Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Australia Post selling personal information - Day 2

Continuing the First Direct Solutions saga...

Noting that their website does not appear to have either postal or physical addresses, I had lodged an online complaint using their automated system but did not receive the usual automated acknowledgement of receipt.

I telephoned the company direct earlier today. They acknowledged that they had received my response and were investigating. However no information at all would be released until such time as they had posted me a form that I had to return by post. For crying out loud, this is the Internet age. My email address was one of the things that they were selling! I could not even get a straight answer about whether or not my details had been removed from their database.

After raising hell on the telephone, shortly afterwards the following landed in my email:
Dear Mr Hamilton

Thank you for your recent email in regards to your participation in the
Australian Lifestyle Survey.

As per your request we have deleted your details from our database.

We have also organised for confirmation of this to be sent to you via post
as well as including the documentation required for you to send back if you
require copies of your survey responses and a list of any companies supplied
with your details.

Should you have any further queries please don't hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Emma Porter

First Direct Solutions (A division of Australia Post)

So there we have it. Australia Post have been using their Lifestyles survey to populate this database that is being sold on to apparently whoever wants it. And my details have allegedly been deleted from their database. But the timing of this makes me highly suspicious that I would not have received anything yet if I had not raised hell on the telephone.

The important thing to note is that so far they have refused to provide me with any details of their documentation that accompanies the survey in question, yet it is presumably within that material that the hapless survey respondent is signing away these rights to their privacy.

I have spoken to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Two main things have resulted from that:
1. confirmation they cannot do anything for 30 days after you have first lodged a complaint with the offending company
2. reluctant confirmation that there is apparently nothing stopping the offending company from continuing with its behaviour for that 30 days.

What next? Well I have to wait for this document to arrive in the post. Then it is a pretty safe bet that I am the one who has to wear the costs of getting my name removed from the databases of every other company that First Direct Solutions has sold it to.

But what of the university Associate Professor who started this ball rolling? She has now apologised via email and advises that she was assured that every person on that list she purchased, had agreed to that material being provided.

While typing this entry, another email arrived from First Direct Solutions. This email directed me to, insisting that "you will clearly see in the text on the page (not hidden in any fine print) that the purpose of the survey is for you to voluntarily give your information in order for companies to contact you. This would have been the case when you filled in the survey."

Well, let's have a closer look. Here's the text from the page in question:

G’Day! Welcome to the website of We will bring you the latest information on what makes this country a unique and fascinating place to live and makes Australians some of the friendliest people in the world. Australia is renowned around the world for its relaxed lifestyle and tolerant outlook to life. Our attitudes to life and our fashion, food, sports, music, entertainment and work, are what makes Australia a special place. You’d love it here, we do.

The world has an image of Australia as a land of wide open spaces and wonderful animals. A rural landscape inhabited by people such as Paul Hogan’s "Crocodile Dundee” of the “put another shrimp on the barby” commercials and the late Steve Irwin’s “Crikey”. In fact we are a highly urbanized country that produces Noble Prize winning scientists, world-class sportsmen and entertainers, writers, and businesspeople. Our ready acceptance of immigrants from all parts of the world has produced a vivacious cosmopolitan culture. This culture manifests itself into the food we eat, the music we listen to, the films we watch, and the sports we play; such as Australian rules, cricket, rugby, basketball, tennis, and golf., will seek to present to you the latest information and insights about what makes Australian culture unique as well as provide a forum to discuss the latest events and developments.

Australian Rules football, Cricket, Rugby, Basketball, Tennis, Golf, Swimming, Grand Prix , Horse Racing.
Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, German, Indian, Korean, Colombian, Mexican, English, Vietnamese, Thai, Greek.
Pop, Classical music, Rock 'n Roll, Jazz, Hip-hop, Country, Contemporary, Swing, Latin,
Quintessential Australian films such as Crocodile Dundee, The Castle, Muriel's Wedding, Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock as well as more current and edgier films such as Saw, and comedy with bite such as the film Kenny.
Designers, Alex Perry , Alice Mcall , Anna & Boy, Bowie Wong , Camilla , Lisa Ho, Peter Alexander.
Art and Literature
Artists, Paintings - Sculpture - Drawings - Photography – Authors , Poetry
Tourist destinations, historical sites

Upcoming Events

« October 2008 »


We would value your contribution to this website and if there is anything you would like us to expand upon, please contact us at

If you believe that you have relevant and interesting information or content on the above themes or if you would like to advertise on this website, please contact us on

Now I am admittedly a short-sighted so-and-so, but I am blowed if I can see anything here that states "...the purpose of the survey is for you to voluntarily give your information in order for companies to contact you." In fact I can't see anything remotely like it before. What's more, I have no recollection of ever even seeing this page before. Let me be more explicit - if anyone can see where this data does make any such statement, then I'll bare my bum in Myer's front window (or Grace Brothers). Now this information may be buried elsewhere in the website, but it sure as shit ain't presented as of First Direct Solutions has claimed it is.

