Dear Ms Gillard

So it would appear all our hopes and desires have been dashed and we are still lumped with Senator Conroy and mandatory internet filtering.   It disappoints me somewhat that Ms Gillard can’t see the forest for the trees.  I’ve said it before there are 16 million internet users in this country and I would hazard a guess that 80% of them oppose mandatory filtering, that is a very very large voter pool to be ignoring and not taking seriously.

This fear, uncertainty and doubt card Senator Conroy and now the Prime Minister are playing is just that it’s smoke and mirrors, it’s not real.. there is no great threat to our children coming out of the internet, no more so when Robert Menzies tried to have the communist party outlawed in the 1960’s.. all there is fear, and as we should all know fear is the mind killer.

I read a quote this morning from Prime Minister Gillard that went like this;

“I’m happy with the policy aim and the policy aim is if there are images of child abuse, child pornography … they are not legal in our cinemas, you would not be able to go to the movies and watch that … you shouldn’t … no one should want to see that.”

When you look at a policy aim and outcome, you need to assign a metric to measure this and decide if it can successfully achieve it’s stated aim.  Putting aside all moral debate about free speech and democracy , I want to look at this policy in it’s simplest form can it achieve the stated outcome?  The answer is a resounding no, Senator Conroy has already stated on more then one occasion that any technically inclined person can circumvent the filter, that numerous transmission mediums found on the internet cannot and will not be filtered.

The filter will only listen on http ports, this is just one of a dozen protocols used on the internet.. there is no filtering of p2p, ftp, embedded media sites, external proxy services, ssh, gropher, or newsgroups.  Nor can it filter encyrpted SSL https traffic.. this is like designing a car that can only turn one wheel out of four and expecting it to drive in a straight line.   Forgetting all that still, the key metric we need to use if this is really about the children is simple how many more arrests will be made and how many more children will this filter prevent from being abused?  I will go out on a limb here and say not a single one.

Thing is the scum bags that perpetrate these crimes operate in the shadows, their insidious nature means they hide and lurk they do not register tld’s / domains  and put up big ole billboards on the internet that say “find us here”.  I challage the Senator and the Prime Minister to sit down with the Australian Federal Police crack open Google or Bing and start searching for this child porn content I promise you a google search will not find it, it’s not made to be found by average joe punter.. there is no accidental exposure to it.

Coming back to the Prime Ministers quote, she is right it’s not legal in our cinema’s, you can’t go down to the dendy and watch it and rightly so, but does she really honestly believe that this content is not already here or that cinema’s are the method of choice these vial creatures use to watch or distribute?  Where is the great mandatory filter on the movie industry, why are customs officers not inspecting every single dvd, blu-ray, vhs that enters the country for it?  Because it’s a waste of time and they know it.

When you let fear govern your policy you are out of control.. do we have so very little faith in our police investigators and our criminal justice system that we need to start taking stabs in the dark?  We have a method of dealing with this filth it’s called the cyber crimes unit.  We need to take the resources being wasted on this bad policy and apply it to where we can quantify the outcome,  give the police more resources to track, apprehend and prosecute these people.

A mandatory filter gives a false impression of safety to parents and children a like, fact is most predators on the internet operate out of chat rooms and instant messaging clients again something the filter can have no effect on.  For me the most scary thing happening on the internet at present are the social networking sites,  they give away far too much personal information to perfect strangers this makes it easier for predators to pick their targets, not to mention it’s been the greatest tool for identity theif in the last decade.  To give you an example a friend of a friends daughter who is 11 I might add had her full name, address and mobile phone number listed for all and sundry to see.

We need a policy of greater education on how to be safe on the net, an opt in filter so parents can decides what their children can and can’t access (plenty of which is legal content), and a robust criminal investigation unit with the resources to track these predators from one side of the globe to the other.

Unfortunately we have instead a half wit for our communications Minister, and a Government unable to understand the real nature of the issue that is either too pig headed to work out it’s bad policy and back away from it or think of it as a non-issue to voters. The sign of a bad Government is one that cannot admit if got it wrong and then set about correcting it’s mistakes.  I feel I have been backed into a corner I can not support the Liberal party as they are only liberal by name and not by nature, nor though can I support a Labor party that peruses the mandatory censorship of it’s people.

