The Assange dilemma. What is journalism in the online age?

By LAURIE PATTON | 13 June 2019 (Updated 26 November 2019)

It’s time for more humane treatment of Julian Assange. Guilt or innocence aside nobody should be treated the way he is allegedly being treated. More than 60 doctors have now written an open letter to the UK authorities saying he suffers from psychological problems including depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment. They want him transferred to a hospital. Clearly they have a point.

However, while I accept that Assange is not in good health and deserves better treatment let’s not applaud what was a dangerous practice and a dubious precedent – publicly exposing unverified data that could potentially risk peoples’ lives and create unforeseen collateral damage. How would you feel if it had included sensitive and confidential information about you?

In my opinion Assange is a whistle-blower not a journalist. He dumped huge amounts of confidential material secured illegally from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If he had leaked it directly to the media outlets that subsequently, but very selectively, published reports based on some of his WikiLeaks files he probably would not be in gaol in the UK facing extradition to the United States.

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More broadband porkies. Buying an NBN pig in a poke

By LAURIE PATTON | 20 October 2019

To quote veteran IT journalist Sam Varghese, NBN Co’s latest attempt to put lipstick on a pig – the animal in this case being the network it is building and the make-up in question being speed – goes one step further than the ‘alternative facts’ which its former chief executive, Bill Morrow, used to dish out

The spin doctors at NBN Co are understandably annoyed at media reports reminding people that Australia has dropped from 30th to around 60th in global broadband speed rankings. So they came up with a novel solution. They made up their own numbers. The trouble is nobody in the IT world seems to believe them.

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Miscommunication. Paul Fletcher spins his top like turvey

By LAURIE PATTON | 9 October 2019

Communications minister Paul Fletcher today spoke at an industry conference and outdid his Coalition predecessors in an extraordinary attempt to defend the beleaguered National Broadband Network. These are just some of the comments he made to an incredulous audience of IT professionals who know so much more than he does.

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How Malcolm Turnbull missed his chance to fix the NBN

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By LAURIE PATTON | 26 September 2019

Internet access is now the most complained about telco service in Australia according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s latest report. The state of our trouble-plagued NBN continues to see consumers heading to the authorities in the faint hope their broadband problems can be fixed. Alas, the future remains bleak for millions of NBN Co customers until the Government abandons a flawed set of technologies simply incapable of delivering 21st Century speeds.

Back in December 2016 I attended a fancy black tie dinner at which then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was one of the guest speakers. Toward the end of the evening, having spotted me at a nearby table, Mr Turnbull beckoned me to join him in conversation. We’ve known each other for many years.

Not missing an opportunity I told him that his NBN was in big trouble. Actually, I used far more colourful language to describe this fetid project. However, I also said that there was a solution that should be adopted ASAP. “I need to know about this. Come and see me”, was the PM’s response.

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Barbarians at the gate – don’t let them destroy Murray Valley National Park

By Laurie Patton | 12 July 2019

The New South Wales deputy premier wants to allow logging in a national park in the state’s Riverina. John Barilaro says he intends removing statutory protection of the 42,000 hectare Murray Valley National Park – either by de-gazetting the entire area or reducing its size.

Forty years ago we fought to stop the logging of a rainforest at Terania Creek in northern NSW. I cannot believe this issue is back on the political agenda.

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Multi-technology mess. Why the film and TV industry should be fighting for #BetterBroadband

By LAURIE PATTON | 17 June 2019

According to PwC’s 18th annual Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook, video streaming platforms will outstrip Foxtel and other traditional Pay-TV services for market share in the next two years. More than half Australia’s adults are paying for subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, according to Media Partners Asia research.

As sure as the Sun will rise from the East tomorrow we’ll soon enough be rushing out buying 8K televisions, the next technology upgrade bringing even more ultra-high definition pictures to our screens. When the original high definition TV’s went on the market they were so expensive it took years before they became commonplace in Australian homes. These days more than 90 percent have HDTV’s in some form, and prices have dropped dramatically.

Increasingly, people are watching content delivered via the Internet rather than traditional terrestrial broadcasts. Yet, for many consumers of film and television content our dud NBN means upgrading to the latest HDTV is pointless.

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It’s the vision, stupid! Why we need #BetterBroadband

By LAURIE PATTON | 19 May 2019

While neither side of politics said much about our increasingly-maligned National Broadband Network during the recent election period, the fact is Australia is falling behind in the race to leverage the benefits – economic and social – of an emerging digitally-enabled future.

“It’s the economy, stupid” is the slogan attributed to James Carville, who was Bill Clinton‘s 1992 US presidential campaign strategist. It was about creating a clear message about the candidate’s plans for the country.

In 2015, newly appointed prime minister Malcolm Turnbull similarly coined the term “innovation nation” to describe what he saw as a pressing need to make Australia more innovative and agile – and an issue that would differentiate his approach to government. Turnbull’s problem was that two years earlier, under pressure from his predecessor Tony Abbott, he had laid down tracks leading in the opposite direction.

As I’ve been arguing for some time now we need a bipartisan rescue plan if we are to reap the substantial benefits flowing from a digitally-enabled global economy.

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UPDATE: A tale of two smart cities – life in the NFP sector

By LAURIE PATTON | 16 May 2019

Back in January I wrote about my disappointing time at the helm of the Australian Smart Communities Association. Since then all the Annual Reports have been taken down from the ASCA website. This happened only days after I’d asked for a copy of the latest report, having noticed that it had not been posted on the website along with all the others.

When I inquired about the return of these reports I was informed that they had been removed as part of a major website upgrade. While I couldn’t quite understand the logic of the argument (no other changes have been made to the site) I nevertheless accepted it and repeated my request for a copy of the latest Annual Report. Despite numerous subsequent requests I still have not received one.

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Labor spells out its NBN rescue plan – too broken for a quick fix

By LAURIE PATTON | 10 April 2019

Labor’s communications spokesperson, Michelle Rowland, has outlined a very sensible approach to fixing the dud NBN. In fact, should the Coalition retain office it would be well advised to adopt Labor’s plan. 

As Rowland rightly points out, six years of flawed technology choices has created a delivery disaster and it will be no simple task to return the project to its original vision – fast, reliable and affordable broadband for all Australians.

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Fair trade or exploitation – the ‘warehousing’ of Internet domain names

By LAURIE PATTON | 27 March 2019

auDA – the company managing our Internet domain name registration system – is engaged in a reform program. This follows a review by the communications department which called for major governance changes.

As I have previously written, auDA had been mired in controversy for many years, with the impression being it was subject to too much influence from vested interests, including an inner circle of what are called ‘domainers’ – people who buy and sell domain names, often extracting large windfall profits by warehousing unique names that subsequently command a premium. 

auDA has released a discussion paper and has called for public submissions on a range of proposed policy and operational changes. This is being accompanied by a consultation process that sees auDA presenting to MP’s and senators at Parliament House next week.

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