Oh - and the latest response still insists that they have to mail documents to me. But they have sweetened the deal by offering a reply paid envelope to return this material that they assure me I should have in five days. Five days! An email would have a copy of the document in my in-box in nanoseconds!

Stay tuned as I have a sneaking suspicion that this saga is going to get sillier.
I previously stated that the ACT election was a two-horse race and that the ACT Greens were less than impressive.

At first glance, it would appear that I was wrong. Labour and Liberal won an equal number of seats, with a 7% swing against Labour and almost 4% swing against the Liberals. The Greens have gone from one seat to three. But...

As a political commentator has commented elsewhere (I'm sorry but I forget who and have to admit that I mislaid the publication his column appeared in), when compared to the ACT results for the last election for the Federal Senate, the actual proportion of the vote won by the Greens has also decreased. The vote all over the place was frankly wasted on independents who didn't win seats. So it wasn't only the majors who lost ground with the electorate.

The Greens did briefly try to pretend that they were not decided who they would support to form government. Give me a break - since when did they support the Liberals on anything? There was never any doubt that Labour would lead a minority government with the Greens.

In reality, this is no different to the years of the Liberal-National Coalition leading the country, when neither won more seats the the Labour Party. But would they dare to admit that they were also a minority government? Not bloody likely.

Can Australia Post sell your personal information?

Yesterday I found an email in my in-box, requesting my participation in an online survey. Not entirely unusual and I was about to delete it as spam, when I realised that while the sending email address was one person, the actual person signing the body of the email was an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Queensland. Intrigued, I replied and asked where they obtained my details.

I found a response to my question in my in-box this afternoon. The Assistant Professor, not the person whose email I had written to, advised that she had purchased a list containing my details from a particular marketing mob, assuring me that they would not be using these details for anything other than this online research.

Hold on - a senior academic is resorting to purchasing an email list from a direct marketing firm? This is their idea of a rigorous survey medium? But it gets better - the Associate Professor claims to be from the Marketing Discipline at the university.

In an age when spammers are being prosecuted (at long last) and the National Privacy Principles apply to both private and public sectors, senior university academics in the marketing discipline are resorting to this long discredited practice of purchasing email lists in order to conduct research?

I then looked into the company which had provided the email list: First Direct Solutions. Guess who they are a division of - Australia Post! I have NEVER knowingly given Australia Post or First Direct Solutions any permission to disseminate my details in that way, let alone sell the damned things! I looked a little closer. The only time that I have ever had any email communication with Australia Post that I can think of, is when I agreed to take part in a Lifestyles Survey. I always look at the small print on those things. I have no recollection of ever seeing anything to suggest that they would use my information for their own money-making schemes. They have a lot of fast explaining to do if they want to avoid a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

The immediate moral of the story appears to be: NEVER have any online communication or contact with either Australia Post or its marketing division, First Direct Solutions.

I have lodged an online complaint with Australia Post. I have also complained to the Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

no more cricket posts?

Not here in the Rant at any rate - that's because I now have a cricket blog:

How to try and buy an election

It is election time this weekend in the Australian Capital Territory. Despite numerous persons standing in seats all around the place, it is less than a two-horse race.

The ACT Branch of the Greens is frankly less than impressive. Independents have a history of holding the balance of power in the ACT Assembly, but some of these have in the past at least, ended up as quasi party members. Take for example so-called independent Michael Moore who leapt at the chance to actually be in government, accepting a sweetheart deal with a former Liberal government, becoming their Health Minister. Yeah - real independent. This time we have people like the former star recruit of the Libs who left the party or was expelled, depending on who you listen to, set up a pretend party trying to get even with his former colleagues. There is little that I have seen among the other independents to do much to excite me.