The filter in itself is insidious in that it blocks content that is quite legal in Australia based on what some person deems is amoral rather then illegal.  We are smart enough to self censor, I know what I do and do not want to see, as are most people but by god if I am denied the right to view and research legal topics why don’t we just light the book pyers of the 1940’s because that is what we’ll have become.

That filter policy

I’d like to share with you all a letter I sent to my local member who then passed it on to Senator Conroy as it was beyond my members abilities apparently,  it has been passed on but as yet there has been no response after many months so instead I thought I would just put this out there.

Dear Graham,

Thank you for your response, however I am disappointed with some elements. Perhaps you have been mislead as some of your reply appears not to address the facts as far as I can see. I now know your party line but I don’t know how you my member of parliament feels about all this, so I will assume you will support the filter rather than oppose it.

How has the ALP managed to do a direct back flip on this issue when in 2003 the Labor Party opposed filtering at the ISP level?  Labor senator Kate Lundy stated;
“Unfortunately, such a short memory regarding the debate in 1999 about internet content has led the coalition to already offer support for greater censorship by actively considering proposals for unworkable, quick fixes that involve filtering the internet at the ISP level.”

Didn’t I see Kevin Rudd slamming the opposition just this week for such things? There are nine points of reference in your reply I would like to visit and I do apologise for the length of this response but I believe it is warranted to put forward the view I wish you to understand if not support.

1.  “The ability to use online tools effectively”
How can one use a tool to its fullest while it’s being interfered with? In the world of information technology we are always trying to knock down and remove bottlenecks from systems, and the policy of adding a mandatory filter is one giant bottleneck that in the real world will result in poor performance. Take our gateway bridge; why were the manual toll booths removed? To improve traffic flow and performance, and the web or information highway as it used to be called is no different.

Replace the word traffic with data and you have the same thing, and in this case instead of removing the barrier (i.e. toll booths) you are in fact adding one and while you’re at it you want to do a vehicle inspection at the same time.  How can this not slow it down? As Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer at iiNet, who said filtering the internet at the ISP level, as opposed to installing filtering software on the home computer, was unworkable and would “affect the performance of the network quite significantly”.

2. “The pilot, and the experience of ISPs in many western democracies, shows that ISP level filtering of a defined list of URLs can be delivered with 100 per cent accuracy. It also demonstrated that it can be done with negligible impact on internet speed.”  Sorry but let’s put this into some context, I return to my earlier corollary of the Gateway Bridge. If I was to do a traffic flow test on the bridge using only 0.0625% of its daily traffic would the results say the traffic flowed perfectly and there was no need to remove the toll booths? I dare say they would, but we all know that would not be a true reflection of the case.

According to the International Telecommunication Union as of February 2009 there were 16,926,015 internet users in Australia (79.6% of the population) The figure of 0.0625% I quote above is the ratio of people who took part in the Enex Testlab live trial and consequently some people think using those numbers is folly, since they cannot effectively reflect the case. Statistics experts such as Dr Daniel Johnson at QUT and Professor Ron Hyndman at Monash University have correctly called out this report as being unscientific and extremely flawed.

Enex Testlab’s managing director, Matt Tett although admitting the testing did not comprehensively investigate what effect user load would have on the filters, claims this is not a factor saying;
“The number of participants isn’t necessarily relevant. The load is not relevant, absolutely not. The number of people who are on the filter itself, the number of people on the system and whether they’re being filtered or not, is irrelevant”

A pity the rest of the industry doesn’t share that view, I draw your attention to the warning from Australia’s peak technology group the Systems Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU) to the Federal Government that any internet filtering laws will fail to work because the technology was only tested on slow broadband services. Ms. Donna Ashelford of SAGE-AU said the report from the Internet filtering trials was unclear about sample sizes, which was vital to understand if its results were statistically significant. “Large numbers of participants would obviously have a greater impact on performance than a smaller number,” she observed.

Ms Ashelford further stated:
“The only widely quoted figure from a test participant was a handful of clients, which did not produce any significant load. Significant sample sizes are essential to understand the effect that Internet filtering may have on service performance. Another concern is that the report admits that ‘a technically competent user, could, if they wished, circumvent the filtering technology’. Anybody who uses Google could find ways to access censored content.” Ms. Ashelford said every filtering solution tested had failed under “heavy traffic” sites on the Internet including YouTube videos already blacklisted by ACMA (the Australian Communications & Media Authority). “The results show that none of the filters coped with widely used technologies such as peer to peer, chat rooms or instant
messaging,” she said. “No false-positive data was provided for ISPs which were only blocking ACMA-prohibited URLs, which was in the terms of reference.”

