental council at the UN, with similar decision-making powers to the Security Council to deal with environmental issues of global significance.

These very fighting polices must be kept in mind when they move to give land to the United Nation when they list “word heritage” areas, When they want open borders with some of their refugee policies and when our carbon taxes are paid to the United Nations.

And to those who will email me saying is says governance not government, here is the dictionary definition of both words.

Governance: The action or manner of governing.
Government: The governing body of a nation, state, or community
They are one and the same.


Blow for wind farms as senators push probe into noise and health fears

URGENT research should be undertaken into the potentially damaging health effects of wind farms on nearby residents, says a landmark Senate report released yesterday. In a dramatic win for residents' groups who have raised widespread concerns about the impact of wind farms on rural communities, the committee recommended that noise measurements be expanded to include low-frequency noise, or infrasound.

Campaigners welcomed the report and said there should be an immediate halt to wind farm developments until the potential health impacts were better understood.

According to the Clean Energy Council, there are 53 wind farms operating in Australia, with 1089 operating turbines that can reach the height of a 45-storey building and have blades up to 50m long. Wind turbine capacity has increased by 30 per cent a year over the past decade and wind now supplies about 2 per cent of Australia's electricity needs.

There are more than 9000 megawatts of large-scale wind farm energy projects proposed around the country, propelled partly by the federal government's Renewable Energy Target scheme, which subsidises power from renewable sources.

The majority Senate report yesterday called for tougher rules on noise, new rules to govern how close wind farms can be built to houses, and an independent arbitrator to hear complaints. It said arbitrary setbacks - the distance that a wind farm must be built from a residence - may not be adequate and each situation may need to be considered on its merits.

But the most dramatic findings were in the area of potential harm from low-frequency noise. The committee said the commonwealth government should initiate as a matter of priority "thorough, adequately resourced epidemiological and laboratory studies of the possible effects of wind farms on human health".

"This research must engage across industry and community, and include an advisory process representing the range of interests and concerns," the committee said. It said a National Health and Medical Research Council review of research should continue, with regular publication.

The committee recommended that the National Acoustics Laboratories conduct a study and assessment of noise impacts of wind farms, including the impacts of infrasound. It said the draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines should be redrafted to include discussion of any adverse health effects.

The Senate inquiry was initiated by Family First senator Steve Fielding and attracted more then 1000 submissions both for and against wind farm developments. The inquiry was chaired by Greens senator Rachel Siewert and included Labor senators Claire Moore and Carol Brown and Liberal senators Judith Adams, Sue Boyce and Helen Coonan.

Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation, a national organisation set up to raise awareness of the health effects of wind farms, said an immediate moratorium should be called for wind farm developments. "Given the Senate recommendations and strength of evidence to the inquiry, the precautionary principle should be adopted," Dr Laurie said.

She said the report's recommendations were exactly what concerned health professionals had called for. "Investigation of low-frequency noise, or infrasound, had not been properly conducted anywhere else in the world," Dr Laurie said.

The Senate committee was told that Denmark had flagged regulation of infrasound at wind farms and that Japan last year started a four-year study into the effects of infrasound from wind farms.

Sheep farmer Dean West and his partner Geri McHugh live in the shadow of the Starfish Hill Wind Farm at Delamere, 100km south of Adelaide, and often hear the turbines on a windy day. Mr West, whose sheep wander the paddocks under the 100m-high turbines, is in the paddocks daily, but has no concerns for his health. "I can't see that more studies would do any harm, though," Mr West said.

The couple moved to the farm 10 years ago, at the same time as the 23 turbines were being built on the grazing land. The closest tower is 500m away. Although they do not think they suffer because of the turbines, Ms McHugh has tinnitus and is sensitive to the turbine noise. "It's just a woof, woof, woof sound, you just can't tune out," Ms McHugh said.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said the renewable energy industry believed the Senate inquiry report was a balanced review of issues. "It acknowledges the important contribution that wind energy makes to employment and economic development," Mr Marsh said. "There is no reason to slow the development of new wind farms based on this report."



Paul said...

I've avoided the topic of "World Government" issues because I suspected you'd think it was silly conspiracy theory because you don't usually go there, but think about it: International treaties based on environmentalism as defined by the likes of Greenpeace and the lying IPCC, collapsing debt laden currencies and calls for a "global" currency system to replace the US "Reserve" currency model. People were warning about this years ago and its started to become visible with the calls for these things now happening. The march to World governance would be a subtle process. A global central bank, administered by...say...the UN through the IMF, that National Governments would have to pay tribute to in order to get money and credit (actually all the money would be credit), a global environmental treaty system that everyone has to sign on to for fear of sanction. This is the process by which "World Government" would come into being, not some cunning plan by a Bond villain. And the first casualty would be the concept of National Sovereignty. Ten years ago this was abject conspiracy theory, now its fairly easy to envisage just based on observing the directions of things.
Ever wonder why Gillard was installed? Why she did such a quick quick backflip on her Carbon tax promise?, or even why Labor (Under Rudd) was so quick to throw as much wealth overboard as possible when the GFC (sic) started? How can we be part of the new currency system if our old one is still worth something?

problem-reaction-solution. Create the problem which allows you to offer the "solution" you always wanted. GFC, War on Terror, it all works the same.

Anonymous said...

We as a nation are one of highest taxed in the world – but wait – there is more to come! The Australian Government has committed us to paying a ten percent additional levy /tithe to the United Nations. This is a self serving un-elected unofficial quasi Governmental Body, who have written their own charter and draw their finances from the nations around the world who have ‘signed on’. Now Australia is about to collect another new tax, of which 10% has been formally promised to the United Nations Green Fund.