Market The Massage, Not Media Moguls

The release of submissions to Communications Minister Helen Coonan’s media reform proposals merely confirm a few truisms about the debate over media ownership in Australia: The public is deeply ambivalent about the spectre of ownership concentration. And few commentators and organisations are willing to break the cycle of protectionism and regulation that has characterised the sector for the past century.

Much of the debate about the removal of cross-media ownership rules, and their proposed replacement – a minimum number of owners in each market – has missed the point. Competition law, rightly or wrongly, governs the sector to protect against monopolistic practices. But ownership regulations relating to broadcasting go beyond that to encourage structural diversity.

Why do we fear, as Senator Coonan’s media reform paper put it, “excessive ownership concentration”? An aim of the broadcasting law is the promotion of opinion diversity.

Access to this is one of the foremost assumptions of a democratic society. It is widely believed that to ensure people are adequately informed about their choices in a democracy, they require a wide range of information.

Given the large influence the media has on our democratic process, legislators fear a media mogul could unduly manipulate public opinion for their personal ends. With ownership limits, the Government tries to encourage “diversity”.

Unfortunately, we have not come far from the views of Robert Menzies who feared that “the most intimate form of propaganda known to modern science” could be controlled by “people who do not belong to this country”.

Senator Coonan has his spirit. Menzies was no lover of the free market and his Toryism is still reflected in the backward attitudes of the Liberal Party to media ownership.

The Government’s media changes will probably remove restrictions on foreign investment and ease cross-media ownership restrictions. While these changes go a small way to liberalising the industry, they do not challenge the widely held belief that moguls manipulate public opinion, to the detriment of Australia’s democracy.

Compare our relatively objective media with the highly partisan media of the 19th century and before.

Objectivity has not arisen because of ownership restrictions or the best efforts of legislators. Instead, it is a response to market demands through changing technology.

In the early 20th century, many media proprietors realised there was a greater market for a news media without overt partisanship. Technology in this period, from cheaper printing presses to radio and television, enabled them to capture that market. The notion of journalistic objectivity has been the result of these changes and consumer demand.

More recent changes in market structure could be pushing our broadcast media the other way. We often desire objectivity in reporting, but also enjoy reading highly partisan blogs or opinionated columnists.

Today’s proprietors face an explosion of technologies. Some are well appreciated, such as blogs on the internet. But some are not often recognised for how significantly they have changed viewing habits, such as the video recorder.

Despite their well-publicised views on political issues, the moguls, including Rupert Murdoch, have comparatively little influence compared with the all-powerful newspaper tycoons such as William Randolph Hearst and Lord Beaverbrook, who operated without substantial competition. Murdoch is no Citizen Kane.

Radical change over the past 30 years has inundated media companies with competition. The high capital costs that encouraged the media to package objectivity are being replaced by the extraordinarily low costs of cheap printing and the internet.

As any first-year marketing student will predict, media companies, big and small, are attempting to respond to this highly competitive environment by differentiating their product from competitors.

One effective way is the careful, studied introduction of political viewpoints.

Any assessment or assertion of bias in a media organisation has to take into account this fact – more often than not, bias is an intentional technique to attract and retain an audience.

The internet gives people interested in political ideas more viewpoints than they would be able consume in a lifetime.

We live in an age of information and opinion abundance, rather than one where we need to be wary of the undue influence of media tycoons.

The reality is that no ownership regulation is going to prevent media organisations from chasing markets they consider to be profitable. Legislators should treat the media no differently than any other industry – neutral and respectful of the services they offer consumers.

It is unfortunate the Government, and many of the contributors to the media reform consultations, do not believe that.

Scandinavian Idol

Since William Lane’s disastrous attempt in the mid-1890s to create a socialist Australia in Paraguay, Australian social-democrats have looked offshore for their idols. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the trade union mission to Scandinavian countries which culminated in the Australia Reconstructed report, a report which extolled Sweden above all others as a nation of unsurpassed social-democratic virtue. Since then, it has been used as an aside in numerous speeches, op-eds and policy papers – ‘If Sweden can do it, why can’t we?’

But does Sweden vindicate the Social-Democratic model? Sweden, and its Scandinavian neighbours, have long been touted as the archetypal well-functioning welfare states — stable, democratic, and, most indicatively, competitive. Ericsson and Ikea, models of successful globalising companies, originate in Sweden. Both symbolise innovation and international competitiveness, Eric-sson the high-tech mobile phone industry (joined by its regional competitor, (joined by its regional competitor, the Finish Nokia), and Ikea, the radical- and Ikea, the radically consumer-centric model of low-price, semi-disposable furniture.

But competitiveness in global markets is clearly not the major appeal of these Scandinavian countries to those who lean left around the world. Instead, it seems to hold the holy grail of social-democratic politics — record-high levels of social spending, a ‘consensus’ model of democratic governance, and internationally incomparable levels of trade union involvement in the political process.

It is no surprise that the Scandinavian model is much referenced as the ideal. Australia Reconstructed, presented a contrarian case to boost welfare and labour market restrictions at just the time Australia was moving away from that model. In May this year, RMIT academic Andrew Scott presented a paper to Melbourne University’s Contemporary European Research Centre arguing that the Scandinavian model described by Australia Reconstructed still had much to offer Australian policy-makers.

As the report is, in Scott’s words, ‘still the most comprehensive policy manifesto ever published by the Social-Democratic left in Australia’, its influence in the union movement and left-of-centre parties in Australia more generally is still significant. Scandinavian idolatry has lasted well into the twenty-first century. In the past six months, Stephen Smith has used Sweden as an example to attack recent workplace reforms. Wayne Swan has used it to condemn Australia’s R&D policy. In a speech in Melbourne to the Australian Institute of Company Directors late last year, Kim Beazley argued that social-democracy can still work, because Nokia and Ericsson produce high-quality phones. Praise for the Scandinavian model is a regular feature of Parliamentary and intellectual debate around the country.

But the tributes paid to the Scandinavian, particularly the Swedish, model by the ACTU researchers came at a peculiar moment in Swedish history. While not yet self-evident, it was clear that the Swedish model was in trouble. The Business Council of Australia, who replicated the ACTU’s Nordic retreat in October 1986, found that the Swedish economy was in dire trouble, having begun a slow but perceptible decline since the beginning of the 1970s and, even in the economic environment of the 1970s and 1980s, was more prone to stagflation than other comparable nations around the world. (A summary of the findings by the BCA, ‘Avoiding the ‘Swedish Disease’, by the head of the mission, Peter McLaughlin, appeared on these pages in April 1987.)

