stephen conroy

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An Australian bureaucrat reacts to allegations that Operation Sovereign Borders removes safety gear from lifeboats: click to embiggenThis man’s name is Mick Kinley, and he’s shrugging with indifference at allegations that safety equipment is deliberately removed from the lifeboats used to return asylum seekers to Indonesia. But that OK, he’s the acting chief executive officer of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

I’ve never met Kinley. I know nothing of his work apart from this incident. But do we really need any further context? The bureaucrat in charge of maritime safety is challenged over what sounds like a breach of maritime safety, but, you know, “Whatever.”

I believe this is what’s called the banality of evil.

Hang on, I’d better scroll back a bit…

Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) is the Australian government’s grand-sounding name for the grubby process of intercepting any boats at sea that contain asylum seekers and returning them to Indonesia. They’re put into standard orange lifeboats towed behind our ships, and once they’re within a certain distance of Indonesia they’re cast off and left to find their own way hone.

But as The Guardian’s Paul Farrell reported on 7 May, safety equipment is removed from those lifeboats beforehand — ropes, scissors, knives, a mirror, fishing line and even buckets.

On 27 May, Kinley was questioned about this in the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee by Senator Stephen Conroy, who was clearly unimpressed. You can read the transcript — the relevant exchange starts on page 86 — but you should really watch the video to see the body language for yourself.

Actually, it’s worth picking up the story a little before that video starts, on page 84…

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Sydney under the clouds: kick to embiggenMy week Monday 24 to Sunday 30 June 2013 was rather complicated, at least emotionally.

As will be explained tomorrow on Tuesday Thursday.

Nevertheless, I managed to create some media objects along the way. And here they are.

Podcasts

I’m very pleased to have launched my new podcast and website, Corrupted Nerds.

  • Corrupted Nerds: Conversations 1, a conversation with Eugene Kaspersky, founder and CEO of Kaspersky Lab. If we’re going to be accurate, then this was really published in the previous week. But I forgot. So sue me.
  • Corrupted Nerds: Extra 1, being Senator Brett Mason’s “corrupted nerds” speech in the Australian Senate from 21 August 2012, which inspired the title. This was published last week too.
  • Corrupted Nerds: Conversations 2, a chat with Sean Richmond, senior technology consultant from Sophos Australia and New Zealand, about personalised malware, defense in depth, and why advanced persistent threats (APTs) and cyberwar are over-hyped.

I have yet to arrange any funding for this podcast, so I’ll be seeking that soon — and I’d be more than happy to hear your suggestions.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

  • Since Saturday 8 June I’ve been using Vodafone’s new 4G network while in Sydney, and their existing 3G network while in the Blue Mountains, with a Samsung Galaxy S4 handset that they’ve loaned me. I’ll be writing about my experiences on Monday. [Update 2 July 2013: I’ve just posted my write-up of my experiences. Yeah, it’s Tuesday.

The Week Ahead

The new financial year starts on Monday, so I daresay the morning will be full of administrivia. I’ll then be heading down to Sydney, because…

On Tuesday morning I’m attending a discussion on data sovereignty and the cloud, hosted by data centre firm NEXTDC, along with financial services company Aon and law firm Baker & McKenzie. That will be followed at the same event by the launch of the University of New South Wales’ report Data Sovereignty and the Cloud — A Board and Executive Officers’ Guide. I’ll be reporting this for someone, but as yet I don’t know who that will be.

I’ll be in Sydney again later in the week, probably Thursday, for a medical appointment, but that’s not confirmed yet. When it is, I’ll arrange my writing and media production schedule around that. There’s definitely stories to write for ZDNet Australia and CSO Online, plus an episode of Corrupted Nerds, and there’ll certainly be things that pop up along the way.

And then the weekend is unplanned.

[Photo: Sydney under the clouds, photographed from the Rydges Camperdown hotel in Sydney on 25 June 2013.]

Crikey logoI’ve commented on Australia’s federal Budget for Crikey every May since Labor took power in 2007. This year will be no exception — but how will I top last year’s rant?

Why do politicians and their groupies always go on about the budget “sending a message”? Can’t they just use Twitter, email and the phone like we all do? But there is indeed a message in the budget: the government has no real vision for transforming Australia, and isn’t particularly interested in developing one with us.

