13 November 2010

hubble bubble, frauds and trouble

Christine Corcos's blog notes a 2009 research fellowship at the University of Westminister regarding 'Regulation and Reception of Paranormal Media'.

The supervisors state that -
The psychic industry today is a multi million pound business; with a plethora of websites, chat lines and text services amongst other ways of consuming the paranormal. Within this, more than 170,000 consumers fall victim to clairvoyant scams every year, losing around £40 million in the process. The repeal of the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 in 2008 addresses the commercial 'psychic revolution' by the introduction of new Consumer Protection Regulations, and creates a number of issues and problems. Previously, mediums and psychic professionals had to use the disclaimer of 'entertainment' in connection with their services. The consumer of paranormal media can now choose from a wide range of international programming, with formats sold in the global market place, websites profiling ghost hunters, and digital photographs and videos capturing 'evidence' of ghosts. All of these examples utilize new trends in the entertainment industry, ranging from interactive elements, spin offs in the form of webisodes to mobile downloads. Similar to the 19th century, paranormal media is both a means to document, create and promote the paranormal. The key issues of illusion and reality, faith and evidence, frame the regulation and reception of paranormal media. High profile fakery scandals surrounding fraudulent mediums and psychic professionals are reported in the press and discussed by audiences of a range of paranormal media, and have been the subject of OFCOM commissioned research. It is timely that a critical study of paranormal media examines the existing and emergent regulatory framework for the paranormal industry in relation to the reception of paranormal media and psychic professionals. Consumer rights are paramount, especially concerning issues of fakery and the exploitation of individuals in scams or within the entertainment industry.
The same 'paranormal revolution' or 'psychic revolution' has, arguably, featured the acceptance of 'paranormal journals' such as World Futures - venue for problematical articles on dowsing, reincarnation, remote healing, precognition and other hubble bubble - that are echoes of publications by followers of Mrs Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner, Edgar Cayce, Keyserling, Grof, Krishnamurti and other fin de siecle gurus whose assertions have been embraced by the great & good without a guffaw, grimace or reference to Sokal's famous 'Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity' hoax [here] or the derision rightly accorded to claptrap such as Steiner's The submerged continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, their history and civilization: being chapters from the Akashic records. Lemuria! Atlantis! Psychic communication with vegetables!

Law reform does not require a resort to 'Mayan Calendar' endism, the 'Lost Cubit' or notions that our brains - or merely the brains of our more enlightened peers (presumably the same ones who embrace claims about telepathic messages from the likes of Marie Antoinette!) - are about to become 'quantum wave transceivers' that tap into the 'Akashic Field' and allow us to have a shortwave chat with the dead or creatures from another planet.

Without questioning the sincerity or smarts of many true believers, we might ask whether the language of parapsychology changes ('eye of newt, bladder of toad' is so yesterday, 'mesodomain' and 'supervening' are in) but human credulity, need, fear and exploitation persist.

Critiquing assertions continues to play a valuable role in the minimisation of harm and the advancement of learning, however disconcerting that questioning may be to some audiences or to the latest vendors of the emperor's very fine new clothes.

playing catch-up

In a presentation last month I argued that the European Union would continue to drive Australian privacy development and that the EU privacy benchmarks would continue to move ahead, so that Australia will still be playing catch-up rather than having an opportunity to engage in protracted self-congratulation.

The European Commission has now announced that it
will propose in 2011 a new general legal framework for the protection of personal data in the EU covering data processing operations in all sectors and policies of the EU. This comprehensive new legal framework will ensure an integrated approach as well as seamless, consistent and effective protection. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will then negotiate and adopt the Commission’s proposal.
The Commission comments that -
The principles enshrined in the Data Protection Directive are still sound. However, the rules need to be revised and modernised in order to respond to new challenges and situations.

In any case, until new rules are adopted and enter into force, the current rules remain entirely valid and still have to be correctly implemented by Member States and applied by all those concerned.
The Commission has launched a public consultation regarding revision of the Directive.

It will also consider and pursue non-legislative measures such as awareness-raising campaigns on data protection, encouraging self-regulation and the possibility of EU certification schemes in the field of privacy and data protection.
In addition, the Commission will continue to promote high standards of data protection in third countries and at international level. Consequently, it will step up its cooperation with third countries and international organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
The Commission also reviewing the 2006 Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC), which was adopted to harmonise the different laws of EU member states regarding data retention. Under that Directive, companies are required to store communication traffic data for a period between six months and two years.
The Commission’s current review focuses on whether the type and amount of data is necessary for security reasons and whether the length of time that authorities can hold data is appropriate.
In its consultation paper [PDF] the Commission comments that -
The 1995 Data Protection Directive1 set a milestone in the history of the protection of personal data in the European Union. The Directive enshrines two of the oldest and equally important ambitions of the European integration process: the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and in particular the fundamental right to data protection, on the one hand, and the achievement of the internal market – the free flow of personal data in this case – on the other.

Fifteen years later, this twofold objective is still valid and the principles enshrined in the Directive remain sound. However, rapid technological developments and globalisation have profoundly changed the world around us, and brought new challenges for the protection of personal data. Today technology allows individuals to share information about their behaviour and preferences easily and make it publicly and globally available on an unprecedented scale.

Social networking sites, with hundreds of millions of members spread across the globe, are perhaps the most obvious, but not the only, example of this phenomenon. 'Cloud computing' - ie internet-based computing whereby software, shared resources and information are on remote servers ('in the cloud') could also pose challenges to data protection, as it may involve the loss of individuals' control over their potentially sensitive information when they store their data with programs hosted on someone else's hardware. A recent study confirmed that there seems to be a convergence of views – of Data Protection Authorities, business associations and consumers' organisations – that risks to privacy and the protection of personal data associated with online activity are increasing.

At the same time, ways of collecting personal data have become increasingly elaborated and less easily detectable. For example, the use of sophisticated tools allows economic operators to better target individuals thanks to the monitoring of their behaviour. And the growing use of procedures allowing automatic data collection, such as electronic transport ticketing, road toll collecting, or of geo-location devices make it easier to determine the location of individuals simply because they use a mobile device. Public authorities also use more and more personal data for various purposes, such as tracing individuals in the event of an outbreak of a communicable disease, for preventing and fighting terrorism and crime more effectively, to administer social security schemes or for taxation purposes, as part of their egovernment applications etc.

All this inevitably raises the question whether existing EU data protection legislation can still fully and effectively cope with these challenges. To address this question, the Commission launched a review of the current legal framework, with a high level conference in May 2009, followed by a public consultation until the end of 2009. A number of studies were also launched.

