Xenophobia and fear of foreign property investment sparks anti-Chinese racism


Racist fliers being handed out by the so-called “Australian Freedom Party.”

Everyone nowadays seems convinced of the fallacy that foreign investment—particularly Chinese foreign investment—is driving housing prices up and squeezing Australians out of housing market.

The Liberals and the ALP have picked up on this sentiment and introduced new restrictions on foreign development, including fines for “illegally” purchased property and extra tax payable by foreigners on new developments.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. In Sydney, the so-called “Australian Freedom Party” are distributing pamphlets that term foreign Chinese investment “ethnic cleansing” and “invasion.” It it is clear this dangerous racist nonsense has been caused by successive governmental intervention into the housing sector for political gain, both by increasing restrictions on development generally and blaming the resulting price increases on foreigners.

Why we should blame foreigners for having the audacity to choose to live here is simply beyond me. That is especially so when they choose to purchase property and clearly have the means to work and contribute to our society .Rather than decrying foreign investment, we should welcome the opportunity for more people of all backgrounds to spend their money on our shores. The more money foreigners spend here, the wealthier we become.

In reality, the cause of the housing affordability crisis is simple: restrictions on property development are preventing people from constructing the homes they want to develop, live in and sell.

Apartments in particular are a popular bugbear apt to prompt local residents into action and protest. In parts of residential, inner-city Melbourne, for example, it is almost impossible to build buildings over two storeys in size as a result of the introduction of so-called neighbourhood zoning laws. Yet the inner city suburbs are precisely where such apartments are most in demand. Accessible, close to the city and public transport, they are ideal for singles and couples. Similar restrictions on commercial and industrial developments also apply. And what holds true in Melbourne also broadly holds true throughout the rest of Australia. As Alan Moran points out, “Australia’s regulatory induced scarcity of land increases the cost of a fully serviced housing block complete with telecom, water, energy and road infrastructure from less than $100,000 to $300,000 or $400,000.”

The impact of more development on local housing prices is often complained of, but this overlooks the extraordinary benefits that come with more development: lower commercial and retail rent, lower retail and construction costs, and other savings that are passed on to consumers and intending homeowners. Simply put, life gets much cheaper if people live more closely together. That is, after all, why people congregate in cities and towns: for ready access to jobs and affordable accommodation.

With reportedly over 100,000 homeless people in Australia as result of dangerously overinflated land prices, relaxed zoning restrictions could not come any sooner. Nor should we be forgiving towards the politicians who have misled so many Australians into believing that our zoning restrictions are necessary, or that foreign property development is an evil to be decried.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.


Is Alabama about to resolve the marriage dispute?

By Damion Otto 

Alabama’s state Senate has passed a bill that will end the need for government sanctioned marriage licenses, leaving it to individuals and civil society to decide what marriage is. After July 1st—if the bill becomes law—couples will only be required to lodge a contract with the authorities to keep a legal record of the marriage.

Critics have accused Senator Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor, of trying to stifle the move towards marriage equality, an accusation he denies:

“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties… Early [in the] twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred.”

Regardless of his motivations, Albritton makes a valid point.

When the state monopolises the right to define marriage and excludes certain citizens, political conflict is inevitable.

Proponents of same-sex marriage feel that same-sex couples are victims of state-mandated discrimination. Conversely, opponents believe that marriage is a sacred institution, primarily for the purpose of procreation, that cannot—or should not—be tinkered with to cater to people with a non-traditional lifestyle.

Government intervention in the institution of marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon. It has created friction in society and inevitably results in a zero-sum game: whoever wins the debate will force the other side to abide by their values. By invading the private lives of its citizens in this manner, the government facilitates a cultural clash that undermines social cohesion and creates political turmoil.

By abolishing the requirement for government approved marriage licenses, the Alabama Senate is moving to placate anxieties on both sides of the debate.

Ousting the government from the personal lives of its citizens means that same-sex couples will no longer feel marginalised by government, whilst opponents can maintain their traditional conception of marriage without fear of top-down changes to the definition.

