Why the Coalition Governments “Silence” is a brilliant ploy

It has been noted that the shiny new Coalition Government has taken the approach of going into a self-imposed media blackout. They are making very few anouncements or media interviews. All MP’s have been told all media statements and appearances need to be approved by the Prime Ministers Office.

The EMERGENCY issues of Asylum Boat arrivals and the Budget have gone into total lock-down. The NBN had a brief outing prior to the PMO approval thing and since then Malcolm has also been effectively silenced.

So why is this a brilliant ploy?

Many people, myself included, are quite frustrated and frankly downright pissed-off that such a thing has been allowed to happen and that the media seems to accept this situation. It is worth noting however, that many of the people that are raging about this would also be raging about anything the government said even if it didn’t have this silence in place.

These days, people have a very short attention span, and the media has an even shorter one. The government would be well aware of this, and after years of making so much noise that the media was more than happy to regurgitate, it might seem odd that they now go silent. But it isn’t actually.

The news of the last few years has been over-hyped by the Coalitions rhetoric, and that same rhetoric they know is impossible to solve, because it just doesn’t exist. They know that going silent will kill off the hype media cycle because the media isn’t being fed any new stories, so the oxygen is sucked out of the previous frenzy. People are “over” the drama of the election, so are glad to have a bit of peace and quiet and may not notice the vacuum. The people that do notice would make noise regardless, so the government will just ignore them as nothing it does would matter there anyway.

The government will keep the “bad” news out of the media, people will forget, and in a few months time new “feel good” news will start to seep out. The government will be very strict about controlling the message, and barring any serious events outside their control, will determine the narrative.

There have been many “journalists” making comments how they have nothing to report because there is no effective opposition at the moment making comments for them to report. The government is likewise not making any comments for them to report. They have come to the point where it appears they accept their job is to simply “report” whatever press releases or comments politicians choose to give them. Senior journalists exist only as conduits for leaks from “senior sources” to break “exclusive” stories that are also fed to them.

Without a media that actual investigates, without a media that actually questions, without a media that actually reports anything other than what is handed to them, this situation will be allowed to continue and play out however the Coalition government choose to play it out.

Fast forward 12 months and so many other things will have happened, that any silent period we are currently experiencing will be entirely forgotten. By the time the next election is due this recent period will “never have happened” and will be so long ago that it would not be worth mentioning. People forget, and the media will be “reporting” whatever story they were given the night before. Things that happened months or years earlier will be meaningless in the world of “up to the minute” and “exclusive” reporting that seems to drive the world of news these days.

The government knows they can easily “get away” with the silence, because they know people will forget and the media won’t be bothered with a situation that happened longer than a week ago.

Such is what the world has become.

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Side effects of Internet popularity

Prior to the recent election I started to follow various people on Twitter and some blogs to see more info about the issues, both technical and political. To say the conversations that took place in internet land were heated is to put it mildly.

One person with a fair degree of experience and knowledge has started to receive an increasing amount of attention since I first started following them, and they have always been on the “aggressive” side. To some degree that may turn people off and shut him out of debates with people looking for a more reasoned debate, but the info he puts out is still relevant and useful. A case of don’t dismiss the message because you don’t like the messenger.

As the election came closer and then passed, he has not surprisingly become more animated. That’s fine, he’s getting the message out.

I’ve had numerous exchanges with him via twitter and his blog. Bouncing ideas around and clarifying details. All perfectly amicable (from going back through my twitter history). I pretty much accept all his points and agree with him on pretty much everything. I do think he could engage better by toning down the agro, but that’s who he is and how he does things.

So to the point of this post.

Last night I had a brief twitter exchange where I didn’t “disagree” with him, but did ask a question about the scale of a statement he made. I wasn’t saying he was wrong, but just that there could be an upside (although remote) to the situation. The responses that followed were quite unexpected.

