Piracy, we’re being conned…

Before Christmas I was scanning Twitter and I spotted the following from the lovable and highly intelligent Corinne Grant;

I must admit I took umbrage at this, and felt Corinne was confusing a privacy issue with her own political beliefs about copyright.  I mean it’s one thing to infringe copyright and it’s another to invade and abuse someone’s privacy and the privacy of innocent 3rd parties without consent.

I feel passionately that the issue of piracy and harm is vastly overstated by the industry and in fact believe non-commercial piracy can have quite a positive impact on the economy and media industries as a whole.  Corinne however certainly disagrees with myself and my “cohorts”.

Twitter is not the greatest of places to try and debate such a complex issue and as I was just starting to enjoy my holiday away from the keyboard I decided I would revisit this now after Christmas when I can try my best to put forward an argument that Corinne might at least respect if not come to understand.

I have been in the IT industry since i was 16 years old; I have come through the dot com boom period and it’s decline, and every step of the way I’ve been witness to how my peers react to emerging technology.

File sharing has always occurred, only the medium has changed.  I can remember swapping disks with mates in the school grounds, then it was via random FTP servers, then newsgroups which became peer 2 peer and now we have torrents.  Technology has had a big impact on the way people do things, not necessarily on what they do. According to my mother, when she was young, we’re talking 60s here, Saturday mornings were often spent at the record shop listening to singles. Albums were out of monetary reach for her and most of her friends. Groups of teenagers would spend hours there listening to the music of their choice. They didn’t pay anything and the artist didn’t make any money from their listening. (The artists did grow in popularity however.) Then when one of them had saved up enough money they would buy a single. They would take it home and listen to it there. Any friends who were lucky enough to own a tape recorder (reel to reel – not talking 8 track here) would then record a copy of the single to listen to at home. They didn’t see it as piracy but as sharing.

There are also a number of legitimate reasons for file sharing that do not infringe on copyrights, these are covered by Australia’s ‘Fair Dealing’ provisions.  The Attorney-General is also presently engaged with the Australian Law Reform Commission to determine if Australia should extend our concept of  ‘Fair Dealing’ to include ‘Fair Use’ as a general defense and rightly so.


So why is non-commercial copyright infringement (piracy) ok by me?  Ever heard of try before you buy?  It’s a pretty well versed concept, no one I know buys a car without taking it for a test drive to see how they like it, no one I know buys a house without giving it a good inspection.  Same goes with every bit of furniture that’s in my house, not once have I parted ways with my hard earned without first having the opportunity to check out the goods.  Heck even go into the local ice cream parlor and they will let you try the flavors first to see what you like.  This gives consumers confidence in the products they are buying and media content is no different.

Now I know what you are thinking, that if you do any of the above without permission that would be theft etc and I agree but then it’s easier to get that permission on the above as it’s kind of expected.  Intellectual property such as media isn’t the same as tangible, physical property.  If I copy a song or download a movie the original is not lost, the original owner is not deprived of their copy.  I didn’t steal it away from them, they still have it and just by copying it etc I haven’t taken money out of their pocket.

Indeed the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Corinne’s organisation, in their own submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated “Although piracy levels are reported to be high, associated financial losses do not appear to be so.

There doesn’t appear to be a financial loss because their isn’t one, the markets may be changing, the way we access and purchase our content may have changed but we certainly haven’t stop spending.

A quarter of all Australian’s are engaged in non-commercial piracy.  That’s 5 million people. Per capita Australia has some of the highest rates of downloading world wide and yet IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick believes holding piracy accountable for the fall in some sectors of the industry betrays a deficit of “imagination and insight” by the parties involved.

Domestic sales of DVDs, Blu-ray and other media are holding well in a climate of change with strong revenues over the billion mark falling by around 6% year on year since sales peaked in 2008 at $1.4 billion well after the peer 2 peer revolution began.  This decline is in line with the British Video Associations report of an annual decrease in sales of 5-6% due to emerging technologies and not due to piracy.

The media industries bang on about how piracy is evil and they all lose lots of money because of it, but this assertion has not been supported by an independent review and in fact most outside the industry seriously doubt the “copyright math” is credible.

The Australia Content Industry Group (ACIG) recently commissioned a report written by Emilio Ferrer that claimed piracy was costing Australian content providers $900 million a year and 8000 jobs.  When pressed Mr Ferrer clarified “When you apply business modeling and the average and end up concluding the impact was $900 million, of course the answer is not $900 million but we try to deal with that by looking at the range.  The conclusion is there is a significant loss to economic activity and therefore jobs as a consequence of internet piracy.”

Hang on did he just say when you conclude the impact was $900m the answer of course is not $900m?  Well what the hell is it?  Just a guess?

Thing is they can’t even agree because the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) tabled a report that claimed piracy had cost the economy $1.37 billion  in lost revenue and 6100 jobs in a 12 month period.  Here’s a hint just because the money wasn’t spent on your content does not mean it was lost to the economy, it was most certainly spent elsewhere on other cool stuff that may have created more jobs.  It didn’t just up and disappear, but again the losses being spoken about by these anti-piracy agencies never ever match.  They never come to any kind of consensus.

The industry is constantly lobbying about their impending Armageddon and viability while rolling out the same old self-serving hyperbole that assumes every soul that’s ever downloaded infringing material would have other wise gone out and paid the recommended retail price for the legitimate version.  I truly believe the opposite is true , for a vast majority if it wasn’t available they’d simply give it a miss as they couldn’t be bothered.  My generation lives for convenience that’s why Frost & Sullivan released findings that showed Australian online shopping for 2012 was up to $16 billion, an increase of 17.9% and that is excluding digital media distribution platforms such as iTunes.

