Aussie UMNO

One incident after another, this Labor Government is staking a claim to the title of world champion village idiot…giving UMNO a run for its money

See this:

THE government’s ability to deliver surpluses in the short term is in large part dependent on maintaining that the National Broadband Network is a commercial investment and that equity injections consequently can be kept off-budget. This financial year NBN Co will receive $4.7 billion, with a further $6.1bn billion to be injected in 2013-14.

The key to keeping the NBN off-budget is the claim it is a public non-financial corporation, a commercial entity that charges market prices, gets most of its revenues from consumers, not subsidies, and that ultimately generates returns that will allow the government to get its investment back.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is responsible for granting such status and deemed NBN Co to be a PNFC in early 2010, based on a $25 million McKinsey NBN implementation study. That study said NBN Co could generate a 7 per cent return, slightly more than 1 per cent above the long-term government bond rate.

McKinsey had to crunch the numbers to get that outcome. Documents recently released by the Finance Department under Freedom of Information legislation show that five months into the study, in late December 2009, McKinsey believed the NBN would generate only a 6 per cent return and might need as much as $10bn in subsidies. Finance noted: “The initial (McKinsey) indications are that NBN Co could provide 6 per cent internal rate of return on equity; however, it is critical to note that this rate of return is predicated on a substantial subsidy, which could be several billion dollars, with a resultant impact on the fiscal and underlying cash balances.” In effect, the NBN would show up on-budget.

A couple of months later the study’s numbers were healthier. The study was handed to Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy on February 28, 2010, and after some revision it was finalised on March 17. The rate of return had become 7 per cent and the subsidy eliminated.

The McKinsey study and the initial NBN corporate plan that flowed from it have been the government’s defence against opposition claims that the NBN should be on-budget. The government has used both to argue that the NBN would be commercially viable across a 30-year period.

But the pretence the NBN is commercial is dissolving and the McKinsey assumptions that led the ABS to grant the NBN its off-budget standing are no longer tenable. Much has changed.

The NBN has been utterly incapable of meeting the business case on which the ABS relied. Only 3 per cent of its cumulative target for connections had been achieved by the middle of this year. NBN Co has ready excuses. It claims drawn-out negotiations with Telstra delayed access to the facilities it needed. That is scarcely plausible, given NBN Co had an interim agreement with Telstra on the use of ducts and exchanges that would have allowed it to meet its original rollout schedule.

Second, NBN Co claims delays in finalising construction contracts halted the rollout. In April last year, it called off negotiations with 14 companies amid allegations of collusion and price gouging by bidders. In reality the prices on offer from NBN Co were not commercially viable, given the risks contractors were expected to take. Now the risks have been pushed on to taxpayers and some contracts have been signed but with such small margins that subcontractors are finding it’s not worth taking on NBN work. Hence little rollout of cable appears to be under way.

These failures haven’t stopped NBN Co from paying 10 executives $640,000 in bonuses for the past 12 months. Hardly the mark of a commercial organisation. And the delivery of the few connections that have been established has scarcely occurred

And it’s not just installation contracts that are non-commercial. At Telstra’s behest NBN Co is buying out the Optus cable TV network, which has 400,000 broadband customers, and the price paid per customer is about five times the level in the case of other recent acquisitions of broadband networks.

Most tellingly, the revised corporate plan released in August confirms the original plan was way off the mark. The latter underestimated the size of the fibre network by 14 per cent – about 25,000km.

Curiously, even though the capital costs in the new plan rose by a corresponding 14 per cent, the overall outcome remains the same. To achieve this, numbers have been massaged, and none more obviously than NBN’s financing. To reduce costs, debt will be paid off after 2021, leaving NBN Co with a bizarre debt-equity ratio of 1:10 in 2028; $7bn less will be repaid to the commonwealth from its equity, leaving the NBN just 8 per cent debt funded, with the outstanding equity taking on the characteristics of a grant or subsidy rather than an investment.

The business plan has become a joke, a danger foreshadowed by NBN Co’s chairman Harrison Young, who said mid last year: “This is a 30 or 40-year project. Anyone who tells you he can see that far into the future is speaking metaphorically.”

In a speech to the Institute of Directors, Young also revealed that NBN Co had never been instructed to generate a 7 per cent rate of return, or indeed any rate of return. He said: “Our shareholder hasn’t given us a return hurdle. They’ve given us a task and asked us to keep them posted.”

So much for the NBN being run on commercial lines. Even its pricing is not grounded in commercial reality, given that NBN Co’s advisers inadvertently revealed to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission that prices have been set to “meet the market”, a move designed to eliminate any shock to consumers. Like everything else about the NBN, its prices are driven by political, not commercial, imperatives.

