Liberal Party member Chris Abood on the internet blacklist

23 03 2009

From his recent Online Opinion piece:

So how does one get blacklisted?

Quite easily.

There are two ways to end up on the blacklist, either through direct channels or inadvertently. Currently, if I come across a website that I do not approve of either because I believe it is illegal or does not suit my ideological bent, I can make a complaint to the ACMA. In order to make a complaint, I must be an Australian resident or a company that carries on activities in Australia, provide the internet address and/or sufficient access details to enable ACMA to access the online content and provide reasons as to why I believe the online content is prohibited. The ACMA will then make a determination as to whether that site is added to the blacklist. It is not clear how the ACMA makes this determination. It has also been reported that other bodies such as filter software companies can also add websites to the blacklist. It is not clear how this is policed.

So how does one inadvertently end up on the list? Imagine that Big Buba from the Buba crime syndicate published a websites called However this is a front for an illegal website publishing unsavoury pictures. The site is found, a complaint made to ACMA and rightly added to the blacklist. A few weeks later, Big Buba closes down the site and moves to a new domain called to try and keep ahead of the authorities. This site is also added to the blacklist and a few weeks later the site moves again and again.

Meanwhile, Jan who has been working for a large multi-national for 20 years is called into her manager’s office and told that she is being made redundant. With her large redundancy cheque, she decides to pursue her dream of running a tour business. She calls her business Friendly Tours and finds that the domain name is available. She registers the domain name and has a nice website built.

Jim, a dentist, decides to have a website built for his practice. His Internet Service Provider assigns his domain to an IP address that was previously occupied by Both Jim and Jan are friends of mine. I offer to help them increase their Google rankings by linking to their sites through my website, my blog and my Facebook page.

A few weeks go by and Jim and Jan start getting emails from people saying they cannot access their websites. They don’t know why. They try to contact me for an explanation but cannot get hold of me. That is because I am in court being fined $11,000 a day for linking to a banned site. The people who emailed Jim and Jan are also in court facing jail terms of ten years for trying to access a site contained on the blacklist.

This blacklist is to form the backbone of the government’s mandatory filtering regime. The leaked list apparently contains 2,395 websites. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy wants to expand this to 10,000 websites. Will the ACMA be under pressure to find sites, any sites, to reach this number? The legitimacy of the blacklist will always be in question while owners of websites on the blacklist have no means of recourse especially if that site is legitimate.

Something I am curious about is whether this policy is unanimously supported or even popular among members of the ALP. If not, what are dissenting ALP members doing about it?

The Wonderful World of Magical Thinking XXXIV

27 11 2007

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The Opus Dei wing of the Liberal Party is being blamed by moderates for the fall of the Howard Government. (While they’re at it, they might also throw some blame at Howard himself for backing Silas in Mitchell.) (Sydney Morning Herald)
  2. The Australian Christian bookstore chain Koorong (along with other Christian book retailers) has indicated that it will be unlikely to stock a new Bible study guide challenging the notion that the Bible excludes same-sex relationships. (The Age)
  3. A British primary school teacher in the Sudan faces a maximum of 40 lashes, six months in jail and a fine for the dastardly crime of “allegedly insulting Islam’s prophet by allowing children to call a teddy bear Mohammed.” You have got to be fucking kidding me. (AFP; see also Pharyngula)
  4. I’ll let this grab from a Cutting Edge radio transcript speak for itself:

    The demons of Satan’s army will soon physically manifest themselves as Aliens, arriving in armadas of space ships which we have heretofore called UFO’s. The plan calls for them to suddenly appear at many places on Earth simultaneously. Some will appear at the White House to confer with the President; some will appear at the United Nations; other aliens will appear at key governmental buildings all over the globe. Aliens will appear in some people’s homes or on their front yards. The world’s peoples will literally be shocked out of their minds. This is the Plan. This may occur before the worldwide Rapture of the Church; we must be prepared to deal wisely with this planned phenomenon.

    (Via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)

  5. “Nice soul you have here. Awful shame if something were to happen to it.” More standover tactics by Catholic clergy (obviously from the Pell wing) in the US. (The story comes via Fundies Say the Darndest Things. The mobster reference should be credited to Denis Loubet of the Non-Prophets)
  6. I just had a look at the Australian Christian Lobby’s list of what it considers are the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian Greens’ policies. Among the “weaknesses” the Lobby identifies are the Greens’ support for a Bill of Rights, and their support for the extension of anti-discrimination legislation to (partially-taxpayer-funded) private schools as well as public schools–a reminder, if any were required, of how the ACL and the Religious Right in Australia generally are no friends of liberal democracy.

UPDATE: Off-topic, but Phillip Adams really sums up why Labor’s victory is so sweet.

Humor via Atheist Media:

The Blanket of Faith?

