Friday 30 November 2007

Error messages we understand

Dr Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators

Another clever funny from the lads at Weta Workshop in Wellington, who were behind creating monsters and effects for Lord of the Rings.

And yes, you can buy them!

A big loss to the current Council

This just in from the Cairns 1st team...

  • Cr Fran Lindsay’s decision not to run again as a division 2 councillor in the next local government elections is a real loss to the city.

    This is according to Cairns First mayoral candidate
    Val Schier who had been hoping that Cr Lindsay would be re-elected and bring her skills and experience to the new Cairns Regional Council.

    “Cr Lindsay is arguably the best performing member of the current council,” Ms Schier said.

    “She is the person who demonstrates the most courage in standing up to the current mayor.

    “If she doesn’t agree with the Mayor or Unity Team position she will always challenge in a respectful and assertive way.

    “She plans well, is always prepared, works with community groups, looks after her constituents and advocates skillfully for them.

    “Division 2 residents – 75% of whom voted for her in the 2004 elections – will be disappointed that she is finally calling it quits.

    “She leaves very big shoes to fill.”

    Cr Lindsay has stated that she will stay involved in community groups and find more time to spend in her garden and with her recently retired husband.

    Ms Schier said Cr Lindsay is a model for current and future councillors and hopefully she will make herself available to mentor her successor or other councillors.

    With Cr Lindsay’s retirement the field is now wide open for a new candidate and a fresh face in the much larger division 2 in the new Cairns Regional Council.

    INFO: Val Schier on 0407 100 886 or 4055 0353.

A fatally poisoned chalice?

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker, tunes into AM this morning...

This morning on ABC AM, listeners heard the remarkable tale that Malcolm Turnbull had, indeed, been on track to win the Federal Liberal leadership at yesterday’s ballot. That explains reports, immediately before the Parliamentary Party met, that he was the likely victor.

However - or so the story goes – this is what cost him the leadership...

  • Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd has promised to apologize to the Stolen Generations early in his first term of government.

    Former Prime Minister John Howard was adamant that he would never deliver a formal apology and Mr Turnbull says that was a mistake.

    "Clearly we should have said sorry then," he said.
    "Unquestionably that was an error I'd say, about a friend, John Howard.

    "I think John got himself into a bit of a semantic tangle there. And you know, getting into semantics about regret versus sorry, that's a waste of time.

    "But having said that it's one thing to say sorry, you should do that, but the critical thing is getting the substance right."

The story goes that Nick Minchin and other hard-hats in the caucus were so enraged by these comments that they renewed efforts to defeat Turnbull’s candidacy. They succeeded – by a whisker.

Yesterday evening, new leader Brendon Nelson was asked by Kerry O’Brien on ABC's Lateline about the ‘sorry’ issue. Nelson was evasive.

If the Liberal leadership truly was gained through such a mean-spirited difference, the new leader has been sucked into power by a moral vacuum.

Do the Libs intend to disagree with the new Government’s national apology, when it comes? Will they go to the next election demanding a retraction?

"Those whom the gods would destroy, they first send mad", as Euripides had it.

Incidentally, Noel Pearson has been oddly quiet about this. He was set to go and ready to attack Kevin Rudd within just a few hours, less than two days before the Federal election. What’s worse than a heartless snake, I wonder?

Perhaps he’s still consulting a good thesaurus?

We're not sorry

The Libs are sure of one thing, well two, but they're definitely not sorry, and they're not going to say so to the traditional owners.

Prime Minister Rudd, well he will be on Monday, will formally apologise to the indigenous 'stolen generation', but without any blessing from the Liberals.

Brendan Nelson, who has the nod as the new opposition leader ahead of Malcolm Turnbull, says this generation "had no responsibility to apologise to Aborigines for the actions of earlier generations."

"In most cases the taking of indigenous children from their parents was done with good intentions, but not good outcomes," Brendan Nelson said.

Nelson has refused to guarantee Labor's changes to workplace laws while the coalition still controls the Senate.

However, they won't appose Labor's plan to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Rudd's new Ministers

Rudd has announced his new Ministry for swearing in on Monday 3 December.

Julia Gillard will take on Education and Employment and Workplace Relations.

As expected, Wayne Swan will be Treasurer and Lindsay Tanner, Minister for Finance.

The new Labor Government will now have the first Minister for Climate Change and Water. Senator Penny Wong will take on this challenge. She will be joined with Peter Garrett as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and The Arts.

Anthony Albanese will be appointed the Minister for Infrastructure, Minister for Transport and Regional Development, and Minister for Local Government. Senator Conroy will become Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Look out for a digital superhighway near you soon Sid!

Another new Ministry will be created for Senator Kim Carr as our first Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

Simon Crean will be Minister for Trade.

With 759 public hospitals, Nicola Roxon, the new Minister for Health and Ageing, will have her work cut out.

  • Kevin Rudd, MP
    Prime Minister

  • Julia Gillard, MP
    Deputy Prime Minister
    Employment and Workplace Relations
    Social Inclusion

  • Wayne Swan, MP

  • Senator Chris Evans
    Leader of the Government in the Senate
    Immigration and Citizenship

  • Senator John Faulkner
    Special Minister of State
    Cabinet Secretary
    Vice President of the Executive Council

  • Simon Crean, MP

  • Stephen Smith, MP
    Foreign Affairs

  • Joel Fitzgibbon, MP

  • Nicola Roxon, MP
    Health and Ageing

  • Jenny Macklin, MP
    Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

  • Lindsay Tanner, MP
    Finance and Deregulation

  • Anthony Albanese, MP
    Transport and Regional Development
    Local Government
    Leader of the House

  • Senator Stephen Conroy
    Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
    Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

  • Senator Kim Carr
    Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

  • Senator Penny Wong
    Climate Change and Water

  • Peter Garrett, MP
    Environment, Heritage and The Arts

  • Robert McClelland, MP
    Attorney General

  • Senator Joe Ludwig
    Human Services
    Manager of Government Business in the Senate

  • Tony Burke, MP
    Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

  • Martin Ferguson, MP
    Resources and Energy


    Bob Debus
    Home Affairs

    Chris Bowen, MP
    Assistant Treasurer
    Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

    Alan Griffin, MP
    Veterans’ Affairs

    Tanya Plibersek, MP
    Status of Women

    Brendan O’Connor, MP
    Employment Participation

    Warren Snowdon, MP
    Defence Science and Personnel

    Craig Emerson, MP
    Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy
    Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation

    Senator Nick Sherry
    Superannuation and Corporate Governance

    Justine Elliot, MP

    Kate Ellis, MP

    Maxine McKew
    Prime Minister and Cabinet

    Greg Combet

    Mike Kelly

    Gary Gray
    Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development

    Bill Shorten
    Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

    Bob McMullan, MP
    Foreign Affairs

    Duncan Kerr, MP
    Foreign Affairs

    Anthony Byrne, MP
    Prime Minister and Cabinet

    Senator Ursula Stephens
    Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector

    John Murphy, MP

    Senator Jan McLucas
    Health and Ageing

    Laurie Ferguson, MP
    Immigration and Citizenship

Byrne suddenly talking tough

Mayoral candidate Val Schier, says that the Mayor has had years to come up with a collaborative solution for the indigenous problem in Cairns...

  • Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne’s tough talk on town camps is a lot of hot air unless he is prepared to propose meaningful solutions to homelessness and housing affordability.

    This is according to Cairns First mayoral candidate, Val Schier, who is suspicious at Councillor Byrne’s sudden interest in this issue less than four months out from the next council election.

    “The Queensland Police Service has not reported an increase in the number of homeless people’s camps recently,” Ms Schier said.

    “Yet Cr Byrne is suddenly talking about ‘sites of shame’ and flexing his muscles with threats to shut down camps.

    “What has he been doing for the past four years? Where is Cairns City Council’s homeless policy?

    “Where is its Indigenous Reference Group to provide advice and help put strategies into place?

    “It’s no good blaming the State Government.”

    Ms Schier said Cr Byrne’s confrontational style is not going to solve this complex problem.

    “It is unlikely he will have much credibility if he thinks he’s going to belatedly show some leadership in this area,” she said.

    “Now is not a time for grandstanding. As last weekend’s election result shows, people today prefer to see a collaborative approach.

    “We need to work hand in hand with State Government agencies and relevant community organisations.”

    Ms Schier said there are many reasons why people are homeless and are forced to choose the option of sleeping rough.

    “They may have mental health issues, have alcohol-related problems or simply not have the money to pay increased rents,” she said.

    “It’s unproductive to attack homeless people and make threats unless you have constructive proposals and solutions.

    The State Government has allocated more funds to address homelessness in the Cairns area, so the Cairns City Council needs to make a contribution as well if it wants to be part of the solution.

Shameful Council, indeed

It's not like we needed another reason to throw this Council out.

Yet every week or so there's yet another story that comes to the surface. This one has been the sore in the Byrne Council's arse for years.

As we move from a Liberal-led government that believed the solution to indigenous affairs was to send in the storm-troopers and police to solve problems in a quick fire method of rehabilitation, so too it seems that another right-wing local government doesn't know how to work with indigenous people.

They've had years to work on this one, but were too busy putting up rates and approving construction of multi-story apartment blocks and providing tourist facilities. Right under Council's nose, some two minutes drive from Council offices in Spence Street, there is a bigger issue that needed their attention.

Mayor Byrne has said camps where many aboriginals live (he calls them 'itinerants'), must be pulled down and "vagrants moved out". He's called them “sites of shame.”

The only 'site of shame' in located in Spence Street. It's a Council, like Howard and his view of indigenous people and their place in Australia. This Council can't understand aboriginal people nor has it effectively worked in a collaborative way with them.

Mayor Byrne says there's sewerage and no running water. Well, Mr Mayor, why doesn't the wealth of your Council that you've collected from your high-rise property boom, put some money towards these folk? Your Council could build facilities here to help these people.

This is not the first time mind you. Two years ago Kevin ordered the demolition of a large redundant shed at the end of Sherdian Street that was home to many. Again, there was no plan to help these people and where they would go, he just ordered in the bulldozers one morning.

There are solutions to this, however you've been in office for how long now? One term as mayor prior to amalgamating Cairns and Mulgrave, and another 2 terms under Cairns, and what progress has been made by Cairns City Council in the relationship and progress with local indigenous people?

When did you last welcome their elders into your, I mean our, Mayoral office to discuss and support these people?

Before you jump up and say that there's one rule for all and we all must abide by it, we know that's not true in white man's culture, especially when you have loads of money and want to build a 325-apartment block.

It's a typical conservative attitude when you see that the only perceived solution mirrors that of the Coalition government in trying to solve 200 years of abuse, confusion and little knowledge on how to help a people whose culture is threatened and they have a legacy of abuse and treatment from white Australia that leaves a lot to be desired.

That's right Kevin, jump in and pull these camps down. Throw these people into the streets. You will still be able to order a chauffeur-driven limo to your next function at the Sofitel. You will still have Peking duck without worrying about the cost. You will still enjoy the privileges of office and power of Council's (ours) lawyers to attempt to silence people that express a different view to yours, when open public debate is what any other publicly elected official does.

Watching the change of government last weekend, and that people simply had enough of being spoken to without being consulted on climate change, working conditions, immigration, going to war - the community reacted defiantly.

In March next year, in just over 100 days time, the Cairns community will also have their say.

They will follow the mood of this country as I think they have had enough of being treated with contempt in a city and region they love.

We elect city leaders to lead and represent our interests, to act as our servants and manage our rates for the benefit of all. To have a vision and compassion for difference and those who are not in the same economic base as others.

I'm delighted that Damon Guppy at the Cairns Post reminded his readers of the infamous stint in 1994 when Byrne and his Council were involved in the moving of bus loads of aboriginals from Cairns and dumped them 760 kms north at Lockhart River.