Less than five years after the debate over Australia Reconstructed, Sweden’s economy nearly collapsed. The economy went into deep recession, official unemployment figures skyrocketed, and the budget deficit rapidly increased. The economic crisis forced sharp cuts in welfare expenditure, and stopped to a halt the welfare expansion that had characterised the country over the previous few decades.

It is true that many other nations, Australia included, experienced economic crises at this time. But it is also the case that the source of these crises was more often than not the outdated social-democratic restrictions on the economy. The magnitude of the crisis in Sweden was therefore remarkable – the more inflexible you are, the less ready you are for the fall.

A brief history of the Swedish Model

Sweden is, surprisingly to outside observers, one of the great examples of liberal modernisation in the world.

Until relatively late by Western standards, the Swedish people were agrarian and dispersed. The aristocratic and political elite had little control over the economy. A series of land redistribution reforms in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries broke up the feudal villages and set the stage for what became a modernisation with an unusually wide popular base. A massive liberalisation of economic barriers was instituted mid-century, beginning with the liberalisation of shipping and mining in the 1830s, until 1864, when the final barriers to trade and enterprise were eliminated.

Democratic reforms and the removal of aristocratic privileges followed from the 1860s onwards. Having shut down the old monopolies, strengthened rights to private property, and removed regulatory barriers and corporate subsidies, Sweden experienced one of the most rapid modernisations and industrialisations in the developed world.

With rapid growth, came calls for increased social regulations. In 1912, a universal workers protection law was passed, followed by a basic pension, universal accident insurance, new poor and unemployment relief system, and significant increases in health funding.

Out of this newly urbanised and industrialised state, was forged the famous Swedish ‘consensus’. Says Swedish Historian Emil Uddhammar:

public expansion during the 20th century (has) taken place without any consistent opposition, on grounds of principle, by any party … The expansion of public power has taken place without any significant controversies.

The consensus which grew out of the rapid growth of the late nineteenth century, it seems clear now, was fundamentally opposed to the reasons for that growth. Instead of embracing the liberal democratic model which had brought it such sudden wealth, it emphasised the role of the State in creating the preconditions for the best possible life, in organising the economy and society for common ends. This grandiose project was known by the motherly phrase folkhemmet, a combination of folk (people), and hem (home) — the all-embracing welfare state.

This consensus was only possible because the Social-Democrat Party, which held power in Sweden for most of the twentieth century, and whose vision of Sweden most informs the Swedish model, separated with its previous orthodox-Marxist ideals and co-operated with business, viewing its capacity for wealth-generation as the economic source by which it could construct folkhemmet. In co-operation with the strong trade union movements which guaranteed constant pay improvements, the Swedish consensus was born.

It was not until the Second World War, however, that the full force of folkhemmet could be mustered. Wrote Ernst Wigforss, the Finance Minister at the end of the war:

The important thing is that we felt our experiences during the war had given us new and decisive arguments for a bolder social policy being both economically feasible and politically justifiable … While realising that the difficulties were greater in peacetime, one could still unhesitatingly make reference to wartime experiences. Our resources were greater perhaps than most people had suspected. Would it not be possible, with a completely different strength from previously, to appeal to people’s feeling for the greatness of a common peaceful task of construction?

Having a fully functioning industrial base and a largely unharmed civilian population within reaching distance of the devastated continent turned out to be sufficient support to sustain record high levels of employment and steady, if not particularly impressive, growth.

As the consensus, and the faith in the Swedish model, grew, the level of social spending and state intervention matched it. The historian Arne Ruth writes:

The planning mentality was accepted on a scale, which even its keenest advocates in the thirties could hardly have imagined. The already dead-straight highway of Swedish industrialism was asphalted into the condition commonly known as the Swedish model. It was so outstandingly successful that virtually all criticism was silenced for decades. Through its very success it tended to exterminate all other options, all the objections great and small, which could have helped to correct its bearings in time. It killed history, not least. The planners extrapolated their graphs for decades ahead.

By the mid-1970s, as the 1987 BCA report indicated, it was possible to perceive deep flaws in the Swedish economy. Industrial employment had declined since the mid-1960s, and was similarly declining in importance to the economy. Absolute employment growth in the industrial sector culminated as early as 1965.

The core of the folkhemmet, lavish welfare entitlements, began to show its flaws during the 1960s and 1970s — so much so that Astrid Lindgren, the children’s author of, among other things, Pippi Longstocking, in 1976 wrote Pomperipossa in Monismanien, a fable about how the title character Pomperipossa lives out her life on welfare payments and never has to write another book.

As Mauricio Rojas, author of Sweden after the Swedish Model: From Tutorial State to Enabling State, writes, Sweden’s progressive taxation and welfare policies had changed Sweden’s ‘basic distributive principle from “equal pay for equal work” to “equal pay (or in-come) regardless of work”.’

What Australia can learn from Sweden

In the early 1990s, Sweden faced the fruits of four decades of social-democratic governance. Unemployment rocketed up from 2.1 per cent in 1990 to 12.5 per cent in 1993. The Swedish consensus, at least at this stage, was, however, largely intact — broadly supportive of an extensive, redistributive state.

This set of pressures — a devastating economic crisis, without a significantly reduced support for a large welfare system — inspired Swedish governments in that decade to institute a series of major innovative reforms to the government provision of social services.

In 1990, as part of a series of reforms to decentralise government services, the Swedish municipalities were given full financial control of the compulsory and the upper secondary schools. In 1992, this was followed by the introduction of what could roughly be described as a school voucher system, a major reform to the education system which has been advocated by liberal policy makers around the world for a long time. In Sweden, this consisted of an obligation on the municipalities to give independent schools 85 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the municipal schools, and giving parents the right to choose the right school for their children. Subject to maintaining certain educational standards, all independent schools are eligible for this funding.