The findings confirmed that the core principles of the Directive are still valid and that its technologically neutral character should be preserved. However, several issues were identified as being problematic and posing specific challenges. These include:
Addressing the impact of new technologies Responses to the consultations, both from private individuals and organisations, have confirmed the need to clarify and specify the application of data protection principles to new technologies, in order to ensure that individuals' personal data are actually effectively protected, whatever the technology used to process their data, and that data controllers are fully aware of the implications of new technologies on data protection. This has been partially addressed by Directive 2002/58/EC (the so-called ‘e-Privacy’ Directive), which particularises and complements the general Data Protection Directive in the electronic communications sector.

Enhancing the internal market dimension of data protection One of the main recurrent concerns of stakeholders, particularly multinational companies, is the lack of sufficient harmonisation between Member States' legislation on data protection, in spite of a common EU legal framework. They stressed the need to increase legal certainty, lessen the administrative burden and ensure a level playing field for economic operators and other data controllers.

Addressing globalisation and improving international data transfers Several stakeholders highlighted that the increased outsourcing of processing, very often outside the EU, raises several problems in relation to the law applicable to the processing and the allocation of associated responsibility. As to international data transfers, many organisations considered that the current schemes are not entirely satisfactory and need to be reviewed and streamlined so as to make transfers simpler and less burdensome.

Providing a stronger institutional arrangement for the effective enforcement of data protection rules There is consensus among stakeholders that the role of Data Protection Authorities needs to be strengthened so as to ensure better enforcement of data protection rules. Some organisations also asked for increased transparency in the work of the Article 29 Working Party and clarification of its tasks and powers.

Improving the coherence of the data protection legal framework In the public consultation, all stakeholders stressed the need for an overarching instrument applying to data processing operations in all sectors and policies of the Union, ensuring an integrated approach as well as seamless, consistent and effective protection.
The above challenges require the EU to develop a comprehensive and coherent approach guaranteeing that the fundamental right to data protection for individuals is fully respected within the EU and beyond.

12 November 2010

gummed by a mouton sauvage

The weakness of co-regulatory schemes in Australia (characterised, alas, on occasion, by regulatory capture) is evident in enforcement of corporate misbehaviour that resembles being gummed by a toothless, arthritic and myopic sheep.

The Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA), the national broadcasting and telecommunications regulator highlighted elsewhere in this blog, yesterday announced that two of the commercial tv networks had "breached licence conditions by advertising interactive gambling services" -
a number of Nine Network and Ten Networks’ licensees breached a condition of their commercial television broadcasting licences by broadcasting advertisements promoting interactive gambling services, in contravention of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA).

"These are the ACMA's first investigations into advertisements prohibited under the Interactive Gambling Act", said ACMA Chairman, Mr Chris Chapman, "All providers of television, radio and datacasting services need to ensure sure they are fully aware of and comply with their obligations under the IGA".
The statute is not, as far as I am aware, invisible, so we might wonder why the licensees were not "fully aware" ... or perhaps just didn't care. ACMA's reports are online; one example is the PDF here.

The ACMA statement explains that -
'Interactive gambling services' include services that are often described as 'online casinos' and usually involve using the internet to play games of chance, or games of mixed chance and skill. Examples include roulette, poker, craps, online 'pokies' and blackjack. The IGA targets the providers of interactive gambling services and makes it an offence to provide certain services to a customer in Australia. It also prohibits the broadcasting and publication of advertisements for interactive gambling services.
Enter the ACMA sheep, red in tooth & claw!
ACMA adopts a graduated approach to compliance and enforcement and has taken into account that these are the first investigations relating to the broadcast of prohibited advertisements under the IGA. Both networks have agreed to measures intended to increase awareness of the IGA, including staff training and education. In this regard, the networks will provide periodic reports of this training to the ACMA.
Gambling is not illegal, something highlighted in a speech by Cardinal Pell, representative of an institution that critics such as Geoffrey Robertson QC persuasively argue has been systematically indifferent to a range of serious abuses and that, at best, can be excused on the basis of a profound lack of imagination.

The Cardinal is reported by the SMH as indicating that -
it might be somewhat hypocritical for the Catholic Church to condemn gambling outright, given the proliferation of poker machines in NSW Catholic clubs.

"I must confess I do feel a bit uneasy about that, but only a bit uneasy", he admitted. "Because culturally I'm an Irish Australian and we grew up gambling".
The Irish Australian Excuse does not, of course, apply to the wickedness known as same-sex love.

Cardinal Pell is reported as elaborating his statement -
Gambling in itself was not intrinsically wrong, he said. Only when it became an addiction, threatening the well-being of oneself and one's family, did it become a sin.

Warming to the forum's theme "God and Mammon: need or greed in the big end of town", Cardinal Pell said as far as the ethics of selling tobacco went, supplying adults who were aware of the risks and still chose to smoke was nothing to rush to the confessional about. And when quizzed about the ethics of selling arms, he hypothesised that global military contractors may in fact be acting on a moral imperative.
Andrew Undershaft, come on down!

ACMA has concurrently has directed mobile premium service providers AO Australia Online Pty Ltd (Australia Online) and Network Nine Australia Pty Ltd (Nine) to comply with industry rules or face hefty penalties in the Federal Court, after it found both companies breached the Mobile Premium Services Code (the code). More unawareness?

ACMA found that Nine breached the code by failing to advise of a helpline in
advertising two premium SMS competitions, Keno Million Dollar Comp and Moccona Competition.
ACMA's research shows that premium SMS competitions are popular with consumers, and the code requires that consumers be given information about who to contact if they have questions about a service', said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

Australia Online breached numerous provisions of the code, including failing to advertise the correct price and failing to state that the service was a subscription service. 'Providing clear and accurate information about the price, terms and conditions of a service is fundamental to doing business', said Mr Chapman. 'The ACMA will continue to pursue service providers who are not upfront with consumers about costs.'
The service providers will presumably continue to shake and shiver when the ACMA sheep growls, consoled of course by their revenue reports.
Complaints about premium SMS fell 90 per cent between September 2008 and September 2010, due to the code and other regulations put in place by the ACMA. While a direction to comply is the strongest action available to the ACMA in response to a breach of the code, the ACMA may request the Federal Court to impose penalties of up to $250,000 if a direction to comply is contravened.

From 3 November 2010, if a premium SMS provider does not comply with the code and causes significant detriment to consumers as a result, the ACMA also will be able to direct mobile phone companies to not charge consumers for the service in question.

Trafficking questions

The Australian Institute of Criminology, thinner than last year but - for the moment - still extant, has released a brief Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice paper by Jacqueline Larsen on 'Migration and people trafficking in southeast Asia'.

