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South Australia

Feb 2, 2010

Is the SA government censoring free speech online?

South Australia has just passed a law that will require all Crow Eaters to publish their real name and postcode when making a comment on next month's state election online -- including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the ABC and possibly even Crikey.

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South Australia recently passed a law that will require all Crow Eaters to publish their real name and postcode when making a comment on next month’s state election online, and the Adelaide Advertiser has gone balls-to-the-wall with its coverage and outrage today.

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Michael McGuire: Labor gags internet debate

South Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet under laws created by Attorney-General Michael Atkinson.

The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires internet bloggers, and anyone making a comment on next month’s state election, to publish their real name and postcode when commenting on the poll.

“The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud,” Mr Atkinson said.

Editorial: Censoring free speech in the secret state

South Australia is a state that grants more suppression orders than any other, it is a state where it is acceptable to leave hundreds, if not thousands, of parliamentary questions unanswered for years at a time, where pursuing Freedom of Information requests is nothing short of a battle.

The people of South Australia who elected these MPs of both persuasions are having their rights eroded in the most undemocratic fashion.

Crikey is still waiting on comment and clarification from the South Australian Attorney General’s office on just how this new law will affect us.

UPDATE: Here is the full legislation:

116—Published material to identify person responsible for political content

(1) A person must not, during an election period, publish material consisting of, or containing a commentary on, any candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors, in written form, in a journal published in electronic form on the Internet or by radio or television or broadcast on the Internet, unless the material or the programme in which the material is presented contains a statement of the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material.

Maximum penalty:

(a) if the offender is a natural person—$1 250;

(b) if the offender is a body corporate—$5 000.

(2) This section does not apply to—

(a) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of a leading article;

(b) the publication of a report of a meeting that does not contain any comment (other than comment made by a speaker at the meeting) on any candidate, or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors;

(c) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of an article, letter, report or other matter if—

(i) the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material is provided to the publisher of the journal and retained by the publisher for a period of 6 months after the end of the election period; and

(ii) the journal contains a statement of the name and postcode of the person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material;

(ca) the publication of a letter (otherwise than as described in paragraph (c)) that contains the name and address (not being a post office box) of the author of the letter;

(d) a news service or a current affairs programme on radio or television or broadcast on the Internet;

(e) any other prescribed material or class of material.

(3) In this section—
journal means a newspaper, magazine or other periodical.

You can download the legislation here [PDF] (Section 116, page 89).

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9 comments

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9 thoughts on “Is the SA government censoring free speech online?

  1. Jason

    Ther will be a lot of John Smiths from 5001 making comments I predict.

  2. Pete

    Yup, following Tasmania’s lead.
    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_act/ea2004103/s191.html
    Wasn’t aware this had happened in Tassie back in ’04. Seems a bunch of other Big Islanders are equally ignorant.

  3. Elan

    We are currently screaming for an ICAC in SA. Sadly some believe it will cure some of the extraordinarily questionable behaviour of this Government.

    It is better than nothing I suppose,-but it is critical, in my view, for it’s decision makers to be seconded from other States.

    Atkinson has become a regular contributor to the AdelaideNow (Advertiser) forum. He is of course, given a free run. Responses to him are not. It is in the ‘forum rules’ dontyerknow, that the ’tiser ‘reserves the right’…etc, etc.,!

    Atkinson has threatened a couple of protesters of the St Clair debacle to give him their names and addresses,-he does that regularly, yet he withholds same on the grounds of his own personal security!! This is on record. It is NOT an allegation.

    It is at least gratifying that there is increasing concern about the behaviour of this ‘Government’,- not least by writers on Crikey.

    It was inevitable. Something is very wrong.

    I do not recall a more dictatorial Government,-but also one that openly flouts its behaviour on a ‘you can’t do a thing’ basis. It is not paranoid to concede that it is becoming quite frankly, chilling.

    If this Government is returned to power,…. then rather than ‘we get what we voted for’ , I, and thousands of others (I’m reasonably confident), will be bloody bellowing for an ICAC!!

    The situation here is NOT frustrating. It is questionable. It is bizarre…..

  4. Flower

    What a cheek when the blogosphere is the last bastion of free speech where one can speak the truth (as one perceives it) anonymously thus thwarting the endeavours of some nutter planning to dump a dog log in your letterbox.

    All that will be left now will be the attempts by SA’s government and their bum boy bureaucrats to smear the reputation or personal character of the individuals concerned.
    These smear campaigns will proceed by word of mouth, and typically involve insinuations of incompetence, improper motivation (malice), or mental instability.

    There should be a fee granted to every individual who displays his/her name and address. After all when one requests FOI documents (even half a page) one must pay for the privilege of finding out what governments have been up to in their ploys to dupe the public. This is made more difficult because, on receipt of an FOI document, the public will find so many blackouts that the text is corrupted.

    Thankfully Howard and Costello are now in their dotage because during their rein, the price of FOI documents was often beyond the ability of the ordinary punter to pay.

    There was a request for documents about the effect of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef. Apparently this involved 538 hours of “decision making time” at a cost of $12,718.
    A two-year request for information on a politician’s travel was abandoned when a newspaper was quoted a fee of $1.25 million — a cost related to contacting everyone the politician met. (Moss report 2007)

    When the sun rises on election day (as have many of the dead), Michael Atkinson may find himself having to repeat his articles in some back street law practice.

  5. Pete

    Fwiw I’m DANIEL irl. Postcode 5000.

  6. karldoh

    What a joke – the AdelaideNow forums are already censored. They call it ‘moderation’.

  7. Pete in Rannistan

    I think comrade Attkinson would be more at home in china or north korea, what a crock.

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