Tuesday, March 30, 2010

World Wide Web of Censorship

conroydoms – click to enlarge
The Australian reports:
The Obama administration has questioned the Rudd government's plan to introduce an internet filter, saying it runs contrary to the US's foreign policy of encouraging an open internet to spread economic growth and global security.

Officials from the State Department have raised the issue with Australian counterparts as the US mounts a diplomatic assault on internet censorship by governments worldwide.

Responding to questions about the filter, commentary website The Punch reports today that US State Department spokesman Noel Clay has raised concerns on the filter plan.

A spokeswoman for Senator Conroy declined to comment on Mr Clay's remarks.

This comes on the back of damming criticism for the mandatory censorship policy by two of the internet industry’s biggest players, Google and Yahoo.

Both companies tendered their input in a discussion paper released by the Aus Dept of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which had called for feedback on transparency and accountability measures, 174 submissions were received in total.

The policy (if you haven’t heard) aims to "deny access" to overseas hosted internet content that is Refused Classification in Australia.

"In considering the government's plans for mandatory ISP level filtering we have listened to many views, but most importantly those of our users."

"RC is a broad category of content that includes not just child sexual abuse material but also socially and politically controversial material - for example, educational content on safer drug use - as well as the grey realms of material instructing in any crime, including politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia. "

"Decisions in relation to instructional, educational, scientific or current affairs video material will often be much more complex than in relation to entertainment 'films'."

"Scenes of war or terrorist activity may 'offensively depict real violence' and rate RC when the video is not in any way 'gratuitous violence' or posted for entertainment."

"Moving to a mandatory ISP level filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond child sexual abuse material would raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information."

"Filtering material from high-volume sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter appears not to be technologically possible as it would have such a serious impact on internet access".

"We have a number of other concerns, including that filtering may give a false sense of security to parents, it could damage Australia's international reputation and it can be easily circumvented."

"Yahoo are entirely supportive of any effort to make the internet a safer place for children, however mandatory filtering of all RC material could block content with a strong social, political and/or educational value"

"Innocuous sites that could be blocked include:
  • Safe injecting and other harm minimization websites.
  • Euthanasia discussion forums.
  • A video on creating graffiti art.
  • Anti-abortion websites.
  • Gay and lesbian forums that discuss sexual experiences.
  • Explorations of the geo-political causes of terrorism where specific terrorist organizations and propaganda are cited as reference material."

I offered my own personal submission (well kind of); I wrote to the minister 6 times, rejecting the automated address I received the first time I had written. I was overjoyed when I received a note from his office today, a very speedy 3 month turn around in response.

The last paragraph on page 1 reads:
"The RC Content list includes child sex abuse content, bestiality, sexual violence including rape and detailed instruction of crime or drug use. The Government believes that RC content has no place in a civilized society and blocking of this material is nor an impingement on free speech."

This is really beginning to f*cking shit me. It’s regurgitated by the minister and Prime Minister every occasion the policy is discussed, it’s mindlessly repeated in every main stream media article ever posted about the policy.

Yes RC does include child sex, bestiality and rape. But as Google and Yahoo point out above, it also includes so much more.

The government should be required to reveal the truth, that RC content includes; safe drug injecting and harm minimization info, euthanasia forums, graffiti art videos, certain gay and lesbian forum content, terrorism studies, scenes of war "offensively depicting real violence", some fetish pornography, women with small breasts in porn and even porn featuring female ejaculation (when male ejaculation is quite acceptable).

If they did so though, told the truth, they would have but one solitary policy supporter, the Australian Christian Lobby.

This propaganda, choosing which facts to disclose, and which ones to omit, has been used to dodgy up surveys to in turn further the propaganda effort. It was reported that a commissioned survey reflected that 80% of Australians support mandatory internet censorship.

Crap! To begin, 1000 people only were telephoned, hardly a cross representational indication of the Australian continent. More importantly, participants were asked their opinion on the aforementioned propaganda:
Do you support the government filtering access to RC internet content that includes child sex, bestiality and rape?

You would have to be pretty f*cked up to answer no. Apparently though 20% of Australians are, or maybe they were just aware of the facts regarding the policy and choose not to comply with the loaded question.