I talked about the $240.3 million allocated to new IT systems for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); $43.7 million for upgrades at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC); adding a further $233.7 million to the $477 million already spent on the National e-Health Initiative; $198 million for an “aged-care gateway”; $17 million to “enhance” the MySchool website; and so on. And then I concluded:

Why, in a cashed-up nation that is, or was, renowned for its eagerness to develop and adopt new technologies, is all this stuff just mouse nibblings at the edges, buried under the dull plod of business as usual? Sometimes I just want to cry.

To see how I approached the topic in previous years, check out the summary I wrote last year.

So once more I’ll be up early local time — I’m currently in San Jose — to knock out something before or perhaps in between conference sessions. Are there any particular angles you think I should look out for?

[Update 25 May 2013: Crikey decided they didn’t need my input after all. Rather than waste my notes, today I wrote Australia’s Budget 2013 keeps us stuck in the past.]

Malcolm Turnbull on ABC TV's Lateline: click for video and transcriptThis post is written for an audience of one. The Honorable Malcolm Turnbull MP, Member for Wentworth and Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband. But all you proles are welcome to read it too.

Since I last spoke with Turnbull eighteen months ago for the Patch Monday podcast, his comments on Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) have frustrated me to hell. I’m guessing he’s not thrilled with what I’ve written since then either — because most of it has been critical of his comments, or even straight-up mockery.

My frustration is fuelled by cognitive dissonance. I admire Turnbull’s sharp use of political rhetoric. Indeed, I’ve praised him for it many times. But recently so much of Turnbull’s use of this rhetoric has been to play the pathetic old party-political tribal games that dominate the political narrative and, quite frankly, turn people off.

Sure, propaganda must trigger biases and responses that the audience already holds. That’s Joseph Goebbel’s Principles of Propaganda 101. So, yes, here we go again. Cuba communism socialism Labor North Korea Kremlin secrecy Stalin pogrom Labor socialism bad bad bad. Yawn. Y-fucking-awn.

In my most recent piece, Some of that ol’ NBN religion, I wrote:

In a rational world, something as important as a political party’s policies for the nation’s broadband infrastructure would refer to objective facts and measures.

There’d be no talk of “super-fast broadband”, as if that were actually a unit of measurement. There’d be no lumping together of different technologies with widely different performance characteristics under this or any other generic label. We might not necessarily go into the fine details of bonded copper pairs or GPONs versus other kinds of optical fibre distribution, but we’d at least have the decency to talk about actual upload and download speeds, about theoretical maximum speeds versus those that are likely to be obtained in real life, and maybe even about capabilities.

We might even discuss the relationship between upload speeds and download speeds, and the ability for individuals and businesses to be creators and participants in the digital economy and culture, rather than merely consumers.

It said much the same sort of thing back in June 2011 when I wrote The only NBN monopoly seems to be on ignorance. Again, my frustration stemmed from the simple fact that both major political parties, not just Turnbull’s Coalition, seem intent on keeping us ignorant instead of properly explaining their different approaches to what is, as we’re continually told, Australia’s biggest infrastructure project ever.

Now as it happens, Turnbull is delivering a keynote address at Kickstart Forum, the annual get-together of many of Australia’s IT journalists and the vendors who pay to be there, on Tuesday morning. This looks like the perfect opportunity to present some facts to an audience that’s equipped to understand and interpret them for the voters.

I think I’ve only spoken with Turnbull twice. Once was the podcast, and that was over the phone. The other was in the flesh, maybe a year or two beforehand, at some event at the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney. But it was nothing more than a polite greeting as we were introduced.

Mr Turnbull, I very much look forward to meeting you again on Tuesday.

[Photo: Malcolm Turnbull as seen on ABC TV’s Lateline, 14 February 2013.]

Monday 12 to Sunday 18 November 2012 was another week dominated by travel — this time returning from Singapore on Monday, spending almost two days in Sydney, then heading to Coffs Harbour on the mid-north coast of NSW through until Saturday.

This is also another week where you just get the facts of the media objects I produced. Heck, if you really want to know what’s happening in my world then follow my Twitter stream.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 163, “The law and technology behind Australia’s internet filtering”. Conversations with David Vaile, director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales, and high-profile network engineer Mark Newton.

Articles

Two more articles were written as well, but they won’t appear until the coming week.

