Hoyden about Town » Mary http://hoydenabouttown.com HOYDEN (hoid'n): woman of saucy, boisterous or carefree behavior Tue, 30 Sep 2014 23:50:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi’s first episode discussion thread http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140823.17149/doctor-who-peter-capaldis-first-episode-discussion-thread/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140823.17149/doctor-who-peter-capaldis-first-episode-discussion-thread/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 13:25:07 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=17149 Once the ABC and BBC broadcasts begin, this thread should be assumed to contain spoilers. ]]> My bio for Hoyden still reads:

This page is the only place in the entire Hoyden community where Mary dares to confess that she is not especially interested in Doctor Who. She hastens to assure Hoyden‘s dedicated readers that she has nothing but affection for otters.

Twelfth Doctor in the Tardis

This is no longer quite true: I now watch the big events. I saw the 50th anniversary episode, the last Christmas episode and I have every intention of watching the first Capaldi episode and seeing how it goes. Thus, a thread!

Note on times:

In Australia, the ABC will simulcast the episode with the BBC. This means it will screen at 4:50am AEST on Sunday August 24 (4:20am ACST, 2:50am AWST). It becomes available on ABC iview at the end of the screening and will also repeat at 7:40pm in local time.

No spoilers before broadcast please. Once the ABC and BBC broadcasts begin, this thread should be assumed to contain spoilers.

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Happy 100th, Galactic Suburbia! http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140525.16771/happy-100th-galactic-suburbia/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140525.16771/happy-100th-galactic-suburbia/#comments Sat, 24 May 2014 23:09:54 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=16771 Galactic Suburbia has just celebrated their 100th episode. I… found a picture of a cake! On the Internet! ]]> I first heard of the Australian speculative fiction podcast Galactic Suburbia here at Hoyden About Town in 2011 and then promptly didn’t listen to it for a further three years, until I found myself doing just enough driving and sitting around watching children’s swimming lessons to make podcasts worthwhile, at which point I promptly subscribed and it became a fave.

And a great time it was to subscribe too, because they were in the countdown to their 100th episode, which has been up on their site for nearly a week. I probably will never count as a real Galactic Suburbia fan, because I don’t intend to go back and listen from episode 1 as many new fans apparently still do, and I am not making an actual Galactic Suburbia-themed cake for their contest (but perhaps you should! entries close 27th May), but here’s the next best thing.

First, a picture of a cake! Not my cake! But a cake!

Cake decorated with a rocket ship and aliens

Rocket Ship Cake, CC BY-SA, mags @ Flickr

And second, a note that you can pick up the Galactic Suburbia Scrapbook at Twelfth Planet Press, including several interview transcripts. (Accessibility note: as Lauredhel noted in 2011, Galactic Suburbia is not regularly transcribed.)

Happy 100th!

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Australian childcare; a very partial wishlist http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140403.16498/australian-childcare-a-very-partial-wishlist/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140403.16498/australian-childcare-a-very-partial-wishlist/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 01:57:33 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=16498

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I was inspired by my baby suddenly being given a daycare place, and my ambivalence about placing her in daycare as a young baby, to remember all my frustrations with the Australian pre-school daycare system, and to suggest what, from my perspective, would be considerable improvements.

This is a very parent-focussed and rather pragmatic list; you’ll note I haven’t suggested nationalising daycare! I likewise have only very slightly spoken to cost issues, parents who have struggled to afford daycare, what’s your wishlist? For other perspectives, I’m looking forward to the Productivity Commission’s findings (although I doubt I’ll agree with much policy which the government builds on it, we’ll see), and I’d love to hear from people who can talk about the workers’ perspective, especially following the axing of the Early Years Quality Fund.

That said, here’s my “imperfect world” daycare wishlist:

Improve the ability of parents and guardians to plan

Two toddlers walking

Toddlers by madgerly@Flickr

Ideally, daycare places are guaranteed to children well in advance, coinciding with the end of their parents’ parental leave.

Presently, many daycare centres do not have immediate vacancies, especially for children under 24 months of age, who require a 1:4 carer to child ratio. They therefore maintain waiting lists. Parents do not know when their child is likely to reach the top of the waiting list, nor whether the waiting list even functions as it is assumed to. Parents list their child at every conceivable centre, sometimes without even an acknowledgment of receipt of their application (to this day, I do not know if my then-university’s daycare received my son’s application four years ago) and almost invariably without any ongoing contact beyond the approximately yearly “please confirm if your child still requires care” email. Parents may, at some future point, get a phone call saying that there’s a place available, by the way, enrol TODAY or it’s gone. Or they may not.

Centres in turn have no idea how long their list really is, or how many parents they will need to call to find a child still waiting for a place. They usually maintain their own private waiting lists. Most do not disclose either on their websites nor when acknowledging a waiting list application (if they do) how long recently enrolled children waited for a place, nor their policy for awarding places. Aside from the mandated priority for children in danger, followed by children of working parents, many, for understandable reasons, give priority to siblings of already enrolled children, for example, but they seldom disclose it.

Waiting lists are expensive with many centres charging $20 to $100+ to waitlist a child, and parents encouraged (by each other, by early childhood nurses, by employers) to waitlist at every conceivable centre if they want a place. Some centres are ethical in their handling of this — one discouraged me from waitlisting, disclosing that their lease was under review and they might be closing in 2015 — but many accept waitlist applications indefinitely even while informing parents who specifically ask that there are unlikely to ever be a place for their child.

There’s presumably some chicken-and-egg here: parents waitlist at as many centres as they can afford because they can’t tell whether any given centre will admit their child before they reach school age, but centres prefer that parents not waitlist at scores of centres because it makes it difficult to judge the real length of their waiting list and to fill vacancies, so they charge a fee to discourage the practice. But charging waitlist fees is not as good a solution to this problem as centralised, transparent waitlists would be, which would allow both centres and parents to plan.

It is an epic waste of everyone’s time. If we can’t have the ideal situation, it would be good to know (to within, say, two months) when a child will reach the top of waiting lists. Instead, what we have is essentially a black box.