Indeed the sample group of users in the live pilot was less than 1% as compiled by the participating ISPs, and this is not a representative sample, particularly since some customers complained about over-blocking, and withdrew from the trial. One example was the blocking of the pornography website which is legally accessible in Australia yet somehow made its way onto the AMCA blacklist, I thought this was only meant to be RC material?

While still talking about speed and performance I would like to inform you about an internet phenomenon known as the Slashdot effect; The Slashdot effect, also known as slashdotting, occurs when a popular technology news website links to a smaller site, causing a massive increase in traffic. This overloads the smaller site, causing it to slow down or even temporarily close. The name stems from the huge influx of web traffic that can results from a technology news site linking to other websites.

This is what happens when you try and push too many connections into a smaller pipe that can’t handle the load, Slashdotting is unintentional but there is another form known as a Denial of Service attack and in fact a number of Federal Government websites have fallen victim to these this month as part of ‘Operation Titstorm’ by the group anonymous. Again this is what happens when too many connections are made and the system can’t keep up.

Kind of like the grid lock on the Gateway bridge which the State is so eager to alleviate. By forcing amandatory ISP level filter on the industry you are in fact forcing grid lock into the system, a man made bottleneck for no gain what so ever. Under no load of course the results will say it has no impact, but you throw everyone at it and it will come to a smouldering wreck.  Even Telstra back this up by saying; “As a general rule, there appears to be a relationship between measures to counter deliberate circumvention and impact on internet performance — i.e. stronger circumvention prevention measures can result in greater degradation of internet performance,”  According to the report, Telstra found its filtering solution was not effective in the case of non-web based protocols such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer or chat rooms.

“Enex confirms that this is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot,” the report reads. “Telstra reported that heavy traffic sites could overload its trial filtering solution if included in the filtering blacklist. This is also the case for all filters presented in the pilot.”  Can you see that heavy traffic sites could overload the filtering solution? Think about that for a second, going from ten thousand users in the trial to sixteen million real world users.  Do you think that might be considered heavy traffic?

3.  “In particular our approach has been informed by the constructive input of Australia’s four largest ISPs…”

Why is it none of these were made part of the initial testing and there has been no consultation with them or peak body groups, rather the Federal Government is pushing this on the industry without listening to it.  Case in point Nicholas Power of Highway 1 when asked his stance on ISP level content filtering stated:  “We were one of the unexpected participants of the trial and it was an interesting process. Our intention for participating was to find out more but in reality, this did not eventuate. We found it to be as much of a black box as those people on the outside, who were asking us questions.

The idea that ISPs should police their users is something we are against. As a smaller ISP, we’ve seen the significant cost required just to implement a trial. In the end, I don’t think this is a technical race that can be won.  Optus:  “Optus would rather work with Government to legitimately understand the implications of this type of filtering process, than have it mandated”
Out of the top fourteen ISP’s in Australia only Telstra and iPrimus support the introduction of the filter, and all of them say it’s a waste of time. But even then iPrimus the largest ISP to take part in the trial by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy only support it under duress.

General manager of marketing and products Andrew Sims said while web filtering services suited some families, they should not be made compulsory.   We’ve got instances of that around the world, particularly in China where the government forces filtering upon their population, my professional opinion is I don’t really believe that forced filtering is a good option.”  Then there is iiNet one of the top three ISPs in the country.  in a statement:  As iiNet managing director, Michael Malone, said  “We are not able to reconcile participation in the trial with our corporate social responsibility, our customer
service objectives and our public position on censorship” “It became increasingly clear that the trial was not simply about restricting child pornography or other such illegal material, but a much wider range of issues including what the Government simply describes as ‘unwanted material’ without an explanation of what that includes.”

I have also attached for you a letter to the staff of PIPE Networks from their CEO Bevan Slattery about why they are black listing the trial and filter, it is interesting reading. This policy of mandatory internet filtering does not have the support of the industry nor does it have the popular support of the Australian public.