Unlike the 12-page fantasies coming from the likes of AFACT that burn all downloaders as criminals and economic vandals, respected Dutch research firm TNO released a 142-page report about piracy commissioned by the Dutch government, where it noted that piracy appeared to have a net benefit for the economy.  Key statements include:

  • Lot‘s of People download for free to learn about new music and eventually buy when they like it
  • Downloading goes hand in hand with buying
  • Among downloaders of music and movies, the percentage of buyers is as high as among non-downloaders and with games the percentage of buyers is even higher
  • People that download music visit concerts more often and buy more merchandise

Why stop there, in Canada the government’s peer 2 peer study, The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada, concludes that there is a positive correlation between file-sharing and media. “Our review of existing econometric studies suggests that P2P file sharing tends to decrease music purchasing… However, we find the opposite, namely that P2P file sharing tends to increase rather then decrease music purchasing”.

Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research found that those who file-share are the ones most interested and connected to music.  “They use file sharing as a discovery mechanism“.

The UK is no different; a recent survey found that those who admit illegally downloading content spent 50% more on legal content then those who claim that they never download content dishonestly.

According to figures released by the digital monitoring service Musicmetric  the most illegally downloaded albums of 2012 was those of Ed Sheeran with 55,512 shares on average per month.  Ed Sheeran told the BBC when asked how this made him feel responded “You can live off your sales and you can allow people to illegally download it and come to your gigs.  My gig tickets are £18 and my album is £8, so it’s all relative.

Back in Australia the story is much the same with a recent respondent to a survey stating “Last year I downloaded the latest U2 album, so cost them and the industry $20 or so.  When they came here I paid $800 to see them in concert with my girlfriend, plus bought 2 t-shirts.  had I not downloaded the album I wouldn’t have gone.”

In my experience this is exactly what happens, people who are exposed to content they normally wouldn’t see otherwise via downloading end up being converted to paying customers.  For the most part every movie my peers have ever downloaded that they have liked they have gone on to purchase and what they didn’t like they deleted as it was rubbish.  Whats more as formats change they repurchase the same titles i.e Serenity, I purchased it on DVD, HD-DVD and then Blu-ray.  People want to and do support content they like but they are also weary of being burnt.

Despite the continued focus on piracy, sales of digital content are actually going up across the board.  In 2011, 26.6 million albums were sold digitally, a rise of 24% on 2010 and four times as many as were sold in 2007.  Digital music sales outstrip physical media with the Australian recording industry association showing in 2010 that digital sales were 32.02% , nearly 55.3m, with physical sales being 36m.

This evolution of the market place will continue and is in line with what the industry expects as the market takes it natural course.

E-commerce opportunities, explosive growth in new technology and content delivery are the real reason behind the decline in some sectors of the market. Just because one area has a decline doesn’t mean there is a loss.  It’s like energy it can’t be lost or destroyed it can only move and it has, into new delivery platforms.

Corinne is concerned for her members’ jobs. Well according to Screen Australia, sourcing data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, employment in Film and Video production and post-production services has risen in Australia every year since 1971.  In fact from 2006-2011 there has been a 20% increase in employment numbers from 8,261 to 9,908.

More local content is being produced then ever before.  Underbelly continues to be among the highest ranking television downloads on the Australian iTunes store.

What’s really disappointing is the MEAA in another submission, this time to the Office of the Arts, states:

“It is well documented that illegal file sharing and piracy impacts negatively upon the revenues returned to artists and the ability for artists to be rewarded financially for their creative work.

The digitisation of creative work is impacting upon most creative industries from the book industry to the music and film industries.  This will only be further exacerbated with the development of the National Broadband network and increased delivery of content over the Internet.”

Wow, just wow.  What an out of touch and ignorant set of statements.  Admission prices have risen 24% over the past 5 years.  Box office takings have continued to rise every year since 2005,   the last 3 years topping the billion dollar mark consecutively.

Screen Australia state that out of the 403 films screened in Australia during 2010 of those films, 41 were Australian, accounting for $50.6 million or 4.5% of the total.  With earnings on the rise over the last few years, the box office for Australian films has marked a significant improvement on recent years.  In 2010, the gross box office was up 73% on the five year average and this continues to be the case.

In 2010 the most pirated movie was Avatar with the industry stating it was illegally downloaded 17,580,000 times.  Avatar now holds the all time box office record of $2,782.3m, lets say the average ticket price is $12, that means those nasty pirates box office ticket value is worth around $210 million.  Does the industry really maintain that not one of those people who downloaded a copy of Avatar went and saw it in the theaters, or purchased it on DVD / Blu-ray?

Does this really sound like an industry being strangled by out of control pirates?  Avatar also smashed all DVD / Blu-ray sales records in just 4 days easily eclipsing the previous record held by the Dark Knight.  I can guarantee you that pirates where among the first to line up and see Avatar, and the first to pre-order it on Blu-ray etc.

Gabe Newell, CEO of games company Valve and online distribution service Steam, summed up the issue well when he said “In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy.  Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem…  If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24/7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable.

In 2009 the Nine Network allowed people to download entire episodes of the new Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities series via the NineMSN video catch up service where it was downloaded more then 50,000 times in 16 days setting a new record for Nine.  However the episodes were ladened with digital rights management meaning you had to install Nine’s HIRO video codec and play back was strictly controlled.

The fascinating thing about this was while this was definitely a move in the right direction, Apples iTunes store was charging $2.99 per episode and customers where paying in droves. They were paying for the convenience and the ability to choose when and how they play back the content.  People turned their back on the free version and parted with their money for a better service outcome.  This just reenforces what highly successful people like Gabe Newell have been saying for a very long time.

