Hey all - thanks for playing and sorry I didn't get to all the good stuff. Fun and provocative as always. Signing off for now.

I'm Scott Ludlam, a Western Australian Greens Senator; we've got just over a week until the election and I think its time we talked about digital rights. This is the initiative we just launched: - Will give priority to questions about things internet but if you have a burning question about anything else, will try to give it a go.

4:30pm Western Australia, 6:30pm Australian Eastern

me rn

Comments: 255 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

not_just_amwac195 karma

You were the only senator I saw stand up to the metadata retention laws. I can't thank you enough, futile though it ended up being.

Has the Greens' position on the NBN changed at all, are you still in support of FTTH?

scott_ludlam78 karma

yes we are - here's the most recent take on the NBN

LudlamsHair67 karma

Is it true that you'd be nothing without your beautiful hair?

scott_ludlam110 karma

no i had it all shaved off for the worlds greatest shave to raise money for leukaemia research and support, and I was still me even when the hair was gone.

TheWanderingPie44 karma

Hey Scott, just wanted to say it's so wonderful to have someone from WA who is actually looking out for my interests as a young person and doing their job properly.

Will digital rights remove the ability of anyone to keep tabs on consumers, or will this remain a hopefully unused power by the Government? And will certain websites be blocked under certain conditions or will all websites be available for the Australian public?

scott_ludlam37 karma

hiya wandering pie - thanks for your kind words.

most of our work, out of necessity, has focused on the Government's encroachments and abuses, but people are also very concerned about private sector data harvesting and the ways in which corporations like google and facebook's business models are premised on massive capture and aggregation of peoples private information.

In terms of site blocking, there are presently at least two 'lawful' ways in which the Government allows itself to remove sites from view or have them pulled altogether. One is focused on alleged copyright infringements and works through a process of court orders. The other is a very poorly regulated use of the Telecommunications Act to have sites pulled - we couldn't even get the Government to disclose which agencies were using this power. Its still a live issue.

TomasTTEngin33 karma

One of the things most people find objectionable in politics is the relaxed attitude to truth-telling.

I suspect our representatives justify a bit of laxity in that area because their opponents do the same. It seems like a downward spiral. Do you've any ideas about how to reset that spiral?

scott_ludlam69 karma

Many MPs have spent decades in a job where they had full control of their message, and are getting caught out now that they community can talk back and scrutinise them in real time.

Equally a lot of campaigning, particularly by the big parties, is based on what they see as their best-case, control of both houses and no need for concession or compromise. Australian politics of course does not work that way in reality, the legislation that is passed can often only partly resemble the original proposal. Politicians are also used to being able to exploit the transient scramble of daily debates and hope that people forget what they said yesterday...

ladcake32 karma

Do you use a VPN at work / home?

scott_ludlam47 karma

hiya, I use PIA on my phone - its cheap, cheerful and simple.

hawkwardd32 karma

Mr Ludlam,

Your Campaign is like a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?

No but seriously, I really wanted a Greens PM in that hung parliament. What do we need to do to make this happen in this federal election?

scott_ludlam40 karma

we need more people to vote Green. Quite a lot more people. But thats what we have to do.

djdefekt21 karma

It seems that the MTM FTTN NBN is becoming a very expensive blunder by the LNP. The highest peak cost I have heard mentioned was a figure of $70B and this will only increase over time. So a more expensive, slower, later NBN seems to be what they are determined to deliver.

Why have the media (outside of the News Corp outlets) and parties in opposition been so soft on Turnbull on this issue? Every talking point of the LNP on the NBN is easily anticipated and countered, yet Turnbull seems to get given a pass on this and people seem to defer to him because he is the PM, rather than calling him out when he stretches the truth or outright lies. There are plenty of examples from overseas of ISPs rapidly moving away from copper and towards fibre as they see usage and bandwidth requirements trending upwards.

In addition, strategically it seems it would be a great way to drive a wedge between the Liberals and the Nationals, as people in the country are crying out for fast internet access and are not getting anything like what they will need in the future in terms of speed.