4. “Introduction of mandatory ISP level filtering of Refused Classification (RC) content in order to reduce therisk of inadvertent exposure”
If that is the case could you please explain to me why when Greens senator Scott Ludlam asked questions related to the trial at the end of 2008, one of the answers the Federal Government provided in January 2009 was that 674 out of 1370 blocked sites on the mandatory list relate to child pornography; 506 sites would be classified as R18+ or X18+, despite the fact that such content is legal to view in Australia. That means that 37% of material on the AMCA blacklist is NOT RC content.

5.  “…can be used to distribute material which is not acceptable to most Australians, particularly children.”
This to me seems more like Senator Conroy’s “unwanted material” then RC content and we have already seen that legal content sites are being blocked on the AMCA list. I wish to point out to you the ranking of some sites in Australia according to Alexa the company for metrics and site rankings worldwide on the internet that are at odds with that statement. All of these sites contain unwanted material according to the Minister’s definition and some even contain RC material but hopefully you will soon realise how absurd it would be to block them;

Ranking 8 – online encyclopaedia, RC material contained as has articles on drug use and euthanasia.
Ranking 25 – film and television site, RC material contained as has reviews and images of RC films.
Ranking 51 – pornography site already blocked by AMCA blacklist even though it is legal.
Ranking 52 – file transfer service, RC material, has patch and game files for RC games.
Ranking 53 – p2p site, Senator Conroy is on the record as wanting to block p2p sites.
Ranking 54 – online magazine, contains RC articles about drug use.
Ranking 57 – pornography site already blocked by AMCA blacklist even though it is legal.
Ranking 58 – pornography site already blocked by AMCA blacklist even though it is legal.
Ranking 62 – online journal, contains RC articles about circumventing copy protection etc.
Ranking 68 – p2p site, Senator Conroy is on the record as wanting to block p2p sites.
Ranking 96 – p2p site, Senator Conroy is on the record as wanting to block p2p sites.

With sixteen million internet users in Australia all of these sites are in the top 100 for the nation, which suggests they are very popular with many people. Do you really think they will support having their access to these sites blocked?

6. “Filtering technologies have been adopted on a voluntary basis by ISPs in a number of countries including the United Kingdom…”
Let’s talk about this one for a moment, the UK uses the IWF blacklist which will form part of the mandatory blacklist used in Australia. In December 2008, hybrid filtering technology implemented by UK providers caused disruption of Wikipedia operations in the UK when a Wikipedia page was added to the IWF watch list. When Wikipedia blocked UK vandals by their IP address, this block affected all users coming from these IP addresses.

As these IP addresses belonged to the filter proxies, some Wikipedia users in the UK, depending on their ISP, attempting to edit an article without a login name were blocked. Some proxies also collapsed under load generated by Wikipedia traffic.  After widespread coverage, the IWF removed the Wikipedia page from its blacklist, citing the availability of the image on other websites as a factor:
“IWF’s overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect … We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users.”  That doesn’t seem all that successful to me, how’s that working for you?

7.  “…URLs of known child abuse material…”
Isn’t this then an issue for law enforcement? If these sites are known, surely any judge can order them taken down and I think you will find the industry would be more than happy to black hole the routes they use. This is like saying we know there are criminals dealing drugs in that suburb’s park but rather then shut them down we’re just going to stop anyone on our beat from using that park instead.
That is nether law enforcement nor prevention.

8. “Enex Testlab, an independent testing laboratory…live pilot…ISPs of varying sizes and their customers”
How can Enex Testlab claim to be independent when they work for no less than thirty Government departments? A negative finding would be akin to biting the hand that feeds you and their lack of
completeness and flawed testing model guaranteed that couldn’t happen. The fact that Telstra’s trial outcome differed quite dramatically makes that plain and Telstra would support a filter if legislated. I would also point out again that only a minute number of ISPs customers took part in the so called live pilot.

9. “…transparency of processes that lead to RC material being placed on the RC content list.”
How can there be any transparency when Senator Conroy has vehemently defended his decision to keep the blacklist contents secret. Even the ISPs in the trial have said they are none the wiser about the process.  How can we trust a Government that banters about terms like “unwanted material” but doesn’t define what that actually means? We know it’s not just RC material, as many legal sites are blocked. Even political parties such as the Australian Sex Party have had their website added to the AMCA list. Why? Because the word sex makes an appearance?