The issue of same-sex marriage needn’t be a zero-sum game, nor does it need to be a political one. The Alabama Senate has recognised that if it uses its power to define marriage, the policy tug-of-war will be unending. Its solution to the acrimonious dispute is to deregulate the institution of marriage. This allows people the freedom to choose the type of marriage they want, leaving the decision to recognise it up to civil society.

Whether there is a right or wrong answer to the same-sex marriage debate is beside the point. The issue is about the legitimacy and social harm of allowing the government to enforce a particular view on society and invade our personal lives.

Damion Otto is a student at the University of Western Australia and a Liberal Party member.


Take A Stand For Academic Freedom


Academic Freedom in Australia is in grave danger – and we need to act now before it is too late.
Last week, cowed by a shrill vocal minority of far-left activists, the University of Western Australia cancelled its contract with internationationally renown academic Bjørn Lomborg to establish a leading research centre to apply cost-benefit analysis to development projects .

For daring to apply evidence to public policy, Bjørn Lomborg was hounded out of our universities.

What have we become?

Academic freedom is at the heart of any university. To expose students to new ideas, to teach them to think critically, to challenge accepted wisdom – this is what a university should be about. And it is this fundamental principle that is now in grave danger.

By giving in to a few shrill online protests, the University of Western Australia has admitted that it is a closed shop. That it is shut to ideas. That challenging the accepted left-orthodoxy is not permitted.

Is this what we want our education system to be?  Run not by evidence or ideas, but by what the mob wants?

I think we are better than this. I want our universities to be world-class. But that means we need to take a stand now.

This is why I am calling on you to join our campaign in support of academic freedom:  We need to send a loud message that can not be ignored- academic Censorship will NOT be tolerated!

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance will be running an open letter in full-page newspaper advertisements proudly supporting academic freedom.

By joining our campaign, you will be publicly stating your opposition to this disgraceful attempt at academic censorship, and putting your commitment to intellectual freedom on the record.  Continue reading

Reform or Risk Missing the Gas Boom

By Damion Otto

Leaders in the resource-industry have warned that unless Australia immediately reforms its economy, it is in serious danger of missing out on the benefits of the looming natural gas boom.

Politicians know- all-too-well that Australia’s resource boom is drawing to a close – it is the leading excuse they use to defend their budget deficits and fiscal mismanagement. However, it is not true that our resource-rich country has ran out of things to offer.

The second-wave of the liquid natural gas (LNG) boom is beginning to take hold globally. With its large stocks of natural gas Australia should be well-placed to benefit, as long as governments can properly respond to the challenges the industry faces.

Instead of complaining about how the declining price of iron ore impacts their budget deficits, governments need to dismantle the barriers to investment that they have created in the Australian marketplace.

At the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association conference recently staged in Melbourne, Roy Krzywosinski, Chevron’s Australian managing director highlighted the impediments to the industry:

“Among the problems were too much regulation to get approvals, an inflexible industrial relations systems, high labour costs and taxes and government policies that don’t support investment”

These comments illustrate the clear need for reforms to make Australia more conducive to business investment if it is to avoid the “serious risk” of missing out on the benefits of the upcoming LNG boom.

Industrial relations regulation needs to be relaxed to allow a more dynamic workforce and tax incentives need to be extended to all job-creators in the economy, not just to small business.

There is more to lose than just the Abbott Government’s legacy if it stays on its current path as Fraser Government Mark II. With budgets going into the red all over the country, and political pressure to keep it that way, economic reform is urgently needed to ensure that Australia’s standard of living continues to be the world’s envy.

Abbott has claimed: “[T]he age of reform has not ended, it was merely interrupted.” But he is yet to put these words into action. If our governments fail to act, then Australia could miss out on the fruits of another resource boom. And we will all be poorer for it.

Damion Otto is a 3rd year university student at UWA Perth and a member of the Liberal Party.

