20 February, 2010

Do we need the Nanny State to save us from cold calls?

Melbourne Herald Sun, 20th February, 2010

Just last week I was complaining about telemarketers and how their phone calls interrupt the evening's dinner and telly.

Now while I was narked at their timing, I didn't say I wanted the poor working stiffs thrown out of a job and set on the street to beg. They have to make a living as we all do, and some jobs are better than others.

Not all are so soft-hearted - I see that our anointed betters are planning to do just that. In 2007 they set up the Do Not Call Register that allows you to stop telemarketers calling your home. Fair enough, it's like putting a "No Advertising Material" sticker on your gate.

But currently, in Parliament, there's a move to extend this, by allowing all businesses and organisations to list themselves - all their telephone and fax numbers.

The trouble is, there are 440,000 small companies in Australia that rely, to a significant degree, on telephone calling to win business. It is the most cost-effective form of business-to-business advertising and an awful lot of firms - and jobs - depend on it.

To my mind, forbidding cold calls is a denial of freedom of speech. The receiver can always tell me to get lost, that's his right, too. But do we need a law to police this?

It's the old nanny state syndrome. We who fought for freedom from censorship, women's liberation, gay rights, sexual freedom, freedom to wear jeans to the office - are finding ourselves compressed by a remorseless political correctness.

From politicians and education administrators, doctors and judges, there is inch by inch pressure to force us all back into the box.

So Manly City Council is trying to ban the sale of bubblegum in shopping centres, the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores, smoking on the beach, plastic bags and the sale of bottled water at public events.

Senator Stephen Conroy, whose department is responsible for the Do Not Call Bill, is also ploughing ahead with his internet filtering legislation. Which adds up to his being the Minister for the Nanny State Imposition.

A few months ago, at a Melbourne PC User Group meeting, some 300 computer enthusiasts were quizzed by their President, Keith Younger, who asked how many members favoured the internet filtering legislation. Not one hand went up. How many thought it would work? None. Who thought it would slow down our already dismal internet speeds? Up went a forest of hands.

I have yet to find someone in favour of it - but who can stop a NSW politician with a mission?

Mind you, who are we to talk? Already in Victoria soft drinks have been banned from government schools, all confectionary will soon follow. Now I'm not an advocate for child obesity - I just don't like some politician telling me or my kids what to do.

Macquarie University has banned the sale of cigarettes on campus. Back in my day at uni, wearing shaggy hair and puffing endless fags was what it was all about. You grew out of it - in your own time.

Funny thing about nannies. Remember a few years ago when the Howard Government brought in Net Nanny, the free parental software to control children's internet viewing? Well Telstra reported that only one percent of parents ever made use of it. So it's not in demand from the voters.

Oh and the latest internet warning is to beware of messages from the Do Not Call Register. They are being used to deliver a type of virus called trojans, which collect your email and phone details. For sale to the less scrupulous telemarketers.


No comments: