Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Internet censorship, Indian students, higher education and the Telstra deal

Just a round-up this morning on some of the things that I have been monitoring.

The decision by the National Party's Federal Conference to vote against the Australian Government's ISP filtering policy was welcome. The decision is not binding on the Parliamentary Party, but does provide guidance on Party views.

My problem with the Minster's proposals lies not so much in the idea of censorship as such, although I am always cautious here. Rather, it lies in the creation of a mechanism capable of creeping misuse.

Back in January, I wrote of the death of Indian student Nitan Garg and the reaction inDehli mail cartoon today India (here, here). This cartoon from the Delhi Mail at the time summarises Indian reaction.

It seems clear from the arrest of two teenagers for the stabbing murder that Mr Garg was an unfortunate victim of Melbourne's knife culture; his Indian nationality appears to have had nothing to do with it. 

I have mentioned Australian Policy and History before. There is a very good article there by Eric Meadows, Australia’s Relations with India: Some of the History, that sets a historical context.

From an Australian perspective, dealing with India under Nehru was an absolute pain at any level. That is beside the point. What the article does show are the attitudes in India that set a context to the Indian reaction to Mr Garg's death. We need to be aware of them.

In the meantime, the mess created by Australian Government policy towards international education continues to deepen. I think it highly likely that it will take years for the sector to recover, if indeed it can.

Staying with Australian higher education, it appears that the Government's new approach to disadvantaged student will have the effect of benefiting metro universities as compared to those in non-metro areas. I quote:

  Regional universities such as Central Queensland University, the University of New England and James Cook University look to be among biggest losers from the new measure, RMIT University policy analyst Gavin Moodie said. In contrast the University of Western Sydney, Victoria University and the University of NSW will be among the big winners.

The reasons appear to come back to the way disadvantage is calculated relative to the current composition of the student body, as well as the catchment areas. I need to look at this in more detail, but it appears to be the same type of effect that already plagues the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing. There, for example, the application of universal rules treats an Aboriginal person from the NSW town of Balranald the same as one from Darwin.

When the Australian Government first announced it's approach on disadvantaged students, I said that it was flawed because it did not address the real causes of non-attendance at University. I suggested that means tested scholarships were a better approach. I really need to look at this in more detail.

Back in March 2010 in Broadband, Telstra and the future of Australia's telecoms, I concluded:           

My best guess, and it is a guess, is that so long as the price is right, Telstra may actually exit the traditional infrastructure business, leaving NBN not just with fibre but also copper cable.

The details of the $A11 billion deal announced between Telstra and the Government are still unclear and are also subject to various approvals. On the surface, this is just what Telstra has done.

The Government needed this deal, so it is worth examining in detail when details become clearer. I suspect that it's not a bad deal for Telstra, although at least one analyst disagrees. What will Telstra do with the cash? I suspect that most of it will be invested outside Australia.

Well, I'm out of time.


My interpretation in the last few paragraphs  is not completely correct, for Telstra will retain some infrastructure. The Government's press release is here.       

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