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Democratic governments provide two fundamental functions in the service of a single overriding responsibility. When a government, through the performance of its two functions, betrays the single responsibility it holds, it has lost its mandate to govern. There is a case to be made that our current Coalition government is in exactly this position.

The raison d’etre for democracy, without which the very concept of democratic government would not exist; is to provide a means for the community as a whole to configure the kind of society in which they wish to live. Inevitably this involves winners and losers: government exists primarily to put checks on the powerful and support the weak. Governance is thus about promoting equality. The cut and thrust of politics is about thresholds – how much is too much? How much is too little?

Governments fulfil this basic purpose through the actions of their two primary functions: legislation and national defence. Legislation allows a government to protect its citizenry from internal threats; national defence protects us against external threats. Since coming to power, Tony Abbott’s Coalition government has continued a long history in Australian politics of continuing and sustaining Australia’s military, and in this way the government is carrying out its remit for national defence. Good for them.

In the field of legislation against internal threats to society, their record is not so good.

The Big Bad: the Food Industry

There is a growing recognition amongst public health bodies that food manufacturing and marketing in Australia, and the west in general, is promoting unhealthy eating habits and contributing materially to public health issues such as obesity and diabetes. History has shown us that industries acting counter to the best interests of the people eventually face opposition and attempts at control and harm minimisation by societal groups, and that eventually governments come to the party and assist in such opposition. The tobacco industry is the cause celebre but alcohol and junk food are both likely to follow. It is in this light that on 14 June 2013, COAG – the Council of Australian Governments – announced the implementation of a packaging labelling scheme in Australia. This was the culmination of a long discussion and negotiation process beginning in December 2011.

The Front of Pack food star rating scheme is a compromise solution painstakingly agreed and laboriously (and expensively) developed over two years. COAG is the federal council that brings together Australian state and federal governments in a single body. The scheme, initially intended to be voluntary, will provide consumers an easily understood guide to the nutritional value of their foods. The scheme was brokered between COAG and the Public Health Association with ongoing consultation with the food industry. The food industry, represented by such bodies as “Australian Public Affairs” and the Food and Grocery Council, has cooperated in its development despite being trenchantly opposed to the scheme and seeking any means possible to delay its introduction.

The Abbott government has been accused of deliberately delaying the introduction of the scheme until after State elections in South Australia and Tasmania on 15 March, for exactly this purpose, hoping that the composition of COAG would change sufficiently to allow the cancellation of the agreement. Cancellation or amendment of a COAG agreement requires the majority of State and Federal governments and the current makeup of the council is narrowly in favour of the food labelling scheme.

Included in the star rating scheme is a food ratings website that is intended to provide consumer advice on the nutrition of packaged foods. The website also includes a calculator for food manufacturers to use to calculate the star rating for their packaged foods for voluntary inclusion in labelling. The website was completed and went live on schedule, on February 5 2014. Many public health groups and industry groups were expecting its arrival and awaiting its commencement and it seems a minor miracle that such a website, developed over two years by the public service in conjunction with the Public Health Association, should have been completed on time.

Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash personally intervened to have the site taken offline by 8pm the same night.

Nash’s publicly stated reasons for pulling down the website is that “the website will be confusing for consumers as it uses a star rating that is not yet ‘up and running’.” She has also claimed that it was a draft put online by accident. But it was her chief of staff, married to the owner of the business lobby group Australian Public Affairs, who personally intervened to have the site unilaterally taken offline.

Protecting the interests

This is not the first example of Ms Nash protecting the interests of corporations and business lobbies at the expense of public health or public interest initiatives. It’s tempting to make personal judgements that Ms Nash is not an appropriate candidate for the position of Assistant Health Minister, but she operates within a government with a strong track record of supporting business interests rather than public good regulations that limit them.

Democratic government is designed to serve the interests of the People – not individual people, but the community as a whole. Conservative governments are wont to argue that making life easier for businesses allows them to create more jobs and thus serves the interest of the people, and there is some justification for that; however, there are cases where public interest and corporate interest clearly come into conflict. These include areas of workplace health and safety; of environmental protection; and of protection of public health against goods which, in excess, can be harmful.

In a capitalist society, companies are fighting two major opponents. The first major opponent a business faces is its competitors. Companies need to compete against other companies to turn a profit. The role of government in this is simply to be even-handed; to not preference one company at the expense of others. The litmus test should be whether any proposed change operates across the board. If competition is seen as a public good, then sympathetic treatment may be justifiable towards the underdog. The second major opponent a company faces is the community.

Companies are beholden to the public that buys their goods, but are not above manipulating and mistreating those customers. Marketing might sometimes be righteous – if people have an identified need, promoting a product which can meet that need is perfectly legitimate. But in our materialistic society with many competitors for the purchaser’s dollar, much of marketing is about creating the need prior to seeking to fulfil it.

In the context of coercive or manipulative commerce, government’s role should always fall squarely on the side of the People’s interest. Regulations and laws exist to put limits on what companies can get away with, because it will never be the companies themselves that impose limitations.

An emerging pattern

The cancellation of the food star ratings website is a clear case of corporate interests being favoured at the expense of the People, and a clear abrogation of the politician’s responsibilities. However, it is merely the latest in a long line of government actions from the Abbott government that favour the interests of corporations rather than the People. Prominent examples include:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the grand-daddy of corporate interests into which both recent governments, Labor and Coalition, have been driving us headlong. Whole articles can be written about the TPP – and indeed they have been.