Why ‘taking on big business’ is a poor idea


Dropping tax rates is an effective but underappreciated revenue maker

By Sean Jacobs

‘Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot,’ said Winston Churchill. ‘Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.’

Thirty-one year old ALP Senator Sam Dastyari is clearly not one of the handful. A recent profile of Dastyari exposes not only an alarming ignorance of tax and economic growth but everything that is slowly becoming wrong with Australian politics, which catapults people with little knowledge of the wider world (and commerce) into positions of power and responsibility.

Dastyari is currently Chair of the federal Senate Economics Committee, and has used his position not to generate ideas on economic growth but to attack companies like BHP and Leighton while leading the so-called Coalition of Common Sense that has blocked much-needed reforms to reduce Australia’s debt.

He wants to talk about ‘tax avoidance’ in Australia as a priority issue. But this is at a time when the list of more urgent economic reforms is getting longer – unemployment and debt are becoming fused parts of the Australian landscape, regulation and compliance is increasing, productivity is dropping and China’s internal attributes, upon which Australia heavily relies, aren’t showing the same enchanting metrics of dynamism. This is on top of an older Australian population that is increasingly evacuating the workforce.

I feel that Australians, especially future Australians, need to reacquaint with the pivotal role that business plays not just in a free market economy but a free society. Australian companies, both small and large, already pay tax. They also provide capital and jobs, while adding to innovation, lowering costs, enhancing productivity and stimulating economic growth. The government does not do this – business does. And the penalty of higher taxes simply makes these great outcomes harder.

We also forget that some companies take years to be successful. McDonalds and Amazon, for example, operated at a loss and teetered on bankruptcy for years before turning a profit. ‘We have learned that true rising standards of living are the product of progressive enterprise,’ said Robert Menzies, ‘the acceptance of risks, the encouragement of adventure, the prospect of rewards.’

If companies do not pay tax, or operate outside the rule of law, they face obvious penalties. Ensuring compliance with the law is good and decent. But enforcing show trials and shaking down business, all in the service of public awareness campaigning or shock value, is not the best way to either grow the economy or collect more revenue.

So-called big businesses, just like wealthy individuals, respond when tax rates shoot up. The volume, timing and nature of income can be shifted to ultimately pay less tax and, when it’s time to actually collect any money, leave the government empty-handed.

This is basically what has happened between the high spending days of Rudd’s 2008 stimulus spree and current reality – future income was overstated and now a wider gap exists between spending and revenue. Now unsurprisingly, on top of debt payments and an expanding social welfare system, more money is required and someone needs to pay more tax.

Constantly changing legislation, in an attempt to keep up or get ahead of private enterprise, is actually a blunt and rarely optimal revenue tactic. The government, quite simply, cannot keep up. Australia, instead, should actually lower taxes. Seemingly counterintuitive, reduced tax rates have long been proven to stoke dynamic growth and greater revenue in other meritocratic and like-minded economies. Going back to 1920s America, for example, the United States Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was surprised to observe that ‘a decrease in taxes causes an inspiration to trade and commerce, which increases the prosperity of the country so that revenues of the government, even on a lower basis of tax, are increased.’

Even the great Adam Smith, from the mid-to-late eighteenth century, simply observed that ‘high taxes, sometimes by diminishing the consumption of the taxed commodities, and sometimes by encouraging smuggling, frequently afford a smaller revenue to government than what might be drawn from more modest taxes.’

Economists will argue tooth and nail about the validity of tables, formulas and data. But if there’s any common sense allowed into the public discussion on Australian tax reform it most certainly lies in this approach – drop taxes and create jobs, growth and opportunities. More revenue and a growing economy awaits.

Liberal Party restricts free speech through anti-terror laws

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Prime Minister Abbott’s new law criminalising “hate preachers”—those who advocate, but do not themselves commit, acts of terrorism—is illiberal and entirely unjustified. Abbott has flagged that it could be used to target groups like Hizb ut-tahrir, an Australian Islamist group that is often silent on whether it condemns acts of terror here, and often praises acts of terror abroad. The law carries a harsh penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment, and they could have a range of unintended consequences. It could also censor some of the same controversial material as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination, which the government once promised to repeal. And in an eerie echo of one of his predecessors, Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Abbott is risking a constitutional challenge in enacting these laws. So why is he introducing them?

