Strange Bedfellows

The Tasmanian state election is coming up in a week’s time, and I’ve managed to do a reasonable job of ignoring the whole horrible thing, modulo the promoted tweets, the signs on the highway, the junk the major (and semi-major) political parties pay to dump in my letterbox, and occasional discussions with friends and neighbours.

Continue reading

The Politics of Resentment

I’ve been reading The Archdruid Report regularly for a long time now, because unlike me, John Michael Greer posts every week and always writes something interesting. Given that we’ve got a federal election coming up in Australia and that I’ve mentioned one of JMG’s notions on the current state of politics to several people over the last few months, I though I’d provide a TL;DR here:

If you want, you can split people in the US into four classes, based on how they get most of their income:

  1. The investment class (income derived from returns on investment)
  2. The salary class (who receive a monthly salary)
  3. The wage class (who receive an hourly wage)
  4. The welfare class (who receive welfare payments)

According to JMG, over the last fifty years or so, three of these classes of people have remained roughly where they are; the investment class still receives returns on investment (modulo a recession or two), the salary class still draws a reasonable salary, and life still sucks for people on welfare. But the wage class, to be blunt, has been systematically fucked over this time period. There’s a lot of people there, and it’s this disenfranchised group who sees someone outside the political establishment status quo (Trump) as someone they can get behind. Whether or not Trump is elected in the US, there’s still going to be a whole lot of people out there pissed off with the current state of things, and it’s going to be really interesting to see how this plays out.

You should probably go read the full post, because I doubt I’ve done it justice here, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to imagine the same (or a similar) thesis might be valid for Australia, so my question is: what, if anything, does this mean for our 2016 federal election?

FWIW

Today I emailed Julie Collins MP, and senators Catryna Bilyk, Carol Brown, Jacqui Lambie, Helen Polley, Lisa Singh and Anne Urquhart concerning data retention. For the record, and in case it helps anyone else who wants to contact their representatives and senators, here’s what I wrote:

Dear NAME/TITLE,

I am writing regarding the Telecommunications (Interception and Access)
Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014. As I am sure you are very busy,
I will be as brief as I can.

The distinction the bill makes between metadata (so-called “non-content
data”) and content is grossly misleading; once you have enough of it,
metadata is just as privacy invasive, if not more so, than the actual
content of communications, and as such should only be collected with
proper judicial oversight, i.e. after a warrant is obtained.

Retaining this data for the entire Australian population is mass
surveillance, nothing more, nothing less, and is completely
inappropriate in a modern democratic society.

Tinkering around the edges as Labor is suggesting with amendments to
protect journalists’ sources is misguided at best; the only way to
protect such sources effectively would be to not retain the sources’
data either, and given that you can’t know who they are, the only way
to achieve this would be to not retain anyone’s data at all.

Finally, mandatory data retention won’t help to catch any criminal with
even a shred of intelligence, as it can be trivially circumvented by
the use of overseas communications providers, virtual private networks
and the like.

In summary, I am completely opposed to mandatory data retention in
Australia. As my representative, I’m asking you to reject this bill.

Yours faithfully,

Tim Serong

Dear ASIO

Since the Senate passed legislation expanding your surveillance powers on Thursday night, you’ve copped an awful lot of flack on Twitter. Part of the problem, I think – aside from the legislation being far too broad – is that we don’t actually know who you are, or what exactly it is you get up to. You could be part of a spy novel, a movie or a decades-long series of cock ups. You could be script kiddies with a budget. Or you could be something else entirely.

At times like this I try to remind myself to assume good faith; to remember that most people are basically decent and are trying to live a good life. Some people are even trying to make the world a better place, whatever that might mean.

For those of you then who are decent people, and who are trying to keep Australia safe from whatever mysterious threats are out there that we don’t know about – all without wishing to impinge on or risk destroying the freedoms that we enjoy here – you have my thanks.