Do the Greens plan to make this a central plank of their policy platform leading up to the election? How do we ensure this gets in front of people who aren't just in our real world and social media networks, so that they too can be properly informed and have a chance to get as angry about this as they should?

scott_ludlam27 karma

excellent question and i think your analysis is spot on.

here is our take on what should happen next with the nbn:

the short version is: we need to change the government and then immediately throw some transparency over the whole project - we'd start with the select committee on the NBN, advised by a diverse new panel of technologists and user advocates, and Infrastructure Australia to do a full life-cycle analysis of the various technologies. This would almost certainly find against the FTTN build altogether, would probably advise us to cut our losses and get out of HFC technology, and would hopefully help get us back on the track of an FTTP network. As to why people aren't rioting in the streets, the NBN has emerged as a 'top tier' issue during the election so i think there is hope yet. I share your frustration at how the issue is reported though...

enormoussolid19 karma

Mr Ludlam, I enjoy keeping up with your page on Facebook, it's great to see the honesty from you in regards to a lot of recent and ongoing issues

I have a few questions:

  1. Is it fair that (in regards to Netflix's library) Australia receives different access/rights to digital media than other countries and how can this be addressed?

  2. In regards to video gaming in Australia, is the censorship of certain games justified, and how should this be handled?

  3. Finally, again in regards to video gaming, how can we address the issues of price differences between digital media (the so-called 'Australia Tax' on video games, especially on Steam)?

Thanks for this AMA

scott_ludlam57 karma

Ok here goes:

  1. it is slowly improving, especially as Netflix et al grow and keep their own original content for their own customers, but the limited access for a lot of content is infuriating. I wanna watch Game of Thrones at a decent resolution on the device of my choosing at the same time as people OS so I don't have to avoid Twitter to avoid spoilers. I still find it hard to believe that distributors think limiting access and sulking about piracy is a better business model than making it easy for people to pay for what they want when they want it.

  2. The existing ratings regime was designed before app stores and mobile gaming, it's creaking at the seams more than somewhat. Parents have the most important role to play in determining what is suitable for their kids, just like all other content. There are plenty of games I find utterly loathesome, or just not my thing, but banning access isn't always the answer. Crowd-sourcing ratings where the user community collectively assesses what is and isnt safe for kids seems like a more evolved way of keeping up with the mass of content out there. A more inclusive industry, one that isn't dominated by middle-class straight white guys making games for middle-class straight white guys, is what we should be pursuing.

  3. I think the answer is similar in terms of a distribution model, people should have access to the content they want when they want it. Perhaps a legislative instrument has a role here, when there is no reason other than geography for a substantial price difference.

Kitty01515 karma

Will you promise to hold a Royal Commission into Mod Bias on /r/Australia if elected?

scott_ludlam31 karma

not going near this one.

chasington14 karma

Do you consider the swell of anti-Green sentiment, like falsely attacking Richard for not paying his au pairs properly, or that you're doing shady deals with the Liberals, to be a success, because it means the major parties consider you a serious threat?

scott_ludlam34 karma

first they ignore you / then they laugh at you / then they attack you / then you win.

maybe it means we're getting close.


Hi Scott, love your work, your great speeches in the Senate, and your hair.

My question relates to the world of video games - particularly the rapidly-growing competitive esports world (which sadly Australia is lagging vastly behind in) - with relation to minors using gambling websites.

Over the course of the last few years - particularly this last 12 months - a number of "video games-related" gambling sites have popped up where gamers can gamble/bet items for a bit of fun. Of course, these items have to come from somewhere - a bit of cash of course. A problem has started to pop-up across the globe where minors are using these sites, getting sucked in, and are dropping a lot of cash down the toilet.

For me personally I think that the parents letting the kids use hundreds, thousands of dollars like that should be more careful, but I'm not a parent so I don't know the rigours of parenting and I'm sure some kids find a way to do it sneakily.