Kevin Morgan was the ACTU member of former ALP leader Kim Beazley‘s advisory committee on telecommunications.



The Age moves slowly against Gillard

I was wondering why The Age took such a view of its champion and then realised ith was a piece by Amanda Vanstone. Even then, you might have noticed recently that The Age has played up Rudd and tried to have a go at her. The common driver is to prevent Abbott from getting and traction as the election clock ticks a bit louder each week.

Gillard sees herself as a hero of women. So what happened to the senator?

THE role of prime minister carries with it the opportunity to bring dignity and gravitas to your political persona while giving the rest of us a leader to respect.

Whoever occupies the role can use it to increase their power. Julia Gillard has had the opportunity since 2010 to step into the gravitas of her office. If she had done so, the would-be hero of women would have been able to ensure that one of her best ministers, Penny Wong, was not tossed down the Senate ticket by the old-boys’ network in her own party. No gravitas, no power.

It is hard to imagine Whitlam, Hawke, Keating or Howard bothering to take time out on an overseas trip to give their opponent a belting. Yet this is what Gillard did on her recent trip to India.
Instead of staying completely focused on our agenda in India she took time out to have a quick (and I think misplaced) snipe at Tony Abbott over his meeting with President Yudhoyono in Indonesia. When she is representing us overseas she should have better things to do than engage in petty domestic snipes.

This follows a long pattern of Gillard relishing any opportunity to attack Abbott. When there are motions against her or the government in Parliament that other prime ministers might leave to their colleagues to handle, Gillard can’t tear herself away. She should have more important things to do. This behaviour tells us a few things about her.
First, Gillard is a hater. Most people in politics have strong views; it can be a bit rough, and annoyance and animosity are always lurking. But letting the slights become the issue, letting anger become hatred that consumes, means you have lost a focus on why you are there.

Second, Gillard has let Abbott get under her skin.

Third, for her, petty point scoring is more important than policy. Again in India, while I think she was wise to pass up the opportunity to take up a cricket bat, she was unable to resist having a snide little dig at former PM John Howard, who was prepared to have a go but at the time, looked less than a master of his physical universe. The pettiness of it became crystal clear when, trying to master nothing more physically complex than walking across a lawn, she fell flat on her face to enjoy a grass sandwich.

Fourth, Gillard seems more concerned about herself than is perhaps healthy. The debate in which she avoided discussing the fitness of the former speaker to hold office, after his text messages about female genitalia revealed perhaps a true misogynist, is instructive. She chose to continue to support him and to avoid answering for that decision by alleging the Opposition Leader was a woman hater. The line that was delivered with the most vehemence was: ”I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not.”

The excessive use of the first person throughout the speech is telling. The chest-beating ”I am the women’s hero” looked pathetic next to her inaction in protecting the women in the Health Services Union.

There is a trend in Australian politics (and elsewhere) to make it personal rather than public. Politics becomes a debate over whether you like a person’s attributes or religion or views on any number of single issues. We are deluded into thinking that we should vote for whomsoever is ”like us”. Gillard’s behaviour only reinforces this idea.

The proper way to enrich a democratic system and its participants is to debate what would be best for all of us, to make Australia a better place. Not just ideas in the abstract but ideas that we can implement. Ideas in the abstract can be in your head, on a whiteboard or in a well-thought-out essay, but until you can implement them they stay in situ. We only get to the better place when they are put into practice. The PM’s support of the Gonski education reforms, the Murray-Darling Basin reforms and changes to the disability sector remain ideas until the government can so manage itself and the economy as to be able to put them in place.

But even if the PM can stop the nit-picking, contain her negativity and focus on the national interest, she has another problem: her deputy, Wayne Swan.

Are there any serious commentators describing the Treasurer’s latest efforts as anything other than a fiddle of the books? Swan has never heard of the notion of fixing your roof while the sun is shining. The Howard government came into office and progressively paid off debt. Swan has come into office and put us into hock.

It is true that some debt of itself is not inherently bad. It is also true that one should be able to manage one’s money and in good times be saving for the bad. Of this, Swan is simply incapable.

That’s why the Prime Minister is left offering us her commitment to ideas and not delivery.

Amanda Vanstone was a minister in the Howard government.

Her.meneutics: Why the Dinesh D’Souza Scandal Hit Home

Holiness and humility – preconditions to be grasped and ingrained

Her.meneutics: Why the Dinesh D’Souza Scandal Hit Home.

October 23, 2012

Why the Dinesh D’Souza Scandal Hit Home

There’s more at stake in our leaders’ failings than we think.