8 11 2007

(With sincere apologies to Chris)

Chris from A Churchless Faith has a great post wherein he reflects upon the debate between atheism and theism (and his own fatigue with it).

Most people don’t have a problem with people who believe that aliens landed in area 51 or that the moon landing was staged because it doesn’t actually impact on the way they treat other people. The big problems with religious people, as I see it, is when religious people do evil things because they believe it is what God wants. That evil stretches the spectrum from genocide to indoctrinating children in their own faith with out giving them a choice about it or denying the rights of scientists to do science.

Quite. The atheism vs. theism debate can be enlightening philosophically, but I think the struggle between critical and magical thinking is more pressing, and the struggle between theocracy and democracy more urgent still.

I did wonder about this passage, however:

I also think it is worth Xns conceding that science has more to say to faith than faith has to say to science. Faith is about a general whole of life perspective, science is about specific measurable things. Faith is like a big blanket and Science is like a knife, hitting only specific areas of the blanket. It may cut a hole in the creationism part of the blanket, but the blanket is still there, it may cut so many holes that many people consider the blanket is no longer a blanket.

This seems to me to be a rather unfortunate metaphor. If faith is like a big blanket, what purpose is the blanket supposed to serve? Is it a security blanket?

Speaking of theocracy versus democracy, Wednesday’s Religion Report ran a show (which I haven’t listened to yet) on “Australia’s Christian Vote,” featuring Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby, Fred Nile of the Christian Democrats, and Christine Milne of the Australian Greens. And this Sunday, The Spirit of Things will feature Ian Bryce, Senate candidate for the Secular Party, who will join a discussion on the societal benefits of secularism.

Election ’07: Whither the religious moderates?

30 10 2007

“The centre needs to be reaffirmed,” says Alister McGrath. “I want to make it clear, I have no doubt there are some very weird religious people who might well be dangerous, but those of us who believe in God, know that, and we’re doing all we can to try and minimise their influence.” I seriously doubt it. All I seem to hear from religious moderates nowadays is bitching and moaning about how the mean and nasty atheists–sorry–“new atheists”–don’t understand religion and how wonderful it is. (There are exceptions, of course). Even McGrath is “doing all he can” to minimise the influence of the religious nutjobs: he’s in Australia “helping evangelicals brush up on their arguments against The God Delusion” (emphasis added).

Meanwhile, the loudest and most influential voices in Australian Christendom belong to the Religious Right. You don’t believe me? Back in August the Australian Christian Lobby was able to organise a National Press Club event, broadcast live across the country, in which both John Howard and Kevin Rudd addressed 200 church figures. That’s influence.

Whither the religious moderates when this was taking place?

Want more evidence? Try this one on: it is actually possible, in a secular liberal democracy such as Australia, for someone who advocates the teaching of faith-based pseudoscience in the science classrooms of public schools, and who considers homosexuality to be a “perversion,” to gain preselection as a candidate in a major political party. Instead of laughing and mocking him all the way back to his megachurch, enough party members consider him a suitable representative of their political organisation.

Whither the religious moderates in the Liberal Party, and why aren’t they doing all they can to minimise the influence of this breed of nutjob, not to mention his supporters?

Now the Australian Christian Lobby has set its sights on Labor. Kevin Rudd wears his love for Baby Jesus on his sleeve, so the ACL is seeking to wedge him on the issues that should be closest to the heart of any Christian. No, not poverty. No, not the environment. I mean the really important stuff, like “family values”–which basically translates as gay marriage, abortion, porn on the intertubes and gay marriage. The Religious Right was able to wedge Labor on the gay marriage issue back in 2004, and Labor of course dropped its pants, bent over, stuffed the ball gag into its mouth and willingly submitted. Will it happen again? Probably.

Whither the religious moderates in the Labor Party? Kevin Rudd marked his ascendancy to the leadership of the Labor Party with a Monthly essay that, with its emphasis on the social-gospel element of Christianity, threatened to pull out the rug from beneath the Religious Right. He had the cojones to stick it to the fundies back then; does he still possess them now, or will he be reduced to shameless pandering? The ACL certainly hopes so.

Meanwhile, Australia’s foremost member of the Spanish Inquisition has offered an apologia for the continued legal discrimination against gays. “Same-sex marriage and adoption changes the meaning of marriage, family, parenting and childhood for everyone, not just for homosexual couples,” says Cardinal Pell, without offering any supporting evidence. His comments have the support, naturally, of the ACL’s Jim Wallace, who says:

[Discrimination] is not something that is necessarily a bad concept, [. . .] I think what we’re talking about here is making sure that while we remove unfair discrimination, that we do not allow a very small part of the population to force their model for relationships to be adopted as the community norm, when it isn’t.