I've told this story to many visitors and recent arrivals. They almost always can't believe it's true. It's like this story has become an urban legend. But no, it's true.

What a shameful, shameful thing to be party to. This story will need to retold in great detail before the March election. It needs to be. How any Councillor could act in compliance with this act of callous disregard for fellow residents is something you'd only expect in Mugabe's South Africa, not in modern Australia.

By the way Damon, next time the Mayor tries to tell you they're 'itinerants', they're not. They're people. They're aboriginal. Please don't use those words to describe a people that have been betrayed so many times by the recent settlers to Australia.

As a community, we will soon deliver a Council that will respect these people. All people. That will work with them to find a solution. That will respect there is a place for them in Cairns, as there is for everyone, not just fat rich white guys.

Val Schier, or any credible opposition to the current Council, will need to lead this group of people in our community out of the poverty trap and give them a helping hand in partnership. There are solutions, and they may well be complex and sensitive. However, the answer isn't to bulldoze their homes because it doesn't meet with our, I mean Byrne's idea of what a home is.

How often are you presented with such a situation like this where there's an opportunity for a local body authority to construct a world-class cultural centre. It could offer support, liaison, accommodation, medical needs and protection. Our region could actually address and provide solution-based options for this situation and become a leader in it.

Byrne went on to say to The Cairns Post that they're "living in squalor, it’s illegal use. We can’t just turn a blind eye to these camps. If we do, we’ll be condoning it and this council won’t do that.”

Very imaginative stuff Kevin. Is that the answer then to anything that doesn't fit for your Council? Are you actually a leader with a vision for a Cairns that accepts and integrates all it's citizens, not just the ones who come here cashed up and can get out to the Reef every other week? Not just those that can afford a $375,000 air-conditioned apartment in some god-forsaken gated community with two cars.

Terry O’Shane, a local indigenous leader who works in areas of alcohol relief services, has told the Mayor to "stop blaming the victims and help solve the city’s poverty problem."

O'Shane says the Mayor should act like a mayor. Of course, to address poverty is difficult. It takes balls. It takes a person with compassion and commitment to working together with different people who have different outlooks on life. They have a different set of values to others.

O'Shane believe Byrne's words are simply hassling homeless people. He said that over the years there has been little done by Council to help out in a constructive empowering way.

Ironically, when Damon Guppy visited the camps targeted by Byrne, they appeared 'tidy and well constructed'.

Even the panel on this morning's channel 7's Sunrise programme slammed the attitude of the Cairns Mayor. "What an archaic way to look at this problem" they said. "He wants to put them on buses again!"

This will be a task that the new Federal member Jim Turnour would do well in addressing. In a partnership between State, Federal, Council, and local community indigenous people, a local Action Group could be formed within days.

Like successive governments have done: stop the blame game and thinking that bulldozing these camps will help. Come up with a real practical way forward.

This reaction to this problem says more about a Council out of touch and out of ideas than one with positive energy to work with such vulnerable people.

Presently, the Cairns Council is part of the problem. They have created the very thing that Mayor Byrne now detests. They need to be part of the solution, and they should have been years ago.

Unlike you Kevin, I doubt these folk in Portsmith will have internet access to read this blog. The March election can't come soon enough.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

The Internet Gap, Pork & Pigs

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker, dissects the post-election after-party party...

When the Federal election was called all those weeks ago, I sent an email to the major party candidates in Leichhardt – Charlie McKillop and Jim Turnour – to complain (again) about my ‘internet gap’ and ask them what guarantees they could give me it would be remedied within the next three years.

The Gap

‘Internet gap’? I’ll explain…

I live about ten kilometers from Kuranda. I’m on the phone, but unable to get ADSL (apparently I’m just too far from the local exchange). Hence my only fast internet options are satellite or wireless.

The previous Government arranged generous subsidies, so installing a satellite dish for internet use has been almost free to the customer. However, satellite data costs are high and even moderate usage is expensive. To use 5 – 10 GB of bandwidth per month, as many folk do, costs hundreds of dollars in excess download fees. A similar high cost data cost applies to the newer wireless internet network. By comparison, ADSL users (like users of regular dialup) get unlimited data transfers for affordable monthly fixed fees.
Because of this, many rural and all remote areas remain disadvantaged for high speed internet access - despite the Howard Government’s much-trumpeted Customer Service Guarantee.
Essentially, if you can’t access a suitable telephone connection and you want fast internet, your choice is to pay through the nose or go without.

The emails I sent to both Charlie McKillop and Jim Turnour spelt this out in some detail and asked for detail in return about how each respective party proposed to solve this problem. I made a suggestion: Why not agree to subsidize data transfer rates for rural users whose only high-speed option is satellite or wireless? I pointed out that combined with already-existing satellite installation subsidies, doing that would provide affordable and equitable telecoms access throughout the continent, straight away. Of course, it would also cost government a lot of money – especially because these days, the Government must purchase satellite and /or wireless data-transmission services from private companies.

My emails also complains that while both major parties and all levels of government seemed desperate to build a 4-Lane Highway practically to my gate (even though a high proportion of folk around here don’t want it) – affordable fast internet, which is uncontroversial and relatively inexpensive to install, is still unavailable to many people like me.

Neither party’s announced policy at that time, as far as I could see, guaranteed prompt improvement. Suspicious of fine-sounding pledges that translate to little action on the ground, I asked both politicians for policy detail and an implementation timetable.


I wanted to cash in, personally, on the major party bidding war, already underway, over the next round of broadband delivery. Both parties were raising the stakes. I wanted to exercise my little bit of sway so my own neighbourhood (along, incidentally, with most of the continent) didn’t miss out again. Self-interest? Sure. The pork-barrel was out. I wanted my bite.

This is how I went…

I happened to speak on the phone, separately, with both Charlie McKillop and Jim Turnour a few days after sending my email. Both recalled receiving the email and broadband was discussed in both conversations.

