Tim Longhurst's Blog

Cost of Australia’s ‘involvement’ in Iraq

March 29th, 2006 · 2 Comments

iraqwar.jpgIn the past I’ve talked about the cost of the Iraq war to Iraqis and today Crikey‘s daily newsletter today has calculated the financial (not moral or ethical) cost of the Iraq war to Australians:

“By June a Australia’s war in Iraq will have cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, according to defence think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute. That’s enough to buy:

  • 42 new high schools each catering for 720 year 7-10 students … or
  • Two 740-bed hospitals … or
  • 116,346 fully subsidised new Long Day Care childcare places (for one year) … or

  • 25 kilometres of six-lane freeway (at $48 million per kilometre) … or
  • 480,000 new places in the New Apprenticeships access program that caters to occupations where there are skills shortages … or
  • 83 new technical colleges.

Depending on your point of view, it’s the price we’re paying for a) securing Iraqi freedom or b) our subscription fee to the Australia-US alliance…”

If you want to see what $1.2 billion helps pay for, check out the photo gallery at Robert Fisk’s website. It’s hard to look at, but I’m sure it’s far more painful for the people in the photos.

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Category: Peace between people

The Prime Minister’s Office, Melbourne IT, Richard Neville and johnhowardpm.org

March 21st, 2006 · 3 Comments

jhpm.jpgFinally, we can have some closure on the story of johnhowardpm.org…

After tens of phone calls, many conversations, lots of notes on scrap paper, several stories in the media and plenty of google-searches, I can now report the following key facts relating to johnhowardpm.org:

  • Richard Neville set up the spoof website, johnhowardpm.org, which contained a speech that appeared to convey John Howard’s “second thoughts” on the war in Iraq. The site may have breached the copyright notice on the real Prime Minister’s site, as many of the design elements appear to have been directly lifted from the PM’s real site. Source: johnhowardpm.org and this copyright notice.
  • The Australian High-Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) contacted Melbourne IT and requested johnhowardpm.org be shut down. Source: Bruce Tonkin, CTO of Melbourne IT on Radio National
  • Melbourne IT asked the AHTCC to issue the request in writing. A letter arrived from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and was copied to the AHTCC. ibid
  • Melbourne IT‘s staff then compared the real Prime Minister’s site with johnhowardpm.org, found they were similar and based their decision to freeze the domain on the ‘credibility of the applicant’ (ie. the credibility of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet). ibid
  • Melbourne IT shut down the domain without communicating with the domain’s legal owner, Richard Neville. Source: Richard Neville (conversation)
  • Richard asked me to investigate why his site had stopped working. I soon discovered his domain was ‘on hold’, but when I called Melbourne IT, they said it had nothing to do with them.
  • I ran the story on this site, Crikey ran the story in their newsletter and Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) soon published the story on their website. Only after the SMH story – a full three days after the domain was shut down – did Melbourne IT contact Neville to inform him they’d shut down his website at the Government‘s request. Source: RichardNeville.com
  • Bruce Tonkin, CTO of Melbourne IT, has accepted that this was all handled very badly and has indicated that it may have been a mistake for his company to take the Prime Minister’s office at their word. In its ten years of operation, this was the first time Melbourne IT had shut down a satirical website. Source: Bruce Tonkin, CTO of Melbourne IT on Radio National
  • Radio National’s Breakfast with Fran Kelly interviewed both Richard Neville and Bruce Tonkin. This program highlighted the flawed process by which johnhowardpm.org was shut down. Source: Radio National
  • johnhowardpm.org is no longer frozen and is currently directing users to RichardNeville.com.

My thoughts

Richard Neville should have been given an opportunity to respond to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s complaint before the website was shut down.

Melbourne IT should have told Neville they had shut down his domain and why. Neville could have quickly rectified his site (if necessary) and had it back online in a matter of hours. Instead, Neville was left guessing for three days what had happened to his site and was unaware of the reasons for its shut down.

Richard’s ‘jam’ relied on copyright images and text. Copyright law by definition limits the methods by which an individual’s ideas and beliefs may be expressed. This is an issue dealt with at length by Lawrence Lessig, who believes the entire basis by which ideas are protected requires a rethink. This is a debate we ought to be having in Australia.

Thanks is owed to Ben Shearman at Crikey and Gregg Borschmann at Radio National. Conversations with them helped crystalise the key issues in this story. They did a great job in covering the story in their respective formats.

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Category: culture jamming

Melbourne IT shuts down johnhowardpm.org at government’s request

March 16th, 2006 · No Comments

melbit.gifA satirical website, johnhowardpm.org has been shut down by Melbourne IT at the request of the Australian Government. Two Melbourne IT customer service personnel have claimed that representatives of the Government requested the site be shut down, and Melbourne IT’s Policy Office chose to honour that request without contacting the site’s owner, Richard Neville.

Over two days Yahoo! and Melbourne IT denied involvement in the unexplained removal of johnhowardpm.org from the web.

This morning however, Melbourne IT staff allege that as-yet unnamed representatives of the Federal Government requested johnhowardpm.org be shut down. Melbourne IT, who sold Richard Neville the domain name just days ago, failed to contact their customer or invite him to respond to the Government complaint.

Richard Neville is in the dark as to what the Government’s complaint is or why it was upheld by Melbourne IT. Preliminary research into this matter indicates that the domain holder should always be invited to respond in such disputes.

A request for information has been lodged with Melbourne IT’s Policy Office. Melbourne IT has indicated that a representative from their policy office will be in contact to explain their actions by close of business today.

When johnhowardpm.org mysteriously went off-line a little more than 24 hours after launching, I assumed it must have been a glitch by the site’s webhost, Yahoo. I didn’t even entertain the notion that Australia’s Government would be so heavy-handed as to have the site shut-down.

The satirical speech at the centre of this controversy is available here and is also available as a PDF at Richard Neville’s site.

Melbourne IT have indicated a representative from their Policy Office will contact me today. If/when they do I will post updates here.

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Category: culture jamming

What’s going on with johnhowardpm.org?

March 15th, 2006 · No Comments

picture_8.1.jpgFor those of you following the story of johnhowardpm.org, I have a brief update. This could be a story about censorship, but it’s far more likely to be a story about what a terrible hosting company “Yahoo!” is.

The latest word from Yahoo is that they can’t explain why the site isn’t working and they don’t know how to fix it. The bills have been paid, everything is set up correctly. They think it’s got something to do with the ‘domain status’ which is in a ‘hold state’, but Yahoo themselves can’t work out why.

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Category: culture jamming

Games fever hits Melbourne

March 15th, 2006 · No Comments

picture_7.1.jpgThe Commonwealth Games may be overshadowed by an event that has invited millions more competitors: the world’s first ever “Graffiti Games”.

According to the Graffiti Games Organising Committee (GGOC), Melbourne Council has been attempting to sterilise Melbourne:

“With street artists and the homeless currently being purged how long can it be until people with less than $100 in their pockets, non-designer tracksuits or crooked teeth also find themselves “United By The Moment” in being frogmarched to the city limits for fear of cluttering up the view for wealthy tourists?”

More at: graffitigames2006.com [editor’s note: unfortunately this resource is no longer available online and we have therefore removed the link]

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Category: culture jamming