Saturday salon 17/1


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Australia’s internet speeds have slumped to 44th in the world

The State of the Internet Report from cloud service provider Akamai ranks Australia 44th for average connection speed.

One of the reasons why we’re falling down the list is that we’re moving towards utilising a copper based access network. Whereas previously, under the Labor government, we were moving towards an all fibre-based network, which is what most of our competitors are now doing. And we’re also seeing this drop because, as we keep changing direction with the NBN, we’re putting in large delays before the roll-out is actually occurring.

NetFlix which is meant to be coming online towards the end of March may not be able to be accessed everywhere and will be of poorer quality than in other countries. Many of our competitors are looking at gigabit broadband download speeds. Thanks to the Abbott government we’ll be in the Dark Ages.

2. Morgan poll

The Morgan poll ploughs on over the festive season. On LNP leadership:

Former Liberal Party Leader Malcolm Turnbull is preferred as Liberal Leader by 36% of electors (down 2% since September 30-October 2, 2014) but still well ahead of Deputy Leader Julie Bishop (26%, up 10%) and Prime Minister Tony Abbott (14%, down 5%). Bishop is now ahead of Abbott for the first time as preferred Liberal Leader. No other candidate has more than 4% support.

However, L-NP voters just narrowly prefer Prime Minister Tony Abbott (30%, down 11%) as Liberal Party Leader ahead of Deputy Leader Julie Bishop (28%, up 11%) and Malcolm Turnbull (26%, up 2%). Treasurer Joe Hockey has lost significant support and is now at only 4% (down 4%).

Hockey seems to have evaporated after announcing that poor people don’t drive cars. Meanwhile Bishop is surging.

3. MYEFO disappears

Speaking of Joe Hockey, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, coinciding with the Sydney siege, has disappeared from view. John Quiggin has a neat summary of why it undercuts the LNP policy narrative:

Key elements of that narrative are:

* Debt and deficits are always bad, are now at catastrophic levels and are the product of Labor profligacy
* More labour market reform is needed to prevent a wages explosion resulting in higher unemployment
* The mining sector is the key to Australian prosperity and was unfairly burdened by the carbon and mineral resource rent taxes

Debt and deficits are growing as a result of weaker revenue, exactly as happened under Labor, and in any case do not constitute a serious problem.

As regards wages, not only does MYEFO note that wage growth (low and stable for many years) has been weaker than ever, this is noted as one of the main factors leading to the decline in revenue growth.

The mining industry was never a large employer and is now shedding jobs rapidly.

The good side of this is that the overvaluation of the $A driven by the mining boom is finally fading, with the result that the net impact of the end of the boom is forecast to be quite small. We have much more to fear from a renewed global financial crisis than from a decline in mineral prices.

4. The old guard still controls the grand slam court

Greg Jericho turns his analytical mind to tennis, well male tennis, suggesting that the old guard are still in control and don’t write Federer off – Jimmy Connors played until he was 39 and Andre Agassi until he was 36. Federer is only 33. He didn’t mention Ken “Muscles” Rosewall, who won his last tournament at the age of 43.

I’ve always thought that most grand slams are won by people in the age bracket 24-28. Jericho suggests 27 as the age beyond which winning becomes tough. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are 27, Nadal is 28. They are not true contemporaries of Federer.

I have no idea who is going to win, but I think it’s a bridge too far to expect Federer to win seven best-of-five matches in a row.

But Sarina Williams at age 33, you wouldn’t bet against her! Of course she only plays the best of three, but that’s another story!

I do think Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are a cut above the rest, with Andrew Murray also in the mix. They may stay in charge for another year or two.

39 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/1”

  1. Internet speeds – damn their bones. Not all users care so much but if your use is vocational or purposeful is is damn frustrating to wait and wait. World ranking means little if everyone is on 100 Mbps, at least right now in time. But if our speeds are in the basement level then ranking can be an helpful perspective.

    I use Speedtest ( to try and gather data for my complaints to Telstra. The result(s) from Speedtest gives me a ping interval and download/upload speeds. Try it out at different times of the day and notice the variability. Speedtest logs your test results so you can review them and have data to support complaints to your provider.
    And this site gives some understandable insight into speeds etc.
    Nick, my IT guy of 20+ years adds that: “A Fibre optic connection has a 1ms ping time, about as good as you will ever get. ADSL has about 20-60ms ping. Most wireless has 60-200ms ping, satellite has 2000ms (2 second).”

    One effect of the NBN that followed its announcement was that (I believe, no data to support me) much would-be investment in internet infrastructure was abandoned or placed on hold. Why would you spend millions of dollars on a system that could be trumped by the NBN? While NBN somehow sorts itself out our world position slips because of the investment blight caused by the proposed NBN.

    Will the NBN be good enough? I would have thought that it might be because it is apparently a lot faster. But if we all switched on a streaming movie at the same time our download speed would drop, probably making the movie unwatchable. Now Netflix is coming to town and this will have a profound effect on internet demand. Add this to existing services and gaming I now have my doubts that 100 Mbps will really be adequate.

    I don’t know much about the current proposal to maintain the copper network in conjunction with fibre. I think the issues are the reliability and speed of copper. If someone could explain that to me I would be grateful.

  2. Geoff, I’m not a technical person, but my impression is that we are going to be left a long way behind. mark was in Thailand recently and said their internet was noticeably better than ours

    With regard to copper, I think the problem is that we are getting fibre to the node, which I understand to be the end of the street. Even if it’s outside our front gate there will be a connection fee if we want fibre all the way. These things are as good as the weakest link.

    A big loss compared with the Labor scheme was the element of universality. Services could be set up or offered on the basis that everyone has access. My GP spends a day a week making home visits. As telemedicine progresses I’m sure it will make a difference as to whether everyone is connected.

  3. John Quiggin probably speaks with more young people than I do. He seems to be on the money about the Losers’ narrative. Most of the young people I have spoken with don’t believe the load of cobblers that our present mess is all Labor’s fault – they mightn’t know why it happened but they do know that the current fairy story is less believable than “The Hobbit”. Does anyone at all still believe it?

    So far as I’m concerned, Labor merely exacerbated a pre-existing and deteriorating situation. Persisting with this fairy story not only makes the Losers look silly but causes people to wonder who really did cause the mess – hardly a smart move if you are playing political games …. but, hey, it might be a STRONG move. :-),

  4. On that Morgan poll link I can’t find the ALP/LNP/green/ other ratio of respondence.
    That would be helpful.
    But let’s face it, a green voter preferring Turnbull ( 58%) is never voting LNP,ever.
    And Abbott doesn’t get it.
    He’s backflipped on 90% of the policies that got him elected, burning his base, chasing votes from people that will never vote LNP.
    The man is an idiot.

    (In my opinion the LNP caucus would pick Morrison)

  5. Brian @2 Yeah I know what you mean. I had the experience of optical fibre in Adelaide and a web page loaded (literally) in the blink of an eye. Really.

    The ramifications of fast (or slow) internet are huge and would demand a few sites of their own. But sadly we are stuck with a system that seems stranded between politics, best compromise and what we should do. Not really simple.

    What seems very simple is that what is best for Oz is likely going to be overlooked by the politicians who hold out to work in our best interests.

  6. Jumpy,

    Traditionally about 15% of Green voters preference the LNP ahead of the ALP.

    The figures were apparently much higher in Prahran because conservatives who don’t want to vote for the Tea party are willing to vote Green but can’t stomach voting Labor. Prahran ia the first LNP held seat to be won by the Greens.
    The takeover of the conservative party to raving nutters Tea party is having a noticeable effect in conservative seats.
    Turnbull would do a better job of convincing some Green voters to either vote LNP direct or at least give the LNP their second preference. His big problem would be that a majotity of LNP parliamentarians are climate skeptics.

  7. Graham Bell @3:

    Does anyone at all still believe it?

    I have an acquaintance who claims to still believe it (and he’s an accountant, believe it or not).
    I avoid him as much as possible.

  8. With regard to copper, I think the problem is that we are getting fibre to the node, which I understand to be the end of the street. Even if it’s outside our front gate there will be a connection fee if we want fibre all the way. These things are as good as the weakest link.

    So iirc even the ALP NBN was a mix of fttp, wifi and satellite depending on housing density of the area. Im stuck with a choice between ADSL which is slow enough it impacts my ability to work from home and so I’m stuck with Telstra cable and Telstra support IME is appalling. Also am vulnerable to too many people in the area using the Internet for fun when I need to do work. I don’t think that either should be classified as fast enough. I’d be ok with an FTTN rollout with those who want to pay extra getting FTTP because it would be upgradable for future owners.

