Will GetUp!’s satire GetIt! in trouble?

With an election likely to be called in the next few months, advocacy group GetUp! has launched a campaign encouraging people to ensure they are enrolled to vote.   A key element of this campaign is a YouTube clip portraying the electoral battle as if it were the latest Hollywood action movie.

The clip is cleverly put together – superimposing the faces of  political figures on to the bodies of Hollywood action heroes amd tying together action sequences  with a dramatic soundtrack interspaced by political ‘sound-bites’. It looks and feels like a genuine Hollywood movie trailer, no doubt helped by the fact that GetUp! have utilised footage from actual blockbusters such as The Matrix and The Fifth Element.

Which raises the question of whether this video will land GetUp! trouble for copyright infringement?

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The State of the Population

Thanks Julie Gillard. Really.

Some time ago, I was going to post on the ‘Population Crisis’ as it had been reported at the time (months ago) and why I though, generally speaking, it was rubbish. I held off, as accurate statistics were tricky to get hold of, and I’m generally pretty easy to distract. I blame Twitter.

Julie has gone and put our population, and the illegal immigrant portion thereof, back in the spotlight. (A great speech, I recommend you read in its entirety. It is somewhat lengthy, feel free to finish this before you do.)

The real population crisis, is much, much worse.

Here’s the thing about population. There’s a lot of it. Not just here, but globally. We breed like rabbits. No – scratch that – like humans, and it seems the fruits of ‘keeping warm’ during the long, cold winter months have led to a somewhat unbalanced ecosystem. The best digestible write up on this I’ve seen to date comes from Greenpeace co-founder and Captain of the Sea Shepard, Paul Watson. (Who, being an ecological activist since 1968, is somewhat ahead of the game as far as I’m concerned)

Here’s the other thing. Check out a population density map.

See how nice and low density Australia’s population is? Now look up, and to the left a little – and you find yourself espying the Globe’s most densely populated areas.

Of course, we know that that 80% of our population is huddled against the shoreline, afraid of the hot, arid, spidery death that awaits us all inland, but it’s not brain surgery people – the world is running out of room.

And conveniently for the folks that currently have the least room – there’s a big, open (looking) space not so far away – surely, being the kind, generous, diplomatic and friendly nation they promote themselves as being, that place could take in some of the overflow. Even if they do eat such strange and universally despised ‘foods’ like Vegemite.

I’m not suggesting we’ll be overwhelmed by the ‘Mongolian Menace‘ so feared by our predecessors and the Federal Council of Australasia anytime soon – but at some point in the future, assuming we don’t all suddenly realize that China might be on to something with the whole One Child thing, the population waters will rise, and they’ll all need to go somewhere. In 40, 60, even 100 years time, we will need to learn how to accept each other’s culture, language, behaviours and skin colour – and learn how to truly share this planet. All of us.

So yes, detractors – there is a population problem, but realistically, immigration policy doesn’t have a lot to do with it. Pragmatically, it’s good to see that JG has this at the (near) top of her agenda as PM, and now she’s opened the can, let’s see how quickly, and in how many ways our underlying national racism can worm its way out.

Hetero sex scandal?

One day, public figures being gay and/or enjoying sex won’t be newsworthy. Unfortunately for David Campbell,  that day is yet to dawn.  As Channel Seven demonstrated earlier this year, for some journalists and the audience they serve, that combination is still seen as scandalous.

When the David Campbell story broke,  LE  pointed out the mixed messages being sent out on this topic.  At the same time some members of the media where busy berating Jason Akermanis for discouraging gay AFL players from coming out, “gay sex scandal” was rapidly becoming the headline of the day as the David Campbell story escalated.

Seven’s original story was accompanied by allegations Campbell had misused his ministerial car in order to attend “Kens at Kensington” and that he had been at “Kens” during the debacle involving the closure of the F3 freeway. It was subsequently shown that the car and F3 allegation were false.

Channel Seven  defended their actions as being in the public interest,  claiming the public had a right to know that  “Mr Campbell was leading a double life unknown to his family and had campaigned for election as a family man including sending Christmas cards with a photograph of his wife and children.” They also alleged that Campbell’s actions put him in a position where  he may be blackmailed.

