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Microsoft Critiques Australian IT Policies 174

StorminNorman writes: "Microsoft have criticised the Australian Government's handling of IT policy. It's not the first time they've done this either. Basically they talk about the lack of competition in the Australian broadband market, as well as the current Australian Government's boneheaded IT policy. Story here." Source aside, what do Australians (and anyone else for that matter) think of the conclusions? For a company which on some fronts decries government intervention, Microsoft seems to have a different tack here.
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Microsoft Critiques Australian IT Policies

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  • While I agree with these points, I find it ironic that Microsoft, of all companies, is complaining about "insufficient competition". And, with the US's current situation as far as AOL/TimeWarner and AT&T is concerned, they shouldn't be throwing rocks regarding the broadband market.
  • by SirFlakey ( 237855 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @12:37AM (#505377) Homepage
    Ok , firstly to remark on the timing of that release. As many US people are aware Australians love to hate our local communications carrier Telstra - and mostly for a good reason too, what some US people might not have realized is that the Aussie government had this grand plan [theage.com.au] of outsourceing a lot of public IT work (link from the same paper as the one mentioned in the article). This was no chicken feed deal either - $5 billion dollars worth (~ $US 2.8 billion) - but the plan looks to have crashed and a lot of IT companies banking on this deal got burned. Most likely some companies with reasonable ties to MS as well (Wang would come to mind - MS outsources it's own stuff as well).

    So the timing is "peculiar". Also, as some people pointed out, this is not new - Uncle Bill came downunder about 6 months ago and spoke at length about why Australian broadband had a long way to go etc etc ..(tried to find the link for this but couldn't oh well..it was done via webcast to all major Australian Universities)

    Or perhaps it is because Bill is a little pissed about his treatment in the media [looksmart.com.au] (check out the headings on this search done of the fairfax web search =))

  • For reference, I'm not an Aussie (proudly USA).

    One thing that has not been addressed..

    I realize that any individual on the planet has the right to an opinion (some governments do not allow this right). But globally, what right does a corporation have to publish an opinion, and whose opinion gets published (CEO, stockholders, etc.)?

    Assuming that a corporation does not have the same rights of speech that an individual does (treading on very thin ice here since I'm too tired to do the research right now), how the heck does microscrew expect their stupid commentary to influence anything? (Insert flames here)

    Yes, Australia does have some interesting (and wrong) policies, but where does microscrew get the right to tell a sovereign what to do?

    Gates: Hey France, you have less than 95% microscrew usage. Pick it up or we will install a virus into all your wine.
    France: Shove it.
    Gates: Licenses just jumped up 300%. Hahahaha.

  • Actually the majority of information systems in Federal and State governments do use MS products. I've worked in two Federatl Departments and two State Departments recently, and due to deals with EDS and Compaq, almost everything rolls with MS.
  • Our present government is composed of traditional right wing 1950s white picket fence conservatives. One of the few relatively liberal members of the ironically named Liberal party (yes I know the diff between L and l) is in charge of Finance (The Right Incomprehensible John Fahey), and made the decision to outsource the whole of IT for all government departments, including our main government (science organisation [csiro.au], our (small) nuclear research [ansto.gov.au] body and our weather forcasters. He did this for reasons of right-wing political ideology (outsourcing = private industry is good, mmmkay? In-house expertise is bad, mmmkay?) and claimed it would save over a billion $A (about 35 US cents). Needless to say, it didn't, CSIRO, ANSTO and the weather guys said "no", there was an official inquiry which backed up the scientists, and our Minister for Financial Disasters (my local member incidentally) looks like the rugby-playing lawyer he is - a man with no clue about IT.

    Anyway, local industry is happy - they were never even remotely in the running for the Government tenders. Now it's up to the individual govt departments as to when and if to outsource.

    Short form is, when the US has finished with its current President, can we please have him? He seems to have a clue, and we won't let him near any female interns with big hair. You can keep Dubs and Chainsaw tho - we have enough people like that running the country already :-)

  • Yeah but you've got all those lovely snow-capped mountains, and you understand what _real_ football is.
  • by Jeremy Lee ( 9313 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @04:15AM (#505382) Homepage
    [I posted this in response to another comment, but I think it's relevant here too. :-)]

    While I agree that the government here - on IT issues especially - couldn't find it's own arse if it used both hands and a map, I think Microsoft's suggestions are uniformly self-serving and would actually make the situation worse.

    Our vaunted 'deregulation' has turned Telecom from a slothful but competent beauracracy into an agency that gouges more money from Australians than can be imagined, (biggest profits in australian corporate history) while sacking most of the technicians who actually run the system. Remember; they only started charging that $0.17/Mb in 1995 once they'd wrested control of AARNet from the vice-chancellors committee. As for the situation in the bush...

    Frankly, what this nation needs is not more corporate investment and control, but:

    * Nationalization of the telecom infrastructure (yes, you heard me) and deregulation only of services and support. Same for electricity, water, and all basic infrastructure; which is frankly why governments are supposed to exist.

    * Significant government investment in education and basic research. Again.

    * Sane and sensible policy on issues like digital signatures, privacy, and datacasting. (Die! Alston, Die!)

    * Use of government clout to introduce new technology once past the incubator stage, which is where we have traditionally fallen down.

    Of course, none of that is going to happen. I despair.
  • Well, I live in an area in South Australia where I can't get cable (No one in South Oz can), and I can't get ADSL, firstly because I am too far away from the exchange (which they only converted to ADSL September last year) but if I weren't, I would have to pay around AU$99 for a 256Kbit all you can download link. Plus when a telstra contractor comes over to install to for you, it's a windoze system or nothing... I know 3 people that had to make a windoze system just to get it installed, then format the HDD and put a Linux server in place. AND, there have been wide spread complaints about pauses, and computers locking up after the installation (which really pisses off the gamers). AND, the only ADSL gateway is in Melbourne (Victoria) so to ping a server in South Oz, the ping goes to Vic. then back to SA adding 30ms along it's trip. I'm just sick of it. All those people out there with cable and ADSL with ping's around 50ms, and here's me, with my 56Kb with the lowest ping of 200.
  • Another interesting question (which I am not in a position to answer) is why would Microsoft make statements like this to begin with?

    Just like "the russkies don't take a dump without a plan (The Hunt for Red October)", Microsoft does not make a public stink like this without some ulterior motive.

    Any idea what that motive(s) might be?
  • Sadly Microsoft has been pushing governments for centuries. Back in 1974, when I was stationed in Transylvania (working on L4 cache in a CC-NUMA hub) Microsoft invaded the neighboring country of Aquaphobia. We had to deal with all the refugees. Not only that Microsoft infected them with a MELLISSA virus that acts like a chemical agent (007) and causes their lungs to BSOD. Many Aquians died that winter and all we could do was download them into their mass graves (under water of couse as that is their custom). We quickly finished the project and headed back to the states. To this day, I have not step foot in Antartica.


  • Sadly, the Australian government DOES listen to Microsoft. Every time Bill Gates comes out here, politicians fall over themselves to get photographed with him, our sad little prime-minister included.

    It might also have something to do with MS's heavy involvement with the media over here. NineMSN particularly. (Think MSNBC) Politicians are always nice to people with significant media influence.

    And partly it's the tired old "He's the richest man in the world, so he must be right."

    Not that Microsoft doesn't ALREADY have a significant corporate presence here. They may not do much R&D, but their Sales and Certification departments are pretty big.