The only real options are, as usual, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party. The current Labour government under leader John Stanhope, has a far from spotless record. Even Stanhope has admitted that they 'got it wrong' at times. But what is the alternative? A branch of the Liberal party that spends more time infighting and throwing leaders out than much else. Under current young hopeful, Ned Zilich, in desperation the Libs have chosen to go down the route of blatant attempted vote buying. Despite payment of age pensions being a Federal matter and not one for States and Territories, Zilich gleefully recently announced that all age pensioners under his government would receive a one-off payment of $500. Not invalid pensioners, not unemployed, nor any other member of the disadvantaged, just the aged. And why the aged? Because of recent very public admissions of just how poor the age pension actually is.

Take it from me, no welfare in Australia is that great, albeit better than much of the world. But let's be really honest, just how much long-time good is a once-off payment of $5oo going to be? Not that much. It was nothing more than an attempt to buy votes of the elderly. A pathetic attempt to buy an election.

Judging by the odds being offered bookmakers who have a pretty good record in predicting these results, while there will be a contest, it is hard to see Labour losing.

I wonder how many votes this transparent attempt to buy the result will have cost Zilich and his mob?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Johnson putting Australia in control? Maybe

Australian fast bowler Mitch Johnson has possibly started to push the First Test in Australia's direction, having taken 4 wickets with the last session on the third day coming to a close. As I type, India is seven wickets down and still some 130 runs short of the Australian first innings. The man that some of us love to hate, Harbajan Singh, is doing a fine job of resistance. As I type, he is on 52 not out, the top score of the Indian innings. One thing that we can never be left in doubt of is Singh's stubbornness, unwilling to ever lay down before an opponent.

This pitch has apparently been somewhat up and down but from the commentary, it appears more down than up. On such a pitch, a bowler like Johnson is going to be more than a handful. He has a short approach and neat, compact delivery, hitting the deck hard at considerable pace. With variable bounce and the rapidity, for a quick that it it, he gets through his overs, he is back at the batter again and again, with little letup or much of a chance to recover between deliveries. Coupled with an uneven bounce, the batters get little chance of reprieve against a bowler like Johnson.

With two days to go, I suspect that spin is about to start making its presence felt after the quicker bowlers have dominated the bowling action things over the preceding three days. With all due respect to the Australian players, India currently has Australia hopelessly outgunned in that department. In that event, the Aussies will need every run lead that they can and hope like heck that they can nullify the turn Singh and co will no doubt be extracting from here on in.

And here's hoping that 451press give me my cricket blogging gig. :-)

Friday, October 10, 2008

why all the cricketing posts?

I'm trying to score a gig writing a cricketing blog with a blogging network. :-)

Geoff Lawson in trouble in Pakistan

The Pakistan Cricket Board is reportedly very unhappy with the performance of its current coach, Australian Geoff Lawson.

There are a couple of points worth considering from this story.

1. Given Pakistan's long history of direct political involvement with things like team selection, who in their right mind would willingly walk into that scenario?

2. Just exactly what were Lawson's coaching credentials to begin with? Nothing so significant in my opinion to warrant him being given a national coaching role. Being a good or even great former player doesn't automatically equate to being a good coach. Sport is littered with many stories of past elite players not doing terribly well in this role, while the real stars have been those who were very much lesser lights in their playing career. Two classic examples come from my beloved Australian Rules Football. Tommy Hafey was a battler as a player with only some 99 senior appearances, yet he went on to have one of the greatest coaching records ever. In contrast, Barry Cable was one of the most exciting and gifted players I have ever seen on the ground yet his coaching record with North Melbourne after his retirement was nothing short of abysmal. Playing and coaching are very different things. There are naturally exceptions to everything. India for example has done pretty well under former Australian great, Greg Chappell. Of course it could equally be argued that Chappelli had a lot more to work with than Lawson did.

3. Why is that Pakistan can so consistently have such players of immense potential and yet perform so consistently badly? The last time Pakistan toured Australia, I was looking forward to a great series but instead, they were little more than pathetic. This is not a new development. Perhaps the problem isn't the coaching.

congratulations to Bangladesh

Big congratulations to the tadpoles of the cricketing world, Bangladesh, for their first ever victory over New Zealand in a one-day match.

The hero of the game was clearly Bangladesh's quick bowler, Mortaza, who took 4-44 to really put the visitors off their game.

So what some may? It was only New Zealand. But I assure you - nobody takes our Kiwi friends lightly on the one-day field. Skipper Daniel Vittori is a handful with his left-arm spin in any form of the game. Allrounder, Jacob Oram, can turn a game around in minutes with the bat.

