Express Exchange Engage
What we are seeing in Australia today is a veil of censorship, secrecy and the surveillance being drawn across government and Australian Public Service agencies. When it comes to monitoring by public service agencies there is a dangerous lack of transparency and accountability.
All of this is a threat our freedoms, our right to know, better government and better public services. And we are not being asked if this is the sort of society we want.
At the end of this post are links to the more detailed article Australia: One nation under surveillance and additional documentation. Before continuing you may want to view our Talking points.
The recent Melbourne Age piece Silence echoes across Canberra as the Coalition clams up says it all.
But two months since the election, it's increasingly becoming apparent that a "no-surprises" government is coming at the cost of open government.
As shown in the Canberra Times piece Cash sought for FOI brief releases we are increasingly seeing Australian Public Service agencies pulling back on Freedom of Information.
But more than a month after the Abbott government was sworn in, none of its briefs has been released.
A veil of secrecy is being drawn around government and the public service. This is despite the Coalition's Policy for e-Government and the Digital Economy stating they will,
accelerate Government 2.0 efforts to engage online, make agencies transparent and provide expanded access to useful public sector data
To be fair, it was the previous Labor Government that wanted to expand digital surveillance powers to mass surveil the communications of citizens.
In the meantime the Australian Public Service has been going its own merry way. Most notably, by seeking to prevent public servants from engaging in any discussion of public service issues with members of the public via social media. Under the guise of cyber-bullying they are now attempting to shut citizens up. To find out more about this read my post The Australian Public Service thinks the barbarians are at the gate
In my talk at the IPAA social media seminar held in September I highlighted the need for public interest discussions between public servants (in a private capacity) and the wider community. Near the end of my talk the Government's Chief Technology Officer asserted that these freedoms did not exist and proceeded to repeat the Australian Public Service Commission's view that harsh criticism is not on.
The Australian Public Service Commission's policy on harsh criticism is nonsense. These freedoms need to exist to ensure transparency and accountability. What Australian Public Service agencies are doing under the guise of this policy is creating an environment where self-censorship and the hiding of information will flourish. Mind you, they are watching you.
APS agencies may have systems in place for monitoring emails and tracking postings, comments, websites, blogs, etc. for content about their agency or employees, including by designating staff to monitor online content.
Your right to know
May have systems in place? The community has a right to know. Which leads me to the nature of surveillance in Australia.
Why be concerned
It is bad enough that we are surveilled roughly 800 times per day. See The Australian Government Snoop Patrol. What we are now seeing is evidence that Australian Public Service agencies are building a surveillance state by stealth.
What is very clear in all of this is that transparency and accountability need to be ramped up to prevent the erosion of democracy and bad behaviour on the part of public service agencies.
Given the power of technology and the bureaucracy we need, like Canada, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure the ethical use of our information and freedom of the press. If we do not we may very well end up with a system of total surveillance that is impossible to dismantle.
Find out more
Read the detailed paper Australia: One nation under surveillance
Consider Views from the street
View actual Surveillance and monitoring purchases
View, share and discuss our poster Democracy. That's what the entire issue of surveillance boils down to.