Tuesday 31 March 2009

On the Internet you are never [#%**?] safe

President of the Australian Labor Party (Queensland) and state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is reported to be taking a certain unlovely name and shame website to court alleging defamation and supposedly asking for $600,000 in damages.

It seems that the website might have been used by guests to further some very bitter union infighting.

Apart from an article in The Courier Mail nothing much had surfaced about this little dog fight until Wikileaks published this week.
Now the entire world has a fair idea what the complaint is about, courtesy of documents with lots of [#%**?] and considerable legal correspondence from Carne Reidy Herd (a generous political donor to Queensland Labor in the past) which developed earlier in the year.

When are prominent people going to learn that softly, softly is a much better approach when requesting uncomfortable comments be removed from websites if that is their legitimate desire?

G20 in London, March 2009: words in pictures

Who knew Helen Liu? The Mata Hari furphy

Who knew Helen Liu?
Everyone it seems.
Who really cares?
Only Tony Abbott and Co.

Abbott was in full spate on Meet the Press last Sunday:
"I think there's absolutely no doubt that John Howard in his first term would have sacked a minister who had been as inept as this. Absolutely no doubt but look, I think there are also questions for Kevin Rudd. What's the extent of his relationship with Helen Liu? And if he does have the kind of extensive relationship with Ms Liu that it seems he might, given the reports in today's paper, perhaps he should be fronting up to this Commission of Inquiry which is currently looking in to the whole question of Joel Fitzgibbon and these disclosures."

Now if Tones the Terrible really wants to worry about something coming out of China he can try
this widespread 'spying' on for size.
If what appears to be a group of teens high on big brother's alcopops could hack an Aussie government website last week, it's odds on that Australia was caught by this particular covert international digital information gathering operation which entered over a thousand computers in 103 countries and close to 30% of these were considered "high-value diplomatic, political, economic and military targets".

Monday 30 March 2009

Is Kevin Rudd's head really that big or are his staffers just losing the plot?

Twitter is a strange beast which often seems to induce poor impulse control in politicians and their staff.

Here is a case in point:

KevinRuddPMMore photos of the PM with Defense Sec Robert Gates http://cli.gs/TpQTMa #KevinPM Team

Rudd's 11th Community Cabinet meeting coming up in WA

The Rudd Government will be holding its 11th Community Cabinet meeting at Ballajura Community College, Illawarra Crescent, Ballajura, Western Australia on Wednesday 22 April 2009.

If you want to have a 10 minute chin wag with a minister or listen to Rudders address the forum you need to get your moniker on the list before 4pm on April Fool's Day.

Mate, if you are going to this meeting perhaps you might ask the PM a question for me:
When is the federal government going to hold one of these cabinet meetings in the NSW Northern Rivers?

Sunday 29 March 2009

Australian Government website blacklist is so passe

I almost (but not quite) feel sorry for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy - matters just go from bad to worse whenever their grand plan to censor the Australian Internet rates a mention.

The latest Wikileaks expose of the March 2009 Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) blacklist of banned websites revealed a URL for a certain dot com gambling site.

It appears that in September last year the Commonwealth of Kentucky seized this online gambling site and its domain name, along with 140 others, under an interim order from the Franklin County Circuit Court.

However, amended order and later ruling in another court has meant that this site is not only still active but, along with its fellow allegedly illegal gambling sites, is listed on the Internet for all to see along with the various legal arguments surrounding their seizure.
Just Google "illegal gambling" and up it they come.

So the purpose of this werry secret ACMA blacklist is?

From my perspective this is a rather interesting question because the blacklist is supposedly composed entirely of URLs which have been banned by direction of ACMA/Censorship Board

On its website ACMA displays the approved Internet service provider and online content and mobile provider codes of practice.
The Authority clearly states that failure to comply with such codes may amount to an offence under the Broadcasting Services Act.

However, one researcher informs me that URLs on the blacklist can be successfully accessed using common search engines via a number of Australian Internet service providers (ISPs).
This includes blacklisted content which is hosted in Australia.

So if some ISPs currently ignore legislation, regulations and the risk of significant penalties for non-compliance and/or publishing illegal content; why would Senator Conroy believe that all ISPs will obey any new legislation imposing a larger blacklist?

Julian Rocks flaunts its underwater colours

Julian rocks is situated within the Cape Byron Marine park in northern NSW, on the east coast of Australia.
It is home to over 1000 marine species including wobbegongs, rays, turtles, fish, nudibranchs and many more. It is an aggregation site for the endangered Grey Nurse Sharks, Carcharias taurus, who visit in winter. Leopard sharks visit Julian Rocks over summer.
This is where warm and cool waters meet, hence the enormous biodiversity. A minority of species are endemic to this area. Most are found over a wide area of the Asia-Pacific region.