A classic case of shooting the messenger emerged last week surrounding the revelation of an extramarital relationship of Dinesh D’Souza, one of today’s foremost Christian apologists and conservative thinkers. Blaming the messenger goes back at least as far as Sophocles’ ancient Greek tragedy, Antigone. A guard has to bring King Creon the bad news that one of his orders has been violated. The guard delivers the news after drawing the losing lot, and does so in fear and trembling, knowing full well, he tells Creon, that “no man delights in the bearer of bad news.” In the play, the life of the guard is spared. But not all bearers of unwelcome news are so lucky.

World magazine reported October 16 that the married-but-separated D’Souza had, during an apologetics conference, introduced as his fiancée a female traveling companion. (Denise Odie Joseph is also allegedly married—and younger to an uncomfortable degree—as well as an outspoken, if lesser known, advocate of conservativism.) D’Souza responded the next day by denying marital infidelity in an exclusive interview with Christianity Today. He also published a statement at Fox News that, first, took issue with some of the facts and then turned the tables on World. D’Souza accused the magazine of reporting the story as part of a longtime personal and professional “grievance” and “vendetta” against him, and characterized the article as “viciousness masquerading as righteousness.” (Perhaps not coincidentally, shooting the messenger seems to be the same tactic employed in D’Souza’s most recent work, the documentary film 2016. Based on his earlier book, the film attempts to advance conservative principles by discrediting one of the conservative movement’s leading opponents.)

D’Souza concludes his response to the World story by saying, “Ultimately this is not just about [World editor] Olasky or even World magazine. It is also about how we Christians are supposed to behave with one another. And the secular world is watching.”

On this count, D’Souza is right. However, the secular world is not concerned, as D’Souza claims, with the question, “Is this how [Christians] love and treat fellow believers?” No, the secular world is frothing at the mouth at having yet one more example of hypocrisy from within the traditional marriage/family values crowd. For just one prominent fallen Christian can make secularism’s point far more effectively than can all the arguments of the New Atheists and marriage equality activists combined.

It may be the way of the world to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but as Christians—even fallen ones—we know better. And D’Souza is only arguing himself into a corner by discrediting the messenger. For if the validity of a message hinges on the messenger’s moral character, then D’Souza’s entire career falls with this recent news.

But, fortunately, it is not the case that the truth of the message depends entirely upon the messenger. Indeed, if hypocrisy consists of failing to live up to one’s professed standards, only those who deny any absolute, universal standards are safe from the charge of hypocrisy. (And even these inevitably run up against something they absolutely believe in.) The fact is that in every case—except One—truth is proclaimed by imperfect messengers. Therefore, it is essential when facing disappointment in fallen leaders to remember that, despite its fragile vessels, truth is greater than those who proclaim it. This is what it means to say that truth is objective, that it lies outside ourselves, that truth is not subjective, or found within. The truth of something is not, thankfully, dependent upon the character of the bearer of that truth.

Nevertheless, while objective and absolute in nature, truth is by necessity embodied and lived out in the realm of subjective experience and relationship. We cannot help understanding a message in the context of the messenger. Consider, for example, the message “You are beautiful” given by a father to his young daughter, a message that would, and should, be received quite differently when offered by a stranger at the school bus stop. Both messages are equally true, but represent entirely different phenomenon within two different contexts and from two very different messengers.

Messages matter. And so do messengers.

That such a visible and outspoken messenger of Christian truth has failed to live up to his own message is not that surprising (after all, there is no one righteous, not even one). But the gap between the truth D’Souza proclaims and the truth that he lives will hamper his message. It hits me a little hard. D’Souza’s book Illiberal Education was a lifeline to me as a graduate student living out the very truths described in the book when it was published in 1998. At that time, D’Souza voiced and validated my own experiences of anti-Christian hostility and discrimination (which I’ve written about elsewhere) in a way that was empowering and freeing. I am thankful that such truths are bigger than D’Souza, or me, or any one person. But I am disappointed, deeply disappointed, in his seeming failure to live out the principles he so fiercely advocated.

It is imperative that those of us who dare to proclaim truth—whether we be preachers, poets, politicians, or, Lord help me, professors—strive to be messengers holy and humble, lest by our failures the cause of truth be tarnished.

Light peering through

The dark skies are peeling away at an earlier hour now. I was at Blackburn station this morning and it was the usual time of just before 6. It had been very light till the daylight savings adjustment kicked in. That early light is promising to reappear, with a tinge of pinkish horizon breaking through this morning. It was still colder than expected however. It barely touched 8deg this morning. Although it was a wait of less than a few minutes on the platform, the cold was palpable as I had refused to bring a coat or jumper along for such a small window of exposure. It was going to be in the lower twenties for the better part of the day so it should be good.