For advocates of school choice in Australia, the empirical results from the adoption of such a system in Sweden have served as a vindication. A series of studies has found that competition between education providers has improved educational outcomes. As F. Mikael Sandström and Fredrik Bergström find in their paper ‘School Vouchers in Practise’:

Greater competition improves the standards of public schools. The wide scope of reform of the system for financing primary education makes the Swedish experience particularly interesting. Sweden has left a system with virtually no parental influence over school choice, and an almost complete dominance of public schools. A voucher system, where parents are allowed to choose any school approved by the National Agency for Education, has been put in its place. Independent schools receive funding on close to equal terms with public (municipal) schools. A widespread concern among opponents of school choice is that competition will hurt the public schools. The present study shows this fear to be without foundation.

For an Australian observer, it is interesting to learn that the school voucher system implemented in Sweden has been embraced by the teachers’ unions themselves. According to the head of the Swedish Teachers Union, Lärarförbundet, teachers were ‘a little suspicious at first’, but have come to embrace the new system — which not only gives parents choice of education institutions, but grants teachers greater choice of potential employers.

Nevertheless, their Australian counterparts continue to oppose them, arguing that such an innovative policy model is a mere ‘smokescreen to avoid tackling real equity issues in schools … the best way to improve schools is to improve public schools’.

Although not as advanced, Sweden has also made significant inroads into health care reform. The mid-1990s witnessed a series of slow but unmis-takable moves towards greater choice and competition in health care. By 2002, health authorities were utilising an extensive internal market, purchasing services from more than 2,000 medical providers in the Stockholm region alone. Most of these are medical practitioners.

Swedish health care analyst Johan Hjertqvist argues that given the unpromising state of international health care, these reforms ‘may represent the biggest privatisation of health care services production ever in the long history of socialised medicine’. Even emergency care is moving towards private ownership, as previously government-controlled emergency hospitals corporatise in preparation for their eventual privatisation.

Sweden has a pension scheme not dissimilar to Australia’s, where citizens are given ownership of part of the pension savings and the freedom to choose which funds to invest in.

It should be clear by this stage that the impression of Sweden as a social-democratic wonderland is incomplete at best. Like Australia, the nation is going through a long period of economic reform and rejuvenation. Privatisation has been a recurring theme. The postal monopoly was abolished in 1993, having been challenged in Stockholm by a private company, CityMail, which had been operating since 1991. Water services have been privatised throughout many municipalities since the mid-1990s.

In a setback in 2004, the national government banned the further privatisation of public hospitals. However, this year, the opposition conservative coalition has agreed to privatise a huge range of state-owned companies, indicating the continued appeal of liberal economic reform.

The harsh reality of the Swedish utopia

Many, but not all, of these reforms have been embraced by the Swedish public and have been integrated into the ‘consensus’. However, their history and the circumstances from which they were born make it clear that they were creations of necessity — possibly because of a public recognition of a crisis within the welfare state and the need for reform in services.

Despite these many changes, the welfare state remains largely intact, sustained by the largest tax burden in the OECD — 50.6 per cent of GDP, down from roughly 70 per cent in 1993. The consequences of such continuing massive government weight on the economy are entirely predictable and unsurprising — Swedish exceptionalism has not expelled economic man.

Although growth is high compared with the rest of Europe, since 1998 the economic recovery has, unfortunately, been only partial, and accompanied by a number of disturbing trends.

The crisis of the early 1990s threw a much larger segment of the population from 20 to 64 years of age on to some sort of aid or social security, from just over 700,000 in 1990 to nearly 1,200,000 in 1994. Since then, however, despite a significant economic recovery over the last ten years, this has only dropped moderately — in 2003, more than one million out of a total of 5.2 million within that age bracket of people were the recipients of wealth transfers.

Similarly, a significant growth in absenteeism due to illness has coincided with the reduction in unemployment levels. None of these trends will be un-familiar to those acquainted with general critiques of the welfare state, and despite the sentiments expressed by advocates of a similar model for Australia, are well in evidence in Sweden.

Mauricio Rojas states that:

A country like Sweden that provides broad and generous social benefits, necessarily assumes that, on the one hand, its citizens are willing to work and contribute a high percentage of their income to the State coffers and, on the other hand, will not misuse or take advantage of the subsidy systems. It is simply assumed that the people and State build this relationship on a strong foundation of decency and social solidarity. However, this moral foundation is showing visible and worrying cracks. Sweden in general and social democracy in particular are currently suffering what can be called a widespread moral crisis…

Sweden is similarly held back by a series of regulatory fashions whose time is certainly past. For instance, much Swedish housing is governed by a unique rent regulation system characterised by a collective bargaining system analogous to collective bargaining in labour markets. While the 1990s saw significant migration into metropolitan areas, the combination of restrictive planning laws and this collective bargaining system saw very little growth in housing construction, as well as the rise of a significant (although nearly impossible to measure) black market in rental contacts. Despite this, reform is opposed by the strong tenants union.

The effects of the still-strong Swedish model extend well past the predictable. The combination of the corporatist relationship between business and government and the expansive welfare state influences the structure of the nation’s industries, disincentivising certain industries over others.

For instance, by looking at job generation and the Swedish IT industry, the economist Dan Johansson has found that the nation’s large and centralised institutions systematically discriminate against innovative and small firms in favour of larger, older ones. Industrial subsidies and support have been confined to more traditional industries such as farming, construction and manufacturing; furthermore, even within these industries, the taxation system favours older, capital-intense firms with strong institutional links to the state.

Despite highly visible and publicised international successes such as Ericsson, and record high levels of public R&D spending, the Swedish economy is not the innovative one presented by supporters of Australia Reconstructed. Ericsson itself, along with Telia (Sweden’s largest telecommunications network operator), dominate the IT industry within the country at the expense of smaller, independent companies. Indeed, out of the 50 largest private firms, not one of them was established less than 35 years ago. Thirty-one were established before the First World War. The ownership of these firms has been concentrated in a small group of banks and families.

The well-established link between a strong welfare state and low levels of entrepreneurship is, despite the protestations of Kim Beazley, clearly in evidence in Sweden. As the Swedish economist Magnus Henrekson notes, ‘the entrepreneur is largely an alien in the Welfare State’.

The Scandinavian idol

Sweden is as good a test case for models of the political economy as policy makers are going to get. Until relatively recently it has been ethnically homogenous. Before the introduction of the welfare state it was small, yet highly industrialised and prosperous. It was not significantly affected by the wars which engulfed its European neighbours. It is untroubled by non-economic internal strife.