  • All of this is well and good, provided you live in one of the "chosen suburbs". Telstra is notoriously bad at making newer technologies available to people outside Sydney. For example, living about a hours drive from CBD and no longer can you get cable or DSL (in any of it's forms). Believe me, there are plenty who'd be willing to pay for any form of reasonable broadband access (that doesn't require a satellite to connect to your ISP that is). But for reasons based on Telstra monopolies and local councils taxing cable providers for allowing the cables to exist, broadband ain't coming soon. I think Microshaft has a point, even if they're addressing the wrong crowd.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are a few things that people who are not from Australia need to know: * Until a few years ago there was only one Telecommunications company in Australia, Telecom, now Telstra. When Optus arrives services went throught hte roof and prices came down, things began to improve, as a result we are gaining more infrastructure and services. * The Australian Government is like any other, an old boys club. Richard Alston is an idiot who probably does not know how to program a VCR. The policy relating to Internet Censorship (aka. The Information Control policy) was going to need new tecknology to get it working as I dont know any programmer who could figure out how to do it fully. * Hardly any R&D is done in this country. A prime example of this is our medical tech. we have some of the best medical researchers, doctors and breakthoughs here, unfortunately they all need to go off-shore to be developped as the facilities to further are not here. This is symtomatic of many areas and it is due to the lack of R&D done here. The IT area is up there, we are better than many countries, but we do not have the facilities and infrastructure due to only recently (in the last few years) getting some major telelcommunications competition. Australia is a country that does not have the infrastructure of the US, but we also do not have the investment or the population. From 'The Great Southern Land'
  • Academic and Business users are, however, in a position of paying rather more for interet access than is really sane. Telstra and Optus C&W both charge about $0.17 per megabyte for inbound traffic, (yes, you heard right) something which deregulation should have put an end to. But Optus likes the money too. Things should change with the recent landing of the Southern Cross Network pacific fibre.

    And thank God. The plan is that for now they'll get some of Optus' bandwidth on that pipe, and in the long term AARNet gets their own transcontinental bandwidth to play with.

    AARNet (Australian Academic and Research Network)are doing some very, very cool stuff. For instance, most Aussie unis (four actually have it up and running) are implementing Voice-over-IP PABX gateways. So if someone at a university calls someone at another university, the call goes over AARNet's IP backbone rather than the public telephone network. Even cooler, if a uni in Melbourne calls a private residence in Sydney, it goes VoIP to a university in Sydney, through their PABX and to the house in Sydney, avoiding local call charges.

    http://www.aarnet.edu.au [aarnet.edu.au] for the interested.

  • I only have one thing to say, You can't have your cake and eat it too, Bill.
  • Now that's great : a democratically elected governement would have to consider critiques from a foreign corporation ? This is crazy. I hope Australians become outraged by this and that it backfires against M$'s image in the Australian public opinion.
  • I am Australian. I hate beer.
  • by decefett ( 127257 ) <scott@NOsPAm.favelle.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @12:41AM (#505393) Homepage
    I have to say that I agree with pretty much everything MS has said here. This government in particular has done horible things to the country, come examples:

    Education Huge funding cuts to higher education and a focus towards full fee paying students (there is currently a senate hearing into full fee paying students getting passed when they should be failed).

    I'm studying CS part time, my employer pays for it, they also have to pay fringe benefits tax (FBT) on it! If I was doing a private course, even one that cost several thousand dollars a day there would be no FBT but because it university FBT is applied.

    The public school system is in shamble, especially for boys. Every year boys perform worse and worse in the HSC (sorta like SAT's). Boys literacy rates are truly scary.

    Broadband: Up untill recently I could not get any affordable broadband, where did I live about 15 mins drive from Sydney's CBD. I can only get it now because I moved, and it's capped at 512kbs. ADSL has been increadibly slow to roll out, the govt. has (finally) ordered Telstra to open their exchanges and allow competing providers in so ADSL rollout should start to speed up.

    TV: (The industry I work in) HDTV spectrum was GIVEN to the free-to-air broadcasters, no charge and no competition in it till 2008.

    I Hate to agree with MS, but this time they're right on the money.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Whoever modded that down to -1 while leaving the parent at 2 is a fucking idiot.
  • In this case, I thought MS owned part of Telewest, granting them control of a broadband media, although it is cable. I don't know about Australia, but I would suspect MS don't have any interests there, and are trying to get their foot in the door.
  • This is great! Microsoft goes to all the trouble to do a State by State study of lost revenue due to piracy and add up the cost. They are quick to point out the loss of TAX income to the state. When another country does tax, they cry foul because taxes may raise the price of something and encourage piracy. Is this a double standard?
  • by Xenex ( 97062 ) <xenex&opinionstick,com> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @12:49AM (#505397) Journal
    I agree with what Microsoft is saying, broadband in Australia is in a shocking state. But then I think "Why do Microsoft care?". Why do Microsoft want people to have high bandwith internet access? Can't we read MSNBC, talk on MSN Messenger, and read out MSN Hotmail on 56k modems?

    This makes more sence: Microsoft's .net strategy is going to have it's whole 'downloadable aspects' of software bit going. Your office suite will be downloaded from Microsoft. Your Operating System will be downloaded from Microsoft. Your media player, web browser, paint app, game of solitare (well, maybe going overboard here) will all be downloaded from Microsoft.

    Obviously 'taking to Microsoft over the net and downloading stuff' will be a big thing with .net, and Windows in a version or two. And now it all makes sence; Microsoft NEED a large rollout of high bandwith in places all around the world or their latest jihad has a major flaw. Why else would a company obessed with profit give out free advice to nations on their current flaws?

    .net is Microsoft's planned future. Broadband is .net's platform. Microsoft need broadband.

    Xenex's thought of the day...

  • No really :]

    I'm an employee of a small to medium sized ISP in Australia.

    All we can offer is 56K modem access... or ISDN if you have a stupid amount of money and nothing to do with it...

    The politicians in this country have almost no idea about IT - look at the internet censorship debacle.

    If one political party makes a sugestion, no matter how uh, innovative, it may be, the other side will do everything they can to oppose it...

    But you get that.
  • Maybe they're just doing some preemptive strikes to try and undermine Australian reputations in preparation for conflict. Check out this extract from hansard attributed to Christopher Pyne (South Australian member of the federal government) late last year:

    "Far from closing small business down, that bane of the cheat, the ACCC, has proposed that we help small business by reducing the cost to them of computer software-but, of course, I would not expect [a member of the opposition who had been interjecting] to understand that. This could soon change for the worse. The Sydney Morning Herald reported last week that Microsoft Australia has announced a 10 to 18 per cent increase in the retail price of its software products, effective from December. Microsoft cites exchange rates as the reason behind the price hike, but there is little doubt that the price rises are largely due to a lack of competition in the software market.

    This impacts on all facets of the Australian economy. The Yellow Pages Small Business Index of February 2000 showed that 84 6per cent of Australian small businesses and 100 per cent of medium sized businesses use a computer and therefore require computer software. The current monopolistic arrangement of allowing only one importer to source software product does not serve the long-term interests of consumers. Lifting the prohibition on the parallel importing of computer software and allowing people to compete in the alternative sourcing of products will help push down the price of software and promote product innovation and development. "

    The ACCC is the consumer affairs commission, and prioritises fair and free marketplace competition. Could Microsoft be another monolith gearing itself up to avoid a slapping from the Australian authorities?

    "..Labor are giving Australian consumers every indication that, despite being proved wrong on the deregulation of the CD market, they are prepared to trundle out the same tired old arguments in the current parallel import debate.

    Mr Albanese -Just because Wham CDs are cheaper.

    Mr PYNE -As a 1980s child, I am a great fan of Wham. They have moved, and now we are a fan of more modern music, especially some of our own home-grown South Australian music.

    Mr Albanese -Name them.

    Mr PYNE -I already have. I named them earlier in my speech. People like Kasey Chambers, Killing Heidi and Powderfinger.

    Mr Sidebottom -Never heard of them.

    Mr PYNE -You would never have heard of them. Of course you wouldn't. You are the troglodytes on the Labor side of the House. Mr Deputy Speaker, I must get on with my address-

    Mr Albanese -Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The member opposite is not only insulting members with personal remarks but also misleading the House, because Killing Heidi are in fact from Victoria.

    Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)-The honourable member will resume his seat. Honourable members will cease interjecting.

  • I guess Microsoft realised not many Australians will be using their net-based Office 2002 with their 33.6 modems.

    My reckoning is they should de-bloat the software, not try and get government approval to relaunch MSN.
  • Well, being from Australia myself I can understand _everything_, and I know the costs.

    Me personally, I am 100km north of Melbourne (a very major IT area in oz (IMHO)), and pretty much 100km from anywhere, and suddenly our internet costs go sky high, modem only, on crappy phone lines because the local telco (only one in the country areas) pumps it's dollars into cities, and they have been warned not to do it on multiple occasions by the ACCC, on top of that, there is no local entry point for local ISP's to get to the internet, when we end up with, unlimited internet connections for $50+ (avg speed, < 1.0kbyte/s), or on of the 3 local ISP's you can get mostly full speed out of your modem, but your paying about $1/hour on average(cheapest: $88 for 150 hours, then $66 for 60 hours). In case you are wondering, I am in Seymour.