Media Appearances

Corporate Largesse

  • On Monday I flew back from Singapore, ending my trip there that was covered by Verizon Enterprise Solutions. This was all detailed last week. Related stories have yet to appear.
  • On Tuesday I attended the launch of VMware’s Cloud Index, which was a lunch at Sydney’s new QT Hotel. This is what happened to the old State Theatre and Gowings buildings. They paid, obviously. Again, related stories have yet to appear.
  • Wednesday through Friday I attended Flexibility 2012, the local government IT conference in Coffs Harbour that was organised by the Coffs Harbour City Council. Technically this isn’t largesse, because I spoke at the conference and wasn’t paid an appearance fee. I’ll post the audio of that presentation and an annotated transcript some time in the next few days. Nevertheless I’ll record the fact that they covered flights to and from Sydney, two nights accommodation at the conference venue, Opal Cove Resort, plus food and drink. [Update 20 November 2012: They also gave me some local produce as a gift, a jar of Valley of the Mist macadamia nut chutney.]

The Week Ahead

The week ahead is annoyingly unplanned. I had intended to go to Melbourne on Wednesday for the 5th birthday party of Business Spectator, parent of Technology Spectator, a masthead for which I write. But it’s looking like my cashflows won’t be good for that.

So, I’m going to map out the week in detail tomorrow, Monday. I’ll do a supplementary blog post then.

[Photo: Sydney Harbour from the air, taken from Qantas flight QF2117 yesterday. The image isn’t the sharpest, and neither does it have the best colour grading, because it was shot through both the plane window and the arc of the spinning propeller. But at least it gives a small flavour of the magnificent view.]

This week saw my third appearance on Marc Fennell’s program Download This Show on ABC Radio National. Great fun.

Cleaning up the web: Nearly three years since announcing the proposed mandatory internet filtering system Cleenfeed, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s scheme is dead. But what have they replaced it with and were we better off with Conroy’s old system? Meanwhile, we peek into the secret UN meeting that could radically change the way the net is governed, and take time out to ask whether games can truly change our minds and society.

The internet “filtering” stuff of course relates to the Interpol blacklist that I’ve written about for Crikey once or twice, and which was also the subject of this week’s Patch Monday podcast.

My fellow guest was digital arts evangelist Fee Plumley. The audio below is linked directly from the ABC’s website.

Play

The audio is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

[Photo: Waiting in ABC Studio 291, Coffs Harbour, the location from which I joined the program.]

I’ve commented on the Budget for Crikey every May since Labor took power in 2007. This year will be no exception. But what will I say?

In 2008 I criticised Rudd’s slow digital revolution.

Dig into Budget Paper No. 2 and there’s a frustrating lack of detail and commitment.

Of $4.7b promised for the National Broadband Network [this was the original 12Mbps fibre to the node policy], only 0.16% has been committed: $2.1m this financial year and $5.2m next for “establishment and implementation”. The remaining 99.84% — you know, actually building the thing — is all “nfp”. Not for publication. We’ll get back to you…

The rest? All. Too. Slow. And. Vague.

In 2009 I complained that the machinery of Australian government is as outdated as the steam locomotive and the electric telegraph in The Budget? How quaint! They’re just made-up, you know.

Here we imagine that once a year we can produce a Big List of Numbers that’ll cover everything our “modern” nation-state will need to deal with for the next 365 days.

We proclaim it Good or Bad for this or that self-interested sector of the community on the basis of a quick glance, a gut reaction, and the need to create a narrative that’ll attract an audience or justify a pre-existing political zealotry.

We pretend to believe numbers like “$20 million over four years” when only a tiny part of that might be committed in the coming financial year and the rest, still to be confirmed in the next Budget, is therefore nothing but wishful thinking.

The reality, of course, is that the world moves faster than this. We experience a sudden global financial crisis, and must immediately tighten our belts by … um … giving away $900 cash to everyone.

In 2010 I complained of More NBN vagueness, border control and cyber-safety re-allocation. It’s not a bad read, but I’ll leave you to click through to that one.

And by 2011 I was clearly over the whole thing, writing Ritual shenanigans, but hey, this is government.

Riddle me this. What is the actual point of the federal budget process and all the lock-up shenanigans that go with it when the biggest bucket of money related to the technology sector by far, that National Broadband Network thing, isn’t even on the books?

What is the point when the way that NBN money is being spent – and is it $26 billion or $36 billion or $43 billion or that $50 billion scare-number that Malcolm Turnbull pulled out of some random orifice and keeps repeating unchallenged? – it is all SEKRIT thanks to those magic words “commercial confidentiality”…

What is the point of this annual ritual – built on the assumption that we can publish a set of numbers in May that will, in this complex and rapidly changing world, still be meaningful six months down the track – when the government has to respond to changing circumstances? Such as urgently building a fibre-to-the-premises network? Or responding to a global financial crisis? Or starting a land war in Asia? Or handing to every taxpayer $900 because, um, oh, shut up stop asking questions and buy a new TV.

I went on about “$20 million in suck-up-to-Tasmania funding” and “Labor’s half-arsed internet ‘filtering’ policy” and “loud-mouthed entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan” and noted:

Just be aware that all of this could be changed in an instant, budget process or not, if a minister gets on a plane with the Ranga-in-Chief with a few numbers scribbled on the back of an envelope.

So, what the fuck will I end up writing once the budget papers drop onto government websites tonight? Especially given that my shoulder is “out” and I won’t be able to get it fixed until tomorrow afternoon — my birthday! — and I’m scoffing codeine? Suggestions please!

NBNCo announced the three-year rollout plan for Australia’s National Broadband Network today, explaining when (roughly) they’ll lay fibre or make fixed wireless available to 3.5 million out of the country’s 10 million premises.

So far there’s really only just been time for straight reportage from the launch and set-piece criticism from the opposition. It’ll take a few days at least, perhaps even a week, before analysts have done real analysis on who’s getting the network when and whether that’s been decided by politics rather than practicalities.

(Of course one way around that would have been far greater transparency from NBNCo, including putting their raw data and the software they used online for all to see and cross-check. But like that’ll ever happen.)

I daresay I’ll end up writing more about this over coming weeks. Meanwhile here’s an interview I just did on ABC 702 Sydney and ABC Regional Radio around NSW with Dom Knight.

Play

The audio is ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But these program items usually aren’t archived on their website so here it is.

My usual weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. This post covers the week from Monday 12 to Sunday 18 March 2012 — posted late thanks to the worst heartburn I’ve ever experienced destroying an entire night’s sleep.

I’ve added a new section, “The Week Ahead”, listing any events that I’ll be attending. While I often post about future events individually, and my schedule does change at short notice, this will at least help plug a few events that until now I’ve only mentioned on Twitter.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 129, “Future security: big data or Big Brother?” A lunchtime conversation with RSA executive chairman Art Coviello, including a discussion of the boundaries between reasonable data analysis and unreasonable surveillance, and a serve for the media failing to report the good news following RSA’s security breach last year, when the loss of information on their SecurID log-in tokens was later used in an attack on defence contractor Lockheed Martin.

Articles

Media Appearances

None.

Corporate Largesse

  • On Wednesday there was free food and drink to be had at the launch of Sexpo.

The Week Ahead

Elsewhere

Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream (or they used to before my phone camera got a bit too scratched up). The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Gang-Gang Cockatoo, one of the more unusual avian visitors to Bunjaree Cottages. Do note that I resisted the temptation to combine “sex” and “gang-gang” in the headline.]

As has become my wont, at the end of each year I do a series of posts looking back at what I’ve done and how people reacted. This is the first, a list of the most-read posts from 2011.

There’s not a lot to choose from this year. Most of my writing has been elsewhere. But there’s some interesting results nonetheless.

  1. Right, Google, you stupid cunts, this is simply not on! I’m not surprised this is the most-read, but it simply wouldn’t have gotten the attention it did if it weren’t for the c-word. I’ve actually received quite a few compliments about this post.
  2. I just don’t get LinkedIn, do you?
  3. Follow Politics & Technology Forum people on Twitter.
  4. Patch Monday: There are no NBN apps: Turnbull. Given that this is actually just linkage to the podcast site, I’m surprised it got this many views.
  5. On stage for the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum, being my plug for the event.
  6. Goodbye, Artemis. I’m hardly surprised this one generated so much traffic. There was so much interest in the demise of this much-loved feline.
  7. So LinkedIn is a giant Rolodex, eh?
  8. Twitter: a guide for busy paranoids
  9. And so begins 2011… in fear, being one of my rare personal pieces.
  10. Google+ gives me grief, generally

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