But despite all these advantages, the social-democratic model fares as well as theory predicts — unable to diminish the disincentives of universal welfare, unable, with a rigid and inflexible labour market and taxation system, to deindustrialise and reorientate the economy toward more entrepreneurial and technologically advanced sectors, and unable to increase productivity at the rate needed to maintain living standards in the long term.

Why is Swedish and Scandinavian idolatry so prevalent in Australian political debate? It is used by political ideologues as corroborative evidence that increases in state spending and welfare can work. Close examination, however, reveals it to be no exception to general political and economic principles.

It is also curious that its advocates neglect to mention its highly successful experiments in school choice and other market reforms.

But if social democracy doesn’t work in Sweden, few other nations present lynchpins on which to hang the dreams of social democrats in Australia — few, at least, with comparable social freedoms and democratic institutions, unlike the frustrating totalitarianism in Cuba. As the foregoing analysis has shown, Swedish idolatry is a chimera, little more than a rhetorical trick, and has little bearing on reality.

Media regulations need massive, radical reform, not minor tweaking

The latest proposals for media reform do nothing but reinforce the corporatist approach that the government has taken towards the industry. Designed to entrench incumbents and ‘future-proof’ them against competition, references to dramatic changes in media brought about by information technology are mere wrapping around minor regulatory tweaks. The discussion paper released in March, Meeting the Digital Challenge: Reforming Australia’s media in the digital age, has been greeted by much press and industry as a bold reform agenda for the sector, but the reality is that the government’s proposals do not even scratch the surface of the reforms which are desperately needed.

The Government’s reforms do no justice to the massive, sweeping changes faced by media in Australia and around the world.

In this field, few commentators, regulators and policy-makers shy away from the term ‘revolution’. If the word was not just as uniformly applicable to so many other industries whose business models are under siege from cheap, ubiquitous, and steadily more powerful computing and communications technologies, then it would no doubt be appropriate. Few, areas of economic activity — if any — are immune.

The histories of media content, delivery, and technology have been histories where radical change is the norm, not the exception. The twentieth century saw dramatic changes in the format, delivery and content of a huge range of media, from the amateur radio and recorded sound of its first decade to the MP3 of its last. Numerous technological innovations have altered the way we consume, produce and interact with media. The transition of magazine printing from the older rotary press to offset lithography in the 1960s and 1970s dramatically reduced the cost of printing, resulting in the proliferation of hundreds of specialty publications, in contrast with the previously rather limited selection. The history of popular music was shaped by a potent combination of the use of the FM band by independent broadcasters and the emerging competition from television in the 1950s. Vinyl recordings, tapes, CDs and MP3s — and the devices they are played on — have further altered our relationship with popular music, and the content of the music itself.

To a degree, the regulatory environment which has evolved has reflected the constantly mutating forms of its target. Ever since the ill-conceived ‘sealed set’ radio scheme — where, after a government-business conference in 1923, licensed stations would sell receivers locked so that they could only tune into the licensee’s station — there has been little attempt to allow the market to determine the topography of the Australian media terrain. Originating with a progressive-era pact between government and business for an orderly and restricted radio network, similar frameworks have been adapted for each new technology as it entered the market.

As the 2000 Productivity Commission report into broadcasting services aptly stated, the Australian media ‘reflects a history of political, technical, industrial, economic and social compromises. This legacy of quid pro quos has created a policy framework that is inward looking, anti-competitive and restrictive’.

In praise of stupidity

Traditional media are commonly viewed through the traditional vertical ‘silo’ model—separate, distinct networks which do not interact. Content delivered over radio is distinct from content delivered at the news-stand, and both are distinct from content delivered over television. And the networks themselves are designed to deliver and interpret the specific content they were designed for. Radio is unsuited to being delivered over the television network. The resolution of a basic television signal is ill-suited for delivering text in bulk.

Australian regulation is built around this silo model. For instance, content requirements and quotas are platform-specific. Anti-siphoning regulations use business models as their determinant. And, most obviously, cross-media laws specifically regulate different networks — artificially restricting ownership and, implicitly, content sharing — in local markets.

‘Convergence’, the process by which multiple products — for instance, video, person-to-person communication and broadcast audio — are delivered over a single network (the Internet) has made this regulatory approach increasingly unsuitable. Instead, the Internet is governed by an ideal termed ‘end to end’ (or e2e). Writes Lawrence Lessig:

e2e says to build the network so the intelligence rests in the ends, and the network itself remains simple. Simple networks, smart applications. The reason for this design was simple. With e2e, innovation on the Internet didn’t depend upon the network. New content or new applications could run regardless of whether the network knew about them. New content or new applications would run because the network simply took packets of data and moved them along. The fundamental feature of this network design was neutrality among packets. The network was simple, or ‘stupid’ … and the consequence of stupidity, at least among computers, is the inability to discriminate. Innovators thus knew that if their ideas were wanted, the network would run them.

The neutrality of the Internet Protocol (IP), essentially just an agreement on how computers communicate with each other, has encouraged innovators to develop countless programs unimagined by the Internet’s architects. The ‘dumb pipe’ of the Internet, unlike the highly regulated silos of traditional media, just doesn’t know how to distinguish between any of these.

As the content is divorced from the infrastructure that provides it, the Internet is infinitely expandable. There is no theoretical limit upon how many devices can connect to the Internet, subject to realizable minor adjustments such as IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6.)

Stuck in the silos

But Meeting the Digital Challenge, despite its ambitious title, shuns any major realignment of media policy towards this new environment in favour of minor and insubstantial readjustments. Most clearly, the paper indicates a continual focus on what can only be described as a textbook example of government’s mis-regulating a new technology, digital television. Digital television is a perfect example of the poverty of the silo model of regulation, indeed, of regulation in the sector as a whole.

A new Digital Action Plan is intended to spur along take-up of digital television, and is likely to provide for a switchover period sometime between 2010–2012, having admitted that the previous deadline of 2008 was unrealistic.

Although the discussion paper is scornful of a ‘purely market based’ approach, it is the rejection of market processes that has left the transition bogged down in its technological quagmire. While ostensibly trying to encourage takeup of the new technology, content restrictions which force networks to simulcast the same content on both digital and analogue television remove the natural advantage that new forms of media have – the capacity to show something new. Instead, for most people, the investment in a set-top box or television capable of receiving the new signals will provide merely an increase in picture quality.

