Wonderful Copenhagen:

Steve O’Connor writes: Re. “Copenhagen: one, big, brutal reality check” (yesterday, item 2):

There once was a planet called Earth,
Then, 4.5 billion years after birth,
It evolved a new species,
From DNA pieces,
That polluted for all they were worth.

This continued ’til everyone felt,
The impact of arctic-ice melt,
A global nightmare,
(Or full of hot-air?)
For many, disaster was spelt.

The science said 350 per mil,
Was the most CO2 we could spill,
If it grows any more,
We’ll see famine and war,
Our chances? Effectively nil.

Our last shot to counter stagnation:
A treaty to unite every nation!
We all tried to fight,
But it wasn’t done right,
Like a roll made with egg but not bacon.

The trouble was there from the start,
Wonderful Copenhagen was breaking apart,
Counting offsets, a subtraction:
A dangerous distraction,
Like methane from a cow’s fart.

This cautionary tale I now tell,
Like chiming our lonely death-knell,
The science was clear,
But it fell on deaf-ears,
Humanity was too hard a sell.


Verity Pravda writes: Re. “The swift takedown of stephenconroy.com.au” (yesterday, item 16). There is no pleasing the likes of Stilgherrian and Electronic Frontiers Australia. I think they’d like us to believe that we should have faith in the anarchic and self-managing characteristics of the internet. However when the self-same processes come back to do something they don’t like they react with outrage.

So we have the immediate accusation that there is something underhanded in the fact that a website using a domain name that was in clear breach of the principles applied to those domain names was taken down. The speed with which it happened probably only reflected the crowing about the registration and site that Stilgherrian indulged in, not any underhanded interference.

That there might be other sites infringing the policy does not mean the policy is not applied, as auDa does not spend its time physically checking every site. However, nor does auDa have to rely on an external complaint.

There are plenty of grey areas but the content of the site and the use of the Senator’s picture clearly showed this was not a site being run by a registrant with the name Stephen Conroy.

It is fascinating to see the EFA response. Self-regulation of content is OK, but we need “someone” to manage domain names — that someone could surely only be the Government. In fact under the Telecommunications Act the Government has reserved the power for its regulators to direct managers of electronic addressing like auDa — that would of course be the ACMA that was so mercilessly targeted by content complaints earlier in the year.

And Stilgherrian continues to peddle the myth that Conroy’s office tried to have an industry critic of the Government’s filtering plans “stifled” through the industry association. It is worth noting that the Senator’s offices actual request — that industry help the Government in the implementation of the policy — has come to fruition.  Conroy’s announcement acknowledged the role played by Telstra, iiNet, Optus and Primus in finalising the policy. It is worth noting that two of these did not participate in the trial and one was a very vocal critic.

Perhaps Stilgherrian still can’t get over the fact that Conroy has now made it clear that the content to be restricted will only be Refused Classification material, and that Conroy has actually listened to concerns about the lack of an R18+ games category.

Stilgherrian writes: Senator Conroy’s office has confirmed that the Minister was not involved in the takedown of the fake Stephen Conroy website at stephenconroy.com.au.

“The Minister’s office made no request and took no other action in relation to the domain stephenconroy.com.au,” a spokesperson told Crikey – as is right and proper given auDA’s independence.

While auDA did not respond to Crikey‘s emails or phone call, their response has been published at ZDNet.com.au.

“Normal checks and balances,” they say.

Gabriel McGrath writes: John Kotsopoulos (yesterday, comments) classes criticism of the Australian government’s new Chinese-style internet censoring regime as “a highly politicised and unconvincing attempt at sliming Conroy and the Government”. OK John, here’s some non-politicised commentary for you.

I used to have a “No HoWARd” sticker on my car. Then — it was a Kevin 07 sticker. But if Mr Conroy’s net censoring system happens, I will vote Green for life. No ALP preferences — whenever possible.  It’s a lifetime vote changer for me.