The AIC's Director prefaces the report with the comment that -
Although the number of identified cases of trafficking into Australia is relatively low, the hidden nature of this crime and reluctance of trafficked persons to report to authorities suggests that a number of cases may go unidentified and the problem may be more extensive than available data indicates. Much can be learned about the risks of exploitation, including trafficking, from an overview of undocumented movement throughout the region. The risk of people being trafficked to Australia is largely mitigated by well-protected borders and economic opportunities in more accessible regions. However, management of the risks of trafficking in the southeast Asian region is connected to strategies that aim to prevent trafficking at source countries and to the activities of Australians and Australian entities in those countries. Characteristics of migration in southeast Asia — such as the role of informal networks in facilitating movement and the exploitation of migrants for non-sex work as well as sex work — hold important implications for Australia's response to people trafficking.
We might consider that statement is somewhat anodyne.

Larsen comments that -
People trafficking occurs within the context of high levels of people movement (particularly undocumented), which are primarily driven by the desire for greater economic opportunity and a better quality of life. Southeast Asia is known to be a significant source of trafficked persons and intra-regional trafficking is high. However, the Asian region is also a primary source for persons who are trafficked around the world, with Australia among the target destinations. The southeast Asian region has seen a high level of predominantly intra-regional migration since the 1980s (Kaur 2007). These high levels of people movement have been driven by various socioeconomic and political push and pull factors operating throughout the region (IOM 2008).

This paper examines the characteristics of migration in southeast Asia, the ways in which people trafficking occurs within this process and the implications for Australia's anti-trafficking response nationally and regionally. It is based on a literature review, along with information from interviews conducted with prosecutors, law enforcement officers, policy officers and representatives of non-government and international organisations in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
Larsen concludes by asking "what does all this mean for Australia?", answering that -
National and regional initiatives, including legislative changes or increased law enforcement activity in line with recognised international best practice can better regulate the flow of people across borders and their potential vulnerability to exploitation (Kaur 2006). This, in turn, can also have a positive effect on trafficking, which is underpinned by the broader issue of the exploitation of migrants. Although it is well accepted that specific anti-trafficking measures are also required, better management of the risks of exploitation in the region has a positive impact on Australia as a destination country and on Australian activity in the region.

Australia's strong socioeconomic position in the Asia–Pacific region, together with plentiful job opportunities in low-skilled sectors, contributes to its status as a target destination for traffickers and smugglers. Despite this, it is unlikely that Australia will experience a significant growth in trafficked persons from the region for several reasons, including:
* most migration in southeast Asia is intra-regional and the trafficking of persons seems to have followed this path;

* most people who are trafficked are in search of better economic opportunities of which there are already many within southeast Asia or in neighbouring regions such as East Asia and the Middle East; and

* undocumented movement within the southeast Asian region carries fewer risks of detection and is far less expensive (thereby incurring smaller debts for the migrant) than travel to well-protected Australian sea and airports.
Despite the unlikelihood of an influx of trafficked persons into Australia for the reasons noted above, supporting sound risk-management initiatives in the region, as well as Australian risk-management actions, is an important strategy.

Management of regional risks of exploitation also holds implications for Australian activities in the region, such as child sex tourism, offshore labour arrangements and of course, trafficking. Australia's extended geographical jurisdiction in relation to trafficking offences enables the prosecution of offences 'committed outside Australia by an Australian company, citizen or resident' (Australian Government 2009: 11). This aspect of the legislation is an important tool for managing risks of exploitation and trafficking by Australians in the region.

Furthermore, the significant role played by informal networks of migrants and facilitators (eg brokers/recruiters) in migration within and out of the southeast Asian region is of importance when considering future levels of migration into Australia and should be considered when responding to the problem of trafficking. Further research is required to learn more about the role of facilitators in migration and trafficking.

The need to look beyond trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is obvious, given the potential exploitation of large numbers of migrant workers in the Australian agriculture, construction, mining and hospitality industries among others.

Australia is a member of the International Labour Organisation and has ratified seven of the eight fundamental conventions which promote decent work by setting minimum labour standards for all industries.

The recent introduction of the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme in Australia, which tightly controls the supply of Pacific workers into the Australian agricultural industry, is one example of how a receiving country can seek to ensure the protection of migrant workers and maintain standards and conditions within the nation's labour market ....

The emergence of cases of migrants experiencing exploitation in various industries (AIC 2009; Deegan 2008) demonstrates that despite comparatively strong regulation across many labour sectors, such scenarios are a continuing risk that require sustained and dynamic responses. This overview provides some insight into the dynamics of migration in the southeast Asian region that impact on the risks for people trafficking.
All very sound, of course, and useful in substantiating pleas for maintenance of research funding.

EU electronic identity study

An 84 page study by Toby Stevens, John Elliott, Anssi Hoikkanen, Ioannis Maghiros & Wainer Lusoli of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission Joint Research Centre) on The State of the Electronic Identity Market: Technologies, Infrastructure, Services and Policies [PDF] suggests that a "clear understanding" of electronic identity (eID) for the "Single Digital Market is crucial for policy action on identification and authentication, eSignature and interoperability".

The authors comment that -
Authenticating onto systems, connecting to mobile networks and providing identity data to access services is common ground for most EU citizens, however what is disruptive is that digital technologies fundamentally alter and upset the ways identity is managed, by people, companies and governments. Technological progress in cryptography, identity systems design, smart card design and mobile phone authentication have been developed as a convenient and reliable answer to the need for authentication. Yet, these advances are not sufficient to satisfy the needs across people's many spheres of activity: work, leisure, health, social activities nor have they been used to enable cross-border service implementation in the Single Digital Market, or to ensure trust in cross border eCommerce. The study findings assert that the potentially great added value of eID technologies in enabling the Digital Economy has not yet been fulfilled, and fresh efforts are needed to build identification and authentication systems that people can live with, trust and use. The study finds that usability, minimum disclosure and portability, essential features of future systems, are at the margin of the market and cross-country, cross-sector eID systems for business and public service are only in their infancy. This report joins up the dots, and provides significant exploratory evidence of the potential of eID for the Single Digital Market.
They go on to argue that -
It is true that trusted and reliable online identity management and authentication are the gateway to the digital economy now in the making. They create enormous potential for
advanced, high quality and efficient services. Though eID systems and processes have been developing over decades, they are still not particularly trusted or fit for the many activities that European citizens expect to conduct in their everyday digital lifestyles. Strong authentication based on cryptography is one of Europe's strength, but has not yet found fertile ground in business and government applications. Equally, secure tokens such as smart cards and digital credentials, are under-utilised and the growth of awareness and use among consumers and small businesses is sluggish. Additionally, the market for eID products and services is fragmented, far from efficient and lacks viable business models. Services based on mobile authentication and identity management have not yet realised their huge potential value. There are great engineering and legal differences between industry- and governmentsupported identity management systems across the EU. As a result, the evolution of intercountry, interoperable, user-centric eID systems and processes is slow.