Find out more about this wonderful underwater playground at www.julianrocks.net

The Daily Examiner continues to go downhill

The Daily Examiner continues to go downhill in its 150th year.
Which is a bit hard to do when you are in the middle of a rather flat Clarence Valley flood plain, but this newspaper is managing the feat.
Tabloid headlines, advertorials, articles which are nothing more than vehicles for product placement, pages in the first half of an issue which are so chocka with paid advertising that it is easy to miss the single news item - and now changes to its website which mean that local news is crowded out by interstate (dominated by Queensland) and international news.
These days if you want Northern Rivers news online then you'd be wise to link to anywhere other than APN newspapers.
It's no wonder that the Far North Coaster online magazine is becoming a popular read.
It fills a niche which Northern Rivers newspapers have obviously abandoned.

Saturday 28 March 2009

A heart as big as Phar Lap's........... brave, beautiful... a hero [ASTI communities please note that this post mentions someone who has passed away]

An important leader in the Yamba Aboriginal community, in northern New South Wales, has died.

Christine Ferguson, 52, died a week ago.

She was the chief executive officer of the Birrigan Gargle Land Council.

The chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Bev Manton, says she was a pioneer in the fight for justice.

"Christine's been involved with the lands rights network since its inception and I guess she has kind of grown up with that political background and fighting for the rights of her people," she said.

"She was just one of those lovely people who could negotiate and not be aggressive about it, but still be forceful and obtain the results that were required."

Christine Ferguson is survived by her son Jason and three granddaughters. She was also guardian to a young boy. (Indigenous Community News Network)

The authors of North Coast Voices will miss her friendship and, along with the rest of the Clarence Valley and the Northern Rivers region, mourn her passing.

** Post title is composed of excerpts from the many eulogies at the funeral service on Friday 27 March 2009 in Maclean, NSW.

What bird is that? Channel 7 finds out the hard way

This week an item on efforts to rid the North Coast of the Indian Mynah, an introduced species, hit a hiccup when Channel 7 Prime News showed the wrong photo of the feathered miscreant.
See if you can spot the difference (besides species, height, body shape and weight, plumage).
Yes - one is a noxious pest and the other a protected native species. Oh, dear. Apologies all round from Channel 7.

TOP: Indian Mynah
Masked Lapwing Plover

North Coast Area Health Service "stealing from your child's Christmas account": Steve Cansdell

It's not often I find myself in agreement with the NSW Nationals MP for Clarence Steve Candsell, but when he likened the North Coast Area Health Service's fund transfers - from special purpose and trust funds holding money raised by the community for specific hospital services - as being like "stealing from your child's Christmas account" he was spot on. (Clarence Valley Review on 18th March 2009)
The fact that the NSW Auditor General has called for a formal review of how the NCAHC is handling these funds is little comfort for the region.
The health service has been sprung doing this before and will do it again, because the sad fact is that overall lack of adequate health funding plus slapdash management has meant that public health services on the NSW North Coast are operating on a wing and a prayer.
The situation makes the Rees Government's talk of a billion dollar upgrade for the Sydney Opera House look heedless and heartless.

Friday 27 March 2009

Initial response to Conroy's response to Q&A

Senator Stephen Conroy's appearance on ABC TV Q & A program last night was either a masterstroke of political obfuscation or a demonstration of just how little understanding the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy has of his own portfolio.

Conroy was given ample opportunity to put the case for national mandatory ISP-level filtering.

In the course of doing so he inadvertently made a few matters abundantly clear:
  • Lists of banned URLs compiled by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are open to human error.
  • These errors can and do exist for sometime before being corrected.
  • The owners of banned URLs are not made aware that they are on any blacklist.
  • Once on the blacklist it is unlikely that a banned site will be removed, even if the offending material is removed from the website in question.
  • The official ACMA blacklist contains more than just content that has been refused classification or is unlawful under Australian legislation.
  • The blacklist can and does contain political content, using a commonsense definition of the term political.
  • The ACMA list of banned URLs is not monitored by an independent agency and has little or no ministerial or parliamentary oversight.
  • On their own initiative ISPs are capable of further expanding the blacklist provided to them by ACMA. Such expansion is not monitored by the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy.
Unfortunately Senator Conroy made something else abundantly clear.
He is willing to tell a great many glib half-truths to the electorate in an effort to defend the Rudd-Conroy plan to censor the Australian Internet.