    On Universities, I have seen, and heard on multiple occasions that Australian universities are the best in the world, so we obviously have the smarts before they finnish uni, but as many people have said, the get offered more then twice the ammount of pay (in some cases) overseas, even I am looking at getting a job overseas in a few years time. Also, I was full time uni, but I now have a full time job, and I am at uni only part time, but the facilities at the uni I go too (Latrobe Uni, Bendigo Campus) provides are very good for it's location, and even it's average entrance marks are low, but it does get a lot of asians (you have to see to believe)(oh, and I'm not meaning that it is a bad thing). It also has high speed microwave links to it's central location (4x27mhz), which I believe says something about what they think of the local telco's.

    When it comes down to it, Australia needs a better internet/IT/etc... policies, and as far as I am concerned, M$ just want's to get us, maily 'cause we pirate so much (like many people I know, I hate beeing called a consumer, mainly because I don't mindlessly devour, or in this case buy everything), and because, for M$'s point of view, when we see a new, good technology, we will embrace it, I think that's what they're hoping for. (to give you an idea of the level of piracy, Sony is currently fighting with the local law enforcement on who's job it is to tackle playstation game piracy, the fed. police say they have done thier bit, and like _any_ other software company in oz, the companies have to do most of the work themselves. Oh, and I recently watched a pile of DVD's that were supposedly from asia, but being that some aren't even in cinema's, I'd say they are...)

  • Your right that FBT was the last Labor government, but that doesn't mean applying it to education is right.
  • australia is set to become the bangladesh of the 21C.
  • You say that people were too incompetent, however you obviously didn't read the new constitution or the proposed changes. I am all for a republic, but the fact was the changes sucked. As the AC said, it was probably done on purpose, and I agree.

    What they should have done was had the referendum to have a simple yes/no question, do we want republic rather than incoporate the constitution in it. That way they could see if the general public wanted it, which I believe would have been yes. Then they could have made the new constitution and we'd be a republic. Eventually we'll have a republic, it's just the constitution changes that need to be "perfected".
  • Hm... $40/mo is what cable access goes for in New York City.

    But by "block offensive content", do you mean that your ISP really blocks web sites? That would suck. At least the US isn't the only English-speaking country faced with bouts of radically silly puritanism contrasting with the generally more modern outloook.

    Time to start using an anonymizer or redirector!

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • If you don't want to vote, don't register! It's not compulsory.

    If you register, you do so knowing that voting is compulsory.

    And what is wrong with that? It's just another civic duty like jury duty. And after seeing the pathetic bullshit that constitutes a US campaign just to get some interest from voters to get off their arses, I'm glad for it.
  • What's wrong with that? I have absolutly no problem with that at all! It makes people at least take an interest in who is running the country, unlike the US, where the turn out rate is pathetic
    Funny guy, you want a government who tells you if you should vote or not? Now that's pathetic. and I don't see why anyone would take interest in politics, we got nothing good out of politicians except taxes, wars, more taxes. I have to handed to them though they teached me how to find good excuses and make better lies, they do have some good technique in that field, actually they're the best.
  • Much as I hate to say it - Microsoft have it right on the money. I earn a reasonably sized wage as a web app developer, and I take home about 6 grand than more than people who earn 20 - 30 grand less than me the taxes here are screwed beyond all belief, espcially since the new GST which has taken a lot of smaller operators out of business. I mean if Ireland can operate without income tax at all - why can't we? as far access goes - broadband isn't even really a solution here. Cable is completely controlled here, and the options available are pathetic speeds and access for incredibly high rates. You can't just wander out and buy a cablke modem here like you can in the uk or us - you have to pay huge amounts and get one form one of the two providers. No other way to do it. ALL of the current DSL plans are even worse. More money for slower speeds - in some cases the dsl speeds, which were touted a year or so ago as going to be huge) have come out at LESS THAN WHAT CABLE IS ADVERTISED TO GIVE US HERE. The advertised cable speed never becomes reality in Oz, and dsl speeds are even lower than that. It's crap. Very very crap. The majority of us are stuck on a 56K connection for personal home use, and those that have Australia's constipated version of broadband aren't doing much better. Our prime minister (apart from looking like a hamster) seems to see technologicl advancement as a fad, certainly not as important as rural farming in the middle of the outback, or more tributes to the "diggers". The technology officer is far past it and has neither genuine interest nor any real contact with the current industry. Forgive the rant people - but the internet is seen by those in power here to be an amusement and an aside, instead of the future. It drives me nuts... -- Lyric
  • Listen up Australians: Your economic policies are not pro-business enough. You have been warned. If you dont change your policies you 'will not be competitive in the new global economy'. This alone should be the basis of your governments actions - you MUST address the concerns of Microsoft Corporation or face economic sanctions from them.

    The arrogance that some company would trot around spouting this kind of drivel astounds me. What makes these corporate $WHORES$ think that the people of Australia should be concerned that M$ isnt given enough tax breaks????

    The whole world needs very aggressive/progressive reforms to the 'corporate entity' -- the whole idea that a private organization, whos sole purpose is to make the lives of a few better than the lives of the rest (profit) will be 'listened to' by our governments regarding policy. I thought the government was supposed to represent citizens equally? Does anyone think that they might have a little bit of bias -- that they should therefore not be 'listened to'

    Its amazing how governments now have to serve these lobbies instead of their people...

    How did we get so far 'off track' and allow these bastards to gain this kind of power?

  • What a quaint mix of regulations. Without bothering with too much detail:

    * Telstra is a big company. It makes big profits.

    * The public interest would be well served by more money for Unis, but the current public money allocated to higher ed is about average for the OECD, the problem is lack of private funding

    * The regulation-happy approach you suggest is exactly the problem with the censorship and datacasting dodgy laws; lawyers = parliamentarians = don't understand tech

    * Government clout to get something to work in the private sector? Have you ever watched an election commercial? Government is hopeless at being directly involved with commercial realities and it's a quick path to nepotism and corruption when it does get involved, just see the Credit Lyonnais debacle

  • I don't think the US have an Embasy [sic] here. I'm sure if they did I would have seen it. Zilch
  • Think of welfare not as something which keeps "bludgers in booze money", but something that stops them from having to break into your house and kill you in order to survive.

    Cut welfare, and that's what you get. Take away the safety net, and see what the cost to society is when tens of thousands of people start hitting rock bottom. Violent crime increases. You either pay for people to not do anything, or you pay for the consequences.

    Unemployment is inevitable. We're been running at about 10% for as long as I can remember, most of that in youth unemployment. Given that we need less and less people every year to do the same work (all that 'efficiency' we keep saying is a good thing) the situation is only going to get worse. Oh, look what we're doing to Centrelink! That'll help!

    All the stupid government make-work programs in the world aren't going to help this, either. We should make education free again, so they can go back into the universities where they belong :-)

    Seriously though, spending 10 years trying to get an Arts degree (ie: surfing and drinking beer on Austudy) is better than breaking and entering because there's no jobs, no money for this weeks' rent - or food - and no future.

    As for your cretinous attitude to the Arts... it's on par with your misunderstanding of politics.
  • Maybe this is just the paranoid acidhead deep inside me, but isn't it interesting how Microsoft seems to be testing the limits of how far it can push governments?

    Microsoft: Blurring the Lines Between Bad Software and Bad Government
  • Insufficient investment incentives:
    This is really ironic in the light of recent "welfare reforms" to move us towards a US-style "tough love" society. Incentive for workers is "work for us or starve, or go to prison"; incentive for multinational corporations is "here's pots of money - go crazy!"

    Inadequate infrastructure and bandwith:
    Bandwidth for what? A one-way pipeline from advertiser to you. I can see the point of getting the equivalent of a T1 to every home in the country if I could run a server from home, but every cable modem service I've seen prohibits running servers in the Terms of Service. I want the Internet, not MSN on steroids. Who's asking to be the target of "datacasting" or "media convergence"? I've already got a TV, and it's been sitting idle since I found the net.

    Insufficient support for information economy R&D:
    The fact that R&D tax concessions exist at all is outrageous, so it may be some consolation that Miscrosoft considers them inadequate. How on earth can you argue that research directed by private power must be paid for by the public?

