nick xenophon

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FIVEaa logoTelstra is Australia’s biggest telco, and owner of the vast majority of the copper customer access network (CAN), the so called “last mile” — and it wants to raise its wholesale prices, charging other telcos 7.2% more.

“The move would affect almost every Australian with a phone line or an internet connection, because Telstra owns most of the copper phone lines that other telcos depend on to service their customers,” reported ABC News.

“The company leases about 4 million line services to rivals and has not raised wholesale prices since 2011.”

On Wednesday I spoke about the distinction between retail and wholesale telecommunications providers, and whether a 7.2% rise is reasonable, with Will Goodings on 1395 FIVEaa — after independent Senator Nick Xenophon has given his views.

Xenophon thought the rise was unreasonable, because Telstra had “gotten $11 billion” from NBN Co. I disagreed on both counts.

For reference, here’s the current Telstra Wholesale rate card (PDF).

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[This article was first published in Crikey on Monday 2 March. Nothing’s changed since then.]

The villain gets thrown off the cliff. He bounces off the rocks into the river and his limp, bleeding form is flushed downstream. Hurrah! But just as our heroes down their first celebratory drinks, the door bursts open and the villain is back — soaking wet and angrier than ever…

“The Government’s plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has effectively been scuttled,” wrote Asher Moses last Thursday when independent Senator Nick Xenophon withdrew support for the Rudd government’s internet “filtering” plans. Opponents of Senator Conroy’s scheme popped open the virtual champagne and started sending congratulatory messages to anti-censorship lobbyists.

But as blogger Kieran Salsone’s headline put it, “Twitterati blow load over Xenophon: Lobbyists still without cigarette”. Despite Senator Xenophon’s announcement, nothing has actually changed and Senator Conroy has yet to comment.

True, any legislation would need support in the Senate from the Coalition or all seven minor party and independent senators. With the Coalition expressing grave reservations and calling the proposal insulting, and with the Greens and now Xenophon opposed too, any legislation would be blocked.

Blocked, that is, unless someone changes their mind.

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Photograph of Anthony Albanese MP

Here’s my letter to my federal MP Anthony Albanese (pictured), which this very moment is rolling off his fax machine.

I’m hoping that Mr Albanese will be able to have some impact on this because he is both Minister for Infrastructure — the Internet is key infrastructure, right? — and Leader of the House of Representatives.

I know that he understands human rights issues because … well, us Marrickville folks just do understand these things, right Anthony? And you certainly knew how to stick it into John Howard when he demonstrated cluelessness.

Like Mark Newton, I also release this letter into the public domain.

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Senator Conroy needs to think a little harder about Internet filtering if he wants Australia to be less like China, I’ve just written in Crikey today.

I reckon Conroy knows the filters are a dud. When that report on the Internet filter trials dropped, he “welcomed” it and was “encouraged” by it, but only The Australian used the word “success”. Not Conroy — a fact his office confirmed to Crikey this morning.

Photograph of Senator Stephen Conroy labelled Cnut of the Week

Last night‘s Stilgherrian Live viewers voted Senator Stephen Conroy (pictured) “Cnut of the Week” by the clearest margin ever. But the actions of his office reported this morning really take the biscuit.

As Australia’s Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy has been spokesman for the ALP’s policy of ISP-level filtering of the Internet. I’ve written about this before, but it’s back in the news this week because it was discussed in Senate Estimates, as Michael Meloni reports.

Conroy, as in December, was accusing critics of the policy like Greens Senator Scott Ludlam of supporting child pornography — a cheap rhetorical trick at the best of times.

This morning, though, news broke that Conroy’s office had tried bullying other critics.

Internode’s Mark Newton was highly critical of the filtering plan and Conroy’s evidence, but he was speaking as a private citizen. It was totally inappropriate for Conroy’s policy advisor Belinda Dennett to attempt to pressure him via Internet Industry Association board members and his employer.

Last year, Senator Conroy agreed with his Coalition predecessor, Senator Helen Coonan, when she said you get into trouble when politicians start picking technologies. Problem is, the ALP’s “cyber-safety” policy specifies “ISP filters that block prohibited content”. Conroy’s stuck with it. But the filters clearly don’t work. And he can’t be seen to back away from Internet filtering — in a trial program which, ironically, was scheduled by his predecessor — because the ALP needs the votes of Family First Senator Steve Fielding and independent Senator Nick Xenophon for other things.

Poor bloke. What is he to do?

Oh, I get it. Social media “guru” Laurel Papworth has to kill time before her Saudi trip gets sorted out. So what does this visionary of society’s future do? She ropes me into a blogging meme. How modern. How avant garde!

How… 2005.

Laurel was tagged three months ago and is only getting to it now. And they’re not even real ropes!

Is that enough slagging-off? Shall I get on with it now?

Actually this will be fun on a Saturday morning. It’s been ages since I’ve done one of these. Here goes…

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The Victorian government is going to ban ATMs from gaming venues.

So, just because some people get suckered into shoving all their money into addictive machines, the rest of us are denied the convenience of withdrawing cash at the pub when we’re running short. Instead we have to go down the street — where we can be mugged more easily.

Here’s a thought. If gaming machines are the problem, why not get rid of the gaming machines?

Oh, that’s right. 8% of Victoria’s revenue comes from gaming machine taxes [PDF file], a total of 13% from gambling of all kinds.

Chairman Rudd has already said he supports Nick Xenophon’s push to remove ATMs from gaming areas. Xenophon doesn’t even become a Senator until 1 July, but already he’s an object of sincere and deep affection.

We’d already started to see the rise of a new wowserism. Imagine what it’s going to like when the balance of power in the Senate is held by Xenophon and Family First’s Senator Steve Fielding! If you thought we’d seen dull conformity before…