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About this website

SydWalker.Info is a personal website. I live in tropical Australia near Cairns. I oppose war, plutocracy, injustice, sectarian supremacism and apartheid. I support urgent action to achieve genuine sustainability and a fair and prosperous society for all. I rely upon - and support - free speech as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see below).

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"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"

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Unless otherwise indicated, material on this website is written by Syd Walker.

Anyone is welcome to re-publish material sourced from this site, as long as the source is acknowledged with a hyperlink.

Material from other sources reproduced here is presented on a 'Fair Use' basis. I try to cite references accurately. Please contact me if you have queries, comments, broken link reports, complaints - or just to say hello.

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The Great Flood of Sex-Negatives
Dec 5th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Dr Michael Flood of Wollongong UniversityIt must be awful to be important enough to be in Wikipedia.

Imagine being at the mercy of a pack of largely anonymous editors (some of them spooks?) who can – and often do – perform the most comprehensive character assassination imaginable on hapless victims who have little or no chance of redress.

For that reason, Dr Michael Flood of Wollongong University has my sympathies. Even though his role in promoting Internet censorship disgusts me (Flood has collaborated closely with prominent pro-censorship ‘intellectual’ Clive Hamilton on that issue), I wouldn’t wish a dud entry in Wikipedia on anyone.

But I have a little gratuitous advice for Dr Flood. Even though he seems to churn out academic papers at a furious rate, he might take time off from his frantic schedule to sort out his Wikipedia entry, if he can.

The entry for Dr Michael Flood, dated December 4th, 2008 makes him seem rather foolish (emphases added):

Michael Flood is an Australian sociologist. His research includes work in men’s studies, a field which formed largely in response to [citation needed], and as a critique of [citation needed], an emerging men’s rights movement. Flood’s research focuses on men, heterosexuality, interpersonal violence, and gender and gender-related topics.

Flood is the coordinator of a pro-feminist website, XYonline, that provides a range of commentary and research on men and masculinities, male sexuality, gender feminism, violence perpetrated by males, and the men’s movement from a gender feminist perspective. He received a PhD in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the Australian National University (ANU) in 2001.

The Rudd Government: One-Term Only?
Dec 5th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Australia’s Minister for Communications Chaos, Internet Censorship and Moral Panic rose in the Senate early this week to defend the Government’s ‘Clean Feed’ policy yesterday.

It was not an impressive performance, but to paraphrase Dr Johnson, the remarkable thing is that it happened at all.

Senator Stephen Conroy - the Worst Australian Communications Minister in History?In recent days, Conroy has been taking hits from all quarters. The most recent thwack came from Young Labor in NSW.

Every time the Senate meets, he faces at least one uncomfortable question about his portfolio. Each time, the main issue is whether he’ll make a bigger mess of his answer than last time. Nobody expects a quality response from Conroy any more. Nobody is ever disappointed.

Conroy attacked the previous Coalition Government for what he claimed was an ineffective and costly scheme, whereby all households were provided with a self-install Internet filter on request. Generous sums were spent promoting the scheme.

Conroy’s point is that uptake of the voluntary ‘filter’ was very low. The Minister didn’t remember the exact figure, so why should I bother looking it up? In any event, it was low. 2% or so. ‘Nuff said.

One might reasonably infer from this that most Australians simply didn’t want to install a ‘filter’ on their Internet connection. That could be regarded as good news – a hint that the Government can concentrate on other important policy areas (and even make a modest saving scaling down the free voluntary web filter service).

Conroy: Shocking News for Australia
Dec 4th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Conroy at the Sydney Institute

Meanwhile, high quality debate continues at the coal face of Australian politics, where Senator Conroy has been in defence mode.

Hot talking points include:

A Very Christian Boss
Dec 2nd, 2008 by Syd Walker

Dr Clive Hamilton is not the only high-profile non-government advocate for Internet censorship in Australia.

On this issue, Clive has a de facto partner in advocacy. His name is Jim Wallace. Earlier this week, Wallace called for bi-partisan support for a mandaory ‘Clean Feed’.

Jim Wallace AMWhereas Clive is a secular humanist with a background on the left of politics, Jim is a Christian conservative, previously awarded the Order of Australia. He’s not just any Christian, either! Jim Wallace AM is spokesperson for the ‘Australian Christian Lobby’.