    Failure to create local centres of excellence:
    "Australia could stand to benefit if it were able to increase the competitiveness of its institutions of higher education..." Now correct me if I'm wrong , but isn't the purpose of an institution of higher education to educate people? The reason why I've never gone to university is that they already serve as publicly-subsidised skilled worker farms, competing to meet the needs of the private sector.

    Failure to protect against piracy:
    Heven't these people heard of RMS? It's not "piracy", it's "sharing". It's academic anyway, since it's getting to the point where there's enough good free software around that nobody needs to share Microsoft software anyway. This is good news for Microsoft; if nobody uses their software, nobody's "pirating" it.

    A skills shortage:
    Garbage. We've probably got more MSCEs and VBScript kiddies per capita than any country on earth, thanks to Microsoft's effective marketing of their powerful and innovative technologies. I mean in my book, that consitutes a skills shortage, but surely to Microsoft it's a cornucopia.

    Technology security:
    Read intellectual property protection mechanisms.

    Lack of access to capital:
    No, when "investment" is a byword for "plunder", the problem is too much access to capital. I recommend reading economist Frank Stillwell's "Changing Track" for a good summary of the effects of "opening up the economy", also Jane Kelsey has written comprehensively of the New Zealand experience. Basically, the consequense of "investment incentives", and the privatisation of public assets in Australia and New Zealand has been that most of the wealth generated by economic activity in these countries leaves them, never to return.

  • Microsoft is right. Who would have guessed.
  • I don't *really* think the government has set out to screw the local IT sector.

    Given the "living in the '50s" attitude of Mr. Howard, et. al., it wouldn't surprise me one bit.
  • It's Microsoft has NOT "Microsoft have."
  • Thanks to competition, I'm now on a relatively unlimited download cable connection (though O@H, of course).

    Thanks to the lack of competition, I, living in Adelaide, am unable to get any cable access. I have a socket in my wall that Foxtel (Murdoch's Fox and the half-privatized Telstra) will only sell me cable TV programming through, purely because Optus stopped their cable rollout (and thus data access) after doing the eastern coast.

    In the past few weeks ADSL has become available... now which body part should I sell to afford it? Or should I wait several years until Telstra give other telecom companies local loop access, so I can use another provider?

    Competition? Not sure what it's really like, here...
  • After Reading the Article, It Just Sounds Like M$ is just bitchin and whining cause the austrailian government didn'want to give them all the freebies that they get here. The Article points to the fact the M$ probably wanted to relocate the business to another country to seek an asylum of sorts, and was denied so being a big cry baby they are gonna try and make them look bad, for not giving the what they wanted. Well la di da. Well i think this is a feeble attempt for microsoft to try and muscle somebody down with bad press. Provided that this is actually what is going on, I hope the austrailian doesn't back down.

    Most of the things that austrailia has as labeled as having bad IT can be seen in a lot of countries even in the US. For Instance the
    " Inadequate infrastructure and bandwith " There are places Even In America were people can't even get decent 28.8 ? and DSL and cable are way of thier radars
    " Failure to protect against piracy " Piracy is gonna happen regardless of where you are. Can you say gnutella?
  • m$ft is bitching about tax incentives????? in the us thats standard practice for any city/state. i wonder what kind of deals that they (m$ft) has gotten for placing any of its own facilities? the australians are just trying to compete with the rest of the world...
  • As far as I can tell the only way to fix the problem is elect a govenment that gives a shit about the way the world looks at us.

    The dilemma is that there isn't one around. However, with my new-found ability to vote in the election we will have this year, I'll be voting for "not Liberal". I don't know if they alternative will be better, but these guys have been in control for too long now.

  • There is a history of government doing stuff in Australia, that is they are interventionist. The richest people in Australia are those who manipulate the government of the day in their favour.

    So given that Microsoft Australia is almost certainly predominately staffed by Australians, this would be business as normal.
  • "Basically they talk about the lack of competition in the Australian broadband market, as well as the current Australian Government's boneheaded IT policy."

    Uh... since when does Microsoft have the right to complain about lack of competition?? I mean, they crush competition in their parts of the industry and then say theres not enough competition in Australia's broadband market.
  • > I don't know if they alternative will be better

    I can't see how they could be - the Labor Party is filled with people for whom politics is a life choice.

    Surely the dilemma is that people like you sit around whining and don't get up and make a difference. Running around and voting anti isn't going to make the world a better place. Make a difference. Write a research paper on things that affect your industry, join a political party and get some policy happening. God knows they'll probably love you for being a young person with an interest in politics and passion for putting your ideas forward.


  • It's not suprising that MS is bitching about Broadband - They got severely dissed by Telstra for not delivering on a service agreement last year. It was their biggest site in the souther hemisphere and one of the biggest in the world. And Telstra said that basically their software was shit. So no real suprises there.
    The Australian government and business are both lacking when it comes to IT initiative - but that isn't going to change any time soon. Business wants the government to pay for everything and investors are used to mining investment where they can make their money back by fleecing the public.
    Add to that the fact that IT professionals in Australia routinely head overseas (Asia or Britain) where they can earn serious money and avoid the short sighted policies of Australian management weened on 80's techniques. Hot-desking being a current fave.
    Fun all round
  • The fact that Australia lacks good broadband simply comes down to an exercise in geography. As a new zealander (to put it bluntly) the country is simply too bloody big, with too few people. Telstra was originally created because the australian goverment basically had to mortgage the country to raise the finace to build telephone lines over a continent the size of the US with 1/100 of the population.
    Upgrading all these lines, many of which are so old that they give pityful adsl speeds is a mega task, not to mention the cost of laying fiber and coax everywhere to serve a very limited user group.
    The big question is why microsoft is bitching about this. I thought they had invested large sums in satellite broadband. Althought sat broadband isn't the ideal solution, it would be far easier to roll out across Australia than adsl. Instead of moaning about the situation, gates and co could launch a new broadband bird and start laughing all the way to the bank
  • for $74 we are capped at 512 kbs dl and 128kbps ul.

    Also no servers of any kind allowed.

  • I find it ironic that Microsoft, of all companies, is complaining about "insufficient competition".

    It's not ironic at all when you consider that they want more competition so that:

    1. they won't have to pay as much for broadband themselves
    2. If it's cheaper, they can sell MSN to more people
    3. They can sell more "upgrades" so people have the best "online experience"
    They don't like people competing with them, but they do like people competing to supply them.
  • Basically they talk about the lack of competition in the Australian broadband market

    Kinda funny how MS is criticizing someone because of lack of competition... ironic to say the least...


  • It is somewhat ironic that as far as I'm concerned, one of the most serious screwups in Aus. Govt. IT policy is the fact that several state governments have made outsourcing contracts which include provisions binding them to Microsoft for ludicrous lengths of time (20 years for the South Australian govt., I believe, via a contract with EDS). It boggles the mind that one could even contemplate signing an exclusive contract with a company for nearly as long or longer than that company has existed.
  • Real football has a round ball.

    It's 'The World Game'(tm). :)
  • Yes. I'm no fan of Microsoft, but I have to agree. I mean, what's this headline supposed to mean?

    "For a company which on some fronts decries government intervention, Microsoft seems to have a different tack here."

    Of course and so what. "Intervention" is a pretty broad term. A strip search could be considered government intervention. So could maintaining a municipal fire department. There's nothing ironic about being in favor of one, and not the other.

    Slashdot editors: inflammatory remarks are not "insightful" or "interesting". The topic of discussion seems worthy, but silly little editorial snippets like these seem to owe more to the tradition of trash television and tabloids than to serious journalism.

  • I've never completely understood why people say broadband cable access in Australia is expensive, for geeks anyway.

    Let's do a little math.

    Telstra land line == $15/month
    Two calls a day to local ISP = $0.50/day = $15.50/month
    Subscription to unlimited download account, 150 hours/month == $38/month

    We're already at $68.50 a month for 56k dialup. Most people don't have two phone lines, and if it's a share house, chances are you'll be dropped out because of someone ringing you.

    Telstra Bigpond cable, 256k/64k is $67.00/month, and 512k/128k is $72.55/month. Optus@Home is $63.95/month, and you don't have rate limiting active there.The installation fee is roughly the same as a decent modem.