Q & A espisode for Thursday 26 March:
download episode WMV MP4 (average size 200MB)

What the blogosphere is saying this month about the Rudd-Conroy plan to censor the Australian Internet

First up, ACMA is already using its soon-to-be executive muscle to bully Australian-hosted websites into not linking to sites on its 'blacklist'. One of the sites disbarred — among many others — is a perfectly legitimate anti-abortion site that at worst could be described as 'cheesy'. ACMA's bullying is on the pricy side, too — AUD$11,000 a pop. The blacklist (as you would expect) has been leaked, while Conroy himself is now planning to 'monitor blogs'. Quite apart from the egregiousness of this exercise in censorship, it is important to realise that Ruddy is trying to bypass parliament with this stuff, so that they don't have to deal with that pesky Senate (Xenophon and the Greens as well as the Opposition in this case). Government by executive order, anyone? Skepticlawyer 23 March 2009

Is Conroy a fundy? Will this site be on his list 'cause we all know that you can't be good without religion. *Palm/Head*
You don't have to look online for sexual predators, look no further than your local church.
Atheist Nexus 21 March 2009

Stephen Conroy is a Cnut 21 March 2009


It was only a matter of time, but it's finally happened. The DBCDE has alienated enough of its private sector partners that one of them has leaked the blacklist. Websinthe 19 March 2009

Apparently, Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is wetting his bed over the thought that his fellow Australians might think somewhat less of him for so enthusiastically promoting the idea of an Internet filter. Kerplunk 23 March 2009

Guys, we're in trouble.
My assistant was reading the internet to me this morning, and do you know what she said? She said that the average punter doesn't think the filter is going to work. We're spending a couple of hundred million dollars on this thing! If John and Jane Easy-to-Scare think we're wasting money in the middle of the GFC, we're f##ked, okay? F##ked.
We've got to get these shmucks back on-side.
Leaking the list was a good start. Lots of scary-sounding websites, "violent"-this, and "rape"-that, and whoever came up with the dentist? Genius. That is the kind of attention-to-detail that makes me proud to be part of this shadowy conspiracy. People are scared of the dentist; visits are painful and expensive and wasn't someone raped at a dentist once? Why, it's almost as if "false-positives" in the list are a good thing! Nicely done.
In 1960, I bet if you told an American that men would walk on the moon, they'd have said you were crazy, then robbed you at gunpoint. But as soon as the Americans faked that moon landing, all those doubting pieholes became true believers.
I want you guys to find out what can we learn from the American experience, and how we might apply those learnings to the trial. I want it on my desk by the end of the day.
Look, we're doing good work. The Lord's work. We can't allow these Mountain Dew-sucking deviants to keep running circles around us. Get your shit together, get me some answers, then get me a latte and a mini-muffin.
Lots of love,
Fake Stephen Conroy Department of the Internets 20 March 2009 [apologies to the fake Stephen Conroy but obscenities are masked because existing voluntary filters being used by some ISPs make North Coast Voices emailing posts option difficult to use successfully otherwise]

Here's a summary of the views of many in the real and virtual world. Senior nanny Conroy is a dipstick, an unresponsive loon, an ill-mannered and unpleasant smear tactician, an intellectual thuggee, and a morally derelict moralist dedicated to calling opponents of his oppressive, inept, useless and futile proposed filtering regime supporters of paedophilia.
Never has one man so singlehandedly struggled to institute a policy reviled by so many without actually listening to anything anyone was telling him, for reasons that have to remain inexplicable and mysterious, even when far-fetched notions that he belongs to Opus Dei or just wants to suck up to Steve Fielding are trotted out.
He's no more capable of sophisticated policy analysis of the new world of the intertubes, new media and new digital content than a Balmain member of the Labor party armed with a hammer and a baseball bat. If it's a nail, bash it with the baseball bat. If it's the intertubes, hit it with the hammer. The Michael Duffy Files 23 March 2009

Senator Conroy has a lot to answer for. Between trying to destroy filter the internet and keeping the whole NBN process clouded in secrecy (so nobody can criticise his handling of it, we suppose), there are a lot of arguments and issues that the Minister needs to answer for. And considering he's going to be a guest on the ABC's Q&A program next Thursday, this could be our chance to ask him the tough questions.
So, this is a call to arms. All of you Gizmodians who are interested in asking why Senator Conroy has so badly mishandled everything he's touched so far should head over to the Q&A website and ask their questions. Melbourne readers should also try and get into the audience for the show. And everyone make sure you watch Q&A next Thursday to watch just how Conroy responds to the difficult questions. Gizmodo 20 March 2009