It should be noted that Forbes reported Steam’s, Valve’s online distribution platform, sales constitute 50-70% of the $4 billion market for downloadable PC games on offer.  Founder and CEO Gabe Newell calls Valve “tremendously profitable“.  Steam was launched as a service in 2003 and is just one of many new technologies in the market place causing the demise in sales from traditional outlets. Again these sales aren’t being lost, they are being moved.

For the media industry to claim the massive losses they do would mean every single person who’s ever downloaded content would have to keep their money in their pocket. The industry is saying these people never ever buy content whether it be a DVD / Blu-ray or a Movie ticket, and certainly don’t go to concerts or other gigs.  In Australia that’s almost 5 million people doing this harm according to the industry, the same industry that says the average ipod has over $800 worth of pirated music on it.

Let’s look at some of the other new age technologies helping people get their content fix.

Amazon Prime, membership is $78 annually and now has over 5 million members.  This membership is growing at 20% per year.  Robbie Schwietzer, vice president of Amazon Prime told Bloomberg Businessweek “In all my years here, I don’t remember anything that has been as successful at getting customers to shop in new product lines“.  That’s $390 million in new revenue just from the memberships alone and Amazon has found once a member joins Prime, Amazon’s average customers’ gross spend grows from $400 a year to $900 a year in their first year of membership as they take advantage of the service’s value adds and convenience.

Hulu Plus, uses a dual revenue stream to provide all the latest  TV shows.  Hulu Plus has a subscription fee of $8 per month and also shows limited advertising during programs to help pay for the content.  Relatively new to the market place Hulu Plus revenue rose 60% in 2011 with it’s subscriber base growing to 1.5 million people.  CEO Jason Kilar stated on his blog “We grew the business 60 percent  from 2010 to approximately $420 million in revenue.  We exceeded our plan despite  the soft advertising market (economy) in the second half of 2011“.

Netflix, a personal favorite and a main stay of streaming media the last few years reported third quarter financial performance revenues  of $905 million, up from their second quarter result of $889 million. Even in the face of stronger competition the company met it’s projections.  In the US alone Netflix grew it’s streaming market to 25.1 million subscribers, and continues to grow its international base as well.

Then there is Apple’s iTunes, the grand daddy of them all and a license to print money.  iTunes represented 6% of Apple’s net sales in 2011 coming in at a staggering $6.3 billion.

There is no threat to the creative process nor is there a threat from non-commercial piracy, it’s the exact opposite. Out of all the people I know and have met it’s the enthusiast who downloads the most and it’s the enthusiast who spends the most.  If the money and jobs were coming out of the economy at the rate the industry would have us believe there would be no industry and our GDP would be in the toilet but it’s not, it’s growing even though we are in the worst economic period of the last 50 years.  It’s a lie, a con… all this is about is old money trying to protect their old way of doing things and maintaining their control over consumers.

The National Broadband Network isn’t going to magically cause more people to start pirating things, but it will enable new and existing businesses a platform from which they can operate more efficient and convenient streaming services.   It will remove a barrier of entry that currently curbs domestic online innovation that sees people outside of metropolitan regions buy their media content overseas where it is cheapest.

Sanity needs to prevail here just like it did when the High Court of Australia tossed out the media industry’s case against iiNet, of which the MEAA was a Party.  They actually said “Our view is that internet providers are profiting from their customers’ downloading activities at the film industry’s expense.”  That’s like saying Ford or Holden profit every time someone uses their goods or services to rob a bank or carry out a ram raid, it defies all logic, it’s a nonsense.

I’d just like to ask Corinne a couple of questions to try to put this issue into perspective. Corinne, have you ever loaned a friend a book or borrowed a book from a friend or given someone a bite or two of a cake you were enjoying so that they could taste it? Have you ever borrowed a top or a dress from a friend to wear to a special occasion? Or passed on a recipe or a joke? If so, did you stop to think about the writer/designer/baker/artisan involved?

Sharing is a fairly natural behaviour for humans I’m glad to say. Perhaps those who complain should be glad since people rarely bother to share something they don’t like (they might give it away but they don’t share it); we share what we like, or are excited about.

You can’t legislate effectively against human behaviour, nor should you want to. Attempts to do so usually result in an opposite effect because basically as humans we hate being told what to do. Take prohibition in America as an example.

“Within a week after Prohibition went into effect, small portable stills were on sale throughout the country.[9] California’s grape growers increased their area about 700% during the first five years of the prohibition. Grapes were commonly compressed into dry blocks and sold as “bricks or blocks of Rhine Wine,” “blocks of port,” and so on.[10] The mayor of New York City even sent instructions on winemaking to his constituents.”

Even the millions spent in trying to influence human behaviour have very limited and often short term results. People still smoke, binge drink, take drugs, gamble, exceed the speed limit, get sunburnt, have unprotected sex, and generally live their lives the way they want to and that is their choice because that should be our right as human beings. We also should have the right to share the things we like.What we do want to stop is those who steal our intellectual or real property and then sell it for their own profit. That is theft. That is where the effort needs to go. It would be great if we could influence people never to buy knock off goods because they are made in sweatshops and they are stealing the designers’ rights, but it is probably a pointless exercise. The media teaches people to aspire to owning those goods but the economy prevents that ownership. So a knock-off business flourishes. This issue is much bigger than piracy; it is about society as a whole, and the socio-economic status of the masses and the media driven campaigns for consumerism.

I’ll leave the last word to Rob Reid…

Simply #Assange

The Foreign Office of the United Kingdom would do well to remember that Asylum is not a misuse of diplomatic premises under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 nor is it an abuse of diplomatic privileges under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations..

I don’t know what William Hague has been smoking when he thinks he has the right to threaten the sovereign status of the Ecuadorian embassy.  That behavior is the text book definition of terrorism, the treat of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. Telling Ecuador you will revoke their status and or raid their embassy seems pretty intimidating too me.