Clive and Jim seem like the perfect duo. Between them, they represent a broad spectrum of Australian public opinion, left and right, secular and religious. A fine team indeed!

I’ve written about Clive Hamilton already – and he’s attracting growing critical interest – see Online Opinion and Broadbanned Revolution, for example.

But who is the Christian leader Jim Wallace, whose voice comes through loud and clear on this issue of Internet censorship? Is he a Priest or a Presbyter? A Deacon or Bishop? Could it be that’s he’s a Canon – or a Cardinal, perchance?

According to his profile on Online Opinion:

“Jim Wallace AM has been the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) since 2000. He was a career soldier for 32 years and a commander of Australia’s elite Special Forces. In 1984 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services in developing Australia’s counter terrorist capability. ACL is a non-denominational, non-party partisan lobby group representing a broad constituency of Christian supporters.”

Conroy's 'Clean Feed' Support Evaporating
Dec 1st, 2008 by Syd Walker

Internet CensorshipIt’s been a good week for the campaign against Senator Conroy’s disgraceful mandatory Internet filtering proposal – the so called ‘Clean Feed’.

The Australia Greens have formally announced that they oppose this type of Internet censorship. According to AAP:

“We’re very, very concerned that there’s going to be a unnecessary clamp down on the internet and it has to be watched,” Greens leader Bob Brown told ABC Television on Tuesday.

His colleague Scott Ludlam has been lobbying against the changes.

“He’s working very hard with community groups in Australia to oppose the current proposals by the Government,” Senator Brown said.

The Federal Coalition has done the same. Here’s the conclusion of a press release issued by Shadow Communications Minister, Senator Minchin:

“The Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has further fuelled concerns with his talk of filtering not only illegal content, but also unwanted and inappropriate content. This policy proposal is also causing Australia embarrassment internationally, with comparisons to the world’s most repressive regimes,” Senator Minchin said.

The Government is planning a ‘real world’ trial of mandatory filtering before the end of this year and needs the cooperation of sceptical ISPs and their customers.

“If adequate numbers of Internet users cannot be roped into this trial on a voluntary basis, Senator Conroy needs to clarify whether the trial itself will become mandatory, or will this policy be implemented regardless?” Senator Minchin asked.

Beyond the Fringe: Dialogue with 'James'
Nov 30th, 2008 by Syd Walker

I have become embroiled in a debate with someone who calls himself ‘James’, on the SomebodyThinkoftheChildren website.

James Who?That excellent site is at the forefront of the No Clean Feed campaign. Run by Brisbane-based IT expert Michael Meloni, it mounts a powerful anti-censorship case on various fronts, focusing on Australia. Right now, the hottest topic is the Rudd Government’s plan to introduce compulsory Internet censorship.

SomebodyThinkoftheChildren, in my opinion, is an essential daily visit for Australians at this time.

James has raised concerns that I should not be ‘exalted’ and he says he’s worried the campaign will be tarnished by the involvment of someone with such “incredibly fringe opinions”.

I’ve responded a couple of times.

Here’s my latest response on the thread over there (corrected for typos and mis-spellings):

OK James. This is positively my last comment on this thread, as I don’t want to impose on Mike’s blog, which is focused on censorship issues and doesn’t need to become cluttered with extraneous debates.

Actually, I agree with you in one sense. If it became easy for the Government to portray members of the anti-clean feed campaign as people who hold non-mainstream views on other topics, that would be a problem.

But is it likely? My minor contributions to the campaign are eclipsed by the long-standing contributions of people like Mike Meloni and Dale Clapperton – and many, many others more technologically knowledgable than I am.

Why The Web is NOT Like TV
Nov 27th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Yesterday I published an article called Clive Hamilton & I: Getting Personal about Sex, Lies, Hate & Censorship

My main purpose was to rebut what I call the ‘Clive Hamilton Fallacy’, named in honour of its most prominent exponent. This is the argument “we already censor TV, radio, movies, books, magazines and newspapers. Why should the Internet be exempt?”

My article delved into related topics. I suggested why defending children against porn may be a smokescreen for eventual, much more alarming, political censorship. The end result was a long article.

In this shorter version, I’ll focus only on the ‘Clive Hamilton Fallacy’.