I’ve often wondered about the employment issues arising from this, in that working families with children in daycare may not be able to move in search of better pay, conditions or advancement, due to inability to secure a daycare spot anywhere else within a reasonable timeframe.

I’d much prefer, if waitlist I must, to waitlist at a single central location for centres of my preference, have estimates of each of their waiting times and policies provided at the time I initially sign up, and regular updates sent. Imagine this for example:

Please select which centres you are wait listing for:

  • Centre A (2km from your workplace, 10km from your home, 15 children waitlisted, estimated date of vacancy January 2015)
  • Centre B (12km from your workplace, 1km from your home, 14 children waitlisted, estimated date of vacancy February 2015)
  • Centre C (5km from your workplace, 7km from your home, 5 children waitlisted, estimated date of vacancy September 2014)

The ability to plan might also prevent the enrolment of some young babies, like mine, because the parents would not be motivated to take an early offer of a place in case it’s the only one they’ll get in the foreseeable future. (My baby would likely have been enrolled in June or July, if I had an assured place, giving me less months of Michael Leunig feeling sorry for my baby. As it is, an April place is far better than a February one, Leunig, Mem Fox and Mia Freedman be damned.)

Make waiting lists transparent, impartial and fair

In addition, it’s unclear whether the waiting list is actually as effective way of getting a place as one would hope. In 2013, Andie Fox wrote in Daily Life:

I can’t do this, I complained to my mother, how can I go to work knowing my child is [at a poor quality centre]? She thought it would simply be a matter of choosing a better daycare centre and booking my child in. But it doesn’t work like that, I tried to tell her. You’re on waiting lists from the time you are pregnant and the lists are long and you wait hopefully for your turn. By now I knew of a care centre with a better reputation through my mother-friend network, but I wasn’t on their waiting list, I hadn’t realised there was such variation in quality when I had been pregnant.

My mother thought none of this should stop her and in the end it didn’t – she cajoled her way in and secured a place for my toddler in the better centre.

Andie and I discussed this in person a few weeks later: this is hidden knowledge. Most people put their name on the waiting list and try to be patient believing that their turn will come, that places will be awarded to the top name on the list, that if they have to wait 24 months at least everyone else does too. They don’t realise that there is a group of people who are charming their way into centres or otherwise jumping the queue.

And even if they do, they may not be able to join that group. I’ve been advised to do similar things. Book my child in for casual days, so that the staff can see we’re a “nice family”. (This is code: we’re privileged on most axes.) Ring the centre director first thing every Monday morning to “just check” how my waitlist place is up to. (I have to wonder about the likelihood that annoying them like this will work, but nevertheless I was advised to do this. I dislike phones enough to not have tried.) It’s not only hidden knowledge; it advantages people who have the money to pay for unneeded casual days, the privilege to look like a desirable family to centres when doing a child’s casual pickup or dropoff, or their cajoling visits; and the time needed to do all of this hidden work of both waitlisting themselves and ingratiating themselves with several centres.

In fairness to the centres, I should note that in the end both my children received daycare places without me doing this hidden work. My older child was offered an immediate nursery place in a centre that had vacancies, my younger child was offered a place from the waiting list (although I don’t know if we were given a boost up the list for any reason, I only know that I didn’t ask or work for one). But I had no way of knowing when or whether this was likely to happen, or of how many children were admitted earlier because their parents knew what to say to the director.

Support breastfeeding relationships

Because I work from home, and my baby’s daycare is very near my house, I am thrilled that I will be able to visit her for nursing sessions and plan to take advantage of this as much as possible. But only people whose children are in daycares at or very near their workplace can do this.

Daycare centres are not concentrated in business districts but in residential districts. This does have some benefits (not having to take the child on your commute, being able to use the centre even when you are too ill to work or otherwise at home for the day) but means that visiting to nurse a baby, or comfort a distressed child, or simply enjoy lunch together occasionally, is not possible.

In general, the geography of childcare centres seems very arbitrary and not designed to particularly suit any need.

Have stable fees

If you are eligible, childcare fees are reimbursed by the government in the form of the childcare benefit (means-tested) and the childcare rebate (not means-tested). The first fluctuates when you update your income estimate with Centrelink (this happens automatically at the beginning of each financial year, with Centrelink assuming you get a small raise unless you manually edit it), the second is capped at $7500 per year, having the effect that if you spend your $7500 before the end of the financial year, it cuts off suddenly and causes daycare fees to suddenly effectively double. The ability of affected people to project the extra expenditure towards the end of the year and plan and save for it varies, to put it mildly. (It’s possible to be paid this in arrears at the end of the quarter or the year, and the latter means the fees are stable, but the number of people who can afford to defer a payment of $7500 into the following financial year is even smaller.)

The entire benefit system for childcare is complex and arbitrary. Obviously I am hoping the Productivity Commission’s findings and any resulting changes to childcare payments don’t massively increase my personal or anyone else’s out-of-pocket, but a change where I pay roughly the same amount each week would be welcomed.

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Fetal personhood in NSW: “an issue that should be of serious concern to all of us” http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140311.16351/fetal-personhood-in-nsw-an-issue-that-should-be-of-serious-concern-to-all-of-us/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20140311.16351/fetal-personhood-in-nsw-an-issue-that-should-be-of-serious-concern-to-all-of-us/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 05:28:27 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=16351

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NSW Parliament is sitting in March, and after Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013 passed the lower house after a conscience vote late last year, it is before the upper house. The campaign opposing it is Our Bodies Our Choices (see also @OurBodiesChoices on Twitter).

I attended a forum on 26th September 2013 hosted by Greens MLC Dr Mehreen Faruqi with speakers opposing the law and hope to transcribe and share them with you this week. The first speaker, shown in the video below, was health lawyer Julie Hamblin, opposing the bill on the grounds that even limited recognition of fetal personhood, combined with the legal grey area of abortion access in NSW, would allow someone to challenge access to abortion in NSW.