I really don’t even think the Foreign Office has bothered to read their own Act very well anyway as it’s quite clearly states;

If diplomatic relations are broken off between two States, or if a mission is permanently or temporarily recalled:

(a) the receiving State must, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives;

(b) the sending State may entrust the custody of the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives, to a third State acceptable to the receiving State;

(c) the sending State may entrust the protection of its interests and those of its nationals to a third State acceptable to the receiving State.

So even after all that they have no legal right to seize Assange, the UK’s obligations are very clear on this matter even in the event of local judicial proceedings. The Act says;

“In addition the premises, their furnishings, and fixtures are immune from any search, requisition, attachment or execution, with the effect that the premises must not be entered even in pursuance of a judicial order.”

Lets read that last bit again “even in the pursuance of a judicial order”…. seems to be at odds with the Foreign Office’s “The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfil this obligation”.

Let’s be clear though Sweden has not accused Assange of sexual offences, the bases of their extradition order is that they want to question him as part of a preliminary investigation which they had plenty of time to do in September 2010 prior to Assange leaving Sweden.

He has not been charged with a crime, and as such they should travel to his location just has Sweden’s prosecutors have done in the past.  Their is nothing in Swedish law preventing the prosecutor from requesting Mutual Legal Assistance  to interview Assange, in fact to use the European Arrest Warrant goes against the legal principle of proportionality.

It’s time the charade that this is some how about sexual misconduct come’s to an end, and it also highlights the dangers of automatic extradition treaties that remove the safe guards of domestic judicial processes such as those Australia recently signed with the US.

It’s astonishing to think it is now quite legal for the US to extradite an Australian citizen for breaking US law without that citizen having ever entered the United States… what have we become?

The Myth about Queenslands financial woes…

I am feeling rather annoyed with Campbell Newman this month but nothing has gotten me hotter under the collar then all the negative spin about the state of Queensland’s finances and the media are not much better for actually giving this rubbish some sort of credibility.

I would really like to address the following comments Campbell Newman has made recently, keep in mind this is the Premier of the our state saying this bollocks who is meant to talk us up not down for his own political gains;

“We have a $47 billion budget but we have an operating deficit of $2.8 billion”
“I’m saying that if we fail to act in a way that we are that Queensland would ultimately be the Spain of Australian states.”

The first part is spot on no question about it, and while it’s not a great place to be  it’s also not the soul destroying end of the world tripe the LNP is portraying it to be and we will get to that in just a minute.  It’s the second part of these comments that really gets my goat,  how any responsible political figure can compare Queensland’s state finances to Spain is beyond me.  Not only is it misleading it’s down right dangerous.

So lets compare Queensland’s financial situation to Spain’s for a moment and see if there is any basis of fact in what the Premier is saying.

Oh look there is absolutely no substance to the crap Mr Newman is sprouting… Spain quite clearly has Zero ability to service it’s public debt, has no growth, and unemployment going through the roof.

But lets not just look at Spain, lets take a quick gander at the public levels of debt to GDP ratio’s in other OECD nations;

Japan       208% of GDP
USA           104% of GDP
France      86% of GDP
UK              85% of GDP
Canada     83% of GDP
Germany 82% of GDP

Remind me again what was Queensland’s public debt to GPD ratio?? Oh that’s right 20%… but I want to put that into an every day perspective.  The average punter on the street has debt equivalent to 5 to 8 times their annual salary, the Queensland Government has debt equivalent to 1.4 times it’s annual salary.  Think of it like this the median average family home in South East Qld is $499,000 and the median salary is $70,000.  Today any of the big four bank’s will loan you $436,000 @ 6.86% interest and that’s safely serviceable even though that represents a debt of 3.1 times more than the average dual income ($140k).  Add to that then car repayments etc…

The premier would have you believe then the State can’t do what average people do day in and day out.  What’s more the State only pays a modest 3.35% in interest.  Not only can Queensland comfortably service its debt, but it is paying the kind of interest rates that anyone with a mortgage can only dream of.  It’s complete and utter bunkum to compare Queensland to Spain.

My question then to Campbell Newman is then what is an acceptable level of debt? None?  but that can’t be right because as Lord Mayor of Brisbane Mr Newman presided over a council deficit 0.6 times its annual income, and that was on the back of receiving over $2bn from Anna Bligh for water assets.  Some quick statistics from Mr Newman’s time as Lord Mayor.

Rate rises of 25% in 3 years, well above cpi
Deduction of services year on year
2010-11 Budget Deficit of $1.008bn
2012-13 Budget Deficit of $1.114bn
4.87% of Council revenue for 2009-10 year servicing debt
13.56% of Council revenue for 2010-11 year servicing debt

Interesting how as Lord Mayor Mr Newman couldn’t balance the books even after he cut services and raised rates.  Seems hypercritical that he rallies on about the ALP delivering budget deficits when that’s precisely what he did himself in these tough times.

The LNP keep talking about our public debt levels as being some horrific catastrophic event, but they can’t even get the number right, now today our public debt is $65bn, not $85bn , not $100bn… the figures the LNP keep quoting over and over again are projections if nothing changes.

But guess what things naturally change as we quite clearly have seen in the past few years, nothing is set in stone so we need to look at the reasons why our public debt has grown from $21bn in 2004 to $65bn today and what is likely to occur naturally to turn it around.

Queensland has had some stand out events that have impacted our budget and public debt levels, and it wouldn’t matter who was in power be it the LNP or the ALP neither would have had the capacity to change the outcome.

