WEEKEND READ: What do iTunes and Malcolm Turnbull have in common?


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Is Malcolm Turnbull the iTunes Prime Minister?

WHEN I attempted to transfer everything from my iPhone 6 to my new iPhone 7 this week, and what is supposed to be the gold standard software for music and media management – iTunes – deleted nearly all my music, and then the back-up external hard drive also failed, a bucketload of Anglo-Saxon nouns and adjectives emanated from the home office.

It was a big price to pay for what turned out to be a priceless piece of political illumination. 

iTunes is used by perhaps every Apple user and most PC users, and does all sorts of clever things, but has this habit of deleting things you desperately want to keep whenever you sync between phone, computer and/or tablet.

It looks really good on the screen at first blush, but nonetheless has profound short-comings.

So what was that political illumination? It is this. Malcolm Turnbull is the iTunes Prime Minister.

He promised agility, innovation, engagement and rationality, but last week’s ruling out of any consideration of an emissions-intensity scheme revealed exactly the opposite. Just like iTunes.

People who had large collections of CDs who thought they could use iTunes to upload them to a computer and play them as agilely as selecting a CD off the shelf have been sadly disappointed. They expected better.

Instead of having a rational engagement with your music collection you find that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been thoughtfully filed under “H”. Why? Because Herbert von Karajan is the conductor, of course.

The composer does not get a look in.

Whenever you want all the music from the phone and computer to be collected and duplicates put aside, iTunes instead choses the smaller library of the two and deletes the other one.

You know in your heart that Apple easily has the intelligence and the capacity for technical innovation to deliver a first-rate music-management system that would meet users’ expectations.

You know in your heart that Turnbull could engage in a sophisticated way and deliver what voters want.

So why don’t they – Turnbull and iTunes?

Turnbull doesn’t because he is like a well-loved dog who takes his master for a walk – constantly straining at the lead, desperate for an agile policy frolic but firmly held back by the leash gripped in the hands of Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi and George Christensen.

Removing the emissions-intensity scheme from the review of climate policy on the grounds that it would raise electricity prices was perhaps the most irrational decision Turnbull has made. Under the scheme, electricity generators are assessed according to how much carbon they emit for each unit of power. Those above the average have to pay those below the average. The efficiencies created would result in cheaper electricity.

In effect, Turnbull ruled out something that would deliver cheaper electricity because he wants cheaper electricity.

How can anyone with any respect for the scientific method, the Enlightenment or evidence-based policy rule something out without looking at it first.

The decision led South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill to resurrect Turnbull’s words upon becoming Prime Minister and quote them back to him: “Mature evidence-based policy, communicated to voters through sophisticated explanation rather than infantile slogans, will be the mark of my leadership.”

If only.

And, on the other hand, Apple does not develop agile, innovative, sophisticated music-management software because it wants you to lose all those uploaded CDs and buy them all again from its iTunes store.

But why shouldn’t I be able to play the music I bought on CD on whatever device I want for the rest of my life?

You can expect poor performance from the inexperienced, unintelligent and uneducated. But when it comes from those you know are capable of much better, you are left with an empty feeling – an empty music library, empty political expectations.

So much promise, so little achieved and, indeed, so much consigned to oblivion – music library, marriage equality, decent climate policy, effective tax reform, equitable education funding and so on, all filed under “T” for “Too hard”.

On a happier note, I got nearly all the music back through other sophisticated and agile software. But I am still always going think of Malcolm Turnbull as the iTunes Prime Minister.


MANY people who get a partial aged pension with assets up to $547,000 might well agree with the new assets and income tests which will in effect take money from them and give it to people on the full pension who are perhaps more deserving.

The Government may well have good grounds for the changes, though axing tax loopholes might be a better source of funds to increase the basic pension.

But the changes are causing a great deal of stress among part-pensioners because of the detail and the horrible dilemma the Government has put them in.

The Government has told part-pensioners that if they go off the pension by 1 January, they can keep their Health Care Card for life whatever assets they might accrue later (inheritances, rising share markets etc). The card gives cheaper drugs and other vital benefits.

But if they stay on the part pension and their assets later go over the pension limit, they will lose the part pension and they will lose their Health Care Card.

It gets worse. If they go off the part pension in order to keep the security of the card, they lose the grandfathering of the way the means test applies to their assets if they ever reapply for the pension. The much stricter deeming provisions would apply.

It is enough to put anyone in a tizz.

Further, the concern that many part-pensioners have about being means-tested out of a pension under the new rules is, anecdotally, causing many to withdraw money from bank accounts and spend it on things that are not caught by the means test – especially home renovations.

It makes the suggestion to just hand everyone $15,000 a year with no means test and adjust the tax scales to cover it even more appealing.