Note: as with Philippa Ramsey, the following speaker, I think most members of the Hoyden community will be concerned by Hamblin’s positioning of abortion on the grounds of fetal anomaly as a special case concerning. In 2009 Lauredhel wrote the following:

As a feminist, I believe that we can have the abortion-rights conversation without marginalising, othering, and disparaging people with disabilities. I believe we can talk about abortion within that broader framework of reproductive justice, and that we can confront the ableism that creeps into some abortion-rights conversations head-on. This takes effort; we must think clearly, write carefully, read closely.

As I recall, Ramsey in particular was challenged on this in question time, Leslie Cannold, who spoke third, agreed with the question and wanted the pro-choice movement to stop relying on this argument.

Transcript

Mehreen Faruqi: Good evening and welcome everyone. I’m Mehreen Faruqi and I’m a Greens MP in State Parliament. I have the carriage of the Portfolio for the Status of Women for the Greens and I also have the privilege tonight of being your MC. I’ll start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we’re meeting on the Gadigal people and pay my respect to the elders past and present. This land always has been and always will be Aboriginal land.

I’d also like to acknowledge a couple of my colleagues from NSW Parliament: Greg Piper, who’s an Independent in the lower house and Dr John Kay, who’s a Greens in the upper house. Thank you both for coming. And thank you all of you for making time tonight to come and participate in this community forum which really is about helping us unpack some of the implications of this fetal personhood law which is also known as “Zoe’s Law” that we have in front of Parliament at the moment.

This law is being debated in NSW Parliament at the moment so I think it’s really timely that we talk about it discuss it and get enough information about it to see why it is actually inappropriate and dangerous for women’s rights. The media has given quite a bit of coverage the last couple of months also NSW Bar Association and the Australian Medical Association Family Planning NSW and the Greens have come out and clearly stated their position in opposition to this Bill. There’s also a coalition, a group formed by a coalition, of women’s groups called Our Bodies Our Choice who are running the campaign also to provide information to the community to lobby the MPs, to provide information to them about the implications of the bill.

And tonight we’re really fortunate to have three excellent speakers with us who will take us through the legal, health and medical implications as well as the consequences for women’s rights of this particular bill. Each of our guests is going to speak for about 10 to 15 minutes and then we’ll open up for about 30 minutes to 40 minutes to have a discussion and also to ask questions of our speakers.

We will be recording tonight’s session and we’ll make a Youtube and put it up on our website so if you have any issues being recorded it will mainly be the speakers but we might record you when you’re asking your question if you have any issues with that just let us know and we’ll edit you out.

OK, so our first speaker for tonight is Julie Hamblin. Julie is a lawyer with more than 20 years experience advising the public and private health sectors on health law, medical negligence, clinical risk, bioethics and public health. She has held a number of government appointments in the health sector including the Australian Research Integrity Committee, the Australian National Council on HIV/AIDS and Related Diseases, and the board of the former Central Sydney Area Health Service. In December 2012, Julie was appointed to the NSW Clinical Ethics Advisory Panel. Julie has a long standing interest in sexual and reproductive health, and has undertaken consultancy work with HIV and related sexual health issues in more than 20 countries, in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Eastern Europe. So please warmly welcome Julie Hamblin.

[applause]

Julie Hamblin: Thank you Mehreen, thank you everyone for coming along tonight to talk about this really important issue it’s something that’s very close to my heart and I, um, think it’s so important that we all understand exactly what is at stake with the bill that is before NSW Parliament at the moment.

What I wanted to do in my comments is to talk first of all very briefly about how the law currently regards fetuses and why a legal person — a fetal personhood law would be such a significant change to the existing law. And then I want to spend a little bit more time talking particularly about the legal status of abortion in NSW because this is one of the things that I am particularly concerned about in relation to Zoe’s Law because we have a really uniquely precarious position with abortion law in NSW. And i think we all need to understand the fragility of lawful abortion in this state in order to realise just how risky it would be if this bill goes through.

So just to give a little bit of a background about how the law has traditionally regarded fetuses. In short, the law in NSW has always adopted what is known as the ‘born alive’ rule. And what that says is that until a child is born and takes a breath the child is not to be regarded as a legal person. And so there are some situations around the edges where the law has had to look at should there be changes made to the born alive rule?

Let’s say for example, there have been cases where a pregnant woman has been involved in a car accident and has had, has sustained injuries which has included an injury to her fetus. And the courts have held that if that fetus goes on to be born alive, hence the born alive rule, goes on to be born alive, the fetus as a person, as a legal person after birth, will have the right to claim damages, to be compensated for the injuries sustained while in his or her mother’s womb. But that legal right only crystallises, and this is a really important point, that legal right only crystallises once the child is born alive.

And so although there is a recognition of injuries sustained while a fetus, the principle of the born alive rule is maintained. And there are numerous examples of that. There was one I was reading about just a couple of weeks ago in relation to the coroner’s jurisdiction. Because under the coronial legislation certainly in NSW and I think in most states in Australia the coroner has jurisdiction only to investigate deaths. So if it’s a stillbirth, under the Coroner’s Act, the coroner doesn’t have jurisdiction, because you haven’t had a person who has been born alive. And there has been some debate about whether it would be appropriate for the coroner’s jurisdiction to be expanded so that the coroner could investigate circumstances surrounding stillbirths as well as circumstances surrounding the deaths of children who have been born alive.

But that hasn’t happened, and even in the literature about a possible extension of the coronial jurisdiction to stillbirths which would be much less concerning than a full recognition of fetuses as a person there has been opposition to that on the basis that that would encroach upon the born alive rule which is considered to be a very important dividing line as to why—, when and in what circumstances the law should recognise someone as an individual person.

So that’s a starting point. We have in NSW the born alive rule, it is a very strong and very well established legal principle. And I am certainly not aware of any other case, and an example of a court decision or of legislation, which has departed from the born alive rule.