For those of you involved in the formulation of The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (No 1) – you who might be reading this post as I type it, rather than after I publish it – I have tried very, very hard to imagine that you honestly believe you are making the world a better place. And maybe you do actually think that, but for my part I cannot see the powers granted as anything other than a direct assault on our democracy. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, I should be more worried about bathroom accidents, restaurant meals and lightning strikes than terrorism. As a careful bath user with a strong stomach and a sturdy house to hide in, I think I’m fairly safe on that front. Frankly I’m more worried about climate change. Do you have anyone on staff who can investigate that threat to our national security?

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll take it as a kindness if you don’t edit this post without asking first.

Regards,

Tim Serong

Something Like a Public Consultation

The Australian government often engages in public consultation on a variety of matters. This is a good thing, because it provides an opportunity for us to participate in our governance. One such recent consultation was from the Attorney-General’s Department on Online Copyright Infringement. I quote:

On 30 July 2014, the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis, and the Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull MP released a discussion paper on online copyright infringement.

Submissions were sought from interested organisations and individuals on the questions outlined in the discussion paper and on other possible approaches to address this issue.

Submissions were accepted via email, and there was even a handy online form where you could just punch in your answers to the questions provided. The original statement on publishing submissions read:

Submissions received may be made public on this website unless otherwise specified. Submitters should indicate whether any part of the content should not be disclosed to the public. Where confidentiality is requested, submitters are encouraged to provide a public version that can be made available.

This has since been changed to:

Submissions received from peak industry groups, companies, academics and non-government organisations that have not requested confidentiality are being progressively published on the Online copyright infringement—submissions page.

As someone who in a fit of inspiration late one night (well, a fit of some sort, but I’ll call it inspiration), put in an individual submission I am deeply disappointed that submissions from individuals are apparently not being published. Geordie Guy has since put in a Freedom of Information request for all individual submissions, but honestly the AGD should be publishing these. It was after all a public consultation.

For the record then, here’s my submission:

Continue reading

An Open Letter to Our Elected Representatives

To Whom It May Concern,

Please allow me to offer my congratulations on your election to office. Depending on the exact circumstances, this is a testament either to your general excellence, or to the deep incompetence of your opponents (or possibly to a combination of the two).

I would like to offer – if I may – a single piece of advice: do not, under any circumstances, publicly complain about the inadequacies of your predecessors or the mess they have left. You will sound like a petulantly whining child. Rather, explain plainly the state of things as they are, and your bold plan to bring us to a better future. Many of us are not idiots, and will respect (and even vote for) competent adults, assuming we are able to find any.

All the best for the next few years.

Sincerely,

Tim Serong

Telework, Telework and the NBN

A few related (or semi-related) bits and pieces which turned up over the last month or so. The first is a video I was sent from onlinemba.com, entitled Telecommuting is Good for You and Good for Business. It cites a few studies showing greater productivity, reduced turnover and eco-friendliness (which I would tend to agree with based on personal experience). Unfortunately I can’t seem to see links to the studies themselves, but you should go watch it anyway, because it’s one of those cute “live animated” things, which I’m a sucker for.

That leads neatly to the second thing, which is from the iiNet blog, entitled The benefits of working from home. As with the above video, Yahoo gets a prominent mention for not allowing telework (although reports on that seem to be somewhat mixed). Anyway, benefits cited include lack of commute, lower overhead and fewer distractions, but the blog post does also make the very good point that you need to figure out whether or not telework is actually right for you. It also offers some tips I tend to agree with.

Now we get to the semi-related bit. Assuming telework is right for you, you want a good internet connection. As I’ve said before, “Yay NBN! Bring it on!“. As much disenchantment as I have with the major parties, this is something Labor is actually doing right. For an easy-to-appreciate comparison of what Labor and the LNP are proposing, check out How Fast is the NBN. Teleworkers, pay particular attention to the simulated Dropbox sync.