Friday, July 22, 2011

Fibre network fees to start at $60 a month

This is ridiculous -- when you can ALREADY get wireless plans for half that. The only customers NBN will get will be illegal movie downloaders

HOUSEHOLDS will pay at least $60 -- and up to $190 -- a month for their internet service on the National Broadband Network after Australia's largest privately owned internet service provider unveiled its pricing plan.

Internode -- one of the first internet providers to jump aboard the government's NBN -- has warned that the government's promises to offer consumers prices in line with today's broadband plans would be "untenable in practice".

The first retail pricing for services over the $36 billion NBN were released by Internode yesterday and reveal packages will start at $59.95 a month for a basic 12-megabit-per-second (Mbps) service with a 30-gigabyte quota for downloads and uploads. The plans also include a telephone service with $10 worth of calls a month.

At the top end, Internode said it would charge $189.95 a month for a 100Mbps service with a 1000GB download quota.

Internode blamed the unexpectedly high prices on "existing flaws in the NBN Co wholesale charging model" and warned that regional customers could have to pay more to connect to the network.

The opposition last night seized on the pricing, declaring that it failed to match existing costs for accessing broadband. "The biggest barrier to accessing the internet is not distance or indeed technology but cost," said the opposition's communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull.

"If the NBN results in higher internet prices, then the outcome of this massive expenditure of taxpayers' money will be to make it harder for Australians already struggling to pay their bills to get online."

But the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last night defended the situation and said it expected competition would bring pricing pressure. "The prices quoted by Internode are comparable with current prices for a bundled internet package which includes telephone line rental," Senator Conroy's spokesman said. "They also provide much higher speeds than are currently available."

Under NBN Co's wholesale pricing model, internet service providers will have to pay an access fee for each customer they connect to the fibre network, as well as a usage fee based on the amount of data carried through the network.

These usage fees angered Internode's managing director, Simon Hackett, who yesterday said the fees were artificially constructed to create a massive financial windfall for the NBN Co. Mr Hackett warned that the usage fees could also result in the abandonment of small-scale retail internet providers in rural and regional Australia.

"It is not a charge based on real costs. Rather, the quantum of this charge has simply been chosen to fill in an otherwise huge hole in the federal government policy requirement that the network return funds to the commonwealth at a commercial rate and in a short timeframe (relative to the expected lifetime of the network)," Mr Hackett wrote in a blog posting yesterday.

Internode said that unless the NBN Co's pricing model were revised then consumer pricing would be "driven far higher than it would otherwise be driven during the first several years of the NBN's build phase".

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network chief executive Teresa Corbin said that if Mr Hackett's call for changes would result in lower prices, "we would expect the government to look at the relative merit of those suggestions".

"For many customers, the entry-level plans with speeds of 12mbps are much, much faster than what they would be getting now and the prices of these bundles are comparable to what's available today," Ms Corbin said.

Frank Zumbo, a competition and consumer expert at the University of NSW, warned that "if you get the pricing wrong, the whole project comes tumbling down financially".

"There will be differences in pricing at a retail level. It's inevitable given the enormity of the project and given there will be rural and regional and metro areas with different customer profiles," he said. "We fully expect that there will be higher retail prices in regional areas in the same way as unfortunately we have higher petrol prices in rural areas. We need to get the pricing right."

Internode's concerns add weight to a warning by government adviser Greenhill Caliburn earlier this year that said "potential consumer pushback on the usage-based pricing model" was one of the key risks to NBN Co's assumptions on average revenues per user.


It's not the media that's invading our privacy, it's the government

PRIVACY and Freedom of Information Minister Brendan O'Connor claimed yesterday in The Australian, "This government believes in a free media and freedom of expression, and we also believe in the right to a private life."

Perhaps he does but the actions speak louder than words. It's not the media that is invading everyone's privacy, it's the government.

In one after another aspect of life state and federal governments have dispensed with any presumption that your behaviour, opinions or associations are none of anyone else's business.

An increasingly large share of our tax dollars is being used to employ a growing army of people to prescribe, monitor, enforce and report on activity that ought to be considered private.

A serious review of privacy should open up debate about the effectiveness or desirability of present prohibitions on private action.

A serious privacy review might consider, for instance, why we don't allow an adult video game classification or the public value of last year's decision to ban a gay zombie film from being shown at a Melbourne film festival.

