Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for June, 2009

PSI handling and rights (Vic) : 2

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-30

Following previous posts (here and here) on Public Sector Information (PSI) handling and access recommendations for the Victorian government, here are some discussions on more of the dot-points:

4. That the Victorian Government adopt a narrow definition for the public sector for the purpose of establishing the government Information Management Framework.  Initially this definition should comprise only Victorian Government departments.

Whenever I hear "narrow definition" or "broad definition" I become alert for escape clauses and weasel words.  This is no exception.

First, consider the following phrases:

  • Data created or held by a government agency
  • Data created or held by an agency of government.

These two phrases might seem equivalent.  You’d be correct in thinking that the rules governing the handling of the data are identical under legislation.  However, they are very different in the eyes of many public sector managers and the executive, all too eager to find any excuse to remove accountability for compliance with those rules.

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Information Management, Law, Politics, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Public Sector Information handling and rights (Vic) : 1

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-29

Let’s start going into some of my detailed thoughts about the various recommendations for improving access to Victorian public sector information (PSI) and data produced by a Victorian Parliamentary Committee.

While I’m writing specifically in a Victorian context, any arguments and observations can be applied to any jurisdiction, at any level, in Australia.

1. That the Victorian Government release a public statement indicating that it endorses open access as the default position for the management of its public sector information.

This is pretty simple, and it’s hard to think of anyone arguing otherwise.  The tricky bit comes with what exactly is meant by "open access", and how loosely defined are the rules that allow exceptions from the default position.

But… are they including information collected in the first instance by councils?  By outsourced service providers carrying out work on behalf of government?  If not, why not?  (More on this in future posts on recommendations that are further down the list)

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Posted in Australia, Governance, Information Management, Politics, Victoria | 2 Comments »

Public Sector Information Recommendations for Victoria

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-26

Annoyingly, I missed the inquiry into the use and availability of Public Sector Information (PSI) in Victoria, but this isn’t surprising given how difficult it is to find out what inquiries are happening.  (Regular readers will remember my many posts on the procedural problems with the "Melbourne’s Future Water Supply" inquiry).

Still, I did notice the final report come out, and I’ll be commenting on many of the individual dot points in the recommendations, and doing "compare and contrasts" of selected submissions over the next few weeks.

The list of recommendations is over the fold, and taken from the Victoria – 21st Century Approach to Government Information (2009-06-24) announcement published in the Victorian eGov Resource Centre newsletter.

My general feeling is that many of these recommendations have actually have regulations in place for decades and the tools to implement them, but that the Victorian Government thoroughly deserved the public flogging by the Auditor General a little time back about incompetent (or worse) management of information.

If we pare away the motherhood statements, then there appears to be some good stuff here.  Unfortunately, there has been some successful FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) by at least one of the companies making submissions, especially about definitions of terms like "open standards", and pushing the advantages short-term thinking.  (To start with, have a look at the Google and Microsoft submissions…. one muddies the waters and reeks of lawyers, while the other has a conversational tone, pretty clearly stating "this is our philosophical position, and here is a detailed list of various commercial interests we have in this process".  Guess which one is from which company?)

Look a little closer, and we see that there are quite a few escape clauses written into the recommendations… and you can bet there will be more by the time the executive is done with them!

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Governance, Information Management, Politics, Victoria | 3 Comments »

3 million dollars on offer in an email – and not spam!

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-25

I wonder how many spam-filters stopped the email I got a couple of days ago?

Inside the email was an offer of 3 million dollars (presumably US), and a "click here" link to make an application.

Was it for real – you betcha!

It was one of my newsletters from Nature:

Play your part – Help bring new multiple sclerosis treatments to market.
$3 million in funding available now for innovative research and commercial development proposals.
Who can apply?
– Academic investigators
– Seed and early stage companies.

I’m hoping that they get some good applications.  MS is a nasty condition, as well as being very interesting.