I do not need my Government to tell me what I can and cannot look at, I am quite able to self censor material I do not wish to see and I am more than able to censor material I feel my young children should not be exposed to. There is really no such thing as inadvertent exposure, it’s a myth. No one accidently ends up at a porn or RC website; they have to knowingly follow a link, etc. In over 15 years of being on the net I can honestly say I have also never seen or come across child pornography, they doesn’t exactly advertise this criminal behavior and I day say they don’t even use the http protocol which is the only protocol the filters block.

Finally I would like to end with the UN Charter of which Australia is a founding member having signed it on 1st of November 1945.
Article 19, a Fundamental Declaration of the UDHR, concerns the Individual, and states:  Every Individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold
opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The internet is just a new frontier. Has Australia forgotten its UN Charter responsibilities?

Qld 30% off Sale

It would seem with the new Queensland budget the state has become like a department store trying madly to sell off stock to keep the creditors at bay or make the books look artificially better then they are. This despite parliament being told the Government will maintain services and infrastructure by Andrew Fraser not two months ago.

Prior to the election Anna Bligh went on air saying “Some of the work we’ve done in building the infrastructure that Queensland needs right across the State – these are big projects. I’ve got the biggest building program in Australia. It’s driving growth in our economy. I’m going to maintain it. I’m not going to take money out of the Budget because I believe that building is what is needed at this tough economic time. It creates jobs and I’m committed to keeping it, even if it means a temporary deficit, because that’s what I believe government should be doing right now. The times demand it.”

I honestly have no drama with this statement, I agree that creating jobs in these times is important so we can retain a skilled workforce so when times come good we can hit the ground running, besides and investment in jobs is also an investment in the economy. A down turn is also the very best time to carry out capital works as by nature the cost blow outs will be reduced and all costs will be on the lower end of the scale. Vendors can’t demand premium prices in a downturn like they can in a boom.

All business knows that when things get quiet you have to work harder for a customers business and in a boom you can pick and choose. The highs and lows of the building industry have always come in cycles and the GFC aside a Government should be able to pick those cycles as much like with real estate they come and go about every 7 years. I think it has been a failing of the QLD Labour Government that they have been carrying out large works in boom times in the wrong area’s and it’s cost us dearly and added to our debt. That said I will cut them some slack as I truly believe the preceding Governments had a lot to do with this. Love or Hate Joh he was the last premier to actually invest in Qld infrastructure.

So lets fast forward to yesterday when Anna Bligh announces that as part of the budget we’re going to hold a fire sale, and that’s really what it is, we have a deflated market and the state is a motivated seller. There is no way in hell we’re going to get the right odds for these assets. Would you pay top dollar in a buyers market?

Lets look at why we’re a motivated seller, and it comes back to those large projects Anna has on the books they total 17 Billion over the next 4 years, and with this comes a reduction in our credit rating from AAA to AA, which means an extra 200M a year in interest payments alone as our rate got hosed in the process. We’re already 64 Billion in debt so we don’t really want to add another 17 Billion to that or the interest will cripple us.

Enter stage left the fire sale, this is the list so far as Andrew Fraser the states treasurer isn’t ruling out selling off other assets, this is likely as the Government won’t get the target numbers they are hoping for with the sale of these listed assets;

Port of Brisbane
Qld Motorways
Forest Plantations Qld
QR Coal Business
Abbot Point Coal Terminal

I would point at that all of these assets are in the black and add to general revenue for the state, however there can be some savings elsewhere by divesting them. The Government expects to see a sale price of 15 Billion over the (wait for it) next 4 years. Hmm so thats a short fall of 2 Billon, where can Anna get that from I wonder?

Onto Announcement number 2 the scraping of the states fuel subsidy this on top of an extra 17 to 22 per cent on registration fees from July 1. Anna tells us this will save the state 2.4 Billion again over 4 years.

I detect a theme here and it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. I don’t believe the Government expected the states credit rating to be reduced and this caught them off guard and the only way to fix this is to reduce borrowings and fully fund projects internally. Hence they have taken the measures outlined. 17 Billion going out over 4 years so now they have 17.4 Billion coming back in IF things go according to plan.

