06 March 2008

Telstra loses court battle over tech sharing

Telstra has lost a High Court case in which it argued it was being unfairly treated by having to share its equipment with its competitors.

Telstra took action against the Federal Government, as well as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and 11 telecommunications companies.

The telco argued that giving its competitors access to its equipment amounted to an acquisition of its property.

Telstra said that this acquisition had to be on just terms as stipulated in the Australian Constitution.

In a unanimous ruling, the High Court has dismissed the case.

The court ruled that the access regime set out in the Trade Practices Act did not mean that Telstra's property was being acquired.

Telstra spokesman Jeremy Mitchell says the ACCC is a rogue government agency which is redistributing the company's investments.

"Under the ACCC's regime, Telstra has to sell some of its services for less than $3, in fact $2.50," he said.

"Now, you can't even get into a taxi cab for that amount.

"The ACCC expects us to deliver broadband on those sort of figures."

The ACCC has welcomed today's High Court ruling.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel says the ruling is a significant one which will remove uncertainty.

"What it does is to make it absolutely clear that part 11c of the Trade Practices Act - and specifically its application to the unconditioned local loop service and the line sharing service - is constitutionally valid," he said.

abc.net, 6 March 2008

03 March 2008

Facebook - the CIA conspiracy

American Dad's conspiracy coverage could benefit from a flick through the Facebook.

Facebook has 20 million users worldwide, is worth billions of dollars and, if internet sources are to be believed, was started by the CIA.

The social networking phenomenon started as a way of American college students to keep in touch. It is rapidly catching up with MySpace, and has left others like Bebo in its wake.

But there is a dark side to the success story that's been spreading across the blogosphere. A complex but riveting Big Brother-type conspiracy theory which links Facebook to the CIA and the US Department of Defence.

The CIA is, though, using a Facebook group to recruit staff for its very sexy sounding National Clandestine Service.

Checking out the job ads
does require a Facebook login, so if you haven't joined the site - or are worried that CIA spooks will start following you home from work -check them out on the agency's own site.

The story starts once Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had launched, after the dorm room drama that's led to the current court case.

Facebook's first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome 'The Diversity Myth', he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company's key areas of expertise are in "data mining technologies".

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel's board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA's
Information Awareness Office
that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects.

Matt Greenop, nzherald.co.nz 08 Aug 2007

ICAC seeks sacking of Wollongong Council

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has recommended Wollongong Council be sacked.

The corruption watchdog has been investigating 14 people in a probe into planning practises at the NSW council, including allegations of sex and bribery for developments.

ICAC Commissioner Jerrold Cripps QC said he had formed the opinion there was "systemic corruption" at the council and that prompt action was required to remedy that.

"I have come to the conclusion that it is appropriate to make this declaration and I do so," he told the inquiry.

Mr Cripps said the recommendation should not be taken as casting suspicion on councillors who were not named as persons of interest in the inquiry.

Councillors Val Zanotto and Frank Gigliotti are persons of interest to the inquiry, while Zeki Esen and deputy mayor Kiril Jonovski were added to that list after being named during the hearings.

Mr Zanotto, who had refused to stand down from the council, took a voluntary leave of absence after Friday's ICAC hearings, the inquiry was told.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay was stood down from her position as parliamentary secretary for health on Friday, after it emerged she agreed to lobby Wollongong city councillors on behalf of developer Frank Vellar, who is also being scrutinised by the corruption watchdog.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma earlier on Monday pledged immediate action if Mr Cripps found the council should be sacked.

"If he makes the recommendation for them to be sacked, they'll be sacked immediately," he told reporters at Warragamba, west of Sydney.

Soon after the ICAC announcement, Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said it was "simply unacceptable" for Wollongong council to continue in its current mode.

"You can't have a Wollongong council operating properly with people sitting on it who have such enormous question marks over them."

News media misinformation

NRL player shot at in Kings Cross

Monday Mar 3 09:37 AEDT

NRL star dodges bullet

Monday Mar 3 11:00 AEDT

Same story, same url, http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=227449

Victoria’s Water Shortage

When we think of deserts we may, have a vision of the Sahara, the Arabia, and the Gobi in China, depending on how geographically aware one is. We normally associate desert with heat, whereas its actual definition lies within the lack of rainfall. Antarctica is also one of the world’s largest deserts.

In Australia, we have the Great Victoria, the Great Sandy, the Gibson and the Simpson deserts. It is no secret that Australia is one of the driest continents in the world. No doubt Burke and Wills would attest to this. There are naturally areas of high rainfall, but are not in the areas where the majority of the population exists.

After the colonisation of the various states of Australia, the government set up the various water authorities within each state. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) was created in 1891, to look after the building and supply of water to the city of Melbourne and its surrounds. Later in the 20th Century it was also responsible for the planning of major roads and arterials. It was later ‘corporatised’ in 1991.

From the MMBW’s inception Melbourne’s water was catered for by the building of storage facilities and dams with respect to the size and needs of the population. Sylvan, Cardinia, Maroondah, are some of the major projects undertaken, with the Thompson being the last.

In the seventies there have been times of water shortage, and the watering of gardens was possible on even week days. In the eighties, the MMBW’s campaign was to “Use Water Wisely”. In the nineties there were also times of water shortage. In recent times, from the 2000’s onwards, we can easily recall times of water shortage. Every decade has had its shortage of water. In the media there is always the mention of the drought. It is therefore of no surprise to the authorities that we live on a dry continent.

Since the trend in global politics is to privatise all government utilities, it is therefore inevitable that most or all of our utilities will be in control of private hands, and possibly in theory in the control of one company. The effects of a monopoly have been proven many times over to be detrimental to the general populous, examples of which are beyond the scope of this document. In the US, laws prevent monopolies from operating. No such laws exist here in Australia.