On the other hand, there is the realization that eID technologies and authentication services are essential for transactions on the Internet in both the private and public sectors. Trusted, secure and interoperable eID is a key enabler of the Single Digital Market. The fulfilment of several objectives of the Digital Agenda and of the Granada Declaration rests on the possibility to convert personal identity data into usable, safe and trusted credentials for the implementation of cross-border, interoperable public and business services. The outcome of both agendas will depend on the capacity to understand, measure and monitor, with valid and reliable gauges, the consequences of this eID conversion in Europe.

Effective regulation of the personal identity space and its economic externalities requires a clear understanding of how the market for identity functions. But very little is known about emerging identity markets and the business models that support the use of personal identity data in transactions. Outcomes go well beyond issues regarding technical systems for identification and authentication. Identity has never been monetised to the extent that it is today: targeted profiling based on personal identity data is used for behavioural tracking; the lead business model for online free services is focused advertising; significant savings are achieved in the delivery of public services. Revenues in these fields are significant, taking the ideas of authentication for access to services to a different level. At the moment, we know very little about eID as an enabler of the Digital Economy. Intelligence on market and innovation dynamics is needed to sustain market growth, improve service quality for citizens and offer a more cost-efficient and competitive identity framework for Member States. In this context, this report explores the trends, barriers and dynamic evolution of the European eID market, the roles of key public and private stakeholders within the eID marketplace and the processes which these use to create value. The report finds that:

1. eID infrastructure technologies, embedded in operational applications and services, will be critical to the development of broader eID applications, which are likely to emerge as a ‘critical mass’ of infrastructure becomes available. Whilst development of this infrastructure is a commercial issue, governments may be able to accelerate the process by providing incentives and framework conditions for standardisation, open development platforms and innovation.

2. Increasingly advanced eID services, that take the existing infrastructure and technologies as a starting point and build on them, so as to create novel added value services, are needed. These need to be accompanied and complemented by 'softer' services; for instance, consultation, training and risk or credit management. Moreover, a more flexible offer of products and services, which would allow customer companies to 'mix and match' the most relevant components according to their particular demands, would make the eID market more dynamic and better able to adapt to changing economic conditions. While most of the above are expected to be offered commercially, governments may be able to enhance the ability of companies to offer valuable eID solutions by motivating intercompany partnerships, where each company specialises in the activities they are most proficient in.

3. Interoperability and credential portability are key issues in eID market development. Currently, the eID market is relatively fragmented, with several standards and procedures across the EU. Increased portability of credentials and use of federated identity schemes would result in higher take-up and more extensive use of eID solutions, thus contributing to market growth. Future online public services will rely on effective and interoperable credentials. For this to happen, appropriate Certificate Authorities, and permitted use of government root certificates and regulations to permit certificate use in mobile devices, would be needed.

4. Self-asserted credentials are gaining significant public trust and must be taken into account by eID interoperability initiatives. Self-assertion and volunteered personal information are shifting the balance of power in identity relationships away from traditional providers, initially national authorities and lately companies, towards data subjects. This may result in disintermediation for third parties that are no longer required, and lead to new business models for eID. However, governments have yet to make widespread use of self-asserted eID schemes; therefore a centrally-regulated, identity assurance framework for government use of commercial credentials, both within and between EU Member States, may be needed.

5. The availability of enhanced token devices that consolidate existing multiple tokens, and offers users additional functionality through local card readers (or embedded equivalents) would lead to greater adoption of certificate-based services, as would the incorporation of two-factor authentication into a wider range of identity processes.

6. Governments are in a key position to drive the development of the eID market, in
many respects:
a. As the largest customers of eID, governments have a significant influence on what solutions will be developed, what features and functionalities will be required, and what identification technologies will be used;
b. As market regulators, governments may procure a common legal framework enforcing the trust new eID services need to flourish. Moreover, governments may encourage relevant industry standardisation bodies to work on the rollout of interoperable digital certificates;
c. Innovation in the public sector, particularly in citizen-centric public services, will be a catalyst for eID market growth. More rigorous enforcement of existing regulatory frameworks to ensure a 'level playing field' may favour market growth.

No jam today

The Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) is proposing to continue to prohibit the supply, possession and operation of jamming devices designed to deliberately interfere with public mobile telecommunication services (PMTS), including 3G networks and equivalent services such as mobile WiMAX.

ACMA Chair Chris Chapman commented that -
ACMA acknowledges the unanimous support for the continuation of a ban on mobile phone jammers. In developing this proposal, we also noted the strong support in the community for regulatory arrangements that protect mobile telecommunications services from unwanted and potentially harmful interference, and safeguard the community’s access to Triple Zero emergency call services.

Since the original prohibition was made in March 1999, technological, economic and social developments have resulted in a proliferation of devices that consumers use for the purposes of wireless communications. Mobile networks now offer ubiquitous broadband access, in addition to traditional voice services, and there is a growing reliance on mobile connectivity for personal and business transactions. These changes make the case for continuing a ban even more compelling, and this is reflected in the new, updated prohibition proposal.
ACMA's proposed PMTS Jammer Prohibition comes under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (Cth). It follows a review of the current regime, which noted several areas of contention -
+ not all frequency bands used by mobile phones are included in the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition.
+ potential for the Prohibition to capture devices that were not envisaged when it was made given the lack of an express definition of a ‘mobile phone jammer’.
+ emergence of more sophisticated jamming technology capable of targeting specific frequencies, known as ‘smart’ jammers.
+ increasing use of mobile phone jammers to carry out criminal activities.
+ emergence of legitimate uses for mobile phone jammers in the public interest.
+ increasing need for testing and trialling of prohibited devices for legitimate purposes.
+ establishment of standards relating to electromagnetic emissions (EME) and human health
The rationale for the jamming ban is identified in the schedule to the Radiocommunications (Prohibition of PMTS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2010 -
1. The operation or supply of a PMTS jamming device, and the possession of a PMTS jamming device for the purpose of its operation or supply, is prohibited for the reasons set out below.
2. PMTS jamming devices can be used to block, or otherwise interfere with, radio emissions between a mobile station (for example, a mobile handset) and a base station. Consequently, a PMTS jamming device can be used to prevent mobile stations from sending or receiving voice and data traffic to or from a telecommunications network. The interference generated by a PMTS jamming device can also affect the quality, reliability and coverage of a public mobile telecommunications service.
3. Businesses and individuals increasingly rely on public mobile telecommunications services for the delivery of voice telephony and data. Preventing or otherwise disrupting the supply of those services has the potential to adversely affect the public on a large scale, for example, by preventing access to emergency call services, or through loss of business or by causing inconvenience to mobile phone users.
4. A PMTS jamming device may also disrupt radiocommunications that use frequency bands other than those used for the supply of a public mobile telecommunications service. Consequently, the use of a PMTS jamming device may adversely affect the delivery of other licensed radiocommunications.
5. High powered PMTS jamming devices may emit radiation at levels that exceed that permitted under the Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation – Human Exposure) Standard 2003. This has implications for public safety, especially in confined areas, such as cafes or restaurants.
6. In light of the disruptive nature of PMTS jamming devices, there are few legitimate uses for such devices. Such devices are also at risk of being used in connection with criminal or terrorist activities. For these reasons also, the supply of such devices should be prohibited.
The Act allows for the personnel of particular defence, law enforcement and emergency services agencies to be exempted from specific requirements of the Act.