Both of these arguments are relatively weak justifications for Seven’s actions.

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Losing the filter without losing face

This week the Australian Labor Party installed Julia Gillard as its new leader, making her the first female Prime Minister of Australia.  This change in leadership provides the government with an opportunity to change its approach to certain policy issues without losing (quite so much) face.

The new PM has wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to  change the governments  approach to negotiating with the mining industry over the resource super profit tax (RSPT). The question now is – what other policy areas could benefit from an opportune change of tack?

Within the telecoms and technology arena, there have been two hot topics for the  ALP led government since it came to power – the National Broadband Network (NBN) and internet censorship.

This week, an in principle agreement was finally reached with Telstra in regards to the company’s involvement with the NBN.  Given the size  of the agreement ($11bn) and the benefits of the deal to NBN Co (access to Telstra’s infrastructure and customers), the government is  unlikely to  substantially change things too much in this arena. With an election  expected in the next few months, the government needs the NBN to be an election promise showing tangible progress – not just another pipe dream causing conflicts like the RSPT.

On the other hand – internet censorship continues to be a problem area for the government. Like the NBN, progress has been slow. So slow there’s speculation that the enabling legislation may be delayed until after the election. But like the NBN, internet censorship was an election promise and the escalating rhetoric from Senator Conroy (the responsible minister) had put the government in a position where it risked losing face if it yielded to criticism of the proposal.

But Julia Gillard’s ascension to the role of PM offers an opportunity for the government to rethink this policy. If  Senator Conroy where moved on as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, a new Communications Minister could potentially seek alternate methods of delivering the spirit of the policy – without imposing mandatory internet censorship on all Australians.

The next few weeks look like being a very interesting period indeed.

NBN not mandatory for ‘smart grids’

One of the claimed  benefits of the national broadband network (NBN) is that it will act as an enabler for ‘smart grids’.  ‘Smart grids’  have been described as electricity distribution networks that:

use sensors, meters, digital controls and analytic tools to automate, monitor and control the two-way flow of energy across operations—from power plant to plug. A power company can optimize grid performance, prevent outages, restore outages faster and allow consumers to manage energy usage right down to the individual networked appliance. Smart grids can also incorporate new sustainable energies such as wind and solar generation, and interact locally with distributed power sources, or plug-in electric vehicles.” (IBM 30/11/2009)

In his NBN advocacy,  Senator Conroy has claimed smart grids can make a significant contribution to helping Australia reduce carbon emissions, and that broadband is an important enabler of future smart grids in Australia.

But do we need the NBN to implement smart grids? Recent developments would  suggest not.

The current ‘smart meter’ roll out in Victoria will rely on wireless connectivity for transmitting data from the meters. Likewise, the planned ‘smart grid’ deployment in NSW by Energy Australia also utilise wireless.[1] Both these initiatives will be deployed ahead of the NBN roll out, utilising technology that is available now. Electricity companies therefore clearly have economically viable  options  already for monitoring and managing their networks – without the NBN.

From the consumer perspective, it’s also questionable how much of an improvement the NBN can make.  Power monitoring tools like Google’s Powermeter are capable of functioning over current internet connections. The main barrier to greater adoption of household energy monitoring tools,  like Google Powermeter, would seem to be the lack of participation by Australian energy companies. This is  something that may change as their smart meter roll outs progress.

All this  suggests the NBN isn’t really a mandatory requirement for ‘smart grid’ deployments. While there may be large benefits through the enablement of smart grids via broadband, the incremental contribution of the NBN may not be as large as the government is hoping.

Notes:

[1] Interestingly, both the NSW and Victorian deployments will utilise WiMAX, facilitated by 2.3 Ghz spectrum purchases from Wireless Broadband Australia.

NBN Study: Were the right questions asked?