Charlie, ever the collected and detail-oriented politician, understood my issues and promised to get back after Julie Bishop’s office got back to her. She warned me not to accept guarantees without real detail from Labor. ‘Fibre to the node’, she said, could well be a long time in coming and wouldn’t necessarily reach the doors of folk like me. I thanked her for her advice and said I’d look forward to receiving her letter when she had more information about the Coalition’s policy.

Now, I may have missed it, but I don’t think that promised correspondence ever arrived. As the campaign evolved, quite understandably, Charlie had many other more pressing things to deal with than the minutiae of my nightmarishly specific queries.

My conversation with Jim Turnour was different. He was less familiar with the detail of my letter (but in fairness it was the first time we’d spoken about this rather complicated issue). He extolled the virtues of fibre-to-the-node – Labor’s newly announced initiative. I asked when it would deliver an outcome for me. He couldn’t say. That’s understandable. After all, it was a new policy - and Labor wasn’t even in Government.

Jim sounded harassed and over-stretched and I began to feel rather sorry for him. Too tough, I thought, to make an issue out of not getting a specific guarantee. So I didn’t try. He checked to make sure the telephone chat was enough of an answer for me. Clearly, Jim clearly didn’t want the hassle of getting a complicated letter researched, then approved through Labor HQ. I said OK, not wanting to drive a fellow human being nuts.

Now, vague claims to one side, an impartial judge must score that nil-nil for the two major parties – and nil once again for my neighborhood (and most of the Australian continent).

Jim Turnour and the ALP have since made it into government. Both have jumped very large hurdles. Congratulations!

Once again, I’ll just wait and see whether affordable broadband reaches my doorstep within the next three years. Occasionally I have guests from overseas. Most of them are polite about my internet connection. Sometimes they chuckle. I’m used to the jokes. I can put up with them a while longer.


The Howard Government did the country a huge disservice when it privatized Telstra - a highly profitable publicly owned instrumentality that held an effective and quite rational monopoly over telecommunications in Australia. Sure, it was feather-bedded, inefficient and run by dead-heads who initially saw the internet as a nuisance. But each of those problems could have been addressed while retaining public ownership of the essential network. We have lost that great advantage and gained nothing in return – nothing that couldn’t have been added, like plug-in extras, to this single network.

Providing affordable bandwidth throughout a continent – even a continent as large as Australia – is a do-able thing. It’s not like providing a complete highway network. The cost of telecoms infrastructure is relatively low; there are a range of fast-improving technological options and the environmental implications are manageable.

We live in a capitalist society. The private sector has a major role to play in delivering bandwidth throughout the continent – just as it has a role in selling information, entertainment and other media services. Many of the best new telecoms technologies come from overseas. For all these reasons, “opening the market to competition” sounds like a good idea.

Unfortunately, no government in Australia since the internet / telecoms revolution began about 15 years ago found an appropriate way to deploy competitive forces while protecting the public interest. It’s not clear they really tried. To put it bluntly, our Governments have been content-free zones when it comes to telecoms policy. In the absence of understanding and direction from politicians, policy has been steered by powerful vested interests.

The nonsense started in the Hawke/Keating’s era, with a major duplicate roll-out of Telstra and Optus cables. Both these fibre-optic networks serviced essentially the same zones in the same capital cities. When Howard got elected in 1996 with a mandate for his notorious ‘sell Telstra to save the environment’ policy, silliness went into hyper-drive. We now have much ado about competition where there’s already plenty; but no decent service at all in areas where delivery of high-speed communications is inherently unprofitable. Just as the critics of privatization always predicted…

It’s not only that we’ve missed out on an early continent-wide rollout of affordable bandwidth. We’ve also muddied the distinction between media and telecoms interests. That is not in the public interest at all.

It’s a like letting major trucking companies build their own roads (or lease existing roads from the Department of Main Roads) – so they can charge toll fees as well as restrict access. This type of thing allows corporate interests to make an absolute motza through vertical integration of different enterprises. Under this model of capitalism, you buy a Goods Ltd pork chop from a Goods Lt pig grown on a Goods Ltd farm, chopped to bits at a Goods Ltd abattoir, transported by a Goods Ltd truck to a Goods Ltd Supermarket on Goods Ltd Avenue. Get my drift?

I reiterate, the state’s role in relation to telecoms is fundamentally simple. It is there to provide access to all its citizens. That’s the nub of it. To achieve this, it may well employ a range of private contractors for both construction and maintenance. These contracts should be open to public tender, real competition and frequent review. The State may encourage a range of technologies from the evolving choice.

The State may also play additional roles that others are keen on (censorship, electronic surveillance etc), which I, as a libertarian, would sooner entrust to my dog. It should certainly undertake other ancillary roles I’m more enthusiastic about such as environmental regulation, guaranteeing privacy and ensuring freedom of information flow and equitable access to the network for all producers and consumers.

Even so, the State’s primary role is to guarantee low and/or no cost bandwidth. Given that a network is only as comprehensive as the people and places it connects, does it make sense that the heavy-duty neural pathways of this network - mainly cables under the ground - are owned by different private companies? I don’t think so. Surely that’s a natural for public ownership - like water pipes and sewerage systems?

In the early 90s, with ‘economic rationalism’ all the rage in Canberra, smart big business interests moved in on the governments of the day to and talked themselves into a huge chunk of enormous wealth just about to be generated. A technological revolution was underway. They wanted to profit from it (fair enough). They also wanted to control its direction and application (not fair). They achieved their objectives.

As a result, I am still, in 2007, unable to sit at home and watch Russian, or Egyptian, or Venezuelan TV… except for an extremely limited selection made by SBS editors whom I neither know nor trust. If I want to study at home, I cannot receive lectures via a broadband connection. I can’t video conference with friends and clients…

I could go on and on (and on) about all the things I’d like to do with high-speed internet. I’m sure everyone has their own list. It’s limited only by our combined imaginations. Environmental constraints are low. To achieve continuing economic growth in a zero-emissions economy, universal and affordable broadband (ideally it should be free) is an absolute must.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There some things I can do, right now.