In most cases each individual intrusion is innocuous; in some cases the short-term impacts are arguably beneficial, such as the curbs on smoking. But it's a part of a trend to regulate recreation, speech and consumption even further.

It is, for instance, illegal in NSW to raffle cosmetic surgery, although cosmetic surgery and raffles remain legal. It's also illegal to use a solarium if you're under 30 -- an age of consent without precedent anywhere else in law -- and it's illegal to box until you're 14, although horse riding remains a more dangerous sport. In Queensland it's illegal to skateboard, scooter or roller blade after dark. "I'm not anti-fun, I'm pro-safety," Labor politician Rachel Nolan said when announcing the changes. "This is just as much about common courtesy as it is about common sense."

Her press release and subsequent statements offered no data on the safety case or indeed the courtesy case but, then, one can generally be guaranteed an absence of facts when government resorts to claiming a measure is about common sense.

The election of the Baillieu government in Victoria ensures it will no longer be the only state in the federation where a smoking enthusiast can indulge the no doubt twilight years of their hobby with a water pipe.

Last year fireworks were finally banned in the ACT after continuing complaints not of human injury but of nervous animals.

On the horizon or under consideration for bans in various states and territories at the moment are energy drinks, junk food advertising, "offensive" T-shirts, helium balloons, "exploitative" advertising, trans fats and canals.

Elsewhere additional resources are being applied to crack down on activities that have long been regulated but that warrant a fresh think about how useful or desirable this prohibition is. More resources than ever are being applied to the regulation of prostitution, firearms and drugs without a clear picture of the specific public benefits to be obtained or comparative analysis of competing approaches.

Meanwhile, every day that passes without a resolution to a serious challenge such as indigenous literacy seems to usher forth yet another resource-devouring intrusion into private life. If the government is serious about privacy its first task should be to identify those areas where government could improve privacy rights simply by keeping its own nose out of other people's business.


Crazy deal by the Australian government

Sending away 800 Afghan Muslim boat people and accepting 4,000 Burmese Buddhists instead is hard to explain. Though it may be a reflection of what Australians think of Muslims, I guess. And in the main, the Burmese are genuine refugees, which the Afghans are not

THE Federal Government's refugee swap agreement with Malaysia is a "bad deal" that will not stop asylum seekers, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says. His comments come after reports that The Government could sign its refugee swap deal with Malaysia early next week.

Under a deal announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in May, Malaysia will take up to 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat, in return for Australia accepting 4000 processed [Burmese] refugees.

"It's a bad deal. I don't think it's going to stop the boats," Mr Abbott told the Nine Network. "It's now two-and-a-half months since the so-called Malaysia deal was announced and I think in that time we have had 10 boats and more than 500 people arrive."

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is reportedly set to clinch the deal in Malaysia on Monday, Fairfax reported today, but the minister's office would not confirm this with the newspapers.

The head of the Malaysian police and the chairman of Malaysia's Human Rights Commission are expected to attend the signing ceremony, the report said.


New crackdown on illegal workers already in Australia

Illegal workers are a bigger problem for Australia's immigration system than boat people, an official report says, prompting the Federal Government to introduce tougher penalties for bosses caught using them.

The independent review, by barrister Stephen Howells , says a "significant number" of tourists, backpackers, business people and foreign students come to Australia and work illegally.

Mr Howells estimated that at least 50,000 people, and potentially more than 100,000 people, were working illegally in Australia.

His report found that organised rackets were behind some of the groups of illegal workers, who were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, unsafe work practices, underpayment, taxation and welfare fraud and associated crime.

He said there was a strong perception among illegal workers that the only punishment would be deportation at taxpayers' expense.

Mr Howells said immigration officials had identified at least 100 breaches since 2007, when the Howard government softened penalties for employers caught flouting the system. Of these, 10 had been thoroughly investigated but there had been only one successful prosecution. Mr Howells said the number of asylum seekers coming by boat was relatively small but a much larger group travelled here legally.

The crackdown on illegal workers follows Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announcing earlier this week that Perth would be declared a country town so it will be easier for businesses to bring in foreigners on working visas to meet skills shortages. He announced yesterday companies would face a fine of up to $10,000 per worker if caught using illegal labour.