So that’s the background that we have when we look at Zoe’s Law. Because Zoe’s Law would be a radical departure from the born alive rule. And all those who support it say but it’s only limited to the particular circumstances of grievous bodily harm offenses that it would relate to but none the less, in legal terms, it would be a very significant development because it would be the first time that NSW law
has recognised a fetus as a legal person. And that is a very significant change to the law.

Why does it matter? As I’ve said all those people who are supporting Zoe’s Law say but it’s limited to the circumstances of these particular grievous bodily harm offences, it won’t affect other areas of the law such as abortion. I believe that is simply an incorrect legal analysis.

I just wanted to spend the second part of my time um, going over a little bit of the background what is the legal position of abortion in NSW. And why given that background having a provision that recognises a fetus as a person even if it’s only in the context of these particular sections of the criminal code why that would a threat to lawful abortion in this state.

So, what is the current abortion law in NSW? Um, I can guarantee you, because I’ve done this a million times, if you take a straw poll against your friends and colleagues, and you say “Is abortion legal in NSW?” The overwhelming majority of people will say “of course it’s lawful in NSW.” People simply don’t realise that abortion is still a crime in NSW.

One of the major problems that we have doing abortion advocacy is to convey to people that there is a problem. Because the majority of people think that it’s all been sorted that we have abortion on demand in NSW.

Sadly, the truth is a long way from that. Abortion is still a criminal offence in NSW. It always has been for as long as the Crimes Act has been in place, which is now well over 100 years and the offence has not changed over that time. Ah, it’s imported from the original British criminal code provisions. And it’s an offence, I put up the wording of the offence on the slide there, it’s an offence both for a woman who does something to herself to procure her own miscarriage which is the wording that they use and it’s also a criminal offence for another person to administer something, to perform a procedure that brings about a woman’s miscarriage.

But the critical word, which you can see there in both those offences is “unlawfully”. Because it says “whosoever unlawfully administers to herself” or if you’re a doctor or someone else “whosoever unlawfully administers to a woman”. And so the interpretation of a lawful abortion in NSW hinges on this one small word, “unlawfully”. And it’s quite an unusual provision in the context of the Crimes Act
because the Crimes Act doesn’t define what “unlawfully” is. In most of the other offences in the Crimes Act it says “well, these are the elements of the offences, and these are the things that might be a defence to a particular criminal offence.” It doesn’t say that in relation to the abortion offences. So that’s a really significant problem to start with in terms of getting clarity as to what the legal position is.
So what the law says is “if you do something unlawfully it’s a criminal offence.” Particularly unhelpful.

And so in terms of deciding and determining what really is lawful and what is not lawful we have to look to how the courts have interpreted that one word “unlawfully”. Um, there have not been many court decisions but the ones that there have been—

[Hamblin was interrupted here by troubles with the projector]

So the definition of unlawfully and the way unlawfully has been interpreted by our courts goes back to two very old decisions one in 1969 in Victoria and one in 1971 in NSW. And what they’ve said in short, I’ve put up the precise wording there, what they have said in short is that it will be lawful if the abortion is considered to be — is reasonably considered to be — necessary to preserve the woman from a serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health and in the circumstances is not out of proportion to the danger.

So in short what you need to show in order to establish that an abortion is lawful is that it’s necessary to prevent a serious risk to the life or health of the woman. It’s known as the Menhennitt rules, the test. And in NSW we had a case in 1971, R v Wald, where that test was adopted.

Actually a very interesting background to that case. It was, it was, quite a shocking set of circumstances that gave rise to it. Dr Wald was a doctor who ran a termination clinic in Clovelly I think, somewhere in the eastern suburbs, and there was a police raid on that clinic, without notice one day, with women on the operating table in the middle of having terminations. And Dr Wald was charged with unlawfully performing an abortion. And the main statement that we have of the law in NSW comes from that case, and it’s not even from an actual decision by the judge. It’s from directions that the judge, in the criminal trial of Dr Wald, gave to the jury. But what the judge did was to adopt the test of serious risk to the life or health of the woman.

Since then we’ve only had a very very small number of cases. And that I guess is a good thing, it shows there isn’t a lot of appetite to bring criminal prosecutions to court. And the cases that we have had by and large have upheld the test in Wald, which says that an abortion is lawful if it is necessary to prevent a serious health to — er, serious risk to the life or health of the woman. And it’s been expanded to acknowledge that there might be economic and social grounds on which the continuation of the pregnancy might pose a serious risk to the woman’s health or life.

And so everything seemed to have a sort of uneasy equilibrium until 2010 where in Queensland as you may have read there was a prosecution brought against a young woman who had a medical abortion at home
using RU486, that she administered to herself. And she was criminally charged under the Queensland criminal code which was very similiar at that time to our code. It’s since been amended to make it a little bit better, not much but a little bit. And so she was charged with unlawfully procuring her own termination.

She was acquitted by the jury we don’t have reasons so we don’t know exactly what the thinking was of the jury. We have some hints from the directions that the judge gave to the jury. And I can talk more about that later I don’t really have time to go into that now.

So she was acquitted and that’s a good thing. But it certainly was a very stark reminder of just how precarious a position we have in NSW and Queensland where we still have these outdated offences in our criminal code that can be brought into life at any time if the circumstances come together such that uh, either a woman or a medical practitioner, could be criminally charged.

So just briefly, and to sum up, why is the existing abortion law so unsatisfactory?

Well, you know, where do you begin? There are so many reasons.First of all, it remains a criminal offence, and as I’ve said that’s obviously a problem. Because this, the lawfulness depends upon how the courts interpret this word “unlawfully” on the facts of a particular case. It’s a very unstable foundation for lawful abortion in this state. It’s subject to particular facts of the case, it’s subject to the personal inclinations and beliefs of particular judges, and we have had a case that was overturned in appeal in NSW — the Superclinics case — where the particular personal beliefs of a judge clearly intervened in his decision in declaring a particular abortion had been unlawful.