In considering whether restrictions on advocating terrorism are justified, we must remind ourselves that living in a free society means allowing every person to live express themselves as they see fit unless they are actually harming others. Obviously causing people physical harm is something we shouldn’t tolerate. Nor should we tolerate direct threats of immediate harm: threats to kill, or the like. But the onus must be on those who would restrict our speech to prove that the restriction in question is justified.

This law is unnecessary. There are already laws that criminalise incitement to violence. These laws should adequately address those circumstances in which extremists counsel their followers to commit specific acts of violence.

The problem with banning terror advocacy lies in its vagueness. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and advocating terrorism is not the same as threatening specific people with immediate harm.  Consider this: is calling for the overthrow of Kim Jong Il and the North Korean government an act that “condones” terror? What about the Iraqi government? What about the Australian government? Are the manifestos of our ineffectual socialist movement, which regularly call for revolution in Australia, cause for harsh jail terms and imprisonment? Moving further afield, some Australian writers have even penned articles in newspapers in support of what is commonly regarded as a terrorist group—Hamas. Hamas is a listed terrorist group in Australia, Europe and the United States. Should we jail all of these writers? Surely, for real liberals the answer must be no: people should not be jailed for words unless there is a real and immediate threat of violence expressed by their author. Debates about wars and the discontented rumblings of the far left, or other peaceful extremists are simply not a matter for law enforcement.

Even if advocating terrorism can be harmful because it persuades people towards extremist views, the costs of banning such speech could be even higher. That’s why we shouldn’t restrict people from advocating for terrorism. Restrictions could incite unrest amongst extremists, activate their membership and cause their ideas to become even more popular as a result. This may create even more terrorism in turn.

The historical record shows how this has occurred in places such as Weimar Germany. Weimar Germany’ many attempts to censor vehemently racist and anti-Semitic opinion only stirred the Nazi movement into a frenzy of outraged activity, and Nazi leaders were quick to use episodes like the imprisonment of Nazi propagandists as an excuse to hold rallies or protests in their support. Julian Stretcher, the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, was reportedly jailed and then released to cheering crowds. These incidents demonstrate how censorship can bolster support for extremist movements by giving them attention and activating their supporters. The acts of censorship committed by the Weimar regime may well have normalised subsequent acts of censorship by the Nazis—even if it was censorship for a different cause entirely.

Hizb ut-tahrir’s leaders are not blind to the power of censorship: they have accused Australia’s political class of being hypocrites who use the rhetoric of liberalism as a tool for the maintenance of political power, even as they seek to suppress extremist opinions like their own.

What Abbott seems to forget is that people’s views can change. Reason and persuasion will win over far more extremists than brute force ever will. Indeed, part of the point of tolerance is to teach people to be tolerant in turn. People’s views can be, and often are turned away from extremist opinion in Western society for precisely this reason. That is partly how our liberal, tolerant society came into being: through the successive decisions of many people to live and let live, and extend tolerance to more and more people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

The laws have other drawbacks. Conceivably, even expressing understanding for the motives of combatants in war time might be regarded as a breach of this law. For instance, columnists often write that they can empathise with the motivations of terrorists even as they condemn their means. Human empathy is normal; even those who oppose terrorists should attempt to understand them. But if a columnist also strongly condemns the present policies of the government, he may fall afoul of these laws if he does not trouble himself with also explicitly condemning terrorism. It is all too easy to see how the controversial conflicts of our time and the columnists who write about them might fall afoul of these restrictions in the right circumstances.

It is not to the point to claim that these laws do not exclude “genuine debate.” What constitutes genuine debate lies in the eye of beholder. The potential for censorship remains. Just as Andrew Bolt got himself into legal trouble because a judge thought he wasn’t being sufficiently sensitive to the feelings of his subjects, so too, a judge might find that a columnist was advocating terror rather than engaging in debate because he was not being sufficiently sensitive in making the case for an unpopular rebel cause.