After essentially agreeing with him on all points, I can only assume he has read some tweets in a different order to how they were sent because the tone suddenly turned to accusing me of “frequently” and “constantly” arguing with him, and then accuses me of “questioning the validity of [his] tweets”. Following this up with a “don’t question my tweets.” comment pretty much sealed it for me.

At this point I figured he just needed a snickers and a lie down. I mentioned I had never argued with him in the past and that perhaps he had me confused with someone else, but apparently he though otherwise and just doubled-down on his response.

So, I’m really starting to think that the “pressure” he has created for himself by becoming a voice on the NBN debate has seen him reaching the same level of “What I say are all the facts you need. Don’t question what I say” that another person he vocally attacks also adopts, Malcolm Turnbull. Considering this same person frequently makes claims about Malcolm use of “facts” and how he ignores everyone else, I find it quite ironic that he has adopted the same mentality.

I’ve decided to stop following him on twitter. He’s been getting to aggressive and unnecessarily abusive and I really don’t think I’m up for dealing with that kind of crap right now. I still follow people who will retweet “interesting” tweets he makes, and I still read his blog, but I think the real-time exchanges are finished. He’s starting to crack and seems to have developed a touch of a Napoleon complex.

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Could a successful Climate Council be a bad thing?

Could the success of a privately funded Climate Council be the slippery slope that leads to the axing of more government services?

The new Coalition Governments approach of taking a baseball bat to the various climate related portfolios, departments and commissions is atrocious. I can’t even begin to follow the reasoning they give, or what they hope will happen as a result.

The biggest headline at the moment is the axing of the Climate Commission (as well as other agencies), to save a measly couple of million dollars is pathetic. Then today comes the news that Tim Flannery and the former commissioners are setting up a new privately funded Climate Council organisation to continue the work.

This is a great thing, but I also started to wonder if it could also be a bad thing.

The LNP government has been big on talking about cutting costs, outsourcing services, and have a belief that private enterprise can “always do better” than governments at delivering services. They will state that if there is demand for something, then private enterprise will recognise that market and fill the need. This may be true in some situations, but there are many cases where this is proven to be a false position.

A private enterprise has profit as its primary goal. To achieve this it will look for the easiest and most profitable opportunities (cherry-picking) to focus on, and will tend to ignore the more difficult and potentially loss-making areas. Australia’s telecommunications is a prime example. The only reason services exist outside the cities and denser population areas is because Telstra (then Telecom) provided it when it was a government organisation, and was required to continue to do so once privatised. Look to the HFC (Cable TV/Internet) rollout to see how this plays out when there is nothing requiring universal access, it just stops when no longer deemed profitable. The point here is that the Coalition will happily ignore the failings of the lack of universal access in favour of the apparent success for the areas that do receive the services.

The Coalition axed the Climate Commission as part of their ongoing efforts to play down the discussion on Climate Change. They have their own token policy on this, but it is well-known that many in the party are clearly in the denial camp on this issue. So it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.

Which leads me to the new Climate Council.

It has been setup as a private organisation, it can do its own thing independent of any kind of government directive. Probably for the best. It isn’t looking to turn a profit, and only needs to exist in an “information” sense, so that gives it the ability to broadcast its services to all those who wish to consume them.

However, if it is successful in this endeavour, will that not “prove” the Coalitions position on private organisations filling a need? In this case, I imagine the Climate Council will not require a HUGE amount of funding, so it is quite likely that crowd-funding and donations will be enough to sustain it, at least in the short-term. If that turns out to be the case, then the government may look to many other departments and decide to axe them also. After all, if they are something the people want, then the people would be happy to pay for it directly!

One one level this seems like a perfectly fine way to do things, however it leads to potential for fragmentation where many small organisations are formed to fill “the need”, none get sufficient funding and all suffer. Alternatively, none become an authority and the message they all try to put out there is just lost in the noise. Having a government department that “owns” the message and can be a central contact point resolves that issue and provides an authority that can be used as the reference point.