I can buy one of News Ltds ubiquitous newspapers (Cairns Post, Courier Mail, The Australian etc etc) and read full-page advertisements promoting competing broadband services that I can’t actually receive.

I can (and often do) receive phone calls from desperate telephone sales staff working in call centers around the world trying to sell me broadband services that don’t actually exist (for me).

This clearly makes a lot of sense to a handful of vested interests – but to the public as a whole. it is amounts to complete lunacy.

Indeed, it’s daylight robbery. If this incessant marketing swill had been spent productively, I suspect we could already have wired almost all of populated Australia with fibre optic cable to the door – complemented by subsidized and therefore comparably-priced satellite delivery for the rest. In late 2007, we’d wouldn’t need a debate about how to build the new telecoms revolution. We’d be experiencing, enjoying and profiting from it, right now.

Telecoms policy from Keating to Howard has served big business interests and artificially narrowed the enormous information choice and power that could – and should – be within Australians’ reach, wherever they are.

I’m encouraged by Rudd’s apparent commitment to delivering affordable broadband. I share Lobor’s view that rapid expansion of the fibre-optic network is a key part of the way forward. I’ll see what happens… again. But it’s too early to throw my sombrero in the air, not as long as the likes of Sol Trujillo have their massive snouts in our trough.

Rudd may find more diplomatic ways to say this, but essentially, he needs to tell lobbyists from News Ltd, Telstra etc to mind their own businesses within policy set by government – and stop trying to run governments and government policy.

If Rudd can do that, survive and thrive he’ll be the most impressive PM in Australian history.

As a minor historical footnote, he’ll also turn at least one jaded skeptic into a True Believer. I may then disconnect entirely from the internet and concentrate on growing organic turnips.

Monday 26 November 2007

Privacy Policy

I should follow best practice, and post an explicit privacy policy, so here goes.

When you browse this site, the following information is recorded and made available to me:

  • The pages you browse on my site
  • The referring page or link you came from
  • The search engine query you used to find the blog
  • Your IP address
  • Your computer name
  • Your web browser version
  • Your operating system
  • The e-mail address you used to register
  • Your IQ (okay not that one)

I reserve the right to use or publicise any of the above information.

When I communicate with people, or people choose to communicate with me, I reserve the right to record and / or publish any or part of conversations, so they can be accurately reported.

However, unless there is good reason, I intend to only publish information in summarised form with no personal details (such as machine name or IP address) attached. The most common information published will be amusing search engine words / queries.

If you post a comment on my blog, your IP address plus the date and time you made the comment are recorded.

I retain this information for at least a year and will in all circumstances release it to authorities if presented with a warrant. I may hand it over without a warrant also, if I think the comment broke the law or was defamatory. I reserve all rights to do what I see fit with this information, as it is my site.

So the bottom line in terms of privacy in browsing or commenting on this site, is that in 99.99% of all cases I will keep your personal information strictly confidential to me.


I don't smoke

I don't smoke, but some of my best friends do.

If you are a smoker, you probably don't want to do this exercise, try out this smoking calculator.

Here the answer Sue got... rather freaky:

  • While Smoking 1 pack a day for 24 Years you've smoked 8,760 packs (That's 175,200 Cigarettes)

    Since 1 Cigarette takes away 11 minutes of your life you will live 2,230.56 days less or 6.11 years less

    At an average of 4 minutes spent while smoking...You've spent 11,680.00 hours smoking...That's 486.67 Days!!!

    At an Average price of $3 over that period you have spent $26,280.00 in cigarettes.
    That would have been enough to buy a safe Nice SUV or two!

    If you put the packs one on top of the other you'd have a tower 3 Miles tall!!!

NB: It's in USD. Convert it to Aussie dollars.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Queensland's election

Labor took at least 26 seats from the Coalition, also with Howard's own seat of Bennelong falling.

78% of the primary vote has been counted, and Labor's primary vote stands at 44%, the Coalition's 42. 77% of the two-party preferred has been counted: Labor 53.4%, a swing 6.1%. This is Labor record.

While Kevin Rudd promised to govern for all Australians, his appeal within Labor is tempered because of his conservative, cautious stance on so many issues, said the ABC.

"He will be seen as the leader the party had to have to beat John Howard," says Barrie Cassidy. "Julia Gillard will be the light on the hill. Having said that, the strategy, the planning and the execution that led to last night's result was Kevin Rudd's."

Labor gains around the country shows what Queensland contributed towards the election - 12 gains in Queensland alone.

It was in many ways a Queensland election.

The conservative stance Labor has on many social and indigenous issues for a start, will be a litmus test for this first term of how far Rudd will allow minority pressures within the party and his team to come to the surface.

One commentator said this election was like Howard crashing the family car and leaving Costello with the keys. Well, we now know that they've both run away from the scene of the accident.

This election also produced another first for Australia: the first female deputy Prime Minister, and within two weeks when Rudd heads abroad to ratify Kyoto, she will be Acting Prime Minister.

Regardless of Rudd's pre-election rebuke, indigenous concerns however will not receive the same arrogant treatment under Labor, with a series of election year quick fix of Brough's stormtroopers marching into the Northern Territory and Cape York to solve child abuse and alcohol problems in 10 minutes. This is a complex issue and has many sensitive cultural hurdles to overcome.

A new political page may well be unfolding in Australia, however, New Zealand has tackled much social legislation as far back as the mid-80's and beyond. Conservative and redneck Aussies would turn in the ute if Labor put them on their agenda in the next 4 years.

We have a long way to go. I still smell Sir Joh around the streets of North Queensland.

How the Libs could win in 2010

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker, says the race starts all over again...

With the resignation of Peter Costello, the way is open for genuine renewal of the Federal Liberal Party.

I’m no Costello fan, but it is fair to acknowledge that nothing became him so much as his dignified and blessedly prompt exit today as contender for the Liberal leadership.

The obvious choice of new leader is Malcolm Turnbull. I believe he could win in 2010 - if he takes the Liberal Party in a radically new direction. It's a direction that would have been unthinkable until recently, but may now be possible given the dramatic global changes in progress and signs of growing environmental awareness in the business community.