...Conroy's filter proposal represents the greatest assault on free speech and an open society in the country's history. By its very nature, it is categorical and self-concealing, far beyond the sleazy and capricious "sedition" laws of the Howard government. For the left and the libertarian right it has to be recognised not only as an utter priority, but as the point on which a political realignment occurs. Crikey 19 March 2009

It is disappointing that the Communications Minister's department, and the Age, are so ignorant that they think Whirlpool is a blog. Whirlpool discussion forum 22 March 2009

It's almost MadiGrass time. Come on down, Barack!

One of the oldest annual peaceful protests in Australia takes place on the NSW North Coast every year.
Yep, it's almost MadiGrass time again at Nimbin.
Time for all those old counter-culture warriors to dust off their good duds and march 'n' party for an end to Aussie prohibition of Teh Weed.
This year's poster fair cracked me up.
It's a good bet that U.S. President Barack Obama never thought he would feature at this rally.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Web Control by Professor Julien Petley, Brunel University

Attempts to rid the Internet of pornographic material are beginning to have a wider impact on freedom of expression online writes Julien Petley in the Spring 2009 article Web Control posted at Index on Censorship.**

** Due to the Rudd Government's recent entry into the strange world of Internet censorship I do not feel comfortable placing a direct link to the article, as linking directly to this academic critique would see North Coast Voices possibly risk overt bullying by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Update: Somebody Think of the Children reports that the residence of the owner of domain name Wikileaks has been raided.

"Neo-Liberal Meltdown": the global financial crisis explained

Robert Mann writing in the March 2009 issue of The Monthly magazine explains the beginnings of the global financial crisis, for those of us who don't have an economics degree or work in the financial sector.
He makes a better fist of it than the Prime Minister in his previous essay in the same magazine.

The causes of the global financial crisis are already reasonably clear. The crisis originated in a series of interconnected developments within the American financial sector. From the 1980s a vast market in obscure and opaque financial instruments known as derivatives developed there. The market grew at an accelerating pace. In 1989 it was worth US$2 trillion; by 2002, $100 trillion; and by September 2008, almost $600 trillion. (The annual GDP of the United States is presently about $15 trillion.) This explosion of the market in derivatives depended, in turn, on ideological convictions and political acts. In 1998 Brooksley Born, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, argued for the regulation of this market. Without it, she argued, the American economy and the global economy were being placed at risk. She was overpowered by the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, and President Clinton's Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin. Shortly after, Congress withdrew from the CFTC the authority to regulate derivatives. At much the same time, as a consequence of a $300-million lobbying campaign by financial corporations, Congress also repealed President Roosevelt's 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. Its purpose had been to separate the commercial banks, which had become involved in the speculative frenzy of the '20s, from the activities of the investment banks. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act opened all the American major banks to massive involvement in the derivatives market. More deeply, as Joseph Stiglitz has argued in Vanity Fair, the repeal completed the transformation of American banking culture.

The post-2000 derivatives explosion was also aided by American monetary policy. Greenspan reacted to the bursting of the dotcom bubble by steadily lowering official interest rates. In 2000-01 they dropped rapidly from 6.5% to 3.5%. By 2003 they had reached 1%. Effectively, at least for bankers, as Charles Morris puts it in his book The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown, money was now free. At this time the explosion in the derivatives market intersected with the explosion in another market, sub-prime mortgage lending, which rose from US$145 billion in 2001 to $625 billion in 2005. On the basis of a housing bubble, which increased the price of houses by an annual 7-8%, borrowers with low incomes and no assets were encouraged by banks and mortgage brokers to purchase houses worth several hundred thousand dollars. Derivative traders saw these sub-prime mortgages as a splendid opportunity. They bundled up the mortgages and created from them esoteric derivatives products - like collateralised mortgage obligations or collateralised debt obligations - which were then sold on in their trillions to investors and pension funds. In an article for Portfolio, Michael Lewis gives a telling example of how the racket worked. Big Wall Street firms took piles of sub-prime mortgages with a BBB rating. They bundled them into new products and divided these products into tranches. The top 60% of these tranches were rated AAA. Lewis's informant, Steve Eisman, who made his fortune by 'shorting' the corporations and the products involved in this trade (that is, gambling on their failure), kept asking himself: How is this possible; why is this allowed?......

