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Australia’s Political Downfall

So, Australia woke up confused and unhappy this morning, after a soul-destroying election resulting in no clear leadership, no future Prime Minister and the largest number of informal votes ever. Even more bizarrely, the clearest commentary on events so far, comes from everyone’s most mashed up dictator:

(If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, there are quite a few parodies of Hitler commentating on various events, using footage from the Downfall film.)


On the folly and farce of the Coalition’s broadband policy in Australia

broadband As part of their election campaigning, the Coalition yesterday released their $6billion broadband plan for the next eight years. To say the very least, it’s a bad policy, filled with either technical errors or misrepresentations, and does nothing to situate Australia as a major player in a digital economy. Earlier today I spoke with Travis Collins on RTR FM’s Morning Magazine about the Coalition policy.


It’s fair to say that the coalition’s approach to broadband is one of contempt and ignorance; you only need to watch our potential Prime Minister, Tony Abbott struggle to give any meaningful answers about the policy on last night’s 7.30 Report to see this is an area in which no significant thought or time has been invested. The ad hoc patchwork policy proposed simply milks a tiny bit more out of existing cables and infrastructure, with no long-term planning, no long-term development and a completely unrealistic assumption that private industry will want to invest in national fibre-optic infrastructure. As Mark Pesce clearly argues, there are speeds that can only be achieved, maintained (and, if needs be, expanded) using fibre; wireless and existing copper cables just can’t stretch much further, but the massive investment needed here is surely a national government priority.  We don’t expect private enterprise to fund the national roads; the government invests in these because it allows traffic to move across the country.  I would argue that the best way to understand our broadband needs are the same: get a high-speed network in place, and the investment, innovation and development will come.  Without it, innovation will stall and Australia’s position in the digital economy will be one of weakness and embarrassment.

Industry responses to the Coalition’s plan have been unanimously negative, with the only kind comments being for the one element that replicates a section already in Labor’s National Broadband Network plan. Indeed, David Braue’s recap on ZDNet of the Coalition’s last 24 hours of broadband discussion makes it crystal clear that they have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to broadband, the internet, or most other things to do with telecommunications in Australia.  What is clear is that the Coalition’s plan would ensure Australia has one of the slowest internet capacities of any Western (and many other) countries today and for many years to come.  Sure, their plan is cheaper, but not buying things that you actually need is never a good policy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think the time and energy Senator Conroy has wasted on an ineffective and unwelcome national internet filter is incredibly disappointing, but Conroy has already back-pedalled substantially, deferring the filter until a review of the Refused Classification ratings system in Australia. (And, implicitly, setting up this, or the likely senate balance of power going to the Green’s, as a way of saying he did his best on this promise, but was blocked by others.) In the meantime, the NBN is the best thing Conroy has worked on, and the current Labor NBN plan is a million times better for Australia, ensuring speeds that allow Australians to participate in the best, brightest and fastest developments online, rather than living in the slow, crawling digital backwater which could see Australia at the mercy of a new new tyranny of distance, lagging behind in the international digital economy.

[Photo by Manchester-Monkey CC BY SA]

Wendy NOT 4 Senate

So, in an electioneering Australia political landscape most notable for not being notable, it’s the bigots and racists that seem to stand out, and that seems to be the home territory for Family First senatorial wannabe Wendy Franics who, yesterday on Twitter suggested allowing gay couples to be parents was tantamount to child abuse. The rapid, wide-spread dismay and denouncement of her tweets seems to have shaken Francis, who deleted her tweets, only to discover that people take screenshots of stupid stuff other people say online. Indeed, responses to Francis’ bigotry have become a hot-topic on the #ausvotes hashtag, proving that in an election it’s certainly not true that all publicity is good publicity! In a follow-up interview, Francis has been unable to justify deleting her offensive tweets, but has rather gone on to dig an even deeper hole for herself. Meanwhile, the inevitable parody Fake Wendy Francis tweet account – Wendy2TheSenate – is already making the most of Family First’s predicament (it’s a lot more fun to read than her real Twitter account). It’s also interesting to note how effectively Twitter Lists can be used to protest about someone’s bigotry (screen capture; oh, and that picture/link contains some naughty words!).

