Oh well done Aunty Victoria!

The Victorian government is going to ban ATMs from gaming venues.

So, just because some people get suckered into shoving all their money into addictive machines, the rest of us are denied the convenience of withdrawing cash at the pub when we’re running short. Instead we have to go down the street — where we can be mugged more easily.

Here’s a thought. If gaming machines are the problem, why not get rid of the gaming machines?

Oh, that’s right. 8% of Victoria’s revenue comes from gaming machine taxes [PDF file], a total of 13% from gambling of all kinds.

Chairman Rudd has already said he supports Nick Xenophon’s push to remove ATMs from gaming areas. Xenophon doesn’t even become a Senator until 1 July, but already he’s an object of sincere and deep affection.

We’d already started to see the rise of a new wowserism. Imagine what it’s going to like when the balance of power in the Senate is held by Xenophon and Family First’s Senator Steve Fielding! If you thought we’d seen dull conformity before…

Conroy still not giving details of Internet filters

Senator Stephen Conroy had the perfect opportunity to explain his Internet censorship plans last night: his first major address as minister to the IT industry at a gala dinner. But according to iTnews Australia‘s report, he added nothing new.

“Labor has never argued that ISP filtering is a silver bullet solution, but it is an important step in the overall strategy to make the internet a safer place for children,” Conroy said.

Although he acknowledged ISP level filtering could potentially affect Internet speeds, Conroy added little else to quell concerns surrounding the issue, other than to say there would be a trial process to iron out any technical anomalies.

“I can assure you that we will go forward through an informed, consultative and considered process to ensure that a workable solution is found,” Conroy said. “This evening, I ask the industry to continue engaging with the Government and with my Department to ensure that we achieve an outcome for ISP filtering that meets the needs of industry and the wider community.”

Senator Conroy, apart from actually addressing everyone’s concerns, technical and social, eventually you do need answer the basic question: What will and will not be censored?

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Angry geeks: “Don’t waste money on internet filters”

Crikey logo

[This is what I wrote for Crikey, finally published today.]

Child Wise’s Bernadette McMenamin found out the hard way: geeks get angry when you suggest filtering their Internet. OK, she only wants to block child porn and other illegal nasties, that’s clear now. But the geeks are still angry.


  1. Two completely different problems are conflated. One, preventing distribution of already-illegal child pornography to anyone. Two, preventing children from viewing undefined “inappropriate” material, but allowing access to others in the same home. Different problems need different solutions, but they’re jumbled together for political purposes. Naughty naughty, Senators Conroy and Fielding.
  2. Taxpayer-funded technical “solutions” are proposed for social problems. As John Birmingham reminds us, the government is not your babysitter.
  3. Technical illiterates are demanding specific answers: filters. Those in the know are already several pages ahead in this story, and know filters won’t work. Geeks get angry when their knowledge isn’t respected — even when it isn’t understood (or understandable).

Real-world experience in everything from spam filters to the record industry’s futile attempts to stop copyright violations always shows that filters only block casual users. Professionals, the desperate or the persistent will always get through.

However if a politician demands a filter, pretty soon a shiny-suited salesman will appear, ready to sell him a box with “filter” written on the front. It’ll work — well enough for the demo, anyway.

“Look, Minister! Nice Minister. Watch the screen. See? Filter off, bad website is visible. Filter on, bad website gone. Filter off. Child in danger. Filter on. Child happy and safe. Filter off. Voter afraid and angry. Filter on. Voter relaxed and comfortable. Cheque now please.”

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Internet censorship dumbness

The Rudd government’s plan to force ISP’s to provide a “clean feed” of the Internet free of pornography and “inappropriate material” (whatever that might be) has already generated plenty of informed criticism. However what worries me more is Senator Stephen Conroy’s disgustingly disingenuous framing of the debate.

Labor makes no apologies to those who argue that any regulation of the Internet is like going down the Chinese road. If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd Labor Government is going to disagree.

As usual, Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett hits the nail on the head, and makes my point for me.

No free speech advocate that I know of advocates such absolute freedom as to defend the provision of child pornography… But the fact it is already illegal shows just how dishonest Conroy’s statement is.

The government’s proposal is not about child pornography at all, which is already seriously illegal online and offline. It is about legal pornography and other ‘inappropriate’ material.

The arguments against this clean-feed idea are simple: it won’t work, and it opens up an unacceptable risk of further government intrusion into our freedom to communicate.

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