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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).

with the dawg

"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 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).

Canberra's Upside-Down View of Bethlehem
Dec 5th, 2008 by Syd Walker

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

–  W.B. Yeats The Second Coming, 1919

The Israeli Apartheid Wall at Bethlehem

Australia has more sheep than any other country on earth. Nearly 20 million of us are bipedal.

Several hundred two-legged Australian sheep, with better superannuation packages than most, meet regularly in Parliament House in Canberra. Today they are all off for well-earned holidays. Another session of the Australian Parliament is coming to an end. It’s time for the Christmas break!

Another session is closing, in which the tragic and deepening plight of the Palestinians has not been seriously discussed. Indeed, it has barely been mentioned at all. As usual.

When Members conclude their business later today, exchanging pleasantries about Christmas goodwill in the improbable setting of a sweltering Canberra summer, the odds are nobody will mention the walled-in residents of Bethlehem or the shivering masses of Gaza.

Many of our elected politicians pray from the Christian Bible, but no-one will utter a word about the beleaguered Christians in the Holy Land. No-one will demand an end to the very un-Christian siege of those parts of Palestine not already under the thumb of the Israeli military or their collaborators. No one will say: enough!

End the Siege of Gazas - a Protest by Orthodox JewsWhy is this?

Are the people in Australia’s Parliament completely ignorant about these matters? Are they cruel? Do they share the view of many Israelis that Palestinians are less than human? Is Evil now Canberra’s official religion?

No Need for Sophistry in Climate Change Debate
Dec 4th, 2008 by Syd Walker

I’m someone who believes there is an alarming prospect that contemporary humanity will modify the world’s climate in a disastrous way.

I plan to set out the kernel of the case, as I see it, in a separate article. In essence, my key concerns haven’t changed for 20 years. But that’s for another day.

Right now – as someone who believes climate change IS a real concern – I want to dicuss the growing use of terms such as ‘Climate Change Deniers’ and ‘Climate Change Denial’.

These quite new expressions are being bandied around with increasing abandon by some of our most prominent ‘public intellectuals’, such as the highly topical Dr Clive Hamilton. It’s time they stopped.

No case that’s based on evidence and logic need vanquish opponents by ‘framing’ the terms of debate in an unfair manner.

If the threat of rapid climate change is real – as I believe it is – we can win the argument fair and square. And we shall.

Head in the Sand over Climate ChangeA little humour might help. Let’s lighten up!

Of course it would be nice to win the debate sooner. But there’s a process we must go through to get there. It’s called rational debate in a complex modern society.

Nothing could be more damaging to achieving a consensus (or near-consensus) on climate change policy than an attempt to force the issue, by seeking to delegitimize those who hold opposing views.

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.”

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.

Open Appeal to Kevin Rudd about the Gaza Crisis
Nov 17th, 2008 by Syd Walker

The Hon Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister of Australia
Parliament House, Canberra 2600

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to you about the situation in Gaza and the urgent need for the world community – including Australia – to require Israel to relieve the immediate humanitarian crisis.

It may be objected that Gazans are, in some way, to blame for their own appalling plight. That is false for several reasons.

First, such a claim betrays utter contempt for democracy. The Hamas leadership in Gaza won government through the ballot box, by a solid majority in elections widely acknowledged as free and fair. It ill-behooves ‘democratic nations’ such as Australia to reject the democratic choice of others..

Second, the root cause of continuing conflict in Palestine (including Gaza) is continuing occupation and control by the Zionist regime. There is a long-established principle that resistance to occupation is legitimate. Australia applauded the French Resistance during Word War Two – who opposed, often with violence, a less brutal and much more short-lived occupation. Why the double standard?

Third, the inequality of power relations between the Israel State and the Palestinian people is extreme. There is no question which people suffer more: the Palestinians. That disparity has been worsening for more than 60 years. Seven decades is an exceedingly long time to wait for justice and basic human rights.

I call on the Australian Government to embark on a full-scale, fundamental and open review of this country’s middle eastern policy.

Open Letter to Australia's Opposition Leader
Nov 12th, 2008 by Syd Walker

Dear Malcolm Turnbull,

I was disappointed to learn of your recent attack on the Rudd Government’s small – yet significant – shift in stance on Palestine in the UN.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports: “Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, criticized the Government for supporting resolutions which contained “grave allegations” about Israeli actions.”

Mr Turnbull, I had (perhaps naively) imagined you a man of principle, willing to stand up for human rights and fair play.

Now it appears you cast principle to the wind for tawdry political advantage.

Do you seriously believe that ‘grave allegations’ about Israeli actions are unmerited?

If so, here are some things you should know.

The website If Only Americans Knew keeps a succinct, well-documented score-sheet on its homepage. It gives a factually-based overview of Palestinian and Israeli suffering in recent years.

The statistics are clear. There is a huge disparity. It is the Palestinians who are by far the greater victims, while Israelis are the principal aggressors.

I need hardly remind you that all people are people. All people have human rights. That includes Palestinians.

The suffering of an Israeli Jew is not worth more than the suffering of a Palestinian. Is it?

Why help bolster blatant falsehoods, such as:

  • responsibility for conflict rests mainly with the Palestinians
  • Israeli suffering is the biggest problem
  • Israel’s behaviour is essentially blameless?

Regarding the Israeli settlements, they are illegal under international law and have been illegal ever since construction commenced. Surely you know that already?

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