The systematically phoney evaluations of the derivative products and the corporations which dealt in them, pocketing substantial fees with each contract, arose as a result of a straightforward but fatal ratings-agency conflict of interest. The profits of the agencies derived from the Wall Street banks and investment businesses they were supposed to rate. The continuation of their own very healthy profit growth relied on their willingness to turn a blind eye. Yet the fraudulent behaviour of Wall Street rested on another, even deeper, kind of blindness: the ideological blindness of the regulators. Most important here was the regulator-in-chief, Alan Greenspan, the most enthusiastic derivatives cheerleader, who believed with regard to derivatives (and everything else) that the invisible hand of the market was an infinitely more reliable and intelligent guide than any regulatory action by the state........

It is obvious whose interest all this served. Before the recent crash, the average taxable income of the top 15,000 American income earners was US$30 million; their annual income in total, US$441 billion. In the mid 1970s the wealthiest 1% of Americans owned approximately 20% of national assets. On the eve of the financial collapse they owned some 40%. Very many of these people derived their income and their wealth from the financial sector. In 2008, even after the sector had begun imploding, the executives of the Wall Street corporations that were eventually rescued by taxpayers rewarded themselves with US$18 billion in bonuses. Vast riches had apparently come to be seen by this predatory class as an entitlement.

The full essay here.

How much the Australian Government has borrowed because of the global financail crisis to date is here.

'Truffles' Turnbull is peeved

According to Granny Herald the Leader of the Opposition was a mite peeved last Sunday:
''The application fee for a loan from Rudd Bank will be a donation to the Labor Party, we all know that,'' said Malcolm as a precursor to his favourite line of the week about a canine returning to its chunder.''Whenever Labor governments decide to get into the business of banking or financing the private sector, it's invariably tied up with cronyism, it's tied up with political donations.''........
''Look, this is a very bad idea. It's - leaving aside the question of competence and corruption and all of that which invariably goes with incompetence and corruption, invariably goes hand in hand with Labor banking - the big problem here Barrie, the other big problem is that it will make the perceived problem worse because the minute you have Mr Dumb Money himself, Kevin Rudd, there with a big bag of taxpayers' money, ready to lend on, take on bad loans or dud loans in order, for political reasons, any member of a syndicate that wants to get out will kick up a fuss knowing that the Government will take them out...''

Which is all a bit rich coming from a man who spent tens of thousands of dollars paving his way to Liberal Party pre-selection and then election to federal parliament and only recently had a merchant bank pay to bail him out of protracted litigation.

Whatisname and I had a meeting of minds

It was an almost comic situation.
In full camera glare Kevin Rudd watched political triumph threaten to turn to smoke on the breeze, as President Obama first forgot his title and then had obvious difficulty recalling Our Kev's name in the middle of one photo opportunity for the gathered media during the Australian Prime Minister's visit to Washington this week.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Yamba named best town in Australia in March 2009

The Australian Traveller Magazine has just named Yamba, at the mouth of the Clarence River on the New South Wales North Coast, the best little town in Australia.

It heads the list of 100 towns voted on by the judging panel, when asked the question:

"Regardless of where the town is located, would you recommend a good friend drive an hour out of their way specifically to visit this town?"

Pictures found at The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Examiner and Google Images

21st century history wars U.S. style?

Former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney may be disappointed that George W. Bush didn't hand out blanket pardons for his partners in political crime when he left the highest office in America, but he is still determined to defend the 'honour' of the administration of which he was a part.

Cheney started out on 2 April 2009 warning of fresh terrorist attacks against a weakened America.

By 15 March on CNN's State of the Nation he further fleshed out his assertion that President Obama's changes to former Bush Administration policy placed America at risk:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday defended the Bush administration's economic record, the invasion of Iraq and the treatment of suspected terrorists, warning that reversing its anti-terrorism policies endangers Americans.

"We've accomplished nearly everything we set out to do," ex-Vice President Dick Cheney says Sunday about Iraq.

In a wide-ranging interview with CNN's "State of the Union," Cheney said the harsh interrogations of suspects and the use of warrantless electronic surveillance were "absolutely essential" to get information to prevent more attacks like the 2001 suicide hijackings that targeted New York and Washington.

"President Obama campaigned against it all across the country, and now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack," he said.

Critics said the Bush administration's "alternative" interrogation techniques amounted to the torture of prisoners in American custody, while the administration's warrantless surveillance program violated federal laws enacted after the Watergate scandal.