Pesky! Sea-level rises are SLOWING, tidal gauge records show

Once again, reality defies the so-called "models": Models of what? These findings hit right at the heart of the Warmist scare. The spectre of rising sea levels has been their most dramatic claim

ONE of Australia's foremost experts on the relationship between climate change and sea levels has written a peer-reviewed paper concluding that rises in sea levels are "decelerating".

The analysis, by NSW principal coastal specialist Phil Watson, calls into question one of the key criteria for large-scale inundation around the Australian coast by 2100 -- the assumption of an accelerating rise in sea levels because of climate change.

Based on century-long tide gauge records at Fremantle, Western Australia (from 1897 to present), Auckland Harbour in New Zealand (1903 to present), Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour (1914 to present) and Pilot Station at Newcastle (1925 to present), the analysis finds there was a "consistent trend of weak deceleration" from 1940 to 2000.

Mr Watson's findings, published in the Journal of Coastal Research this year and now attracting broader attention, supports a similar analysis of long-term tide gauges in the US earlier this year. Both raise questions about the CSIRO's sea-level predictions.

Climate change researcher Howard Brady, at Macquarie University, said yesterday the recent research meant sea levels rises accepted by the CSIRO were "already dead in the water as having no sound basis in probability". "In all cases, it is clear that sea-level rise, although occurring, has been decelerating for at least the last half of the 20th century, and so the present trend would only produce sea level rise of around 15cm for the 21st century."

Dr Brady said the divergence between the sea-level trends from models and sea-level trends from the tide gauge records was now so great "it is clear there is a serious problem with the models".

"In a nutshell, this factual information means the high sea-level rises used as precautionary guidelines by the CSIRO in recent years are in essence ridiculous," he said. During the 20th century, there was a measurable global average rise in mean sea level of about 17cm [7"] (plus or minus 5cm).

But scientific projections, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have suggested climate change will deliver a much greater global tide rise in mean sea level this century of 80-100cm.

The federal government has published a series of inundation maps based on the panel's predictions showing that large areas of Australia's capital cities, southeast Queensland and the NSW central coast will be under water by 2100.

Without acceleration in sea-level rises, the 20th-century trend of 1.7mm a year would produce a rise of about 0.15m by 2100.

Mr Watson's analysis of the four longest continuous Australian and New Zealand records is consistent with the findings of US researchers Robert Dean and James Houston, who analysed monthly averaged records for 57 tide gauges, covering periods of 60 to 156 years.

The US research concluded there was "no evidence to support positive acceleration over the 20th century as suggested by the IPCC, global climate change models and some researchers".

Mr Watson cautioned in his research and again yesterday that studies of a small number of northern hemisphere records spanning two or three centuries had found a small acceleration in sea-level rises. He said it was possible the rises could be subject to "climate-induced impacts projected to occur over this century".

Mr Watson's research finds that in the 1990s, when sea levels were attracting international attention, although the decadal rates of ocean rise were high, "they are not remarkable or unusual in the context of the historical record at each site over the 20th century".

"What we are seeing in all of the records is there are relatively high rates of sea-level rise evident post-1990, but those sorts of rates of rise have been witnessed at other times in the historical record," he said. "What remains unknown is whether or not these rates are going to persist into the future and indeed increase."

He said further research was required, "to rationalise the difference between the acceleration trend evident in the global sea level time-series reconstructions (models) and the relatively consistent deceleration trend evident in the long-term Australasian tide gauge records".

With an estimated 710,000 Australian homes within 3km and below 6m elevation of the coast, accurate sea-level predictions are vital for planning in coastal areas anticipating predicted sea-level rises of almost a metre by 2100.


Another "secret" Greenie model

Warmists keeping details of their calculations secret is a normal modus operandi for them. That of course tells its own story. And leaked details of the carbon tax modelling show amply WHY they want to keep it all secret. Their assumptions are absurd. Henry Ergas has a few chuckles below

I WAS wrong. Treasury's modelling doesn't assume the US has an emissions trading scheme in place by 2016. It merely assumes its economy operates as if it did. Unnamed government sources have told the Fairfax press that Treasury assumes the US will "reach emission reduction targets at a cost no higher than the international price", that is, at least cost, without having to bother with a market-based mechanism.

