CSO: Voluntary filtering removes the controversy

My first op-ed for CSO, “The Resource for Data Security Executives”, has just been posted. It’s voluntary ISP-level internet filtering, but a different angle from my Crikey piece earlier today.

After nearly four chaotic years, Australia’s internet filtering scheme is finally coming together in a way that makes sense technically and politically, if not necessarily for effective child protection.

The chaos wasn’t all communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s fault. The “clean feed” was announced as Labor policy back in March 2006 by then-leader Kim Beazley. ISPs would filter out the nasties hosted overseas, where they couldn’t be hit with a takedown notice from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

But Conroy’s name was on Labor’s Plan for Cyber-safety published just five days out from the federal election in late 2007, and once in government it was Conroy’s job to explain that plan and sell it to voters. Everyone presumably imagined it’d be a protect-the-kiddies no-brainer.

Problem was, neither the plan not Conroy’s explanations were clear…

As I say, it’s my first outing for CSO, but if all goes according to plan there’ll be more. And in case you’re wondering, CSO is a job title. Chief Security Officer.

Crikey: Who supports compulsory Internet filtering, exactly?

Crikey logo

“The field trials of the Rudd government’s compulsory Internet filters, which were completed just before Christmas… no, they started before Christmas… no, that’s not right either… when do they start? Senator Conroy? Anyone? Can’t say? Fat kid on the far right? Okay, The Australian says they’re ‘imminent’. So another Christmas then.”

So starts my piece in Crikey today on… yes, you guessed it… the Rudd government’s plan for compulsory censorship of the Internet. There’s some interesting background on where this push for censorship comes from, and links to a new survey of one ISP’s customers — who don’t like the idea at all.

The article is not behind Crikey‘s paywall, so it’s free for all to read.

Conroy thoroughly tangled in his own Rabbit-Proof Firewall

Crikey logo

[This article was first published in Crikey on Thursday, along with the superb Conroy a fearless combatant in the war against free speech by their Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane. I’ve added a few extra links and changed it from Crikey’s typographical rules to my own.]

As any farmer can tell you, fencing is bloody dangerous. The stretch-wire-between-posts thing, I mean, not the pointy-steel-pokey thing. One mistake and it’s THWACKKKK! Ten metres of barbed wire whipping into your face.

Senator Stephen Conroy is discovering the hard way that trying to build a Rabbit-Proof Firewall around the Internet is just as dangerous. As Bernard Keane points out in Crikey [Thursday], the standard politicians’ tactic — lying — doesn’t cut it in today’s hyperconnected world.

Continue reading “Conroy thoroughly tangled in his own Rabbit-Proof Firewall”

Kim Beazley for Governor General?

Photograph of Kim Beazley

Will former Labor leader Kim Beazley be Australia’s next Governor-General? That’s the story out of Canberra today.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve always liked Beazley because he’s a strategic thinker and a good orator — both skills in short supply in modern politics. He’d provide a fine counter-balance to Kevin Rudd, able to give passionate, long-ranging and doubtless wordy speeches about grand visions on grand national occasions, while Rudd gets on with the nuts and bolts of running the country.

Indeed, since Rudd’s predecessor, Prime Minister Toad, took on many of the Governor-General’s roles for himself — to the extent that virtually no-one can remember the current GG‘s name — it’d be nice for a bit of profile restored to the role of the Queen’s representative.

Beyond that, since Rudd promised to put an Australian republic back on the agenda, Beazley would make an excellent “last Governor-General”. Well-respected even by his opponents in parliament, and a man of dignity.

Beazley’s final parliamentary speech was filled with history. Even if John Howard didn’t have the manners to show up, commentators like Annabel Crabb agreed it was a fine occasion.

I’m damn sure our troops would rather be farewelled to battle with an inspiring speech by “Bomber” Beazley than a precisely-planned but self-conscious lecture from Rudd or a whining, backward-looking duck-quack from Howard.

The Narrowing, (not) by Dean Koontz

Graph of two-party preferred preferences since the campaign started

The Narrowing. The idea that during an election campaign voters return to the incumbent government. Supposedly the reality of an actual vote, as opposed to mere opinion polls, triggers voters’ fear of the unknown. As this graph shows, if there is a Narrowing, it’s bloody tiny this time around.

The Narrowing is nothing but mythology.

In the 2001 campaign, Kim Beazley started from behind and gained 5% before voting day — not enough to win, but enough to give him hope for next time. That’s a shift against the incumbent party, of course.

Of course that loose-mouthed thug Mark Latham went and screwed all that up. But this time we can see what the electorate really thinks of Howard now that they’ve got a credible alternative.

As the graph from Possums Pollytics shows, yes, you can sort of see a little sign of The Narrowing. But that gentle glidepath has to cross that line marked “50”.

Yes, the Coalition might be able to claw back enough support to win. As long as the election is on 28 July 2008.

I gather the election is sooner than that.

“Clever”, but too late?

Photo from government Climate Clever campaign

The government’s Climate Clever campaign is, apart from a wonderful subject for satire, apparently a nice attempt to re-associate the word “clever”.

As Possums Pollytics explains, it’s trying to re-frame the word away from “John Howard is clever” as in “tricky” to “clever policies on climate”.

Word association is a powerful propaganda weapon. Think Beazley and ticker, Keating and elitist, Latham and learner, and now Howard and clever. If the Libs could disassociate the word clever from Howard and re-associate it with climate change policies, not only would they neutralise the ALP attack, but would reduce the power of any residual word association with Howard.

A shame it’s probably way too late to make a difference. Possums also reports on the latest AC Nielsen polls with a simple “Business as usual. Nothing to see here folks, please move on.”

Mr Howard, please just call the bloody election. The longer you leave it now, the more you’re going to piss off the very people you’re trying to impress.