Category Archives: Society

Why Victorians should not put Senator Conroy last

There has been quite a campaign to encourage people to put Senator Stephen Conroy last on the Victorian Senate ballot paper, in light of his never-ending attempts to filter the internet in Australia.

I can sympathise – several years ago, I was advising people to put Senator Richard Alston last on the same ballot paper, for similar reasons, and did so myself. I was wrong to do this.

By putting Senator Conroy last, you are effectively saying that his policies are worse than everyone else on the ballot paper. I am utterly against the filter, but, that said, there are plenty of issues just as serious, and there are some absolute nutcases standing for election for Victoria’s senate seats. Let me provide a few examples:

Family First are a group of extreme religious social conservatives, and most of their members belong to strange pentecostal sects. They too want a mandatory filter, but beyond that, they want to ban internet pornography entirely (good luck with that), they’re firmly against abortion and euthanasia, and they believe that “Small Business (are) the True Heroes of the Economy”, whatever that means. Now, I’m not saying that Family First are a front for whack-job churches like Hillsong and the Assembly of God, but whenever Senator Steven Fielding opens his mouth, I’m pretty sure he’s speaking in tongues. Their Queensland lead Senate candidate has, err, issues, and in the last election, the party demonstrated their lack of judgement by endorsing Pastor Danny Nalliah of Victoria’s-bushfires-were-an-act-of-retribution-from-God fame. Stephen Conroy may be a devout Catholic, but he’s not beyond ignoring stupid church doctrine and taking advantage of the NSW surrogacy laws, something which his own state doesn’t allow. He’s far better than the Family First nutters and should be put higher on the ballot paper than them.

The Citizens Electoral Council are a pack of Larouchite loons who should be put absolutely last on any sane human being’s ballot paper. Conroy is far preferable to them.

We all know who One Nation are, and what they stand for. The only reason I put them above the Citizens Electoral Council is that One Nation couldn’t organise a dinner in a room full of fish-and-chip shop owners. They’ve proved that they’re too incompetent to be dangerous. Nevertheless, they’re racist and extreme-right. Conroy is easily better than them.

The Liberal Party of Australia is a socially conservative party with an almost-dead small-l liberal faction. It is led by a man who, when health minister, pulled out all stops to keep RU486 banned in Australia. He believes that “climate change is crap” and is so creepy that he talks to the media about his daughters’ virginity. One of the Liberal Party’s Victorian candidates that is running for re-election is a former National Party member named Julian McGauran. The Age has an interesting article that refers to him. Definitely going below Conroy.

Obviously, there are plenty of good parties to put above Labor: the Greens, The Australian Sex Party and The Australian Democrats are all socially liberal parties. Stephen Mayne (of Crikey fame) is also running for the Senate, and while I disagree with a few things he’s said in the past, he’s shown himself to be honest and generally progressive.

But to put Senator Conroy last on your ballot paper is to say that he’s worse than a herd of far-right, bigoted religious fundamentalists, who want to interfere with your life. Despite his ridiculous stance on the filter, I don’t believe that he is as bad as them.

Go Home On Time Day

“An organisation that cannot afford to fully pay for its production costs is
an organisation that should already be out of business.”
— Random Usenet contributor

It’s hard to believe that such a thing would be necessary, but today is Go Home On Time Day – a reaction to findings that Australians are working more unpaid hours overtime each year than they get in annual leave.

While the campaign itself seems a little condescending (the idea of a “leave pass” is ridiculous to the extreme, because it’s utterly demeaning to think that someone should have to ask permission to go home at the end of the day), the sentiment is sound. No business would ever expect any supplier to provide them with goods for free, so why should they expect this of their employees’ labour?

Naturally, the Australian Chamber of Subjugation doesn’t like it at all. They’d much rather have people sign up for slightly raised pay-packets that give the employer carte blanche to work them for as long as they like.

My advice? Become a contractor, and charge by the hour. No one ever dies wishing that they spent more time in the office.

Rudd solves Australia’s unemployment problem.

Australia’s current unemployment rate is, according to the ABS, 4.2%25 – although in reality it’s higher, since this figure doesn’t include those people who are studying, those who have given up looking for work and those who would like to work more hours than they currently have (a person with one hour of work per week is counted as ’employed’).

Meanwhile, Australia’s public servants are currently being worked to the bone by the Prime Minister and are fed up with it.

Hmm. Well, that doesn’t look all that hard to fix, to me. Reduce the hours of those people who are putting in more than eight hours per day, and give the extra work to the unemployed. And the great bit is that it won’t cost us one cent more.

You are paying for all this overtime, aren’t you, Kev?

OMFG! Australia might suck at sport!

“The Federal Government has been warned that Australia will slip out of the world’s top five Olympic nations if sports funding is not drastically increased.” — John Coates, president of the AOC, via the ABC.

I’m not sure I see a problem with this scenario.

Do terrorists use open-source mailservers?

From ABC News:

Attorney-General Robert McClelland says the proposal to let some employers access workers’ emails without consent is only being considered as a way to stop cyber terrorist attacks.

…because, of course, terrorists only ever use their employer’s mail servers in their nefarious schemes.

Not to be outdone by the government’s stupidity today:

“But deputy Opposition leader Julie Bishop says the laws will burden employers”

Yes. It’s not like those poor, downtrodden employers have ever been interested in looking at the contents of their employees’ email, in the past.

