Category Archives: Australia

A Minister Replies re NBN – Sort of

On 15 February, I sent an email to the Minister for Regional Communications, Regional Development and Rural Health, Senator Fiona Nash. These portfolio responsibilities could almost translate to NBN – National Broadband Network – in terms of who would benefit most from an operational an infrastructure. The content of my email related to a person who posted their disgust with how the NBN is failing them in Tasmania, a place that was touted to be the first state to have the best NBN services. But hey, our current government has really stuffed things up because the Prime Minister himself thinks he knows better than network engineers and technology specialists. So the system is now a joke.

Here is a smattering of my original email and the included content from the complainant (I don’t have permission to post the whole message, so I’ll just include a snippet and a link so you can go read the whole thing yourself if you’re on Facebook).

Dear Minister Nash

Here is something you can possibly attend to or push someone in your new area of responsibility to attend to. This sounds like a right stuff-up.
You’re stuck with a dud system. Perhaps you can influence some improvements.

Jan Whitaker
Berwick Victoria

From the facebook person, in a message that was sent to me:

> Today is day 21 with a failed NBN connection for us. We live in Port
> Huon, Tasmania, in the beautiful rural Huon Valley.
> We have had one occasion where an NBN technician has turned up, the
> day before a scheduled appointment because the technician was in the
> street doing another job. We were not at home.
> Since then there have now been four scheduled appointments to which no
> NBN technician has shown up. Excuses, via the ISP from NBN have
> included – ‘We didn’t have all the correct information” which is
> incorrect. “They weren’t home, so we left a card in the post box”
> which has never happened. “We went to the wrong address” which is
> unverifiable, oh and my favorite “We don’t often go down there.” Which
> is clearly correct. I await with interest the excuse for the no show
> on Friday, appointment 4, perhaps ” The dog ate my Purchase
> Order/IPhone/Car Keys?”

Then it just gets worse. The person asks for help and direction how they can actually get what they have been promised.

Today, I received a reply from the Minister. Well, not from her, exactly, but from one of the minions in the Department of Communications and the Arts, which is the department responsible for this fiasco of a project. It’s a doozy. They seem to think I am the person with the problem. Who knows if they bothered to go to the Facebook user and reach out to them. Well, you can read it yourself. The letter is available here (hope this file access works for you):


[UPDATE: from a reader]

When an Assistant Director replies for a Senator, it’s a brush-off.” He doesn’t even make the directory listing for the department. Not even the title makes the list.

If you are an NBN victim, maybe the address provided for assistance can help you, family, friends. Unfortunately, the PDF I received has the link embedded and it can’t be copied directly from it easily, nor clicked on to activate. On top of that, there is no ability to reply to the email I received because it is an noreply “service”. Anyone know how to get in touch with I’m sure the lovely person named Jason Sleeman? I guess I could write him a PAPER letter and post it to Canberra. This is from a COMMUNICATIONS department!

Back to the NBN, I’m one of the “lucky” ones with NBN nowhere in sight for my area, and I’m 35 minutes from the city of Melbourne. I don’t think I’ll need that policy address soon. I despair for the person with the actual installation problems.

We do live in crazy times. I’m not so sure they’re interesting any more. Just infuriating.

When entrepreneurs run public agencies you get this.

There is an uproar that began this week in Australia when the head of the top national research organisation, CSIRO, decided we don’t need no steenking climate change modeling. Those scientists and staff can change to engineers and start figuring out how to ‘mitigate’ the risk.

It didn’t take long until the worldwide climate science community came out in force to tell the ‘venture capitalist’ Marshall that he’s got it wrong.

( his history: )

I normally don’t write to agencies. I usually write to ministers. In this case, I made an exception (along with copies to the relevant Ministers)

My letter to Dr Marshall:

Subject: The CSIRO climate science debacle

Dear Dr Marshall

I don’t normally write to heads of agencies, but I had to make a change myself as the current situation is too important.

I read with deep concern your quotes in this ABC News article
regarding your interpretation of the reaction to the open letter from the scientists. Those of particular concern are:

– explaining to yourself that their outcry is because ‘they’re not going to want to change’. Sir, good science is completely about change. I see you’re an engineer and physicist by background. That explains much about your misunderstanding. You worked in a static discipline. You’ve been working in finance and business. You are being very condescending to those who are telling you that you are wrong.

