Well you can’t grow any grain if you ain’t got any rain/Everything except my mortgage blown away

It looks like Costello is taking some reins, there.

The first thing of interest is, again, broadband. Specifically,

“We want to see a situation where a fibre-to-the-node (network) is built (and) built quickly,” Mr Costello said today. “And built on terms which make it affordable to consumers.”

I suppose I’d call myself a Social Technocrat (and why not? It’s meaningless), but this is high-speed internet access. I confess to discomfort that the Treasurer, nee next Prime Minister, refers to consumers, when I would rather he considered the constituency of broadband internet, say, citizens. Yes, I think telecommunications is that important. It shouldn’t be denied to high school students who can’t afford $50 per month. The silly dot-com boom managed to advance fibre-optics wonderfully, and Lord knows our neighbours are taking every advantage of it. Why weren’t/aren’t we? Sure, we have the landmass of Europe and the population of Taiwan. But we have a Treasurer who just handed down his 10th consecutive budget surplus, and not a bad one at that. If he wants to win an election, why not just build the FTTN network and give it out cheap? You can always privatise it later and make the money back, right?

I’ll leave for another time the dicussion of whether the surplus is his, whether he was just around when it occurred, or where he should stand between the two.

The second interesting issue is his insistence that the roll-out won’t take long, and that the government has two consortiums already, each promising not to need any public money. He also said the ACCC wasn’t going to be sidelined. Quite a lot, for a man who is neither Prime nor Communications Minister. It also will come as news to Burgess.

Bear in mind, of course, that this is not government, this is politics. At election time. The most you should expect to receive with these people is a free grain of salt. Maybe. I don’t know where Costello stands on core promises. Even a casual reading of Monbiot though should make one uncomfortable at private infrastructure enterprises that start out with low bids, high praise and big promises.

Finally, I’m not comforted by a government (or just a Treasurer?) insisting that roll-out can be done quickly when they/he have yet to pick a provider – not a judgement I’d want my government to rush. We’re talking about the same people who can’t even make good decisions slowly, after all (although I think the Collins class submarines have stopped being utter shit, now).

On to the point of the Seeger lyrics. The Treasurer has also been talking about something more his line:

Mr Costello also said the price of goods and services such as electricity and petrol will have to rise under a carbon emissions trading scheme.

Actually he didn’t quite explain why. The Australian Government refuses to put up any targets for emission reductions, but the Treasurer tells us that

“If we move to a trading system which is designed to make coal fired power stations less attractive, the electricity that comes from coal fired power stations will become more expensive. There is no such thing as a “cost free” reduction in carbon emissions, he said. “I think it’s a better response than a legislated reduction or a legislated tax, which are other responses,” he said.

He said, he said (I told you the SMH isn’t very good). This doesn’t sound much like the Economics with which I’m familiar, but then it’s a newspaper, not a textbook. What is noteworthy is that the government seems on-board with the idea of being a toxicity purchaser, rather than seller (see my previous post about who buys emissions permissions and who sells them). Shame. But at least he’s warning us that coal is going to become expensive. Which I’m sure is in no way related to the nuclear question (curse my cynical heart!).

Now, we see a theme emerging. The Treasurer also spoke about our recent trade figures (fair’s fair – he is the Treasurer):

“We’re in the worst drought in 100 years and we’re not exporting much in agricultural commodities,” Mr Costello said today.”

Secondly we know during the March quarter that cyclones hit the West Australian coast and affected some of the big mineral exporters and you can’t do much about cyclones.

“We also know that there are in other industry bottlenecks, which are holding back Australian exports and the biggest of course is our coal industry at Dalrymple Bay.”

For the 2IC of a party that makes decent sport of Keating’s recession we had to have, that’s a fair amount of complaining/explaining. And I can’t see those agricultural problems getting any better (tip for our farmer’s: it doesn’t rain any more. Get out while you still can.)

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