Since taking office in January, Obama has announced plans to close the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to halt the military trials of suspected terrorists there, and to make CIA officers follow the Army field manual's rules on interrogations. Cheney said the administration appears to be returning to the pre-2001 model of treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue, rather than a military problem.

"When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they're doing, closing Guantanamo and so forth ... they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required, that concept of military threat that is essential if you're going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks," he said.

One gets the general impression that Cheney can't wait to complete his own memoirs and wants to start massaging the historical record right away.

Still, the poor man is being sorely tested by the blogosphere which saw Slate earlier this year posting 'exclusive excerpts' from these same memoirs after Cheney announced that he was writing his version of events.

Some of which were oddly prescient of his current attitude:

Mark my words: There will be another terrorist attack. Thousands will die. Millions will suffer. When it happens, America will see at last that we were right. History will vindicate us, and we'll receive the respect we rightfully deserve. Not that I would ever want that, of course.

FOAD is not alone

"Under Schedule 7 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) ACMA must investigate complaints it receives from the public about suspected 'prohibited content.' " {Australian Communications amd Media Authority website}

A rumour is going round the Northern Rivers that Foad (the Melbourne blogger who tested ACMA's complaint system and got an anti-abortion web site added to the current black list) is not alone.
That those pen pushers at Censorship Central are receiving a number of complaints about Australian blogs linking to banned sites and that most of these complaints are not dinkum, but very tongue-in-cheek via anonymous email addresses.

Cartoon cops from Machine Gun Keyboard

Tuesday 24 March 2009

One aspect of the Streisand Effect - Conroy now outranks Goebbels in Australia

A week in politics is certainly a long time as Australian Senator Stephen Conroy (Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) can now attest.

His name and silly antics over Sweden-based
Wikileaks' publication of an alleged Australian Communications and Media Authortiy blacklist has seen Google Trends searches using the term "stephen conroy" outstrip searches based on the name "josef goebbels" or "paul joseph goebbels"

Give the intransigent senator another week and he might then outstrip searches using the better known version of the name of another popular propaganda minister, the Third Reich's Joseph Goebbels.

So intense has been the world-wide interest generated by those clumsy Rudd-Conroy moves against freedom of speech in Australia that the sheer volume of its site visitors swamped Wikileaks and it was virtually uncontactable for much of last week.

Are you walking around in sweat shop clothes?

The international charity Oxfam has released its March 2009 report concerning the clothing industry: Transparency Report II: Have Hong Kong Companies Improved Their Reporting On Labour Standards?

The report was produced by CSR Asia and is essentially positive in outlook. Noting increased company sensitivity to the need to be seen as socially responsible with sustainable manufacturing.

However, there is a long way to go before reasonable working conditions for clothing industry workers are achieved.

According to ABC News:
Oxfam is calling on Australian companies to publish the names and addresses of the factories where goods are made and monitor labour conditions.

Of those Hong Kong-based companies and subsidiaries studied Chickeeduck, Esprit, Giodorno, Blue Star Exchange, Blue Navy, Jeans West, Quicksilver Glorious Sun, PMTD, and Li & Fung produced clothing lines sold in Australia or manufactured for Australian clothing companies.

These companies scored between 0 and 33 out of 100 per cent on the Oxfam manufacturing industry report card, based on governance and risk management, code of conduct, stakeholder engagement, management, auditing and reporting.

Li & Fung reportedly manufactures garments for Australian companies Pacific Brands, Just Jeans and Myers.

Now would be a good time to look through your wardrobe and see just how much of an ethical purchaser you actually are.

Senator Conroy and Mr. Hyde

You've just gotta love that Senator Conroy, he is both a blogger's and journo's dream at the moment.
His thin secular veneer over a heart of Opus Dei (if Wikipedia is to be believed) turns this hapless pollie into a modern day version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Age yesterday:
THE Government will begin trawling blog sites as part of a new media monitoring strategy, with documents singling out a website critical of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy for special mention.
Soon after Senator Conroy praised Singapore's Government for reducing monitoring of blogs, tender documents issued by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy reveal it is looking for a "comprehensive digital monitoring service for print and electronic media".
The department later attached a clarification confirming the term "electronic media" included "blogs such as Whirlpool".
Whirlpool, the only blog site mentioned, has criticised Senator Conroy's plans to filter internet content and his handling of the Government's $15 billion national broadband network. It is a community-run internet forum devoted to discussing broadband internet access.
Senator Conroy this month told a conference in Germany that it was a "really positive sign" that the Singaporean Government had given up monitoring blogs.
But the documents suggest the Australian Government is just about to start. Senator Conroy's spokesman said it was "only natural" that the tender include services for monitoring relevant blogs.
"Whirlpool is a long-established online platform for news and information covering a wide range of topics across the telecommunications sector," the spokesman said. "It and other websites provide valuable insight into the industries in which we work."