– change as your justification. **Inclusion** of mitigation is, in my opinion, a good thing. We are at risk. It is important to assist those whose lives will be affected by the impact of extreme climate change — coastal areas, food production, energy use, building construction to name a few. However, it does not mean the models are static and complete. What if we had stopped developing and observing 30 years ago? Our models today would be wrong. How would we understand what is happening now? It’s not just about continuing to collect data. It’s about interpreting it, feeding it into the scientific community, testing hypotheses, and identifying the areas where mitigation is going to be required.

– equating the reaction to ‘religion’. ““In fact it almost sounds more like religion than science to me. “ On the contrary, you are hearing from professionals — worldwide — who are pointing out you are making a grave error. This is not a group of religionists, sir. These are some of the best minds in the world. I suggest you consider they may know a bit more than you about this area.

In closing, I don’t want you to take any time in responding to this email. What I ask you to do instead is to ramp up a bit of your own humility, think about the expertise of the people in the scientific community most involved in this discipline, and step back from this ill-thought-through decision.

If you need resources to add mitigation to the climate portfolio, either redistribute from other money-making areas in CSIRO (your KPI for entrepreneurship we are all suspecting is driving your role – ), or other less vital areas within the agency, or approach your boss PM and fight for additional funds.

At a minimum, don’t throw out the underpinnings or downsize to insignificance, what has been built already. That’s no way to run a Research Organisation.

Jan Whitaker
Berwick, Victoria

cc: Christopher Pyne, Karen Andrews, Wyatt Roy

Two Months On – What has changed?

Two months ago almost to the day (tomorrow), Australia received a new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. I say received because we the people don’t elect them. We elect local representatives from parties who then in majority (usually) form the government of the day. In reality, the leader of the country isn’t directly elected, although some in the public think otherwise and talk as if they are. So, there was a ‘spill’ (love that term), the noxious Tony Abbott was voted out by his Liberal Party ‘mates’ (sic) and Malcolm Turnbull was installed in the chair.

What has changed?

Pretty much nothing but style – the policies have remained:

  • children and their families are still in concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island, PNG;
  • climate action is laughably bad paying polluters from tax coffers not to pollute instead of charging them when they do;
  • marriage equality is a long way off, if ever
  • all of our communications “metadata” (yeah right) is being collected for 2 years and law enforcement in some cases can access without judicial oversight
  • the financial situation is still a mess, switching from a “budget emergency” to “go out and borrow on that credit card” to who knows what, the Treasurer (oh, yeah, we got a new one of those, too – prior Immigration — NOT Minister, Social Services — NOT Minister, Scott Morrison) doesn’t know if it’s a revenue problem or a spending problem (Hint: it’s a population change demand situation, not a problem at all)
  • the health minister is still going to get her mitts on ALL of OUR HEALTH DATA through a goal-post shifting Health Record that will now become Opt-Out
  • health funding is still cut (on future growth) by $80Billion
  • education funding is still cut
  • and the National Broadband Network redesign to cripple it, brought about by Malcolm himself, is still costing more and doing less than the original NBN we were promised by Labor.

What has changed is there is now a dapper dressing millionaire PM who can inflect his speech well when reading from a prepared speech, doesn’t embarrass us quite so much when we let him go out of the country, and has soothed/smoothed the worst of the worst aspects of Abbott’s reign. He did change a few of the Ministers, for good or bad, but he left in some really bad ones:

  • Dutton as Immigration Minister — NOT, an ex Queensland drug squad cop who knows zilch about Immigration other than ‘lock them up’ in camps
  • Morrison as Treasurer — NOT, a Hill$$$ong evangelical Christian who was an Liberal party apparatchik who is totally out of his depth
  • Brandis as Attorney General (took away his Arts portfolio, though), a dilettante with $15,000 bookcases he keeps rebuilding in each office for same amount (maybe it was a cost saving measure to keep him in place) — Mr. Metadata extraordinaire who supports bigotry
  • Christopher “Poodle” Pyne as Minister for ‘Malcolm’s favourite word of the moment’ Innovation — has Chris ever created anything? Anything???? Name just 2 things, please
  • and a cast of more.

