Like Tony Blair a decade earlier in Britain, it’s reasonable to infer that Kevin Rudd cut deals with powerful lobbies before he came to power in 2007.
These presumably helped him – and the ALP – to get elected. They may have helped secure fair treatment from powerful elements within the mainstream media in the run-up to the election. Of course, that such deals took place is speculation. If they were done, they were done behind the scenes. But perhaps on occasion they may be inferred?
A probable example of such a deal, in this author’s opinion, was the bizarre announcement made by Kevin Rudd, pre-election, that in office an ALP Government would seek to prosecute the Iranian President in the International Court of Justice.
At the time, Rudd explained the ‘crimes’ of President Ahmadinejad as he saw them. These included the Iranian President’s alleged statement that Israel should be “wiped off the map“.
This claim was based on a blatant mistranslation of the Ahmadinejad’s words. In fairness to Rudd, the same error is obediently repeated on an almost daily basis by ‘Your’ ABC and the SBS (not to mention the commercial mass media), so in Australia only independently spirited internet users were likely to know that. Such is the bias and conformism of our ‘mainstream media’ – and such is the potentially liberating force of the Internet,
Ahmadinejad’s other major alleged ‘offence’, according to Mr Rudd, was that he has queried aspects of Second World War history. Rudd did not explain why he saw this as an Australian foreign policy priority.
I wrote to Kevin Rudd before the election, seeking clarification and setting out my concerns on this matter in rather more detail. In reply, I received a re-iteration of his previous statements. It was like communicating with an answering machine. Rationality, it seems, did not underpin the policy. It left me to surmise that the policy was a done deal, probably with representatives of Australia’s Zionist Lobby. The last thing his office wanted was to provide a rational justification. There was none. The policy was a politically convenient expression of sectarian bias. Rudd and his advisers knew none of the mass media would ask hard questions about it.
Quite recently, the Rudd Government quietly dropped its bid to prosecute Iran’s President. Presumably wiser heads in the Department of Foreign Affairs prevailed, saving Australia from ridicule in the international arena. Perhaps the wheat export lobby weighed in?
Which brings me, in a round-about way, to the main topic of the day – Internet censorship.
Another quite bizarre policy that Rudd took to the electorate was a promise to restrict Internet access so only ‘safe’ websites are available in Australia, via a compulsory ‘Clean Feed‘.
It has been put about that this remarkable censorship project is (a) largely at the behest of the Christian lobby and (b) targeted at pornography, especially child pornography.
I may be wrong, but I suspect both these claims are deceptions.
Undoubtedly there is anti-pornography sentiment within Australia’s Christian community. But is Christianity really so resurgent in modern Australia that unprecedented restrictions on Internet access – restrictions that go beyond what other western jurisdictions have contemplated – will be a popular measure here? Do prominent Church leaders really see this as a crucial issue? Anyhow, since when did Christian leaders set the moral rules and legal rubric for all Australians?
Where, one may ask, is the evidence that Internet pornography is a damaging phenomenon that does real harm to Australian society – harm that merits significant pubic expenditure (well over $100 million) and potential disruption to the free flow of ideas and communications? Where is the evidence that unprecedented censorship is merited to curb the threat of ‘child pornography’ when there are already strict laws prohibiting the abuse of children and international co-operation to enforce that?
In an attempt to find out, I first scanned relevant Government websites, then called the Office of the Federal Communications Minister Steven Conroy, as well as his Department. It took me a long time to get hold of anyone who could give me any answers at all. I finally struck gold – but as don’t want to embarrass the person in question, I won’t name her/him.
One of my questions concerned the Government’s evidentiary basis. In plain English, what research and/or other written material has the government drawn on to formulate its policy? I thought by studying that, I might glean insights into the Government’s thinking.
The answer was surprising (or perhaps not, depending on one’s level of cynicism). The Government is about to tender for consultants to do a literature review of the literature on that subject. Expect an ad any day soon on the relevant government websites…
Commissioning a literature review, in order to formulate policy, is often a good idea. But surely it should precede the formulation of policy? Apparently that’s not Senator Conroy’s style. He prefers to set policy, then spend pubic money finding good reasons to support it.
This strengthened my view that the Government’s scheme to censor the Internet was decided in advance of a serious, rational and inclusive policy discussion. That’s not Rudd’s normal style, methinks. Now Conroy is scrambling not only to find practical ways to put the policy into operation – he even has the audacity to spend our cash to dig up supporting arguments.
I was informed that pilot projects of the Government’s proposed mandatory ‘filter’ will get underway by the end of the year – through just a few ISPs to start.
Which ISPs? Apparently the Government is looking for willing participants at the moment. As one of the side effects of participation is likely to be significant drop in connection speed, I’m surprised any ISPs are willing to stick their hands up. Maybe they won’t?
In fact, a trial was undertaken in Tasmania some time ago, with results that have caused internet buffs a lot of concern, despite attempts to gild the lily in the official report. So why are more trials needed?
It seems that Senator Conroy is trying to get the scheme in operation, however vague, however many loose ends remain to be tidied, however technologically hair-brained. He wants to start with a few ISPs, then expand the scheme.
Is the Rudd Government about to build the Great Australian Firewall, brick by brick, right or wrong?
I remarked that many (not all) of my concerns would be allayed if the government gave a cast iron, pain English guarantee that NO sites will be blacklisted and banned on the basis of the political views and intellectual content therein. Genuine independent oversight would also be needed. In effect, it should be illegal to ban a site on spurious grounds combined with considerable transparency in implementation.
No such guarantees exist. I was told that under the government’s proposal, the list of banned sites will be maintained by the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). A range of criteria will be used to prepare the list. It will not be publicly accessible.
Rudd needs to pull the government’s horns in on this – and fast.
It’s political disaster in the making.
We’ve just seen in Australia how a hyped-up moral panic over sex and child safety was used to justify obnoxious, irrational, inappropriate policies in the Northern Territory intervention. That was the Howard Government’s grubby mess, which the new Government inherited. Rudd doesn’t need to taint himself in similar fashion. Does he?
While making calls about this today, I rang local MP Jim Turnour’s office. I thought I might ask him about the policy and voice my concerns directly to my ALP Federal representative.
I’ll have to wait. Jim is in China for a fortnight.
Checking out their Great (Fire)Wall, perhaps?