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T. Abbott on Q+A « Previous | |Next »
August 17, 2010

I watched Tony Abbott on the ABC's Q+ A last night. I was curious as to what he would, as a conservative, say on the welfare state and on Australia's digital futures. This was my criteria of judgment.

Though Abbott put in a professional, workman like performance as a compassionate conservative, the audience did not warm to him, as happened with Julie Gillard in the previous Q + A. Part of the problem was Abbott's ignorance, especially in his response to a national broadband network. He acknowledged that broadband services are going to be incredibly important for our future. So he has stepped outside his conservative base with its traditional social values, dislike of change, its risk averse approach to life and like to follow rules and the path most travelled.

Having rejected the stance of the digital laggards Abbott then said wireless would be do the job required:

I think, though, that the best result is much more likely to be achieved by competitive markets than by a government monopoly and, sure, high speed fibre is very, very important but most of the people who you see making use of these services at the moment are doing it via wireless technology. I mean, all of the people who are using their Blackberry's or their iPhones for Facebook. All of the people who are sitting in cafes and hotel rooms doing their work, they're all using wireless technology and we shouldn't assume that the only way of the future is high speed cable.

This is true. It works when we are "on the road" with our laptops and smart phones. What wireless supports is low bandwidth associated with mobility. In this case mobility is traded off against bandwidth.

But we also have homes with multiple users and in this location wireless is limited in terms of its functionality and speed. It is at this point that realize that wireless ends up running into capacity constraints due to a lack of spectrum, and the large downloads make broadband prohibitively expensive for most people.

Abbott's response to this digital faultline is that:

I'm not sure that we should assume that just because wireless is today slower than fibre cable that it's always going to be slower than fibre cable and even if we could get 100 megabits or more here our speeds are still limited by the connectivity of the sites that we're using and apparently some 70 per cent of the sites that Australian's use are hosted overseas, so they're dependent upon more than just our own broadband.

The overseas cable link is a problem. But I thought that a high-speed underwater fibre cable capable of carrying Australian internet traffic overseas at speeds of more than a terabit per second is in the process of being built by Pacnet and Pacific Fibre. Presumably more such cables will be built by the market as the demand rises from those using the national broadband network.

Geoff Huston, an expert in internet architectures at APNIC, has said that it was extremely challenging to "get high speed data through the air" and the limited availability of wireless spectrum meant we would fast run into capacity problems.

What's going to happen with wireless is that as we crowd it, only those with the deepest pockets will be able to afford it, so rather than being a communications medium for everyone, it becomes only a medium for the few who can afford to pay.For the same $50 a month that people pay for a couple of gigabytes of wireless, they can get 10-20 times that amount of data down the wire - wireless has its role but it also attracts a premium price.

I cannot afford to do my weblogs (research and uploading) and my photography (downloading and uploading) on wireless on a daily basis in Adelaide. I rely on ADSL2+ and I can just manage my work with it.

All the focus in Q + A was on the technology (speed+ technological development) rather than on content and enabling more Australians to use it, more creatively and on fostering research and applications in user-led innovation for the creative industries. Abbot's limitations were apparent when he failed to to link e-health developments to the National Broadband Network (NBN). He did not seem to realize that early diagnosis and after-treatment patient monitoring are two areas where significant synergies may be found using applications provided to users at home.

At no time did Abbott mention the emergence of a knowledge based digital economy implies an economy where the benefits of digitisation, and in particular the internet, become part of most if not all areas of economic activity. He had no idea of Australia as a leading knowledge based digital economy in the 21st century based on innovation, creativity and education in digital skills and literacy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:38 AM | | Comments (16)


Incoming derail.

Bernard Keane has redeemed his recent efforts with an outstanding article, quite brilliant and even a touch of the passionate.

Which is more than can be said for Abbott's effort last night, boringly predictable recitation of meaningless mantras that betray total non-comprehension of the issues facing Australia and a constsnt attempt to look backwards rather than forwards.

I haven't read today's Crikey--as I've been down at Victor Harbor taking photos. I note that Keane says in the link you provided that

ideology is at the root of opposition to stimulus spending. It is motivated by a reflexive dislike of government, the notion that smaller government is always, and automatically, better. It’s a view that demonises the public sector, taxation and regulation in and of themselves. Government of course is not innately good or bad, it is a tool to maximise community welfare, an outcome that will be achieved at different times in different ways. It is, in the view of many of us, usually achieved by keeping government as small as possible.

He adds that the advocates of (neo-liberal) ideology (the deficit hawks) are:
commentators, academics, consultants and business executives who have no fear of the labour market, who have the skills to prosper in any environment, no matter how harsh. They are mortified that the GFC has been blamed on deregulation and unfettered free markets, and bitter that the public sector has led the response to it across the world, in terms of both re-regulation and stimulus spending.

I concur with Keane.

why did the ABC allow so many Dorothy Dixers for Abbott?