Did I say the policies stayed? Yeppers. It’s still the Libs. Doing deals with their under-buddies, the Nats and their business mates (cough)Rupert(cough). It’s still regressive tax proposals, anti-citizen, anti-civil rights, more for the 1% Neo-Liberalism/Neo-Conservative claptrap.

But at least Mal doesn’t embarrass us overseas. (Yet)

Australia Has a New Prime Minister – But will things change?

After less than two years of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, supposed “first among equals”, on Monday night the Liberal Party gave him the boot in favour of challenger, ex-Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. It was a moderate result, 54 – 44 for the new guy, but in line with what the pundits were told by the Turnbull camp before the vote took place.

As a result, yesterday, Tuesday afternoon, after much waiting waiting waiting, and more waiting, for Abbott to appear somewhere, anywhere, he finally stood at a podium in the gardens of Parliament House and gave a press conference in which he did not resign nor congratulate the incumbent. It was typical Abbott. Rude to the public/media/Parliament and blaming others for his demise in his speech. Some theories of his whereabouts prior to appearing ranged from sitting drunk in a closet licking his wounds, sneaking out to the Army to instigate a reverse coup, flitting off out of the country without resigning at all, or worse. The public still doesn’t know why it took until 12.30 the next day for him to speak. And probably most telling, unlike the custom in these circumstances of which we have had three now in the last five years, he didn’t go to the Governor General and resign his commission in person. Nope, nope, nope. Not Tony. Instead he sent a note. A Note! We’re all still wondering if it was faxed or sent by carrier pigeon.

[UPDATE just over 1 hour after I posted this. He resigned by FAX. ]

But enough about the fallen. The new guy isn’t exactly new. Malcolm has been wanting to be PM since he was a child and has freely admitted that. He comes from ‘born to rule’ honestly at least. He’s rich. Very rich. Much of it he’s made, not inherited. Think Trump with better hair and voice. He doesn’t need the gig. Also like Trump, Mal also flirted with the Labor party (think Democrats). Not sure why, but he eventually settled on or was advised that his more natural fit ($$ level?) was the Libs. He ran for Parliament, won his seat of Wentworth in New South Wales. He became leader of the Liberal Party once in opposition, until his more progressive views, arrogance and dictatorial style got him the boot and the party ended up with Abbott by ONE VOTE difference during the last Labor government. So now you can see why the 10 vote difference Monday night was quite a shift.

MalT may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We don’t know yet. He’s playing as best he can to the right at the moment to get the “team” to unite. Areas he had been forward looking on, like really doing something about climate change and marriage equality, have both gone by the boards. So that much has changed, at least he’s said, and to the right, away from the current preferences of the public. Not sure that will win the next election.

It has also emerged that he voted for and has continued to support, so he says, the dire budgets proposed by the Treasurer Joe Hockey, measures like taking away benefits from the poor, charging more for medical care, increasing the cost of university degrees to US levels, etc etc and more bad etc. In other words, he’s in favour, he says, of slugging the poor to protect his rich mates to get richer or at least not lose anything themselves. Mal’s sales pitch for himself was that no one, mostly Abbott he said, wasn’t selling it well. (Those silly poor people! Why aren’t they getting the message and grateful for the crumbs we’re still willing to toss them?)

We still don’t know his foreign policy, even though we have men and women in the Middle East now bombing in Syria as well as Iraq. I suppose that will come out shortly, along with his new Ministers. LOTS of new Ministers, we’re betting.

There is most likely a year until the next election now. That too may change to earlier to save political hides. The longer it takes, the more likely the public will see how little things really have changed. The style and the communication may change from Tony. Abbott was horrid at both. MalT is FDR and Abraham Lincoln by comparison. MalT could sell the Brooklyn Bridge, I’d imagine. He never counters the statements that he “virtually brought the Internet to Australia”, even though it’s a lie. So he can articulate, when it serves his purposes.