And the numbers they’ll be after first?  A doi list, not bank accounts.

Posted in Biology and Health | Leave a Comment »

Mandatory food composting in San Francisco – why not here?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-25

Will our Oz councils, particularly the inner city ones, introduce a composting bin as well as the standard general garbage and recycling bin, and thus follow the lead of San Francisco? (Hat tip New York Times 2009-06-11)

Recidivist small residences and businesses get a $100 fine for putting the wrong thing in the wrong bin, and multi-residence buildings and larger businesses cop it sweeter at $1000.

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Posted in Environment, Politics | 2 Comments »

Gov 2.0 and Balneus nostalgia

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-24

Regular readers will know of my interest in citizen engagement with policy development processes, information systems governance, and my respect for AGIMO and AGIMO’s political masters (including Gary Nairn from the Howard regime).

So, with Lindsay Tanner launching the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which is looking at ways of leveraging recently introduced "Web 2.0" tools (I hate that term, and prefer "The Semantic Web"), it’s worth raising again my submission to the AGIMO consultation about on-line consultations, and some previous posts on related issues.

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Posted in Australia, Governance, Information Management, Politics | 3 Comments »

Hospital Productivity Inquiry

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-24

The Productivity Commission has an inquiry open for public submissions until 2009-07-17 on the relative performance of public and commercialprivate hospitals.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Politics | Leave a Comment »

When a government wants to commit ID theft

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-23

From Ars Technica ("City to job applicants: Facebook, Myspace logins please" 2009-06-18) comes something deeply disturbing.

The city of Bozeman Montana, however, has decided that all of that is too much work—it’s now requesting that potential employees hand over the login credentials for any social networking sites they frequent.

It seems to me that this idea is just plain wrong on so many levels, not just an invasion of privacy of the individual with no equivalent disclosure by the city of Bozeman Montana (of all banking records, for example, or better still, give the applicant the city’s digital key to peruse and publish all contract details), but also an invasion of privacy of all third parties that have granted privileges to particular individuals.

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Posted in Civil rights, Information Management | 3 Comments » – the first quibble

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-23

I’ll be posting on other aspects of the Government 2.0 website launched by Tanner and Ludwig another day, but something in the banner design competition notice caught my eye:

The logo should be provided in a scalable (preferably vector based) or high quality version so it can be incorporated in any potential printed documents. Please use a popular graphics format such as jpeg, png, gif, or psd.

Ummmmmm.  I’m having a problem getting this into my brain – the enumerated list not matching the class label…

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Posted in Australia, Information Management, Politics | 1 Comment »

Cui bono

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-23

There are only a couple of groups who could have received benefit from the fake Ute-gate email:

  • The federal government;
  • The news media or a particular journalist;
  • anti-Turnbull forces in the federal opposition;

It would be a high-risk tactic for the government to create and disseminate the bogus email.

It would be even more risky for a journalist to create the fake email.

If however, it was somebody associated with the current federal opposition, it cannot be someone wanting Turnbull to look good, which leaves only anti-Turnbull forces.

… and if the Rudd government is totally clean on this issue, they’ll be pushing the AFP for a conclusive investigation.

So… any guesses as to the culprit?  A vengeful Brendan Nelson doesn’t seem likely – even his feeble brain will have worked out he has no chance of leading the party let alone the country.  Costello’s resignation timing suggests that Captain Smirk has clean hands, or if the resignation is withdrawn, that he could be a master of tossing the red-herring.

Posted in Australia, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Worst Oz international lefty blog ideas ever?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-18

…Perhaps, and it’s mine – indeed this very post.

This comment by Greego (a regular at the Australian Libertarian Society blog) to my post "Worst Oz libertarian blog idea ever" (2009-06-17), itself in response to this ALS blog post got me thinking…

If a central plank generally attributed to states (law enforcement) can be essentially a competitive industry (with presumably different prices offered by different suppliers for different services), then why not open the rest to competition?

