Who do you complain to when a pollie spams — or ignores — you? One interested citizen told Crikey that after writing to a politician to find out their voting intentions on an issue, they were immediately added to the pollie’s weekly spin emails, despite the fact that the politician’s emails advocate exactly the issue the tipster was concerned about and opposes. Says the tipster:

“Their spin email from a staffer has the “unsubscribe” option at the bottom, but emails requesting removal from their list go unanswered. As does their phone. Complaints to ACMA are pointless — pollies are exempt from the Spam Act, and don’t even have to provide an ‘unsubscribe’ message. Thank goodness for spam filters — otherwise I’d have to manually delete Senator Michael Ronaldson’s “Ronno’s Roundup” at least once a week.”

And yes, if you were wondering about the Spam Act, it’s true. All political material, religious material and registered non-profit organisations are exempt. Also, government authorities can send you material about their interactions with you, e.g. local councils telling you about their services. It might not be super effective to spam your constituents though. As our tipster said “I suppose it’s a good way to stop people contacting their representatives. Not a great way to win their vote, though.”

In an interesting contrast, another Crikey reader recently emailed PM Julia Gillard via her website suggesting for Gillard to explain some of the confusing details about the carbon price scheme by using clear and simple analogies that all punters would understand. The reader even had examples, such as comparing the denial of the problem of CO2 emissions with the denial of asbestos in the Wittenoom mine. How did Gillard reply? Says our concerned voter: “The response was interesting: an automatically generated email thanking me, etc, etc, with the rider — don’t reply to this email as the ‘site is not monitored’. Since the site generates an automatic message in reply I’d say that there is monitoring, just not by humans. We have a Prime Minister who invites voters (and others) to comment on issues, but doesn’t pay any heed to what they say.”

A dayze of non-controversy. One angry music fiend sent us in a tip alleging that the Herald Sun had broken a media embargo by announcing the line-up of music festival Summadayze on Sunday by publishing this “controversy bait piece on Snoop Dogg,” as the tipster called it. The line-up announcement was scheduled for Monday morning. Not true, says Future Entertainment, the organisers of the crazy summer dance fest. “The Herald Sun was authorised to announce Snoop Dogg and tailor an article around that artist.” But it’s true other media had to wait until Monday, particularly those who are directly involved with the festival. As Future Entertainment told Crikey: “Our media partners, Nova and Inthemix, had approval to run the announcement from 8am.”

Sydney Uni drops in rankings. Sydney University dropped four ranks to 96 in the world’s top 500 university ratings this morning, putting it into fourth spot for Australian universities overall. The University of Queensland entered the top 100 for the first time  at 86th. One higher-education tipster sent us five reasons why Sydney University has slipped, nearly all of which are unprintable… Do you work or study at the uni and have on the University’s standards? If so, please tell us about it …

Game plan revealed. This Age article today gives away the IPA and Tim Wilson’s game plan for fighting the carbon price, says one Crikey reader:

Right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has received a warning from the Department of Climate Change after it submitted more than 750 freedom-of-information requests in four months. The institute, which strongly opposes carbon pricing, has made more than 95 per cent of FOI requests lodged with the department since April …

… It is believed Mr Wilson submitted about 440 information requests on one day in late July and more than 140 on one day last week. A government source said it took about 39 hours of staff time to process each application.

Got any other examples of groups spamming the government with FOI requests? We’d love to hear them.

Peter Fray

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