There is also a scale of economy that only a large government organisation is able to deliver for large-scale projects. The NBN in FTTP form is one such example where the investment cost is far greater than any Australian company could afford to take on, even Telstra. There are requirements to cross-subsidise so the service can be provided across all people. A private company just wouldn’t do this. The same would apply to roads, hospitals, education, arts. If people want them they’d pay for them, why should the government fund something the people don’t want?

So could a successfully self-funded Climate Council actually result in justification to axe even more government departments or services? I’d say it’s quite possible.

If that self-funding model falls down in the future? Well it would then be argued that “the people” just aren’t interested and don’t support the work it was doing.

So where do you draw the line?

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My “Foxtel is scared of the NBN” thought bubble

Conspiracy theories and wild speculation aside, the idea that Rupert would be worried about the fibre NBN damaging his Foxtel business would have to be given some potential for truth.

At the moment Foxtel controls the delivery mechanism (HFC) and also controls the content through license deals with the providers. Given Foxtel is the only one that is really able to deliver that content, it means the content providers don’t really have a lot of choice who they distribute through.

The argument against this being a concern for Foxtel is that the NBN would actually help them because then they can use it to distribute content to even more people where HFC isn’t available. While this is true, it leaves out one very important point.

Foxtel will no longer be the only means of distribution.

Once a ubiquitous NBN is available on an open platform, content providers would have the option to go “direct” to the consumers. If they are not in a position to do so then opportunities exist for new content aggregators to license that content and distribute themselves. Thinking large ISP’s would be likely candidates here as they already have infrastructure and knowledge in content delivery.

So while an NBN would provide Foxtel with more customers, once existing content license deals ended they would face a lot more competition.

Malcolm Turnbulls argument that a FTTN NBN would be a bigger problem because it will be rolled out faster is actually a bigger joke. As Malcolm has said, he won’t overbuild HFC where it already exists as he figures people who need high-speed internet can already have it through that HFC. Technical limitations aside, he is basically gifting Foxtel an extended “lock-in” option for customers as they won’t have any other options.

In areas where the FTTN is deployed, Foxtel would likely benefit from the extended potential customer base… so what about Malcolm’s claim that they would be more worried?

Rubbish. It comes back to the fact that areas with HFC will still only be serviced by Foxtel. Areas with FTTN will also be serviced by Foxtel. Any other providers that wanted to license and distribute content will be limited to doing so only in those areas where FTTN is deployed. Guess which areas don’t already have HFC? The ones that were not considered profitable enough.

So, as a content provider, are you going to license your content to someone who can only distribute to a small limited group of customers, or the one who has the greatest reach? Which one of those distribution providers is most likely to be able to have the money to pay the best?

OK, so even if people are on HFC, they can still get content from anywhere on the Internet even if it isn’t provided by Foxtel. Sure. Will Foxtel have a problem with this? Probably not. They will still be getting paid for your internet subscription on the cable, and they will be able to do all sorts of wonderful deals with download quotas and traffic shaping and bundling that will make their own offering more appealing than going outside their network.

Under the Coalition, any FTTN that is built will be sold (if it isn’t “gifted” beforehand), and Telstra is likely the only company that would have the money to buy it, and the means to look after it. So after the government has spent all our money building the FTTN, Foxtel is in a round-about way going to inherit it anyway.

So, is Foxtel worried about a fibre NBN? I can’t see how they wouldn’t be.

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Competence – Incompetence

This is an article I found many many moons ago, and in my line of work I’ve found it seems to help explain a lot of the things I see people do…

Unskilled and Unaware of it – competence-incompetence.pdf

As that old saying goes…
“When life gives you lemons… rub them on your face and go rob a bank”

Original source: http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf

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The leadership story that isn’t, or shouldn’t be

The Labor leadership…

How does the media manage to justify their obsession with filling pages with a story that doesn’t actually exist. *IF* there is a challenge, *THEN* and only then should it become a story. Since when is speculation a valid basis for so many column inches and TV air time?