The GFC resulted in a sharp decline in the price of Coal which as most people would know is one of Queensland’s major export commodities and greatly contributes to the states revenue via mining royalties.  Prior to the GFC (May 2008) the price of coal was  $180 USD per metric ton, today the price of coal ranges from $80 to $90 USD per metric ton.  That’s a 50% decrease in revenue for the state.  At the same time the property market nose dived equating to $4.2bn in lost Taxation revenue.  It should be pointed out economists predicted a natural recovery to a budget surplus by 2015-16.

Add to that during the 2010-2011 Floods, Queensland’s annual coal production lost 15% of it’s total capacity.

Then there are those Floods, and other misfortunes like Cyclone Larry and Yasi.  $30bn was wiped off the Queensland GDP as a direct result of the Floods, so bad was it that the Federal Government had to introduce a flood levy to try an help claw back the loss.  Yet here we are still running at a deficit of only 2.8% with GDP growth forecast to be 5% in 2013 as things normalise.

While all this has been going on Queensland has faced strong population growth and with it increased demand on infrastructure.  Prior to the floods, we didn’t have enough water.  During the green drought south east Queensland was on the brink of a water crisis with campaigns such as target 150 in full swing.  The state government enacted projects to secure the south east’s water supply, including the dam at Wyaralong and the Gold Coast desalination plant, both of which amounted to $1.202bn alone.

Wyaralong dam just a month after it’s completion was filled to 100% capacity during the 2010-11 floods drastic reducing the effects and damage to the area.  Even thought the Gold Coast desalination plant is now moth balled that doesn’t mean it was a waste, it has a capacity to supply 27% of the south east’s water demands and will be reactivated when ever dam levels fall below 60%.  Along with this the State took control of water assets in major reforms to secure water delivery.

The council of mayors as chaired by Mr Newman had previously maintained and owned 80% the water network, while blaming the State for poor water management it was they who took water profits and added them to general revenue while allowing the network to degrade.  Brisbane city council under Campbell Newman lowered water pressure to dangerous levels despite warnings from fire chefs that this would severely impact on the operation of fire sprinkler and hydrant systems. Every other week we heard of more broken water mains.

We have the newly opened Airport link tunnel that Campbell Newman backed all the way to relieve traffic congestion around Brisbane at a cost to the state of $1.5bn plus the land it occupies.  In total $54 billion has been invested in infrastructure over the last four years, including the completion of the Gateway Bridge duplication, the Ted Smout Bridge, stadium developments and the construction of the Queensland Children’s Hospital at South Brisbane.  Education has seen a 7% increase in funding and the introduction of prep these are all things that are required to keep pace with our growing population.

Among the many deceptions being bantered around by the LNP is the one about borrowing to pay the wages of public servants, and that the ALP employed too many public servants to begin with.  Well lets just look at what the LNP’s own people found, on page 104 of the Commission of Audit’s preliminary report prepared by former federal treasurer Peter Costello, Dr Doug McTaggart and Professor Sandra Harding it states;

“except for health, the increases in all other functions relative to the year 2000 are broadly in line with population growth”.

On one hand they say if the size of the public sector kept pace with population growth in the past decade, employee numbers would be 18,500 fewer than they are today, but then on the other hand they say all area’s other then health maintained that balance and represented natural expected growth.  They are saying there are 18,500 extra jobs outside this scope in the health department.  So the question is, is that too many?? I note the Audit report never once said they were not needed, or required.

18,500 extra people in Health and interestingly enough Health is a major issue in Queensland?  One would think it might be justified if it’s an at risk area and we want to reduce things like the instances of ramping.

Dr McTaggart also said last week that he would dispute the claim Campbell Newman is asserting that Queensland was borrowing funds to pay public service salaries in an Industrial Relations Commission hearing.

Right so if the report is saying all area’s of government kept pace with growth other then health then surely is stands to reason that cutting numbers anywhere but health like they are will have a detrimental effect on services?

December 2011, just prior to the state election Campbell Newman said;

“Well I’m saying that we do need to see over time through attrition a reduction in the overall headcount, but not on front line services which actually in many cases need to go up.”

So Newman was saying front line services had to go up, I would presume Health would fall into this category and as the audit report found their are 18,500 extra people in Health and yet we might still need more to fix it.  Fast forward however to 2012 and it’s hack and slash time.

He opposed the ALP’s voluntary separation program, on the basis the 3500 redundancy packages cost too much, but has now sacked 9,000+ public servants with more to come but has not trouble affording to pay those redundancies.  Of course though he will just blame the increased budget deficit on the ALP.

Of course sacking public servants is just a political exercise based in ideology, it’s not actually necessary and just harms those that can least afford it’s impacts.  At the very least it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.   If each of Campbell’s sacked workers can’t find work, it cost’s taxpayers $10,400,000 every fortnight… on top of that you have the added cost to the Queensland local economy that has a direct effect on State revenue in terms of lost GST.

It’s just moving the numbers from the state ledger to the federal ledger, it does nothing to ease the cost of living on Queenslander’s in fact I would argue it does the direct opposite.  Prime example is the NDIS, Newman says at the start of the week that Queenslander’s are sick of the federal government putting their hand into our pockets but then that’s exactly what he puts forward to fund the NDIS a federal levy.

His justification for cutting state services is that they are a duplication of federal services, which just puts more pressure on the federal government to increase expenditure on those area’s to compensate which in turn could lead to higher taxes.  Campbell Newman doesn’t really care about our cost of living he just doesn’t want it on his balance sheet and is quite happy to shift it to someone else.

Not once in Campbell Newman’s political life has he ever delivered cuts to the people he has represented, he has a history of increasing costs and reducing services.

I am certainly not saying the ALP did a stellar financial job but an argument could be made they certainly didn’t do a bad one considering the budget is only at a 2.8% deficit… the large blow out in our public debt is easily traced to the floods, increased infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing population, cyclones and the global financial crisis.