Some will say it’s a good thing, but I have to wonder how losing control of income streams now and in the future really helps us. This really places more burden on the private citizens. If the state is the business and the tax payers the share holders, shouldn’t the Government as the board be doing things to make us better off not worse. All this actions seem to do is move the debt around from the state to us the tax payer.

Take the subsidy for example the Brisbane City Council alone has said it will cost an additional $600k a year to run it’s fleet of vehicles, so whats next the BCC passes that onto rate payers. Business owners and the freight companies then pass those costs onto the consumer, which will have an effect on demand and put employment at greater risk.

It has a domino effect, even the smallest ripple can create a tidal wave given enough time.

It’s success is also contingent on the Government using the sales to fund these capital works, if it just goes into recurrent expenditure (paying bills) we’re just making things worse and today I see Anna say “The money saved will go into the things that are most important, running our hospitals, running our schools, police and other vital services,” all of which is recurrent expenditure. You can’t solve the problem if you continue to live outside your means. Spending more then you earn only ever ends in bankruptcy.

My other concern is you normally sell assets to bring in enough capital to close the gap in any deficit you have, these actions don’t seem to go far enough. We have a 1.6 Billion deficit this year alone and we’re expecting a deficit again next year. So while Anna is bringing in 17.4 Billion with this, she is also spending 17 Billion of it, that means only 400 million is hitting the balance sheet as extra revenue. Not enough to close the gap.

We need to see them exercise some spending control, quick cash grabs to fix immediate dilemmas does nothing to correct the fundamental issue of over spending. Andrew Fraser told us the state will lose 12 billion in revenue over the next 4 years, this means we need to pull our belt in by the exact same amount. We have seen some excessive wastage of state funds in recent years. We have a recycled water pipeline that cost us 1.7 Billion that will never be used and Anna can say all she likes that it’s an insurance policy but it won’t change the fact it’s a white elephant.

They need to get industry using that pipe line and realise some return on it, it should never have been constructed in the first place. They should have known the people wouldn’t stand for drinking recycled water from the get go and it’s just another example of their pig pigheadedness biting them on the back side. Fact is they built it so they could be seen to be doing something about water when it was a politically hot topic. This is where old Joh was different he build infrastructure he knew we’d need in the future and create jobs when it was unpopular, this mob build crap we don’t need to will ballots. That 1.7 Billion covers our deficit right there by itself.

Add to that the scam that is Traveston Dam, it’s never going to get up.. they have spent over 500 Million so far and allotted a further 1.2 Billion to the project. They need to walk way from it, and sell off the resumed land to get back some of the wasted funds. Just in those two projects we see 2.2 Billion in limbo.

I shudder to think where else funds are going awry, I think as tax payers we should also be wary of what selling off state assets brings, I mean look at power.. everyone’s power bill has risen dramatically despite promises made by Anna. Jobs were also lost as these private firms sought to restructure to generate maximum profits. Federally look at the privatisation of health, every single year since it was introduced premiums have risen compounding the fees we pay while they reduce the services they offer and now it’s gotten so bad they are rethinking the 30% rebate carrot they used to lure us all into private health funds.

I have always said that to have a strong Government you need a strong opposition and unfortunately we have neither. While I am generally a lefty I hold great hopes for John Paul as the new leader of the LNP as while I don’t want him in office I do want him to apply a blow torch.

Would it hurt to be honest Anna?

Weather or not losing the fuel subsidy is a good or a bad thing is another story but I really get annoyed when politicians lie or think we are all fools. Anna Bligh stated yesterday “Queensland taxpayers should not have to subsidise interstate motorists – it does not represent value for taxpayers’ money.” and “The proposal by the NSW government to abolish their fuel subsidy scheme by July 1 will only make it more attractive for NSW motorists to cross the border and fill up their tanks”.

I mean come on Anna do you really think people in NSW are saying to themselves, ‘hey I need fuel I think I will go to Queensland’ and even if they did wouldn’t the GST and excise more then make up for it? Wouldn’t you rather those fund go into your revenue then your competitors?

Anna seems to think the fuel subsidy is a luxury and “bad policy”, what I think is by removing is she is breaking 2 key promises, 1. that her Government would not introduce any new taxes and 2. Andrew Fraser stated back in January before the election “Make no mistake about it. We’ll be delivering a fuel subsidy scheme. It will stay in place.”

