Posts Tagged ‘lobbyist’

There are still some tangental frayed story cords that I’d like to tidy up after the election as it looks like this crap sammich will still have legs well in to this year, with all parties promising to make sure the law reform takes place during the life of the next parliament. But for now…

With less than 12 hours to go before opening of polls in the Tasmanian election, candidates are settling in for the wait. New tweeps are coming out of the woodwork and the Facebook pages are having their profile pictures changed despite section S191. A well-known political action group seem unaware of S191’s requirements and a famous national blog got in on the action and hosted an unauthorised live blog. This Possum corrected this so that things could continue. Then there’s the TV stations running apparently unauthorised polls on their websites

With everything I’ve written about S191 and how Tasmania entered the election phase with such a mad law in place, with stuff written by national tech journals, published by the national broadcaster one can really only reach the conclusion that the Electoral Commission has selectively enforced the law, and further have bent at right angles it where it’s faced the smallest of hurdles (eg, websites of newspapers, advice completely at odds for the cited websites of  local TV stations). As I wrote the other day, there’s even a possibility that the Commission completely ignored the law when providing advice to one of the major political parties. The Commission even went as far as releasing the numbers of complaints against the ‘Robocalls‘, yet point-blank refused to release similar numbers for S191.

With all this, one can reach the reasonable following conclusions:

  1. The commission wasn’t sufficiently technically literate when S191.1.b was introduced
  2. Despite point one, the commission wilfully remained technically illiterate
  3. Because of points one and two, the commission utilised the tools of FUD to keep critics in a place where they cannot evaluate S191’s (and thus the Commission’s) enforcement during the election
  4. Possibly due to three, candidates and lobbyists were not ready to spend effort and time in comprehensive modern campaigning techniques as seen executed by the US Democrats in the 2007 Presidential Election (specifically Obama)

Because of point four, I believe that the election, whilst taking place in a fair way, may well be considered not to be free.


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It would seem officially unofficial: the first part of the S191 fight is over. All three major party leaders have publicly agreed that the law’s a pig and needs urgent review as soon as possible after the election. Premier Bartlett stated as much on Monday morning on ABC Tasmania Statewide Mornings hosted by Tim Cox thus prompting my earlier post.
A little later in the day at the Australian Computer Society luncheon at the Hobart Function and Conference Centre, the leaders of the Liberal and Green parties also called for changes to the law within the sitting of the next parliament (I’m not able to link audio, I believe it’s paywalled at ACS – haven’t heard it but I did manage to gatecrash the event and hear it with my own ears). I am hoping that DigitalTasmania can get the three leaders to agree to a co-signed public statement before the election. Right now, the declarations are around the ‘net and I think it’d be a great show of the leaders’ professed intent on the digital future for this state if they could at least agree to this on the one piece of paper.
At Hobart ‘Tech Tuesday’ this week, I briefly covered the S191 situation with some of the ‘doers’ in the industry within the state’s capital. We were looking at the situation from a practical level, as the act is still in place and theoretically some of us could be called upon to give evidence. Our conversation inevitably wandered on to the result of the law. There seemed  general agreement that, to varying levels, the fundamental reason for S191 (to make it difficult for anonymous party activists to skew the electoral debate) is fair and reasonable. In politics, they’re likely party hacks. Online, we’re used to the term ‘tentacles‘, ‘sock-puppets‘ or ‘trolls‘. And as tech folks we know they’re the bane on any informed commentary (early in a geek’s career, one experiences flame wars conducted about different technology platforms). But here in the area of fakery is where the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner’s in a bit of a pickle.
Personally I cannot see how the Commissioner can put aside attempting to police S191.1.b during this election, as to announce an intention to do so would invite many troublesome sites. Yet even as I write this there are high-profile candidates from the three parties who still aren’t in compliance with my most basic understanding of the law. As I’ve said before, if after the vote we end up without a clear majority as many are predicting, it will be open season for the candidates to attempt to dislodge others from the count using any means available. And this will probably include attempting to get the Commissioner to use  S191.1.b – in which case it’s not entirely implausible that the outcome of the vote will end up in the Supreme Court. This second phase of the problems with S191 would be fairly lengthy, as it stands now I can’t see a way around it. Only time will tell what happens.
But even still, after all this, we’re left with the very real issue of how to deal with online election commentary where that is easily faked. The law for authorisation is for a different age, of newspapers and journals that took days to circulate the state. When there’d only be one John Smith of South Hobart (and if there were two, everyone in South Hobart would know both). Not for an era where a comment can fuel random Facebook hate sites with tens of thousands of fans before the ‘fact’ is proved false and the person allegedly authorising the comment turns out to be from FakeNameGenerator.
Curiously enough, identification is the very same issue that’s at the cutting edge of national security and modern commerce. How does one guarantee who one’s allegedly dealing with, either in person or online, is who they claim and codify this within law? If the political parties and leaders are truly committed to fixing S191’s issues, then maybe – just maybe – Tasmania can have a proper enquiry in to this and we can come up with a solution that evenly balances civil liberties and state’s interest in such a way that the public are content to encourage the new commerce that will prosper from such a solution.
Finding such a solution would be the truly sensible outcome of the corner that we find ourself painted in to. Anything short of such a solution would be just as full of fail as the current situation we find ourselves in.

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The ABC TV show ‘Hungry Beast‘ recently showed that 80% – four out of every five – of the Australian population believe that some form of Australian Internet Filter (aka ‘Clean Feed’) isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The issue which the majority of Australians would seem to agree upon is that the silent suppression of material, unique to the CleanFeed project, when compared to the ‘normal’ government censorship method is particularly vomit inducing. The ‘net filter argument is over. It’s opponents have completely and utterly failed to adequately communicate or convince the general population, who don’t care that they cannot buy Baise-moi or Ken Park at JB Hifi, that they are wrong. The population are the people who don’t want their 12-year-old (a reasonable age for an unattended youngster to stroll through the DVD counter at JB) stumbling on to Baise, Park or similar on the internet either. I suspect the population realises that anyone wanting to buy those videos will find a way, just as anyone wishing to see them online in a ‘Clean Feed’ environment will find a way. And by and large, Australia’s citizens seem to be happy with that. To argue against this is akin to pushing it uphill.

Yet there are many who continue to tilt at the windmill (and there’s more than just that one group) about the filter, or ‘online censorship’, who seem more than happy to stay silent on the issues surrounding section 191 of Tasmania’s Electoral Act. This act seeks to restrict freedom of speech during a Tasmanian election campaign to degrees higher than of both before the Internet arrived as well as to a different standard than of other means of publication (newspapers, etc.). Clean Feed is merely a proposal, 191’s been in force for six years. Search for items on the recent attempts to bring similar legislation in to South Australia? Lots of returns. But I’ll be danged if I can find any reference on EFA, or elsewhere, to anything resembling organised complaints against 191 from the same (or similar) organisations. The only reasonable reference I’ve heard of recently was ABC Tasmania Statewide Morning‘s host Tim Cox interviewing the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner. The only useful advice I got from that interview? During a Tasmanian Election, get a lawyer before operating a blog, publishing a comment or tweet or anything online because the Commissioner doesn’t understand the law either as there’s no precedents. The silence from ‘big islanders’ on this would lead a reasonable person to believe we’re in entirely different countries (insert prejudicial comments here about Tasmanian people to instantly disqualify yourself from any attempt at reasoned debate). [edit: I might just mention that I suspect certain provisions of 191 are unconstitutional, anyway]

The ‘No Clean Feed’ movement seem so incensed because sometime in the future they will not be able to receive via internet that which they can’t now buy over the counter – imagine how shocking it’d have been to live 25 years ago, how deprived they were  because there was no internet –  that they’re happy to ignore, or continually stay silent about, around half a million fellow Australians. Many were deeply upset when news came to light about the new South Australia’s laws, yet why the silence about Tasmania? The simplest conclusion one can reach is the bigoted prejudices about this state.

It follows from this conclusion that there are many participants in the ‘No Clean Feed’ fight, up to and including the nominal leaders, who seemingly are in it merely so they may serve their own navel gazing masturbatory political and financial agendas. What’s galling is that in No Clean Feed’s own lack of outrage or protest about 191, it shows them to be a shallow self-absorbed crowd. And maybe that’s where the real base of the 80% approval comes from. The general population of this country don’t really object to some form of censorship and believe, either consciously or subconsciously, that some amount of NoCleanFeeders are a bunch of hypocritical loons who are in it for political point scoring or financial advantage and not on a matter of principle or informed debate that they really give a damn about.

Thanks to the second verse of the Australian national anthem, many of us are intrinsically aware from an early age that hypocrisy is the greatest luxury. It’s with a heavy heart that I declare that I believe the current NoCleanFeed fight and it’s leaders are both fundamentally and fatally flawed and in need of chronic hosing down before they truly mess it up for those who genuinely care.

Disclaimer: The author is a Tasmanian resident who will soon be directly subject to Section 191’s clauses, in all it’s horrors.

[edit: 16 Feb 2010, grammar]

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