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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 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).

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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