The National Broadband Network. It has been convincingly argued that the main reasons for the Coalition’s opposition to Labor’s model for the NBN is that it will do harm to entrenched corporate interests.

The mining tax. To attempt to redistribute some of the wealth of the largely overseas-based megacorporations involved in strip-mining this country and put it to use across the community and small businesses makes logical sense, but it goes against Coalition ideology of protecting the corporate interests of those who make profits.

An internet filter. The idea of an internet filter is not new; Steven Conroy was rightly excoriated by the left for this idea that is tantamount to censorship. George Brandis’s vision of the filter, however, is not so concerned with protection of children and our moral virtue; it is aimed directly at protecting the existing media corporations, in the guise of protecting copyright. Whilst this is an issue with some justification, you might think we would have learned by now that protecting the rights of intellectual property holders by draconian regulation always hurts both the eventual consumers of media products as well as innocent bystanders who want to use file sharing for legitimate purposes.

Attacks on unions. The Abbott government’s ideological crusade against trade unions is not really about corruption and they are not really friends to the honest worker. The primary and overt aim of the coming Royal Commission is to damage Labor – both its reputation and its source of funding. But the chief outcome in any conflict between corporations and the unions which exist to protect workers and the community from the corporations’ excesses will always be to the detriment of the community. For evidence of the government’s allegiances in this field, look no further than the recent case of SPC, where the government attempted to push SPC to reduce staff conditions to the minimum allowed by the award before any assistance would be possible. In some strange way, this equates in the government’s mind to being “best friend to the honest worker”.

Credit where credit is due

It must be said that the Abbott coalition government seems to genuinely believe that promoting the interests of corporations will be for the good of Australia; they are not being deliberately harmful to the people they govern. But there does not appear to be any kind of “public good” test being applied to decisions. Corporations have the ear of the government through lobby groups and donations, and it certainly seems that the government’s ear has been turned. But when both government and public opinion can be swayed by the corporations that government ought to be protecting the public against, the very purpose of democracy is being subverted. Whether or not the coalition government (and its predecessor in Labor) are being malicious or merely unduly influenced, whether there is corruption or nobly-held ideals, it is the community that suffers. The only question remaining is how far the imbalance will go before the people wake up to the fact that the People and the Corporations are not on the same side?

41 comments

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  1. revolutionarycitizen

    Firstly, you may want to go back and really examine how the Athenians practiced democracy and their legal system. The two principle roles of the Athenian democracy was the security of the state, and the collection of taxes in order to do the former. And anyone who didn’t adhere to their rigid social structure suffered immensely.

    It isn’t until much later in our history did the people become interwoven with government.

    And there are still those who argue that the government should only exist within the Athenian model.

    The TPP was negotiated by the ALP primarily, and at any time we can withdraw from it when or if it threatens our interests. Remember, it is a trade agreement and even if our government is sued for whatever reason, it has the sovereign authority to refuse payment and withdraw from the agreement, and then take punitive action against the claimant via legislative instrument. (Which is why business would rather play nice with government, ultimately, everything a business owns can be confiscated with the stroke of a pen)

    The NBN is not a requirement of business, every business in Australia’s metropolitan areas have had access to a complete fibre only network for 20 years, without such a network the immense data-sharing between the ATO offices and Centrelink offices simply wouldn’t be possible. The NBN was designed on the back of a napkin without thought to just how difficult and expensive it would be to wire an area greater than Europe. They got it so wrong they created legislation that capped the government’s funding commitment to $30B, just a shame it is going to cost twice that.

    The mining tax is a gross violation of States Rights via the back door, it is clear under the constitution who actually owns the mineral resources, the State does, not the people, not the Commonwealth, they are sole property of the State. And if we weren’t exploiting that mineral wealth we’d all be on leaky boats to New Zealand because that’s how much a 3rd World backwater our country would be right now.

    The government must enforce the law, and this comes down to a very simple precedent, if you knowingly let someone use your property to break the law, you too are breaking the law. The ISPs know that we are using their property to break the law, which is why even now a copyright holder may drag any ISP into court and force them to hand over your personal details, and then come and sue you for copyright infringement. Same rationale as the AFP or State Police going to your ISP and asking for your details if you’ve been using the internet to make threats, look at prohibited material. It is far easier to have an ISP void the appropriate information at their end rather than trying to impose it at the user end. An ISP (and they do it all the time) can just drop your address off the registry making your content unreachable, and the effect on internet speed if done properly would be negligible. The only alternative is to have the copyright holders given open access to ISP data, and who wants that?

    Many Unions have outlived their usefulness, and wage restructuring is a legitimate means of cost cutting, the fact that SPC didn’t do that just shows they just wanted a free $25M and were willing to play politics to get it. I favour the government being forbidden constitutionally from giving any business any money, allowing it to be a lender of last resort, where the interest charged would be set at a higher than market average, and if the company falls over the government seizes all their assets. What people don’t realise is that the Federal Government spent billions on trying to save the car industry and that industry will walk away, then sell its real estate assets for substantial amounts of money, had we’d been actually providing a loan, that property would revert to the tax-payer.

  2. Stephen Tardrew

    Ozfenric this is where it gets a bit sticky. If you accept the current paradigm of magical and mythical thinking born from concepts of free will, personal responsibility and religious dogmatism then all is well in LNP land.