Now the members of the Australian team who were infamously beaten by Bangladesh in a game some years back, can feel a little less ashamed of themselves.

more controversy and a surprising revelation

I missed the dismissal of Ricky Ponting last night in the First Test, however it sounds like yet another controversy. The bowler appealed for a return catch which South African umpire, Rudi Kertzen, ruled not out.

The radio commentary at this point admitted that they had no television coverage in the commentary box and had to rely on what was shown on the electronic scoreboard. Apparently showing this to the crowd was very quickly curtailed, suggesting that it was indeed controversial.
I think this is a very sad state of affairs when the ground staff have to cut short a replay because of the volatility of a crowd. Now before people start screaming at me, I am not suggesting that Indian supporters are alone in potentially poor behaviour. I well remember listening to descriptions on the radio of Australia players hiding in a dressing room back in about 1979 when a West Indian crowd were rioting. What about the Australian crowd throwing beer bottles at English fast bowler John Snow after he felled Australian tailender Terry Jenner with a bouncer back in 1970-71 with English captain Ray Illingworth leading his team off the ground? Shouting abuse at the opposition is part of the fun of being in the crowd. There always seem to be one or two players that you just love to hate. But acting violently is a pretty different and unacceptable kettle of fish.

Then the real surprise from the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio commentators over there in India - they had to rely on a telephone call from back in Australia to tell them exactly what that televised replay (available on a feed back here in Oz) was showing! Huh?

In the not-so-long-ago bad old days, television broadcasters had to take their own equipment to the sub-continent to broadcast cricket back to Australia or wherever. However the incredibly exciting and successful 20-20 cricket series in India earlier this year was broadcast all around the world. Surely the technology is in place there now to at least get a feed into the commentary boxes?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And it starts...again

As I type, the First Test between India and Australia is little more than a session old. And the stage is set for more nonsense.

Things really got going before a ball had been bowled. Indian opening bat, Virender Sehwag, started jumping up and down claiming that the Australian team had cheated in the Second Test in Sydney during the last Australian summer. Sehwag is adamant that the Australians all ran around claiming non-existent catches. Australian captain, Ricking Ponting, is quite rightly insulted by these claims.

That Test match shall live on in infamy as one in which the game's authorities simply rolled over and gave in to the demands of the Indian team and its management. Umpire Steve Bucknor was stood down. The veteran umpire, who is respected around the world, did not have a good game in Sydney. Under the microscope he did make some poor decisions. But how is that the result of the Australian team? Apart from anything else, Bucknor is West Indian. The umpires are all independents and have been for years. But with India now being the financial powerhouse of the cricketing world, officialdom just rolled over. Just as it has repeatedly rolled over, doing nothing about the continuing appalling behaviour by Indian player Harbajan Singh. When Singh was reported for racial slurs (yet again), the judiciary hearing the case was not given any details of Singh's five prior trips to the judiciary for consideration during deliberations after a guilty verdict had been handed down. Officialdom claims it was merely an oversight that this was not provided.
Excuse me a moment....sorry but I had to duck for cover - the wretched flying pigs have invaded my place again.

Nobody can claim that Australian teams have been guilty in the past of pretty damned aggressive behaviour. The tag of 'ugly Australians' was not just targetting the large growths of facial hair sported in the 1970s. But that is still a far cry from cheating. Let us compare once more to Mr Singh. It is illegal under cricket's laws for a bowler to have so much as an unbuttoned shirt cuff flapping loose as it may prove an unfair distraction. Yet Singh is simply infamous for his stunts of yelling abuse at the batter while he runs in to bowl! Just who exactly was trying to take unfair advantage of whom?

So now we come to the start of the Australian innings in this first Test match. The wonderboy of the Australian team on Indian soil is Matthew Hayden. He was very quickly dismissed, caught behind. A replay shows that he was not actually out. According the current Indian management's modus operandi, not to mention the likes of Sehwag, it is time to start screaming 'cheat cheat' and demands that the umpire be changed for incompetence.

The really sad part of it all is that we have some of the greatest players of the game on the field - and I am including Indian players in that description - but one can be pretty much assured that it is all going to swamped by more ridiculous allegations.

I have previously insisted in this blog that officialdom needs to act. Stamp on the troublemakers of all cricketing nations. They can start by jumping on Sehwag. If the idiot made such wild accusations at the club level where most of us play, he'd probably get a punch in the mouth for his trouble. Instead, he has the media do his shouting for him. Once upon a time players used to be jumped on from a great height for such stunts. Time to resume shutting them down.

