Here's an odd thing.
We suppose it's fairly common knowledge that Australian men like to project an aura of tough, no-nonsense practicality – and why shouldn't they? There was a time when British men did the same.
Evidently the Australian government and health services have the same view, because the figures on spending for men's healthcare present quite an unbalanced picture. According to Australian website Antimisandry.com, in the year 2000 $13million was spent on women's healthcare research in Australia, and only $5.4million on the men.
The following year the figures were $19.5m on women, and $8.4m on men. In 2002, the figure for men had increased by roughly $1.5m, but for women there was an increase of almost $7m. Since then the pattern has been maintained, so that in 2007, the last year for which we have information, it was $51.5m for the women but only a miserly $15m for the men.
You have to wonder, don't you? It's possible that Australian men are right, and that they really are a tough bunch who laugh at infection and shrug off illness. Perhaps prostate or testicular cancer and infertility don't matter to them, while their womenfolk take breast or ovarian cancer much more seriously and are prepared to make more fuss.
But perhaps it's the same thing we recognise in this country – the medical profession really couldn't care less about men's health. Women can get scraped and have their tits felt for lumps every five minutes, while a comparatively simple and inexpensive screening for prostate cancer is only now becoming routinely available for British men of a certain age. The GOS hasn't been offered it yet, despite being in the right age group.
You can see the complete Australian figures on this PDF file.
And here's something else equally odd but potentially far more sinister. The Australian has just published this article by David Crowe, their National Affairs Editor ...
Print and online news will come under direct federal government oversight for the first time under proposals issued yesterday to create a statutory regulator with the power to prosecute media companies in the courts. The historic change to media law would break with tradition by using government funds to replace an industry council that acts on complaints, in a move fiercely opposed by companies as a threat to the freedom of the press.
The proposals, issued yesterday by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, also seek to widen the scope of federal oversight to cover print, online, radio and TV within a single regulator for the first time.
Bloggers and other online authors would also be captured by a regime applying to any news site that gets more than 15,000 hits a year, a benchmark labelled "seriously dopey" by one site operator.
The head of the review, former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein, rejected industry warnings against setting up a new regulator under federal law with funding from government.
The major newspaper companies were unanimous in opposing a statutory regulator under federal law, with Kerry Stokes's Seven West Media declaring it was inconsistent with the notion of a free press. Media companies also warned that government funding for the new regulator would undercut the workings of a healthy democracy, with APN News & Media bluntly opposing any increase in regulation.
The council would scrutinise online news sites that get more than 15,000 hits a year, clearing the way for government-funded action against amateur website operators who comment on news and current affairs. Greg Jericho, a prominent Canberra blogger on national politics, said: "The level of 15,000 hits a year, or about 40 hits a day, is seriously dopey."
Seriously dopey is about right. We'll explain: whenever a user opens up his browser (Firefox, or Internet Explorer for instance) and goes to a web page, that website registers a “hit”. So far, so good.
But it's not as simple as that. You see, if the web page includes a picture, that counts as another “hit” because the picture isn't actually part of the page but has to be downloaded separately from the server where it lives, and it's the user's computer that follows the web page's instructions and inserts it into the page. And of course many web pages contain dozens of pictures.
And many other things operate in the same way. Does the web page have a fancy logo at the top (like this one has the picture of the grumpy old man)? That's another hit. Is there a title in fancy lettering like the words “Grumpy Old Sod” up above? That's another. Are there any banners like the “Politics Home” one on our home page? Another hit. And are there any advertisements like the Amazon ads on the right? More hits. In the case of Google ads which many websites use, a hell of a lot of hits because Google samples the page as you open it and sends ads that are appropriate to the page content, so there are hits flying back and forwards like crazy.
It's perfectly possible that a web page like this one could count as 40 or 50 hits – and our pages are pretty simple with a minimum of graphic content. Most have far more. The Australian government's limit of 15,000 hits would be achieved by most blogs every day, let alone every year. The government really are coming after the little guys and doing their best to stifle grass-roots opinion.
Just wait, if the Aussies do it today, it'll happen here tomorrow. We've already got people being arrested for swearing, or making comments in the streets about homosexuality. We already have a prominent author being detained at the airport for making a joke. If you mention the word “bomb” within a hundred miles of an airport you're likely to find yourself surrounded by a screaming mob of black-clad paramilitaries armed with sub-machine guns.
Any casual use of words involving minority religions or skin colour or country of origin is legally taboo, though we suppose we should be thankful that it's still OK to talk about white English people or Christianity in disparaging terms. Even here you have to be a bit careful though: you could get away with saying “I think the Church of England is a pile of crap” but the Church of Wales is probably a no-no.
And now they're coming after us in our homes. Divide 15,000 by 365, right? Some innocent blogger sits in his bedroom writing his random thoughts of the day for a few anonymous internet friends to read and post comments, and the moment he notches up 41 hits the front door crashes open, the SWAT team crowd in and he's dead meat.
And forget running a Facebook page, or one of these special interest forums on Yahoo! where people discuss collecting Beany Babies dolls or building miniature steam engines. They have loads of internet traffic passing back and forwards, registering loads of hits, and even the smallest will be grist to the Australian government's mill.
Seriously, this is the death of free speech.
And it could get even worse. Think about your own use of email. If you have plenty of friends and use web-based email like Gmail or Fastmail or Hotmail to write to them, who's to say that the Aussies won't count that as a website? You're occupying space on a server somewhere just as a conventional website does, and you're probably generating more than 15,000 hits in a year.
You read it here first. And by doing so you've probably pushed The GOS several steps nearer to a police cell in Coonawarra or Booleroo, so thanks for that.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2012 The GOS