An online survey on March 30, 2010 by the Age News paper was conducted without the propaganda.

Question - "do you approve of the government filtering the internet"

Response - 96% No, 3% Yes, 1% Indifferent

The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 governs classification decisions. It provides that classifications are in accordance with the National Classification Code and guidelines.

The Code sets out that RC is applied to content which may; depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) took action against 1365 different pieces of web page content hosted overseas in the period 2008 – 2009. This was double the volume of items actioned for the previous year. It includes not just RC material for which filtering will be based upon, but also X18+ and "potentially prohibited" content.

At the same time, the actual number of complaints received by the ACMA decreased in the period. We are told that the system is complaints driven; ACMA only investigates content when it receives a complaint. It is quite curious to see complaints decrease but actions undertaken double.

On the topic of censoring online games, page 3 of my letter from the minister’s office reads:
"The Minister for Home Affairs released a discussion paper to consider whether there should be an R18+ category for computer games in Australia. The government’s approach to filtering online games will be developed drawing on this consultation process"

Making shit up as they go along in essence. If R18+ video game ratings are still not forthcoming after the consultation, any online game there forth not suitable for persons aged 15 years and under will be blocked from access, if law requirements are followed.

view the complete letter here

The US Government, Google and Yahoo are the latest and biggest in a long, long growing line of critics against Australia’s internet censorship policy. But are they the pot calling the kettle black?

YouTube (owned by Google) has a growing reputation for removing user videos by the bucket load. I have a YouTube channel specifically designed for reloading content that has been removed/banned by YT.

Currently I am unable to keep pace with restoring the content that has disappeared from the site, just within the videos I have added to my channel favorites. These are not videos that violate the terms of service (although they are often claimed to), they do not contain sex or violence, they are however politically sensitive.

I’m glad Google is so concerned about "restrictions on access to information". To add some perspective, YT generally do "take downs" upon request, so the true censorship culprits are those doing the requesting, media corporations.

YouTube recently revealed that the media company Viacom have been engaged in the game of uploading their own product to YT, only to then turn around and lodge complaint with take down request.

As for the US Government "raising concern" over the policy, this really is a twisted game they are playing, which is why Minister Conroy will probably not feel unduly pressured by the remarks.

The US Gov is at the forefront of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which it is forcing upon the world. A balance heavily weighted in the interest of big media corps already exists under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but ACTA is set to take these interests to unprecedented new heights.

Australian copyright law largely mirrors US DM Copyright Act due to Australia being a signatory to the 2004 Free Trade Agreement, another US policy forced upon the world.

The ACTA treaty is highly secretive. After much tedious campaigning by Electronic Freedom Foundation in the US, 159 doc pages associated with the treaty were released, but only after 1362 had been deemed as potentially violating “national security” and withheld.

A new UK Digital Economy Bill has also been drafted as a result of ACTA negotiations. It is proposed in the UK, users have their internet service disconnected if they are caught file sharing 3 times or more, "three-strikes" and your out regime.

Other measures include a ban on open Wi-Fi (hot spots) and needless to say, website filtering. Currently the censorship of internet pornography and even abuse material is voluntary for ISPs in the UK, but this new Bill places compulsory requirements upon ISPs to block access to copyrighted content.

The ACTA treaty tentacles obligate signatories including Europe, USA, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates.

An EU ACTA negotiator recently promised no "3 strikes" rules for Europe, but a leaked ACTA draft would indicate otherwise, as will be the case in future for all aforementioned signatory nations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Urging violence

The Krudd Government has introduced a range of amendments to Australia's counter-terrorism laws which it says aims to "deliver a better balance between protecting people's rights and protecting the nation from attack".

The new balance includes giving police the powers to enter and search property without warrants. To "protect people's rights" Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland proposes to abolish the crime of sedition, by renaming it "urging violence".

The crime of sedition is not an act of violence; sedition is criminalised speech (thought crime).

Previously to be tried for sedition in Australia, your speech had to threaten the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. The proposed law amendments remove this onerous requirement. Amendments also expand speech crime law from applying against groups, to now cover speech crime against individuals as well.

The English Court of the Star Chamber invented the crime of sedition based on the theory that the King (Henry VIII ) was above public criticism and that statements critical of the government should be prohibited. Like the law of blasphemy, sedition fell out of use to a large extent in most democracies during the twentieth century.