Cricket is about the game. It is about the 22 players taking their turns out in the middle. What happens on the ground used to stay on the ground.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh the arrogance!

The Federal opposition in the Australian parliament, reached a new height of preposterous arrogance today. When I heard the latest outpourings from Leader of the Liberals, Malcolm Turnball and his buddy, Joe Hockey, reported on the radio late afternoon as I was driving home from my part-time job, I was so astounded that I was compelled to pull over and scribble the details down.

Last week, in face of an expected announcement by the Reserve Bank of Australia, decreasing in interest rates, the Australian banks let it be known that they would not necessarily pass on the full decrease to its customers. Nothing new there -as rates were rising, they started passing on more than the increases. So when rates drop, it fits with their current modus operandi to only pass on part of the decrease.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, basically admitted that his government lacked the power to force banks to pass on all of any decrease in official rates. Federal Opposition leader, Malcolm Turnball (after recently acquiring the leadership through nothing short of backroom political backstabbing), started jumping and down about the ineffectiveness of the government in not being able to force the banks to comply.

Now hold on there Malcolm, sunshine, your lot prior to November 24, 2007, didn't do anything to stop banks from passing more more than official increases. If it was so important that government have the power to enforce such matters, then why the hell didn't your lot do it during your last decade-plus in office? How can you now make such noise about the Rudd government's inability to do anything when you know only too damn well that apart from anything else, the necessary legislative framework doesn't exist. What did you expect? That Rudd's boys would be able to rush one through in a matter of days? Not flaming likely.

The RBA made its announcement yesterday. To the amazement of many, including financial markets, the decrease was a full one percent. The banks in turn have said that they will be passing on some 80% of that decrease to its customers. Malcolm Turnball then came out with the absolutely incredible suggestion that this only occurred because the Opposition (meaning him) had made a fuss. His exact expression was that they had 'put a stake in the ground'. I'm not even sure what that expression is intended to mean. And since when does business kow tow to rantings by an Opposition party? Especially when they are going to remain the Opposition for probably another two years yet before being able to have a crack at regaining office. And my money says that Turnball won't even still be leader then.

The Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was hard pressed so keep himself from laughing when responding to Turnball's colossal arrogance. In fact the ghost of a snigger actually crept into his voice during an official response.

The Opposition Leader of Government Business (in other words, the one who makes the biggest damn noise from the Opposition benches during Parliamentary sessions), Joe Hockey, then made his contribution to this ridiculous episode.

Now our mate Joe is no stranger to making big statements that have no foundation in fact. Take for example his vehement public statements in the second half of 2007 that the Liberal Party was 100% behind the continuing leadership of then leader, John Howard. Very shortly after the November 2007 election loss by Joe's mob, he appears in a documentary claiming that he had personally advised Howard to stand down from the leadership (as numerous others allegedly also did). So much for Joe's very public posturing of support for Howard.

Today Joe Hockey added another limb to his tree of very much self-proclaimed excellence. He is now, apparently, a greater expert in national economics than anyone in the RBA. Joe comes out, insisting that the RBA was wrong to have made such a decrease. Never mind that all the signs are of inflationary pressures easing, not to mention the current risk of major economic collapse as a result of the continuing financial and economic crisis in the USA. A decrease would appear to have been the correct decision to make. But not according to Joe baby - no, he knows better.

Oh - and another little episode from Joe's background which emphasises that despite all this latest posturing, the Liberals were just as impotent in controlling the behaviour of banks as everyone else. The position with Australian banks is that while they are quite happy to accept an authority from a customer to accept authorised debits to their accounts via Direct Debit, withdrawing that authority from the bank was not sufficient to ensure that deductions ceased. Instead, despite a bank no longer holding the authority to permit these deductions to continue, customers were told it was their responsibility to have the party originating the deductions to cease them.

Now our mate Joe held a minor financial portfolio at the time. In response to some consumer complaints about this behaviour, Joe made a very public statement that he was putting the banks etc 'on notice' that this behaviour was unacceptable and not to continue. Great
sound bite Joe, but guess what - the situation didn't change. Just more noise and no action.

So Malcolm Turnball has the Australian banking industry so in awe of him, that they do what he says? Yeah right. *cough cough bullshit cough* And Joe Hockey knows more about macro economics than the Reserve Bank of Australia. *cough cough cough bull-freaking-shit cough*