Friday, December 07, 2007


One of the things that really annoys Hec, he tells us, is stupidly simplified questions on public issues.

A case in point: Australia's Nine Network today asked whether Telstra (the still part-government-owned telecommunications utility in Australia) should do what the government told it to do.

The issue was the new federal government's proposition that Telstra should acquiesce in losing an undetermined but potentially sizeable portion of its market in the interests of providing Australians with the 'super-broadband' access promised by the new government elected on November 24.

So how do you answer that question?

You can say Yes (and indeed you probably should), but that affirmative must be conditioned. Government should have no role in ordering business entities around, other than by necessary and essentially limited regulation. In the case in point, Telstra has shareholders (including Australian governments) whose investor rights would be infringed by placing the corporation in circumstances that might well destroy a large part of its business.

If you say No (Hector did, just to be contrary), then you're just as guilty of supporting official disingenuousness.

It might be difficult to build a little necessary complexity into 'fire and forget' web polls, but it should be done. Otherwise we'll just all get dumber and dumber and turn missing the point into policy practice.

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