Digital television needs to add value for consumers, value above its ‘digital’ attribute — which is not inherently good in isolation. But instead of addressing this key issue, proposals for a Digital Action Plan focus on measures to stimulate take-up while most existing restrictions remain in place — including digital television awareness campaigns, compulsory labelling for analogue receivers, and financial assistance for those who cannot afford the new-fangled technology.

It is good that the ABC and SBS have been allowed to provide multi-channelling on their digital spectrum — why could not similar measures be taken for the far more popular commercial networks? It is unlikely that this relaxation will be sufficient to reverse the national apathy to a technology which the government bodies are so enthusiastic about.

The only reform is radical reform

But both government and regulators need to face the fact that, even if they get the switchover perfect from here on in, and the regulatory environment is at its theoretical most effective, digital television is unlikely ever to be the cornerstone of Australian media. That ship has long sailed.

It is not even appropriate to call media delivered over the Internet ‘next generation’ — new services such as Google Video and iTunes, delivering television and video content on demand for negligible cost, may be the thin end of the wedge, but they are fully functional and increasingly popular.

On the same day that Communications Minister Helen Coonan released the discussion paper, Apple’s iTunes — which had already sold 1 billion music files worldwide, and was offering television programmes such as Lost and Desperate Housewives — offered its first movie for purchase and download. The on-line retailing giant, Amazon, will soon offer movie downloads, and Google Video has been offering classic films since the start of the year. (And this is all before accounting for the massive, virtually unmeasurable peer-to-peer networks trading in current international television programmes and films.)

Unlike digital television, the advantages of these new services are clear – providing content free from quotas, timetables or geographic borders. Even in its infancy, the Internet commands significant ground in consumers’ entertainment choices. The low price of Internet usage obscures its significance as an entertainment competitor, but a recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper, ‘Valuing Consumer Products by the Time Spent Using Them: An Application to the Internet’, showed that, in the United States, around 10 per cent of all leisure time was spent on the Internet.

This is before on-demand television and film services have begun to take effect — most services have been launched in early 2006. Once it gains even the moderate popularity commanded by music downloading, and across a wider demographic, the real ‘digital challenge’ will become evident.

Therefore, whether the government recognizes it or not, the only regulatory framework that can fulfil the objectives of the Broadcasting Services Act — particularly, diversity of content and ownership, quality, competition and even development and reflection of Australian national character — is one that allows entrepreneurial investors to roll out high speed end-to-end networks free from government interference.

Rather than promoting services with dubious value, the government would do better to radically deregulate media industries to level the playing field across the sector — reducing distinctions between types of network, and recognizing that, regardless of whether the service traditionally delivers only sound, or only television, they now compete with a technology uniquely suited to delivering entertainment.

Any regulations which apply to one form of media should, by rights, apply to any other. Mismatched regulations artificially cripple legacy networks at the very moment that they need maximum flexibility to compete.

Regulations which restrict content need to be quickly reassessed. Australian and local content quotas, whatever their nationalistic intent, are meaningless on an end-to-end network — there is no way to measure 55 per cent of infinity, and even if there were, no mechanism by which Australian regulators could enforce it on a global entertainment service such as iTunes.

Anti-siphoning and anti-hoarding provisions have necessarily disadvantaged new media networks like pay television and digital television by providing incumbents with privileged access to ‘premium’ content. It is more worrying that, as the Chairman of the ACCC has intimated, premium content on so-called ‘third generation’ mobile networks and broadband services could be considered competition bottlenecks. Rather than further entrenching this regime by tweaking ‘loopholes’ as the discussion paper does, a forward-thinking media policy would look carefully at the rationale for anti-siphoning. Releasing popular content from restrictions such as these would encourage migration to new services far more than a top-down Digital Action Plan ever could.

Meeting the Digital Challenge allows for greater flexibility in foreign and cross-media ownership, but significant restrictions still remain. Even before the Internet became a significant challenge to the market share of traditional media, the regulated diversity of ownership is a strikingly indirect method of ensuring diversity of content — editorial or otherwise. As consumers migrate to an infinitely expandable network which allows for unlimited entrants in a global entertainment market, artificial restrictions on ownership in Australia make less sense. Media companies no longer face competition from a restricted set of similarly protected competitors, but from IT upstarts across the world. The sector, and consumers, could benefit from a radical liberalization of the market.

It is unfortunate that the Government has skipped the chance to push through radical reforms of the media sector, at a time when the need for such reform is evident. Forward-thinking deregulation is not a pipe-dream in this area—every newspaper across the country has emphasized the ‘revolutionary’ potential of the Internet—but what remains is for the Government to take the same leadership it has shown in other areas such as industrial relations, rather than to kowtow to the largely protectionist media industry.

Releasing popular content from restrictions would encourage migration to new services far more than a top-down Digital Action Plan ever could

Submission to Meeting the Digital Challenge Discussion Paper on Media Reform Options

Introduction: The Australian media is heavily regulated by a wide range of legislation and industry codes. Ownership, content, structure and reach are all subject to government interference. These regulations are complemented by numerous government interventions and subsidies – film financing, public broadcasting, arts grants, tax concessions. The Productivity Commission report into broadcasting services argued that the current approach ‘reflects a history of political, technical, industrial, economic and social compromises. This legacy of quid pro quos has created a policy framework that is inward looking, anti-competitive and restrictive.’

The regulatory and subsidy labyrinth has been a recipe for inefficient and inequitable outcomes. It represents failures in Australian governments’ attempts to manage the introduction of new technologies and services, to foster‘diversity’ and equal access and unnecessary measures to prevent monopoly.

Relatively recent far-reaching technological changes in media content production and delivery have exacerbated the adverse efficiency effects of this unsatisfactory policy progression. The upshot has made it more urgent to implement a major adaptation of the sector’s regulatory framework. As the Institute of Public Affairs has long been involved in the economic, social and political debate over media and communications policy, we welcome the chance to comment on the government’s media reform discussion paper in the light of these developments.

View in PDF here.

Submission to Future use of unassigned television channels

Introduction: Australian spectrum policy is largely characterised by a ‘command and control’ approach to allocation. Government allocates rights, conditions of their use, and the services which may be provided. Such rights can rarely be traded, and are subject to continuous government supervision and regulation. Such a top-down approach is ill-suited to managing the implementation and diffusion of technological innovations, nowhere more so than in the field of communications and information technology. While such a framework may satisfactorily – although certainly not ideally – manage a limited and static array of services, its capacity to manage the allocation of new and future technologies is limited.