From a classical liberal perspective, therefore, the government’s approach to this issue is befuddling. On one hand it once claimed to support freedom of expression, particularly if the subject matter is offensive, in calling for the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (which bans racially offensive speech). On the other it condemns offensive speech in support of ‘radical’ causes of which it disapproves. There is a profound contradiction here. No doubt the spread of racially offensive speech is a justification for the censorship of racist ideas under the Racial Discrimination Act; but many of those very same offensive ideas will be expressed by those who fall afoul of these provisions. Indeed, the government’s explicit intent is to repress the expression of extremist views like those put forward by the increasingly prominent Islamist group Hizb ut-tahrir. But ultimately, this law, like section 18C, could substantially restrict the scope of political debate even further than its enactors may intend.

It is also worth noting the historical irony: Abbott is in a sense the ideological successor of the first Liberal Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. Menzies led a campaign to ban the Communist Party and criminalise the expression of communist beliefs in Australia and was nearly successful in the attempt.

The High Court struck down the laws Menzies introduced on the basis that they were outside the scope of the Commonwealth’s law-making powers and had nothing to do with national defence. After all, a political party is merely a group of people, and communism, like Islamism, is a set of beliefs, not a bomb. A person’s associates and ideas, in and of themselves, are not the same as acts of violent terrorism and revolution.

Today, Mr Abbot’s law could also infringe upon another constitutional limit to legislative power: the implied freedom of political communication, invented by the High Court in the early 90’s.

Despite Menzies’ failure to ban communism, Australia survived the Cold War—and Robert Menzies lived on to become Australia’s longest serving PM. Perhaps Mr Abbott hopes to follow in his footsteps.

Privacy and what it means for Australia’s metadata laws and the NSA’s phone tapping

By Edward James

"Edward James is just one voice among seven billion. To Edward, it matters not what happens to him personally but; rather, what you do with what you have read. For is an idea only worth the value of its speaker or should the merits of every statement be assessed in its own right?"

“Edward James is just one voice among seven billion. To Edward, it matters not what happens to him personally but; rather, what you do with what you have read. For is an idea only worth the value of its speaker or should the merits of every statement be assessed in its own right?”

The issue of privacy goes far beyond the government intercepting telecommunications. However, the relatively recent leak by Edward Snowden regarding the activities of the US government serves as a good lesson in privacy in general.

In regards to this specific issue, there were some people that actively endorsed the government listening in, some that did not care as they have nothing to hide and others that were concerned about what this type of surveillance means for civil liberties. It is fair to be concerned about the matter. In most cases, people are expecting to have private interactions to later find out that what they have communicated has been received by unexpected parties.

There are probably plenty of conversations that you have had where, at the very least, you would not like the subject of these conversations to know what was being said about them. Or, there have probably been a number of very personal things you have said about yourself that you only wanted a selected group of people to hear (like your doctor for example). It should be noted though that, even in these circumstances, there is still a chance of others finding out. Someone may overhear what is being said or an intended recipient may pass the information on to others.

What the mass phone-tapping scandal of the NSA did was raise the likelihood of people whose opinions you care about finding out information that may sour their opinion of you. For that is all that privacy really is, stopping others from having a complete/fuller picture about your life. There are things you do and say which you would prefer that some others did not know about.

To explain, ignoring how the NSA obtained the information for the minute, does it have any real world implications if a faceless person which you will never meet knows a few intimate details about you? The answer is no. The issue of privacy and domestic spying is a game of ‘what ifs’. What if hackers stole that information and publicly published it? What if the person who viewed this information knows the same people I know? What if I become famous and that person with the information uses it to bring down my fame?

