So how should I cover Budget 2012?

I’ve commented on the Budget for Crikey every May since Labor took power in 2007. This year will be no exception. But what will I say?

In 2008 I criticised Rudd’s slow digital revolution.

Dig into Budget Paper No. 2 and there’s a frustrating lack of detail and commitment.

Of $4.7b promised for the National Broadband Network [this was the original 12Mbps fibre to the node policy], only 0.16% has been committed: $2.1m this financial year and $5.2m next for “establishment and implementation”. The remaining 99.84% — you know, actually building the thing — is all “nfp”. Not for publication. We’ll get back to you…

The rest? All. Too. Slow. And. Vague.

In 2009 I complained that the machinery of Australian government is as outdated as the steam locomotive and the electric telegraph in The Budget? How quaint! They’re just made-up, you know.

Here we imagine that once a year we can produce a Big List of Numbers that’ll cover everything our “modern” nation-state will need to deal with for the next 365 days.

We proclaim it Good or Bad for this or that self-interested sector of the community on the basis of a quick glance, a gut reaction, and the need to create a narrative that’ll attract an audience or justify a pre-existing political zealotry.

We pretend to believe numbers like “$20 million over four years” when only a tiny part of that might be committed in the coming financial year and the rest, still to be confirmed in the next Budget, is therefore nothing but wishful thinking.

The reality, of course, is that the world moves faster than this. We experience a sudden global financial crisis, and must immediately tighten our belts by … um … giving away $900 cash to everyone.

In 2010 I complained of More NBN vagueness, border control and cyber-safety re-allocation. It’s not a bad read, but I’ll leave you to click through to that one.

And by 2011 I was clearly over the whole thing, writing Ritual shenanigans, but hey, this is government.

Riddle me this. What is the actual point of the federal budget process and all the lock-up shenanigans that go with it when the biggest bucket of money related to the technology sector by far, that National Broadband Network thing, isn’t even on the books?

What is the point when the way that NBN money is being spent – and is it $26 billion or $36 billion or $43 billion or that $50 billion scare-number that Malcolm Turnbull pulled out of some random orifice and keeps repeating unchallenged? – it is all SEKRIT thanks to those magic words “commercial confidentiality”…

What is the point of this annual ritual – built on the assumption that we can publish a set of numbers in May that will, in this complex and rapidly changing world, still be meaningful six months down the track – when the government has to respond to changing circumstances? Such as urgently building a fibre-to-the-premises network? Or responding to a global financial crisis? Or starting a land war in Asia? Or handing to every taxpayer $900 because, um, oh, shut up stop asking questions and buy a new TV.

I went on about “$20 million in suck-up-to-Tasmania funding” and “Labor’s half-arsed internet ‘filtering’ policy” and “loud-mouthed entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan” and noted:

Just be aware that all of this could be changed in an instant, budget process or not, if a minister gets on a plane with the Ranga-in-Chief with a few numbers scribbled on the back of an envelope.

So, what the fuck will I end up writing once the budget papers drop onto government websites tonight? Especially given that my shoulder is “out” and I won’t be able to get it fixed until tomorrow afternoon — my birthday! — and I’m scoffing codeine? Suggestions please!

Talking NBN rollout on ABC Local Radio

NBNCo announced the three-year rollout plan for Australia’s National Broadband Network today, explaining when (roughly) they’ll lay fibre or make fixed wireless available to 3.5 million out of the country’s 10 million premises.

So far there’s really only just been time for straight reportage from the launch and set-piece criticism from the opposition. It’ll take a few days at least, perhaps even a week, before analysts have done real analysis on who’s getting the network when and whether that’s been decided by politics rather than practicalities.

(Of course one way around that would have been far greater transparency from NBNCo, including putting their raw data and the software they used online for all to see and cross-check. But like that’ll ever happen.)

I daresay I’ll end up writing more about this over coming weeks. Meanwhile here’s an interview I just did on ABC 702 Sydney and ABC Regional Radio around NSW with Dom Knight.

Play

The audio is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But these program items usually aren’t archived on their website so here it is.