  9. John @ 6
    Wow!, Prahran is strange one.
    Won by green with 24.75 % of primary votes.
    Out voted by LIBs ( 44.81% ) and ALP ( 25.91% ).
    No KAP, PUP or NAT.

    A working electoral system shouldn’t allow that to happen.

  10. Jumpy: The Greens won in Prahan because the majority of non-LNP voters preferred the Greens to the ALP and a majority of the voters preferred the Greens to the LNP.
    Tell me what is unfair about the Greens winning under these circumstances? The Greens still got less seats than they would have got if seats had been awarded on the basis of share of primary votes statewide.
    What is important about Prahan is that the LNP would have won if the ALP had beaten the Greens. This was because more Green voters preferenced the LNP ahead of Labor than Labor voters preferenced the LNP ahead of the Greens. It is not unusual for the final result in an electorate to depend on who comes second after distribution of preferences.
    One way of avoiding this peculiarity is to run two party preferred between say all the parties that make the final three if no-one gets over 50% of the primary votes. With this system a party can win by winning both two party preferred or, no-one wins both, by having the highest combined total for the two party preferred vote.

  11. Just to add, as you seem familiar with the preferences in that seat, could those token independents preferences gotten the greens over the line ?

  12. Jumpy: Most votes win may give a distorted result when you have a situation like two right wing parties and one left wing party. You can have a clear majority of right wing supporters and get a left wing winner. Preference voting avoids this problem.
    Preference voting also allows people to express support for policies being pushed by minor parties without losing their right to have a vote in the real contest.
    BTW, the Animal Justice party preferences almost all went to the Greens. This was one of the reason’s that the Greens in Prahran were able to get ahead of Labor.
    I am interested in Prahran because the Greens took a seat away from the LNP. My branch looks after two of the electorates that get a high Green vote in Qld to the point where they have gone close to beating Labor and just might defeat the LNP on Labor preferences.

  13. You are forgetting, Jumpy, that the LNP is the Liberal and National Party, a coalition. Were they not fused into one organisation, as they very well might not be in the future as many National Party Members would prefer it to be, then the Liberals would be desperate for those National preferences. The Liberals could not win an election against Labour on their own, hence the Coalition. Be careful what you wish for.

  14. Chaps, the ALP and greens are just as much a coalition as Lib/Nat, their deals together are done the same.
    I don’t consider left or right in voting , just what fits my preferred future.
    Just between you, the lamppost and I, Goss got my vote over Bob Ballbag. ( sorry bout the pokies but I’ve met Ballbag, say no more )
    At the moment FF policies look least harmful and least intrusive ( except their homo mariage objection, that’s inevitable, and rightly so ) and a candidate is running here.
    They’re not the bible bashers I thought they were ( thanks to MSM and spin doctors ) but very choice orientated.
    And I prefer once my choice is made, that’s it. No second bites for anyone.

  15. Preferences give you an opportunity to express your preferences in a nuanced way. If your first preference doesn’t get up you express a choice between the remaining candidates.It has the great advantage that you make the choice and do not have party apparatichs making your choice for you with dodgy preference deals. Certainly more democratic than first past the post.

  16. ALGP, Jumpy, my point exactly. But you can have your finite vote, just select or don’t select your preferences appropriately.

  17. BilB @ 14, In Qld the LNP is one organisation, though if you scratch the surface you might find Liberal and National factions. The problem was that in decentralised Qld the Nats were numerically stronger and many city conservatives preferred a Labor premier to a country one.

  18. My comment, Brian, was that preferential voting makes coalitions by default, and that without coalitions we have a 4 horse race not a 2 horse race in our elections Nats, Libs, Labour, Greens.

  19. Well, I’ll stick to my simple and fair “1:2” concept. Only two marks on the ballot paper: 1 for first choice, with a full vote – and 2 for second choice, with that being worth only half-a-vote.

    Now don’t try to tell me modern computers can’t handle a decimal point.

    That concept would be give a faster and more accurate result, a result that would reflect the voters’ real wishes and be far less easily manipulated. However, few of the political game-players and back-room boys would welcome such a radical improvement.

  20. BilB @19: For your statement to hold the LNP coalition would have to field two candidates in each seat they contested – one Lib and one NP.
    No matter how aligned their policies, the ALP and the Greens have never been in coalition – witness the ALP preference arrangements which placed the Greens behind (for example) Family First.