    We live in a primarily determinate universe and people have no choice over their hereditary propensities environments, families, political and religious predilections of parents and the imposed imperatives of any society good or bad. We are a Christian country? What the hell does that mean? Unless the underpinnings of politics are founded upon rational thought and empirical evidence we are lost to irrational justifications in the name of reasonableness.

    When subjective wishes, hopes and desires are born of magic and mythology and then those subjective wishes are projected onto an objective external reality nothing but unsupportable nonsense arises. A crazy mixture of apparently factual ideas shaped by subjective irrationality lead to such fallacious notions of self-regulating markets; personal responsibility (no matter what the causal contributors to personality e.g. low IQ, childhood abuse, dysfunctional family; mental health issues and so on you are a free agent); creating ones own reality through dint of effort; the freedom of any one to become anything they like; and so on completely contradicts the empirical and psychological evidence.

    So we are somehow supposed to accept tolerance through recognition of each sides arguments when they both are demonstrably unsubstantiated by the facts.

    Now we are getting closer to the real problem. If the general cultural paradigm, left and right, are infected by mythological nonsense then how in heavens name can we work towards a meaningful consensus?

    I don’t care what people believe as long as they give precedence to the facts and then frame their ideologies in terms of particular metaphysical leanings. I am hoping that the current Pope is starting to, at lest nominally, realize this. The Dalia Lama has made an art of incorporating scientific facts into his polemic discourses.

    Metaphysically there is more than one way to skin a cat however the foundations should be epoch relative and factual and that is not the case with both political parties now. Both need a lot of navel gazing before they can claim to have a sound factually based paradigm.

  3. CMMC

    Manic sophistry, anyone?

    Well, to get back to the actual point the writer is making, yes, this government has total contempt for civil society.

    Its Tony Abbott applying the “stop hitting yourself” bullying technique to the body politic.

  4. revolutionarycitizen

    “Well, to get back to the actual point the writer is making, yes, this government has total contempt for civil society.”

    He’s doing his job.

    And if that means whacking a few people with something other than the feather duster so be it.

  5. Stephen Tardrew

    Just love it John.

  6. Peter Gratton

    I can see your point revolutionarycitizen. Citizens have no place or rights in our country. The State in only an area of land surrounded by an imaginary border, The actual citizens who are lucky enough to occupy a place somewhere in these states are only there to serve the state. I have heard of this ideology but it normally comes under form of communism. The minerals that are in the ground surrounded by these imaginary lines belong to the people not a select few who wish to strip our country bare. Why should these corporations not pay their way. But it is alright for the citizens to subsidise these corporations.
    If Govt’s can simply reject the terms in the TTP why would they negotiate to have them in the first place bit of an oxymoron there.
    Why would people want a 1st rate NBN. We now have this govt espousing the virtues of high technology industries and to be at the forefront of innovation. Bit hard to do when your internet drops out between 5 and ten times a day and operates at speeds that most other countries laugh at. As for the costs I hope you don’t give credit to this govt’s estimates they have shown time and time again their credibility is 0.
    I see a major flaw in this govts push to reduce wages and conditions. Who will purchase and use their products. The 1% who have all the money. I can’t see that happening.
    I know you won’t agree with anything I stated I am not a major corporation backed up lawyers and PR companies. I am just one pleb trying to house and feed my family.

  7. Kaye Lee

    rc,

    Free trade agreements will see the death of manufacturing in this country and the loss of many thousands of jobs. Companies will move offshore. Cheap imports will flood the market. It certainly gives some industries access to new markets but as we are killing education, trades training, science, research and development, it will become harder to find innovative industries that we can produce cheaper than competitors. I’m not quite sure how we are going to benefit from this. Yes it removes tariffs from some stuff but that runs both ways. Farmers who export will do well while those who sell to the local market will be decimated by undercut imports. Fee paying students are a far more attractive prospect than a local kid running up a HECS debt. One area where we were at the forefront has just been killed by the abandonment of the renewable energy target. Yes, I could write pages.

    Yiou really need to read up on the potential uses of fast NBN. For starters, not all businesses are in metropolitan areas. Secondly, the possible health applications are enormous. As Tony Winsor explained, if we can facilitate 20% of elderly people staying in their homes 1 year longer before going into care, we will save 60 billion over the next ten years. The productivity benefits of the NBN make the investment worthwhile. It is madness to build it twice.

    Here are a few applications

    http://apcmag.com/life-in-the-nbns-world.htm

    Two examples of applications developed in New Zealand for New Zealanders are Ag-Hub, an online farm management tool that allows farmers to analyse farm data to improve productivity and sustainability, and MINDA, an online and mobile tool developed by Livestock Improvement to enable farmers to improve herd
    management.

    Despite the fact that the Constitution of Australia does not list minerals as an area over which the Federal Parliament has jurisdiction, a number of the Commonwealth Parliament’s powers encompass matters relevant to mining operations and any legislation of the Commonwealth based upon these powers will override any inconsistent State legislation. Taxation is one of those powers. If we were taxing the superprofits being made by granting leases to exploit our patrimony we could buy a fleet of ocean liners.

    I would rather forbid businesses from giving money to governments because they have bought this one and are being repaid in diamonds rather than spades. We have been sold. And a very few will reap enormous benefit while you tell the rest od us we don’t need the collective voice of unions….the only group who can protect us from exploitative corporate greed since our government would rather feed fat cats and screw the poor.