Earlier this month, the Australian government released the implementation study for the National Broadband Network.  The scope of the study was to:

“advise Government on how best to implement its stated policy objectives, not to evaluate those objectives, given that the policies have already been agreed by Government. This report therefore focuses on translating high-level policy objectives into tangible actions for both Government and NBN Co to implement. Explicitly, it does not:

  • Evaluate Government’s policy objectives;
  • Evaluate the decision to implement the NBN via the establishment of NBN Co;
  • Undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the macro-economic and social benefits that would result from the implementation of a superfast broadband network.” (NBN Implementation Study, 06/05/2010)

The report is clearly directed at answering the question of how to deliver the NBN in a way that meets the governments policy objectives. It very explicitly states that out of scope is if the NBN should be built, or built according to the governments objectives.

There’s a couple of ways to look at the decision to define the scope this way.

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We are one, but who are we?

Much has been made of racism and racist attitudes in Australia recently. MinimalState’s own HeathG made the case in the wake of the racially charged bumper sticker debacle that underlying racially prejudiced sentiment in this country should be exposed, rather than banned.

It’s not the outspokenly prejudiced that I’m concerned about though – it’s the rest of us. You know, the one’s who “aren’t” racist.

I’ll wait a minute while your defensiveness dies back down as you detect the sarcasm. Good. Moving on then.

I’ve always thought that the way we use words and how a question is posed can give a valuable insight into it’s answer, and this one has always been a favourite of mine.

We seem to be asking a lot the question “Are we racist?”. To that I respond with another question. Who, exactly, is ‘we’?

I don’t suppose it’s our immigrant population. Obviously ‘they’ can’t be racist about themselves. You know, the ones who populate ‘our’ call centres and taxi ranks, causing no end of strife because they can’t speak ‘our’ language. I mean, ‘they’ only account for what, a mere 24% of our total population? (ABS, 2006) And you know, the very Federation of our Great Nation was established on the fear of this mob taking over.

‘We’ is probably not our indigenous population either. (Pause for seeming gross misuse of grammatical structure. In context, it makes sense, but it is painful to write I assure you.)

After all, ‘We’ apologised to ‘Them’ in 2008 about the whole ‘Stolen Generation‘ thing.  And you know, they probably migrated here over land bridges from Southern Asia anyway.

And definitely not visiting foreigners. We all know Sol Trujillo was just a Mexican after ‘our’ money, and his opinion didn’t really mean much anyway, so it was OK for him to go home. To Wyoming. In the USA. And don’t even get me started on Harry Connick Jr. He’s an American southerner of all things – what could he possibly know about racial prejudice?

So next time you ask yourself, or hear the question asked “Are we racist?”, try and make sure you answer with the understanding that when we say “we”, apparently, we’re asking about the attitude of those true-blue, first fleet, 7th generation Aussie whitefolk.

In which case, if you ask me – the original question kind of answers itself.

Telstra’s first Android is mostly Desirable

Just over a  year ago,  Optus brought the first Android phone to Australia in the form of the HTC  Dream.  Now Telstra has joined the Android ranks with the launch of the  HTC Desire.  This recent addition to HTC’s Android lineup is an impressive device and after two weeks of use, the verdict is “mostly desirable”.

So what makes this phone so desirable? And why the qualification of “mostly”?

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Internet censorship: not dead, just sleeping

With the Australian government delaying  introduction of its internet censorship legislation, there’s been some speculation that the policy may be dead. The more likely scenario however is that the policy has simply  gone in to hibernation until after the Federal election. Despite the media and blogosphere cries of “backflip”, this is a smart tactical move.

Tactically, delaying the legislation makes sense. Pushing it through before the election risks continuing the distracting public feud with the government’s critics. Delaying until after the election gives the ALP a range of options.

Should the ALP  fail to hold a majority in the Senate following the next election, ‘net censorship may once again become a political bargaining chip.  Family First are strong supporters of mandatory ISP filtering, and have previously called for the scope of the filter to be widened. By contrast, The Green’s remain strongly opposed to the policy and are calling for it to be scrapped altogether.  Depending on which minor (or major) party the ALP wishes to woo, internet filtering may go ahead in it’s current form (Family First?) or be modified in some form to make it more tolerable (The Greens?, Coalition?).

Holding this controversial policy over until after the next election is a smart move by the ALP and makes the Senate vote at the next election even more interesting for both supporters and opponents of this policy.