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Maxim Real Issues No. 184, 24 NOVEMBER 2005

Maxim Real Issues No. 184, 24 NOVEMBER 2005

Who controls cyberspace?

Modern day treason

Marriage Amendment Bill back on the table

Maxim Institute wins international award

Who controls cyberspace?

Typing in the familiar "dub dub dub dot" is such a part of daily life (like flicking on a light switch or turning on a tap), we hardly think about how the information gets to our screen. For most people the existence of ICANN, the organisation that manages the URL naming system that makes the internet accessible, may come as a surprise. ICANN is a non-profit US corporation that has managed the top-level domains of the internet: .com, .org, and delegates the management of the country-code domains, such as .nz since 1988.

The fact that the internet is controlled by a corporation - and a US corporation at that - irks a lot of people, including governments that like to control what people think. The Chinese government for example, blocks all websites containing the word "democracy". As recently as 2003, the UN concluded that "governments should intervene [in the internet]... to maximise economic and social benefits and serve national priorities." Even the EU has asked that management of domain names be removed from ICANN and given to the UN who will then be able to moderate it for "culturally appropriate content."

While we may not like the internet falling under US jurisdiction, the existence of ICANN is an example of healthy political neutrality. The US government has consistently refused to intervene in the management of domain names, and therefore, because ICANN is not subject to the political concerns of any country, the internet remains a relatively free and open medium for information. No government or inter-government organisation could achieve that independence.

Modern day treason

Winston Peters' accusation of treason against Herald journalist Fran O'Sullivan has left commentators thumbing through the Crimes Act, attempting to find a section which states that a critical article about a Minister is equivalent to a treacherous act.

The 1961 Crimes Act definition of treason includes, among other things; a physical attack on Her Majesty the Queen; levying war against New Zealand; assisting enemies attempting to invade us by force, and using force to overthrow the government. While Fran O'Sullivan may have got on the wrong side of the Foreign Minister, she certainly isn't launching a military coup or conspiring to kidnap the Queen, and hence is probably safe from life in prison.

Treason seldom arises nowadays, but the concept reminds us of our allegiance to our Head of State and the nation. Citizenship implies trust and duty. This is the responsibility of every citizen, but particularly those in public service and leadership. By electing MPs and a government, we trust that they are putting New Zealand first, rather than private politics or personal interest. Treason is a betrayal of that trust; a placing of self over service.

Marriage Amendment Bill back on the table

The Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill is first on the Order Paper to be debated on the first Private Members day of the new term of Parliament, scheduled for Wednesday 7 December.

This Bill would ensure the common law understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman is clearly stated in legislation. Maxim encourages those who endorse this Bill to express their support to their local MP. If you are unsure who your MP is, visit: www.nzvotes.org and type in your electorate. MPs can be contacted at firstname.lastname@parliament.govt.nz or by calling Parliament on 04 471 9999.

For more information about the Marriage Amendment Bill visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/current_page/marriage_amendment_bill.html

Maxim Institute wins international award

This week Maxim was delighted to announce it was awarded second place in the Atlas Economic Research Foundation Templeton Freedom Prize for Initiative in Public Relations, for our efforts to encourage public participation in democracy in the lead up to the 2005 election.

To read Maxim's media release, visit; http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/R051123.php

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.

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