Tony Abbott says food importers deserve help denied to telcos

Metadata costs to be worn by telcos, but berry importers promised relief from regulations


Australia's government decided this week to impose two major new regulations on business.

The first was announced on Thursday, in the form of new labelling requirements for food importers. This regulation has been introduced after some imported frozen berries were found to be contaminated with Hepatitis A.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the new labelling laws need to be as “business-friendly” as possible, because government regulation is unwelcome. So food importers will get a break, he told ABC Rural, as follows:

“If there's a modest increase in regulatory costs in one area, it's got to be more than compensated by a reduction in regulatory costs in another area."

The second new regulation is the all-but-certain passage of laws requiring carriers of voice and data to retain extensive records of their customers' activities.

The government says this new regulation will cost industry “between $188.8 million and $319.1 million” to implement. No operational costs have been mentioned.

The communications industry has not been told that there should be a compensatory reduction in other regulations. Instead, the government's line has been that as the implementation costs of metadata retention “is less than 1 per cent of the $43 billion in revenue generated by the telecommunications industry annually” it can easily carry the burden after an initial cash grant.

By now you've probably spotted the glaring inconsistency in these approaches: carriers just aren't going to “be more than compensated by a reduction in regulatory costs in another area.”

Yet, bizarrely, both carriers and food importers are being asked to wear extra regulation for essentially the same outcome: improving Australians' security.

Metadata retention is advanced as a way to stop Australians being harmed, or killed, by terrorists or criminals. Food labelling is advanced as a way to stop Australians being harmed, or killed, by food whose provenance they cannot understand.

I've written before that Australia's technology industries are routinely humiliated by government.

When one considers the promised favours coming food importers' way, it looks like the technology industries' humiliations will continue. ®

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