Why do I call it a fallacy? After all, it sounds reasonable on the surface… “We already censor TV, radio, movies… why not the Internet?”

It’s odd that the word ‘Internet’ (as opposed to World Wide Web) is usually the concluding word in this seemingly plausible appeal. After all, the Internet and the Web are not the same thing. The actual proposal that Dr Hamilton and Senator Conroy are promoting is a proposal to censor the Web – not the Internet in entirety (not yet, at any rate…). Even if censorship proponents get muddled. we need to be clear about key distinctions like this.

Clive Hamilton & I: Getting Personal about Sex, Lies, Hate & Censorship
Nov 26th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Dr Clive HamiltonA decade or so ago, I knew Clive Hamilton personally.

We met a few times through common involvement in environmental issues. He appeared to be a nice man with a good head for policy and commitment to progressive politics. When, in the mid 90s, he became Founder/Director of the Australia Institute, it seemed like an excellent initiative. Public interest think-tanks that develop new ideas and policy can play an important role in bringing about positive change. Australia has few such organizations. Overall, while I didn’t get to know Dr Hamilton well, I liked what I saw and supported the causes he made his own.

Protection of the environment is one policy area where I believe wise and effective regulation is merited – and more of it. Take global warming – an issue on which Dr Hamilton has worked hard throughout the last decade. I believe that the potential for human-induced global climate change is significant and poses unknown but alarming dangers to humanity’s future. Left to ‘the market’ alone, the necessary changes in human behaviour are unlikely to happen fast enough, if at all. Collective, political action is therefore needed, including stronger regulatory measures from governments. Personally, I’d like a global carbon tax, but that’s another discussion for another time…

I mention this to make it clear that my dispute with Clive Hamilton over Internet Censorship is not the quintessential stand-off between a sensible mainstream view and an “unthinking libertarian” who opposes regulation in almost every situation.

How many screw-ups before Conroy is sacked?
Nov 4th, 2008 by Syd Walker

One thing Australians DID want from Labor following the last election was rapid delivery of fast, affordable broadband throughout Australia.

That’s a matter about which there is solid poitical consensus.

It’s a complex policy area and the Rudd Government inherited a mess from Howard, whose fixation on selling the dominant carrier Telstra, without splitting up its wholesale and retail functions, amounted to shocking mismanagement of this industry sector.

Senator ConroyEnter the ALP under Rudd, with its promise to roll out a national fibre-optic networkin short order. It sounded good, although there were obviously many loose ends. The hope was that a competent Minister would sort them out quickly, once in office, and get on with the roll out.

Speaking personally, I don’t even mind if governments, after coming to power, change some policies – as ong as the reasons for change are explicit and valid and a better aternative is offered instead.

How is Labor’s broadband rollout going – more than a year after the election?

Not well, according to the Opposition. Senator Minchin, who shadows Conroy and questioned him during Senate Estimates on October 20th. Minchin remarked it was “was unlikely the process of rolling out the network could begin until the end of 2009.”

The shambles that Conroy has made of this key Government priority is described in some detail by Michael Sainsbury writing in today’s Australian. Check out Broadband trap snaps shut on Conroy.

Conroy's Tilt towards Ankara
Nov 4th, 2008 by Syd Walker

One of the reasons I supported Labor at the last Federal election was its apparent enthusiasm for the internet and commitment to transforming Australia in a positive way via a world-class broadband system.

Now it seems the government has an obsession to develop plans not dissimilar from censorship implemented a couple of years back in Turkey.

The Rudd Government Communications Minister – Stephen Conroy – is using similar reasons to those given at the time by the Turkish Government, notably the need to protect children.

The Index on Censorship has just issued a report card on Turkey’s internet. It’s not happy reading for censorship advocates. It concludes with comment from a prominent Turkish academic:

“Turkish politicians haven’t had any real vision on how to develop the Internet. There are more people working on censoring it than developing it”.

No Internet Censorship in AustraliaThat’s like building a Highway system with half the budget spent on crash barriers.

Meanwhile, a reader in the USA who came across my previous article sent a link to Barak Obama’s policy document: Connecting and Empowering all Americans through Technology and Innovation.

Now that’s a policy! Here’s what Obama says about the child protection issue:

Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment:

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