You ask “Why should the internet provide an open go for criminals in distributing unclassifiable material that is illegal in any other form of media?” And yet you accept that “privateers can work around filters”. I’m afraid you don’t understand the issue.

The filter works on webpages. As all the technical writers have noted on this subject, people swapping unclassifiable material use entirely DIFFERENT programs and internet mechanisms. It’s like putting massive deadlocks on your doors, but leaving your kitchen window unlocked. People who come to the front door will be inconvenienced, but criminals who hop over the fence will do whatever they want.

In plain English John — it won’t do what they say it will. Now — let’s look at the big brother angle.

We’ve seen what happens in the past when government X needs legislation Y passed, but independent senator Z is in the way. They do sneaky deals. Once this filter is up, how long before the pressure groups quietly start to push that topics A, B & C are added to the filter?

You won’t know it’s happened … because things will just … slowly disappear.

“Oh well, it’ll be worth it, because those criminals…”  Well, actually they’ll be laughing.

If that’s not enough, the system slows down your browsing — and — has a 3% false positive rate. (i.e. one in 33 “legit” webpages you try to view — will be blocked!)

Fantastic! Australians have been crying out for a slower, more broken internet for years!

Andrew Brooke writes: John Kotsopoulos on Conroy’s internet filter makes an understandable, but rather enormous error. He writes: “can you explain to me why the internet should provide an open go for criminals in distributing unclassifiable material that is illegal in any other form of media?”

Problem is — over half the material Conroy wants to filter is NOT illegal.

(Refused Classification (“RC”) material is legal to possess for private/personal purposes in all States/Territories except in Western Australia and in ‘prescribed areas’ of the Northern Territory, and to read/view via the Internet in all States/Territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, unless the material falls within the sub-set of RC that is defined as child p-rnography/abuse/exploitation material in the C’th Criminal Code or in the relevant State’s/Territory’s Criminal Code/Crimes Act or Classification Act, etc.)

As revealed when the ACMA blacklist was leaked, less than half (49.2%) of the URLs on the ACMA blacklist relate to illegal RC material.

So — what about the other 50.8% of the 1370 URLs on the ACMA blacklist?

37% (506 URLs) is R18+ or X18+ content — thus not illegal for Australian adults to access, view or possess. A further 14% (190 URLs) is ‘RC’ content not in the child abuse sub-set — thus not illegal for Australian adults (except in WA and parts of NT) to access, view or possess.

So you see John, Conroy’s filter is not only unworkable and expensive — it will ALSO (attempt, unsuccessfully to) block a lot more than you thought.

Keith Windschuttle:

Imre Salusinszky writes: Re. “Rundle: Windschuttle screams blue murder over Quadrant funding cut” (yesterday, item 14). As part of his crusade to impugn the integrity of those who do not share his loony-Left views, Guy Rundle has accused me of bias in my performance of my duties as Chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council between 2006 and this year.

In a commentary on a recent decrease in funding for Quadrant, Rundle writes:

Two things are interesting here — the first is that Quadrant‘s funding was at around the $30,000 level until a couple of years ago, when it suddenly got a bump up. By an incredible coincidence this coincided with the arrival as Literature Board chair of Imre Shaluzsinzsky, postmodern literary theorist turned free-marketeer and also — mirabile dictu — a member of the advisory board of erm, Quadrant. During Szaluszinshky’s term, Quadrant‘s funding got a substantial boost, and has now returned to normal levels.

Let me begin by noting that Rundle’s smear — the suggestion that I did not perform my duties as Literature Board Chair in a disinterested and fair way — is unprecedented. The Australia Council deals annually with hundreds, if not thousands, of grant applicants and other stakeholders. Not one of these, to my knowledge, complained about my conduct.