The huge issue with this is that it's tough to knuckle down on as there's no real precedent or way to crack down and enforce rules for these (largely) overseas websites. Do you believe that this ties in with the overall theme of gambling addiction and can be dealt with through conventional gambling approaches, or are there ways that the government (perhaps though this Digital Rights Commissioner which looks great) can step in somehow?

Cheers mate

scott_ludlam18 karma

I think one of the most important roles the Digital Rights Commissioner can play is in education. Legislation does not keep pace with technological change, whereas an advocate can respond to new developments more quickly. The sorts of education resources the Human Rights Commission already develop will be a good fit for the sorts of challenges a DRC will respond to - whether it's parents, or schools, or both, problems like gambling targeted at kids need to be addressed by the people in the kids' everyday lives, it can't always wait for a legal protection to come along.

LudlamsHair14 karma

Do you have any comments regarding this video (link below) that has been doing the rounds lately?


scott_ludlam32 karma

f*k. well played.

TheNORBY13 karma

What will you and the Greens be doing to help support tech entrepreneurs in Australia? I see a number of comments from the Libs but have yet to see any real action

scott_ludlam28 karma

unlike malcolm, innovation for us is more than a buzzword - i'm really proud of this package nick and adam released a little while ago

muttonlamb12 karma

Why won't the Greens consider nuclear as part of a carbon reducing energy future?

Next Gen nuclear has the potential to quickly wean us off Coal / Gas and Oil for power generation.

The amount of environmental damage per Terrawatt Hour is significantly smaller than fossil fuels, as is the number of injuries/illnesses caused.

With next gen nuclear safer than ever before, is it time to drop the idealogical opposition and take a science based assessment of the technologies?

I'm all for solar / wind / tidal, but it's not enough to get us where we need to be fast enough.

scott_ludlam27 karma

Our assessment is that nuclear is the most dangerous, expensive way to boil water ever devised. Our office, among many other engineering and tech experts, has written 2 reports showing the cost and roadmap to achieve 100% renewable energy on our WA grid. We don't need nukes. If you can send us a link to any of this 'next gen safe nuclear' that actually exists and operates at a commercial scale I'd be keen to see it.

As for solar/wind/tidal not being enough to get us there - there are 19 states and countries like Norway who have already made it, and 50 other countries with plans to reach 50-100% renewable within a generation. This is our plan for aus

rja76710 karma

Hi Scott,

As an educated 21 year old in this country I find looking at politics painful like watching a footy game with two sides. Sick of slogans and pointless debate would you ever consider informal political debate through podcasts where rhetoric just wont cut it due to the time ?

How do you think our democracy can be shaped by the internet in the future (reference to representative government)?

scott_ludlam18 karma

i haven't played with podcasts much but I think there's plenty of potential for less formal and more two-way communication. i think the internet is already starting to shape and change democracy, but it takes a while for the formal structures to catch up. part of this needs generational change (inside and outside parliament).

Lvl_69_Meme_Master8 karma

My Italian meatballs keep coming out dry and tough. What should I do to make them more moist and soft?

scott_ludlam46 karma

i dunno maybe fabric softener?

PrimaxAUS7 karma

Hi Scott. Thanks for doing the AMA. I like a lot about you - your work on issues I support, your eloquence, your hair. You're a bit of a luddite on nuclear issues, but then again no one is perfect.

A digital rights commissioner is a good idea - most of the MPs and senators are old fogies who have practically zero hope of understanding the general concepts that they're legislating on when it comes to the internet, let alone the nuances of the issue and the legislation being proposed, or the ramifications of those new laws.

This has been reflected in how the NBN has been treated, like a partisan football to score political points rather than key infrastructure needed to keep this country competitive.

A digital rights commissioner is an important step, but so too is another role in our government which is wholly useless - the office of the privacy commissioner. It's treatment by successive governments has turned it into yet another non-functioning bureaucracy, only to be used as a weapon against the other major party when it serves the interests of liblab. Please also consider ways in which the OAIC can be made more independent, proactive, hungry, and with sharp teeth.