    Given that (iirc) 75% of Australia's population live within cable serviced areas, that's done pretty darn cheap.

    The only complaints I've seen are when a user averages over a gigabyte a day, everyday for a month. If you manage to download that much, you really need to get out of the house and do something else.
  • For the record, Australian, (and indifferent as far as patriotism goes).

    Also for the record, keep in mind the following

    • this is a summary by a journalist who probably hasn't read the report themselves, and is reporting snippets - potentially also out of context?
    • In global terms, Australia is quite a small market and due to the population distribution it is extremely expensive to roll out high bandwidth to everyone. The market is simply not big enough to allow what Microsoft would deem sufficient competition.
    • John Howard is probably the least charismatic prime minister I've seen in my lifetime.
    • In terms of internet usage and technology adoption in general, Australia is one of the forerunners.
    • This reply actually assumes you've read the article(!)

    Insufficient investment incentives:

    Totally agree, reducing the concession rate was a very bad move (not just for IT, in general). As others have pointed out, this is *business* R&D - Australia is very competitive on the academic side. We do occasionally come up with some good stuff, but end up selling out to overseas due to lack of local support.

    Inadequate infrastructure and bandwith:

    Cable prices have been a lot more reasonable since about Feb. last year (2000) once there were two players. ASDL is now rolling out with a lot more people becoming able to access the 'net at reasonable speeds. As pointed out elsewhere in the article "...other studies had found that Australians had good access to bandwidth and a high level of Internet penetration."

    Insufficient support for information economy R&D:

    Redundant, should be rolled into point 1 - Investment incentives

    Failure to create local centres of excellence:

    Again, probably partly due to population levels / distribution. Without a resonable definition on exactly how we failed its hard to responds to this point. Anyone would benefit from carrying out MS's generic suggestion, USA included.

    Failure to protect against piracy:

    Don't know enough to respond to this aside from the fact its probably partly due to Australia being a target market for Asian pirates due to its locality. Why they supposedly think our laws make it easier to counterfeit stuff I have no idea...?

    A skills shortage:

    And who doesn't have a skills shortage?

    Technology security:

    More meaningless waffle no more or less relevant to Australia than anywhere else in the world.

    Lack of access to capital:

    Journalist is getting desperate at this point I think. More meaningless, generic stuff. Again, can be equally true for anywhere in the world. We've actually recently had the corporate tax rate reduced by 3% anyway? Just because MS doesn't see us as an attractive investment doesn't mean we should change "Australia's banking and finance laws". Sheesh.

    Inability of some groups to have Internet access:

    Woo, even more generic, unsubstantied stuff - which groups? Where? Who? Oh, and thanks for the tip, never would have thought of that....

    Again, this is journalism at its finest, rush something to press, make it sound good, hope the reader doesn't actually critically think about what they've written and whether its meaningful or not.

    The only potential good thing about this is that the Australian Government might do something positive about this (but then again, they might turn round and do something stupid, they've done it before....).

  • Great post but I disagree with your rosy assessment of R&D at Australian universities.

    On R&D:

    ... most really innovative stuff in Oz gets done by the CSIRO (commonwealth science and industry research organisation) and the universities. ...

    As a computer science PhD student at an Australian university I can tell you that research is in crisis. Research at Australian universities used to be really top class. But the government has been slashing university funding for years, while at the same time student numbers have drastically increased. The net result is that most academics have to spend all their time teaching and have almost zero time for research.

    There was recently a dispute between Melbourne University's management and the academic staff. Here's [mu.oz.au] what one disgruntled academic had to say.
  • Ireland does not have extremely high normal tax levels ,income tax maybe but corporations only care about corporation tax and that has been at 10% for years. You have a massive choice of political parties because of proportional representation, labour(left),Fianna Fail(populist center ground), Fianna Gael (rightish), Progressive democrats (farther right), Green (leftie organic hippie party) + many smaller parties and independents. A party rarely gets a full majority so you are usually left with a coalition of two or more of these parties. We don't forbid calculators in school, when I was in school (3 or 4 years ago) we were permitted to use them for all our subjects. The vast majority of our citizens could barely string a scentence together in Irish. It is compulsory in school but all it ever did was create an antagonism towards the language and take up time better spent on other more useful languages (irish native speakers =20-40,000). We don't have great language ability (the dutch or germans are miles ahead of us in that department)Our great language advantage is that we speak english as our first language (an advantage for american investment) and that the only other english speaking country in europe (britain) has even worse language skills than we do.
  • yea thats the same story for public schools here in south australia, all NT. the school i attend, a regional private school, also uses win9x boxes
  • "Adelaide is the free world's headquarters for IT innovation"

    Laughable -- and I live in Adelaide :)

    Does that slogan imply that the world behind the Iron Curtain has a similar HQ for IT innovation? Soviet-era Leningrad, perchance?
  • Jeremy Lee makes some good points with which I totally agree.

    Microsoft clearly has no idea what the actual situation here is regarding broadband or they would have realised that broadband is widely available, is reliable and competitivly priced. Naturally Australias lower population density means that smaller communities are unable to access cable data yet, however almost all communities can now access satelite broadband downloads (POTS uploads).

    Australia has high taxes - by strange coincidence we also have a high degree of social welfare. I can walk into any public hospital (of which there are many) get fixed up and walk out without ever being asked for my credit card number. Try doing that in good 'ol Microsoft land!

    As far as Technological Security goes Australia has almost none of the problems that the US has . Still, I'm sure if we used more Microsoft products we could fix that.

    The entire MS diatribe appears to me to be a totally self serving attempt to coerce government into opening up Australia so that Microsoft can invade.

    And that's the last thing we need.
  • Add in to the other informed replies, that UK and US English also differ in this, which is noticeable in sentences such as:

    USians would say "Blondie is a group".
    However, would they also say: "The Rolling Stones is a group"? (ugh)
    How about "The Walker Brothers is a group"?
    What about "The Righteous Brothers is a group"?
    Should it make any difference that the latter were neither brothers or named "Righteous".

    Actually in all of your examples you are talking about singular entities. That is, The Rolling Stones, while sounding plural, is actually an sigular item. Thus, "The Rolling Stones is a group" is correct...

    And I actually can't believe I just responded to this...

  • i live in australia our city (1.5 million people, state capital) only got ADSL access 5 months ago we still dont have cable internet we have 500000000000000000 dial up ISP's tho :)
  • From the scant details in the article, I can't tell whether Microsoft is asking for more or less government intervention. Praise for a "strong public-private partnership" is typical Clintonspeak for political corruption and protectionism, but elsewhere Microsoft complains about insufficient deregulation of the communication industry.

    Other quotes are ambiguous. When Microsoft says, "The R & D tax concession is not well focused on boosting the future competitiveness of the Australian economy," are they complaining that taxes are simply too high, or are they complaining that cuts weren't targetted to their own interests? When they say "The fact that business R & D . . . remains at persistently low levels in Australia may be interpreted as a failure to provide sufficient incentives," are they asking the government to provide welfare or to remove barriers?

    So I don't know whether Microsoft wants the Australian government to back off or hop in bed. Having said that, Microsoft is hypocritical. While they were defending themselves against an antitrust suit from the DOJ, they asked the FCC to force AOL to open their network to competitors. It's difficult to have sympathy for them.
  • Pity the people that live here were too incompetent to vote for a republic when they had a chance (no offence intended, I just think Australia could stand on it's own two feet in writing, it does in every other way)

    I don't think the majority didn't want a republic - they just didn't want the model set forward by the current government, and therefore rejected it in order to vote for a more reasonable model next time around. (For example: Where the people actually get to choose the president, not the current government).

    Again, more bone-headedness from Australian politicians, but one the whole I don't think they're any better or worse on average than anywhere else in the world, even if their local policies aren't attractive to MS...

  • Bill was here for the Olympics and got annoyed because all reporters wanted to ask him was "Why are my stocks doing badly?" :)
  • For a company which on some fronts decries government intervention, Microsoft seems to have a different tack here.
    Microsoft are all in favour of government intervention provided it's them the government is protecting.
    They're kind of right about the broadband situation though. There's two main cable networks but it's common to only be able to connect to one of them. ADSL is in it's infancy and satellite is an inferior option (IMO).
  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @01:28AM (#505447)
    I notice that a lot of the posts are pure anti-MS rubbish.

