[LINK] End of the filter? Better off without a Stalinist, censorious, Labor government.

Kim Holburn kim at holburn.net
Sun Aug 8 18:30:18 AEST 2010

On 2010/Aug/08, at 3:52 PM, Robin Whittle wrote:

> I think that the negative effects of a democracy such as Australia
> electing a party with an explicit policy of Internet censorship, such
> as the ALP's, arguably outweigh whatever arguments there are that the
> Labor government would be better than a Coalition government.

I see the problem being that when you vote for a party they interpret  
it as a mandate to do 20 things of which you might agree with 10 and  
disagree with 10.  Same with voting for the other party.  Voting is  
simply not granular enough.

> If this had been a great Labor government, this might be more
> difficult to argue.  However, this government has done some
> free-wheeling things which are unbecoming of Labor, and in the
> traditional pattern of Labor trying to make big infrastructure
> programs, or be sensitive to the marginalised, I think it has made
> major mistakes:
>  In practical terms, their asylum seeker policies don't seem to
>  be producing a better outcome than the Coalition's.  The
>  people smugglers are back in business because there is, or was,
>  again a benefit in turning up unannounced in Australian
>  territories.

I find this vacuous.  The Australian government has not and has never  
caused boat people to come or not.  In the current case it is wars in  
Sri Lanka and two wars we are involved in that have disrupted other  
countries enough to make people want to come to Australia enough to  
risk a boat journey.  This whole thing about people smugglers is  
weasel words.  If people have enough need they will find a way to do  
it.  In the case of the previous government they upped the immigration  
quotas - that was what probably stopped the boats.  The rest is all  
spin.  Europe gets half a million clandestini - "illegal" imigrants if  
you like - per year.  Half a million per year.  We think we have  

If we are part of a disruptive war in another country we have a moral  
obligation to help the people we have disrupted.  We loudly tout that  
we have a great country and a great government and we wonder why  
people want to come here?

Also - we have signed the UN Refugee convention.  Refugees reaching  
Australia are not illegal, on the contrary, we have legal treaty  
obligations to them.

>  The NBN is a great idea in some ways, but it did not result from
>  proper planning

Disagree.  Seems well planned to me.  Best possible way to go.

> and so is at very high risk of being a massive
>  white elephant.

Don't think so.  No more than the current copper.  Fibre has a  
considerable future.  Go Fibre.

> The money involved is immense, and could be
>  better put to use in preventive health, mental health, education,
>  etc.

Yeah we could give billions to private health funds - oh, wait we are  
already doing that - and are the outcomes commensurate with the  
billions of taxpayer money we are spending?

Why do we need the government to put money into preventative health?   
Are we all helpless these days?

> I am not convinced it can't or shouldn't be done, but at
>  this early stage, I think there is an enormous risk of
>  cost blow-outs and forcing inappropriate infrastructure on
>  people, who then have to pay for it.  I don't think the last mile
>  link is such a problem for most people who already have DSL.

Owned by a monopoly who have more of an interest in keeping control  
than of giving good service.  Look at what Telstra has done in  

>  Costs of the Pacific data link are more of a problem in terms of
>  putting up the cost of data at the ISP level.  Do we really want
>  to have all our connectivity coming from a government
>  organisation, when the government is hell-bent on Internet
>  censorship?

Good point.  On the other hand do we want it controlled by a monopoly  
company with a vested interest in serving its own content?  I'd rather  
have a fast pipe (with a filter and a good VPN if necessary) than a  
slow pipe any day.  At least another group with a vested interest in  
good service might give us a lot better outcome than we have now.

> Especially when it involves Telstra closing down its
>  copper phone network, and agreeing not to use its HFC cable for
>  Internet traffic?  Anti-competitive, grandiose, Stalinism, I
>  think, in the guise of "nation-building".

Stalinism vs. corporate fascism?  A bit of an exaggeration really.

>  There are two instances of Labor giving big handouts to the
>  building industry:
>    Insulation scheme - rushed, with safety issues ignored and
>    multiple injuries and deaths.  Insulation is important for
>    energy efficiency and so to tackle greenhouse emissions, but
>    this was too hurried and poorly planned.

I too think it was poorly executed but frankly it was never the  
federal government's job to micro-manage state and local government  
regulations.  The insulation scheme worked very well in South  
Australia which had good regulations and was a nightmare in Queensland  
which had *already* had possible deaths and numerous burnings due to  
bad insulation before the federal scheme.

>    School building program.  Every school has a typically
>    over-priced, poorly considered, building inserted into its
>    limited grounds, reducing the free space for children to play
>    and exercise.  There was no proper consultation.  Schools need
>    money for many things, and this was just a grandiose way of
>    subsidising the building industry, and temporarily boosting the
>    economy with less than optimally productive spending while
>    advertising the results in every school-yard.  Julia Gillard
>    appears to be unrepentant about the widely documented failings
>    and lack of consultation with schools.

I didn't read the report as quite that dire.  Some schools seem  
reasonably happy with the results.  Our schools need more money.

>  In practical terms, the government has not yet achieved any
>  progress on global warming.  I think there has been too little
>  support for solar thermal power, including those systems which
>  store the heat overnight.

Both our major parties are beholden either to industry owners or  
industrial unions and neither is going to be really interested in  
doing anything about climate change.

Australia is the biggest coal exporter in the world and we are the one  
of the biggest CO2 emmitters per capita.  It's going to require  
massive change in our infrastructure and massive community pressure  
for change.  Neither major party can or will do it without us.

> In trying to find something to be happy about with Labor, there are a
> few: quarantining welfare payments and plain label cigarette
> packages, both of which I think will have significant and lasting
> health benefits which can't be achieved by other means.  Generally
> Labor has been more supportive for Medicare and public health.
> The thought of Wilson Tuckey as a minister and Tony Abbott as PM is
> frightening - but I think it is a more straightforward horror to face
> and deal with than having Labor in power, pretending to be the
> good-guys, with the gravely destructive policy of mandatory filtering.

Neither seem like a great choice.  It's like that slogan "The least  
worst choice".  Would we get more cervical cancer vaccine and RU486  
debacles under Abbott?  More increase of personal debt and house price  
rises due to economic policies like the Howard ones?

It's times like now I wish that we had more politicians who had a life  
- that weren't career politicians.  I wish we could have a limit on  
the number of terms people could spend in parliament.

> There is an argument that the policy is too impractical to matter in
> the long term.

It is a very good argument.

> Also, many people tend to be lulled by the fact that
> this doesn't happen in the USA.  But in the mid 1990s, two federal
> Internet censorship laws were passed in the USA and both were quickly
> ruled unconstitutional due to the First Amendment.
> We and most other (no others) countries have anything like the First
> Amendment.

We still have people pressure.

> One might hope that common sense would prevail, and that governments
> would refrain from this sort of censorship.  However, that theory is
> in tatters since the ALP is going to the polls with mandatory
> filtering as policy.
> There's no absolute limit on what most governments can or may do in
> terms of interfering with individual freedoms.

We still live in a nominal democracy.

> So this is a really
> serious matter for people all over the world.  The USA is only
> different because of the 220 year old First Amendment, before
> telephones, electricity etc.
> There are arguments that the Greens will hold the balance of power in
> the senate and with the Coalition will block the Internet censorship
> legislation.  Maybe so.
> I know the legislation would run into massive problems if it was ever
> enforced - there would be a cat and mouse game with people
> discovering what was banned, building a list of what was banned, with
> links on where to find it, etc.  In some ways, it might be good if
> they tried this idea and it became a national sport to make a mockery
> of it.
> My concern is more with the genuine practical impact of a democracy
> voting in a party with a clear policy of Internet censorship:
> mandatory ISP-level filtering of anything which is R rated, "Refused
> Classification" etc.   Even if they alter the definitions of R etc.
> it is still such a serious step towards greater state control of
> individual communications, that I think we are probably better off
> with a Coalition government, no matter what its failings, than to
> vote in then then fight with a Labor government over this atrocious
> Stalinist policy.  Internet communications have much more in common
> with telephone calls, letters and the postal system and face-to-face
> conversations than with printed publications, radio, TV, movies etc.
> Censorship of these, and of video games, is already highly
> questionable, as is the censorship of R-rated etc. material on
> Australian servers, which is the policy of both the ALP and the
> Coalition.

I really think there are more important issues than the internet  
filter.  Like our economy?  If the US economic crisis reaches out and  
effects us we are really not going to need to worry about internet  

And what are we going to do when all our mineral resources are  
finished?  Or what are our children going to do?

> Beyond Australia, there would be a serious destructive precedent for
> other Western democracies would be serious, with enormous practical
> implications by way of encouraging other governments and opposition
> parties play to the ignorance and fears of voters with their own
> Internet censorship proposals.

Several governments are toying with filtering issues.  You could argue  
that a disastrous attempt might be a good model to not follow.

> Arguably it wouldn't be such a bad precedent if a right-wing party
> got voted in with such policies, since that might be written off as
> an aberration.  But to have the supposedly worldly, well-intentioned,
> switched-on, side of politics re-elected with this pernicious policy,
> would be really bad.

Labour is "worldly, well-intentioned, switched-on" and the  
conservatives aren't?  Hmmmm....

Kim Holburn
IT Network & Security Consultant
T: +61 2 61402408  M: +61 404072753
mailto:kim at holburn.net  aim://kimholburn
skype://kholburn - PGP Public Key on request

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