  21. Putting technicalities and our political preferences aside I think the worst possible outcome would be a government reliant upon cross bench members.
    That a government can turn on the strength of a few hundred votes is a bit crazy.
    Is there a perfect system? I doubt it.

    My most likely take is the LNP will be significantly reduced in number but still be in power. Newman has some chance in his seat but he might also need to update his résumé soon.
    Our member for Cook is outstanding yet somehow the polls (apparently) place him at risk. If voters have forgotten the previous member for Cook already then we top the country for memory loss.

  22. GB: The senate minor party vote is usually higher than the house of reps minor party vote. This suggests that what Australians actually want is a clear decision re who forms government coupled with a mechanism (such as an upper house with proportional preference voting) that acts as a check and balance by being able to block government legislation apart from supply.
    I can see no fair reason why the value of preferences should be less than that of a primary vote.
    One reason for suggesting what I did @10 is a desire to remove the need for strategic voting. The sort of voting where you don’t vote for the party you really prefer in order to reduce the risk of a party you detest winning.

  23. Thatcis a fair point, Zoot, but on reflection there is little difference between a pre coalitioned party and one coalitioned by preferences from a voters choice point of view. I think the argument stands firm.

  24. John D. @ 23: Your dislike of a system that devalues a preferential vote is understandable …. however, my intent in proposing the simple !:2 voting system was to eliminate a whole truckload of tricks and rorts in a single stroke – the last Senate election was a fine example of how the voters can be manipulated and of how our system of “democracy(??)” was brought into disrepute – yet again.

    Further, my intent was to have a means of helping voters make a considered choice of who they actually do want to speak for them in the Senate. Naturally, candidates’ position on the ballot paper would have to be determined randomly by a fair and verified raffle, otherwise the back-room manipulators would turn a massive donkey-vote into a licence to misgovern and plunder us.

    This measure alone would not save us from the amoral scum-of-the-earth and other thieves; there would have to be radical and incorruptible reforms of candidate pre-selection and of vote counting, scrutineering and reporting as well.

  25. GB: My take is that the Greens are supported by a better educated, better informed, better… set of voters compared to those that support larger parties whose representatives keep on appearing in NSW courts charged with questionable activities. So if we are going to have a system that gives more say re who the government will be to the supporters of a particular party logic says…..
    The problem with the Senate voting system is that it allows people to vote above the line and leave it to party officials to allocate preferences on the basis of questionable deals with other parties. The problem is made worse because voting below the line is not optional preference and any excuse is used to declare a vote completely invalid if there is a minor area below the line.
    Most of the problems with the Senate would be solved if people could allocate preferences above the line (or similar) and preferences were optional.

  26. BilB @25:
    So the Green voters who preference the LNP (they exist) are voting for an LNP/Green coalition??

  27. Yes they are, and if those preference votes pulled the LNP over the line there would be a new coalition, albeit a totally dysfunctional one from the Greens point of view. Political Leaders routinely use the line “the voters have spoken and have given a mandate for….”. But if that were ever taken seriously then a million voters who voted for the Greens but gave their preferences to the LNP would have to reflect on both LNP and Greens future policy development, regardless of who won the toss.

  28. It would be interesting to compare 2 lines of percentages. ( for those that choose the option not to ” just vote 1″)
    1) voting preferences 1st and 2nd be it 1G/2ALP, 1ALP/2G, 1G/ 2LNP, 1ALP/2LNP, even1FF/2G……(all combinations that produce MPs, seat by seat )
    2) MP votes on the floor ( who sides with who in final votes on legislation )

    Crunch the numbers and see which party most respects the voters that put them 1st , and in relation to the 2nd preference ” leaning “.

  29. This is all a bit too sophisticated for me. But while walking the dogs today and avoiding a feral pig, I wondered just how this conversation might be shaped if we had become a republic.

  30. I wondered just how this conversation might be shaped if we had become a republic.

    For all intents and purposes we are Geoff, a beautiful sovereign nation.
    To un-sophistcate it, ” our shit is our shit ” as the young patriots say.