Combatting telemarketers with Asterisk

One of the few good acts of the previous government was the legislation and subsequent funding of the Do Not Call register, allowing those people who do not want to talk to telemarketers to opt out completely. I registered for it as soon as it went live, and I definitely noticed a reduction in the number of unsolicited calls that I received.

Unfortunately, the legislation simply did not go far enough; political organisations, polling companies and especially charities are exempt from the DNC register. The number of charities calling lately has risen considerably, and it’s starting to drive me insane.

I have a rule: I will not give any money to a charity that asks me for it. That includes phone calls, doorknockers (the Consumer Action Law Centre has a good sticker that deals with them) and that incredibly annoying import from the UK – twenty-somethings with clipboards on city streets.

At this point, I will make a brief aside: if there’s anyone from Amnesty International reading this, could you please screen your clipboarders better? I really don’t appreciate your blow-ins asking me ridiculous questions, such as, “how long do you plan to live here?” as I exit the gates at a city railway station, and then abusing me when I tell them I don’t have time to talk, because I’m rushing off to recover a server that’s crashed in a large telco.

Back to the phone calls, however. Asterisk has a nice little command that will deal with telemarketers with autodialers – Zapateller. When invoked, it will play three tones that cause the telemarketer’s autodialer to think that the number is not valid, and then hang up.

I put the Zapateller command into my dial plan yesterday, and today I’ve received three phone calls, all of which had disconnected by the time I answered them.

  ; Ring both phones
  exten => 2100,1,Answer()
  exten => 2100,n,Zapateller()
  exten => 2100,n,Dial(SIP/snom&SIP/sipura,20)
  exten => 2100,n,Voicemail(u2000)

I will eventually put a couple of seconds delay between the Zapateller command and the line that dials my two telephones, so that I don’t hear any ringing at all.

Obviously, there’s no way I can be sure the callers today were telemarketers, especially since I’m not paying for caller-ID, but given that I haven’t received any personal calls on this line in weeks, I can be fairly confident that my phone system has only been playing tones to an autodialer…

Australia: too bloody hot for business attire.

From the ABC:

“The Senate’s bid to cut energy use has caused some members of the Upper House to complain that they are too hot.”

Maybe, just maybe, dear Senators, it’s time to do away with your suits and ties? The same would go for all workplaces in Australia: dump the suits and turn down your AC a notch.

It was about 33 today in Melbourne, certainly nowhere near as hot as it can get, but there wasn’t much wind about and it resulted in the area’s tribe of overweight Collins St businessmen, who strut between buildings trying to appear important, looking quite sweaty and uncomfortable in their ties and jackets. Seriously, is a t-shirt a worse look than sweaty-suit-guy?

Australian society has thrown off virtually every one of its other Victorian-era hang-ups. Why do people persist with this? Surely, at some point, if people really want to get serious about reducing carbon emissions, it’s time to realise that having to drastically cool the air around you because you’re wearing several more layers than you really need to, is a pretty silly thing to do…

Overreactions: banning bikes on trains and Australian internet censorship.

2007 closed with a couple of government overreactions, which mostly escaped scrutiny because the governments involved announced them at a dead time when no-one really gave a bugger:

  1. The Victorian government has banned bicycles on peak-hour trains in Melbourne, and on any V/line service which originates or terminates in Melbourne during peak hour. Now, I hate bicycles on trains as much as the next person (probably more so, given the number of bikes I had to squeeze past on the crowded Amsterdam metro, while I was living there) – but a complete ban seems overly heavy-handed.

    Wouldn’t it be more sensible to remove a few seats from the end of each train and restrict bicycles to the final carriage? It’s not like our public transport operators haven’t stooped to removing seats in order to cram more passengers aboard, in the past.

  2. The new Federal government is channelling the ghost of the old Federal government, dredging up a discredited internet access policy to appease a small group of Christian fundamentalists, who are too irresponsible to monitor what their own children are doing. ISPs in Australia will be compelled to supply a “clean” internet connection (read: no pr0n, violence or anything “inappropriate”) to all customers, and anyone who does not wish to be subject to this must explicitely opt-out (whereupon their ISP may well decide to charge a fee, and presumably flag the connection for easy targetting by Australia’s security services).

    Our new Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, then went on to show he comes from the same fine pedigree that produced our previous Communication Ministers, by deliberately confusing pornography (which is legally available) with child pornography (which is already, as it should be, illegal):

    “If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree.”

    Apples and Oranges. As mentioned earlier, this is all being done to appease the Fundies First party, because the government may well need their one vote to kill off Workchoices. A saving grace may be that the government hasn’t got the ISPs on side, as Paul Montgomery notes. The previous government announced these plans several times, and never did anything about it; with luck, this will be just more bluster – because if it’s not, then either their plan will be unworkable, or Australian internet connections will become unusable.

We live in a society, not an economy.

I have no idea who said it first, but that about sums it up for me.

It’s time to fix a mistake I made eleven years ago.

Halloween: is it finally dead in Australia?

Unlike the past couple of years, I was fortunate enough not to get anyone banging on my door demanding food, last night, and I was hoping that this might mean that Halloween in its final death throes, in Australia. Unfortunately, after reading Russell’s comments, I suspect not.

For a society that constantly complains about being annoyed by telemarketers and door-to-door salesman, I can’t quite understand why anyone would encourage children to go cold-calling people. I don’t want strangers knocking on my door at the best of times, and I certainly don’t want their children doing it, too.