OH NOES!!! Ending discrimination against gays = MANDATORY BUGGERY!!!

[Wallace] says the problem is that equal rights for gay families complicate the definition of family.

“It confuses children and it’s suggested that this is a normal and healthy alternative,” he said.

OH NOES!! Ending discrimination against gay familes = LITTLE CHILDREN BEING SEDUCED INTO A LIFETIME OF BUGGERY!!!

Whither the religious moderates on this issue? Why aren’t they doing all they can to minimise the influence of this Bronze-Age model of morality?

No, I guess it’s easier to whine about the mean and nasty atheists not understanding religion and how wonderful it can be. Meanwhile, the Religious Right’s two-pronged (Protestant-fundie, and Catholic-fundie) assault on secular liberal democracy continues unabated. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now: we need people in Australian politics who are willing to speak up for the Enlightenment constituency (and religious moderates, frankly, can’t be trusted to do it). We think, and we vote.

P.S. I wasn’t the only one unimpressed with the recent Religion Report interview with Alister McGrath. It is being roundly panned on the ABC Guestbook.

Election ’07: What’s in it for secular democracy?

14 10 2007

You will be aware by now that a federal election has been called for November 24th–an election anticipated with a faint whiff of hope by those of us on the latte left, and undoubtedly with dread by those on the Nescafe right. (A recent poll indicates that Labor has an eighteen-point start on the Coalition.)

Now, the reasons for voting out the Coalition government are manifold: Workchoices, the underfunding of public education, teacher-bashing, material support for the Burmese military junta’s repression of pro-democracy groups, homophobic marriage laws (and opposition to civil partnership legislation), its disgusting treatment of asylum seekers, its equally disgusting policy on African refugees, the politicisation of the public service, the injustices meted out to David Hicks and Mohammed Haneef, the AWB scandal, and the intimidation and attempted silencing of its critics. By no means is that list exhaustive–I’m sure you can think of more reasons.Actually, I can. There can be no doubt that the Howard years have been–to say the least–detrimental to the health of liberal democracy in Australia. And one the main vehicles of the Howard Government’s assault on liberal democracy has been its alliance with the religious right–modelled, surely, on a similar alliance between the GOP and the (Christian) religious right in the US that, until the 2006 Congressional elections, proved to be a successful formula. The alliance has manifested itself overtly at times: Government figures falling over themselves to address megachurch congregations and endorse Christian Right initiatives like the National Day of Thanksgiving. (Sadly, Labor figures have also jumped on the bandwagon.) At other times, the religion-baiting has been more subtle: witness the “values debate” regarding public schools, for instance, or the school chaplaincy programme. Furthermore, the Howard Government has not been above backroom deals with sects at the more extreme and ultraconservative ends of the Catholic and Protestant spectra: Opus Dei and the Exclusive Brethren.

Surely, for the secularist, there can be no question regarding who not to vote for on November 24th. But how secular-friendly–and therefore how democracy-friendly–are some of the other parties?

Labor: On various issues–most notably the 2004 Federal ban on same-sex marriage–Labor has marched in lockstep with the Howard Government, and has been–probably for reasons of political expediency (though Labor still got its arse handed to it on a plate in the 2004 election)–equally keen to kowtow to Christian fundamentalists. Kevin Rudd, however, has sought to reposition, or perhaps re-emphasise Labor as a party of the religious left: his Monthly article “Faith and Politics”, besides marking his own entrance onto the main stage of the Australian political scene, brilliantly undermined the dominance of conservative voices in Australian Christianity by reminding Christians of the social-justice traditions of their faith. (And in retrospect, his appearance at the Australian Christian Lobby’s Fundython in August probably needs to be seen in that light.) If The Australian‘s Paul Kelly is to be believed, a Rudd Labour government–given the willingness of its leader to wear his Christianity on his sleeve–does not bode well for secularism in Australia. But I don’t know. I daresay that, on the whole, the religious left is certainly more secular-friendly than the religious right–despite the boneheaded remarks of Jim Wallis–and Rudd’s brand of religio-politics would surely be an improvement over the Howard model (and a damn sight more cerebral).

The Greens . . . well, it is difficult to find much on the Greens wrt secularism, and that is probably a good sign. They are strongly in favour of abortion rights, stem cell research, and LGBT rights, for starters, and as a consequence have found themselves the subject of attacks by the Christian Democratic Party, Family First , the Catholic magazine AD2000, Sydney Anglicans and the Exclusive Brethren. Their education policies in particular are–on the whole–sensible and fair, but I’m especially impressed by their call to “extend to private schools the anti-discrimination measures that apply in public schools.” Two thumbs up.

The Australian Democrats: Of the “major” minor parties, the Australian Democrats stand alone in openly advocating the separation of church and state. They have also called for a Bill of Rights. Therefore: three thumbs up, since on many other issues that have some bearing on secularism or the relationship between religion and politics, their policies are very similar to the Greens’.