Australians, there is a saying that became quite popular in the US a few years back:

Lipstick on a Pig (see below)

Just remember that phrase as the story emerges. Keep an eye out for that little gold tube and an ear for the squeals in the background. If the pig is squealing, nothing’s changed. Just the colour of the wax.

(Thanks to Dunken Bliths –

Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point – The AIM Network

If Prime Minister Abbott does cross this Rubicon, so will Australia and God help Australian democracy.

Source: Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point – The AIM Network

This article goes along w/ my latest post about the direction the country is heading. The topic is even more frightening than the gag on contractors. This threatens all of us: the citizens, with the potential for a government minister to take away our right to citizenship – be we born here or brought here or those of us like myself who chose to come here.

When that level of power, based on suspicion, ‘guilty until proven innocent’, is proposed and is spouted proudly by the minister as exactly the point when challenged by the likes of Barnaby Joyce, the descent into fascism is one step farther on the track.

Australian Democracy: Was It Ever?

Ten Reasons Why (Not Now)

We in western countries, at least the English speaking ones, are going through a clash of cultures. Not the ones that are normally thought of, such as religious versus secular or ‘East’ versus ‘West’, but corporate controlled governments versus the good of the citizens. AUdemocracy2The actions of conservative party governments, and some pseudo-liberal governments as well, are signs of this: participating in wars to keep the public on edge; national security excuses to rip away human rights; turning away starving boat people because they could be a threat to ‘jobs’; starving social services of funds to the most vulnerable of our own citizens in favour of subsidies to the wealthy…to name a few.

On an email discussion list, I posted my disgust with a new step toward government control and cover-up regarding off-shore detention centre staff (concentration camps in Nauru and Manus Island paid for in billions of Australian tax dollars to house asylum seekers and refugees) to keep those staff from exposing possible criminal activities in those centres under threat of jail – yes, criminal sanctions against whistleblowers. This is now law in Australia. If you work directly or indirectly for these contracted agencies, you are essentially gagged. Might upset national security, you know. Here’s the article:

Border Force Act: detention secrecy just got worse

As I said, I posted my disgust about this new law on an email list. One of the members there wrote back a summary of the range of things happening here (and elsewhere I believe) that expose how much we, as in all of us, not the special interests and faceless unaccountable corporations, are being led down a path, one step at a time, mostly unaware, and the complicit involvement of the ‘fourth estate’.

I asked Frank O’Connor if I could post his excellent summative reply here and he agreed. He’s also open to discussion for a wider audience, either in the independent press or possibly the criticised main stream media, should they dare. If you are in a position to  reach a wider audience, please get permission from Frank before reposting. Most of these words are his. But do feel free to let others know in your own personal circles.

Here is the exchange –

Me re Border Protection Staff Gag: (email, 28/05/2015)

Secret oaths, zero ethics, zero professionalism. This is tyranny. The DIBP (Dept of Immigration and Border Protection) ignores court orders (see other story today re Christmas Island denying court ordered lawyer access) and now they have perpetual gags on staff regardless of the circumstances. This is cover-up, folks, pure and simple, not different in principle from the child abuse fiasco w/ the Catholic church. Transparency in government is a complete joke under this government.

Let’s say you’re an IT professional or an accounting professional working in one of these departments. You find graft and corruption, say, like the FIFA arrests. What do you do if the department, police, DPP decide to hide it, which they can? Say nothing?

I am incensed by this. This is not the country I signed up for.

Frank re the Larger Problems: (email, 29/05/2015)

Well, yeah but … we’ll be saved by our media – won’t we? The old Fourth Estate, those guardians of the public weal, won’t desert us. Will they?

Maybe not …

1. In the press (both Fairfax and News Ltd) I see articles on a daily basis from the Fourth Estate, and/or retired politicians and bodies like the IPA condemning us … for condemning politicians, government and our betters on and in various Net forums – and lambasting us for not engaging with those who oppose us politically on a more ‘civilised and constructive’ basis.

2. We are also condemned for having the attention span of budgies on Speed with respect to politics, and told that our source for political information (presumably the media Commentariat) is what we should be listening to rather than the ‘noise’ of the Internet.

And let’s see how weak this attention span actually is at the next election, shall we?