Weekly Wrap 93: Sex, security and heartburn

My usual weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. This post covers the week from Monday 12 to Sunday 18 March 2012 — posted late thanks to the worst heartburn I’ve ever experienced destroying an entire night’s sleep.

I’ve added a new section, “The Week Ahead”, listing any events that I’ll be attending. While I often post about future events individually, and my schedule does change at short notice, this will at least help plug a few events that until now I’ve only mentioned on Twitter.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 129, “Future security: big data or Big Brother?” A lunchtime conversation with RSA executive chairman Art Coviello, including a discussion of the boundaries between reasonable data analysis and unreasonable surveillance, and a serve for the media failing to report the good news following RSA’s security breach last year, when the loss of information on their SecurID log-in tokens was later used in an attack on defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday there was free food and drink to be had at the launch of Sexpo.

The Week Ahead

Elsewhere

Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream (or they used to before my phone camera got a bit too scratched up). The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Gang-Gang Cockatoo, one of the more unusual avian visitors to Bunjaree Cottages. Do note that I resisted the temptation to combine “sex” and “gang-gang” in the headline.]

Most popular posts of 2011

As has become my wont, at the end of each year I do a series of posts looking back at what I’ve done and how people reacted. This is the first, a list of the most-read posts from 2011.

There’s not a lot to choose from this year. Most of my writing has been elsewhere. But there’s some interesting results nonetheless.

  1. Right, Google, you stupid cunts, this is simply not on! I’m not surprised this is the most-read, but it simply wouldn’t have gotten the attention it did if it weren’t for the c-word. I’ve actually received quite a few compliments about this post.
  2. I just don’t get LinkedIn, do you?
  3. Follow Politics & Technology Forum people on Twitter.
  4. Patch Monday: There are no NBN apps: Turnbull. Given that this is actually just linkage to the podcast site, I’m surprised it got this many views.
  5. On stage for the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum, being my plug for the event.
  6. Goodbye, Artemis. I’m hardly surprised this one generated so much traffic. There was so much interest in the demise of this much-loved feline.
  7. So LinkedIn is a giant Rolodex, eh?
  8. Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids
  9. And so begins 2011… in fear, being one of my rare personal pieces.
  10. Google+ gives me grief, generally

Continue reading “Most popular posts of 2011”

The 9pm Edict #15

The 9pm EdictWorld’s most impatient meth cook found in Oklahoma. She couldn’t even wait to get home. Australians are self-obsessed entitled wankers. And won’t someone think of the children? Senator Conroy dropped the f-bomb on national television!

I think he did it deliberately. Watch the video and see for yourself.

Also, Australians are a bunch of wankers with an inflated sense of entitlement.

We are the richest people in the world. And, as Possum of Possum’s Pollytics explained in Crikey last Thursday, we lead the world in everything from decent minimum wages to economic growth over the past decade. Read that article. Please. And while you’re at it, see where you sit on the Global Rich List.

We also hear about the world’s most impatient meth cook.

You can listen below. But if you want all of the episodes, now and in the future, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

[Update 16 December 2011: My comments about Senator Conroy’s f-bomb have sparked some interest. If you’re after that bit, it starts exactly 11 minutes into the program.]

Play

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

CSO: Voluntary filtering removes the controversy

My first op-ed for CSO, “The Resource for Data Security Executives”, has just been posted. It’s voluntary ISP-level internet filtering, but a different angle from my Crikey piece earlier today.

After nearly four chaotic years, Australia’s internet filtering scheme is finally coming together in a way that makes sense technically and politically, if not necessarily for effective child protection.

The chaos wasn’t all communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s fault. The “clean feed” was announced as Labor policy back in March 2006 by then-leader Kim Beazley. ISPs would filter out the nasties hosted overseas, where they couldn’t be hit with a takedown notice from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

But Conroy’s name was on Labor’s Plan for Cyber-safety published just five days out from the federal election in late 2007, and once in government it was Conroy’s job to explain that plan and sell it to voters. Everyone presumably imagined it’d be a protect-the-kiddies no-brainer.

Problem was, neither the plan not Conroy’s explanations were clear…

As I say, it’s my first outing for CSO, but if all goes according to plan there’ll be more. And in case you’re wondering, CSO is a job title. Chief Security Officer.