Essentially, the greening of the Liberals is their only real choice if they want to regain power. Turnbull might just be able to achieve that. He shows more than a modicum of understanding of environmental issues and would clearly have presented a much greener agenda to the electorate on this occasion, had he been empowered to do so.

It is, of course, doubtful whether the residual Parliamentary Liberal Party will (a) support Turnbull and (b) support a decisive greening of the party’s agenda.

That’s a pity – ultimately for the nation - because we need major party consensus on the need for (genuine) sustainable development if it is to happen – and we’d all benefit from effective parliamentary opposition to the ALP’s gray policies.

One objection is that the Coalition with the Nats could fall apart if the Liberals go green. There are two main answers to that.

The first is that there’s plenty in a green policy agenda that would be welcomed by the bush vote. Old guard, vehemently anti-environmental Nats are on the way out too.

The second is that while Libs may feel they need the National Party, the reverse is true to a far greater extent. Without their coalition partner, the Nats are an irrelevant rural rump. Their chance of winning Senate seats on their own is lower than the Greens. I believe Turnbull could face down the old National Party guard and win.

An election in 2010 between a greenish Liberal Party and a greenish Labor Party could be a close run. Turnbull might just win. At the very least, he could give Australian voters a real choice between relatively sane options.

Indeed, capital G Greens might be able to take a break from largely unpaid activism and concentrate more on their own lives.

Ah well, we can but hope…

Reap what you sew

Howard and Hockey looked liked school children who had been thrown into the detention room last night.

After years in government, the public wanted a change. They wanted Kyoto ratified. They wanted movement on aboriginal affairs. They wanted our troops back in Australia. And they wanted an end to laws that treated workers second place to the employer.

It was a night where the people spoke, and with some major defeats, including the Prime Minister's seat of Bennelong where former ABC polictio Maxine McKew turfed out Howard, the first time a sitting PM has lost his seat since 1929, the upsets were many. He has held the seat since being elected to Parliament in 1974.
Now comes the hard work. Labor will need to start its deliverance of change promptly. Like any radical change in government, the Labor Party will now need to balance an economy that we've been reasonably happy with and have benefited from, but start going through their shopping list of change.
Putting their (our) money where their mouth is in the next 100 days, will be the true test of this new leadership.

Top on the list will be abolition of Work Choices. Goodbye and good riddance.
It was a system primarily in favour of the business, and there was little to suggest that the previous system harmed economic growth to the extent that penalty rates, leave and termination provisions needed stripping away.
Here's Rudd's victory speech. He talks of turning a new page in Australian politics
"I want to thank all those people in Australia who have placed their trust in me and my team," said Rudd. "I say tonight to the nation: 'I will never take their sacred trust for granted'.
"I will be a prime minister for all Australians. It's time for a new page to be written in our nation's history."

Party time

The celebrations at Brothers continued well into the night, as Labor took the election in a decisive landslide.

Some infamous billboard graffiti. Here's two of the more impressive transformations.

Senator Jan McLucas chats with Your Rights at Work activist and Cairns 1st candidate, Richie Bates.

Barron River State MP, Steve Wettenhall with former MP Lesley Clark.

Baby Zoe Turnour, with mum Tiffany, up well after her bedtime, share the moment of glory with her father.

The Yorkeys lads: Wayne Leclos, Richie Bates and Maurice Milliner celebrate the election win at Brothers after 10 hours managing the booth at the Knob.

What a nite

It was a night a long time in the planning.

Jim Turnour, his partner Tiffany and baby Zoe, arrived at Brothers League Club around 9pm as the national tally result came in a lot earlier than expected.

After a long 4 year campaign by Turnour, following defeat to the incumbent Entsch, 31%/53% in 2004, this was a victory that was earn't.

Jim was sporting a new face and a new confidence that only a winner can truly embrace. He beamed with an ear to ear smile, and though has been often commented on for some awkward or uncomfortable speeches, all that was gone. We saw the new Federal member for Leichhardt acting and talking like someone that was ready for the challenge. It was a Gillard-like transformation, and the atmosphere electric.

Jim thanked a long list of supporters, and those that voted for Labor. "I know many voted for Labor for this first time, and many for the first time in many years. I will be here everyone and am honoured to represent you," he said to the near 1,000 strong crowd.

The results were more than most commentators expected. At nearly 15% swing to the ALP in Leichhardt, which was a key seat for any winning party, is was the highest in the country.

As soon as Turnour arrived, he went around the room and personally thanked every supporter in the auditorium.
No one was left out.

A picture tells a 1000 words

Saturday 24 November 2007

25% in

Exit polls, the Kevin & John Show

Well, it's nearly 6pm and the net and the radio is full of it.

I've got 846 AM blasting away. Why? I really don't know. I've tuned into a special edition of John McKenzie's show. Last time I did this, was when I tried to telephone in to chat with our illustrious mayor, and ask some Chinese questions. But the guard dog wouldn't let me past the door.

This evening I won't bother.

John is joined in the studio by Mayor Kevin Byrne and they're telling us everything we need to know. Yawn.

Oh, and The Post's Gavin King is there, to add some sense of balance, if that is at all possible with this bunch.

John's just got Pauline Hanson to telephone in, and the three are have a little orgy. I hope they have rubber gloves on. Still sounds like Pauline has still got the shakes of a 1970's washing machine.

There's been four calls from "listeners" since I've tuned in. All are pro-Lib. It's like they all playing some sort of sick puppy game and forgot the phone was off the hook.

A caller rings in and praises Gavin King ad nauseum about his column in today's Post. For those that didn't read it, it was one of King's worse. He appears to have run out of ideas. It was an attempt at humour about the various Leichhardt candidates at a fictitious bar, all in bikinis. It was really below average for a journalist of his calibre. I found it rather unfunny and for such a prominent column on the day of the election, there was no critical analysis of the local campaign over the last few months. What a waste of space.