I am 34 and an IT consultant, and I have built my career around cybersecurity and internet startups. I've worked in the past in cybersecurity software startups and the encryption industry, and I'm starting my own security advisory company. In the past ten years the biggest thing I have learned is this - Australians are woefully ignorant about cybersecurity and largely uninterested in learning.

This has cost us in many ways; slow change of behaviours to protect against threats like phishing and ransomware attacks, slow uptake of skills and knowledge to support the industry to deal with attacks, and not enough resources to develop those skills being available. Take for instance the Arizona Cyberwarfare Range. This is a great resource for Americans to test their skills as they learn offensive cybersecurity, but it's not available to Australians, and we don't have an alternative here. This is just one example out of hundreds of deficiencies.

If we are going to improve our lot, and be competitive on the world stage this needs to change, and I encourage you with my entire being to do everything you can to make it happen.

Lastly, I've been thinking about becoming more politically active. What can I do in a manner that uses my skills and abilities to volunteer or otherwise help out on these issues in some government or party facing capacity? I wrote a popular thing about data privacy when mandatory retention came in. This is the kind of thing I'm not bad at.

scott_ludlam8 karma

that is an awesome post.

we can always use good tech help :) you're only one click away

flightlessbard6 karma

Is the TPP still a big threat?

scott_ludlam13 karma

the TPP's backers were desperate to get the agreement in the bag before it went under the wheels of the US election; now with the utter weirdness of a hillary v trump matchup, it is anyones guess as to what emerges on the other side. these are patient people though, and i trust that even if the TPP is scrapped, big slabs of it will emerge word for word in new proposed agreements.

kitzorz5 karma

Hi Scott! Are you planning on coming to PAX again this year? If you are, it would be really good if you promoted your panels as I always hear about them after they happen! Would you be interested in playing D&D games with the plebs? :)

scott_ludlam13 karma

i loved pax. i will come back if they invite me :)

katarinka5 karma

Do you think true digital privacy is compatible with a world that makes a lot of money from re-targeting consumers, algorithms predicting online behaviour, and other kinds of 'big data' initiatives? And if so, what do you think that world should look like?

scott_ludlam10 karma

Opting out of things like retargeting needs to be easier. The EUs ruling that sites need to declare that they use cookies is the closest anyone has come - in a legislative sense - to addressing the expansion of these techniques by marketers. The internet as it currently exists is built on that exchange of data for services. Changing course will be tough, and will only come when digital literacy keeps pace with or exceeds technological change. Marketing has always been something of an arms race - we just have to do what we can to help privacy advocates stay in the race, and have developers incentivised to build apps and services that don't prey on their users.

Doctorsicknote5 karma

Hi Scott I am asking this from a Greens Party Phonebank in Queensland, how is your career as DJ SLUDZ going?

scott_ludlam10 karma

my performance as a DJ explains why i am working hard to keep my day job...

thanks for hitting the phones :)

Le_PieceOfSchmidt4 karma

What's your opinion of Bernie Sanders and his campaign?

scott_ludlam18 karma

i loved every minute of it and what a shame the US electoral system (and the democratic party) is so profoundly broken. maybe its time for a Green President

bueller-bueller4 karma

Hi Scott, thank you for your tireless work and for providing such an accessible voice in politics that speaks to so many people!

As someone who is less than tech-savvy, could you recommend the best starting point to educate myself about digital rights?

Keep up the swell work! And here's hoping the greens make some waves this election ๐ŸŒš๐ŸŒš

scott_ludlam4 karma

A lot of human rights organisations are starting to focus on digital rights. Organisations like Digital Rights Watch, and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, have done a good job of tackling the complex issues, but organisations like Amnesty are strting to get involved in a way that is more accessible to people. But the best place to start is probably simply to ask yourself what do you do online - be it schooling, banking, work, socialising, and then consider what the barriers to that are, and what it would be like to not have access to those services. That's what we're trying to achieve - making sure people are not disadvantaged by having their access to those services we take for granted in our everyday lives limited or removed.