That would not be a mere accomplishment: it would be a miracle. At least if you take Climate Change Minister Greg Combet seriously who has repeatedly said imposing a carbon tax is "essential" for "achieving emissions reductions at cheapest cost". As have Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan.

But Treasury apparently knows better. If those government sources are to be believed, its officials have discovered a way of getting the benefit of a carbon tax without actually having one.

Yet, oddly, that miracle cure doesn't seem to have been around when Treasury wrote its modelling report. Rather, Treasury assumes that from 2016, under the auspices of a "co-ordinated international policy regime", industrial countries, including the US, would "trade, either bilaterally or through a central market" delivering a "harmonised world carbon price".

How the US will trade if it doesn't have some form of permit system is a mystery worthy of Hercule Poirot. And the mysteries don't end there. If the US can achieve least-cost abatement without an ETS in 2016, why put one in place later? Indeed, why would anyone bother with such a scheme?

Answering these questions would be easier if the government opened the kimono on the actual model. Given access to the model itself, we would know exactly what it assumes. And the implications of changing those assumptions could be tested.

It would be possible to assess the costs to Australia if we adopt a carbon tax and our major competitors don't: the scenario Treasury's report fails to detail. And it would also be possible to examine the effects of other crucial features of Treasury's modelling.

For example, the model does not provide for the mandated decommissioning of the Hazelwood and possibly Yallourn power stations in Victoria. These generators have low operating costs and even with a rising carbon price would operate until at least 2025. Replacing them sooner requires substantial investment in generating plant and transmission. That will need to be paid for. But when?

Although the government is talking of decommissioning those generators now, Treasury's modelling seems to defer the cost until at least 2025 and maybe until 2040. That conveniently reduces the estimated hit to electricity prices.

The model also assumes unlimited access to permits overseas. Those permits provide two-thirds of our mitigation to 2020, "resulting in lower economic costs". But the government has now said it will cap purchases of foreign abatement at far less than that. So here, too, the policy's costs are underestimated.

And the model also unrealistically assumes the government's policy is revenue neutral (so that other taxes don't need to be raised to finance any shortfall), with all revenues returned to taxpayers as lump sum payments, so the compensation does not distort any decisions.

But here's the best bit, tucked away in a technical annex. The modelling assumes emitters can borrow permits from the future. And borrow they do, on a scale that puts Greece to shame.

By 2050, emitters worldwide have borrowed four years' global permit allocations from the future. Using Treasury's estimate of future carbon prices, that is equivalent to a net debt of $10.7 trillion in 2011 dollars, or 10 times Australia's current national output. And the total value of those net borrowings would rise at 6 to 8 per cent a year, far exceeding the growth rate of world incomes.

Why assume debt accumulation on such a plainly unsustainable scale? Because it postpones the pain, shifting emissions reduction to beyond the modelling period. The problem, however, is no current or likely scheme allows such net borrowing, much less on the scale Treasury envisages. So that further underestimates the policy's costs, probably greatly.

But without access to the model no one can say by how much. And that suits the government. For Treasury's modelling presumably reflects assumptions determined by the government, such as that all industrial countries have carbon taxes in place by 2016 or behave as if they did.

The government also presumably determined what was not to be disclosed: most importantly, the consequences if we tax our mineral exports and our competitors don't. Treasury then modelled and explained those scenarios as best it could.

Fair enough; that is the government's prerogative and Treasury's job. But when caught out, spare us the contorted denials. Rather, when the facts come home to roost, have the good grace to make them welcome. Or as Gillard put it: "Don't write crap. It can't be that hard."


Bootleggers hijack climate change debate

Bjorn Lomborg

AUSTRALIA'S carbon tax is being sold to the public with government-funded ads in which representatives from renewable energy companies make the case for the government policy.

Their arguments range from, "it's got to be better to put wind turbines up", to "other countries around the world are doing it". One cites the example of Germany, which has led the world in subsidising solar panels.

Yes, Germany has spent more than $75 billion on inefficient solar technology delivering a mere 0.1 per cent of its total energy supply. And this will postpone global warming by how much? A whole seven hours by the end of the century.

The ads give the impression that solar and wind are ready to take over from fossil fuels. Yet, even in a very optimistic scenario, the International Energy Agency estimates that by 2035, solar and energy will contribute only about 1.6 per cent of global energy.

They also suggest that carbon pricing will lead to new green jobs popping up, as if by magic.