Melbourne zombie transgressive edginess

Amid brouhaha over the police raid on the residence of Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) director Richard Wolstencroft in connection with the banned Bruce LaBruce film LA Zombie (not quite the video I'd show to my mum, although she'd appreciate the pretty colours) a contact has pointed me to some recent reviews.

Don't you just love critspeak, in this instance by Michael Guillen -
The North American premiere of Bruce LaBruce's unavoidably controversial L.A. Zombie (2010) positioned in TIFF's Vanguard program indicates that it's not quite enough of a horror film but way too much of a gay porno film to satisfy most Midnight Madness buffs. Notwithstanding, through its melding of zombie genre tropes and hardcore mansex, L.A. Zombie achieves a transgressive edginess while eliciting an unexpected poignancy, much more so than LaBruce's previous zombie/porno hybrid Otto: Or Up With Dead People (2008). TIFF's short capsule states: "Corpse-eating meets poverty politics in this pornographic art film set on the streets of Los Angeles, where an alien zombie brings dead men back to life." In his expanded defense of the film, Noah Cowan indirectly argues for the concept of "elevated genre", admitting it is hardcore gay porno but suggesting it is equally an art film reminiscent of Jacques Rivette's Paris nous appartient and a strong maturation of LaBruce's usage of digital media (no pun intended).

From the film's premiere at Locarno, David Jenkins dispatched to Time Out London: "Rather than a torrent of extreme bad taste, the film turns out to be a tender study of otherness in the big city and a cunning reversal of genre conventions." At Eye Weekly, Adam Nayman concurred: "Bruce LaBruce's already-notorious film is more melancholy than confrontational. Porn star François Sagat plays the zombie, Los Angeles plays itself and assorted corpses are tenderly sexed back to life." At Xtra, Matthew Hayes spoke with an upbeat LaBruce after L.A. Zombie was yanked from the Melbourne International. At Twitch, Todd Brown insists "outside the hardcore cult film scene [L.A. Zombie] will have EXTREMELY limited appeal." He's way more fair than Torontoist's John Semley who fumes, "A spiritless, pointless amalgam of gory zombie picture and hardcore porn, L.A. Zombie is the confluence of two cultural crosscurrents that nobody asked for." But whether LaBruce made his film for those who prefer to be comfortably enslaved to the narrative or for those whose critical objectivity is hazardously gnashing at the homophobic bit, or--more to the point--whether LaBruce would be true to his own artistry if he ever made a film someone asked for, I predict his film will speak to a larger community than is now being granted and that L.A. Zombie's shelf life will gain a poetic notoriety, as well it should.

Myself, I'm somewhat intrigued by L.A. Zombie's surprising poignance given its horndog reliance on pornography to remonstrate a heartfelt argument for how identity is perceived both within and through others. I would have readily sought out an interview with Bruce LaBruce but - after reading Olivier Père's "Ten Morally Indefensible Answers From Bruce LaBruce On L.A. Zombie" in the current issue of Cinema Scope - I felt the job had competently been accomplished. Unfortunately, Père's article has not been chosen to be made available online. ....

It's especially difficult not to read too much into L.A. Zombie and to let it stand on its own raw, sexually ravishing ethos; but, here are a few of my own thoughts, wayward or not. When the film's protagonist is visualized as an alien zombie - whether he is thinking of himself as an alien zombie or being seen as an alien zombie - he is adorned in glaring primary neon colors. When he's not being visualized as an alien zombie, he is depicted as a homelessly hot homo who--at first--you want to offer your shirt to but then--on second thought--prefer to leave shirtless, charity be damned. LaBruce is commenting on an eroticized solidarity, an exact specularity that's involved when queer men perceive themselves or see each other as zombies, fuck each other, as if to become non-zombie, i.e., human. This is the tenderness that is so surprising in L.A. Zombie for being presented so ghoulishly.

Pursuing the wound fucking initiated with Otto, L.A. Zombie converts the penetration of another's wound as a life-giving act. It's as if LaBruce is suggesting that furtive zombie sex makes you feel human; akin to sexual indiscretions that leave you feeling innocent once fully satisfied. Within this visual transgression lies an ancient fascination wherein the virile erection is--for wont of a better term--a magic wand. In fact, according to Thomas Wright in his 1886 essay "A Worship of the Generative Powers" (p. 28): "One name of the male organ among the Romans was fascinum ... hence [is] derived the words to fascinate and fascination." As if to prove that point, I remember visiting Pompeii and reading in the literature that winged phallic tintinabulum were hung in the doorways of Roman houses and shops as protection. But I digress by aligning ancient phallic charms with today's thriving fascination with the commodified gay porn body....

Whether or not LaBruce intends his domain of gay imagery to bear the taint of HIV infection--a near cultural cliché in the social imaginary--it's difficult to resist tracing a metaphor of "the walking dead" as an infected constituency negotiating its compromised and complicated pact with life. What's perhaps the most intriguing reversal in this scenario is that the experienced dead in L.A. Zombie restore life to the recently deceased. It's like one big support group of the dead. There's even a disturbing hint of the undeniably questionable philosophy of infecting others with HIV as providing "the gift." I've often wondered what exactly that "gift" is supposed to be? A sense of longed-for belonging, albeit to a community whose awareness of life has become intensified for being threatened? I really don't know. It's a disturbing concept to me.