While I can probably let the second one slide as things do change, I see the first one as pretty binding. More so when you delve into the history a bit, you see back in the day the other states decided they’d introduce a state fuel tax and it got smacked down in federal court, so the other states lobbied the federal government of the time and had the federal fuel excise increased by the amount of the now abolished fuel taxes to get around the court ruling.

The Qld Premier quite rightly said hang on we don’t want this added taxation and created the fuel subsidy to hand it back to us the people of Queensland. So you see it is a new form of taxation Anna is committing us too.

I only take issue with this in the way it was delivered, not once did Anna say you know what we just need the cash and you’ll have to lump it.. Instead she comes up with this bullshit about NSW motorists stealing our subsidy.

Clive vs Anna

I have to admit I have been trying to stay out of political stoushes of late, but this I just find funny as hell.

We have the richest man in Queensland, Clive Palmer, giving the Bligh government a gob full every chance he gets and as soon as he receives some return fire he goes off running to his QC to smack Anna with a defamation suit.

Australian defamation laws are meant to protect people’s reputations from unfair attack, however usually they are nothing more than a tool to stifle free speech, even though Australia has no explicit legal protection for freedom of speech. Clive Palmer is a hypocrite as far as I can tell.

Let’s look at some of his recent comments concerning the premier shall we:

“the face of Anna Bligh is just that… it’s a face… she’s a nice woman, she looks good, so let’s vote for her”


“the poor woman probably hasn’t got any control of the government at all… I’m sure none of her ideas have any influence”

Now keeping those comments in mind let’s examine the Australian legal definition of defamation.

In order to bring a defamation action a plaintiff must show three things. Firstly the material must have been published, which in this context means that it has been communicated to someone other than the aggrieved person. Most commonly this takes the form of a newspaper publication or television or radio broadcast. Secondly the person aggrieved by the publication must have been identified by that publication. Identification need not be by naming the person. It can arise from the inclusion of a number of characteristics that enable a person to be identified. Where a group of people have been collectively defamed, provided the group is limited in size, each member of that group may be a potential plaintiff.

Finally the material published must be defamatory. In terms of a legal test, material is defamatory if it does one of four things – expose a person to ridicule; lower their reputation in the eyes of members of the community; cause people to shun or avoid them; or injure their professional reputation.

Now temper that with the legal concept of Fair Comment – being that as a matter of public interest the topic enables a wide range of critical material to be published as review, analysis, opinion, satire and cartoons. The mere expression of an opinion is not sufficient to attract this defence. The opinion must be based on facts and these facts must be contained within the publication or be known independently to the reader.

I would argue that Mr Palmer’s diatribe is not of public interest, but rather slanderous. There is little basis of fact in his comments and certainly no evidence of such and as a result I take note of the lengths to which key LNP parliamentarians are taking to distance themselves and play down Mr Palmer, including Tim Nichols and Lawrence Springborg.

It could be argued that these comments are merely Mr Palmer exercising his right to freedom of political communication. This may well be the case but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
If Clive Palmer can engage in this type of political commentary then surely our premier in return has the same rights, after all she is a citizen as well.

Now let’s get to the point, Clive Palmer is suing the premier as he believes Anna has “conveyed a suggestion” and “embarked on personal attacks”. Let’s take a look at what Anna actually had to say in relation to the confirmed and AEC declared donations by Mr Palmer to the LNP to the tune of $600,000.

“It’s not unusual for rich men to buy football teams, as Mr Palmer has done. What is not common and what I don’t think is good for democracy, is when they buy a political party. The question you have to ask is what Mr Palmer is getting from this.”

Ok so I can see the suggestion of impropriety in that, but it’s not a personal attack and is it baseless? Does it unfairly attack Mr Palmer and his reputation? Or is it fair comment?

To make my personal judgement on this I merely look to some very public facts.
Firstly, we have Mr Palmer himself saying to the media he will seek to influence LNP policy should they win government and that he feels he is entitled to do just that, “I may have some influence on the policies”. Why is that?

Secondly, his son Michael has been pre-selected by the LNP at just 18 years of age for the seat of Nudgee, yes I am sure that was based on merit as a recent school leaver.

Thirdly, Mr Palmer’s private helicopter has been the mode of transport of choice for the Borg in his travels all over the state.

Ever heard of the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. At some point Mr Palmer will want to see a return on investment and I think no one is naive enough to think otherwise – $600,000 buys a lot of lunches.