Meanwhile, an exit poll has said Labor will win, and the PM will lose seat of Bennelong. Sky News commissioned the exit poll across 31 key seats predicts 53% to Labor, 47% to the Coalition.

The crucial Eden-Monaro seat showed 58% to Labor and 42% Coalition.

We expect first votes to come through by 6:30pm AEST. Labor needs 16 seats to win Government.

Wettenhall visits Yorkeys

The team at the Yorkeys Knob Polling Booth.
L-R: Sue, Maurice, Steve, Mandy, Samatha, Wayne and Mike.

Another swinging voter chats with Richie Bates and Samantha.

ABC reflects

Here's some reflections from the ABC over the election campaign...

Pearson: U-turn shows Rudd's true colours

The Australian yesterday reported that Rudd will now not be go ahead with a constitutional referendum on indigenous reconciliation.

The referendum was pledged by Howard and also Rudd's spokeswoman on indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, at the beginning of the campaign.

"Federal Labor notes the Prime Minister's announcement on constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians," Macklin said.

"Constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians has been long-held federal Labor policy, and this was affirmed at the ALP national conference in Sydney earlier this year.

"Labor offers bipartisan support to a commitment for constitutional recognition, regardless of the outcomes of the federal election."

However, Labor has now changed it's mind.

Rudd has just announced that he is "unlikely to pursue Howard's plan for a reconciliation preamble to the Constitution if he were elected."

"A referendum on Aboriginal reconciliation and a separate Aboriginal treaty, would not occur in the first term of a Rudd Labor government, if at all."

Noel Pearson, director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, said in The Australian that what has transpired is surely a first for Australia:-

  • "This is a disgraceful and heartless abandonment of a policy promise that has been the subject of a bipartisan commitment for the past six weeks.

    "I was pleased that the commitment to reconciliation through such an ambitious policy - amending the national Constitution of Australia -- had secured support from the Coalition and Labor at the very beginning of the campaign.

    "Rudd has now reneged on the commitment he made on October 11. It shows a flagrant contempt for indigenous policy.

    "There are those who might think Rudd needs to secure the foundations for a second term of office by not championing unpopular issues such as those concerning indigenous people and who will place their hopes in the idea that it may be the subject of a second or third-term agenda under the ALP.

    "Here's a party leader who is highly likely to become prime minister breaks his first election promise just before the polling booths open."

    "Indigenous Australians are the victims of this disrespect. I have had long experience with Rudd's political cynicism and opportunism when we argued bitterly over the Goss government's Aboriginal land legislation in 1991 and over Paul Keating's 1993 Native Title Act.

    "I regret that Rudd has not changed from what I have long considered his innately contemptuous view of indigenous people and indigenous policy.

    "I am conscious my criticism of Rudd on the eve of the election will result in an acrimonious relationship with an incoming Labor federal government, but I will not stand silent while an election contender reneges so flagrantly on a commitment he made on day one of the campaign.

    "To me this issue is more important than Rudd's ambitions. For this betrayal, I dread a Rudd prime ministership.

I have to say that I'm stunned by Rudd's U-turn announcement.

It's obvious that this is nothing more than to appease conservative voters at the 11th hour to gain their vote. Many swinging voters or dis-enchanted Liberal voters, might be warmer to Labour if such a pledge was not part of a Labor government's programme, or so it seems.

There can be little rationale for such a turn around from Rudd, on such an important fundamental issue as reconciliation. It is long overdue to be confronted head on, and Labor, nor Rudd should be embarrassed by it.

For the thousands of votes that Howard lost on Wednesday for the fake ALP leaflets his Party members distributed, Rudd has equally lost a lot of support over this political grandstanding.

Indigenous relations and perceptions are so far behind public opinion and mainstream respect, and require a whole-of-government strategy to formally and genuinely move reconciliation forward.

How should i vote dot com dot au

Today's the day punters.

Before you head out this morning, take 3 minutes. This is how my Ballot paper looks after I completed the 20 questions on GetUp's how should i vote.

The Libs are party-poopers and most candidates have refused to take part in the online programme and therefore don't get rated in participants' results.
They have said to ignore the advice from the website because it is biased against the Coalition.
GetUp said voters using the site were informed when a candidate had not provided the necessary information, and therefore ranked them lower because there was no information in the database. Only a handful of Liberal candidates have taken part in the website.
Jim came out at 81%, Sue of the Greens 76%, Damian Byrnes 68%, and Selwyn Johnston 45%.
Some surprises there.

Friday 23 November 2007

Hello, My name is Warren Entsch

Sid just got a telephone call... so I thought I'd reprint it here...


"Hello, My name is Warren Entsch... I'm taking the unprecedented step of phoning you personally..."

Surely he can't want to sue me over the 'lovely couple' quip? I find myself breaking out into a sweat.

"...using a recorded message to ask you personally to vote for Charlie McKillop... blah, blah, blah".

Phew. A close call!


The phone rings again later.

This time, a pleasant young woman is on the line, explaining she doesn't get paid any longer when the cafe's not busy, thanks to Work Choices.

I feel sorry for her. Maybe I could lend her a fiver... but is she for real?

She anticipates my query...

"I'm not an actor... I'm talking about real things that happened to me, a real person. Authorized by me... blah, blah, blah".

Whoever wins the election, Telstra shareholders won't be missing out.

Folding Howard

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Dogs killed, tasers fail

NineMSN reports that a Perth woman was mauled by two Bull Mastiffs.

They were tasered, which didn't appear to work, so they were shot dead, one five times.

Police seems to have a fascination with these new implements of the new world order.

Canadian Police recently contributed towards the death of a man with tasers. This followed graphic footage in the US when a student questioned John Kerry at a University rally.

Frenzied dogs can be impervious to Tasers

Ben Cousins stash tin

A eagle-eyed CairnsBlog lurker spotted this today.

I hope Ben Cousins has a sense of humor, following his 12-month ban.

