Here's a fun game: Let's count the ways that Australian Governments are trying to destroy personal freedoms in Australia. First off, you've got the mandatory internet filtering regime. Then you've got the country's lack of an adult rating for video games. If that's not enough, South Australia recently required all R-rated videos to be sectioned off in retail, regardless of content. And now, the South Australians are at it again, with a recent amendment to the Electoral Act destined to make it illegal to comment on State elections online anonymously.
And you'll never guess which South Australian politician is putting his name to the amendments. If you guessed Attorney General Michael Atkinson, you'd be right! In Michael McGuire's story for AdelaideNow this morning, he even quoted the AG as saying: "The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud". (Not that it has anything to do with his argument, but it's good to know what type of a human being the guys from Gamers4Croydon are going up against at the election.)
The amendment - which you can read for yourself below - will require all online commenters discussing the election later this year to provide their real name and postcode. Of course, in the real world (where it seems no politicians actually live), it's completely unworkable, with easy workarounds (like hosting a site on a US web server, for example. Not to mention that monitoring the sheer number of sites will be near impossible.
The law is only in effect from when the election is called and ends when the election is over, but it's still a ridiculous law that avoids the very concept of logic.
116—Published material to identify person responsible for political content (1) A person must not, during an election period, publish material consisting of, or containing a commentary on, any candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors, in written form, in a journal published in electronic form on the Internet or by radio or television or broadcast on the Internet, unless the material or the programme in which the material is presented contains a statement of the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material. Maximum penalty: (a) if the offender is a natural person—$1 250; (b) if the offender is a body corporate—$5 000.
(2) This section does not apply to— (a) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of a leading article; (b) the publication of a report of a meeting that does not contain any comment (other than comment made by a speaker at the meeting) on any candidate, or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors; (c) the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of an article, letter, report or other matter if— (i) the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material is provided to the publisher of the journal and retained by the publisher for a period of 6 months after the end of the election period; and (ii) the journal contains a statement of the name and postcode of the person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material; (ca) the publication of a letter (otherwise than as described in paragraph (c)) that contains the name and address (not being a post office box) of the author of the letter; (d) a news service or a current affairs programme on radio or television or broadcast on the Internet; (e) any other prescribed material or class of material. (3) In this section— journal means a newspaper, magazine or other periodical.
116A—Evidence In proceedings for an offence against this Division— (a) an electoral advertisement that includes a statement that its publication was authorised by a specified person; or (b) an electoral advertisement that includes a statement that it was printed by a specified person; or (c) material consisting of, or containing, a commentary on a candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors, that includes a statement that a specified person takes responsibility for the publication of the material; or (d) an apparently genuine document purporting to be a certificate of the Electoral Commissioner certifying that the Electoral Commissioner made a request for the withdrawal of a misleading advertisement or the publication of a retraction, is, in the absence of proof to the contrary, proof of that fact.
Now just for fun, let's all comment on the South Australian election. Make sure you use your real name though...