Wine No-No For Communion? Really?

The Anglicans and Lutherans insist on it. The Presbyterian in fact, appears to require it (

Yet, in largely secular Australia, in a part of Melbourne not usually held up as the model of sobriety, wine was said to be somewhat blemished and rubbished for purposes of communion. Unfortunately, that happened in the church I go to. Someone lead the communion recently and provided what surely must at best be a poorly formed personal opinion, and said wine is fermented, and therefore not pure, and that was why it wasn’t used for communion.

I hope we don’t have that much confidence in churches of Christ Victoria/Tasmania, that we can disregard (let alone rubbish) the practice in the Church of England and company. Even then I don’t think CoC necessarily subscribes to a no-wine policy. So like I said, that is probably a personal opinion. The problem was the personal opinion was given a public airing, and as far as I am aware no one has corrected that obviously wrong opinion. As usual, I have no confidence whatsoever, that there would be steps taken to even have that individual spoken to. He will in all likelihood, be given the soap box again at some point. I cant be sure the leaders care enough to ensure no loosely formed personal opinions get aired publicly as truths or quasi truths of some sort.

Pew Warming Life

Much to my chagrin, the cell I attend has chosen to do Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life”. I had stepped down as a leader of this cell and so did not want to say too much about my displeasure with this decision. I guess this is the outcome of an unstructured cell ministry.

When each group is given complete freedom to choose whatever material it fancies with little or no guidance of any sort, the very likely outcome is a choice which reflects the extent of industry and effort the least inclined is happy to put in.

I can understand this if the church is either lead by the laity or does not have a cell ministry it purports to view as a core ministry. When it does have a trained minister and a cell ministry and that ministry is proclaimed by the trained minister as one of the pillars of its strategy, I seriously cannot understand why there is a complete lack of guidance on what material to use.

Ah well, I think it is established that despite what the pastor proclaims, cell ministry really doesn’t feature very much for members. He will continue to have this credibility problem of saying one thing but acting differently.

It should be of little concern to me in any event. I will be unable to lead any discussion so it does not matter what I think. The inability to lead is tied up with the general inability to do anything which has any element of leadership. For as long as I cannot confidently fall within the leadership framework of the church, I should not undertake any act of leadership. And… I cannot fall within the leadership framework of this church for as long as I still cannot understand the statement made against me, that I am selective in acknowledging and affirming the leadership of the senior pastor. Hence, I must remain a spectator. I guess as long as I don’t feel I need to serve in any way, I can still come along and warm the pews every Sunday and go home thereafter.

Errands delayed

Day off post Canberra yesterday:

  • Dry cleaning picked-up and dropped-off
  • Coffee with Tress
  • Got  a hairy
  • Bathed the little jedi
  • Vacuumed the house
  • Washed the car

I couldn’t work on the rest of the hedges however, as the weather turned nasty and the winds and rains came belting down.

The clean wardrobe, clean dog, clean house and clean car all add up to a very sleepy yours truly this morning however, which meant I slept in and missed gym… 😦

It was very refreshing to have seen Kiddo again. It was especially satisfying to see her still active in church and its activities. This church she attends – the Crossroads – was so much like the Uni Church I had attended at the University of NSW. When they started to sing some songs, I turned to Tress to say how refreshing to sing songs that concentrated on God and His work as the starting point, instead of the boyfriend type of songs which LifeGate Church of Christ is so fond of singing, which were so focused on the self that God is almost an incidental.

We were at the Floriade, share a number of meals together, and she came over and slept in our B&B in Campbell – a nice little property close to the shops and a park, which we could bring the little black jedi over for walks.

The long drives to Canberra have become easier to deal with, and the great times we shared with Kiddo, have made the drives so much easier.


Tress and I went to watch this at FHC today…


We were in Canberra from Sat and got home on Monday night. We spent the day (Tuesday) with loads of errands and at the end of it all, decided to treat ourselves to a movies especially seeing it is Tuesday, and movies are on the cheapie…
It was a good movie. Bruce Willis did his usual shooting spree, Emily Blunt was her usual beautiful self, and Joseph Gordon Levitt has grown from strength to strength. Time travel plots can sometimes be infuriatingly complicated but this one was straight forward enough…

Spring in Canberra


We’re in Canberra again, and caught the Floriade this time.

We also made it to Brodburger, a joint at the Old Bus Depot in Kingston which serves up a very decent burger.


Tress had a fish burger, which turned out to include a full frontal slab of salmon fillet. Bellissimo!