What to do about Global Companies who don’t Pay their Taxes?

To be cool, we are supposed to use Apple, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb , Amazon, eBay, Google, IKEA, bookings.com, wotif, expedia and many other online-centred organisations.  But there’s just one small problem.  These, and no doubt many other similar tech-based organisations don’t pay any tax in Australia.  What should we do?Read More »

‘THE AGE’ STRIKE, EXPERT COMMENTARY AND THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM

Recently, journalists at The Age went on strike for a week in protest at yet another large cut in staff numbers, claiming that independent journalism was at great risk if this cutting continued.  Though I sympathise and value some of The Age journalists, particularly the commentators and analysts, I’m afraid they are like people promoting sailing ships when steamships arrived.  The time of newspapers is over.  Let me explain.Read More »

‘PEOPLISM’: A NEW POLITICAL VISION. ECONOMIES ARE FOR PEOPLE.

As most of us despair the deceit, wilful blindness, self-centred arrogance and corruption of many politicians and leaders in all of our countries, I wondered how do we find a new way to reconfigure the process, create a genuinely new framework for rethinking our societies?  We’ve had capitalism, centred on the power of money and markets.  We’ve had communism, centred on making everyone equal.  We’ve had socialism, centred on protecting the weak.  We’ve had dictatorships, centred on a few powerful people making decisions for the rest of us.  We’ve had democracy, centred on equal rights to speak and vote.  We’ve had religion, centred on the basis of blind faith in the mystical.  We’ve had royalty, centred on the power of a specified family.

All of these have their weaknesses, as we are too painfully aware.  I propose a new political philosophy of ‘peoplism”.  Peoplism focuses a government on what people actually need.  Let me explain how it would reframe our priorities and decisionmaking.Read More »

SPEEDING UP RUGBY: HOW TO IMPROVE RUGBY UNION

I went to a Rugby Union game one night recently, followed by an Aussie Rules game the following night.  The contrast could not be greater.  I once found Union an interesting game, especially when the Barbarians were playing (a guest team dedicated to attractive play, rather than winning).  But over recent years I’ve found I prefer Rugby League to Union and AFL by far to either.  Whatever happened to Union?  It seems to have missed the changes which  most games have made to themselves to become more attractive to spectators wanting more action, more entertainment.  I have some ideas for how it could catch up.Read More »

OH, SYDNEY! FIX YOUR OPAL TRANSPORT CARD FOR VISITORS

Many visitors to Melbourne complain about its myki public transport card, particularly the need to pay $10 for the card before you can use it.  But my visit to Sydney last weekend – wonderful in all other aspects – was spoiled by the ripoff Opal public transport card pricing experience at Sydney Airport.  Visitors to Sydney be warned.  I was shocked.  Let me explain.

First Experiences:  Visitors Arriving in Sydney

Like most visitors to Sydney, I arrived by plane.  I’m a public transport advocate and user whenever possible.  The huge ads in Sydney Airport claim (correctly) that it only takes 15 minutes to get to the CBD on the train, so it was a no-brainer to go down the escalators to the underground stop.  Very modern, very sensible (memo to Melbourne:  copy this connection please).

I went to the window to buy the Opal card.  Told the seller that I was going to the city, then the Blue Mountains next day (which I knew cost $8 each way for a 2-hour train trip), that I would be in Sydney for 4 days, returning to the airport.  He told me I should put $40 on the ‘free’ compulsory card. Some gem this Opal must be!

$40, I said??  Two years ago, I went into the CBD from mascot and it only cost a couple of dollars, thanks to the advice of a friendly customer service officer, recognising me as a senior.

Senior?, he said.  We can’t give you a senior card here (it’s advertised at the office).  You need to go to Central station to apply for one.  Cost to get to Central?, I asked.  $17, he said.  $17 I exclaimed??  It was only about $2 last time from Mascot, a station just across the way from the airport.

A captive market…at the Airport!

I walked away to assess my options.  They were few and not good (about the same as you have trying to park at a privatised airport).  Back into the queue I went, chastened, to buy the free adult (not seniors) Opal, put $40 on it and chugged it down.

6 stops later, I arrived at my hotel, some 200 metres from the station.  Fuming, I asked the concierge about the public transport system.  Smiling knowingly, he told me I could travel virtually anywhere on the system (train, bus, ferry) for a low price, that there was a maximum price of $15 a day and a maximum of $2.50 on Sundays (due to some recent government decision – perhaps an election is looming…).  The only place where this did not apply was….Sydney Airport.  I could travel to Mascot (before the airport) or Wolli Creek (after the airport) for a low price ($3 he suggested), but if I went to the airport, it cost $17. (Seniors  prices may be lower, but it was unattractive to go separately to Central to apply there for a separate card with unknown benefits, especially given it was almost 5pm on a Friday afternoon, so I didn’t ask him about that.)

This is market pricing at its best!  But what a terrible welcome to visitors to be so obviously ripped off at virtually the only station they are likely to enter (or leave) the system at.  And how depressing that a desired non-road government-owned public transport system charges prices that make a private cab fare to the CBD look economical and socially attractive, especially if you have to drag a bag more than a couple of blocks.