Available in PDF here.

Halters On Google For Now

Decisions by Microsoft and Google to obey repressive Chinese censorship in order to expand into the Chinese market do not represent a “surrender” (“Giants melt beneath the Great Firewall of China”, Opinion, February 3).

But it is not clear what Google and Microsoft’s critics in this case are actually advocating. It seems unlikely that they would have been able to negotiate away the censorship. The power of Google is mighty, but the Chinese regime’s stubbornness is by all reports mightier.

Should technology companies choose not to operate in China as a symbolic stand against the regime? If this is the case, should we refuse to trade with countries whose trade is not entirely free? It is hard to imagine any winners in either scenario.

But as innovative companies make inroads into Chinese markets, citizens now have access to the latest communications technologies.

Even without the capacity to search for words like Tiananmen, access to the infinite ocean of the internet will have real and concrete effects. The desire for political and economic freedom is not contingent upon access to freedom.org. Political thought is much less obvious than that.

The situation is not ideal. But more political freedom – and Google and Microsoft’s expansions do represent that – is better than less. We must not let the best become the enemy of the good.

Vi@gr@ $old h^r^: Is your annoyance our problem?

By the end of the year, the number of emails sent worldwide is predicted to reach 136 billion per day. An estimated 64 per cent of these, however, are spam — unsolicited emails sent in bulk, usually of a commercial nature.

The question is how to deal with the spam — should it be left to internet entrepreneurs and innovators, or to government regulators?

Spam is popularly derided for a myriad of reasons.

Like most technological develop-ments in communication, spam marketing has been pioneered by the porn industry. Most people with email addresses will now be intimately familiar with the benefits that Viagra has on ‘performance’, often graphically illustrated.

Spam is said to have a negative impact on productivity. A survey in the US, the 2004 National Technology Readiness Survey, found that workers spend 2.8 minutes per day deleting spam, at a total cost to US businesses of $21.58 billion annually in lost productivity. While the survey’s results, which relied on self-reporting, implied that workers spent more than 9 seconds deleting each spam message they received, the findings reflected a broad social belief that spam does not merely annoy, it harms.

As well as being detrimental to productivity and offensive, spam has also become a tool of the fraudster — Nigerian royalty are looking for investment partners right now. Spam is not restricted to email – spambots (automated robots which crawl the Internet looking for places to put spam, in part to raise their Google rankings) are now a common curse of the comments section on blogs, and a burden on website administration.

In response, governments around the world have stepped in to try to curb the evil of spam. The US CAN-SPAM Act 2003 requires email solicitations to provide details such as opt-out information, warnings about adult content, and a valid physical address of the business.

The Australian Spam Act 2003 goes much further — making it illegal to send ‘unsolicited commercial electronic messages’ that have an Australian link, with the usual exemptions for charities, political parties, and the government. The penalty for doing so can be as high as $1.1 million a day.

Despite the well-publicised efforts outlined above, spam continues to grow in quantity. While the Australian Government may be able to punish businesses with Australian links or physical addresses, there is absolutely nothing they can do to punish Russian — or Nigerian — spammers. While the legislation stops at the border, in a networked world, the spam does not.

Given that the problem is worldwide, it was perhaps inevitable that the United Nations would come to consider spam as a matter of utmost importance. Combating spam has become a central plank in the UN’s push to take over regulation of the internet.

None of these legislative remedies work. In fact, spammers don’t tend to obey laws. No legislation, no matter how draconian or restrictive, would be able to stop spam.

As one of the founders of the internet’s architecture, Vince Cerf, says, ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If we are not careful, we may fall into that trap by trying to develop overly simple definitions for what is really a very complex question’.

It is much wiser to leave anti-spam measures to the private sector, to place the responsibility for removing spam from mailboxes on the owners of those mailboxes, rather than a Canberra-based spam taskforce. nti-spam technology is one which the private sector is well equipped to develop. Sensible protection measures on individual machines, as well as responsible handling of spam messages (never respond to spam) reduce vulnerability. Email filters, available at all levels of ISP-user interaction, are able to reduce spam by a variety of methods — searching for commonly used spam words, statistical analysis, authentication, checksum-based filtering, and a whole host of others.

The back and forth between spammers and anti-spam developers has forced spammers to innovate and produce what will likely be remembered as a cultural artefact of the period—replacing ‘viagra’ with ‘|/@g^ra’.

There are clear indications that the anti-spammers are winning. Google’s web-based mail service, Gmail, has a spam filter which is remarkable in its capacity to identify dodgy messages accurately. Existing filters are highly effective in screening for malicious attachments — the only real danger that spam poses.

Do-not-call or do not answer?

Governments’ efforts to protect us from spam are indicative of an approach to modern communications which is expensive, symbolic and useless. Rather than allowing communications technologies to develop at the pace at which the market dictates, governments are intervening whenever it sees a ‘threat’ — even if it is undefined and merely an annoyance.

Does the mere fact that people are annoyed require government action? Is it the government’s role to encourage the productivity of individual workers? These seem to be the rationale behind the Spam Act, and the rationales behind the increasing amount of anti-annoyance legislation.

The Do-Not-Call list is another example. Modelled on the US system, the proposed Australian Do-Not-Call list is an opt-in list for those who do not wish to receive commercial telemarketing on their home phone. On the grounds that unsolicited commercial phone calls are intrusive, the do-not-call list would fine companies who called people who had registered. Similar exemptions apply here as with spam: charities, political parties and research institutions — as if these groups do not make intrusive calls seeking money!

With no apparent irony, the Consumer’s Telecommunications Network’s executive director, Teresa Corbin, stated in October that tele-marketing ‘is a huge issue for consumers. It should be dealt with the way spam has been dealt with — effectively and by the Government’.

Although Corbin draws the parallel for the wrong reason, spam and telemarketing are clearly similar — and have similar, free-market solutions.

Individuals are free to hang up the phone, and even to disconnect it when they do not wish to be disturbed. For those who don’t want to miss important calls, using answering machines to screen calls is not exactly a new development. And the market has come up with numerous other technological solutions — various products are available on the market that can screen telemarketers’ calls specifically, detecting the telltale signs of a call centre autodialer and hanging up the call.

