Anonymous political comment criminalised in South Australia
Tuesday February 02nd 2010, 5:10 am

Sieg heil!I detest frivolous use the ‘fascist’ label. Most of the time, it’s flopped out by people who don’t have any idea of what it means and thus apply it to anyone with whom they merely disagree, not just to people who act in a dictatorial or autocratic manner.

Here’s how Webster’s defines the word:

Main Entry: fas·cism
Pronunciation: \fa-shi-zm also fa-si-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian fascismo, from fascio bundle, fasces, group, from Latin fascis bundle & fasces
Date: 1921

1 often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

Unwarranted use of the term dilutes its meaning for the times when it is a completely reasonable, justifiable and accurate descriptor of a politician, like South Australia’s Labor Party Attorney General Michael Atkinson, not to mention the SA Liberal opposition who supported this uninformed- and unenforcible- rubbish:

Labor gags internet debate

Article from: The Advertiser
MICHAEL MCGUIRE

February 02, 2010 12:01am

SOUTH Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet.

The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires internet bloggers, and anyone making a comment on next month’s state election, to publish their real name and postcode when commenting on the poll.

The law will affect anyone posting a comment on an election story on The Advertiser’s AdelaideNow website, as well as other news sites such as The Punch, the ABC’s The Drum and Fairfax newspapers’ National Times site.

It also appears to apply to election comment made on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The law, which was pushed through last year as part of a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act and supported by the Liberal Party, also requires media organisations to keep a person’s real name and full address on file for six months, and they face fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia’s major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of The Advertiser, has called the new laws “draconian”.

“This is one of the most troubling erosions of the right to free speech in Australia for many years,” Right to Know spokeswoman Creina Chapman said.

BEAT THE CENSOR: Have your say now. Normal moderation rules apply – until the writs for the March 20 election are issued. [Ed.- Note with amusement the anonymous comments placed by dolts who support this stupidity. Irony much?]

THE ADVERTISER EDTIORIAL: CENSORING FREE SPEECH IN THE SECRET STATE

“It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that voters are able to express personal views about the competing claims of political candidates without the fear that they might end up on a hit list held by a government whose policies they may have opposed.

“Isn’t the whole point of public debate that it is public and that Australians, including South Australians, are smart enough to read or listen to the views of others and make up their own minds?”

Ms Chapman also pointed out that newspaper blogs such as AdelaideNow were moderated and publishers and broadcasters took responsibility for the material they published.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson denied that the new law was an attack on free speech.

“The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud,” Mr Atkinson said.

“There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else.”

Mr Atkinson also said he expected The Advertiser to target him for sponsoring the law. “I am also certain that Advertiser Newspapers and News Limited will punish me personally, viciously for being the attorney-general responsible for this law,” he said.

“You will publish false stories about me, invent things about me to punish me.” [Ed.- there's no need. Your own accurate quotations damn you pretty effectively]

The Advertiser’s editor, Melvin Mansell, said: “Clearly this is censorship being implemented by a government facing an election.

“The effect of that is that many South Australians are going to be robbed of their right of freedom of speech during this election campaign.

“The sad part is that this widespread suppression is supported by the Opposition.

“Neither of these parties are representing the people for whom they have been elected to govern.”

While Tasmania has similar provisions, it is believed the SA law is the most heavy-handed in Australia.

The SA law also differs from federal legislation, which preserves the right of internet users to blog under a pseudonym.

The new legislation could also apply to talkback radio.

The law will apply as soon as the writs for the March 20 election are issued. The writs for the election can be issued any time between now and 25 days before the election. The law will then lapse at 6pm on polling day.

Mt Atkinson said there was no intention to broaden the law to take it beyond the period of elections.

Similar laws have been in use in South Korea for some time and China also introduced a similar requirement last year.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said yesterday while the Liberal Party had supported the amendment to the Electoral Act, she believed it would be too broad to implement if it included Facebook and Twitter and said Mr Atkinson should introduce a regulation to limit its scope.

“It is clearly not the intention of what we understood that to be,” she said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O’Gorman predicted the new laws would have a “chilling” effect on free speech and said South Australia was building a reputation as a secretive state.

“Freedom of speech is generally not high on the agenda for (the South Australian Government) in any given 12-month period.”

John Quiggin, a long-time blogger and Research Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland, doubted whether the laws were enforceable.

“They can pass as draconian law as they like, but without the capacity to impose their own internet censorship it’s going to be a dead lemon,” he said.

“Anyone who wants to can set up an anonymous blog.”

“It will be totally ineffectual with someone who sets up a WordPress blog post in the US under a false name and publish whatever they want.”

Atkinson has demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of the internet, hasn’t he?

When government criminalises speech to vainly attempt to protect itself from criticism, or worse, to try to win an election, they’ve waaaay overstepped the mark.

Well, you know what? Fuck Godwin. Michael Atkinson is a FASCIST, as is anyone else who supported this profoundly anti-democratic legislation.

Do you live in South Australia? Please, comment anonymously on mgk about these ratbags all you want- and vote for any non-ALP or Liberal candidates.