3. The media got really excited recently about the data retention and snooping legislation ONLY when the provisions affected THEIR ability to report and engage with whistleblowers, and THEIR liability for prosecution. Prior to that, when the provisions affecting John Citizen were being implemented, largely without serious debate, the media was ‘lock, stock and two smoking barrels’ behind the government’s anti-terrorism measures and supportive of curbing the rights and privileges of Joe and Josephine public in the interests of ‘public safety’.

4. The Australian media seems to pretty much fall in behind EVERY manufactured crisis that this government (and indeed both the Tweedledum-Tweedledee political parties that we’re all so disillusioned with) seem to invent on a daily basis. A lone crazy gunman kills two people in Sydney, and we’re all gonna be KILLED IN OUR BEDS unless we introduce these measures and restrict our rights and privileges, and send a few hundred troops into Iraq, take on a sectarian war, oppose the sect that hasn’t done anything to us (the Iranians and the Shia) and ally with those who have been exporting terror (the Sunnis. Wahhabists, Salafists, Saudis, Qatar and Emirates etc) because they’re ‘our friends’ and the Shia, who haven’t tried exporting the violence, aren’t.

This bit of our laughingly named ‘Foreign Policy’ and ‘War on Terror’ is the one I really find amusing – especially how the Commentariat fall right in behind it. ‘Let’s kill all the people who aren’t doing anything to us, to support those who are.’ Makes perfect sense.

And the other solutions? The bottom is falling out of the government’s revenue … so the solution is to target expenses of the young, the weak, the poor and the sick. To nail education, health and social welfare … but provide handouts the rich and middle class.. Yeah, that’s gonna fix things right up.

5. The media fell in uncritically behind the last Budget, despite the fact that it pretty much included all the ‘unfairness’ of the previous Budget (yes folks – pretty much none of those provisions were rescinded by this Budget), didn’t address any of the economic structural problems (the collapse in revenue, destruction of manufacturing, cyclically low resource prices, ageing of the country, and various Sacred Cow handouts – like negative gearing, superannuation concessions, capital gains concessions and the like – and was largely comprised of handouts (read ‘pork barreling’) for voting segments important to politicians for the next election.

On the upside, the occasional article is now appearing which demonstrates an awareness of the Budget cop-out – but why it passed without comment for a couple of weeks is a ‘mystery’, isn’t it? Are our journalists incompetent … or complicit?

6. Little numbers like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will adversely affect all Australian consumers, taxpayers and the ability of any future governments of this country to actually govern, seem to be passing without comment. They are asking questions in the US (about why intellectual property and copyrights are so central to what is ostensibly just a trade treaty, and who benefits from same, and how IP and copyright is being extended by stealth with same etc etc), but not here in Oz. The American press is doing its job … but the Australian press (and obviously our politicians) don’t seem to give a damn. If everything’s OK for the multinationals and the Big End of Town, it’s OK by our media. (Of course, 70% of Australia’s media is owned by the biggest ‘tax risk’ multinational content provider and media empire in the world … but that has nothing to do with the coverage of little numbers like the TPP. Does it?)

7. The government is allowed to get away with egregious breaches of human rights, UN treaties, environmental obligations, and as Jan has pointed out, the rights and privileges of its own citizens, without comment – or, if there is any comment something that appears on Page 10 or later. The media simply doesn’t give a damn.

8. And those same multinationals and the Big End of Town are the ones who are benefiting. On tax evasion. On provision of services to the government. On provision of product to the government. On handouts, rebates, grants and other dipping at the public pot – for hundreds of billions of dollars.

For example … Pfizer sells billions of dollars worth of drugs to the Australian government, does what it can to get all its products listed on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), and pays effectively nothing in tax on its sales – so we’re effectively robbed from both ends of the equation. But there’s no suggestion that we should shut off the funds flow at one end or the other. I mean, that just wouldn’t do … would it. We’re here to be milked for as much as we possibly can be.

9. The Mining Council seeks to shut down conservation groups, and remove their tax exempt status, and this government falls in behind them like a shot. But there’s no suggestion that the Mining Council, the IPA and like bodies which are also very politically active should lose their tax exempt status. And no suggestion in the media that this should happen.