The real reason privacy is a concern is not because others may find out about what you are doing, but because it is not socially acceptable to be your true self in a way where others are aware of what you are doing. The concern about privacy extends from a general human condition of valuing those that display an idealized version of themselves instead of the reality. It would take too long to go into the evolution of such behaviour and it is not overly important why this phenomenon exists. The point is, when you break it down – the concern about privacy is really about keeping up appearances.

For an actual example of such a thing, look no further than Facebook. People present self-styled versions of their life for others to see. Compare how many profiles there are on Facebook with, say, the number of status updates highlighting that someone is watching porn and masturbating. Considering the sheer amount of porn on the internet, the number of porn-related status updates is not in line with what is expected – should people actually present complete pictures of their lives.

Privacy in and of itself is a form of disinformation. To maintain privacy is an attempt to ensure that others do not know everything there is about you.  To look at it another way, imagine really early humans with no shelter, no private property and no clothes and so on. Let us say that you are amongst these humans. You now need to void your bowels. You can either do it in the open where everyone can see or behind a bush. All other things being equal and ignoring things like defecating where you eat, what do you choose?

In the example, if you do not want others to see you go to the toilet, it is you who has to manufacture privacy by going behind a bush. For a less on-the-nose example, imagine instead you are about to have sex with a fellow human of the group – do you do it in front of everyone or do you find a secluded spot? It is the same thing, in either case there is no entitlement to privacy. To say that there is; is to say that that others cannot explore, walk around or look in a particular direction of the open world at certain times because you feel uncomfortable.

Bring it back to today, imagine now that you have a house and a fence and so on. That said, you have decided to build everything out of transparent Perspex. Anyone standing on the street or next door can see into your property and see everything you do from going to the toilet to showering to touching yourself. It was your choice to build such a place and the people seeing into your house are freely standing on public or on their own private property. The only way to stop people seeing what you do is to have others force those that would look into turning their heads or by creating an exclusionary zone around your house.

To have an entitlement of privacy in such a situation would be to forcibly control the behaviour of others – even in their own homes. Not only that, but it is to do so for the sake of your own feelings. State entitled privacy is quite literally the limitation of the actions of others to spare your feelings. The problem on legislating by feeling will be discussed later, suffice to say, considering the gamut of emotions people can have, to legislate on the basis of feelings is to set a dangerous precedent.

What does this all mean for telecommunications privacy thought? Well now imagine you are in your regular house with its windows and its walls. One should note that people can still look into your windows as they would your Perspex house. More importantly, look at the principles of sight: a certain range of electromagnetic waves are generated or reflected off things and then these waves come across an eye which responds a particular way to these waves and by responding such a way it sends signals to your brain which then depicts the world around you visually.

The only way that people can see is if you are generating or reflecting light off of yourself or your personal belongings. It is in fact you who is broadcasting visual signals to others – regardless whether you intended to or not. If you do not want others to see what you are doing simply ensure that no light escapes the area that you are doing these things in. For who are you to say that others cannot interpret the signals that you personally are sending to them in the first place?

So now consider the electromagnetic waves one broadcasts when using Wi-Fi or mobile communications. You are creating something and distributing into through public and other people’s private areas. To demand that others not look at it is to try and prevent others from using what you have freely given them. Those unintended recipients of your broadcasts are under no contractual obligation with you to behave in a certain manner – they are not trading anything to receive what you provide. Perhaps the only people who could not look are those that provide the service in the first place – on the proviso that the initial service agreement included this as a term.

In reference to internet traffic, considering the internet makes use of public networks; to say that the government and all that use those networks cannot view your data is to demand private exclusivity in a public setting. It would be like driving down public roads and asking people not to look in your car windows. Just as the government can set up cameras and sensors to track all the details of those that use the roads so to can they do that with public networks – of which the internet is a part.

Another example would be like sending a postcard in the mail and asking those to not read what is written in plain sight. It would be an entirely different story though if a letter was in an envelope and the envelope was opened en route to its destination. In the latter circumstance, a product is being tampered without the agreement of the owner of said product. This goes back to the principle that privacy is your responsibility to manufacture.