These are things no government can ignore no matter who is at the reigns and to suggest other wise just flies in the face of common sense, just look around at the other developed nations doing it a lot harder then we are.  I would love to hear Campbell Newman say otherwise.

Even with ratings agency Fitch hinting it will downgrade Queensland’s credit rating again from AA+ to AA doesn’t change the fact that the Queensland Government remains set to benefit billions in royalties from new resources projects in coming years.  Fitch’s outlook for the Queensland economy is bizarre, while there are some regional areas that are struggling to recover, overall the Queensland economy’s prospects are extremely good and the pain of natural disasters and the GFC will be in the past.

We have stability as recognised by rating agencies Standand and Poor’s, as well as Moody’s, so 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, our GDP continues to grow as does our productivity.  The reserve bank keeping interest rates on hold is good sign of this as well, putting them up means the economy is over cooking and having to drop them means it’s in decline, I like to think keeping them steady and on hold indicates we have turned the corner and are on the incline not the steep nose dive Campbell Newman would have us all believe.

Can Do Campbell need’s to stop the rot and get on with doing what’s in the states best interests, this brand of  ideological madness will only lead to ruination.  Take heed Australia, Tony Abbott reads from the exact same negativity play book only on a much grander scale.

LNP relax rules on company share ownership.

I wonder what was so vitally important that the LNP had to introduce new legislation that relax rules on ministers owning company shares, an amendment announced quietly just as thousands of public servants lose their jobs.

What’s more interesting is these changes benefit a mere 19 people, the LNP Cabinet… wonder what they are cooking up now.

Well it didn’t take long, the LNP have announced the sale of public land assets which will no doubt go to LNP friendly companies of which no doubt LNP Cabinet members will own shares in.

Diner en Blanc for in the know Elites.

Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey hopes to attend the invite only Diner en Blanc event, maybe the QLD state funding bring thrown it’s way is the minsters way of buying an invite?

We are sponsoring an event for the elite where the only way you get an invite is to know someone in the organisational body.?? “Thousands of people, dressed all in white, and conducting themselves with the greatest decorum, elegance and etiquette, all meet for a mass chic picnic.”

Jann Stuckey has the nerve to say “In tough times, it is very good for people to connect and share a meal together”, pretty sure the attendees of this event will be in anything but tough times and can easily afford a meal with their mates if they want to get together.

Pretty sure we have better things to fund then wank events that do nothing for the economy or the people of QLD.

LNP to open up land for development.

The Premier said the Government had set a new direction for the ULDA, which was being merged into Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney’s Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning.

Under the previous government, the ULDA’s activity was focussed on delivering housing at the low end of the market and was limited to small releases at a time,”  Mr Newman said.  ??“This will be totally turned around, where appropriate. Land held in Urban Development Areas by the ULDA will be released to the market for housing development.”

“The Government will work with the private sector to meet land supply demand in some communities to ease the rental pressures currently being faced.”

What Mr Newman is really saying is he will be selling off state land assets to his developer mates so they can all make more bucks, oh and now that LNP have neutered the rules around ministers owning shares the LNP cabinet will also make more bucks too…

Oh and of course this land is all located in the mining towns etc to maximise profit, won’t see this land sold off cheap by the developers in fact they make it quite clear in the release it’s not for the low end of the market.

The Economy and that Tax

On and off this week I have had some thoughts rolling around that refuse to subside so it’s time to commit them to ink and get them out.

I will try my best to thread them together and hopefully the end result will resemble some form of coherent statement.

In the modern landscape of Politics more then ever words are the currency of public life, they shape our vision and how we see the world. This is an unfortunate state of affairs as words without action are hollow and lack purpose of meaning. All too often we get caught up in the marketing of the ideal rather then the ideal itself.

This is no more evident with the Greens and the Carbon tax, their words and ideal is to save the environment and yet they champion a policy which has absolutely nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with fiscal wealth creation.

Our political landscape some how has turned on it’s head, the ALP has gone bat shit crazy, the Greens have become intoxicated with their new found relevance and like the drunkard they stumble and slur their words. Tony Abbott and the rest of the Coalition are left dumb struck not quite sure how to respond so spend their time just saying no hoping an original idea will come to them in time to win the next election.

The ALP continue to push the goalposts further to the right in a misguided attempt to try and maintain the middle ground, today we have a Labor party that is more right wing then the likes of Katter’s Australia Party. KAP is trying to hang onto the traditional conservative ideals of the 1970’s which are certainly to the left of where the ALP finds itself today. Given this is the case one must wonder just how damn far to the right today’s tories really are when the ALP is doing their work for them and they still oppose it.

Lets take another look at the Carbon Tax, I’ve said it before it’s fiscal policy not environmental policy and it’s the fiscal policy of the right, it flies in the face of the social economy of the nation. What do I mean by the social economy? We in business often talk about the role of leaders, those that work on the business versus those that work in the business. The economy is no different, there is the social economy that effect us in society on a day to day basis and then there is the fiscal economy that economists talk about and play in.

The Carbon Tax is certainly fiscal policy but why has the message been changed, why is it being marketed as something it’s not? Well this is where the waters muddy, see the ALP are being deceitful and lack the moral clarity and conviction to come clean. They adopted this position in order to get the Greens to step in line so they could hang onto power and as a result they are treating us the punters as imbeciles.

It’s upsetting to me that the ALP and the Greens have a total disregard for the society in general. For them the means justify the end at any cost to integrity and honesty. The ALP just want to survive, and the Greens well they don’t care where the money comes from as long as they get their 15 billion to spend how they see fit.  At least the coalition is being somewhat honest, cause they have never cared about society and only ever been out for their own interests.

