Deal or No Deal

Let me start by saying that I'm no fan of the US Republican party's policies generally. I was also one of the many that were completely and thoroughly shocked when California's voted Arnold Schwarzenegger as their Governor.

But: if you were a sceptic of his ability to govern and lead, I'd encourage you to checkout the Newsweek article on the failure of the Copenhagen talks on climate change and how sub-national interests are pressing ahead to secure their own futures. In it, the steps California is taking are impressive... but I guess it's not unexpected for a state that, if it were a country, would be able to stand in the G8.

It's an interesting parallel to current Australian politics, with Tony Abbott and the Liberal party muddying the waters around the ETS with climate change skepticism. Don't get me wrong, I welcome healthy political debate over legislation that has the potential to make us both a more expensive place to live (if that's possible) and less competitive in the global economy.

But: I think Tony needs to take his head out of the sand and realise inactivity will cost us more than implementing a less-than-perfect framework that could be adapted over time.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:40 AM, ,

Australia's $43bn for fibre to home

Thank goodness the government is improving their plans!

I'd been following the National Broadband Network (NBN) plans with a sickening feeling that the Australia taxpayers (of which I feel I'm an over-contributing member) were about to flush a big chunk of money down the drain.

As mentioned in the MIS article, 'Gobsmacked' at $43bn plan , it's heartwarming to see the revised plan actually delivers the speeds necessary to people's homes (not just to the nodes).

Whilst not as sexy as space exploration, this is exactly the sort of project I blogged about in Today's moon shot in terms of farsighted spending that drives jobs and propels us forward as a country. In fact, it's far better news that the previously announced stimulus package. Providing the infrastructure we'll need as a nation to participate and compete globally is, with out a doubt, a worthy expedition.

Readers of The World Is Flat will reflect on how this sort of enabling infrastructure allowed India to join the global services sector in such a spectacular fashion. For a reminder of how important broadband is to our future, [re]read Shift Happens - Globalization and The Information Age. The information superhighway is to today's (and tomorrow's) society what railways and roads were to our parents and grandparent's era.

I'm also a big fan of the ownership structure for this project. As outlined in the MIS's article $43bn for fibre to home, taxpayers will own this infrastructure (the wholesale network) for a short period of time, rather than doling out money to private sector.

This is exactly how the Howard government should have handled the original Telstra privatisation. The original 50% ownership should have been the wholesale network with the remaining 'sale' (T1 & T2) being the retail operations and a 10 year contract to technically maintain the wholesale network. This model would have ensured the taxpayer could contract to multiple retailers and thereby ensuring we had competitive services or creating a monopoly for such a vital piece of infrastructure. Interestingly, the rumours of Telstra reviewing it's own structure have resurfaced, most recently in this Sky News article Telstra considers break-up for NBN.

I'm not a fan of the government selling this stake after 5 years. I'm struggling with figuring out who they would sell it to given that it is intended to be an open access network. I guess they would issue shares in the entity itself, but this is likely to recreate the issues that plague Telstra today. Any organisation accountable only to shareholders (not taxpayers), will not have a political agenda, rather, their agenda will be to maximise profits.

Image by Peter Butler


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:22 AM, ,

Australian Government's stimulus package

On the 3rd of February, the Australian Government announced a A$42bn stimulus package.

Key measures funded by the announcements Nation Building and Jobs Plan include:
In all, I think a much better package than the cash handouts done in the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy announced in October 2008. My belief is that cash bonuses rarely get used for the purposes intended... all they do is prolong bad habits.

I was particularly happy to see the business investment tax break as I believe this is much better spending for our economy that individual consumer spending due to the fact it goes towards creating income. I'm happy to have someone with economics study debate and correct me on that point.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 7:21 PM, ,

Howard's distorted legacy

In the book review for The One Percent Doctrine, I mentioned that I had read about the book's author in either The Economist or Diplomat magazines.

As it turned out, I saved the article so I can properly refer you to it.

It was Peter Hartcher's regular column Australian Interest in the Jan / Feb 2008 issue of The Diplomat. Well worth the five minutes to read.


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:18 AM, ,