LaBruce's appropriation of homelessness speaks less to me as a contemporary social condition than it does as an existential longing for "home", for a place within a community already fractured and disenfranchised. This malaise of alienation beautifully reveals itself in the doughnut café sequence which is framed in a frontal horizontal composition reminiscent of certain Edward Hopper paintings. There's a genuine pathos in our alien zombie trying to be like his former human self: ordering coffee at the till, exchanging currency and then (unsuccessfully) gulping it down. How many late night denizens have expected as much human connection from a cup of coffee?
Eric Kohn's critique in Locarno Review explained that -
Unless I'm missing something, the miraculous potential of a giant undead penis in Bruce LaBruce’s L.A. Zombie is a definite first for film history. Banned from the Melbourne Film Festival and bound to inspire heated debate wherever it plays next, the wordless, hour-long portrait of a walking corpse waking the dead with his regenerative sexual powers will grab more headlines than viewers. A purely experimental exercise in the cinema of the body, the movie overstates LaBruce’s gay-porn-as-art routine in an extreme fashion even by his own standards.

An introductory scene shows the zombie in question (porn star and model Francois Sagat) emerging from the waves, then dives right into the conceptual mayhem: The figure grabs a ride into town, but the car crashes and the driver lies dead on the side of the road. His passenger quickly gets to work, whipping out his zombified manhood and **** the deceased body’s torn chest cavity until his heart starts beating again. In a bizarre update to contemporary zombie mythology, black semen apparently doubles as miracle juice, and Sagat turns back into a living human post-coitus. Even George Romero may scratch his head at that deviation, but then L.A. Zombie isn’t exactly pitched at his target audience.

a great day for justice

From Richard Ackland's SMH article today regarding Totani, under the heading 'A great day for freedom as gavel falls on government' -
The High Court in Canberra yesterday delivered two decisions that struck at the heart of Australia's most divisive and politically-pedalled fears: refugees and criminal gangs.

It was a big day for justice, freedoms and rights. As a consequence, you can be sure the political mugging will be even more unrestrained and distorted.

In the organised crime case, the court by a six-to-one majority struck down the key component of the South Australian bikies legislation. The reasoning was clear - the legislation sought to dictate what magistrates were required to do in implementing decisions of the state government.

This is an exhilarating warning to governments from the highest court - don't trample on the judicial patch.

The vice in the legislation was that it sought to turn courts into rubber-stamps for decisions of the attorney-general and police commissioner. Magistrates were required to sprinkle holy water over the executive's attempts to restrict people's freedom of association if they were deemed to be engaging in ''serious criminal activity'' (even if they weren't).

It was not so much the attempt to control people's freedom of association that concerned the High Court. After all, numerous bits of law do that. It was the obligation that the legislation imposed on the courts to make control orders at the behest of government that was so upsetting.

It goes to the heart of chapter three of the constitution, the provisions that guarantee the independence of the judiciary and quarantine the government of the day from making ''judicial decisions''.

At the moment, chapter three is all we have by way of a national charter of rights. It is limited and its application is far from consistent but in the past couple of years it has been relied on by the High Court in a number of provocative ways.

In February, the court put a big hole in the NSW Industrial Relations Act by striking down the provisions that removed the right to appeal its occupational health and safety decisions to the Supreme Court. In August last year, it struck down the Australian Military Court because the legislation required it to exercise judicial powers without there being proper constitutional underpinning. A year ago today, the court scuttled elements of the NSW criminal assets recovery legislation because it used the word ''must'' in insisting the Supreme Court make orders to restrain bank accounts and other assets without the affected person being put on notice.

NSW has a bikie case that is awaiting a hearing in the High Court. The South Australian act was supposed to be the ''model'' gangs law, and NSW rushed to draw on its framework after the bikie brawl at Sydney Airport in March last year. Even though the police already had sufficient powers to deal with criminals and criminal organisations, the government of ''Red Hot'' Nathan Rees wheeled out its anti-gangs act and got it through Parliament pretty smartly. It drew heavily on the language of the Howard era's terrorism laws, with control orders and decisions made by judges who were deemed ''eligible''. There's plenty of room for the High Court, if it's in the mood, to find that this law, too, flies in the face of the chapter three protections, but you just never know.

Who was the hold-out in the South Australia case? No surprises there - Justice Dyson Heydon, who is more conservative than the Duke of Wellington. His is the lengthiest and most fascinating judgment, and a variety of authorities are cited, including Lenin.

11 November 2010


The decision in South Australia v Totani [2010] HCA 39 is now available and will, I hope, soon be discussed by the excellent Geoff Stewart.

The case, noted earlier this year, concerned the South Australian Government's appeal against the SA Supreme Court's decision, in Totani & Anor v The State of South Australia [2009] SASC 301, that the state's anti-bikie law is defective.

Last year the SASC held that that key elements of the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008 (SA) were invalid, a matter discussed here.

Craig Caldicott, lawyer for the bikies, is reported as commenting that the judgment vindicated his client's stance.
Six of the seven top judges in Australia have found this legislation invalid. That's a heck of a message to this State Government, and every other state government.

From day one we have been saying that this legislation is flawed and now, clearly, the government needs to go back to the drawing board.

There are better ways of achieving this - if the government took all the money it's spent on crime gang task forces and High Court challenges and spent it on effective policing, the public would be better served and better protected.
Somewhat disturbingly, former SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, sponsor of the problematical legislation, seems to have missed the point. He is reported as claiming that "99 per cent" of the statute could be salvaged through minor amendments to ensure it was constitutional.

The Adelaide Advertiser, the paper of record in South Australia (and which memorably jousted with Mr Atkinson) reports him as saying -
"I would have thought it's very easy to amend the legislation to give magistrates more discretion dealing control orders," he told 891 ABC Adelaide this morning.

He said he always expected it would be challenged in the High Court.

"The bikies are able to obtain the best legal representation, we always knew this would be taken to the High Court, I'm sorry we lost, but I'm sure that the Government will adjust it and come back.

"We wanted the legislation to be efficient as possible and we believed that if the Police Commissioner and the Attorney-General decided that a gang was formed and existed for the purpose substantially of crime then that ought to be a political decision."
The State presumably is able to afford the "best legal misrepresentation". Expectations about flicking responsibility to the magistrates suggests that it might be time to reread the constitutional law primers ... or just talk to the SA Law Society.

Law Society President Ralph Bonig is reported as commenting that he did not condone criminal gangs but believed the anti-bikie laws "went too far" -
It took away an individual's fundamental right to independently refute and challenge allegations made against them and impaired the independence of the courts.

The consequences of control orders amounted to a serious restraint on their liberty.