The perception in society of the Carbon Tax is based on a lie, and it only serves to strengthen the coalitions position, for them it’s win win. People don’t buy into the environmental message being presented to them as there is an ever receding pocket of ignorance about the environment.

I have always been and remain opposed to the Carbon Tax as an environmental instrument, it will do nothing to curb emissions and I have covered that topic before, but as a fiscal instrument of wealth creation I am undecided.  My gut reaction is I don’t like it but then I am not an economist and I live in the social economy and not the fiscal economy so I am forced to take my lead from history.

When I look at those that support the Carbon Tax as an economic reform I note with interest that one Paul Keating backs it all the way, this in itself affirms to me as a policy the Carbon Tax is about wealth creation and is well and truly planted in the sphere of the economists fiscal economy.  If it was anything else Paul simply wouldn’t have time for it.

Those on the right, that make up a great part of coalition would tell you the greatest treasurer this county has ever seen is Paul Keating and he did more for wealth creation in this country then any other single person. The frameworks Paul created in the 1980’s lead to the explosion of personal wealth in Australia.

Indeed Tony Abbott in September 2009 had this to say about Paul Keating;

“In terms of lasting achievements I think Keating’s greatest triumphs were as treasurer. I think his agenda as treasurer struck a chord not necessarily in the general community which was never especially enamored with economic reform but amongst those that think about public life, economists, academics, fellow politicians, journalists and I think Keating with Hawkes support did build many of the pillars of our present prosperity”

The reason the general community was enamored with it was it was in the realm of the fiscal economy and had nothing to with the social economy in which we find ourselves living, they worked on the economy not in it so when Paul tells us that he considers the Carbon Tax as just as an important economical reform as any of those he introduced you can rest assured this is all about the wealth creation. This is right up there with the national competition policy, the floating of the dollar, the end of centralised rates fixation and the foundation of central bank independence.

While the majority enjoyed some new fruits of these reforms by and large the rich got richer and their personal wealth exploded with the gap between those with and those without accelerating at great pace.

There is however a big difference in terms of what is going on now and what Paul did in the 1980’s. Truth… we have a lack of it.  German philosopher Friedrich Schiller said “only through beauty can man makes his way to freedom”.  The beauty of truth, the ability to step back and watch a sunset, the perfection of an idea, being able to slow down and observe and not just be caught up with survival.

This is what the ALP lacks, the clarity of truth and it is killing them.  The Carbon Tax could well be a great thing for our nation, if you believe the economists it’s the key new growth industry that will correct our two speed economy.  Everyone has heard about the two speed economy, Wayne Swann says it enough but I’m yet to hear it explained and why a Carbon Tax can fix it.

It would seem on one hand we have the traditional resources industries which are doing very well and really always have unfortunately they only encompass 20% of society leaving 80% of us in the services industries which of late are struggling, well melting down if we are honest.  The economists and the rich need a new way of jump starting the services industries, they need to replace the dead branches with new healthy ones and this is where the Carbon Tax comes in.

This adaption of the fiscal economy is set to pave the way for new mechanics of the rich, reforms and terms of trade after all it’s the price that allocates capital in the market that allows these large transitions to the economy to take place and of course history has shown us that the ALP are the best people to bring about economic change as they temper it with social justice.  Keating and Hawke while creating these new frameworks for wealth creation also ensured there were sufficient safe guards in place for all of society.

They delivered policy with truth and clarity of a bigger picture, it wasn’t about survival.  They floated the dollar, they introduced banks but the brakes they applied to those banks mean that today we have the four strongest banks in the world but at the same time they setup a system of enterprise bargaining and  industrial relations that held us in good stead.  We all know what happened when the right decided to mess with it.

The ALP made a error in dumping Kevin Rudd and we are all paying the price for it, but an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.  Under Kevin Rudd we would have had an Emission Trading Scheme, this is the same as the Carbon Tax essentially but we also would have had social reform where the resources industries who are making billions in profits would have been paying their way.   Kevin Rudd had clarity and truth, sadly Julia and the ALP are now too concerned with mere survival to come up with anything of beauty.

There are some 50 days till the Carbon Tax comes in and I for one believe it won’t be that big a deal at first, the sky won’t fall in and it will be business as usual till it can create some traction for change and then we will see if it was a good or bad punt on the future.  More then anything though I would like to see truth returned to the ALP, to our politics in general.

I may touch this up over the coming week as my own thoughts and feelings become more clear but it’s a start.

Sense of Entitlement

Lately people from the coalition have been rabbiting on about a sense of entitlement.  In fact Joe Hockey has proclaimed the age of entitlement is over.  This is particularly scary given this is the man that would be our next treasurer, and has fired his warning shot.  He has gone so far as to say “Entitlement is a concept that corrodes the very heart of the process of free enterprise which drives our economy.”

This of course is a rubbish notion, fact is we as society have a collective ownership over the services in this country, it’s that ownership that allows an environment in which wealth creation can occur that drives free enterprise.

Every single citizen has a debt, a social contract with the rest of society to pay your way, society has a right to expect a reasonable return on investment from all citizens on the services it collectively provides universally to all.

When Joe Hockey talks about entitlement he believes we as a nation shouldn’t have a welfare state so he can pay less taxes and keep more of his hard earned, but this in itself is Joe Hockey wanting his own version of entitlement.

He believes he has a right, an entitlement to grow up in an environment that we as society collectively provided for him in which he was able to enjoy the fruits of wealth creation and become financially successful and not have to repay society or pay that good fortune forward.  No man is an island, he did not magically become wealthy.  No one is ever self made, they can choose how they navigate the river but the river has to be there to navigate and that’s what society has provided the river to wealth.