I’m not going to comment directly on decisions of the Literature Board when I was Chair, or on decisions taken under my excellent successor, Professor Dennis Haskell: the first would be a breach of confidentiality, the second would be inappropriate. But there is plenty of material on the public record. If Rundle had bothered to check the funding report for 2008, he would have noted that all the major literary magazines supported by the Board, not just Quadrant, received a boost to their funding.

Is Rundle aware, too, that the Chair is one of seven members of the Literature Board, and that all decisions are taken on a majority basis?

It is true that I was on the advisory board of Quadrant. I was also on the advisory board of HEAT. I resigned both positions before taking up my role at the Australia Council. Rundle’s imputation that I allowed a clear conflict of interest to continue while I was at the Council is offensive, unwarranted and false.

As for the remark about a “postmodern literary theorist turned free-marketeer” — what is this supposed to mean? Why would a theory about literature imply one or another view of economics?

Rundle’s attack on me, while pathetic, does not come close to some of his previous classics. I particularly recall his avid barracking for Saddam Hussein’s troops against the men and women of the ADF, in 2003.

I note, in closing, that the goateed little grub finds non-Anglo names hilarious. Is this what it has come to, for the far Left?


Robert Murray writes: Crikey is a bit one-sided on subjects like climate change and the Stolen Generation. Climate scepticism is based on solid arguments; it is not ignorant, silly or corrupt, though I fear — on an amateur’s guesstimate — that it might be wrong.

The sceptical argument identifies several natural factors that can account for the warming and disturbance so far. T hese include long and short-term cycles of influence from the sun; an abnormal run of El Ninos, as likely to be due to undersea disturbances such as volcanoes as to man-made global warming; and slightly sharper sunlight resulting from the huge global clean-up of smoke and other pollution in recent years.

There are also several technical arguments about measurement and the rate at which the sea level can rise. All this will count for less and less from now on, however, unless there is another big El Nino run, so the next few years can be expected to reveal all.

The official report on which the Stolen Generation issue has been based “Bringing Them Home”, is a weak one, with sweeping assertions in the introduction (all most people read) that are not born out in the body. There are many reports of the emotional suffering of people taken into adoption — the report’s strength — but very little on the reasons or background or what policy or regulation was involved. It does not mention that six State and the Commonwealth governments were involved over many decades, with frequent changes of policy.

Instead, much of it is taken up with tendentious arguments for compensation and a treaty. Journalistic comment, politics and the law have added copiously to the story since, with varying degrees of precision. It should not be too surprising if more holes are shot in the overall issue — whether or not Keith Windschuttle is right about the Rabbit Proof Fence.

The Daily Telegraph and SMH petitions to sack the NSW Government:

Gerald Stone writes: Re. 14 December editorial. You call that a petition? This is an example of a real petition — in 1932,  at  the height of the Great Depression,  the right-wing New Guard collected a whopping 400,000 signatures  calling on then Governor Phillip Lang to dismiss  controversial  NSW Premier  Jack Lang. That was out of a population of two million.

Game still wouldn’t budge, only deciding  to order a new election when he judged Lang to have committed an illegal act by violating Federal fiscal laws ( in case you’re interested).

Pollies Christmas propaganda:

Ava Hubble writes: Is this is a record? The four-page Christmas newsletter of  the Federal Member for Sydney, the Hon Tanya Plibersek, is mainly made up of 11 photos. She is featured in all of them. In an apparent attempt to save as much space as possible for the photos, captions have been largely dispensed with.

For instance the main cover photo features Plibersek and the Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, flanking an unidentified man, presumably a member of the staff of Sydney’s Wayside Chapel. The newsletter advises that it has been produced at Australian Government (read taxpayers) expense.

How many similar narcissistic publications have been despatched around the country — and at what total cost? Who wants to be churlish at this time of year, especially since politicians’ newsletters are invariably so diverting, conjuring up, as they do, visions of Malvolio admiring his own shadow.

But the Hon Tanya’s publication did make me wonder how many trees have so far been felled in the production of these alleged newsletters.

Peter Fray

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