  8. revolutionarycitizen

    “Free trade agreements will see the death of manufacturing in this country and the loss of many thousands of jobs. Companies will move offshore. Cheap imports will flood the market.”

    A process that has been well underway since the 1990s (if not since the death of the Protectionist Party) which saw our GDP more than double from Keating’s “recession we had to have” and John Howard’s defeat in 2007.

    As for the NBN and health, the NBN will only be effective as a means of patient monitoring, it can’t be used as a diagnostic tool, nor can it be used in an emergency, it adds to not subtracts from, mainly because a patient who presents symptomatic is going to be told by the doctor to see the doctor in person for diagnosis and treatment. People who prattle on about health and the internet really shouldn’t. The NBN won’t put any downward pressure on doctor visits because you can’t write and sign a script over the internet, and the liability and negligence issues are enormous.

    The NBN is, and always has been just another welfare program. (and everything the Top 10 uses of the NBN lists already exists and is already happening)

    Australia’s 4th largest industry is education, which actually says a lot about our industrial base than the quality of our education system.

  9. revolutionarycitizen

    John, I suggest you go read our constitution. In-fact you have relatively constrained rights, and every corporation has exactly the same rights, our constitution recognises corporate personhood.

    Even if you own or inhabit land, the government has every legal right to evict, confiscate and do whatever it sees fit to that property, as long as it provides you with due notice and compensation at the market value of said property. That’s the way it is, and since corporations are people, they’re also in the same boat, meaning whenever the government changes the rules which affects value or investment, compensation can and is often paid.

    And no, “the people” own not one penny worth of mineral resources, it remains the property of the crown, for elected governments to do with as they see fit.

    And what do you imagine Australia would look like without the inflow of capital into the mining sector? Ever % point of GDP growth in the last 6 years has been mining related, without the mining boom(s) Australia’s economy would have stagnated after the recession we had to have. And the DFE Rebate is not a subsidy, we’ve been over this. And the government gets its fair share without fronting any of the financial risk.

    I have the NBN and it drops out also, so rest assured, some things never change.

    And the NBNco’s own numbers show it is going to have to at some point ask the government to lift its legislated funding cap from $30B to unlimited, because no institutional investor will go near the company because it will never recoup capital cost, ever.

  10. OzFenric

    Thanks for comments so far. RC, I want to respond to your first lengthy comment.
    1. I have previously commented on the original form of democracy as compared to our current model where everyone has a say, rather than the elite minority. I’m sure our current elite minority would like to bring things back to a state where we can trust that the only people who can vote are the ‘right’ people, but I personally am glad we’ve moved on. My post is about democracy as practiced in the modern western world.
    2. I believe that I did mention that the TPP is bipartisan. Doesn’t make it any more right. And if it’s so good for Australia, are we really going to withdraw from it when one of the outlying clauses is invoked? Do we withdraw completely from everything the TPP allegedly provides us the first time a multinational corporation sues us for public health legislation that impinges on their corporate activities? Or the second? Or the tenth? BTW, a sticking point for Labor in the TPP is the ISDS clauses. It takes a Coalition government to happily rush into signing those.
    3. The NBN is indeed not a requirement of business. It will primarily help society as a whole – most large businesses that need high-speed internet already pay for it, but Australia as a whole suffers from pre-modern internet speeds and reliability. The NBN doesn’t just provide high speed access for businesses. It allows technology to advance, it provides ubiquity and reliability, and is generally beneficial for a large majority of the population. And it’s revenue-positive – it will pay back the government’s funding (loan) with interest! It takes a special kind of ideology to think that all of this equates to a bad solution.
    4. If the minerals belong to the states, then how is it that multinationals make such huge profits from digging them up and selling them? Perhaps I don’t understand the model. The concept of an MRRT still sounds like a good idea. Perhaps the resulting funds ought to go direct to the States rather than the commonwealth. Oh wait… there’s an interesting word. Common-wealth.
    5. I am not an “information must be free” radical. I support copyright protection and IP legislation. I do not support legislation that allows government or a commercial entity to take down a service which some people are using for legitimate purposes. Closing down file sharing sites is analogous to banning bikie gangs and criminalising anyone in them, another coincidentally conservative practice. And internet filtering, as I said in my post, has a long history of hurting the innocent and making life more difficult for the wrong people, while being easy to circumvent for the people you wanted to affect in the first place.
    6. I also don’t support government handouts to businesses “just because”, and the federal government was quite within its rights to deny SPC. But to (reportedly) encourage SPC to improve productivity by cutting staff entitlements to the minimum, when those entitlements had been agreed in good faith between a company and its expert workforce, indicates the kind of “support” that the workforce can expect from this government.
    As I said in the post, commercial interests are rarely directly related to the community’s interest. Your suggestions about restrictions on government grants to businesses makes good sense to me. More generally, however, this government continually sides with businesses against unions and the workforces they represent.

    There’s grist in all of these areas for specific blog posts and articles, and most of them have received appropriate attention. My post was more about the attitude of giving businesses free reign whilst ignoring the legitimate interests of the community that this government, as well as previous ones, seems to be succumbing to.

    OF

  11. Stephen Tardrew

    Kaye great post as usual and interesting reply Revo but this does not answer the ideological dislocation that is leading to so much that is not rational or logical on both sides. Somehow we need to set out science based empirical facts based upon fundamental laws and constants that demonstrate how life in the universe is constrained by lawful axioms. If we do not get these axioms close to the empirical facts then something is radically wrong.