Recent events with The Age writing an OPINION (!?!) piece that was front page. How even? The media appears to have completely given up all pretext of reporting on new, issues, policies etc and have just gone all in with actually trying to create the news themselves. I guess that way they can have the stories all mapped out in advance.

Sure, there are tensions in the Labor party, no doubt about it. There are also tensions in the Liberal party. All the media coverage is doing though is completely distracting the politicians and the voters from the stuff that actually does matter.

I would suggest that the Liberal party is more than happy for the focus to stay on the leadship issue. That’s not really a hard thing to figure out. What I do think is tough though is that there isn’t really any way for Labor to make it go away that will help them.

The way I see it:

  1. Kevin can challenge and win – The LNP then gets heaps of material regarding a Labor party that can’t make up it’s mind, constant leadership changes etc. What happens to Julia and the other MPs who then drop to the back bench? The same situation as my next point..
  2. Kevin quits parliament – This is the only way the leadership speculation can end. However KRudd is popular with many people, so for Labor to lose a member that a lot of voters actually support will only work in the LNPs favour. If Kevin did challenge and win, then unless Julia quit the parliament the whole leadership thing will just continue.
  3. Kevin does nothing, and continues to say he won’t challenge – How do you prove that something doesn’t exist? Assume for a moment that Kevin really has no intention of challenging ever again. How does he prove that other than continuing to not challenge?
  4. Someone else takes the position – Regardless of who it is, how is that going to change anything? LNP still get points from #1 and unless the replaced member quit the whole story can be kept alive as long as he media feels like it.

If the media want to continue speculating because it’s good for readership, then there is nothing Kevin or anyone else can ever say to stop them. They can take whatever meaning they want from anything that is said. The can create a story out of nothing. And why would they do this?

I’m really at a loss on this one. The leadership issue really shouldn’t be the focus that it is. If something happens then report on it, but FFS why doesn’t anything else that actually matters get the coverage it deserves?

We don’t vote for a PM anyway. sure the leader helps to set the direction and style of the party, but they don’t call all the shots anyway.

The only way out I can see is for Abbott to do something so monumentally stupid that his own leadership is potentially challenged… Considering how low a profile he has suddenly taken on, my guess is the Liberal strategy really is to keep Tony away from any situation that extremely carefully scripted and controlled.

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It’s the climate stupid

I don’t get it.

Science does a lot of stuff, people use that stuff and they don’t feel the need to argue about it. It’s working, it does what the science says it should be doing, end of story.

So when the science says quite overwhelmingly that the climate is at risk, why are we still arguing about it?

Time for another analogy. Maybe I’ll eventually find one that sticks.

A bunch of people have mobile phones. They work, nobody claims that the science they are based on might be faulty. However at any given time you can take a bunch of phones and they will all report slightly different measurments for signal strength. They are all overwhelmingly in the “working” rather than “not working” camp, just at slightly different levels from each other.

So we have the science of climate change. There are lots of different ways the effects have been measured or presented, and quite often they have variations or differences between them. The point though is that they are all on the “happening” side of the line rather than the “not happening” side. The fact they all don’t agree exactly is *NOT* a valid reason to dismiss them all.

When you have all those phones showing different signal strength, you can’t argue that because they don’t “agree” that none of them are working.

There may be discussions about the relative call quality of all of those *working* phones, and there may be discussions about the best way to fix the signal and quality issues (better phone antenna, more mobile towers, higher tranmission power).

So if we must argue, let’s stop arguing over *IF* it’s happening and bloody well just start fixing the problem. Try a bit of all the solutions, see which ones get more traction or prove to be more effective than others. Yes all the solutions will cost money, but it only gets harder to fix the longer we try to pretend we don’t need to do anything about it.

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