Politicians hitting the Panic button risk killing yet another industry

Australian history is littered with the relics of once-thriving industries destroyed by government meddling. In the early 20th century, Australia led the world film-making industry, with not only the world?s first production studio but the first feature-length films. But a government ban on the most popular genre ? bushranger movies ? and punishing changes to tax rules killed the nascent film industry for half a century. Changes to tariff laws from the 1980s destroyed a range of manufacturing industries, from textiles to automotives.

In their unseemly rush to be seen to be ?doing something? after the Christchurch attack, the Australian government is threatening to destroy Australia?s budding tech industry. Quote:

Social media and content platforms could have less than an hour to identify and start removing ?abhorrent? video, audio or still images from their sites under ?world-first? laws passed in Australia.

Having quickly rammed the social media crackdown laws through the Senate late last night, the laws also passed Australia?s lower house with little opposition.

They not only affect social media platforms but also internet, content and hosting providers that store content both inside and outside of Australia.

Both individuals and companies now face huge fines and/or jail time if they do not identify offensive content ?within a reasonable time? and start removing it ?expeditiously?. End of quote.

“Minister, I give you: The Internet.”

These laws are stunning in both their deluded grandiosity and Orwellian overreach. They also show, yet again, the fundamental problem of clueless politicians. If someone was to show them a little box with a light on it and tell them it was ?the internet?, they?d spend the next hour trying to figure out how to switch it off and then on again.

The people who actually know what they?re talking about are anything but happy. Quote:

Australian tech heavyweights led by Atlassian?s Scott Farquhar have called for urgent changes to controversial anti-encryption laws, which he said were already causing firms to lose international customers and risked choking progress of the local tech industry?

?Not a single technology company on the list of people we are talking to now has been consulted. We view this legislation as a choke hold on the Australian tech industry?Within the first week of this coming out we had people cancelling their accounts, and they told us it was because of the laws. I also have a good friend that runs an energy company, and they had a very large deal with a foreign government, who pulled out as a result of this bill.? End of quote.

Companies like Atlassian are hardly die-hard alt-righters. While Atlassian recently sensibly dumped virtue-signalling ?diversity? measures in favour of competence-based hiring, the company is also something of a renewable energy evangelist. More importantly, these are the people at the pointy end of technology. Their opinion surely carries more weight than a panicked politician?s ?I Just Reckon?: ?it appeared to us as a government that there was a near unanimous view amongst Australians?, Porter claims ? although how they came by that observation is anyone?s guess. By watching The Project? Quote

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies end quote

Groucho Marx

Other industry sectors are worried by how this kludged legislation will affect them, too. Quote:

The Australian Industry Group, which represents the interests of more than 60,000 businesses across the country?remained concerned the potential impacts of the legislation extended well beyond technology businesses?

Technology experts? [say] that any move to crack open communications would automatically weaken security across the whole system.

?They don?t understand enough about the technology ? You can?t just open encryption when nice police officers are trying to read terrorists? data and yet keep everyone else?s data secure,? University of Melbourne associate professor Vanessa Teague said. End of quote.

Australia is a small player in the global tech industry, but several innovative companies are beginning to make their mark. Yet again, a meddling Australian government seems determined to consign a budding industry to the scrapheap. Quote:

Mr Farquhar said the two areas in concert were clamping down on the nascent Australian tech industry, and questioned whether there was a broader policy to keep progress in check.

?I think it is a broader thing of whether the government wants a viable technology industry in Australia or not,? he said??At the moment they seem hell bent on doing things to tear the industry down.? End of quote.