    Ideological dogmatism can never flesh out what we really need to know at a fundamental level. Simple laws of logic can define the issues and direct us to solutions based outcomes. I have said it before and will continue to say it: much of what we do requires engineering solutions not subjectively infected ideological irrationality. Be damned if we will make it to the next stage in post Darwinian evolution if we cannot deconstruct myths and promote empirical facts.

    So much conflicting opinion and paradoxical irrationality that is undeniably divorced from the empirical facts. Abbots rejection of science is reinforcement of his religious dogmatism which is, in many cases, contradictory to his religions cry for love, justice and equity. A double dose of foolishness. There is no way this sort of incoherent disconnected rambling can define a coherent meta-theory of empirically based practical solutions. Subjective wishes hopes and desires can only be meaningful if the facts are laid out through value free scientific observations. One wonders if rejection of science is fear of loss of God which demonstrates a real lack of faith. And therefore the monkey in the room is fear itself.

    It is possible to clearly demonstrate the grounds for competitive advantage and cooperative mutuality as evolutionary principles that cohere into an organizational whole. If we destroy our environment then we are no more than thoughtless viruses with the added benefit of deciding to embrace self-destruction. If we uncaringly let many suffer unwarranted poverty alongside enormous wealth we have not listened to the message of mirror neurons and the demand for reciprocity.

    That irrational ideological ideas get hold is an indication of our primitivism and our lack of humility at realizing we are, as yet, not a fully-formed intelligent species: me included.

  12. revolutionarycitizen

    Oz,

    6, It wasn’t agreed to in good faith, the agreements were entered into after a period of strike action, in which the company was being held ransom until it paid up, it paid up, then out-sourced the jobs of those people who went on strike. There is nothing wrong with restructuring entitlements when the business is suffering, but SPC has a wealthy parent who could easily afford the money, it however chose to play politics and attempt to blackmail the federal government with the old jobs bogeyman. It did however succeed in scaring the pants of Napthine who handed over the money. Same went for Toyota, it wanted to renegotiate a temporary adjustment to its EBA, the Union (not the workers) took Toyota to court to stop the process, a few weeks later Toyota says its going back to Japan. Again, a prime example of Unions doing right by Australian workers.

    5, The ISP changes Brandis espouses won’t close file sharing networks, it will just prohibit our access to them and ensure a level of physical denial of access.

    4, We are a Federation of Sovereign States bound together under a Commonwealth, the only alternative was a Republic at the time. The constitution recognises that the states are free sovereign entities but provides the over-arching frame-work to provide commonality between them all. We really only federated because we needed a navy, and we only became sovereign (1930s) when the Washington Naval Treaty rightfully counted our Navy as part of the British Navy. (but that’s a different matter) But, “commonwealth” really doesn’t mean that the wealth flows amongst the people to achieve a common good, it did mean something different to that, other-wise articles pertaining to the creation of the welfare state via income taxation by the federal government would have been in the constitution, and they aren’t, and we only started federal income taxes to pay for WW I, and just never stopped.

    3, On NBNco’s own numbers, it will never recoup capital outlay, not now, not ever, in-fact, Telstra (a company that makes money) will never likely do so either. So we will do what we did with Telstra, spend an enormous amount of public money creating a monopoly, then sell it at its profit value and write-off the capital expense in order to recoup some of our money. Remember, every penny spend on the NBN is through government issued bond which it pays interest on. If people want fast internet, they can pay, I want an autobahn where I can drive to work in 15 minutes, doesn’t mean I am going to get one though.

    2, If/When an agreement becomes untenable or overtly negative it is torn up, there is nothing stopping our government from acting as it pleases, all the TPP does is allow us greater access to other markets, and allows us to do to them what people are worried about happening to us.

    1, We’re not a democracy, never have been, parliamentary representation is the complete abrogation of what democracy actually is. Even Americans who know a thing or two claim that they are not a democracy either, they’re a Republic with an elected King, with a closer association to Rome than Athenian ideals of government by demos.

  13. Stephen Tardrew

    Ozfenrik I certainly agree with you. Great post.

  14. Kaye Lee

    rc,

    “People who prattle on about health and the internet really shouldn’t. The NBN won’t put any downward pressure on doctor visits because you can’t write and sign a script over the internet, and the liability and negligence issues are enormous. ”

    You are obviously not aware of the e-health system currently being trialled. It links up all health professionals so every time you have a vaccine, or fill a script, or have an operation, or whatever, it all gets linked. Prescriptions have barcodes on them. There are many issues still to be worked out but the potential is enormous and would most definitely reduce health costs plus provide a far better health record for individuals and health professionals. The possibilities of this are endless. People will be able to test themselves with doctors remotely reading results. But if regional doctors and pharmacies can’t hook up then what’s the point?

    You need to read the CBA done by New Zealand.

  15. revolutionarycitizen

    A doctor still has to see you to diagnose you and to physically give you the original script, and the first doctor who is successfully sued for not doing so (and it will happen) will see the whole idea go out the window. Do you know what’s cheaper than spending $60B on the internet? $1B on hiring new doctors in mobile health services, and it could be funded for 60 years!

    A doctor will not accept self examination, because it isn’t done by doctors.