10. Pretty much every policy now proposed by the government and opposition is about the here-and-now. There’s very little investment in our young, our future and the like, and what there is tends to be for ‘user pays’ initiatives. And PR rather than policy seems to be the go. There’s a dishonesty in government funding, especially of funding for initiatives that have blatantly ideological bases (Lomborg, RET, subsidies to polluters, etc). Science, peer reviewed data and studies, and objectivity are out – politics, PR and money rule.

I suppose my point is that politicians will seek to get away with anything they can get away with … and that those who are expected to restrain this base impulse (the Judiciary, an independent Executive, the Fourth Estate, various so-called professions, etc.) have abrogated their responsibility for same, been politicised in their own right to an inordinate extent, and are no longer fulfilling their purpose.

It’s no wonder we are all so disillusioned, cynical and jaded. It’s no wonder we’re turning to alternative information sources and the Internet.

I still hold out some hope … the proportion of us voting for alternatives to the mainstream – Tweedledum and Tweedledee – has risen for 5% or so to 25% in the last election – and I expect to see it increase again in the next election. I’d like to see Gen Y and its successors registering to vote, and becoming the electoral force they should be – hopefully they’re not totally disengaged … but there are signs that the electorate is becoming intolerant of political abuse, corruption and self-interest. That they are rejecting big party politics, pork barreling and the electoral roundabout that is basically getting us nowhere and indeed compromising our general living standards, rights and privileges – whilst reinforcing the position of the few.

Frank O’Connor
(published here with his permission)

“Real Australians say welcome – from Alice Springs to Dandenong” – The Guardian

This article from the Guardian is truly inspiring. It shows how community art can carry a message and get others involved, showing how people feel, even though public policy settings and MSM of some sorts may dominate the narrative far too much.

It started with 1,000 posters, but Peter Drew’s project has inspired thousands of Australians, artists and otherwise, to send their own messages to asylum seekers

Source: Real Australians say welcome – from Alice Springs to Dandenong | Art and design | The Guardian

Australian Commonwealth Electoral Seats Margins – 2013

The link below is to a file that shows the electorate margins for all seats in the Federal House of Representatives from the 2013 election. It was saved from the Australian Electoral Commission website. The only manipulation I have done is to sort the chart so that the margins appear from smallest to largest.

This file is saved in .csv format. Feel free to download a copy and sort in any way you wish to answer your own questions.

Link: HouseSeatSummaryDownload-17496

Queensland Election Miracle or Predictable?

[grrrr — had to fix my blog, several hours later, now working again – I hope!]

Last night was amazing! Not only did the Socceroos win the Asian Cup Final, the Queensland ALP came through with a slew of seats, going from 9 to at least 43, dispatching the Newman LNP government after one term.

Many pundits didn’t think this possible. They believed the landline-based polls, taking no notice of the swing in recent by-elections. Bob Ellis called it right recently, well before the last days of the campaign. Many of us hoped against hope this would be the result. But by the looks on the faces of some in the Liberal and LibNat Parties, they were in complete shock.

Tony Abbott is still Prime Minister. But if this is the sort of tide that the public is riding, he won’t be for long if his colleagues have any sense. Me, I hope he stays. It will ensure a one-term federal government, just like in Victoria and now in Queensland.

Letter to Senator Leyonhjelm (warning: BAD language from HIM quoted)

Today Senator Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat Party, NSW) abused someone who wrote an email to him. That abuse is quoted below in my letter to him, calling him out on bringing the Australian Senate into disrepute. The President of the Senate, Stephen Parry, was copied in on my email to Senator Leyonhjelm.

Dear Senator Leyonhjelm

I read today that you have been abusing people who write emails to you. I’m appalled that an elected member of the Australian Senate behaves in such a manner:
“ Go Fuck Yourself You Communist Turd”

Did you actually say this?

Grow up or go home. This behaviour is unacceptable! I hope the President of the Senate deals with you appropriately and puts you on notice for bringing the Senate of Australia into disrepute.

SINCERELY (disgusted),
Jan Whitaker
(location deleted here)
THRILLED to not be one of your constituents