New leadership needed to stop terror

CairnsBlog contributing writer Sid Walker, shares his views on why you are meant to be afraid.

This election reminds me of the election of Tony Blair and ‘New Labour’ in Britain a decade ago.

A popular, youngish, evidently very bright yet ‘conservative’ Labour leader faces up to a Tory machine that has previously won a string of elections and was starting to look invincible. This time, what was hard before suddenly seems easy. Instead of a relentless Conservative onslaught, the Government implodes, looking tired, sleazy and well out of time.

A smiling Labour Leader, previously given a wink and a nod by Rupert Murdoch in person - is promoted as preferred national leader by more than half the Murdoch media. I can imagine it now... he raise his arms in triumph on election night. At long, long last! Labour is back in national Government! Well done Tony/Kevin!

In Britain, Blair in Government looked good in a number of policy areas for some time. But, with the benefit of hindsight, we know the tawdry way his leadership concluded.

By the end of his time as Prime Minister, Blair’s achievements were overshadowed by sinister aspects of his administration. He acted as though this was unfair, but must know why he came to be hated so widely, in his own country - let alone in the countries he helped destroy. His malfeasance was so dreadful – out of character, really, with the essential decency the man displayed in other policy areas. It was as though he got completely of his depth c 2001 and became progressively more beholden to malign influences that pushed him towards deceit and war - forcing him to serve as mouthpiece for lines he must have known were lies.

Blair’s willingness to join wars based on blatant falsehoods, his ever-deepening bias towards the Zionist cause in the middle east and his willingness at home to legislate for a police state – these are the things he will be most remembered for in the long run. He will be remembered with contempt.

Ten years on, Kevin Rudd seems to be coming to power in Australia in eerily similar circumstances. He leads a ‘reformed’, rather conservative Labor Party. He has Murdoch’s nod. Unlike the reviled Latham, this is a man some powerful people indeed have decided to tolerate – if not support – at least for the time being.

On foreign policy, with the sole exception of committing to a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Rudd’s Labor offers little change to existing policy. Australia, we are given to understand, will continue to play a role – albeit, perhaps, somewhat less gung-ho than before – in the Anglo-block that’s become a serial offender for unprovoked murderous acts against Israel’s unofficially-nominated, yet very obvious, hit list.

Labor has pledged to remain part of the occupying forces in Afghanistan – an invasion/occupation based on lies every bit as vile as those which pole-vaulted ‘the west’ into Iraq 18 months later.

As for the ‘war on terror’, Labor will presumably continue this charade (controversially, I believe the 'War on Terror' is mainly a succession of false-flag operations perpetrated by min-named ‘intelligence agencies’ that operate outside of any meaningful public accountability – glued together by a well-orchestrated media-driven narrative and constantly refreshed by the mass participation of conformist politicians).

The rash of Australia’s 21st century anti-civil liberties laws… rushed through the Parliament in a series of manufactured panics about the perils of ‘homegrown Islamic terrorism’, will presumably remain on the statute books.

Australia under Labor may become a kinder, more decent, more civilized country. I truly hope it does. At long last, some progress on climate change is imaginable. That alone is reason to preference Labor over the Coalition when voting on Saturday.

The things, however, that were most sordid about Howard’s term in office are “unmentionables” in the mainstream media and will doubtless stay that way.

Labor under Rudd will probably accommodate the undeclared evil in our midst. The ‘real’ Axis of Evil, I believe, extends from the Military Industrial Complex, through our mis-named and unaccountable western ‘Intelligence Services’, to the biased, highly centralized and increasingly despised mass media. This forms the matrix within which political parties and individual politicians find themselves embedded. They operate on a pre-set stage, in a tragicomedy with limited scope for improvisation.

In Blair’s case, the matrix led to his complete corruption. Others – like Michael Foot in Britain, and Mark Latham in Australia - never got a real chance of success.

At the time of writing, it seems probable that Rudd will get a go. In less than 24 hours we head to the polls. Bookies and pollsters agree the ALP may is likely to win a remarkable electoral victory - a victory few expected until recently. We’ll therefore find out how he copes over time with the matrix of war, deceit and manipulation – and how it copes with him.

Here is a suggestion for Mr Rudd that seems, to me, utterly reasonable - yet I’d be flabbergasted (and highly impressed) if he ever takes it up.

To combat terrorism, Australia surely needs a full and thorough public inquiry into the one terrorist incident that has occurred on Australian soil? Agreed? If so - how about an Inquiry into the 1978 Hilton bombings?

Despite a unanimous vote in the NSW Legislative Assembly in the early 90s, when John Hatton (an independent precursor to Peter Andren) shamed both the major parties into supporting the call for a Royal Commission, to this day there has never been an inquiry. One of the victims, former NSW policeman Terry Griffiths, has long demanded this. Thirty years is a long time to wait for a semblance of justice.

Hatton was outfoxed, because although the NSW Parliament called for an inquiry, both parties knew the Feds would refuse. And they did.

Labor was in Government in Canberra at that time. Labor’s leaders in the '90s were apparently unwilling to risk embarrassing the ‘intelligence services’, despite indications of their complicity in the murder of Australian citizens. The media showed no interest in following up.

Will Rudd get on top of the ‘State Security’ racket - more powerful now than it was a decade ago? Can he? Would he be able to do so – even if he showed sufficient awareness of the issues and an inclination to display unprecedented political bravery?

On the radio this morning, I hear Kevin Rudd talking chirpily about the need for a "hard line approach" when it comes to the ‘War on Terror’.

I agree. We do need a serious ‘anti-Terror’ policy. Mass atrocities perpetrated against innocent people are the antithesis of decent behaviour.

The first step to a serious ‘anti-Terror’ policy – from now on at the very least - is to commit to holding open and thorough public inquiries in the event that Australia ever again suffers terrorist incidents. Indeed, this should be legislated. It’s too important to leave to governments of the day, governments that are easily subject to blackmail and/or other forms of coercion and treat the public interest and due process with contempt, as long as the mass media lets them get away with it.

Now that would be New Leadership.