Then there was the question on health that was all about supporting the GP's as gatekeepers to primary care. Abbott, the compassionate conservative, was gushing in his support for GP style primary care

Health reform in this election has been all about more beds and more doctors.The structural reform of Australia’s health care system--the shift to primary care---has been limited to odd remarks about GP superclinics that avoid talking about integrated team care. SuperClinics complement traditional general practice by recognising and addressing the limits of current GP programs.

The Liberals plan to dis-invest in Superclinics, e-health, and coordinated care for diabetes and to invest in general practice through Medicare items for afterhours care, longer consultations and practice nurses (offset by reduced direct funding for nurses).

The objective is the political tactic of keeping the AMA onside in the lead up to the election.

I have a strong impression that the Liberal broadband policy is not well thought out, although it may be a well targeted one. My sense is that we a well into the digital economy, so that speed and efficiency, and by implication the divide between the major centres and the rest of the country are an issue. The political divide might well be depicted by the product adoption curve. Is party political identification now significantly one of psychographics?

Of course the audience didn't warm to him as much as Julia ... it was an ABC audience after all!

For all of Q&A's popularity it hasn't reached the Dancing with the Stars watching / RSL frequenting masses of western suburbs -- who, incidentally, also have no clue about peak speeds and would rather put money on the pokies than subsidise the yet faster download speeds for the digital literati. I have a feeling, just a slight hunch, Abott is courting their vote and his carefully nurtured ludditism might work in his favour.

granted your point about the audience didn't warm to Abbott as much as Gillard ... it was an ABC audience after all!

Janet Albrechtson points out:

with apologies to our public broadcaster, the most compelling Q&A happens when we cut out the middle man, the media. Let's break it to them gently.The election is not about them. Elections are about voters. And when 200 undecided voters probed our leaders at the Rooty Hill RSL last Wednesday, they asked intelligent, challenging questions. Call it Q&A in the Real World. No comedians dressed up as Kevin Rudd here,...s a contrast to the highly orchestrated, tightly scripted election campaigns that have so comprehensively hijacked much of the media, Q&A in the Real World takes us back to old-style town hall meetings and what democracy should be about.

She adds that we we should demand more community-led Q&A evenings, one in every state and territory. If our leaders really want to be PM, let them sweat it out a little more in the real world.

re your comment: "I have a feeling, just a slight hunch, Abott is courting their vote [the Dancing with the Stars watching / RSL frequenting masses of western suburbs] and his carefully nurtured ludditism might work in his favour."

Carefully nurtured? The Coalition has taken a hit on broadband by appearing to be only half-interested and ignorant. For younger voters, the tech-wary, 'action man' Abbott must appear as a Luddite.The election is not just about the McMansion, two car aspirational suburbanites in the western suburbs in Sydney.

the NBN has become Labor's 2010 symbol of the future. Climate change is no longer Labor's vision of the future.

"...The election is not just about the McMansion, two car aspirational suburbanites in the western suburbs in Sydney."

Well, ah, yes it probably is. I'm confident that the various party wizards know EXACTLY who to target.

This election, more than ever, the swing is the thing.

Peter S Stock rightly points out the "luddite" aspect, which fits in with their contrarianist pique post neo con/neolib collapse, 2007.
A heady brew, not far off the reactionary modernism that is a prerequisite for fascism- they do not want to know, to the point where some here follow the bizarre American model, down to museums recounting a nostalgic and comforting narrative, a wist ful return to
Edenic times, when cave people and dinosaurs frolic(k)ed happily together, under the approving gaze of a benign deit

What is often forgotten in debates about the national broadband network is that the Coalition had 11 years to formulate and execute better communications policy — and they failed badly.

My consumer experience is quality compromised, prices high, and the availability of ADSL and ADSL2+ delayed for years at Telstra's whim.The result was that the digital divide deepened.

Private enterprise failed to deliver. And the Coalition reckons private enterprise will deliver quality broadband without the separation of Telstra. Its blind faith.

Its back to 1997 with more backhaul

Isn't regional telecommunications a die-in-a-ditch issue for regional Australia? Labor's NBN will deliver far better outcomes for regional Australia than the Coalition's patchwork measures.

Even though regional Australia will be the chief beneficiaries of the online health consultations for people in areas where there are shortages of health care professionals, the Nationals are opposing the national broadband network.

Yet a national broadband network was the Nationals idea in 2005 in their whitepaper on telecommunications policy that was written in conjunction with the party's Page Research centre. And they wanted the structural separation of Telstra.

Yet here they are dumping and attacking their own ideas and selling out regional Australia in the process.

apart from killing the NBN, the Opposition also has indicated it will kill the Government’s e-health and e-education policies. They've got rocks in their head.

Abbott has taken the Coalition closer to victory than any other Liberal in this parliament could have done.

In the process, when n about 70 per cent of the population favoured action on climate change, he won the Liberal leadership opposing it, then used that position to fatally wound Kevin Rudd.

That strategy took many by surprise.

Even though the NBN is a well-managed government infrastructure roll-out the opposition and the conservative media have portrayed it as rorts and bungles.