ARCHIVES 1997-2007  --- ARCHIVES 2007 +
  JUNE 2012

Is my local member in this incarnation.   Prior to Rudd's election as PM in 2007
I noticed Malcolm in the news for three things.  These were his successful defense of an English spy,  his participation in the startup company ozemail and his leadership of the Republican debate in a referendum on that issue.  He took over as leader of the opposition from Brendan Nelson in September 2008 and was displaced by the present Opposition leader Tony Abbott in December 2009.  The proximate cause of this displacement was his attitude to the carbon tax.

Malcolm Turnbull is currently the shadow minister for communications and broadband.

I would like to give a bit of feedback on how I think he is doing his job, what I think of his policies and opinions.

THE NBN is a central part of Malcolm's shadow ministry for communications and broadband.  In his derogation of the NBN he is spot on.  His profession is lawyer, so I suppose he looked after the IPO part of Ozemail.  Regardless, he seems to have picked up considerable technical knowhow, probably from his associates.

The NBN is a waste of money.  For instance, it promises a transfer rate of one gigabit (~ 10^9) per second. Problem is, if you want to communicate with somebody in a place other than Australia at that rate you will probably not be able to.  Because the transpacific pipe from Australia is around six terabits per second (that is ~ 10^12 = 1,000,000,000,000).  That means that we can operate 6,000 connections each at that top speed of 1 Gbit/s (10^9 = 1,000,000,000) between Australia and the US. Or if people everybody opted for the "slow" 100 Megabit connection, then we could squeeze in 60,000 user connections.

But we have more than 60,000 users in Australia.  Let's check with Wikipedia. 
Circa June 2012 there are about eight million internet connections in Australia.  That means each connection's share of that six terabits is about one megabit.  So if we want to have the benefit of all that NBN speed of 1000 Megabits, (that's one Gigabit) then we would have to expand our pacific pipe by about 1,000 times!!  At about $130 million per terabit, that would cost about $800 billion.  Allowing for scale effects, it would still cost around $500 billion.

At the moment, according to NBNmyths we have an average connection speed of around 2 Megabits.  Hate to say it, but when everybody gets connected to the NBN, downloads from the USA will not speed up significantly unless we add more bandwidth to that pipe.

Of course in reality it is not quite that bad.  We can use things like squid to store often downloaded (non-pirated) stuff,  and it is unlikely that many people in the USA have gigabit connections anyhow.

Let me try to explain in terms of a travel simile.  It is like having airlinks all over Australia, but having to rely on a sailing ship to get to the USA.  So if you leave your home in Broken Hill for New York.  You can fly to Sydney in a few hours.  Then it takes six weeks by sailboat to San Francisco, where you can hire a fast car and travel across the USA in a few days.  That is a metaphor for what is going to happen to our internet when we have the NBN.   All that extra speed is great if your doctor wants to talk to you across Australia in HDTV, but that is the extent of the benefit.  If your doctor is in New York, you better call him off peak on a webcam.

Another problem is cost.  If we divide $50 billion by eight million connexions, that gives over $6,000 cost per connection. I am not so naive that I believe that I am not going to have to pay for that outlay.  Even at 8% interest rate, the service cost (without repaying the principal) of that loan would be around $40/month.  and remember, that is before we pay all the maintenance people, and the downstream provider gets his cut.  I know they promise all sorts of stuff, but even now my 12 gigabit connection is better value than their entry level service.

FURTHER COMMENTS ON NBN.  For most efficient debunking of the NBN I have copied a page from "NBN myths" and show how (on what appears to be an astroturfed site) the authors (allegedly "Jamie") have selectively planted "facts" about the NBN.

DEMOCRACY.  I am a constituent of Wentworth.  I get Malcolm's newsletter.  He actually asks us what we think.  I assume that (within the strictures of "party line" voting) he would actually vote how a majority of his constituents requested.  I also assume that he would make known in the party room how his constituents felt about issues.

THE REPUBLIC   Malcolm appears to be a dyed in the wool Republican. I have issues with that.

The powers given by our constitution to the Governor General of Australia probably exceed those of the US President.  He can sack Parliament and rule by decree.  As I understand it, he can do everything that an absolute monarch can do.  He cannot originate taxation bills.  And incidentally, I believe the oath of fealty by our armed forces is to the Governor General as the Queen's representative, not the parliament.  So you might begin to understand why no politicians want to allow we the people to elect a Governor General.  If we did, he would become a de facto president.  With even greater powers than the US president.  And our parliament might well be limited to a legislative role.

All well and good.  But that is where my issues begin.  If Parliament appoints the Governor General (aka President) and rewrites the constitution as threatened, then THE QUEEN CANNOT SACK HIM.  And we could have a situation where a rogue parliament could legally declare a dictatorship (with the connivance of a disempowered Governor General.  And frankly, I prefer to trust that a Queen on the throne of the UK would maintain a more balanced approach to Democracy in Australia.  We have all seen how we can elect a parliamentary leader who gets overthrown by parliamentarians who represent only (at most) only 15% of the electorate.  (If you do not know what I am talking about, you are probably a union boss.)

I believe that a carbon tax is a good idea, not because I would expect it to stop "global warming" (about which I have written on many occasions) but because a tax would help to make the use of energy resources more efficient.  However Australia should not attempt to lead the world.

Carbon Dioxide is not a pollutant.

Pollutants should be taxed at their cleanup rate.

Unfortunately (like the immigration question) the unions and corporations can see that a carbon tax will cost them jobs.   Of course "Fair Work" also costs jobs, but mostly not union jobs, at least for a few years anyhow.