Sedition laws were effectively defunct in Australia for half a century until 2005, when the Howard government introduced an anti-terrorism Bill and passed 44 pieces of anti-terrorism legislation, more than in any other comparable jurisdiction internationally.

An Australian national security legislation discussion paper from August 2009 recommended the above mentioned law amendments now being introduced in Parliament as draft legislation.

The 2009 report also proposed to expand the definition of a terrorist act in the Criminal Code to include psychological as well as physical harm, and a new terrorism hoax offence, punishable by up to 10 years' jail for anyone seeking to create a false belief that a terrorist act will occur.

While countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Ghana and Sri Lanka have in recent times removed criminal defamation laws, it’s good to see the Australian government returning to the age of King Henry the eighth.

It was reported in July 2009 that the UK government was finally relenting and had agreed to abolish the offences of seditious libel and criminal defamation.

UK Justice Minister Lord Bach said:
"Sedition and defamatory libel are arcane offences from a bygone era when freedom of expression wasn't seen as the right it is today"

While the UK laws were rarely in use, their existence, said Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
"provides more repressive governments around the world with the excuse they need not only to refuse to repeal defamation laws but also to make active use of such laws to imprison journalists, writers and others."

Conroy in a pickle

Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders last week put Australia on its list of countries "under surveillance" in its recent "Internet Enemies" report.

Australia joins the company of countries in danger of making the main enemies list which includes Russia, Turkey and South Korea.

The report added that in South Korea; "draconian laws are creating too many specific restrictions on web users by challenging their anonymity and promoting self-censorship".

According to the report, China, Iran and Tunisia who have been named "Enemies of the Internet", got more sophisticated at censorship and overcoming dissidents' attempts to communicate online.

Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda - Stephen Conroy, protected under parliamentary privilege from real world accountability, attempted to mitigate the reports implications by attacking Electronic Frontiers Australia.

Prompted by the Reporters Without Borders report, Queensland Liberal Senator Sue Boyce asked Conroy if he had stifled national debate on internet filtering by "branding critics as child pornography advocates".

In reply Conroy said:
"The material that has been supplied to Reporters Without Borders comes from Electronic Frontiers Australia, who have been challenged publicly on a number of occasions to produce a quote where I have ever said that."

"Electronic Frontiers Australia have run one of the most disgraceful misinformation campaigns and have misled Australians."

"I challenge each and every one of you to come up with such a quote, because it does not exist."

But EFA immediately did produce two such quotes:
In one of the first public pronouncements of the policy, the Minister stated:
"If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree."
On another occasion, when answering a question on the filter put to him by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam during a Senate Estimates hearing, the Minister dodged the question using this device:
Senator Ludlam – Just let me finish. In terms of the countries that you have just listed for me, it is mandatory or is it an opt-in system that, for example, concerned parents could take advantage of?
Senator Conroy – Illegal material is illegal material. Child pornography is child pornography. I trust you are not suggesting that people should have access to child pornography.

After laying down the challenge to find such a quote, Conroy (without irony) went on to say:
"Anyone who tries to suggest that anything other than material included in the RC classification is subject to the filter is misleading all Australians. Let me be very clear: the material under the RC classification is material like child pornography."

EFA asserts that RWB have never contacted them for opinion or briefing on this matter.

One commenter at EFA points out:
"All you have to do to make something “RC” is to simply refuse it. What a twit."

Very true, Refused Classification material already includes content that "instructs or promotes" acts of crime like safe drug use, graffiti art and euthanasia.

Adult content depicting particular fetishes is also RC, in example "golden showers". Recently female ejaculation was reviewed to be included under the later category. It has also been proposed that small breasted women in sexual contexts be refused classification.

But can we trust the government of the day to only ever apply a filter to RC content; even though that in itself can grow to incorporate anything they chose?

Just one year ago Conroy himself was flagging that the compulsory filtering would be based upon the ACMA blacklist of prohibited websites. After much outcry, making sh*t up on the fly, the Minister back flipped to announce official filtering policy was now strictly about denying access to RC, a subset of the blacklist which contained legal adult material.

This got the Australian Christian Lobby all hot and bothered who accused the government of breaking its election promise to censor the internet.