When a court was then asked to impose a control order on an individual based on that declaration the court was not permitted to test the material. This is contrary to the fundamental institutional integrity of the courts and an individual's right to a fair and independent hearing at which they can challenge allegations made against them.
French CJ, in the majority decision by the HCA, stated that -
ection 14(1) requires the Magistrates Court to make a decision largely pre-ordained by an executive declaration for which no reasons need be given, the merits of which cannot be questioned in that Court and which is based on executive determinations of criminal conduct committed by persons who may not be before the Court. The SOCC Act thereby requires the Magistrates Court to carry out a function which is inconsistent with fundamental assumptions, upon which Ch III of the Constitution is based, about the rule of law and the independence of courts and judges. In that sense it distorts that institutional integrity which is guaranteed for all State courts by Ch III of the Constitution so that they may take their place in the integrated national judicial system of which they are part. This appeal, by the State of South Australia against the decision of the Full Court, should be dismissed with costs.
He went on to comment that -
Section 14(1) represents a substantial recruitment of the judicial function of the Magistrates Court to an essentially executive process. It gives the neutral colour of a judicial decision to what will be, for the most part in most cases, the result of executive action. That executive action involves findings about a number of factual matters including the commission of criminal offences. None of those matters is required by the SOCC Act to be disclosed to the Court, nor is the evidence upon which such findings were based. In some cases the evidence, if properly classified as "criminal intelligence", would not be disclosable. Section 14(1) impairs the decisional independence of the Magistrates Court from the executive in substance and in appearance in areas going to personal liberty and the liability to criminal sanctions which lie at the heart of the judicial function. I agree with the conclusion of Gummow J, Crennan and Bell JJ and Kiefel J that s 14(1) authorises the executive to enlist the Magistrates Court to implement decisions of the executive in a manner incompatible with that Court's institutional integrity. I agree also with the conclusion reached by Hayne J about the operation of s 14(1) in permitting the executive to enlist the Magistrates Court for the purpose of applying special restraints to particular individuals identified by the executive as meriting application for a control order[196] and the repugnancy of that function to the institutional integrity of the Court.

In the exercise of the function conferred on it by s 14(1), the Magistrates Court loses one of its essential characteristics as a court, namely, the appearance of independence and impartiality. In my opinion, s 14(1) is invalid.

They're Here. They're Queer. And We're Really Not Coping

Noted John Birmingham's 'Private school PR fails to excuse anti-lesbian sentiment' in the 11 November SMH regarding handling by Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School of its ban against same-sex couples at the end of year school dance.

Birmingham comments that -
Just because you are a grown up doesn't mean you have grown up. A rather natty little motto I just made up and would forward on to Ivanhoe Grammar School except I imagine they already have a motto, something like “No Homos”.

Ivanhoe it was which crushed the dreams of an admirable young student, Hannah Williams, 16, who was told she could not bring her girlfriend to the year 11 formal. ... Ivanhoe appears to be a school deeply invested in the old-fashioned verities, such as keeping your Goddamned differences to yourself and shutting the hell up before you embarrass everybody.

I would say that once upon a time this sort of unthinking nastiness used to destroy people, and what makes young Hannah particularly admirable is her very mature and courageous refusal to be destroyed. But I can't say 'once upon a time' because, of course, unthinking nastiness is still with us every day. Why? Because on the evidence of this gigantic cock-up, institutions such as Ivanhoe enable and encourage it.
The polemic continues with the comment that -
This is a private school and it is allowed to maintain its own standards, even if those standards are, in my opinion, contemptible and low. (I'm pretty sure that private schools get a free pass on this sort of thing because of the way antidiscrimination law is framed. Because they have to have the right to sack gay teachers, of course.)

But what rankles about this is what looks like the egregious hypocrisy of pretending that it's not about Hannah Williams being gay. Oh no, it's about, err, um ... it's about… promoting coeducational experience! Yes. That sounds right. It's not about being freaked out by sexuality. It's not about a power struggle with an unusually mature and strong-willed 16-year-old who is, let's remember, Completely In The Right. No. It's about having a dinner dance where we can set the table in a boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl arrangement. ...

If Ivanhoe is the sort of school which is uncomfortable with homosexuality then fine. But tell it like it is. Proudly repress those students who are different. Openly discriminate against them. And I mean it, get yourself a new school motto: "They're Here. They're Queer. And We're Really Not Coping."
Two other perspectives on 'invisible', institutionalised and 'respectable' homophobia are here and here.

Ivanhoe Grammar, like its peers, may indeed be inclusive and gay-friendly. It can and should demonstrate that inclusiveness and that humanity through its day by day practice and through express statements. Given that it, like most private schools, receives substantial state funding we should expect and demand exemplary performance.

10 November 2010

Bad guy with big dog

From Elaine Showalter's 'James Ellroy, the Ancient Mariner of LA Noir' in the Times Literary Supplement (3 Nov 2010)-
James Ellroy is the Ancient Mariner of LA Noir. For decades, he has been fixing his audiences with a glittering eye and delivering his staccato rap about his mother’s murder when he was a child, his adolescent delinquencies, obsessions and perversions, his voyeurism and addictions, and his colossal and grandiose literary ambitions. I first heard Ellroy give his spiel in a BBC radio interview in the 1990s; since then he has repeated it internationally at bookstores and literary festivals, in print and on the air; he seems to have confessed it to every interviewer but Oprah. In May 2004, he notes in this new memoir, he delivered the "six thousandth public performance of my dead-mother act'” at a gig in Sacramento, with the usual success: "I was boffo. I read from pitch-perfect memory and laid down even eye contact".

The "Hilliker curse" is the name Ellroy gives to the cosmic malediction for his guilt-ridden love–hate feelings towards his mother, Jean Hilliker Ellroy, and his belief that since her death he has been destined to pursue women who resemble her, or his fantasies of her. When his mother was killed, Ellroy began his lifelong quest "to write books and find the Other" – the woman who would be his Shelleyan partner, doppelgänger and soulmate. He must stalk these women, worship them, seduce them, protect them and save them. Moreover, he believes, his curse and his creativity cannot be separated: "The Curse incubated my narrative gift". As long as Ellroy is on his quest and toting this particular albatross, he feels that he can be a great and compelling writer. If and when the albatross drops off – when he is secure, contented, domesticated and normal – he risks losing his literary gift. Through the sheer force of his hammering prose, Ellroy aims to convince himself, and bludgeon the reader into agreement, that his art and his obsessions are the same.

07 November 2010


When I was young and far far sweeter than I am today one of my research tasks was to draft the official response by a Commonwealth government 'information agency' to proposals for a National Information Policy. Those proposals, under the auspices of Barry Jones, went nowhere. It is thus interesting to see release of a 65 page paper [PDF] from the new office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) titled 'Towards an Australian Government information policy'.

That paper reflects the enthusiasm, self-congratulation and unreality evident in the Government 2.0 exercise questioned in past posts of this blog.