The Whirlpool discussion boards are of course already having fun at ol' Hyde's expense:

User #144693 968 posts
Whirlpool Enthusiast

NufffRespeKtZ writes...

I wonder when Whirlpool will appear on their blacklist.

Probably next week. I mean after all, WP links to a page that links to a page which links to a another page which links to a page with a link to dentist porn.

A new term should be inserted into the Oxford dictionary;

Dentist Porn

A fictitious term which originated in Australia during the first decade of the 2000 millennium. It is used to refer to something that has been blocked/censored ridiculously and arbitrarily without explanation.

Context example: A moderator deleted a post which didn't contain any breach of the rules. Oi, Mr moderator, you deleted dentist porn wtf!!?!?

posted Saturday at 12:50 am

Monday 23 March 2009

Statistics at twenty paces............

In The Far North Coaster last week, Nationals State MP for Ballina, Don Page, went into print crying out that the sky is falling in New South Wales and like lemmings people are abadoning this state.

The latest ABS population figures should be a cause of great concern for the NSW Labor Government, Shadow Minister for Small Business and Regulatory Reform, Don Page, said.
"The ABS figures showed that in excess of 22,000 people had fled NSW in the year to 30 September 2008 while Queensland increased their population by around the same figure," Mr Page, the Member for Ballina, said.
"The NSW Labor Government is doing nothing to stem the tide of people leaving the highest taxing and highest regulated State in Australia, which also has one of the highest unemployment rates.

Forgive me if I smile.
Mr. Page obviously took one look at a recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) media release and thought this was the entire story or at least the story he should run with to produce some political mileage.

He neglected to mention that despite interstate movement, the New South Wales population actually rose to 7 million people.
Which gave it the highest total population of any Australian state or territory (as of 30 September 2008) and that the state had experienced its highest growth rate since 2000-01.

He also neglected to point out that population numbers on the Northern Rivers have risen as well, with the Richmond-Tweed region having the highest 2006-07 NSW growth rate (outside of Sydney) at 1.3% which represents 3,000 or more people.

Perhaps his failure to mention the fact the Ballina local government area growth rate was up 1.7% and Coffs LGA up 1.4% was due to the fact that this was indeed an inconvenient number for his argument.

Indeed, the Member for Ballina was very silent on a number issues relating to population.
Like the fact that population movement in the period covered by the statistics was obviously affected by the mining booms in several states and the prolonged drought.
These were important enough factors for the ABS statisticians to mention, but seemingly strangely irrelevant to Mr. Page.

Don Page should ask himself this question.
At what point does selectively quoting population numbers morph into an effort to deceive?

No-one would deny that New South Wales is likely to feel the impact of the current economic downturn sooner and perhaps harder than those states which up to recently were experiencing a mining boom.
It doesn't take dodgy use of official statistics to bring that point home.

Across the ditch they refuse to make the same Internet censorship blunder as Rudd & Conroy

The NZ National Business Review Friday 20th March:

"Those nervously watching the chaos across the Tasman can breathe a sigh of relief.
"We have been following the internet filtering debate in Australia but have no plans to introduce something similar here," says Communications and IT minister Steven Joyce.
"The technology for internet filtering causes delays for all internet users. And unfortunately those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so. Our view is that educating kids and parents about being safe on the internet is the best way of tackling the problem."
In October, Australian Communications and IT minister Stephen Conroy announced a $A42 million plan to make internet content filtering compulsory for all Australian internet service providers."

Sunday 22 March 2009

Who's crowing now? 2009 Queensland State Election results at a glance

Despite a 4.2% swing against Labor (provisional estimate), last night Queensland Premier Anna Bligh became the first Australian female state premier to win an election in her own right.
Her government looks to be returned with at least 50 seats in an 89 seat parliament.
This was definitely not the close election predicted by many political pundits.
Those members of her family who live on the NSW North Coast are celebrating I'm sure.

Winners and losers in the 21 March 2009 Queensland State Election.