    40% of all internet traffic is pornography, so lets stop assuming that the internet is some magical source of wonderment, or social enrichment, it will allow for the easier sharing of information, but saves nothing in the costs of collecting that information, a doctor is still going to bill you or Medicare if he sees you via the internet, in-fact, he’ll bill you twice when he/she asks to see you in person for a proper diagnosis.

    As for a CBA done in NZ, invalid, we have farms bigger than England, what works in NZ may not work here. Plus, rural Australia will be getting new satellite broadband regardless of what happens to the rest of the NBN, so much of what rural customers want they’re guaranteed to get.

  16. Kaye Lee

    I am not talking about diagnosis but ongoing monitoring. Doctors already write scripts without seeing patients. The self-examination that I saw being suggested involved someone putting a blood sample on a machine (as diabetics do all the time), it could also do temp, blood pressure and heart rate. This machine was hooked up to the comp and transmitted results to the doc. Community nurses could also use the system.

    “40% of all internet traffic is pornography”. And where did you get that statistic from? That’s the greatest load of crap I have ever heard.

    You really do just make it all up don’t you. Doctors on salary rather than fee for service makes a lot of sense to me. And you know what’s cheaper than doctors? Preventative health – which is why Abbott’s merciless attack on all things to do with that is mind-boggling.

    Gee ya learn something every day…we are bigger than NZ???? I was suggesting you look at the CBA because it outlines many benefits and applications of a fast NBN than actually don’t involve pornography.

  17. charybds

    revolutionarycitizen
    .. 40% of internet traffic is pornography AND 96.3% of all figures cited in arguments are made up out of thin air .. you are obviously very ignorant about the reasons for a proper broadband network.

    I’m not going to bother attempting to address your dogmatic assertion that a strike action is a holding to ransom of a company, except to say that when workers strike they are exercising their right to act as a collective, and not sell their services at a poor price .. A right I’m sure you would never argue against a business exercising.

    Generally speaking governments build infrastructure to allow for FUTURE uses not to carry yesterdays emails.

    If mineral rights belong to the ‘crown’ .. who does the crown belong to?

    Seriously you need to go away and have a good long look in the mirror, and decide whether your convictions are actually beneficial to humanity as a whole .. or are you simply being a media fed apologist for the the talented greedy?

  18. revolutionarycitizen

    Monitoring isn’t where the greatest cost is incurred, even electronically the cost of the doctor is till incurred. So even if you did self-exam the doctor will still charge for witnessing and or assessing the results. Just with the added cost of having Medicare provide remote patients with self-exam equipment.

    Again, the idea that we’re going to save a lot of money here just doesn’t hold water, and there has been no literature by anyone who has examined Medicare and Public Health that indicated we aren’t in for anything other than significant health cost increases.

    The difference will be cost, it is going to cost over $60B to create the NBN, and to say that we’ll get teleconferencing ignores the fact that many business’ already teleconference, and many private people do like-wise through Skype. Internet speed and internet gaming is relative, also involves the capacity of 3rd party servers, I have an NBN connection and the end benefit to any game I played was non-existent. Schools have had access to fibre networks for 20 years, if they’ve not chosen to utilise that resource that is their fault, also, any increase in internet use by schools will either require a substantive increase in base-line school funding, or risk seeing schools internet bills subtract from what they’re actually teaching, as it won’t be free.

    Plenty of people work from home now without issue, there has been no real market impact statements regarding smart fridges and the like, and people with good computer skills can and already do have smart houses. Everything listed on that top 10 either already exists or is just another luxury that private citizens should be paying for anyway.

  19. Kaye Lee

    perfect example of rc distortion.

    The article says “Optenet claims that it found approximately 37 percent of the pages online to contain pornographic content.”

    rc says “40% of all internet traffic is pornography”

    Show me the usage stats rc.

  20. diannaart

    Governing for corporations and not a nation’s people is treason.

  21. revolutionarycitizen

    Pages have to be created and maintained, if you analysed the volumetric data, as in how much actual data that is then you would know what the transfer or usage rate is. And since that would actually be impossible, it can be said that if 40% of the content is x then usage is also same.

    And if 40% of the content is pornography than 40% of upload traffic is going to be pornographic, and it can’t exist in a vacuum, people have to view it in order for it to be worthwhile.

  22. john921fraser

    <

    IPA.

  23. CMMC

    Teddy

  24. Bacchus

    Yes Kaye, rc does just make it up. The actual figure for porn sites is closer to 4%. As far as the absolute garbage rc made up (7.22 pm), Internet infrastructure giants like Cisco measure different traffic types very accurately, producing yearly reports of traffic trends.

    Cisco is one of the largest manufacturers of core routers, through which all internet traffic is routed. Keeping stats of traffic types passing through their equipment is their bread and butter…

    Optenet, by contrast, has a vested interest in inflating the numbers they’re reporting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23030090

  25. Bacchus

    rc is arguing from a point of ignorance here – don’t be too harsh on the poor old fellow.

    For example, a machine to upload blood sugar readings via iphone or android devices is available now: http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57609837-76/ihealth-lab-unleashes-glucose-monitor-that-syncs-with-mobile-devices/

    I know whenever I visit my GP, the most he does is take my blood pressure, and prints out prescriptions. I have a blood pressure monitor at home – I really don’t need to physically go to his surgery for him to monitor my medical needs. With digital signing of documents available, sending prescriptions via email presents no problems at all.