Malicious content: spyware and zombies

While telemarketers and (in most cases) spam emails are not malicious, some unsolicited communications material can be. Spyware, roughly understood, is software that installs itself on your computer without your knowledge, desire or approval. Not only can it render the machine unusable if it is allowed to build up, but it can also report private information on it to another party. The challenge of making even a working definition of ‘spyware’ illustrates the haphazard approach any legislative solution to the problem would present.

As the danger of spyware is greater, so is the response from the software community. The anti-spyware market is highly competitive — AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy, two programs which are considered essential to keep a Windows computer clean, have been joined by a Microsoft anti-spyware system.

Any legislation to tackle spyware would have little effect on the major sources of the problem — the software markets operating out of Russia and Asia which constitute the bulk of nefarious activity. As Andrew Grossman of the Heritage Foundation says, ‘no set of regulations, no matter how finely detailed, would have much of an effect’.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has recently announced its intention to intervene when computers have been hijacked by spyware or other users and are broadcasting unintentionally over the Internet — a phenomenon known as ‘zombies’. A worthy cause, but again, one in which government’s involvement is unnecessary and ill-advised.

Responsibility for the Internet and the computers connected to it has to remain with those who have a stake in them — that is, users and internet service providers. If, as it seems clear, the government cannot keep up
with the pace of innovation in spam, spyware, and telemarketing, then its input is at best unnecessary and, at worst, counter-productive. A government insisting that it is tackling the problem of spyware would rob users of an understanding that they have to protect their machines themselves.

Depending on who you listen to, the first act of spam occurred either in 1978 or in 1994. The first Spam Act was passed in 2003. The decade-long lag between the invention of spam and the legislation to protect against it
is a perfect illustration of the futility of government action in protecting people against the horrors of the internet.

ACCC Paying Lip-Service To Innovation

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel now argues that content is the determining factor in whether a media company is being anti-competitive. (“Consumers the key to media revolution”, AFR, November 18).

Samuel says that the bar for monopoly has been substantially lowered. Now all it takes is an assessment that a company is acquiring too much premium content – sporting content, obviously, but movies as well. This judgement will continue to change as tastes do. He mentions tennis, AFL, rugby and cricket, but not soccer, which is now about as premium as you can get.

But it is the capacity for companies to make exclusive content deals that encourages entry into new, developing markets. If the ACCC punishes companies that it deems too enthusiastic in offering value to consumers, it will only make these consumers think twice about adopting the new technologies at all.

Why would the ACCC warn companies off experimenting with new products and services? Samuel may think that he is protecting competition, but by arbitrarily punishing companies he is punishing consumers and stifling innovation.

Such arguments as this betray the fact that the ACCC is merely paying lip-service to the possibilities of new media, rather than understanding its revolutionary consequences.

Can we remove the ban on mobiles in planes without killing each other?

Police in Warwick, Rhode Island, earlier this year reported that a driver, fed up with being stuck behind another driver who was chatting away on his mobile phone, got out of his car, called the other driver a punk, and promptly punched him in the face.

It’s now undeniably a cliché to proclaim that you can’t stand people using their mobile phones on public transport, or, for that matter, in any public place previously reserved for awkward silence. Mobile phones have inherited the same social baggage that smoking once held — perfectly legal and many people do it, but accompanied with disapproving looks from passers-by. As with smoking, it is greeted with the heavy-handed social regulation and legislation which is increasingly definitive of our relationships with government and each other. Bans on mobile phone use in cars are the most obvious example — the assumption being that making a phone call while driving is more dangerous than Mr Bean getting dressed on the way to work.

Is communication anti-social?

This is how most people approach the vexed question of mobile phone use on aircraft. It is easy to bristle at the possibility of having to sit through a nine-hour flight listening to a one-sided conversation in what seems to be Portuguese. For that matter, any electronic device can be potentially maddening — in the rare moments I take my iPod buds out of my ears, I’m sometimes shocked at how loudly I was listening to the music, and wonder how audible it was to people around me.

But there is a clear demand to use these devices. The flight between Melbourne and Sydney would be a decidedly different experience if the regular commuters were permitted to continue their business, rather than having that 51-minute quiet time. And as flying entails the diminution of a number of personal freedoms — food, sleep, even bathroom breaks are regulated — being able to communicate with family, friends or colleagues would be a reassertion of personal liberty.

And why shouldn’t they be allowed to?

Just as there are more dangerous activities to do while driving, there are more annoying things on airplane travel than a fellow traveller phoning home. If you don’t believe this, then you can’t remember John Candy in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, or Brad Pitt explaining to a bemused Edward Norton how to turn soap into explosives in Fight Club. But the quickest way to put the lie to the argument that mobile phones cause ‘air-rage’ (road-rage for the jet-lagged class), and should therefore be banned, is the mere existence of the expensive, back-of-seat telephones.

A recent survey of 702 air travellers showed that 63 per cent of flyers wanted to keep existing mobile phone restrictions on aircraft; only 23 per cent wanted to lift the ban. But as economist Bryan Caplan notes,

current opinion probably suffers from a large status quo bias. It wouldn’t take long before people started to enjoy the freedom to use their phones, and quit fretting so much about other people using theirs.

Would planes fall out of the sky?

Contrary to the impression created by the regular and hyperbolic instructions to turn off anything more powerful than a clockwork Happy Meal toy, it is not clear that electronic devices and mobile phones do interfere with aircraft electronics.

The history of regulation of personal electronic devices (PEDs) on aircraft, whether 2-way (‘intentional transmitters’) such as mobile phones, pagers and radios, or ‘non-intentional’ such as iPods, laptops and Game-Boys, has been one of apprehension. The initial ban on electronic devices on aircraft came after a 1963 study by the American Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), which looked at reports that PEDs had possibly interfered with aircrafts’ onboard electronic equipment. Further studies by the RTCA, one in the mid-1980s, and another ten years later, found that such a risk was extremely low, but was highest at critical phases during the flight, particularly take-off and landing.

In addition to these three studies, the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) looked specifically at mobile phone devices which showed that, theoretically, they could interfere with avionics, in particular with systems which had been certified to pre-1984 standards. Following these findings, the CAA recommended that the ban be upheld.

NASA keeps a record of nearly 70,000 anonymously reported aviation incidents and flight problems. But in only 52 of these — in other words, 0.08 per cent — did the crew suspect that the interference was caused by any personal electronic device. (As a side-note, 23 cases of ‘air rage’ were listed as caused by the use of PEDs.)

Looking at a number of examples contained in the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting Systems database is instructive.