And as I’ve said, we know from the case in Queensland that while prosecutions are rare, they’re certainly a very real possibility. In practice what it means of course is that abortion is in a grey zone. It is not fully legal like other mainstream medical procedures. In NSW terminations are performed overwhelming in the private sector, not in the public sector, and there are really concerning issues about cost and access as a result of that.

Fetal anomaly is not a relevant consideration to the test of unlawful abortion except to the extent that a child, if born disabled, might have an impact upon the psychological health of the mother. And that’s just ridiculous. You know, we know that the overwhelming majority of public opinion supports access to abortion at least in that — in those circumstances. Indeed the majority supports it in an even broader set of circumstances. But certainly to have a law that doesn’t recognise serious fetal anomaly as grounds in itself for a lawful abortion is quite concerning.

And so we’re left with a disconnect between what the law says, what most people think it says, and what is actually happening in practice. Because we have clinics who— that are operating where terminations are performed but where it’s done with a concern constantly to be able satisfy this very limited test of serious risk to the life or health of the woman that doesn’t really accord with the motives and with the reality of what’s happening with a lot of terminations.

And so finally just to bring it back to the concern about Zoe’s Law: because we have this fundamental instability and a lack of a secure foundation a secure legal foundation for abortion in NSW, any law that recognises a fetus as a living person — which is what Zoe’s Law will do — however limited it is to the particular section of the Crimes Act that the amendment relates to — however limited it is — it provides ammunition for someone who wishes to challenge the lawfulness of an abortion the next time a case comes to court. And that’s an issue that I think should be of serious concern to all of us.

Thanks very much.

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Movie Thread — The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (SPOILERS) http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131226.15658/movie-thread-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131226.15658/movie-thread-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 05:15:24 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=15658 days since our last media thread, here's one for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which opened today in Australia. Spoilers welcome. ]]> Beware, the unspoiled: both the post and the comments can be assumed to contain copious spoilers.

Because it appears to have been days since our last media thread, here’s one for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which opened today in Australia.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

I am pleased that the pretty legitimate grievances that pretty much everyone between the Blue Mountains and Erebor has against the King Under the Mountain (and Thorin as his heir) is being treated seriously from the narrative point of view. As well they should be. Thrór and others have a lot of blood on their hands.

There seemed to be… less impossible physics in this one. Don’t get me wrong, still impossible, but there wasn’t someone surviving a two hundred metre fall every third minute.

This is far more One Ring-centric than the book is (and I believe later editions of The Hobbit are actually already edited to make the One a little more prominent), which makes me wonder if Thrain being the last holder of one of the Seven Rings is going to arise at all.

Essentially every time Balin appears on screen, I can’t help but be all “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT RETAKING MORIA. NO. NOOOOOO.” I don’t think I’m getting through.

Still annoyed that dwarves are more dimorphic on gender lines in Jackson’s films than they are in Tolkien’s books (the Appendices to LoTR clearly state that non-dwarves cannot easily distinguish any of their men and women). And Legolas’s joke about it is then yucky.

For that matter, I can’t figure out how it possibly makes sense for Legolas and Tauriel to want or promise their captive orc that his life will be spared. Warfare in this universe is take-no-prisoners on both sides, justified on the elvish side by the universal corruption and evil of the orcs. Which is immensely problematised by critics for good reasons, but I don’t think the answer on Jackson’s side is inserting one inexplicable act example of different and not thought-through ethics. Surely Legolas knew that the prisoner has seen the centre of Thranduil’s abode he was a dead orc walking. Where were they going to free him? What was he going to do then? How were they planning to prevent him returning to his fellows to recount everything he saw of Thranduil’s security arrangements? (Of which, I have to say, they seem to already know a worrying amount.) You have to think about these things a little bit, elves.

I am not clear at all on what Sauron wants with Gandalf as a captive either. It’s not their first encounter, Sauron likely knows that he’s incorruptible and that the extent of his powers is sizable and likely not fully revealed, so it’s not about enslaving him or using him as a weapon. While he’s alive, he’s a danger in some form. Sauron is not winning the Cleverer Than a Balrog award this year.

Very obvious cameo, Peter Jackson! Was yours the very first reasonably close shot of a person in the entire movie? I think it might have been!

Very subtle cameos, Stephen Colbert and family! It seems to be pretty well known by now that Colbert played one of the Laketown spies who are watching Bard, and that his family also feature in Laketown scenes, but absolutely no news source I can find has even managed to source stills showing Colbert himself, let alone his family. I certainly didn’t notice him, and we were watching for him (although not knowing to look in Laketown, specifically)!

No Gollum!! Woe.

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Xmas open thread http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131222.15632/xmas-open-thread/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131222.15632/xmas-open-thread/#comments Sat, 21 Dec 2013 17:11:25 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=15632

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This is the yearly bonus open thread for Christmas chat, for Hoydens and Hoydenizens who are interested. Feel free to talk services, observances, decorations, rushing, shopping, gifts, surprises, feasting and family traditions heart-warming and otherwise. All observers of Christmas welcome if you want to chat, religious, non-religious, and observers in the sense of watching it without participating.

A Santa Claus doll mugshot
Wanted: Santa Claus, by Kevin Dooley

If anyone making other seasonal observances wants to join the thread, please do. I’ve thus scheduled it for the time of the southern summer solstice, which is one of my reasons for the season.

Once the dedicated Xmas thread goes up each year, we generally ask that the Otterday threads become Xmas-free. Xmas chat should stay here or on another on-topic thread; visit your most recent Otterday thread for other chat!

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Reproductive rights round-up: NSW, Vic, SA, Tas http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131129.15470/reproductive-rights-round-up-nsw-vic-sa-tas/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20131129.15470/reproductive-rights-round-up-nsw-vic-sa-tas/#comments Thu, 28 Nov 2013 22:16:21 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=15470

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There’s a lot going on right now in terms of trying to implement fetal personhood provisions and wind back legal abortion around Australia. Here’s the news from four states, anything we’ve missed? What actions are you taking in response?

