Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) is currently the subject of “frenzied debate” in Australia’s political circus, sharing media time that is dominated by war propaganda relating to Libya and Afghanistan with the four-decade-long debacle over what to do about boat people arriving on our shores from countries destroyed by our US-Led resource wars, the “critical issue” of Gay Marriage and fading interest in the welfare of animals exported live for ill-treatment, such as David Hicks.
I am witnessing this discussion (with absolutely no means to participate in it other than to drive a truck to Canberra and bellow at the walls) from a perspective not typical of Australians. In the recent year that I lived in Poland I enjoyed Fast, Reliable internet with unlimited download, which at 70Zl per month (around $25AUD) was also quite Affordable. This is something I look back on wistfully here in Australia where I struggle with a definitely not Fast, wireless connection to my ISP who limits me to 5Gb/month download. Given that it loses connection sometimes as often as 4 or 5 times in an hour it’s also not Reliable and at $49/month (almost double what I paid in Poland) it’s also not what I would call Affordable, although in the steeply inclined scale of affluence here, some of my countrymen scoff disdainfully at this assertion.
I can only assume that after the government has spent an incomprehensible sum to establish a replacement for these shabby internet provisions the cost of internet will be less, not more Affordable and that disdainful scoffing at those who find it expensive or entirely unaffordable will simply move up the affluence ladder.
For a long time Australian politics has been a game of tennis in which the umpire has the call by declaring that an election victory for this or that party would be good or bad for US-Australian relations and the Australian public have been mere spectators for whom the “live coverage” has provided interpretation of every observable event, indeed, even to the point of deciding which events are observable and informing them, through the vehicle of “scientifically and statistically objective” polling, exactly what their opinions are. As the ball flies up and down the court, the parties take turns in office and change leaders at will while the open-mouthed heads of the public swing back and forth like side-show clowns the nation’s wealth and independence steadily evaporate to the ravages of mining companies and speculators who control the nation’s boom and bust economy and government.
As the government market their NBN with the catchy “Fast, Affordable, Reliable”, slogan a political opposition that the media has managed to elevate to the status of government in waiting pending a double dissolution, despite the lack of a coherent policy on any of the issues, is already exposing the game-plan in its talk of selling off the NBN immediately they take office. If the situation were reversed it would be they who are spending the country’s mining boom windfall on internet infrastructure and the current incumbents asserting they would sell it when returned to office.
Key among the selling points of the NBN (i.e. selling to the entrepreneurial and affluent classes with real political influence, of course) is the contention that the internet has recently been valued as worth $50bn to the Australian economy. Shareholding capitalists can again salivate at the thought of millions of consumers frantically transacting in a wealth generating frenzy sustained on the back of a high cost internet infrastructure entirely paid for by the taxpayer at no cost to them.
This, of course rests on the assumption that the internet will principally serve business, commerce and consumerism. The government would never dare to mention the possibilities for free information exchange and political activism of the kind that would allow the lower orders of society to acquire and flex some political might. In fact, the absurdly named Minister for Broadband, Mr Stephen Conroy has been a staunch advocate of an Australian Internet Firewall (AIF), a measure that is clearly intended to address just this problem. Compared to the AIF China’s alleged suppression of internet political activism will seem amateurish. The Minister’s enthusiasm for the firewall ostensibly derives from his wish to protect Australian families from such evils as child pornography, terrorism and other illegal activities potentially facilitated by the internet.
While most of us realise that policing of illegal activity is not about attempting to make such activity impossible, at cost of impeding other quite legal activities, it’s only the question of cost that has stalled the government’s plan; an obstacle that may disappear with the establishment of the NBN. There is also the issue that the public may not trust the government to confine itself to blocking access only to sites that match its stated parameters and that once blocked the public has no means of determining for itself what has been blocked. The plan has the appearance of a return to the dark old days when the public was treated like children by paternalistic governments that presumed to decide what the public should see or should not. I have written to the minister on the subject of the AIF airing these concerns only to receive replies that indicated the Minister (or his representative) has never engaged in an exercise of reading and comprehension; the responses contained cut-and-paste passages of policy that bore no relation to my concerns. For now, the bill has gone to ground to await a calming of public opposition and the advent of some shock event that will provide cover for the bill’s stealthy passage into law.
Absent the internet, Australians who thirst for a view of world affairs more honest and open to differing viewpoints than that currently available from the Corporate Mainstream Media would have no freedom of choice at all. For example, we would have no source of information other than to watch the BBC’s reporting of the ransacking and looting Gaddafi’s complex. The BBC news presenters are remarkably tranquil in their description of these scenes, looking for words less emotive than “vandalising” and “looting” to describe what is going on and taking care to note with a supportive tone that these people perceive this property to be their own property of which they have been robbed. Even without the internet we can recognise the parallels with the riots in London and we realise that almost certainly, the rebels are looting and burning also the shops and homes of pro-Gaddafi supporters and we understand that only in the flexible morality of the BBC is this any different to the feeling London rioters may have when their government has spent their country into bankruptcy rescuing banks from the free market in which they had played loose and lost but nevertheless felt worthy of self-congratulatory bonuses. However, without the internet, or perhaps with an internet subject to Mr Conroy’s AIF we would have no insight to the reality of NATO’s effort to “protect civilians” or the true nature of the rebels and their cause or the Character of the National Transition Council.