  31. John D @ 27: That is food for thought.

    BilB @ 29: the use of the “Mandate” fairy-tale should be made a criminal offence. Except for a referendum, the only thing anyone votes for or against is a candidate who is supposed to then represent the overall interests of the electorate – nothing else!
    If you vote for a candidate who shares – or seems to share – your point of view on a few subjects and they get elected, the best you can expect is a kind smile. Nothing else. The person elected can then run off with a free licence to do whatever they like or what their party’s goons tell them to do without any reference whatsoever to you. That’s your mandate.
    You can wail and protest all you like but it will do you no good at all. A few years later, public opinion will be professionally manipulated so as to get the boofhead re-elected.
    The process is called “democracy(??)” and it is so good we feel compelled to impose it on every nation on earth.

  32. Graham, concerning mandate, I like what Annastacia Palaszczuk is doing in relation to vegetation laws. The LNP changed the vegetation management laws introduced earlier by Labor. Palaszczuk has indicated that Labor in power will essentially change them back again, but is leaving the exact form to consultation with farmers, Agforce and other interested parties. She has promised to “get the balance right”.

    So it’s really a promise to consult appropriately before acting.

    Fair enough, I’d say.

  33. Annastacia, Clive, Abbott all repealing freshly minted laws of the previous government. Adds massively to low confidence levels and uncertainty. If you want private sector growth it is good to have some confidence that legislation is not going to change too much in the reasonable future. Even if the laws are not fantastic it is usually better to re-shape them over time and not repeal so quickly.
    Of course well considered laws are best but with our political landscape so divided the best outcomes are seemingly unavailable.
    I don’t think that a policy of repealing laws is good for the country.

  34. GH: There are always going to be times when there are fundamental disagreements between parties that are important enough to the parties that the laws will be changed when there is a change of government.
    Business leaders with half a brain understand this and make decisions on the basis of the views of both the government and opposition. For example, commitments on investment in large scale renewables came to a screeching halt as soon as it became obvious that Abbott was no longer supportive of the Howard government’s RET scheme.
    Since then the only large scale investments have been made under the ACT’s contract based renewable auction scheme. I am not sure what the ACT opposition thinks of the ACT scheme but, no matter what they think, they would be unable to cancel contracts without paying fair compensation.
    Smart governments will either take the effort to create a consensus for what they are doing, build up public support to the point where an incoming government would be foolish to repeal (think Medicare) or use contracts or other mechanisms so that at least the action taken during their period of government are difficult to reverse completely.

  35. Thanks John, I agree with you partially. But

    “…commitments on investment in large scale renewables came to a screeching halt as soon as it became obvious that Abbott was no longer supportive of the Howard government’s RET scheme.”

    I think it is more the case that the investment dollars went elsewhere. A classic example you would know of is the difficulty getting a wind farm up and running in Victoria. The investment shifted elsewhere; shifted to a location (maybe South Australia) where there was/is a large degree of certainty of government renewable policy. This was a reaction by large scale investors and I was amazed that the Vic government failed to act to staunch the flow of opportunity.

  36. GH: This article says that:

    Investments in renewable energy rose to record levels globally in 2014 but fell sharply in Australia because of uncertainty triggered by the Abbott government’s review of the industry, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said……..

    The Australian tally in fact masks a much steeper dive for large-scale renewable plants as small-scale solar PV largely held its own in 2014 even as state-based support schemes were wound back further.
    “Four wind farms are currently under construction, but these signed contracts before the last RET review,” said Darren Gladman, the acting policy director for the Clean Energy Council.
    “No more projects in the country have imminent construction plans.
    “Australia is not just at risk of falling behind the rest of the world on renewable energy, we have already slipped off the back of the wave. We have some of the best sun, wind and waves in the world, but this new research shows that we are squandering some of our huge natural advantages.”
    Fairfax Media sought comment from Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has sought to cut the country’s renewable energy target from the current goal of 41 terawatt-hours annually by 2020 to as low as 27tWh.
    So far, the Senate has blocked such a move but uncertainty over whether and when the goal will be reset has made it almost impossible to raise financing for new projects.
    “Labor has offered to reopen negotiations around the RET in the interest of returning the policy to the bipartisanship that saw jobs in the industry triple while Labor was in government,” said a spokeswoman for Mark Butler, the opposition spokesman for the environment.

    This is in line with the information i am getting from other sources. The ACT contract based scheme is the only scheme still driving investment in large scale renewables.

  37. Brian @ 35: “consult appropriately before acting”? That would be a welcome change; hope you are right.

Comments are closed.