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Greenies told to can the spam

27 April 2007
Greenies told to can the spam
By Asher Moses

Is lobbying our Government ministers via email classified as illegal spam?

That is certainly the question being asked today by the NSW National Parks Association (NPA), whose email address was blacklisted by the office of the NSW Premier, Morris Iemma.

The environmental lobby group's executive officer Andrew Cox accused the Government of "infringing on the public's ability to participate in the democratic process using email".

A form on the NPA website had allowed people to easily write to Mr Iemma, 20 of his Cabinet Ministers, five Independents and four Green parliamentary members, supporting the NPA's position on administrative changes to the environment ministry.

"I urge you to resist making changes to the recently strengthened environment ministry," a line of the generic letter template read.

But after receiving 1700 messages sent using the form in two days, the Government wrote an email to Mr Cox accusing him of breaking the law.

"We are experiencing a high volume of spam from an IP address registered to your organization," reads the email sent by a Government IT security staff member, Ian Hughes.

"The pattern and content of these email constitutes SPAM under the Commonwealth SPAM act of 2003. Please investigate and take action to prevent further spam from these addresses."

Mr Hughes told Mr Cox that if the emails did not cease, "we will be required to report this behaviour to the relevant authorities".

All emails sent by the NPA to the Premier's office and his ministers are now being blocked.

However, it appears Mr Hughes has misinterpreted the Spam Act, which only applies to "commercial electronic messages". The NPA is a non-profit organisation.

Further, Section 44 of the legislation reads: "This Act does not apply to the extent (if any) that it would infringe any constitutional doctrine of implied freedom of political communication."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which administers the Spam Act, said it was seeking further details from the Premier's office, but "as a general comment, the spam act regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages".

Mr Cox was "appalled" by the Government's actions.

"Email should make communication with our elected representatives easier, not to allow the Government to control whether they wish to hear a legitimate expression of the public on an issue or not."

The Premier's office did not return calls requesting comment, while Mr Hughes refused to comment on the matter.

But an email sent this morning by Mr Hughes to Mr Cox reads: "Your request has been passed on to the relevant decision makers within the premiers [sic] department and I am awaiting instruction on how to proceed in this matter.

"Should the decision to unblock your email campaign be taken I will inform you as we modify the filtering policy at our end."

Mr Cox will send a letter to Mr Iemma today urging him to intervene.

"An email is a legitimate form of communication with the Government as much as a printed letter is," the letter reads.

Reference source: The Age Melbourne and NUANCE Post


dad4life said
Something to think about: Similar reasoning and tactics could be used to block separated fathers complaining to government, particularly via the likes of the previously used Fathers 4 Equality megaphone..

Edited

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