If you do not want the government to look at how you use the internet, to intercept your telecommunications or for the public in general to see what you are doing, then you need to utilize methods of disinformation to ensure that only the intended recipients receive the message. For your Perspex house; tint your windows, for your letters; put it in a sealed envelope, for your mobile signals; set up an encryption system, for internet traffic; use private networks or proxies or, again, a method of encryption and for your Wi-Fi; set a password. Note though that none of these are foolproof and people can still attempt to overcome your obfuscation.

The only time you are ‘entitled’ to privacy is when the only way that people can see what you are doing is if they enter onto or alter your private property without your authorization. Which brings this to Australia’s metadata laws. These laws force private enterprises to engage in practices that they would otherwise have a choice about in order to track the telecommunications of the people. Considering that laws are not a matter of consent but coercion – if you do not follow, you are punished and you have no choice about the creation of said laws – these laws in particular do in fact violate the only privacy you are entitled to. The government is forcibly altering matters between private enterprises in order to see something it otherwise could not.

Note here though that this assumes that the ‘right’ of the government to interfere into the actions of others is in question. Should you simply accept that this institution is freely able to determine what others may or may not do; the metadata laws are fine. And, that is fine if you do think like that. But, on that principle alone it is very hard to then draw a line between what is acceptable and unacceptable interference without it being a case of ‘because I said so’.

If one does in fact question the authority of government and should that government be a public institution then the concept of public networks extend to government information. Just as you should be able to freely stand in public and view all the world around you from that position and just as those that operate or use public networks can observe all that goes through said networks, so does the public have access to all information held by public institutions.

To describe exactly what that does or does not apply to would take many thousands of words and would be incredibly dull to read – plus it would necessitate detailing the logic used to justify each case. Suffice to say that public institutions only contain public information. Please note though that this statement cannot apply to victims of crime as they do not choose to be victims. Nor can it apply to public/civil servants under orders [of, effectively, the public] where knowledge of those orders will place them at risk of direct harm – like undercover police officers, for example.

That said, the US government loves to classify things a secret on the basis of national security. Unless a direct and logical flow of cause and effect can show that the release of such information will place an actual person at greater risk of harm the argument of necessity by security cannot hold-up.

To use an outlandish example, aliens: if there is classified evidence to their existence, this could not be kept secret on the idea that people in general would flip-out with the knowledge. Knowledge of aliens does not directly control the actions of people – you are not forced to act one way or another on that knowledge alone – and rioting still depends on the choices of rioters. Thus, there is no direct cause and effect. Even if people are prone to panic, which they are, it is just bad luck if they destroy society as you live in the world you create.

That said, public knowledge of detailed military technology or tactics does jeopardize the lives of the operators or units in defending from aggressors (assuming one’s military is used for defence against attacks or stated threats) – which is in line with protecting the identity of undercover officials.

Hopefully there is enough information here to be able to explore further cases on one’s own. The point of this piece is to highlight what privacy actually is and what that should mean if one lived in a reasonable society. Exactly how this all should be policed, including the distribution of potentially sensitive government information is another matter. Noting that the policing methods themselves would also need to be consistent with everything else as well, if one wanted to maintain reason and justice.

However, to ask and expect people to be reasonable and consistent is a foolish endeavour. The odds of it ever happening on a mass scale are slim-to-none. That does not mean people could not suddenly act in such a manner, but the presence of emotions and self-interest make it highly unlikely. This is not a bad thing; it is just a reality one has to deal with. For more on my views on how to solve issues like these, head over to my blog,  The Last Revolution.

Is Canadian Socialism In Decline?

Front Politics is a strange business.

It makes celebrities of the less Hollywood-esque of us, it can create success nobody dreamed possible, bring high flying careers crashing down, expose the worst of us, bring out the best in us.

It can also be a hard beast to predict. So often the polls can get it wrong, so often the people can swing erratically to deliver something nobody would expect.

Not in Alberta, though. Alberta is solid. Alberta is strong. Alberta is certain. Continue reading