27 April 2008

A slippery snake

We were given to believe that our Prime Minister stood up to Beijing by not allowing its "flame attendants" to accompany the torch barer during the torch relay:

"The advice that I have got from the Australian Federal Police is that the physical security of the Olympic torch will be provided by Australian security officials only."

This certainly wasn't the understanding of the so-called flame attendants, and the AFP had to keep them at bay during the Canberra leg of the torch relay.

Questions are not only being raised about the fruitfulness of the 2020 Summit, but Kevin Rudd's honesty about the whole process that has been followed in conducting the talkfest. The summit report included under Top Ideas suggestions for one-stop community child care centres across the nation and the establishment of a community corps to assist graduates in paying off their HECS-HELP debt. These ideas were never discussed during the summit of supposedly the nation's 1000 greatest minds; they are Rudd's proposals, and he has mislead the public into believing that these policies received backing from our experts during this event.

Rudd has an interesting approach to handling difficult questions. When asked a question about his connections with Chinese businessman Ian Tang in parliament, he replied out aloud "I have no such recollection," and then finishes the sentence with "other than it being some sort of humorous conversation," so softly that it can be barely heard.

During parliament question time, he held out and quoted from a letter, claiming it was "addressed to you know who: it is the member for Flinders". This was a deliberate lie made to gain political points: it was not addressed to Liberal member Greg Hunt but his own minister Peter Garrett.

26 April 2008

Charge Bush, Blair and Howard with war crimes: Mahathir

It seems former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad still won't let go of his grudge against the West and he is more out of touch with reality than ever. He has called for US President George W Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Australian Prime Minister John Howard to be charged with war crimes. No, he won't attempt to bring them before The Hague, he will try them in absentia in a war crimes tribunal of his own creation. While the tribunal won't have any legal authority, he hopes to make some mark on history:

"The accused may disregard. There will be (other) people who will take it seriously, and historians will attach an epithet that they will not like. They will go down in history as war criminals."

The only thing that anyone would care to notice or remember is that Mahathir was the clown who set up this do-it-yourself war crimes tribunal.

Mahathir still doesn't get it. Those who have heard of him outside of Malaysia just see him as a corrupt ex-Prime Minister who dismally failed to influence the international community with his theatrical tirades against Australia and the West in general. Outside of Malaysia the convictions would just be received with amusement.

Australians might remember this outburst from Mahathir in 2002:

"This country stands out like a sore thumb trying to impose its European values in Asia as if it is the good old days when people can shoot aborigines without caring about human rights."

Howard, as always, gave Mahathir the harshest response of all: none. Mahathir was constantly seeking attention with his provocative rhetoric and he never got it.

16 April 2008

The customer service of our telecommunications carriers, or lack thereof

The overall quality of our major telecommunications carriers' customer service is appalling. From a technical standpoint, their services are adequate, but what is the point in having a service without staff competent enough to deliver them? One would think that providing staff who are aware of and understand the available phone models, services, phone plans and management of accounts would not be that difficult, but unfortunately based on my experiences with our major carriers over the past decade the vast majority of the people I have dealt with do not even possess these basic skills, and this is no exaggeration. None more so than at Optus.

It has been over five months since I purchased my new mobile phone under a contract and Optus still cannot set up the billing on my plan correctly. At first, I had no Internet access, and after being made to do the rounds of their departments, the complaints department finally enabled my Internet access within minutes after fighting for over a week to get the company to take some proper action on this problem. Not only did the complaints department enable the Internet access on my plan, they apparently put me onto a second plan, so I was being billed under two plans simultaneously - one for the price of two.

To compound the problem, their staff can hardly be described as proactive, keen to use their initiative and take any responsibility when dealing with customers' problems. Clearly, there are issues in the management of their service to customers because all too often Customer Service and Technical Support have referred me to the other department even after it is explained that I am being sent back to the one that originally took my call. When asked why I am being sent back to the same department the answer is simply "I don't know". This is just downright silly. If one department has made a mistake, do you send the customer back not knowing if the same person is going to handle the call? Should you make them dial the number again? Absolutely not. The appropriate action is obvious if you use some common sense and courtesy: put the customer on hold, call the other department to find out what has happened, then decide on the right course of action. Otherwise, as has been my experience, nothing gets done.

I have taken my case to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. The dispute is presently at Level 1 and if a resolution isn't found within two weeks, the dispute proceeds to Level 2.