ACL managing director Jim Wallace said of the change to RC content filtering only;
"That doesn't meet the election promise as far as we're concerned at all. The promise was clearly about providing a safer internet environment for children and to do that you need to mandatorily block in the first instance pornography and R18+, and then provide an opt-in system for those adults who want to access it."

Even if Conroy can continue to dodge the wrath of the fundamentalist ACL and maintain a course of RC filtering, as apposed to filtering all online adult pleasures, this would still be an assault on freedom of speech.

Recently the minister called upon Google to censor all videos on its YouTube website in accordance with the filtering scheme. Google Australia politely told him to go f*ck himself, saying:
"The scope of RC is simply too broad and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. RC includes the grey realms of material instructing in any crime from [painting] graffiti to politically controversial crimes such as euthanasia, and exposing these topics to public debate is vital for democracy."

Poor Stephen, he’s alienated just about all internet users and the internet industry for planning to over filter, while the zealous filter advocates are p*ssed that his plan doesn’t censor nearly enough.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Block the Filter

Reminder – National day of action. On the 6th of March 2010, Block the Filter, Stop Internet Censorship and Stop the Filter will be holding events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. More info - www.block-the-filter.org/

I don’t want to be a broken record, but the mandatory internet censorship policy that our Government has locked in, under the pretense of protecting children, is something that I find most disturbing, so I will cover the topic once more.

Protecting children is a noble objective, one that should be paramount with no resource spared, but censoring the internet or as the government terms it “filtering”, can not deliver on this vital objective.

The Government euphemistically refers to its policy for mandatory internet censorship as “filtering”, but filtering is something applied to percolating coffee. Make no mistake; this is censorship, pure and simple.

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says some internet content is simply not suitable in a civilized society and that “It is important that all Australians, particularly young children, are protected from this material.”

There are currently around 25 billion indexed pages accessible from the World Wide Web, plus an untold number of encrypted and hidden pages which have not been indexed by major search engines.

Even the most clueless of clueless Governments could not seriously entertain that a blacklist could in any way shape or form, provide a meaningful “filtering” solution for that volume of website pages.

It is clear from the outset that this policy has nothing to do with “protecting citizens” and has everything to do with creating additional government authority for the purpose of censoring any internet content that they so choose, in a very targeted manner, as this is the only manner feasible.

If anything, the policy will place children at greater peril, as parents may be given a false sense of security and become more complacent about their children’s online activities. The policy is an easy fix solution, one that requires no real effort by parents in being responsible for their children’s safety, and one that requires no real effort for government to implement. This makes the policy very attractive to all concerned, but again the sense of security is extremely misplaced.

Senator Conroy has announced the requirements that Internet Service Providers censor internet content hosted overseas, will come into effect twelve months from the date of the passage of the legislation.

This conveniently places the commencement of censoring our internet, post Election Day. There’s a reason for this, the Government knows full well how enormously unpopular the policy is.

However rather than listen to just about every respected academic and technical mind in the country, and around 90% of the general population, who are all screaming NO FILTER, the Government seem quite at ease demonstrating utter contempt and disregard for our wishes, providing they can of course do so and still secure re-election.

If you believe what the Government tells you, you may have the impression that the mechanism for “filtering” is purely based upon a “defined list of URLs” or black list which ISPs will deny end user access to.

But of course the Government has not exactly been forthcoming with disclosing the technologies that were utilized in trials during 2009.

Lui Spandas of ARNnet reported in June 2009 that ISPs involved in the trials were using appliance based products which through signature blocking, have capabilities for filtering peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, instant messaging communications, anonymous website proxies and online gaming sites.

Quoting Webshield Managing director Anthony Pillion, Spandas writes:
“Web filtering is more granular and flexible than just blocking a black list and we haven’t stopped at Web content level.”

Stephen Conroy says the Government will not determine what is blacklisted; rather an independent body will determine what sites are rated as RC (refused classification).

The “independent body” he refers to is otherwise known as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a government organization.