Fixing the Opal Pricing System

Perhaps I missed something. I’ve not heard others complain about this system, yet in Melbourne complaints about the $10 myki10 card are frequent.  But at least in Melbourne you can buy the card you need at the airport entry point and you only pay the $10 once, whereas in Sydney you pay the $17 twice (arrival and departure)!

Fixing Opal pricing would be easy.  NSW Government Departments of Tourism and of Transport, please take note!

  1. Treat Sydney Airport as a regular – not a special – station, thereby reducing fares to normal fares.  (This would of course encourage many local passengers to also take the train, thereby recovering revenue quite quickly through increased volume.)
  2. Provide a facility at Sydney Airport for seniors Opals, where it is needed.
  3. If there is any significant revenue loss from these moves, raise revenue by, say $0.10 per journey or per stop across the system. I’m sure this would be more than enough to compensate for the loss of revenue at Sydney Airport station itself.

Comparing the Sydney Airport and Blue Mountains public transport experience

The following day I took friends to the Blue Mountains on the same train system.  The journey lasted 2 hours each way.  It was very pleasant travelling, a cleaner came round during the journey to collect rubbish, the tap on/tap off system worked well, signage was good.  It was a remarkable experience for $8 each way.  Indeed, here the NSW general public is probably being ripped off by only charging $8, which seemed ridiculously low.

Such a pity to start – and end – my trip to such a wonderful city as Sydney with such a poor public transport experience.  Come on Sydney.  Lift your game!

Pt Fairy ‘Folk’ Music Festival Has Changed Over 20 Years. Can It Survive?

I’ve been going to the Pt Fairy Folk Festival for 20 years now and enjoyed it every year.  After 40 years, the change of director this year (from Jamie McKew to Caroline Moore) resulted in quite a few incremental changes that generally seemed positive.  But it caused me to reflect on how the Festival has changed from the first one I attended some 20 years ago.  It shows how a good organisation can – and must – adapt over time to meet changing demands.  What have those changes been?  And are they enough for the festival to survive in an increasingly competitive festival market?Read More »

Who’s is Australia Post Anyway? A failure of Board Governance

So Ahmed Fahour, CEO of Australia Post, resigned yesterday, immediately after announcing a strong profit result and despite being supported by the board chair who said he had done a fantastic job of turning around the 100% government-owned Company.  Perhaps it was the disclosure of his $5.6m salary, perhaps the government enquiry into Australia Post’s salaries, perhaps the Prime Minister’s comment to the board (appointed by the current government) that salaries were too high, perhaps that Farhur had been there 7 years.  But what is clear is this:  it’s yet another failure of board governance that allowed this situation to arise.  Let me explain why the wrong people are being castigated.

Read More »

A Pox on United Energy and Origin Energy (no. 2)

Happy New Year to all my readers…except for United and Origin.  You’ll remember they failed dismally to get our new house connected to electricity and gas prior to Christmas.  We are still not connected!.  Now we are at the Energy and Water Omsbudsman stage, which is why I think others should know of these companies’ total lack of customer service, so you don’t suffer too.  Here’s what’s happened since.Read More »

A POX ON ORIGIN ENERGY AND UNITED ENERGY!

As you know, our new house has been delivered, ready to go, to our beach house block. Only one problem….no electricity and no gas!!!!  So no Christmas, or perhaps even New Year, for us or our friends, who were scheduled to come from all over Australia, as they usually do for the Christmas period.  Why? 

It seems you can’t notify Origin Energy or United Energy about a date for connecting gas or electricity until the house is on the ground.  Not helpful, when the whole house arrives on one day!!

Further, these wonderful companies take 15-20 working days to turn up to connect your house.  And they won’t tell you when they are coming. Or if they have been.  And you have to contact one company when the other company does the work.  In fact, they have had more than their 20 days.   They promised it would be in by last Friday.  Then last Saturday.  Then last Sunday.  Then Monday.  Then Tuesday.  Then…no more promises.  Great customer service, guys! 

Actually, Origin did send someone.  But he only handled underground electricity connections, so he couldn’t connect our overhead power.   Don’t they even read their own notes??  They are the ones who disconnected the old house!  And you can’t connect the gas meter unless the gas line is in place.  Apparently it is not possible for one person/crew to do both jobs.

So our Christmas gathering is ruined.  A pox on both your houses.

GOLF: A DULL, BEAUTIFUL GAME THAT NEEDS SPEEDING UP

Vegging out, I watched a bit of the World Cup of Golf over the weekend and cheered yet another 2016 underdog – Denmark!! – to an upset win over…China and …France.  Who would have thought?  But what I really noticed is that, unlike most other sports games, golf has not only not speeded up but it is actually slowing down.  Which is a pity, because it is a difficult game played in beautiful locations, with great possibilities for luck to be involved in the result.  So I wondered – in the long gaps of time between shots – what could be done to speed up golf and make it interesting?Read More »