    For the record, I live and work in Australia and the points that MS raised are absolutely and utterly correct to the very last point.

    Looking at some of the posts on /., who cares if MS has a vested interest, who cares if the timing is suspect, who cares that a corporation is critising a government, the fact of the matter is that MS has raised perfectly valid points with what needs to be improved to help grow the Australian IT industry.

    We should be applauding that someone has brought these issues to the attention of our bonehead government - not critising them. Sheesh.

  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @01:31AM (#505450) Homepage

    What kind of a lame ass troll is this?

    but where does microscrew get the right to tell a sovereign what to do?

    That right comes from the Freedom of Speech (or were you asleep in Civics class?) Everyone has the right to criticize a country and its policies. I can't believe someone would deny anyone their right to express an opinion. The Australian government doesn't have to listen to what they say - or even read their paper. And yes, the CEO, stockholders and even YOU are free to criticize the Australian government - or the US government for that matter.

    how the heck does microscrew expect their stupid commentary to influence anything

    Did you even read the article? The paper contains some very valid criticism. Fortunately the Australian government doesn't have its head as far up its ass as you seem to. The article quotes an official as saying they were aware of some of the issues raised and were looking to correct them.

    And btw, the company is called Microsoft - learn to spell or you'll be seen for the moron you are.

  • by cthugha ( 185672 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @01:32AM (#505451)
    I don't think the government necessarily wants to annoy the tech sector, they just don't understand it, don't understand its importance, and regard IT-related issues as a tool or bargaining chip to achieve their own political ends.

    To wit, the censorship regime was first introduced when the government was trying to garner the support of a moral conservative in the Senate (Brian Harradine) for a controversial piece of tax legislation. Coincidence? Hardly. (The senator in question just said "Thank you very much" and voted against said tax legislation anyway.)

    Similarly, the new digital broadcasting regime is simply an attempt to appease the most powerful television mogul in the country (who also happens to be the richest man in the country), Kerry Packer. (There was an excellent piece on the ABC's [abc.net.au] Four Corners program about this, but I don't know whether there's a transcript online.)

    And the underfunding of universities is simply another facet of the conservative "privatise everything that isn't nailed down" ideology that's rampant in this country right now.

    In short, don't blame malice when utter, total stupidity will do.

  • Seeing that a good deal of the threads on this topic are of the flavour "Telstra Sucks", here's my 2 cents worth.

    Having lived in Australia for the last oh, 17 years, but currently working in the UK, there are a few things to point out about the supposed poor quality of service in Australia provided by Telstra and that provided here by BT and the other telephone service companies.

    After spending the last 7 months or so in Australia, I have to chuckle at people having a go at Telstra (I used to run an ISP, so I have had my fair share of dealings with them in the past). The service I used to get from them far exceeds the level of service I can get here for anything like the same money.

    Here in the UK, you pay 3p per minute for a local call at peak times, in Australia the rate was 25c (I think it might have gone down since) for an untimed local call (go figure that's 10p or about what you pay for a 3 minute call in the UK) try. I used to use Telstra's Big Pond service (their 150 hour service) when I was in Australia $44/month for 150 hours. Never (repeat after me, never) had a problem dialing in, getting frequent engaged signals etc. That's a better experience than I've had with any other ISP I've found (though yes it is more expensive), but again adding the monthly cost and the call cost and the line cost my total Internet usage bill was SIGNIFICANTLY smaller in Australia than it is in the UK. I wont even mention the experience I've had so far with the free Internet access/phone line from my UK cable company, suffice to say that I've given up.

    As ar as broadband goes, comparing the cost of an 512Kbps ADSL connection in Australia to those in the UK. For a HOME user installation runs at $110 (or about £45) and monthly rental runs at $89(or about £35). There are no bandwith costs, but things are subject to a fair use policy (fair enough). From what I can gather, the same service here costs about £275 to install and about £99 in monthly rental.

    So far in a comparison between services available here and those in Australia, no contest. Those available in Australia win hands down, even taking into account income differences and especially when you consider Australia's large size and low population density.

    BTW as a footnote, to those people who consider bandwith costs to be a bad thing (having run an ISP), figure it out. Your ISP is paying for bandwith in one way or another. Bandwith is a LIMITED resource, just like any other (electricity for example). Laying fibre/cable installing hubs, routers etc. and maintaining networks to a high standard all costs money. All the more when you consider the current rate at which equipment becomes obselete. Companies need to recoup their costs.


  • The article was poorly written. Further reading shows that Microsoft was bitching that the government cut the tax incentives.
  • Firstly, for the record, I am Australian.

    I agree with the Xenex (and Microsoft's opinion of the state of broadband in Australia). Pretty much the only option for many of us Brisbanites as far as broadband goes is cable, which is still too expensive for the average user and doesn't reach a lot of homes or businesses. ADSL is about as accessible to most people here as .NET is.

    I can see exactly why Microsoft want broadband access - they've been using developers as guinea pigs for some time now. Most of the major downloads from MSDN require "Windows Installer", and over a 33.6K modem it's terrible. I downloaded 10 MB for the Platform SDK (about 3/4 hr) and then it crashes when it's downloaded without installing anything. I think the idea is to stop you from getting complete downloaded files or executables on your hard drive, so you can't redistribute it. Anyway, I really can't see this sort of thing being the ideal situation that Microsoft envisages for .NET or Whistler or whatever. No user in their right mind would put up with this.

    It also means that users can probably send quite a bit of data back too, if that would ever be used...

  • by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @01:43AM (#505467) Homepage Journal
    Yous houls wonder why there are so many poeple that would post with their guts and not their brains. Dealing with MS is not anymore something rational, because such entity does not understand rational arguments.

    Although the points raised could be valid, the credibility of the meesanger has to be taken into account, one should guess always the motives of a corporation that has been found to practice monopolistic tricks when they issue such statements.

    Think hos MS could benefit, then think about the consequences. Some people don't like it and thus can see no good in even the most serious MS statements.
  • I am an Australian, but I have been living outside of Australia for the past three years, however I think I can offer a few perspectives.

    Firstly, Australia is a geographically large country, although the majority of the population is strewn along the eastern coast. Also, the major cities tend to be large urban sprawls. What this means is that the costs and economies of scale for cable networks are perhaps a little different than other countries. Complete market freedom may not produce a good result for everyone (I am an advocate of market freedom and competition, but I also realise that in some cases, regulation and control is necessary - I don't think that I have enough knowledge to judge whether it is appropriate in this case, but I making this point). It is interesting to note that attempts to provide pay television (notably Australis) were not very successful - the market did not grow very fast, and there were several companies competing for what is a small market (and a large financial and infrastructure investment). Consider the difference between mobile networks in the US and Europe. In Europe, there is network competition, but fortunately just about everyone offers that competition on the GSM network - so there is no technological competition, perhaps it would be more useful in Australia if there was a common technological platform, on which competition could occur, that would be more beneficial in the long run, than wasted competition between different technological platforms.

    Secondly, Australian media is control by a few interests - kerry packer, rupert murdoch, the fairfax family, kerry stokes and others. And these constitute some powerful groups that have political weight. Unfortunately, this can lead to some regressive media policies.

  • ...As ar as broadband goes...
    unfortunatly you miss the point. broadband is not even installed in a lot of areas (melb metro). no more cable being laid now. even if you where lucky enough to live in an area cabled you have to have telphone poles. that leaves purchasing a dish.

    ahhh what about ADSL - well telecom in all it's wisdom will only implement it on what it considers are *conditioned lines*.
    meaning again only selected areas in the metro area are installed - others a lot of others miss out (mine included) with no planned installation date in the future.

    this leaves you with ISDN at about $1000/month and extra costs.

    this is in metro areas of the . what about the rest of the country.
    telstra is a joke, high standards or not it fails to deliver even a basic broadband service (forget the price) as it does conventional phone access.

    and stop the *telstra but kissing theme*. anyone would think your an ex-telecom contractor :)
  • Don't make a lot of sense.

    In Illinois (in the U.S. for you international folks) a lot of cities grant tax breaks to industries for locating in their towns. The idea is that it's a chance for citizens to find jobs in their home town. On the surface it sounds like a great idea (workers have a shorter commute therefore less pollution, less strain on the inadequate road system, better quality of life, etc, etc.). Most of the time the complaints about these corporate tax benefits come from normal citizens who wind up taking up the slack. Also, the corporations wind up shutting down just before the tax break period ends leaving town and a large empty building that no one's paying taxes on.