Currently the Australian Classification Board provides classifications on internet content to the ACMA on request, if and only if, the ACMA receives a complaint about internet content. According to the ACMA website:

The ACMA can only take action about material that is prohibited, or potentially prohibited, under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

This golden rule will now be applied to all overseas content under the filtering policy and already law exists in anticipation of that. The Broadcasting Services Act of 1992, Amended Nov 20th 2009, Vol 2 reads:
If, in the course of an investigation under Division 2 of Part 3 of Schedule 7, the ACMA is satisfied that Internet content hosted outside Australia is prohibited content or potential prohibited content, the ACMA must:

Give each Internet service provider known to the ACMA a written notice (a standard access-prevention notice) directing the provider to take all reasonable steps to prevent end-users from accessing the content.

If you are to attempt discourse with Minister Conroy or worse, ask him to explain the Governments position in this matter, you will receive from his office a publication entitled “Cyber-safety and internet service provider filtering” which will do nothing to address your questions.

One paragraph of this document makes the claim:
“For families that wish to have a wider range of material filtered, including potentially X18+ content and gaming sites, the Government will establish a grants program to encourage ISPs to offer these services on a commercial basis.”

This would appear to contradict the Broadcasting Services Act which, defining Prohibited Content reads:
For the purposes of this Schedule, content (other than content that consists of an eligible electronic publication) is prohibited content if:

(a) The content has been classified RC or X 18+ by the Classification Board; or

(b) Both:

(i) The content has been classified R 18+ by the Classification Board; and

(ii) Access to the content is not subject to a restricted access system.

Further, the Act defines potential prohibited content as follows:
For the purposes of this Schedule, content is potential prohibited content if:

a) the content has not been classified by the Classification Board; and

(b) if the content were to be classified by the Classification Board, there is a substantial likelihood that the content would be prohibited content.

Online video games will also be subject to internet filtering requirements. This presents a double edged injustice, as Australia is currently the only democracy in the world that has no adult classification ratings for video games.

What that means is existing video games, even extremely graphic and adult audience orientated ones, receive a maximum classification rating of MA+ 15 in Australia. This allows minor’s to play games with inappropriate content for their age, often unbeknown to their parents whom mistakenly believe MA+ 15 indicates suitability for ages 15 years and above.

A similar set of circumstances apply to games, which have been outlined in relation to internet content. If someone complains about a game, or the Classification Board receives a tip off about content concerns before a game is released, they revue the game in question. If it is found to fall outside the definition of MA+ 15, then it is classified RC, becoming prohibited content.

It will become very common indeed under these guidelines, for online games to be added to the list for which access is denied.

Already an ever increasing amount of material is being categorized as, and adding to, an extensive list of prohibited content, long before filtering is even due to begin. At this rate, by the time filtering does arrive, it may well be that content from main stream media outlets are the only remaining publications/productions which the Government allows the public to access.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Free speech now $20K speech

Detailed in the previous post, revelations of South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, suing one of his own constituents for the sum of $20K, because she was brazen enough to complain about Atkinson in a confidential email which she sent to her local Council, who then forwarded the correspondence to Atkinson.

Last night in the ABC program – Media Watch, more details of Atkinson suing yet another individual for calling him a “crook” in a blog comment. The asking sum - $20K of course. Poor Mr. Atkinson must be short of dollars, so has thus instigated this genius plan of demanding $20,000 from anyone who annoys him.

If you would like to donate to the Michael Atkinson fund, here’s how, just make an unfavourable remark about him, on the blog of your choosing, anywhere on the net (doesn’t matter where, he’ll track you down), and you too will receive an extortion note from his lawyers Norman Waterhouse.

It’s a bargain really; just $20K and you can say whatever, just like free speech but not, because it costs $20K, call it $20k speech.

So ok, here’s what I think, $20K speech is terrorism, Michael Atkinson you are a terrorist and Norman Waterhouse – go f*ck yourself!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dumb & Dumber

What have dumb & dumber been up to lately?

Dumb Stephen Conroy (Minister of Enlightenment) in charge of censoring the internet in Australia, was sprung last week censoring his own website.

Andrew Ramadge - News.com
The front page of Minister Conroy's official website displays a list of topics connected to his portfolio, along with links to more information about each one.

All the usual topics are there – cyber safety, the national broadband network and so on.

All except one.

It was revealed today a script within the minister's homepage deliberately removes references to internet filtering from the list.