  • In May of 1995, the electric compass indicators of the first officer of a Boeing 737 gave erratic readings. After a sweep of the cabin was made for portable electronic devices, which resulted in flight attendants asking a passenger to turn off a compact disc player, the first officer’s instruments returned to normal working order.
  • In March of 1997, a Cessna 340/A pilot experienced erroneous readings when attempting to determine his location because of a passenger using a cellular phone. After the passenger turned off the phone, the pilot was able to locate his position and continue on with no problems.

But, as a 2000 US Congressional Hearing made clear, ‘neither the RTCA nor the CAA were able to duplicate under controlled conditions the interference from a PED that their studies indicate[d] could theoretically occur’. As shown above, the only examples of interference have been anecdotal — no firm link has been established between PED use and disruption to avionic systems. No incident has been able to be replicated. In one case, Boeing, struggling with the PED question, purchased a passenger’s laptop that a pilot claimed had triggered an autopilot error. Flying the same route, with the same laptop in the same seat, Boeing was unable to duplicate the incident.

In the absence of any corroborating examples, it is highly possible that in many of the 52 cases in the NASA database, the existence of a PED onboard was used as a convenient explanation for an otherwise undiagnosed incident. And how likely is it that only 52 illicit PEDs have been used on aircraft since the NASA reporting system began?

Regardless of the uncertain effects of PEDs on avionics, aviation regulators around the world have resolutely banned mobile telephones on aircraft, and placed heavy restrictions on nonintentional transmitters. These regulations are backed up by airline-specific rules about what can be used when.

But as well as being illustrative of the natural timidity of government regulators on safety issues, these regulations help airlines restrict any onboard communications to the expensive back-of-seat phones. If the regulation were lifted — the lack of replicable evidence suggests it could be — airlines may well err on the side of caution and retain their restrictions. But if one airline then decided that the safety regulations had been historically over-cautious, it could offer its customers the comfort of their own personal communications devices.

The decision about what PEDs to allow in the cabin could be firmly left in the care of the markets — there is no firm reason to require extra government regulation.

Airlines have recognized that communication can be a selling point. Late last year, progress was made by the FCC towards allocating spectrum for wireless broadband in aircraft. Lufthansa has already started offering unlimited Internet access on international flights for just under US$30. All that is needed is a laptop with a standard wireless card common to newly purchased machines.

Debate over the validity of regulations restricting PED use in aircraft have to face these developments. There is a growing demand for communications in the air, and with the upsurge in voice-over-IP services (even Google is getting into the market) wireless broadband will allow passengers to make calls online.

Not only this, but it is also likely that within the next twelve to eighteen months combination mobile phones, which use both the traditional GSM or CDMA network and the wi-fi 802.11 standard will come on the market. Will a wi-fi enabled mobile phone be used on aircraft while the regulations stand (assuming that the GSM or CDMA connection can be disabled)?

If wi-fi voice communication is allowed, be it on a laptop or off a standalone phone, the argument that mobile phones cause unnecessary ‘air-rage’ will be irrelevant. As is the norm in the communications and technology field, innovation threatens the already fragile justification for government regulation of personal electronic devices.

Dancing on the grave of employment

A Review of Independence and the Death of Employment By Ken Phillips. (Voltan, 2005, 207 pages)

William is a 24-year-old shearer from Queensland.

I’ve worked on shearing teams which are staunch in their observance of the [industrial] Award. They have the 3 minute bell which is a warning to all the shearers that the end of the run will happen in 3 minutes and they have to finish up their last sheep … They do not do any weekend work or extra hours during the week or any hours outside the exact allocated hours in the Award …

However, this is too restricted for me. I would rather have the choice whether I wanted to work weekends. I believe it is up to the individual … I believe that if I want to work weekends then that should be okay.

This attitude is repeated in dozens of industries all around the country. Independent contractor status is, as Ken Phillips’s new book Independence and the Death of Employment makes clear, increasingly seen as a more flexible alternative to traditional, heavily regulated employment structures.

And independent contracting status, while the most obvious manifestation of this new attitude to work, is by no means the only one. Phillips notes the existence of ‘independent employees’ — workers who work in firms, and are nominally under the command-and-control contract and structures of employment, but in their ‘actions, desires, thoughts and ambitions’ are independent none the less. These workers can be a firm’s greatest asset but also its greatest weakness: endlessly creative and innovative if the incentives are right, but resistant and often resentful at having their actions controlled.

Phillips’s book is a comprehensive, paradigm-shifting overview of these and a countless range of other issues, essentially trying to answer the basic question, ‘what is employment?’

Most economists tend to think of employment as a work-for-pay relationship. But Phillips suggests that this is incorrect. He alleges that employment is a relationship of legal and behavioural control — precisely the argument that the labour Left have been pounding away at for centuries. The evolution of legal precedent and the formalization of industrial relations in dedicated bodies has rigidly defined employment in this way.

Employment law distorts many of the objectives of work regulation. In the context of the law, employees are considered witless and lacking in control. The employer is supposed to be responsible for their witless employees. Independence and the Death of Employment controversially argues that employment degrades human beings and removes responsibility.

Employers take the blame for employees’ actions – discrimination or for breaking work safety instructions. But this is merely the framework with which the legal system approaches employment. Phillips’s argument is that the experience of employment is quite the opposite. Independent contractors and the phenomenon of ‘independent employees’ belie the fact that a job is more than mere servitude.

Career desires, power urges, ego trips and personal self-interest are the dominant motivations in the firm. Individuals in the firm will be ambivalent toward the firm’s making losses if the individual is unaffected.

Economists have long recognized this as an agency problem—managers, for example, don’t always operate in the interests of shareholders. But the solution is not more highly regulated employees but allowing greater independence, which workers are already striving for, to create the appropriate incentives for mutual benefit. And the legal framework and regulatory impulses of government which surround employment must catch up.

These are changes that are being made already — sometimes against great resistance. The Queensland shearers’ desire to practise as independent contractors formed the backdrop to an eighteen-month legal case between the Australian Workers Union and the State of Queensland.

Independence and the Death of Employment is a combination of manifesto, self-help book, and rigorous analysis. It represents a massive shift in thought on labour regulation and employment, and will be heavily scrutinized and criticized by analysts from across the political spectrum. But whatever change it represents in intellectual thought, it is dwarfed by the massive change in how Australians work today.