    This all makes a lot more sense when we’re talking about remotely located patients, or elderly, less mobile patients. The cost savings are in keeping the elderly in their own homes longer, and in having medical services much more readily available in remote locations. Instead of a 7 hour drive to visit a specialist, a patient could easily consult via the net.

  26. diannaart

    Bacchus

    I am only a 20 minute drive away from my Doctor – however I have to be well enough to drive there (taxis too much of a luxury for the likes of me). The receptionists are gracious about my frequent rescheduling of appointments.

    Of course, we have the technology – just not the will Mr Turn-effing-bull.

  27. Bacchus

    Yep – I hear you diannaart! Many GP visits and most specialist visits don’t require a face to face meeting. Add the e-health initiative, and there is an obvious path to much a more efficient primary health care model, especially in regions that currently don’t have adequate health care personnel.

    Of course another side of this coin is that if we were to provide a means for more people to move out of the cities and into the regions (by providing ubiquitous high speed broadband), more professionals would also move to the regions to service a sustainable population.

    For medical reasons, I spent the best part of the last eight years working from home. I could have done this from the CBD of any major city, or anywhere else that had reasonable broadband. It wasn’t perfect (being limited by woeful upload speeds) but it was workable. How many people would be very happy to escape the rat race to live in and work from a much nicer, less polluted and noisy place?

    Magic word = decentralisation. The Labor NBN would have provided the means to save $billions in city infrastructure by getting people back into regional Australia. Of course, the backward thinking conservatives, like rc, couldn’t possibly conceive of such a forward-looking plan 🙄

  28. diannaart

    Having worked in the public service for many years, I would watch with utter amazement as each Labor administration would set about decentralising services only to be followed by a LNP wasting dollars on centralising everything back again.

    One of the best moves a government could make is to provide more services in the regions, as you say the professionals would then follow. Also less people clogging major cities and a more vibrant and active country would result… I know I’m only dreamin’

    The thing that really leaves me in total amazement is that many of these right-wingnuts call themselves libertarians, yet behave like authoritarians. What is that about?

  29. Möbius Ecko

    I know where you get your facts from revolutionarycitizen as that 40% figure with various conflicting sources is heavily quoted by religious and anti-porn crusading sites.

    According to Wiki Answers 12% of total websites are pornographic and Hitwise’s ISP study reports that nearly 19 percent of internet traffic is porn-related, nowhere near the 40% figure.

    I can chase up pieces I’ve read in the past that have said the amount of porn on the web is overstated because a significant percentage counts hits on pornographic sites, which can be someone doing a search for something non porn related and being led to the site and then leaving it without actually viewing or downloading anything.

    Another reason for the overly high quoted number of porn sites is that hits on parental filters are counted as an attempted access to a porn site, yet the filter could just as easily blocked a non-porn site.

    According to neuroscientist Ogi Ogas who sampled a million site there are a couple ways of thinking about the proportion of the Internet that is porn:

    ● In 2010, out of the million most popular (most trafficked) websites in the world, 42,337 were sex-related sites. That’s about 4% of sites.

    ● From July 2009 to July 2010, about 13% of Web searches were for erotic content.
    Both of these are from our research in Billion Wicked Thoughts. We consider our data the best available. It’s an impossible task to say exactly what % of *ALL* websites are pornographic or anything else, because the web is both so enormous and so dynamic; looking at the million most popular sites is a very reasonable sample.

    As an aside.

    revolutionarycitizen has to be one of the greatest misnomers for a conservative I’ve seen, and going on the posts there’s absolutely nothing revolutionary and everything conservative about them.

    I’ve rarely read a poster who publishes so many words but says so little. Only politicians are a rival to it.

  30. Möbius Ecko

    The difference will be cost, it is going to cost over $60B to create the NBN,

    Where do you get that figure from revolutionarycitizen, especially in the light that Turnbull’s Parliamentary Secretary Minister Paul Fletcher admitting that the Coalition’s estimate of the cost of Labor’s NBN were overstated.

    I believe that Turnbull’s broadband plan is already $29 billion more than stated for delivering far less than stated. Also there’s a good piece around that shows how much more efficient and return for money the NBN is compared to this governments inefficient plan that will deliver poor returns.

  31. Möbius Ecko

    Adobe has moved over to the cloud with Adobe CC, and that is high end resource hungry stuff. Won’t be long before they stop support for legacy desktop installs like mine.

    The majority of business software, CMS, CRM, HR, PM, QA, WHSM etc. is now web based cloud hosted and becoming more complex and bandwidth hungry with each new version. I know business has the capacity to have high speed broadband but many work from home, and they will be at a disadvantage under this government’s third rate broadband.

  32. OzFenric

    RC may have missed my debut contribution to The AIMN. The most obvious uses of fast, ubiquitous broadband is PAAS and SAAS – software and operating systems that are not installed on your machine so much as streamed to you. Under these models, you can work from home with a full work computing environment that lasts only so long as you’re online. You can stream your computing environment – home or business – to any computing device anywhere: your home office, your phone, your web cafe terminal. Your computer is always virus free and you know that anywhere you go, your computer is only a terminal away.

    This is *already happening* with current generations of software. The future will see it expand exponentially. The rest of the world has, or is building, fast and reliable broadband. The rest of the world is building the software that Australians will need to use. The rest of the world will stop producing MS Office that installs onto your hard disk, probably within a generation. They won’t care that a good proportion of Australians have low-speed low-capped internet. They *already* don’t care: many are the software packages and games now requiring always-on internet.