Family First: Erm . . . how did they get in there?

One Nation: What the hey?

I should also give a shout-out to the Secular Party of Australia, which will be running for Senate election in the upcoming election.

Fun fact: A 2006 study found that “Less than half Australia’s young people say they believe in a god, and many believe there is little truth in religion.”

Yes, as I was saying: I’ve been away, so how about filling me in?

19 09 2007
Japanese toilets: Kenny was right.

I’ve been feeling a little cut off from the rest of the world these past few week sans internet. It’s been difficult enough keeping up with goings on in Japan, given my workload and my inability to read or understand the language, and nigh-on impossible to keep up with happenings at home. I’ve been missing my mornings with Fran (of Radio National Breakfast fame)–in a platonic sense, you understand–which makes it all the more wonderful to finally have an internet connection and to be able to enjoy streaming audio. (I’ve been surviving off my collection of podcasts all this time–“life in the fast lane,” I know.)

Life in Japan has many advantages, of course. Two which spring immediately to mind are that I don’t care that the Eagles have been eliminated from the finals, and I don’t really care that Australia looks likely to be eliminated from the Twenty20 World Cup. It all just seems so trivial–and probably should have seemed as trivial when I was back in Australia.

Of course, living in Japan also means that I am living outside the Abrahamosphere. Japan is a religious country in its own way, and that is a topic I intend to investigate while I am living here, because I know so little about it. It’s just that the Japanese (yes, I know I’m generalising) don’t seem to feel as if they need to wear their faith on their sleeves; and–get this–their society manages to hold itself together, quite successfully I might add, in the absence of Jesus. Japan held a federal election last year, but to my knowledge there existed no Japanese Buddhist or Shinto Lobby that deemed itself (by virtue of its very religiosity) qualified to vet the ethical credentials of the contending parties’ leaders on national television. And it is actually possible to gaze from a lofty height across the skyline of a Japanese city and not see a single spire, cross, or minaret–and yet somehow, amazingly, the citizens manage to make it through a single day, even many single days, without raping and killing each other!!! Go figure.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it nonetheless), it sounds like paradise to me. (The intolerable summer heat and humidity is quite another matter.) But I do have a favour to ask. During my sojourn in the land of adzuki bean-flavoured frappacinos, I fear that I’ve become quite ignorant of matters religious, political, politico-religious and religio-political in Australia, the US and elsewhere. What’s been happening?

Blog Against Theocracy: the Australian Christian Lobby Has Control of Your Television

4 07 2007

On August 9th, both John Howard and Kevin Rudd will address 200 church figures in a National Press Club event, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, that will be broadcast live across the country. Why? Here’s why:

The Federal Election, to be held later this year will be a significant election. In the 2004 election for the first time in many years, election analysts identified the impact of a Christian vote or Christian constituency. ACL wants to assist this important constituency to make an informed decision on how to vote in 2007.

In 2004, the influence of the Christian Right (whenever you hear someone like Jim Wallace crowing about “the Christian vote,” he means the Christian Right) was most keenly felt in the arena of marriage legislation, when the Federal Government–eagerly supported by the “Opposition”–introduced a law banning same-sex marriage. The impact of this new “Christian constituency” was soon felt in the education portfolio, where in 2005 the then Minister Brendan Nelson, having watched the Campus Crusade for Christ DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life: Intelligent Design, opined that ID should be taught in schools if that’s what parents wanted. And last year, in the midst of a long debate over the supposed lack of “values” in secular schools, the Federal Government unleashed a $90 million plan to fund school chaplains.

So what’s on the agenda this year? First of all, the ACL is very keen to see that the filthy homosexualists don’t get too uppity about “equality under the law” and whatnot: “We would [. . .] not want to see any [. . .] moves made which would undermine the traditional definition of families, and therefore the strength of families as an institution, or jeopardise the best interests of the child.” (WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN???) Furthermore, now that the Federal Government has banned the sale of X-rated material to the dark-skinned savages, the ACL is calling for an across-the-board ban, lest this filth corrupt the pure hearts of decent white Christian folk:

“The deeply concerning problems in the Northern Territory show just how great a problem pornography is and how far greater controls are needed,” Mr Wallace said. “It is time we put the future of our children before the demands of the pornographic film industry!”

WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN??? Hmmm . . . there seems to be a theme here.

While it will be interesting to hear Rudd couching ALP social democracy in the patois of the Bible-thumper, while Howard promises to lead the nation into an era of 50’s-style socks-and-sandals wowserism, it would be nice if there was an Enlightenment constituency–a secular liberal democratic constituency–for our political leaders to pander to.

After all: we think, and we vote.