Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, May 03, 2004

Following last Saturday's egregious beat-up, this morning's follow-up explores new domains of ignorance and leftist bigotry.

The story falls into the genre, innocent Aussie scientists and the tax-payers who fund them taken for a ride by rapacious (Aussie) capitalists. It's like a nursery rhyme, simple but capable of endless repetition without staling the story-tellers or the innocent listeners.

High-tech military inventions funded by taxpayers are reaping millions of dollars - for private companies. Brian Robins reports.

It is a world-beating invention using airborne lasers to survey shallow offshore areas, such as those around Iraq's main ports and oil terminals, to spot obstacles that might threaten allied shipping.

The laser surveying technology alone cost $17 million to develop, yet DSTO receives less than $500,000 a year from it. The private company that sells the technology worldwide, Tenix, does much better. It generates about $20 million.

As DSTO (Defence Science and Technology Organisation) points out, the principal purpose of the research was to contribute to Australia's defence. Do you think that an airborne surveillance system that can look under the surface might be of some use to a country with one of the world's largest areas of continental shelf?

Henny's Brian Robins doesn't disagree, he just leaves it an open question. On the question of the value of the deal with Tenix, however, his mind's made up. But is he right?

On Robins's figures, DSTO's return from Tenix amounts to 2.9% a year. For a single licence that's a fantastic return. Certainly more than Robins would have got from Henny's superannuation fund last year.

If the technology is as good as Robins and DSTO suggest it is, there'll be many other licences. We only need a few more to create the kind of revenues that will have Henny calling DSTO profiteers. Unless, of course, Tenix has an exclusive, world license. If so, Robins might have told us.

Considering that it's all a spin-off from public interest research it's a whole heap of jam in either case.

Henny Herald's carefully constructed crises are a good demonstration that the modern left's creative work is more directed to dystopianising the present than utopianising the future.

Considering the track record of their collectivist and primitivist utopias that's not hard to understand.

And it's a very necessary work, for the left that is, considering the quality of the anti-capitalist alternatives on offer.