Note to South Australia Government: mgk is published via a webhosting service in the USA, for a damn good reason- and that is, in the main, to be out of reach of government censorship of political speech in Australia. I absolutely will not cooperate in release of any information about anonymous commenters. I will not just ignore, but will actively defy any demand to comply with this stupid law. Come and get me, if you think you can.

Australia needs a constitutional Bill of Rights- RIGHT NOW.

-weez


12 Comments so far
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Labor gags internet debate
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/comments/0,22638,26665381-5006301,00.html

See my post 12:56AM (Anonymous) 2/2/2010.

Comment by Tiger Jack 02.02.10 @ 12:49 am

Godwin’s Law is designed to prevent us learning from the past and applying history by analogy. It’s a pile of crap. And I agree with everything you’ve said.

Jeez, I’d better not cross the SA border now!

Comment by Armagny 02.02.10 @ 9:10 am

Armo, I’d really like to know how this law doesn’t violate ‘fair dealing’ legislation in Australia.

Merits note that anonymous political comment is a constitutionally protected form of speech in the USA.

Comment by weez 02.02.10 @ 11:09 am

SA Votes 2010 – Uncensored

Comment by weez 02.02.10 @ 4:54 pm


2000 comments slamming Atkinson on AdelaideNow:

Outrage as Rann Government, Opposition unite to gag internet election debate

More comments on the Rann Government’s controversial internet censorship laws

And the result of the public outrage?

Atkinson backs down on anon comment law, vows to repeal

Mark Newton on Twitter:

@PremierMikeRann Great. Now get him to pull his head in over games, and fix the R18+ DVD idiocy and we’ll all be back to normal. Deal?

Atkinson and the rest of the corrupt Labor govt must go, but I’m STILL amazed that SA Greens & LIberals supported the anon comment criminalisation. There’s literally no-one left to vote for in SA.

Comment by weez 02.03.10 @ 5:02 am

That’s a crazy law, what are they thinking? Is there any explanation for how these absurd ideas are getting legislated?

Comment by bulletproofcourier 02.03.10 @ 12:03 pm

It is (was?) crazy as a hatful of badgers… but the reason why they got away with it is that Australia has no explicit protections on free speech rights, Moreover, the legislation was buried in a bunch of other stuff, was passed over the xmas holidays and ALL political parties in SA were complicit in the passage. No SA pollie- not one- had free speech rights in mind.

Anonymous political speech is constitutionally protected in the US, see Talley v. California, 1960. The nut is that government has no legitimate interest in the identity of the speaker, unless to punish the speaker for speaking in opposition to the government. If the government disagrees with the content of the dissenting speech, they can redress via countercomment. Mind, that all hinges upon the 1st & 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, and legislation of that type is absent in Australia.

Comment by weez 02.03.10 @ 12:18 pm

BTW, I said “was?” because the SA Parliament is in prorogue pending an election and as such the crap law can’t be repealed until after the election. While the idiot responsible for the law says he’ll repeal it, there’s no guarantee he’ll be re-elected.

There are suggestions that the law would never have survived a High Court challenge, anyway. A commenter on the ABC story “SA backs down on internet comment curb” says:

Tim:
03 Feb 2010 10:33:34am

The law in question would have failed any High Court challenge characterizing it as a valid law with respect to the implied freedom of political communication (Australian Capital TV v Cth [1992]; Nationwide News Ltd v Wills [1992]; Lange v ABC [1997]). The freedom is IMPLIED because it arises from sections 7 and 24 of the Australian Constitution that speak to a parliament “directly chosen by the people”. Thus, under the Australian Constitution there is no RIGHT to freedom of political communication, but a GUARANTEE from legislation restricting such a freedom. While the AdelaideNow online news blog may crow as much as it likes that the law’s repeal was due to their good work as a vehicle for public opinion on the issue, Atkinson repealed the legislation only to avoid the far worse professional humiliation of seeing the legislation going down in flames in the national spotlight. The legislation would have NEVER, EVER weathered a High Court challenge.

Regardless, anyone charged under the SA law would have had to fund (and suffer through) a defence.

Comment by weez 02.03.10 @ 12:26 pm

Atkinson repeals anon comment law effective immediately: Attorney-General Michael Atkinson vows to repeal election internet censorship law amid reader furore

Comment by weez 02.03.10 @ 3:41 pm

He may be a consumate dick for putting them up in the first place, but as both you and he have noted, they got support from all the other (now silent) pollies, and I think he deserves a modicum of credit for doing what most pollies won’t, which is to back down on a bad proposal.

It’s kinda crap that now his backing down damages him more than the actual policy (see the advertiser’s poll) because this is precisely the reason pollies sit on crap proposals far too long, trying to find a way to steer them through.

Comment by Armagny 02.04.10 @ 12:58 pm

Shame on you, Rann. What a terrible day for South Australia. There is not many things more evil than the instigation of censorship – after all, that’s how the Nazis got control. How did this happen? So many terrible things happen when the majority of people do nothing. What a tragedy for South Australia especially when one remembers what a go-ahead, progressive State it USED to be. Once such freedoms are snatched away by legislation, it is almost impossible to claw them back. RIP Democracy in SA…

Comment by Kathy 02.17.10 @ 7:35 pm



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