Undoubtedly you owe society regardless of your circumstance.  There is nothing wrong with the redistribution of wealth, because that wealth that potential is the by product of society.  We live in a country that has allowed enterprise to grow and thrive, this cannot be denied on the strength of our economy and our banking sector and every Australian has the duty to pay what that can afford to pay.  Joe Hockey, Gina, Clive and Andrew can all afford to pay a damn side more then they do and yet they have the nerve to talk about a sense of entitlement.


Some Facts for Jock Anderson.

A few days before ANZAC day this year a so called journalist from New Zealand named Jock Anderson made some imbecilic comments towards Australian Diggers who fought in World War One and Gallipoli in partular that I would like to address with some cold hard facts, and they are cold, just thinking about the sheer numbers of sacrifice leaves me with a chill.  I am just one of millions that Jock managed to offend.

Mr Anderson in the national media had this to say;

“The Aussies have been reluctant soldiers at the best of times. They’ve been essentially lazy, bludgers, some of them, and excellent black marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves.”

“Occasionally they’ve actually been quite good soldiers, but there is no way, in my opinion, that they can hold a candle to the Kiwis.”

How any one of sound mind and any understanding of the facts would dare call our Diggers reluctant defies beleif.  Lets starts with the fact that every Digger who took part in World War One was a volunteer, they all signed up to the bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen of their own free will.

It’s wasn’t just one or two blokes either, by wars end 331,781 Aussie Diggers were serving oversea’s in conflict.  Given at the time Australia had a total population of 4.4 million that’s 7.54% of all Australian’s voluteering to go to war.  Keep in mind there were a lot of others that wanted to go that simply weren’t allowed due to Government legislation at the time trying to prevent skilled farming hands etc enlisting as there was a great need for Australian argiculture to support the war effort abroad.

No other country sent more people per capita to World War One then Australia barr New Zealand which by wars end had 103,00 serving.  This represents 9.3% of New Zealands 1.1 million population of the time.  No one sent more meat to the ginder per capita then the ANZAC’s.

The Austalian Imperial Forces lost 61,966 Diggers, with sum 152,171 wounded which is a casualy rate of 65% of the committed forces, one of the highest rates of attriction of any force in World War One.  To call these souls reluctant and lazy is a disgrace and at odds with the facts.

At Gallipoli 8,709 Australian’s lost there lives, as did 2,721 New Zealander’s, to put that in terms of today that is equiventent to the US losing 1,250,000 troops in Afganistan which is simply unthinkable, but that is exactly the price paid by our lads on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

When thinking about our boys strength of conviction during World War One I can’t forget Beersheeba, where the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade carried out the last successful cavalry charge agaisnt heavily fortified Turkish machine guns and artilery.  In doing so capturing a city that had been in the control of the Turkish empire since the 16th Century.  This is just one and many instances where our diggies did us proud, carried themselves with high distinction and did what others couldn’t.

In World War One Australian Diggers recived 63 Victoria Crosses, 9 of which came from Gallipoli,  so as far as holding a candle goes Jock they hold em pretty well compared to New Zealands 11 Victoria Crosses.  Percentage wise of comitted troops that puts our diggers ahead.

But no one here is counting or keeping score, cause when we talk about the ANZAC legends, and we remember them on April 25th each year there is no distingishing Australains from New Zealanders, we celebrate and praise them all togeather as brothers and sisters.

So Jock instead of insulting and trying to tarnish their memories and their sacrifices, how about instead you say thank you, and good on you lads this April 25th.




The shame of a Nation…

The following was written by someone I know in a closed environment under the guise of what had pissed them off today, and to be honest it pisses me off too and touches on an earlier comment of mine about how actual Australians are becoming a second class to non citizens.

I expect and hold dear the values of our nation, to give people a fair go, stand by your mates and support those that can’t support themselves but I despise and loathe Government policy that would take advantage of our good nature and trade on the fact we will just cop it on the chin.  We are far to apathetic, living in an idiocracy.


On the 18th of August 1966 at Long Tan, Vietnam, D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, mainly made up of Australian National Servicemen and at that time located to support the American Army, fought a battle against the Viet Cong.

In this action D Company lost 18 men killed and 24 injured. The Viet Cong dead numbered in excess of 245.  The Australian lines were never crossed. The Viet Cong withdrew.

American President Johnson and US Army Staff recognised the achievement by awarding the Unit Citation of Gallantry on 30th May 1968.  The Award was formally accepted by Queen Elizabeth in 13th June 1968.  Prime Minister John Gorton made the formal presentation of this American Citation to the Battalion at Lavarack Barracks, Townsville on 18th August 1968.

On the 31st of March 2010, D Company of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment were belatedly awarded the Australian version of “Unit Citation for Gallantry” (UCG) honouring their extraordinary deeds at Long Tan.

The Government however refused to approve travel payment for the surviving Unit Members or their families, including the families of deceased Unit Members, in order that they be present at the UCG Presentation Ceremony presided over by the Governor General of Australia.

In February 2011 the same Government of Australia footed the Funeral Bill to bury the illegal boat people, who tragically perished on Christmas Island. This included flying surviving family illegals and survivors to and from Sydney and Xmas Island, accommodating them, etc etc, plus a Coach tour of Sydney thrown in.

The Canberra Politburo had waited 45 years to publicly acknowledge the bravery and sacrifice of  these Sons of Australia and then immediately shit on their memory by wetting themselves to appease the feelings of boat illegals forcing entry into our country.

Now we witness what can only be described as attempted political face saving, by this same  Government, sponsoring a TV Documentary, to celebrate our Armed Forces accomplishments at Kapyong, Korea in 1951. This will see our Prime Minister and the entire Priministerial Entourage fly in a RAAF plane to Korea to mark this 60th Anniversary.

What Bloody Hypocrisy!!!

What a Blatant Affront to the feelings of our Nation’s serving Armed Forces, Past and Present.