New South Wales: Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013 has passed the Lower House

Discussion of this has previously appeared on HAT. Since that post, this bill has passed the Legislative Assembly (lower house) following a conscience vote and by a large margin (63 to 26). It will be read in the Legislative Assembly (upper house) in 2014, and if passed there, will become law. Coalition and ALP MPs have been granted a conscience vote by their parties. The Greens oppose the bill. This bill is opposed by the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, and by the NSW Bar Association. The campaign against this bill is at Our Bodies, Our Choices.

I’d love to publish transcripts of the Greens community forum on this bill (held prior to it passing in the Assembly), but am unlikely to have time to transcribe an hours worth of video for at least another week. If you’d like to help out, here’s the Amara links for subtitling: Julie Hamblin’s speech (about half subtitled to date), Philippa Ramsay’s speech (not subtitled) and Leslie Cannold’s speech (not subtitled).

South Australia: Criminal Law Consolidation (Offences against Unborn Child) Amendment Bill 2013 not passed

A bill with fetal personhood provisions in the case of grievous bodily harm to the pregnant person was recently before South Australian parliament, but was rejected. Information is being made available by Tammy Franks, Greens MLC, see Stop the Misguided Foetal Personhood Laws and the transcript of the reading in Parliament. Unlike in NSW, it appears that the ALP did not allow a conscience vote. The debate opens with Kyam Maher, government whip:

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (00:11): I will be extraordinarily brief. The government does not support this bill.

Victoria: early proposals to remove Section 8

At present, the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 requires (in part):

SECT 8

(1) If a woman requests a registered health practitioner to advise on a proposed abortion, or to perform, direct, authorise or supervise an abortion for that woman, and the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion, the practitioner must—
(a) inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion; and
(b) refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion.

A Victorian doctor, Mark Hobart, is facing deregistration over defying these provisions, and a group of Victorian doctors and nurses called Doctors Conscience opposes Section 8 and advocates for its repeal. The Age reports that Labor MP Christine Campbell intends to table the Doctors Conscience petition in Victorian parliament. (A second Victoria doctor, Dr K. — not Mark Hobart — is discussed in the article, who not only defies Section 8 but has been quoted as expressing the opinion that women who seek abortions deserve death. This is detailed in Daniel Mathews’ blog post which provides quotations allegedly from Dr. K. Doctors Conscience has issued a press release stating that they do not advocate for or support harm to pregnant women for any reason.) The Age also reports that the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association supports the repeal of Section 8.

Today The Australian reported that premier Denis Napthine had advised independent MP Geoff Shaw on what would be involved in overturning (or perhaps substantially revising) the Abortion Law Reform Act in Victoria. The ABC reports that Napthine describes himself as having issued pro forma advice on legislative process.

Bills to repeal Section 8 or make wider changes to the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 are yet to be proposed.

Tasmania removes abortion from the criminal code

On November 22, Tasmania removed references to abortion from the criminal code. In addition, like in Victoria, legislation now requires that doctors (and counselors) who conscientiously oppose abortion refer pregnant people to others who they believe do not have such an objection. A PDF of the Reproductive Health (Access to Abortion) Bill 2013 is available.

Bonus USA

NPR recently reported on the findings of Paltrow & Flavin, Arrests of and forced interventions on pregnant women in the United States (1973-2005) who report:

  • Arrests and incarceration of women because they ended a pregnancy or expressed an intention to end a pregnancy;
  • Arrests and incarceration of women who carried their pregnancies to term and gave birth to healthy babies;
  • Arrests and detentions of women who suffered unintentional pregnancy losses, both early and late in their pregnancies;
  • Arrests and detentions of women who could not guarantee a healthy birth outcome;
  • Forced medical interventions such as blood transfusions, vaginal exams, and cesarean surgery on pregnant women;

… Analysis of the legal claims used to justify the arrests of pregnant women found that such actions relied on the same arguments underlying so called “personhood” measures – that state actors should be empowered to treat fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as completely and legally separate from the pregnant woman. Specifically, police, prosecutors, and judges in the U.S. have relied directly and indirectly on… [f]eticide statutes that create separate rights for the unborn and which were passed under the guise of protecting pregnant women and the eggs, embryos, and fetuses they carry and sustain from third-party violence… [my emphasis]

I think this point bears repeating: provisions that were introduced allegedly for the protection of pregnant people and fetuses from third parties have been subsequently used to police the behaviour of pregnant people, including but not limited to those seeking abortion, and including forcing medical procedures on them, and confining them. Fetal personhood provisions are designed to control the bodies of pregnant people.

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Fetal personhood (“Zoe’s Law”) before NSW Parliament http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130918.15023/fetal-personhood-zoes-law-before-nsw-parliament/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130918.15023/fetal-personhood-zoes-law-before-nsw-parliament/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 03:06:43 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=15023 Coalition and ALP members have been granted a conscience vote on Zoe's law. ]]> The NSW Legislative Assembly (lower house) will shortly be voting on Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill (No. 2) 2013, a private members bill introduced by Liberal MP Chris Spence in the lower house and (if passed) to be introduced by Christian Democratic Party leader and MP Fred Nile in the upper house. This Bill proposes to insert Section 8A into the Crimes Act 1900 No 40, where Section 8A would read in part:

8A Offences in relation to the destruction of or harm to the foetus of a pregnant woman

(1) In this section… unborn child means the foetus of a pregnant woman that:
(a) is of at least 20 weeks’ gestation, or
(b) if it cannot be reliably established whether the period of gestation is more or less than 20 weeks, has a body mass of at least 400 grams.

(2) For the purposes of an applicable offence:
(a) an unborn child is taken to be a living person despite any rule of law to the contrary, and
(b) grievous bodily harm to an unborn child is taken to include the destruction of the unborn child.

(3) For the purposes of an applicable offence, the destruction of the foetus of a pregnant woman (not being an unborn child) is taken to be grievous bodily harm to the woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm.

(4) This section does not apply to or in relation to:
(a) anything done in the course of a medical procedure, or
(b) anything done by, or with the consent of, the pregnant woman concerned.

A woman standing in front of the US Capitol building holds up a sign displaying a stylised uterus and reading 'Is this mine yet?'

“Is this mine yet?”. Photo by Ann Harkness.

The stated intent of the bill is to allow separate prosecution of injury to a fetus, following the death of Zoe Donegan (stillborn at 32 weeks gestation) in 2009 after Zoe’s mother Brodie was hit by a van driven by Justine Hampson. Hampson was convicted of grevious bodily harm with regards to Brodie, but not with injuring Zoe or causing Zoe’s death.

However, the bill has been introduced by an anti-abortion politician, and there are grave concerns about its potential interpretation, particularly “an unborn child is taken to be a living person”. Concerns about fetal personhood in general include:

  • potentially allowing the prosecution of abortion (or, in NSW, where abortion is already criminalised, extending the circumstances in which it can be prosecuted)
  • potentially allowing the prosecution of pregnant people who do not act in the best interest of the fetus (which could include activities with a risk of physical injury, self-harm attempts, drug use, dietary choices, failure to follow medical advice)
  • potentially exposing pregnant people who have a late pregnancy loss to the additional trauma of a legalistic investigation as well as any medical one
  • potentially compromising the pregnant person’s medical care when it is at odds with the best interests of the fetus (say, in cases where early delivery might be beneficial for the pregnant person)
  • potentially coercing the pregnant person into medical intervention against their wishes, if judged in the interests of the fetus (eg coerced hospital births or coerced Caesareans)

The fourth clause appears to try and answer these objections, but given the source of the bill and the outcome of fetal personhood laws elsewhere, we should be very worried. In addition, the media reports concerns and objections from many groups including the Australian Medical Association NSW; the NSW Bar Association; the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (previous three mentioned in SMH: Another minister to battle foetus bill); Family Planning NSW; Women’s Health NSW; Domestic Violence NSW; Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia; the National Foundation for Australian Women; Reproductive Choice Australia; and Children by Choice (previous seven mentioned in Guardian: Abortion rights under threat from ‘Zoe’s law’, say Australian women’s groups). Coalition MPs opposed include Health Minister Jillian Skinner; Environment Minister Robyn Parker; and Nationals whip John Williams (SMH).

Commentary includes:

Legislative arguments that incorporate words like ‘personhood’, ‘viability’ and ‘fetal rights’ are code for anti-choice sentiments that are always used as an attempt to limit the fundamental right for those born biologically female to control their reproductive choices, if not reverse them entirely.

Clementine Ford: The bill that could criminalise abortion in Australia

Spence has repeatedly argued that the exceptions provided in the Bill, concerning anything done in the course of a medical procedure or with the consent of the woman, guarantee that his amendment would not infringe upon a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. However, the exceptions do not meaningfully buffer against the overarching conceptual change represented by the Bill.

Moreover, it is outrageous that a woman’s legal right to terminate her pregnancy could be threatened by the law telling her that she is at risk of criminal liability until she can prove that she falls into a narrow exception. Zoe’s Law further pushes lawful termination of pregnancies to the fringes of legal debate, where it shamefully already lies as an exception to sections 82-84 of the NSW Crimes Act[…]

The Bar Association also argues that there are “legitimate concerns” about the broader implications of the bill. Once we adopt a definition of a foetus as a living person for the purpose of this bill, “it would be difficult to resist its adoption in respect of other New South Wales criminal laws”

Mehreen Faruqi: Why Zoe’s Law Must be Defeated

Coalition and ALP MPs have been granted a conscience vote on Zoe’s Law, so if you are a NSW voter, today is a great day to contact your MP expressing your concerns and encouraging them to vote against the bill. One way to do this is through the Our Bodies Our Choices email form.

Note: when I was discussing this post with other Hoyden authors, they wanted to discuss fetal personhood in Western Australia, and extended recognition of stillbirths in South Australia. Since the vote on the bill is pending, I wanted to get this post up, but feel free to discuss fetal personhood and potential threats to pregnant people’s bodily autonomy in any Australian state in comments.

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Federal election minus 1 day: last minute Coalition announcements special! http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130906.14954/federal-election-minus-1-day-last-minute-coalition-announcements-special/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130906.14954/federal-election-minus-1-day-last-minute-coalition-announcements-special/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 23:32:40 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=14954

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Mostly via tweeps, info on certain last minute Coalition announcements.

First, people saw the original version of The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children (original version), which read:

We will work with mobile phone companies (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and their resellers) to develop online safety standards for smartphones and other devices with mobile network connectivity such as tablets, applicable to their use by children in two age groups: children up to the age of 12 years and teenagers.

As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve mobilephone operators installing adult content filters on phones which will be switched on as the default unless the customer proves he or she is at least 18 years of age.

The Coalition will work with internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadband services to the home) to develop online safety standards for those services, recognising that they are very often accessed by children.

As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve the major internet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadband services, which will be switched on as the default unless the customer specifies otherwise.

This is a very different approach to the discredited compulsory filter proposal championedby the Rudd-Gillard Government, which was abandoned as unworkable.

The Coalition’s approach aims to empower parents — by giving them the choice of whetheror not to operate a filter at home, but by establishing the default setting as one which provides maximum protection.

The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children original/repudiated version, page 7

The Coalition very quickly backed away from this proposal:

Mr Turnbull quickly released a statement to clarify the Coalition’s position.

“The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it,” the statement said.

Malcolm Turnbull’s statement is available in full on the Liberals’ site. The revised and/or correct version of the policy (depending on if you believe that they did accidentally make an early version public), reads:

Wewill work with mobile phone companies (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and their resellers) and internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadband services to the home) to make available software which parents can choose to install on their own devices to protect their children from inappropriate material.

This is a very different approach to the discredited compulsory filter proposal championed by the Rudd-Gillard Government, which was abandoned as unworkable.

The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children current version (as linked from the Liberals’ policy listing), page 7

Moving on to last minute announcements they haven’t backed away from:

A Coalition Government, if elected, will crack down on Labor’s addiction to waste by auditing increasingly ridiculous research grants and reprioritising funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.

Some of the grants issued by the ARC in recent years have been, frankly, completely over the top.

There will be no reduction in research funding. In fact, the Coalition has announced new research into dementia and diabetes.

The Coalition would look to targeting those ridiculous research grants that leave taxpayers scratching their heads wondering just what the Government was thinking.

Taxpayer dollars have been wasted on projects that do little, if anything, to advance Australians research needs. For example:

  • The quest for the ‘I’ – a$595,000 grant aimed at “reaching a better understanding of the self”;
  • $160,000 on an examination of “sexuality in Islamic interpretations of reproductive health technologies in Egypt”;
  • a $443,000 study into “The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian idealism”; and
  • $164,000 for a study into “how urban media art can best respond to global climate change” .

Ending More of Labor’s Waste, Liberal press release, September 5 2013

(My Honours supervisor is out there jumping for joy at the punctation used for that list, at least.)

Several research and research-affiliated groups have denounced the policy:

  • Jeannie Rea, National Office, The National Tertiary Education Union: This is a direct attack on the academic freedom of researchers working in Australian universities. If Tony Abbott wins, independent research loses.
  • Catriona Jackson, CEO, Science and Technology Australia:
    Specific research projects – all in the arts and social sciences – have been labeled increasingly ridiculous. But scientists know that the flow of new knowledge is critical to the kinds of real word results that all Australians are proud of, and that the Coalition is calling for.

    It was CSIRO scientist John O’Sullivan’s search for exploding black holes that led to his discovery of wireless technology that has swept the world, and earned Australia $500 million in royalties with probably as much again to come.

You can also review STA’s overview of science policy for the Federal Election, if interested. The Conversation has a couple of pieces about the policy, one noting that we already have a body of expert scrutineers who reject any number of bad and merely only very good grant proposals, and we call it the Australian Research Council, and the other analysing the craftiness of the press release itself.

What else have you seen sneaking in under the radar now that the advertising blackout is in place?


Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.

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Federal Election minus 3 days: state surveillance and anti-terror policies http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130904.14912/federal-election-minus-3-days-state-surveillance-and-anti-terror-policies/ http://hoydenabouttown.com/20130904.14912/federal-election-minus-3-days-state-surveillance-and-anti-terror-policies/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:38:56 +0000 http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=14912

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Continuing on my theme of finally becoming the voter who actually reviews policies, today we go a bit more niche: state surveillance, anti-terror provisions and similar, specifically whether anti-terror is used as an excuse to infringe on civil liberties and political organising. I’m going into this expecting it to be fairly short — it’s a bigger issue in the United States and the UK than here (or perhaps I know more activists there than here), where “border protection” serves some of the same rhetorical and political roles — although there are minor parties more interested in these issues.

As with other posts in this series, if there’s a lack of commentary in the post, make up for it in the comments. For media coverage, spin and personality issues — or general news! — head to the latest Media Circus thread instead.)

ALP, Coalition, Greens

The Liberal’s Real Solutions has no mention of ‘surveillance’ or ‘privacy’. Their terrorism statement is that they will increase measures, focussing on security of ports: We will deliver improved counter-terrorism and domestic security measures in Australia and secure our ports and airports. .They mention increased CCTV rollouts in their crime section (pg 42), none of which suggests that privacy and surveillance issues are a big issue for them. They also seem inclined to use the threat of terrorist immigration as an anti-refugee tactic, see eg this June press release.

In June 2013, Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement expressing some concern about the NSA’s PRISM program, particularly its implications for commercial interests, presumably Australian businesses hosting data on US servers. (I note incidentally that Real Solutions is hosted on Amazon Web Services. It’s just a curio since Real Solutions is public information, but I wonder if political parties host their donor databases and such on Australian servers?) If you search for the text of that statement on technical news sites, incidentally, the advertisements may encourage you to apply for a job with ASIO.

It’s difficult to find ALP information. They assert a right to privacy (National Platform, items 41 and 42, pages 186–187), largely centered around privacy of data held by the government, especially health information and credit information. They assert that [Labor will] ensure that personal information of Australians transferred overseas is protected which I find difficult to interpret (if nothing else, the phrasing is rather ambiguous between personal information being sent overseas and Australians themselves being sent!). Elsewhere in the National Platform, they write:

Labor refuses to manipulate fear or racism for political gain in response to terror. Australia needs tough laws to deal with terrorism but, just as importantly, we need well-balanced laws that target the terrorists, not innocent citizens. We need strong safeguards to protect the civil and human rights that are fundamental to our freedoms. Labor is committed to finalising the review of the Anti-Terrorism Legislation.

item 132, page 209

I don’t see that translated into policy for the present campaign anywhere.

The Greens have a specific surveillance policy generally affirming a right to privacy. They seek to bring telecommunications surveillance back under the control of normal judicial warrants, and subject to Freedom of Information requests; they want intelligence sharing with the “5 Eyes” countries (the other four are the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand) overhauled; and they oppose proposals for data retention concerning Australian’s Internet use.

See also Electronic Frontiers Australia Election 2013 scorecard.

Smaller parties

From a slightly haphazard collection on Monday, I focus today on minor parties that I know to have some interest in civil liberties and/or digital rights.

Pirate Party

Privacy is listed as one of the four major civil liberties they value. They oppose both the proposed 2 year retention of Australian’s Internet use data, and denounse PRISM and PRISM-like programs.

Wikileaks Party

As one would expect, this is a prominent issue in their campaign platform:

… the WikiLeaks Party will be fearless in its opposition to the creeping surveillance state, driven by globalised data collection and spying agencies, both state and corporate controlled. We will demand that all information on data seizure and storage of citizens’ data by government agencies and allied corporations be made public.

In addition, there’s a specific Surveillance and your privacy policy requiring that agencies seek a warrant to spy on your Internet usage; a twice-yearly tabling of aggregate figures related to such surveillance; and ASIO and anyone else cooperating with overseas agencies to report such cooperation publicly.


Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.

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