We will keep making waves best we can :)

Akya3 karma

Hi Scott, my husband and I are renters, ineligible for Centrelink for earning too much (husband isn't Australian so he's also ineligible for Centrelink) and we often spend more than a third of our total income on rent. I saw the policies Greens announced recently to increase rental assistance. Also since my husband isn't on a PR, we can't get NRAS properties. Is there anything other than the promise of safer and better quality properties that would help my husband and I and Australians in a similar situation?

scott_ludlam6 karma

Hi Akya, we hear you. our housing market is one of the most unaffordable in the world and renters are doing it really hard. In our rental health survey we heard from over 3000 people like you that we used to inform our "Renter's Rights" initiative, which i look forward to championing for the rest of my time as a senator.

We've also led the debate on tax reform and have committed to ending the negative gearing and phasing out the capital gains tax discount, which would generate over $117 billion over ten years. It's an obscene amount of money going to the most wealthy, which we have argued should be used to directly fund more affordable housing, and other essential services instead.

When NRAS was still in place we strongly fought for it to reviewed and improved, rather than axed. Speaking of supply...we still have 9 days to go - watch this space for more announcements

ThePaxCanadiana3 karma

I had no idea Australia has what I would describe as a functioning Senate. How does your Senate differ in function from Parliament?

Your digital rights focus seems to be a common sense idea. How do you get legislation on that passed from the upper house?


scott_ludlam9 karma

The Senate and the House of Representatives are almost equivalent in their powers - for a bit more detail check here - we have the ability to introduce bills and as long as we have a majority in both houses we can get them passed (sounds easy when you say it quick:)

ThePaxCanadiana4 karma

Thank you for your reply, I will read it over. Our Senate is chosen entirely by partisan appointment and held in about the same esteem as being placed in the prison system. That a Senator can introduce a bill is mind blowing.

Good luck with your election and the digital rights initiative.

scott_ludlam6 karma

ha. Canada? I thought you folks were trying to sort that out!

davewasthere3 karma

I'm (mostly) disenfranchised being a kiwi living in Aus, but apart from voting Green (which I would, if I could), what actions can I take to help?

Signing the digital rights watch petition is a start.

scott_ludlam8 karma

The Digital Rights Watch crew are excellent. Itโ€™s a relatively new org but they are studying whatโ€™s worked overseas and are an excellent new addition here in Aus. EFA are doing great work too, as are the various civil liberties orgs with a broader rights mandate. This probably goes without saying, but voting is only a small part of the work.. all of these groups could use the help of a committed new volunteer and so could we :)

Be interested to see what you think of the new Digital Rights Commissioner proposal we launched a couple of hours ago.

rja7672 karma

Have you ever done psychedelics? (DMT, LSD, Ayahuasca or even weed)

scott_ludlam18 karma

every day in this job is like that.

mr_oesophagus2 karma

Hi Scott, What are your thoughts on hactivist (for lack of a better term) groups such as Anonymous, GhostSec etc.? Do you think the transparency they provide regarding the actions of the 1% (despite oft being illegally obtained) is something we need to see introduced through more legislative/legal means?

scott_ludlam11 karma

there's no doubt that some of what goes on behind that mask is occurring because our systems of governance and transparency are so deeply broken. the existence of whistleblowers and hacktivists are a sign that more formal methods of oversight are so deficient.

HakunaVajayjay0 karma

I voted Green in 2013, but in the last few months have seen a serious deterioration in the party, morphing a progressive, future-thinking party into "just another political party no different from the top two heavyweights". Being a senator for the Greens, do you feel there's been a shift in party priorities and has it been for the best or the worst?

scott_ludlam23 karma

I don't see it as a shift in the party policy or priority, but the hostile rhetoric around the Greens has certainly ramped up. Richard and the team have done amazingly well to place us in a position where we are not so quickly dismissed by either the big parties or the commentariat, but that has of course given rise to aggressive push back. Can ask what you mean by deterioration?

impulsivecactus-2 karma

When given the option to go first in "Tic-Tac-Toe," which spot is the best choice?