Parties ahead on the primary vote on election night by number of seats won:


Final results by seat on election night:

Barron River
Brisbane Central
Ferny Grove
Glass House
Hervey Bay
Ipswich West
Mermaid Beach
Mount Coot-tha
Mount Isa
Mount Ommaney
Pine Rivers
South Brisbane
Southern Downs
Surfers Paradise
Toowoomba North
Toowoomba South

Changing seats according to Antony Green.

Saffin calls Hartsuyker on his scaremongering but diplomatically ignores Williamson's dog whistles.

The Labor Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, quite rightly called the Nationals Member for Cowper on his scaremongering about the fate of regional airline services on the NSW North Coast.
In particular, services operating out of the Grafton airport and access to Sydney Airport.

She should have also taken a swipe at Nationals protégée, Clarence Valley Mayor and 2GF breakfast disc jockey, Richie Williamson, who dutifully echoed Hartsuyker in The Daily Examiner on 19 March:

This week Clarence Mayor Richie Williamson raised concerns that a recommendation from Sydney Airports Corporation Ltd to a Federal Government green paper on the future of Sydney Airport could force regional airlines to use Bankstown Airport.

His dog whistles in the local media are becoming a little too obvious - The Daily Examiner frontpage headline last Tuesday Mayor fights for Rex to stay was based on a superfluous piece of nonsense from the mayor as the Rex Airlines decision to continue services (around 60,000 seats per year since 2007) was made weeks ago and was well-known to the valley if not formally announced.

Here on the North Coast we expect to read that old chestnut about loss of air services whenever a local politician wants a few column inches.

Unfortunately for Mayor Williamson we are also very aware that levels of patronage for Grafton Airport (on which continuing services depend) have as much to do with lack of public transport to and from this airport as they have with timetables or ticket costs.
That public servants and business representatives arriving in the Clarence Valley are often astonished to find themselves stranded after landing, at an airport with no permanent taxi or hire car presence and no buses (taxis can of course be arranged through the flight hostess if you happen to be aware of these difficulties).
Clarence Valley Council has studiously avoided facing this ongoing problem as did the cluster of smaller councils it replaced.

It has not escaped local attention either that Sydney Airport Corporation Limited would love the chance of a limited congestion fix by re-routing regional airlines away from its airspace and so had taken the opportunity to express its view in a submission on the Aviation Green Paper.

However the fact remains that both the previous federal government and the Rudd Government through the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government gave commitments to ensure regional airline have access to Sydney Airport.

The currrent minster told the House in March 2008:

And the third objective of the current act is to guarantee access for operators of New South Wales regional services by establishing a ring fence around the slots held by regional operators to Sydney airport at the onset of the demand management regime.

The Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Act 2008 came into effect in January 2009.

It is interesting to note that for all Mayor Williamson's expressed concern, Clarence Valley Council appears to be one of those local government areas having an airport which did not bother to make an individual submission on the green paper.
Thereby ignoring an opportunity to lobby the minister and his department on behalf of residents' interests, unlike Ballina Shire Council which did take advantage of this opportunity.

Earth Hour, Saturday 28 March 2009 between 8.30-9.30pm

Remind the Rudd Government that it was elected to do something meaningful about the climate change impacts which are bearing down on Australia - turn off all your household lights as part of the global vote for Earth for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm on Saturday 28 March 2009.

Photograph found at Redbubble

He's cranky, his orange, he's a cartoon bear and he's got Canberra's number!

Ned the Bear on this week in Australian politics.

Another reason why the Rudd-Conroy attempt to censor the Australian Internet will fail - Aussie cartoonists!

Saturday 21 March 2009

Queensland State Election 21 March 2009: Virtual Tally Room and other live online links on the night

Queensland Electoral Commission links to Virtual Tally Room, candidate details etc.

ABC and Antony Green cover the 2009 Queensland Election - includes links to TV, radio, reporters' live blogs, as well as analysis of initial results as they come to hand.

Crikey is live chatting the election from 2pm this afternoon at Pineapple Party Time.

On hearing about the latest Conroy Internet censorship antic [insert date and name of folie de jour]

How are you going to vote at the next Federal election?

Byron Bay Bluesfest at Belongil Fields, 9 - 13 April 2009

The Bluesfest: the East Coast Blues and Roots Music festival is 20 years old and still going strong with its birthday bash on the 2009 Easter Long Weekend at Belongil Fields, Byron Bay.

A new stage has been added dedicated to indigenous artists and fully endorsed by the local Arakwal community.
Claiming this space this year will be artists such as Saltwater Band, Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Marlene Cummins and Ngaiire.
They will be joining a spectacular festival line-up of over 100 artists across six stages.

2009 Playing Schedule.

More info here.