One solution that the government proposes is one that is cheap and takes away any onus away from it. It’s one that it actively promotes within the media, “Every household a dam”. This directly places the onus on the household owner, where previously this was in the care of the government. There has been no onus laws put forward as the government proposes. In the seventies people who wanted to put in water tanks were forbidden by their local councils, as this would take away revenue from the infrastructure. Currently people who have registered their water tanks, have a higher water bill than prior to registration.

Another solution proposed by the government is that of a desalination plant. Several desalination plants exist in Western Australia, and have been operational for many years.

In countries like Greece and Malta, desalination plants have existed for a long time. The government claims that it is an expensive proposition, but those countries have managed despite a lower GDP per capita than Australia. In this situation the Victorian government, again has been retro - active. The works will be tendered out to a private company, and the price of water will rise significantly. Currently the government sells water to Coca Cola for $1.40 per million litres, whilst the average household payed $0.80 per 1000 litres or over 570 times more than Coca Cola.

In the last generation, there has been an approximate increase in population of 30% in Victoria. Since the ‘corporitisation’ of the water authority in Melbourne, there have not been any new sites developed for water storage or damming. Together with climate change, it is of no surprise that we are currently facing a water shortage. Therefore the direct responsibility for failure to provide the population with adequate water lies within the government.

Australian homes 'among world's least affordable'

Australian and New Zealand homes are the least affordable in the English-speaking world, according to a US-based survey of 227 cities.
The 2008 Demographia study of international housing affordability listed 18 Australian cities in its top 50 of severely unaffordable markets.
The study rates housing affordability in the English-speaking nations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US, UK and Ireland.
The least affordable city in Australia is Mandurah (sixth-least affordable overall), south of Perth, where houses cost 9.5 times a household's average annual income, with Sydney (8.6), Perth (7.6) and Melbourne (7.3) in 11th, 19th and 22nd place overall.
Demographia rates a city's housing market "affordable" when the cost of an average home is three (or less) times average household income, "unaffordable" for four times the average and "seriously unaffordable" for five times.
The Property Council of Australia said state governments needed to release more land, cut back on developer taxes and reduce red tape.
"Australia's dismal performance highlights the need to reverse the policies that created today's artificially inflated house prices", council chief executive Peter Verwer said.
"The survey backs the property council's view that the affordability crisis is caused by land rationing, excessive development charges and dysfunctional development assessment.
"The response of some state governments shows the message is getting through, however, the survey results show more urgent action is required.
"The new Rudd government has demonstrated much needed leadership in committing to five major programs aimed at improving housing affordability."
Only US and Canadian cities featured in the top 50 affordable cities, including Dallas and Kansas in the US and Quebec in Canada.
"The survey tells us there are plenty of affordable cities in the world, it's just that none of them are in Australia", Mr Verwer said.
"On average, Australian families are forced to spend 6.1 times their entire household income to buy a typical home compared with 3.1 times in Canada and 3.6 times in the US, and that's before interest charges."
The survey found the top five least affordable cities in the world included four Californian cities led by Los Angeles, along with Salinas, San Francisco and San Diego with Honolulu in Hawaii coming in at number four.
The survey can be found at www.demographia.com.

©AAP 2008

Substitute suds scam hits Omo

A FATHER and son will face court in Sydney today, charged with importing and selling tonnes of counterfeit Omo washing powder.

The registered owner of Omo, Unilever Australia, referred the matter to Australian Federal Police after discovering retailers in Sydney were selling 9kg buckets of Omo marked ``Made in Indonesia'' for $25.

The genuine product sells for between $35 and $40 and is made in New Zealand.

Further investigation found three companies were involved in the importation and sale of the alleged counterfeit washing powder originating from China.

It will be alleged that between March 2006 and August 2007 about 185 tonnes of counterfeit product - washing powder and buckets - were imported into Australia.

Two men, aged 53 and 32 were charged on summons with selling goods with a falsely applied trade mark.

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of two years jail and/or a fine up to $55,000.

Robyn Ironside, news.com.au February 11, 2008

Trujillo trumpets mobile leadership

A SLEW of new handsets, an upstart operating system and a battle over wireless technologies dominated the massive GSMA mobile conference in Barcelona last week.

With carrier revenue streams shifting from voice calls to data, the show, which attracted more than 55,000 people, was filled with demonstrations of what shape mobile communications will take in the next couple of years.

Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo used a number of high-profile speaking engagements to trumpet the company's Next G network, announcing plans to boost peak data speeds to 42 megabits per second by 2009 and 100 Mbps after that.

"We all remember the days we first rolled out 3G and most of us are still yawning - we didn't see much change in consumer behaviour," he said. "We took a billion dollar bet to change that."

Speaking to The Australian IT, Mr Trujillo said the industry now regarded Australia as a world leader in mobile services. "People are busy talking about the US, Europe, India and China, but we are now leading the world in this wireless phase," he said.

He said the company would continue working with vendor partner Ericsson to upgrade the network using HSPA+ and an emerging technology called LTE (Long Term Evolution) that would eventually deliver speeds of more than 100 Mbps.

Mr Trujillo said he had spent considerable time at the GSMA event looking for new services that could be rolled out by Telstra to take advantage of the planned speed increases on the network.

"There are some exciting things here in terms of delivery of content," he said. "We are starting to see the integration, not just of pre-packaged, but also self-generated content. It's going to be very interesting."

Supporters of the LTE broadband technology chosen by Telstra used the show to highlight what they say are its significant advantages over rival standard WiMax. WiMax proponent Intel used its stand to extol the virtues of the technology, emphasising that it was already commercially available and being rolled out by carriers around the world.

Ian Grayson, AustralianIT February 19, 2008