    … And Australians will be unable to participate unless they’re lucky enough to be employed by a business that has high speed internet in their office, and you can forget working from home unless you want to shell out thousands of dollars for dedicated fibre to be run to your house, even presuming you can convince Telstra to make a connection available.

    This is just *one* likely future use for the NBN that current technology just does not allow. There are many others that we already see, let alone the hundreds of uses that will start to emerge from those places that do have a modern infrastructure.

    RC, just because you haven’t seen any benefit to higher bandwidth in your gaming doesn’t mean that your experience is defining or that you know what Australians will be missing out on.

  33. Trevor Vivian

    Being a citizen of Australia under the Crown means that one is a subject of the Monarchy ?

    Corporate personhood makes that the best client or customer to be one who Consumes, is silent, and then dies ?

    Executive Government brings death to democracy

  34. James Ellis

    Wow rc., You know it’s not your pig headed arrogance that annoys me most….it’s just that the ability to put words together is such a waste in someone whose thoughts are predominantly and spectacularly wrong.

    Sadly Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones have been struck with a similar affliction.

  35. diannaart

    James

    I do believe it is a, as yet, to be defined psychological disorder:

    ‘Can construct sentences; crap at thinking’.

    🙂

  36. diannaart

    OK

    “as yet, to be” – somewhat of an example in redundancy

    😳

  37. James Ellis

    Dianaart

    I believe you are on to something there, I wonder if anyone has ever investigated the extreme right wing mind, from a psychological point of view. What a quagmire of naivety it must hold, to be incapable of differentuating between what is the proper course of action as against the LNPs damaging,repulsive and offensive path

  38. revolutionarycitizen

    “Being a citizen of Australia under the Crown means that one is a subject of the Monarchy?”

    No, it means you are separated from the powers the crown holds, the crown is sovereign, you’re not.

    “Corporate personhood makes that the best client or customer to be one who Consumes, is silent, and then dies ?”

    Corporate personhood exists because government can’t be trusted to keep their hands off what isn’t theirs. In Australia as it does in the US of A it means that every corporate entity has the exact same legal rights as a citizen.

    We are governed by executive, and no we aren’t a democracy and never have been.

    Mobius, business has access to a true fibre network, for them the NBN is just what they already have with a different name. As for traffic and volume, I quoted one of a plethora of sources, some more valuable than others, and yours are just as likely to be wrong as mine are in that regard.

    As for the health debate, a doctor has to review your results, or view you face to face over the internet, which they won’t be doing for free meaning there is no net saving what-so-ever. And anyone want to guess how many afflictions have similar symptoms? Doctors will always be on the side of caution and want a consult in person at some point.

    All it does is give the doctor another excuse to send you a bill.

  39. OzFenric

    On the topic of health care, the NBN has a wide array of uses and benefits that go far beyond showing your symptoms to the doctor. Yes, there will still be a need to attend a GP’s office for some people and some conditions, but the idea is that you won’t need to wait behind someone who’s having a followup consultation or evaluation, you won’t have hospital beds being taken up by people who can be monitored at home, and you will have far more people avoiding hospital-requiring critical health issues in the first place. Health professionals know that a large and growing part of the demand for healthcare is about chronic and preventable conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma etc. These conditions require ongoing management, which does *not* require an in-person diagnosis. Labor under Rudd and Gillard correctly identified that the priority for healthcare needs to be preventative and pre-clinical care and much of Labor’s health infrastructure was directed to this end. The NBN would be another part of the solution to Australia’s growing healthcare budget blowout. But if you think that visiting a doctor to have your lungs listened to is the be-all and end-all of medicine, then I can understand why you might think the NBN won’t be useful.

    Reference: that paragon of lefty propaganda the ABC. http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2013/09/19/3852140.htm

    As I and others have said regarding the NBN, it is certainly true that some businesses (big businesses – not the small business I work in nor the vast majority of businesses in Australia) have access to fast broadband. The lion’s share of broadband in business is ADSL2 which, under the current infrastructure, is unreliable and slow and incredibly difficult to connect new clients to. I should know, I am an IT consultant dealing with business broadband on a daily basis. Curiously, ADSL2 is also the “broadband” available to most of Australia’s metro consumers. It is certainly true that a large proportion of metro customers have access to optical cable via Optus or Telstra/Foxtel running along their street; at present using this cable for broadband ties you to a particular provider at premium costs. Handing over HFC cable to the NBN will actually be of benefit to some consumers – this is certainly true. But FTTP is two hundred years of future proofing, and the value of any network increases logarithmically with the increase of its availability. Ubiquitous broadband is not only incredibly valuable for the future (although doing a cost-benefit analysis of it now would be like trying to evaluate the profitability of the copper network when we were still using telegrams) but will simply be *required* for participation in the software and internet services that will be standard in the rest of the world before this decade is over.

    Finally, on the person-hood of corporations and your statement that “government can’t be trusted to keep their hands off what isn’t theirs”: this, as much as anything, indicates that your idea of what government is and mine are quite different. As I originally argued in this post, government’s role in relation to corporations should be to protect and shield the People from the excesses of the Corporation. You seem to think that government has a role in protecting the Corporation from the wishes of the People. Corporations may be “people” under the law but I’d wager that they’re not voters.

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