Is it just a coincidence that the LNP are very opposed to mining royalties, given that’s how Mr Palmer makes a living?

The return may just be that Mr Palmer sees a government that naturally aligns itself to his beliefs. I am no different, I support those people that are the closest match to my own ideological feelings but I think the point of difference is most people who donate cash to these parties aren’t also in the thick of it casting dubious political commentaries.

Partly as it does more harm than good, and I can promise Mr Palmer and the LNP one thing -this suit will do more harm to their reputation then any comment by Anna Bligh.

At the end of the day Mr Palmer made himself a viable political target when he started making very public political statements. If he can’t stand the heat he should get out of the kitchen.

While in general I feel Queensland could use a political shake up, there is no way Labour will lose this election, the gap will narrow but the Borg will never be a Queensland Premier, and the LNP shot themselves in the foot when they ostracised Mal Brough. Any chance they had in changing the government this time round died with him.

If you want a strong government you need a strong effective opposition and in Queensland they are a lame duck. If Labour is not fit to lead then certainly neither is the LNP. I have the election blues.

Cost of Diesel

Having recently purchased a new Turbo Diesel four wheel drive for my wife I have taken more notice of the cost of Diesel and I must admit it just convinces me more that Australian’s are being taken for a ride in almost all aspects of our lives.  Seriously has someone declared us as the suckers of the Global Market?

Historically Diesel has always been cheaper then Petrol where ever you go in the world by at least ten cents per litre, so why is it in Australia Diesel is nearly always more expensive?  Well according to the industry even though Diesel uses less crude oil to produce per litre then Petrol in Australia the reason the cost of Diesel has gone up and continues to go up is that we now have more complex refining methods on Diesel due to new Commonwealth Fuel Quality Standards.

I take exception to this as I contacted a refiner in Singapore to ask them if they process Diesel any differently for Australia as to their other markets and was told that these new refining methods are about reducing the sulphur content to 50 mg/kg (50 ppm) which is aligning Australia with international best practice for sulphur content in diesel fuel.  Ie these methods do not make Australian Diesel more expensive then our oversea’s cousins.  The reason I asked a Singapore vendor is because firstly Singapore accounts for a quarter of Australian Petrol and Diesel supply, with the other three quarters being produced domestically.  Secondly Australian fuel pricing is set via an import parity system governed by the Singapore Benchmark Price (Gasoil).

Which brings me to my next issue why the hell do we allow the Industry to base their pricing on the Singapore benchmark when it only accounts for a quarter of our fuel supply?  Shouldn’t they be forced to base their pricing on local production costs rather then what it costs in Singapore?  I can understand why they want to, they make more money this way, but the ACCC needs to grow some balls and do something about it because it’s just an excuse to bash us based on international crude oil pricing.

But lets look at it from the industries import parity system for a second, lets forget we produce most of our fuel domestically for a moment.  Considering that the Australian dollar is the strongest it’s been in decades with it hitting 0.87-0.88 USD cents this should have a dramatic and felt positive effect on local fuel pricing, yet it continues to go up with the industry claiming they are passing on great discount cycles.. sorry but I call shenanigans.  

Lets do a quick comparison on fuel pricing around our neck of the woods, all pricing is relevant as of 9:30am this morning for today;

  • Auckland, NZ            Diesel 0.88, ULP 1.34
  • Brisbane, AU             Diesel 1.22, ULP 1.18
  • Singapore                 Diesel 0.95, ULP 1.29
  • United Kingdom        Diesel 2.23, ULP 2.28

All pricing above is in AUD based on cents per litre.  As you can see Australia is the ONLY place where the cost of Diesel is higher then ULP, what more telling is the pricing comparison for New Zealand, that’s the type of ratio I’d expect to see here in Australia given that according to Shell 25% of all Diesel in New Zealand in imported from Singapore. Wow that’s exactly the same amount Australia imports from Singapore, so why is there such a dramatic bloody difference in pricing.  Shell also state this Diesel conforms to New Zealands NZPPSR regulations on fuel standards, which are the equivalent of the Commonwealth standards.

Even in Britain where fuel pricing in General is monstrous Diesel is cheaper then ULP, so why then in Australia are we paying more for the stuff?  Think it’s time to write a letter to the minister.