    Why Microsoft would be complaing about a tax break that largely benefits corporations is beyond me.

    I sort of agree with the poster who asked whether this was Microsoft's way of testing the waters of how far they can push governments around. Dear Prime Minister of Australia: Don't let them do it.

    If Microsoft has anyone to complain about the lack of broadband it'd be the telecomm industry. They're much too busy getting everyone to walk around with a cell phone glued to their ear to find the time to install decent broadband to most of their customers. IMHO, their take on broadband is something like: ``We still don't get this packet thing... but we do understand people talking across wires.''


  • by Jeremy Lee ( 9313 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @02:02AM (#505488) Homepage
    Oh boy. This is NOT going down well.

    I really should read the whole 'Accellerating Innovation' paper before commenting on details, but I can give a first-glance perspective:

    On Bandwidth:

    Australia was significantly behind the US in terms of broadband until about six months ago. Cable and DSL have arrived here with a vengance! $60 a month will get you 400kbit/s DSL. Really. The technical implementation has been rock-solid: none of the problems the US has been having. There are still political issues with the 'duopoly' telco situation, but the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Comission) should do a good job of sorting out the more draconian stupidities in their 'Acceptable Usage Agreements' if they try to enforce them.

    (The ACCC is way cool. They're currently having a spat with the MPAA over DVD regional coding.)

    Home users here are in the best position they've ever been in. The biggest problem is that Telstra keeps running out of cable modems.

    Academic and Business users are, however, in a position of paying rather more for interet access than is really sane. Telstra and Optus C&W both charge about $0.17 per megabyte for inbound traffic, (yes, you heard right) something which deregulation should have put an end to. But Optus likes the money too. Things should change with the recent landing of the Southern Cross Network pacific fibre.

    Microsoft wants more broadband in Australia because they've targeted us as one of the prime test markets for .NET. Make of that what you will.

    As far as accessibility goes, anyone who wants net access can get it. It's in every library, government department, and medium to large business. ISP's and net cafe's abound. The only people who don't have access are those too lazy to get off their fat arse and walk down the street.

    On Taxes:

    Yes, Australia has fairly high income and corporate taxes. We have correspondingly higher 'socialist' programs like decent state-sponsored Education, Medical care and Welfare. Australians are, on the whole, happy with this situation. Similar to Canada, in many respects. Multinationals don't like high taxes, though.

    On R&D:

    There is a cultural difference in what R&D means. We still have a very strong Academic research tradition: most really innovative stuff in Oz gets done by the CSIRO (commonwealth science and industry research organisation) and the universities. I think this is fine. Corporations suck at real R&D. I think Microsoft are just complaining they can't twiddle their thumbs inventing things like "Microsoft Bob" and get massive tax rebates for it.

    Besides, what most US companies would call R&D, we call 'getting shit done'. We're an emminently practical people in many ways.

    Failure to create local centres of excellence:

    Rubbish. See above. The main issue seem to be the existing centres of excellence contain people who work outside the corporate domain and are, therefore, fairly unpoachable. ie: No talent pool waiting for Microsoft to snaffle them all.

    On Piracy:

    Australia has one of the highest rates of 'Piracy' in the western world. And literacy too. We are significant users of information products, even if we can't quite afford it. :-) Most of that 'piracy' happens on an individual level. Software swapping with friends, etc. Small and 'backyard' businesses run a lot of 'grey' software. Large companies tend to be utterly legit, though.

    There are some historical reasons for that, mostly due to semi-monopoly locks on imports of information products (the mentioned "parallel import restrictions") like software and music that kept the price artificially high for a long time. These have been changed recently, and will change again, since anyone with a net connection and credit card essentially ignores it.

    A skills shortage:

    "Australia faces many specific hurdles to train and retain skilled people."

    Duh!! You know why? Because of the famous 'brain drain'. US/UK companies tend to make our best and brightest offers they can't refuse. We'd have better people if Microsoft stopped poaching them all.

    On Capital:

    Australia doesn't have anywhere near the level of Venture Capitalism that exists in the states. (but who does?) Yes, this does hurt us. He has a point here. But, if microsoft want to fix it, all they need to is start investing themselves. A billion US dollars goes a long, long way here. Microsoft has no lack of access to capital. I think what they mean is; there's no easy pool of money for Microsoft to suck from.

    Technology security:

    I can't think of any Oz sites that have been DoS'd, or even defaced. (I'm sure there's been some. Nothing to the level of Yahoo or Ebay. Mostly a US phenomenon) All major banks in Australia now offer internet service, and I've never heard of any problems. What has the writer been smoking?


    Yes, as many people would expect, Microsoft are complaining about local factors that tend to favor individuals and small businesses over large multinationals like them. There are one or two decent points in the dross, specifically those about lack of telecom deregulation and capital availability.

    The gist of the complaint seems to be "give us more money or we won't invade your nation".

    Sounds fine to me.

  • Probably one of the most thought out posts in this thread! If I had some mod points... :)
  • I'm not sure how the rest of the world perceives us but I can't think of any Australian institution that is renowned for providing world-leading R&D, especially in the tech industry. The last survivor I can think of was the CSIRO (government funded research agency) but even they seem to be small scale these days. You can count our game development houses on one hand. I believe theres only a few that are actively producing A or AAA rated games out of a total of 5 or 6 'world class' developement houses in total.

    Insufficient investment incentives
    The government seems so preoccupied with their own internal expense account scandals, the introduction of GST and the preservation of their 4 year term to do anything for the long term future of the country.

    Inadequate infrastructure and bandwith
    Since the government floated Telstra and deregulated the telecom industry, service level has only dropped. Instead of investing in infastructure development, subsidies are given to Telstra to guarentee that remote regions will continue to receive the same service. This was necessary to convince the public to allow the float of the company (which was just a quick dash-for-cash to make them look like they're managing their money better) but doesn't really solve the problem. It just compensates for it.

    Insufficient support for information economy R&D
    See point one.

    A skills shortage
    If you're interested in getting Honours in Computer Science, Australia might just be the easiest place. At least in several Universities I know of, a credit average (65%) is all thats required to be eligable for Honours in CS Major degrees. Theres a huge number of people that seem to be doing computer science for the wrong reasons, bumming through the course and coming out with a degree but few skills. I personally have several Chinese friends doing their final Master's year in Computing Science who have never done a single year of CS prior to now whom will return to China at the end of the year to collect a wealthy salary. The government has it all wrong about the IT shortage. Theres plenty of people, just not enough GOOD people.

    I won't go through all the other points but I agree whole-heartedly with all of them. On this issue Microsoft seems right on the mark so the MS bashing really is unjustified.

  • That's interesting.... We're having some issues here in the UK with broadband access - BT our telco, is considered by some to be dragging it's heels with allowing competitors access to Exchanges to install their own DSL equipment; but Microsoft haven't amde any comment.

    Of course, in 1997 Bill Gates met with Tony Blair...I see an article in The Independent of the time where they claim that Microsoft immediately claimed that he was a special advisor to the UK Govt. on Computers in schools - a claim that the Govt quickly denied after complaints from Oracle, Sun etc.

  • If I was a community college writing teacher, and Microsoft kept on turning in reports to me where they used the word 'innovation' everytime they meant 'good', I would start marking their papers down.

    I would have taken this paper as almost a serious critique of communications policies, but the minute I see that damn word, I realize that is is more M$ propaganda. And for a company that probably spends more on propaganda then the budgets of many countries (and infinitly more then they do on taxes :)), M$ really needs to come up with something fresher then the word innovative. Maybe they need to form a committee called "Freedom to Innovate into Using New Adjectives"...okay, enough rant for me for right now.

  • Actully, the state I live/just got educated in (Victoria) has a deal worth multi-million dollars where all of the Victorian public schools from Primary though to the end of Secondary have as many Microsoft licenses as they want (or something very similer). If it's a Victorian public school, it's running on NT.

    The bad thing is I just spend the past 13 years in that system.

