Julia Gillard

Australia got a new Prime Minister - and why you should care

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ousted by his own party this week; he increasingly lost support because of backflips on election promises, badly implemented policies and the suggestion to introduce a super tax on mining profits. The polls began to worsen and the power hungry, poll-driven Senior fraction of the Labor Party decided to waste him. His successor is Julia Gillard, Australia's first female Prime Minister.

"Why should I care?", you might wonder.

Under Rudd Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, tried to introduce his much criticized internet filter, an issue I covered on this blog before. I won't repeat what's wrong with it but just would like to point to this video as an example of Conroy's competence.

Conroy also called Google's Street view snafu "the single biggest breach of privacy in history"; however, this did not stop his department to craft an Orwellian scheme that may require Australian ISPs to log and retain details of all people's online communications and Web browsing activity.

At the same time no one really knows what's going on because the government imposed secrecy provisions on all the parties with which it is negotiating in this matter.

"[T]he process remains completely opaque and we are being asked to agree to the imposition of a generalised surveillance regime with nothing but the vaguest reassurances about its scope, intent and the potential hazards of abuse, misuse, maladministration and outright oppression. (Well, actually, we're not being asked at all. It's just happening."

It gets even scarier given the government's intention to link the information gathered from monitoring internet activities to identifiers such as pass port numbers.

This opens up...

...the real possibility of mashing together all of the personal information available in your data matching matrix to (your income, your tax history, you bank account details, your medical records for starters) to your online life - your tweets, your Facebook account, your email, your Chatroulette history, your 4square tracking data, your blog entries, the link you clicked not realising it was taking you to a snuff porn site, the link you clicked knowing it was taking you to a celebrity porn site, the comments you leave here today, all of it.

However, now that Rudd is gone there is a chance that things might change. 

Under Gillard the Labor Party is likely to look to move on from all the unpopular policies that have been driving down its popularity; accordingly, rumours are rife that Conroy will be replaced by Senator Kate Lundy.

As Thenextweb points out this is something also Internet users outside of Australia should appreciate:

You should care because of the precedent it creates, and the global flow on effect such a precedent would create.

After all, similar schemes were considered in other countries, one of the being my native Germany.

However, the question remains in how far Lundy is really able to achieve a change in policies and in how far the Labor Party is willing to distance itself from previous policies.

Explains Thenextweb

While the opportunity to replace Conroy may be too good to pass up, the reality for the electorate is that no woman is an island, particularly in Government, and without support for a radical departure from the existing strategy, Lundy will be as effective as the man who preceded her.

At the same time she does seem more competent than Conroy and has history of engaging with new technology and its role in Government. So there's hope of Australia getting over its traditional conservative censorship hangover – something we should all be grateful for.