Yet the most comprehensive research into "green jobs" shows that a similar number of people are put out of work because of increased energy costs.

The Australian government is not alone in touting renewable energy as a solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In May, the UN's International Panel on Climate Change made media waves with a new report on renewable energy. As in the past, the IPCC first issued a short summary; only later would it reveal all of the data.

The IPCC press release declared, "Close to 80 per cent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies." That story was repeated by media organisations worldwide.

Last month the IPCC released the full report, together with the data behind this startlingly optimistic claim. Only then did it emerge that it was based solely on the most optimistic of 164 modelling scenarios researchers investigated. And this single scenario stemmed from a single study that was traced back to a report by the environmental organisation Greenpeace. The author of that report, a Greenpeace staff member, was one of the IPCC lead authors.

The claim rested on the assumption of a large reduction in global energy use. Given the number of people climbing out of poverty in China and India, that is a deeply implausible scenario.

When the IPCC first made the claim, global-warming activists and renewable-energy companies cheered. "The report clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies could supply the world with more energy than it would ever need," boasted Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council.

This sort of behaviour, with activists and big energy companies uniting to applaud anything that suggests a need for increased subsidies to alternative energy, was famously captured by the so-called "bootleggers and baptists" theory of politics.

The theory grew out of the experience of the southern US, where many jurisdictions required stores to close on Sunday, thus preventing the sale of alcohol. The regulation was supported by religious groups for moral reasons, but also by bootleggers, because they had the market to themselves on Sundays. Politicians would adopt the Baptists' pious rhetoric, while quietly taking campaign contributions from the criminals.

Of course, today's climate-change "bootleggers" are not engaged in any illegal behaviour.

But the self-interest of energy companies, biofuel producers, insurance firms, lobbyists, and others in supporting "green" policies is a point that is often missed.

Indeed, the "bootleggers and Baptists" theory helps to account for other developments in global warming policy over the past decade or so. For example, the Kyoto Protocol would have cost trillions of dollars, but would have achieved a practically indiscernible difference in stemming the rise in global temperature. Yet activists claimed that there was a moral obligation to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, and were cheered on by businesses that stood to gain.

During the ill-fated Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009, Denmark's capital city was plastered with slick ads urging the delegates to make a strong deal. They were paid for by Vestas, the world's largest windmill producer.

Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, a famous convert to environmentalism, drafted a "plan" (which he named after himself) to increase America's reliance on renewables. Of course, he would also have been one of the main investors in the wind-power and natural-gas companies that would benefit from government subsidies.

Traditional energy giants like BP and Shell have championed their "green" credentials, while standing to profit from selling oil or gas instead of environmentally "unfriendly" coal. Even US electricity giant Duke Energy, a big coal consumer, won green kudos for promoting a US cap-and-trade scheme. But the firm ended up opposing the draft legislation to create such a scheme, because it did not provide sufficient free carbon-emission permits for coal companies.

Elsewhere in the world, dubious claims by faithful activists gave rise to the biofuels industry (with supporting lobbyists).

Biofuel production likely increases atmospheric carbon, owing to the massive deforestation that it requires, while crop diversion increases food prices and contributes to global hunger. While environmentalists have started to acknowledge this, the industry received a lot of activist support when it began, and neither agribusiness nor green-energy producers have any interest in changing course now.

Obviously, private firms are motivated by self-interest, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But too often we hear commentators suggest that when Greenpeace and big business agree on something, it must be a sensible option. Business support for expensive policies such as the Kyoto Protocol, which would have done very little for climate change, indicate otherwise.

The climate-change "Baptists" provide the moral cover that politicians can use to sell regulation, along with scary stories that the media can use to attract readers or viewers.

Businesses see opportunities for taxpayer-funded subsidies, and to pass on inevitable cost growth to consumers.

Unfortunately, this convergence of interests can push us to focus on ineffective, expensive responses to climate change. Whenever opposite political forces attract, as activists and big business have in the case of global warming, there is a high risk that the public interest will be caught in the middle.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"A serious privacy review might consider, for instance, why we don't allow an adult video game classification or the public value of last year's decision to ban a gay zombie film from being shown at a Melbourne film festival."

Gay Zombie film? Mardi-Gras dance party ay 7am the following morning. There's your Gay Zombie film.