  • There are a few points I'd take issue with - technology security is really no different here to the US AFAICT, the "inability for some groups to have net access" comment could be applied anywhere in the world, and the "piracy" comment is blatant Microsoft self-interest, but basically virtually every Australian government in the past 20 years (the previous Victorian government, for all its considerable faults, understood IT as well as any government on earth) misunderstands, distrusts, and dislikes IT, and has consequently screwed up its IT policy.

    Some cynics in the local IT press have even gone so far as to suggest that there must be votes in pissing off the local IT and, more broadly, the "knowledge" sector, they do it so effectively.

    To list just some examples of screwed up policy in the area:

    • The tax concession described in the article.
    • Continually underfunding universities, attempting to force universities into "applied research" (which often barely deserves to be called "research") and beauty-contest degrees in flavour-of-the-month jobs.
    • Telecommunications policy has been one great disaster after another.
    • The government has just abandoned an IT outsourcing scheme whose main achievement is paying US consultants millions of dollars for zero return.
    • In broadcasting policy, the government has just squashed any chance of a viable datacasting industry in Australia by agreeing to a ridiculous scheme where the entire spectrum will be used for HDTV broadcasts, despite the fact that nobody will be able to afford HDTV sets to take advantage of it.
    • The net censorship regime, which has had no practical effect, by the way, but is just another example of the boneheaded attitude of the current Federal government.

    Take it from me, I could go on for a *lot* longer.

  • In short, don't blame malice when utter, total stupidity will do.

    I should have made it clear. I don't *really* think the government has set out to screw the local IT sector. It's just that its policies in the area have been one disaster after another, with virtually *no* good ones in between.

  • but blame Telstra.

    For years now Telstra has had the monopoly over phone lines and internet, suddenly with the advent of competitive competitions its lucious profits have to be found some other way.

    The best way to do that and to maintain competition is to up the charge to which all other phone companies would have to pay. Telstra own the phonelines, therefore they have the power. The up the charges for use of the phone lines, other phone companies pay that charge, which in turn is passed onto the consumer in the form of an added service charge.

    The thing that really gets me angry is Telstra's marketing of their broadband, in one of their television ad's they try to portray their satellite service as a 'just as good' alternative to cable or adsl. Funny how they dont' mention that you also need a dial up ISP. Add that to the charge of having the satellite dish installed.

    Lets do some math in AU dollars

    Installation - $300
    Monthly Fee - $80
    Now the costs their reluctant to inform people about
    Dialup Fee - $30-$60
    Add to that the cost of a second line
    Second line, Installation - $100 (maybe more, maybe less)
    Monthly fee - $30 at least.

    And woe betide anyone who needs to make a STD (long distance) phonecall to reach an ISP.

    The other major problem Telstra have created is their weak links to major rural centres. I live in a semi rural town (around 100k population), yet it only has a 1Mbit connection to Melbourne (the nearest major city), no wonder they don't want broadband in use everywhere yet. They don't have enough bandwidth, hence their AUP gets enforced incredibly tightly.

    Their lack of movement in such areas seems to be only the result of their constant adoration with high profits. And since most of Australia owns Telstra shares, there's not much that can be done to upseat the board, or anything else that might help.


  • Somebody please mod this comment up!

    However, I take issue with a few of your statements:

    There is a cultural difference in what R&D means. We still have a very strong Academic research tradition . . . Corporations suck at real R&D.

    *Australian* corporations suck at R&D, mainly because they spend stuff-all on it (the exceptions being foriegn-owned multinationals, a few tech firms, and a very few enlightened other dcompanies). Australian companies aren't even capable of exploiting the technologies invented by Australian scientists in universities and the CSIRO, half the time. This is partly an issue of lack of government incentive and guidance for corporations, and partly a massive lack of management talent at the heads of many major Australian corporations.

    Australia faces many specific hurdles to train and retain skilled people.Duh!! You know why? Because of the famous 'brain drain'.
    Due to the lack of funding for universities, and the shortsightedness of the Australian corporate sector, valuable people are offered a fraction of the opportunities both financially and professionally than they can get overseas.

    While you are quite correct in that there is some element of self-servedness in Microsoft's report, they've made some good points.

  • Well, you can't expect much from the government in regards for IT, especially since the minister who has been in charge of it (Richard Alston) for the last 5 years hadn't even used the internet until about 2 years ago (and apparently still doesn't use it enough to be knoledgeable about it, let alone represent it in parliment). The whole internet thing isn't helped here when a partially-government-owned telco (Telstra) owns virtually all of the bandwith in oz, and gets away with charging 18c for each MB of traffic over all non-consumer links (don't forget, those are links going to other *cough*competing*cough* isp's). If Optus@Home hadn't had come around, people on cable connections would still be charged per MB charges if they went over their 500mb per month limit ;p - Thanks to competition, I'm now on a relatively unlimited download cable connection (though O@H, of course).
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <<robert.merkel> <at> <benambra.org>> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @12:19AM (#505528) Homepage
    Cool. I'll match that offer - I'll donate an unlimited license for Debian for all Victorian public schools ;-)
  • by Xenex ( 97062 ) <xenex&opinionstick,com> on Tuesday January 16, 2001 @12:20AM (#505529) Journal
    The Australian government isn't restricting Microsoft. Microsoft is staing some (correct) observations. They are right for once.

    Broadband in Australia is expencive, limited, and almost totally controled by one company (Telstra).

    Nothing in Australian law is hurting Microsoft.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, this is a very interesting phenomenon. It revolves around what the formal category of number expresses for different varieties of English-- does it express merely grammatical (i.e., purely formal) agreement of the verb with the subject noun phrase, or does it more or less transparently express some semantic concept of plurality?

    Your response, which embodies standard "correct" usage, embodies the former: what subject-verb agreement is sensitive to is not the semantics of the subject, but the morphosyntactic categories "plural" and "singular". The poster, apparently, has semantic (not morphosyntactic) subject-verb agreement, which is non-standard, but no less logical. Consider the fact that the very same "error" can be attested in many languages.

    Of course, this all rests in the assumption that there is such a thing as purely morphological plurals (i.e. that plural marking on nominal represents plural semantics in a completely iconic fashion). This is not an uncontroversial assumption, since the typical purported counter examples ("sissors", "pants", etc.) are frequently argued to be (at least potentially) semantically plural. But of course, such a topic would take us far afield.

  • There are a few people to blame here. First of all Little Johnny Coward, for making all the wrong decisions - look at Ireland, tax breaks galore, that works so lets do it!

    Secondly Richard Alston, that old man who doesn't understand these new fangled computer things...Internet censorship bill, yeah, why not...

    Third, telstra, they don't care so much about broadband, as long as they make money (which they will, no matter what we use.

    As far as I can tell the only way to fix the problem is elect a govenment that gives a shit about the way the world looks at us.

  • And does the US Embasy really have really have a machine that makes the toilet flush the correct way?
  • While I agree that the government here - on IT issues especially - couldn't find it's own arse if it used both hands and a map, I think Microsoft's suggestions are uniformly self-serving and would actually make the situation worse.

    Our vaunted 'deregulation' has turned Telecom from a slothful but competent beauracracy into an agency that gouges more money from Australians than can be imagined, (biggest profits in australian corporate history) while sacking most of the technicians who actually run the system. Remember; they only started charging that $0.17/Mb in 1995 once they'd wrested control of AARNet from the vice-chancellors committee. As for the situation in the bush...

    Frankly, what this nation needs is not more corporate investment and control, but:

    * Nationalization of the telecom infrastructure (yes, you heard me) and deregulation only of services and support. Same for electricity, water, and all basic infrastructure; which is frankly why governments are supposed to exist.
    * Significant government investment in education and basic research. Again.
    * Sane and sensible policy on issues like digital signatures, privacy, and datacasting. (Die! Alston, Die!)
    * Use of government clout to introduce new technology once past the incubator stage, which is where we have traditionally fallen down.

    Of course, none of that is going to happen. I despair.
  • We both have the same problems with companies called Telecom. Looks like the 200 or so years hasn't changed Australia that much from the 'mother country' :)

    Pity the people that live here were too incompetent to vote for a republic when they had a chance (no offence intended, I just think Australia could stand on it's own two feet in writing, it does in every other way)

  • Where do they get off? How do they even expect the Australian Gov't to have good policy regarding IT [slashdot.org] when they don't even know what IT [slashdot.org] is? Sheesh...
  • What an innovative suggestion ;)

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard