Google privacy concerns.

Paul Bullock writes: Re “Oh no, Google took a photo of my house!“, yesterday. “Stilgherrian”, in deriding anyone who is uncomfortable about the notion of a photograph of their house being available to anyone who cares to look at it online, seems to use the specious reasoning that because something is possible it is therefore inevitable (or perhaps that because something is already happening, it is therefore acceptable). Whilst it is true to say that anyone can stand in a public space and take photographs, it is worth considering that what Google adds is the ability to see any house, any time, with minimal effort, and from a remote location. Real estate agents and the like might happen to post a limited number of photos of houses that are on sale, and private individuals might go to the relatively significant effort of going out and photographing a particular house — but neither of these examples is analagous to the automatic compilation of photographs of every single house in a city.

The various other examples of the ways in which Google systematically erodes privacy (search histories, etc.) can be avoided by a cautious and informed user, and certainly do not justify yet further intrusions. As the recent Mosley decision in the UK suggests, the “right” to privacy is an emerging notion in the common law world, including Australia. The law of privacy today is akin to traffic law in the early 1900s: as the thrill of the new technology wears off, questions will emerge about whether and how it should be limited to curb its potential negative effects.


Alan Kennedy writes: Psephologist Malcolm Mackerras wrote yesterday, “The WA distribution that grew“: “It occurs to me that Crikey readers may, perhaps, not inspect the website of the Australian Electoral Commission as often as I do.” What can we Crikey readers (Antony Green and Possum not included) say But “gee he’s right”.

Acting on climate change.

Mark Byrne writes: Martin Gordon, (yesterday, comments) one of the few things Australia can do that will carry any force at the Copenhagen climate convention is to cut our emissions. We belong to the richest nations in the world, our emissions are four times higher per capita than China (ten times that of India), so holding back on emissions reductions is the surest way to block action. Australia could influence the temperature of the planet through one of three approaches in Copenhagen. 1) We can join the rich nations making deep cuts to emissions and benefit from gaining know-how and critical mass in the new energy sector; 2) We can provide cover for those who want to delay by playing chicken with China, thus extending the decade-long blockade to progress; 3) We can commit to deep cuts as well as our share of reparations to poorer nations for denying them the opportunities we took, and enable them to follow a cleaner development path.

Peter Costello speculation.

Patrick Michel writes: Re yesterday’s editorial about Peter Costello’s memoirs. Unless you are taking into account all other costs involved in publishing 40,000 hardback, I’d suggest that $200,000 divided by $50 per book requires only 4,000 sales, not 40,000.

John Taylor writes: Here’s a scoop. The next Liberal Prime Minister is not yet in the Parliament. Since no-one wants to be Leader of the Opposition for 10 years, Costello will fade into obscurity at the same rate as Latham after extracting maximum publicity for his forthcoming memoirs which would sink without trace without the current hoo-ha over the leadership which seems to be a total media beat-up.

David Hardie writes: I am absolutely amazed that no-one has used a Weekend at Bernie’s analogy to describe the current situation with Peter Costello and the Liberal Federal Leadership. Here is a man who in terms of a leadership strategy has been to effectively play dead, while people around him who want to have a party have been propping him up and pretending that the whole leadership push is alive and well. Yes, the man may well be a heartbeat away from the leadership of the Liberal Party. But not in terms of Dr Nelson’s heart will need to stop, but in terms of Peter Costello’s heart that wants to leadership will have to start beating. In the meantime we will all have to live with the spectacle of people dragging the corpse that is the Costello leadership around for the sake of the party. Perhaps dressing it up in a lurid Hawaiian shirt will help?

What about Minchin?

John Goldbaum writes: The angry frontbencher who claimed that Brendan Nelson is consultative is talking through his a-se. The Coalition settled on an albeit messy ETS policy after an acrimonious full-day meeting last week and then Brendan bagged it on Saturday at the NSW Liberal Conference and again on Monday on 2UE with Steve Price. He criticised the ETS because it is a tax but he couldn’t explain how the Coalition’s policy was not a tax.

Brendan convinced me he was either tricky, stubborn or stupid. Developing good policy is an essential starting point for any new opposition. They need a few weekend conferences in the country to settle on which of their old policies they will ditch and to formulate the new broad policy agenda which they believe in. They have wasted the winter recess! So far, the only person who is getting his way is Nick Minchin but he is doing it by proxy. If Minchin believes he knows what is best for the party and the country, and he obviously controls the numbers, he should have copied John Gorton and moved from the senate to the lower house. There was a vacancy in his home state electorate of Mayo. Why didn’t Minchin try to become the leader?