(It might be difficult to get parties in a dispute agreeing on the judge, however!  And who says politicians can’t be bought?)

Why not even let people choose the nation-state they want citizenship in?  Change their brand loyalties without friction as service offeerings change? After all, in a globalized market, with states seen as service providers, why shouldn’t this service be subject to competition and GATT?  The geographic restraint of trade is ridiculous and totally against free-market principles.

Meanwhile, think of the advantages.  States can get taxes from people according to their service offerings.  The more efficient the state, the more citizens (sorry, customers) they will attract.

On top of this, warfare between states (sorry, service providers) that destroys infrastructure is almost inconceivable.  There’s an efficiency gain straight away!

Besides, I can’t wait to watch what happens in those states that ultra-capitalists join: no rules… no taxes… no state.

Further, why should there be any barriers to new entries into the market?

Oh dear, does this libertarian train of thought lead to virtual distributed communes?

The only real problem with this system is the difficulty of finding place to train your national sports teams.  Bummer – there’s the showstopper.

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Posted in Civil rights, Humor, International, Politics, Society | 6 Comments »

Worst Oz libertarian blog idea ever?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-17

This from the Australian Libertarian Society blog made my jaw drop.

Worried about bad cops, John Humphreys suggests that councils purchase police services from a range of police providers.

The best solution to this that I can see (besides strong checks and balances) is to introduce greater competition in the "security market".  This would provide an incentive to provide a better service, for a lower cost, and allow greater diversity.  The easiest way to introduce competition in the Australian system is to allow each local council to choose thier police provider.

This is like saying "the best solution to getting oxygen into the body (apart from breathing) is to pump oxygen in through a urethral catheter".

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Posted in Australia, Society | 7 Comments »

They weren’t crocodile tears

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-16

The ALP is probably truly sad that Captain Smirk is quitting politics.

For one, the ALP has enjoyed the instability in Liberal Party ranks caused merely by the Smirk’s presence, even if the Smirk wasn’t trying, merely staying in parliament until just after the magical 18 years ticked over and his parliamentary superannuation returns were optimized (hat tip to Peter Martin).

If Peter Martin’s observations aren’t coincidental, nothing better pinpoints the motives of his political career than his leaving of it.

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Posted in Australia, Politics | 2 Comments »

Test-driving Myki

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-15

The myki transport ticketing system pushed (way over time, way over budget, and way under-scrutinized) by Joh Brumby for Melbourne has been running in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula.

It might work there, and the testing has had a really low bar, but it certainly won’t work in the high-load areas of Melbourne.

So, as someone who relies on public transport, living in Melbourne, but spending most weekends on the Bellarine, here are a few observations:

It can take forever to validate a Myki ticket.  The first hint about this is the time taken between the bus driver punching in what ticket you want, putting the ticket on the scanner, and waiting for it to issue a really annoying “ta-da” fanfare that sounds like a third-rate ringtone played through a guitar distortion pedal and a big fat Marshall amp.  Let’s hope that Melbournians aren’t subjected to the “ta-da”.

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Posted in Australia, Politics, Society, Victoria | 2 Comments »

Ignorance and illogic ARE Xtian “virtues”

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-15

"baraholka1" asks in a comment on my post about Senator Fielding’s idiocy or hypocrisy (probably both):

Please provide one scripture from the Bible which says "Refusing to look for evidence is a virtue"

That’s pretty simple: we need only recall the common English phrase "Doubting Thomas":

Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

– John 20:29

The Gospel of John isn’t exactly non-core Christian scripture, however much the better classes of Xtian admit the inappropriateness of many parts of the Old Testament and the non-Gospel New Testament.

It would be an odd or malignant deity (the likes of Ares springs to mind) that bestows blessings for failings.  A just deity bestows blessings for virtues, or at the very least, refusal to be evil.

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Posted in Theology and Religion | Leave a Comment »

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