The OAIC paper indicates that
This paper gathers together Australian reports and developments that advance the creation of Australian Government Information Policy.

Information is a valuable and powerful resource and is at the heart of government.

Good government, sound policy and just decision-making demand that information is collected, stored, managed, used and disclosed wisely and appropriately. Every decision and every activity of government uses information. Each year the amount of information held by government grows and at a faster pace.

Government information is equally valuable in the wider community. It can stimulate innovation and economic prosperity. It is used in business and lifestyle planning. Public access to government information is essential to evaluate the performance of government and hold it democratically accountable.

This paper defines some of the key issues that face Australian Government in developing information management policy, and proposes ten draft principles on open public sector information. Publication of this paper coincides with the opening of the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Terribly worthy but probably embraced by few senior officials and politicians.

What does the paper offer? It indicates that -
reform is of growing importance in Australian Government. With a view to strengthening government information policy and practices, the Australian Government has recently commissioned a number of reviews. Issues canvassed in this reform process include opening public sector information to greater use and reuse outside of government; using good information policy to stimulate innovation; enhancing participation in government through use of web 2.0 tools; encouraging a coordinated approach to government information policy; and clarifying the roles of key government information management agencies.

Concurrent with these reviews, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the FOI Act) has been substantially amended, 'to promote a pro-disclosure culture across government and to build a stronger foundation for more openness in government'. A new independent statutory office has been established, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), headed by three Commissioners: the Australian Information Commissioner, the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the existing Privacy Commissioner.

This paper outlines these policy initiatives and reforms and provides a snapshot of Australian Government information policy as it stands at the time of the establishment of the OAIC. A purpose of the paper is to identify some key issues facing the Australian Government in developing a coherent and effective information policy, including:
• Ensuring a coordinated approach to government information management, given the variety of reforms, initiatives and proposals currently at play in the federal public sector
• Ensuring smooth interaction between key information policy agencies and committees
• Bringing agencies along with new information policy developments and making sure they are well equipped to implement change
• Keeping pace with international developments and innovations on public sector information and government information management
• Driving the momentum on open and reuseable public sector information.
Those key issues are taken up in this paper in chapters that examine major reports and information policy initiatives, FOI reforms, the roles played by different Australian Government agencies, developments in other jurisdictions, current initiatives in public sector use and reuse, and guiding principles for effective information policy.
The paper goes on to comment that a theme in reviews by the national government in recent years -
is that public sector information has value as a national resource and, as such, should be managed appropriately and made publicly available.
That is hardly a revelation, given overseas studies. The paper pronounces that
A free flow of information is critical to supporting innovation and development in both the public sector and the Australian economy. [There] is the need for a coordinated approach across government agencies and levels of government to managing this valuable resource. In July 2010, the Government affirmed its commitment to a culture of openness and the promotion of citizen participation by making a Declaration of Open Government.
Declarations are easy; let's not dance in the streets until we have seen some substantive action.

The paper trumpets FOI developments, indicating that -
Far-reaching reform of the FOI Act commences operation in 2010. FOI exemptions have been narrowed, FOI application procedures have been improved, FOI charges have been lessened, and new complaint and review mechanisms have been established. A new objects clause has also been framed that emphasises the role of the FOI Act in increasing public participation in government processes and facilitating easier public access to government information. A new Information Publication Scheme requires Australian Government agencies subject to the FOI Act to publish a broad range of information on their websites.
Cue sound of trumpets, with the OAIC noting that -
Complementing these reforms to the FOI Act, the OAIC was established as a statutory agency by the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (Cth). For the first time at the Commonwealth level, privacy protection, FOI and information policy advice have been brought together in one oversight body.
Integration is fine, as long as policy is forward-looking, adequately resourced and vigorously implemented ... arguably three problems with the toothless tabby that was known as the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner.

But wait, as they say, the integration and coordination program - so easy to announce, so hard to implement in a world of budget stringencies and inter-agency hostility - rolls on.
There are currently a number of agencies with responsibilities in the area of government information policy and management. These include the OAIC, the Australian Government Information Management Office, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Attorney-General’s Department, the National Archives of Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Defence Signals Directorate. The need to harmonise the work of these agencies and develop consistent approaches across government to information management is a strong theme in recent reviews.
Are we going to do more than identify a need for harmonisation? Is the government putting its money where its mouth is, and resiling from the decision to gut several regional offices of the National Archives?

Never fear, it seems, as the Web 2.0 mantra will come to the rescue -
Overseas, important developments have been taking place at national, regional and international levels to establish a framework of principles and procedures for publication of public sector information. A strong impetus for the reforms is a recognition of the powerful role of web 2.0 technology in disseminating information and facilitating its reuse. Australian Government agencies are already well-advanced in web-based publication of public sector information. Often this is done under open licensing and in a reusable format.

Publication projects discussed in this paper include the data.australia.gov. au website that hosts Australian Government datasets; ABS publication of statistical information; the Australian Early Development Index that provides a national snapshot of childhood development; the MySchool website that contains a profile of almost 10,000 Australian schools; the Australian Spatial Data Directory that provides access to spatial data used by industry, government and the community; the Environmental Resources and Information Network that publishes datasets relating to the Australian environment; the Australian Social Science Data Archive, which is a university based service that collects and preserves data relating to social, political and economic affairs; Mapping our Anzacs, which is collection of service records published by the National Archives; the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program that has digitised out-of-copyright Australian newspapers from the 1800s to the mid-1950s; the National Public Toilet Map that shows the location of more than 14,000 toilet facilities around Australia; and geoscientific information published by Geoscience Australia.
No sign, of course, that funding cutbacks to the ABS will be reversed.

There is more self-congratuilation with the news that -
Enormous strides have already been taken by Australian Government agencies in improving information management and publication. Important challenges lie ahead. One is to ensure a coordinated approach to government information management, given the variety of reforms, initiatives and proposals currently at play in the federal public sector. Recent reports have reflected on the desirability of a consistent approach across government to information management. One option is to develop a framework of principles as a guide for all agencies. There is flexibility in a principles-based approach to develop the principles in consultation with other levels of government, with the objective of a national information policy adopted by governments.

Further issues for Australia include ensuring smooth interaction between key information policy agencies and committees, bringing agencies along with new information policy developments and making sure they are well equipped to implement change.
The paper concludes with a summary of 'principles for open public sector information' that
draw on the work of the Government 2.0 Taskforce and other existing information policy initiatives and principles and set out key themes including: open access to public sector information; effective information governance; robust information asset management; findable information; sound decision making processes; transparent complaints processes; open and accessible formats online; appropriate charging for access; clear reuse rights; and engaging the community.