In the function that creates the list, or "tag cloud", there is a condition that if the words "ISP filtering" appear they should be skipped and not displayed.

According to Google's cache records, the exception has been included on the minister's homepage since at least February 14.

I get the feeling that his office email has the same filter filter, because despite sending countless requests for answers on policy queries, I still await reply.

As for dumber Michael Atkinson (AG SA) in charge of censoring video games in Australia, he has been inconspicuously absent from the media since the infamous "Good Game" interview, see previous post - Who is Michael Atkinson?
"I feel that my family and I are more at risk from gamers than we are from outlaw motorcycle gangs, who also hate me and are running a candidate against me."

"The outlaw motorcycle gangs haven't been hanging around my doorstep at 2am - a gamer has."

I suspect with the South Australian election so near (March 20th), Atkinson can no longer afford to be recorded or reported making any public comment, as every time he does so, he does himself a huge disfavour.

Note of interest: video game retailer EB Games has collected 46000 signatures in the last 3 weeks, for a national petition in support of an R18+ rating for video games.

Being now starved of Atkinson’s Magoo like comedic prowess, possibly due to a self imposed media gag, I’ll add in a few more blasts from the past here which I didn’t quite fit into the previous post, cause everyone needs a laugh.

Recently Atkinson, in a feeble attempt to justify new South Australian law banning anonymous online political commentary during election periods, a law which he himself had sponsored, Atkinson said on radio the censorship was necessary because fictitious characters were being deployed by opposition parties to defame him.

Bryan Littlely, Greg Kelton - Adelaidenow.com
"I'll give you an example; repeatedly in the AdelaideNow website one will see commentary from Aaron Fornarino of West Croydon. That person doesn't exist"

"That name has been created by the Liberal Party in order to run Liberal Party commentary."
When asked how he knew Mr Fornarino did not exist, Mr Atkinson said:
"Because I've been the member for the area for 20 years, I've lived here for longer.

"I have the up-to-date electoral roll and I just know West Croydon people very well."
But Mr Fornarino does exist. He lives in a flat on Port Rd, about 500m from Mr Atkinson's electorate office.

Mr Fornarino, 28, a second-year law student, moved to the West Croydon, address in September.

One of the all time classics from Atkinson was his tale about bikies barbecuing and eating a cat, in a public park just near his house.

The statement was made during debate after the Government had deemed it necessary to add extra amendments to an Act prohibiting the consumption of cats and dogs.

It was later revealed that they were not bikies, it was not a cat, it was no where near his house and the event had transpired some 13 years prior.

Poor confused Michael apologized in Parliament for his artistically creative comments:
"I apologise to the Gypsy Jokers, the Hells Angels, the Finks, the Rebels, the Bandido's and the Descendants and any other gangs the Member for Unley nominates as being cut to the quick by my remark during debate."

These examples demonstrate how readily Mr. Atkinson will utilize an imaginary premise to score points or secure support for unnecessary laws. The cat/dog Act amendments were passed.

On to a serious matter now that has Atkinson’s finger prints all over it, St Clair Reserve Woodville. Charles Sturt Council who owns this popular children’s play park, has given approval for a new housing estate to be built on the land.

Originally the land developers secured approval for the project on an adjacent, abandoned, industrially contaminated block but later withdrew due to the land remediation burden. Consequently a deal was struck to "swap" the land, put the playground in the industrial waste site and build houses on the playground.

Independent MP David Winderlich has been successful in calling for an investigation, he claims Atkinson offered one councillor his support for a Labor seat and another an appointment to chair a committee with a $3000 payment attached, in exchange for influencing Charles Sturt to go ahead with the land swap.

A couple of thousand residents have been furiously protesting the move, one of whom sent a series of emails to Charles Sturt Council commenting on statements made by Mr. Winderlich in parliament, which suggested Mr Atkinson’s staffers had intimidated residents.

The problem with that is that 12 of 17 Charles Sturt Councillors are members of the Labor Party and three are actually employed by Labor MPs. The confidential email was passed on to Mr. Atkinson by a source or sources within the Charles Sturt Council.

Acting on behalf of Michael Atkinson, Norman Waterhouse lawyers served notice on the resident in question, demanding $23,000 in damages and legal fees.

more info at charlessturtratepayers.org