Thumbs up for Benetton

Why should one of the world’s largest designer clothing companies bow down to some ill-considered and ignorant demand by some uneducated, reactionary extremist extremist organisation?

That is the question Benetton is asking as PETA has demanded it not use Aussie wool in its clothes.

Benetton is saying quite rightly that Australian woolgrowers produce the best wool in the world, so why stop using it? PETA, in other words, can get stuffed!

PETA’s grievances are based on stupid notions. They would have us believe that practices which are performed on humans (for our own good) are somehow immoral on animals. That minor surgery or procedures which may cause pain in the short term (for the long term good of the animal) are somehow totally unjustified, and that the perpetrators and anyone to do with them are evil.


So what next? PETH (People for The Ethical Treatment of Humans) banning dentistry because of the “pain and suffering” of patients?

Throwing blood at surgeons who specialise in maxillofacial surgery, particularly wisdom teeth removal?

Banning sport because it can lead to injury?

PETA will be irrelevant within a year or two – they’re a bunch of frauds whose only strength is their ability to draft moronic actors and singers to “raunchy” (for American standards) photo shoots.

“Relieve Me” or “How I Sacked the Taxman”

I have long believed in small government and small taxation.

In Australia, this has seemed like a pipe dream due to the lack of control of the Senate and state governments by a truly liberal force.

However, now it seems there is a liberal force in Australian Parliament. Two relatively new members of Parliament, Sophie Panopoulos and Mitch Fifield, have brought about an informal policy group which is pushing for real tax reform in Australia.

Very, very happy
Better than tax relief

The GST package was a good start, but not good enough. Australia is still heavily taxed and still has an extraordinary number of taxes and taxes by another name: levies, charges, surcharge, fees etc., all of which contribute to distortions, inequities and reams of paperwork for people and businesses in Australia.

Taxation reform is necessary on the most basic levels because, when choosing whether or not to work, you trade spare time with the ability to earn. Most of us don’t have a choice – we work to support our lives and families. But others, namely retirees and part time workers, are essentially punished if they choose to work. The incentive is not there.

Further, Australia is facing a skills shortage as the population gets older. Part of this problem is that older people don’t want to work too late, but also because, as the Aussie tradition goes, many bright young things piss off overseas as soon as they can plug themselves into the global job market. Whether it’s London, Singpore or elsewhere, many of the most talented and high profile Aussies have no interest in staying in a country which takes close to half of everything they earn in tax.

What makes a lot more sense is a simple progression of the GST system. Firstly, take away every single tax that exists apart from the GST and income tax – stamp duty, bank levies, blah blah blah – there are literally hundreds.

Then take away deductions. People shouldn’t be able to deduct anything from tax. It causes inefficiencies. If people such as plumbers feel hard done by, then they should charge more – the effective market rate for their services.

Then, take away the weird scale rates of income taxation. Make it simple: No tax payable up to $20,000. 10% up to $40,000. 15% payable up to $60,000. 20% up to $80,000. 25% up to $100,000 30% payable on everything over that.

Then boost the GST by maybe 5% – so that it’s a 15% GST. (Mind you these figures may not add up in terms of a decent revenue base but you never know…)

So – Aussies pay a maximum 30% of their wages to tax (matching the corporate tax rate and doing away with the stupid and wasteful 17% shelf company industry) and 15% on consumption with no deductions for food or any other distortions.

A simple piece of tax legislation which would eliminate the need for thousands of jobs at the ATO, thousands of pages of boring and complicated tax legislation, complicated and hassled tax returns. All these tax minimisation schemes and arrangements would be useless and money would be directed to effective, growth fulfilling investments instead of the most tax effective ones.

The bigger picture: attracting back the skills and talents of the over 1 million Aussies who live overseas. Growing Australia’s skill base. Making this country the most progressive, modern tax regime in the world.

Talk to Me! I LOVE VOIP. I worry about Telstra.

Voice over IP is the coolest thing since the invention of the telephone.

It will grow far quicker than the net.

It will be far more popular than the WAPs, iModes and other technologies.

It is the future, currently being offered by numerous companies, such as Skype, Vonage and Net2Phone.

The point is – why pay for a phone line physically connecting you to an exchange which then physically connecting you to another exchange which then physically connects to to the place you’re trying to call? In an analogue world, when wire had to touch another wire for a call to go through, then of course it was the only option.

Out of the company and in the closet

But now, packets of information flow around the world at light speed, routed through any means, the quickest and most efficient with flow control and error correction. We’re talking a modular digital information flow.

Do you think Ziggy Switkowski fully understood this? The bloke was bright, yes, A PhD in nuclear physics, but as an opportunist, as a strategist the guy sucked. He was almost Bill Gates-esque in his inability to see the future develop (remember that in his 1995 autobiography, the Road Ahead, Gates failed to predict, or even mention the rise of the internet – he later updated the book to omit this massive misjudgement). Telstra will no longer survive as a company if it continues to covet it’s copper. It still thinks like a pipe company when it should be thinking like data communications company. It might sound logical, but to the Telstra management, they’re still stuck in the ages of public monopolies.

I have some questions which I’d like to throw out into the ether:

What has Telstra done about the threat of wireless ISPs and investment in mobile broadband networks (such as Unwired) bypassing the “last mile”?

What has Telstra done about reviving the once mighty Telstra Research Labs (TRL) and providing Aussie ingenuity with an outlet and opportunity for innovation and export income (not stupid investment in PCCW and Reach)?

What has Telstra done about the abysmal takeup of broadband in Aussie homes?

What has Telstra done about laying a public relations framework and on an organisational level, TRULY preparing itself for T3?

Why is it that Telstra has sat on its pile of cash and achieved bugger all during the greatest information boom in the history of the world? (Oh I forgot, they couldn’t buy Channel Nine or Fairfax so they bought the Trading Post).

Let’s hope the next CEO of Telstra will answer these questions and put together a philosophy for the company which will make it the BHP Billiton of communications and information. Further, we plead to the Federal Government to sell the company, quick sticks.

KaZaA vs the world – digital downloads vs legal eagles

Sharman Networks, the owners of the KaZaA P2P file-sharing software, has been sued by a collection of record companies in a civil case in Australian courts. The company is under pressure as the record companies are claiming that KaZaA was responsible for rampant piracy and file sharing of coyrighted product.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, record companies are buying into and initiating strategic alliances with file sharing software companies.

“Share and share alike, I say”

How the hell do these record companies make any sense? They don’t! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – file sharing is the best thing to happen to the music industry in years. It has encouraged passion about music again. What is this Christmas’ hottest gift? The iPod! what do people do with their iPod? Listen to music!

The problem with the music industry isn’t that people aren’t paying for music, it’s that they keep merging and releasing less artists of lower quality – therefore people couldn’t give a toss.

As a side topic, part of the defence argument from Sharman Networks is that file swapping per se is legal in the US, where 98 of users reside. It’s an interesting point – it is legal to swap files, but illegal to actually break copyright laws. Let’s hope the Supreme Court of New South Wales follows the precedent set in the Betamax cases where VCR manufacturers actually advertised that people should buy their VCRs based on the fact that they could duplicate tapes. The court found that while the act of copying was illegal, the VCRs had a legitimate use therefore could not be made illegal.

Either way, it shows how out of touch the record companies are – they sue KaZaA and another one will pop up in its place: Acquisition, Limewire, et al. To paraphrase Princess Leia: the more they squeeze the more file sharers will slip through their fingers.

Sadly, I imagine this is how companies will behave as digital distribution eats their business model. Sue, block or lobby to stop their competitors from taking away their cosy business model and replace it with something consumers much prefer.