As this graph shows, within the #ausvotes tweets on Twitter,Francis’ gaffe certainly got attention, more attention even than her party en masse, but that’s not the attention most politicians are after on the way to an election:


[Graph generated by Pollz.]

Digital Culture Links: July 20th 2010

Links for July 20th 2010:

  • Jessi Slaughter (“You dun goof’d” / “The consquences will never be the same”) [Know Your Meme] – Know Your Meme’s (still being researched) page on the 4chan Vs “Jessi Slaughter” debacle.
  • How The Internet Beat Up An 11-Year-Old Girl [Defamer Australia] – 4chan and /b/ collectively turn on self-styled tween micro-celeb “Jessi Slaughter”, a very foul-mouthed video poster whose antics and anti-“hater” video got their undivided attention. The young girl in question is certainly provoking people, but SHE’S ONLY 11 YEARS OLD!
    As Defamer note “here are some important lessons from this tale:
    1. What are your kids doing on the internet? Normally we find fears about kids on the Internet the product of technophobic hysteria. But this case is a very good argument for why parents should at least be vaguely aware of what their kids are up to on the internet. […]
    2. Tumblr is becoming a home for trolls. […]
    3. Don’t pick on 11-year-old girls. Seriously. No matter dumb they seem – no matter how much it seems like they deserve it – they are, at the end of the day, 11-year-old girls. You wouldn’t make an 11-year-old girl cry in real life; why do it on the internet?”
  • The Art Of Trolling: Inside A 4chan Smear Campaign [Defamer Australia] – 4chan go after Dahvie Vanity, the lead singer of “the terrible electro-pop MySpace band Blood on the Dance Floor”, who has supposedly been linked to 11-year-old 4chan victim Jessi Slaugher (he’s been rumoured to be a paedophile, but these are by now means substantiated – to my knowledge, no police action has been taken). /b/’s actions are citizen justice at its worst.
  • 4Chan’s Sad War To Silence Gawker [Defamer Australia] – 4Chan go after Gawker media (Defamer’s parent company) to try and stop them writing about 4Chan; their efforts are not successful.
  • Jessi Slaughter and the 4chan trolls – the case for censoring the internet [News.com.au] – Peter Farquhar uses the 4chan Vs Jessi Slaughter debacle as an excuse to promote the notion of an internet filter in Australia. While there is some token disagreement towards the end of the article, it’s still an example of terrible writing since it implies that (if she was in Australia, presumably) the proposed filter would have helped the situation. For the record, even the most extreme version of the filter Conroy mooted, would have made absolutely no difference in this case whatsoever. What WOULD make a difference for young people in Australia is more money and resources put into education about social media and online interactions across the national curriculum; the sort of money being spent developing and arguing about a useless mandatory filter would be exactly the put of money that could make a real difference in the eduction, awareness and thus safety of young Australians online.
  • NB: No spoiler warning for MasterChef evictees! [TV Tonight] – Australian TV blog TV Tonight reminds those of us in the West that the interwebs will be filled with spoilers since Masterchef will go to air AEST! (Yes, we know: AEST is an anagram of EAST after all …)
  • Why this is NOT the Twitter election [mUmBRELLA] – Quick post pointing out that while the upcoming Australia election will certainly be influenced by Twitter and social media, it certainly won’t be driven by it given the paucity of social media use and awareness of the two newbie leaders of the big parties.
  • Google Discontinues the Nexus One Android Phone [Mashable] – Google’s experiment as a smartphone distributor come to a swift end: “Google has pulled the plug on the Nexus One, its once highly anticipated smartphone. The last shipment has arrived at Google HQ, and once those are gone there will be no more Nexus Ones for U.S. consumers. The handset will still be sold through Vodafone in Europe and some Asian carriers, and developers will still be able to get their hands on one, but it looks like the Droid phones on Verizon will carry the mantle for Google’s (Google) Android (Android) mobile operating system. This is the end the company’s grand experiment with an unlocked handset. Following disappointing sales, Google had already closed the Nexus One web store two months ago, so this final nail in the coffin was already overdue.”