Public Funds into Private Profit
Given Australia’s three-decade-long history of bipartisan support for privatisation we can be fairly sure that as the government tacks to port with Gillard/Labor at the helm and to starboard with Abbot/Liberal and then back again, steadily advancing Australians into the New World Order we will see the NBN established at great cost to the taxpayer, packaged up with the AIF and then sold off at a bargain basement price to private capital, after which it will definitely not be affordable to Australia’s “underclass”. Telstra – Australia’s private monopoly telecommunications provider has been rewarded for its incompetent, unimaginative attempt at internet delivery with a multi-billion dollar compensation buyout of its right to the internet monopoly. It seems that the free market and capitalism can safely be depended on to do all things – solve our environmental problems, find new technologies to overcome all of the disasters created by past technologies, seamlessly carry on when our fossil fuel supplies are exhausted, even feed a burgeoning population – but it seems to have difficulty providing the infrastructure it needs to do all these things.
In reality, of course, this highly predictable course of events is just one of a great many scams that transform public funds into private profit. Probably one of the most blatant, iconic examples of this process of government collaboration in private profit is the Melbourne freeway system where the hundreds of miles of freeways extending to the far-flung extremities of the greater metropolitan area were built and are owned and maintained by the government at great expense to the taxpayer. However, the key sections, the short segments that link them together near the inner city are privately owned. This criminally corrupt arrangement could not be more obvious if the private company (aptly named CityLink) owned and maintained only the 50 metre stretches that contained the toll-points.
Public transport, telecommunication, energy and water have all, after privatisation risen dramatically in price to astronomical levels that have decimated the “disposable income” of most Australians forcing a large proportion of them into consumer debt. The post-privatisation “watchdogs” have all been quietly tethered to their kennels and subdued with the explanation to the public that revenue is needed to maintain and improve the infrastructure for the future. But many of us wonder what happened to the time when capitalism required that a business raise funds on the share market to pay for capital development needed to provide a service for sale at profit, returning dividends to the shareholders who invested and own the capital. It seems now (despite much-talked-about “competition” among on-sellers) the understanding is that consumers must pay for the capital development creating an asset they never will own but must pay ever-increasing prices to use it.
In the world of Tourism, every level of government, Federal, State and Local invest in promoting tourism, something sensible thinkers ought to regard as the responsibility of resorts, tour operators, hotels and restaurants that profit from tourism. However, governments seem to think taxpayers ought to be happy to pay for the privilege of having a job.
Internet and the Class War
Like the development of the Printing Press and the invention of electronic communications, the Internet is playing a key role in the Class War.
In Australia, the development of the NBN and AIF also provide key examples of the kind of corrupt intrigues being played out in the Class War by a fraudulent democratic system aided and abetted by a corrupt corporate media. The role of corporate-dominated government in transferring public funds to corporate profit, not just by criminally aggressive war but also by corruption of infrastructure development has been to accelerate the widening of the wealth gap. Australians are temporarily protected from the harsh consequences of these processes such as are being experienced in the UK, US and Europe but the boom side of Australia’s boom-and-bust economic policy will soon turn to bust and the transformation will be rapid.
Violence on the streets with harsh, even more violent retaliation by the instruments of the state – probably leading to even worse violence in the streets – is not the answer.
These problems will not be solved by the working and unemployed classes. To leave it to them to fight by violence and destructive confrontation with the state is the most immoral and unconstructive approach imaginable. Yet the problems must be resolved.
A revolution is inevitable and necessary because the present state of things is not sustainable, but the revolution need not be violent and destructive.
The educated, professional and intellectual classes have hitherto paid lip service to all of the ostensible upright qualities of western society, of law and order, social justice, ethical business conduct and so on whilst quietly accepting their salaries, being wilfully deceived by the obvious lies and distortions of the mainstream media and avoiding the embrace of any opinions that might rock the boat or compromise their position in it. Everywhere, the odd few dissenters who have shown courage and integrity have paid a price in terms of career termination of financial disadvantage.
But it is at these levels, especially in accounting, business, education and law, where intellectuals need to begin thinking for themselves, applying their professions with independence, integrity and courage to force change, to identify crime and corruption, bring it to the fore and work for prosecution, to lend their credibility to the need for change and reform by being vocal about the causes of the evils that are afoot.
The time has come for the thinking professional people responsible for the running of this system to come out from behind the cover of the convenient lies supplied by a corrupt corporate media and see the reality that lies before us. This is Class War and the middle-classes have much more in common with the working and unemployed classes than the psychotic wealthy elites whose greed and corruption has led us to the brink of economic, environmental and social collapse.
The internet – especially a Fast, Reliable and Affordable internet – offers the means for this sane revolution and it’s high time the most intellectually capable members of society took some responsibility for applying it.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|