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Not a proud Aussie

Today is Australia Day. A day that’s really only been celebrated consistently in the last 15 years or so although it was around for most of last century (thanks to Anonymum for passing along this link on the history of Australia Day, an interesting read).

Today I’ve seen a lot of people expressing their Australian pride in various ways, both in the real world and online. Normally I’d be up there among them: I am an Australian in every sense of the word (I was born here, and both of my parents are naturalised Australians, having emigrated from European countries as children).

But today, I am not waving any flags or professing pride in my country. Hell, I’m not even having a barbecue. Today is the first Australia Day where I can honestly say I am not proud of being Australian.

Let me explain why – but first, unlike some other people, I’m not even talking about the rise of this weird “yobbo” pride in the last few years, the goddamn awful Southern Cross tattoos or the “fuck off we’re full” idiots. While the attitudes that these people have is a cause for concern, I don’t think they are the problem.

No, the real problem is the current Australian government and its policies.

Censorship is not the answer

censorship is not the answer

First and most heinous, it was announced late last year that the Rudd government were pushing ahead with their plans for mandatory ISP-level internet filtering, despite less than brilliant results in the official trials and a lot of outcry. A cynical person might point out that the announcement came in the pre-Christmas rush and at a time when news channels were dominated by talks of the Copenhagen climate change talks. Far be it from me to suggest that the government was trying to pull a fast one past the Australian public.

I could talk all day about each of the things that they’re doing and why it’s the stupidest idea ever, but this is not really the place for that. So I’ll quickly summarise for now:

  • mandatory filtering is a massive waste of taxpayers money
  • the filter is technically flawed and will not protect children from accessing refused classification material (the primary stated reason for the policy)
  • the filter is technically flawed and will result in important information being denied to people who might need it, in some cases seriously so – think information about abortion, euthanasia, anorexia, sexually transmitted diseases and drug use to name a few
  • the filter will slow our already ridiculously inadequate network speeds by as much as 40% in some cases
  • the government’s blacklist is secret and it and the complaints system which will be put in place is open to abuse by those organisations and individuals whose agendas involve blocking access to information
  • Senator Conroy has repeatedly stated that only “refused classification” materials will be blocked, and that those things include child pornography, bestiality and sexual violence. But in actual fact, by the very nature of the Australian classification system, anything that hasn’t been presented for classification is classified “RC” – so theoretically, all manner of innocuous and legal items could be blocked under the “RC” banner at the whim of the censors and most Australians will never know about it.

So what can we do about it? The bill has yet to be passed through parliament to make it law (it has yet to be introduced) so if the Coalition and the independents oppose it, it will not become law. So Australians all need to get onto their local Liberals and demand to know what’s what (as far as I am aware, the Liberal party has no official policy as yet on internet filtering).

Electronic Frontiers Australia has a list of ten things that you can do to help. One of EFA’s suggestions is to participate in the Australian Internet Blackout, which this site has done this week as well as my personal blog and our business web site. That’s the black informational overlay that you might see if you visit the actual site (rather than reading this through RSS or Facebook). If you’d like to join in it’s not too late – you just place a small piece of JavaScript on your web site and it takes care of everything. Details on the Internet Blackout site.

The thing is, that most non-geeks don’t really understand what’s going on and as a result they aren’t as concerned as they should be. So the best thing that we can do is educate our non-geek families and friends. That’s why I’m involved with a small group that will be launching a mass-media-friendly campaign shortly.

Apparently, gaming is only for children

gaming is not just for children

Anyone over the age of 18 had better hand in their consoles and PC gaming rigs because according to the Australian government, games are only for children. That’s why they refuse to support an “R” rating for games, instead banning outright anything that doesn’t fit into MA15+ range.

The South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, is blocking all attempts to introduce an R18+ rating for games (and due to the quirks of our judicial system, all state attorney-generals must agree in order for the rating to be changed), despite the average of a a gamer being above 30. What’s worse, he’s actually brazenly called adult gamers “criminals”.

That’s not all

There are other issues – for example in South Australia, a law has passed requiring special packaging and other rules for R-rated DVDs displayed for sale or rent. The covers must be black and show only the title – not other text – in small white writing. All R-rated materials must be shelved together. So classic 80’s action flicks are being treated the same way as soft porn and there are so many problems with this that my head is exploding just thinking of it. The bill was introduced by the Family First party and we can bet they’ll be trying similar tactics in other states soon.

All of these issues just show that the Australian government is out of touch with technology and trying to legislate the digital realm the same was as non-digital media.

If we don’t do something about this, we’d better find ourselves a new national anthem because the current one will not be accurate anymore.

“Australians all, let us rejoice
For we are young and free.”

Young, sure. Free, not so much.